Planes, Busses, Our Lady and the Holy Spirit
This is my story, my conversion story. I have been on a spiritual journey for a while, looking, reading, praying and learning anything I could to bring me closer to God. I was blessed with this opportunity and because of this pilgrimage, my life will never be the same. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38
I believe that when the opportunity opens up for you to journey to Medjugorje it will happen at the perfect time in your spiritual life. I have worked in Wayne’s office for a year. Many times we have talked about my going to Medjugorje. Needless to say, I didn’t make it. Wayne said to me, “When she wants you there, it will happen.” I understood that as much as we can ever understand Gods timing. If it’s up to us, we just don’t want to wait. I continued praying on it and listening to all of our wonderful subscribers telling me their stories of Medjugorje.
During this first year of working for Wayne, I was on my own journey. My husband Johnny and I have been married for twenty years and have two children, Haley and Caleb. During this past year, while working with Wayne, we adopted three teenage foster children, two sisters Nikki and Tasha and their brother Josh. We had a very full house. More and more I could see the enabler in me and was working on that, trying to make smarter choices in taking care of myself. Little by little, I knew I was growing and always felt like I was a good Catholic girl. Born and raised Catholic, I went to Church as often as I could. I did stray from the church in my early twenty’s. What brought me back were my two birth children, Haley and Caleb. I started taking them to Mass because that’s what I felt I had to do. During this time of returning to the Church, I had a spiritual awakening. Perfect name for it, because that is exactly what happened, my spirit woke up. After that, I decided the children needed to be baptized. My husband wasn’t going to Church with me in fact he was not attending any Church. He was raised Southern Baptist. We were quite a mix. I told him my wishes about the children being baptized Catholic and he did not agree. Johnny didn’t understand anything about the Catholic Faith, he questioned me, I answered to the best of my knowledge. Not much wisdom, but my heart told me everything. Finally one day, I said to Johnny, “If you want the kids to be Baptist than you need to go to Church. I’m not taking them to a Baptist Church alone because it’s foreign to me. If you don’t go to Church, I’m going to baptize them into the Catholic Faith.” I waited on his decision. There was none. After a month or so I decided to go ahead with my decision. Haley was three and Caleb two when they were finally baptized. Since then we have been an active Catholic family. I said active Catholic, but for me probably not a true Catholic of the heart. We went to church (missing a lot of Sunday’s) we prayed in the family, we adopted three new children. I felt like we were a good Christian family. We were, but something was missing and I didn’t even know it.
At this time, I felt very blessed. I had a husband and two children who all agreed on the adoption. I had wonderful parents who supported our decision and all of my family who stood by us, while we merged as a new family. I was blessed with a wonderful community and fellow parishioners who helped us in so many ways. What else could I need? I loved my job. I got to talk openly about Jesus and Mary to our subscribers. I was working in an office surrounded by the love of Mary. Yet, I still didn’t know something was missing.
Wayne continued to talk about taking my children and I to Medjugorje. He just didn’t know how. He kept saying, “Our Lady will get us there.” All we could do was pray. From these prayers, the foster program was started. Wayne decided this first trip would be a girl trip. With your generosity our prayers were answered when on July 29, 2009 Haley, Nikki, Tasha, Wayne and I began our journey to the 20th Annual Youth festival in Medjugorje.
Excited and nervous we couldn’t wait. The three girls had never flown before, they were nervous. The only one who wasn’t nervous was Haley, she was excited. She had her own cross to carry on the nine hour plane ride to Frankfurt. We had been in the air for a couple of hours, when I turned around to see Haley looking really sick. She had motion sickness. Well, I brought every medicine you could think of except Dramamine. All three girls ride roller coasters, so I thought for sure they will be fine on the plane. Haley sat in her seat quietly trying to make it through the flight. Wayne walked up to see how we were doing, took one look at Haley and thought, “Oh this poor girl, she just wants to go home and will never come back to Medjugorje.” He was worried this would ruin her trip. Wayne wanted so much for us to receive all the blessings we could on this pilgrimage. If we all only knew how our lives would change. Wayne returned to his seat and said a prayer to Our Lady for Haley. As soon as he was finished praying, the lady sitting next to him took Dramamine out of her purse. Wow! Our Lady works fast. He asked if he could have one and brought it up to Haley. It helped. But she and I walked that plane most the night. We got a few cat naps, but not much and arrived in Frankfurt tired, hungry and ready to sleep. We still had some traveling left as we boarded our plane for Dubrovnik. This was an hour and a half flight, not bad. Great views from the sky, we saw the Swiss Alps and Adriatic Sea. It was beautiful. Haley slept as did Tasha and Nikki most of this flight. I was too excited to sleep. We landed in Dubrovnik, met our tour guide Slavenka, loaded ourselves on a van where we met up with the rest of our group and began three hour bus ride to Medjugorje. Our group was small but very nice. The bus ride was quiet most of us slept. Haley who was feeling better being on the ground was wide awake. Her and I talked and looked out the windows taking it all in. We prayed the Rosary with the ones who were awake, and stopped for ice cream along the Adriatic Sea. The pilgrimage was starting out beautifully and we were all excited to get to Medjugorje.
