August 13-21, 2001
Ted Szymanski had been trying to talk me into going to Medjugorje for almost the last 3 years, I never really felt the need or desire to go. When Ted would ask or in anyway bring up the subject I would always say no. I felt that Medjugorje could not offer anything that we did not already have in Emmitsburg. Ted would then leave the subject alone for months at a time but every now and then he would say “The day is going to come when I get you to Medjugorje”. I knew Ted wanted to return to Medjugorje very badly because of the profound experience he had there in 1995 when he took his crippled wife there who was confined to a wheelchair. I never knew just how determined Ted was to get back until early this past June when Ted approached me with this offer : Ted said “Rxxxxx I am going to be 82 years on my next birthday and I really want to go back to Medjugorje but I can’t go by myself. Here is my offer, if you will take me to Medjugorje I will pay your way”. This offer really made me stop and think and for the first time I really realized just how important it was to him. I said “Ted if we were to go to Medjugorje I will pay my own way”. I told Ted I would mention it to S.C.C. to see if she wanted to go. S.C.C. took less than 2 seconds to say yes she wanted to go.
The following week in the parish hall at Saint Joseph’s in Emmitsburg, Doris Nolan gave us a folder with information about a group named Mir Peace out of Pennsylvania, I called for more information and was told there were trips scheduled for June, July, August, September and October. June and July were to soon because S.C.C. did not have a passport and other preparations needed to be made. September and October were out of the question because C.R.C. would be in school. The only date that seemed like it might work would be the August 13-21st. We talked it over and decided we would do it.
A few days later (nearing the end of June ) I told my boss that I would like to have August 13-24th off. It seemed August was not going to be a very good time because of other vacations and the work load. I started to think “This trip is already falling apart”. My boss checked the vacation schedule and said “You are already off on those exact dates”. When he said this I did not even have a clue to what he was talking about. It turns out that when I started my new job back in January I was asked to give a projected vacation schedule. Just at random I filled in the EXACT dates that I needed for this trip to Medjugorje. This astounded me and from that moment on I knew this trip to Medjugorje would become a reality.
Ted still insisted that he would pay my way but I would not allow him to do so. I told Ted that if he really wanted to help I would allow him to pay C.R.C.’s way but not to feel obligated to do so. Ted paid C.R.C.’s way and I took the money that I would have spent for C.R.C.’s trip and invited David G. to go with us. Roberta Marziani who is a very good Emmitsburg friend was also asked if she would like to go with us, with Roberta this took our group to 6.
For some reason waiting for the day of departure seemed like it took forever. I knew this trip was going to take place but somehow I knew there would be obstacles that had the potential of preventing us from going and I told Ted that when the wheels leave the runway, then I will feel much better.
About 9 or 10 days before we were scheduled to leave I had a very unusual dream. The dream went like this: I was sitting in the window seat of a jumbo jet. Everyone in our group to Medjugorje was there, I did not see them in the dream but I was aware they were there. There were many other people on the plane as well. The plane started to roll down the runway and as it picked up speed I could even feel the force of gravity pushing me back in the seat. When the wheels left the ground I was looking out of the window and all I could see was hundreds of cables strung across the entire sky. The cables were electric lines and telephone lines. They cris crossed the sky like a spider web. The plane was maneuvering between these wires and often the tip of the wing would just miss a cable by just a inch or two. I knew that if the wing snagged one of these wires that was the end of our trip and that we would crash. People on the flight started to panic and some one yelled out “How did we get tangled up in all these obstacles ?” I was the only person on the plane who remained calm and I said “You do not have to worry because this plane is going to Medjugorje and Our Lady has said that everyone who goes to Medjugorje will arrive there and get home safely”. After I said that I looked out the window and all the cables were below us and the sky ahead was clear. There were no more obstacles. Then I woke up. This dream was so vivid that it did not really seem like a dream. A day or so later I told S.C.C. about this dream and I also told Sister Genevieve and Roberta about it.
