A while back, I wrote about going to Zagreb for a concert and meeting three members of the band Duran Duran. However, that was only what half of the trip was about. Or maybe it was a small factor in the larger scheme of things.
This requires a little bit of backstory. I've been an ex-Catholic for over 30 years. I was born in a Catholic family and raised to be Catholic, but Catholic school pretty much fixed that. Yes, I had some bad experiences there, but to be fair, it really had nothing to do with Catholicism. It was some rotten kids and verbally abusive teachers who killed my faith. You bet it left a mark. But before my faith was completely crushed, I did pray to Mary, the Queen of Peace. I was 12 and wanted very much to meet John Taylor of Duran Duran and I asked her to make it happen.
Now I'm reminded of a joke about a man who was talking to God and he asked Him, "God, how much is a penny to you?"
God said, "About a hundred dollars."
The man then said, "How much is a minute to you?"
God replied, "About a hundred years."
The man then said, "Well then, God, can I have a penny?"
God replied, "In a minute."
When I asked Mary for what to me would be a miracle, it seemed she answered affirmatively, but something to the effect of "In a minute." It would seem that God's sense of time and Mary's sense of time runs a little differently, and thank God, because Mary's idea of a minute appears to be 32 years.
Time went by and my life went through all sorts of crazy things. I remained a loyal Duranie through my teenage years. I also found myself attending a church that was very anti-Catholic and anti-secular music. Well, the anti-Catholic part was easy enough for me since I had been practicing that for about five years at the time, but I stayed being a Duranie, though I had to be quieter about it. This was an abusive church, only this wasn't just a few bullying kids. It seemed that everything that was taught was designed to tear people down, especially people like myself who don't fit tidily into boxes.
As I have written before, I got married to a guy who bullied the Duranie out of me, and it took a long time before I felt safe enough to get that back. I also left the bullying church, plenty scarred, but much wiser. I remarried, and my husband, Zoltan, has helped me through much of the healing, both spiritually and by encouraging me to love the music that I love.
A couple of years back, Duran Duran played four shows in the Pacific Northwest area, so I caught two of them. I went to Vancouver BC and had a wonderful time there, plus I met some wonderful fellow Duranies. A few days later, however, when I went to the show in Everett, something different happened to me. This venue was closer to where I and many of my friends lived so I knew several people there, but it kind of hit me that all of them have had a Duran moment, meaning they had met the band members, and I had not. For some reason, it bothered me. It bothered me a lot, and I couldn't shake it. Was I ever going to have a Duran moment? I knew it was childish and petty to allow this to get to me, but feelings are feelings, you know? I went home in tears.
Zoltan, however, does not like to see me upset and decided that it was time for my dream to come true... but he wasn't quite sure how this would be done. He asked friend and Duran Duran archivist, Durandy, for tips, who gave him some very good ones, but the one tip that made me give up on my dream was that it was best to try and see them outside of the USA, because they were more inclined to mingle with the fans in other countries. Since I'm not much into traveling, I didn't see much point in pursuing the dream. It's just not going to happen.
It's a good thing my husband didn't share this opinion.
He works in a Catholic church (yes, ironic I should marry a Catholic man after my running so long away from Catholicism; one of my many life adventures!) and goes to many different church events. He was at one event, celebrating the Feast of Fatima, which commemorates a vision of Mary in Fatima, Portugal. It was at this event that he felt a sudden desire to visit Medjugorje, the location of another Mary sighting, and to invite me to go with him.
It's said that in the early 1980s, some children saw Mary on a hillside and continued to see her regularly for months and years afterwards. Over time, the people who come to watch the children correspond with Mary grew to hundreds. Now, decades later, three of them still see her daily, and the others, only on certain dates. One of them, Mirjana, sees her on the second of each month.
Zoltan was suddenly filled with a yearning to visit Medjugorje, just to see what was there, unsure if the sightings were real or not. Plus, he wanted to bring me along. He wasn't sure why, but he knew that he needed to convince me to see it too, but how in the world would he convince me to travel halfway around the world to a place that celebrated someone I had long ago stopped believing in?
A few hours later, Zoltan received an email from the Duran Duran website listing the dates and locations of the next leg of their tour.
One such date and location was August 29 in Zagreb, Croatia, which was a mere three hundred miles away from Medjugorje! Plus, it was only four days before an apparition event was supposed to happen for the visionary, Mirjana. Suddenly, somehow, going to both events in one trip seemed the right thing to do. Did Mary put this together? Was I about to be lured to a major Catholic event with Duran Duran as the bait? Would it work? Could it work?
My husband called me then and there. "Hi, do you want to go to a Duran Duran concert in Zagreb, Croatia?"
A few months later, I'm in a car leaving Zagreb, still buzzing hard from an amazing concert and the fact that I had not only met three Duran Duran members (including John) but gave them each a copy of my book, Speaking in Feline, on my way to Medjugorje, Bosnia.
