Friday, March 27, 2015

Medjugorje's Risen Christ Statue

Medjugorje's Risen Christ statue

With the approach of Easter next week, I thought it fitting today to post about Medjugorje's Risen Christ statue. If you are new to Medjugorje or have never heard of this statue, it is a thirty foot solid bronze statue located in the area adjacent to the back altar of Saint James Church. It draws many people to it and the line ups are long, sometimes taking over two hours for pilgrims to finally get to the statue. If you are planning to go to Medjugorje, on route or already there as of this post, I recommend you include a visit to the Risen Christ statue as part of your pilgrimage itinerary. You can find it by walking down the interlocking stone path flanked by Medjugorje's Luminous Mysteries Mosaics.

In addition to the beautiful sculpture there is something else about this statue that draws pilgrims to it each day; the unexplained and miraculous seeping of water near Christ's right knee. Droplets of water ooze out through a pinhole from the statue every few seconds, everyday, all day long and throughout the night. Pilgrims patiently line up during all hours of the day and night, in the sunshine or the rain and during the colder months as well, all done in an effort to get their turn to see and experience this phenomenon.

You might be asking yourself, what exactly does this phenomenon represent. From a faith perspective, one can only conclude that it is a daily miracle. It is clearly impossible for water to constantly ooze out from a solid bronze statue. Science could easily substantiate this, but more importantly, the focus should be placed on why God has given this miracle to Medjugorje. 

Some see this as a much needed sign from Heaven, drawing further attention to the apparitions of Medjugorje. For others who are somewhat skeptical, this is tangible proof of something special happening in Medjugorje. Perhaps this is God's way of converting the "doubting Thomas" pilgrim who needs to see and touch for himself/herself something miraculous; that with such an experience will come the realization that there is something profound and unexplainable going on in Medjugorje. In my view the Risen Christ statue's daily miracle is God's way of making His presence known; and in part, validating the apparitions in the process.


Two of my fellow pilgrims at the Risen Christ statue, Medjugorje June'2014. 

Yet for others, the phenomenon at the Risen Christ statue could also be a consolation from God to pilgrims who have already been given the gift of faith and fully believe in the apparitions of Medjugorje. The experience of seeing and touching the water becomes a faith strengthening moment; an affirmation of their belief in the apparitions. What comes to mind in writing about this is a well known quote from the Spanish saint, Saint Teresa of Avila who stated, "Seek not the consolations of God, but the God of consolations." What does this mean for pilgrims at the Risen Christ statue? Simply put, absorb the moment, let the experience be a faith strengthening time, try not to become too overwhelmed by it and most importantly, pray to God and Our Lady to help you understand the significance and purpose for your pilgrimage and faith journey.


You might have noticed from the photo above, that some pilgrims bring a bag with them to the statue. They do this because they want their respective items to come into contact with the seeping water. As to what pilgrims actually bring, linen hand cloths are the most common items. In addition pilgrims bring Rosaries, prayer cards, photos of loved ones, necklaces and just about anything else that is to be worn or carried around on a daily basis. Many pilgrims bring items with the intention of giving them to loved ones and friends. It is not uncommon for pilgrims to bring several of the aforementioned items; remaining at the statue for at least fifteen minutes. Time at the Risen Christ statue is one of patience and understanding.


Linen hand cloths available in Medjugorje for the Risen Christ statue

To accommodate pilgrims at the Risen Christ statue, several Medjugorje shops sell linen hand cloths. The photo above is one of many that I purchased in Medjugorje. The dimension of the cloths are approximately five square inches; folded to a quarter of that size they easily fit into a prayer book, wallet or purse. You may want to consider purchasing several of your own, wipe the water from the statue and give them away as a present to family and friends. 

Visiting the Risen Christ statue once is not a guarantee that you will not desire to visit it again before your departure. This is something that I experienced and it was shared by many of my fellow pilgrims. One pilgrim's story in particular comes to mind. The pilgrim is the gentleman in the previous photo, Alan, wearing the crimson shirt and beige shorts. I only had the privilege of journeying with him for three days, but we made the most of it, especially on the last night. The third day was totally his. As a courtesy, I expressed that he did not have to feel obligated to negotiate the day with me, but perhaps he should spend it alone and then come nightfall, we could reconnect and spend the night in prayer. It was an offer well received and accepted.

