What Happened on February 5, 1994
After three days of being with Caritas’ founder and his family at Caritas, from February 1-3, 1994, Marija and her husband Paolo left early the morning of February 4. They would be in the States for a few more days. While they were staying in the home of our founder, his little son, Joshua, began to come down with an illness that seemed to be getting progressively worse. During one of the apparitions in the Bedroom, a red rose was given to Our Lady on Joshua’s behalf, placed on the bed where Our Lady was appearing. He was just barely six weeks old.
The night of February 4, baby Joshua seemed to be getting worse. He hadn’t eaten all day. The community was asked to pray for him that night. The situation developed into a living nightmare for our founder, his wife and their children. Excerpts from the community archives, that follow, tell the story:
“Our founder came late to the Field this morning for 5 a.m. prayer. The thought crossed our minds that Joshua must have kept both he and Annette up last night. After prayer he explained briefly that Joshua was not doing well and they would most probably have to bring him in to see the doctor. Our founder was very serious and anxious to get back to the house. His attitude made us feel how grave the situation must be.
“About 7:00 a.m. several of us received a call to come down to their house as they wanted to bring Joshua in as soon as possible. When we arrived, our founder was rocking Joshua. He was very somber and though he was calm, his face revealed a tint of fear. Joshua’s breathing was very labored and his face had a waxy appearance. It had been over 24 hours since he last had a feeding. Though they tried to force him to eat, he showed no interest. They were able to force feed his medicine to him which at least was keeping his fever down. Several times during the night they tried to wake him unsuccessfully. The founder felt the desire to bring him to the hospital the night before—he knew he was getting dehydrated and that if he wasn’t able to get better, the dehydration would cause him to become weaker and weaker making it almost impossible for him to fight an illness. But when the doctor was called, he said to wait until morning.
“No less than an hour after they had left to go to the doctor, we received a call from our founder from the hospital. They had gone to their family pediatrician first, who showed great concern for Joshua when he saw the condition he was in. He wanted them to bring him to the hospital immediately. When our founder saw the doctor’s reaction, great fear came into his heart, yet his wife did not yet grasp the seriousness of the situation. When they walked into the Emergency Room at Children’s Hospital, the nurses approached the baby routinely. The contrast of their attitudes just moments later when they saw Joshua’s chart from the family physician and condition was the cause of great alarm and anguish for his parents, especially for Annette as she realized for the first time how sick Joshua really was, perhaps even close to death. Four doctors immediately came to work on him, followed by two nurses. Joshua was taken from his mother’s arms, but he immediately began to scream, so the doctors allowed her to continue to hold him. A tube was thrust down his throat and needles began piercing his body in all directions. The scene was heart-rending.
“Once our founder was able to call to let everyone back home know what was going on, he was in tears and expressed how difficult it was even to look at Joshua. The doctors had told them that Joshua must have several tests in order to find out what was wrong. One was a spinal tap—taking fluid from the spinal cord—which was an extremely painful procedure.
“One of the community members decided to try and contact Paolo and Marija to ask for their prayers, especially during the apparition today. She got through to Paolo, explaining the situation to him. He told her that both he and Marija would pray during the apparition for Joshua, that he was glad that she had called to let them know and that they wanted to be kept informed of Joshua’s condition.”
“The community gathered in the Bedroom for the apparition rosary that normally would be in the Field. Just as the community members began to gather at the home, our founder called once more and mentioned that he and Annette wanted Joshua baptized and to try and contact our priest. The bedspread used for the apparitions was placed on the bed, the candles were lit and the rose which had been presented to Our Lady on Joshua’s behalf less than 72 hours before was laid on the spot Our Lady had stood. One by one, very quietly we each entered the bedroom and began the rosary. It was such a comfort for all of us knowing Marija and Paolo were praying at the same moment and within a few minutes Our Lady would be before Marija to hear her prayers for Joshua. Tears fell as we knew we must pray for Our Lady’s intentions for Joshua, whatever they may be.