We arrived at our house around four in the afternoon. Slavenka had told us that tonight, Ivan would be at the top of Apparition Hill for his apparition. We all said we were exhausted and would probably just sleep. Little did we know the Holy Spirit was working. Though tired, some of us decided to go to Apparition Hill at 10 pm for the Apparition. We got our first experience of European Taxi drivers on our way to the hill. I just kept my eyes closed. When we got to Apparition Hill, there were a lot of people, all heading up the hill. We started our climb not knowing what to expect. As we climbed this hill, we realized this wasn’t a hill at all. This was a mountain with rocks. We were all thinking what would Cross Mountain be like if they call this one a hill. We arrived at the top. Haley who has asthma was wheezing (we didn’t bring her inhaler to the so called “hill”). We found a place to sit among the crowd and could see the Virgin Mary statue, but just a piece of it. I sat and started to pray and meditate but couldn’t hear Ivan very well. As we were sitting, I started to feel a little lightheaded and dizzy. I figured I was exhausted, and after looking at my three girls knew they looked the same. I decided we had better head down the hill. When we arrived at the bottom of the hill Haley turned to me and said, “I saw Mary in the sky.” She said she saw three stars which made her veil and a cloud that formed her face. It was exciting. We arrived home safely and crashed in bed.
The next day, we went to celebrate Mass at St. James Church. We walked through the cemetery where Father Slavko was buried. Slavenko, our tour guide began telling us all about him. I was standing off to the side and praying as she was talking. All of a sudden I started to cry. The Holy Spirit is so alive in Medjugorje, he opens your heart. We then proceeded to the Risen Christ statue. Upon entering the area and seeing this statue, I began to cry even more. Looking back I think the Holy Spirit, was warming me up for what was about to happen. I went and touched the water dripping from the statues knee. I couldn’t believe I was there. I prayed so hard, for myself, my husband, my children, my parents. I was praying that my heart would be converted. I knew now what was missing and why I had come to Medjugorje. So I kept praying. When we arrived at the Church it was crowded but you still felt peaceful. We filed in and found an empty pew. The church was beautiful. I was sitting there amazed looking at everything and noticing my three girls were taking it all in. We smiled at each other, so excited about everything. The music started, “Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord” and my tears started again. As the chorus continued, I felt myself crying uncontrollably into my outstretched hands. My daughters looked at me. “Are you OK?” I signaled to them. It is all OK.
From that moment on, I knew all I had to do was have an open heart and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work. The rest of the trip was amazing. We climbed Cross Mountain and yes it is definitely a mountain. Haley, Tasha and I climbed it barefoot. We felt like we needed to do this for the Lord. Nikki who didn’t want to do it barefoot, never let go of Haley’s hand as we climbed the mountain. We prayed the Stations of the Cross on our way up. It was beautiful and of course I cried again. The joke in the group was that I was either crying or dancing. But how could I not cry or dance as I watched my three teenage daughters, getting closer to God.
The youth festival started and it was unbelievable. Over 60,000 young people, all who were celebrating their love for Jesus. The Mass was celebrated outside, yet you still felt like you were in a small church. The nuns taught us dances, so we danced as we celebrated. I miss this but since I have been home, I feel myself dancing at church. Over 500 priests celebrated with us. Watching communion being given to 60,000 young people by 500 priests is something I will never forget.
As you walked around Medjugorje, you felt the love and peace everywhere. To watch people dancing and celebrating was pure love. We went to confession. I even went twice, once when I first arrived and again on my last night. I saw my children go to confession, pray, and love this place. I prayed they would take this peace home with them. My daughter Haley came out of confession and cried for three hours. The Holy Spirit was working. Of course, I cried some more and kept drinking water so I wouldn’t get dehydrated. My heart didn’t need anything. It was completely converted.
The best way to describe my experience is that I went to Medjugorje as a cradle Catholic. But it is there that I received the Eucharist for the first time. What I mean is that before Medjugorje, I was receiving communion, something I learned about as a child. In Medjugorje, for the first time I received the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ. He gives me his presence and I thank him daily for this gift.
I feel Gods love all around me and want to share it with everybody. I am truly walking in God’s love. I pray the Rosary daily, can’t stop singing, fast on Wednesday’s and always want to pray more. My life is dedicated to the Lord. If you ask me what the girls got out of Medjugorje, I would tell you each one was touched differently. Nikki and Tasha began a healing of their relationship, after years of hurt in Foster Care. Nikki the oldest, has begun her new prayer life. Tasha, the tenderhearted has found more strength through the Rosary. Which, I am happy to say they all pray daily. (imagine that) Haley who always marched to the beat of her own drum is now marching for Our Lady. Also during this trip, something we never dreamed of happened. Haley was given some relief from her severe asthma and now is saving her money to go to Medjugorje next August, so she can be there with her two brothers.