Night descended and one of the last items for Alan's pilgrimage itinerary was to revisit the Risen Christ statue. Alan had purchased several hand cloths and other religious items he wanted to put into contact with the water. So we visited the Risen Christ statue and it became abundantly clear from the exceptionally long line up that waiting to get his turn would consume much of his last remaining precious hours in Medjugorje. We decided it was best to get something to eat and then recite the Rosary at the Original Blue Cross. Our plan was to return to the Risen Christ at 2:00am and that is exactly what we did. Much to our surprise, there was still quite a long line up, but no where near what it was previously. 

In the early hours of the morning, the Risen Christ statue is quite a tranquil and peaceful place: the intense heat of the day has dissipated, there is no chatter from pilgrims, and the back altar of St. James is silent. Just the quietness of the early morning hours and the refreshing cooler air. Alan was in line and it looked from the line's movement that it would be approximately forty minutes before Alan had his chance again. In consideration of other pilgrims, I decided it was best to sit on one of the perimeter benches that surround the statue and patiently wait it out.

Eventually, Alan got his turn and the opportunity to spend as much time as he wanted to at the statue. Although neither of us expressed this in any way, it was abundantly clear to both of us that going to the Risen Christ statue was a beautiful gift for Alan's last night in Medjugorje. He was at total peace and he remained that way for the rest of the night. We returned to the Original Blue Crosses for further prayer and eventually headed back to our pension. Before Alan's taxi arrived, I said my "goodbyes" and wished him a safe return home.

If you do plan to go Medjugorje, the Risen Christ statue is certainly one of the many locations you will want to visit; it will be time well spent.



Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.














Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Father Slavko Barbarić's Book "Pray With The Heart": An Introduction To An Ideal Prayer Manual For Medjugorje Pilgrims

Father Slavko Barbarić's book, Pray With The Heart.
Fr. Slavko's book, Pray With The Heart
If you are planning a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, on route or presently there as of this post, I would like to recommend Father Slavko Barbarić's book, Pray With The Heart

It is a book that was specifically written for pilgrims while in Medjugorje. Whether you are by yourself, with a few friends or part a group during your pilgrimage, Pray With The Heart is an ideal prayer manual.

I have partly based my recommendation on my own pilgrimage experience while in Medjugorje. This book proved to be a much needed prayer companion that greatly enhanced my prayer time and helped me to encounter the Holy Trinity and Our lady anew.

This book is available in Medjugorje at the Franciscan Book Store, which is next to the Information Center and Pošta (Post Office).

Prayer is essential in our daily lives and even more so during a pilgrimage. Father Slavko noted that all pilgrims in Medjugorje are called to prayer in the morning and the evening, to individual and common prayer, but to prayer with the heart as well. To pray with the heart requires time. As Fr. Slavko stated, every prayer can be recited quickly without having met Jesus and Mary. This runs the risk of not only wasting time, but of never coming to like prayer; therefore, it is necessary to find time for prayer in order to pray with the heart.

Father Slavko's book is not about prayer, but is itself a prayer. It does not deal with how it should be prayed, but "...[I]s prayed as every Christian believer should pray - from heart to heart, from soul to soul, and from the painful cry of a miserable man to the merciful response of the God-man." (5) To pray with this book will greatly assist each pilgrim to enter into the spirit of prayer and enrich the pilgrimage experience. 

To give you an idea of how rich this "prayer manual" is, here are some of the prayers it includes: prayers to prepare for Mass and thanksgiving prayers after Mass; a thorough examination of conscience and prayers before confession; Stations of The Cross for the climb up Križevac (Cross Mountain); the Rosary while ascending up Brdo Ukazanja (Apparition Hill), and while at the Blue Crosses; prayers for fast days; prayers while in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and of the Holy Cross; healing prayers; prayers to the Holy Spirit; a consecration prayer to Our Lady; and morning and evening prayers that help pilgrims begin and end their days with peace, hope and in the love of the Father and Our Blessed Mother. A common thread running throughout all the prayers is Our Lady's messages, urging each pilgrim to devote himself/herself to God through the Virgin Mary. 