I wasn't sure just what to expect with the religious part of the trip. I knew that it was Mary who answered my prayers and made my Duran moment happen, so it was my turn to take up my end of the bargain and see what Medjugorje was going to do, but not being very religious myself, I was a bit apprehensive.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the city was the peace. I don't just mean that the streets and townspeople were quiet. There was an inner quiet that I have never known before. I am clairvoyant and tuned into the spirit world. Every day, all the time, I can hear and feel activity all around me. My world is never completely quiet. Imagine spending your life in a room full of television sets, all of them set to various channels at various volumes, until one day, they are all switched over to a test pattern. They're not off, just resting. That is how it felt to me when I arrived in the city. Everything around me was resting peacefully. Whatever awaited me there, something very good was living and breathing in that town.
At 5am on the second of September, Zoltan and I made our way to the famous hill. It was already crowded, for some people had been waiting since the night before in order to find a good spot. It was not unlike the lines outside every theater in the US when Star Wars made its premiere. It was a quiet yet friendly crowd. People were praying and singing in small groups all around me. When the sun came up, I could hear a murmur ripple through the crowd as the woman who has the visions came and took her place. I never saw her because the crowd was so large.
After a few minutes, there was suddenly a hush through the crowd, which meant that the woman went into her visionary trance and was communicating with Mary. Everyone around me hushed in reverent prayer.
Looking around, I mused to myself that the last time I was among so many religious people, it was when I attended the abusive church many years ago. Back then, I was pressured to put on a show. We were all pressured. We were made to feel that we had to show that we were more Christian than everyone around us, yelling our prayers and raising our hands...
Some people prayed like that. Others prayed quietly to themselves. Some people, like me, were simply there to observe. And it was wonderful. Everyone had their own thing to bring to that hillside and nobody cared if it was a show or not.
It's said that when Mary speaks to people, she uses the language that the individual understands the best. When she spoke to St. Bernadette, she used a dialect that was used only in her region. If she wants to communicate with someone who uses slang, she will use that slang.
It's when I was marveling how I didn't need to try and out-Christian the crowd around me when she used my language. It was a clear and soft voice, partway next to my ear, and partway in my head. Her voice I cannot copy in my mind, but I would know it if I heard it again.
I will not post the words she said to me, because I am not ready to share that yet, but she simply affirmed that all I am is enough. If I put on a show, it's all mine. If I stand quietly, that would be all mine. Nothing that wasn't me was expected or necessary.
I looked around to see if anyone else heard what I did, but of course, nobody appeared to. I almost laughed a bit to myself at her words, because they were words that where meant for me and could not be mistaken to be meant for someone else, but I didn't. I didn't want to bother those around me by chuckling out loud.
After several minutes, people began talking and moving about. Apparently, the vision was over. I never saw Mirjana, but I had seen plenty. Someone announced to the crowd that any artifacts that were brought to the hillside were now blessed. I didn't think to bring any artifacts, but I did have a copy of my book that I had been taking pictures with through Europe. Since Mary put this trip together just as my book came out, I only found it reasonable that this particular copy was blessed. Why not? I later sought a sticker with a picture of Mary to mark my book with, so that I would not accidentally sell my blessed artifact. Many stores did not carry stickers, but one kind cashier had some, the kind to seal envelopes, behind the counter one and gave it to me for free.
Zoltan and I began moving our way uphill along with the crowd towards a shrine. The way there is rather rough with jagged rocks, but I managed without slipping or falling. When we made our way to the shrine, we rested a bit and then went back down.
Because of my arthritic back, aging knees, and weak ankles, whenever I go hiking, I have to take relatively even paths without a lot of ups and downs. Even so, I always have some ache or another at the end of the hike. However, after climbing up and down the rocky hillside, in the end, I was without any pain. I was extremely tired, because we had been up so early, and now it was midday, but my back, knees, and all those other places that tend to ache after a hike felt fine.
I don't know why I was brought there, but something was started. I don't know what Mary has in mind for me, but I'm curious as to where this will take me. She took the prayer of a 12-year-old kid to unfold the most amazing Tetris game I have ever seen. If she had answered that prayer while I was still a kid, I would not have appreciated it the way I do now. Besides, my first husband would have ruined that for me. I had to go through all that I did in order for the Duran moment to be as big and real as it was, and that Duran moment was only the bait for something much bigger that I didn't know I was looking for. But what does Mary, the Queen of Peace, want with me?
When we left the city the next day, the peace of the city was left behind as well, and the world around me is noisy again.
I have mentioned earlier that I wear Duran Duran buttons the same way some people wear safety pins as a public statement. Well, after all that's happened to me, I always associate Duran Duran with Mary, the Queen of Peace, and so now I attach a Mary metal to the buttons. That is my statement of safety and peace.
Some people might see it as blasphemy, the idea that Mary would use a secular band, the lead being an atheist no less, to reach out to someone. I believe that such people are sadly short-sighted to what an incredible entity is capable and allowed to do.
The Virgin Mary got my attention and made some amazing things happen for me.
And it only took 32 years.
When will I know just what she got my attention for?
It might take a minute.