The Experience of a Lifetime – Virgin Mary, Alcohol, and Widow maker heart attack

Two Percent Survival

My Catholic Conversion - A Marian Journey into the Church

My Catholic Conversion - Widow Maker Heart Attack
My Conversion included a Widow Maker Heart on 06-11-2017.
That is me on the ventilator.

This is the story of my catholic conversion that began in 2012 when I walked into a Barnes & Noble in Florence, South Carolina, searching for reading material.  When I left, I had no realization of the journey I was preparing to embark on.  It would be a drastic, life-altering journey and the greatest gift that Jesus could ever give me.  He initiated all of this with one statement.

Table of Contents

Introduction

My story is pretty long, covering about seven or eight years.  I hope you will read all of it because it’s a good one.  Please bear with me.  I am not a professional writer-just a little guy trying to get my story out there to be read by someone who might need to hear it.

I can’t lie.  This conversion may seem a bit untrue and certainly uncommon, but I assure you, that is not the case.  I hope the reader can take something away from what I have written here and maybe aid them in their spiritual walk through this life.  If nothing else, I pray that you will acquire a greater appreciation for Our Lady (the Virgin Mary) and what she has done on my behalf.

What did I know of the Virgin Mary in 2012

What did I know of the Virgin Mary in 2012?  Not very much.  Just a few scriptures and a couple of stories in the bible, and that was it. I knew that she was Jesus’ Mother.  I had seen some paintings of her, and I thought she was lovely and looked peaceful from an artist’s viewpoint, and I always had respect for her.  Being Jesus’ mother, she was special to me because of this role.  I had not given her much thought; to be honest she was nonexistent to me.  Virtually, I knew next to nothing about her.

I knew nothing about apparitions, visionaries, rosaries and how to pray it, or anything like that. Neither did I know anything of Catholicism or catholic conversions, although I grew up in the Episcopal Church. Only one person I knew who was a catholic, and that was in a working relationship.  I knew no priests (although I met one two years into this who helped me immensely and I turn to for answers to this day).  Never had I stepped foot in a catholic church, not even once in my entire life.  I was fifty-two years old when the extraordinary gift was given to me.

With me, Our Lady was starting from scratch and there would be no outside help or outside influences for quite a while.  I would learn to rely on her only.

Spring of 2012, the Encounters Begin

In 2012, I began to have encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The encounters have had a tremendous effect on my life and have been a tremendous influence as you can imagine.  My dad passed away in 2012, I had a widow maker heart attack in 2017, my father-in-law passed away from a second heart attack in 2017, and my Mother passed away in 2018.

The Holy Mother was an anchor to me through this; she was with me every step of the way.  She has been involved with me from 2012 until now, and I pray she continues until my days are over.

Virgin Mary - she was behind my catholic conversion

What my Conversion Story is about

Honestly, part of this story is about life before Our Lady. Part is about the change that happened to me as Our Lady made herself known and became involved in my life.  And part is a love story.  It is a walkthrough of my catholic conversion and a compilation of all of the important things that happened along the way, including a bout with alcoholism and a widow maker heart attack that I suffered on a golf course and died. I have recovered from both 100 %.

Our Lady used different ways to get her point across and every time she did, it was crystal clear to me. I understood what she was conveying perfectly.

Our Lady is Real. Absolutely.

One thing I must say is that Our Lady is a real person. When I say she is real, I mean she is real.  She exposed me to a new reality.  She was always available to me during the time beginning in 2012 and still is today. Early in my experiences with her, things she did blew me away constantly.  Everything was so overwhelming. 

She could hear and see all that I did and continue to do (which in the beginning bothered me greatly).  That was my experience.  Speaking of experiences, I am not talking about the kind I had to figure out because they were faint.  I’m talking about in your face, make no mistake about it, easy to see and feel experiences; the kind you can not mistake.  They were not a dream but a reality.

The experiences that I have had with her are so incredible that I believe they need sharing.  I have not received any indication that she desires me to do otherwise.  I could never have imagined anything like this happening to me in my wildest dreams.  Unaware, this has been a dream come true for me.

Dedication

My Catholic Conversion, the Experience of my Lifetime, is dedicated to my Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Without her Love, influence, guidance, and willingness to pull me out of the mess I had created for myself, I would not be here today.  She has been an indispensable inspiration and influence in my life.  I will always be thankful and greatly indebted to her. 

Background

St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Darlington SC
St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Darlington SC

I was born in February of 1960 in Darlington, South Carolina, in the United States of America and was baptized into St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church that same year.  My parents were regular middle-class people who worked hard to try to make ends meet to be able to raise four children.

I had an older sister, a younger sister, and a younger brother.  My dad was an engineer, and my mother was a secretary at an elementary school.  Our childhood was not overly religious, although we went to church weekly.  I don’t recall any major discussions on religious subjects during the week.  We still had a very good life.

No alcoholism or drug use from either of my parents, no child abuse, nothing like that, not like it is so prevalent today.  They tried to raise us well and give us the best life possible.

In 1978, I graduated from high school, and in 1987 I graduated from college in computer science.  My wife and I were married on September 3, 1988. At the time, I was already working nearby in the steel industry.  After marrying, we attended her Church, Central Methodist, in Florence, South Carolina.  Then our first child, a daughter, was born.  We joined and attended Darlington Presbyterian Church and stayed there until 2017.

Then we attended St. Matthew’s Episcopal again for communion until our catholic conversion in 2019.

Virgin Mary

First Exposure - Barnes & Noble

In the spring of 2012, I went to Barnes & Noble bookstore to look for new spiritual reading material.  I like to peruse the spiritual aisles and look for anything interesting to me.  On the way in, a faint and quiet voice spoke to me and said,

“I want you
to meet my Family”

That is all the voice said.  I never had experienced anything like this before, and looking back on it now, I think it was quiet enough that the voice did not disturb me. I went inside wondering what this meant.

When I got inside, I could not decide what I wanted. There was one book titled “Our Lady Of Kibeho” that looked like it might be interesting.  I picked it up and put it back more than once.  After a few minutes, the rest slowly lost any luster they might have had a few minutes before. 

It was a book with a somewhat odd picture of a woman on the front.  She looked like she came from the ancient world.  However, something about this book was different. It didn’t read like the material I was used to reading which was the latest from Christian writers.  This was not just the ordinary Christian book.  Although, it was a catholic book, I didn’t notice and actually I do not recall noticing the subtitle across the bottom.  I bought it, took it home, and put it on the bedside table.

I Couldn’t Put the Book Down

Book Our Lady of Kibeho
Our Lady of Kibeho. The subject is Our Lady in Rawanda before the civil war.

There it sat for a few weeks.  One Sunday evening, I picked it up and decided to read the first chapter.  It did not take long before I was through five or six chapters, and I had to put it down to get up the next day because of work.  

The author was Immacculee Ilibagiza, and the book was about the Virgin Mary and the apparitions in Rwanda preceding the Rwandan civil war.  It talked about Apparitions, Rosaries, and Visionaries listening to and seeing the Mother of Jesus.  Moreover, at least Immacculee and her family, these people were so devout.  They were living it every day.

I could not understand why I had never seen anyone this devoted to any religious figure, let alone the Virgin Mary. I would wonder why my faith was somewhat stagnant long before I bought this book. My prayer life was decent, or so I thought. But in reality, it probably was not.  It was not like I wasn’t trying.  Everyday for eight straight years, I listened to In Touch ministries on radio broadcast before it started repeating itself.  I could not seem to get my spiritual life to grow.

The Holy Rosary

After I finished the book, I could not help but think about how religiously devout the Rwandans were. I admired them and wanted to be like them.  The truth is, I wanted what they had.  It never occurred to me that being Catholic was relevant-that they were devout because they were Catholic. 

Soon after finishing the book, I wanted to start praying the Holy Rosary.  After all, they did it in Rwanda every day.  Why couldn’t I?

The Rosary - First Experience

I decided to look up how to pray the Rosary, something I knew nothing about.  Was I in for a shock?

When I first began to look at the Rosary, it was nothing but confusion to me.  It was overwhelming because so many prayers were involved.  I did not understand any of them and did not know where to start.  Neither had I seen nor heard any of this before.

It took me a few days to figure it out, but I got there.  I decided to lay out each mystery from start to finish as a straight read-through and included all of the scriptures between the prayers.

I would read the scriptures aloud and learn to say the prayers aloud.  Everything I prayed aloud.  Click here to see the Rosary format I used and continue to use to this day.

