Our Journey Together

(The following is a transcript of a presentation given at the 5th Annual San Antonio Marian Conference in July 1996. We took turns speaking, so for ease in reading, Ed's story is in black and Deborah's is green.)

Ed: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Deborah: I can't tell you how exciting it was to me the first time my husband Ed took my hand and prayed that prayer. It wasn't that long ago -- and it was probably only a year ago that I would never have dreamed that Ed would be praying at all, let alone that we would be praying together. But so many things have been happening in our lives in the last year that I would never have imagined could happen, just like being here today. This conference has been a real blessing to both of us so far and I'm sure it's going to be even better -- when we're finished here.

As Therese told you, this is our first time speaking. The closest I ever came before was getting up in front of about a hundred people and introducing the speaker. Well, this time I am the speaker so I'm going to try to let the Spirit lead me and say what I think I'm here to say.

When we received the invitation to come to this conference, I was lying in a hospital bed. Ed came in one night to visit me and said, "We had an interesting message on the answering machine."

I said, "Oh?

"Yea, some woman from San Antonio. She wasn't sure she had the right number, but she said if this was the home of the Deborah Danielski who had written the article in Medjugorje Magazine, she wants us to speak at their Marian Conference in July."

My reaction I think was pretty much like Mirjana's as she and Ivanka walked down the road in Medjugorje on June 24, 1981. When Ivanka said to Mirjana – she'd seen a beautiful lady on the hill and she said to Mirjana, "look, look, it's Our Lady." And without even looking Mirjana replied, "sure it is, and why would Our Lady appear to us?"

That's pretty much the way I felt when Ed told me about the phone call, "Sure and why would anyone want me to do that?" But I know the answer to that. It's there throughout the Scriptures and in the lives of the saints. God delights in choosing the lowly of this world to confound the wise.

As some of you may know, I'm the editor of a community newspaper. And that may not seem like a very lowly position. A lot of the people in Plainfield may not think of me in that way either. But I've only been there for five years. And those people didn't know me before the Lord Jesus Christ got a hold of my life. They didn't know me when I was a pregnant 15-year-old. When I gave my first child up for adoption. They didn't know me when I was 17, pregnant again and married my 18-year-old boyfriend and dropped out of high school to get a job to help support my family. They didn't know me when I was 23 and divorced with two small children, when I got involved in drugs and alcohol and had made such a mess of my life that I lost custody of my children to their father. They didn't know me when out of desperation to get my children back I married a man I barely knew – an alcoholic who also turned out to be abusive. They didn't know me when I stayed in that abusive relationship for 13 years because I didn't have the courage or the confidence to break free. They didn't know me before God reached down to that miserable, downtrodden 25-year-old woman, picked her up in His hands and set her on a brand new path.

It was God who planted the desire in my heart to write. I'd never thought of writing before. Well, maybe for a short time when I was nine or ten years old. It was probably right in between when I was going to be a research scientist and a Broadway star. But it never occurred to me again. When the Lord opened the door for me to accept my first job at a local newspaper, I was going to school and studying accounting and business math. I knew by then the Lord wanted me to write, but I had no idea I could ever make a living at it. I thought He wanted me to spend my free time writing for Him, but that I would also need a real job, like bookkeeping, to put food on the table. When I look back at how I came to be here today, there is no question, it was God's doing. I often tell people I've lived a life that cannot be explained apart from God, and it's true. The most remarkable thing though is the way He continues to lift me up and how He kept me on the path He'd chosen for me even when I was anything but faithful to Him.

When I first went to work at the Rushville Times in Rushville, IL, I was very active in the Assembly of God church and very devoted to Christ. Not long after that something happened in my life that shattered the faith I'd acquired. I walked out of the Assembly of God one day, never to return. I was angry and I soon became bitter. I tried my best not to think of Jesus and for nearly ten years, I didn't.

But despite my unfaithfulness, God didn't turn His back on me. He kept His hand on me and He carried me along the path He'd chosen. Today with no formal education, I'm the editor of a 6,000 circulation weekly newspaper. But it's not just any newspaper. It's one of very few left in the country that's independently owned. And it's owned by a Christian man, a man who not only allows, but encourages us to use its pages to share our faith. Jesus had me right where He wanted me, but little did I know what was coming next.