This trip has changed our lives forever and I want to thank each and every one of you who donated to the YouthProgram. Please keep this program in your prayers. It is a gift from God
Mary Maddox, August 2009.
Answering the call to travel to Medjugorje actually started when I accepted the directorship of the ACTS women’s retreat scheduled for September 10-13, 2009 at our parish. During most of that year, I had been reading the spirituality of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I had begun to grasp just how much Jesus thirsted for souls, my soul and everyone else’s. Mother Teresa had gone into the slums of Calcutta looking for souls to bring to Him and my Calcutta would be right here in Rockport, Texas at our retreat. I would offer myself first. Then I vowed to bring Him souls that needed healing and conversion. By chance, I found out that there was a pilgrimage scheduled to go to Medugorje two weeks after the retreat ended. I knew a little bit about it. I knew Medugorje was a village in Bosnia where Mary had been allegedly appearing to several children. The apparitions were still going on after 28 years. I didn’t feel particularly called to go but I thought it would be a nice respite after what I knew was going to be an arduous task of directing the ACTS retreat. I signed up to go. The trip was scheduled for September 28-October 7, 2009.
The retreat was a wonderful experience and as it ended, I felt a tremendous surge of love from everybody involved. We had all experienced something Divine and we knew it. Words of praise for me personally were overwhelming. I felt thankful and humbled that I had been a worthy instrument in helping God to bring such healing and conversion to the retreatants but also to all those on our Team, including myself. I felt loved, rejuvenated, and able to continue to serve in anything the Lord wanted.
After our “coming home” Mass on Sunday, when all was finished I went home and immediately proceeded to get sick. I did not realize just how tired I was or how run down my body was. I was going to try to lay low for the next week and a half because the long overseas trip to Medugorje was looming on the horizon. I did not want to be sick for that. I needed to rest. I did not go and pray at the abortion mill which I do every Tuesday for an hour.
On the Wednesday after the retreat, I got a call from a dear friend who is a sidewalk counselor at the abortion mill in Corpus Christi. She had received a call from another woman who was a nurse on the naval base in Kingsville. A young woman had aborted her baby on Tuesday in Corpus Christi, and was not doing well. She was in deep remorse and my friend asked if I would call her and talk with her. I said a quick prayer and later that day I called her.
She was deeply troubled and cried a lot. I tried to comfort her and told her of my own abortion in the 70’s and the miracle of my granddaughter surviving a first trimester abortion in the 80’s. I asked if she thought it might be helpful if we met and she said yes immediately.
She sounded so desperate and in need of someone to love her and talk about her baby. I scheduled a meeting at Sister Anne Sophie’s little convent and we met with her on a Saturday. I kept in touch with her for the rest of the week, which seemed to make her happy. On Saturday, we met with her and a girl friend that she had brought probably for moral support. She was lovely. She shared her story of how her family had pressured her into getting an abortion because of how hard she had worked to have a navy career. She claimed that she did not know who the father of the baby was. She wanted to go to a healing retreat, so we told her we would try to find the next one in our area. One of the things she shared was that her parents had raised her in the Wikan cult. Her Mom and aunt were high priestesses. She said she did not believe in God. She also confessed she was a “cutter” and you could see the terrible small scars all over her right arm. She told us that on that Tuesday all the girls lying on the tables in recovery after their abortions were crying. She said she knew then that what she had done was wrong. She knew her baby was a girl.
I held her as she cried and tried to comfort her the best I could. What struck me was her grieving and acknowledgement of the reality of her baby so soon after the abortion. This was something I did not remember ever doing after my abortion, actually loving the baby that I had aborted. I reflected on that and even prayed about it asking for conversion. What dawned on me after our meeting was that she and those other women were given a great grace that awful day. They were able to feel grief over the death of their babies immediately.
I had become involved with the organization Silent No More for about 18 months. Dealing with post-abortive women was a relatively new ministry for me. I began to sense awareness in myself of a lack of love. What you might call a hardness of heart about my own experience. I knew I had been forgiven for the sin but something was missing in me.
With these thoughts and various other spiritual questions about the direction my life was taking, I left for Medjugorje.
We left on time from Rockport on Monday September 28 at 1:30pm. My goodbye to my husband was tearful. I felt like I did when I left alone for Rome to volunteer during the Jubilee Year of 2000. I had been excited but also a little scared. This trip to Bosnia was going to be a long journey and everyone else had a partner. I was seeking conversion of heart and a sense of peace about my service to Him. On the trip with me were friends from my parish, as well as Monsignor and Sister Jude. A priest from Kingsville, Father Romeo, would be traveling with us as well. The other pilgrims were from other parishes in our area. Monsignor’s brother and his wife and another couple in Houston would join us. There were twenty-seven of us. We flew out of Houston that night. The flight there was long and tiring.