Catholic Conversion - Rosary
Rosary - One of the Keys to my Catholic Conversion
The First Week of The Rosary - My Spiritual Journey Begins

After having completed the task of laying the Rosary out,  it was time to start. I believe I was a little excited but mostly apprehensive.  I began my prayers at about 5:30 since I left for my job at 7:00.  Everything I prayed aloud.  Initially, praying aloud took some getting used to,  but I felt like this was my way to do it.

After a couple of days, I understood what devotion to the Rosary meant because it took me 45 minutes to complete, and I was not used to this.  Three days later, I thought about forgetting the whole thing. Not being one to quit, I continued.

What I liked about the Rosary

I did notice one thing that I liked about the Rosary.   That was the structure it provided.  There was only a little place for a request, and the rest was prayers passed down through the ages.  I liked that.  No more of a task list for God with request upon request and me not paying attention to what I requested as it was all forgotten shortly after.   Never to be remembered again.  The Rosary Provided a new beginning to my prayer life and was just what I needed. 

Unbeknownst to me, my spiritual journey was about to take off.  On the 7th day after the first rosary, some incredible things began.  I did not understand what was happening, but my life was being changed before my very eyes.  I did not ask for it either.  It just happened, and someone else was causing it. 

The Blessed Virgin Introduced Herself in 2012

Catholic Conversion - Madonna & Child
Madonna and Child - Carlo Maratti - Circa 1660

Seven days after I started praying the rosary, I took a shower to prepare for work following my morning prayers.  When I got out, I stepped into an extremely strong floral smell.  It was so overwhelming.  I was blindsided.  It was as if someone put a Lysol bomb in my 5’ x 10’ bathroom and set it off; the smell was so strong and beautiful.  The first priest I met called this odor the Odor of Sanctification.

I did not know what to think because it was such a big surprise.  I stood there for a few seconds and thought, “I have never smelled anything like this before, and I am 52 years old.” The next thought I had was, “this is supernatural.”  I left the room. Three seconds later, I returned, and it was gone.  Completely.  This was not natural.  A powerful odor like that dissipating in three seconds?   Impossible.  It made the hair on my neck stand up and gave me the chills.   I had no idea what caused this.

Changes I Experienced After the Odor of Sanctification

When the Odor of Sanctification occurred, a number of changes took place and it took some time to adjust to them. Five of them are listed below.  Keep in mind it is very difficult to describe spiritual experiences accurately on paper (that is probably why few attempt it), but the ones below are described as accurately as possible. 

Reality

Reality changed for me.  The existence of the Virgin Mary was stronger than the reality of anything in this world.  To me, she was larger than life

Distance

Everything spiritual was now near, not far away as I had perceived before.  Previously I had perceived everything spiritual as being far away and looking down on me from a distance.  That was over now.  It was like I was living among the spiritual.

Focus

My focus was all on her after the Odor of Sanctity (floral smell) happened. It was like my mind’s eye could see nothing but her. She occupied my mind at ALL times. This was a great spiritual gift I later learned.
If I wanted to speak to her, I could, just as I would a person in the physical world. However, I dared not because initially, I thought this could be demonic. I very apprehensive at this stage.

Fear of Death

All fear of death, and all fears for that matter, ceased to exist.

Financial Interests

All financial interests completely evaporated.  I did not care about finances of any kind anymore.  Period.

Research

The only thing that I knew to do was to research it.  Before I left for work, I made up my mind that was exactly what I was going to do.  I spent most of the morning researching what had happened in the bathroom and had little success.  There was not much information to be found. And then, I stumbled across a website with testimonies from people who prayed the rosary.  I started reading rosary testimonies. I became interested, and I forgot about my initial purpose.  And then I found my answer.

One testimonial said the scent of Roses was sometimes experienced by those praying the Rosary.  It claimed that the smell of roses, or floral odor, is associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary and that she was nearby if one smelled this.  I found other testimonies shortly after I found the first.

Once I read this, I was overwhelmed with 1,000 thoughts flying through my mind.  The Virgin Mary?  Why me?  Are there not others more deserving?  “Why?”  “Why me?” I asked myself this question over and over.

Looking back to entering the Barnes and Noble, I realized Our Lady is the only member of Jesus’ physical family (Joseph was a step-father) on Earth.  She is the only physical link between Jesus and me because she ties him to humanity.  She is his family.  

All of this was hard to believe.  But as I researched numerous articles in the next few days, I noticed the name, Mary, was starting to show up more frequently as days went by until I saw it every day.  I was not used to this

The Presence

There was also a presence there with me, constantly (at all waking times).  It showed up at the time of the odor and lasted six or even eight weeks.  Everywhere I went, it was there.  I could feel it.  A few times I even tried to make it leave, but it would not go.  I was a heavy drinker at the time, and when I got intoxicated, it was still there.  This was not supposed to happen. Getting drunk every day, which is what I was doing, and the presence was still there. I was throwing my life away, and the presence remained.  Because of this, I began to see that I was important to whoever this presence was.

It would not be long before I would turn almost completely (98 %) toward her.

The Red Sea

Catholic Conversion - The Red Sea Coast - Sea of Aqaba
Sea of Aqaba - Saudi Arabian Mountains on the horizon

After finding the Rosary Testimonials, I began to think there might be a slight, outside, minute chance that the Virgin Mary, for some reason, had visited me, but I wasn’t sure.  The next big topic I found was the Red Sea Crossing.  Not the one I had seen years ago claiming that the Egyptians went through the Reed Sea in three feet of water.  But the one discovered by Ron Wyatt. The only Red Sea Crossing path that makes sense and crosses the landmarks stated in the book of Exodus.

As I was looking at this for the first time, there was a very strong sensation that she was right beside me. Very gentle, just standing there watching. I could not ignore it because whatever was standing beside me was real.  That, I knew. I could feel her there.  This same sensation I would feel many more times.

I was amazed that I found the Red Sea Crossing because I had looked for it since the internet came into use but had no success.  She wanted me to see the Red Sea Crossing and where and how it happened, I thought.  I believe that it to this very day.

She began building up my faith; her chosen pace was slow and gradual.

Medjugorje

Catholic Conversion - Medjugorje from Cross Mountain
Medjugorje is a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina,. The Virgin Mary has been appearing there since 1981.

Once I found out about Medjugorje, I had to go there.  I could not spell or pronounce it, but I put it on my list of places to travel to after I received an invitation from Our Lady. 

Receiving my Invitation

One day while standing in my garage, I experienced a strong pulling sensation right behind my belt like something was trying to pull me forward, and the word “Medjugorje” came to mind.  I have never felt anything like this before or since.  That was my invitation from the Holy Mother, given in 2012.  Deep down inside, I knew this.

When I went there in 2019, Mirjana Soldo, one of the visionaries of Medjugorje, told the group I was with that Our Lady gives everyone who comes to Medjugorje a personal invitation.  The one described above was mine.

I could not make it there in 2012.  My dad was in bad health with cancer, and I did not know the Blessed Virgin very well.  Maybe her purpose was to plant seeds for the future.  I do not know; she has never told me.  One thing is for sure. I have had the desire to go there ever since this happened.  Medjugorje has been the only place in this world I have had a passion for visiting.

The Medjugorje Messages

Since I could not go there yet, I began to study the messages from Medjugorje that were being recorded and made public as Our Lady gave them.  I used them as my guide in my spiritual life.  Whatever Our Lady suggested, I tried to implement.  I treated them just like Our Lady had given them to me personally.  That is, in essence, what she had done. 

Maybe I did not get it all right every time, but I tried (and that is the important thing).  I gave it my best effort.

As I read more of Our Lady in Medjugorje, i found her asking for “Prayer from the Heart” and to “open our heart” to her.  I didn’t know what this meant or how to do it.  Using a method I pieced together from articles I had found (of which there were very few), I tried as best as I could to pray from the heart.  I texted a priest once, asking him what to do about my experiences with Our Lady.  He told me one of the reasons I had these experiences with the Holy mother was because I opened my heart to her. 

Illuminations

Along with the changes I experienced due to the odor, I began to have illuminations.  These were spiritual topics that came to life sort of.  The illuminations were physically intense (I could feel a slight physical change before one happened) and exciting (uninitiated excitement just happened on its own), and there was an elevation to the subject.  The subject became larger than life, you could say.

How it was presented to me was unbelievable.  The one who was exposing me to the illuminations was so gentle.  I was never afraid and I was always well treated.  I noticed the gentleness because it was glaring. 

Each illumination subject listed and explained below had these characteristics in common.

