At very first Medjugorje apparition site
Later on that day, after Mass, we heard a famous Croatian Priest who seemed to be speaking with the language of Angels. You can tell from his eyes, he was very holy.
Around three oíclock in the afternoon, some pilgrims and I headed again to Sr. Emmanuelís place by her invitation to one of our pilgrim friends, Karen. There were people from other tour groups also. She prayed a five decade Rosary which lasted about two and half hours with her insights. One of my pilgrim friends, who was kind of big, during sisterís talk, broke his plastic chair while he was sitting on it. We all came to his aid immediately, he was pretty embarrassed. And I couldnít forget what Sr. Emmanuel said, ďStop doing that!Ē Which was kind of humorous for me, because it wasnít my pilgrim friendís fault? A few things that I did like about Sr. Emmanuelís prayer garden, was the large Crucifix of Jesus and the statue of our Blessed Mother. I was kind of dismayed, when I filmed that statue of our Blessed Mother, because there were some bugs below her ear. If it was my statue, I would of made sure those bugs were cleared out.
Day 5, Tuesday, 6/22/04
The next day, before breakfast, a few of the pilgrims in our group accepted my invitation to go to the Cenaculo, which is a home away from home for young men involved with drugs. I knew about this place since some of the boys came to a previous Medjugorje Irvine Conference in California, and spoke about their place, it was very moving. We came there around 7 a.m. and stood at the gate. I was hoping for heavenís favor for someone to notice us and open up the gate. I also knew they had a religious articles store that was famous for their artwork, and would readily welcome pilgrims. Someone did come by and let us in, and low and behold we were in time for their daily 7 a.m. Mass in Croatian in their Chapel. In the backdrop was a beautiful mural painted by the boys. It seemed to be painted by a artistic master instead of the boys. It was truly a miraculously inspired painting. The boys were very kind and courteous to us. They even offered to seat us next to some translator boys who were translating Croatian to English to some of the boys there. We declined, even though we didnít understand Croatian. We knew what they were saying, since the Mass is basically the same all over the world. After Mass we visited their art store. I knew about this, since I did buy a beautiful picture of our Lady of Medjugorje, which is the most beautiful picture of her I have ever seen and life like. I bought it a Medjugorje Irvine Peace Conference. I commented to the boys who were manning the register about my personal involvement with a Church Ministry at a location around were I live called ďBoys RepublicĒ. This is a place were young men who get in trouble with law get a second chance and go there to study, and get physical exercise and discipline instead of going to juvenile hall. Before we left one of the boys gave me a free video cassette and some literature so that I may show the boys at Boys Republic about Cenaculo. You see Boyís Republic, as opposed to Cenaculo, is like a communism, there is only study and physical exercise, but no religious study, this is where my Church Ministry comes in. I go about twice a month, and on the 2nd Wednesday, I talk a little about our Blessed Mother and teach them how to pray the Holy Rosary. And on the last Wednesday of each month, I was blessed to be able to get a Priest to hear confessions and say Mass. Maybe if I show this tape to the boys at Boyís Republic they may go a Cenaculo if they donít have any other recourse. I think Cenaculo also have locations in California and other places in the United States. I know one thing, these boys are fertile ground to plant the seed of reconversion. Later on that week we did visit the Cenaculo again, but I wasnít sure whether or not our pilgrimage group would be visiting here, so I decided to go on my own with my pilgrim buddies. Iím glad my pilgrim buddies went along, so were they.
After the English Mass that same morning, our pilgrimage group was blessed to hear Ivan talk in St. James main hall. It was stirring and I filmed part of it. It seems every time I view it part of the message is new, or has brand new meaning, like if it was the first time I ever heard it. But his message is our Blessed Motherís message which is always the same, simple and straight forward, basically to pray and love one another. He also announced there would be a public Apparition around 10:30 p.m., I couldnít wait, and I was determined to get a front row seat, sort of speak. After Ivanís talk I ran to ask him for a picture with me, he said, he didnít have time, (another rock). I asked him if he remembered the Irvine Medjurgorje Conference, he said he did.
After Ivanís talk, we all were told to gather around the favorite meeting area (a tree) of Snezana because we were going out of town to hear Fr. Jozo speak. I finally had a chance to view the surrounding area of Medjugorje, remembering faintly some of the stories as spoken about in Wayne Warbleís books involving these areas. On the way there we heard the sad stories of the 40 martyred Franciscan Priests who were burned alive for not refusing their faith, right in front of the Church we visited. They had their images in the Church.
When we arrived, the statue of our Blessed Mother was in the entrance. I think this was the statue of Mary during the Assumption. It was the same figure as Wayne Weibleís latest book, The Final Harvest.
I remember Fr. Jozo during an Irvine Medjugorje Conference. It was the very first one I went to. I asked him to put his hands on my head and my spouseís, to pray over us. My spouse isnít religious, and needless to say she was angry at me because she did not want to be there. Fr. Jozo said he would bless us, but we had to stay. I wanted to stay but my spouse still insisted in leaving. Fr. Jozo blessed us anyway.
After Fr. Jozoís talk he have us all a free blessed Rosary and picture of our Blessed Mother. He later started to put his hand on peopleís head for spiritual healing, many passed out, or to put it in other words, slain by the Holy Spirit. I tried to get a blessing but this heavy set women in front of me was blessed and I wasnít ready to catch her. I did, but I was surprised. Fr. Jozo gave me a dirty look, saying with his eyes, be careful! I didnít get his blessing. I again started to feel sorry for myself, feeling like Charlie Brown, with my third rock. I tried again to get a blessing from Fr. Jozo. And in the back of my mind, I remembered Snezzyís story on the bus on the way to the Church, that there was a wiccan witch who went with their group before, and tried to take some of Fr. Jozoís power., Fr. Jozo bypassed her. I was saying to myself, maybe Fr. Jozo thinks Iím too evil. Well anyway, I noticed a newly ordained Irish Priest (only two weeks, mentioned to us in a previous mass) who was blessing people. Fr. Jozoís assistant told him not to bless people in that line, because it was Fr. Jozoís line. I felt sorry for him, so I asked him to bless me, he did, and I was happy for him.
