OUR JOURNEY TO MEDJUGORJE
It was August 23, 2021, the feast day of St. Rose of Lima and it happens to be my birthday. I turned 61 this year. It was also the day that my husband tested positive for COVID.
I need to backtrack and start from the beginning. For a few years now I longed to go to Medjugorje but being as sick as I was, I knew that there was no way that would happen. Then on March 6, 2020, God changed my life forever. I was healed!! Just after that, the churches shut down due to the pandemic which was really a fear campaign run by the devil himself. When has the church ever shut its doors due to illness?
Fast forward a year, it was March of 2021 and Father Reehil announced that he was going to take a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. I was overjoyed but my poor husband, Jon, didn’t agree. You see, he had been laid off for seven months and concerned about the amount of money it would take to go on this trip. I didn’t push the subject because I could understand my husband’s concerns.
Father Reehil spoke about the only approved apparition site in the United States, Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. I had no clue that there was an apparition site in the United States that was actually approved. Jon and I decided that we would make the trip to Wisconsin in May. While there, we both felt the peace and love that follows Holy Mother wherever she goes. It was the 1800s when the apparitions occurred but you could still feel her presence. She made herself known to both of us with extreme peace and tears. My husband said that her statue smiled at him. I noticed a change in him immediately, he was peaceful and calm, not worried about the lack of work. After we returned, Jon started a job two weeks later.
I decided that this would be a good time to ask him if I could go to Medjugorje. I wanted him to go with me but since he just started this job, he was sure that he wouldn’t be able to. I was very surprised that he did ask his boss only to receive the reply that he expected. I was sad but he said that I could go!!
The next hurdle, my passport. I looked on the US Passport site and it said expect to wait 12 weeks for my passport. Twelve weeks!! It was July 2nd when I went for my passport. The man that helped me was very nice and overnighted my application. I signed up for notifications so that I would know what to expect. He was doubtful that I would be able to receive the passport in time. The first notification I received was July 7th. They were working on my passport. The days marched on and all of a sudden, I get a notification that my passport has been mailed to me!!! WHAT!!! It was July 31st and I was holding my passport in my hand!! I received it in three weeks!!! What a miracle!! Mama definitely wants me to go on this trip!!
The next gift was meeting Maria, who was coming by herself and wanted someone to travel with. Maria is from Poland. She came to the United States when she was an adult. She was only supposed to stay for six months, but in that time she met her husband who was also from Poland and they were married and settled in New York for seven years before moving to Columbia, Tennessee. Both she and her husband spoke fluent Polish and taught their children the language. I met Maria and we seemed to hit it off well. So it was settled!! I would have a travel partner. I really am going to Medjugorje!!! The pilgrimage dates were from September 6th to September 15th.
Back to my birthday. It is August 23rd and my husband tests positive for covid. He told me the day before that people were getting sick at work but he wasn’t sure if it was covid or just a cold. He didn’t feel well so decided to stay home. Jon never misses work so I thought maybe he is just really tired since he gets up at 4 everyday. Our son-in-law tested Jon and the rest is history. What do I do? My trip is coming up! What if I test positive in Medjugorje? All these thoughts are running through my mind. Two days later, I test positive. Looks like I still have time to go on my trip based on the quarantine time but it will be close.
I spoke to Maria and found out that her husband, Jan, had covid and he checked into the hospital on August 30th because he was very weak and had a fever. Maria was concerned and was thinking that she would probably have to cancel the trip. Everyday, Maria and I would converse wondering what would happen. Will we be going to Medjugorje or not?
I was scheduled to take my covid test on Saturday, September 4th at 3:30pm. Again, my son-in-law tested me on Wednesday night and I still tested positive. He tested me again on Friday night at 9pm on September 3rd and I still tested positive. What do I do now? My test is scheduled for tomorrow!! Do I cancel and try to go to urgent care on Sunday giving myself more time to possibly text negative?
Saturday was my out of quarantine day and so I went to church and it was first Saturday. Padre Pio Prayer Group meets every first Saturday. I joined the group last year, what a blessing it has been for me. That specific Saturday Father Emmanuel was there and he prayed over everyone. When it was my turn, he blurted out before I even asked for anything specific that I am praying for you to have peace. I still didn’t cancel my covid appointment for Saturday. After I was prayed over I decided to just go take the test since it was within the hour of mercy and I just had a feeling that I needed to trust God more.
The nurse that I spoke with was very kind. She said that I would get the results online in about an hour. It was 15 minutes after the test, Jon and I were driving home and I get this phone call. Guess what!!! You are going on your trip!!!, exclaimed the nurse!! How blessed am I!! Thank you Jesus!!
