Map of Bangladesh

Map of Bangladesh
for more detailed map, scroll to bottom of page

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Kevin doing some extra-curricular teaching

The basketball court is finally finished.  Our first day playing hoops with the kids.

swimming... a daily pastime now

Kevin trying on a lungi- the local substitute for men's pants

just looking cool

building more sidewalk up to the church.  All building material is carried on heads

My name is Jep

playing limbo- this girl learned the hard way

Amar prio paribar ebon amar prio baree-
transllation: my favorite family and my favorite house

gotta love the last name.  It's "funny", to say the least

our last time having khasi tea- it's very heavy on cream.  Kev loves it

duck duck goose anyone?

the boys gave us haircuts

RNDM sisters Shongita, Sukriti, Leiza, and Kakon (spellings are probably awful)
this is one of my signature picture memories from Bangladesh.  The girls in the RNDM house always give us the best greeting and good bye!

out to dinner.  Unbelievable food, service, atmosphere, all for under $5 per person

good bye to Kevin's 8th grade class

More pictures will come tomorrow, which is our last day in Srimangal.  Btw, we just got LAN internet here so it's getting faster just in time for us to leave

I am living, breathing, playing, sleeping, eating, and writing here in Bangladesh, but my reading has taken me to Yugoslavia.

I’ve been reading a book entitled Medjugorje.  For those who don’t know, this is where Mary (yes, the mother of Jesus) allegedly appeared daily to six Yugoslavian children for years.  The author of the book is Wayne Weible and he writes incredibly honestly.  In a moment, I’ll tell you what I mean, but first allow me to imitate his transparency.  When I was starting this book, I wanted to know more about the apparitions in Medjugorje, so as to decide for myself whether I believed them to be real.  I wanted a factual account, thoroughly investigated and approved by the Vatican.

I was repulsed when, after finishing a chapter or two, I learned that Wayne was a Lutheran, the book was his own personal story of religious conversion (spurred by his experiences at Medjugorje), and he constantly wrote in the first person (something a credible, factual, objective author avoids like the plague)!  I was disappointed and even a little disgusted, but I had read enough (it was fortunate that I did not read the summary on the back of the book before beginning, or I would have put the book right back on the shelf) that I was hooked, at least for a few more chapters.  Now, having finished the book, I am pretty strongly convinced of the veracity of the supposed occurrences in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia.  What has happened there is both beautiful and astonishing.

Pick up a book about Medjugorje to learn more than this blog will tell.  I will focus on just a few things it has helped me with.

To regress a bit, I mentioned above that Wayne writes honestly.  What I mean is that he does not shy away from sharing his feelings, speaking of the supernatural, and invoking the divine.  He openly writes about visions, heavenly messengers, audible messages, and miraculous gifts from God. To mirror its author’s own spiritual journey, the book’s descriptions of such events move from skeptical and cautious, in the early chapters, to accepting and regular, as if we were discussing the weather or a freshly cut lawn. 

Ok, don’t lose me here.  Wayne firmly declares that in the mid 1980’s he heard a voice, the voice of Mary, telling him to spread the message of Medjugorje.  Now, he has made it his life’s mission to do just that (though it wasn’t a simple road).   I was always skeptical when I heard vocation stories in middle school about priests and sisters feeling called or even hearing a call.  My practical mind told me it was ridiculous that St. Augustine opened to a random line from scripture and consequently changed his whole life.  Nevertheless, believing that most people are not granted such immediate clarity, one day in Malloy Hall, in the Seat of Wisdom Chapel at Notre Dame, I opened up the bible and asked God to do the same for me. 

I don’t know how strongly encouraged this is, or even what the answer in my own life will be, so take this with a pound of salt, but the words I read were “the Lord has sworn it.  You are a priest forever, according to the order of Malchesadek.”  I don’t know remember exactly where that verse is from (though I want to say Psalms), and it has not made me join the seminary yet.  In fact, since reading that verse, I have dated two wonderful, Catholic girls.  Even now, I feel pretty strongly called to single life, not to religious life or marriage.  I don’t know if this call is just temporary, but it is there.  Maybe this is God’s way of making me take a step toward priesthood.  I don’t know. I can only pray, prepare, and listen.

There are so many variables in situations like this.  I cannot keep track of all of them, and therefore I cannot offer any concrete advice or conclusions.  What I can say is that I will graduate college with a degree in Catholic theology, I have learned how to say the liturgy of the hours, and I am constantly trying to improve my faith, my prayer life, and my devotion to daily mass.   What all of these things have in common is that priests do them.  If my experience in the chapel was a totally random, I think God will show me a different path, but if it was something meaningful, the least I can do is prepare myself.

Concerning messages, visions, healings, supernatural events, and the like, I think it is wrong to expect them.  Wayne writes, “the miracle of Medjugorje was focusing on our acceptance of life as it was,” not on miracles.  I still believe that most people will discover their vocation slowly, methodically, naturally, but simultaneously I believe divine intervention is possible in anyone’s life, no matter how rich or poor, how holy or evil, how average or extraordinary.

If one wants to decide if something really comes from God, one must look at what it creates.  If you want to know how good a fountain is, look at the water that flows from it.  If you want to know if the tree is healthy, look at the fruit.  The village of Medjurgorje used to be an average, tiny village in the mountains of communist Yugoslavia.  The people, though simple, were gradually drifting away from faith and church in favor of modern pragmatism.  They lived normal lives, not notable for much besides neighborly quarrels.  Now, the town’s 200 families attend mass almost daily, the people welcome visitors/pilgrims into their own homes, and God has become central to their everyday existence.  Faith and prayer are the anchors of their individual lives, their families, and their now-harmonious community.  I cannot describe this enough in such a small space.  The water is pure, the fruit is ripe, what is happening in Medjugorje is good.

We must use the same method in discerning personal vocation, life decisions, or almost anything.  We can look at the products (like the water or fruit) and see if they are pure or polluted, ripe or rotten.

The five things that Mary seemed to stress most in the apparitions was:
1)      fasting (on only bread and water at least once a week)
2)      prayer (especially the rosary)
3)      penance
4)      conversion (of heart, not necessarily of religion)
5)      peace (first in the heart, then in families centered on faith, then in the world)

Oh, and one more interesting quote from one of the children who received the apparitions of Mary at Medjugorje.  He was asked if he has any leisure time with all the publicity that is focused on him.  He answered, “I do sports for recreation, and I watch them sometimes.  But they won’t take you to heaven.  So I often set sports aside.  Our Lady didn’t tell me to; I just did.” Food for thought for me.

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