We then returned to Medjugorje, and I started to feel sorry for myself, in my perception of Fr. Jozoís rejection.
After dinner, that same day, I immediately made my way up Apparition Hill around 6:30 p.m. to get a good location. It was in front of our Blessed Motherís statue, right in the spot where she is looking at you. I knew it was going to be torture, sort of speak, to wait until 10:30 p.m.. But I remembered a past Irvine Conference, in where Wayne Weible was letting in anyone who wanted to be in the same Apparition room with Ivan and Vicka. I badly wanted to be there, but I felt unworthy. Eventually I ended up outside the Apparition room. I was determined to be in front of our Blessed Mother this time. Ana told us that Ivan has stated whenever our Blessed Mother appears on Apparition Hill, the statue itself turns into Her. So I was determined that in my mind, that She would know I was there, because I would be right in front of Her!
I did my entire twenty decade Rosary, plus other prayers. I was tired because of all the events of that day. Fortunately a couple of my pilgrimage buddies were there also, and we chatted and prayed together to pass the time better.
Pilgrimage buddies & myself before apparition
It was getting dark and pretty crowded, and around 9:30 p.m.. The boys from the Cenaculo came and started to sing beautiful songs that still resound in my mind. During that time a gentlemen came by and put a large rock within the fenced boundary in front of the statue of the Blessed Mother, he wanted Her to bless it. Good for him, I smiled at him in approval, since I couldnít speak his language. I know what is the craving to be near our Blessed Mother during an apparition. I was telling my pilgrimage buddies, itís like the movie, First Encounters of the Third Kind, where the actor, Richard Dryfuss, was obsessed at being at a certain hill to meet aliens. In my case, it was Apparition Hill and the Blessed Mother, not aliens.
People before apparition
A few minutes later a couple of young men dressed in Clerical clothing and a young woman came in past the crowd and planted themselves in front of the statue. I said to myself these must be young people pretending to be Priests or Monks in order to get a good place for the Apparition. One was actually pushing up against me and I couldnít move. What did he want to do, take my place? No way, I was there for hours, and I earned that spot! If he wanted to have it he should of came earlier. A couple of minutes later, someone told me that the girl who were with the young mean was actually Marija, one of the Visionaries, it was unbeknownst to me. So I worked up the courage to ask her if she was, and she said yes. I then asked her if I could take a picture with her, she said no, (another rock). A few minutes later she got up because she was invited to go to the prayer group.
Eventually the singing turned to praying and then everyone kneeled towards the statue, indicating that the Apparition was taking place. I already had my petitions, which included several other hand written petitions of other people that I knew, right in front of the statue. I had my camera on all the time. No one notice since my camera was a film camera and it had no light. I was hoping to film some miraculous images, I didnít.
I was so overjoyed in being right in front of the Blessed Mother during the Apparition that I forgot all of my personal petitions and the only thing I could say was, ďBlessed Mother, help me do Godís willĒ, over and over again. I felt tears coming out of my eyes. I heard briefly some praying, then more silence, then rustling indicating the Apparition was over. I took my petitions, and so did the individual who placed his rock in front of the statue, I told him that our Blessed Mother must of kissed his rock, he just smiled. Then the message was made known in several languages. My buddies and I then made our way down Apparition Hill and back to our dormitory. Another one of my milestones was completed, thanks be to God.
The following is the message from our Blessed Mother:
ďDear Children, I call all of you in a special way. Dear children I call you all in this time of grace. This is why I am inviting all of you to pray, pray at this time to be open to the Holy Spirit.
I am especially inviting this parish which I have chosen, in a special way to respond to my call and to renew my messages.
Dear children, Your mother will pray with you and you dear children, pray also with me your mother for the realization of my plan, my plan for peace.Ē
Day 6, Wednesday, 6/23/04
The next morning we all went as a group to the Oasis of Peace. You had to remain quiet. We came upon the Chapel and Snezzy would not let me film inside. Inside the Chapel was a crucified Christ, it seemed so life-like, and it was the most tortured figure of Christ I had ever seen.
After the morning English Mass was Fr. Svetís talk, and boy was it a good one. Fr. Svet had, in my opinion, the knowledge of Angels. Things that stood out from Fr. Svetís talk was his description in how we all seek to control things in our world, not letting God to do His holy will. Also, when he spoke about our pilgrimage in Medjugorje, in where we would experience a Cross, and then a victory. You see this part of His message struck me deeply because it happened to me. During my stay in Medjugorje an incident happened which hurt my pride deeply, it wasnít easy buy I decided to try to respond with love, and trial turned into a victory. During the depths of my trial, I asked myself the same questions Fr. Svet said we would ask of ourselves, and that is, what am I doing here? I feel like throwing in the towel! Etc., etc.. In addition, I think what Fr. Svet was saying that your weakness will be exposed in Medjugorje, but our Blessed Mother will give you the answer and the grace in order to conquer it. This may of happened to you also, and maybe to all who come to Medjugorje. But here there are copious graces in order to overcome any spiritual adversity.