The Rosary Illumination

A week after the odor of sanctification, I was in my office at work, and suddenly, it was like someone turned a light switch on, and I heard a little pop.  Things began to change.  There was an intensity and tremendous interest that came with the following message. “You need to pray every day, and the Rosary is the prayer you are to use.”  The message was not verbal, but I understood it.  It was crystal clear and just flowed to me.  I felt compelled to pray the Rosary, and I was in awe. 

Instantly, I knew the Rosary was one of the great personal prayers given to men and women.  Praying the rosary every day was not a forced thing either.  Instantly, it became a desire.  It was a spiritual gift.

I knew an external source initiated this illumination.  There was no doubt in my mind.

 

Who gave us the rosary? 

“It was only in the year 1214, however, that the Church received the Rosary in its present form and according to the method we use today. It was given to the Church by St. Dominic, who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a means of converting the Albigensians and other sinners.”  (Quote taken from The Secret of the Rosary – St. Louis de Montfort – 1700’s.)

Regardless of when it came to us, she was the avenue through which it came.

This illumination was just the beginning of my spiritual education.  Our Lady was the leader and the teacher; I was the student and follower.  That is the way it is today.  I am guessing it will always be like this, and I would not have it any other way. 

Illumination of the Parable of the Hidden Treasure

Catholic Conversion - Parable of the Hidden Treasure
Parable of the Hidden Treasure – Rembrandt – 1630

Following the rosary illumination, I had another one on the parable of the hidden treasure that Jesus spoke about in the scriptures.

He taught, “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid.  In his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

The Holy Scriptures were elevated to me, being one of the great gifts to humanity and that it is indispensable in helping us to live correctly.  The Word was shown to me as being a great treasure given to us.

I was already aware of that, but it was almost like a redefining, or I did not understand this parable as well as I should have in the first place.  My lifestyle sure did not lead someone to believe I understood it.  This one was also very intense with extreme interest, and I easily determined it was from an outside source.

Illumination of Jesus and the Apostles

This illumination was about Jesus and the apostles and I was shown that they were the greatest men that ever lived. They laid the foundation for us to grow in the spiritual life. They were Greater than any president or any other person who walked this earth and they left behind the greatest help to humankind. It cost most of them, as history and tradition tell it; all but one of the original eleven were martyred. If they had not been, we would not have their examples today.

The Virgin Mary and the Decision She Made to Be Jesus’ Mother

At Christmas, this experience occurred at my dad’s memorial at the funeral home we used and was not intense.  This one was humble.  It was a big heart tug for me at Christmas time, my favorite time of the year, and it was the first time that I had considered what she did and the blessing we received because of this one act.  Would Jesus have been born another way if she had said no?  I see that question frequently asked over the internet.  But she did not say no.  She said yes.  We do not need to be concerned with the hypothetical regarding Mary.  We only need to be concerned with the truth.

She said yes.  She said yes to God, so his Son would be born of her to accomplish our forgiveness.  I cannot even imagine the initial apprehension or the complete trust it would take to decide that.

Awakening to the Spiritual

My encounters were my awakening to the spiritual and being spiritually alive.  If you are spiritually alive, then you contain spiritual light.  One minute, the spiritual did not matter to me, and the next, there was an unquenchable desire to know everything I could about the Blessed Virgin.

This happened to me.

I have put a lot of time into learning about her, and after seven years, I still cannot get enough.  It never gets old.  It never gets boring.  There is nothing more I would rather do with my time than study Our Lady.

Questions I Asked her

As my rosary request, I would ask her questions and usually have my answer in the next day or two.  Some questions would go unanswered.  She ignored those questions that did not have any value in facilitating my spiritual growth.  I had to learn that she would not answer just any question I had.  I learned how to communicate with her and what was acceptable.  Once I began to get the hang of it and learned how to ask her questions correctly, the new world I had stepped into began to unfold right before me.

The first question I asked her was, “what is sin?”  I wanted to know what her definition was, and I wanted to know the truth.  I read the answer the next day in a private revelation.  Her answer was saying “no” to God.  I have seen this response many times since.

At the time, I thought I must have gotten the prayer chain of command wrong.  I was getting more answered prayers than I ever had.

Biblical Topics

There were four biblical subjects that I ran across that answered questions that I had and gave my faith a big boost.  It was as if someone put them in my path.  It was just what I needed at the time.  The subjects were the red sea crossing (mentioned above, which captured my interest very quickly and set my faith on fire), the constellations and their name that tell the story of salvation or the story of Jesus, the actual site of the crucifixion, and burial site of Jesus, and the ark of the covenant.  All of this was related to archaeology except the constellations, which was fascinating.

I found answers to questions I had for many years.  Everywhere I turned, there were answers and lessons that I never expected on subjects that I did not even know existed.

Apparitions

When I began studying the Virgin Mary and Catholicism, I ran across two apparitions that I immediately believed to be true and attracted me to them.  The first was our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, and the second was Our Lady of Good Success from Quito, Ecuador.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Guadalupe

I wanted to know how Catholicism was introduced in Mexico, and I finally found the real answer.  Through Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Of course, everyone knows that. The story is fascinating and unbelievable.  It may even be the most extensive revival that the world has ever known.  I found a four-part series on Youtube called “Introduction to Our Lady of Guadalupe,” which told the entire story in great depth, more than any other I have seen.  The videos to the story from the beginning, starting with the Aztec culture and the daily human sacrifices, until the end when Our Lady appears to Juan Diego.  It is worth checking out.

Good Success

Our Lady of Good Success is from the 1600s and describes the world at the time of the 20th – 21st century, which was tremendously accurate.  It talks about the condition of the Church and the moral landscape in the 21st century. 

If you are not familiar with Our Lady of Good Success, this video is a good place to start.

Catholicism

I began to study Catholicism in 2013 out of necessity.  Reading a lot of private revelation and mystical messages involving the Virgin Mary, they often spoke of catholic terms, and I did not know the meaning of.  I did not even know what the Mass was at that time.

So I bought a book or two on Catholicism and began reading.  I also went to Youtube and started watching videos, which sped up the learning process.  I developed a learning knowledge of Catholicism at this time, but it was still missing a lot.  That was the way it was until I started RCIA in 2018. 

Also, in 2012, I was wary of what I might be getting myself into with all of the Catholic stuff.  My grandfather, born in 1907, came from a catholic family in Ohio, married a protestant, and was ostracized from his family.  His parents kicked him out, and he never saw them again.  Catholicism had a bad name in my family, but it was one thing that was never discussed.

Being aware of this, I learned about the Blessed Virgin anyway because I knew, for a fact, she was real, and I wanted to know everything about her that I could.  Experiencing her first hand trumped everything that anyone said or I had read, good or bad, about her.  I was not going to be denied.  I continued to pursue her.

Praying to Our Lady

When moving forward with the Virgin Mary, there always seemed to be an obstacle in the way. There always seemed to be something subtley trying to block me from her.  One of those things was praying to her. I had to learn to pray to Our Lady and persistence (to get over my apprehensions) was the order of the day.  

Praying to her with requests was a big step (as it is for many catholic converts I have read about), and progress was slow.  It took a while for me to get comfortable. But once situations began to arise where I needed her, things began to take a more natural course.

It wasn’t long before I began to take almost everything to her and the blessings followed.  Many of them.

Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina

Dusk - Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina
Dusk - Shrine of Our Lady of South Carolina

I used to read and still do read a collection of messages called The Locutions to the World.  They were posted and edited by Monsignor John Esseff, the spiritual director of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and his spiritual director in 1959 was Padre Pio. To me, that was some clout.

I ran across a message that claimed that the Holy Mother said that if one visited a Marian shrine, especially if they had an addiction, there would be blessings. It is below

Locutions to the World
October 26, 2014
Places and Groups Dedicated to Mary

Mary

How many Churches are dedicated to me.   How many shrines and groups bear my name.   This is where I will begin because it will be so clear that I am acting.   Every place and every group that bears my name and has been placed under my care will be a  place where my blessings will begin to pour forth.

I will pour out my gifts at these special places so faith will grow.   People will know that I have not abandoned them in these difficult hours.   So, let this word go forth.   I will visit every place that bears my name.   When people enter that Church or shrine, I will be there to meet them.

Let them bring their sorrows and their pains.   I will console everyone.   Tears will flow and peace will come.   Hearts will be strengthened and the signs and wonders can take place.

People will know I have heard their prayers

People will know that I have heard their prayers and listened to their sighs.   Unexpected answers will be given.   All of this is to stir up faith, to strengthen hearts and to give inner joy.   As others learn that a place has become a great source of consolation, they, too, will come.

