The State of Virginity

The State of Virginity
I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided. The virgin - indeed, any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has the cares of this world to absorb her and concerned with pleasing her husband. I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Friday, September 24, 2010

A MESSAGE OF PEACE FROM MEDJUGORJE

There was fear and uncertainty. In 1980 the great dictator died. What was going to happen to this artificial formulation he held under foot until the end? What was going to happen with divided Europe? Who could have foreseen that the incredible democratic changes, which began in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall, were going to happen? The good Mother is always vigilant over the destiny of Her children. A group of young people claimed how She came to them on June 24, 1981 in Medjugorje and continued to speak to them, almost every day, bringing the message of the Gospel, calling to peace, prayer, penance and conversion. At a time when peace in the world and in human hearts was jeopardized, according to the witness of the visionaries, Our Lady of Medjugorje introduced Herself as the "Queen of Peace". All goodness is actually contained in peace and God's people obtain it from Christ, its inexhaustible source. Peace is a fruit of justice and a deed of love. Our Lady in Medjugorje attracts people from all over the world who yearn for peace. Many confess, reconcile with God, with the community and with themselves; they return to prayer, embrace fasting and other forms of penance.

With Her messages Our Lady in Medjugorje directs God's people to the core of the Revelation contained in the Gospel. She calls to conversion, fasting and prayer. The faithful achieve true conversion and genuine peace through faith which is often exposed to temptation.

Peace can also be reached through fasting and helps the faithful to gain self-control. Peace can also be achieved through prayer by which faith is brought to life and without which great upheavals occur in the world.

Our Lady does not bring a new revelation to the world, or some new truths of faith that were as of yet unknown. In Medjugorje, as in Lourdes and in Fatima, in the center of the apparitions is the message of the gospel. The Mother of Jesus reminds Christians of the eternals truths, invites them to intensify their faith and to revive hope and strengthen love. Private revelations do not comprise the essential core of faith, nor do they intend to expand the "official revelation". Our Lady's apparitions contemporize Christ's message in a specific time and place. Our Lady continues to to be in the service of the gospel and of human salvation. The Mother's message is an encouragement and a call to give the Gospel its true meaning in the life of the faithful. Togetherness with God is a source of peace and togetherness with others. Our's Lady's apparitions are in the service of the work of salvation. They are a particular sign of Mary's presence in the Church and Her concern for the community of the faithful. Apparitions have always been connected with the needs of the Church and have always served in Its renewal in faithfulness to Christ and His Gospel - Father Petar Lubina OFM, Split.

This article is taken from the beautiful book entitled "Medjugorje" (Information center "MIR" Medjugorje).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

ST. JAMES CHURCH, MEDJUGORJE

The external altar next to St. James Church was constructed in 1991.

One of my Medjugorje postcards. Really, Medjugorje has got the best postcards in the world. I have got a great collection of them!

The marble statue of Our Lady was placed in front of the church in 1987. Dino Felici sculpted it according to the descriptions given by the visionaries. I snapped this photo myself. Beautiful, isn't it?

The statue of Our Lady of Lourdes inside St. James Church.

The altar inside St. James Church

Stained glass windows in the church by Branimir Dorotic

One of the Stations of the Cross in the church by the famous Italian sculptor Peppino Sacchi. The 14 Stations of the Cross were placed in the church in 1996. Those who are not able to climb Mount Krizevac can have the opportunity to be immersed in the mystery of Jesus' passion before the carvings of this famous sculptor.

Building of the old St. James Church
On the 1st. of May 1892, the dreams of the parishioners became a reality. They could start building the church that they yearned for. The building of the church started in 1895 under the leadership of the parish priest Father Nikola Simovic. It took only two years to build. The building was supported by the Franciscan province and also by the many Croatian benefactors living in the country and abroad.

The church was the pride of the parishioners and their friars. Father Andeo Nuic was the parish priest of Medjugorje from 1907 to 1914. Fifteen years after the church and bell-tower were completed, the parishioners who emigrated to the USA bought a bell weighing 375.5 kg. In 1911, a large baroque altar was bought in Tyrol, Austria. The statue of St. Anthony was obtained three years later.

Thirty years later, the walls of the old St. James Church began to crack and its bell-tower leaned to the left. Nothing could be done to restore it. It became dangerous to use so the bells were removed and placed on beams in front of the church. In the summer, Holy Mass was celebrated in front of the church and in the winter Holy Mass was celebrated in the basement of the parish house. The old church was pulled down in 1979.

