|My vantage point from the Blue Cross (middle of photo) approximately 50ft away from it.|
Recently I arrived back from my pilgrimage in Medjugorje. My time there proved to be one of new discoveries about myself and my faith journey, meeting new people and making new friendships, the opportunity to immerse myself in deep prayer and further experience the local culture. Overall my time this summer in Medjugorje was a faith strengthening experience; a recharging of my "spiritual batteries." These are just some of the gifts that pilgrims receive in Medjugorje; a land of great graces, peace and reconciliation.
While in Medjugorje, I had the privilege of attending Our Lady's apparition to the visionary Mirjana Soldo on July 2 at the Blue Cross. Today's post shares that apparition experience, which I hope will especially benefit those new to Medjugorje and those who have been called by Our Lady to go there on a pilgrimage.
Arriving in Medjugorje only a couple of days before the July 2 apparition, I had just the right amount of time to situate myself back into Medjugorje. I began my daily attendance at the Evening Prayer Program (recitation of the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, Mass, blessing of religious objects, healing prayers, veneration of the Cross and adoration) and reconnected with some friends and fellow pilgrims.
On the day of the apparition, I comfortably set out to acquire a location where I could not only be somewhat close to the Blue Cross (where Our Lady appears), but also to have a good vantage point to shoot this event as it unfolded. I was not to be disappointed as I found the perfect location, an unfinished construction project, whose concrete base served as a platform for me to stand on and take several photographs. The photograph below shows that unfinished project, with a view of the street and path to the Blue Cross that Mirjana takes. Directly behind me in this shot is the Blue Cross, approximately 50ft away, higher up on the hill.
|The concrete platform of an unfinished construction project, that served as the perfect vantage point to capture the day.|
I began July 2 by waking up in the middle of the night to recite my personal prayers, shower and get ready to leave my pension at 4:45am. It was approximately a 20 minute walk to the Blue Crosses (there are actually two "blue crosses," the original and the newer one where Our Lady appears to Mirjana). The walk to the Blue Crosses afforded me the opportunity to begin my daily recitation of the Rosary. It was a perfect continuation of a wonderful start to my day, that with each step built up my joyful anticipation of attending Our Lady's apparition.
Upon arrival, I was pleased to see that the hill was not packed with pilgrims. I knew that this would soon change so I searched for an ideal vantage point and quickly found it; the aforementioned unfinished construction project. I immediately took possession of its base (approximately 3 ft by 8 ft), reserving three square feet solely for me so I could comfortably stand and move around as needed.
My wait for the visionary Mirjana was approximately three and a half hours. In that time, I recited part of the Rosary and watched for any familiar faces so that I could offer them a place beside my vantage point. The opportunity to do that quickly vanished as the apparition time (8:30am) drew near. It wasn't long before many individuals, small and large groups began arriving.
The atmosphere at the apparition site was joyous and prayerful, filled with anticipation. All who were there early, like myself, were somewhat sleep deprived, but that did not negatively impact any of us at all; everyone was filled with great enthusiasm and expectation of Our Lady's apparition, fatigue was not a factor. Many pilgrims actually sleep overnight on the hill so as to reserve a spot very close to the Blue Cross.
Leading the pilgrims in group recitation of the Rosary were several priests from various countries, who recited the Rosary in different languages. To accompany the Rosary, there were was singing in Croatian, English and Italian. It was an amazing atmosphere of Marian devotion and a privilege to be in attendance.
|The blond woman flanked by two escorts in yellow t-shirts is the visionary Mirjana being escorted to the Blue Cross,|
which is just left of this photo.
Well in advance of the arrival of pilgrims, camera crews set up live streaming for the internet, capturing the entire apparition experience, which was published and made available by MaryTV. You can also watch the entire apparition on MaryTV YouTube Channel, MarytvMedjugorje. In addition, speakers were set up throughout the hill to make the prayers and singing easier to hear for all pilgrims regardless where they were situated.
As 8:00am approached, the hill was packed with pilgrims. Sunrise was at about 5:30am and you could begin to feel the heat of the day upon us. The only remaining people climbing the hill were those who had been selected to sit near Mirjana at the Blue Cross (priests and laity). The air was filled with anticipation as we all anxiously awaited for Mirjana's arrival.
