St. John the Baptist gathered tens of thousands of pilgrims in Podmilačje

On the feast of St. John the Baptist, on Sunday June 24th, parish and pilgrimage place in Podmilačje, celebrated their patron, with a traditional gathering of number of believers, pilgrims from all over BiH, but other countries as well.

Translated by: Ksenija Ninić

In the early morning hours, holy confessions started, after which followed holy masses at 7 and 8:30, while the central mass celebration was at 11 AM, and was led by provincial of Franciscan province Bosna Srebrena, OFM Jozo Marinčić. There were about 20 priests concelebrating, and the assistance at the altar were deacons and theology students from Franciscan theology in Sarajevo. The liturgy singing was led by OFM Emanuel Josić.

At the beginning, the parish priest and the guardian of the pilgrimage place OFM Filip Karadža, addressed and welcomed the present.

In a appropriate sermon, provincial Marinčić, pointed out that St. John shows what real courage and humility. „Be humble, it is a courageous act. To forgive – that is a courageous act. Do not run away from that, so many people are in dispute, they do not talk – all because they can't be humble, which is not easy to admit. They need courage to be small before God and accept their boundaries. That is the true greatness that gives God to be God and that thankfully accepts its dignity“, said OFM Jozo.

„We are constantly talking about a crisis - the crisis of this, the crisis of that, there is always a crisis present in our lives and among us. What is the crisis of the world? What is the crisis of history? Where does all this darkness of history happen? The crisis of us Christians, I will not say the materialistic crisis, but the Christian crisis is that the Christian no longer prays, that prayer is no longer heard in our homes, in our families, and rarely descends from our lips. We do not put God in the first place! He is gone! The family crisis is a crisis of prayer. When is it that family crisis arises - then when family prayer ceases! When one does not talk to God, one does not talk to each other... We have become people of complaining, we are always bothered by something, and know this - it was never easy for this people, but with faith in God they became more self-conscious in difficult times and more alive. St. John was a man of prayer. Let us look at St. John, that we can be people of prayer, people meeting with God. That is why I address you, dear parents, do not leave your children - be close to them. Be close to your children at these moments, especially when they need to decide on the important things of their lives. Be close to your children and show them where spiritual joy is, not to be overwhelmed by anxiety“, said the Provincial of Bosna Srebrena province.

Continuing, he pointed out that one of the spiritual values, that St. John calls to is solidarity. „However the time we live in, makes us selfish. We are becoming very selfish people and self-absorbed, we are not interested in others. We walk past them, especially those in need, no, I see only myself... Let's pray to God to free us of this selfishness and being closed to come back from this pilgrimage strengthened with God's spirit, to live the spirit of solidarity that St. John calls us to“, said OFM Jozo.

After the Mass celebration, there was folk joy with music and food and drinks.

Sanctuary of St. John the Baptist in Podmilačje, today is considered to be the largest non-Marian sanctuary of Catholics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many believers also prayed this year for an intercession to the mighty patron saint St. John the Baptist, by walking on foot more than 100 km to be at the feast at his sanctuary.

Pilgrims came from all sides, not only from Jajce and surrounding parishes, but also from Lašva valley and the Lepenica valley parishes, from which they walked 120 and more kilometers. Most pilgrims to Podmilačje came across Vlašić, and after their vacation and break in Dobretići they came to their destination.

Many of the pilgrims spent night from June 23rd to June 24th under open skies in sleeping bags or simply covered with blankets and jackets.

„Ivandan“ is the most important summer saint's feast. Some call it „Summer Christmas“. The rich folklore content associated with this feast is linked to the summer solstice, that is, the longest day and the shortest night. That is why on the eve of St. John, bonfire is lit.