There is also one thing that I wanted to point out during the answer and question session of Fr. Svetís talk. Someone asked him about John Kerry, a so-called Catholic American politician running for President of the United States. Essentially the person asking the question was complaining about Kerryís pro-choice stance and how it stood in direct contradiction to Catholic teaching. Fr. Svet responded in a beautiful way, essentially he said if abortion was an important issue as it should be, we Catholics wouldnít have so-called Catholic politicians with a pro-choice stance. It is us Catholics who vote these politicians who have the problem. If Catholics vote for pro-choice politicians, then we will have politicians who are pro-choice. But if we Catholics vote for Pro-life Candidates then we wouldnít have abortion in our country. This part comes from me, VOTE PRO-LIFE IN THE UPCOMING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS and KERRY IS NOT PRO-LIFE. That is enough politicking from me.
After Fr. Svetís talk, I rushed out to get a picture with him. I knew he would not say no, since he already knew me from the Irvine Medjugorje Conference. I asked him, he recognized me, and he reluctantly took a picture with me. I was satisfied.
Fr. Svet & myself
I am not sure of the timelines, but I think that afternoon was Marijaís talk, she looked so beautiful, she reminded me of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I was with Annemarie, one of the pilgrims, and we decided to sit on the side on a table, same as Ivanís talk. It was getting pretty crowded, and I notice two Nuns walk in, one was younger and the other was definitely older. They both looked around but there were no seats. The older one seemed to be very dismayed, since I knew how hard it is to stand for long periods of time. Her eyes met mine and I offered her my seat, I couldnít help it. She was very happy and I kissed her on the cheek. I decided to take the furthest location away from the Visionary, actually on the farthest corner of the hall. I gave up in trying to get a picture, or speak with the Visionaries, or try to have a friendly relationship with them. Iíve been getting so many rocks I decided just to be literally in the background.
When I started to film Marijaís talk I noticed even from that distance, that I felt she was looking straight at me. I filmed for a little bit at full magnification, and it seemed she was constantly looking at me. I then I put down my camera. I took out my small binoculars just to get a better look at her, and again it seemed she was constantly looking at me. She would look at the crowd, but it seemed she would be glancing at me constantly, even though I was the farthest one away from her, or so I thought.
I decided to sit down out of her sight and listen to her instead, besides I was tired. After she spoke I got up, and again I felt her eyes on me. I was just curious, so I raised my hand quickly to say hi, SHE DID TOO. It was surprising, but she was looking at me for whatever reason, I just hope it was a good one. My imagination was racing with me in these situations, why was she looking at me? Maybe because I was evil, etc., etc.. But in the end, her little wave made my day, and I will never forget it for the rest of my life. Marija, in my mind, was actually looking at me for whatever reason, or maybe it was just coincidence?
Day 7, Thursday, 6/24/04
Next morning we were going to Cross Mountain and do the Stations of the Cross. This was another milestone of mine, but to also pray my 20 decade Rosary at the Cross also.
We all arrived there piecemeal, sharing taxies. Once we all were accounted for by Snezzy, she gave a little history of how Cross Mountain came to be through the faith, piousness and labor of the Medjugorje Catholics. We started the Stations of the Cross and I was honored to be able to lead a Station. During the Stations, we all noticed that Snezzy was having a migraine headache, it was so severe that later she told us that she didnít know whether or not she would of continued after the Fourth Station. I noticed another women who spoke to her in Croatian, showing Snezzy what seemed to be a Tylenol bottle, Snezzy refused. Later, Snezzy told us that this was her sister offering her Tylenol for her headache, which she, as I stated, refused. We were all worried for her, one time I noticed her during the Fourth Station, she had her face buried in her hands, I raised my right hand and said a Hail Mary, Our Father and Glory Be, I notice her raise her head and look at me, I pretended not to be aware.
As a side note, I have a feeling that Snezzy did want to suffer this pain, that is why she did not want to take any medicine. She may have been experiencing a Charism, and that is Christís Crown of Thorns.
During our trek up Cross Mountain, I noticed some pilgrims walking bare footed up hill. I wanted so much to do that, but I didnít want to be incapacitated for the rest of the trip, so I promised myself Iíd do it when I come back with my spouse. One pilgrim was so much in pain, everyone noticed his ankles were swollen and he hardly was able to walk and was grimacing with every step. I raised my left hand and said some prayers, later I noticed him walking with less pain. I say these things not to show off but to tell you the truth and how God does answer prayers, especially in Medjugorje. Prayers are magnified through our Blessed Mother! Sometimes we would see blood on the rocks.
We eventually got to the top of Cross Mountain. I filmed all around, St. James, Bosnia Herzegovina, etc.. I didnít get to do my 20 decade Rosary on top of Cross Mountain, because Snezzy told us just to spend a half an hour on top of Cross Mountain. But I was able to say at least five Mysteries at the Cross, and the rest coming down Cross Mountain.
At Cross mountain
Still at the top of Cross Mountain, I was making my way down, when I noticed a beggar without legs begging for money. I said to myself, how is he able to get to the top? And why is he willing to get to the top in such condition? It must take a gargantuan effort? The least I could of done was to give him some money.
Still on my way down I noticed more beggars and I gave them all my money, I couldnít help it. When I got downhill I realized I gave all my money away and didnít have any money for a taxi, I only had a travelerís check. I went to a coffee shop and tried to buy a coke with my travelerís check in the hopes of getting change for a taxi, they refused. I then went around the tourist shops and asked if they would accept it, no one did. I felt maybe this was my punishment for not following Fr. Svetís admonishment not to give to the beggars, oh well, may God forgive me. A few minutes later a lady from the coffee shop said, you can have the coke free, next time you come to Medjugorje you pay for it. I told her that I didnít want a coke, that I really needed change for the taxi, when they understood my plight they did give me change, thanks be to God for His mercy!
