Denise Marie: We were saving up some money for a car, and we ended up getting a car that cost a lot less. My husband knew that I wanted to go to Medjugorje so badly. He said, “We’ve got the money that we didn’t spend on the car. Why don’t you use that to go?”
I thought, “I’m not going to go now. I’ve got an eight year old, a six year old, a three year old.” I was afraid to go across the ocean, and all these different things.
But Larry, my husband, kept saying, “You should go.” He would just start telling family members, “Oh, Denise is going to Medjugorje.”
When people were so excited, I almost felt like I was going to disappoint them too, besides Our Lord and Our Lady, if I didn’t go. I thought, “Okay, I guess I’m going to Medjugorje.”
I went all by myself. I was the only one from Nebraska. It absolutely changed my life.
I was already Catholic, but when I got back home, I would take my daughter and my nephew that I was babysitting, and we went to Mass every morning. I could not stop living Medjugorje when I got home.
It was so life-transforming that unfortunately it was very difficult on our marriage. I had experienced something that he didn’t. He didn’t understand what I had gone through. We were on two different books. It was very hard.
I kept hoping that he would go. Then finally in 2006, six years later, I was listening to the radio and they were talking about a foundation that was sending teachers and priests to Medjugorje for free so that when they got back they could bring what they had experienced to their classrooms and their parishes. Larry is a Catholic school teacher.
I called and explained my situation, and basically we had to hope somebody would sponsor him.
Larry: I kept saying, “I’m not going to know anyone on this trip. I’ve never travelled anywhere by myself.”
I said I had three stipulations. One was the cost, we didn’t have the money for me to come here, two was work, and three was I didn’t want to go by myself.
Then I found out who was going to be on the trip. Two of them were my former teachers when I was in grade school. Then there was one teacher from our school.
Denise Marie: The very last day to sign up, I got a call, and he said, “Your husband has been sponsored.” It was paid for, he was going with somebody that he knew, and he was able to get out of work.
Larry: All of the obstacles were eliminated for me.
Denise Marie: He still had negative thoughts about coming, but he just said, “How can I say no?”
Larry: Father Wee was our spiritual director. It was the 25th Anniversary here. Father was going to be by himself, but they didn’t have enough hotel rooms so they paired us up. We didn’t even know each other.
It was his first trip too.
I was very nervous coming here because I didn’t know a ton about Medjugorje. Once I was here, it was fantastic.
At first, I was still not thrilled that I had to come here. I felt like I was going to be losing money by not working. After being with Father Wee and the other pilgrims, it went over really well.
I wasn’t on fire as much as Denise was about it, but I did bring it back, and I did encourage a second group to come over. Another group of teachers from my school came over, and they really enjoyed it. They were able to bring back things to their classrooms and teach the students about the pilgrimage and about Medjugorje because they had never heard of it.
Denise Marie: I was disappointed. He was more excited about the physical elements of the trip.
I was patient and allowed him to share all of that. Then when he was all done, I asked him about the spiritual, he said, “I don’t know what to say.” My heart dropped.
Sometimes when something wonderful happens you think, “This is going to be it!” Then when it’s not, you think, “Well that was my last shot.” You lose hope.
I would become judgmental. I would say, “Well, you’ve been to Medjugorje too, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve been there.”
But it was better than before he had gone, little by little. It’s very slow.
It reminds me of this mountain here [Cross Mountain]. It’s so slow. You have to watch every step. Don’t look up and see how tall the mountain is or how steep it is. Just watch each step slowly.
That reminded me so much of my life and waiting for something to happen. I was looking up instead of looking down and watching each step. You will eventually progress and make it to your destination. Instead, I would look up and see how high the mountain was and think, “Oh, just forget it.”
Climbing this mountain today with him, I had a feeling it was going to be a very good experience. I’m going to have a lot to write in my journal of lessons learned from making this climb with him.
Larry: This trip is much more special than it was the first time.
Denise Marie: Father Wee said that he was going to Medjugorje. I said no. I felt spoiled enough going as many times as I had. I thought, “It’s okay. I don’t need to go anymore.”
The trip got cancelled and then rescheduled. He said, “Are you sure you don’t want to go now?”
This thought came to me, “Why aren’t you going?” I think it was the Blessed Mother. I started to think of all the different obstacles that were typically there, and they really weren’t.
I said, “Okay if I go, it’s going to be out of pure love and gratitude. I don’t need to ask anything. She’s given so much.”
I said to my husband, “I have to ask you a question. If it’s no, it’s fine. there’s not going to be any arguing.”
He said, “Well, I think I just got my sign of what to tell you. Turn around. Look out the window.”
I looked out the window, and in the sky was floating a red heart helium balloon.
Years ago, I said, “If I ever return, I will not come without you. We need to come together.” I didn’t think that was going to happen. I didn’t want to start more arguments so I just let it be.
I said, “Larry, I’m not going to go without you.” That made him very uncomfortable for all the same reasons as before.
The day we were supposed to give an answer, I was watching MaryTV. Denis and Cathy were praying the Rosary and they picked their saint of the day. They picked out St. Lawrence. That’s Larry’s name.
Finally, reluctantly, he didn’t want to say yes but he felt guilty if he didn’t. He wasn’t happy about it.
What do you think, Larry, since we’ve been here?
Larry: It’s been wonderful. I’m happy I came.
Denise Marie: This is totally different from before. It took 21 years. Like this mountain, it takes a while, but you just have to keep trusting, keep plugging along.
Even when you don’t live it out in the way you’re supposed to, you get resentful and bitter and angry and judgmental and arrogant. All of that comes into it when you feel like, “What’s wrong with you? You’ve been there. Why aren’t you living this out?” That’s been very hard. I haven’t lived it out the way that Mary would have.
I think the fruit was there all along, and I was tempted by satan to dwell on the negative. Now that our children are young adults, we do see a difference in them. It’s God’s grace. He turns good from bad always.
Ten years from now, we can tell you what this 2021 trip did for us.