“A strange feeling, alien to my will, touching my heart. What was it and where did it come from? Something unknown was budding in my inner being” (Maria Vallejo-Nagera)
An intriguing invitation
A prelude to the breakthrough came a few years later, and took place in a London restaurant on a November day of 1999. Maria, who by then had already been a mother of three and a famous novelist living in Great Britain, went there to meet up with her two friends. It was them who had phoned her earlier, inviting her to dinner, full of excitement in their voices: “There is something important and supernatural, and we want to share it with you … It’s a fascinating thing connected with Catholicism”. Maria didn’t feel any loyalty to faith, and didn’t have the slightest desire to leave the house on such a windy and rainy day, however, her curiosity eventually took over. So she put on her wellies and raincoat, and with an umbrella in her hand she left her warm apartment.
I’m waiting here for you
In the restaurant it soon became clear that this intriguing matter was related to the recent trip of Maria’s friends to the Balkans. What’s more, the mystery story led to a mountain town called Medjugorje. “It was there,” Kristina and Angie explained enthusiastically, “where the Virgin Mary appeared to six young people.” “You will go there, because this Mary is yours, Catholics; Mary, Mother of God, is waiting for you there …,” Kristina said at the end. Maria did not hide her disappointment. She had expected some amazing story, and instead she had to listen to some gibberish of her girlfriends who succumbed to another lie of the Catholic Church! After all, all these “revelations,” she argued, may have been invented with the consent of the local Franciscan friars just to make money on pilgrims!
“Every time you pray the rosary, you put and unbreakable chain round the demon’s neck, the end of which is held by the Mother of God. She has him under control and will not let him destroy you” (Fr. O’Malley)
She was about to continue her arguments, when all of a sudden something unusual happened … 15 years later she described this unexpected breeze of grace with the words: “I looked at my plate and it was then that I noticed a strange feeling, alien to my will, touching my heart. What was it and where did it come from? Something unknown was budding in my inner being, wrapped in a strange, yet bright light of understanding… It was something that resembled a flurry of love, like concentric waves it began to fill my mind, seeking refuge in intelligence, reason and emotions. It spread a glimmer of infinite tenderness which magnified my amazement and confusion with a growing wave of love. Then, in the blink of an eye, I noticed that something or someone alien to my person entered successfully into a relationship with the deepest part of my soul. I heard clear and mild words: ‘My daughter, why do you fear me? Come: I am waiting here for you.’ I was petrified. It was a woman’s voice”. Deeply shocked with this powerful experience, Maria stuttered to Kristina after a while: “Well … I don’t know why I’m saying this, but I will go to Bosnia with you. Get me the ticket.”
Good morning, Medjugorje!
A few months later, in July 2000, Maria arrived with a group of pilgrims to Medjugorje. At that time, she had not yet been brought to conversion. The first days of the pilgrimage also did not indicate that her spiritual healing would take place. During Masses Maria demonstrated boredom, she also did not see any reason to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. She got excited only about the upcoming meeting of pilgrims with Jakov – one of the six seers. Maria went to meet him, not so much out of curiosity to see the man but out of the desire to expose the fraud. She was convinced that having the tools in the field of pedagogy and psychology, she would finally overthrow this great manipulation machine.
But the Lord had a different plan. He entered Maria’s life in a simple, powerful and direct way. On her way to the meeting she was suddenly overwhelmed by God’s love. She lost track of time and space. The earthly world ceased to exist for her. When she tried to describe the experience later, she compared it to a gentle breeze, a strange mist overflowing with Divine existence, falling like dew and covering her like snowflakes in winter. She explained: “This love was enormous and incomprehensible, a river of absolute and perfect feelings breaking through the banks, so wonderful in its luminosity that there are no words in any human language that can describe it. It could not be compared to any kind of tenderness I had experienced before: the great love I felt for my husband and children was far beyond it.” A moment later she heard a voice: “My daughter, that’s how I love you. That’s how I love all the people in this world, but no one reciprocates …”
When this supernatural experience passed – and it lasted exactly three seconds – Maria had no more doubt that the righteous God can see everything and that he is interested only in love
Then Maria saw all of her life in truth – feelings, mistakes, sins, words … All the most important moments of her life scrolled like a film before her eyes, including all her infidelities which had hurt God and people. When this supernatural experience passed – and it lasted exactly three seconds – Maria had no more doubt that the righteous God can see everything and that he is interested only in love. She realized that salvation depends on whether you can love all people, not just those who love you. Two desires were born in Maria’s heart: to make amends to Jesus for the wrongs done, and to be taken by Him right then and there. However, what she heard was: “You will never be able to pay for my love adequately. You should continue on with your life. Your time has not come yet. But now you should shout the truth to the world: preach that I am the Truth.”
When the voice went silent, Maria returned to her normal state. Stunned, she sat on a bench and reflected. She ignored the insistent questions of her friend: “What’s up? What’s going on?” It was still too early to share the touch of God’s love with people and to talk about these three seconds that had changed her life. For now, in line with the pilgrimage schedule, Maria went to the meeting with Jakov the seer, and then asked the chaplain, Fr. O’Malley, for confession. During this confession she confessed all her sins, and also spoke about the grace she had experienced. This long confession, in which the Irish accent of the confessor met with the Spanish temper and outbursts of weeping of the penitent, was the beginning of Maria’s return to God, to the Catholic Church, the sacraments and prayer. A special role in this process was played by the Virgin Mary and her “Kalashnikov”, as Maria called the rosary, seeing in each bead a bullet capable of knocking down the devil or any other enemy.
