Reflections on the message of July 25, 1997
Dear children! Today I invite you to respond to my call to prayer. I desire, dear children, that during this time you find a corner for personal prayer. I desire to lead you towards prayer with the heart. Only in this way will you comprehend that your life is empty without prayer. You will discover the meaning of your life when you discover God in prayer. That is why, little children, open the door of your heart and you will comprehend that prayer is joy without which you cannot live. Thank you for having responded to my call.
I greet you all, dear friends, and hope that during these summer months you will all find enough time to relax. Again, before we start to reflect on this month's message, I would like to remind us of what Mary told us for the 16th Anniversary. Through Ivanka she told us to pray with the heart so that we can forgive, and so that something will be forgiven. She also thanked us for our prayers and for the love that we have brought to her. I hope that every one of us has in some way already made the discovery that prayer gives us the strength to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, because this is the primary condition for peace. Therefore we want to continue praying so that not only we, but especially all families may become capable of forgiving and asking of each other forgiveness, so that we can then all live in peace. So also may we pray that our Church and that all countries that have been at war may become capable to forgive and to ask one another to forgive. In the message that Our Lady gave us through Marija, she told us that she is bringing us the blessing of peace. I hope that this peace has come upon all of us, and that this peace also accompanies us along our paths. In the same way I hope that we have all made the discovery that we have really become the carriers of peace, and a carrier of peace is the one who has the courage first of all to forgive as well as to ask for forgiveness in the family and wherever he works or lives. Also I hope that our friendship with God has become so strong that no storm is capable of destroying it. So Mary, at the beginning of her 17th year of her presence among us, has again reminded us of the first assignment that she herself had gotten from God, to bring us peace and to make us capable of becoming carriers of peace.
Marija Pavlovic-Lunetti had her third son on July 19, and his name is Marco Maria. All went well and she and her husband, Paolo, are so very happy with this new life. Marija again promised us all her prayers, and calls us all to pray especially for the young families. We wish Marija and Paolo our very best, and let us here be very aware that the message of peace always leads us to accept and to protect life. The other visionaries are all at home, and Vicka, Ivan, Jacov and Mirjana are untiringly giving their testimonies to the pilgrims when it concerns their experiences with Mary and the messages that she has entrusted to them.
There are always many pilgrims here and this month there have been especially many here from Poland, France, while more and more are again coming from Italy. Almost every week a new group has been coming from Brazil, and even Koreans are usually present. The first week of July was the week for the Priests, and over 120 participated. Our theme was 'Priests in Mary's School', and it turned out so well that every year from here on the first week in July will be for Priests. Right now we are preparing for the 8th International Youth Festival and we are expecting many to come. We are also especially happy with the participation of Fr. Gianni Sgreva, the Founder of the Community 'Oasis of Peace'; Br. Ephraim, the Founder of the Community of the Beatitudes; and Sr. Elvira, the Foundress of Cenacolo, the Community that takes care of former drug addicts; and on the evening of August 4, the Cenacolo boys will be performing their play, 'The Prodigal Son'. So, we hope that the many young people who will be coming will receive many new impulses for life with peace, with love, with faith, and with hope. In these coming days I especially wish that all of you will pray for the youth, that they may be freed of all evil, of all destructive habits, and most especially that they may be protected from all drugs and immoral behaviors.
In this month's message Mary has again spoken to us especially about prayer. First...
TODAY I INVITE YOU TO RESPOND TO MY CALL TO PRAYER
The fact remains very clearly that Medjugorje has become a place of prayer. When one speaks about Medjugorje then one must above all else speak about it as a school of prayer. Mary has so often, nearly in every message, called us to prayer and does not tire of repeating this message. Humanity's deepest yearning is to remain in contact with God, and therefore Mary tells us to open our hearts and then to respond to her message. The second thing that she quite specifically says is...