On August 11th while we were packing for the trip the phone rang and it was Helen Sarcevic the lady who organized our trip, she wanted to tell us where to meet her once our plane landed in Frankfurt. About 1 minute after we hung up a severe thunderstorm came up suddenly and lightning struck very close to our house. The bolt of lightning was so close that blue sparks actually came out of the wall sockets. With that bolt of lightning we lost all of our telephone service and electricity. Appliances in the house were damaged or destroyed, the well pump got zapped, the stereo was destroyed, the alarm system was damaged, the Dish Network receiver was destroyed upstairs but later after the power was restored the one down stairs still worked and one of the few stations that still came in was EWTN. The water spigots throughout the house were blurping out mud. S.C.C. said “This must be the electric and telephone cable obstacles in that dream you told me about” When she said that it left me stunned because I was able to instantly relate that dream to the problems we were now having. The next day, August 12 our situation had not gotten any better and I drove in town to get some things we needed when my cell phone rang and it was S.C.C. calling from her cell phone. She said I hope you are sitting down because things have just gone from bad to worse. “There is a snake in the living room” All I could say is “I am not at all surprised” By the time I got home the snake had moved on and we never saw it again.
Roberta who lives near Philadelphia was planning to stay at our house the night before we left for Medjugorje but with no water, electricity and a snake in the house we did not know how we were going to work things out. Roberta arrived and a few minutes later the telephone company arrived and fixed the phone. About and hour later the electric company arrived and got things going to a certain degree. We still did not have any water because the well pump was completely destroyed. Things were still bad but they were getting better. I was down in the basement when S.C.C., Roberta and C.R.C. called me to come upstairs because there was something I just had to see. I thought it was going to be the snake. There was the most beautiful rainbow directly over our house that I have ever seen, stretched from horizon to horizon. It was the first time I had ever seen a complete rainbow where both ends seemed to touch the ground. I don’t know what it was but from that moment onwards I seemed to forget all about the obstacles and was able to laugh about the problems that plagued us for the past 24 hours.
The next day was departure day, August 13, 2001 and S.C.C. drove out to the Health Care Center to see her father before we left. Her dad was holding his own as he had been doing for the past several weeks and all looked OK for us to make the trip. We drove to Leesburg and picked up Ted and headed to Dulles Airport. When the wheels left the runway I really did feel a sense of relief and a very strong sense of peace. We flew from Washington to Frankfurt, changed planes and flew to Split, Croatia and then took a bus for a 3 hour ride along the coast of the Adriatic Sea to Medjugorje.
We finally arrived in Medjugorje and the first thing we did was go to St. James church which was walking distance from the house that we were staying in. The Rosary starts at 6 PM at St. James and Mary appears during the Rosary at exactly 6:40 every evening. At the instant Mary appeared to the visionaries the church fell silent except for beautiful violin music that just seemed to penetrate your soul. The peace and tranquillity during the apparition was IDENTICAL in every way to what I had become so accustomed to at St. Joseph’s in Emmitsburg. This indescribable feeling of peace and love would alone have made the trip worthwhile even if we had to walk to Medjugorje from Virginia.
On our second day in Medjugorje we climbed Apparition Hill which is a physical accomplishment in itself. People had told me how steep and rocky it was but I never pictured in my mind just how difficult it really was. Ted was determined to make the climb and I tried my best to talk him out of it. Ted’s birthday was the next day and he was going to be 82 years old. I did not see any possible way he could make the climb but he started up the hill and I held his hand as we made our way up. The hill is so steep and rocky there is no place you can set your foot on level ground. The entire climb consist of stepping from one rock to another. After a while I started to understand that God helps people climb this hill. Under normal circumstances there should be 10 rescue squads waiting to rush people to the hospital from broken bones and heart attacks but EVERYONE I saw that started the climb made it all the way to the top and back down without as much as a scratch. Usually if Ted walks up a ramp he is out of breath and needs to rest but he made it up Apparition Hill with energy to spare. Later in the day we returned to St. James for the 6 PM Rosary and apparition. After the Rosary S.C.C. called home to check on her father and was told he had become much worse and that she should come home. We checked with Helen and she called the travel agency to see if there were any available flights that we could take for a early return. There were not. We place our situation completely in God’s hands and simply prayed for His Will.
