Sacred Encounter

It is not difficult to know to whom to dedicate this short story.
I give God all the praise and glory.

Warning

This testimony strongly advices readers against looking at the sun. The extent of the damage that may occur by looking at the sun even for a brief period is blindness, severe damage to the eye’s retina due to solar radiation and disorder of color pigments. The danger to vision is significant because injuries and damage occur to the eyes without feeling any pain. Needless to state, I shall not be responsible in any manner to a person who might suffer any damage and injury by looking at the sun even for a brief period, thus, dangerously exposing his/her own vision.

Sacred Encounter

by Linda Casella

The most important thing is that I complete my mission, the work that the Lord Jesus gave me.

Acts 20:24 (NCV)

It was my first time at Medjugorje, the tiny farm village located in the heart of war-ravaged Bosnia. The weather was miserably hot and this remote hamlet was swarming with thousands of pilgrims who had thronged there from all nations. Everyone was flocking here for the 26th anniversary of when the Blessed Virgin Mary first started appearing daily to six young people (four girls and two boys) on 24 and 25th June 1981 on the Hill of Apparitions during the then, Atheist Communist Regime. The Christian names of the six being: Ivanka, Mirjana, Vicka, Marija, Ivan and Jakov.

It was only a few months ago when I heard of Medjugorje for the first time when my husband’s Aunt Joyce wrote to me and suggested I go there if I got the chance while I was working in the region. When I received her email I had no idea of where, or what this unknown western Herzegovinian village was all about. Aunt Joyce lovingly then subscribed the Medjugorje Sentinel for me. The seed was planted. As I read each of the newsletters that were filled with numerous testimonies I learned about the Medjugorje message (see Appendix 1). Soon I was steeped with longing to travel to Medjugorje as the seed had begun to grow in the quiet of my heart. I had no idea when, or if I would ever be able to go.

One day my friend Lolita sent me an email inviting me to join her on her next trip to Medjugorje. I was ecstatic and accepted her invitation eagerly. It took us two months to prepare our pilgrimage as we decided we wanted to be there during the 26th anniversary of our Lady’s apparitions in Medjugorje. I double checked through the internet and learned that the Feast Day of our Lady Queen of Peace falls on 25th June.

We both arrived in Medjugorje on the evening on Friday the 22nd June, 2007. I already believed everything I had heard and read about Medjugorje. I came home with no doubt at all.

It did not take me long to realize that the village of Medjugorje is an oasis of peace and the closest thing there is to a perfect community of love and adherence to the ways of God. Upon our arrival we attended evening Mass in Saint James and then attended further Mass’s on Saturday morning. I observed that regardless of the crowds, sweltering heat, the time of day, or the particular language the Mass was spoken in, thousands of pilgrims would queue outside Saint James - including us.

Unending throngs had converged from all over the world. Silent and recollected, they constituted a fascinating cross-section of humanity – professionals, business people, labourers, office girls, factory workers, farmers, mothers with small children, straggling family groups, bent, grey-haired men and women, long-haired teenagers in jeans – the variety was endless. I observed that the jewellery thousands of these women wore was necklaces and bracelets of traditional Rosary beads with Crucifixes thus proudly communicating something about who they are and what's important to them.

Everyone yearned for a pew or any space inside or outside the church to stand, fan themselves, and listen to the Mass in order to quench their individual deep spiritual thirsts and hunger. 

It was clear to me that the only international language that binds people together in peace is the sacred Word and will of God. Differences of language and barriers between souls disappear when we speak the only language that really matters, that of the spirit.

On Saturday afternoon, June 23rd, in spite of the heat, Lolita and I decided to climb to the summit of Mount Krizevac. Lolita insisted that we take wooden canes to help us climb the mountain as climbing to the summit of Mount Krizevac (The Hill of the Cross) is not easy due to its slope and dreadful rocky terrain. In fact you don’t walk up. You have to pick your way up using the boulders as stepping stones. Mount Krizevac is Irocky mountain we passed by monuments to all fourteen Stations of the Cross. 

