By Stephen Ryan – Publisher of Mystic Post
MY PERSONAL JOURNEY
For me, Medjugorje was an answer to a very long prayer.
I did not know it at the time but Medjugorje, was the destination I had been searching for from the moment a miracle took place at a hospital, in Alexandria, Va. – a miracle that saved my son’s life.
My son is alive and well but only through the true intervention of a miracle and a desperate prayer to Jesus Christ over twenty years ago.
My son was born two and a half months premature. He was born the day before our first “Lamaze” class. My son was given his last rite the night he was born, but he fought hard that night and made it through to the next morning. He was not breathing on his own – oxygen was pumped into his tiny body by machines – and the incredible staff worked tirelessly around the clock trying to save his life. My son’s vital signs were like a roller coaster – a few hours of improvement were followed by crashes, manic activity, and tears.
My father was a well-known pediatrician in town and he stopped by the neonatal intensive care unit every chance he got to check on his grandson’s progress. About four days into the fight for my son’s life, my father, doing rounds at the hospital, came by in the afternoon to lend his support and expertise. As we talked quietly about the previous night, a swarm of nurses and the head neonatologist surrounded my son’s ventilation unit – the little cocoon that was keeping him alive.
My father sensed something was very wrong and walked over to the swarm to investigate. I could not bear to watch. Prior to my son’s birth I was not very religious. I did not go to church regularly, if at all – I did pull out the bible from time to time and read the Gospels to try and discern what the fuss was all about – that was about it. But like the saying goes – “there are no atheists in foxholes” – from the moment the doctors told me my son was very sick, I found myself in a foxhole, and I turned to prayer as my first born fought for his life.
A finally looked towards the group surrounding my son and I noticed my father locked in an intense conversation with the medical team and then I saw him shake his head. He stepped away from the group and then walked towards me with tears in his eyes – the look on his face made my stomach collapse. I thought, no, it can’t be; not now. My son had fought too hard, but my father’s look said it all – it was over. I turned away from my father and stared at the walls. And then I prayed in a way I had never prayed in my life. I prayed directly to Jesus and I asked him, right then, for a miracle – I asked him to save my son’s life with all my heart and all that I had left in my soul. It is at this point of my story where it really does not matter what other people think or believe.
I know what happened. I felt what happened. What happened next was tangible and real. At that moment, the moment my son had basically stopped living, I understood that miracles do occur because right then I felt a warmth come through me and over me, then a rush of something powerful and tangible entered the room. The best way for me to describe “rush” is that it reminded me of the Pentecost- It reminded of the rush of wind that met the Blessed Mother and the apostles in the upstairs room as the Holy Spirit descended upon them. I had never felt anything like that in my life. One thing for certain is that I knew it was something real.
As the warmth faded and my attentions returned back to the sad realities, my father walked back towards my son’s ventilation unit. More activity – I could sense hope – I could sense, suddenly, the fight was back on – oxygen was returning to my son’s brain. His vital signs returned from a place that everybody in that room knew you could not come back from. My son was going to live a little longer. And indeed my son did live a little longer. He is now six feet tall and strong as an ox.
As I was driving home on the night of the miracle, I thought about the warmth I felt in the hospital as my son was dying. I thought about my prayer and how it was followed by the real presence of God and Jesus Christ.
That night I pulled out the Bible and I searched for the words “Seek and you shall find, ask and you shall receive.” I had “asked” for something big that afternoon and I received more than any man deserved. And so it was that night I made promise to seek Him – to find the path God wants us to follow.
But like many promises, sometimes they take a little longer to keep than planned. After my son came home from the hospital and as his health began to improve, my wife and I were anxious to bring normalcy back into our days. Soon responsibilities of jobs, social obligations, and kid play days, set the agenda. My need, it seemed, for spiritual nourishment had diminished with the demands of life. Though I never forgot the miraculous episode, and I would think about it often, the dominance of secular culture began to rule.
