M E D I T A T I O N
Two events, in a short time, changed the world for a little while. Christmas with its spiritual dimension inflamed a believer's heart within us, as with the disciples while still with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Even though the events fade ever more quickly, Christmas will bear some fruit. If nothing else, then at least that we shall prepare and celebrate the next one more meaningfully.
The New Year's celebration in a different manner modified the world for a moment. We all talked about one unavoidably important thing - peace. To the most militant that word was more important than conflict. Talk about peace, health, happiness, improvement, community, and happiness practically banished every other particularly bad project from publicity. But the new year has not yet achieved what is hoped for. There are still many days til the end. Maybe something hoped for will be realized.
In that kind of calendar enclosure, Our Lady in her last message refers to and draws attention to the original source of happiness and peace, to prayer. Like some rare generation, we talk about the necessity of community, but it is all the more lacking. Not even common interests, which many today consider to be the prime-mover and reason for events, are not in a position to increase community. Interests, certainly even those we consider common, are not the source of complete community.
There has to exist something that unites which does not pertain to interests. For us Christians that is God. The path to Him is through prayer. Our Lady for that reason also proclaims the necessity of prayer. She proclaims it also on account of the capacity of prayer to unite and bring together varying groups of people, needs, characters, languages. . . Wouldn't that alone be a sufficient reason for us to dedicate ourselves to moments of prayer?
Fr. Ivan Landeka
N E W S
NUMBER OF COMMUNIONS AND CONCELEBRANTS
During December in the shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje 50,000 Holy Communions were distributed, and there were 904 concelebrations at Holy Masses by priests from home and abroad.
Some of the countries from which pilgrims came to visit Medjugorje during December are: Germany, USA, Portugal, Austria, Poland, Korea, Italy, Slovenia, Brazil, Gabon, France, Mexico, China, Lebanon, Argentine and, of course, Croatia.
Otherwise throughout the whole year of 1998 in the shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje there were 1,066,000 Holy Communions distributed and 27,854 concelebrations at Holy Masses by priest from home and abroad.
As already for a number of years in a row, this year also a prayer vigil was held for the New Year. It began with prayer at 10:00 PM and ended with a midnight mass. Several thousand faithful were present. Again on this occasion the most numerous were young people who came from practically all the European countries and from the USA. That is the way the parishioners and pilgrims together saw the old year out and ushered in the New Year singing and praying for the peace that is so needed for today's world and for modern man. Just how profound the experience is for those who once welcome the New Year in prayer in Medjugorje, is demonstrated by the fact that for this occasion the number of pilgrims increases from year to year. All those that came once come back again. In this uncertain and troubled world young people are nevertheless entrusting their future to God.
This year also in the "Domus Pacis" house of prayer a prayer seminar was held for youth wishing to enter the New Year in the joy of prayer and community. About 60 students from Hercegovina took part in the seminar. The Fund "Friends of the Talented" organized the seminar and it was conducted by Fr. Slavko Barbaric.
VISIT OF AUSTRIAN BISHOP
Ecclesiastical dignitaries are also all the more frequently coming to Medjugorje. At the beginning of December the archbishop of Salzburg, Msgr. Georg Elder, arrived. The evening before his departure we asked to talk with him. Among other things this is what he said about his impressions:
"I had heard about the events in Medjugorje not long after their beginning. In recent times there is a lot of talk about apparitions and as a bishop almost every week I was receiving something about apparitions, visions and revelations. I have to admit that during the communist period in Yugoslavia I often came on vacation to Istria, but I did not go further south even though I could have. I just did not have sufficient motivation. Then I began to ask myself more and more often: Why these completely simple messages that are still even being repeated? It is always a call to prayer, fasting, penance, prayer for peace. I said: That must have some meaning. What does a mother do when she raises her child? I experienced that at home: she always repeats the same thing: I have already often told you that! But I cannot stop saying: Pray, or do so and so. Mary acts the same way in Medjugorje. She always says the same thing to her children that are already now adult persons. And what else would a priest have to do in his parish? He is always calling to prayer. John Paul II once said that priests have to be the first to pray and have to be the teachers of prayer. That is what Mary, a good Mother, does. She teaches us to pray, really in a very simple way. Now I have to say truly that Christ's word has the value for me of being the recognizable sign: By their fruits you will know them!
My impressions here are not surprising. I know that groups from Salzburg very often go to Medjugorje, that new prayer groups are constantly being started, that there are more and more people who say: In Medjugorje I received my vocation! I am reflecting: We are losing three things that we are getting back again in Medjugorje: penance, conversion and vocations. In Austria we look in vain for these things: Conversion is not even mentioned any more because people do not need it; confession is dying out with us except in shrines and in the churches of religious orders where this sacrament is sought and lived; spiritual vocations are less and less. In Medjugorje this is happening constantly: confessions, conversions and spiritual vocations!
That is what I ask myself: What must we do for conversion to happen to someone? I have repeated to the members of Peoples' Initiative that, for me, conversion in their program has disappeared. Are we the ones who do not need conversion, the way Jesus says it in the gospel? Conversion is being excluded, and confession is being lost, spiritual vocations are less and less, and we are asking ourselves how can we at all keep up a seminary? But all that is found in Medjugorje. We are finding exactly that which for us has disappeared.
I still have one more wish: That peace come here between the Franciscans and the bishop, and that Medjugorje can truly develop in that way that Our Lady wishes. I am now convinced of the authenticity of Medjugorje. I have believed it for quite a while. I still wanted to come and take a look. When pilgrims called me to go with them to Medjugorje, I answered: I am spiritually closer to Medjugorje than some others are! My impression was confirmed because of the simplicity of the visionaries and the evening program. Everything is in the church's spirit and that, very, very simply. At the same time also very devoutly, with strong faith and above all with a strong will for conversion and real renewal."
GUIDES IN THE SHRINE
After the seminar held in August this year, examinations in November and December were held for the young people wishing to work as pilgrim guides in the parish of Medjugorje. About 40 young people took part in the seminar, and 25 candidates came for the exams. Out of these six passed the exams successfully.
The young people were required to demonstrate their knowledge of material from Sacred Scripture, the catechism, Our Lady's messages, as well as a general knowledge of tourist activity, history, geography, and the culture of this region.
At the Information Office you may seek the services of the young people who work as local guides in the shrine of the Queen of Peace in Medjugorje. They will help you intelligently during your pilgrimage and stay in Medjugorje since they are constantly at the source of events and of information.
We kindly request all of you who organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje to give notice of your arrival to the office of information by fax number ++ 387-88-651-444 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. That is exceptionally important for us for the sake of more efficient organization of space and scheduling.
Published by: INFORMATIVNI CENTAR MIR - Svetiste Kraljice mira (Information Center MIR - Shrine of the Queen of Peace), 88266 Medjugorje, BiH, fax number: +387-88-651-444.
Last Modified 01/13/99