I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m 22. I’ll be 23 in November.
I just finished my fourth year in seminary. I entered right out of high school with some dual enrollment classes so I went ahead a year. I’m in theology now so I’m three years away from becoming a priest.
Mary helped me say yes when I was a senior in high school. I come from a very good Catholic family where my dad led prayer all the time and we went to Mass, but my mom always subtly reminded us to be open about vocations. I was aware that one could be called to be a priest, but I never wanted it.
When I was in high school, many things happened providentially. God granted me many graces to open my ears, to wake me up, because I started to live a life where I would have eventually turned away from God completely. He stopped that process.
When I was a senior in high school, I really started to address what I felt deep in my heart from when I was a kid, that God was asking me to be a priest. I wrestled with it, and I got to go to the Holy Land.
When I was at the Church of the Visitation, I remember very clearly, it was like day and night, I asked Our Lady, after I received the Eucharist, “If this is what your Son wants me to do, give me the strength and I’ll do it.” I think it’s as simple but as powerful as I didn’t want to be a priest and then I wanted to be a priest, just like that. I was very joyful about it.
Here I am, four years later, thanks be to God.
This is my first time in Medjugorje.
I heard about Medjugorje when I became a seminarian.
Seminarians talk about controversies in the Church, and Medjugorje is one of those things in the Church where the Church hasn’t said it’s like Fatima or Lourdes. Every once in a while, there’s a debate about whether it’s real or not. But then also there are parishioners who are going.
My friend Alex, he’s entering the Dominicans. He studied abroad for a semester in Italy. I met him there because I study in Rome. He put together a little group of guys, one of his cousins who’s a Protestant, his friend who’s a Protestant, his other friend who is entering the Dominicans with him, and me.
Honestly, I had a free summer planned, and I wanted to hang out with him before he entered religious life. I also love Our Lady so I thought it would be good to come check this place out.
I was skeptical, for sure. I want to know the truth, and I want to believe in the truth. Always, there was a willingness to be wrong, but all I had heard was what other people said about Medjugorje, good and skeptical.
I didn’t have an opinion yet. I came here with an open heart. It was a little strange for me. You hear how it’s very touristy. The visionaries didn’t become nuns or priests. It’s cool now, after being here, that they didn’t. I think it shows the sacredness of married life.
All this just to say that I was skeptical, but not so skeptical that I was closed off.
I would describe it as a place of prayer, a place where people are seeking God and Our Lady. I’ve been surprised to hear how many people here are Protestant or atheist. I think it just has some sort of atmosphere that makes people curious and draws people here and then I hear many stories of conversion and priests hearing confession.
That’s one thing I’ve been surprised about the most, how dignified it holds the priesthood to be through confession and the sacraments. It’s always about the sacraments and the Mass and confession, but also the Rosary.
Being here for the Youth Fest was special. I met a lot of amazing young people, seminarians, lay people. The Church is alive. It definitely seems dead based on all the scandals and the media, but don’t count God out yet.
I think there are a lot of young people who have gone through a lot of terrible things, and through those terrible things, they’ve encountered that God exists and that God is in the Church.
Hard times are ahead, but I believe that there is a generation ready to embrace them and preach the gospel. I saw that here.
I came here with the mindset, “Mary I don’t know if You’ve been appearing here or not, but I know that people come here to grow in devotion to You. I love You and I want to grow in devotion to You so I’m going to dedicate this week to You. If You’ve been here, please, I’m open to believing.”
Mirjana talked to us. There was so much authenticity. It’s hard to describe. I’ve only talked to her, but it really made me believe that at least she’s seen Our Lady, and therefore, She’s appeared here.
Especially the pain you can see in her heart, because she’s one who supposedly sees Our Lady only once a year. When she talked about how much it hurts not to see Her, that made it more credible for me because I imagine seeing Our Lady would bring so much joy, and then not seeing Her would make you very sorrowful.
In all honesty, I’m still open to believing more. I definitely believe in a lot of the things that have happened here.
This is a crazy thing, that Mary would appear somewhere, that Mary would appear to people every day. That’s crazy. It’s okay if you’re skeptical, I think. God’s never wants to make you believe something.
I think we should at least be humble enough to say, “God, if this is real, help me believe it.”
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We don’t always know what’s true and what’s wrong. It’s hard.
But just come here seeking Our Lady, and be open to believing. If it is the case that this is real, ask God to help you believe, and He will. Ask Our Lady to help you become aware of Her presence here, and She will.
Don’t beat yourself up for not being sure. It’s okay. This is miraculous stuff. This is stuff that wouldn’t happen normally. It’s okay that you’re skeptical.
I hope I will come back. I want to hear confessions here, as a priest.