We arrived in London Tuesday September 29 and spent the night in London. The next day we toured the sites. We were due to fly out the next day early in the morning. London was a kind of blur. We saw too many things in a short period but we had fun getting to know each other better.
On Wednesday, September 30, we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I was amazed just how much it looked like Italy. It was very mountainous and dry. We met our guide Anka and loaded the bus. It was a three-hour trip to Medugorje. Anka began by telling us some of the history of the place. I remember thinking that at least the trip would be historically interesting.
We crossed the “frontier” from Croatia into Bosnia-Herzegovina and you could see that this was a war torn area. Anka’s stories of Communist oppression in what was originally Hungary were harrowing. Religious oppression was complete and the only way the faith stayed alive was in the homes of the families in the area. It was against the law to have any religious articles on your person or to mention the word God. They could go to Mass on Sunday but the rest of the week the families had to keep the faith in their homes. Most of the churches were destroyed. Anka was trying to explain why Our Blessed Mother had picked this little village to make her “visitation”. In the early apparitions, Our Lady had told the children that there was a strong faith still alive in the little village. There had been religious wars and ethnic intolerance in this part of the world for hundreds of years.
As we pulled into town, I was struck by the quaintness of the place and the sense of peaceful urgency in the faces of the pilgrims along the streets. They all seemed to be heading in the direction of the church named Saint James.
We arrived in Medjugorje in the afternoon with just enough time to make it to the International Mass at 6:00pm, which would be followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
We all excitedly dropped off our luggage in our rooms and walked the few blocks down to the Church. I knew immediately that I was in a very special place. Next to the church, there were lines and lines of pilgrims going to confession in all languages. There were even priests sitting on folding chairs in several places hearing confessions. The pews at the outdoor church behind Saint James were filling up fast. We all hurried to get our seats. The sun was slowly going down and it would be a clear night. As Mass started I could feel the reverence and intensity of emotion around me. The Mass was celebrated in Croatian, and the Gospel was proclaimed in eight different languages. There were over 10,000 pilgrims attending the Mass. I was overwhelmed to say the least. It did not make any difference that I could not understand the language. I knew I was once again in the middle of the Universal Catholic Church. Receiving the Eucharist for the first time in Medugorje was remarkable. There must have been 75 priests that came off the altar to distribute Communion. I looked in awe at them and in deep appreciation for their being there.
After Mass, the most beautiful monstrance was brought out and the opening benedictions of Adoration started. It was dark by now and the altar was dimly lit. The monstrance, with Our Lord, inside shown with a lovely glow. I settled back into the pew and tried to recollect myself and place myself in the presence of Jesus. I was still struggling with questions as to why I had come so far to this place that the Vatican had not yet approved. Was Our Lady really here? What did She want from me? Was I really being called by Our Blessed Mother to be there? I closed my eyes and began to feel the most wonderful sense of peace and belonging. My heart was touched by a gentle caress of love. The embrace was not removed for what seemed like a long time. I knew at that moment I was here because I was called to be here. The questions would be answered in due time or not at all but it did not matter. I recalled the quote, “I do not need to understand to believe. I believe that I might understand.”
I was sitting next to Sister Jude. Monsignor was sitting behind us. He later said that every time he looked at us there was a light around us. Sister later said she had seen this light around the monstrance. We were both blessed that night with what would be later called “Medugorje moments’. What a Divine welcome.
After the final benediction, we all went for a walk to the mosaics of the Luminous mysteries just a few hundred yards away. They were beautiful and this would become an exercise we would do after Mass in the evening.
On Thursday, October 1 was the feast of the Little Flower. I began my day in expectation that answers to my questions were to be given soon. I still felt a little separate from the rest of the pilgrims and alienated from the others. There was a coldness in me that always plagued me. I never knew why it was there. It was a kind of lack of love or personal involvement. We went to the 10:00am English Mass. It was packed to overflowing in the church. There was a lot of pushing and shoving as pilgrims tried to get in as the other Mass in German was getting out. It was a bit unsettling to be in such immense crowds for Mass.
Mass was nice, but I did not feel anything special or fulfilling. What a spoiled child I am, always wanting to feel Your presence, see a sign and not trust that You are always there. That morning we went to hear one of the visionaries, Mirjana, who had consented to speak to the pilgrims gathered in Medjugorje for the apparition that would take place the next day. She was also going to answer questions from the pilgrims about her times spent talking with Our Blessed Mother during the apparitions.
When we arrived there was a huge crowd already gathering in front of her home. We were able to find a place right in front near the porch where she would be standing. When she came out, I was struck by her calm and warm smile. She spoke to us in Croatian with a translator. She began to tell us about when the first apparitions started, 28 years ago and how she ran away when she initially saw Our Blessed Mother. She explained a little about the ten secrets and how often she now sees her. She began to talk to us about some of the things Mary had told her. They were simple but very profound. The skeptic that I am, I listened carefully for her to make a statement that did not coincide with the teachings of the Catholic Church but I never did. She talked about how our Mother Mary does not have favorites and that the visionaries were not favorites but simply instruments to get out the messages that Our Lady was sent by Her Son to give them, the village of Medjugorje, and the world in general. She spoke about many things, prayer, fasting, purgatory, confession, and much more. Our blessed Mother told Mirjana that we would be judged on how we treated our priests. That we were not to criticize them and that God Himself would judge them on how good a priest they had been.
