It was the year 2000, the Jubilee year, and because nothing had been organised in my parish to celebrate this great event, I decided to celebrate it by going on a pilgrimage. I chose to go to Medjugorje because I had never been there and I had heard so much about it. I decided it was time for me to go and form my own opinion on the apparitions and all the other incredible things that people said were happening there.
I asked my husband if he wanted to join me but he was not interested, I asked my daughters but both of them said no. I was resigned then to go on my own.
I was about to book my ticket when my daughter Valentina called me and said that she had changed her mind and decided to accompany me. At the time she had been married for two years and had no children, a fact this that her pilgrimage to Medjugorje was about to change, as we will see later. She also had not set foot in a church for over fifteen years…..
She felt that because Bosnia had just come out of a terrible war, it might not be a good idea for me to go on my own; that was really the only reason why she had decided to come, but….there was a but….. she made it clear that she would not come to church with me, she would just stay outside to sunbathe and to read the pile of books that she was going to bring.
I told her that it was ok; I was grateful for her company and more than happy that she had decided to come. In my heart I was thanking Our Lady for what I considered already a miracle and, obviously I was, deep in my heart, hoping for an even greater miracle, her conversion.
So we left on September 12th, 2000. We arrived at Split at 8pm and from there we had another 3 hours by coach to reach Medjugorje.
On the coach we listened to a tape on the history of the apparitions in Medjugorje and we said the rosary. I could see that Valentina was beginning to feel uncomfortable and was regretting her decision to come. It was past midnight when we reached Medjugorje. At our hotel we were met by a lovely cold buffet and by our guide with the programme for the next day: English Mass at 10am and then in the afternoon Fr.Jozo was speaking to the English-speaking pilgrims. My heart sank. I had hoped so much to be able to take Valentina to see him – I had heard so much about him! - but now I realised with a twinge of sadness that maybe it was not going to happen; it was far too early in the pilgrimage for her to be ready to come to listen to him. My dream was fast disappearing in front of my eyes. Still, I prayed to Our Lady for a miracle and left things in Her hands.
So the next day I went to Mass and she stayed outside, just as she had said she would.
What I did not know was that while I was at mass, she was given, by an Italian gentleman, the green scapular of Our Lady, the one with an image of Our Lady on one side and on the other side Her Immaculate Heart, pierced by a sword.
She did not even look at it, but just put it in her jeans’ pocket and forgot about it. Obviously Gospa was already at work and was not wasting any time!!
The hour to go to Fr.Jozo was approaching fast and I asked her again if she wanted to come. At first she said no, then she changed her mind and said that maybe it would be interesting to see a bit of the countryside and the places were there had been a war so, yes, she had decided she would come. I could not believe my ears.
When we arrived in Siroki Brieg, Fr.Jozo was already talking. The church was packed but we managed to find two seats and we started listening to the passionate speech of Fr.Jozo.
After a very short time my daughter started crying and not just a few tears but a deluge and she could not stop. I asked her what was wrong; she just said she did not know, she just could not stop. And so she cried and cried for the whole duration of Fr.Jozo’s talk and the entire journey back to Medjugorje. As soon as we arrived in Medjugorje she just said very simply “I am going to confession” and off she went.
I was left speechless! Now it was my turn to cry! It is impossible to describe my joy and my gratitude to Our Lady. If ever I had had any doubts on the apparitions, now I knew that they were real. No matter how much I had tried before, I had never succeeded to bring Valentina back to the faith and to church and now, after not even one day in Medjugorje, she was going to confession!!
From that day onward she came to mass every day, she climbed Podbrdo and Krizevac, she followed the full programme of prayer in the afternoon. Quite simply she never managed to read the books she had brought!
But the greatest surprise came when we were packing our suitcases to go home.
At a certain point she said to me “Mum, I am not bringing this back to London, I am leaving it here” and she took out of her jeans’ pocket the scapular that she had been given.
I did not know what she was talking about because she had never even told me, so I asked her to show me what it was. I looked at it and said to her that since it was a scapular of Our Lady she should take it with her even if she had no intention of wearing it and I gave it back to her. She took it back and looking at it properly probably for the first time, she screamed, a real scream that scared me.
I asked her what was wrong and she replied “ Mum, this is the heart that I saw next to the spinning sun. I never told you because I thought I was hallucinating and that you would have considered me crazy. I thought I was seeing one of those hearts that some men have tattooed on their arms, with the name of their girlfriends in it and the sword going through it. ”That says a lot about the little knowledge my daughter had of all the different Catholic devotions!!
I was once again overwhelmed. We started crying and hugged each other. Our hearts were literally bursting with joy and love for Gospa.
But the story does not end here. In our group there were another mother and daughter, roughly the same age as Valentina. They immediately became friends. This girl was very religious and every week she was going to a prayer group in a church in Covent Garden, church that - at the time - was my daughter’s parish!! This girl did not live in Covent Garden; she just went to that church simply because it was near her place of work. I think only the Blessed Mother could have arranged things in such a way for Valentina! Out of the thousands of parishes that there are in London She made possible for my daughter to meet a girl who was going to her parish. That meant that once back in London Valentina started to go to this prayer group, she learnt to pray the rosary regularly and little by little she became stronger in her faith.
Not only that: this girl also introduced my daughter to Nycole Syed*, a nurse who treats women suffering from infertility and other gynaecological problems and who teaches the Creighton Model Method of family planning, a method approved by the Church.
When already the NHS doctors were putting pressure on Valentina to have IVF (something that she did not want at all), after having followed this method for only a few months, she became pregnant. Now she is the happy mother of two beautiful girls.
All this thanks to Our Lady who repaid a hundredfold her act of kindness in accompanying me to Medjugorje.
Thank You, dear Gospa for being such a tender, loving Mother to us.
Anna Querci della Rovere.
*Nicole Syed can be contacted at Fertility Care Centre, 21a Soho Square,
London W1D 4NR Telephone 020 7437 0892
From The Children of Medjugorje Magazine.