I do not point out one Church or shrine.   The needs are too great.   But the great shrines will grow even stronger because there my name has been constantly invoked.   The crowds there will grow greater.   I have planted this blessing on the very foundation of that Church or shrine.

Those who named it had faith in me.   Now, I want to release the hidden stream contained in that faith.

O reader, where is there a Church or shrine or group dedicated to me?  Go there often and I will release this hidden stream into your life.

My First Visit to the Shrine

I started looking and found one that just happened to be an hour away from my home, and it was in Kingstree, South Carolina, the only one in our state.  I checked the hours and drove there one Sunday to ensure it was open. At this time, I was still protestant.

After I arrived, I tried to open the door, but it was locked.  I thought, “I would have to try another day again.” As I turned to leave, and the door slowly opened and Fr. Smolenski let me in.  It was the neatest place.  I told him bits and pieces of my story, and I had a thousand questions and started to reel them off, trying to ask them all at the same time.

I think I overwhelmed him with all the questions I had, and the fact that I was protestant and interested in Mary probably took him aback.  He answered some of them and said I could come back at another time because they were closing.  We exchanged email addresses, and I left.-

It was not an easy decision to make this trip.  Before I arrived at this shrine, I was very uneasy, but I had to do it to get my answers.  It seems most decisions involving Catholicism in some way were not easy ones.

Father Smolenski has published two articles on the National Catholic Register concerning these and other Marian Experiences.  They are listed below along with the publish dates.

Inside of Shrine of Our Lady Of SC
Shrine of Our Lady Of SC

Articles & Publications

Heavy Alcohol Consumption

Catholic Conversion - Glass of Beer

Like most people hooked on alcohol, I started in my teens and worked my way up the drinking ladder.  Through my encounters with the Blessed Virgin until 2017, my alcohol consumption reached the highest it ever was and it was out of control.  It was only beer that I drank, thank goodness.  Since my teenage years, parties and socials were a way of catching a buzz, and the people there were never the reason for me attending.  It was the alcohol that I came for.  Alcohol was a part of my life up to age 57.  It became my reward and my crutch.  A reward for a good day’s work, and a crutch when things did not go so well.  I used this method to ensure I got my drink no matter how my day went.

The Grip of Alcohol Tightens

My work schedule is from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm.  Every day when I got off, the pull would start for me to stop on the way home and get my daily supply of alcohol medication, my cigarettes, and my headache powders to get rid of the headache I would have in the morning after drinking the beer.  I did this every day.

If I tried to skip a day, the pressure would get so intense that I would cave to the addiction.  Granted, some addicts might consider my addiction light, but for me, it was enough.  Four beers a night to start, then graduating to six, then to seven or eight and go to work the next day and on the weekends 12 in 2 to 3 hours.

This habit went on for some years.  It never seemed to end.  If I did not have anyone to drink with, that was fine.  I would just do it by myself every day, no matter how hot or how cold it was.  For some reason, I never brought my drinking habit inside.  I remember sitting outside with temperatures in the 20s and above 100 just to do this.

A Turning Point

I had a couple of incidents with Our Lady related to this lifestyle I was leading.  These were tremendous life changing, experiences.  As important as they were, she was still very gentle and very loving.  In time, these virtues became so attracting to me that she was like a magnet to me.

The first incident occurred on a Sunday afternoon while I was watching someone teach a class on the early Church. It was a class in seminary, but I am not sure where.  I was recovering from a hangover.

I began to think about how I had lived, the life I had created for myself, and the contrast with where I wanted to be. Clean and free.  And I was no where close to clean and free. I became raised to anger very quickly and started talking and berating myself with comments like, “I am nothing but a complete waste.  Nothing but a sorry drunk who cares about no one but himself getting his fixes every day.”  On and on the venomous insults went.

Then I addressed her.  I said, “And I don’t know why YOU would pick such a worthless person to be around.”

Our Lady Speaks

Much to my surprise, she responded.  She spoke to me.  She said,

“Because
I Love You.”

That was all she said.  Instantly she put a stop to the self-directed insults.  That one statement was so overwhelming to me.  I was in shock.  This really gave me something to think about.  I noticed that she interrupted me and finished the conversation. This confirmed that I wasn’t going crazy.  She had engaged in dialog with me. 

By now, I was in the bathroom and  just stood there for five minutes, looking in the mirror.  I was thinking about what had just happened.  I was blown away, literally.  Then I said, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” I was at my wit’s end.  I just walked away, not knowing what to think.  A Catholic conversion was not even a thought at this point.

This incident weighed very heavily on my mind for the next few days, but I did not share it with anyone for a long, long time.

 

She Speaks Again

I decided to reciprocate.  One morning after my daily prayers, I said to the Holy Mother with a challenging attitude, “And most of all, I want you to know that I love you.” She spoke again.  She said,

“If you love me,
why do you do these
things?”

She was referring to all of the self-destructive behaviors and habits that I had.  It was a long time before I told her that again.  I now understood where my place was and I would never challenge her again. 

A Note From 2016

Just by chance, I found this note in a file that I recorded in 2016.

2016-01-18
“I have started to want to get rid of this bad habit in late 2015 and early 2016.  I feel like I am turning against it, and I feel the pressure to cut it out and I cannot say how much success I will have.”

Ever since she said if you love me, why do you do these things, I knew I needed to get rid of this alcohol problem, and I wanted to do what she desired of me.  I tried and failed numerous times.  I had always told myself that I could quit whenever I wanted to and was not addicted.

That was all a lie, and I believed it.

Addicts are the world’s greatest liars.  I believe they live in this maze of lies. At least I did.  The audience they have is themselves.  They lie to themselves, and they believe it.  Day after day, I realized I was in trouble, trapped by a 12 oz. can.  That little can had power over me, and I could not beat it.  Seeing no way out,  I would sometimes imagine myself living out the rest of my days like this.  Maybe even losing everything.

I am Addicted

The other incident occurred in late 2016 or early 2017.  After about eight or nine drinks down, I was under my garage and deep in thought about my problem.  Out of desperation, sort of talking to myself, I finally admitted it aloud.  I said, “I cannot quit.  I am addicted.”

A voice instantly spoke to me and said, “You are right where you are supposed to be.”  It was as if someone was standing right there waiting for me to admit this.  It was not Our Lady who replied, I knew that.  The reply made no sense to me at all.  None whatsoever.  However, being used to hearing voices talk to me by now, I just thought, “Ok, I guess I am right where I am supposed to be,” and I went to bed.  I just accepted it and never questioned it.  For the next few days, I dwelt on this experience.

A Personal Request

One morning, I made a request of her.  This request was important, although I did not know how much.  I prayed to her, and I addressed her directly and said,

“I want you to be involved
when I quit. I want you to
be the reason I quit
when it happens.”

This prayer was one from the heart.  It could have been my first.  I soon forgot about this request.  Our Lady didn’t, though.  She was my world at this point. 

The Blessed Virgin Mary had occupied just about all of my thoughts from the beginning of these encounters.  It was as if she moved in and was there at every moment.  I had one long thought, and that thought was of her.  Initially, this was not easy to get used to. 

My thoughts were always on her. Every day, from awakening in the morning until sleep at night, she was in my thoughts.  I was connected to her.  She was with me everywhere I went all during the day.  I was never alone.  Never.  Every morning when I awoke, she was there. And when I went to sleep, she was there also.  This phenomenon has never subsided completely.  It just decreased in strength.

Any blessings I received from her (I could see them clear as a bell), I immediately recognized them and thanked her.

Widow Maker Heart Attack

Catholic Conversion - On the Vent

Golf at 2

On 2017-06-11, I had a golf match at 2:00 pm at a local golf course. After teeing off on the 1st hole, I drove a friend and me to our second shot. Before we got 100 yards down the fairway, I was out cold.

My friend started hitting me but there was no response. He grabbed the wheel, steered us to the clubhouse, and began yelling for CPR.

There happened to be an EMT at the pool who had arrived 5 minutes earlier, brought his children out to join the pool so they could swim for the summer. He had also done a tour in Afghanistan as a medic. He was 6’ 7” and 270 pounds or so.

They (he and his wife) started working on me as 9-1-1 was called. I was told my breast bone looked as though it was being pushed to the ground (I was laying on concrete). My friend would later tell me, I was gone. Unresponsive. He thought for sure that I was dead.

The ambulance arrived and they loaded me up. On the 10-mile trip to the hospital, they put me on a ventilator, and I fought them. The medic in the ambulance could not guarantee my wife anything but told that I had fought them and that it was a good sign.

