Medjugorje is all about the youth in the last few days as the 25th International Youth Festival is being held with the theme: “Behold your Mother”. Young people from more than 60 countries are participating. The morning programme of the Youth Festival on Monday began with the Morning Prayer and continued with catechesis of Fr. Ante Vuckovic. The testimony of Mirjana Dragićević-Soldo followed and she invited all young people to be the apostles and witnesses of God’s love, to pray for the priests and to live in God’s communion with other brothers and sisters. A young couple, Matija and Željka Milošić spoke afterwards and two of them are married nearly for two years. In that period they had opportunity to experience the fruits of their decisions to live pre-marital chastity that they began in the beginning of their relationship. They established the movement “Youth of Mary’s heart” and decided to witness about the graces and fruits of that decision. (foto)
The central part of the Youth Festival is the Holy Mass that is celebrated by this year’s newly ordained priests and Fr. Ante Vuckovic is giving homilies every night. We are here bringing one part of Fr. Ante that he gave on Sunday, August 3rd: “We people are unusual creatures. We are so unusual that we still wonder whom we are. Wherever we look around, we see a hunger. We are not sufficient to ourselves, wondrous beings, and the most unusual of all that were created. But, when I look into the body, hungry and thirsty, when I look into interior, I see the heart that is hungry and thirsty. It is a heart that needs understanding, acceptance, love and poetry. I look into the mind and it is also hungry, it desires to understand and desires story. Wherever I look, I just see hunger. But, whichever hunger I see, I am thinking that it needs to be quenched. I can only imagine that that is where the secret of creation of this unusual being is. God did not create us with hunger without giving us possibility to quench it. It is not unusual that we people are hungry, but when we know that man is hungry, it is easy for him to receive any food just to eat, and he can even be given a poison instead of the real food. It is understandable that hungry person grabs and eats anything that seems eatable for him, but what cannot be understood is something that the reading of the prophet Isaiah revels us, because in just one sentence we have all of this contained and the mystery of so many failed and destroyed lives: ‘Why spend money on what cannot nourish and your wages on what fails to satisfy?’ Yahweh sees well. Man can in a good way quench his hunger. Again, anew it happens that someone deceives him and betrays him to take something that will not quench his hunger, and even worse, he pays for that with money and sometimes even with his life. How many deceived people are there and they had genuine hunger for love, acceptance, and understanding and yet they were not able to quench it. Afterwards, they fall into the drugs, addictions and whenever I listen to someone’s testimony from Cenacolo community I never have questions or doubts whether they are saying the truth. I have deep conviction that they are saying the truth, but that is not the case with every testimony or story I hear. When I listen to the politicians, I have many questions and I do not believe them always. Even when I listen to us priests, I am still not certain whether we say the things that we lived and those we believe in. When I listen to them, how deeply they fell into, how they left their communities, God’s call is before me like a shining spark: Why do you pay so much for the poison and we can receive such a good food for nothing? It is simple. Isn’t Medjugorje a place where whenever we turn around us we can see how human hungers are quenched in such a wonderful way for free? Tonight’s readings speak to us about that human hunger and speak to us how God sees that hunger. It is not always the same how we see that, how we in the Church understand it and perceive it, or how those who are close to Him see it. This is a good opportunity to look from close what does He really see.”
On Sunday, August 3, morning was reserved for the Holy Masses in different languages and the morning lectures and testimonies were not held. The programme continued at 4 p.m. with the prayer and afterwards the testimonies followed. Ivan Dragicevic, Medjugorje visionary spoke at the beginning and afterwards the members of Cenacolo community. The central part of the day was the evening Holy Mass held at 7 p.m. celebrated by the newly ordained priest from Medjugorje, Fr. Goran Azinovic with 370 priests that concelebrated. As in the previous nights, Fr. Ante Vuckovic gave the homily. After the evening Holy Mass, members of Cenacolo community gave their theatre spectacle “Credo” at the area behind the altar.
Benedikt von Perger, 16 years old young man from Germany arrived to Medjugorje for the Youth Festival. He said that he is in Medjugorje for the 16th time and was thrilled to see this great number of people who were surrendering to God, but said that the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the most beautiful for him, when all young people in silence adore Jesus and look at Him – Jesus in the tabernacle. He also told us: “It is so hard to make young people do something in silence because whenever they go out, there is loud music around them and they are all gathered in the complete silence. I am so impressed by that. I am here every year and this is what fulfils me.
