Six Notre Dame seminarians visited Medjugorje for the first time Dec. 27- Jan. 3, in hopes of deepening their relationship with the Blessed Mother and her son.
They agreed God’s timing was perfect as they were able to celebrate the feast of Mary the Mother of God on Jan. 1 with fireworks and midnight Mass on Mary’s holy ground. Joining the seminarians on the pilgrimage were two priests and 20 lay people from around the United States.
Rather than expect miracles, they said they sought inner peace, affirmation and direction from the Blessed Mother. The serene and prayer-focused atmosphere created a unique retreat in which their prayer life flourished, they said.
Birmingham seminarian Beau McMinn, in his second year of pre-theology studies, said he didn’t expect Medjugorje to be so beautiful and described the mountains as breathtaking.
“I prayed I’d bring that home and live in peace, and Our Lady answered that prayer,” McMinn said. “I gained a tremendous amount of trust in God’s providence.”
Notre Dame seminarian Charles Dussouy was blown away by how peaceful it was and by how many people were praying 24/7.
“There was always a Mass, rosary or Stations of the Cross being said,” Dussouy said. “It’s a realization that God controls everything and is holding you in turmoil and in happiness. It’s like being in your heavenly Father’s arms and knowing he is going to take care of everything.”
The group met two visionaries on their journey, whom they described as joyful celebrities. One, Ivan, welcomed them into his private chapel as he received his daily visit from Mary.
McMinn recalled a young child screaming in the chapel who was calmed when Ivan’s apparition began.
“The child began to behave and said ‘hello’ aloud a few times, as if he sensed Mary’s presence,” McMinn said.
Dussouy found it special when Ivan said Mary was praying over them during her appearance and that she has an affection for her priests. A great peace came over Dussouy in that moment as he heard Mary calling him to be a spiritual father and lead others to Jesus, like St. Joseph.
The second visionary was a fragile woman with a childlike glow and demeanor named Mariana, whom they met in a bigger group. The seminarians were inspired by Mariana’s kindness and joy, illuminating God’s love.
Prayer and fasting
An English-speaking translator shared Mary’s message with the crowd, which included Mary’s five instructions for reparation of our sins: go to Mass and have a greater devotion to the Eucharist; read the Bible and come to know the word of God; go to confession; pray especially the rosary; fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The seminarians shared a few interesting experiences: climbing a cold and rocky trail barefoot up Cross Mountain, where the Stations of the Cross are said for penance, and visiting with recovering addicts who have been uplifted and healed through God’s mercy and love.
Reuben Dykes, first theology, encourages those who feel called to visit Medjugorje to do so without expectations of miracles or other phenomena, but rather with hopes to rest in Mary’s arms and in her peace.
“The deepening relationship with Mary transcended the physical location of Medjugorje,” Wyman Vinston, second year pre-theology, said. “I came back with a renewed sense to make my life more simple and less cluttered with things that aren’t of God.”
Dykes summed up the spirit of the pilgrimage by pointing to a spiritual transformation.
“The greatest thing we can receive is the transformation of our hearts, the inner peace that comes from knowing Christ,” he said. “That’s Our Lady’s mission and her greatest desire; that we let her lead us to Jesus so that he can transform us and live in us.”
Lisanne Dussouy is a contributing writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.