Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mary Johnston - pilgrimage testimony - 206 Tours

Mary Johnston - A true pilgrimage

I am so glad you have asked people to write about their pilgrimage experiences. Without seeing that, I would not have taken the time I have to reflect on how my life has changed since my first pilgrimage with 206.

Websters dictionary states that a pilgrimage is “any long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance”. That really sums up my pilgrimage experiences which started with 206 in 1998.

At that time I was just praying for faith. I would ask people to pray for me, pray that I find faith.
A friend’s mother wanted to go to this place called Medjugorie. I had never heard of it. Several things happened that made it possible for us to take her there. We arranged our trip with a company called 206 tours. So off we went to Medjugorie. I was still asking people to pray for me for faith, any kind of faith.

Our first night in Medjugorie was Holy Thursday. We climbed Cross mountain on Good Friday saying the Stations of the Cross. They were just words to me until I got to the Station where Our Lady was holding the body of Jesus. I fell on my knees and said, how could I not believe? I came home from that trip a believer again in the faith I was raised in, the one true faith, the Catholic faith. I now pray daily. The rosary is always with me. When in Medjugorie I always buy at least 100 rosaries to give to people.  I didn’t just wake up one morning and find my faith gone, no, I lost it by not going to church on a regular basis, not praying, and not following the teachings of the church. As I tell people, I was a cafeteria Catholic, and when I got to the table I was anorexic. Didn’t like much at all, but couldn’t totally leave the church either.

Through 206 I have been back to Medjugorie two more times and to Rome and Assisi. I have been blessed to be on pilgrimage to Ireland and Poland. All of these were steps in my spiritual growth as well as trying to live a good Catholic life at home.

Then last year I went to the Holy Land for the first time. My thought on about the 3rd day in the Holy Land, was why didn’t I come here first? This is where it all started. Now I have just returned from my second trip to the Holy Land and my story of that trip follows.

Matthew 26:40 “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”

We were able to pray one hour in the very spot where Jesus said these words! We had a Holy Hour in the Church of the Nations! The church that is in Gethsemane, the alter is built over the very stone where Jesus wept! WOW!

Father Tino knelt the entire hour on that hard stone praying for and with us.

One very quiet, holy, special hour. An hour spent in prayer. Father Tino led us in prayer at times and we had time for private prayer.

If I was speaking, these words would be said in a whisper, because that is the feeling I had there and still have when I remember that hour. I was praying one hour with Jesus in Gethsemane.

This one hour more than anything else on this trip had a great influence on me and really changed my heart. It must have impressed others because Father Stirniman talks about it in his Christmas letter.

Now during my two hours of Eucharist Adoration each week, in my mind and heart I go back to that hour in that church. That hour made my Adoration time more meaningful for me. I can come away with a feeling of peace and know that Jesus is with me. I am keeping watch!

As I have stated, I have been blessed to have been on many trips and many pilgrimages. This was truly a pilgrimage because we were blessed with three very holy priests, Fathers Tino, Stirniman, and D’Souza. Who taught me so much about prayer and living a better life. I go back to my journal and read the Homilies and find such good advice for everyday living.

I could go into great detail about all the wonders we saw, but the Holy Hour and the statement that Father Stirniman made sum up the trip. Father Stirniman reminded us that you can add up all the places we saw and they don’t equal a fraction of one Host!

When I attend Mass, I remember what Father Stirniman said about a fraction of one Host. As Scott Hahn states Mass is Heaven on earth. I try harder to get to daily Mass and really participate. To remember that I am in Heaven.

I am in two Bible studies at church and I get up early each Sunday morning to set up the coffee for coffee and donuts after Mass. I volunteer at Birthright. These are all fruits of returning to my faith.

So many people on this pilgrimage of life have influenced me. I try to take more time for others. All of this is very hard to put into words because it sounds like I am bragging and that is not the case. It is just that I feel closer to God and I feel he is calling me to go back to the Holy Land and hopefully lead other people on their personal pilgrimage so they have the opportunity to receive what has been so freely given to me.

My journey, my personal pilgrimage started several years ago on that first trip to Medjugorje. Our life, if we live it correctly should be a constant pilgrimage towards God and living with him in His kingdom in heaven. Without Him we can do nothing.

Yes, I am a very different person who got on that airplane to go to that place called Medjugorje many years ago. Thank God I went!

If you are reading this and thinking about going on a pilgrimage, I encourage you to take that trip, but do it with your mind and heart open to hear the voice of God calling you. He is, you know.

I thank him daily for all the blessing he has given me. Thank you 206 for being part of that very personal pilgrimage. Your many trips have given me many graces. My pilgrimage continues daily if I allow God to work in my life.

Mary Johnston

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