Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Making MiraclesMy pilgrimage to Medjugorje.
I was seven years old in the fall of 1986, and that’s when my parents heard rumors circulating around their church about miraculous cures happening in Europe. The parishioners in our congregation were talking about the wonders that were supposedly occurring in a remote village in what was then Yugoslavia (now Bosnia and Herzegovina) called Medjugorje. Supernatural visitations by the Virgin Mary were said to have begun in 1981, just two years after I was born. Over the course of the next five years, the little town had been transformed from an obscure Balkan backwater to a world-famous apparition site and pilgrimage destination.
The claim was that Mary had selected a small group of children in Medjugorje to appear before and share her messages from heaven, as she’d reportedly done on many occasions with other children around the world since the death of her son, Jesus Christ. Mary repeatedly appeared as a vision to these Yugoslavian boys and girls, speaking only to them even though there were often others including grown-ups present. The children entered a trancelike state during these visitations, and only shared the messages with the rest of the village when the apparitions were finished.
When word of the visitations started to spread, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims began trekking to Medjugorje in the hopes of seeing the mother of Jesus and witnessing for themselves the great miracles that were occurring there.
For my parents—both devout Catholics who prayed regularly to the Virgin Mary—the apparitions seemed to be an answer to their prayers. People at church told them that several miracles had been seen in Medjugorje, such as the sun spinning in the sky above the tiny village. But there had also been reports that many pilgrims there had been blessed with cures of grave illnesses, ailments, and all manner of disease and injuries.
Mom and Dad believed with all their hearts that if there was any chance, even the very remotest possibility, that making a pilgrimage to Medjugorje would miraculously heal me and make me whole again, then they had to act upon it at once. They decided that no matter what it took, they were going to get me to Yugoslavia.
My father is a loyal and caring family man who always worked to be the best possible provider he could be and ensure that his loved ones never wanted for anything. He really wanted to make the pilgrimage to Medjugorje, but he was busy with his insurance company. Therefore, my parents agreed that Dad would stay home with my brothers and hold down the fort, and Mom would take me to Yugoslavia. Before long, we were off, traveling with a group of other Catholics who were on the same pilgrimage.
I was just seven years old, and I found my first trip out of the country to be both fascinating and frightening. Just traveling with my mother was a memorable experience in itself because we’d never really gone anywhere alone together, unless it was to a hospital for yet another surgery. But now we were making our way to an exotic country I’d never even heard of, and a place where the mother of Jesus was supposed to be visiting to boot!
The Yugoslavian countryside was like an alien landscape to me, and just about as far away from our suburban American lifestyle as I could possibly imagine. To say that I was shocked as we arrived in the village would be an understatement. I was hungry when we arrived at Medjugorje; as an American kid who’d never been out of the country, I imagined that we’d find a McDonald’s drive-through somewhere. Instead, we found cows and goats wandering through the middle of the street, along with chickens and roosters living in people’s homes.
Mom and I stayed with a wonderfully warm and friendly family for our ten-day visit. However, they spoke very little English and were so poor that they didn’t have electricity. It was winter by then, and my mother and I had to sleep fully clothed so we wouldn’t freeze. In the evening, she and I sat around the family’s fire to keep warm, and we all figured out a sort of sign language so we could communicate with each other. The family was very kind—and even if I wasn’t accustomed to the living conditions and local cuisine of lamb and peppers and salty cheeses, we had some laughs and shared some bonding meals together.
Each morning, Mom and I would hike up the mountain to the area where the young visionaries received their apparitions of Mary. When the afternoon arrived, the visionaries gathered in a little room at the home of a local priest and received their “visit.” Each day, a different handful of people was invited into the special chamber to observe, and pray with, the visionaries while everyone else stood outside. My mother and I were among those invited on two separate occasions, and we watched the children with their upturned faces and shining eyes pray and talk to the Holy Mother. While neither Mom nor I saw or heard Mary or witnessed any of the so-called miracles—healing or otherwise—being there was still a very spiritual and profound experience.
When my mom and I returned to Louisiana, my body was exactly as it had been when we left. I hadn’t undergone a miraculous healing or been supernaturally cured, but my parents were still certain that a change might come. So within the year, I was again on a jet flying over the Atlantic on my second visit to Medjugorje. This time I traveled with my father, who was convinced the second visit would be the charm. Dad and I prayed every day, but again, we didn’t experience any miracles.
Once again, a family member and I had come back from our Yugoslavian pilgrimage with no visible sign of a miracle. Yet although my skin was still scarred, my face was a mess, and my fingers hadn’t grown back, that didn’t mean my family hadn’t been blessed. How could these trips not have been a blessing? After all, we allowed ourselves to be motivated by faith, love, and hope.
I also believe that traveling to Medjugorje had done two very important things: it strengthened the bond between my parents and myself, and it made me think long and hard about what it really meant to experience a miracle. What I concluded was that if a miracle was going to happen to me, I was the one who was going to make it happen. It would still require a great act of faith, but the faith I’d need to have would be in myself—that is, in my own abilities to succeed in whatever I attempted, despite the physical obstacles I faced.