November 18, 2011 A.D.
What Happened on November 18, 1988...
Over this past year of 2011, Caritas of Birmingham and the Community of Caritas have been remembering significant days of our history with Our Lady in this Silver Jubilee year, 25 years since our founding. Coming to the end of this year, we actually celebrate much of the beginning of our story. It was in November and December of 1988 that Our Lady first came to the home of our founder and his family and began initiating a plan that would expose and lead untold numbers around the world to knowledge and belief of Our Lady’s apparitions.
On November 18, 1988, Medjugorje visionary Marija arrived at our founder’s home in Alabama from Medjugorje. This was her first visit. But there were significant events that led up to her coming that when viewed together made it apparent that it was Our Lady, Herself, that was orchestrating this visit and that She had a purpose in coming to the home of our founder.
October 6, 1986
Whether or not you have read the October 6, 1986 segment of our Silver Jubilee section, we suggest that you read or re-read it before you continue this article because what happened on October 6, 1986 is essential in understanding what follows. On this day our founder presented a question to Our Lady through visionary Marija in Medjugorje and Our Lady responded to the question. In brief, we include the question and answer here, but the entire story of how this unfolded should be read again.
The question our founder asked Our Lady on October 6, 1986.
“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.”
Our Lady’s response:
When Our Lady gave these words, it never dawned upon our founder that Our Lady would answer this desire by actually coming to Alabama. What he believed was that Our Lady would somehow spiritually bless the region for this conversion to happen. He could never have imagined what would come about through this request made to the Virgin Mary.
Medjugorje visionary Ivanka’s Apparition, June 25, 1988
In June, 1988, our founder was in Medjugorje with his wife and children for the anniversary of Our Lady’s apparition. They attended Medjugorje visionary Ivanka’s apparition on June 25 that took place in her home. When Our Lady ended Ivanka’s daily apparitions in 1985, She promised her that she would come to her on the anniversary of the apparitions every year for the rest of her life. There were about 20 people gathered at the house for this apparition in 1988. Our founder and his wife knelt down right beside Ivanka. They were the only ones kneeling for the apparition. Something extraordinary happened after Ivanka went into ecstasy. While Our Lady was appearing to her, Ivanka suddenly turned her face to all those in the room and said “Our Lady wishes for all present to kneel down.” Because Ivanka was kneeling down close to where our founder knelt, when she turned to face everyone, he was at eye level with her with nothing blocking his view. Though she spoke to everyone in the room, Ivanka's eyes were uplifted and he could see that she was still looking at Our Lady, never taking her eyes off of Her. After the apparition ended, Ivanka explained to everyone that when Our Lady told everyone to kneel down, She gave them a Special Blessing and then said the following words:
One of the reasons our founder and his wife were present in Medjugorje is because only a few months earlier they discovered that they were expecting a child, their fourth. They wanted their baby blessed by Our Lady while still in the womb. On this pilgrimage to Medjugorje, they asked Our Lady to name their child and began praying for this intention throughout the coming months before the baby's birth. They could have never imagined that Our Lady would be appearing in their home at the end of this pregnancy when the baby was actually born. To read how Our Lady named their child, click here.
The Need for a Kidney Transplant
Our founder was back in Medjugorje in October, 1988, and went to visit Marija in her home. When he arrived he was surprised to see Marija very distraught. She began to explain to him that her older brother, Andrija, who had been diagnosed with kidney disease, would die unless he was able to have a kidney transplant. The family had left it in her hands to make the decision of what should happen. Some friends from other countries had offered for Marija and her brother to come with them and they would make the arrangements, but Marija was unsure as to what was best. The decision was weighing heavily on her heart
In this conversation with our founder, she was speaking very technical terms and communicated, in detail, what was needed for her brother. Our founder was astounded by what was being revealed to him because Marija was speaking to him in very good English—and having visited her just the month before, she could not speak anything but a very broken, simple English with a minimal vocabulary. Our founder stopped her and asked how she had learned English so quickly. Marija was surprised at his question, because the thought hadn’t even crossed her mind that she was speaking in English. She was oblivious to the fact that she was speaking difficult vocabulary words and even complex medical terms in English. Even years later, after Marija had grown more comfortable speaking in English, at best her English is still very broken. Our founder has said that she has never come close to how well she spoke the language on that day in October, 1988. He had been stunned by her ability and found it unexplainable. However, leaving Marija after this visit, he knew all the specific details of their needs, though he did not know why he was given this knowledge nor what he could do to help.
