Large crowds of pilgrims came to Medjugorje for the 23rd Anniversary of the Apparitions. What a pleasant surprise it was for all of us to hear this beautiful message given by the Gospa on this occasion (see PS.Message of June 25th ). The joy of Heaven was in our midst and the faces were radiating!
It seems to me that this message, apparently simple, contains an important key for our times and for the times to come. On this day when Our Lady assembled a multitude of her children from every continent, on this Anniversary where she is most listened to, she confides to us: ≥The prayer groups are strong≤. Why did she not say: ≥the parishes are strong≤, "the families are strong" or ≥the seminaries are strong≤ ? It is useless to expound with an answer that all of us can guess: aren't the families weaker than ever? In designating prayer groups, the Queen of Peace seems to be showing us her greatest hope - for the future of the Church and of the world. She counts on the prayer groups to hasten the coming of the New Pentecost of Love. "...through them I can see, little children, that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world..." she says. Like a lightning rod attracts the lightning, a prayer group attracts the fire of the Holy Spirit downward. In the past, little groups of prayerful people have kept the Faith alive in their countries under Communism; And today, the West is indeed persecuted and oppressed by materialism, Satanism and by the imposition of laws which seriously offend the Creator. Now, to make up a prayer group, two or three people are enough if they form one heart and unite their voices in prayer to God. Thousands of small prayer groups have thereby been formed throughout the world, in the spirit of Medjugorje. Some are small in number but so important before God! The Gospa has a predilection for humble realities, hidden to the eyes of men but so splendid before God! What is great is actually the unity of hearts, this union which grows more Divine each day. True strength lies within this unity. It is dynamite and Satan is horrified by it.
When the Gospa first came to Medjugorje, everything was already in place for the Franciscans and the familes in Medjugorje to lead a solid Christian life. But, she insisted on creating a prayer group! She, herself, chose those responsible for the group and she even indicated by name some young people who would be part of it. Surely, this was not to exclude others. On the contrary, she blessed and guided the parish and its families. But she knows that these groups can only be alive in God if, in fact, the union of hearts prevails in them: ≥Dear Children", she said. "The aim of the prayer group is not prayer, it is love! Prayer is the means of obtaining love≤.
Parishes and families can be the most beautiful prayer groups! Speaking of families, Our Lady said: ≥May your first prayer group be your family.≤. A family can only be strong if its members live together in a union of love founded on God. It is the same for parishes, communities or diverse Christian groups. Prayers groups have the grace to promote communion between family members or parishioners. If they are truly alive, initiatives and actions will begin to take root, and vocations will blossom.
The intensive formation which the Gospa gave to the youth of the prayer group included demanding exercises for mutual acceptance and charity. Natural feelings and attractions (which are more and more fleeting today) had to give way to a more supernatural joyful and unselfish love that the Holy Spirit spreads in our hearts. At first glance, the demands and sacrifices asked by Our Lady could appear harsh but not a single member of the group regrets in the least having been taught in such a school. This was the Mother of God's school! Today, the youth are in need of these guidelines, they seek them! (We have fear when it comes to giving the full Gospel to the youth. We are afraid of discouraging them, or asking too much of them too fast. But how many Saints would never have attained Sanctity if they had been given a rose-colored vision of the Christian life!? Isn't it, in fact, this watered down version of Catholic teaching that has emptied the parishes?!)
In June, 1983, the Gospa dictated to Jelena Vasilj the rules for the prayer group which was just starting. These rules, I am certain, will go right to the heart of many teenagers and also adults, who are desperately searching for a durable way of life that is worth living:
On May 23rd , 1983, Our Lady said to Jelena: “Assemble about twenty young people who are ready to follow Jesus without reservation. Bring them together within a month’s notice. I will initiate them into the spiritual life. There can even be more than twenty. Even some adults and children can participate, all those who will accept the rule.
I will ask these people to do penance for certain intentions. They will fast and pray for the Bishop. They will give up what they cherish the most: drink, coffee, pleasures, television. It is necessary to have persons who wish to consecrate themselves to religious life. Others have to be ready to consecrate themselves specially to prayer and fasting. I will give them rules to follow.
The persons who will follow these rules, will be consecrated whatever their state in life may be.≤
The prayer groups are divinely inspired institutions. In effect, Jesus said to his disciples, ≥Again, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.≤ (Matthew 18: 19-20). In the Judeo-Christian thought, the expression åin my nameπ has a very rich meaning. We will see this later. If today Our Lady is pointing out to us this strength in the Church, it is because she calls us to live this happiness to pray together! If anyone is isolated in his faith and in his prayer, I believe that Our Lady will not refuse him the grace to receive a brother or a sister to pray with him. As Vicka puts it, ≥you just have to ask!≤
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