Building of the new St. James Church
In 1934, under the leadership of Father Bernardin Smoljan, the project for the building of the new parish church, on the land to the west of the parish house was approved. The parishioners donated the land. However, numerous difficulties arose as a result of which the building did not progress as planned. Digging of the foundation started on 21 June 1935. It took 8 months to finish a foundation of 42 metres by 21 metres and to build a four-metre high stone wall. After that, the buiding ceased until 17 October 1966 when the parish priest Father Radovan Petrovic together with the parishioners reommenced the building of the church which had been started more than three decades earlier.

Resources for the building of the church were donated by the parishioners, especially those who worked in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, and by numerous emigrants in countries overseas. The church was completed in a short time and was blessed on 19 January 1969 in the presence of all parishioners by Bishop Petar Cule and the provincial Father Rufin Silic. After the building of the bell-towers in May and June 1969, the bells that were on four oak trees in front of the old church were placed in them. In 1976, the floor was tiled with stone and in 1980 wooden benches were set in place.

During the past years, the church and the surrounding areas were organized to meet the needs of the growing number of pligrims so an external altar was constructed next to the church in 1991. Today Medjugorje is the confessional of the world. Numerous pilgrims have responded to the call of the Queen of Peace to conversion and reconciliation even at the very beginning of the apparitions.

GOING UP MOUNT KRIZEVAC - THE CALVARY OF MEDJUGORJE

The 4th. of June 2007 - that was the second time I climbed Mount Krizevac. Above is a photo of Mount Krizevac taken whilst I was walking towards the mountain.



Thus you can see how rocky the mountain is. It was indeed a tough climb. I wonder how Father Slavko Barbaric could do it every morning at sunrise. But then nothing could stop him from going there - not even the snow in winter.

Father Slavko's memorial - the place where he died on the way back from leading the Stations of the Cross on 24 November 2000. I talked to him for a very long time that day. What a great privilege to be with him alone on the mountain that day. It was the day I would never forget - the day I promised to consecrate my virginity to the Lord. To those who are not sure if they should enter religious life, why not ask Father Slavko?

The last station of the cross - the Resurrection. From there you can see the Krizevac Cross. After taking this photo, it started to rain. I didn't mind the rain. The most important thing to me was what happened to me that day on Mount Krizevac.

In the year 1933, the villagers of Medjugorje built an eight metre concrete cross in memory of the 1900th. anniversary of Jesus' death. Here you can see the stations of the cross. During the early years, simple wooden crosses marked the stations. In 1988, beside these crosses, bronze reliefs of the Stations of the Cross made by the Italian sculptor Carmello Puzzolo were mounted. Krizevac has become a privileged place of devotion to Christ's passion and has thus become the Calvary of Medjugorje. Medjugorje pilgrims follow the Way of the Cross on Krizevac on Fridays at 2.00 p.m. in the winter and at 4.oo p.m. in the summer. Everyone who is capable of climbing the arduous Mount Krizevac prays at the stations whilst pausing in front of the reliefs. Meditating on the passion of Jesus, the pilgrims unite themselves with Jesus.

The Building of the Cross

"Dear Children! The Cross was also in God's plan when you built it. These days, especially, go on the mountain and pray before the Cross. I need your prayers. Thank you for having responded to my call." (Our Lady's message dated 30 August 1984)

The parishioners and their parish priest Fr. Bernardin Smoljan had made a vow to build a Cross on Sipovac (now known as Krizevac) in 1933. The vow meant a great sacrifice not only because of hard work and the difficult climb but also because of the lack of material means due to the economic crisis in Europe and the world in 1933. This vow was fulfilled with the blessing of the Cross on 16 March 1934. The Cross of 8.65 metres contains relics from Rome. Holy Mass was celebrated at the foot of the Cross on Sipovac which became known as Krizevac on that day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

