Saturday, September 6, 2014

Medjugorje's Prayer Program: A Daily Retreat

Group recitation of the Rosary at the back altar of Saint James
At the group recitation of the Rosary before evening Mass

If you are planning to go to Medjugorje or are already on route I hope today's post will encourage you to take part in Medjugorje's Prayer Program.

Visiting Apparition Hill, Cross Mountain, The Blue Crosseschatting with fellow pilgrims, enjoying a coffee or tea with friends, going for long walks will no doubt be on your "to do" list during your stay in Medjugorje, but what you may have yet to include is Medjugorje's Prayer Program: a very well organized prayer schedule for all pilgrims that begins in the morning and extends well into the evening.

The Franciscan friars in Medjugorje have done an excellent job establishing and implementing the Prayer Program, ensuring that pilgrims will truly have a spiritually beneficial experience. Whether you have been a devout Catholic all your life, recently converted or new to prayer, the Prayer Program will help introduce and strengthen your prayer life and your relationship with Jesus and Mary. 

The Prayer Program begins with Mass at 7:30am in Croatian, which is followed by several other Masses in various languages throughout the morning. English Mass is usually celebrated at either 10:00am or 12:00pm in St. James or the parish hall.

In the afternoon, silent adoration is available in the Adoration Chapel, located between the parish Information Center and the outdoor seating at St. James back alter.

As evening arrives so too does the opportunity to go to confession, which is available daily in Medjugorje beginning at 6:00pm and extends for many hours. One priest shared with me that on one particular day, he finished hearing his last confession at 11:00pm.

As confessions are being heard at both sides of St. James Church, a group recitation of the Rosary simultaneously begins at 6:00pm with the Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries at the back altar of the church. After the completion of the Sorrowful Mysteries, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary is sung, followed by Mass beginning at 7:00pm.

Eucharistic Adoration is added to the evening prayers on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 10:00pm-11:00pm and on Thursdays from 8:00pm-9:00pm. Veneration of the Cross takes place every Friday after evening Mass from 8:00pm-9:00pm. On Fridays at 6:00am, the Stations of The Cross are recited at Cross Mountain and group recitation of the Rosary on Apparition Hill on Sundays at 6:00am.

The above noted times are during the summer months. During winter, most of these times are typically adjusted to one hour earlier. A pamphlet providing general information of the Prayer Program can be obtained at the parish Information Center. The outdoor monitors at this same location provide the specific details on each day's prayer program.

Back altar of Saint James Church
Capturing the evening part of the Prayer Program's Veneration of the Cross

Upon my arrival in Medjugorje, I greatly anticipated visiting the main apparition sites and spending many hours in prayer during the day, hoping to encounter Our Lady's presence in a profound way. I was not disappointed. What I did not anticipate was that same profound experience of Our Lady's presence during the evening part of the Prayer Program.

Being somewhat new to Medjugorje, I wasn't really sure what the evening part of the Prayer Program entailed and what exactly to expect from it all. This did not in any way diminish my expectation of the anticipated peace and joy that I hoped would be experienced and felt in a very conscious way. I was pleased to discover that each night was an amazing experience.

Being in Medjugorje and participating in the Prayer Program, especially the dedicated four-to-five hours of nightly prayers, was the equivalent of attending a daily retreat!

Accepting Our Lady's invitation to go to Medjugorje and being in the company of so many others who have done likewise, really added to the joyful experience that can only truly be understood if you experience it yourself. This is what awaits those who are on route or scheduled to go to Medjugorje.

In addition to the Rosary prayers, the evening part of the Prayer Program also affords pilgrims an opportunity for a special personal encounter with Our Lady. What I am referring to is the brief stoppage of the group recitation of the Rosary at 6:40pm each night. This is done to acknowledge Our Lady's daily appearance to three of the six visionaries: Ivan, Marija and Vicka. All in attendance at the back alter of St. James, both the clergy and the laity, kneel down for approximately three minutes in private prayer to Our Lady. 

Veneration of the Cross at Saint James Church
Evening part of the Prayer Program, Veneration of The Cross

The healing prayers and meditations were an especially beneficial inclusion in the evening part of the Prayer Program. These prayers and meditations are recited so beautifully that you can not help but feel the healing process begin and a gain sense of gratitude to Jesus and Mary. The many blessings you receive, that feeling of being strengthened with many graces, the overwhelming peaceful experience of it all, is something that can barely be described with words.

Medjugorje is a land of great graces and this is what you receive and experience throughout the day and in a profound way, at the evening part of the Prayer Program. It is the perfect way to end the day, a peaceful and joyful encounter with Jesus and Mary on a nightly basis.

May your daily participation in Medjugorje's Prayer Program be a faith strengthening and grace-filled experience.

Hvaljen Isus i Marija (Praised be Jesus and Mary)

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