This Wednesday, pilgrims from this parish and elsewhere will be setting off to the Marian shrine of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I will be part of the group as its chaplain, and it will be my fourth visit.

My first visit goes back to December 1983. It was extremely cold and the accommodation along with food was basic. There was also the threat of the Communist regime and helicopters in the skies when we gathered with the visionaries on the mountain at night, were a reminder of this. Thankfully, it has been far more relaxed in recent years.

The apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary began on 24th June 1981. The visionaries are Jakov Colo, Ivan Dragicevic, Mirjana Dragicevic, Ivanka Ivankovic, Vicka Ivankovic, Marja Pavlovic.

The messages from the Our Lady are essentially about reconciliation, conversion, prayer and peace, with great emphasis placed on attending Mass, reading the Bible, going to Confession, praying the rosary and fasting.

The apparitions are still continuing but when they come to an end our Blessed Mother has told the visionaries there will be a visible and permanent sign on the mountain for all unbelievers to see. Fr Rene Laurentin in his book, Is the Virgin Mary Appearing at Medjugorje? (1984) comments that ‘the message received in Medjugorje is a serious warning from heaven to a world bent on self-destruction’.

I will ask all the pilgrims to keep an open mind to the Holy Spirit and I will make the same request to you who remain here. Please pray for us as we will surely pray for all of you.