Crucified, the young man rose again...
“Would you care to climb the mountain with me?” she asked. “My father isn’t too well today, and my sister doesn’t want to come.”
It was Margaret’s first time in Medjugorje and the weather was unusually hot for September. If the truth was known, climbing Mount Krizevac was the last thing on my mind. A cool drink in Colombo’s would be more preferable. Besides, I wasn’t in great shape and I wondered if I could make it to the top.
Still clutching the blue wooden rosary beads that had found their way into Ivan’s apparition the night before – and had been blessed by Our Lady – I reluctantly agreed to accompany Margaret, with the proviso that we rest as often as possible and take plenty of water.
Each station was a welcome stop, not for saying prayers or contemplating the Way of the Cross, but just to take in water and find some shade to rest. And so the slow progress continued until we were about three quarters of the way up the mountain, on the left hand side of the path.
It was then that our attention was drawn to a commotion among a group of people to our right, gathered around a young man lying upside down on the steep and rocky incline. We both stood and watched, and my first thought was: “How will they ever get him down the mountain?”
Margaret guessed rightly that the young man was experiencing an epileptic seizure, and we stood there for some time looking on helplessly as a priest ministered to him. The priest supported the youth’s head while some ladies held his arms and legs firmly, to prevent him thrashing and hurting himself on the rocks – and still I could only watch.
Eventually, I made my way over to the group and offered to take the boy’s weight to let the priest carry on with whatever he had to do. My hands were placed under his neck, my knee supported his back, and his head rested on my ample stomach!
It was then that the words came to me: “Give him the beads.”
“I can’t do that,” I thought, “they’re special, a gift for me.” But the words were repeated: “Give him the beads.”
I relented, and explained to the priest that Our Lady blessed the beads during Ivan’s apparition. He took them and placed them around the young man’s neck and continued praying with him. It wasn’t too long after that the youth began to recover and the Polish priest said: “Carry on with your journey, he will be okay now.”
Sometime later, as Margaret and I were leaving to come down the mountain, we were surprised to see the young Polish man and some of the women who had tended to him sitting at the foot of the concrete cross. He had recovered sufficiently to complete his climb up Krizevac.
There are two sequels to this story.
The following morning I attended the 10:00am Mass at St James church. There were many concelebrating priests. One in particular caught my attention. It was the Polish priest I had met on the mountain the previous day. I thought it was unusual for a Polish priest to be at the Mass for english-speaking pilgrims.
When Mass had ended I made my way to the exit beside the choir loft on the left side of the church. Waiting there as I passed through the door was Fr Joseph, the priest I had noticed on the altar. He approached, handed me a package, and said “Thank you for being Mary’s helper.” That was it. Nothing else, and off he went.
When I opened the package it was a beautiful image of Our Lady in a picture frame. I was touched by the gift but even more so by the effort the priest had made to seek me out.
Later on the same pilgrimage, another pilgrim came up to me and gave me some blue rosary beads. They say Our Lady is never outdone in generosity.
Six months later I had the good fortune to find myself in Medjugorje again. It was a quiet time of the year and there were very few pilgrims about. It was also a lot cooler than the previous September.
After attending confession I felt moved to climb Krizevac. It was late in the afternoon when I started out and this time I made a serious attempt to spend time in prayer at each station. My thoughts were concentrated on something the priest had said to me in confession, and I had forgotten all about the episode with the Polish youth the last time I tackled Krizevac.
But then, without realising, as I reached the part of the mountain where the young man had collapsed, beside the eleventh station, the whole incident came flooding back to me. And when I gazed at the bronze plaque, I could hardly believe what I was seeing. There on the plaque was Jesus lying on the ground being nailed to the cross, his legs and arms held down by soldiers while a nail is driven through his hand. There are watching bystanders, some even looking away, seemingly disinterested.
Like the epileptic who tried to thrash his arms and legs as he convulsed on the mountain, so too, it seemed, did Jesus. Why else were the soldiers restraining his limbs in the same manner the women had done with the Polish youth; and who on earth could lie passively while a heavy nail is driven through the hand, without reacting, without writhing and jerking under the sudden impact of pain? Could anyone?
The similarity between the distressed epileptic and Jesus being nailed to his cross was uncanny, almost surreal – surely not just a coincidence? And the bystanders – just like Margaret and myself, feeling helpless and shocked as we stared at the distressing scene. And then I remembered that the youth rose again and ascended to the top of the mountain where he was seated with his priest, Father Joseph (Potyskosz), and the other saintly people who had ministered to him and taken care of his needs...
The framed photo of the Blessed Mother – a gift from Fr Joseph
The XI Station of the Cross on Mt Krizevac: The Crucifixion, Jesus is Nailed to the Cross