Father Slavko provided the perfect pilgrimage guidelines upon arrival in Medjugorje. In the chapter, The Places of Prayer in Medjugorje, he stated that whether you come alone or in a group, when you arrive in Medjugorje, go to St. James Church and pray, and pay homage to Jesus. Father Slavko stressed that this is the "...[F]irst step you can take in Medjugorje, to pray in the church and to meet Jesus like the shepherds in Bethlehem did." (13) He encouraged each pilgrim to open their heart completely. He also stated that a good pilgrimage beginning should also include confession. In addition, he noted that it is essential to take part in Mass and gives thanks afterwards.


Cross Mountain, Medjugorje
At the peak of Cross Mountain (Križevac)

From St. James Church, Fr. Slavko recommended that pilgrims head for Križevac. Regardless if you are alone or within a group setting, strive to pray immediately as you leave the church. The walk from the church to and up Križevac will be like the road from Bethlehem to Calvary. Upon arrival at Križevac, the Stations of the Cross awaits you. Take your time to unite yourself to Jesus, which this book's Stations of the Cross prayers will be in great aid of. At the top, regardless of the weather conditions, Fr. Slavko encouraged everyone to:
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. In this booklet you will also find a prayer of adoration before the Cross. Pray. Never mind the time. Whoever perseveres under the Cross, can go further, receive new assignments and have new experiences. (14)
Father Slavko noted that the view from the top of Križevac opens wide in all directions, especially toward Brdo Ukazanja (Apparition Hill). He encouraged pilgrims to climb it as well and to open their hearts again. He recommended that pilgrims repeat the climbs to both locations, as with each new climb there is a new experience. 


Apparition Hill, Medjugorje
Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukazanja)

For those of you who do not know Father Slavko Barbarić, he is a legend in the Medjugorje community, and one of Medjugorje's most beloved Franciscan friars. He began working with pilgrims in Medjugorje in 1982, conducting numerous spiritual exercises and provided many talks about Medjugorje all over the world. His written contributions include many articles for different publications as well as books on the spirituality of Medjugorje, translated in more than twenty languages and sold in the millions.

Father Slavko died on November 24, 2000 on Križevac after having completed the Way of The Cross with parishioners. On Križevac, there is a commemorative boulder and plaque marking the spot of his passing. To view this location, please visit my other post, An Introduction To Father Slavko Barbarić's Book - In The School of Love


May Our Lady Queen of Peace, clear the way for your pilgrimage to and guide you in Medjugorje.













Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Queen Of Peace: The Medjugorje Documentary





If you have been thinking about a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and wondering what to expect, today's post is definitely for you. The Queen of Peace documentary is one of "the" resources that thoroughly explains the pilgrimage experience. Whether you have been called to go to Medjugorje by Our Lady or you just want to know more about these apparitions, I highly recommend this documentary. The Queen of Peace was filmed and edited by Christina Georgotas of Bambiina Productions and is available for purchase on line at Medjfilms.com. In the words of Wayne Weibleone of Medjugorje's most well known pilgrims and author on the subject matter, the Queen of Peace is a "must see documentary." 

This documentary is for all who have been called by Our Lady to make the pilgrimage: those diagnosed with cancer or some other serious sickness; those discerning a vocation; those in need of emotional, physical and spiritual healing; those who are facing a crisis; searching souls; skeptics; agnostics; and those who need to "recharge their spiritual battery," and strengthen their faith.

The Queen of Peace documentary captures so much of what each pilgrim can look forward to each day in Medjugorje, most of which is a frequent reoccurrence and forms part of a daily retreat: praying at Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukazanja), climbing Cross Mountain (Križevac), the Blue Crosses, the Daily Prayer Program that includes morning Mass in English, confessions available every evening prior to and during the International Mass, Rosary recitation, adoration, Veneration of the Cross and healing prayers. In addition, you may be afforded an opportunity to attend a private audience with one of the visionaries, attend Vicka's talk to pilgrims at the Saint Pope John Paul II orphanage or be apart of a private apparition with one of the visionaries. No matter what your purpose will be in Medjugorje, once there, the common thread that runs through the respective journeys of all pilgrims is the lived experience of receiving the many graces that have been bestowed upon Medjugorje. It won't be long before the words of Saint Pope John Paul II are felt and understood, "Medjugorje is the spiritual center of the world."

