A Homily from Medjugorje: There are so many things that Our Lady (in Medjugorje) is saying and addressing to us. Stop. SSSStop being so anxious! We’re all running in totally different directions. How many times do we run from God? – Fr. Charles Mangano from Long Island, New York celebrating a special anniversary in Medjugorje on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, August 15, 2009
From Medjugorje: Fr. Charles Mangano from Long Island, New York celebrates a very Special anniversary in Medjugorje on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, August 15, 2009
My brothers and sisters, 25 years ago I was at a crossroad in my life and I had to make a decision. It was a crossroad in which I sensed God calling me to the priesthood, but I also wanted to be married, to have a family like my older brothers and sisters, all who are married and have children. And it was a crossroad that created a huge amount of havoc inside my life. I would say that I was filled with many, many anxieties, fears, worries, questions about the priesthood. Questions like: Does God want me to be a priest? Is He calling me to be a priest? Do I even want to be a priest if He is calling me? Can I live the life? Do I want to live celibacy? Can I do it? Am I worthy to be a priest? So many questions and no answers. I got to a point in my life where I just wanted to sleep because I was depressed. I don’t know Lord, what You are asking of me.
Around that time I received a phone call from a very good buddy of mine who I was going to college with. He said, “Listen, I’m going to Italy for about six days with Fr. Benedict Groeschel and some other guys, and we’ll be stopping in Medjugorje for one day. Would you like to come?” I thought, wow, this was a great opportunity to leave my problems and anxieties at home and just forget about my life and go away, and just have a great time. This would be my first time in Europe. My ancestors are from Italy. And I had read about Medjugorje, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to go and check it out. Is Our Lady really appearing there? What’s happening?
So we came here to Medjugorje back in 1984. We were here for one day. We arrived at 9:00 in the morning and we had to leave by 7:00 that night because Fr. Benedict said we had to get to Split to get a ferry back to Italy that same night. So while we were here all day, Fr. Benedict said “I want all of you guys to sit in the van during the apparition because after the apparition we priests,” there were only two priests on the trip, “we will run to van and we will have to ‘split’ to Split and I can’t take the chance if one of you guys don’t find the van. So please sit in the van.” They all listened but me. And so, about 6:00 p.m. I walked around the back of the church. There was a side room with a window, with bars on the window, and there were barrels, very large barrels pushed up against the side of the building of the church, and there were planks of wood on the barrels. And people were standing on the barrels looking into the room. And so as I approached the barrels, someone jumped off and then I jumped on, holding onto the wrought iron otherwise you’d fall off. And I’m thinking, “This has to be the room where the apparition is going to take place,” because I remembered reading about Our Lady appearing in the side room off the Sanctuary. See St. James Church from our pilgrimage section for more about this side room. So I was there from 6:00 till about 6:30, they marched in all the priests and all of the sisters into the room. I knew then that this was going to be the room where the apparition will happen. And Fr. Benedict Groeshel comes walking in, and he kneels right opposite the window, and he has his head down and he’s praying and he looks up and he sees me and I can’t speak because the nun kept saying “Silenzio, Silenzio.” So when Fr. Benedict sees me, his eyes open up and I start to wave “hi”. But he couldn’t yell at me because he couldn’t speak. (laughter)
And then about 6:35 p.m. they bring in the visionaries that I recognized from the book I had read. I was so overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe this was happening. And then the children dropped to their knees and about 6:40 p.m. there was a silence across the land. And I remember as I was looking at Ivan, the visionary, who was right in front of the window, as I was looking at him, I’m looking up at the ceiling but I’m not seeing anything, I’m not hearing anything. And I was hoping to see maybe a flash of light, I was hoping to maybe hear the angels sing. I wanted something to let me know that Mary is really appearing here. And I thought to myself, “This is so ordinary.” And I heard this little voice that said, “But Charles, I work through the ordinary.” And I said to myself, “Lord, I know that You work through the ordinary events of everyday life. O.K. Lord, I’ll give You the benefit of the doubt. Maybe, maybe Your Mother is appearing here.” And the second I opened the door of my heart, just a tiny bit, to the possibility, I heard this inner voice and I just knew it was the presence of Our Lady speaking to me and this is what I heard, “Charles, stop all your running. Stop being so anxious and let me prove your vocation to you.” And then suddenly I received this image of a bathtub filled with dirty bath water. And somebody’s hand went through the water, pulled out the rubber stopper and the water was going down the drain very quickly. And when the last bit of water went down the drain I heard the sucking sound and the second that last bit of water went down the drain every fear, anxiety, worry, question that I had, that I had been carrying for months and months, a burden was lifted off my shoulders. And I was just left with a deep joy and peace. My brothers and sisters, as I came to that encounter, which I never expected would happen in a million years, it was in that moment that I said “Yes, I want to serve You as a priest.” And I looked over my right shoulder, there were priests in the fields, people were kneeling in the mud because it had rained earlier that day and they were hearing confessions and I said, “That’s what I want to do. Yes, Mary, I want to bring people to Christ.” And then I entered the seminary and started the whole process. That was 25 years ago today, August 15, 1984 that that happened to me. Today is the anniversary of my engagement. Praise God!
