“For I know the plans that I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
This verse has really spoken to me this semester, and with the craziness of the past few weeks I have definitely needed to be reminded that the Lord is in control! Those of us studying here in Gaming have been laughing about the fact that we have been traveling more than we have been in classes this month. Between traveling to Medjugorje and Germany as well as trying to keep up with my classes things have been pretty crazy here. It is times like these though where I have to find joy in the chaos and remember how blessed I am to have this opportunity to study in Austria and travel throughout Europe.
Medjugorje was such a blessed experience! The fruits are definitely still growing in my life and will continue to do so. I did not originally plan to go to Medjugorje, and to be honest it was very low on my list of places I wanted to travel to because I came to Austria with many plans to go on fun trips to the usual tourist spots. My plans are not always God’s plans though, and He has done a lot of work to get through my stubbornness to teach me to trust in Him. I finally decided to go to Mejugorje after some of my friends went at the beginning of the semester and told me about their amazing experiences. I went with fifty-seven other classmates, and I believe it is safe to say that all of us were deeply moved by our time there and we grew a lot spiritually. As soon as we stepped off the bus, I could feel the peaceful presence of Our Lady. We stayed at a pilgrim retreat house called The Castle, which was modeled after Theresa of Avila’s book the Interior Castle. Only priests, religious, and certain privileged Catholic school students are allowed to stay there, so we were truly blessed to have that opportunity! The caretakers and volunteers were extremely loving and our tour guide was also very enthusiastic and joyful. In Medj (our affectionate nickname for that holy place), we prayed and hiked up two different mountains. The first is called Apparition Hill (where Mary appeared to the six visionaries of Medjugorje) and Cross Mountain (where we prayed the stations of the cross). We also heard one of the visionaries, Visca, speak, went to Mass and adoration a few times, and many of us went to confession (one of the best confessions I have had in my entire life!). Finally, about half of our group and I went to visit a community for recovering drug addicts called the Cenacolo Community. We heard a couple of very touching testimonies, and, as a psychology major, I greatly enjoyed hearing about the communities approach to healing these men and women of their addictions. It was an absolutely amazing weekend in Medjugorje, and I am so glad that God (and Mama Mary) broke through my stubbornness and called me to go there.
Last weekend I went to visit a friend in Germany. She had asked me to come visit as soon as she found out that I would be in Austria, and we were both very happy that the perfect opportunity presented itself! Her family treated me and my friend/travel buddy Rachel as if we were their own daughters. They absolutely loved showing us around their small village, named Harderode, as well as the city of Hameln, where the story of the Pied Piper comes from. My friend also brought us to Mariensburg Castle and we went on a tour there. It was so much fun and we felt like princesses! I was very excited to use a bit of the German I have been learning this semester. Fortunately my friend and her family spoke enough English that there was not too much of a language barrier.
This coming week the school is taking us on a pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi! I am so excited to see the gorgeous country of Italy and learn more about our Catholic heritage as well as my Italian heritage. Many of us are going to see Venice and Florence on the way down to meet the rest of our classmates in Rome. Please keep us in your prayers! Know that we will keep you in our prayers as well.