Joan made her pilgrimage to Medjugorje despite the war, even though she had been advised not to come. She has visited Our Lady, our Mother, already six times. This girl has deep blue eyes that have turned away from the natural light, and on her face is a constant smile. Tall, nicely built, with a pleasant voice, she tells her life story, which has received all its beauty in Medjugorje.Joan, tell us something about yourself........
I was born 36 years ago in Pittsburgh, in the American state of Pennsylvania. My mother is Croatian from Zagreb (surname at birth Zortic), and my father is Czech. I did not learn Croatian, nor do I know Czech. Now I would like so much to know Croatian. I finished college and got a job with the well-known computer
company IBM. I was successful at work so that, after only two years, an opportunity for advancement opened up, which is not very common at IBM, but rather rare. With two years of experience, I became a manager, something that is usually waited for 10 to 15 years.
Joan, what happened?
You use a stick to help you determine the distance of things from yourself and which helps you determine the direction of movement; but looking into your eyes, one finds oneself confronted with depth, width and light and one feels deep joy...In 1986, four years after my employment, I had a serious car accident. I was on my way to work, driving my small car according to regulations, when I was practically crushed by a giant truck. I was taken to the nearest hospital, completely broken. Iwas losing myself more and more, my breathing was not right.
Then I was transferred to a trauma clinic. I fell into a coma...A few days later, the doctors discovered that my neck arteries, which supply the blood to the brain, were damaged. All four were damaged. Very little oxygen was getting to the brain. The left side; of my body was not functioning. I became a very interesting case for the doctors---with arteries so damaged, it was not possible to be alive, yet I was alive. Helpless with my situation, the doctors advised my parents to pray. My parents knew a priest from my parish. He came to give me the last anointment since I was in a deep coma. With him came another priest and a nun. When they finished praying, the nun put her hands on my face and said a prayer to Our Lady. At that moment, I opened my eyes.
What happened next?........................
The doctors and the clinic staff were surprised. One nurse ran to my mother and said: "You have to see Joan!" I started to come out of the coma and everything was slowly getting better. I did not remember the accident, I did not even remember my job only little, and very faintly. I couldn't walk, I was in a wheelchair. But the hardest was when I realized that I had lost my sight. I was not totally blind, but I was not able to recognize people. The doctor told me that my eyes were actually all right, but that the center for sight was
damaged due to lack of oxygen... and that I would never be able to see again... to return to work...I cried until it seemed that there was no more water in me for all the tears. I was irritable and angry with people and with God. I asked the priest how a loving God could create blindness. Not even he could give me an answer. He also left. I was left all alone in total desertion, without God and without human compassion.
How did you come to Medjugorje?........................
In my agony, I heard about the apparitions in Medjugorje. They told me that miracles happen in that village and I wanted to come and be healed. I came with my mother in 1988. I spent the whole time here crying and asking God: "Why, Lord, why can I not see?" I told Him: "I don't care about a broken leg, I don't care about not having the use of my arm and I don't care if I can't speak clearly... I want to see!" Then it seemed to me
that I got an answer, as if God told me: "Why do you limit me?" That convinced me that I could be healed completely... Two things happened during the time of my pilgrimage. I went with my mother to the apparition site on the hill. There on the hill, I met the priest and the nun whose prayers, through the grace of God, had brought me back to life. The nun told me: "Joan, I would like to get a picture of you on this hill. Put your hand on the cross, which stands on the place where Our Lady appeared." I complied and moved to the cross. And when I touched the cross with my hand, I said: "God, forgive the man who did this to me." My mother said in surprise: "Joan, where did that come from?" I told her: "I don't know mother, but I felt that I could not come to this hill and ask Our Lady to heal me while carrying hatred in my heart for the man who caused the accident." And I received great mercy: I started to pray for the man who did this to me; I have never seen that man, never met him, but I prayed for him. Our Lady inspired me to do this.
And what was the other thing that happened?....................
I visited one of the visionaries of Medjugorje. With the help of a translator, I told him what had happened to me and, crying, I told him that I did not know how to be blind and did not know how to be dependant. This was all very hard for me. Why did God pick me? From the visionary, I heard the words: "Pray and fast; God
gave you this cross, because only you can give something that is very important to yourself. Take the cross with love, pray and believe that God is here in deeds..." When I returned home, I noticed that my life had completely changed. I started to pray the rosary for the first time in my life, even though I had been raised in the Catholic spirit. The sacraments confused me; I could not differentiate between the joyous and the sorrowful ones. I did not know anything. I joined a prayer group and worked hard to learn to pray. I was still struggling a lot because of my limitations, because of my blindness. I cried, but that was no longer a desperate cry, but something else. The words remained in my heart: "God gave you this cross because He loves you and because He wants something from you!" I was thinking and wondering what it was that I could give to God. And I found the answer: my story, my life, what happened to me, the accident. I will write it down.
