December 31, 2010, A.D.
Our Lady of Medjugorje teaches us how to look back, so to better move forward.
It seems to be the way of the culture to always be moving ahead. In our hustle and bustle world, giving time to reflection is not high up on people’s priority lists. If we are looking back, is it towards the right things? New Year’s resolutions usually come about through some reflection—when we decide on something we want to change in our lives. But are we choosing to change those things that Our Lady would have us change? In other words, is holiness our first aim in life, and do our choice of New Year’s resolutions reflect that aim? Our Lady of Medjugorje cautions us to reflect on the right things when looking at our past.
January 25, 2002
We are then, “to look deeply into our hearts” when looking into our past and reflect on where we are attached to earthly things, what are the sins we have not abandoned, and where have we failed in loving God and neighbor. We may have put on a few extra pounds that we would like to shed in 2011, but if there is unforgiveness in our hearts, or other sins, what would Our Lady like for us to correct first? We are led to the answer through the messages She has been giving in Medjugorje over the past nearly 30 years.
This brings us to how the Caritas Community celebrates the passing of the old year and the ringing in the New Year. It is a tradition our founder, A Friend of Medjugorje, began early in the development of the community, through what he learned through reading Our Lady’s Medjugorje messages, and it is something everyone in the community looks forward to as the year draws to a close. The Community usually attends Mass for the Feast of Mary, Mother of God, on New Year’s Eve. Coming home from Mass, the Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Messages has been decorated with balloons and candlelight and a scrumptious meal has been prepared. A beautiful altar has been arranged with a statue of Our Lady as the center point, and laid out among 30 or more tables are the photo albums of the community dating back to before there was a community, with just our founder’s family to the present day, more than 25 years of history. Having 250+ albums, it is a major feat to have all of this arranged for New Year’s Eve. Though we aren’t always able to have the photo albums displayed, the community will usually have some of their history displayed on walls and tables for the purpose of reflecting on where we have been, so we can have a greater vision of where we are going. New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and several weeks into the New Year the albums are out and the displays are left up to give everyone a chance to reflect, remember and share the memories of our history and Our Lady of Medjugorje’s involvement with it from the beginning.
The evening goes by quickly, and as the time heads towards midnight, the lights are dimmed and everyone comes together before Our Lady’s statue. Kneeling down, we pray a Rosary that will end just as the New Year comes in. Before the Rosary begins, our founder will offer a prayer to Our Lady with the request that She would speak to us through Her messages throughout this special Rosary. We all pray that Her words from Medjugorje will be guidance for the New Year. A message is then randomly chosen from Words from HeavenÆ before each decade, with a final message picked at the end. These messages will then make up the first novena the community prays in the New Year, starting from this night and carrying on for the next eight days for Our Lady’s intentions for Caritas’ community and mission for the New Year. Right at midnight, a special song that we play every New Year’s Eve is played while we individually wish each other a Happy New Year. It is a joyous song to our Heavenly Father and is the perfect ending/beginning of the old/new year.
On New Year’s Day, the community again gathers together for a day of retreat. The retreat consists of each member, from the youngest to the oldest, taking their place behind the microphone and sharing with everyone their greatest joys and lessons of the past year. Several days before New Year’s many of the members begin reflecting upon what those joys and lessons were. It is always a day filled with laughter and tears as everyone recounts the most meaningful moments of the year for themselves, individually, as well as special moments shared in community. The spiritual lessons that each member shares from their own spiritual walk, is a great encouragement, in that we see that God truly is most powerful in our weaknesses. Looking thoughtfully at the past year, “looking deeply into our hearts,” as Our Lady advises above, helps us to discern the resolutions Our Lady would like us to make for the New Year. Our Lady of Medjugorje said:
April 15, 1984
The altar of Our Lady from last year’s New Year’s Eve community celebration. On the back wall behind the picture is a timeline of Caritas’ mission and community’s development. It is always amazing how much happens in a year’s time in Our Lady’s mission here—and also how much the joys and blessings outnumber the sorrows and difficulties. That is a lesson in itself.
Two of the community’s joys, Victoria and Andrew, pose on a special beach chair that was in the presence of Our Lady in Her apparitions to Medjugorje visionary, Marija, in August 2003 when she was with us in the community in Florida for a week. At the beginning of the week, Our Lady gave a special message to the Caritas Community:
August 9, 2003
It was an incredible week in which there were times we spent three hours preparing for Our Lady to come with flowers, petitions, etc. The chair was part of how we adorned the statue of Our Lady, as can be seen in the picture below with the blue flower vase sitting on it. The chair was brought out for New Year’s Eve, 2009, along with many other special items from past apparitions of Our Lady with the community.
From New Year’s Eve, 2008, Caritas community members are making their way around the tables where more than 250+ photo albums are displayed on tables situated around the auditorium in the Tabernacle of Our Lady’s Messages. Not having the opportunity to see all the pictures very often, community members’ study all the years of their history, always learning something new, and remembering things that haven’t been thought of in years. There are plenty of laughs to share, as well as wonder, and tears in reflecting on so many blessings and memories over the years.
From New Year’s 2007, the smaller children always need a little moral support when they approach the microphone to share their best joy and lesson. The adults, on the other hand, to stay under their allotted time, usually have to eliminate some of the joys and lessons from their lists. Although, generally speaking, there are one or two major lessons each member can name for the year, the joys go on and on. It is always a joy to hear from a community member a joy that didn’t make your own list only because you had not remembered it.
New Year’s 2008, the community made a special altar with more than 100 Vatican registered relics of saints and special religious articles associated with Jesus’ birth and passion that have been given to the mission over the past 20+ years. It was before these sacred holy relics that we prayed our first Rosary of the year, at midnight. It was a New Year’s to remember as we asked for the intercession of these saints who had lived in other times of history, but through our prayers to them, collaborated with us for the success of Our Lady’s plans through Medjugorje.