Testimony of Fr. John Boughton was recently put on YouTube channel ‘Fruits of Medjugorje’. Testimonies of Sofia Gamiz and Fr. Johannes Rothärmel, as well as documentary film ‘Gift of conversion‘, were shown on this year’s Youth Festival. Recently this testimony was added of a priest who was born as a Protestant. He was studying medicine, later on he read a book on Medjugorje and decided to come here and that visit changed his life. He converted to Catholicism and became a priest.
Here, we give his story on how Medjugorje changed his life in fulness, and you can also watch his testimony on YouTube channel Fruits of Medjugorje. For more of the similar stories, please check our Facebook page Fruits of Medjugorje. If you still do not know about this project, you can find out more HERE.
I heard of Međugorje the first time in 1991, in the fall. I came in February or March of 1992 as a Protestant. I was studying to be a medical doctor, I was 28 years old and was going back to the university. A friend of mine from Texas, also a Protestant, I was raised protestant, saw the conversion of this other man, Jeff Reed who runs St. David's Relief Foundation now. He saw a change in Jeff and he said, he said literally, he went up to Jeff and said: Jeff, what happened to you? I want it! Because Jeff had this peace about him that Jeff had never had before.
My friend Robert and I were at his ranch in Colorado and talking and and he said: John, I don't know what to do about this, but I see this radical change in my friend Jeff and he gave me this book on Međugorje by Wayne Weible. Read it and tell me what you think. And so that's the first time I heard about it.
We grew up together, we were best friends all our lives, we never talked religion, we talked, we chased girls together, we hunted together, we drank together, but we never talked religion together.
We were even altar boys at the Episcopalian Church together, but never talked religion until he handed me that book. And he didn't know that at that moment I was asking the big questions at 28 years old. You know, why do I have such a big hole in my heart? Why do I have all the things the world promises and I'm on my way to medical school, why do I feel so empty?
And what's, what's happening here? And when he handed me that book, wow, it was a great beginning and we began to talk further about it and he said: What do you think?
I said, it's one of three things: it's either of the devil, they're crazy or it's real.
And I have a little bit of a military background; I was a naval officer in the reserves and I said, militarily speaking, it can't be of the devil because he would never tell his enemy, tell us to go to his enemy by going to confession, by going to church, by praying the Rosary, something I didn't know how to do. He would never tell us to do these things, so it can't be of him.
There's six of these kids, how could they all be crazy, that doesn't make any sense either. So it must be real and Robert looked at me, goes like: Dadgummit, I think you're right. That's what I thought, too.
We have to go! I was like: Okay, let's go! I can't say that I came with expectations because I really had no idea of what to expect. I'd read this book by Wayne Weible and all I knew was It was a very strange time to come as well.
It was early 1992 so it was like February, March of 1992 and Jeff Reed had said: Okay, well, let's go, but father Svetozar is asking if we can bring some medical supplies along because at that point in time he knew the war was coming.
And so we, with Jeff in a group of Mexican charismatics from West Texas, all gathered a bunch of medical supplies and carried them in suitcases through Belgrade down to Sarajevo and into Međugorje. So, basically we were smuggling, not basically, we were smuggling and it's an interesting story, we got caught but my friend Robert and I saw the power of the rosary worked that day.
And though they had Robert thrown in a holding tank ready to throw him in the jail, somehow that rosary worked, we saw these little "abuelas", these little grandmothers from Mexico and Texas, praying the rosary and the guard's boss came down and saw this letter written in English with a stamp that was raised; raised seal stamp saying in English on the letterhead of a veterinarian that we had permission to bring in these medical supplies and she ran her finger over that stamp and then lifted her finger and yelled at her her compatriot for holding us.
That was the first introduction to the power of the rosary, like there's something to this. I don't know what it is and then we came in to Međugorje. After a couple of days and of other stories, but it was an amazing experience to see, to see what the rosary does, to see, to meet, meet our Lady because as a Protestant we didn't know Our Lady.
But we, we got to know her there. And then to meet Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament because they had adoration going on. Though there were hardly, I think we were the only pilgrim group at all in town.
There was still adoration and father Slavko was there and father Svetozar. Despite the fact that the threat of war was happening, it was a very peaceful place and you could note the difference. I came on that first pilgrimage asking God what he wanted me to do with my life, I was on my way to medical school, I was back in University studying, but I realized I needed to ask God and quit telling him what I wanted to do but asked him what he wanted to do and there was a particular moment upon Podbrdo where I finally just kind of signed a blank cheque to Jesus and said: Okay, Lord, I'll do whatever you want me to do, I'll even become, and I thought of the craziest thing I could think of, I'll even become a Franciscan in Bosnia, I don't know what they are, I don't know what they do, I just met one the other day but I'd even do that if you wanted me to.
In this peace descended upon me at that moment, I didn't think I was going to become a Franciscan, but in time when I went back home after that pilgrimage, I began to realize through spiritual direction that was indeed a real call to give my life completely over to the Lord, but I wasn't convinced of the Catholic Church yet.
Well, the first struggle was realizing that, being called to the Catholic Church, that I would have to give up my girlfriend if I was gonna really be a priest there. Like before I was Episcopalian, I'd think: Well I can do both things.
