It was December 13, 1991. I had just finished my graphic design coursework at the University of Buffalo for the semester and was sitting at my kitchen table reading a news magazine. Suddenly, I felt this inner urge to go to the Fatima Shrine in Youngstown, New York. The feeling came from absolutely nowhere. Visiting the shrine wasn't something that I would think of. Even though I had a good Catholic upbringing, I was only going to church occasionally on Sundays, and I rarely prayed.
The Fatima Shrine was about a 50-minute drive from where I lived, and it was cold outside. But my heart was telling me to go. So, almost robotic-like, I got into my car, stopped for directions, and started the long drive to Youngstown. As if on one of those moving walkways, I sat in my car while it slowly transported me to my one-and-only destination.
As I drove through the main entrance of the shrine, I was in awe. I had forgotten how beautiful the shrine is, especially the basilica, which rested in front of me with its huge dome in the shape of the Northern Hemisphere and with a statue of Our Lady of Fatima standing perfectly on top.
I parked my car and walked inside. The back wall of the basilica told the story of Fatima. I read how the Blessed Mother (Mother of God) appeared to three young children in Fatima, Portugal, on the 13th of each month from May to October 1917. Through them, she asked us to pray the rosary and to do penance for the conversion of sinners and for world peace. Wanting to learn more, I went into the bookstore and bought the book that Sr. Lucia, one of the three children, wrote. I couldn't wait to get back home to read it.
It didn't take long to complete Sr. Lucia's book. When I was done, I felt I should be telling the story of Fatima somehow. I started to get strong inner urges to do a poster on Fatima, but I didn't understand how or why since I was only a beginning graphic design student. The urge or calling never went away, and I finally arranged to talk with a priest about it. He didn't say much, but his eyes and face told me to go home and forget about it. Part of me was really disappointed, yet another totally relieved. I had no idea how to start such a project.
The experience created a desire to learn more about the Blessed Mother and her apparitions, so I returned to the Fatima Shrine's bookstore. My eyes skimmed the covers of many books, but I was powerfully drawn to the picture on the cover of Wayne Weible's Medjugorje: The Message. It was now early spring 1992, and this was the first time I ever saw the word Medjugorje.
I learned that Medjugorje is a small village in Bosnia-Hercegovina, where the Blessed Mother has allegedly been appearing to six young adults from June 25, 1981. She gives them messages for us, and Wayne Weible is a journalist called by the Blessed Mother to spread these messages. I couldn't wait to read it.
That night, as I read Mr. Weible's words describing how the Blessed Mother was speaking to him, tears started to fall down my face. Even though I did not hear any words, I knew in my heart that she was calling me, too.
Soon, reality began to set in: If my inner urges were real, I was supposed to do a Fatima poster. In trying to picture what it would look like, however, my mind went blank. Frustrated, I forgot about it and continued reading Mr. Weible's book. A few days later, the following quote leaped from the pages: You have forgotten, that through [fasting and] prayer, you can stop wars, and you can alter the laws of nature . These words wouldn't leave me, just like those inner urges. The feelings were so strong that I decided that I must have to do the poster on Medjugorje.
It was time I started to pray the rosary. I found a Catholic bookstore through the Yellow Pages and purchased an aquamarine crystal rosary along with some directions. I had a priest bless it, and then I taught myself how to once again pray the rosary.
The next several months were spent completing schoolwork, getting married, and moving to Massachusetts. Finally in March of 1993, I began to start work on a poster on Medjugorje. I've been getting images in my mind and heart of what it should look likethe Blessed Mother would be on the right encircled by a rosary made of pink roses, and words were on the left. I wasn't sure what words, but I felt it should be the message on fasting and prayer from Wayne Weible's book that I mentioned earlier. I wanted to be sure, however, so I thought I would ask Mr. Weible. I felt I should ask him in person and planned to call his office to see where he was speaking next.
