The Present Moment
These little journeys across the sea are always bookended by Germany at the beginning, to visit our friends there and Ireland at the end to see Fr. Peter and eat, eat and then eat again! In middle there’s always a new country, some little patch of Europe that holds culture, food and beauty that we have not yet experienced. Medjugorje had not been on the list. Not at all. We didn’t even know it existed...until last Spring when Fr. Peter shared with us his own experience of quiet spirituality at this holy site where the Blessed Virgin appeared to a group of teenagers atop a mountain in 1981. She shared her message of love and inclusiveness with these everyday teens; a message that remains so very relevant today. So off we went to Google and quickly realized that this holy place was not in trendy England, mysterious Romania or even pious Rome. Instead, Medugorje was in Bosnia. Bosnia. The very word created a sense of panic amongst our family and friends as they remembered the horrific scenes of war that played on the news in the early 1990s. We read and researched and then relaxed into the knowledge that the Bosnia of today, while still struggling with the intense emotional aftermath of war, had become a peaceful place where religion was bringing people together instead of dividing them. And so off we went last week, first to Croatia and then across the border into Bosnia. As we passed our passports to the border guards, our eyes were drawn to the rare beauty that invited us. Towering granite grey mountains rose from the edges of small villages, almost as if they were protecting them, enveloping them. Small white stone houses decorated with red clay roofs lay in these mountainous valleys. In between each village, long stretches of road appeared, winding along the edge of cliffs that fell without notice to the cornflower blue sea below. Islands popped up here and there, making me a little lonesome for the Cape Shore drive. An hour after crossing the border, we arrived in Medugorje and so began our a four day journey of reflection and prayer with Mary at the centre. Live in the present moment. It’s the only moment you have. How often did Fr. Peter utter those profound words to Chris and I during our stay at holy, hopeful, quiet Medugorje. It wasn’t a difficult task, being completely and totally aware of our surroundings in a place where moments of quiet reflection waited around every corner.
We climbed Cross Hill, a mountainous climb completed by most visitors. We journeyed up Apparition Hill, where the Blessed Virgin appeared, bringing with us rocks from the Landwash and the Back of the Beach in an effort to leave a piece of Branch in this holy place. We prayed. We walked. We ate and laughed and prayed a bit more with Fr. Peter. The one thing we didn’t do was feel unsafe. In fact, we both commented on how we had felt less safe walking in the evening in the States than we did in Bosnia. In the end, it was the statue of the Risen Jesus where we found our most holy moments. The statue, which stands about twenty feet tall, shows a restful and resurrected Jesus; a Jesus ready to embrace and heal. In the ten years since it was created, a continuous and unpredictable flow of tears has flowed from Jesus’ knee; tears known to have great healing power. We watched each evening as people from all over the world approached that statue, placing their hands, head, hearts against His knee, bringing their weariness, their brokenness, their illness and I’m sure their gratitude to Jesus. I can still see each head laid against the statue, each cloth soaking in Jesus’ tears. It’s a feeling of profound peace neither of us will soon forget. Nor will we forget the ages of those who were experiencing Medugorje with us. Young people from all over the world were there, saying the Rosary, going to Mass, taking in all of the goodness and peace available to them. One evening, we watched a group of teenagers from Poland singing Ave Maria with great joy. It’s not a sight common in our own country. Their faith will serve them well as they make their way into the world. So here we are now, flying over the Alps into France in our way to Ireland. Our time at Medugorje has ended and we are left with the same question most visitors have. Where will the Blessed Virgin appear next? She has appeared in France, Portugal, Ireland and many other places throughout the world. Little did we know that this question would be answered aboard a plane thirty thousand feet in the air. She is appearing now. Right here. Right now. She’s in the smile of the jolly bachelor sitting across from us, alone but laughing uncontrollably as he watches a movie. She’s in the little boy seated two rows up, both of his mothers bringing great love to him and to one another. She’s in the hot cup of tea that Chris surprised me with only moments ago to fuel my writing. Medugorje was awe-inspiring and while we will return, we do not need to seek Our Lady in far off places. She is in our kitchens, our communities, our hearts. Where there is love, where there is kindness, where there is mercy, she is there. And as Fr. Peter says, if we live in the present moment we just might recognize her.