by Martha Shepherd.
On the last day of our pilgrimage, we were taken to Fr. Jozo’s parish for Mass, a talk, and a blessing. Fr. Jozo himself saw Our Lady a number of times and obviously has a very special place in this whole event of the apparitions and he also has very special gifts.
It was while we were at that church, that I received a deep experience of the Blessed Mother as the Blessed Mother.
For the last five or six years, I had been trying to follow the requests she has been making at Medjugorje, but I had never found the least consolation in the rosary, never felt any meaning in fasting. What is worse, I had never really met Mary.
What I did I did with my will, not with my heart. Deep inside of me, the Mother of God was not Our Lady of Tenderness. She was (in that uncontrollable part of myself) more like a Nazi commander of a concentration camp, insatiably exhorting a bunch of starving, exhausted prisoners to "Pray!" (lash), "Fast!" (lash), "Sacrifice!" (lash).
I had every intention of doing what she asked, as much as I could, but it was only because, as every prisoner knows, the alternative was death.
I knew this wasn’t true, but I couldn’t change the way I felt, and though I prayed, nothing changed for me.
I could talk about Our Lady, do what she asked, believe in everything I was told, but what I felt remained the same.
This changed during my time in Medjugorje and particularly during that morning in Fr. Jozo’s church. That morning I encountered Our Lady. I experienced her presence filling that church, and I discovered that she loved me.
It was as if she were gathering my "inner child" to herself, consoling the inconsolable four-year-old at the time of my parents’ divorce.
She did not preach at me, lash me, order me to shape up. She consoled me. She drew from me the pain and shame and confusion that had nowhere to go when I was four and which had been circling around my life ever since. She let me know she was sorry for what I suffered.
Then all the pieces came together for me. I met Mary, who is Our Lady of Tenderness and who is also the Mother of Confidence.
I think now that I couldn’t really set out on the way of penance and sacrificial love without her and the confident tenderness she gives.
When her tenderness surrounds you, there is no fear, only security and trust. Then it’s okay.
If it’s hard, if it hurts, it’s still okay. Her presence promises that you will be safe no matter what happens.
I felt her that morning like a mother who encourages and reassures at the same time. With a look, a smile, "Yes, I’m still here. I see you. You’re doing great. Go ahead."
When I felt her, her love and acceptance, something awoke in me, a yearning to go wherever she leads, and an understanding of the heart about why she leads us up the way of the cross. And it is clear that Love is waiting at the top.
Later on, I asked myself, "Did this really happen?" Yes, it really did. I know because, not only does that word still ring in my heart—Lo, I am with you always until the end of time (Mat 28:20), but I have an irrefutable sign.
I now love the rosary. I understand it with my heart, if not with my head, and I feel compelled inwardly to say it daily, deeply compelled to somehow find more time for prayer.
And that to me is far more miraculous than the fact that the links of the rosary also turned golden.
If you enjoy our articles, we ask you to please consider subscribing to the print edition of Restoration; it's only $10 a year, and will help us stay in print. Thanks, and God bless you!