She then said she would answer any of the questions the pilgrims might have. During the apparitions, she had many times asked Our Lady questions about various subjects. The pilgrim’s questions were of a very simple nature and Mirjana’s answers were straightforward and even funny at times. For example, a woman asked if you could have coffee on the mornings, you were going to fast. Mirjana laughed and said, “Yes but only if you have it before our Lady gets up.” All the answers were of a very motherly type. Then one woman asked if she had ever asked if the souls of aborted babies were in Heaven. My heart felt like it actually stopped as I waited for the answer. All of a sudden, I thought of my own baby that I had aborted. Mirjana said yes she had asked that question and about the embryos that are killed. She said Our Lady answered. “They are all with me.” At that point, it felt like there was a door that had been opened deep within my heart and I began to cry.
Barbara was standing by me and actually had to support me while I sobbed. Quite close to me but not near enough to get to her another woman had to begun to cry just at the same moment. If I could have reached her, I would have held her and we could have cried together. At that moment, I knew just how much Jesus loved my baby and each one of these children whose lives were snuffed out. There were not millions of motherless children up in Heaven because He had given them to His own Mother to care for and to love them until we would be joined to them. When the audience was finished, she asked if one of the priests would give us all a blessing. She said that Mary had told her that one of the most holy things we can receive on earth is the blessing from a priest because it is really Jesus who is giving it. Our own Father Romeo was sitting very near to where Mirjana was speaking so she asked him to give the blessing. We were all so thrilled for him. He went up on the porch and stood next to her and with his eyes sparkling; he gave us a beautiful blessing.
As we turned to leave, the sun was getting low in the sky and you could look right into it without even squinting. I had heard that the sun did strange things in Medugorje. The sun was pulsing and the whole thing was spinning in a tight circle. There were colors in the rays that changed and exploded. It took your breath away. It was a sign of Her presence to even those like me who were slow to believe that She was there.
I wrote in my journal that night. ‘You have been preparing me for a while for this moment in my life. Oh how slow I am to know how much you love your children. How you pine for them and encourage them to come to you. Your love has ever been there, as old as eternity, as you formed me, in my Mom’s womb. How oblivious I have been. You have patiently waited for me to open my heart to let in your love. Here in the arms of my Mother Mary, it happened. To know how I am loved. How you thirst for me. You loved my baby from the beginning. How I hurt you! Forgive me Lord. Forgive me, Mother. Keep my baby Mother in your love until I come home to get him. Kiana had felt love for her child immediately after she ended its life. I had shut a door in my heart a long time ago, maybe even before I crawled up on the abortionist’s table. I had emotionally denied the very identity of one of your little ones to save myself from the truth of what I was doing. You saved our granddaughter from death because you loved her and our family. We have a treasure, a living memorial. Mother, did you save her by your prayers to the Father? Thank you Mother.’
Friday, October 2 was the date of the next apparition. We all got up early to get to the hill to try to get a good spot. Busload after busload of pilgrims arrived just for the morning of the apparition. Bus after bus came down the narrow road that leads to Apparition Hill. Sonia and I tried to find a spot beneath where the apparition would take place because already there was no room for any more people up by the Blue Cross, the site of the apparition. We found a spot and we began to pray the rosary with the other pilgrims around us. There were many Italians and a lot of talking and commotion. It was overwhelming to me that what was about to happen was real. I could not wrap my mind around it. Anka had told us that no matter what happens during the apparition, whether you see anything or sense anything, we would be blessed just by being there and by opening our hearts to Our Blessed Mother. I stood and bowed my head and closed my eyes and tried to open my heart to Her presence.
I wrote in my journal that night, ‘ How do I tell you Father. I am such a spoiled, prideful child. Why do I not rejoice in your gifts to others? How do I accomplish this Blessed Mother Teresa? I was looking for blessings like one who goes shopping. I was present when you spoke to Mirjana but the world and my own disposition kept me from honoring you, as I should have. How rude we all were. All you wanted was our love and attention and it seems we gave neither. All of a sudden, as I stood there I did feel almost a physical sensation of a sudden drop in the barometric pressure. It became very quiet in my heart. There was a soft stillness and then I heard you tell me, “You are my beloved daughter.” It was very quiet, tender voice. I remember thinking that you had come to me in spite of all the commotion around me. I was thankful and humbled.’
I learned later that Monsignor and some of the others had found a spot off to the side of the apparition site with a view of Cross Mountain. They could not see Mirjana either. Monsignor later told me that when the apparition started he was looking at the cross on top of the mountain and it began to pulse and go from light to dark. Then he saw a dark figure standing at the foot of the cross.