As I was looking for a taxi back home for breakfast, I noticed Bill Simon, a supposed Pro-life politician who was running for Governor in the recall election in California. He later turned turn-coat, and gave his backing to Arnold Schwarzenegger, instead of another Pro-life Candidate who was still in the race. Earlier that week I did notice Bill Simon by St. James Church. I approached him with the intention of reprimanding him, but I didnít remember what I just explained. I did introduce myself when he was at St. James, and I did tell him that I wanted to speak to him about something to do with the election, but I didnít remember all the facts and for that reason I couldnít judge him for now. Now I did, and I approached and admonished him, but with respect. I am an extreme Pro-life person. Those of you in the front lines of the abortion war know what I mean. As I was speaking to Mr. Simon, I felt a tap on my shoulder, IT WAS IVAN! He said, I know you, do you know me? I felt embarrassed, but I did finish telling Bill and explaining to Ivan what was going on. They both agreed with me, and Mr. Simon invited me to have coffee with him and Ivan. I was thinking to myself, what was this turn-coat doing with Ivan? Maybe he was repentant to what he did, I donít know? I politely refused, I felt that maybe Mr. Simon and Ivan had to have time together, so I didnít want to impose, especially after my admonishment. I did notice that Mr. Simonís Rosary was very gold, more than mine, maybe this was a sign that he was truly repentant? But I did ask Ivan if He could take a picture with me. This time He accepted, but this was not going to be any stoic picture in my mind, I held Ivanís shoulder, as He did mine and I put my cheek next to his, as He did to mine, and we smiled and took a great picture, (stone removed)! Ivan then told me, there will be a 10:30 p.m. public Apparition and to please come to it, I just shook my head in acknowledgement. We then parted ways, as I was waiting for a free taxi and thinking about my recent encounter. I then I was thinking to myself, well maybe I didnít accept Mr. Simonís offer for coffee and conversation, but I can hand deliver my petitions and my friends petitions directly to Ivanís hands!? So I returned to the spot where Ivan and Mr. Simon were having coffee. I approached tentatively, and asked Ivan if he could accept my petitions in place of Mr. Simonís invitation, he took them in his hand! Mr. Simon again asked me to have coffee with them, I again didnít want to intrude. Then Ivan said to me, Rafael, our Blessed Mother has a mission for me, and She has a mission for you, slow down. I looked down while shaking my head in agreement and walked away, I felt a strange peace. Mission I said to myself, everyone has a mission.
Ivan (Visionary) & myself
I then saw other pilgrims in my group, we jumped into a taxi, I couldnít wait to tell them what happened to me, and about Ivanís invitation to the Apparition!
Rest of the day I donít remember much except that going to the Apparition wasnít really a high priority for me. Since I had a front row seat for the first one with my petitions in front of the statue of our Blessed Mother. Plus today I hand delivered them to Ivan, so I was a happy camper. I decided if I would go, I would just take it easy and just hang back, maybe go to the blue Cross. I was tired of crowds, so I decided to go to Mass before going to the Apparition. Even our Blessed Mother said it was more important to go to Mass instead of Apparitions.
After Mass I slowly made my way to my dormitory. I noticed on the way that Apparition Hill was already crowded. I was glad that I was satisfied in Ivanís Tuesday Apparition, but I decided to go even late because of Ivanís invitation.
It was around 9:30 p.m. when I arrived at my dormitory, Ana, our tour organizer was still there, and she had make-up on for the Apparition? She was stunning. I had nothing else to do so I decided to go to the Apparition with her, since I thought she was leaving this late she must be like me and just hand back, or that is what I thought. So I asked her, Ana, could I go with you to the Apparition? She said yes, but just keep behind me. I said what? What do you mean just stay behind you? I didnít know she was going right in the middle of Ivanís Prayer Group. So I questioned her again, you are not going in the middle of that crowd are you? I just want to hang back. She didnít say anything but just, stay behind me. I didnít ask any more details, I just wanted to chit-chat with her on the way to the Apparition. When Ana left, so did Vickaís older Sister, Mirjana, and other relatives and friends that I didnít know. So we just chatted nonchalantly on the way. It was getting close to 10 p.m., and Ana and her relatives and friends were having a hard time making their way up Apparition Hill. They had to stop several times to get their air. I said to myself, for sure they are just going to hang back. I noticed we were bypassing the crowd and this got me a little worried. Then Ana said, Rafael take my hand, AND OH NO, WE WERE HEADING RIGHT IN THE DREADED CROWD, RIGHT NEXT TO IVANíS PRAYER GROUP! I said to myself, oh I donít want to be here, I had my turn, Iím sick of crowds. But I had no choice, I was right behind Ana, and there was no where to go. We were surrounded by Italians and other pilgrims, and I couldnít say or do anything, because Iím sure if they found out who I was, just and ordinary pilgrim, they would of thrown me down the hill. They probably thought I was a relative or something, because the pilgrims parted like the great sea and even offered me to sit down and take one their seats, I was so embarrassed. Well I sat next to Ana and said, Ana, I didnít expect to be right in the middle of the crowd, not to mention Ivanís prayer group, she just smiled sheepishly. Then all of a sudden someone said, here comes Ivan, the crowd parted like the great sea, for Ivan. Some rude people were taking blinding flash pictures and actually shining lights in Ivanís face, I guess to film Him. Ivan gruffly said something in Croation in protestation, waving his seat cushion and using it as a shield not to be blinded by the lights. And this is the unbelievable part guess what? IVAN CAME OVER AND SAT RIGHT NEXT TO ME, NOT JUST NEXT TO ME, BUT HE WAS FACING ME! I couldnít believe, it was going to be a casual night, but no, Ana had to drag me right next to Ivanís prayer group. And not just that, Ivan had to come over and sit right in front of me! All I could do is sit in my very uncomfortable position and try to not stare at Ivan and act pious! I couldnít help but look at Ana and say, hey Ana, I got a front row seat. Then I felt Ivanís gaze on me, like he really didnít like what I said, all I could do is stare at the ground. I had to strain not to touch Ivan, I didnít want to disturb him in anyway, my leg was loosing circulation, and both of my legs were falling asleep. My position was very painful, there was no room anywhere. Ivan seemed to be meditating, fidgeting every once in a while and concentrating praying His Rosary. Every once in a while a pilgrim would try to talk to Ivan, and Ivan would just shush them. Itís rude to interrupt someoneís prayer.