CROATIAN WORDS AND PHRASES

Croatian is a beautiful language. Below is a list of my first Croatian words and phrases. I hope that the Medjugorje pilgrims would find them useful.
  1. da (yes)
  2. ne (no)
  3. molim (please)
  4. hvala (thanks)
  5. nema na cemu (not at all)
  6. bok (hello)
  7. dovidenja (goodbye)
  8. dobro jutro (good morning)
  9. dobar dan (good day)
  10. dobar vecer (good evening)
  11. laku noc (good night)
  12. jedan (one)
  13. dva (two)
  14. tri (three)
  15. cetiri (four)
  16. pet (five)
  17. sest (six)
  18. sedam (seven)
  19. osam (eight)
  20. devet (nine)
  21. deset (ten)
  22. jedanaest (eleven)
  23. dvanaest (twelve)
  24. trinaest (thirteen)
  25. cetrnaest (fourteen)
  26. petnaest (fifteen)
  27. sesnaest (sixteen)
  28. sedamnaest (seventeen)
  29. osamnaest (eighteen)
  30. devetnaest (nineteen)
  31. dvadeset (twenty)
  32. sto (one hundred)
  33. tisuca (one thousand)
  34. ponedjeljak (Monday)
  35. utorak (Tuesday)
  36. srijeda (Wednesday)
  37. cetvrtak (Thursday)
  38. petak (Friday)
  39. subota (Saturday)
  40. nedjelja (Sunday)
  41. sijecanj (January)
  42. veljaca (February)
  43. ozujak (March)
  44. travanj (April)
  45. svibanj (May)
  46. lipanj (June)
  47. srpanj (July)
  48. kolovoz (August)
  49. rujan (September)
  50. listopad (October)
  51. studeni (November)
  52. prosinac (December)
  53. proljece (spring)
  54. ljeto (summer)
  55. jesen (autumn)
  56. zima (winter)
  57. Kako ste? (How are you?)
  58. dobro, hvala (fine, thanks)
  59. oprostite (excuse me)
  60. zao mi je (sorry)
  61. u redu (okay)
  62. zajutrak (breakfast)
  63. rucak (lunch)
  64. vecera (dinner)
  65. danas (today)
  66. veceras (tonight)
  67. sutra (tomorrow)
  68. jucer (yesterday)
  69. kruh (bread)
  70. maslac (butter)
  71. marmelada (marmalade)
  72. margarin (margarine)
  73. kava (coffee)
  74. vrhnje (cream)
  75. secer (sugar)
  76. jaja (eggs)
  77. riba (fish)
  78. pile (chicken)
  79. mlijeko (milk)
  80. jogurt (yoghurt)
  81. salata (salad)
  82. caj (tea)
  83. bocu mineralne vode ( a bottle of mineral water)
  84. limunada (lemonade)
  85. bijelo vino (white wine)
  86. crno vino (red wine)
  87. samoposluga (supermarket)
  88. knjiga (book)
  89. selo (village)
  90. suvenir (souvenir)
  91. Sretan rodendan! (Happy Birthday!)
  92. Sretan Bozic! (Merry Christmas!)
  93. Sretnu Novu Godinu! (Happy New Year!)
  94. Sretan Uskrs! (Happy Easter!)
  95. koliko mnogo? (how many?)
  96. koliko cesto? (how often?)
  97. Kako ti je ime? (What is your name?)
  98. Odakle si? (Where are you from?)
  99. Drago mi je! (Pleased to meet you!)
  100. Ja zelim taksi (I want a taxi)
  101. Gdje mogu naci taksi? (Where can I get a taxi?)
  102. Koliko to kosta? (How much is it?)
  103. kreditna kartica (credit card)
  104. Kljuc, molim (The key, please)
  105. Jelovnik, molim (The menu, please)
  106. Racun, molim (The bill, please)
  107. Caj s mlijekom, molim (A tea with milk, please)
  108. s ledom (with ice)
  109. bez (without)
  110. Sladoled, molim (An ice-cream, please)
  111. Ja bih sladoled (I'd like an ice-cream)
  112. Ne razumijem (I don't understand)
  113. Da li razumijete? (Do you understand?)
  114. Koliko je sati? (What time is it?)
  115. Koji je danas datum? (What is today's date?)
  116. Koji je danas dan? (What day is it today?)
  117. Kad se banka otvara? (When does the bank open?)
  118. Kad se banka zatvara? (When does the bank close?)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

MEDJUGORJE'S IMPACT ON MY LIFE

The day before I left for Medjugorje, I went to Ocean to buy a torchlight. What would I do with the torchlight in Medjugorje? That was because I intended to climb Mount Krizevac in the morning of my birthday. That was also my last day in Medjugorje. I knew that if I wanted to climb Mount Krizevac on my birthday, I had to do it in the wee hours of the morning because I had to leave for Sarajevo Airport latest at 8.00 am if I did not want to miss my flight. Sad to say, I did not manage to climb Mount Krizevac that day. It was too cold for me. To be frank, I am very clumsy whenever it comes to doing outdoor activities and I knew that the rocks on the mountain (Mount Krizevac is very rocky) would be very slippery in the morning and I wouldn't be able to make it. Anyway, despite my clumsiness, I managed to climb Mount Krizevac twice during my stay in Medjugorje. Come to think of it, Father Slavko Barbaric used to climb Mount Krizevac every morning at sunrise because he loves Our Lady. Our Lady has said that She prays at the foot of the Krizevac Cross at 5.00 a.m. every morning and Father Slavko wanted to join Her in prayer every morning. Yet, there are people who say that he is a disobedient Franciscan. Surely, this isn't fair for him. Try climbing Mount Krizevac at sunrise and see how it is like!

