I received all of the sacraments (except holy matrimony) at the proper time, but never really understood any of them. I always believed that there was a God, but I thought that just believing in God was enough. I thought that the Catholic Church was a man-made institution interested in acquiring things...money, cathedrals, etc. I did not grow up with an appreciation of the Catholic faith at all.
I went off to college, lived in sin before a civil marriage performed by the justice of the peace, had 2 children, divorced, and have been a single mom for the last 10 years. I am 36 and my children are now 15 and 12. After a move to Texas, I started going to church to meet people. (I had my children baptized in the Church and my daughter had received the sacraments of reconciliation and 1st Holy Communion). I was not attending church on a regular basis, but was moved to become a Religious Education teacher. (Now, I am horrified to think that I was teaching the Catholic faith to anyone!) But, I started to learn a lot about the faith. I didn't believe everything in the R.E. manual, but I taught from it. (I pray that I haven't hurt anyone's faith.) Anyway, we moved back to Oklahoma at the end of 1996.
Again, I joined the Church to meet people and also joined a small faith group. It was our 2nd meeting and a man from the group was talking about Wayne Weible's visit to our parish the night before. He started talking about Medjugorje. I had never heard about it and he let me borrow Wayne Weible's first book, Medjugorje: The Message. I started reading the book and could not put it down. It was like something inside of me was set on fire! I stayed up really late that night reading that book. I read it during my breaks and during lunch the next day and finished it the following night. The day after that I went to the Catholic bookstore and bought his other books and started reading those. I had never read religious material before....this was all new to me. My soul was on fire...it was quite an awakening. It just so happened that my son was in R.E. to receive the sacraments of reconciliation and 1st Holy Communion. At our parish our priest is a very wonderful and holy priest. He insists on parent meetings so that the parents understand the sacraments and can reinforce what the children learn at home. He also encouraged parents to set an example to their children and to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at the same time as the children. I knew that I had to go to confession because I was in a state of mortal sin. That was so hard....it had been over 20 years! But, my son and I went to confession. I remember that I still wasn't ready to accept the consequences of my sin. I don't think I had a truly contrite heart, either, because I was angry with the priest asking me how many times to every sin. I didn't remember and I didn't want to admit it! My penance was the whole Rosary. I didn't even know how to pray the whole Rosary. And my thoughts were, "Who does he think he is, giving me the whole Rosary!" Oh, such arrogance! But, the Blessed Mother was there with me encouraging me to open my heart. I became very devoted to her...
Well, God certainly works quickly....within a month of my discovery of Medjugorje, there was a posting in the bulletin for a trip. I just knew that I had to go. I didn't know why...but, I just knew! I called and asked for information. Then, the next week there was a posting in the bulletin for the Marian Conference in Wichita. The advertisement read, Experience Medjugorje in Wichita! I called and signed up for the conference. I didn't know anyone, but there was something inside me that told me I was supposed to be there. I had decided that after the conference I would decide if I should go to Medjugorje.
The conference was AWESOME! We prayed and sang and listened to talks given by priests and lay people. For the first time in my life, I truly understood what a gift we were given in the Holy Eucharist. We had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and I had never been exposed to anything like that before. My whole life changed after that conference and I knew that I HAD to go to Medjugorje. So, when I got back from the conference I called and sent them my deposit. As it turned out, the trip was being sponsored by a group from Massachusetts and I was the ONLY person from Oklahoma that had signed up. Normally something like this would have been so scary to me. I didn't know anyone and wasn't going to meet up with anyone from the group until we got to Zurich! I had never flown longer than a couple of hours in a plane. But, I felt such peace and calm because I knew I had to go there. At this point, I still didn't know why...but my life had already changed so much. I started fasting on bread and water on Friday....I started going to confession monthly, I attended daily Mass as often as possible. My kids and I were getting along great! I put new house rules down about what they could and couldn't watch on tv, or listen to on the radio, etc. It was a drastic change and my kids were happy about the change! They would tell me, you are not the same person....but we love it!