As I told you I was in the hospital when this invitation came. That was earlier this year. I was sick for three months, and a lot of people asked me if I'd asked the "why me" question. The fact is, I did – often. Not so much in relation to my illness though as in relation to my whole life. Some of you may remember several years ago, there was a song that was pretty popular called "Why me, Lord?" And I'm not sure who wrote it but I think it may have been Kris Kristoferson. I find myself singing that song quite often. Sometimes just in my heart and sometimes at the top of my voice with tears streaming down my face. "Why me, Lord?" the song says. "What have I ever done to deserve even one of the blessings you bring? Why me, what did I ever do to deserve loving you and the kindness you've shown?"

And very time I ask that question I get the same answer. "The only thing you did was say 'yes.' That's all. You just said 'yes.'"

Ed: I'm not totally sure why I am here today. But lately I seem not to understand quite a number of things that have happened in my life. I've always been a person who needed to clearly understand why I did anything – how it would affect me, what benefit I would derive from it. That was my mindset. That was how I lived my life. But I have come to accept that I don't have to understand everything that happens anymore. At some later date I surely will, but for now all I need to do is accept that the hand of God is working in my life. And all I need to do is to pray for some guidance, wisdom and courage and then move on with my life.

So I'm here today speaking with you. I personally really don't believe I have a dramatic story to tell or a particularly moving story to tell. I'm just a little part of God's universe. But confident that I am part of God's plan, I believe that there has to be some meaning here. It might be for me, maybe for one of you, or perhaps it's for someone we don't even know who isn't here today, who's far away. It really doesn't matter. It's something that I have to do.

As I was thinking about what I was going to use as an introduction to my story, I prayed to the Holy Spirit and, as you will see, as often happens to me over the past several months, I went to church that day, stood up for the Gospel and heard these words from Matthew, chapter 13:

"On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood along the shore. And He spoke to them at length in parables saying, 'A sower went out to sow, and as he sowed, some seed fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among the thorns and the thorns grew up and they choked it. But some seed, some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit – a hundred, or sixty or thirty-fold. Whoever has ears ought to hear."

In those words, Christ was speaking to all of us, but I kind of felt at that moment he was speaking just to me. For the story of the sower and the seed closely parallels what has happened in my life.

A few months ago, Deborah and I were talking with some participants in a prayer meeting that we had attended at our church. And they asked us if we had been members of the parish for a long time. Deborah responded that she had only recently become Catholic, "But, Ed," she said. "He's always been a Catholic."

And I looked at her and I said. "I've never been a Catholic." Those words coming from my lips surprised even me. Because I always thought I was a Catholic. That was my religion. I grew up as a Catholic. But, you know, I never really was. I never even believed in God. In fact, the title of this portion of my talk could be "46 years without God and I've lived to talk about it."

That's pretty surprising considering my early life, and I'll tell you a little bit about it. I was raised in a very religious family. I attended Catholic grade school. I was an altar boy. I made every First Friday. I even received the award for five years of perfect attendance at nocturnal adoration. Outside, I was about as Catholic as the Pope. Inside, I had one little problem. I didn't believe any of it. Sure, there were some brief moments when I came really close to accepting that there was a Supreme Being up there. And there was a little bit of comfort in that, but I never quite got there. That God thing, it was just too far-fetched for me to understand. Maybe, maybe when I was older it would make more sense. But it certainly didn't fit in to my adolescent life.

The seeds were there. God chose many people to put them there – my parents, my parish priest, my teachers, my friends. But you know, those seeds, they were sown on rocky ground and although they tried to sprout time and time again, they never quite made it. And as I think back about why that happened, I realize that a little prayer probably would have helped. But I never prayed. I didn't understand it, I didn't like it and I just didn't see how I could spend time talking to somebody who I didn't think existed. I thought that if God wanted to talk to me, He could just come down, pull up a chair and sit in my kitchen there. And He never did.

Despite what I said just now, I decided that I was going to become a priest.

I thought that was a pretty good occupation for a young man to aspire to. You got to wear those really cool colors on Sunday. They gave you a place to live. You could drive a great big black car. People thought you were a big deal, and everybody came to tell you their problems. And I liked that. I thought that was pretty neat. So, right out of grade school I entered a seminary -- and it really wasn't a bad place. We went to Mass every morning. We had prayers in the afternoon, we had prayers at night. There was good food and plenty of it, a lot of good companionship. I got to spend time away from my parents. You know, it was just like summer camp, except every day of the year.

