Our hearts and spirits, like our clothes, are still covered with the red dirt of Medjugorje.
The Providence wanted that the 90 girls with the most time in Community encounter themselves in this place blessed by both Mary and the Lord. Among them were also the wives of Community and the Missionary Sisters of the Resurrection. They all came from about ten of the Italian and foreign fraternities for the annual meeting of the “Missionaries—Servants for Love.”
The guys from Campo della Vita offered themselves as Providence for us by leaving the house and mixing themselves with the other Croatian fraternities; only a small group remained to provide services and do testimonies for the pilgrims.
We left by bus from Saluzzo at night on April 8, the day of the Annunciation; once we arrived in the Bosnian land, we participated in the first Mass, celebrated by Don Stefano. He inaugurated the pilgrimage and recommended to the girls that they put themselves in Mary’s school. Like it happened for Mary, the question was asked, “How is it possible? I don’t know man.” Reflecting on the sense of what was happening to Mary, each one of us, certain that the angel was at her side, was invited to follow her in the search by telling ourselves, “Don’t fear… You have found grace with God.”
The morning after we all walked up the hill Podbrdo to pray in the place where Mary appeared first to the visionaries of Medjugorje. This appointment repeated itself almost everyday of the retreat; we left all preoccupations and we offered up the day at the feet of the statue of the “Kraljica Mira.”
The fixed schedule for each day included catechisms by Father Stefano and Holy Mass, often celebrated by don Ivan. Everything was lived in a climate of silence and prayer.
In the catechisms Father Stefano analyzed some feminine figures of the New Testament. He began with the women healed and saved by Jesus and then spoke about those who welcomed Him in their home; he ended with the testimonies of the Ressurection—often women without a name or face in which each girl could find herself.
Don Ivan, in his homilies, searched to make us enter more and more everyday into the story of the Acts of the Apostles, touching everyone’s heart with his simple and direct way of breaking the bread of the Word.
Two events particularly marked these days. The first was on Wednesday, April 10, when Mother Elvira and a group of sisters arrived in Medjugorje in the morning. The girls welcomed them with some songs and “gesti” in the courtyard at Campo della Vita. That same afternoon, after the catechisms in which Mother Elvira also participated, we all went to pray two walking rosaries, pausing in front of the Blue Cross, another holy place in which the Madonna appeared, situated at the feet of Podbrdo.
The second strong moment was the Via Crucis on Friday morning on Mt. Krizevac, a 500 meter-high hill with a white cross that Medjugorje’s parishioners wanted and constructed to mark the 1900 years from the death and Resurrection of Christ. At each station we prayed for a fraternity that had written a small mediation, thus making this Via Crucis particularly Comunitarian. Once we arrived at the peak, in front of the station of the Resurrection, Father Stefano invited us to greet each other by saying, “You are truly risen, alleluia!”. It was a joyfully moving moment that came after days of interior journey and reflection. Then we went up to the cross; and, after a moment of prayer, we lit a fire with our letters that we had written in the past days. We burned all that weighed us down from our both our distant and recent past, as well as all the prayers that we wanted to raise to God, as we sang and danced around the fire.
Friday afternoon we went to visit the girls at Campo della Gioia, where we had the possibility to greet them and pray together with them. In the end we couldn’t leave without eating a wonderful snack, and then away we went to pray two rosaries on our return to Campo della Vita. Elvira’s wheelchair traveled quickly and all the girls were running behind her while the pilgrims who were crossing this group of “racers” were looking at us with a mix of joy, surprise, and many questions!
On Saturday there was a moment of sharing in which us girls, divided in groups, exchanged the week’s impressions, emotions, our sufferings and joys. In the evening the brothers once again offered themselves as Providence by making pizza for everyone; and after singing good-bye for Mother Elvira in front of her house under the light of candles, we gathered in the great hall that welcomes the pilgrims for the last evening of songs, dances, and videos that we watched together.
On Sunday morning Father Stefano celebrated Holy Mass; and then, with Maria’s blessing, everyone returned to her fraternity.
On the bus there were those who still had their skirts dirty with Medjugorje’s red soil, those who had paused in front of the Eucharist all night and thus fell asleep immediately, those who had sore feet from going up Podbrdo; but all of us had a more peaceful heart, full of love that it had received that can now be given.
Thank you, Mary, and thank you, St. Joseph for all the Providence in these days!
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