The next day was Friday August 17, 2001 and we started climbing Mt. Krizevak which is also known as Cross Mountain. This climb is even steeper and more dangerous than Apparition Hill. We started at 5:30 AM to try to beat the heat. S.C.C. helped an old lady named Mary Ann all the way up and when she got to the top where the Cross is S.C.C. prayed and prayed and prayed for her father. When we came down S.C.C. helped Mary Ann every step of the way. Later in the day we went to St. James for the 6 PM Rosary/Apparition and Eucharistic Adoration afterwards. S.C.C. continued to do nothing but pray for her father.
When we returned back to the house where we were staying it was about 11:30 p.m. and someone in the group suggested that we walk back to St. James and so we did. Ted and Roberta stayed behind while the rest of us walked back. We returned from the church around 12:45 a.m. and when we got back another lady named Dot who was staying in the same house came up to me and said “We have a very serious problem, While you were gone Ted said something to Roberta that offended her and she left here crying and said she was going to climb Apparition Hill”.
When we first arrived in Medjugorje we were all warned that there are dangers in Medjugorje especially at night. We were warned that there are Gypsies who will rob you and in the more isolated areas such as Apparition Hill there are wild boars who have been known to harass people.
At first I said to myself “Roberta will be all right” but after about 10 or 15 minutes I started to become worried and I remembered the warnings that had been given to us. I sent C.R.C. upstairs to get David G. and told him to get his shoes on and grab a flashlight because we were going out to find Roberta. We started out on foot towards the direction of Apparition Hill and after we walked about a quarter mile we came to a series of intersections and I could not remember which one we needed to go left on to get to the path that leads to Apparition Hill. I asked David if he remembered where we needed to turn and he did not remember either. At this point I was starting to get very concerned because I knew if we took the wrong turn we would not be heading to Apparition Hill. There was no telling where we would have ended up. I then realized we were wasting our time because we did not know what turn we needed to take to get to Apparition Hill.. I told David , “Its useless we might as well go back to the house”. SUDDENLY THE SCENT OF THE ROSES CAME OUT OF NOWHERE! EVERY BREATH WAS ROSES, ROSES AND MORE ROSES , EXACTLY THE SAME AS IN EMMITSBURG AT ST. JOSEPH’S. THERE IS NO MISTAKING THIS, WHEN IT COMES, IT STOPS YOU IN YOUR TRACKS. I SAID TO DAVID “DAVID I AM SMELLING ROSES RIGHT NOW” DAVID SAID “SO AM I !”. WE BOTH INSTANTLY KNEW THE ROSES MEANT YOU NEED TO TURN HERE!! SO WITH 100% CONFIDENCE WE TURNED DOWN THIS DARK PATH AND WE KNEW FOR SURE WE WERE ON THE RIGHT ROAD WE ALSO KNEW WITHOUT A DOUBT THERE WAS A VERY REAL REASON AND NEED TO GO TO APPARITION HILL.
After we walked about 500 yards we saw an abandoned wheel chair sitting in a vineyard that I had seen 2 days ago which confirmed that we were on the right road. When we reached the foot of Apparition Hill I yelled for Roberta but there was no response. David and I started the rocky climb up the hill and every 100 or so yards we would stop and yell for Roberta at each bronze plaque representing the Mysteries of the Rosary. When we reached the top we still had not seen Roberta. I told David that most likely she will be at the Cross just to the right of the 5th mystery that marks the spot where the permanent sign will come. When we got there off in the distance I saw the flicker of what looked like a flashlight off in the distance. I asked David if he saw it and he did not. I yelled for Roberta but again there was no answer. We looked into the darkness for about a minute waiting to see the light again but we never did. I told David “ Follow me I know someone is over there because I KNOW I SAW A LIGHT. When we got to the cross we found a lady named Bernadette who was from Ireland. She had climbed Apparition Hill earlier in the day and had the intention of spending the night up there. After it got dark she realized that she was not at all prepared to do that and she tried to find her way down but somehow went down the wrong side of the hill. She was totally lost and was in a desperate state of despair when we found her. She told us that we were the answer to her prayers. We asked her if she had seen Roberta and she told us that she had not. It is now about 2:00 a.m. and I told David and Bernadette that I wanted to pray the Rosary for S.C.C.’s dad before we started walking down Apparition Hill. When I finished that we started the long walk down. When we got back to the town of Medjugorje we walked Bernadette back to the house she was staying in. She was still thanking us for rescuing her off of the hill. As David and I were walking back to our house I said to David “ You watch when we get back to the house Roberta will be there”.
