Went to the church with Fr Tommy around 7pm. We joined many other priests in celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We sat outside the church, placed a little sign with the word “ENGLISH” on it (the language!!) and immediately people came along. Confessions were being heard in many languages and, just feet away from me, a priest was celebrating the Sacrament in Italian. It reminded me of the first Pentecost when the people were amazed to hear God’s word spoken in their own language from the mouths of the apostles. How important that is – to be able to speak with people in their own language – even if the language is English, there are many shades to it; the language of the lonely, the un-loved, the unsure, language of searching, hoping, doubting – it’s important to seek to speak to people in their own language and allow them to speak in theirs.
Priests had told me that the celebration of the Sacrament in Medjugorje is impressive and I have to agree. Over an hour and a half, I met a variety of people, admittedly mostly Irish, and they spoke from the heart and with conviction. I was glad – more than that – privileged to be there. I wanted to receive the sacrament too but didn’t get the chance tonight – tomorrow please God. I did give the Italian celebrant a call but he had no English! Was tempted to go to him anyway!!
After I left the Confessional area I went to the outdoor Altar where a priest stood in front of a small wooden cross and led the people in prayers and songs of intercession. I did not understand the prayers but recognised some of the songs and repeated lines. It was amazing to see so many people sitting there, quietly responding to the prayers and offering their own. I noticed a very young couple beside me, kneeling on the pebbled surface and totally enveloped in prayer. Yes, a pleasing and encouraging sight. There was nothing here of wonders and signs but rather a people faced toward an Altar and a Cross, faced and focused – a people, a vast people, a multitude of languages, together in prayer.
As I walked back to the house we’re staying in, I noticed some of the fellow pilgrims in a local restaurant and joined them there. My “holiness” was set aside and we laughed heartily. One pilgrim concluded that the “Church is in trouble” if I don’t change and change soon. I hope he was joking!! It was, in all, a balanced day with time for prayer (more time than perhaps I availed of) and a time for laughter. That’s always a good mix as far as I’m concerned. I remember the laughter now as I close this day but equally I remember the Mass we celebrated this morning, the Icon over the Altar, the little children selling fruit and religious objects outside the church and I remember as well the people I spoke with and listened to during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yes, it’s a question of and need for balance.