I was concerned about Maria. I hadn’t heard from her and thought, she must have cancelled. When I told her that I was negative and that I would pray for her husband in Medjugorje, she said, I will too. I wasn’t sure I heard her right. She said that Father Reehil went to anoint her husband on Friday and Jan, her husband, insisted that Maria go on this trip and pray for him. Maria and I were able to go!! God also gave us another gift. Because I was wondering whether Maria would make it or not, I was hoping not to travel alone. All of a sudden, Holy Spirit moment, I reach out to another lady that I know at church who was on the list to go with us. Annette taught my grandson church school class last year. I texted her to ask what flight she was taking to Chicago. She told me that she was leaving really early in the morning. I said, so was I. I asked her what airline and flight she was taking and it was the exact same flight that Maria and I were booked on!! It didn’t stop there. She was also on the exact same return flight too!! Only God could make this happen.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
Annette had already been to Medjugorje and it was our first time so that put us both at ease. Maria is from Poland so she was familiar with traveling out of the country. For me, it was definitely a new experience. I had never traveled out of the country before. I am lucky if I have visited ten states in the United States. I am so thankful for Annette and Maria being patient with me because I must have asked them the same questions numerous times. Coming off of covid, you have brain fog too so that didn’t help any.
The trip to arrive at Medjugorje was pretty grueling but yet I found myself thanking God that He has allowed us to use airplanes as a mode of transportation. We take it for granted to just get on a plane, trusting that the pilot will land it safely. Why don’t we trust God the same way?
When we arrived in Sarajevo and met our tour guide, Ann, I was relieved. We made it!! I thought back on the many years that I couldn’t even get out of bed much less be able to fly half way across the world!! Thank you Jesus!! How could I not praise Him?
We got on the tour bus and started the three-hour journey to Medjugorje. The terrain was spectacular. The beauty of the hills and valleys made me understand quickly why Mama decided to come here. I have noticed that Our Lady loves nature. All of her apparitions have occurred in nature. She is always in a cave, or in the woods or on top of a mountain or on farm land, or even in the least likely place, an area strewn with garbage that didn’t seem worthy of the presence of the Queen of Heaven, but yet she brought forth life giving waters that, to this day, heal the heart, soul and body.
As the bus continued to descend up the mountains and down the valleys, I could see life everywhere. The lush, greenery encased the mountains and the valleys. Birds flying to their next destination. Then I saw the sign saying Medjugorje. My heart skipped a beat. I am really here!! I thought that this would never happen, but the Queen of Heaven is never outdone in generosity. We would be arriving just in time for dinner.
On the bus ride, Ann was telling us about the area and her involvement with the apparitions. Her parents were from a village close by and moved to the United States when she was a small child. As she tells her story, I could hear the love that she has in her heart for this little town tucked away in between the mountains. She started to tell us about the activities that happen every night at Medjugorje. She stated that Adoration would be going on after dinner if anyone would like to attend.
Our hotel was beautiful. If you walked out the door at night, you could see the cross lit up on Cross Mountain. There was just a short path to walk to arrive at St. James Church with all the shops and restaurants nestled right within walking distance.
Despite the fact that I didn’t sleep on the plane and we lost seven hours with the time change, I wanted so much to see St. James Church and go to Adoration. I wanted to thank the Lord for allowing me to be here. What I didn’t expect was the thousands of people there from all over the world, talking all different languages. At the time of Adoration all of these thousands of people were on their knees or prostrate on the ground. You could hear a pin drop. I was overwhelmed with tears. I have never experienced that many people together adoring the Lord. The silence was amazing because everyone there knew that this was Our Lord and God, this was the love that poured out every drop of blood to save us. This was the love that wanted to stay with us in the form of the Eucharist. My first thought was why is it not like this at home?
We have Eucharistic Adoration at home in many of the parishes in my area, but why are the churches not filled to capacity? The miracle goes on every day in every church in the world. The mass is the miracle!! How many places can you go to actually see with spiritual eyes the plain bread and wine turned into the body and blood of Our Lord and God? That’s not all!! We get to receive Him!!! Every day we get to receive Our Lord!!! Which leaves me with the same question that I started with. Why are the churches not filled to capacity?
But in Medjugorje, you felt peace. Everyone was there because of their great love for God and His Mother. The peace wasn’t in the comfortable seating or the food we ate or the walking through the fields and rough terrain. The peace was in not just knowing something amazing was happening here, but receiving the graces that seem to pour out over the land and the people who live there. Now, we all became a part of Medjugorje.
The group of pilgrims that we were with came from many different areas. Some lived close by me and others were far away. Dianne and her son, Josh had to live through the hurricane in Louisiana to get here. She had to drive for miles to find someplace to take a covid test so that they would be able to join us. Thankfully, they only lost power and didn’t have any damage to their house.
I listened to many stories of the sacrifices everyone had to make to get there. Also, three of those planning to make the trip were not able to.
Angie and her husband, Brian, planned this trip as a celebration of Brian’s becoming a deacon after years of study. Brian, unfortunately, caught covid just before the trip. Angie still came.
Penny, a friend who was supposed to be on the trip with us as well, fell and fractured her pelvis. Also, Dennis was unable to join us. Every day, we prayed for those that were not with us.