“What a comfort to recall the last words of Our Lady, “Do not forget that I am Your Mother and that I love you.” Her presence was felt as we prayed the Rosary. Just after the Rosary was completed, our founder called, once more, requesting his boys to come. The Baptism was set for sometime after 12:00 noon. Paolo and Marija were called to inform them of what was happening. Paolo said that they had been praying for Joshua , especially during the apparition, and also said that they both felt strongly that Joshua would be alright. Before leaving the Bedroom, one of our three-year-old children picked up Words from Heaven and opened the book, and randomly pointed to the following message:
March 18, 1986
We all felt greatly encouraged by the message, especially in light of knowing Joshua was presented to Our Lady during the apparition. Marija later told the founder that Joshua had been her only intention for the apparition that day. When we arrived at the hospital with the boys, so much sorrow greeted us. Our founder with his wife were in the waiting room. They were forced to leave Joshua’s side as he was undergoing the spinal tap. It was agonizing to be away from him knowing he was enduring so much pain. Taking her five-year-old, Joseph, in her arms, Annette wept while holding and rocking him back and forth.
“Our founder explained to us that Joshua’s breathing had nearly stopped. The doctors were moments away from performing a tracheotomy. But at Rosary time, a marked difference in Joshua’s condition took place. His breathing stabilized. Our founder said he felt the prayers of everyone praying. The doctors had told them if they had waited one more hour, Joshua’s chances of survival would have been very poor. Later, our founder told us he had prayed for Our Lady’s intentions for Joshua throughout this whole ordeal. As he spoke, tears caught in his throat as he told us he knew that Our Lady might take him and it was so difficult to allow Her to do this, but he remained firm in his prayer of abandonment.
“Finally, good news started to surface. The medicine Joshua was given was causing him to improve. In the afternoon, he finally began feeding again and showed improvement afterwards. Our priest arrived at the hospital and we were all allowed to be present for the baptism. Annette laid the baptismal gown on top of Joshua and the rose that had been blessed by Our Lady, as well as a tiny Miraculous Medal. Although the founder had already baptized Joshua earlier in the day, they both wanted their priest to give his blessing. The ceremony was very simple. Father also gave Joshua the anointing of the sick. More and more tears continued to fall at how pitiful Joshua looked. At the end of the day, we spoke to Paolo once more. He was shocked to find out that Joshua had almost died. It was expressed on behalf of our founder how much their prayers had meant to them.”
The following day, Joshua was greatly improved. In a few weeks time, our founder wrote to Marija and Paolo to express to them his deep gratitude, and to also relay to them what that morning had been like. Below are excerpts from that letter:
Dear Marija and Paolo,
I hope you are back and well rested. We really treasured your both being here…One big thank you for the grace of Our Lady’s being “Here.” Her giving a message saying, “I am happy to be here,” was a great joy for us. Suffering for so many years, struggling to live our lives here, and overcoming so many obstacles were worth it to get that beautiful moment with Our Lady. For that I cannot adequately thank you so I ask God to bless you in a way that I cannot.
As you know, after you left, Joshua became very sick. I got dressed at 2 a.m. in the morning to take him to the hospital. Annette wanted me to call his doctor which I did. He insisted we wait until morning. I’m the last to want to go to the doctor or hospital but in this case, I felt the doctor was wrong. I thought he had made a bad judgement. I came back from Morning Prayer at 6:00 a.m. and held him and he looked as though he was dying. His eyes were wide open, staring at me in panic. I could see in his little eyes that he was really scared, even though he was only six weeks old. I know now that at that time he was actually going through prolonged suffocation and he sensed this. Once, when our son, Tony, was little and fell into the swimming pool, I had to pull him from the swimming pool and remember his wide eyes staring at me in panic from underneath the water just before I got to him. Joshua had this same look in his eyes, but instead of for a moment, it was for several hours.
When we finally got to the hospital, Annette and I were still not overly alarmed. While we knew it was serious, we had no idea how bad off he actually was. I was filling out papers while Annette carried him to the back of the emergency room. I could see through a window that a nurse casually came to check him. The next thing I knew, four doctors and two more nurses rushed in and started stripping him and sticking tubes in him from his head to his feet. It was awful. We could see by the doctors’ reactions that they feared losing him. One doctor said, “Get ready for respiratory failure.” It went on for an agonizing hour during which he did not respond. All the while I was keeping in touch with Ruth back home who had gathered everyone to pray in our bedroom. It was then she called you both about giving him to Our Lady’s intentions during the apparition.”