Young people from Hong Kong arrived to Medjugorje for the Youth Festival and we met Sphia Lee, who is 18 and came to Medjugorje with a group of 26 pilgrims. She said that her group was brought by people who are coming here for the last 12 years and are organising encounters with the spiritual contents, like spiritual exercises but also speak to them about Medjugorje. They travelled the whole day to come here and they are here for 12 days. She spoke about her experience of Medjugorje and said: “Medjugorje is a place of conversion for me, a place where many meet Mother of God and people become enriched in that encounter that is not physical, but takes place in their hearts, because Gospa points to us how to live so we would be able to find God. She desires to bring us into Heaven. When I return home, I will take love to Gospa with me, She is so gentle, as a Mother who wants to convert and decide for goodness. By the way, many people in Hong Kong know about these apparitions in Medjugorje.“
The programme of the 25h Youth Festival in Medjugorje continued on Saturday, August 2. The morning programme had two testimonies: Fr. Marinko Sakota, the parish priest from Medjugorje and Manuel Reato. Manuel is 33 years old and comes from Ivreo in Italy. He is a disabled person that despite his disability has been coming to Medjugorje since 1990. After his encounter with Medjugorje, he decided to start learning Croatian language all by himself. He testified that his life was completely changed here because he found the meaning of his cross here. For years, he cooperates with the Information Centre “Mir” Medjugorje and since 2004; he translates in Italian many books as well as the news on the official website –www.medjugorje.hr. He also graduated at the Faculty of Theology (summa cum laude) and places all that into the service of Our Lady, the Queen of Peace and Her plan in Medjugorje. Immediately prior to his last arrival to Medjugorje, he passed the driving exam, but came by bus with his group. (photos)
On Saturday, August 2, after the evening Holy Mass celebrated by the newly ordained priest Fr. Hrvoje Miletic, with 508 priests concelebrating, and Fr. Ante Vuckovic giving a homily, the procession of the youth was held. Unlike in the previous years, the procession did not go through the parish of Medjgorje, but around the altar outside the church of St. James in Medjugorje with the statue of Our Lady. Parish priest of Medjugorje, Fr. Marinko Sakota said: “As this statue of the Queen of Peace is now among us, She has been with us for the last 33 years. In all of these years she invites in the motherly way, with so much love and patience, to follow Her. She told us: ‘I am the Queen of Peace and I will show you the way to peace.’” Young people, representatives of every country were slowly going after the Statue of Our Lady. They were representing youth and their nations. The procession was going in the shape of the heart, because Our Lady is teaching us to pray with the heart. After Our Lady’s statue was brought to the altar, the Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament began. The International Choir accompanied meditation over the words of Our Lady.
The Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Dr. Christoph Schonborn send a message to the youth that arrived from 60 countries to participate at the 25th International Youth Festival: “Again this summer, with my great joy, I am sending warm greetings to all young people that are in Medjugorje at the moment. Let us all together pray to Gospa that She may be with our Pope Francis, for he desires to renew us all in the joy of the Gospel. May God give him strength that is necessary to thrill us for the Gospel and for the evangelisation. Let us pray with fervour to Gospa, the Queen of Peace, for peace to be established in the Holy Land, in the Middle East and in Ukraine! I am also praying to Gospa to bless you all and to protect you! I am praying that She helps us have deep faith in Jesus in all of the situations of your life. I would like to ask you to please pray for me. I am with you in my heart in these blessed days. Please thank Gospa on my behalf for all that She is giving us.
Yours Christoph Kardinal Schönborn“.