I DESIRE, LITTLE CHILDREN, THAT DURING THIS TIME YOU FIND A CORNER FOR PERSONAL PRAYER
Here it certainly concerns an important point, and that is that we also create outward conditions in which we can pray. Of course, we already know that we can pray anywhere and therefore that we also should pray everywhere. We can pray at work or while driving, but still one must be careful to also have a space that is attended to purely for prayer. If we wish to follow Mary's message, it is important that we look around wherever we live for a corner out of which we can create a place purely for prayer. For example, this corner should have a Cross, a Rosary, a Bible, a candle, a kneeler upon which to kneel, and the needed silence in which to listen to God. This space should be furnished in such a way that it can always help our soul to open itself to God. It is also true that many people, when building their houses, think of everything but of a space where they can pray. The outward condition for prayer is of great importance. It helps at settling down and collecting oneself, and then in this state it is easier to meet with God. It would also, from a teacher's perspective, be very important when, for instance, the children see their parents in this space when they are praying. This way the children will also be led to decide for and then to get accustomed to prayer far more easily. Mary speaks about personal prayer, and in order to understand this better, one can approach it from the negative side. There are people who never pray when they are alone, and they only pray when they get an impulse from someone else. This is often the case with children and with the youth. How easily does it happen that children or young people pray or go to Mass with the parents when they are still at home, but when they are alone at college or at work in another town, they never go to Church. This is because prayer -- prayer that is so very important -- had not had the chance to develop into personal prayer. Prayer therefore also has its conditions to which we have to attend. So, everyone should for himself decide for prayer and thus for his own personal meeting with God, and this must be done independently from everything else that one does. For instance, when no one in the family or the social circle prays or goes to church, then even this must not necessarily interfere with personal prayer. This personal prayer then becomes the condition that we can pray in the families and in the prayer groups, for those who only pray when they are with others then also run the risk of not being able to pray along with the others. Prayer is a language that one personally must learn so that one then also can speak with the others. Personal prayer helps prayer with the others and the prayer with the others certainly also helps our personal prayer. I also think that one must pray so that we quite personally decide for prayer, and that prayer then becomes our life. Mary has also very clearly told us that she is our mother and teacher in prayer.
I WISH TO LEAD YOU TOWARDS PRAYER WITH THE HEART
She knows that this too one must learn, and she wishes to help us with doing so. Also, the two things Mary has already told us -- to make a space for prayer and to make prayer personal -- are also conditions for praying with the heart. No one can pray with the heart if he has not yet decided for prayer, and this is then really the beginning of prayer with the heart. How often is one asked here in Medjugorje what this means, and then also how to do it? How should one pray so that one prays with the heart? Every one can start immediately to pray with the heart because praying with the heart means to pray with love, but praying with love does not mean that one can pray well or that one has memorized many prayers. Rather it means that one has begun to pray just when Mary has called one to pray, the way we all did in the beginning of the apparitions. So, when someone says, "I do not know how to pray, but because you are calling me to prayer, I will start the way I can", prayer with the heart has at that moment already begun. Were someone to decide to pray only when he can really pray with the heart, then he would never pray. Prayer is a language, and therefore think what would happen if someone said that he would never speak a language unless he could speak it perfectly. In that case one would never be able to speak that language, because everyone who speaks a foreign language starts by saying very simple little things, practices, repeats again, and makes mistakes, and in doing so he grows and finally has learned the language. One must be courageous to start in any way that one can and through daily prayer then we will also grow in praying with the heart. This then is the condition for everything else that still follows in this message. Mary says...
ONLY IN THIS WAY WILL YOU COMPREHEND THAT YOUR LIFE IS EMPTY WITHOUT PRAYER
Often when one carries emptiness in the heart, one is not aware of it, and seeks things with which this emptiness can be filled. Often this is the beginning of people's paths. When one's heart is empty it is often the starting point for many to seek what is bad. It is in the emptiness of the soul that the use of drugs or alcohol begins. It is in the emptiness of the soul that violence becomes possible. This is also the case for all other negative feelings, behaviors and habits. Often when one hears testimonies of people who have converted, one hears that it was the emptiness in their souls that had driven them into sin. Therefore it is important that we decide for prayer, then in prayer come to discover the fullness of life, and this fullness then also develops into strength, strength to free ourselves from sin, from bad habits and then to lead a life that is worthy of a human being. Then Mary emphasizes...