Unfortunately, I discovered a little personal attribute that stopped me from staying in the seminary. They really wanted you to believe in God, and I just couldn't do it. I thought that maybe I could fake it. Maybe after about eight years in the seminary, I'd go out and do those priest things but then I realized that if you became a priest, they wanted you to believe in God and Jesus and Mary and all those other things – and – and they wanted you to pray, too. So I decided that was too much for me and I left the seminary after just a year. I did wind up in a Catholic high school though. And it was God still trying to plant those seeds, because there were catechism classes and there was Mass every week. But those seeds were falling among thorns at this time. I had the call of friends and I started to become interested in teenage women and the promising aspects of a wild college life coming up, future fame and fortune. Thinking about all that just choked those seeds that God was trying to plant right out of me.

I attended a secular college. It had been founded by a Christian church and was still the site of a theological seminary. Many of my friends at that time were students preparing for the ministry. And as you do sometimes in college, we would spend many nights talking about all types of important subjects. Sometimes, we talked about religion. For them, it was a discussion of faith. For me, it was an exercise in rhetoric. I knew everything about Catholicism. I knew everything about Christianity. And I thought it was a good story, but it didn't mean anything to me. But the seeds that God had planted were still trying to creep into my life and they were still being choked out.

Deborah: It was five years ago that the Lord gave me one of the greatest gifts, along with my children, that I've ever received from Him. That was my best friend and husband, Ed. Ed and I met the modern way – via computer modem. It's true. For two months before we ever laid eyes on each other we sent email back and forth, spent hours in the chat rooms, and on the phone, sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings in a way I could never have imagined possible. I was sure that this wonderful communication would not continue once we met face-to-face, but I was wrong. Among the many things that we talked about was religion, and we talked about religion a lot and for a long time. At that time I was a back-slidden Pentecostal and very much anti-Catholic. And as he's told you, though he didn't exactly believe in God, Ed was very "catholic" in the outward sense. He knew all about it.

The thing was, I knew that I knew more. I'd read so many books and articles about Catholicism, and I'd read the history of the church. Of course the history that I read had been written by Protestants, but that didn't matter. To my way of thinking the Catholic Church was the worst den of heresy on earth – the way they worshipped idols, used vain repetition in prayer, and the way they thought they could earn their way to heaven. We had some lively discussions about these things. Even though Ed had been away from the Church for a long time, he always defended the Catholic doctrine. "You just don't understand," he would say to me."

"Oh, but I do," I would respond. "I know all about it." And I had plenty of Scripture to back up my position. "The Bible says this or the Bible says that," I would always throw that in his face to refute whatever he had to say. I was very good at picking out isolated Bible verses to back up my position.

I haven't seen them, but I've heard there are some people outside this conference passing out pamphlets about this conference and about Mary, and I don't know what they say but I know that it wasn't long ago that could have been me out there. I'll never forget the times that I heard – who was my then favorite evangelist, Jimmy Swaggert – before his big fall from grace. He would be preaching one of his sermons on what he considered the heresies of the Catholic church and he would say, "There's one thing I know for sure. When Jesus Christ returns to this earth, He won't be saying, 'hail Mary.'" And I would be the first one to say "amen."

I can't think of that now without feeling the pain that Our Lord and Our Lady must feel every time those words are spoken. I don't know how I could ever have thought that our Lord wouldn't honor His mother. I don't know how I could ever have not realized that as the Mother of Christ, Mary is also the Mother of His body, the Church. But in a sense I do know. I was blind. I was blinded by spiritual darkness.

Knowing our background and the lively discussions that Ed and I had about Catholicism over the years, you can imagine his surprise when suddenly I came home one day and began speaking of the Virgin Mary, not with my usual disdain, but with respect and reverence. And even more so, a short time later, when I handed him a rosary and asked him to teach me to pray. My change of heart – my conversion – began in October of last year when my friend Judy took me out to lunch for my birthday. We'd hardly sat down when she handed me a gift. I opened it up and I looked and there was a book. Ordinarily, that would be a real good choice for me because I love to read. But this particular book -- when I pulled it out – had a picture of the Virgin Mary on one side of the cover and on the other side was a little paragraph about how the Virgin had been appearing in Medjugorje to six young people daily since 1981.

It was obvious that Judy was nervous about her choice. "I don't know if you'll like it or not," she said. "It's spiritual."