Mirjana arrived on time at 8:30am and all eyes were on her at the bottom of the hill, where the path intersects with the main street. The crowd seemed to break out in a frenzy joy and relief of her arrival, with many of us, including myself, preparing our selves to photograph Mirjana as she walked by us. The above photo is one such example, where Mirjana was almost at the top of the path where she was then escorted to the left of that location, to arrive at the Blue Cross.
As Mirjana arrived at the Blue Cross, prayer and singing continued. Mirjana kneeled down and joined in on the group recitation of the Rosary. At any point in time from this moment on, Our Lady appears to Mirjana. The actual moment occurs when Mirjana is alerted to her presence, which is immediately noticeable. She no longer responds to her immediate surroundings, ceases praying and looks up to encounter Our Lady. No one else sees or hears Our Lady, but it is clear from Mirjana's body and facial expression, that she is in complete divine intimacy with Our Lady.
Once the apparition is finished, Mirjana returns to her immediate surroundings, which is typically met with tears and what can only be described as a great sense of being overwhelmed. Immediately Mirjana's assistant and translator receives a dictation from her of Our Lady's message. It is then read out loud in Croatian, English and Italian. The official translation is provided to the parish office. It is then published on line and through other mediums throughout the world. Below is the July 2 Message:
"Dear children, I am calling you to spread the faith in my Son - your faith. You, my children illuminated by the Holy Spirit, my apostles, transmit it to others - to those who do not believe, who do not know, who do not want to know - but for that you must pray a lot for the gift of love, because love is the mark of true faith - and you will be apostles of my love. Love always, anew, revives the pain and the joy of the Eucharist, it revives the pain of the Passion of my Son, by which He showed you what it means to love immeasurably; it revives the joy for having left you His body and blood to feed you with Himself - and in this way, to be one with you. Looking at you with tenderness, I feel immeasurable love which strengthens me in my desire to bring you to a firm faith. Firm faith will give you joy and happiness on earth and in the end the encounter with my Son. This is His desire. Therefore, live Him, live love, live the light that always illuminates you in the Eucharist. I implore you to pray a lot for your shepherds, to pray so as to have all the more love for them because my Son gave them to you to feed you with His body and to teach you love. Therefore, also you are to love them. But, my children, remember, love means to endure and to give, and never, ever to judge. Thank you."
|Mirjana's descent from the hill with two escorts after the apparition is finished.|
One thing you may have noticed about this apparition are the escorts. There are several throughout the path that Mirjana takes to ascend and descend from the Blue Cross. The reason for them might not be obvious if you have never been to these apparitions. So many pilgrims want to have personal contact with Mirjana, but this is not permitted. Even upon the completion of the apparition, many come to her and the descent down the hill takes quite some time. At times, upon her own initiative, Mirjana will stop and speak with some pilgrims.
|Mirjana and the very bottom and middle of this photo, stopping to speak with a pilgrim.|
Once Mirjana has made it down the path, pilgrims soon follow and it is not long before she is completely surrounded. The great thing about all this is that Mirjana is respected and she has no problem getting through the crowd. Pilgrims understand how much she has gone through prior to and during the apparition.
One fact that may interest you is how Mirjana prepares for the apparition the day before. As you might assume, she is immersed in prayer, but what you probably don't know is that she is up all night in prayer. Mirjana has been quoted as saying that she can not sleep knowing she will see the Blessed Mother the next day. That time awake is well spent in prayer preparing for that encounter.
|The scene when Mirjana arrives at the bottom of the path at the street level. You can barely see here, her blond hair|
is visible just at the lower right side of the photo, next to the red baseball cap to the far right.
I too descended with other pilgrims in attempt to capture the scene and to give myself an opportunity to beat much of the crowd. Once I cleared the crowd, I went back to my pension to upload my photos on my computer and went about with the rest of my day.
For those of you who will be called by Our Lady to go to Medjugorje, may Our Lady clear the way for you. I hope you too will be granted the opportunity to be apart of the marian experience in Medjugorje. Rest assured of my prayers for you and your pilgrimage.
Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.