In July and August, I spent an extended amount of time in two of the most well-known pilgrimage sites in Europe: Lourdes in southwestern France and Medjugorje in Bosnia. Lourdes sits at the foot of the Pyrenees, and this tiny rural town has welcomed millions of pilgrims to its shrine and grotto for more than 150 years. Lourdes is a place of healing; thousands of pilgrims come here each year to bathe in the holy waters and pray for healing of body, mind, and soul. I felt a deep spiritual and emotional connection from the moment I set foot in the shrine, not just with God and the pilgrims in my tour group, but also with the thousands of complete strangers who were there at the same time, and with those who had walked the same hilly roads to the famous Lourdes grotto for almost two centuries.
When we turn our focus outwards, whether that is in service, exploring new cultures, or pursuing intentional relationships, we can find beauty, goodness and fulfillment, even amidst a suffering and chaotic world. I was blessed to experience all three this summer while halfway across the world, traveling across Europe to some of the most beautiful and holy sites I’ve ever seen.
My pilgrimage to Medjugorje included celebrating Mass, praying the rosary, and adoring Christ in the Eucharist with over 500 priests and 300,000 people from 72 countries throughout a week long Youth Festival. One would think that such a large crowd of people would mean chaos and distraction. However, instead, I truly experienced one of the core messages of Medjugorje: “Peace, peace, peace!” In the midst of a crowd of thousands of people, I was able to find the one person we all came to seek: God, the Father, whose peace surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Being able to serve others and receive love and peace in return was, to put it lightly, a life-changing experience. Opening my heart to the Lord and the opportunities and people He placed in my path this summer allowed me to experience a peace and joy I didn’t know was possible.