by REX EVANS
We recently went to Medjugorje at Our Lady’s command and spent a week there with members of a group called Maranatha Conversion.
They are based in Brussells, Belgium, under the guidance of founders, Msgr Andre-Joseph Leonard and Sabrina Covic Radojicic.
It is an international movement for the healing of mankind by prayer and Divine Mercy and their principle concern is unity.
There were 210 people in our group, mostly French or Belgian and mostly aged around 40 or 50. We made a name for ourselves by being one of the oldest and certainly the ones who had travelled the farthest to get there. We assembled at the airport in Split (Croatia) and travelled by buses to Medjugorje.
“Maranatha” is Aramaic, the language of Jesus, and means “come Lord Jesus”. Maranatha Conversion is dedicated to bringing together various denominations to share the Gospel in many different forms. They take to heart the statement about Jesus that “He died for everyone, not just the Catholics” and they really live the message.
During our daily bus trips we visited mosques, Orthodox monasteries and Jewish synagogues and had lectures on the meanings of their various liturgies. We spent a week soaking up various activities.
On one trip we went south of Medjugorje, travelling half an hour, to the city of Mostar where the Franciscan church had been destroyed in the war of 1991-94. It has now been largely rebuilt and it is again a wonderful place to visit. The new church is a very large concrete building with a very high campanile out front. We were able to climb the campanile and take in the wonderful views from the top. Across the road was being built a Dormitory Soup Kitchen for the International Centre for Dialogue which will be called Domus Panis and Spiritus and a little further on we crossed the Neretva River by way of the rebuilt stone bridge which has become the symbol of Mostar. It was blown up during the war and fell in pieces into the river below. The workers reclaimed the blocks of stone and fitted them back together again. There, we also visited Blagaj Tekija at the source of the Buna River where it flows out from under a 600-ft high sheer rock cliff. After going through the old buildings we were given a lecture on the liturgy of the Muslim dervishes who still run the monastery. It remains one of the most mystical places in all of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Around Medjugorje we were taken to many interesting places. Amongst them was a visit to the spot where Mirjana Soldo, one of the visionaries, has her apparitions on the 2nd of every month. We had just arrived on the 2nd of October and the streets were closed off to traffic for a time so that people get there without disruption. We also heard three talks by Vassula Ryden who has had visions of Our Lord since 1985. He has given her messages that impacted very strongly on the theme of unity. She gave an image of three iron bars, representing the Catholics, the Protestants and the Orthodox and said they each needed to bend bringing their heads together in order to unite. She told us that each church should be willing to give up its rigidity and seek unity in a humble manner.
On another day we visited Siroki Brijeg where we prayed in the monastery for 75 Franciscan priests who had been murdered by the communists during World War II. They lit a candle for every priest who died. It was a very moving ceremony and brought home to us what the people had suffered during the time of the communists; and it was only recently that they had been released from it.
We also visited the place in Medjugorje where Sabrina Radojicic has her headquarters and has published books about the visionaries and other things.
Towards the end of the week most of the group went down to Sarajevo to meet with Cardinal Puljic and other religious leaders. However it was a full day of travelling so we did not go with them on that day.
We were due to fly out the next day on the start of our long journey home. But, all in all, it was a wonderful experience and one that we will remember for a very long time to come.
• Rex Evans is from St Mary’s parish in Hamilton.