I was afraid to tell my mom that I was going. I had given her Wayne Weible's book for Mother's Day, but she doesn't like to read and couldn't get into it. But, at the end of June I finally told her that I was going in August. She was shocked and didn't understand. She talked to me for hours about it and tried to talk me out of going. But, in the end she said that she trusted me and that if I had to go, then she would be there for me.
Finally, it was time for my trip to Medjugorje. I was so happy to be going...even if it was by myself! I prayed and read on the plane and I didn't know what to expect, but I knew that God would show me and lead me on the pilgrimage. It was a long flight and I didn't sleep well. I met my group in Zurich and hit it off with them immediately. They all knew each other before the trip, but welcomed me with open arms! We all had something in common immediately, we were brothers and sisters in Christ! We were there because our Blessed Mother had prayed for us and was leading us closer to Our Lord, Jesus Christ!
Our trip was like others that you have probably read about...we prayed, sang, climbed Mt. K and Apparition Hill, prayed, went to Mass twice each day, Adored Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, listened to the visionaries, listened to different priests give talks, went to confession, prayed some more, laughed, prayed some more, cried, etc.
When I was in Medjugorje, I realized that my vocation was to be a mother to my children. I know that sounds strange to have to go all the way to Medjugorje to find that out, but whatever it takes, right!?! I had always put my career before my kids, rationalizing that we needed money to survive! But, I felt such a longing for my children when I was there. I had not been a good mother. I had started making changes in my life prior to the trip, but God opened up my eyes even further when I was there!!! It was more than just thinking something or praying about something...it was "What are you going to DO about it?"
Most people when they are in Medjugorje aren't ready to go back home. But, I couldn't wait to see my kids and start to be a true mother to them! What I really wanted was for my kids to be with me in Medjugorje. I knew that I would never go back unless I could take my kids!
I would also like to take the time to just list some of the fruits of my trip to Medjugorje: when I got back home, I started living my vocation as mother to my children. The Blessed Mother is my model and I am SO THANKFUL to her and to God for calling me back. I was a lost sheep and didn't even know that I was lost. I enrolled my children into Catholic School when I got back from my trip. I made a Cursillo in November of 1996 and now have wonderful friends--my soul sisters--that help me walk with Christ. I have a sister-in-law that started RCIA when I returned from Medjugorje and became Catholic in spring 1997. Both of her children were baptized and her marriage to my brother was blessed on Easter, 1997. Another sister-in-law came back to Church and had my niece and nephew baptized right after I made Cursillo in November 1996. AND my mom got her marriage blessed to my step-dad and she came back to the Church! I also have another brother that will be confirmed this Easter! Our God is an AWESOME GOD!!!
This ended up longer than I thought! But, hope it helps someone out there! Oh...Guess What? I am taking my kids to Medjugorje this summer for the Youth Festival with a group from our parish! Isn't that exciting????
Pray for us and our trip! God Bless all of you!
When I went to St. James', everyday I would have to wait at the back of the church, not able to go forward due to the large number of people who had been crammed into the church. I think that the first thing that hit me was the fact that the church really was the centre of the villagers' lives - both geographically and spiritually (most locals would spend two to three hours in the church every night!) This, along with the huge number of pilgrims flocking there, gave the whole place a sense of peace that I have never experienced anywhere before. I remember sitting on the benches outside the confessionals thinking how good it was that everyone there was so close to God but then my feelings suddenly turned to sadness when I realised that this is how it should be back home - everybody putting God in the first place in their lives and that my experience here should be "the norm" everywhere and not just confined to this small Bosnian village "in between the mountains".
