Medjugorje is known as ‘between two mountains’ in the Croatian language. It is located in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Once an inconsequent tiny village of grapes and tobacco farms, Medjugorje has grown into an unofficial place for Catholic pilgrims. An influx of some 40-50 million visitors of different faiths and denominations have made their way up the hills and mountainside of the place made famous by six young teenagers in 1981. They claimed to have seen apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary…also widely known as Our Mother, Queen of Peace.
Sister Emmanuel Maillard was born in France in 1947. She entered the Beatitudes community in her home country in 1976 and has been living in Medjugorje since 1989.
She first visited Medjugorje in 1984 at the time of the 3rd anniversary of the Apparition of the Gospa (lady). She was sent back to investigate and collect stories of the claimed apparitions again in 1989. A few months later, she was told to pack her bags to establish an Apostolate in Medjugorje.
Sr Emmanuel described how one of Our Lady’s messages haunted her: ‘Without you, dear children, I cannot help the world. I need you. Each one of you is important’. So intense was the impact of this message on her that Sr Emmanuel felt compelled to respond: ‘If you need me, here I am! I would be more than happy to help you, if I can!’
Today, Sr Emmanuel has become a spokesperson for Our Mother, working at spreading the messages delivered from Medjugorje. She has now made it her mission to feed our souls with the gospel messages of hope, peace and joy, through her speaking engagements all over the world. She focuses on explaining the messages received through the visionaries and how and why we should pray, go to mass, confession, etc.
Sr Emmanuel supports her talks with materials derived from her interviews with the people she met. She also distributes the books (and CDs) she has written which contain real life testimonies of the villagers, visionaries and pilgrims. Her first book was actually a compilation of the reports she sent as faxes to her family and community describing the situation during the Balkan wars. These were translated and printed into different languages, and circulated to other parts of the world.
After the war, she was persuaded to produce a book from the reports and it became so successful that the book ‘Medjugorje, Triumph of the Heart’ has been translated into 27 languages. Sr Emmanuel has written ten books which have also been translated into different languages and distributed worldwide.
Sr Emmanuel travels widely to all parts of the world, including Italy, Spain, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Argentina, Chile, Egypt, India, United States of America, Mexico, Canada and Australia. Her programmes are tailored by the communities who invite her, but usually include praying for, and with, the people. She explains why it is so important to pray the rosary.
Our Mother’s recent messages have highlighted the plight of the world. How Her children are suffering and how to deal with such dire situations: ‘God loves us. We are to have courage. Jesus is calling us. He tells us not to lose hope and have our gaze and heart to always be directed towards Heaven and eternity. In this way we will be open to God and to his plans. We are to pray. We are to pray and fast. We must pray for our shepherds’.
Today, Medjugorje continues to attract visitors from all over the world. Be it rain or shine, hot or cold…hundreds of pilgrims pack the daily masses celebrated in different languages at St James Church. The open-air Adoration and Holy Hour at night also draw huge crowds.
Undeterred by the stony and rocky terrain up Apparition hill or Rosary hill , pilgrims pray the rosary and reflect on the bronze reliefs of the different Mysteries, climbing to the site of the earlier apparitions.
Or, they pray for their personal intentions and to await the monthly messages from the visionaries, at the foot of the hill, known as Blue Cross.
Mt Krisevac or Cross mountain is another site where claims of the apparitions of Our Blessed Virgin Mary have been sighted. It is located about 520 metres above sea level. One can see a huge cross with the naked eye even from afar. At night, it lights up like a beacon. Pilgrims track the more difficult rocky, steep and often slippery path, to pray the Stations of the Cross, where bronze reliefs have also been erected.
Whatever the attractions or reasons for the exceptional growth in visitors, Medjugorje is an adventure story…of miraculous healing, spiritual growth and increase in Christian faith for many pilgrims. An adventure story that is unfolding right before our very eyes. One cannot deny the feeling of peace and serenity that envelops anyone who steps onto the soils of Medjugorje.
The ‘five stones’ to take away from Medjugorje are:
- Prayer with the heart – Rosary
- Holy Bible
- Monthly confession