At the summit is erected a 10 metres high reinforced concrete Cross that was built in 1934. This huge Cross is known as the Votive Cross. Erecting the Cross was very difficult as it demanded a lot of effort by the faithful to carry the lime, water, cement, sand, iron rods and wooden material up to those heights mostly by their backs. 

It was just after 2pm when we commenced our slow climb up Mount Krizevac in the strong sun. Lolita and I walked very slowly on the jagged rocks for fear of falling. Lolita had fallen the day before on the staircase of her apartment when she was leaving for the airport to go to Medjugorje. Her ankle was now slightly swollen. When she told me of her fall I was very concerned for her. Yet I thought this was a sign that God may have something very special planned for us because perhaps the devil had tried to stop our trip. 

As we climbed up the mountain there were neither clouds nor any hint of a breeze. We had just walked passed the third station when we unintentionally took a wrong turn which we later discovered is the far longer and isolated track up to the summit of Mount Krizevac. We were oblivious of our error at this time. We were now alone and I can not remember even one other pilgrim on this lonely path. At 3pm a dark cloud floated above us and covered the sun casting its most welcomed shade across us both. Immediately the air cooled with the gentleness of a lullaby. “Thank you Lord for the shade,” I said. 

“Linda, this is a good sign,” Lolita said. I became aware that Lolita was looking around. She appeared to be sensing something deeply spiritual around her. I did not sense anything apart from the cooler air upon my skin and where to safely put my foot down next.

Suddenly Lolita exclaimed, “Look at the sun! Look at the sun!” 

The cloud had parted. I quickly glanced at the sun. I could see it was bright silver with a tiny mark in the centre. We fell to our knees in prayer. However I was terrified to look at the sun for too long. 

After a lifetime of knowing that we should under no circumstances look directly at the sun I was afraid I would permanently damage my eye sight or go blind. So I kept looking away. I observed Lolita was staring at the sun directly with her eyes wide open without strain, concern or discomfort at all. I could not. 

(WARNING! - This testimony strongly warns against any person looking at the sun. The extent of the damage that may occur by looking at the sun, even for even brief periods, is blindness, severe damage to the eye’s retina due to solar radiation and the disorder of color pigments.)

Looking at the sky we saw sections of the clouds had now turned gold. The gold in the clouds also reflected its golden light upon the dirt track and the rocks in front of us making everything look enchanting. 

The sun and the rays started to pulsate and appeared to expand and descend towards us. That is impossible, but I saw it [1] .

There was so much dazzling brightness radiating across the sky that I was now confused, as it was hard for me to define the actual circle of the sun and where the rays begun. It was overwhelming. Now I really believed I would go blind if I looked even into the sky! Still Lolita appeared to have no reaction or discomfort at all. She continued looking directly into the brilliant sunlight without even needing to squint. (WARNING! - The danger to vision is significant because injuries and damage occur to the person without feeling any pain.)

I remember one moment in particular when the sun pulsated and appeared to be come down the sky towards us. Tremendous rays of light spread across the sky. I think we both got alarmed that the sun would reach us because we grabbed hands at exactly the same time. Lolita joked later she thought we would burn up! On our knees we prayed continuously in astonishment and awe.

Yet, like the doubting Thomas, I was still suspicious and thought this had to be an optical illusion or mind over matter. So I planned to put this optical illusion to a test. Pulling my hat down over my eyes I decided that if the sun was descending, and I did not move, the rays would soon radiate beneath the brim of my hat. For a few seconds I waited, with my eyes in shade and my hat low. Suddenly blinding light appeared well under the brim of my hat. Still I doubted. 

I decided to undertake a second test just in case I had moved. So I pulled my hat down lower and this time I did not even breathe. In seconds the rays of the sun came well under the brim of my hat again. Now I believed that I may be the spectator of something Divine. 

