October 6, 2011 A.D.
What Happened on October 6, 1986
October 6, 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the first message the founder of Caritas, A Friend of Medjugorje, received from Our Lady on October 6, 1986. This apparition took placed in the parish house next to St. James Church in Medjugorje. In the 2 ½ months after his first visit to Medjugorje, which was in July, 1986, our founder was experiencing profound conversion and a strong thought came to him about the possibility of asking Our Lady a question directly in an apparition through one of the visionaries in Medjugorje.
In the middle of September, 1986, he found himself preparing to travel to Boston for a meeting with other Medjugorje believers. One of the Franciscan priests from Medjugorje, Fr. Pervan, would also be there. The first week of October, which was a week after the Boston meeting, our founder was scheduled to go to Medjugorje. But before he went to Boston, he saw that an opportunity was presenting itself to follow through with this strong inspiration, hoping to have a chance to ask Fr. Pervan permission to ask the question in an apparition. But what should the question be?
Our founder approached a friend who had been to Medjugorje and asked him to write the question. Upon meeting with this friend later, our founder was surprised, unsettled, and deflated with disappointment to read what he had come up with. His question had to do with his friend's own personal future—a job he was seeking, or something of that nature. Our founder knew instinctively that this would be a wasted opportunity to go before Our Lady with a self-centered question like this. Though our founder did not believe himself worthy enough to write the petition, he made the decision to do it after seeing the results of asking someone else.
He went to Blessed Sacrament Church in Birmingham, Alabama to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. This was the church he grew up in and had received all his sacraments. It is a very beautiful church and one that our founder felt within it the presence of God strongly. In prayer, a petition to Our Lady came to his heart. He wrote it out while praying before Our Lady’s statue. The petition:
“Dear Blessed Mother, if it is God’s will, we humbly ask that the conversion taking place in Medjugorje be allowed to take place in the Parish of Blessed Sacrament in Alabama and that it divinely be spread throughout the whole region. We surrender this Parish to you and ask if there is anything you request.”
Having seen the profound conversions happening in Medjugorje, our founder had a great desire to see this conversion come to our own country. It was his hope to see Our Lady bring Her blessing here as well. Though he wrote in the petition, “we humbly ask” and “we surrender this parish” there was no “we” in writing this petition. But he could not make himself write the word “I”. Who was he to think he could go before Our Lady on his own behalf and ask a question? The date this petition was written was September 20, 1986.
Arriving in Boston shortly after this, he became a part of a gathering of people who had been profoundly impacted by Medjugorje, some of whom had already been there. They came together in Boston from all over the United States to discuss how each of them could begin getting the word out about Our Lady’s apparitions. The concept of a Medjugorje center had not fully formed at this point, although those who were meeting were spreading Medjugorje. Medjugorje had already been going on for five years. As mentioned, Fr. Pervan, a Franciscan assigned to the parish of St. James Church in Medjugorje, had flown to Boston to also attend the meeting. This gathering became the launching pad for the propagation of Medjugorje in the United States. Those who were present returned to their homes and started regional newsletters, continued or began pilgrimages to Medjugorje, and eventually the various Marian conferences sprang forth from these as well. Our founder had already initiated back in February/March 1986 the process of creating a non-profit organization for the purpose of promoting Medjugorje and the Catholic faith, and wrote the first Caritas of Birmingham newsletter which was published in January 1987, a few months after the meeting in Boston.
Before leaving Boston, our founder had the opportunity to personally speak with Fr. Pervan when he was asked to accompany Father in a van to the airport driven by Stan Karminiski, a well known Marian devotee. During the drive, our founder asked Father if it was possible to ask Our Lady a direct question through one of the visionaries and showed him the petition he had written the week before. Not only did Fr. Pervan say it was possible, but while in the van, he hand wrote a personal note to visionary Marija from him for our founder to bring with him the next time he was in Medjugorje. The note read:
A week later our founder was on his way to Medjugorje. This was early October, 1986. He did not have full confidence that this question was the will of God. During his flight overseas, he went into deep prayer and said to God that he only wanted to do His will. If this was not His will, do not allow him to have this petition read to Our Lady. If it was God’s will, then please open the door to having this question read. Even though he had permission from Fr. Pervan to have a question read, there was no guarantee that it would happen. Our founder knew it had to come from the hand of God.