I was polite. "Oh, I like spiritual books," I said, while in my mind I was wondering what could ever have possessed her to give me a book about Mary.

My being polite was a big mistake. It opened the door for Judy to spend the next hour-and-a-half telling me all about her new relationship with the Virgin Mary. She told me about how the Virgin Mary had become her dearest friend and her closest confidante. I thought she'd gone over the edge.

All the while she was talking, I was thinking, "I've got to take this book home. I've got to read it. I've got to search the Scriptures and find the right ones to refute everything it says and save her from her unholy obsession." As you can see things didn't work out quite that way.

That's because I hadn't counted on the power of prayer. Judy hadn't just handed me a book. She'd prayed. She'd prayed long and hard for me and for Ed too. We're both perfect examples of why our lady continuously asks us to pray for sinners. Because without the power of the Holy Spirit, released through Judy's prayers, I don't believe our eyes would ever have been opened. Without those prayers, I would have taken that book and done exactly what I planned. Instead by the time I got to the second chapter, I was hooked. The book was Wayne Weible's "Medjugorje: The Message." At the beginning of each chapter is one of Our Lady's messages from Medjugorje and when I got to the second chapter, at the top of the page were the words, "I've come to tell you that God exists – and that He loves you."

When I read those words, I felt the Holy Spirit stirring in my heart for the first time in many years. "That message is for you," I sensed the Lord saying to me. "And now, I want you to lay aside your prejudices and I want you to open your heart to my Mother."

Incredulous, I began to question the source of those words, "What? Did you say what I thought you said? Is that really you, Lord?" But it was. And by the time I'd finished the book, I believe Mary herself was speaking to me. "This is the moment that our Lord has been preparing you for," she said. "I want you to use your writing to spread my message."
I didn't tell anyone what I thought I'd heard Our Lady say to me. I thought it would sound too arrogant, and I didn't think anyone would believe me anyway. So I just kept it to myself and pondered it in my heart.

It was in February that I first begin to sense Our Lady was leading me to write my story. I resisted for about two weeks. Finally, knowing only the first sentence of what I was going to write, I sat down at the computer. Within a couple of hours, however, the story was finished and I mailed it off to Medjugorje Magazine and went on with my life. Eight days later, the editor of Medjugorje Magazine called. They had the spring issue all planned when they got my story, but someone had called and said they weren't going to be able to get their story in time after all. And there was mine, so there it went.

As soon as that magazine came out, a very similar thing happened that brought us the invitation to be here today. The events leading up to that invitation were so incredible that, again, all I could do was say yes.

Ed: After I finished college, 25 years of my life passed by quicker than I could have imagined. I made a career in human resources and that was a pretty good choice for someone who got excited about what people did and trying to understand why they behaved the way they did. I married, I eventually had a child, and unfortunately, eventually I became unmarried. My life had its high points and it had its low points – good times, bad times. I don't think I was ever totally ecstatic, but I was never totally miserable. I was mostly unfulfilled. And I continued to search for that real happiness which I saw other people around me have, and I couldn't understand why I didn't have it. After all, I was relatively successful, had a good job. I was financially secure and I had just about all the material things that other people were striving for.

But I was always concerned about how people viewed me, what others thought about me and I really doubted that anyone in the rest of the world thought that I had anything valuable to offer. And I found little value in myself. Psychotherapy, counseling, yoga, meditation, exercise, tranquilizers, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, I went through them all. And they did little to remove the nagging feeling that there was something more needed in my life.

There were occasions when some unusual event made me feel that I was getting a message from somewhere, that I needed to change. But I was educated enough and I was strong-willed enough to be able to get rid of those little annoyances. If God was planting any seeds at this time, they were quickly whisked away. For the seeds were no longer falling on bad soil, they were now falling on the hardest and coldest of stone.

I had convinced myself that God did not exist. And I felt that those who believed otherwise, surely had made some deep quantum leap in logic. After all, science had already explained all these things. We knew how the world was created. We knew all about the big bang theory. We knew how the Red Sea parted for Moses because of the tides. We know how many of the Bible stories were just fables – and so on and so on.

Not that there weren't quite a few dreadfully painful moments when I reflected upon the fact that my life really had no purpose. Most of them occurred during the middle of the night when I would wake up with the awful knowledge that one day I would die and be no more. I was a big supporter of the "when you're dead, you're dead" theory. That's all there is.