How will you give your story to God?......................
I will accept it with love and I will present it with love for all those who suffer. After that thought, God gave me the title of the book I was to write -A Greater Vision! I spoke to my parents about it and they agreed. They were glad; it was a relief not to have me always complaining about my fate. Joy returned to our house. Peace set in!
What exactly does Greater Vision mean?
I discovered that, although physically I had my eyes, I was spiritually blind. I did not see anything in my life correctly. When I lost my eyesight, I gained spiritual sight. And that is better. With it, you see things better and you recognize the purpose of things and the meaning of life. That is how, for example, I discovered the value of prayer, of love, of forgiveness, and I realized that I had all the wrong beliefs. I became aware of my earlier belief that I do not need God, as I can do everything I need to do by myself.
That realization happened after the second pilgrimage?..........
Yes. I came in October 1988 and brought my father. I wanted him to convert also. That time, I cried less and prayed more, I received special graces and the conviction that, when I finish the book, I will be able to see... Nobody could do what Our Lady ." has done for me. She brought me to peace, to forgiveness, She
showed me the way, She showed me that God is needed and I am very grateful to Her.
What is happening with the book?.......................
Something extraordinary. I sent the script to two publishers. They both immediately responded and said that it was a beautiful, instructive and touching story, but that it was not complete and that it needed to be finished. I did not know what to do. I thought that maybe I had to wait for a miracle with my eyes...
On the feast day of the Rosary, October 7, 1990, I devoted myself to Our Lady after 33 days of preparation in prayer, and then I realized what else I had to write. Actually, something awful had happened in my life
before. I had an abortion. When I found out that I was pregnant, I had the job offer from IBM and I was justifying to myself that I was not ready for motherhood, that I could not lose the job. Even though I knew it was wrong -I decided to have an abortion. I thought that I had the right to do that, since it was happening in my body, and it was my decision alone. But now I know that was wrong! I got the job, I worked, I tried to forget the abortion, but that is not possible. A mother cannot forget, nor does God forget. The thought of writing about it terrified me, because it meant I had to tell my parents, I had to admit to the world what I had done... I wrote all about it in my conversion.
What is your conclusion?.....................
Abortion is a sin. We do not have the right to choose life or death, not ours and not that of others. Only God is the ruler of life. My decision was like that of the devil: I shall not serve, I shall kill'. God, not now, not like this, I decide. That is arrogance.
Could the accident have been punishment for this?
At first, that is what I thought. And it was very hard. But now I know that it was not punishment, but my cleansing. God always wants the best for us, even when we are evil. God uses the cross to cleanse me, to cleanse my thoughts, my heart and my actions. Now I know that God has already turned everything to
goodness. Before, I put God on the side, my career was more important than life. Now I know what suffering is and what peace is, even though I went through so much pain, learning to speak and to walk again. But everything is all right. I know and I am convinced that God will use what I have come to realize for the
good of others. When we sin, forgiveness alone is not enough; healing is also needed.
Do you want to say something more about abortion andmothers?......................
I know that a lot of other women do what I had done. And onlyin Medjugorje, did I come for a confession. God has forgiven me, and healed me as well. That is my Greater Vision. If God has forgiven me and healed me, I want the same to happen to all women -that they convert and that they confess. I want to say to them all: abortion is not a solution. I want to say to married and single women alike: accept the child, God wanted that child, love it because God loves it, take care of it, because God wants you to. Do not fall into the temptation and belief that abortion is your decision and your right. I invite everyone to whom this has happened: come to Our Lord, He is good and merciful; He will turn everything to the good. Do not be afraid of suffering. We cannot be better than our teacher; that is my message to everyone. Our Lady has suffered and She is close to all who are suffering. Suffering is a gift.
This is your sixth time in Medjugorje; tell us why you came again?....................
I came to pray. I am not afraid of the war. I came during Lent to pray quietly. And I came to give thanks. At first, the doctors thought I would die, then that I will not be able to walk, then that I won't be able to talk and that I won't be able to see. But actually everything is different. I believe that I will be able to see. God saved me to be a witness. This is no longer my life, but His. The old Joan has died and the new one belongs to God. Without the accident, I never would have done anything for God. This is a blessing and a Greater Vision for me. For all those who suffer, I wish that the suffering serves them to see, to devote themselves to God, and He will turn everything to the good.
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