It was Monday morning, March 15, 1993. I was really nervous about calling Mr. Weible's office and wanted to wait until another day, but I had one of those strong inner urges again so I called. His office told me that he was speaking that night at the Fatima Shrine in Youngstown, New York! I hung up the phone in total disbelief. But should I go? Because I had moved to Massachusetts, it would be at least a nine-hour drive, and I didn't know if I could get there in time to see him. I didn't know what to do. As I walked into our bedroom, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. All I saw was the Buffalo on my University of Buffalo sweatshirt. Because Buffalo is so close to Youngstown, I knew in my heart I was meant to go. Also, I rarely wore the sweatshirt in the spring because it was so heavy, but that morning was very cold so I had put it on. I called my husband at work, told him I'd be home the next day, got into my car, and headed for Youngstown.
When I arrived, Mr. Weible already had begun to speak, but it didn't seem to matter. It was wonderful just being there. Afterwards, he stayed and signed his books in the bookstore. I bought his new book, Letters from Medjugorje, and stood at the end of the long line to have him autograph it. I wanted to be the last one. When it was finally my turn, I told him briefly about the poster and that I was searching for the right words to put on it. He was wonderful. I felt he actually believed me. He told me to read Matthew 6:24-34 and that he'd pray for me. I got an answer! At the time, I had no idea what was in those verses, but I got an answer. I was elated.
I was even more elated when I turned to leave the bookstore. Up on the wall was a picture of the Blessed Motherthe same one that was on the poster in my mind. The store clerk told me that it was Our Lady of Medjugorje (Our Lady of Grace from Tihaljina). I couldn't believe it. That was the first time I had seen that picture.
As planned, the next day I arrived back in Massachusetts. I quickly looked up Matthew 6:24-34 and read:
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.
At first, this reading gave me much peace, but I later began to question how it related to Our Lady's poster. I started to wonder whether I should be making a poster of birds and Matthew 6:24-34. These thoughts quickly left when I realized that the gospel reading was a personal message meant just for me. God was telling me that doing the poster wasn't going to be easy, but I shouldn't worry. He will take care of me.
This message was confirmed a week later when I received my birthday gift from my momMedjugorje Day by Day by Fr. Richard Beyer. I opened the book where she had placed a bookmark. Before my eyes were Read Matthew 6:24-34, and on the bookmark was printed Do All You Can. My mother later told me that she had randomly placed the bookmark in that page.
It was time to start work on Our Lady's poster. The more I prayed, the more I knew in my heart the message on it would be Our Lady of Medjugorje's message of July 21, 1982: Through fasting and prayer, one can stop wars, one can suspend the laws of nature.
I spent the next few weeks talking with vendors and getting price quotes. I quickly learned why I had to read Matthew 6:24-34. I believed at the time that the poster was to be sent to all the Catholic churches in the United States (over 18,000). The cost of packaging and shipping the posters individually would be over $20,000 alone, and I didn't even have a permanent job. I had no experience making a poster and was now deathly afraid to call a printer to see how much it would cost to get it printed.
I was beginning to have real doubts about making the poster. One day in a Catholic bookstore, however, I was drawn to a book with Our Lady of Medjugorje on the cover (Woman of Many Titles by Fr. Charles M. Mangan). I felt Our Lady calling me. I picked up the book and randomly opened it. Before me was the statue of Our Lady of Grace from Tihaljina, and in her right hand she held a rosary made of pink roses. My eyes filled with tears. It was Our Lady of Medjugorje and her rosary made of pink rosesjust like on the poster. I promised Our Lady that I would begin work again on her poster.
Within a few weeks, I made a rosary out of over 50 fresh long-stem pink roses and had a professional photographer take slides of it. I had to make the rosary the day before the photo shoot. The roses were so fresh that I was afraid that they wouldn't open up for the photo shoot, but of course they were all perfect.
In the fall of 1993 my husband and I moved to Fort Myers, Florida. With moving and looking for a place to live and a job, work didn't begin again on the poster until March of 1995. It was then that I went to Medjugorje to take slides of the statue of Our Lady of Medjugorje. As I looked up at the statue and into Our Lady's eyes, with a childlike plea, I said, Smile, Mary. This one's for your poster. I proceeded to take over a dozen slides, but of course the first one was the best.
