Our flight from Cologne to Split although being only one hour and fifty minutes felt much longer than that especially passing through turbulent skies. If the flight did not increase your faith in God the landing certainly did. We were relieved to be once again on terra firma albeit in a very distant land.
The bus journey from Split to Medjugorje had more stomach churning twists and bends than any rollercoaster that any of us had ever experienced. Perhaps the saving grace of this bus ride was that it was at night and the sheer drops down cliff faces were veiled by the dark night.
Upon our arrival in Medjugorje we were greeted very warmly by Maria. “Welcome home”, she exclaimed! No nicer words could have been said. Hotel Kenedi was indeed our home for the two days that we were in Medjugorje. Maria, her husband Kenedi, their two daughters and one of their two sons definitely made us feel at home with them. No request of ours was too much for them. We will remember them with great fondness and affection.
Making our way down to the church of St James for Mass our pilgrims spotted the shops and so took a slight detour. The small shops were a feast for the eyes. The religious articles on offer were uniquely of Medjugorje.
In 1981, Our Lady is said to have appeared to six local teenagers. One of them still receives visions to this day. The place where the apparitions took place is now known as Apparition Hill. The hill is scattered with a pinkish stone. This stone is used to manufacture rosary beads which are sold in Medjugorje and to my knowledge are not available anywhere else in the world.
After finally pulling the pilgrims from the store we headed to the church of St James for the daily English Mass. There is a sizeable English speaking community here in Medjugorje. Our celebration with them was a joyful expression of the peace that flows through this town.
Behind the church and the outdoor Mass area, our group headed down a boulevard adorned with the Luminous mysteries of the rosary to a very peculiar statue of the Risen Christ. From the knee of this statue an ever flowing liquid secretes from it. Although tests have been done on this statue, nothing definitive has been said of this strange phenomena. If they say that seeing is believing, then what we saw with our own eyes is truly something amazing. Even after wiping the knee of the statue dry, the fluid returns – always from the same spot.
Our pilgrims each ascended the two little steps that are put in place for people to collect the fluid by wiping it with their hands or an article of clothing. Some try to capture the fluid in bottles, but this takes quite a while.
Because the weather looks a bit suspect, we decide to go back to the hotel for lunch and to wait for the inclement weather to pass. Within 30 minutes, the rain has stopped, and so we return to our plan to go to Apparition Hill.
Once arriving at the base of the hill, there is a steep 20m climb to the site of the 2nd and 3rd apparitions. Because of the rain, the slope is very slippery. Marking the sites of the apparitions are smallish shrines with a statue of Our Lady and a blue cross. In fact this part of the hill is called “Blue Cross Mountain”. There is nothing significant about the crosses being painted blue; it is as such because that was the only colour paint available!
At the site of the second apparition, we pray the rosary. At each decade the pilgrims announce their intentions. At this point on our pilgrimage we are united by our dependence and need of God’s grace for the many intentions we carry.
At the conclusion of the rosary, I encourage the pilgrims to find a stone and to put it in their pocket, as a tangible reminder of the sacred place that Medjugorje is and the sacred time that we had just shared. Little did I realise that when encouraging them to take a stone, they would take a rock, some several!
The following morning, we bade farewell to our hosts Maria, Kenedi and their family. Maria asked me to email her when we returned to New Zealand so that they would know that we had returned safely. It was at that point that I knew that they meant what they said about us being at home with them. They were genuinely concerned for our welfare while we were with them and now even when we were leaving them.
We certainly will be back to Medjugorje… and back home to Maria and Kenedi.