After the lecture of Fr. Ante Vuckovic given on Monday morning after the Morning Prayer, the first testimonies were from the members of the community Merciful Father that exists in Bijakovici, as a part of Mother’s Village. Vlado Milakovic, member of that community, spoke about his healing from gambling. The second testimony was from Mario Cucciardi from Malta, husband and father of two children. He works for the last 23 years as the educator and he taught in different schools in Malta. (photos)
Medjugorje is all about young people in these days – we have the 25th International Youth Festival that is being held with theme: “Behold, your Mother”. On Friday morning, the young people visited Apparition Hill where the Morning Prayer was held led byFr. Marinko Sakota, the parish priest of Medjugorje parish. The official beginning of the Festival was on Thursaday, July 31 at the White Dome. Fr. Dragan Bolcic led the prayer of Rosary and the opening Holy Mass was celebrated by the Provincial of Herzegovina Franciscan Province, Dr. Fr. Miljenko Steko, with 335 priests concelebrating. At the beginning of the celebration, young people from Medjugorje parish spoke to all and welcomed them to their parish and then, the introduction of every country followed. The host, parish priest, Fr. Miljenko Steko, welcomed all of the youth and said: “Welcome to the Queen of Peace, to Mother in her school, to the Mother that loves you and leads you to her Son Jesus, for She knows the best way to Him.” (photos)
Fr. Ante Vučković, a member of the Franciscan Province of the Most Sacred Redeemer from Split is conducting the catechesis for the youth at the Youth Festival 2014 in Medjugorje. He said that the Queen of Peace always brings him back anew to Medjugorje, his brothers Franciscans, programmes that he gladly responds and he said to the youth: “We should learn how to love the world as Jesus loved him. Instead of the lessons on what to do, far shorter and simpler way is to get to know what Jesus did, how he behaved, to come into his vicinity and to learn from him. As we come closer to God, as we get to know God, we discover much more about ourselves, we discover the world as it is and what kind of attitude we have towards the world. It seems to me that the Youth Festival is a good opportunity to get to know Jesus, that is the shortest, the fastest and probably the simplest way for understanding ourselves, the others, relationships and the world. I would like to invite all to come here to Medjugorje.”
Many young people came to Medjugorje to participate in the 25th International Youth Festival from 60 different countries and we had chance to speak to Ivona from Virovitica who is here for the third time. She told us: “I am always returning for the Youth Festival because the Mother invites me again, I need peace and joy that I cannot find anywhere else but in Medjugorje. The confessions here are the most special experience. We, youth from so many different countries are all here with one goal – to praise the Lord. At the same time we have testimonies that help us and that is why I am coming to Medjgorje.” Donald from Zagreb told us that he is returning here because he receives peace that cannot be described in words: “I am participating in the Youth Festival for the last couple of years. One can really feel Gospa’s presence and we have here a genuine spiritual renewal. I hope to change more, to become a better person.” During the Youth Festival all people are invited to write down their intentions, prayers and spiritual thoughts on the cloth that is located opposite the Adoration Chapel.
Parishioners of Medjugorje are always included in the organisation of the Youth Festival, but young ones participate in the particular way. That is the case this year when young volunteers are recognisable by their red t-shirts with the sign: The 25th Youth Festival Medjugorje 2014. Zdravka Sego, member of the Franciscan Youth Medjugorje said that around 150 volunteers are serving to the youth for these six days: “We are in the charge of peace and order around the church, one group is in the charge of cleaning and we are gladly helping Franciscan priests who organise this Festival.” Zdravka’s friend Zlata Jovanovic is volunteering for the first time at the Youth Festival. She said that it is her great joy to be able to contribute to this event. Let us add by saying that the Franciscan Youth exists since 1995 in Medjugorje and with music, prayer and many other activities they have successfully given their contribution the fruitful atmosphere of this world famous parish.
Number of Holy Communions: 166 700
Number of priests that concelebrated at Holy Masses: 5349 (172 per day)
Two young friends, Mato Topic and Matej from Cepin, town close to Osijek in Croatia, came by bicycle to Medjugorje on July 30 to be here for the 25th International Youth Festival. In eight days time they travelled more than 800 kilometres. Mato said that the idea for this was born in him when he heard from his friends that they took this same trip to Medjugorje by bicycle two years ago: “I thought of going alone, but Matej suggested that we should come together. We began our trip on July 22. There were hard moments, but thanks to God, we were able to come. I was here also last year for the Youth Festival. I was mostly impressed by the spirit of prayer, so many young people at one place and love for the Lord that unites us all, regardless of where we came from”, said 19 years old Mato who was coming to Medjugorje before.