Medjugore is the only place I know where people enjoy going to Mass everyday. I must confess that before going I, too, was one of those people who sometimes saw The Mass as a burden but, in Medjugore, I looked forward to 10 o'clock and 7 o'clock everyday when I could go to Mass and listen to the sermons and praise and sing God's Glory. I would like, if I may, to tell all the readers how important The Mass is (I found this out whilst reading my friend's prayer book on Krizevac): If you take all the Angels and Saints in Heaven, all the lost souls in purgatory, all the people alive on the earth today, along with The Pope and Mother Mary and get them all to pray for you for an eternity, imagine how glorifying this would be to God? Now, going to Mass once gives God more glory than all of this because when you go to The Mass you have Jesus praying for you and that gives God more glory than all of the other souls praying for an eternity! So, please, go to Mass as often as you can!
In Medjugore, for the first time ever I put my life in God's hands. I opened myself up to the power of The Holy Spirit fully, for the first time ever and I now really, honestly, truly believe that now I put my life in God's hands, He will guide me and give me the strength to tackle the situations and people which I wouldn't necessarily choose to deal with.
These are just a few of the experiences I have felt whilst staying in "Medj". They may sound mediocre or not that important to you but believe me, they have really opened my eyes up to things. I could not begin to explain everything that happened to me in "Medj" - I haven't the time if anything. However, the biggest and hardest thing to do was to leave Medjugore and return home - home to all the unbelievers, cynics, blasphemers and atheists whom I know only too well. When I returned back home I realised that I hadn't missed it at all - not my clothes, my music, the nights out that I used to love, the clubs, my lectures - they all seemed so unimportant after going to Medjugore and becoming so close to God. I could cry when I think of how much people don't believe here and how much I am ridiculed and singled out for my thoughts. Still, that's the challenge, I suppose, for all of us who have been to Medjugore, to come back and face all the unbelievers.
May Mother Mary pray for you all,
Ian Farrington (student, 19)
Before my wife and I went on the pilgrimage, we both had appointments with our spiritual directors. I wasn't able to see my director because of a funeral we attended of a friend, so I asked my wife what her director told her. She said he told her to ask for and expect miracles at Medjugorje. I didn't know what to ask for, so I just asked Mary to surprise me with a miracle sometime during my stay at Medjugorje.
Our group went up Mt. Kricevac one day, and I decided to go up again the next morning early by myself to see the sunrise. This German Shepherd dog had been hanging around our house all week, so I prayed to Mary to have the dog guide me up the mountain. The next morning the dog was waiting for me, and led me to the mountain. We started going up, and every once in a while the dog stopped. I tried to go past him, but he wouldn't let me. I guess he wanted me to rest. I was shining a flashlight on the stations as we went up, and as we passed the 7th station, we started to go up to the 8th station. It was a calm night, but all of a sudden a wind came up and a second later, it got real bright, and I looked up and thought I must have got to the 8th station, but I was on top of the mountain. Just a moment ago, I was halfway up the mountain. I was walking slowly and took about 3 rest breaks, yet I made it up the mountain in less than 20 minutes. I went behind the cross on top of the mountain to pray. I looked over against the rocks, and saw this blue light on the rocks. It looked like it was looking at me and the German Shepherd dog that was still next to me. It was about 4 or 5 feet in length, with a little bit of white light in the middle of it. I just felt tremendous peace, like I never felt before.
Later that day, I went to the 10:00 Mass, and it was the best Mass I had ever attended, I just seemed so filled with the Holy Spirit. That night there was a Holy Hour outside, and I continued to receive graces like I had never received before. That day really changed me. I always had a strong devotion to Mary, but since then it has grown deeper. I pray the rosary daily, and spend as much time as possible praying, fasting, and attending church services, and reading the Bible and other spiritual books, and am trying to go to confession more often. I am planning on going back to Medjugorje at Pentecost every year if possible (I really feel called to do that). I went back on Pentecost, 1999. It was also a very spiritual experience for me. I have already made plans to go back for Pentecost, 2000. I just wanted to share this story with you.
Later in my teens, I really didn't pray all that much and found it difficult to go to Mass. There were still my friends there that I wanted to see but just didn't think much about it or talking to God.
