Rich – 3 years later

iMedj note: Rich raised 9 children as a single father after his wife passed away. He came to Medjugorje for the first time in June 2015 as part of the cast of the documentary film Apparition Hill.

Still from the film Apparition Hill

My last trip to Medjugorje was in the fall of 2017. That was a little bit of a reunion for all of us [that were on the pilgrimage featured in the documentary Apparition Hill]. Most of us were there. 

Darryl was there for the reunion in 2016 [for the Medjugorje premiere of Apparition Hill]. That was powerful because I really got to spend a lot of time with Darryl one-on-one. One night we wound up back by the Risen Christ statue, and then I wanted to show him the stations of the cross back there which he had never seen before. I took him to each and every station of the cross and we talked deeply about each one. Both of us. And we noticed that in all of them there’s an old guy with a beard and he’s almost in every one of the stations and we thought maybe that was supposed to be God watching or something like that.

It was one of the most special times of my life, spending that time with Darryl. The night before he left as he was lying in bed and we talked about life and death, just deep conversation, and when I said goodbye I told him the next time I see you might be on the other side. We both laughed and hugged and I told him I love him. That was in June of 2016, and then he passed away the day before Thanksgiving that year. I was so grateful to have that time with him. It was like talking with somebody who was right between heaven and earth. It was crazy.

It’s always good to go back. It feels like home to me, like a second home. I’ve been there three times but I feel like I pretty much know it like the back of my hand. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful place. 

I’ve always been spiritual and I’ve always practiced my faith, but I feel like [going to Medjugorje] solidified everything. When I look back now, I think there was probably a three or four year time period where I was learning more about my spiritual life, so when I got to Medjugorje I was open to it. I was so incredibly open to it. 

As I was leaving a weekend retreat I said to my spiritual director “Well, back to the real world.”

And she said to me “No Rich, this is the real world.”

I really thought about that a lot. The spirituality of our lives is really what’s most important. 

Then of course coming home and trying to keep that alive and trying to live that on a day to day basis is most important. Medjugorje is like like Heaven on earth so it’s important to keep it alive.

I’m a reader so I did buy a lot of books about the messages. I have a giant chunk of rock that I brought back. It sits on my altar. I try to pray the Rosary every day and the Divine Mercy chaplet. Right now I’m in a good place with that. Sometimes it goes away and then it comes back. 

Ways I try to keep it alive: In Father Slavko’s book, Pray With the Heart, there’s a chapter in the back of that called “What to do when you get home” and he says to get a space or place at home where you can go. He says in life you’re gonna have your Cross Mountains, all those problems you have, you need a place like Apparition Hill to go to pray to handle those crosses, those big mountains. Find a place where you can go or set up at home with Medjugorje stuff or whatever and go there frequently, if possible, on a daily basis, to experience your Apparition Hill and go to Apparition Hill and pray to the Blessed Mother for the mountains and crosses in your life. I thought that was a great analogy so that’s kind of what I did when I came home

Regan and I, my fiancée, we want to go after we’re married.

Regan is the music director at my church. I’m in the choir, and I play guitar. Her and I were friends and working together musically for about five years. I didn’t really know her that well, but we got to know each other. We developed a friendship. Then we started talking more, chatting more, texting more, and then that flourished and developed and we started dating in January of 2019. It turned my life upside down.

I was single for 14 years. I just left it in God’s hands. He certainly brought us together. We’re having the time of our lives. It’s also a little bit of a struggle because we’re both forced to change in ways of doing things, but that’s a good thing. As long as we’re challenged and we remember the reasons for this, both of us growing and coming together. But we totally feel like we were set up. Set up by the Blessed Mother actually.

I wouldn’t say that I prayed earnestly for it. I’m always more like God’s will, not mine. His will be done. Whatever is gonna happen is gonna happen. I looked at becoming a deacon. That was a big decision because if you’re ordained a deacon and you’re not married, you cannot get married after that. It’s not that I didn’t want to do that, it’s just that I was thinking of that. But I also had a lot more kids at home and I think they saw that on the application. They never even called me back. [Rich laughs] But God’s will. 

Then, honestly, I discerned the priesthood for a while. 

But all that stuff, even though I was discerning it, it was down the road a little bit because my primary concern was always to get the kids set up as best as I can. Get them out on their own and all that. That’s what I was really waiting for. 

My relationship with Regan just kind of blossomed out of the blue. She said that she liked me. I don’t even know what they say these days. She had eyes for me. Then we went out with a group of people a couple times before we ever started dating, and afterwards my buddy Joe was like, “Dude are you blind? Come on. She’s got eyes for you.” And I didn’t want to believe it. I was like, “No way.” 

So being open to it was amazing. She is just a ton of fun. Musically, we’re together. We’re both very, very happy. Totally in love. Absolutely totally in love with each other. 

I’ll never forget my time in Medjugorje. I know that I’ll definitely be going back again, this time with Regan which is going to be super special because I talk about it all the time.