My Wife

When my wife saw me for the first time, she said I was grey and cold, laying on a table. I can’t even imagine what that is like. The first thing that the doctor wanted to do was a heart catheter. That was the only way to be 100% sure of what had happened, and which arteries were clogged.

It took the staff 2 hours or so to perform this. My daughter, who was an ICU trauma nurse at the time, knew it was not normal to take this long, saw the room after they wheeled me out and said there was blood everywhere, even on the floor.

My understanding is that they could not stop the bleeding after they did the catheter procedure. I think they had to give me a blood transfusion to keep me from bleeding to death. This was due to the headache powders I had been taking every day. 

Where I was

I saw none of this. I was in a grey, what seemed to be fog, waiting to see Jesus and the Blessed Virgin. My excitement was so off the charts that when I heard the announcement (this announcement it was actually a statement directed at me coming from a source that I could not connect it with) of “the time for forgiveness is over”, I paid no attention to what it meant.

All I knew was that I was going to get to see them face to face. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, literally. The excitement was tremendous.  I remember clearly to this very day that I wanted to say “Thank You for all you have tried to do for me.”  It never happened, or I do not remember it. 

I Finally Awoke

Two days later, I think it was,  I awoke, with all my faculties working. I had suffered a widow maker heart attack and they had ballooned my LAD open. Most people do not survive this, I was told.  

LDA Before Balloon Applied
LDA Before Balloon Applied
LDA After Balloon Applied
LDA After Balloon Applied

“Why am I still Here?”, I would keep asking myself.  All I could do was accept that heaven wanted me down here and that took a couple of weeks to sink in.  I would later come to understand that I was carrying a lot of baggage (sins) that I needed to take care of.

Post Widow Maker - My Arm with Needles
Post Widow Maker - My Arm with Needles

4 days later

There was what seemed like a dozen or so needles in my arm and my family told me that I was being obnoxious around Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday but I could not tell it. I guess it was the medication that was making this happen.

I remember nothing of the whole week except that of the faces of my family and that my mom came to see me. The nurses made me get up and walk around the perimeter of the floor I was on and the first time I did it, it was tough. It felt like forcing yourself to walk around the block with double pneumonia. I was so weak. The nurses called for this twice per day.  The more I did it the easier it became. 

I never realized what everyone else saw

One very interesting thing that I learned being in a serious medical situation was that if I did not experience something, then I did not understand what had happened. Being the patient, I missed all of the emotional fallout.  For me it was like it never happened.

I did not understand the effects it had on other people like my family. Seeing my spouse or my dad in a state where he looked like he was dead was simply beyond me.

I just woke up and said, “What are y’all doing here?” I could not get upset about the situation because I had not experienced it and sometimes, I felt guilty about this.

My Wife’s Experience

I was fortunate to have met my husband around Christmas time 32 years ago.  We have been married for 29 1/2 years and, I know without a doubt, I have been blessed.  The events that unfolded on the afternoon of June 11, 2017, have had a profound impact on both of our lives.  My husband suffered a massive heart attack on the golf course that beautiful Sunday afternoon.  It was nothing short of a miracle that his life was spared, with no heart damage or brain damage even after being resuscitated for 20 minutes prior to the ambulance arriving.

Seeing my husband’s friend standing at my back door literally white as a sheet is a picture my mind will never forget.  As he stood there trying to tell me what had happened and how my husband was being transported to the hospital by ambulance, time seemed to stand still. 

My Family

I called to my Son upstairs and broke the news to him. We both quickly gathered our things and got in the car to make the trip to the ER.  On the way, I called my daughter and son-in-law because they lived in Raleigh.  Before I could hang up, they quickly responded and said they were on their way and would be there as soon as possible. 

My daughter was an ICU trauma nurse at the time, and already knew in her mind the seriousness of what I was telling her and the low percentage of survival when someone codes for 20 minutes outside of the hospital setting.  She didn’t think her dad would still be alive when she arrived from Raleigh.

My Son and I arrived at the ER and were greeted by the cardiologist that just happened to be in the ER that afternoon.  He told me how serious things were and that they needed to do a heart catheter immediately.  So he said to us that the emergency catheter team had 20 minutes to get to the hospital, and we would know more once the procedure was complete.

He then led me down the hall to see my husband, who was ice cold to the touch and completely gray in skin color.  Another picture my mind will never forget! 

The catheter team arrived, and my Son and I were moved from the ER to the catheter lab.  The cardiologist came out and took my Son and me to the catheter lab and showed us the beast ; a blockage of 98% in the main LAD artery. 

A Widow Maker

This type of clot is referred to as the “widow maker”.  This blockage is located in the bend of the artery, so a stent is out of the question – the only hope is to balloon the artery open to buy time and hopefully allow my husband time to recover so he can prepare for open-heart surgery at a later date.  So we moved upstairs to the CCU where my husband remained on the ventilator for two days.

During this time, I had prayed to God many times to protect my husband and heal him.  I knew God was in control, and all through the tears, fear, and worry, I had an overwhelming sense of peace and calm which can only be explained by a true sense of God’s presence during this time.  Somehow, in the back of my mind, I knew he was going to be Ok.  I also felt the prayers that were being said by family, friends, neighbors, ministers, and priests.  Somehow he was going to make it and come through this ok.

By the grace of God, my husband walked out of that hospital on Friday morning and got in my car to be taken home!  Yes, home – no heart damage – no brain damage – just time to get better – time to rest, recover and get ready for open-heart surgery at a later date.  Praise God!

Attitude & Rehab

I am not saying his recovery was easy for him, but he is a strong-willed person and hard worker, so he started the recovery process with a sense of where he wanted to end up and how he wanted to live his life.  Fast forward a couple of months, and he started having chest pains (angina) while riding his bike, so back to the cardiologist we go, and another stress test was ordered.  The results of this stress test in August were not favorable, so another heart catheter was scheduled followed by open heart surgery the next day.

My husband’s attitude was very positive through all of this, and I think he may have even looked forward to the open heart surgery so he could recover and get his life back to a new normal.  He came through the open heart surgery with flying colors.  He had the procedure on Wednesday and was walking out of the hospital on that Saturday.  Remarkable!

Even though he was weak and tired from the surgery, he started his rehab slowly from home.  Walking each day to the stop sign and back and gradually going longer distances.  In several weeks he was allowed to start rehab at the fitness center and was well on his way to recovery.  Again his attitude was one to be admired.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that my husband’s strong motivation, perseverance, attitude, and strong faith in God, and consistent prayer life are what have brought him all of the way through this journey, and ready to write the next chapters of his life.  Thanks be to God from whom ALL blessings flow!!

Recovery from the Heart Attack

I was so weak

When I arrived home, my daughter was at my house along with my wife, in another room.  I had to have a shower, so I decided to take one.

It exposed how tired I was because, after maybe two minutes, it took everything I had just to stand up.  I was hanging on to the shower handles for dear life.  I just wanted to lay down and go to sleep, but I thought I might not be able to get back up if I did. 

Somehow, I made it through this. When I got out of the shower, I was so cold I was shaking.  I put on a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt, I got under the covers in my bed and went to sleep for six hours, and when I woke up, I felt a lot better.

Cardiologist Office Appt

A couple of weeks later, I had my initial visit to the cardiologist’s office.  Sitting in the waiting room was a strange feeling as I came close to not being there.  The Holy Mother was on my mind now, as she always is.  I was not worried about my visit a bit.

I looked around the waiting room at the people in there, and I thought, “I wonder how many people in this room recently died in the blink of an eye and are in here today?” “How many people are not in here today because they died and didn’t make it back.” “How many people in this room love Our Lady.” I remember this clear as day.  Those were my exact questions.  These are the things I sat and asked myself.  It’s a strange feeling sitting in a doctor’s office knowing you had a better than 97 % chance of not being there that day because of what had happened a few days earlier.

And my attitude was good.  My attitude impressed me the most, and I know that if I had not had the experiences with The Blessed Virgin, it would not have been this way.

No Heart Damage No Brain Damage

They called us back.  We went into the examination room, and the doctor was already sitting in front of the computer in the corner looking at it.  What seemed like an eternity had passed, and no one spoke, so I decided to break the ice.  I wanted to say, “how are you doing today?” But what came out of my mouth was, “how much damage was there?”

He responded, “None.”  My wife and I looked at each other, and I could see it written all over her face.  It was a miracle, pure and simple.  I could not believe it: no heart, brain, or other damage.  Leaving this appointment, I was looking forward to rehab, although I was still weak.  I had much to be thankful for.  Can you just imagine?

