Friday, August 15, 2014

Medjugorje's Blue Crosses: A Time of Divine Intimacy

The Second Blue Cross, where Our Lady appears each month to the visionary Mirjana.

It seems only fitting that with today being the Solemnity of The Assumption of Mary, I resume my blogging effort by honouring Our Lady with a post that shares some of the grace-filled experiences during my stay in Medjugorje.

In Medjugorje, there are several locations where one can experience divine intimacy, one such place is at the "Blue Crosses." As one who has had the privilege of spending many hours at this location, my post of today shares this beautiful gift with everyone: those who are presently in Medjugorje; those who have been there; those who are on route to Medjugorje and in a special way; those who are discerning a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and want to  better understand the pilgrimage experience.

Unlike the location at Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukazanja) where Our Lady first appeared to the visionaries or the top of Cross Mountain (Križevac), the Blue Crosses are a smaller location, but big enough to accommodate a significant number of pilgrims, many of whom do not stay for a very long time. There are exceptions with both individuals and groups. I happen to be one of those exceptions as I really enjoyed spending a lot of time at the Blue Crosses. 

Although my initial visit to the Blue Crosses was only an introduction, a passing through experience, it was enough for me to grasp the divine intimacy of this location. It did not take long before I returned to it and immediately set goals to visit the Blue Crosses on a daily basis.

Ideally the best time to go to the Blue Crosses is when you will be alone or alone as much as possible, which in Medjugorje means in the company of approximately five to ten individuals who are respectful, quiet and focussed on prayer. During my first week my visits to the Blue Crosses were in the very early hours of the morning, around 5:00am.

The Original Blue Cross in Medjugorje. The Second Blue Cross is at the center right of the photo.

After the thirty-third anniversary (June 25) of the apparitions had passed, many pilgrims left Medjugorje. This was to be expected as the anniversary date was a big draw and typically pilgrims would come for a week in and around the anniversary.

With a fewer amount of pilgrims, my opportunities to spend quiet time in prayer at the Blue Crosses increased both in frequency and length of time. Of the two Blue Crosses, I took an immediate liking to the "Original Blue Cross," and this is where I spent many hours in prayer in Medjugorje.

As I continued with my pilgrimage for several more weeks, the Original Blue Cross became an increasingly ideal location to meditate and pray. Upon the recommendation of our pilgrim guide, I purchased a book written by Father Slavko Barbaric entitled, In The School of Love.

In addition to my Rosary, camera and a bottle of water, Fr. Slavko's book quickly became part of my standard set of includes for my visits to the Original Blue Cross. To meditate on two-to-three chapters, wrapped by the recitation of the Rosary(one set of mysteries prior to and another set) after the readings proved to be a time of divine intimacy in which I received many graces.

It was part of my acceptance to be a diligent student in Our Lady's School of Love. I can not think of a more appropriate book to have accompanied my prayer and meditation at the Original Blue Cross. In addition to the reflections, Fr. Slavko's book also includes quotes from Our Lady's messages and scriptural passages offered to the reader as "spiritual food, heavenly bread for our life, for our healing and for our salvation." If you are currently in Medjugorje, I respectfully encourage you to get this book available at the Franciscan book store near St. James, in the same building and adjacent to the parish Information Center.

The original Blue Cross shot from the back path.
A wider view of both the Original Blue Cross area to the left and the Second Blue Cross to the right.

Medjugorje is a place of great graces and my personal experiences at the Original Blue Cross that made this truth evident to me. Each day in Medjugorje, I recited all four sets of the mysteries of the Rosary. One night I had arrived at the Original Blue Cross only having completed two out of the four mysteries. It was late at night, dark and very quiet. I was with approximately five other individuals, all of us scattered in our own individual location. If you have never been to Medjugorje, the Blue Crosses at night are not illuminated. There are patio lights to help pilgrims navigate the rocky pathways, but once you make your way up to the blue crosses, it is a dark location where you can barely see anyone. I found this to be very accommodating in my desire for personal intimacy with Jesus and Mary. This "accommodating atmosphere" lasted for one set of the Rosary mysteries. 

Before I could begin to recite the last set of the Rosary mysteries and complete my recitation for the day, a small group of approximately twenty-five Italian pilgrims arrived led by a Franciscan friar. I know what you are thinking, there went my tranquility and peaceful prayer time. Well, in the first few minutes, I had the same thoughts, but something happened that changed all that. As the friar began to speak, he provided a brief meditation and then began to lead the pilgrims in a group recitation of the Rosary. The friar's gentle voice and tone prompted me to join these Italian pilgrims in prayer. I did so not knowing how long they would stay. Regardless I set aside my own personal prayer time and hoped that I would have the energy and fervour to continue after they left.

As I prayed with everyone a sense of peace came over me that pleasantly surprised me. I was no longer thinking about that personal "ideal prayer time," but focussed on the group recitation of the Rosary and meditating the various mysteries. This sense of peace lasted throughout the recitation and stayed with me after the Italian pilgrims' departure. I spent further time alone and recited another set of the mysteries to complete my own Rosary for the day. What a grace filled time it was.

Eventually when I left, I marvelled at how amazing it was to have experienced it all. It was God's grace working in me, opening me up to accepting this unexpected event in my evening. What I originally considered to be an intrusion to personal prayer time, ended up being a wonderful gift of God's grace. That day, like everyday in Medjugorje, was an amazing day.

Praised be Jesus and Mary.

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