When we got back to the house we were locked out but after a few minutes someone heard us and came down and unlocked the door. I walked up to Roberta’s room and peeked in and sure enough she was there in her bed asleep. I said to David “ It was not a wasted trip at all because if we had not gone up Apparition Hill Bernadette would still be lost and stranded up there. David and I both completely realized that if the roses had not come WE WOULD NOT HAVE MADE IT TO APPARITION HILL AND BERNADETTE FROM IRELAND WOULD HAVE BEEN LOST AND STRANDED UP THERE ALL NIGHT LONG.
I looked at my watch and it was 3:13 am. I told David to get some sleep because we had a busy day ahead. I laid down but I was not able to fall asleep. After 8 am breakfast S.C.C. and I walked to St. James and said another Rosary for her dad and after that I told S.C.C. about our search for Roberta and how it turned into a rescue for Bernadette. S.C.C. asked “What time did you and David get back?” I told her 3:13 this morning. When I saw Roberta I asked where she went and I told her that David and I had gone out looking for her. She said that she had intended to hike up Apparition Hill but when she got to where you had to turn she was unable to remember which turn to take so she turned around and went back to the house. This was the very same spot where David and I were going to give up but kept going because of the roses. I later found out that she returned to the house about 5 minutes after David and I left to go look for her.
At 6:00 PM we all went back to St. James for the Rosary and the Apparition, when that was over S.C.C. said she wanted to call home to see how her dad was. When S.C.C. called she was told that her father had died on August 17th at 9:13 in the evening. There is a 6 hour time difference between Virginia and Medjugorje. In Medjugorje the time would have been August 18th at 3:13 in the morning, the same exact time David and I had just completed our rescue mission on Apparition Hill. In addition to that August 17th is the date C.R.C. was beatup by his baby-sitter which is the event that started this whole thing for us in Emmitsburg. This experience as it happened to us in Medjugorje does not in any way clash with the wonderful experiences we have had in Emmitsburg in fact Medjugorje became a perfect, seamless continuation of this whole experience.
I believe that God wanted us in Medjugorje for S.C.C.’s fathers death. I believe He wanted our prayers for him from Medjugorje. S.C.C.’s father was a Southern Baptist and he was a very good, good man. But I also believe that before anybody can enter Heaven they must know and accept certain truths about God found only in His Catholic Church such as the Eucharist. I believe that Purgatory is not only to purify unconfessed sins but that God can also use it to teach the truth to those who need it. It makes me think of Purgatory as like an RCIA class after death. I believe God wanted our prayers for him from Medjugorje to shorten S.C.C.’s dads stay in Purgatory. Perhaps it only took a few minutes but what ever it is, it is nothing short of God’s perfect plan.
The pastor at St. James is a Franciscan named Fr. Ivan Sesar, during Eucharist Adoration he said a special prayer for S.C.C.’s father. He was very helpful and even allowed us to make calls back to the United States from his office phone.
Our flight back from Medjugorje was a long one. It was sad knowing we were flying back to a beloved family members funeral. For some reason this sticks out in my mind so I will tell it here. We flew from Europe back to the United States. Our landing at Dulles International was not a smooth one. When the plane landed it was a VERY HARD landing. People on the plane were startled. The television screen that was on the back of the seat in front of me had a digital clock. At the very instant of our very hard landing the time on that clock switched to 3:33.