Our Blessed Mother’s message to Mirjana for non-believers that day was as follows.
“Dear children! As I look at you, my heart seizes with pain. Where are you going my children? Have you sunk so deeply into sin that you do not know how to stop yourself? You justify yourselves with sin and live according to it. Kneel down beneath the Cross and look at my son. He conquered sin and died so that you, my children, may live. Permit me to help you not to die but to live with my son forever. Thank you.”
Later that day we all went to Mother’s Village, which is operated by the Franciscans. It is comprised of an orphanage for those children who were displaced by the Bosnian war and a drug rehabilitation program for young men and women. It operates entirely on donations from benefactors all over the world. We met and were blessed by Father Petar Ljubicic who is the priest who will be given Mirjana’s ten secrets at a specified time to announce to the world. He is also her spiritual director. You could tell instantly that this was a holy priest. You could see it in his demeanor and the gentle look of love in his eyes. We also met Father Svet who was the administrator.
Then we went into one of the meeting rooms and we listened to the testimonies of two young men who were ex-drug addicts. The one young man was in his early twenties and very handsome. You could not imagine him in the world of hard-core heroin addiction. He had been an addict since he was twelve or thirteen years old. His conversion story was compelling and emotional. He said he owed it totally to praying to God and his obedience to the rules of the Center. The other young man spoke about how the program is run and the different works they do. When they had finished we, all stood up and gave them a standing ovation for their courage and resolve.
Monsignor had planned to have a healing service for all of us after the boys were finished. He had brought the healing chrism oil to anoint our heads and hands. I remember thinking to myself that I was not sick but could probably use the extra grace of receiving the sacrament anyways. I did not feel I had anything in particular that needed to be healed. As it came to be my turn, I remember the words ‘You really do not need this. You won’t go down.’ It repeated several times but I just rather ignored it. When Monsignor laid his hands on my head, I closed my eyes and then heard the words, ‘Let go.’ At that point, Monsignors hands began to feel warm and I began to kind of whimper. When I finally surrendered my will, the whimper increased in intensity until I began to cry convulsively. By this time, Monsignor’s hands were very hot and it felt like they were stuck to my head. I began to get weak in the knees and to sink into the arms of the guys behind me. The sobs were coming from a place so deep inside me that I felt like they were not even mine. There was so much pain and sadness that it felt like my heart was breaking into pieces. After I had sunk to the floor with his hands still on my head I let out a long sigh and I heard Monsignor say, “It is finished.” Through the hands of Monsignor, Jesus had taken my pain and sin into Himself. Jesus had entered into the inner core of my being and he had removed the pain and shame and replaced it with His peace. Someone was behind me stroking my hair and shoulders very gently. I learned after a time that it was Sister Jude. I sat immobilized for what seemed a very long time as Monsignor continued on to the next person. I felt like a child, a peaceful child, nestled in the arms of my mother, my Mother Mary. How could I have had that much pain and sorrow inside myself and not know it? I began to wonder at what point in my life had I closed my heart and imprisoned these awful emotions inside. Then thoughts about my abortion came into my mind and I knew I had locked my heart either right before or right after the abortion procedure. This was why I could not understand how Kiana could feel so deeply about her aborted little girl. I never had recognized the humanity of my own child. I had been forgiven for my abortion in the sacrament of confession but I had never allowed myself to receive the healing touch of Jesus in my heart. I now would be forever aware of the soul of my baby boy in heaven with Our Blessed Mother. I was free to love him. I wrote in my journal that night.
‘I adore you O Christ. I cannot give what I have never had. Open my heart to the love that is You. I do not need to understand how or why. It is enough that you loved me so much to wait so long to heal me.”
Saturday, October 3, we were going on a road trip to some sites outside of Medugorje. It had rained on Friday and the Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain were to wet to climb. While on the bus we were going to pray the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary. We were going to take turns going up to the front of the bus and use the microphone to say each decade. Monsignor started and then someone else prayed the second and someone else the third. Then one of them suggested that I should do the fourth, which is the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into Heaven. I thought that was wonderful. I wanted to pray it especially for Our Lady’s intentions and fill it with all the love my heart felt for Her. I began and about half way through, I began to hear some kind of commotion in the bus behind me. I had been very focused and prayerful and really was not aware of anything going on around me. All of a sudden, I began to hear, “The sun! The sun! Look at it! Look at the colors!” At that moment I felt like I was going to faint because my heart was beating so fast. I could not control my desire to cry, so I did. Someone was taking pictures of the sun. When I composed myself, I continued the rest of the decade. Not knowing what had happened, I felt suddenly so happy and excited about doing the next decade the Coronation of Mary. She indeed was my Queen. I felt so elated and full of light. I later found out from Monsignor that the sun started to dance as soon as I started the decade. He said that there was like a wave of grace that flowed from the back of the bus right up to where I was sitting. It was yet another sign of blessing for us from Our Lady.
