It's easy to know that you're getting old when someone offers you their seat on a bus. I was taking a shuttle bus at Dublin airport last Monday when a young lady took pity on me and offered me her seat on the packed bus. This also happened to me last December in London on the Tube when a man got up and told me to take his seat.
It's hard to believe that I was part of a Donegal team that won the U-21 title 35 years ago. I was 20 years of age then and delighted to be a part of the team which brought the first ever All-Ireland football title to Donegal. Last Monday Donegal won the last ever U-21 title since the grade is being changed to U-20 next year. This is such a pity. Declan Bonner now joins an elite group of managers to have won Ulster U-21 titles for Donegal. Tom Conaghan 1982, PJ McGowan 1987, Jim McGuinness 2010 and someone else?? I’m not sure if there were managers back in the 1960s victories. Answers on a postcard to Peter Campbell, Sports Editor, Donegal Democrat.
Seriously, I believe that this current team can go all the way even if there is a lot of hype about Dublin and Kerry. No team is invincible as we saw in Croke Park last Sunday when Kerry beat the "unbeatable" Dublin stars in the National League final.
This result gives those of us in Donegal hope for what could happen when we arrive at the business end of the season later in the summer.
BACK IN MEDJUGORJE
So here I am back in Herzecovina and namely Medjugorje. The weather is in the mid-twenties which is pleasant and comfortable. I walked into chapel grounds shortly after my arrival last early Monday evening and was delighted to see a young lad in a Donegal jersey, sitting have confessions in the open air amidst the throngs of people in the bright warm sunshine. It was a great start to my pilgrimage. If Donegal has hope in respect of football then we can also look forward to Donegal youngsters such as the lad I saw carrying on the Catholic faith at home. The Irish aren't afraid to show their colours here. They wear their faith on their sleeves which is so uplifting. This is a small town where the Catholic religion is the focus. One can be cynical about the apparitions here and those who flock to this nondescript collection of shops selling holy objects and restaurants feeding the pilgrims. Some people do come in search of miracles but most come for the peace and that small bit of heaven that is Medjugorje. I was in Cape Town, South Africa about eight weeks ago. That is a different type of paradise, a material heaven where anything goes. Posters advertising same day abortions litter the lamp posts in the central business district of Cape Town. Prostitution, crime and drugs are rife there. God gives us free will though and we can choose our preferred indulgences.
I love Cape Town for its God given beauty and scenery, it's friendly people and it's diverse culture. Here in Medjugorje one has no choice but to immerse oneself in faith and discover the true meaning of life. The Papal envoy is currently here basically to rule on the Marian apparitions. Medjugorje has not yet been approved by the Vatican unlike Knock, Fatima, Lourdes, La Salette, Laus, Pontmain and others. This process will take a long time. To those who come here it matters little but to have Vatican approval is more a technicality than a prerequisite for the pilgrims. One only has to attend the public apparition of Our Lady to Marijana on the 2nd of every month to see with one's own eyes the supernatural events which take place. Countless miracles have occurred here. All you have to do is visit Mary.tv on the internet and listen to the numerous testimonies of hundreds of people. We live in a world which is full of ridicule and scepticism. That is why we need full approval from the Church. My mission here is not to see signs, witness miracles or to find myself. I love Medjugorje for its tranquility coupled with the inexplicable peace which softens the hearts of even the most doubtful.
I came here for the first time seven years ago. I was the most cynical and hardened person one could meet. It was my wedding anniversary and I came here to please my wife Maura. I went to mass in the morning and the pub in the evening. I was simply putting in the time until I returned home. I met my friend Fr. Paul some time later when I returned to Donegal. He transformed my life in respect of Medjugorje and especially my faith. This is the first time that I've been back to Medjugorje since he passed away last August. I had the pleasure and was blessed to have been with him here a few times in recent years. He loved it here. He is very much with me and very much in my prayers. I miss him so much but I am happy to know that if anyone is in heaven, he certainly is.
There aren't the words to describe Medjugorje because words aren't enough to do Medjugorje justice. As I mentioned in my recent autobiography, Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer,the greatest miracle in Medjugorje is the conversion that happens here. From 5-7pm the queues for confessions is a miracle in itself. It's the greatest act of humility that any of us can perform.
Because I come to Medjugorje does not make me a better person than anybody else nor does it make me the perfect person. I am as bad or as good as everyone else.
I am so thankful to my wife Maura, Fr. Paul and Sr. Susan for putting me on the "narrow road". The only perfect person was Jesus.
The sun is beginning to set here in Medjugorje. I now see a group of youngsters sporting Donegal tops. They are exiting the chapel after evening mass. What a beautiful sight. Keeping the faith as always!