So this is a little bit more serious, but when I realized, I needed to act on the truth, then I said: Okey, that's what you want, Lord, let's go! And by God's grace the Catholic Church and its wisdom doesn't allow new convert to come into any religious order or diocese for at least two years.
And by God's Providence and through our Lady's hand I spent that time, most of these two years, here in Međugorje running convoys during the war with the St. David's Relief Foundation, so I was under the tutelage of father Svet and father Slavko for almost two years here.
So my first two years as a Catholic were spent in this parish. And it was a beautiful thing because I could see literally day by day, sometimes multiple times in a day, the fruits of heaven and hell, side-by-side. We would leave this peaceful little envelope of Međugorje and hit the borders of Mostar and go all the way up as far as Zenica and Tuzla and points in and around and beyond Sarajevo and see the fruits of hell and then come back and see the fruits of heaven.
And then I watched as the Friars just operated through all this. One of my heroes, father Leonard Oreč, God rest his soul, I remember the day the Muslims and Croats had a peace treaty signed and that day he called me up and said John: Load up all your trucks and get some more, we're going over to the East side of Mostar to the Red Crescent and we're going to give them supplies and we're gonna show them we're about peace.
And I remember standing in East Mostar with father Leonard in his full brown habit and this little boy grabbing my hand because I was, you know, a civilian, going: This guy's crazy, there are snipers around here all over the place and he's in a habit!
This is... and it dawned on me, this is what friars are about and so this really formed me greatly, to see that spirituality. I had no idea what religious life was supposed to be about from the inside, had no concept of any of it, but I just knew in my heart that I was called to be a friar. I was invited to join the Province here, was honoured by that invitation, but I also knew in my heart somehow that I was called back to the United States. I had no idea where, so father Svet mentioned this bunch and as the war began to wane and dwindle down near the beginning of '95 we knew we were going to pull out, there was no need for us to be here anymore and I said:"Father, where should I go, you know..
And I know I'm not called to stay here. He says: Why don't you look at this little strange bunch of friars in the Bronx? And so that's how I was introduced to the community I now belong to. Anytime anybody says "yes" to Jesus through Our Lady, it breaks open a space for God to be able to act in their hearts and to move.
My theory, which is not so humble because I'm not so humble, but my theory is that Međugorje has a charism that our Lady is giving marching orders for her troops and placing them around the world to be able to do what God wants to do and be lights of the love of Jesus Christ in a very dark time.
And she's playing chess and she invites people and she gives them a job and that person can open their heart to that or not. And when they do, great things happen. A Dominican priest I know, father Giles Dimock from the United States, once said about Međugorje, he said and this was maybe 15 to 20 years ago, he said this to me: You know, Međugorje has got an interesting thing, 80% of the people who are active in the parishes, they're all, they've all been touched by Međugorje.
He said: And they also have another thing that's interesting, they seem to be scandal proof, they seem not to be devastated when they encounter the humanity in Jesus's Church. Boy, isn't that what we need in these times! People who work and people who can weather a storm, that's what I see, I've seen it in so many different ways. I could give so many different anecdotes of how it's happened, but that's what I see as particular graces of Međugorje.
Everybody needs to work on applying their faith, you know we're not given the gift of faith we're not given the tools of faith, the various things Our Lady invites us to do, the rosary, the confession, living the Eucharist, reading the Scriptures, fasting... We're not asked to do these things and to say: Oh, look what I do and hang, you know, it's like hanging a trophy on the wall.
Look at this, isn't it nice what I do? No, they are tools, they are weapons, we're intended to use these things and to go into the spiritual fight and to fight. And if anybody looks around and sees what's going on in the world right now and thinks there's not a fight, they've got their eyes closed and their ears shut.
We need to be active, we need to get out there, we need to proclaim the truth and love, the things that our Lady invites us to do. These five stones as father Jozo famously speaks of. They're tools with one goal in mind, to make space for Jesus Christ, to be put into the first place in our hearts so that we individually can, whatever way the Holy Spirit inspires us to do, go out and bring that light of Christ to other people.
For no other reason. If not, it's burying the talent in the soil and doing nothing with the gift that God has given us. We have to be active! As an individual coming home, getting a hug from mama is always much appreciated and needed. Coming back to the home base where it all started and remembering, we need to remember where God brought us from to hang on.
But then as a priest, you know, and as a layman coming to Međugorje going to confession is always so powerful. Now being on the other side of the confessional and being able to participate in that intimate way of Jesus's work in the souls, soul after soul, it's humbling, it's mind-blowing, it's energizing, it's an amazing thing to see.
People, a lot of big fish, as they say, you know, the little fish are the ones that go to confession every week or two. The big fish are the ones that have been away for 50 years. A lot of big fish coming here, you know. And what is that? It's that grace of conversion that's being pumped out over here in torrents.
It's beautiful! So as a priest it's energizing and it gives you hope. You see so many young people coming and giving their lives over to the Lord and hopefully signing a blank check and saying: Do with me what you will and obviously letting our Lady co - sign that check because none of us have enough in the bank accounts, but giving everything over to the Lord so I see that as I talk to young people and then the veterans who've been here many times.
And it's not just a vocation to religious life, it's secondary vocations, seeing as a priest, hearing people ask: How can I go back to my parish and get active; what can I do back home? They can fight all that and so again it confirms what I've seen the charism of Međugorje to be: It is Our Lady giving marching orders to her troops on every level sending them out.