And for those of you who have fortunately never experienced the pain of accepting that, there is no loneliness any deeper. The thought of your being ending forever grips you deep inside and it fills you with the darkest and the emptiest dread that you can ever imagine. And without the comfort of salvation and the promise of eternal life, the only relief you can get is to curl up into the fetal position and whimper until unconsciousness comes and saves you from your despair.

Fortunately, those episodes pass and you fill your life with other mind-numbing experiences. And you come to believe that's the price you have to pay for living this life.

After meeting Deborah, life became bearable again. The emptiness wasn't gone and I hadn't changed much. But life with her was emotionally and intellectually challenging. We communicated very well and we could discuss just about anything. And at times, our discussion turned to religion, faith, morals. I would always play the devil's advocate. As she attacked Catholics, I would defend them. I knew everything about them.

She would quote Scripture to me, convinced that she was going to show me the light. I liked the challenge of bantering with her, but for me, the Bible was just another book.

Deborah: By the time I'd finished Wayne Weible's book, I found myself longing for a rosary, just to experiment with it. Weible had attempted in his book to repudiate everything I'd previously believed about the rosary. It wasn't just "vain repetition" of Hail Marys as I had always thought. It was a contemplative prayer – a meditation on the lives of Our Lord and Our Lady. I longed to give it a try, but I had no idea where to get a rosary and I wasn't about to admit to anyone that I wanted one.

But less than a week after Judy had given me the book, I wandered into a Catholic book store near our home one day. I immediately looked to my left and there, in a glass display case, were at least 20 rosaries. I looked at the price tag on only one, "$45" it said. I backed up. I wanted to try this thing, but I sure didn't want to try it that bad.

Disappointed and unsure of what I was to do next, I wandered to the back of the book store to a section of books on Mary. I found one on Fatima and I found a Medjugorje prayer book and I went back to the front of the store to pay for my purchases. And in this store, when you get up to the cash register, there's a display in front of it that you have to walk around. So I started to go around the display this way and all of a sudden I felt like I should go this way instead and on the end of that display were three hooks and on those three hooks were black, white and pink plastic rosaries. I looked at the price tag -- $3.98. I chose a white one.

It still amazes me what a leap of faith I was taking that day. Hadn't Jesus told us never to use vain repetition in prayer? Somehow, over the years, I'd always skipped right over that word "vain" and right to that word "repetition." Several weeks later I was praying the rosary alone one day and I felt the urge of the Spirit to start singing it rather than saying it. I sang the Our Father and I was halfway through a decade of the Hail Mary, when I stopped and I believe the Lord was speaking to me again. He said, "Remember when you were going to the Assembly of God and you sang choruses to me? And when you felt the Spirit move, you sang the same chorus over and over and over." I had to admit, there was no difference.

Until the day I bought that rosary, I had never dreamed of praying any prayer that didn't come straight from my own heart. What a wealth of faith I had missed out on. It's such a blessing to me now that when I can't find the words to pray as I would like, I know all I have to do is pick up a book and some saint before me has prayed the words that my own heart can't yet form.

Ed: I'd like to be able to tell you the dramatic event that occurred that caused me to change. But there isn't one thing that I can point to. There were a lot of incidents in my life. My journey of change began last summer when Deborah and I went through a number of experiences – some together and some individually – which were so soul-shaking and too implausible to be called "coincidences."

We both began to feel that some force was playing in our lives and at first we didn't talk about it much. And certainly from my perspective, it was difficult for me to believe that there was any divine intervention taking place in my life. But the way in which it happened and the manner in which it continues to occur has, as you will see, convinced me that God takes a truly personal interest in each one of our lives.

I've always rejected the concept of coincidence. Things just don't happen for no good reason. But that began to happen to both of us. A series of unexplainable happenings took place which caused Deborah to be reunited with her first-born son. "How unique and puzzling," I said to myself. "How interesting that all these events would just fall together and generate such a happy event." I called it "propitious circumstances." Interesting, maybe a little troubling, but not quite enough to change my attitude.

I was having some problems of my own at the time and it was only a few short weeks later when an entire series of unexplainable, illogical events came together and pulled me out of what was a near-disastrous encounter with a compulsive gambling problem. And although I was quite annoyed at the time, I later thought, "how neat, things are just kinda working out my way. I guess it's my turn in life." Saved from myself by a series of coincidences.