Ivan was like this for at least half an hour, then he turned towards Ana and said something, they both started to laugh. Then all of a sudden, he knelt towards the statue, as everyone else did for the Apparition. I couldnít kneel, there was no room, all I could do was lean towards the direction of the Apparition, there was a huge women, not Ana, blocking my view. And I couldnít kneel because I would be kneeling on her legs. I did peek around her to see if I could see anything. I did see a faint blue haze outline of our Queen of Peace, or I thought I did. I looked at Ivan from behind to His left, he was moving his mouth and I heard him sometimes make small noises and gasp once. Then all of a sudden the Apparition was over, and Ivan had to cover his face and emotionally prepare himself to re-enter the world, Iíve heard this is very hard for him, to leave our Blessed Mother and come back to the world.
Ana then spoke to me, she said, Rafael, we are going to use you as a plow through the crowed, get up and push through, so I did. The crowd also cooperated. When we got past the very crowded area of the Apparition, Vickaís older sister, Mirjana said, Ana! Then she took Anaís hand, and Ana, Mirjana, and all of her relatives and friends FLEW DOWN THAT HILL! I NEVER SEEN ANYONE GO DOWN THAT HILL THAT FAST! I tried to keep up, but I almost fell, I was forced to slow down. I said to myself, what the heck! When I finally got down to the bottom of the hill, I heard someone say Rafael! It was Ana. I said, what happened?! She said, what?! I said, you and your relatives flew down that hill, whatís up with that!? She said, really, I thought you were in front of me. I later thought about this then I figured that Ana, Mirjana, and her relatives had a special Charism of being able to traverse the hill quickly, at least downhill.
While I was chit-chatting with Ana, we heard Ivan greet us. He came over to chit-chat with us. I asked him whether or not our Blessed Mother blessed our items? I had a Crucifix and some Rosaries. Ivan just looked at me very seriously and said no. Ana questioned Him about this again, then he laughed and said yes, he was just joking. I just laughed also, this made Ivan very human to me, and I liked Him even more.
We noticed more pilgrims coming down the hill and we knew Ivan would be very busy, so we said good-bye, and Ana and I were talking about what just happened. Ana told me, Rafael, out of all those thousands of pilgrims on that hill, Ivan chose to sit in front of you! She said this to me several times. This was truly one of the most memorable nights of my life, if not the most memorable. It seemed to me, that our Blessed Mother wasnít finished with me, She wanted to make it plainly sure to me that I was important to Her. That I did get Her attention and She wanted me to know for sure that I did! For whatever reason, and She wanted to make it very clear to me how She felt about me, or that is what I felt.
On the way to the dormitory, I was just curious and asked Ana, what was so funny between Ivan and her? Ana once was very heavy, and Ana said, Ivan told her if she was still heavy she wouldnít feel the pain of rocks sitting down because she would have had all that padding. I said to myself, Ivan is cool, Heís just like us, except He just prays more better, and is privileged to see our Blessed Mother. Then it occurred to me, I wonder if St. Bernadette, or the Fatima Visionaries would say the same thing to Ana as did Ivan?
Ana and I arrived at the dormitory and we were all talking about the Apparition, even though it was late we couldnít get to sleep. Ana brought out a pitcher of water and we all sat around the outdoor table watching the beautiful sight of the people coming down Apparition Hill with their flashlights on, like a river of light!
Friend (entire family wiped-out in recent war) & myself
I thought more about Ivan and why He did sit in front of me, it later became apparent to me that He was praying over me, maybe our Blessed Mother thought I needed a lot of help in my salvation? I guess I was real sinner, in great need of great prayer, a real hard-case because of my pride.
What was the message? Ivan said that our Blessed Mother wanted us to pay particular attention to the next Apparitionís public message. All in all, in my mind, this public Apparition was meant for me. Not only did our Blessed Mother permit me to be in front of Her statue during Tuesdayís Apparition, She also wanted me to be next to Her Visionary during this Apparition. It was Her way to tell me that I was important to Her, and to not lose faith, whatever Crosses Her Son decides to place in my path, She would help me carry them. This to me, was a very powerful and unforgettable message our Blessed Mother blessed me with, thank you Mama!
The next day would be my last full day in Medjugorje, since the next morning we were leaving for Split.
Day 8, Friday, 6/25/04
Before breakfast I went back to the very first Apparition spot that Joe and I found and said my twenty-decade Rosary, sort of my good-bye to our Blessed Mother. Finishing up my Sorrowful Mysteries, I started to cry. I let go of all of my pains in life, and they seemed to fall to the ground. The painful memories just whizzed by my mind and I felt free.
The White Cross marking the very first apparition was kind of crooked, so I straightened it out after my Rosary and then went back down for breakfast.
After breakfast that morning, our tour guide Snezzy took our group to the Cenaculo. As I mentioned before this is a place were young men who have drug problems come to find Jesus and get cured. It is a beautiful place and we passed by beautiful stone buildings, no doubt probably made the young menís effort.
We all gathered in a covered outdoor meeting area with a beautiful statue of our Blessed Mother with Baby Jesus and a bronze statue of St. Padre Pio.
