Wednesday October 31, 2007
Villagers this morning, October 31, 2007, in Medjugorje prepare for All Souls Day. These days the cemeteries in Medjugorje are all being cleaned up and the dead remembered in a special way in Medjugorje. The recognition of All Souls Day in Medjugorje is convicting in that All Souls Day has lost the fullness and richness in meaning in many cultures around the world. “Remember the dead” has become “neglect of the dead.” Cemeteries in Medjugorje are all within walking distance of people’s homes. We say we cannot make frequent visits to the gravesites of our families in America because the cemeteries are too far away. True, but that is why Our Lady said,
January 25, 1997
Our whole life is structured by a system that must be destroyed and rebuilt. Our home places are built without thought and reflection and our lives are spent in a structure designed by a world of godless thoughts, inspired by consumerism. Building subdivisions are useless for life and culture. Our cemeteries, meanwhile, are located across town in which the system forces the transportation of its citizens, a useless spending of time that is unnecessary because God has a better way to meaningfully live out our lives. Here at Caritas, in our community, one of our most beautiful places is our cemetery. Our life is structured where it is part of our daily life. Everyday it is visited by several community members who pause, kneel and pray when we walk the path through it on the way to Rosary, our work or when going home. It gives us heritage and heritage gives us roots. It is why the future must consist of small villages, where you can walk to meet most of your needs both the necessities and cultural needs for real life. Why will it happen? Because Our Lady wants us to live a simple life. How will it happen? Just like it happened here. By following Our Lady’s messages. They give birth to a way of life, a way of life that is “thoughtful” and encompasses even those who lay in our cemetery, that they be remembered daily in our prayers. A place built in peace.
One man takes a moment to read and ponder the gravesite of a family in Medjugorje in which their roots date back to the mid-1800’s.
December 25, 1992
Create a whole new way of life of peace and good for your future.
On Behalf of Caritas of Birmingham
Operated by the Community of Caritas
All Hallows Eve, the Feast of Morta and the Community of Caritas
Yesterday afternoon, one of our community members was walking out of a supply house and heard a woman ask him, with a sigh, “Do you participate in Halloween?” Our community member said, “Actually, no, we don’t.” A little surprised, she asked, “What do you do?” He answered back, “We spend the evening in prayer.” The woman was delighted to hear that and wanted more details, and then explained that she was the wife of a pastor of a Protestant church in town. Before the conversation ended between the two, the woman had received a copy of “Look What Happened While You Were Sleeping” and was leaving with more enthusiasm than she had before she encountered our community member.
The Caritas Community stopped “celebrating” Halloween many years ago. As many, many Christians today, our founder with the community felt an aversion to the darkness that is showcased in Halloween. As our prayer life grew in the community, there was a desire to truly honor the Saints of our faith in the church, as well as remember the souls of those who have died in our own families and lives. The first thing our founder changed was the name for October 31st. We no longer refer to it as “Halloween” but we have returned to the original name in Italy of the feast day—The Feast of Morta, also known as All Hallows Eve. Our kids do not dress up or go trick-or-treating. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, our founder began a tradition in our community to celebrate this special feast day. The first time we experienced it was on October 31, 1996. What follows is how we celebrate this day.
Once darkness falls, all the members of our community head to our little cemetery near the Field at Caritas. A fire is built large enough for all of us to gather around it in a circle. We come with blankets to sit upon, and to wrap around us if the weather is cold enough. Many of the kids are sitting in laps, or playing among the shadows of the trees in the woods. Before beginning the Rosary, everyone picks up an old, dried-up leaf. This leaf that we each hold in our hands represents our life, especially all in our life that we want to rid ourselves of—our sins, our failures, our weaknesses, etc. We will think about those things in our lives as we pray. We then, one by one, remember our loved ones who have passed away. Everyone, from the oldest to the youngest, will say the names of those who have died. We ask Our Lady to intercede for these souls, especially those who may be still in purgatory. We remember our Field Angels (supporters who monthly support Caritas) who have passed away, sometimes prominent people in the culture who have passed away recently will be remembered as well. We remember those who lived on this land that we now call our home—those who came before us, even the Indians from long ago who have left many arrowheads as remembrances of their time on this land are remembered. It may take as long as an hour and a half for everyone to recall those close to them who are living out their eternity. Before we begin praying our Rosary, we ask for their presence among us and their prayers.