I got married when I turned 20 and had two Children, Katie Rose and Stephen. The marriage was terrible and emotionally abusive from the very beginning but I stayed for the kids mostly. My parents finally persuaded me to just leave and I would be able to stay with them. I ended up moving out with the kids and later got divorced.
We were on our own and I still didn't think going to church would make that much of a difference. Even after the first time I went to Medjugorje which was in 1983, when there was still dirt around the church. I loved it there but really didn't stay very long and didn't know that much about it. I am Croatian and mainly went to Croatia and Bosna Hercegovina to see my family. I felt very warm there and knew that something was going on. There were no steps or confessionals, just dirt and police barricades. My family there told me some of what was going on but they mostly wanted to show me around. It wasn't until I got home that I really understood what just happened to me when I went to Medjugorje. This was the beginning of it all.
The second time I went to Medjugorje, I knew what was going on from all the reading that I did, talking to my family there and thought it would be so nice to share this with someone who I loved but how in the world would you ever find a man that would want to pray the rosary with you, that would want to go to daily Mass and monthly confession and just basically live the messages with me that Our Blessed Mother had asked us to do.
I remember reading a book that said, if more people prayed about their spouse when they were looking for one, then there wouldn't be as many divorces. If you left this process up to God. So I decided I was going to do this because I knew that I was not very good at picking out men so I would just leave this up to God. I knew also now that I couldn't just get married, but that I would need to have the marriage annulled.
I had been praying for about two years for finding a husband, if there was one on this earth. I didn't know if after getting divorced and all that God really wanted me to find someone or if I should just remain unmarried again for the rest of my life. So, I was praying and asked the Blessed Mother that, if there ever was a man, that God wanted me to meet and marry, then I would have to know that it would be from God so I told the Blessed Mother that I would like, if I could, two signs from her that he was sent by God. I didn't want to make the mistake of picking someone out for myself.
My two signs were a rosary, because then I would know that whoever it was would love the Blessed Mother and that was important, and the second sign was a Crucifix, and then I would know first that he loved God and second I wanted to get married saying my vows holding that crucifix in Medjugorje. I also thought, what guy would ever give a girl those things, nobody that I have ever met so I thought it would be a good thing to ask for.
I got a computer that my brother had given me and at first I was only playing games on it, and writing letters. Soon in the mail I got a disc for the internet and thought, how neat, I think I'll try that. So, I started to get on the internet, write some e-mail to friends and joined a couple of catholic groups that talked about the church. I always loved Medjugorje and I asked my friend Linda if there was any kind of web site that had to do with Medjugorje on the internet, she told me to check around, I thought, well, if there isn't a website then I would love to make one but had really no idea how to do it but I thought it really needed to be done.
Anyway, I had asked in one of the Catholic mail lists, if there was anyone who could tell me if there was a web site for Medjugorje. A man from Croatia wrote to me and told me about one, I thought well, maybe he knows his stuff so I'll try it out. I got onto the website that was called Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. I was so impressed with this website, and this person had so much information on there, I was really impressed, but I was also wondering, where he got his information from because I have seen a lot of things about Medjugorje that weren't true in other books or just misinformation so I wanted to make sure that this guy got all his information from true sources.
So, at the bottom of the website was his name, Steve Shawl, so I thought I would just write him a little letter and ask him where he gets his information and also tell him how I just loved the web site and I was so glad that he was working so hard with it. He wrote me back I think the next day and he wrote back a long letter telling me just about every source that he got his information from.
I explained to him that I just finished picking up Mirjana the Visionary and her husband Marko at the airport and taking them to the Hotel where they would be staying for the weekend. She was going to be speaking. I did a little article on what I learned from her and her husband and told Steve that I would send it to him so he could read it. He wanted to know if he could put it on his web site so I said sure. We e-mailed each other a couple more times and I think it was the 3rd time we talked to each other on the internet that I knew that this was a special man, it was completely different talking to him then it was talking to anyone else on the internet or in person.