Chapter One The Introduction: The Most Important Event Occurring In The World

The Introduction is partly a testimonial by Wayne Weible, one of Medjugorje's most widely known and respected pilgrims. It is fitting that Wayne Weible introduce the Queen of Peace, since he too was first introduced to Medjugorje by a film. It was a film that began his own conversion process to Catholicism and life long work for Our Lady. Wayne shares the initial conversion experience as the documentary takes the viewer on a historical and cultural tour of Medjugorje. Wayne ends his introduction with one of the most important things to remember and understand about Medjugorje, "Medjugorje is the culmination of all apparitions, Fatima, Lourdes, of all time; this is a continuation and fulfillment of Fatima. More than thirty years now she will be appearing here, having come almost everyday. This is the most important event occurring in the world."

Chapter Two Mirjana and Ivanka: The First Days of the Apparitions and The Early Years in Yugoslavia

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to experience a private audience with a visionary, this documentary will not disappoint. This chapter begins with a private audience talk by the visionary Mirjana Soldo to pilgrims at her pension. Additionally, there is footage of Ivanka Elez, the first of the visionaries to see Our Lady on Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukazanja), speaking to pilgrims at a general audience talk at the back altar of St. James Church. The use of a spilt screen allows the viewer to obtain a visual of where the events occurred as Ivanka describes those initial moments of the first apparition. The documentary goes back and forth between Mirjana and Ivanka as they both describe that initial encounter with Our Lady, their interaction with each other and the other four visionaries on June 24, 1981.

In addition to Mirjana and Ivanka, the viewer is introduced to the other four visionaries: Marija Lunetti, Jakov Colo, Ivan Dragicevic and Vicka Mijatovic. The viewer gets an opportunity to see the visionaries when they were quite young and what Medjugorje looked like over thirty years ago. 

You might be wondering what Our Lady looks like during the apparitions. All six visionaries have given a description of Her physical appearance. Here is the description given by the visionaries: Our Lady has dark hair, blue eyes, a long grey dress with a white veil; she stands on a small cloud and around her head there is a crown of twelve stars. Our Lady has introduced herself as the Blessed Mother, The Queen of Peace.

One of the most important aspects underlying these apparitions is included in this documentary; that is, although we are living in a time of grace, Our Lady has stated that tribulations are to come. The viewer is also introduced to the ten secrets that Our Lady has given to the visionaries, one of which includes a permanent visible and indestructible sign on Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukazanja), the location of Our Lady's first apparition.

Chapter Three: Medical Testing Performed on the Visionaries

If you are somewhat intrigued by the initial photo display of the trailer, this chapter will surely satisfy that intrigue. That photo is of the visionary Ivanka, prepared with scientific apparatus, prior to an apparition for the purpose of running tests while the actual apparition occurred. These and other types of medical, psychological and scientific tests were frequent occurrences and have made the Medjugorje apparitions the most widely tested apparitions in the history of the Catholic Church. 

Leading this chapter on the discussion of the apparition tests is Daniel Klimek, a scholar and journalist who explains that the extensive testing has made Medjugorje important both on, "...an academic, intellectual level; and it distinguishes Medjugorje from former Marian apparitions." Klimek has written a detailed article on the testing performed on the visionaries which can be read at Mystic Post.com. The details of Klimek's article will certainly help remove any skepticism that anyone may have had regarding these apparitions. At a very minimum, no one will be able to put forth a compelling argument that the apparitions are false or fraudulent.

Klimek explains how several international medical teams from France, Italy, Canada, England, United States, Germany and Austria went to Medjugorje, some of whom for the purpose to discredit the apparitions. All efforts have proven to be unsuccessful. Citing several tests that have used very advanced technologies, Klimek states that the tests verified the visionaries were not experiencing an epilepsy, sleep or dream state or hallucinations. Another test he cited was one that measured pain. The visionaries responded properly to minor pain at sensitive parts of the body, whereas when they were experiencing the apparitions, they did not respond at all. Polygraph tests have also been conducted against possible deception and fraud; none of the visionaries failed any of their tests.