Then I looked up and saw a small round hole in the clouds. The hole was a shade of rose pink. It was the only pink in the sky and stood out because it was a very different colour to the rest of the whole sky. Inside the hole I saw the image of a face that appeared to look like the Lord’s face on the image of Divine Mercy. My eyes fixated on the face as I tried to humbly comprehend what I was seeing. I can see a face! Is that just a cloud? But it looks like the Lord’s face! I must be mistaken! Could this really be the Lord looking at me! Could the Lord know where I am, and even be watching me on this isolated mountain track! No way, I must be mistaken! I cried out to Lolita to get her opinion on this strange phenomenon, “Look at the pink cloud, look at the pink!” She replied she could not see any pink in the sky.

I did not want to turn my eyes away for fear of the image disappearing. However, I knew that later when I would tell my family they would want cold substantiated facts and evidence. So I turned and grabbed my camera and started snapping photos upwards into the sunlight trying to shoot the one small pink hole in the clouds. I found it, and more. 

In a few more minutes everything outwardly returned to normal. Lolita told me later that she was able to look at the sun directly without any concern or discomfort at all. I observed to my disbelief she did not even need to narrow her eyes, strain or squint. Lolita said at first she saw a tiny bluish mark in the centre of the sun. Then this tiny bluish mark turned into dark blue and it expanded and covered the entire area of the sun, but in the middle of it she saw the silhouette of Our Lady wearing a cloak of blue like our Lady of Guadalupe.

Out of my heart was flowing a river of joy and I was already thinking nothing inside me may be quite the same again. 

We reached the summit around 5pm and walked across the top to the huge white painted concrete cross. We now realized we had taken the long route that winds up and around the back of the mountain. We were careful not to make that mistake twice. We started walking down via the standard track that starts with a number of steps at the base of the cross. This time we passed hundreds of pilgrims, a few who had walked up and down the entire mountain bare footed. I saw that their feet were red and swollen due to walking upon the hot jagged rocks for hours. On our way down, Lolita had a fall but a good Samaritan came over and helped her up immediately. I was relieved to see she had no serious injury and could continue walking down the mountain. 

The 7pm Mass had already started by the time we got back to Saint James church and there was not one seat left to sit on to rest our weary legs, inside or outside the church. I was exhausted but we stood outside to hear the Mass along with thousands of others. During Mass I was in a state of reflection as I tried to comprehend our extraordinary experience just a few hours earlier on Mount Krizevac.

Medjugorje has also been referred to as the “confessional of the world”. Now I know why. Regardless of the time of day or evening I observed a continuous long line of pilgrims patiently standing in the hot sun waiting to have their confessions heard. Despite the heat, there was such a growing swarm of people queuing that the priests were hearing confessions outside in the open because there was no other place to go. I realized this was another strange phenomenon I was witnessing. 

The next day was June 24 the Feast of Saint John the Baptist and the start of the 26th anniversary of the first apparitions. At 9:00 in the morning of 24th June, we had a scheduled trip to Mostar,to see the historical bridge but the owner of the hotel, where we were staying prevailed upon us not to proceed because we would encounter monstrous traffic because of the well-attended, traditional Annual Peace March being held on that day. At 10am we watched hundreds of pilgrims who were not discouraged by the sun conclude the annual 14 kilometre Peace March from Humac to the front of Saint James church at Medjugorje. The pilgrims arrived praying and singing ceaselessly. We finally joined the marchers and celebrated morning mass with them in St. James church.

That evening five of the six visionaries spoke to the thousands of pilgrims at the end of the 7pm evening Mass at the exterior altar. 

The Saint James exterior altar seats 5,000 people but this was not near enough room. Thousands of others stood or sat anywhere they could find space to hear Mass from one of the dozens of speakers and microphones. The reading was said in 14 languages (I think that is what we counted) and I estimate that between 150-200 priests handed out Communion.

That night after Mass I looked back at the photos I had taken of the clouds. I could not see the face I had seen in the clouds, but I was surprised to see two letters that looked like ‘YA’ written across the sky (see Figure 8). 

I was perplexed. Was this YA a word or just a strange ink blot cloud? If it was a word what did it mean? 

The next day when discussing it with Lolita she thought YA is an abbreviation of the Hebrew word for Yahweh. She was right. In Jason Dulle’s article ‘God’s Name was not Secret’ he states:

“Jesus’ name is Yeshua, which is a compound of two Hebrew words: Ya (an abbreviation for Yahweh) and shuwah (salvation). It basically means "Yahweh is salvation," or "Yahweh has become salvation." It is a compound form of Yahweh.”