And I share this with you because I believe Our Lady’s message was not just for me, but it’s for all of us. And as a result of what happened to me here that one day, August 15, 1984, a benefactor has come forth and has sponsored vocation pilgrimages for the past nine years and has pushed me to lead vocation pilgrimages here with men who are interested in the priesthood. Fr. Rob Ketcham who said Mass this past Thursday, August 13th, is one of the fruits of those pilgrimages. But this message is also for all of you, no matter how old or young you may be. Our Lady is saying to every single one of us, “Stop all your running. Stop being so anxious. And let me prove your vocation to you.” You see, we are anxious about many things. Some of you may say, “I’m not anxious.” Then why is it in the Bible, in the Old and New Testament put together, it’s quoted 365 times “Do not be afraid.” Does God quote this 365 times because we don’t need the message? We need that message. We’re anxious about money. Are we going to have enough to pay the rent, the mortgage? Do we rely on Divine Providence and trust to bring us peace? Or are we trying to control things and do it our own way? You’re anxious at times about relationships, about your children, and maybe their not coming to Mass and all the anxiety you can experience. God doesn’t want us to be filled with anxiety. He wants us to be filled with trust and hope and peace. Amen? Sometimes we get fearful of our future, “What’s going to happen Lord? What’s going to become of me? What if my spouse dies? How will I be able to handle this? How will I be able to handle that?” We fear, perhaps, for our health. There are so many things that Our Lady is saying and addressing to us. Stop. SSSStop being so anxious! We’re all running in totally different directions. How many times do we run from God? We become workaholics, busy ourselves, we don’t take the time to pray. In one of the messages Our Lady says that we make time for the things we love to do. If I’m not making time for prayer, it’s hard to hear this but we’ve got to hear it, I don’t love God enough because I’m not making the time there. Or people resort to drugs or alcohol or promiscuity to fill the void. Stop your running. Maybe you’re running from your past, your past sinfulness, thinking you’re not loveable. What are the ways in which we are running from God? We’ve come here, by us physically being here in Medjugorje, we’re saying “Lord I’m coming to You. I want to stop my running. I want to stop all the anxiety.” And let us allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us how we are running. Sometimes we think, “I’m not running. I’m not feeling anxious.” Let’s just sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament and let the Lord surface it. Sometimes we’ll be surprised. He wants to free us. And we all have a Christian vocation, a Christian vocation to let Christ’s word penetrate our hearts. Today we celebrate Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, and Mary shares in the victory of Her Son over death. Mary wants us all to share in that victory, not just at the end of time, but She wants us to begin to experience the victory of Her Son, now, on earth, the victory over sin.
Now we all want to be with Our Lady in Heaven. In apparitions here in Medjugorje Our Lady has said, “I desire to bring you to Heaven with me.” But She knows we need help. That’s why beginning on June 25, 1981 Mary said My Son has sent me because we are concerned about your salvation. Man is on the path to self-destruction. So Our Lady shows us the way. She gives us those five stones to slay the Goliaths in our life. Pray the Rosary daily. Open our hearts in prayer. Go to Confession monthly. Go to Mass regularly. Read the Scriptures. Let God’s word into our heart, to become incarnate, the Word made flesh in us. And fast, the need to detach from the material world and attach ourselves to the spiritual world. My brothers and sisters, Our Lady has given us the road map to Heaven. And are we reading it, are we embracing it, are we living it, are we eating it, are we digesting it—or are we looking at it from a distance? Why would Mary give us this remedy for peace in our lives? She did it so that we would stop the running, stop being anxious, and not only to save us personally but to bring us to a deep faith so that we in turn will share that faith. It’s about giving away what we received. It’s not about holding onto it for myself so that I can get myself into Heaven. It doesn’t work that way. We have to share the Good News. And so my brothers and sisters, Medjugorje is truly a gift, but a challenge. Amen.