Tuesday began with a big breakfast: scrambled eggs, cheese, cold cuts, toast, various jams, and Nutella. It is so easy to fill your plate when all the food is put in front of you, and you don’t have to do any of the preparing or the cleaning up!
After breakfast, we walked to town for mass. Although I was wearing a Fitbit, I never actually measured the distance from our residence to town, but my estimate is about a mile and a half. We walked on country roads and then on muddy paths between crops. We learned that Medjugorje’s principal crop for decades had been tobacco, but not too long ago, vineyards replaced the tobacco plants. There were also vast potato fields. I’m sure potatoes are a long-established crop there, because they were served as part of every dinner.
As we were walking, JoAnn told me that when she and Gregg were in Medjugorje, he phoned his wife, Loren, and told her that he wanted to marry her in a Catholic ceremony. Back at home, a group of their fellow travelers who were now our fellow travelers gifted Gregg and Loren with an after-ceremony party that included food and music.
Having arrived in town, JoAnn took me to a park near the church in which there was a very tall statue of Jesus weeping. The statue is so tall that the highest we could reach was Jesus’ knee. Sometimes, but not all the time, the knee of Jesus weeps. Scientiests have examined this phenomenon, but they have found no explanation as to how a metal statue could produce “tears.” We joined the line of pilgrims to reach the statue, with JoAnn ahead of me. As she prayed before the statue, I saw droplets of water streaming from the knee of the statue. I was stunned! Was Jesus was letting JoAnn know that He understood the pain of her loss? Did the tears from the statue represent God’s mercy? What would happen during my turn to pray before the statue? I approached hesitantly. I prayed. I left the statue feeling less burdened.
We walked to the Church of Saint James, the patron saint of pilgrims, which was built before the apparitions began. While it was under construction, residents of nearby towns asked builders why such a small town needed a big church. The locals kept building. The church now offers daily masses in a different language each hour, including Croatian, German, English, and Italian, and each mass is filled to capacity. Our mass was at 11 A.M. Afterwards, several of our group said they knew a good place for pizza. Off we went. On the way, we passed stores that sold snack foods including fresh fruit, and junk food such as bags of chips. There were many shops selling religious items, from small, such as rosary beads, to large, such as statues of the Blessed Mother. JoAnn said to hold off buying anything, because she would take us to a shop that donated its proceeds to the priesthood.
Bosnia has its own currency, but they also accept the Euro and in many cases, American dollars. Although I was told there was a place to change currency, I never found it. However, on the last day of our most recent trip to Europe, Nick exchanged a couple of hundred dollars for Euros, saying this would guarantee that we’d go back to Europe to spend them. Never did we imagine that I would be spending them in Bosnia while he was back home.
After lunch, JoAnn and I, along with Mary and Rula, started down many dirt paths that we thought would lead back to our lodging, but none of them seemed right, so we turned back. After doing this a few times, the four of us took a cab. The cab fare was different depending on whether the currency was dollars or euros, with us getting more for our money by using euros. I paid in euros and everyone else reimbursed me in dollars.
Back at our lodging, Rula discovered that her cell phone was missing. She checked her handbag and her shopping bags a dozen times, and began to get distraught. She was certain that it had fallen out of her pocket in the cab, but she was in the front seat while the rest of us were in the back, so we hadn’t seen her phone as we left the cab.
Saint Anthony is the patron saint of lost items. Traditionally in my family, when you lose something, you say a prayer to Saint Anthony. When the lost item turns up, Saint Anthony is thanked with another prayer. I saw that this custom extended well beyond my family when the four of us who had been in the cab began to pray to Saint Anthony. Ivanka called the cab company, and they asked her for the number of the cab or the name of the driver. Did we know either? Of course not. Suddenly, our cab returned, and the driver handed the phone to an excited, relieved Rula.
We had arrived back in time for confession. Confession has changed since I was young. At my church, it is more like discussing something we need help with, face to face, as with a therapist. Two priests were among our group of pilgrims, Father Bob from Massachusetts and Father Dan from Iowa. When it was my turn, I discussed my desire to be more forgiving. I found Father Dan’s words to be very practical. He said that the ability to forgive would probably not come immediately, but it would more likely require prayer and effort on a daily basis. This made so much sense me!
Next we all gathered for our pre-dinner rosary. We were joined by two new pilgrims, Dianne and John, who arrived by car. They had decided to spend a few days driving through Europe before joining the group. After dinner (soup, salad, roast pork, mashed potatoes, and polenta, with cake for dessert), we went back to the chapel. At that time, we took turns introducing ourselves and explaining what brought each of us to Medjugorje. Many were seriously ill themselves, or had seriously ill loved ones. Two came in thanksgiving after surviving stage 4 cancers. JoAnn wanted to be back where she and Gregg had found peace so she could find it again. I explained that my cousin invited me to join her, and after I accepted, I learned that either both Nick and I had cancer, or one of us had cancer, or neither of us had cancer. My fellow pilgrims explaind that JoAnn was merely a messenger. Invitations to Medjugorje come from the Blessed Mother.
We left the chapel feeling much closer to each other. From that evening on, John and Dianne called me their “Little Buddy.” As it was still light, several of us decided to walk back to town. When we left, it was very dark and all the dirt paths looked the same. Father Bob had a flashlight, so I and several others follow him.
We had taken 19,900 steps that day and walked 8 miles.