I was astonished but still pondered whether the YA was a Divine sign or whether it was just a mark in the clouds? I did not know. There was far more yet to find. 

The next day was June 25 and after morning Mass my first trip to Medjugorje was over. I returned home filled with peace but still had a strong burden upon me that there was something I had to find in the photos. But I could see nothing. 

Downloading the photos onto my computer I searched. Then as I zoomed in on the photos to my astonishment I could see two things. 

First I could see the image of a face and then in front of the face I could see the faint image of an angel with tiny wings in the sky! (see Figures 9, 10 and 11). 

Then in another photo when I zoomed in on I could see what appears to be the very faint image of a woman and a child. (See Figure 12). 

Even though I had now observed the YA letters in the sky, could see the outline of an angel and what appears to be a woman and child, the burden on my heart did not shift. In fact the burden was immense and getting strangely heavier. I felt there was something very special I must find. I had almost given up when I prayed to God for Him to help me find whatever He wanted me to find. And then I found it!

Zooming up onto one of the photos, like a bolt from the blue, I saw what I believe is the faint image of the face I had seen that afternoon peeking out of the hole in the clouds (see Figure 13). The image of the face is above the Hebrew word YA which as discussed is the abbreviation for the word Yahweh. 

The next photo I took was just four seconds later. However, in the next photo the face has completely disappeared and the exact spot has now turned a solid dark grey colour (see Figure 14).

Some people say they can not see any images or the face in my photos. That is fine.

Some people have told me they see more wondrous things in my photos but these images are not visible to me. That is also fine. So to ensure I do not make any great errors I leave all other interpretations to others.

Is it just a twist of fate, and a strange formation of cloud and vapour, that the Hebrew word ‘YA’ for Yahweh, and the image of a face are in the sky at the same moment? Or was it something for me to see and capture for His purpose?

Is it a coincidence that the next photo, four seconds later, has no trace of any face? The image vanished and the exact spot turned solid grey. 

Is it imagination that a photo taken 22 seconds after the photo of the YA and face has caught the very faint image of a woman and child?

Is it a fluke, and another weird formation of cloud, that a photo taken seconds after the photo of the YA and face has caught the image of an angel? 

Is it also by chance, that we took the wrong route and saw the unique phenomenon of the sun that happened at the same time as all the above? I make no claims. I leave that for each reader to decide. 

Most people who have travelled to Medjugorje have special stories to tell of their own very special experiences. This humble effort has been mine.

Appendix 1

In summary the Medjugorje message is a six point programme of:

1. Faith – belief in God and in the supernatural. It is your true vision and therefore live by it.

2. Commitment to God – let Him direct your life by turning away from sin in true conversion and repentance.

3. Prayer – regular Mass, monthly confession, daily rosary and dedication to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

4. Fasting – bread and water on Fridays and Wednesdays if you can. If not, at least cut back, or practice some self denial.

5. Peace – in your own heart, in your family and neighbourhood and work place, in all your human relations and reaching out to the war-stricken world.

6. The Holy Bible – read part of the Gospels every day. 

PRECAUTION WARNING!!

This testimony strongly advices readers against looking at the sun. The extent of the damage that may occur by looking at the sun even for a brief period is blindness, severe damage to the eye’s retina due to solar radiation and disorder of color pigments. The danger to vision is significant because injuries and damage occur to the eyes without feeling any pain. Needless to state, I shall not be responsible in any manner to a person who might suffer any damage and injury by looking at the sun even for a brief period, thus, dangerously exposing his/her own vision.

Appendix 2

Additional photos taken on June 23, 2007


[1] Millions have witnessed and are witnessing at Medjugorje and throughout the world now the cosmic miracle of the sun that first manifested at Fatima on October 13, 1917 (Connell, Janice T., Meetings with Mary – Visions of the Blessed Mother p.207 Ballantine Books NY).

 

For God to live in your hearts, you must love.