Decisions concerning my future

After the Cardiologist visit, I sat around the house all day; it was getting old, and I was getting bored.  There was a fear of getting outside and maybe not making it back inside because I had fallen out somewhere.  After another week, it was time to move on and take the recovery seriously.

I had a decision to make on how I was going to live.  The question I had to address was, “am I going to live in fear and be afraid to exert myself because I might have another heart attack and maybe die this time, or was I going to be myself and be challenged and do whatever it takes to return to health through exercise and being active?”

The answer was easy, but the path to the decision was hard because I was still working and supporting my family, and I could not just let that part of life go down the drain.  One of the critical lessons I learned is that you have to live life and live it being yourself – for you.  If I had sat around in fear, I would have been miserable because I am active and have to have activity.

My first bike ride

I wanted to go to rehab and push myself to do my best.  Walking around the neighborhood, I would push to do my best.  When I started riding my bike again, which was at this point, I would push and do my best.  I have a 24-speed road bike that I rode three times per week, and I wanted to start riding again.  My wife called the cardiologist’s office and asked if I could start again.  They said yes, to my surprise.

After the third trip, angina returned, although it was not very strong, so I made an appointment and returned to the cardiologist.  They ran some tests, determined it was time for open-heart surgery, and scheduled it.

There were maybe 3 or 4 days until the surgery was to be performed.  One would think that all of that time sitting around and thinking about this possible life-changing event would tend to make me negative, angry, or depressed because the life that I have could be cut short, but this did not occur.  I did not worry about it very much because I did not think about it. 

Pre Heart Surgery

As I said, my thoughts are on the Holy Mother.  She is always on my mind. Constantly. There is also a feeling of being connected to her.  As if I am walking with her every day.  She is not far away.  She is with me.  That is what this is like, and it never goes away. 

It is the greatest gift I have received from above in this life, and Jesus gave it to me when he said, “I want you to meet my family.” This one act has brought me the greatest of joy, many mind-blowing experiences, a sense that I belong to her, and more Love than one can imagine.

I have discovered, through the experiences, that this Lady is completely capable of helping me to get through the hard times in this life and taking me much further than I can imagine.  The experiences that I have had with her are completely beyond my wildest imagination.

Naturally, I am very drawn to her.  I do everything most people, especially those who know nothing about her, say not to do.  I talk to her daily and any other time that I want to.  She is in my thoughts constantly throughout the day.  I pray a Hail Mary before I get up in the morning and before I go to sleep at night.  I pray the Holy Rosary every morning.

What a wonderful journey life has become just because, as a priest told me, I opened up to her spiritually.  I will continue on this path until it ends, and I knew that from the time of the odor of sanctification.  So, what was there to be afraid of when it came to this surgery if I had all of this?

Open Heart Surgery

My open-heart surgery was scheduled for August 16, 2017.   I had to be there on the 15th to have another heart catheter done.  Then I would spend the night there and have the surgery the following day.  It turned out that the surgery did not start until mid-afternoon, though.

On the morning of August 16th, the charge nurse came in and told me that she would assign her best nurse to me.  The other nurses came in at a different time and asked who the surgeon was, and I told them.  They said, “Oh, he’s the best here at this hospital.  You are in good hands.” Again, my attitude was very positive.

I began to get an odd feeling.  I began to feel like someone had come before I got there and set this up behind the scenes.  Trust me. I knew that I had lost all of the gambling pools I had ever participated in, and no raffle tickets that I bought panned out.  To me, life was like pushing a boulder up a hill.

However, in heart attacks, I won.  When the surgery started, I knew I would be fine and come through this A-ok.  I had too many miracles to happen to me just to go on and have my life taken.  Most of all, My Lady was close.

Operating Room and Recovery

I was rolled into the operating room around mid-afternoon, and it was cold in there.  When I first got there, I was freezing.  However, the nurses put some warm blankets on me, which helped a lot.  Not much happened after that, except I said a prayer before the lights went out, and that was it. 

I woke up at 11:45 pm disoriented and exhausted.  I looked down at the foot of my bed, and there was my nurse.  She was dedicated to me.  There was one per patient.  I could not take being awake any longer.  I dozed off again.

This time I woke up at 04:30 am on a Thursday, and the first thing that came to mind was Our Lady.  I remember this just like it was yesterday. 

Next, I do not know how long this took, but I sat up in bed.  The nurse rushed over, thinking something undesirable might happen, and I put my arms around her and hugged her.  I had made it.  I was content.  Then she brushed my teeth and gave me something to drink.  That was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me, brush my teeth.

On my first recovery day, I remember seeing my family for just a second, but the rest of the day was a blur.  I had to go through the same practice of walking the halls, just as I did after the heart attack, until I left the hospital.  We left the hospital on Saturday at noon.  Boy, was I glad to get out of there, go home, and get some real food.

My visit to the Surgeon’s Office

A week to 10 days after the surgery, I had an appointment with the surgeon.  I could not drive until he had permitted me to do so.  We went in and were called back after a short wait.  The nurse took us into the examination room, opened my file, and read it.

A couple of seconds later, she said, “Mr. Rogers, you know you are a miracle.  Very few people survive what you have survived.” I responded, “Yes, ma’am, I have been told that a few times recently.”

She told me what all of this meant in medical terms, but I do not recall what she said or all of the words she used.  The surgeon came in shortly after that, and it became all business.  After about ten minutes and many questions, I was free to go with driving rights returned.

A Glimpse of a Bad Choice

A few weeks later, which would put the date around the first week of September, one of the most remarkable things happened to me that I will never forget involving the Holy Mother.

Remember, I was a big drinker, and the temptations would start every day at 4:00 pm.  I noticed that I had not even thought about beer and cigarettes in over six weeks.  A very slight temptation came to me, and I thought, “A beer and cigarette would be good about right now.”

I could drive if I wanted to and had been running short errands, so I could easily have gone to get it if I wanted to.

However, I started thinking that if I knew Mary is real, then Jesus is real also. If Jesus is real, one day, there will be a judgment for me.

I pictured that event with him on the throne and her standing to his right.  I had picked up all of my party habits again. He looked at me and said, “Charles, we did everything we could for you.  I removed the temptation.  You had my Mother with you.  Why did you decide to start back?”

I did not answer him.

Our Lady’s head dropped in disappointment.  I began to weep.  I sat there and cried like a baby.  Every time I think about this to this day, I start crying, I cannot help it.

I will Do it for You

At that moment I realized what she means to me and that I belong to her.  I am her child.  I felt very strongly in that split second that if that happened, if I started back, it would be an eternal regret that I would never get over.  Ever.

I would miss her for eternity.

Speaking aloud I said to her “I am going to quit for you because I love you and belong to you.”

I remembered the prayer I had prayed a long time ago,

“I want you to be involved
when I quit. I want you to
be the reason I quit
when it happens.”

Jesus allowed this to happen to me, and I am extremely grateful to him for this.

On this day, I became hers.

My Return to Work

I started back to rehab in September, and it ended in December.  I went back to work full-time on September 25, 2017.

It took about six months for my mind to function decent and another six months to get back to normal, but I finally made it.  I have a desk job and count on my memory a lot, and I could easily tell that it was sometimes not there.  Patience was the order of everyday no matter how hard it was.

I have to say Jesus has been very, very good to me, and sometimes I ask him, expecting an answer, how he knew what would turn me around.  He never answers.  Maybe he just smiles when I ask that.  One thing is for sure, He knew.

I always thank him for the greatest gift he has given me—His mother.

Catholic Conversion - My Employment
My Place of Work

My Catholic Conversion

I planned to go Medjugorje in 2019, and in September of 2018, I was still protestant and that meant that if I made the trip then I could not participate in the Eucharist.

At the same time, I was walking around with this incredible story and all of the people that I tried to tell it to showed little to no interest in hearing it. That included my family members.

I No Longer Fit

Between 2012 and 2018, I gradually felt like I did not belong in the churches that I had been a member of. Everything had changed. I wanted to be where Our Lady was welcome and respected. That is where I belonged and if I was going to Medjugorje I better make the jump now, I thought.

A Business Meeting in Florence SC

I had a meeting with a man in a business in Florence SC. My sister went with me, and we were all in his office discussing business and he volunteered the fact that he was catholic. I said, “Boy have I got a story for you”. I started telling my story to him and he called his associate in.

This conversation about the Virgin Mary went on for an hour and a half. It was great. The person knew the RCIA director at the larger Catholic Church in Florence SC and said he would give him a call for me if I wished.  I said I would have to think about it. 

