By Lyn Grandits, Franciscan Associate from western NY
Returning to Medjugorje was more than an item on my bucket list; it was a promise I made to Our Lady in 2005. The word Medjugorje means “between the mountains” and one of the highlights of any pilgrimage there includes climbing Mt. Krizevac or “Cross Mountain,” a physical and a spiritual journey up steep and rocky terrain.
Along the way to the summit are beautiful, bronze Stations of the Cross, a reminder of Jesus’ own climb on Mt. Calvary and a welcomed respite to pause, to pray and to catch your breath. At the mountain top is a large, 16-ton, white concrete cross that overlooks the village and contains a relic of the true cross, a gift from Rome. For many, the climb is penitential, but for me, it was the fulfillment of a promise. Cross Mountain is a place of great grace and blessings, and the site of many miracles. It is a place to meet Jesus in his passion.
In 2005 I began the climb with fellow Associate Marie Lelek, but three-quarters of the way up, I stopped to assist a woman who had fallen and hit her head. As I was cleaning and dressing her head wound, a Franciscan priest asked me to accompany the woman to the medical clinic in the village below. Although my heart screamed, “No!” I agreed to take her. It was then that I glanced upward and promised Our Lady that I would one day return to complete the climb. As I began my second climb this June, I was reminded “not to look up, to not look down, and to just focus on where I would take my next step.” I quickly discovered yet another truth about mountain climbing; just how much my physical body had aged in the past 14 years! I could not go back on my promise; I began the grueling climb, one step at a time. After three hours I could triumphantly declare, “I came, I climbed, I conquered!”
A little child once asked a priest why there are so many large rocks on Cross Mountain. The priest explained that many pilgrims come to Medjugorje with hearts of stone that are left on this mountain. It would be impossible for anyone to make a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and not return with a heart made soft by the love of Our Lady and her beloved son.