Two gentlemen came by and started to speak about their lost lives before they came to the Cenaculo, it was moving. I didnít forget what one mentioned that all they do is pray and move rocks, and the young men were filled with joy with this simple lifestyle. Also the description of one of the young men of the founder of Cenaculo who is a Nun, but I have forgotten Her name. How this Nun truly cares for the young men and sometimes treats them with tough love to keep them there. The young men truly respect and love Her. People then made their donations to this worthy cause.
After the talk we passed by the Chapel again and viewed that wondrous mural of the risen Christ. There was another talk going inside the Chapel which seemed to be occupied by Italian pilgrims. Then our entire group had a chance to purchase the young menís artwork in their store. That was the end of our visit.
I still had my dream about meeting Vicka, but I knew She was pregnant with Her second child, so I completely understood. But a couple of my pilgrimage buddies showed me where she use to sit on the stairs of Her familyís home and spoke to pilgrims on the way to a great ice-cream shop they talked about. It was great just to see where Vicka use to live. By the way, the proprietor of the ice-cream shop refused to take our money for some reason, it was a small blessing.
As a side-note, when I was introduced by Ana to Vickaís Sister, Mirjana, She did give me a hug and kiss on both cheeks! I guess She knew how badly I wanted to meet Her Sister, and this was Her way to make up for it. It more than did! I later gave Her a small one-decade Rosary I found, to give to Vicka. You see the reason I wanted to see Vicka was because early in my reconversion, I had a great need. So I decided to present my petition to Vicka in one of the Irvine California Medjugorje Conference. I was able to do it by quickly telling Vicka to pray for my family, and at the same time I gave Her a small picture of my family. I then gave Vicka a hug and a kiss on her cheek (this was before She was married). She just smiled and nodded. Later when I left Her I felt such peace that I felt a great joy! I never felt that way in my life, it felt that I was in Heaven! My joy was so great that my voice was changing! My biggest worry was, how am I going to explain to everyone why my voice changed! I told this same story to Ana and to Mirjana, Vickaís older Sister.
After the Cenaculo visit, around 10 a.m. the Visionary Mirjana had a talk at her home. When I got there it was already getting crowded.
Before Mirjana came out the people gathered there noticed a white cloud which resembled our Lady Queen of Peace. Other pilgrims made comments of this cloud which supposedly transformed into other holy shapes.
Mirjana finally came out, it was very warm by then. It may have been the exhausting week, but it was torture just standing there. Mirjana had to move to a balcony since there were so many pilgrims and it was hard to even see Her a few feet away.
She had a question and answer questions after Her talk, and Iím sorry to say this, but many of the questions were asinine. For example, if Mirjana would let Her children be drafted by the Bosnian Army. Mirjana just responded, they are both girls. And other questions that I donít remember, and probably donít because of their stupidity. It seems there are just people who want to trip up the Visionaries in their answers just to get them into trouble with the authorities. It reminds me of the way Jesus was often questioned by the High Priests and Pharisees, not to seek answers, but to accuse Jesus.
After Mirjanaís talk, I attended the Mass as I usually did everyday. During the weekdays the English Mass started around 10 a.m. and the Croatian Mass was around 7 p.m.. During that time it was very crowded, from what I heard about 133,000 pilgrims for the 23rd Anniversary of the Apparitions. The Croatian Mass was so crowded they had to hold it outside behind St. James, and even then there was standing room only. If you wanted to sit you had to go behind the outdoor benches on the grass. During the Mass at around 6:40 p.m., Mass would be interrupted to mark the Visionaries private Apparition time by silence and Angelic music.
I was purposely saving my money because before I came to Medjugorje Iíve heard of Motherís Village, Father Svetís charity. So after the English Mass, I wanted to give the bulk to His charity. I went to St. James and asked my Guardian Angel to guide me to him. I looked all around St. James, but couldnít find him. Then I went to the Sacristy, specifically where you can pay for a Mass for someone or a special intention. I saw the usual Nun there and a long line. I was already very tired and didnít feel like standing in line, so I took a breather by sitting in a chair next to Her desk before I stood in line. While I was sitting and resting the thought came to my mind, what if I got in line and then asked Sister where I can donate for Motherís Village and She would say not here. So I asked Sister if this was the correct place before I got into line. She said, wait, then She picked up the phone. I felt embarrassed, and then told Her I didnít mean to interrupt and just to direct me where to go. She then gave me the phone, I took it and the person on the other end of the line said, hello, Fr. Svet here. I was so shocked and embarrassed, I didnít want to take any of Fr. Svetís time since I knew He was very busy because of the Anniversary. I told Fr. Svet, I Ďm sorry Father, I didnít want to take up much of your time, because I know you are very busy, I just want to give to your charity. He said, wait and hung up. I really didnít want to call attention to myself and sincerely, I just wanted to give anonymously, because in this way God will bless you more. A couple of minutes later Fr. Svet, to my surprise and embarrassment, came by and motioned for me to follow him into the Sacristy in a small room, we were alone together. I apologized to Fr. Svet, telling him Iím just the crazy guy that you know from the Medjugorje Conference in Irvine California. He said, if it wasnít for crazy guys we wouldnít do much good in the Catholic Church. He also said something that struck me before we sat down. He said, you have been causing much trouble for satan. He caught me off-guard with that statement, and all I could say was, well Father itís because heís been causing me a lot a grief also. I asked him if He took travelerís checks, and He said, He did. So while I was signing and dating them, He was asking me questions. I donít know how we got around to it, but I told him the story of my reconversion, which is too long to speak about here. But I did tell Him, in short, that I didnít reconvert until I had a traumatic experience. It seems that some of us only get closer to God through suffering, especially hard-heads like me. I then told him that during my reconversion trial I did get an inner locution, where our Blessed Mother asked me to do something during my reconversion, which I felt would only put me in more jeopardy. For those who pray the Rosary everyday and who have close relationship with our Blessed Mother know what I am talking about. Usually when our Blessed Mother wants you to do something, it is usually something you donít want to do, and I didnít and wasnít. And this is when I told Father Svet, I heard our Blessed Mother speak in my heart, she said, Rafael, I did not abandon you, will you abandon me? I told Father Svet I couldnít say no, but I quickly put the responsibility back on our Blessed Mother by speaking to Her in my heart, yes I will do this, BUT, this will only happen because You want it to happen, NOT because of me. I then told Father Svet that our Blessed Mother being humble remained silent. All in all, I told Fr. Svet that I did do what our Blessed Mother wanted and the fruit of it was a thousandfold and more, and not one hair on my head was touched. Fr. Svet then asked me all types of questions. We had about fifteen minutes alone together, on one of His most busiest days. I really did not expect this, but I took it as a blessing, because at least one of the major players of Medjugorje knew my reconversion story, somewhat. Someone came in and asked to speak to Father, He thanked me and we parted ways.