I was Apprehensive

The truth was I was apprehensive.  Like I said before, for some reason becoming Catholic was a bigger decision than previous changes in churches.  I knew what Our Lady wanted.  I looked back over the last six years and I recounted the entire journey, bit by bit.  We had come a long, long way.  From scratch to dying to Catholic.  She is my Patron Saint.  I put everything in her hands this day and it was not easy. 

My Catholic Conversion Finally Happened

I called the guy back and the church got in touch with me and I went to my first RCIA class that week. My wife followed the next week.  I started with RCIA with the intention to join the church but was not completely committed.  Every Wednesday night, my wife and I were there.

We really enjoyed it, and we also had some excellent teachers who explained all the topics very well.  On April 20, 2019, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Florence, SC, we joined the church in the most impressive service I have ever been involved in, even though it lasted for 2 hours.  Being Catholic has been a great grace to my wife and I.  It has brought us closer together, and there is so much to learn, and it remains a frequent topic of discussion for us.

St. Anthony's Catholic Church, Florence SC
St. Anthony's Catholic Church, Florence SC

I had to become Catholic to understand it

After becoming Catholic, I realized why I really could not grasp it before by just reading about it.  To understand what being Catholic is, I had to be Catholic.  I had to live it.  I read a lot about Catholicism in books and on the internet to attempt to understand it, but I really could not understand it until I became a catholic.

There seems to be something to it that is not visible.  That may be why many people condemn Catholics and Catholic practices because they do not understand and can’t until they join the Catholic church, and that will never happen in their minds.  That is unfortunate because many people are missing a lot.

Through RCIA I discovered the same thing that a lot of folks do.  That this is where my spiritual home is.  This is where I belong.  I belong here where Our Lady is welcome and respected. 

Receiving permission to speak in the Charleston SC diocese

I was exchanging emails with Fr. Smolenski one afternoon on 2019-07-17, and I was discussing my invitation to Medjugorje from Our Lady that I received in 2012.  I then began to talk about the Virgin Mary, just kind of rambling to him and alluding to the fact that she had played a major and active part in my everyday life since 2012.  He became very interested very quickly and asked many questions about what had been going on concerning her.

He wanted to write an article for the National Catholic Register depicting the avenue through Mary, that Donald Calloway (Catholic Priest), Roy Shoeman (Catholic converted from Judaism), Claude Newman who was executed in the ’50s for a murder that came to a devotion of Our Lady, and I who converted from Protestantism.

The article called “4 Non-Catholics who encountered Jesus through Mary” and was published in the National Catholic Register blog on August 22, 2019.  He asked me to speak and tell my story at the Marian Rosary Celebration on October 26, 2019, in Kingstree, South Carolina.  I accepted.

To speak, I had to have the bishop’s approval.  In answer to a letter written by Fr. Smolenski, the bishop  granted permission for me to speak at the Marian Rosary Celebration in Kingstree on October 26, 2019.  He permitted me to speak anywhere in the diocese if the local pastor agreed.  Below is a copy of that letter from the bishop. 

Letter of Permission to speak in The Charleston Diocese

Medjugorje

Catholic Conversion - St. James Church, Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina
St. James Church, Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina

My Invitation Was at Last Used

I finally made it to Medjugorje in October of 2019.  My motivation for making this trip was from our Lady’s invitation to me in 2012.  I hardly knew what this place was at that time and certainly could not pronounce its name.

As I said before, the invitation came as an undeniable pull in me, and I could feel this.  Since this experience, I have felt an obligation to Mary to make this trip as a small token of my appreciation to her for what she has done on my behalf.

Traveling alone allowed me the freedom to come and go as I pleased.  I did not experience any personal miracles and neither did I mention anything that had happened to me prior to the trip except once. But I did see some things that happened to some of the friends I met on the trip.  I did smell the fragrance of flowers a few times.  I saw the sun spin, and I also saw a rosary that had turned to gold from silver that belonged to one of my friends and I examined it several times.  It was authentic and was in the process of turning gold.  It was gold and silver at the same time.

Two Visionaries Tell The Story

I was fortunate enough to have listened to two of the original visionaries talk to the group I was with and explain how things happened in 1981.  Daily, I attended Mass and prayed the rosary numerous times.  We had a guide who addressed what it was like for the people of Croatia to live under communism and socialism and live after communism was gone.  Living under communism seemed to be a critical message. Both visionaries (I got to hear two of them) also addressed this and made it crystal clear that communism needed to be avoided.   It disappeared after Our Lady’s apparitions had started.

There is much to be gained from going to Medjugorje, and yes, I agree that it is a place where Heaven and Earth meet.  Remember, this is where some of the most monumental apparitions the world has known began and are still going on.  I recommend going here to anyone interested.

The Five Stones of Medjugorje

Devotion After Marian Consecration

According to Our Lady, there are five things that Catholics and anyone else who desires to practice should be.  This is her blueprint.  They are listed below and a brief description is given.

Confession

Medjugorje is labeled as the confession capital of the world, and when I was there I learned why this is so. There were long lines of people waiting to confess when confession was open.  Each line was for a different language and priests were there supporting the people of each language. 

In Our Lady’s opinion, we should go to Confession at least once every 30 days.  She is always correct.

A short video from 2013 showing confessionals and the crowds that are drawn to confession at Medjugorje.  In 2019 when I traveled there, the crowds were larger. 

Prayer 

People should participate in daily Prayer, and the Rosary was the preferred choice.  At the least once per day.

Scriptures

The scriptures are to be read daily. 

Holy Eucharist

We are to attend Mass daily, if possible, and we are to participate in the Eucharist.

Fasting

 According to the Didache (an early church document explaining their practices), people fasted with bread and water only every Wednesday and Friday (the days that the early church used for fasting).  That is precisely Our Lady’s recommendation.  Bread and water every Wednesday and Friday.

My Catholic Conversion
The Experience of a Lifetime
Conclusion

Virgin Mary Cut out From Lourdes
Virgin Mary Cut out From Lourdes

What a Serious Life Adventure

If I think about the events, the last seven or now eight years have been a long journey for me.  Having encounters with the Virgin Mary and later speaking with her.  Being a drunk and recovering. A heart attack and recovery. Open heart surgery and recovery.  Traveling to the other side of the world just because she asked.  All of this has been beyond my wildest imagination.  

After discovering who she was, I thought that this experience would be like spending a week as a 15-year-old boy with his long-lost aunt of 75, who had never married; complete boredom. 

But this was anything but that.  These were the most exciting times of my life and they would have been the same for anyone else.  I found her to be different than I expected.  She was non-condemning, gentle, loving, protective, and short leashed me at first (I could not get away from her-she was always there; I thank her for that), but before all was said and done, I would follow her anywhere. 

When it came to my salvation, she was all business.

She had ideas for me that required me to trust her, although, in the beginning, I did not.  What she had to offer, I could not get enough of.  When I went to sleep, she was there.  She was there when I woke.  She was there all day.  On and on, this went. 

My Entire Life was Interrupted ... It was Tough

Although I am portraying this as a great adventure, and it was and still is, it needs to be known that this interrupted everything in my entire life.  The day she showed up at 6:30 am in my bathroom, my whole life changed at that very moment. 

At that time, I was like a little child; my fists clenched tight, hidden behind my back as if keeping something from her.  Now it is different; palms open facing upward out front.  She can have what she wants as I will gladly give it to her.

Many People are Wrong About Her

 

I read a lot about her back then, and unfortunately, some people refer to her in less than pleasing ways and are convinced that they are right.  I went to Medjugorje, where the “hoax” is and where the visionaries are wealthier than the common people, and it is all about money. 

The visionaries were not all about money, but the person making that statement was.  Money blinds some people.  We only see what we want to see.   I have seen Medjugorje.  I have smelled it.  Medjugorje is real.  I can tell when people just comment on Medjugorje without having been there. 

Same with her.  I can tell when people talk about her but don’t know whether it is true or not.  You can tell when people are just repeating things they have heard before.  It’s not difficult. 

A lot of people are wrong about her.  I know.  I have been through some tremendous life experiences with her.  Some of them kill people.  She was there, and I was there along with my entire family.  I never thought about things not coming out right or worrying about it.  It never entered my mind.

When you wake up post-open-heart surgery at 04:30 am, the first thing that comes to mind is Jesus’ mother. Why is that?  What makes that happen?  I don’t have an answer, but I experienced that. 

She is not Like Us

There were many things and lots of miracles that I experienced that I didn’t deserve.  I don’t deserve to be here, but I am.  Is she real?  Absolutely.  Can she see us?  Yes.  Can she hear us?  Yes.  Does she love us?  Yes.  Is she like us?  No.  She is not like us. 