Back home, I bought the required software and finally started to put into the computer what had been in my head and heart the last three years.
During this time, I also began to get strong urges to call a priest I remembered reading about who is a stigmatist and who in his presence statues of Our Lady weep. I was an avid reader, however, and had no idea where I had read about him. I couldn't even remember his name. I prayed for help, and here's how I got it: One day I told a friend about the book The Thunder of Justice by Ted and Maureen Flynn; I then related to another friend the story of the Rosa Mystica statues. That evening, while glancing through Thunder, I looked up Rosa Mystica, turned to the correct page, and started to read. To my amazement, the opposite page contained the story of Fr. James Bruse, the stigmatist who in his presence statues of Our Lady weep.
A few days later I called Fr. Bruse and told him that I was making a poster for the Blessed Mother and that I needed him to bless it. He didn't question me at all, and we agreed to meet after Mass on Sunday, August 6, 1995, at his parish church. It wasn't long before I realized how important this blessing was; everything went wrong on the drive to see him.
I finally arrived, and after Mass, I showed Fr. Bruse a rough draft of the poster. He said it was perfect. Since the poster hadn't been completed yet, I asked this very holy priest to bless my hands and me so that the poster will get done, as it should. Standing outside of church in front of his congregation, he did so.
In December 1995, my husband and I moved to Phoenix, Arizona. I know all this moving and house/job hunting (and some other projects) were in God's plan for me also, but I started to really agonize over when and if I'd ever get this poster done. And I started questioning again whether I should even make it. I really prayed about it, and at a Medjugorje conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 1, 1996, a new acquaintance gave me a rosary from Medjugorje that had been blessed by Fr. Bruse. The next day I met someone who knew him well. She told me that Fr. Bruse would not have even talked with me if he thought what I was saying was false. He would have just politely dismissed it. She said she believes angels actually cover his ears and don't allow him to hear anything he's not supposed to hear. Tears started to stream down my face. I've been so impatient. I finally realized that the poster would get done in God's time and not in mine.
During the period from 1991 to 1996, I grew spiritually from attending Mass occasionally on Sunday to participating in it every day and from saying a few yearly prayers to saying the complete 15-decade rosary and the 15 St. Bridget prayers daily. I also studied the Bible, fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays, wore my scapular, and used holy water. I tried to lose my attachment to material things, to become humble, to be patient, to love my family and friends unconditionally, and to love God so much to totally trust Him and surrender to His Will.
But the more I tried to be holy, the more I was tested. The next 11 years contained many personal trialssome were more than I could bear. Instead of praying more, I had given up one Mass and Hail Mary at a time, until I dwindled down to the bare minimum of going to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and of saying only a five-decade rosary a day. I felt so weak. I prayed all the time, God, please don't give up on me. Please don't take away this beautiful gift of making the rosary poster for Our Lady. I'll try harder.
During those 11 years, I never lost the inner drive to create a poster for Our Lady. About once a year, I would open the file to this story or to the poster, make some minor edits, and close the file.
Thinking they might help, I went back to college and took more writing and graphic design classes, along with a Web design class.
But I knew in my heart that the poster would never get done unless I started to pray more and fast again. After all, how could I do a poster promoting prayer and fasting if I didn't do so myself?
I am gradually working my way back to my previous spiritual level.
Until the poster is done, I set up this Web site. I know Our Lady approves. If a search is done on pink rosary in Google, this site comes up on the first page. My brother, who is a Web programmer, told me it is very difficult to accomplish this.
In his July 13, 2008, segment on God's Will and Natural Disasters on EWTN, Father Benedict Groeschel read Matthew 8:23-27:
He [Jesus] got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, Lord, save us! We are perishing! He said to them, Why are you terrified, O you of little faith? Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?
Our Lady is trying to help us.
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