I just knew that something good was to come of our meeting and was explodingly happy (if that's a real word). I ran downstairs and got down on my knees and asked the Blessed Mother if this was THE man, I just had that feeling. A couple of weeks after this, I was offered a partnership in a company that was just starting out. I would need to move and the kids would need to start school in another part of the city. Anyone would have been real excited about this, but I felt sick. I knew I would need to be almost married to this company and work long hours. The children would have to go to a daycare center and I didn't want that at all. Most of my family and friends were pushing me to take this position. I had to write to Steve and tell him all this. I felt that there was something so special about him and that if I took this partnership, there would be no hope of anything becoming of us.
Steve wrote me back, and in his letter he told me that he thought that there was something special about our relationship and he didn't want to scare me but he thought that we would have a future together. He then told me something that I'll never forget. He told me that he had been praying Novena's and Chaplets of Divine Mercy to find a woman who he could spend the rest of his life with. He also told me that he had asked the Blessed Mother for two signs to know that when he found this woman, that he would know for sure she was from God. He told me that I had fulfilled his two signs and that he knew that I was the one he was to marry!!! Steve also told me that every time he prayed for someone special, he always felt that there were three special people who would come into his life.
I had to tell the children what was going on at this point. I asked the Blessed Mother for help so that this didn't sound so strange and that this would be another affirmation if everything went well. I didn't know what to expect. I explained to them about a man that I had met and told them all about him. My daughter told me, "Mom, I think you should marry him," which totally threw me for a loop. Then Stephen told me that he sounds like he would be a good dad. This was so unlike them. I didn't tell them anything about the signs at this point.
I was blown away. I was so happy. I just knew it. I told him that I had been praying for the very same thing. I said that I had two signs I was waiting for still though. Later on that night, I was praying and asked with all my heart if Steve was the man that I was supposed to marry and would she let me know. Then, like a bolt I shot out of bed and remember that just the day before, he had sent me the rosary. He sent not just one for me but also for the children. I talked to him the next day and told him that I received my first sign but I still had one to go and then I would know for sure. Later on, Steve told me that he went to Mass and prayed a Rosary and asked to know what my second sign was. He wrote me back later that day and told me that he knew without a doubt what my second sign was after prayer. He told me that he needed to send me my crucifix. When I told him that was my second sign, we both had tears in our eyes because we knew that God had wanted us to be together and that there would be something special. He needed us to be together with the children.
Some weeks later, Steve went to Medjugorje with his father. This was going to be his first time there and he was really excited. I wasn't able to speak with him while he was there but he was always close to me. During prayer one night, I had a sort of dream that Steve and I were together in Medjugorje with the children and we were in front of our Blessed Mother, we were hugging and all of a sudden, there was a great white light that came and fused us all together as a family. It was such a great feeling. When Steve returned from Medjugorje, he told me that he had a dream, it was of us being together hugging, me, him and the children, and a white light had come and fused us together as a family. Exactly how I had seen it.
So many of these little affirmations happen to all of us and to the kids. Anytime one of the children had a question as to how all of this would come about. I would talk to Steve and he would answer them, before I even had the chance of asking him. It truly feels as if God made us for each other and to be a family living the messages that our Blessed Mother has given us.
So, now here we are several years later and everything is wonderful. The annulment came through without any problems. The kids and I left California and met Steve. Steve officially proposed to me and gave me the engagement ring at the Cross on top of Mt. Krizevac on the day of the 15th anniversary of the apparitions. I think that was also only the 3rd time I saw him. I'll never forget it!!! We got married here in May 31 of 96 but went to Medjugorje and renewed our vows and had a wedding reception over there with all my family. We work together with the Medjugorje Web site and have twice a year our Medjuogrje Web tour. We have a wonderful family with Katie, Stephen and now little Tihana Maria.
God bless you.