One of our aims in visiting Croatia was to visit Medjugorje, which is actually situated not far into neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. We allowed plenty of time to make the journey, but what with having to go back for someone's passport and a long delay at the border, we arrived at St James Church coach park at 9.57am for the English language daily Mass which is at 10 o'clock. Having shot across the car park and pushed open the nearest door, I found myself in the church where Mass was, of course, about to begin. Well, that was the first miracle - as I found my place among the 40 or so priests concelebrating, Mass started...
It was a very uplifting celebration, with up to 2,000 present. We felt a great wave of worship and prayer rising up. After a pause for refreshment, our group dispersed, some going to the Mount of Apparitions, some staying to explore the church area itself. I had been warned that the going was a bit rough on the Mount, and the only significant lasting effect of when I broke my ankle badly in 2000 is advice to avoid very uneven ground or pebble beaches (sorry Cold Knap!). I visited the various places of devotion around the church, including the very modern Risen Christ,which some claim is exuding a liquid akin to human tears (pic of me there left).
So, what did I think about Medjugorje? Firstly, we weren't there for the evening Rosary/Mass/Adoration, which priests told me is the high point there. Having said that, I found it different to, for example, Lourdes, Fatima or Knock, particularly because it lacks a central grotto or chapel of apparitions. At Medjugorje it seemed to be more the whole place that has an aura. This is undoubtedly due first to the large number of pilgrims, the enormous amount of prayer and the depth of conversion and reconciliation. Regarding the alleged apparitions, I have to say I am not sure. I found myself wondering if, in fact what I was witnessing is a great concentration of what could happen anywhere.
I didn't feel or experience anything out of the ordinary, not, that is, until two days later when I seemed to feel a greater closeness of Our Lady. Maybe, for me anyway, it is her shrine because she attracts people there and leaves it to the life of the Church - Mass, sacraments, devotions etc - to do its job and work the Lord's grace in a most effective way. On the other hand, Medjugorje is a work in progress. The Church will not pronounce on it until the apparitions end - and Our Lady probably has more work to do on me!