January 3, 2018 A.D.
Given on the Day of NonBelievers Through Mirjana
At the end of every year, the Caritas Community gathers on January 1, New Year’s Day, and spends the day in reflection. They come up to the podium individually before the Community and share their greatest joys and lessons of the past year—from humorous to sad, poignant and thoughtful, eliciting both laughter and tears. The founder of Caritas, a Friend of Medjugorje, is usually the last to present his joys and lessons of the past year, which usually falls late into the evening.
After receiving Our Lady’s message given today, January 2, 2018, the first message of Our Lady of the New Year through Mirjana, there were many things our founder said to the Community, the night before, that were echoed in Our Lady’s words today—revealing how Our Lady often inspires his thoughts just before She is to give new words. Though Our Lady was not actually echoing a Friend of Medjugorje, She put in his heart words She would say the next day. He actually was echoing Her the day before She spoke the message. We offer a Friend of Medjugorje’s joys and lessons of 2017, as a reflection of Our Lady’s January 2, 2018 message given on this day for nonbelievers.
Lessons from 2017
In our mission and community, I feel we are coming to a time of consolation and joy in seeing the fulfillment of what we have worked so hard for, or you might say, we are coming “full circle.” In the course of listening to everyone’s joys and lessons today, a memory came back to me from my childhood. I know that when I was probably Lucy’s age, (5-year old granddaughter), my grandmother who we called Mamalene came up to me. She was not very tall at all, not even five feet tall. She was a grown sixty-year-old woman, Italian, Sicilian, she couldn’t speak English well; just broken English. I got bit by a mosquito and I was scratching it. She came along and almost killed me putting a cross over that mosquito bite. She pressed her fingernail hard into the place where I had the bite and then turned her fingernail on the same spot, pressing hard again and made an impression of a cross. She said that this would make it feel better and, amazingly, it did. I’ve done this since I was a kid. I showed the kids here (the mosquito bite and the cross) years ago and now it is imprinted in the kids’ hearts to do the same. The younger kids don’t even know where this custom came from. It didn’t come from me, it came from Mamalene. Mamalene came from Italy, where she probably learned this from someone in her family. We don’t know how far back that it goes.
During the joys and lessons today, I showed little 3-year-old John that when you rub a balloon over your hair it creates static electricity, and the balloon will stick to your head. This now will be imprinted in the young children of the Community. Though it’s a trivial thing, they are not going to forget it. I didn’t forget Mamalene, what she did. The kids won’t forget making a cross when they get a mosquito bite. Mamalene got it from some generation back, who knows when. But it also parallels the fact that, “Those who live in the hearts of those they leave behind never die.” Something of themselves will survive.
We are establishing in this community “ways” that will never die until the end of time. Our Lady is making a model out of us to imprint “a way of life” upon those who want to follow the way of Her messages, like making a cross on a mosquito bite. Many things that Our Lady showed me to establish will be something the Community will propagate that will be seen and recognized and adopted into many lives. We have so many miracles that have happened in our history. We also have been supported by miracle after miracle after miracle. These miracles sometime form in and of themselves for us, but also sometimes they become a new part of our way of life; a candy kiss, as Marija says, from Our Lady. One example out of hundreds I could say just happened this past December 8th, when a beautiful snow fell and covered our valley. This is such a rare thing to happen, but it was the day it happened that made it a real miracle. It happened on our 25th Silver Anniversary of the Five Days of Prayer for the Reconciliation of Ourselves, Our Families and Our Nation Back to God. It happened on Our Lady’s feast day, the Immaculate Conception. What does that stand for? Purity.
Like the cross over the mosquito bite, we have so many things, that we propagate, that we have established in the heart, that turns into a way of life, for the purpose to be here when we are gone. You can’t necessarily do that in one family because if you are introverted in your family, traditions will die with the family. The family won’t make it without community. If you are looking only to your family for your consolation, you are off base. Those traditions are not going to give you consolation. They whittle away. Community perpetuates the family. That’s how you make family last. When you put community-mindedness first, then you are putting protection over your family. When the Indians attacked the wagon trains, how did they defend themselves? They made a circle with the wagons, putting the women and children in the middle of the circle, while the men used the wagons for cover. If you are putting your family first, and you are always wanting to look after them first, and your consolations are only coming from that, then you have no wagon over you, you have no defense.
People are in pain out in the world because of how they see us live, and they want to adopt what we do, but they can’t do it – because they can’t establish community. They can’t make it work. When Our Lady guided me to begin this community, I had to put the community in front of family because I understood that that is a wagon over my family to protect them. Very few people understand these principles. But after so many years of living this life, the joys from this way of life, the consolations, we see Our Lady confirming us and bringing us full circle. We see people like Immaculee Ilibagiza, survivor of the Rwandan genocide, visiting us and, upon seeing our community immediately, understood the importance of how we live and our witness. She told us in just being with our children a short time that “this is how the kids are in Africa.” She said that looking into the eyes of the children here is like looking into the eyes of the children of Africa.