New house, new car, expensive vacations, the race was on to live a life that the world promised me would deliver peace and happiness. After awhile I settled into the life of a relatively happy agnostic. Now and then I would contemplate spirituality. I would pick up the bible and skim through the gospels only reading the words of Jesus – I dismissed the rest – the Bible, outside of the words of Jesus, always seemed to take me back to institutionalized religion, a place that did not offer the peace my heart was unconsciously looking for. I was looking for miracles and uplifting words, not rules and demands. My search for spiritual meaning in my life never really disappeared – it just sort of simmered on a stove top burner for a long time.
As my kids got older and more independent, I began to meet with a close group of friends, Washington D.C. lawyers, mostly, and we would gather at the regularly for beer, French fries, and lots of talk. We would talk politics, sports, sailboat racing and sometimes religion. One of my friends is a Palestinian American who went to the University of Virginia and got his law degree at The College of William & Mary. He was our designated spiritual advisor. .
My other friend was more of the activist agnostic who found very little value in organized religion. My friend was not the atheist that Christopher Hitchens was, but certainly, he agreed with most everything Hitchens had to say about the Catholic Church.
My agnostic friend was also not a big fan of the Mormon religion – he called it a cult started by a charismatic con man named Joseph Smith. We had intense conversations about the Mormon Church and this fact, as it turns out, became very important to me. My friend encouraged me to read Jon Krackauer’s book on the Mormon church – Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith.
Krackauer’s book about mountain climbing and the Mt. Everest tragedie, Into Thin Air, is one of my favorite books of all time, so I agreed to read it.
I quickly plunged into the book about the Mormon religion, but rather than finding myself outraged at the violent acts initiated by Mormon leaders against innocent people, I found myself much more interested in the Mormon faith itself. I was transfixed by its fantastic origins. At some point it suddenly struck me that the whole religion was based on supernatural events and I really did not know what that meant exactly. The Mormon faith is totally based on the miraculous and the supernatural. The appearance of gold tablets with the Book of Mormon transcribed on them given to Joseph Smith directly from another world, as well as angels appearing in human form and a white salamander of unknown origins with a keen intelligence. The supernatural events that make up the foundation of the religion are critical – you either believed in the incredible tales of Joseph Smith or you did not. Once you did you were hooked and I was almost hooked.
If one is sincere about exploring the mysteries of religion, an open and inquisitive mind is crucial to making progress in any kind of discernment practice. At one point, I really thought about jumping into the faith with both feet. I asked myself’ “How could so many smart, decent, attractive people believe such incredible stories?” I was sure that the Mormon faith had to have proof of its miraculous claims of angels and gold tablets. I read parts of the Book of Mormon. My agnostic lawyer friend, who suggested I read up on Mormons, says he read the entire Book of Mormons and he claims it is complete madness. But I wanted to know for myself and so I dug deep into the religion to see what “proof” the early Mormon’s had to back up their claim of the supernatural interventions of God. There had to be some real evidence, after all the Mormon Church is very successful. I poured through a lot of material but my investigation did not lead to a lot of answers to the questions I was asking myself. I found a couple of nuggets of information that support the fantastic assertions made by the founders of the faith – chiefly that six or so church elders say they saw the gold tablets – but honestly, there is not much more than that. You basically have to hitch your wagon to Joseph Smith’s charisma and not look back. I couldn’t do it.
A little disappointed, I wasn’t sure where to turn, but I could not get out of my mind the idea that God intervenes in this world from time to time in mysterious supernatural ways that somehow leads to the establishment of great religions. I went back to the Bible and there I encountered, again, the words of Jesus – “Seek and You Shall Find. Ask and you shall receive.” At that moment memories of the miracle at the hospital returned vividly like it had happened that day. It hit me right then that the memory of the miracle was not only inside of me but it was always close to the surface. I realized then I had been quietly “Seeking God” but I had not really “Asked”
It is not clear in my mind the exact sequence of events after that moment. I have tried to connect the dots, but something, or someone, interiorly, told me to look up Fatima. Maybe “Our Lady” was helping after I “asked” for help in my quest to find God.