Only a short time before these events, when I was wallowing in some self-pity over my previous failed marriage and my separation from my son, my lack of financial stability and some bumps in our marriage, I thought about how comforting it might be if there were really a God up there. It would be a little bit easier if I knew that there was somebody watching over me and I could get a little bit of this burden off of me. I could just unload it on somebody else.

I was pretty angry about the fact that God wasn't up there. How rude of Him not to exist. But those coincidences, they kind of shook my resolve and every once in a while, I found myself sending a few thoughts up toward heaven – just in case. I didn't realize it at the time, but these were the beginning steps of what might be called prayer. But you know I really wasn't sure who I was sending this stuff to. And most of my thoughts at that time were being sent heavenward with the address "to whom it may concern."

But my journey had begun. About the same time and unbeknownst to me, Deborah had begun her own journey. And while we were on different paths – she was on the freeway and I was taking the scenic route – our final destination was the same.

Deborah had always believed in God and at times in her life, she'd had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She was a firm believer in the Holy Spirit. And she began to believe that the Spirit was working in us, since many times we found ourselves thinking similar thoughts about things like God, religion and faith. I think she really began to tire of me telling her to stop reading my mind. And although we were thinking similar thoughts, we usually approached them from vastly different perspectives. Her journey accelerated when she learned of Mary's appearances at Medjugorje. She almost immediately accepted that the Mother of God was appearing daily. And with her analytical mind fired up, she began to research every piece of information that she could find on the subject. I plunged into the effort as well. I just had to stop her.

For every piece of information that she found, I tried to find one to refute her position. You see, this was moving all too fast for me. There were just things she was saying that I couldn't accept. The "Son of God," what was that all about? You know? I knew what it meant, but how could that happen? And the Holy Spirit. Wasn't that something that the Pentecostals invented to justify that crazy dancing and loud singing in church? That was just too far-fetched for me to accept. But I let her go on without interfering. After all, she seemed happy enough.

Deborah has already told you about the day of the rosary. You can imagine my surprise when I came home one day and found her holding one. Could I teach her what to do with it, she asked. Sure, I knew all the words. I even knew them in Latin.

She embraced the rosary from that day forward and it has become a part of her life. I was still quite a bit behind her in my journey though. And then the day came when Deborah was working late and I picked up Wayne Weible's book. Wayne Weible – the other man in our marriage. But I just had to read his book. He seemed quite sincere and I had to admit that it was pretty decently written. It was a good, entertaining story. And as I continued to read over the next few days, I came to the part where he talked about Mary's words to the children. And I read the words, "I have come to tell you that God exists – and that He loves you." And I read that over and over again because for some reason, the words kept jumping off the page at me. Someone, some place, somehow, was trying to get me a message and I was seriously thinking about it.

I finished the book, but every day those words kept popping out at me. "God exists, and He loves you." What was that supposed to mean?

I was still contemplating the meaning of Mary's words when Deborah came home from work one day, and she was pretty excited about an editorial she had written. She wanted me to read it. I picked up the paper and there, at the very top of the editorial, were Mary's words. She had quoted them. "I've come to tell you that God exists, and that He loves you." How could Deborah have known that I was thinking about that?

Intrigued by these continuing reports of Mary's appearance, I began to read all types of books and pamphlets that Deborah had purchased on Marian apparitions – appearances at Lourdes, Fatima, San Christobal, Medjugorje, many other places. And it appeared that Our Lady was trying to tell us a couple of basic things. First that God was alive and well – and that He loves us – and secondly that we must pray.

As I read over and over again Mary's requests for prayer and for acceptance of the words of her Son, I began to halfway believe that these apparitions might be real. The fruits of her messages were certainly productive. I couldn't quarrel with thousands and thousands and thousands of people throughout the world becoming believers and becoming converted as a result of her apparitions. And although I wasn't sure at the time, slowly, I was becoming converted as well.

One day I picked up Deborah's rosary and as I was looking at it, I found myself past the sign of the cross and well into the Creed before I realized what was happening. And for the first time in my life, I actually prayed the rosary rather than just repeating the words as I had done as a child.

The mysteries came alive for me. And when I finished, I felt a sense of comfort, warmth and peace. Strangely enough, I still didn't understand -- or accept totally God – but I was accepting the messages of the Blessed Mother. It seemed as though Mary's messages were meant just for me, but how could that be?