The rest of the day of relatively uneventful, I later went to the Croatian Mass, and got my things ready for leaving early tomorrow morning.
The following was Fridayís important message that our Blessed Mother asked us to pay particular attention too, during Ivanís Thursday public Apparition:
"Dear children! Also today, joy is in my heart. I desire to thank you for making my plan realizable. Each of you is important, therefore, little children, pray and rejoice with me for every heart that has converted and become an instrument of peace in the world. Prayer
groups are powerful, and through them I can see, little children, that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world. Thank you for having responded to my call."
Some pilgrims and I found this to be fantastic news, because our Ladyís plan was not possible, or probable, IT IS REALIZABLE! Meaning that it has a high likelihood of occurring! Thanks be to God and all of our prayers! In addition, is it possible that the great chastisement could be severely mitigated? Only our prayers and time will tell.
Day 9, Saturday, 6/26/04
The bus was leaving around 6 a.m. and we journeyed our way out of Medjugorje, it was very heartbreaking. The road looked different and straighter, later Snezzy said we took a shorter road as apposed to the arrival that showed us the Croatian coastline.
We finally came to the Bosnian-Croatian border, and again, I forgot my passport which was in my luggage in the bus luggage compartment, duh! This happened to me before at my arrival, I should of learned from it, but I guess not. I was saying a little prayer to our Blessed Mother that this time the Bosnian guards wouldnít check passports, but they did. People were getting their passports out and someone was passing someone elseís passport behind my seat. As the guard came by my seat, I didnít know what to do but show it to the guard and pass it back, it worked, he continued on. While he was looking at the opposite seats I passed it back. I barely had a chance to feel relief when something worse happened. The guard after viewing the passports started to stamp them! Oh no, I said to myself, I could see myself in a Bosnian jail for fraudulently presenting documents, I was truly worried. All I could do was pray and look outside the window and hope that the guard wouldnít ask for my passport again, he didnít, thank God. We moved on. Later I was telling Ana and Snezzy who were riding with us about what happened. Snezzy jokingly said She would have to report me to the Croatian authorities for being an illegal alien, ha ha.
The way back to Split was just as beautiful. There was a tunnel through a mountain and a beautiful bridge we rounded, by passing an ancient castle, and entering the breathtaking view of Split against the backdrop of the Adriatic sea.
At the airport, we checked in and then entered security to the gate. I realized to my horror I forgot to say good-bye to Ana. I said a small prayer to our Blessed Mother that I had to say good-bye to my Sister. I retraced my way back through security letting the guard know that I forgot to say good-bye to a dear friend even though I didnít speak a word of Croatian, he did! I looked around the check-in area but couldnít find Ana. I saw someone from our pilgrimage group and asked her if she has seen Ana? She said, she wasnít sure, but she thought she went upstairs. So I went up the stairs and seen Ana with her Father and Mother in Law and her relatives, thank God! I told Her I couldnít leave without saying good-bye, and I had to return through security to say it. We said our last good-byes as well to her family, I then returned back to my gate.
I was able to pray my twenty-decade Rosary on the way to Amsterdam, we had a one night stay-over before proceeding to Detroit, Michigan.
When we arrived there I was invited by my friends to attend Saturday night Mass in Amsterdam, since we would miss Sunday Mass due to our travels, I accepted.
We took the train into Amsterdam. From the air the Netherlands looked absolutely spotless and expansive for a small country. When we were approaching Amsterdam on the train, the graffiti started to accumulate and was all over the place.
We arrived at the grandiose Amsterdam city central train station, which seemed to be a museum for itís architecture and noticeable age, it was beautiful. Then we proceeded to walk out towards the city.
I donít know whether it was because we recently came back from a religious pilgrimage, but what I am about to say was concurred by all my pilgrimage friends. We started seeing what was in our eyes pure corruption, people with pins, needles and tattoos all over their face and bodies, weird haircuts, improper dress, wild expositions, drug addiction, homosexuality, perverted behavior, etc., etc.. We did see one ďreligious fanaticĒ I was too eager to greet, usually they would be the freaks, not now. For us it was really sad to see such an old and beautiful city suffer much corruption in our eyes.
What I am about to describe to you is not to disturb you but to tell you how decadent the society of the Netherlands had sunk. We were conversing amongst ourselves and someone mentioned that in the Netherlands there was a public t.v. commercial of two teenagers, boy on boy, and girl on girl, masturbating each other. The pilgrim said that the Netherlands wanted to prove itself less uptight about sex than the United States? Also, someone else mentioned that in the Netherlands they wanted to lower the age of consent to thirteen! I said to myself, a pervertís paradise.
We started getting lost and couldnít find the Catholic Church that our hotel hospice told us about, so we started asking around. Also, we accidentally wandered into the red-light district which actually scared us.
