** July 3, 2008 **
Description of July 3, 2008 Events
While pilgrims were making their way out to the Field for the prayer vigil for our nation, preparations for the night events were just finishing up with a project that took most of the afternoon to put together behind-the-scenes. But the efforts of the community and friends who pitched in was stunning, a picture perfect scene that could not help but move hearts who drew near to Our Lady’s statue. And from Heaven’s viewpoint, the candles formed a red, white and blue “bullseye” to draw the attention of Our Lady, the angels and saints that they would altogether intercede for us before God’s throne on behalf of the United States return to God.
Marija’s face, lit up by a couple thousand candles, was intense throughout the long apparition that lasted eight minutes. The grace to be in the presence of Our Lady for that length of time was not lost on the pilgrims. They felt very privileged to receive such a gift from Our Lady. Our Lady gave another gift as well. She would return the next day, our Day of Independence, this July 4th, at 10:00 p.m., once again. We offer one more day of prayers and sacrifices for Our Lady’s intentions for our nation.
Long after the apparition had ended, and most of the pilgrims had left the Field to catch a few hours sleep before it was time to get up to return to the Field for 5:00 a.m. prayer, or to attend 6:30 a.m. Mass, there were still pilgrims who did not want to leave the peace of this holy site. In fact, many people would not be leaving at all this night, preferring to spend the night under the stars, while they kept a prayer continuously going throughout the early morning hours.
Today was the day for the consecration of our families. Small cards were distributed upon which it was written “Mary, I consecrate my family to your heart.” Pilgrims wrote the names of all their family members on the back of the cards and at Rosary time in the Field, 11:00 a.m., the cards were placed in baskets in front of Our Lady’s statute as an act of faith in giving our families to Our Lady, She would protect and watch over each and every member, especially those who have fallen away from the faith. Although Marija was not having an apparition until later that evening, we made our family consecration at 11:40 a.m., knowing Our Lady was appearing in Medjugorje. The story was told again how Our Lady strongly encourages the consecration of families to Her immaculate heart, saying forcefully that we, our children, our children’s children, and all future generations of our families will never, ever regret this consecration.
The Bedroom of Apparitions was opened for pilgrims to have a short time of private prayer in the afternoon. This would be the first of three afternoons that the Bedroom will be open for prayer. There were always several hundred people standing in line at all times throughout the afternoon as new pilgrims would replace the ones who had come before them, while each had their turn to visit the room where more than one hundred apparitions had taken place over the past 20 years. Several community members were placed in different locations along the line of pilgrims to share stories of the history of the apparitions in the house over the years. Many people leave the Bedroom in tears, moved by the felt presence of Our Lady within these four walls.
Preparations were taking place most of the afternoon for the evening events of the Vigil for the Birthday of the United States in which Our Lady had told us She would be a part of, through Her coming in an apparition at 10:00 p.m. Throughout the days of the retreat, candles were made available to the pilgrims attending, and to supporters who were not able to come, to be lit in the Field on this night for their loved ones and all their special intentions. We were overwhelmed at the number of candles that were to be placed in the Field, more than 2,500. This created a dilemma because we did not have a place in the Field that we could hold so many candles, without having to build something, and though we knew this was going to be a problem, no one had time to begin a new project. But we realized something would have to be done. Mid-afternoon, our founder spoke to several of the community men after coming up with a design to build a platform that would surround Our Lady’s statue in the Field. They had less than five hours to not only built it, but have it placed in the Field and all the candles lined up and lit before the event started at 8:00 p.m. that night. It seemed like an impossible task, but we have so many times been in similar circumstances only to find that Our Lady somehow, helped us to be successful. Tonight was no exception. Even many members of the Community were surprised when they arrived in the Field that night, to be met by such a beautiful scene made possible by the cooperation of these men with the grace Our Lady afforded the project. It was breathtaking.
A friend from Italy had come to participate in these days of prayer with us and as the Vigil got underway, she with several community members led the large gathering in singing the many familiar songs from Medjugorje. Slowly, the last vestiges of light left us as daylight faded into night, but with 2,500 candles lit around Our Lady, and a clear sky that began to fill with stars, everyone in the Field was blanketed in a sweet peace as apparition time approached. A special Rosary had been prepared for this evening, in which special songs were written, based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, that would lead our hearts to contrition and humility before God, the condition God requires before He will take action to heal this land. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, I will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The last song played, ended in these words: “Lord of our nation, we crown You King, Rule over us, over everything.” When the Rosary ended, the entire Field fell silent, everyone waiting with expectant hearts to greet their Heavenly Mother. Marija was also silent, entering into a deep prayer. She told the pilgrims in a talk this morning that she felt something strong inside her that Our Lady was going to grace us. She then said that we would begin praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be’s. After several sets of these prayers were prayed, Marija’s voice faded away, and the thousands in the Field became silent again. For those who saw Marija’s face, there was a deep intensity, different from her normal, daily apparitions. After several minutes passed, the silence continued as Our Lady continued to stay. In fact, the apparition was long, approximately seven minutes long.
Marija said that Our Lady prayed over us for a long time, looking at us while She did so. Marija explained this morning that sometimes Our Lady has Her eyes closed when She prayers over people, and other times She prays with Her eyes open, looking at the people in the apparition. There are still other times when Our Lady not only is looking at the people during the apparition, but that She looks at each individual face, actually moving Her head to peer around those who are in front in order to see the faces of those who are further behind. This happens very rarely in the apparitions, and this was not what Marija saw in the apparition this night, but rather Our Lady was just generally looking over the crowd. But then, Our Lady surprised us when Marija asked Her what time and place did She choose for the apparition for the 4th of July, and Our Lady said, “Same time, same place,” meaning again, in the Field at 10:00 p.m. Knowing that this was something out of the ordinary, and feeling that Our Lady was giving us all another day to spend in prayer for our nation’s conversion, joy swept through the crowd. This happened for another reason as well. Marija took over the event from that point. She asked the crowd, “Would you rather sleep or would you rather pray?” And then she said, “I think we must pray very much in these next 24 hours for your nation.” She then began praying the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be’s. She prayed one set, and then passed the microphone to one of her young sons. And then to different members of the community, to her family, to pilgrims nearby, each one praying an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. Everyone was invited to pray in their own language, and though most of us were English speaking, we heard the prayers said in Italian, Croatian, French, Polish, and Spanish. It was very beautiful to see Marija being so open and intimate with everyone, becoming part of the gathering herself, and encouraging everyone to continue to pray to Our Lady for all that we are asking Her to accomplish in these five days of prayer. We sang Medjugorje songs occasionally throughout the evening as well. Slowly the crowd began to disperse, but Marija continued to stay, offering the microphone to anyone who wanted to pray the three prayers as well. This went on until after midnight, when there were only about 100 people left from the thousands that began the night. Many of these would be spending the entire night in the Field. At midnight, when the 4th of July officially began, we gathered around Our Lady’s statue on our knees, prayed for our nation, and then everyone sang, “This is the Day that the Lord has Made”. It was a beautiful, breathtaking night, and one that filled all of us with great anticipation for Our Lady’s apparition the following evening.
Caritas of Birmingham