Klimek concludes this segment with the statement that scientists have been baffled by the tests and have realized that the visionaries have been experiencing profound ecstatic states that scientists do not understand.

Chapter Four: Messages of the Queen of Peace

This chapter begins with the visionary Marija at a very young age, providing the viewer with an introduction to the apparitions. The chapter then captures two orientations in progress: one on a coach bus coming from the respective airport location driving into Medjugorje and the other, in Medjugorje outside of St. James Church. When travelling with pilgrimage companies to Medjugorje, orientations as shown in this chapter are a standard include for pilgrims.

At one of these orientations, the guide explains how the third apparition, which is marked by a wooden cross on Apparition Hill (Brdo Ukanzanja), Our Lady communicated Her first message to Marija on Friday, June 26, 1981,  "Peace, Peace, Peace! Be reconciled! Only Peace. Make your peace with God and among yourselves. For that, it is necessary to believe, to pray, to fast, and to go to confession." The chapter continues with selected messages from Our Lady over the years. I do not think that enough can be said with respect to the importance of Our Lady's messages and this chapter certainly stresses that. If you have yet to discover and read the messages, a web site dedicated to Medjugorje provides the complete list from 1981 to present day. Please visit Medjugorje.org's Our Lady's Messages.

Chapters Five To Twelve

This documentary is so rich in its content that to provide details on each would require several blog posts. To give you an idea of what awaits those who purchase this DVD, here is a list of what the other chapters include:

  • Chapter Five - Tim Haley's Testimony: A Conversion Story
  • Chapter Six - Alberto Moreno's Testimony: God's Love
  • Chapter Seven - Miraculous Physical Healings
  • Chapter Eight - Artie Boyle's Testimony: Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma
  • Chapter Nine - The Beauty of Our Lady
  • Chapter Ten - Mirjana's Monthly Apparition
  • Chapter Eleven - The Secrets
  • Chapter Twelve - Medjugorje Through the Years: Are you Listening?

Chapter Thirteen: Wrap-Up The Continuation and Fulfillment of Fatima

The concluded six minutes contains some of the most important information regarding what Medjugorje is all about. Below are some of the details included in this final chapter:
  • Mirjana Soldo - The documentary films her at her pension where she explains that Our Lady is the mother of all of us. When Our Lady addresses the visionaries, it is not specific to any one individual. Rather Our Lady always addresses the visionaries as "Dear Children," which is to be understand as an address to the entire world.
  • Medjugorje Guide "Miki" - He explains the message of hope for the world. He states, "Let us pray for our families, let us pray for our children because there is hope; with prayers and fasting, you can achieve anything; even wars can be stopped." 
  • Vicka Mijatovic - A particularly interesting segment where Vicka talks about Our Lady's messages first, as a young woman in Croatian during a film interview, and then many years later in Italian during her usual general audience at the Saint Pope John Paul II orphanage. 
  • Artie Boyle - He explains Our Lady's "little stones," Her five main messages: Pray with the heart, the Rosary everyday; Eucharist; Holy Bible; Fasting; Monthly Confession
  • Wayne Weible - He appeals to young people, that they need to know that God is very real. Drawing from his own personal conversion experience, he explains that at some point in the lives of young people, there is going to be that moment, just as it came to Wayne, where they are going to realize God is real. Their hearts will be opened and only then will they be able to discern and understand what is going in Medjugorje. He reiterates how Medjugorje is the most important event occurring in the world; that Medjugorje is the culmination of all other Marian apparitions, the continuation and fulfillment of Fatima. Reinforcing this point the documentary shows a segment from Mirjana's interview in which she quotes Our Lady, "What I started in Fatima, I will finish in Medjugorje, my heart will triumph."
I can tell you from my own experience, that prior to going to Medjugorje, I had watched this documentary and it proved to be pivotal in helping me to understand Medjugorje and anticipate what to expect during my pilgrimage. This documentary is an encouragement for all those who have been called by Our Lady and perfectly captures why Medjugorje is hope for the world.



Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.