Praying With The Heart


by Fr. Jozo Zovko, O.F.M.

In the first days of the apparitions, we really competed with each other, seeing who could pray more rosaries each day. That was unhealthy competition. Although Our Lady was exhorting us to pray not that way, but with our hearts, we did not understand what it meant to pray with the heart. That night she said to us, "This evening, before you start praying, you should all forgive one another." We thought, "That's something simple, we do that in every Holy Mass!" But by no means was it easy; it was quite an effort. It meant that everyone who had built up hostilities within his heart had to give them to God immediately with love and joy. I explained what Our Lady's request meant and asked all the faithful if they understood. Everyone said yes, but no one did anything. We felt as if we were in a desert, and we were even a little afraid. Moreover, Our Lady would not allow us to pray until we had personally reconciled with each other - until we had forgiven each other from our hearts. A silence came over us; it seemed to last forever. We suffered a desert-like anguish, and it grew later and later.

Everyone felt very depressed. A fight was raging within us. Finally I suggested, "Let's pray the rosary, that we may become able to forgive." So we began praying what we call "the Psalter," all three groups of the mysteries of the rosary. After about half an hour, a voice announced in the church, "Lord, I have forgiven. Please forgive me!" Everyone began crying and sobbing loudly. This prayer touched our hearts, and floodgates of tears were opened. We all had the desire to say, "We have forgiven. Please forgive us, too!" And everyone looked for a hand, any hand, to hold. With relieved hearts, we continued our prayer. After the prayer there was a true celebration of reconciliation throughout the whole village.

The morning that followed will go down in the history of Medjugorje. Overnight the people had torn down all the walls in their hearts, walls which had been separating them from one another. The next morning, everywhere in the village, people went to houses in which they had never set foot before because of one incident or another; many had even stopped greeting one another. Farmers can be petty, too. Hate and estrangement often had developed. But now, in their neighbor, they recognized their brother. In their neighbor they recognized Jesus. It occurred to them sadly why, for such a long time before, they had been unable to have such joy and beauty. And so I no longer have to ask anymore, "Do you want to forgive? Do you believe in God the Father?" We now carry out our baptismal promises day by day, everyone making an effort, even if only mentally: "I reject Satan... I believe in God..."

It was then that people saw the Croatian word "MIR", meaning "PEACE", in capital letters in the sky. I, too, witnessed this event. The letters moved as if animated, streaming towards us like a car's headlights. It felt like we were experiencing the end of the world. I cannot imagine anyone ever forgetting such a thing - not the letters, but the interior experience, I mean. It is engraved within our hearts, into our lives, and into our entire being, the meaning of "Medjugorje" - engraved within the new man, within children of God who love and forgive.

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