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Jun 05, 2021 565 Marie Paolini
Encounter

“Give Me Your Heart”

That moment I felt like the Blessed Mother had enveloped me in Her cloak.

In 1947, I was born in a small town in Italy, near Casalbordino, the Apparition site of “Our Lady of Miracles.” Since my birthday was on the day between the feast of “Our Lady of Miracles” and the feast of Saint Antony, my parents called me Maria Antonia.

We migrated to Canada when I was 7 years old. Although my parents were not avid church-goers they made sure that we followed the Catholic faith, but I did not pay much attention to the importance and significance of Our Lady until my parents visited Medjugorje in 1983. My mom was very moved by the experience, so she came home and told us about what was going on there. Among the rosaries, medals, rings and trinkets that she brought back was a small post card with a picture of Our Lady surrounded by the six visionaries.  Every time I entered her home, I saw this image on a little shelf in the corner of her kitchen, and it touched me. I could feel Our Lady looking into my heart.

In 1995, while I was watching a video about the happenings in Medjugorje, I felt Our Lady asking me: “When are you coming? I’m your mother and I’m waiting for you.” The next year, we heard of a pilgrimage from Calgary to Medjugorje and I felt compelled to enrol myself. Because of the recent war in Bosnia, many people withdrew from the pilgrimage for fear of what might happen, but I was determined to go.

At Medjugorje, I felt a deep confirmation that Our Lady was indeed calling me. One day, I met Father Slavko Barbaric, who looked at me and said “When you go home, I would like you to start a prayer group and the prayers have to be directed at helping the family because the family is in crisis today.” After we got back, we started the Hour of Prayer at St. Bonaventure. Every year, we have more and more people joining us for prayer.

I visited Medjugorje seriously committed to make some drastic changes. I knew that I needed a strong conversion of heart, so I sought Our Lady’s help to understand the Scripture better, to grow in my prayer life and to experience joy and love in my heart as I prayed the Rosary. All of these blessings, and more, were granted.

At that time, I thought it was just “my” pilgrimage because I didn’t realize that Our Lady was inviting me to bring more people to Her. Father Slavko had insisted that I bring my husband, so in 1998, we went together. I felt called to bring more people to Our Lady, but asked Our Lady for a sign to confirm that. Soon after, two ladies approached me, seeking my help to go to Medjugorje. Every year since, I have a wonderful heart to heart to talk with Our Lady about whether I should go again. Every time, I receive the answer that there are more people who need to receive graces and blessings from the Lord with the help of Our Blessed Mother, who is full of grace…

Our lives haven’t been perfect and we have had moments that test our faith too. Eight years ago, we received news that shocked us. My daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia. We immediately turned to the Lord, but being in such a panic, it was hard to focus on God and what He can do for us. One particular day, we went through a very difficult time. A clot had developed at the port, so medicines could not be administered and the doctors had to figure out how to treat her.

As usual, we took our concerns into the Lord’s Presence at the Adoration Chapel to receive His comfort. I looked at the Lord and asked Him why was this happening to our daughter and “Why us?” Very clearly, I heard Him reply “Why not you?” I realized that He went through such terrible suffering and He was accompanying us in our suffering, so that we could grow in His love. At that moment, I felt that the Blessed Mother enveloped me in her cloak, holding me close as she had held her Son after His birth and after His death.

When we returned to the hospital, our daughter was surrounded by a team of people resolving the problems which were hindering her treatment   I felt reassured that our prayers had been heard. Our Lord and Our Lady were there.  All we needed to do was trust. Everything was going to be okay. They would always be in our life, taking care of us. Last year, our daughter celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary. God has been so good to us.

Our Lady at Medjugorje gave us 5 stones to build the foundation of our faith:

1. To pray every day, especially the Rosary.

2. Read Scripture every day, to receive the Word of God.

3. To participate in Holy Mass as often as possible, if not every day, at least on Sundays.

4. To receive the Lord’s healing and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, at least once a month without fail.

5. To fast on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays.

This is not easy, especially if you are new to it. It takes a long time to build these habits and the endurance to follow them, but Our Lady kept encouraging us. What surprised me most was that when we were most consistent in praying the Rosary, we were able to practise the other stones more easily. The Rosary helped us to have the confidence to put them into our daily lives and develop them into a routine which we have grown to love and depend upon. She has become a daily presence in our lives.

Many of her messages say to us, I cannot achieve God’s plan without you. I need you. Give me your problems and pray for my intentions which are those of all the people who are praying the Rosary. So when we pray the Rosary for Mary’s intentions we feel connected to everyone. We have seen many amazing changes as the people who come on the pilgrimages return and get involved in so many vital ministries. Medjugorje has been a school of love for me. She is so ‘full of grace’ that when we join her in prayer, we become open to all the graces and blessings which Our Lord has to offer.

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Marie Paolini

Marie Paolini

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