We finally found the Church, but it was sealed shut, closed. We started to pray the Rosary for Maryís help. While we were praying and older gentlemen told us that there was another Church, St. Christopherís, a few block down, the power of the Rosary! We decided to keep praying our Rosary while we were walking towards the Church. We must of looked weird, but better to be noticed for something good than bad. Mary was giving us signs not to be discouraged. Miraculously, we passed by a religious store with many beautiful statues of our Blessed Mother! We had to go over a small bridge traversing over one of the many beautiful water channels that traversed the city with boats actually used by people to get around the city. When we reached the Church it was the same width and height as the adjoining apartment buildings. We heard that the Catholic Church was persecuted here centuries before and their Churches were destroyed. We walked in around 6:15 p.m., just in time for Holy Mass, the power of the Rosary!
When we entered the Church it was more than breath-taking, it was the most beautiful Church I have ever seen in my life. Statues and stain glass windows were absolutely out of this universe, it seemed that the whole bible was shown three dimensionally. I almost cried because of the beauty and the piety of the Church. A whole room-like structure, heavenly adorned, housed the Blessed Sacrament! Imagine, in some American Churches, there is not even a Blessed Sacrament? I couldnít help but look around, even during Mass, to the beauty and majesty of that Church. It seemed that the Catholic citizens centuries before, gutted what seemed to be an apartment building and built a magnificent house of God within it, what devotion! While Mass was going on, I noticed a statue of our Blessed Mother which seemed to be directly looking at me, it was our Lady of Sorrows. At that time it occurred to me why this trip into Amsterdam was no coincidence, this was sort of an extension of our Blessed Motherís message to us. It seems that our Blessed Mother wanted to show us what caused her Son much grief, i.e., Amsterdamís corruption, but She also wanted to show us that good could still exist in the midst of evil, i.e., this beautiful Church and Mass! Also, She wanted us to be beacons of light when we got home to our corruption.
Communion was done the old-fashioned, and in my opinion, the correct way. We had to go up and kneel on the railing and receive Holy Communion on the tongue!
After Mass, we were treated to an organ concerto, which was absolutely stunning and classical, the organist was really getting into it. Frankensteinish, but in a good way!
I was amazed at the fervency of the faithful there. I accidentally wandered onto the altar area because the barrier was down, so I assumed it was okay to go there and get a better view of the artwork. A local Layperson told me to please leave the area because people, other than the Clergy and Acolytes, were not allowed. I was absolutely not offended, and was glad for the piousness of this request. I apologized and complied, this kind of reprimand I appreciate!
We saw other pilgrims who followed us, and we found out that the Church was at least 350 years old!
After Mass we all parted ways to find places to eat. We found a beautiful Dutch restaurant and had a pleasant dinner. Later we made our way to the train station and to the airport hotel. I went to sleep, I was exhausted.
Day 10, Sunday, 6/27/04
Next morning we had a free buffet breakfast, it was scrumptious, Belgian waffles and pastries, sausage, eggs, juices, etc, etc..
I was able to say my last good-byes to Anaís parents who were also heading to Los Angeles via Detroit. Los Angeles is Anaís hometown. I told them, my home is their home, also Anaís and all her relatives. Ana, if you are reading this, if any of your relatives, or Visionaries, (I know Snezzy wants to visit San Fran), come on over! Thatís of course if itís okay with my spouse, (blush!)
As a side-note, Ana wanted me to show her the way to the very first Apparition Site, marked by the White Cross. I will Ana, God willing, and maybe we can pray a twenty-decade Rosary there? Just remember, I was not the first one to find it, it was Joe, and He can show you also;)
At the airport we heard that there was a terrorist alert, so they questioned all of us before heading to the gate. A couple of pilgrims had problems with their passports and the airport authorities wouldnít let them through. We didnít abandon them, we stood by them and prayed our Rosary. Low and behold they were okayed and allowed to proceed, the power of the Rosary!
We arrived in Detroit, and we all headed for our final destination, mines was Los Angeles.
This is all that I remember of importance of my first Medjugorje trip.
Concluding thoughts on Medjugorje? Well, I could only speak for myself, but I think Medjugorje is an illumination of oneís soul. It challenges you to see the truth and asks you to have the courage, with the help of our Blessed Mother, to make the necessary changes to oneís heart.
What is Medjugorje in a couple of words? Prayer and love.
Furthermore, I believe that our Blessed Mother wanted to place a piece of Heaven on earth, AND THAT IS MEDJUGORJE. She placed it in the place where West meets East. Near the Orthodox, Muslim and Catholic worlds, and in doing so, may have prevented world war III, at least in the last century.
As Fr. Svet has said, rivers of grace flow into Medjugorje. And I believe a whole museum could be filled with volumes and volumes of wonderful little miracles that has happened to everyone on their Medjugorje pilgrimages, you know what I mean.
I wish ALL the Catholic Clergy would come to Medjugorje, for I am sure if they do, they will find their answer to the mission in their vocation and peace also.
What do I believe is my mission? Well for now it is very clear, I need to be a better spouse and father, less judgmental, and more loving. And I hope to come with my spouse on my next Medjugorje pilgrimage.
Also, I need to be open to whatever our Blessed Mother will ask of me. I am the slave of our Blessed Mother, let it be done unto me as She wishes. All I ask is that She gives me the graces necessary to do Her Sonís will. Please pray for me that I will. God bless.
MAY ALL THE WORLD BECOME MEDJUGORJE!
Yours in Jesus through Mary and Joseph, accompanied by St. Philomena,
P.S.: Below is the link to Anaís and Steveís (Anaís husband) web-site of their Medjugorje pilgrimage tours. I highly recommend it for the aforementioned reasons, plus you would be staying with the relatives of the Visionaries and have a better chance of meeting them personally!: