by Hannah Andrews, AUCatholic Student President
This summer, four AUCatholic students went on a pilgrimage to Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina with Oregon State University catholic students and their chaplain, Fr. Maximo Stock. This is Hannah’s account of the pilgrimage below, and all photos were taken on her GoPro or phone camera, except the last photo which was taken by the trip photographer (an OSU student).
The Pilgrimage was AWESOME! I really truly had such a great time, and I received so many graces from above! One take away I had is this: the Church is alive! The 'AU background' music that the priests have spoken about often says that the Church is a dead institution that is no longer relevant to this day and age, but this is far from the truth! So often have I heard that the scandals will be the end of the Church, or that there are so many other Churches and not one has the full truth, but this trip has shown me that the Catholic Church is truly special!
In Rome, we visited the tombs of many Saints including St. Ignatius of Loyola, St Francis Xavier, St. Philip Neri, St. Peter, and more! The Saints are a witness of those that went before us to provide the foundations on which the Church now stands. We also visited four Basilicas including the Vatican. The Vatican was amazing due to its immense beauty and endless amounts of detailed works of art. At first, I thought that the Churches that housed these Saints were resting places for distant Saints from a time vastly different from my own. However, as I prayed more and as Father Maximo encouraged the group to always 'Be Holy!,' I realized that these Saints had their own pilgrimage on earth too. These Saints really wanted to live out Christ's message and they served his Church on Earth in various capacities. For example, St. Philip Neri is called the 'Apostle of Rome' because he went out and re-evangelized the city by talking to people and sharing the message of the Gospel. His charism for confessions and humor attracted people to the Lord. These Saints pursued the Lord like we pursue the Lord, and the Church thrives as a result.
In Assisi, I realized the impact holy people can have on a place. St. Francis and St. Clare lived in the 12th century and you can still feel the peace that permeates the air! St. Francis lived such a devout life. He really took on the vow of poverty, and this sanctified him immensely. I thought about all the people throughout the world who have been touched by this order, it's truly incredible! High schools in my school community, parishes throughout the world and many organizations have been impacted by Franciscan values.
Over the course of my time spent in Medjugorje, I witnessed God's hand at work in the world today. I am convinced that prayers for peace in the world are being funneled to Medjugorie. The parishioners in Medjugorie stop at nothing to follow the Lord. The commitment there to follow the “five stones” of Mary is awe-inspiring. The first evening program we attended was difficult, three rosaries, an hour Mass, a peace chaplet AND a healing prayer, it was a lot of prayer. However, I was committed to being open to participating in the events at Medjugorie. Over the course of the five days, each rosary turned from a monotonous prayer, to prayers filled with lots of graces embedded into the words we were praying. Jenny described Medjugorie as a "Catholic Disney World," a place where you always want to pray and be joyful. By the end of the week, I could see why she said this, I had a desire all day long to thank, praise, and petition the Lord. The evening program was much more appealing at the end of our time there because this was a time of some of the best prayers the Catholic Church has, the Mass and the Rosary.
What was also amazing about Medjugorie was the tangible witness of the Universal Church. It was amazing to pray during the evening program with pilgrims in so many different languages. The Catholic, universal, Church was very apparent in the evening program. My favorite part of the entire trip was adoration on Wednesday night. We adored the Lord with many people from around the world in many languages under the night sky. I love the stars. They lift my mind to heaven, and they are wondrous. This adoration was amazing for me because I was really able to pour my heart out to the Lord. The music, the violin, the people, and the stars were all worshiping with me, yet at the same time, it was just me and Jesus sharing a special moment. It was incredible and I will cherish that adoration for a long time. The Church is for everyone, and Mary wants to cultivate our hearts and homes to prepare a space for the Lord. It does not matter where we are, we can go anywhere in the world, and so long as we can find a Catholic Church with Jesus, we are at home.
What I really want to bring back to AU is to witness to the Universal Church. AU students love inclusivity, and that is what I saw at Medjugorie. Jesus calling us all to Himself, no matter our struggles, our background, our geographical location, he wants us to be with him and with his Church.
I do not know why I ever second guessed going on this trip. I would do it 7 times over again!