2009 will see the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Franciscan order. I wonder if the Franciscans associated with Bosnia & Herzegovina and Medjugorje in particular will have any reason for added celebration during this special anniversary year – like the Holy See granting international Shrine status for St James church and Medjugorje.
It was in 1209 that Francis set out on a journey of personal conversion and publicly began to preach repentance. It was Francis who heard the the Lord’s voice say to him, “Francis, rebuild my Church which you see, is falling down.”
Francis took this as a reference to the ruined church of St Damian where he heard the Lord’s voice speak from a crucifix. He did rebuild St Damian‘s and also continued repairing other ruined churches.
However, he later understood that the Lord’s words really meant that he was being called to rebuild the Church on the foundations of the Gospel.
From all of this we see the link with Medjugorje and Our Lady’s apparitions. She first appeared at Medjugorje on June 24, the Feast of John the Baptist who also preached repentance. Our Mother’s first message to the world was a call to repentance: “…Peace, reconcile with God and each other.”
And during the past 28 years we can see how the Church is being rebuilt through the messages and guidance given by Our Lady at the parish of Medjugorje which is under the pastoral care of the Franciscans.
Like Francis, millions of pilgrims have taken a new path to personal conversion and in doing so are rebuilding the Church on the foundations of the Gospel. Our Lady’s messages are Gospel based.
It would be a wonderful gift to the Church and the Franciscans if the Holy See was to bless Medjugorje with Shrine status during the Order’s 800th anniversary year.
• The top image is a statue of St Francis at Ards Friary, Donegal, Ireland.
• The other image is the Cross of San Damiano from a house in Medjugorje.