A month ago in Barcelona, we were talking about Croatia with MK’s Parents. Gavin said he thought Medjugorje is close to Croatia. MK’s Grandma Ave went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in 1994, in her mid 60s, and was changed from the overwhelmingly positive and spiritual experience. When Ave was in Medjugorje, she met one of the visionaries, Ivanka, who at the time was in her early 20s. To meet someone so young who had experience Marian apparitions must have been incredibly moving.
Turns out, Medjugorje is an easy 1.45 hour drive from Split, Croatia, and multiple companies offer tour options! It was decided then—we would travel to Medjorgje in April!
Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, and Medjugorje in Bosina-Herzegovnia are three of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world. We have travelled to two of the three sites on this trip! MK is lucky enough to have travelled to all three this early in her life—and we have plans to go back to Lourdes for Patrick to experience.
Our quick flight from Rome to Croatia landed late in the afternoon. We had a small situation with a gypsy cab and made our way back to the taxi stand. It almost felt like it was meant to be because our new cab driver overheard us talking about Medjuorje and started frantically showing us rosaries and prayer cards. He did not speak any English, but kept repeating “Medjugorje, beautiful.”
Early the next morning, we were off to Medjugorje. The drive from Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovnia is wild—there are huge mountains and rocks that flank the sidewalk and tiny villages scattered throughout the mountains.
When we got to Medjugorje, we met our guide. Our guide was born a few years after the apparitions started in 1981 and the miracles of Medjuorje are a huge part of who she is. We were struck by how comfortable she was in her faith. She spoke about Medjuorje, the Blessed Mother, and the rosary with such ease and made the sometimes outdated content, all very relatable and contemporary. She described the community of Medjugorje. How the entire town, people of all ages, will climb Apparition hill at 10pm (a significant time for the apparitions) to say the rosary together.
Patrick was also very pumped when we found out some Medjugorje tennis trivia! Marin Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open Champ was actually born and raised in Medjugorje. Not only that, but also he was our tour guide's cousin! We had fun talking tennis and connecting with our guide on another level.
The place where Mary appeared to the 6 children is half way up the hill. Along the way, there are 5 plaques representing the five mysteries of the rosary. We started up the hill, stopping to say a decade of the rosary at each plaque. We were both very moved by this experience. To think that since 1981, 40 million people have travelled to this place, climbed this hill, prayed for (and often times experienced) a miracle, was powerful to think about. As we were saying the rosary, we watched as groups of people carried the sick up the (very) rocky mountain. It was truly amazing. Once we reached the apparition spot, we sat in silence and prayed near the statue of Mary that stands there today. We had a lot of prayers—most in gratitude but also passed on a lot for friends and family.
Like Lourdes, the area surrounding Medjugorje is covered in restaurants and shops that sell religious articles. Our guide said MK’s grandmother would not recognize the place. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Apparition hill was surrounded by vineyards and tobacco fields. In the early days when people pilgrimaged to Medjugorje, there were no hotels in the tiny village. People opened up their homes and pilgrims slept on cots.
After Apparition Hill, we drove 3 miles to the Parish church, Saint James. The church was built in 1970, 15 years before the apparitions started. The church was built very large in comparison to the size of the parish. This is amazing because its almost as if the place was being primed to accept these apparitions. Surrounding the church, there are hundreds and hundreds of pews. We were told in the summer, there is not an open seat! We attended the English mass in the smaller side church. There were tons of Irish pilgrims and the priest had us laughing all throughout mass. Confession is a huge part of the message of Medjugorje. Unfortunately, there were no English priests that day, but we were inspired by the lines of people waiting to say confession in all different languages.
One of the visionaries, Ivan (who is in hid mid forties now), was in town visiting. We didn’t get to meet him but felt inspired by his presence.
If we were to come back to Medjugorje, we would do the same thing—travel from Split, Croatia. However, we would probably stay one night in Medjugorje so that we could attend all of the events—confession happens in late afternoon, the town says rosary, and at 6pm, the time of the apparition, there is another mass.
Our tour guide said for a young couple to be in Medjugorje at the beginning of their marriage is an incredible blessing. We certainly felt very blessed to be there!