A couple weeks ago, while on my school trip traveling the Balkans I experienced one of the most whole, and pure experiences of my life. The purpose of this journey was to experience what Samuel P. Huntington coined The Clash of Civilizations, and the Balkans are the meeting point between the Catholic and Secular West and the Muslim and Orthodox East. Therefore, in traveling this area we can see the history, art, and literature we studied in class and how evident it is in these countries. We started off in Budapest and it was great the city was huge and one of the most beautiful human achievements I have seen to this day. However, our next stop Zagreb, Croatia would contain one of the most beautiful places that attracted an amazing group of people. These two things, the group and the place, would combine to affect me spiritually. I can not think of any moment this awe-inspiring that I have experienced.
It played out like a movie. My girlfriend and I were walking down a road--navigating the hills of Zagreb attempting to find an overlook we had seen previously in that day. At one point my girlfriend stopped our progress and told me that we needed to turn one way because we went down from our destination that way earlier, but something told me no, something said, "you need to keep going, it's just ahead." Me, embracing my rare stubborn side, said, "No, we're close." Sure enough I remembered where we were and we went up an alternating stair case up to a hill that sloped downward. That day our professor took our group down the same path to show us an alcove that looks just like an ordinary tunnel that connect two footpaths, except inside was a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This sight, our professor told us, was where many citizens of Zagreb would go to pray to Mary and the Man she birthed to help with hurts, habits, and trying times.
As we approached we were confronted with the weirdest and most uncanny sensation, music. This was not just any music though. We recognized the melody, but the words were different. getting closer we were able to make out that it was the song Hosanna by the popular worship band Hillsong United. This song I had sung multiple times in church and listened to hundreds more because of the powerful bridge it has. This time, however, it was in Croatian. Just then, I knew we had stumbled upon something magnificent and extraordinary. A group of around fifty people, some performers, some not, gathered in that little alcove to worship.
This was weird for me because an emphasis on Mary is typically a more Catholic and Liturgical practice; however, they were playing more contemporary, evangelical music. This was an interesting blend of old and new. A blend that fit the themes of this trip perfectly.
Experiencing such a moment we decided to stick around to hear these Croatians play more music. They played one or two more Hillsong tunes before my girlfriend and I decided to move on from this beautiful sight and quickly move to the next, the overlook, because the sun was going down fast (it was beautiful and over looked the city painting the sky with colors). However, more importantly, I can't shake how amazing it sounded, how amazing it was that these people could worship in public and others would simply pass through, participate, or acknowledge and move on. What a world to live in! I saw God, I saw his love, compassion, and joy in that moment. I also saw and felt what I am here to do. More definite than ever, I feel it is my duty to
do my part in bringing this world back together during this very fractured time. With whatever methods that may entail, I need to demonstrate the love I saw there and give my all to perpetuating it and helping everyone. Easier said than done, but I will try my best because I will never forget that tunnel, and I need to go back to Zagreb later in my life because what happened there,