When I returned to Nashville, I saw Penny after mass one morning and she told me that the pain from this fracture was really bad but the day we arrived in Medjugorje, all of a sudden, the pain lessened. She knew that we were praying for her. God is so good!!
Maria sacrificed the most to get to Medjugorje. I was her roommate. Since her husband was in the hospital and our time was the exact opposite, when we were sleeping, they were up, etc., Maria would often get phone calls from her daughter in the early morning hours. I tried to give her privacy but it was so hard not to just sit and cry hearing all the news. Maria’s daughter, Helena, would be so distraught and crying. Maria would calm her down in Polish. The strength that she had was amazing. Every morning, we would go down to breakfast with an update. All of the pilgrims were so great. The prayer support was phenomenal. All of us would pray for Jan either in the dining area, or out near the Luminous mysteries of the rosary or at the Risen Jesus.
As each day passed, I wondered what was happening with her husband. Some days were promising, but then others were upsetting. Each time, Maria, would go pray on her own in Adoration. She drew much strength from the Lord. A few days went by and Maria decided that it was time to ask her son, Albert, to come up from Florida to be with his sister in this trying time. Helena was very good at face timing Maria so that she could see her husband in the hospital.
The day came where the doctors told Helena that her Dad needed to go on the ventilator. Maria vehemently opposed the ventilator, so they added more oxygen. The next day, his oxygen came up to the 90s. We were relieved, but the prayers continued. This was about the time that Albert arrived on the scene to help support his sister.
The following day, the hospital said he had to go on the ventilator!! I was shocked because they just said his oxygen level was in the 90s. Maria had to agree to do this which was so hard on her. Of course, you would do anything to save your loved one, especially your husband.
Maria’s faith didn’t waiver at all even as the prognosis seemed to get worse. She and all of us, doubled our prayers, penances and words of tenderness to Maria. Father Reehil was so wonderful helping her with announcing the updates. He also walked up Apparition Hill barefoot as a prayer offering for Jan.
It was September 13th, and we would be leaving Medjugorje really early on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 15th. I hardly used my phone this whole trip because of the time difference. This particular morning, I was checking my emails. I signed up to get emails sent to me from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception who promote Sister Faustina and Divine Mercy. For those of you that don’t know, Sister Faustina was a mystic from Poland (Maria’s homeland). I glimpsed over my emails and I read today is the 86th anniversary of Sister Faustina receiving the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I told Maria. She proceeded to tell me that for three years after she was married, she and Jan prayed the divine mercy chaplet for a child. Her son, Albert, was born on October 5th, 1989. She said that she constantly reminds him that he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for God’s divine mercy.
As the day progressed, Maria received a message that the hospital wanted to take Jan off of the ventilator. She was concerned.
Many of the pilgrims decided to go pray the Luminous mysteries of the Rosary. In Medjugorje, there are beautiful mosaics of these mysteries right near the church because the other three mysteries are on Apparition Hill. When St. John Paul II gave us the luminous mysteries, there was no room to place them on the hill, so they decided to put them on the church grounds.
Jesus’ mother then told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5
After we prayed the rosary, we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
That night when we went to sleep, Maria received a phone call around 4 am. I didn’t wake up until a little time afterward. The hospital wanted to remove the ventilator because they told the children that they didn’t see signs of life. Maria, as she always did, prayed with her children in Polish prior to doing anything. I woke up about that time and just listened to what was going on. I saw by Maria’s reactions that it wasn’t good. She was crying. She was still on the phone with her children when they shut the ventilator and her husband died immediately. She told me that her family always recited six decades of the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the dying so as soon as they were finished with the sixth decade, they shut the ventilator and he died.
I was crying along with her and I tried to console her. My heart was just breaking. All of a sudden, I remembered that it was 9pm there, because of the time difference, he died on the 86th anniversary of Sister Faustina receiving the Divine Mercy Chaplet. This chaplet was so dear to them. Maria told me something else astonishing. She was married in 1986.
Albert was born October 5, 1989, eleven years before Sister Faustina was canonized a saint in 2000 by St. John Paul II. Her feast day is October 5th. Maria said that she didn’t even know until one of her friends told her.
Why did Our Lady want Maria to be away from her husband and in Medjugorje at this time? Maybe because God wanted us to pray for him. Maybe those prayers took him straight to Heaven. And… maybe because we all needed to see the depth of God’s mercy and love for each one of us. How He intricately plans each move in our lives. We can go on with our lives thinking that everything is a chance we take or that there is no order or God is not involved directly in our lives, or we can see with spiritual eyes the amazing miracles we are given each day. The choice is ours.
Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12:7.
What I felt that Our Lady wanted from me was to mimic her by a stronger devotion to my family. She wants me to show greater love to my husband, children and grandchildren because its through the love of a Mother, especially the Mother of God that we learn how to love her Son.