As we sit near the gravestones in our cemetery, we remember the first to be buried here from the community. Little John Jacob. His gravestone says that he died on April 1, 1996 and was born on April 4, 1996. He was the 6th son of our founder and his wife. He died in the womb when he was only four months old, on April 1st, and then was delivered naturally on April 4th. Through his death, the community’s John Jacob cemetery was established. And a child shall lead them….
The coziness of the fire, the brisk cold air, the moss-covered gravestones marking the passage of time, the warmth of the community gathered together, the remembrances of dead loved ones who had helped to shape our lives through their love and example, the reflection of remembering that this life lasts but a brief moment in time and one day we will be leaving this world to begin living our own eternity….all of these together brings a solemnity to the evening, but accompanied with joy and peace. As we continue to hold our dead leaf, the Rosary begins. And then, one by one, community members will approach the fire and drop their dead leaf into it. We pray, by this action, that God will grant us the grace to die to ourselves and be rid of everything that is negative and dead in our lives, and bring new life, freshness, light where there was sin, weakness, faults. Our founder prayers that as we burn our leaves, that this would be symbolic of burning out all that is displeasing to God in each of us, that we would be completely renewed in our individual lives as well as in the life of our community. It is a very personal prayer and each person waits until he is moved in his spirit to rise and let go of his leaf in the fire. It is a moment in which we are looking into the fire looking at the past, at the same time that we are looking toward the future, a future that we pray that Our Lady will lead us more fully into living the lives of saints.
Though there will be no “tricks” tonight, we do end our evening with “treats.” Every household has brought their favorite “sweet” and there is laughter and “remember when” stories as we watch the flames of the fire fade into dying embers. And the sweetness lingers as we say good-night to each other, to John Jacob and all the saints who are watching us from Heaven.
In the Joy of the Living,
The Community of Caritas
October 31, 2007—10th Year Anniversary
The Community of Caritas celebrates a special anniversary today, October 31, 2007. On this day, ten years ago, visionary Marija Lunetti came for a special apparition to have the Caritas Mission House in Medjugorje blessed by Our Lady. The community members in Medjugorje had scrubbed and cleaned the house from top to bottom, filled the room with flowers, prepared a special Rosary with music placed between each decade to reflect upon the grace of having Our Lady with them. The blinds were lowered on the windows and the evening sunlight filtered through the cracks creating a sense of peace and solitude so that they could prepare for Our Lady’s coming without distractions.
Our founder knelt beside Marija, along with the other community members, in front of Our Lady’s statue in the Mission House and together prayed a beautiful Rosary. After entering into the 7 Our Fathers, Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s, suddenly Marija’s head went up indicating the Our Lady had arrived. The apparition lasted five minutes, and the room was filled with a deep peace. Marija then whispered, “Ode” meaning “She’s gone,” and with a big smile on her face, turned to us and said Our Lady had given a message for the community.
October 31, 1997
It was a stunning message to receive, and the community was overtaken by a beautiful joy. The community back home in Alabama had been in prayer at the same time and were waiting to hear about the apparition. Our founder called home from Medjugorje and put Marija on the phone so she could personally tell them the message.
Though the message is a beautiful one, it is not always an easy one to live. In Holy Scripture, the Apostle Paul stated:
“Make my joy complete. Be of one mind, one heart.”
To be “Jesus’ joy” is to live this unity of heart and spirit in community. It is not a coincidence that Our Lady gave this message to them on the same day that She inspired the Feast of Morta tradition of burning the leaves. Because in order to be “Jesus’ joy,” one must be willing to die to himself. Our Lady once said,
December 25, 1994
For there to be a “communion of saints” there must be the willingness to die to your desires, but through that death, comes a new life, a new way of life, blessed by the Queen of Heaven. The trade-off went beyond their dreams.
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