iMedj note: In 2015, Chrystal and her husband Joe were invited to Medjugorje for the first time.
“I don’t know what was going on. It just seemed like we were having all these bumps in the road, and we actually went and spoke with our pastor at our parish, just, “What is going on with our lives?” And he was so funny. He was like, “Hey, I don’t know if you guys have heard about this place called Medjugorje, but I’m actually going there in like three weeks, and you guys should see if you can come.”
Father Tom Weisbecker actually got his vocational call in Medjugorje. He is a Medjugorje priest. I don’t even know how many times he’s been there, like 15, 20 times.
We had no plans to go anywhere. We weren’t big travelers. We didn’t have passports. Our kids didn’t have passports. And something clicked in Joe, in my husband, and he was like,
“Yes. We’re going.”
And I was like, “No no no. Hold on. Our girls are in school. None of us have passports. I don’t think you understand what you’re saying.”
It was like a rocket that just took off. We applied and got passports for the four of us, Joe and I and the two girls. Father was able to make sure that there were still openings in the group he was going with. They had room for us. They made all the arrangements with airline tickets. All of this happened within three weeks.
And it was the craziest three weeks. All of these things were going wrong. Joe ended up in the ER twice. We had problems with our car breaking down. All these things things that never happen. But at the same time, all of these other things were completely falling in place. We were like, “Maybe we’ll go if this happens.” And all those things would happen.
So the four of us went.
On the way over there, as I was crossing the ocean, I found out that my dad passed away.
My dad had cancer and I went to his chemo treatment like two days before we left for that trip. I wanted to make sure he would be okay and he said he was fine, and he seemed fine. Then, when we landed in North Carolina, before we went overseas, I found out that he had coded and he was in the ICU. Then it was a real struggle for us to decide do we come back to Nebraska or do we go on that plane right there? And I just think, what if we hadn’t gone on that plane?
I talked to my mom, and she was like,
“Go. Go pray for your dad. Go pray for us.”
And we did.
I remember getting into Two Hearts [a hotel in Medjugorje], and I finally was able to call home, and he had passed away.
Father Tom was on that trip, and he said Masses for my dad. Everybody on that pilgrimage group, people that didn’t even know me or my family, they were all praying so much for my dad. I think the graces that he received from that trip, and us actually going, it was huge.
You can’t really explain it. We weren’t really sure why we were there, we just were.
It was just a completely different place you would never necessarily pick to go to if you’re thinking about taking a family vacation.
I don’t think that we knew what was happening until we went home, then just realized that you see things differently. Then you’re like, “What happened?”
One of the most powerful things of this trip was our 14 yr old daughter (at that time) said to us when it was time to leave and I asked her if she was ready to go home she said,
“It’s so easy being Catholic here.”
I feel like we were much like everybody else. We were trying to be good people and trying to raise our kids right and we went to church on Sundays. Trying to do all the right things. But really, I look back and I think, we were just sort of on the fence. We just rode that line on the fence. People use the term ‘lukewarm.’
I think going to Medjugorje that first time, opened our hearts and gave us that spark of faith. Now we are able to live with courage; live our faith with courage. And I think that that is what Medjugorje gave us that first time. We don’t care what other people think or say. We are living our faith, and we are living for God.
Joe and I started praying the Rosary together every night. I would say that, as a married couple, we went to Mass every Sunday together, but we didn’t sit down and actually pray together at night. He would pray. I would say my end of the day prayers at night. It was very casual and it was very individual between the two of us in our marriage.
After that first trip to Medjugorje, he and I started praying together. And I have to tell you, when you didn’t begin your marriage like that, it was a little awkward. We would laugh and giggle the whole time. But then it elevated our marriage somewhere deeper, and it means so much more.
It’s been five, going on six years, and we still pray the Rosary together. We still make time to do that. It wasn’t just a couple months of something we felt at the time. This is now who we are and how we are choosing to live.
The girls had gone with us the first trip, and I was like, “How am I gonna get the boys there? How am I going to get Justin and Colin there?” I wanted them to go so much, but I knew that they were gonna be like young teenage boys. I remember being that kid and being like, “Mom, oh my gosh.” And I didn’t want it to be like that for them.
I was praying and praying and praying. I put Joe’s name in that [Win a Free Pilgrimage with Stella Mar Pilgrimages] drawing and he won, I was like, “This is it!”
I said, “Joe, you have to take the boys. You have to go, and you have to take the boys.”
I know there are seeds planted there with the men in my house now, that Our Lady is with them and is always going to be working through them.
Even now, if Joe or I need a sub for our Adoration time and the boys are in town, they’ll pick up our Adoration time no problem. They will tell me, they pray the Rosary themselves. But that all came about after their trip to Medjugorje. They understood then what the change was in us. They were like, “Oh I get it now.”
iMedj note: After the boys trip, Chrystal returned to Medjugorje with three of her children in 2018. Her hope is to go back to Medjugorje with her husband and all 4 of her children.
~ Chrystal from Omaha
Continue to Part 2