Well, that was probably the saddest birthday I ever had because that was the day I left Medjugorje. Now, three years later, I still miss this place very much. Since the day I left Medjugorje, there isn't a single moment in my life that I do not think of this place. In fact, I am trying to relive my Medjugorje experience every day of my life.

So what did I do after I returned to Malaysia? Well, when I got off the plane at KLIA, I wasn't happy at the idea that I am no longer in Medjugorje. The first thing I did when I got home was to decorate my room with the souvenirs that I brought home with me from Medjugorje. I wanted to create the atmosphere of Medjugorje in my room to get the feeling of being in Medjugorje all the time.

For weeks, I felt homesick (as though Medjugorje is my home) and found it very difficult to adjust to my life back here in Malaysia. I immediately wrote to the University of Sarajevo to inquire about the PhD programs of this university. All that I ever wanted then was to be as near to Medjugorje as possible. But circumstances wouldn't allow that. So, instead of proceeding with my PhD program, I spent all my time praying and reading the books that I brought home with me from Medjugorje. I just did not want to do anything else. Since I came back from Medjugorje, I have been saying the Croatian rosary. As though the few Croatian words that I learnt in Medjugorje wasn't enough, I started learning the Croatian language. I wanted to go beyond words like molim (please), hvala (thanks), dobro jutro (good morning), dobar dan (good afternoon), danas (today), and kako ste (how are you) because they are too simple. I bought Collins' Croatian phrasebook that comes with a CD and did self-study. This provided me with the basics of the language. I don't believe in memorizing blindly. I then proceeded to learn more of the language on my own including Croatian grammar. Learning a language without knowing its grammar can be very confusing. For instance, what is the difference between 'moj', 'moja' and 'moje' in these three sentences when these three words mean 'my' in English? 1. Moj hotel je tamo (My hotel is there). 2. Moja torba je ovdje (My bag is here). 3. Moje selo je malo (My village is small). Croatian nouns are divided into 3 genders - masculine, feminine and neuter gender. The usage of these words depends on the gender and number of the nouns they modify. To date, I have learnt quite a number of Croatian words, phrases and sentences. I am also quite familiar with Croatian grammar. To me, Croatian is a very beautiful language. However, learning Croatian isn't as easy as French due to the lack of reference books.

For six months, that was what I did. Then my priest friend suggested that I should go to Lourdes the following year. The year 2008 was the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. I immediately agreed. I thought that maybe I could go over to Medjugorje if I had the time. The next few months, I was busy preparing for my pilgrimage to Lourdes. On 15 March 2008, I consecrated my virginity to the Lord - a promise I made right in front of the Krizevac Cross. And in less than 3 months' time, I would be going for my honeymoon with the Lord in Lourdes. What a great excitement!

I spent two weeks of my school holidays in Lourdes. There were so many things to do there that I couldn't find the time to go over to Medjugorje. In my heart, I wished I could visit Medjugorje that year. There were so many things that I wanted to buy in Medjugorje. I did ask myself the question - If I had not been to Medjugorje, would I go to Lourdes? Probably not. Well, in Medjugorje I learnt to live a religious life. I discovered my real vocation and my real self. Prayer life suddenly became very important to me. The presence of the Lord and His Blessed Mother in my life is of utmost importance to me now though I have never thought of seeking their presence in my life in the past.

After my visit to Lourdes, I spent the next eight months praying and learning French. I began to say my rosary prayers in French and Croatian. I went to Kinokuniya and bought all the French books that I could get hold of. I actually spent more than RM2000 on the French books alone. The Grotto of Massabielle - that was where my French story began. Then, I realized that it was time to go back to reality. There were so many things left undone in my life. I had to proceed with my PhD program. I had to write my proposal and I had to do a lot of reading before I could write. I actually do not like the idea of doing a PhD because it interferes with my prayer life and deprives me of my time with the Lord. I can't give all my time to Him anymore. I am always too busy to do anything now. But then, Father Slavko Barbaric has a PhD. Pope Benedict XVI has a PhD. Never mind, this is the last thing I will do before I give all my time to Jesus. Let's look at it this way. Maybe I should equip myself with better knowledge so that I can serve Him better. Since I came back from Medjugorje, I couldn't help feeling that my life does not belong to me anymore. I will live the rest of my life for the Lord.

