We all hugged and tears were abundant. The joy in our hearts was a gift from God. We formed a large circle and sang, smiling at each other, knowing we were bonded by Our Lady who had brought us together. It is my hope that someday we can be reunited in Medjugorje with Padre Jozo again. How awesome that would be!
As the group dispersed to the waiting buses, I said my goodbyes and waited for my driver to arrive. I had the good fortune to be able to take a few last photos with Padre Jozo, and then I was off to the blessed place myself!
It seemed a short drive to Medjugorje, and to be in the village was a dream come true! There is a peacefulness in being here that one can feel. Our Lady chose a beautiful, simple place to appear on this earth. There was a great happiness in my heart knowing how much I had prepared to be here. And it felt so right.
I arrived at Vicka's house and met her wonderful mother, brothers, and father. I found out also that she was in Rome and would not be back until Monday. I was shown to my room and invited to have some lunch. I sat silently drinking in my surroundings. I called Vicka's mother "Mama", and she had a wonderful lunch for me. I was the only pilgrim there at this time, and no one spoke much English except Stipe, Vicka's brother. I had learned some Croatian and I share with you what I knew--Gospa- means Our Lady, Mir-means peace, Vallah-means thank you, and dobro- means good. I said dobro many times referring to the good lunch!
I had made arrangements to meet some of my dear Irish friends from the retreat at St. James Church. I told Mama I would be back later, and began to walk the well-worn path to town. I walked alone, and drank in everything I saw .I felt Our Lady so near to me. As I walked, tears came to my eyes. I kissed my rosary and prayed it with thanksgiving for being in Medjugorje. It was prayer from the heart.
I got to the end of the path and looked around, then I saw the twin towers of St. James Church and knew which way to go. It really hit me hard that I was finally there. I walked to the church and there saw David and Eamon. It was a wonderful feeling to see familiar faces again and to meet up with them. They said the church was locked for cleaning, so we took several pictures outside the church and went to have some lunch. After eating, the church was open, and I went inside.
As I stepped inside, I thought how Our Lady appeared in this church many times. I was humbled greatly,and my heart was touched. I walked slowly up the center aisle and knelt in the 3rd pew on the right, where Padre Jozo had first heard the voice speak and say,"Go and protect the children." As I knelt there I carried in my heart all the friends of the IIPG and prayed for all the intentions in those hearts. I prayed a thanksgiving prayer for being led here and for all the blessings and graces I felt. It was a moment to drink in. There were only four or five other people in the church, and it felt so good to be there. I felt a great connection to God as I knelt there and a great connection with all the people around the world connected by the IIPG. I felt as if each person was a bright spark all around the globe, a spark of love and devotion to God and Our Lady. This was a dream come true to be kneeling in this spot, praying from the heart. How blessed I felt!
After time in church, we climbed Apparition Hill, saying a rosary as we climbed. I was overwhelmed as I thought Our Lady has actually been here!!! It had been raining, but it stopped and the sun came out. I tried to imagine Our Lady here! Actually from heaven!!! That was so incredible to try to take in!
As we hiked down the mountain, we planned to go to the 5:00 p.m. Mass, and I was so looking forward to attending Mass in this church. The devotion of the people of Medjugorje is awesome! The church was packed, and Fr. Svetozar led the rosary. I had seen so many pictures of him, but never seen him! There he was, kneeling at the altar, leading the rosary. I saw Sister Emmanuel two rows in front of me, and several of the people that had been at the retreat were there. It was as if I was with family. I had not expected to see familiar faces in this church, and it was a great comfort to me. I was very moved when at 5:40 p.m. Fr. Svetozar asked for silence, and the apparition occurred. I could feel Our Lady in my heart at that moment!
At Mass I was delighted to see the priest bring the Eucharist to the congregation, just like at the retreat. I received Holy Communion from Fr. Svet and felt blessed again. Immediately after receiving the Host, I knelt as tears streamed down my face. I had such a strong sense of God within me. It was incredible. I felt such a closeness in my heart. I was humbled by our God.
After Mass was Eucharistic Adoration. The church remained packed. There was a particular little child that sang so beautifully all the hymns, such a devotion was beautiful. One could pick her voice out of the crowd and it made my heart happy to hear her. I was tearful. They had speakers introduce the decades of the rosary and sing songs in several languages with the words up on a screen. The passion for Our Gospa is so strong in these people. The active participation is moving, such a sense of belonging.
After Mass and Adoration I said goodbye to my friends and took a taxi home to Mama. She had dinner waiting for me! The group leader for the Pilgrims' Peace Center came over and introduced herself. She shared there was a group from the US coming on Saturday night and I could hook up with them. She was very kind and spoke great English!
As I said good night and went to my room, I felt a great peace in my heart. I was so grateful to Our Lady and our God for bringing me to this place of holiness. I was finally here, finally in Medjugorje and felt so content and peaceful. What a wonderful sleep I had!
(End of Part 13)