I have said before that, although I am not a Catholic, I believe in the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Medjugorje, a village in the former Yugoslavia. This morning I got an email which I want to share, followed by a link to Lewis. This is the email:
"The testimony story for this month is about a friend named Debbie. It is a testimony that most of us can identify with. At the time this story took place, Debbie was married and had two sons aged 16 and 12. She had no idea of the tragic loss their family would soon suffer. While attending a high school reunion out of state, Debbie and her husband received a call that would change their lives forever. Their 16-year-old son Tim had just received his driver’s license a week earlier, and while driving his aunt’s car with a friend at a very high rate of speed, crashed into a large tree, killing both of them instantly. The impact was so violent, it cut the car into two pieces, which then caught fire. Debbie, and her husband, as well as their younger son Daniel, were devastated. There were over 400 people at Tim’s funeral. There were moments of happiness and intense sorrow as people shared their stories of how they remembered Tim and how he had impacted their lives. We all felt and experienced a little of their pain that day. The road to recovery was a painful, difficult, day by day struggle. Debbie worked for a large corporation, and had traveled a lot as part of her job. She had been away from home for many weekends over the last 18 months or so. This was just one of the things that tormented her about the loss of Tim; that she had lost precious time with him by working so much away from home.
"After almost four months Debbie was still having a very difficult time getting her life back on track. She would have occasional good days, but more than not, bad days. She would burst into tears frequently. She had lost all joy in her life. From my own personal observations over the weeks and months, there was always a tragic sadness about Debbie, and her mind was many times elsewhere. She would spend almost all of her spare time at Tim’s grave site, just sitting there and crying. I felt so bad for her, and we prayed very hard for her and her whole family.
"Debbie knew a little bit about Medjugorje through some of the stories I had told over the years. And one day she asked me about it. She expressed a desire to go to Medjugorje in the hopes it would help her. I told Debbie that Medjugorje is a very special place, and agreed that if she went without any expectations, and simply an open mind and heart, I knew it would help her. Maybe not right away, and maybe not in the way she hoped for. But I could tell Our Lady was calling her to go. As the time of the trip grew near, she had reservations about whether she should go. She was reluctant to leave her family again. I told her that everyone who is called to Medjugorje is called for a special reason and purpose. The visionaries have said numerous times that no one goes to Medjugorje by accident. After talking about Medjugorje again with her for a while, she was once again excited about going. An interesting side note is Debbie was not Catholic. In fact, Debbie had never even stepped foot into a church as a child. I mention this because it shows that God loves us all equally, and I firmly believe Our Lady called Debbie to Medjugorje for healing.
"After arriving in Medjugorje, Debbie was again feeling an intense sorrow at the loss of her son. She was 5000 miles away in a foreign country, and was unable to visit his grave site. She would burst into tears frequently, and we all prayed and prayed that she would find healing and peace in Medjugorje. We were fortunate that the first full day we were in Medjugorje, we were able to visit Fr. Jozo. Father Jozo Zovko was the pastor in Medjugorje when the apparitions began in June 1981. Later, he was assigned to a parish in Siroki Brijeg, which is about a 45 minute drive from Medjugorje. He would give weekly talks to Medjugorje pilgrims about Our Lady’s messages. Fr. Jozo is a powerful healing priest and a very holy priest, whose words touch the depths of your heart. Debbie (as we all were) was deeply touched during his talk. After the talk it was customary to go to the church and receive a blessing from Fr. Jozo. Everyone would line up, and he would pray over each person. Debbie had never seen or experienced a priest praying over people and was hesitant to get in line for a blessing. My wife Ana encouraged her, and led her up near Fr. Jozo. Slavenka was our local guide for this group, and we were both standing next to each other behind Debbie. We were both praying so hard for Debbie. When Fr. Jozo came to Debbie, Slavenka told him in Croatian that Debbie had recently suffered the loss of her son in an accident. In this moment everyone in the group was praying so hard for Debbie. Fr. Jozo paused for a second, closed his eyes, and laid his hands-on Debbie’s head. Within a couple of seconds Debbie was overcome with the Holy Spirit and collapsed. I was standing behind her for that reason, and caught her fall and laid her gently on the floor. She rested peacefully there for a few minutes. As she opened her eyes and regained her senses, she explained that when she felt Fr. Jozo lay his hands on her head, she felt a warmth, and then a tingling that started on the top of her head and traveled down her spine. She said she could not move, she could hear, but all she could see were bright lights around her. She also felt an amazing peace wash over her. She described it as a huge weight being lifted from her. I was so happy for her. I could see the pain that was always very evident on her face was gone! Her face just glowed, and she had a smile on her face, which I hadn’t seen in months. Later that day she said that she had not felt so peaceful since before Tim’s death. She prayed that this peace she felt would stay with her.
"The next day we attended English Mass at 10am in St. James church. It was October and it is usually quite crowded at that time of year. After Mass I exited the church out the side door right behind Debbie. I was surprised to see there was only one woman standing 20 feet or so from the door. Debbie and the woman’s eyes met, and Debbie immediately walked over to her and the two began speaking. I stayed where I was and gave them space. After a couple of minutes, they embraced, and the woman walked away. Debbie returned to where I was standing with tears streaming down her face. She shared with me that the woman she had spoken with had five children, and all of them had died. Debbie shared in the woman’s grief, and said she felt guilty for mourning so much over the loss of Tim, when this woman had lost all five of her children. This experience with this mystery woman solidified and re-enforced the healing she had received previously with Fr. Jozo.
“Upon returning home, Debbie’s life was almost back to normal. Of course, she will never forget Tim or forget the sense of loss and longing for him, but her life is hers once again. Her co-workers immediately noticed the difference in her entire continent, and commented how they saw such a dramatic change in her. She smiles, she laughs, she is happy. She has also told the story of her experience in Medjugorje to many of her co-workers. All of them have been deeply touched by her testimony, and many broke into tears upon hearing it. I felt this was an important story to tell because we will all suffer the pain and tragedy of losing loved ones in our lives. In those desperate times we need to pray and ask God to heal our wounded hearts. For me, Debbie’s story is a story of hope for all those who are suffering from the tragic loss of a loved one.”
This brought to mind something that happened to Walter Hooper, as related in an article by James Como in 1992:
"On November 14, 1984, Hooper met the pope. He had been heavily saddened by the efforts of many groups to use Lewis’s legacy for their own ends. These efforts and his resistance to them were “like a huge and heavy stone fastened to [his] heart,” he later wrote. “As I knelt and kissed the Holy Father’s ring, I felt something rush out of me. . . . I felt as light as a feather as I got to my feet and I knew that ‘stone’ was gone. Then, sorrowfully, I was aware of something that I had never bothered to consider. When I saw the look of shock and pain on the pope’s face, I knew he had taken my burden upon himself.”
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)