Our first stop was a lovely parish church in the small village of Tjharina. The grounds were gorgeous with beds full of late summer flowers. It was situated on a hill that looked out over a lovely valley that was green with trees and vegetable gardens. There were pretty statues and a small side stone chapel dedicated to some saint. We could not go into the church because there was a group of Polish pilgrims that had arrived just before us. They were praying in the church. We were going to wait until they had finished. The leader of their group came out and asked if Monsignor would go in and give them a blessing. She invited us all to join them. It was a small group but they were there without a priest and thankful that we would lend them ours. I began to feel so grateful for the privilege of having not only Monsignor with us but also Father Romeo. They sang a Polish song for him and they wanted a group picture taken with him. I wrote in my journal that night, ‘ These priests are all yours, aren’t they Mother? I pray I can always serve them in whatever way I can.’
From there, we were going to have lunch at a local restaurant in the mountains. It was built of huge logs and was reminiscent of a hunting lodge. It was in a beautiful setting with a mountain stream that ran along the front. There were large trees that formed a canopy over the entire place. They reminded me of the Live Oak trees back in Texas.
We ordered our food and broke into little groups to talk and eat. Gilbert came up to where I was sitting and said we had better go and look at what the sun was doing. I got up and walked out from under the trees to get a good look. Once again, I could look right into the sun without squinting. The sun was pulsing and spinning in a tight circle. The colors this time were more of a pretty yellow and gold. At one moment, there was a green flash, almost to try to get my attention. I noticed there was a dark spot inside the sun. The dark area was along the bottom half and appeared to be pulsing also and moving a little. As I stood in awe, it began to take the shape of a baby in the womb, like an ultrasound. Then in all of a sudden the baby leaped and I saw it reach out its little hand.
Our Blessed Mother gave me a very personal, precious gift. In the second joyful mystery of the rosary, the Visitation, Mary had approached Elizabeth and suddenly Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit because of the nearness of the baby in Mary’s womb. Our Blessed Mother was showing me Her baby in Her womb and Her baby was our Lord Jesus. In my heart, I thanked Her for allowing me to see this message from Her. I was humbled once more and stood for a while with my eyes closed. I knew at that moment that my ministry on behalf of God’s unborn children was pleasing to Him and Her. I asked Our Mother the way to bring Him the souls of those women who had aborted their children, so that He might heal them as He had healed me. As we boarded the bus, Betty came up to me and asked if I had seen the baby. My jaw dropped and I said yes. Someone else had seen it too.
I sat quietly on the bus and remembered something Mother Teresa had written, “Open your hearts to the love God instills…God loves you tenderly. What He gives you is not to be kept under lock and key, but to be shared.” I cannot describe adequately in words how totally overwhelmed I was by the messages of love and healing that I had received thus far. Later that night I wrote in my journal, ‘Use me Jesus to lead them to your Heart that is filled to the brim with love for them and for the baby that is with Our Lady now, waiting for them, waiting for me. Help me Mother to pray from my heart. Help me Mother to find my heart. There is something that moves through me when I serve. It literally pushes me forward, but many times my heart is cold or numb. How can I share the love I have felt here?’
We then continued on our way to a Franciscan monastery in a nearby town. On the way we listened to Anka, tell us some more of the history of this area. The Franciscans continue to be a vital element in the survival of the faith here. On one of the buildings at the monastery was the symbol of their order. It is two hands holding a cross. One hand has the stigmata and the sleeve of a brown Franciscan robe. The other hand is the pierced hand of Jesus. Together they hold the Cross. Saint Francis was more than just the patron saint of this area. His personal charism could be felt in every aspect of the Franciscans who served here.
We saw the tunnel where the sixty priests were martyred during the war. Inside the church were old pictures of the faces of these men. They were all ages, from very young to very old. If the walls could have talked what a sad story, they would have told. The blood of martyrs has always produced more saints for the Church and this area was no exception.
We were all quiet on our way back to Medugorje that afternoon. It had been another day filled graces and healings. I am writing of all that happened to me but at the same time, every one of us was experiencing something just as wonderful, and just as personal. Much of what was happening to each of us would take weeks or even years to ponder and understand. Some things cannot be put to words.
On October 4, we planned to make the hike up Apparition Hill. The day was a little cool but the rain had made everything fresh and sweet smelling. The trail was rocky, rough and very difficult in some places. It was humbling to think of all the thousands of feet that had made this same trek before. Some of the rocks had been made smooth from the years of pilgrims. Anka shared with us some of her personal reflections about Mary’s appearances on this hill. They were heartfelt and inspiring. We were walking on ground that had and continued to be touched by Our Lady from Heaven. The difficulty of the hike was not important as we made our way up to the summit. When we reached the summit, there was a beautiful statue of Our Lady. The air was very still and everyone was very quiet. Each of us felt Her presence in a unique and personal way. I sat down on a rock and drifted off into a restful contemplation of where I was and how blessed I had already been. I could have stayed for hours. It felt like I was a child being held in the arms of my Mother. We had to get back to town in time for Mass at Saint James. Monsignor was going to be the celebrant and we were going to sing in the choir. We were all very excited.