I already knew that from Brother Tony, a missionary working in Africa 25 years ago. He wrote a letter to me from Africa after reading, I See Far, after it was first published in the Caritas Newsletter. He wrote about the African children he worked with and how happy they are though they are very poor. He said they have no toys. They get scrap pieces of string and wrap them round and round until they make a little ball to play with, and they are fully content with that. He talked about going out deep into the Kalahari Desert, where there is nothing but a vast flat plain as far as one can see. He said it is the largest unbroken mantel of sand in the world and that you can see for miles and miles with total silence; the quietness is incredible. You may see a lion two miles away. He said the solitude out there was so deep, that the Spirit of God could be heard loudly in the interior of one’s heart. Go read his letter in the back of I See Far. When we published I See Far in book form, we included his letter because he was confirming the truths in the book, by comparing how the African children are raised, to how deficient children from the West are raised.
Immaculee equated with our children–something in their eyes that she said she hasn’t seen anywhere else in America—the same light that she sees in the children in Africa. Brother Tony said the same thing. They both expressed that it is because they are raised without the soiled culture rotting in their hearts. That is worth the sacrifice of what we give up to be in community. That sacrifice comes with the consolation that we are building something that is going to “imprint the cross over the mosquito bite,” over the injuries of the culture that are going to go to one’s heart to their death, and then to who they leave behind in the generations that follow them until the end of the world. I know this community will imprint the world. I know what I write. I feel it. What I write is simply our life. It will live on into future ages. I know I’m writing to future ages, future generations, even those at the end of the world.
The children here are my great joy, you know that. Like the young girl from Italy who stayed in our community last summer. The desire to visit the Community came while I was visiting her family in Italy. We were listening to music, and I was pulling different Radio WAVE songs for her—what we call “story songs about life” from our Community. After several songs, she said, “I like you. You are youthful.” Age is nothing. Old age is nothing. Even ancient age is nothing if you are youthful. The kids here bring that. I feel youth with the kids. I like being with the kids. The kids here are life. We are imprinting them. If we don’t imprint them in the proper way, with the cross over the mosquito bite, they will not perpetuate this place. And so the children are a great consolation for me, a great joy to me. Having grandchildren right down the “dirt road” (down a path next door) is double cream. Who has that? Children all around and grandchildren on top of that. We have everything to be grateful for, so gratefulness is something we need to go deeper into in this New Year of 2018.
This is a big year, the first year of Our Lady, given to us to work for Her in Her century. Reyes said something earlier during his “lessons learned in 2017. ” He said that if there is a problem or a conflict, the problem is with “him.” In the early years of the community retreats, how many hundred times did I say this? We are foundationed on this. If you have trouble, you have to look at yourself first of all – what have you done to contribute to the situation? Even if you don’t think you have, you have contributed to it in some way because of a sin you committed somewhere else. I’ve always said, “I’m the one who needs to be fixed.” This is part of the core I imprinted here from before the beginning of the community. “I’m the problem,’ is the mindset of the community. This mindset has gone through all its members—from those who have been here for decades to the newest members; the mosquito bite with the cross on it. It has already transferred to people who don’t even know where it origined from, because this was the first thing Our Lady showed me. Our Lady called me to do what I do. It is a privilege for me to be in this position. It is a privilege for you to be in this position. That should be a consolation and a great joy for you.
My biggest lesson this past year, I would say, was patience. Just let everything work out on its own accord. Don’t try to fix everything.1 You can’t fix the problems; if you try, you mess them up more. If you are going to run intervention, if you are going to change this or alter that, you learn in the end that you can’t fix the problem. “Surrender your problems to me,” Our Lady said. Our Lady said about Jesus, “Surrender your problems to Him.” This is how your problems are fixed. We have to pray. We have to surrender. You don’t have to worry about what is said or done by anyone else. You have to worry about yourself. If you lift yourself up, and the other people in the community lift themselves up, the whole community is elevated. You don’t have to look at fixing situations or somebody else. You are the problem. It doesn’t matter what they have done, even if they became a Judas. You love, you give, you forgive and you forget. I don’t go around thinking “somebody has done something bad to me and even though I forgive them, I am not going to forget it.” That’s not forgiveness. So going into 2018, if you really want to be joyful, it is all up to you. The lessons that we have learned this year are worthless if we don’t reflect on them and think about them. So, as we start this New Year, take the time to pray and reflect so that the lessons learned in previous years will continue to bear fruit in your lives and in the life of the Community.
1. A Friend of Medjugorje is not referring to physical things, such as fixing a car that broke down, rather things that are to be put in God’s domain which can include many things and problems of the heart or which may also affect the physical.