In this week’s blog Fr Paddy writes about his experience of Medjugorje and how it has become a place of healing, forgiveness and peace for so many people.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 27th January 2010

For over twenty years thousands of Irish people have made a pilgrimage, to a tiny village in a mountainous and remote part of Bosnia, in search of something that when discovered is truly wonderful. Medjugorje for so many is not just a place, it is a way of life. It tells many stories of human conversion, healing, forgiveness and most importantly brings God’s people to a place of peace. A peace celebrated by thousands of addicts who now live lives free from the chains of addiction because of a spirituality that builds inner confidence and renews faith and hope in life. Medjugorje began with the story of young people who claimed to have had a real experience with the Mother of God. As they shared their experiences, millions of pilgrims throughout the world began to travel to Medjugorje in search of it’s fruits and to experience it’s greatest gift of all, a sense of peace and hope in life.

Ever the subject of debate, this contentious site of mystery and prayer continues to be controversial. The Church continues to observe and reflect on what is a place of prayer and a sign of resurrection. I have visited Medjugorje many times and I have always benefited greatly as a result. Medjugorje points us to our God, present and available to us wherever we find ourselves to be. Perhaps one of the greatest fruits is the joy, that millions of people discover when they experience true reconciliation in this place. It is in the letting go of hurts and wounds that are often buried alive in all our stories, that so many are afforded with a renewed sense of opportunity and enthusiasm of life. The simplicity of life in this very poor place, offers pilgrims an invitation to avail of the wealth of God’s presence in abundance.

Life is difficult and many people are overwhelmed and burdened. God seeks us out not where we are comfortable and in control, instead our God visits us, in the places where we are wounded and broken. This is the spirituality of Medjugorje, a way of life that offers renewal every day when we focus on our own poverty and acknowledge in the midst of all our limitations our God is available as source of nourishment and sustenance.

Personal conversion is our life journey. That is, an inner movement that connects us deeper to our God. There are many fruits associated with Medjugorje, the late Pope John Paul II called it the “Confessional of the world” when he considered the importance of reconciliation in all our lives. Many young addicts are now living lives of contentment and fulfillment because of a real encounter with God’s love. Medjugorje is the home of the Cenacalo communities that accompany, through prayer and fellowship, young people whose lives were once destroyed by addiction to harmful substances. The testimonies of healing and recovery by these good people are truly inspirational and life giving. In a time when so many are struggling and are burdened I think of this great gift given to inspire and heal.