To one another, we are judgmental, condemning, and critical.  We are never satisfied with what we have and always want that which belongs to someone else.  We are hateful, we are cruel, we crush and we kill. 

She does none of this.  All she does is ask us to pray and keep our souls clean.  The Rosary, please pray it, she asks of us.  Be kind.  Go to confession if you are catholic.  Fast.  Read the scriptures.  Be as clean as possible spiritually.

I Tried to Change

I know what I have been given and it’s a lot. That doesn’t make me any better or more holy than others.  We are all in the same boat together. 

I quit the behavior that she doesn’t like, and I am happier for it.  I pray every day as she asks, and I am more content.  Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays (sometimes), I get stronger. 

The more I do that she asks of everyone, the better off I am.  The only difference between me and others is that I feel like I owe her because I am still here and have no heart damage, brain damage, or any kind of damage.  If it were not for her, this would not be so. 

I Give her a lot of credit ... She deserves it

A lot of people have trouble with me giving her this much credit.  I give credit where it is due.  She does not perform miracles, and she does not forgive sins.  We must pass through an area between baptism and heaven, and she assists those who ask her.  I am a walking miracle, and I have been through this area.  People do not know what they are missing when they refuse her assistance.

The Virgin Mary walked into my life and completely turned it around.  I didn’t ask for any of this.  She just did it.  I will be honoring her daily, just as I do now.  I will do my best to do as she asks as long as I am here.

It has been the greatest experience I could have – The Experience of a Lifetime – because she has been part of it. 

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6 thoughts on “My Catholic Conversion – A Marian Journey into the Church”

  1. My friend,

    Your story is inspirational. I am nearly 50 years old. I was a latent/non-practicing Catholic most of my life. I was also an ardent porn user for 2 decades and couldn’t stop. Until I started praying the Rosary on nearly a daily basis. This mortal sin fell out of my life nearly overnight. Like you had a burdensome stone in your hand, and you just suddenly dropped it. I am free.
    Now I am consecrated to the Holy Mother, or if you will, to Jesus, through Mary. What I have undergone in the last 6 months is a total conversion. I have been given a few signal graces I believe, if you know what these are. Also, the 15 promises of the Holy Rosary are real. The Blessed Holy Mother is real. I renew my consecration daily. I pray the Rosary and the Diving Mercy Chaplet constantly. I walk around the local cemeteries praying for the dead.

    Intercessory prayer is vital to our faith, and I thank God every single day for Her intercession. I love her like my own mortal mom. It is an internal feeling of love, appreciation and affection that is very difficult to put into words, but I think you know what I mean.

    Blessings,
    Carlos

  2. Dear Mr. Rogers, Thank you for your touching and ispired story and for sharing all your experiences. The priest from Scranton, that was mentioned, Fr. John Esseff, is my brother. He is living in Scranton and is responsible for the formation of priests, which Mother Teresa asked him to do., and he is counselor to many people, priests and laymen, and has many inspirational .Podcasts on Discerning Hearts/Msgr. John Esseff. It was he who took me to Calcutta to meet Mother Teresa, who became my friend, mentor and guide.
    I worked with her for 10 years and became like my ‘mother’. My brother was her counselor, and gave retreats for Mother and her nuns all over the world. He and Padre Pio and Mother Teresa shared many spiritual moments. Msgr. John was privileged to offer Mass, wearing Padre Pio’s vestments, using his chalice at the altar where St. Pio offered his many Masses. Also, my brother was privileged to be one of the concelebrants of Pope John Paul II’s Mass of the Beatification of Blessed Mother Teresa. I sang a private Mass and played the organ, during that time, for the Missionaries of Charity. My brother and I were blessed to have shared many moments with these Saints. I am writing a book about my ‘adventures’ with Mother Teresa. I have written about her in magazines, but this is my first attempt at writing a book, so I am looking for an editor to help me. You can check my web site http://www.motherteresaandme.org which shows some of my experiences with Mother Teresa. I had the honor of singing at her funeral in Calcutta. She is
    close to me every moment. You would have loved meeting her. Her humility and love of Jesus and Mary, touched me deeply. She said many rosaries a day, and prayed to Mary, who went to Jesus with Mother’s requests…which were answered every time! God bless you and your family. Gratefully

    1. Dear Mrs. Elias,

      Thank you so much for your comments. I have waited a long time for someone like you to come along and leave some reassurance as to the fact that these things actually occur. Even though I experienced all that is in the encounters, sometimes it just does not seem real although I know it is. Your comments are greatly appreciated and have been a huge help to me.

      I know of your brother, Fr. John Esseff, firstly from the Locutions to the World and I have also watched some of his podcasts. I have always wondered what it is like to have someone like Padre Pio as a spiritual advisor or to be an advisor to Mother Teresa. I read LTTW and collected the messages as they were coming out and still have them all and still read them. I learned a lot from them and even wrote an article on George Washington at Valley Forge. I got the idea from LTTW as Our Lady mentioned it in the messages. I had never heard that story before.

      It has been a long journey for me as I note the spiritual growth that I have made and the life changes that have occurred, but it has truly been The Experience of My Lifetime. I had very few people and none that were local to discuss these things with so I was flying solo. I relied on Mary and she delivered every time whatever I needed. Everything in my life has been changed now, and nothing in it is the same as it used to be. Almost everything I do revolves around the Virgin Mary in some form or another and I really have no reaI explanation for this is or why the devotion is as it is. I have just had to accept that things are the way they are because they are supposed to be this way. I would have it no other way either and I know exactly what you mean when you say mother Teresa is around you all of the time.

      For all she has given me, I wanted to give back to the Holy Mother in return for what she has done for me so I built this site and it is my hope that it educates and inspires others and maybe they would at the very least be enlightened as to who she is and what she does. This site is all my personal efforts and work for my mom, and that is the way it will always be. This website can be seen the world over. I have read your site and I think it is great. Drop me a line when your book comes out because I want to purchase a copy.

      I once read a quote by the Virgin Mary but I do not recall where I saw it. It went like this. “You can never pay me back for what I do for you”. I have quit trying.

      Merry Christmas
      Charles

  3. Dear Mr. Rogers, Thank you for your touching and ispired story and for sharing all your experiences. The priest from Scranton, that was mentioned, Fr. John Esseff, is my brother. He is living in Scranton and is responsible for the formation of priests, which Mother Teresa asked him to do., and he is counselor to many people, priests and laymen, and has many inspirational .Podcasts on Discerning Hearts/Msgr. John Esseff. It was he who took me to Calcutta to meet Mother Teresa, who became my friend, mentor and guide.
    I worked with her for 10 years and became like my ‘mother’. My brother was her counselor, and gave retreats for Mother and her nuns all over the world. He and Padre Pio and Mother Teresa shared many spiritual moments. Msgr. John was privileged to offer Mass, wearing Padre Pio’s vestments, using his chalice at the altar where St. Pio offered his many Masses. Also, my brother was privileged to be one of the concelebrants of Pope John Paul II’s Mass of the Beatification of Blessed Mother Teresa. I sang a private Mass and played the organ, during that time, for the Missionaries of Charity. My brother and I were blessed to have shared many moments with these Saints. I am writing a book about my ‘adventures’ with Mother Teresa. I have written about her in magazines, but this is my first attempt at writing a book, so I am looking for an editor to help me. You can check my web site http://www.motherteresaandme.org which shows some of my experiences with Mother Teresa. I had the honor of singing at her funeral in Calcutta. She is
    close to me every moment. You would have loved meeting her. Her humility and love of Jesus and Mary, touched me deeply. She said many rosaries a day, and prayed to Mary, who went to Jesus with Mother’s requests…which were answered every time! God bless you and your family. Gratefully Marlene Theresa Elias. ddmaria3@aol.com

  4. Dear Charles, what an almost incredible marvel! I found you through my research for the Vision of George Washington in Valley Forge (that was also a first news for) Thank you to the Lord Firstm for His great Mercy towards each one of us, and thanks to you for sharing. I live in Steubenville, OH, but one of my daughters is teaching at the Catholic High School in Charleston, SC. – My email address is: gonzalezhoracio@hotmail.com, cel 740-424-6552. I am also (how could not be) a debtor of Our Holy Mother.

    1. Thank you so much ANONYMOUS for the comments as it is very encouraging to me. I will be posting new material soon and I am trying to upgrade the site to prepare for that so, check here from time to time.

      Our Lady always deserves a huge thank you from me because she has been very instrumental in putting my life on the right path; her path. None of this would be possible without her efforts and to her I am eternally thankful and grateful.

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