Sunday, June 8, 2014

Marian Day of Prayer Follow Up: A "Cinematic Pilgrimage"

Zaid Jazrawi, the producer of The Triumph and me

On May 31, I attended the Marian Day of Prayer event at Canada Christian College presented by the Ave Maria Centre of Peace. It was a grace filled event that included: the screening of the Medjugorje documentary film, The Triumph, testimonials from four guest speakers who shared their personal experiences on how Our Lady Queen of Peace in Medjugorje changed their lives, and the recitation of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In addition there was an impressive selection of print material and DVD's, Rosaries, devotional pamphlets, prayer cards, medals, posters, t-shirts and Medjugorje newsletters from the early days of the apparitions. As one of the official volunteers of the event, it truly was a gift to assist with the day's program schedule. Today's post is not only a follow up to my previous post, Marian Day of Prayer - A Grace Filled Day WIth Our Lady Queen of Peace, but also a sharing of what I experienced that day.

Saturday's event was in part a "cinematic pilgrimage," as it began with the screening of the Medjugorje documentary film, The Triumph. As one of two individuals co-ordinating the audio and visual includes for this event, my vantage point afforded me the opportunity to observe the audience reaction to the film. It became abundantly clear from the first few minutes that everyone was captivated by it. The showing of the movie was well placed in the program schedule as it ushered in the spirit of Medjugorje to our location here in Toronto and set the tone for the remainder of the day. 

Watching The Triumph that day was my fourth screening. It is an incredibly well made film whose importance and significance for today's world can not be overstated. My compliments and full marks to Zaid Jazrawi, the producer and Sean Bloomfield who directed the documentary. The Marian Day of Prayer event this year was especially blessed to have one of these two gentlemen with us, Zaid Jazrawi. Zaid was the first guest speaker and his effort that day really gave glory to God and honoured Our Lady right from the beginning. Admitting that he needed Our Lady's assistance, Zaid asked all of us to join him in a Hail Mary, so that Our Lady would guide him as to what he would say. It was my first time hearing Zaid speak and I was impressed by the certainty with which he responded to Our Lady's call. What a wonderful gift it was for us to hear about his life changing experiences that took him from being a successful businessman and millionaire leading a very secular life, to his conversion that resulted in the selling of all his businesses and using those assets for the making of The Triumph. 

Me, Tammy Willis and Wayne Weible

During his talk, Zaid allowed for audience feedback and questions. It was during this time, that we all received another special gift, the testimonial of a young woman who was healed in Medjugorje. This young woman, Tammy Willis, within the span of approximately three minutes relayed to the audience what had happened as a direct result of Our Lady's intercession in her life. Tammy, a mother of four children was diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago. Because of its location, the medical doctors could not have offered her any viable treatment except a surgery. To have proceeded with the surgical option would have left her dead, or severely mentally disabled. She and her husband decided to wait on The Divine Physician. In the mean time, the cancer became significantly more aggressive just this past March, leaving her very little hope. It was at this time that Tammy was called, and not by her own accord, to Medjugorje. With very little opportunity to plan and not knowing anyone or where to stay, Tammy contacted two Canadians who now live in Medjugorje about her situation. Upon reading Tammy's email, she was immediately invited to stay with these two Canadians as long as necessary. It was obvious that Our Lady not only invited her to Medjugorje, but cleared the way for her. Tammy returned from Medjugorje completely filled with peace, and also, healing. Tammy's MRI, taken the day after her arrival back home and confirmed by medical reports, concluded that her brain cancer went into remission. Tammy's presence at the event, a living Medjugorje miracle became the fifth testimonial. 

If you are somewhat new to the Medjugorje apparitions, Our Lady Queen of Peace as she entitled herself, appeared in Medjugorje on June 24, 1981 on the Feast of St. John The Baptist to the first two of six visionaries, Ivanka Elez (formerly Ivankovic) and Mirjana Soldo (formerly Dragicevic). The next day, Our Lady appeared to the other four: Marija Lunetti (formerly Pavlovic), Jakov Colo, Ivan Dragicevic and Vicka Mijatovic (formerly Ivankovic). At these apparitions, Our Lady Queen of Peace, has prayed with the visionaries, granted blessings and given messages for the world. At my blog's sidebar, you will find the "little stones" message, current messages and videos of three of the six visionaries. I have also published separate blog posts for each "little stone" which you can find at the "Medjugorje" label.

The Medjugorje apparitions not only caught the attention of the local Bosnian villages, but that of the whole world. Today, over 50 million pilgrims have gone to Medjugorje. Many are "searching souls" seeking clarity for important life questions. Some go to Medjugorje for spiritual, physical and/or psychological healing. Medjugorje is a place of many graces: where confessions are provided for each day, where the Rosary is recited daily, where vocations are found to the priesthood, religious life and secular paths as well. Some have gone to Medjugorje fully aware of this, while others have not. Some have visited it reluctantly, upon the insistence of a family member or friend, only to find out later that Our Lady was the true source of the invitation. 

Michael Russell O'Brien speaking at the event

Michael Russell O'Brien, one of the four guest speakers at this event was one such reluctant invitee. Upon his acceptance of the invitation and subsequent pilgrimage to Medjugorje, his life changed forever. O'Brien's experiences in Medjugorje included some unforeseen occurrences, that were the beginning of his being purged from his previous life. You might think that a testimonial on Medjugorje, one's conversion and the experience of it all is a totally serious matter, and it certainly is, but add to this O'Brien's comical narration and the result is one of the entertaining pilgrimage stories I have ever heard.