What is my greatest regret now? If only I had been to Medjugorje before the year 2000, I would get the chance to help Father Slavko Barbaric with his work. What would I really like to do now? Life would be perfect if only I could spend the rest of my life in Medjugorje and in Lourdes. That's why I have to learn Croatian and French. No one knows what may happen in the future. But one thing is for sure. I have to rewrite the story of my life because I went to Medjugorje. The way I perceive life is different now and because of that my plans for the future would be different too.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MEDJUGORJE: FAITH OR FRAUD?

Three years ago, when I made up my mind to go to Medjugorje, it wasn't because I wanted to ask Our Lady to grant me my wishes. I don't need a healing. I am happy with my present state of health. Even if I were suffering from a terminal illness, it doesn't matter so much to me whether I can be healed or not. I am not the kind of person who clings on tightly to this material world. I don't need to ask Our Lady to make me rich. I am happy with my present situation. Contentment is the real happiness of life. I don't need to ask Our Lady to give me a husband. I would be happier with the Lord. I wasn't interested in the miracle of the sun either. And I didn't go there to ask the visionaries to prove to me that the Gospa is indeed really appearing to them. So why did I go to Medjugorje? Because Our Lady invited me to be with her in this place of grace. Because I wanted Our Lady to tell me what she wanted me to do with my life. Because I wanted the Lord to let me know how I could serve Him. And I found all my answers in Medjugorje right in front of the Krizevac Cross.

What is the purpose of our visit to Medjugorje? To look for miracles? To ask for favours for ourselves and our family members??? What if our requests remain unfulfilled? Are we to come home disappointed and then start blaming Medjugorje for deceiving us to go there? Where is our faith? To those who lack faith, this is where the tales of the Medjugorje hoax begin.

Let's consider the following prayer requests from a typical Malaysian aunty. Gospa, I pray that my husband will get a promotion soon. And of course I would like to have a promotion myself. I am tired of being just a store clerk. We really need the money badly to pay off the housing loan. Oh, I forgot to tell you that my mom is suffering from AIDS. Can you please heal her? Oh yes, my son will be entering university soon. Can you please grant him a scholarship to study abroad? My daughter has a lot of pimples on her face and this may deprive her of the chance of becoming an air hostess. Can you please make those pimples disappear from her face? What if this aunty returns home from Medjugorje and finds that none of her prayers is answered? Is she supposed to go around telling everyone that Medjugorje is a fraud? If she lacks faith, this is exactly what she is going to do.

This kind of prayers may sound a bit funny but we cannot deny the fact that this is the way many of us would pray. My grandmother used to pray this way. My aunt is no exception. This shouldn't be the way we pray. The majority of us live from day to day asking for this and for that for ourselves and our family members. Our requests are unending. But have we ever asked ourselves, "What is the purpose of life? How does the Lord want us to live this life? How can we serve Him?" Life is fleeting. Why ask for so many things? Instead of asking for favours why not ask ourselves what we have got to offer to the Lord? Many of us would remember Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. She never asked for a healing for herself even though she was sick all her life. She did not take the apparitions as a stepping stone to make herself rich. She died as poor as the Lord.

To me, Medjugorje is a place of deep prayer, a place of self-discovery, a place of reflection. But why Medjugorje and not elsewhere? Those of us who have been to Medjugorje would agree with me that the atmosphere there is different. When you are there, you become extremely religious. You will discover things that you have never discovered before. You will discover your real self. You will discover what you really want in this life. When you come back from Medjugorje, you will see life from a different perspective. This is because you have found the real meaning and purpose of existence. And the people there are different. They are so caring and loving quite unlike the situation in the churches in Malaysia. Here in Malaysia, we may go to the same church and sit in the same row with the same people every Sunday but we may end up not knowing each other. But in Medjugorje, everyone is our friend. In Medjugorje, everyone is helpful, kind and honest.

Although miracles do happen in Medjugorje, I feel that it shouldn't be a place for us to look for miracles and end up disappointed if we can't find any. If we say that Medjugorje is deceiving us because our prayers remain unanswered, in a way we are also saying that we are disappointed with the Lord for not answering our prayers. Not every prayer will be answered. Sometimes we have to learn about life the hard way in order to become a better person. All shine no rain would only make a desert out of us. The Lord knows what is best for us. He has His ways that we do not know of. Let us have faith in Him. The most beautiful smile in this world is the smile that shines through tears.