I don’t know exactly, but I found my way to Fatima. Before I go further I strongly suggest to the reader to learn all you can about the events of Fatima, the famous Marian apparitions that took place in Portugal in 1917. At Fatima, you will discover that science and reason, for the first time in history, cannot explain what happened on the day of October 13, 1917. Fatima is the single greatest example of the reality of supernatural forces in history. Looking into Fatima, I learned about “The Miracle of the Sun”. I learned about the thousands and thousands of witnesses to the miracle of the sun “dancing”. The miracle of the sun was followed by prophesy, and secrets – prophecies that, unbelievably, all came to pass. The prophecies have been studied and verified, by the Vatican and eminent scholars. After my discovery of Fatima, suddenly a new world opened up to me. Fatima convinced me that the supernatural intervention of God occurs – sometimes right before our eyes. But that was just the start. To me Fatima was a Mary thing – a Catholic thing – a religion that had run out of gas a long time ago for me. The Virgin Mary was just a sad stone statue.
Continuing my exploration into the supernatural, mostly focused on Catholic claims, I stumbled onto something called Medjugorje and after that everything began click; it all came together for me. Fatima was the supernatural miracle I was looking for – the “proof” – and then after reading the simple, yet deeply spiritual words of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje, “Peace, peace, and only peace”, the conversion of my heart and my reconciliation with our creator began. With Medjugorje the beauty, heart, and soul of the Catholic faith came alive and into me. At Medjugorje, I felt I had discovered the place where Jesus had returned earth to continue his ministry. The Blessed Mother at Fatima led me to Medjugore and it is at Medjugorje that the truth of Jesus Christ was revealed to me. I had found Jesus Christ through his mother Mary.
With Medjugorje the beauty, heart, and soul of the Catholic faith came alive and into me. At Medjugorje, I felt I had discovered the place where Jesus had returned to earth to continue his ministry. The Blessed Mother at Fatima led me to Medjugore and it is at Medjugorje that the truth of Jesus Christ was revealed to me. I had found Jesus Christ through his mother Mary.
Medjugorje has been a blessing to me and to millions of others around the world, but Medjugorje is much more than a happy place full of blessings. Whether you believe in God or not, Medjugorje, is a captivating phenomenon and has emerged as the greatest mystery of modern times.
From time to time people have asked me what makes the phenomenon of Medjugorje so special or different. Why not simply practice ones faith like we are taught. To me Mejdugorje changes the way one looks at faith and religion. Medjugorje has taught me that religion is more than a set of rules or a check list of “dos and don’ts”. Medjugorje taught me, what seems obvious, but it is not, to think about the miraculous – to think about the supernatural. Medjugorje taught me that miracles and Heaven were real and it taught me that it is very important to meditate on these facts. The essence of religion, by definition, is about the supernatural – a force not of this earth – but this rudimentary fact seems to have been abandoned by the faithful of all creeds in today’s modern world. This development forced Pope John Paul II to lament before his death that “Today we have lost the sense of the supernatural”
Medjugorje taught me that miracles and Heaven were real and it taught me that it is very important to meditate on these facts. The essence of religion, by definition, is about the supernatural – a force not of this earth – but this rudimentary fact seems to have been abandoned by the faithful of all creeds in today’s modern world. This development forced Pope John Paul II to lament before his death that “Today we have lost the sense of the supernatural”
Understanding that the supernatural exists deepens our faith in a beautiful and mysterious way and without it we are left with nothing but a set of bureaucratic rules and regulations. Sure we can pray to Jesus and many people do experience the genuine graces of the Christian faith, but for many, church seems to be nothing more than a place where we hand out coins to toll booth collectors hoping to avoid accidents on our way to our certain death.
Medjugorje pulled me out of a dark spiritual ditch and put me on path towards something bigger and outside of myself. Medjugorje put me on a path towards eternity and the promise of Heaven. Happily the path’s foundation is firmly constructed out of reason. Medjugorje attaches reason and our free will to the wonderful world of miracles, mysteries, and the Catholic faith. With Medjugorje, the tangible essence of the supernatural is revealed. With Medjugorje one is left with only two possible conclusions – either God exists, or scientists, atheists and the secular world have a lot more explaining to do. Medjugorje puts the burden back on those who believe science and logic have all the answers.
But for me, I was left with only one possible conclusion and that is – God exists.
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