No distractions. Nothing majestic to look at physically. No grand Basilica. No high mountains like the Pyrenees. Not much in the near vicinity either. A small town without any grand buildings, symmetrical gardens or tree-lined avenues. With a church that looks like any other Parish church, except for a large crescent shaped rear piazza for the multitude of the faithful. A place where nothing really matters except the only thing that does: Faith.

Faith is everywhere. Inside the church: Faith in Communion. Outside the church: Faith in Confessions. Faith prayed and contemplated during the challenging walks up a steep hill and down a rock-strewn mountain. Blue Cross place, Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain. Faith reflected in the peacefulness of the place. Faith even if the pilgrims do not fully believe the Visionaries. But, Faith renewed through the intercession of the Virgin Mary.

Medjugorje. A place for all Ages in all Seasons. Herzegovina Youth descend in their hundreds for the Franciscan Youth Day (8am – 8pm) on the last weekend of May. Youth descend in their thousands for the Youth Festival every August. Medjugorje encourages young people to spend time spiritually with one another in the presence of Gospa (Our Lady, in Croatian).

Do miracles occur in Medjugorje? There is no scientific explanation for the weeping Crucifix of the Risen Christ. Healing can also be brought about through silent contemplation, if not meditation. Cures to ailments that are obscured by the relentless demands of everyday life. But the absence of instant public cures does not deflate the immense faith of the faithful, as they wipe away a tear at the knee of the Crucifix using a small piece of clean linen, to give to someone in a distant place, for whatever reason.

Should you need a distraction, there is Dubrovnik, Mostar and the Adriatic coastline. Beautiful locations, not completely without faith. More importantly, Mostar still bears the scars of the 1990s civil war. Croat versus Bosnian versus Serb. Derelict hollow buildings, with just their outer walls remaining. Trees growing from the interior of those edifices and out through the hollow windows. To remind peaceful peoples of the horrors of war which we see in Ukraine today.

Cenacolo is not a distraction. Mother Alvira created an institution for wayward young men and women. To offer them Hope. They who had lost faith in just about everything. They who had run away from home and become prey to all kinds of abuse. The Cenacolo home near Blue Cross Hill offers them a way out. To rebuild their mental and spiritual lives. Enter it to hear their Testimonies. They know that they are looked down on daily by the comforting gaze of Our Lady.

And then there is Father Leon. Fortunate to have experienced a life-changing Apparition himself. Blessed, courageous and unselfish in giving up a secular life for the religious thereafter. As the current resident chaplain to the English speaking pilgrims, his talks are yet another source of inspiration to the faithful. Not just through his account of his spiritual journey but also reminding us of the 5 Stones of Medjugorje (Prayer, Fasting, Mass, Bible and Confession); as well as his advocacy of the revelations of Maria Valtorta: The Poem of the Man-God: “What is not yet, cannot Create”.

A pilgrimage to Medjugorje is a fount of inspiration. It is a pilgrimage that inspires Catholics to return to their parishes, workplaces and community and be proud of their faith. To be an example to others. A pilgrimage that also inspires each and every pilgrim to go further: To encourage the many who have been away from the church to return to their Faith, Church and Community. To where they belong.

Medjugorje. It’s Great to be a Catholic.

Written by Miriam, Andrew and Mark Baker