He would be in Medjugorje for a week and he committed himself to do everything in his power to have this question presented to Our Lady. He approached everyone he knew—priests, visionaries, family members of visionaries, other people close to the visionaries—anyone who may have influence in making this happen. But after several days none of his efforts resulted in access to having Marija present the question to Our Lady. He was down to his last day and felt he had done everything he could. Realizing the door remained closed to his desire, he felt that this must not be God’s will. As he walked to St. James Church that afternoon, he told God he was stopping his efforts, believing that had it been God’s will, He would have already opened the door. He would not do anything more to have this presented to Our Lady. It was October 6, 1986. Just as he was nearing the church, Berta, a translator who had worked with visionary Marija, approached him and told him he had been given permission to go to the apparition that night and have his petition read. Berta then took our founder to Marija’s house where he explained to Marija why he was asking the question and that he wrote the words, “divinely spread throughout the whole region” because he wanted Our Lady to set the boundaries of how far the region would be of Her influence. Through her years of experience with the apparitions, Marija also cautioned him, that most likely Our Lady is not going to answer it. Sometimes She would give a blessing, but that would be all. So Marija told our founder not to be disappointed.
Marija and Jakov had not yet arrived when our founder entered the room. Everyone in the room was facing the wall where a crucifix hung. Below the crucifix was a couch upon which everyone’s petitions and religious articles to be blessed were placed. Our founder was directed to kneel down by the side of the couch and when Marija and Jakov walked in, Marija knelt just a couple feet away from our founder, in front of the couch, with Jakov beside her. This placed him in a perfect position to see her face as he was facing in her direction being by the edge of the couch. This was his second time in an apparition, the first being on July 4, 1986, during his first visit to Medjugorje. Though he had already experienced profound grace in Medjugorje and he believed it to be supernatural, he began to wonder what if this was from the devil. He did not know for certain if this was truly Our Lady appearing to these visionaries. He did not want to be deceived. As Marija and Jakov went into ecstasy, our founder leaned over, no more than a foot and a half, to be face to face with Marija, staring directly into her eyes that were uplifted in her ecstatic stare. He began strongly praying that Our Lady would make him understand without any doubt that it is truly Her standing before him (actually he was leaning into the apparition).
He had an experience unlike anything he experienced before during this apparition. At the words of this prayer, he felt something like an electrical current go through his entire body, from his head to his toes, and at the same time, it was put in him so strongly that this was truly Our Lady appearing, that at that moment he knew he would die, spilling his blood, before he ever denied these apparitions. While this was happening to him, Marija was speaking of his petition to Our Lady. When the apparition ended, Marija immediately got up with Jakov and went to the parish house kitchen. She sat down at the table in the room and began writing. Our founder began realizing Our Lady had given an answer. She said:
It’s not possible to relay the initial reaction of our founder when given this direct message from the Mother of God. At that time, he knew very little about the messages of Our Lady, how to approach them, what Our Lady was coming for, and how this was going to change his life. All he knew was that Our Lady had said “yes” to his desire that the same conversion that was taking place in Medjugorje be allowed to take place back in his own home and area. He did take note, however, that though he had used the word “we” in his petition, Our Lady responded back to him, singularly, by saying “by your life” and “through prayer you will attain what your desire is.” It would only be much later when he would begin to understand the significance of Our Lady speaking in this manner.
What he believed initially about this personal message Our Lady had given him was that She would in some way bless the whole region and define how far the boundary would go. He never had in his highest expectations the thought that She would actually come through one of the visionaries and have apparitions in his home, nor did he imagine that those boundaries would spread throughout the whole world. But, that is what eventually manifested. And today, there have been more than 160 apparitions to Marija in his home and the Field that lies adjacent to his house. We have seen the realization of Our Lady’s promise come to be over these past 25 years.