YOU WILL DISCOVER THE MEANING OF YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU DISCOVER GOD IN PRAYER
God is the spring of life, the spring of love, peace and joy. God is the light and He is also our path. When we are close to God, then our life will have a purpose and this entirely independent of whether we at the moment feel good or feel bad, whether we are healthy or sick, whether we are rich or poor, because the purpose of life continues and supersedes the individual situations of our life. This purpose, of course, one can only find through God, and out of this purpose that one has found through God, everything will then be the only purpose that we can find in life. Even when sin happens to us or through us, then we will know that everything will turn itself toward the good, and that where sin was great, grace is also always great. If one distances oneself from God, then one lives in darkness, and when one lives in darkness, everything looses its color, everything becomes the same, colorless, everything becomes unrecognizable, and one does not find one's way any longer. This is why it is so important for us people to stay close to God. Then at the end Mary implores us with...
THAT IS WHY, LITTLE CHILDREN, OPEN THE DOOR OF YOUR HEART AND YOU WILL COMPREHEND THAT PRAYER IS JOY WITHOUT WHICH YOU CANNOT LIVE
For us then the questions naturally follow of how to open our heart to God and what it may be that closes it from doing so. It is good that we simply become aware that everything that happens to us, the good as well as the bad, is capable of closing as well as opening our hearts to God. When a person is doing well, then he truly runs the risk of distancing himself from God as well as from other people. This means to close his heart to God and to the others. The same thing can happen to someone who suffers, that he then closes into himself and blames God or the others for his suffering, and that a rebellion then occurs against God or the others, all the way for hate, sorrow or even a depression to take hold. All this then can lead to a dangerous lack of purpose in life. But usually when people are doing well, they easily forget God and when they are doing badly, they then again start looking for him. How many people only started to pray when a suffering came knocking on the door to their heart? One should then really ask oneself why does one wait until a suffering breaks the door to one's heart before one opens it to God? But this is also the point at which we can say and believe that everything will turn to the good. This is why is it never good to say that it is God's will that I suffer. Because when we say this to someone, what will he think about our God? What picture will he have of God when He wants our suffering? Rather, when we are suffering, when we are doing badly, we should not say that it is God's will; but that it is God's will that we, through this suffering, also can grow to experience His peace, love and trust. To understand this better, let us think of a child that suffers and then tells its friends that it is the will of my parents. What will the other children think about his parents? Obviously nothing positive or good. And so it is good for us that we, in the silence of the heart, think about our behavior and look for what has closed our lives to God, or what it is that helped us to open ourselves to Him. The joy about which Mary speaks is the evangelic joy, the joy about which Jesus speaks about in the Gospels. This joy does not exclude sorrow, problems, difficulties, or the persecutions, because this joy goes beyond all these, and all the way to the revelation of eternal life with God, in love and eternal joy. Someone once said, "Prayer does not change the world, but prayer changes the person and then the person can change the world." Dear friends, I invite you in the name of Mary here in Medjugorje, decide for prayer, decide to be close to God and in Him to seek the purpose of your life. Our encounter with God will change our life, and we will be capable of improving, step by step, the relationships in our families, in our Church, and then finally in the whole world. With this call I invite you once more that we pray...
God, our Father, we thank You that You are our Father, that You call us to You, and that it is Your yearning to be with us. Thank You that through prayer a meeting with You is always possible. Free us of all that suffocates our hearts from yearning to be with You. Free us from our pride and our egoism, from our superficiality, and awaken in us a deep yearning for meeting with You. Forgive us that we so often distanced ourselves from You, and then blamed You for our suffering and loneliness. We thank You that You want us to pray, in Your name, for our families, for the Church and for the whole world. Please give us the grace for us to become open to the call to prayer. Bless all those who pray that they may in prayer meet with You and through You then find the purpose of life. Give to all those who pray also the joy that can only come through prayer. We also pray for all those who have closed their hearts to You, who have distanced themselves from You because they are right now doing well. But we also pray to You for those who, because of their suffering, have closed their hearts to You. Open our hearts with Your love so that we will in this world, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, become witnesses of Your love. Amen.
Fra Slavko, Medjugorje
July 28, 1997