Right from the very beginning he set the tone and added the comic relief by revealing the awkwardness, confusion and uncertainty he experienced. It seemed to be a standard part of his daily schedule. It was all apart of Our Lady's plan for him, his conversion and the new life that was about to be revealed to him. Perhaps the best example to share with you is his first meeting with Vicka.

Building up to this segment of his pilgrimage, O'Brien shared how he was mysteriously led from wandering on a street, not knowing where exactly where he was going, to being surrounded by a crowd of non-English speaking pilgrimages who hovered over him, to being led up a staircase of an unknown residence. Eventually, he got to the part of arriving to listen to Vicka speak about Our Lady. It was at Vicka's residence that O'Brien was summoned by Vicka herself to approach her. As O'Brien stated, it was another awkward moment and he was somewhat reluctant and hesitant. Our Lady remedied this by inspiring the crowd to clear a "walking path" for him, which left him no choice but to go to Vicka. In front of Vicka, with everyone watching, he wondered what was the purpose of all this as he anxiously awaited to see what was to happen next. This was the moment of his new direction in life. Vicka began writing on a piece of paper a personal message for him from Our Lady. The message was in Croatian and upon translation, O'Brien received his instructions, that Our Lady wanted him to use his musical and creative gifts to sing for Her, to spread Medjugorje to the world. O'Brien's response to Our Lady was "yes." Praised be Jesus and Mary, because at the Marian Day of Prayer, we all became the beneficiaries of his "yes" to Our Lady.

At the conclusion of O'Brien's talk, I felt encouraged and strengthened in my devotion to Our Lady. Michael is a passionate man with great musical talent. His talk coupled with his singing made for an uplifting experience. You can find Michael's songs at his web site,

Fr. Rick Wendell during his talk

The third guest speaker, Father Rick Wendell shared his dramatic conversion experience with the audience. Father Rick's secular life of sin ended with his physical death. Upon his mom's prayer, God restored him to life and he began a new life living for God and Our Lady. How moving it was to listen to some of the details of his secular life, told to us as a priest. Our Lady in Medjugorje stated that it is through the clergy that Her Immaculate Heart will triumph. The clergy are the bridge between Our Lady and the world, in which God's greater glory will be realized. Father Rick demonstrated his importance in Our Lady's plan for us that day, by his wonderful talk, by generously hearing many confessions and providing a special blessing that was enthusiastically received by many.

As for the fourth guest speaker, Wayne Weible, it was particularly gratifying to have finally met him. Prior to this event, I had only known of him. I discovered his Marian calling through one of his newsletter publications, Miracle at MedjugorjeIt was given to me during my volunteer effort at one of the previous Toronto screenings of The Triumph. Eventually, I visited Wayne's web site Medjugorje Weible and quickly understood that he was chosen by Our Lady to be one of her main vessels to spread Medjugorje throughout the world. To give you a sense of just how significant Wayne's life has become in Our Lady's plan, I would like to quote Wayne in his own words from his new book, Medjugorje The Last Apparition - How It Will Change The World:
For more than 26 years, I have been immersed in all aspects of the apparitions, including constant scrutiny of the messages given from the first day to the present. Much time, professional and personal, has been spent with the visionaries and others directly involved, through formal interviews and casual conversations. I have written eight books about Medjugorje and travelled millions of miles across the globe lecturing on the specific message of the apparitions. It is a mission, and its purpose is to attempt to make people aware of this greatest of spiritual graces, which allows Mary to be the messenger, teacher and spiritual mother to all who will listen. (10) 
Upon knowing of Wayne as one of the four guest speakers, it certainly built up my enthusiasm for this event. To have met and chatted with him was a gift. In addition, I not only purchased his new book, but I had the pleasure of having dinner with him, Michael O'Brien, Zaid Jazrawi, and others given by the Ave Maria Center of Peace, to a select group as part of a celebration of what proved to be a very successful day.

On a personal note, I feel very blessed to have been apart of the Marian Day of Prayer. Not only did It strengthen my devotion to Our Lady and encourage my faith journey, but I met so many wonderful people. It is always great to be among like minded individuals. I hope that those who are new to Medjugorje and did not attend the Marian Day of Prayer, will be encouraged to discover and learn more about Our Lady's messages.

The Marian apparitions in Medjugorje are considered to be the "most important event in the world today." Wayne Weible in his aforementioned book provides three main reasons for this. The first, is that this small Bosnian town is place of abundant graces where many spiritual fruits have been harvested. (6) Second, the fact that Our Lady has been appearing for 33 years to so many visionaries "with such profound global impact" is like no other apparition in the history of the Catholic Church. (21) Third, Our Lady stated that Medjugorje is the last time she will be appearing to the world as an apparition. Why is this so? Our Lady has stated that once the ten secrets come into effect, apparitions will no longer be necessary. (21)

To discover Medjugorje is but the first step of a renewed faith journey, the impetus to a greater conversion. The process of discovery must be accompanied by prayer, as Our Lady has stated in her August 25, 1993 message, "Dear children! I want you to understand that I am your Mother, that I want to help you and call you to prayer. Only by prayer can you understand and accept my messages and practice them in your life..." Rest assured that I will include in my daily recitation of the entire Rosary, all those who have been spiritually adopted by Medjugorje and as a special mention, those who will endeavour to discover Medjugorje!

Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.