And once again, as I contemplated that possibility, I started out for work one day and happened to have one of Deborah's "Sounds of Medjugorje" tapes and I popped it in the cassette player. It came on and I heard the following words: "It is your message. It is my message. It is a personalized message that has been given to all of us. It is the message of Jesus. It is Matthew, it is Mark, it is Luke, it is John."

And I suddenly knew that I believed and more importantly understood all those things that Deborah had said to me so many times about Mary's messages. They were for everyone. They weren't just for believing Catholics and they weren't just for Christians or any particular group of people. They were for each and every one of us. Even for a backslidden anti-Catholic – or for an atheist caught up in logic like me.

Deborah: After I'd begun to pray the rosary, the next thing I wanted to do was to go back to church. So I asked Ed to go to a nearby Assembly of God with me. He definitely wasn't interested. So I asked him to go to some other churches in town. Still, he wasn't interested. It soon became clear to me that the only church Ed was going to be comfortable in was the Catholic Church. Though I wasn't happy at all with that situation, I didn't want to do anything to interfere with what the Holy Spirit was doing in his life so I resigned myself to going to Mass, at least until Ed's eyes were opened to the truth and we could move on to a real church.

Less than a week after Judy gave me the book we were at St. Mary Immaculate Church in Plainfield. It was the first Mass I had ever attended and Ed's first in more than 20 years. We both hated it.

One of my favorite things about going to church had always been the singing. The Lord's blessed me with a little musical talent and I love to sing praises to Him. So before the Mass began I had my missal ready to begin singing. And the entrance song began and I started singing and very quickly stopped because no one else was singing. I was the only one.

I'd also been real nervous about all the responses and prayers and things that I knew they were going to be saying -- and I didn't know any of them. But I soon found, I needn't have worried about that either. No one was responding either. It was also very noisy. All the kids were misbehaving. The adults were chit-chatting and you couldn't hear anything.
When we got back home I asked Ed to go to the Assembly of God with me that night. "No," he said. "I don't think I can take this twice in one day. Maybe next week." And I began to have hope.

But again I hadn't counted on the Holy Spirit. Judy was still praying for us and wouldn't you know, she interfered again. At our weekly luncheon on Thursday, I told her how much we'd disliked the Mass and why. "You should just sit up closer," she said. "That's where all the people who really like to participate sit."

Before I even realized what was happening, we had made plans to meet at the church on Saturday – for Mass – and go to their house for pizza afterward. And she was somewhat right. We enjoyed it a little more that week, but I was still determined to go somewhere else, preferably an Assembly of God or anywhere where people really liked to sing.

The next Sunday, I talked Ed into going to a contemporary worship service with me at the United Methodist Church. There was plenty of singing and I loved it. Ed didn't. The next weekend we had already planned to go to a Marriage Encounter – again at Judy's suggestion. And even though I enjoyed much of that experience, I found the Mass on Saturday morning meaningless and boring. The second Mass at the close of the weekend on Sunday, however, was a different story. By that time we had come to know the speakers, the priest and many of the other couples at the weekend. There was a real sense of community that transformed the whole experience.

But the real miracle occurred at the end of the Mass. We had all formed a circle around the room and Fr. Tom Griffith walked around the circle, administering communion. I believe I was probably the only non-Catholic there and Ed and I were close to the end of the circle. So when he came to us, I just gently shook my head. And he could have moved right on to the next person, but he didn't. He stopped, and he laid hands on each of us and he prayed. When Fr. Tom did that, I felt the Holy Spirit come upon me so strong that my knees grew weak and I thought that I was going to fall over. I was astonished. I had never thought a Catholic priest could pray with such power.

My eyes had already been opened to the truth about Mary. I had already come to a firm belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and now I realized that at least some Catholics also ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit. With this knowledge, I wondered how I could ever go back to an Assembly of God or to any other Protestant church. The fact was, I couldn't. I was stuck.

Ed: And as the tiny seed that was growing within me began to get larger and larger, Mary persisted by sending words and sending the Holy Spirit to me every chance that she had. Things began to happen in my life which were new and extraordinary and confusing. They were little things but they were extraordinary to somebody like me. And they occurred almost every day of my life. Like the morning I woke out of a sound sleep and looked at the clock and said, "I still have time to get to church."

It was a weekday morning.