The Mass was at 12:00 noon, and as always, it was packed. We squeezed into the choir area in front of the church. Mass was exhilarating and very inspiring. You could feel the Holy Spirit moving through the crowd as we sang and participated in the liturgy. Monsignor’s homily was wonderful. He shared his personal reflections on what it means to stand with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross. He was so full of joy and love. The power of the Holy Spirit filled his voice with animation and zeal. His smile was full of Mary’s joy and Her love for him. I was so proud to be a part of this group and so proud to be a part of Monsignor’s flock. I saw him differently after this. He was ours in Rockport for now but he belonged to Jesus and Mary and to the world. I will always be thankful for the gift of his vocation.
On Monday October 5, we took taxis to the foot of Cross Mountain. We were told by those that had gone up before that this would be a much more difficult hike. There were Stations of the Cross at set intervals where we would stop to pray and meditate. As we headed up, we were all aware of what Monsignor had seen during the apparition, of the shadow at the foot of the Cross. I expected this would be a very profound journey for him but also for us. When we stopped at the fourth Station, where Jesus meets His Mother, I felt a trembling inside myself and a flood of love and emotion. I began to cry. It was as if I too were meeting my Mother on my way of the Cross. As Monsignor read the meditation, he began to cry and asked us to be patient with him as we continued on our way. It was a privilege to walk with Monsignor as he walked with Our Lady and our Lord. Each Station became increasingly profound in terms of the inner catharsis that you could physically see happening within him. It was a beautiful thing to watch and be a part of. I began to pray specifically for Monsignor, as well as saying the Litany of Humility.
On my way up the mountain, I heard in my heart that Jesus would not take away my grief from the abortion but it would be from there that I would give love and compassion to those who needed it. My thoughts also went to Hilda and Dave, Monsignor’s brother and sister-in-law, whose daughter had died a few years earlier. They too carried their grief up the mountain. I prayed they would find Jesus’ peace and love that would enable them to carry the cross of a lost child.
At the top of the mountain, we all stood at the foot of the huge cross and privately made our petitions. Heaven touched the earth here in this place. You could sense the presence of peace but also the power of this man-made cement cross. I had thoughts of gratitude, but also, commitment to serve Jesus and Our blessed Mother in whatever way they asked. If I had had any doubt as to my calling into service, it was gone now. All my questions about which direction I was to go after this trip was over had been answered. There was really only one answer, to love unconditionally and to trust in the Divine Will for my life.
As we began the hard trek down the mountain, everyone was jubilant and joyous. Going down was even harder than going up and it seemed to take longer, but it was a burden that I cherished. If I can only remember that walk down the mountain, when things get hard in the future and the journey is difficult. In this holy place, you could feel the presence of Our Lord and His Mother walking with you.
We all made it down safely except for Eugenia who fell on her knee. She really did shed her blood on Cross Mountain and never complained.
We went to our last Mass that night at 6:00pm outdoors behind Saint James.
After Mass, we all went to see the Luminous Mysteries and the Resurrection statue one more time.
We would be leaving the next morning October 6, and travel to Dubrovnik to see the city, before flying out to London, then to Houston and finally home to Rockport.
As the bus slowly wound its way through town one more time, I felt sad and a little scared. Part of my heart I would be leaving there.
Our return trip seems like a dream now. We toured the old walled city of Dubrovnik, but my mind and heart were still in the little village of Medugorje.
As the plane lifted off the ground, I began to reflect on all that had occurred. I knew that Our Blessed Mother had definitely appeared to those six children in 1981 and was continuing to appear now. I knew that this extended period of visitation was God’s gift to the world. I knew that I had been called there to receive healing and peace. I had received gentle guidance from the Mother of God! Me! My heart was on fire to serve and to use my new gifts. I received light, faith, enthusiasm, testimony, humility, obedience, and a desire to live a holy life. I knew I was loved intensely. I knew that my baby is loved eternally in the presence of Our Mother in Heaven. I understood that my now recognized grief would be used to share the truth of how much Jesus longs for us in my ministry to post-abortive women. I learned that it is when we fall from grace that He waits for us; to love us back to health.
I will always love the people that made this journey with me. We all had received a personal call to be there. We have a spiritual bond now that will never fade. We shared so much together. We shared pain, sorrow, healing, conversion, joy, silence, and our love for Jesus and Mary.
Mary has become real for me and as usual, she shows me Her Son, Jesus. She taught me how to think with my heart and not my senses, and to not doubt the illuminations that come from the Holy Spirit. It will take me years to understand all She gave me during those ten days.
I will always remember the sun as it danced for us in the sky.
There was so much Grace coming down on us.
Amazing Grace coming down on us.
Amazing Grace coming down on me.
Patricia Pulliam, November 22, 2009