It was on the plane ride home from Medjugorje that Our Lady revealed to him why he had been given so much detail of Marija’s situation. On the last leg of his trip home, a stewardess handed him a copy of the Birmingham News, and on the front page was a headline article of how one of the area hospitals was named the foremost leading hospital for kidney disease in the world. When he read that, a shiver ran down his spine. He began to ponder whether it was Our Lady’s intention to actually come to Alabama through Her apparitions to fulfill the request he made to Her on October 6, 1986. Upon arriving home, he immediately began to research the possibility of Marija’s brother being able to come to America for this operation. The doors began to open. However, because of the waiting line for available kidneys’, someone would have to come forward to donate a kidney for Andrija. When our founder contacted Marija, she made the decision to bring Andrija to Birmingham for the operation. She presented herself to be tested to see if she could give one of her own kidney’s to her brother. With everything falling into place, the only obstacle was getting visas to enter the United States.
Fr. Slavko’s Crucifix
One other significant event happened while our founder was in Medjugorje in October, 1988. The date was October 16th, and while passing by the rectory and Fr. Slavko’s office, our founder noticed Fr. Slavko was removing everything from his shelves and packing it all up in boxes. Fr. Slavko told him that he was being transferred to another parish and was moving. Our founder offered to stay and help him. This room was actually the room of Our Lady’s daily apparitions at the time. At the end of the afternoon, Fr. Slavko took the Crucifix off the wall. It was before this Crucifix that the visionaries knelt each evening to prepare for Our Lady’s coming. Hundreds of apparitions had taken place before this Crucifix. Holding it in his hands, Fr. Slavko approached our founder and asked him to take it as a gift. Though, of course, he wanted to accepted it, our founder felt it was too precious a gift to be given to him and tried to tell this to Fr. Slavko. But Slavko insisted strongly that our founder receive this gift and in the end he accepted it.
Before leaving Medjugorje, he brought the Crucifix to Marija. He explained to her how he received it and then asked her to say a prayer over it that Our Lady could somehow use it to help bring about the conversion of the United States. Marija took it in her hands and entered into a deep prayer. She then bent and kissed it, and she did so with such love and reverence that it deeply impacted our founder. It made him ponder more deeply this gift that had been given him.
Upon returning home from this trip, he brought the Crucifix to Annette, his wife. He wanted to pray to ask God where in their house they should hang it. Annette, not having been raised a Catholic, who had only just converted to the Catholic Church a few years earlier, did not yet understand many of the Catholic traditions. The only place she told her husband she didn’t want the Crucifix to hang was above their bed in their bedroom. She knew that many Catholics kept to this tradition but being raised Protestant she wasn’t used to seeing Jesus hanging on the Cross. After much prayer, they were not led in any direction as to where to hang the Crucifix. Believing that God wanted more prayer and reflection before giving an answer, our founder put the Crucifix away until the Holy Spirit gave some enlightenment. Weeks went by without thinking of it.
Around the middle of November, a close friend of Marija’s spoke to our founder telling him to immediately come to Medjugorje. He left Annette, in her last month of pregnancy, to prepare for Marjia and Andrija coming to stay in their home. As soon as the visa was obtained he would accompany Marija and Andrija to the United States. This happened on November 16 or 17. Annette learned that they would all be arriving home on November 18th. The night of November 17th, Annette was awakened after having a dream that was very vivid in detail. She dreamt that she was hanging the Crucifix they had received from Fr. Slavko over the bed in her bedroom. Not having thought of the Crucifix for the past several weeks, she wondered why suddenly she was dreaming of it. She drifted back to sleep and was awakened a second time after having the very same dream. It was in the middle of the night and she tried to put the dream from her mind as she went back to sleep. A third time she dreamt the very same dream but when she woke from it this time, she had a fire in her heart unlike anything she had ever experienced, to hang the Crucifix over the bed. She said it was a burning desire and she could hardly wait until morning. She never went back to sleep. At the first light of day, she woke her young sons, went to find a hammer and nail, and altogether they hung the Crucifix in the place where she had told her husband she never wanted it to hang. And yet, hanging it now was the cause of the greatest joy. Though she did not understand why this made her so happy, she believed with all her heart this was where Our Lady wanted it to be.
Late that night, our founder, with Marija, Andrija and two close friends arrived at the house. Our Lady had already appeared to Marija that day, November 18. In the apparition She told Marija that the next day, November 19, the apparition would be at 10:40 a.m. in the morning—which coincided with the evening apparition time in Medjugorje. It had been previously arranged that they would attend Mass in a church in Birmingham each morning and the apparitions would take place at the church following Mass. That was their plan. They would discover the next day, however, that Our Lady had different plans of where She wanted Her apparitions to be. This began a two month stay for Marija. Other than their own homes, never had a visionary from Medjugorje stayed in one place for such a long time. Over time, Our Lady began to unfold a beautiful love story, establishing a way of life through Her messages.