Recitation of the rosary
While previously Maria saw the rosary as a relic from the Middle Ages, now she understood its great power. She remembered the confessor’s words: “Whether it’s boring to you or not, you must realize that every time you pray the rosary, you put an unbreakable chain round the demon’s neck, the end of which is held by the Mother of God. She has him under control and will not let him destroy you […].” Maria did not have to wait long for satan’s attacks anyway. When she returned to London, suffering, sicknesses, persecution and ridicule began. Most of her friends turned away from her, believing that she had lost her mind in Medjugorje, and her conversion was the result of drugs given to her by soldiers. She also suffered slander and libel from someone close to her. The rosary became a balm for her wounds, as did Fr. O’Malley’s advice: “Every time you pray the rosary, be assured that she will hold your hand. Each bead is a loving embrace of your mother. Never forget it, child. In the future it will save you from great dangers …”
Over time, Father O’Malley has proven himself not only as a chaplain of the pilgrimage to Medjugorje, but also as a spiritual guide supervising Maria’s inner development. With his help, this woman began to make up for deficiencies in her catechesis, and to reach for reading materials such as Saint Louis- Marie Grignion de Montfort’s Treatise on True Devotion to Mary or other books by saints: sister Faustina and Padre Pio. As a result, the famous novelist entered a new dimension of life. From then on she lost interest in parties, nice clothes or empty talk. She preferred to spend her free time in church rather than in shopping malls. Soon regular Mass attendance and the sacrament of reconciliation have become the pillars of Maria’s spiritual life. She also found the value of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. She described her experiences while in adoration: “My soul is moved and revived and I become very alert to what God wants to tell me, even though He does so in the deepest silence. It’s hard to explain: we have a very silent God, but He is not deaf … This way of prayer and receiving His love through His silence is part of the greatest mystery of my spiritual life, just as is the constant and manifest presence of the Virgin Mary in key moments of danger. She always comes to my rescue at such moments. She is the Mother who never fails.”
Maria also understood that the Virgin Mary always leads to Jesus and to His Mystical Body which is the Church. When Father O’Malley explained to her that all the faithful form the body of Christ and that He embraces all of them in His merciful soul, Maria – just as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and many other saints – felt the need to look for her special place in the body of Christ. The desire of her heart did not remain unnoticed. During the adoration she received the answer from Mary – that it was the wound in Christ’s side, pierced with a spear by the centurion. “Since then, I have loved this wound so much. […]
Thousands of times I have hidden in it. It is my home, light, comfort and refuge … When the wind grows stronger and I feel insecure, I run to it. Then I ask Him to receive me within Him and to immerse me in His blood and saving Water.”
An “innocent” sin of the past
Several years later Maria felt well established in the Catholic religion, and with no little satisfaction she accepted, or even took as fact, the thought prompted by Satan that she was already a saint. She had repented of all her sins, there was no one left to make amends to. However, she said to God: “If it is not so, You will let me know and together we’ll do something about it, right?” She didn’t have to wait long for Jesus’ answer … In the park she remembered a situation from almost 30 years before, when as a student and a model she became the object of interest of a shy and not very handsome boy. Having accidentally learned about her friend’s feelings, she laughed at him and he became the target of ridicule and jokes by the student mob. Not only disappointed in his feelings, but also horribly humiliated, the boy silently endured agony for several months – the amount of time their “fun” lasted.
Having recalled the events from years before, Maria wanted to find this colleague and apologize for the hurt she had caused him years before. She found out from her old friend that he was married and had a child and that “he was still very ugly …”. However, the most important information – his current address – was unknown to her friend, and the era of Facebook had not yet arrived. Therefore Maria entrusted that man to the Virgin Mary, asking for a blessing for him and his family and promising daily rosary prayer of reparation in his intention. She prayed constantly for the following days, weeks, months and years. At that time, she understood the power of the prayer of reparation and also she lost her conviction of her own excellence. She learned at that time to come to God with humility but also with great confidence. But she still wanted to meet this colleague in person.
A mysterious letter
In 2007, Maria decided to double the prayer for this intention and she earnestly asked the Mother of God for help. A week later she received a strange letter. The author informed her about an extraordinary behaviour of a certain man in her parish, who having seen Maria’s name on one of the religious books was first very surprised (for he had unpleasant memories of her from the past), and then became her avid reader. “He asked me,” the woman ended the letter, “to send his greetings to you and to congratulate you on your literary work which he now follows with great interest. The person in question is called […] and he thinks you probably don’t remember him …”
After that letter things moved quickly. Maria contacted the author of the letter and asked her for the man’s address. She prayed and then phoned him, and when he realized who was talking to him, she proceeded with “a long litany” of apologies. He interrupted her, cordially saying that the old wound had long been healed and all was forgiven. Maria’s joy was great. She thanked the Virgin Mary for her help in sorting out this situation which had been dragging on for several years. Once again, the woman was convinced about the power of persistent prayer with the intercession of Mary.
Revision of life
Today, Maria shares the treasure of her discovered faith both during lectures presented around the world, and in her books which soon became bestsellers. Although previously she was known as the author of an anticlerical novel nominated for a prestigious literary award in Spain, now her knack for words is used to proclaim the truth of God’s love addressed to all people. Every day she tries to fulfill the call she heard in Medjugorje: “Preach that I am the Truth.”