I was dressed and on my way out the door before I realized what I was doing. Going to marriage encounter and hearing Fr. Tom say that he'd be willing to hear confessions for anyone who wanted to that night. And I was sitting there in that chair and said, "I can do that." And actually doing it for the first time in 35 years. And most amazing was thinking about some problem or issue, or some concern that I didn't understand about faith and going to Mass and standing up for the Gospel and wouldn't you know that that was what the reading was on? And then if I was too dense to understand it, usually, the priest would give a homily on the same subject.

Or the unique feeling about thinking about something and needing to talk about it and having Deborah come into the room and sitting down and saying, "Did you ever think about this?" Which would be exactly what I was thinking about. And we're close, but we're not that close.

I felt like I had gotten onto the world's tallest roller coaster and I was plunging downhill a mile a minute – and once I had committed to that ride, there was no way I could stop it or get off. My faith, my understanding and my acceptance grew rather quickly.

I've learned so much over the past year. So much about what I am, what I'm not, what I want to be. I've had to rethink so much of what I had believed. I've come to learn that belief in God, acceptance of His love, the comfort of prayer and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin – none of those things would make me a strange, fanatical person as I thought they would. I have no strong desire to sell all my clothes, to move into a cave and to wear a sack.

I still have the same job, I'm still married to the same person. I still like to do the same things. And I still have many of the same problems, but I do have some place to go with them now. And I do have a desire to change. And I do have a desire to live the life that I have a little better, a little more Christian and a little more devout.

It's a lot easier to talk about this now, at this point in time. In the beginning, I was embarrassed to talk about prayer – even to Deborah. Of course, throughout my life I'd made such a big deal about being independent. I certainly didn't need anyone to intercede for me. But I can't quarrel with success. It seemed to be working.

When I was in human resources, as a trainer I used to tell my trainees that everyone is looking for three things in their life. They need some one to believe in. They need some thing to believe in, and they need some one to believe in them. In my case, I never understood what that was all about until just recently.

In the 13th chapter of Matthew, Jesus goes on to explain the parable of the sower and the seed. He says, "But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it. Who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred, or sixty or thirty-fold."

I finally had within me that fertile soil and that was all that was needed for the seed to grow. And when I look back on it, it was so very simple to get. All I had to do was open my heart, sit quietly and pray a little. And that's probably the most important thing that I've learned in my experience and I'd like to say that again because it is so simple. All you have to do is open your heart, sit quietly and pray a little – and the wisdom and the knowledge and the understanding will just come upon you and those seeds will grow.

As the Scripture says, "I was blind but now I can see."

Many years ago in my search for inner peace, greater knowledge and freedom from anxiety, I immersed myself in the study of meditation. In one of the many books I read on the subject, the author interviewed hundreds of people who meditated. And he tried to summarize the feeling that they received from that. And they said that meditation was – "coming home." And the author said neither he, nor any of the people who said that to him could ever explain what it meant, but you would know it when you found it.

Well I wanted it. I meditated three times a day for months. My eyeballs started to turn backwards in my head. I wanted to come home. And I could never get it. All I got was a bad headache sometimes.

I feel it now. Through the acceptance of God and His son Jesus. Through the acceptance of His plan, through the warmth and comfort of prayer, I think I now understand what "coming home" means. I can't describe it to you, but you'll know it when you get it. It is indeed "coming home."

Sometimes when Deborah and I talk, it feels like we've journeyed a million miles and I guess we have. We know we have a million more to journey and it's going to be a little bit easier because now we have the map. We're excited to be part of the Body of Christ. We're pleased to be part of the Catholic Church and we are so proud to recite the Creed. And we love the peace and the strength and the wisdom and the courage that it has given to us. And we're looking forward to a great and exciting life. God has given us many great gifts and we pray that we can use them wisely.

We want to thank all of you for listening to us, and the conference committee for inviting us. And we want to thank God the Father just for being there, and Jesus, his Son, for giving us the words and the nourishment to live by, and the Holy Spirit, the advocate, for letting us be able to understand and accept everything that's happened to us and the Blessed Virgin Mary for showing us the way.

"God, who enlighten the hearts of your faithful by the power of the Holy Spirit, grant that through the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise and evermore rejoice in His consolations. Through Christ our Lord." Amen.

(Note: If you would like to read Weible's "Medjugorje: The Message" for yourself, click on this link for a great price, easy ordering and fast shipment.)

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