One doctor could get no blood out of him and was repeatedly sticking him. Other doctors were probing, putting various needles and tubes in him, trying to stabilize him. To get blood, they finally had to stick a long needle directly into an artery. It was very hard to see all this happening and Annette later told me she knew he was going to die. It was all I could do as a father not to pray for him to live but to pray only for Our Lady’s intentions for him….Finally, the doctors were getting ready to make an incision in his throat to do a tracheotomy and put him on a breathing machine when, all of a sudden, his breathing began to stabilize. I started to go and call Ruth to tell her and realized it was immediately after apparition time and they would be finishing up prayers. I knew then Our Lady heard you, Marija, and answered immediately. Marija, thank you. Paolo, thank you. I realized the great blessing of having a living intercessor who can go directly before Our Lady. We are all too close to the events of Medjugorje to grasp the great time in which we live and the grace available to us. It’s times like this that you want to pinch yourself and think, “Who am I that Mary of Nazareth is in our presence?” Joshua stabilized for two days, then steadily improved during the five-day stay in the hospital. He had viral pneumonia which filled his lungs. Since he was only six weeks only, there was almost no room left for air in his lungs. He’s back home and completely recovered as if nothing happened!!.....
Our founder had instituted “Rosary time” in 1989. No one had yet answered the call of Our Lady to the community. This was something he instituted before the community began. This rosary time coincided with the time of Our Lady’s apparition in Medjugorje. At that time each day, he stopped everything, and everyone went to the Field where Our Lady had appeared to pray a Rosary and to be on their knees at the time of Our Lady’s apparition. In 1994, it had been five years since Rosary time had been started at Caritas, and not a day had been missed. Our founder took seriously the message Our Lady had given in which She said there are particular graces available during the apparitions:
Our founder led the community to prepare each day for Our Lady’s apparition with the Rosary. At the actual time of the apparition in Medjugorje, the community would pray in silence from our hearts while the children would gather at Our Lady’s statue. It could not have been an accident or a “coincidence” that Joshua took a turn for the better at apparition time. There can be no doubt that our founder’s decision to stop the mission to honor apparition time with a Rosary each day in the Field as part of the permanent prayer schedule of the community directly influenced the events of February 5, 1994. The viral pneumonia that attacked Joshua was highly contagious and the hospitals were full of cases of infants and young children who were contracting it. Not all of them survived.
The other remarkable part of the story is that it had been a last minute decision on Paolo and Marija’s part to visit at this time. They called on January 31, 1994 and said that they would be arriving the next day, giving our founder just a 24 hour notice of their coming. Joshua, no doubt, had already contracted the virus. Did Our Lady know what would transpire over the next five days? Did She perhaps want to bring Her assistance to this father who had honored her apparition time every day for the past five years, and guided his family and the community to do the same? Did Joshua get better at that exact moment of apparition time so that we could trace Our Lady’s actions so to understand that we could expect Her protection and the answer to our needs if we continue to honor Her in this way, at this time, everyday? Looking back over the years, so many answered prayers and times of protection over the community and mission confirm this to us. It has now been 22 years that the Rosary has been faithfully prayed in the Field in preparation for Our Lady’s apparitions in Medjugorje. Joshua, who is today 17 years old, is just one of the many miracles we have experienced over the years. So much of the life of the community is connected to that daily prayer.
Just as his older brother Joseph was born on the special Feast day of the Holy Family, Joshua Paul, who was born on December 19, 1993, was also born on a significant day, the Feast of the Maternity of Our Lady. He, as all the children at Caritas, was consecrated to Our Lady while still in the womb.
Two days after the trauma of Joshua’s near suffocation, on February 7, 1994, Joshua stares into the eyes of his mother, seeking reassurance and security in the sterile hospital ward. Though only a little baby, he experienced terror and fear as his lungs slowly filled up with fluid causing his breathing to grow more and more shallow until he was near to death. The terror felt by his parents suddenly peaked right at apparition time, but then turned to hope as Joshua began to breathe normally again. They knew immediately this was a miracle through Our Lady’s intercession.
In less than a week’s time, the mysteries of the Rosary had been lived out in this family, from the arrival of Marija and Paolo and Our Lady’s apparitions that brought so much joy, to the great sorrow experienced in the trauma of seeing little Joshua almost die in the arms of his mother, to the sudden glorious resurrection of having him saved at the last moment.
Though Joshua, as you see here, was still hooked up to different monitors two days after coming into the emergency room, most of the needles in his legs and arms and the tubes from his mouth were removed by the next day. His life had been so fragile and almost had slipped away.
On Easter Day, less than two months after this trauma, Joshua is a happy, healthy little boy with no memory of his near fatal death. This is what it means to be living in the time of grace—to have the ability to experience Our Lady’s intercession in a particular way, as never before in man’s history. It was truly a joyous Easter.