|The Way Of the Cross First Station, Jesus is condemned to death|
In Medjugorje this summer, I climbed Cross Mountain (Križevac) frequently, twelve times to be exact, always during the peak heat (35C-50C/86F-122F) of the day, typically from 12:00pm-4:00pm. I did so of my own choosing, offering up the extra effort to the Lord together with my prayer intentions for the Way Of The Cross, the Rosary and Mass.
My way to these prayerful climbs began with a walk from my pension to Križevac reciting the Rosary along the way, accompanied by one or two bottles (1.5L) of cold water or ice tea. By the time I actually arrived at the mountain, I had finished one bottle and was well hydrated before the climb began.
Done prudently, climbing Križevac during the hottest period of the day is really not as bad as it seems. A carefully paced climb that keeps in mind that this is more of a prayer than a climb, will help to ensure that you do not become overheated and exhausted by aggressively ascending the mountain. This really is the most fundamental important point to remember and understand about Križevac, it is not a climb with a little bit of prayer, but a time of prayer with a little bit of climbing.
Accompanying the climb with plenty of fluids is essential to ensure you do not get dehydrated. In addition, you have to be careful as to where you step, both climbing up and more importantly, on the way down the mountain. Make every effort to step on flat surfaces; with so many of the rocks smooth due to the steps of millions of pilgrims over the past thirty four years, it doesn't take much to sprain (or partially sprain) your ankle or worse. Coming down the mountain aggressively or too confidently, can be hard on your knees and back as well.
|The view of Medjugorje and the valley below from the Fourth Station of The Way Of The Cross|
The summer weather during my pilgrimage was very hot and dry, which happens to suit me perfectly. I prefer Herzegovina's climate so my climbs were not so much an increased level of suffering, but more of an extraordinary effort, which I united to Christ's passion.
One of the advantages of making this climb during the hottest part of the day was the opportunity to be alone, immersed in prayer undisturbed, seeking the Divine Intimacy that I so desired to have in Medjugorje. I was not to be disappointed; it was just one of the many gifts I received.
Some of the locals and fellow pilgrims that were aware of my climbs, charitably recommended (others very candidly) that I reconsider for a cooler time of the day. I assured them it was nothing to worry about. Part of the assurance I gave was based on my trust in God and Our Lady during my pilgrimage and the prudent approach I took; a properly paced climb with plenty of fluids, that ensured I took into account the heat of the day and that the effort to ascend the mountain would in no way diminish the spirit of prayer.
My pace was so slow that I did not breath heavily or become exhausted during the ascent. What affected me most was the time standing still in front of each station, reading reflections and praying in the sun, which typically took me 5-8 minutes to complete.
Once the ascent has been completed, I quickly segued into an encounter with Jesus at the foot of the Cross (which contains a splinter from the original Cross that Jesus was crucified on), immersed in deep prayer. The anticipation of this moment brings with it the joy and relief of having finally arrived at the peak.
This is one of, if not, the most important moments of the climb. How long you pray and how much time you spend at the foot of the Cross is a matter for each individual to determine; there are no restrictions and I recommend you spend what ever amount of time your heart desires.
|View of the Cross upon completion of the Way Of The Cross prayer|
All things considered, climbing Križevac at the hottest part of the day is only an option for those who are in good health and young enough to take on such a physical challenge. No matter what your age or fitness level, it will drain your energy and require rest and recuperation afterwards. My recuperation typically included several bottles of soda and a steak dinner. It was the only way I could regain some strength and energy to coherently attend the Evening Prayer Program after such a climb.
I encourage anyone currently in or on route to Medjugorje, to climb Križevac as often as possible, at whatever preferable time of the day or night. Each climb is an renewed encounter with Jesus, a time of Divine Intimacy. I would like to recommend that you accompany your climb with the prayerful reflections of Father Slavko Barbarić's book Pray With The Heart; a book that became my prayer companion during my pilgrimage this summer. In it there are prayers for: the Way Of The Cross, Rosary, Apparition Hill, Adoration, Veneration of the Cross, before and after Confession, fast days, healing prayers, prayers before and after Mass, morning and evening prayers. This book is available right in Medjugorje at the Franciscan Book Store, next to the Pošta (Post Office) and Information Center, near St. James Church.
Here is what Fr. Slavko recommends to pilgrims once they reach to the top of Križevac, noted in the chapter The Places Of Prayer In Medjugorje, "...Unite yourself with Jesus. When you reach the top, pray under the Cross, be the weather nice or bad. Take courage. Pray your fullest under the Cross. Cry your heart out because of your sins. Open your heart before the Cross and you will know what it means..." (14) For those that do this, they are sure to experience the peace and joy that comes from having reached the peak of Cross Mountain.
|Me enjoying quiet time with God at the back part of Križevac|
Once you have finished praying at the Cross, there is the option of experiencing continued Divine Intimacy at the back part of the Cross. This area of the Mountain's peak is quite large and affords you the opportunity to pick a spot for some private time and rest. There are several trees to shade you from the sun and the view is absolutely spectacular; the full range of mountains, the valley below and Medjugorje. It is the perfect place to hear and listen to God.
For all those called to Medjugorje, may Our Blessed Mother clear the way for you, protect and guide you on your pilgrimage and grant you an abundance of graces. Be assured of my prayers for you.
Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.