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An experience of faith opened up for me unexpectedly with an email from a friend warning about heavy traffic on Key Biscayne. Believing things are worthwhile becomes the miracle.

Driving my golf cart past St Agnes’ field I see a large stage, police barricades and people swarming onto the grounds to secure a good location. Who’s rocking tonight?! A few friends tell me about a woman who has apparitions of the Virgin Mary. My other plans can be reprogramed, but this… this is a once in a life time event!

My bike takes me swiftly and faithfully to the catholic school. As I ride, I observe the cars parked along Harbor Drive and that prepares me for the large crowd that has gathered. The gate around the field is the perfect place to park my ride and I walk among the crowd greeting friendly faces. I head confidently towards the stage and find my friend who has set up camp on blankets and chairs with her cuban family: mom, sister, cousins, children. Anyone missing? A patch of bright green grass invites me to sit with them and I blend into the festivity.

A nun is reciting the Rosary in front of a microphone in both English and Spanish. Years of Catholic school and Sunday mass have engraved the prayers which roll out from my inner depth as if I had spoken them recently. Last mass I went to might have been sixteen years ago in Argentina and today I open up to my lost tradition to see how it can expand my heart. I see the surprise on my friend’s face, only to realize that what I see in them is a reflection of what I’m experiencing myself! Today, I listen to the words flowing from my mouth with new consciousness of their meaning. ‘Pray for us sinners!’ ‘Save us from the fires of hell!’ I feel a heavy oppression on my chest and suddenly the guilt of my own sins dawns on me. My head turns to search for a smile among the strangers, an open soul to share this experience with… but I find stern faces lost deep in their own suffering. Suddenly, I’m a little girl again sitting on a pew at the Church sensing that the world is evil and someone has to save us. Christ!

My attention goes to the alter that has been recreated on the stage. On the table sits the Blessed Sacrament, a gold trophy-like ornament with a large circle at it’s center, representing the body of Christ. Candles are lit around it and fresh white roses decorate and honor the religious setting. An image of the virgin is projected on a large screen on the left, while tents on the right cover the female choir and sound system. The priest, covered in a golden robe, welcomes the multitude of faithful catholics in Spanish. He says it’s a celebration, a blessing to be here today. He talks about the miracle of change and I embrace those words. The distinct smell of incense hits our nostrils and my friend’s son cringes with disgust. I love the smell of the smoke swinging from the censers, there’s something medieval and exciting about it.

He introduces Marija Lunetti, the woman who we’re here to see in the miracle. Since June 24, 1981 the Virgin appears to her daily at 6:40pm. Medjugorje is the town in Bosnia Hercegovina where the Queen of Peace made her first apparition to six visionaries, including her at the age of 16. She now lives in Italy and travels to that special village between the mountains every summer.

Twenty minutes before the miracle is set to occur, a nun guides the prayer of the Rosary with a quivering voice. I can understand this religious women is overwhelmed by the grace and mystery that will unveil in front of us. My eyes meet my friend’s and she tells me she feels anxiety and depression surround us, pushing into her space. I agree with her and look longingly at the pink and purple glow of the sunset at a distance, trying to bring to this moment that peace I find during my usual experience of God. Heads are down, hands are gripped tightly with rosaries intertwined in their fingers, a woman dries tears from her cheeks, another holds her hands on her forehead. The depressing energy squeezes my heart out of it’s expansive phase and I try to keep my mind open to the miraculous. As I take notes of my impressions of the event on my phone, I see disapproving eyes and yet I can’t be any more present at this ceremony. This reminds me how inadequate it is to judge others, we never know the whole picture.

Marija starts to pray the Hail Mary in Italian and the faithful respond in Spanish. Then silence arrives and thrives over the wails of babies and unruly children. We are kneeling to honor the arrival of our mother Mary. My eyes are closed and I want to believe. Suddenly I feel a swirl of cool air rushing around my body and I am so alert. She’s here. I sense her presence. I believe she’ll come to talk to Marija and I smile thinking she might shorten her apparition if she stops to chat with me. Silence endures. Then the praying goes on without the anticipated announcement. “A miracle!! A miracle has occurred!!” No. I indulge in the thought that maybe today is the first day the virgin doesn’t appear. We might have some work to do on this island paradise… more than we expected.

The priest stands before us. “Never before have so many people been celebrating mass together here on Key Biscayne. Glory to God in the Highest. With all the hope and faith here tonight, it seems like Key Biscayne will levitate tonight!”. The crowd cheers in approval and he’s won our attention. “Marija will share her experience after mass tonight.” What?! I thought would be heading home soon. This seems like a big tease but I’m hooked; I choose to stay and embrace the whole celebration. He shares his conversion back in 1993 when he stopped doing drugs, partying and found God. He started going to Church everyday and is now a priest. This religious man receives our respect for sharing his personal challenges and growth, and for his message of hope. “Whoever does not have love does not know God. We must open ourselves to the holy spirit.”

The message of Medjugorje is summarized into five elements: Prayer so Jesus can heal us, Bible to understand Christ, Fasting to give us strength, Eucharist because we can’t live without it, and Confession so we can transfigure in the presence of Christ. “As individuals we can’t stop the evil that wants to rule and destroy. There is one thing we can do. Throw these five stones at evil. If we don’t, then evil will truly rule.” Fear vibrates inside me; so I make a mental note of clearing that out soon.

A young woman sings the Ave Maria and this is the closest thing to godly I’ve experienced until now. I get goosebumps enveloped in the beauty of her soul shining though her voice. Donation bags come around and we gladly collaborate to fund today’s event. Now, I remember the magic of mass. As we hold hands with strangers during the “Our Father”, we unite as humans and our spirits lift. Then, the energy transforms by simply embracing and accepting each other as we are and wishing peace for everyone. The judging and guilt has temporarily vanished, while smiles and hugs warm my soul. Why don’t we start with this!? Then the mass would be more loving and alive. The thirty minutes it takes for the communion is a good opportunity to talk with friends and people beside me. Mass is over and the priest wishes we ‘go to love and serve thy neighbor’.

At 8:45pm, the awaited moment is here. Marija stands before us talking in Italian, while her husband Pablo translates to English and a nun translates to spanish. She welcomes us from the bottom of her heart. I look at her and her image is fresh and young, her hair is blond and hangs above her shoulders; an attractive and energetic woman in her mid 40s. She tells us how she fell in love with the Virgin and how she lives doing what she asks her to do. Stories follow to let us believe in the power of prayer. When we have no more hope, no more certainty and everything falls.. pray!

I continue to take notes: Fast. Pray. Hope. Life is just a passage. True life is in Heaven. Living with Jesus and Mary we can live in paradise. Become a better person: moms, dads, professionals. Then society is beautiful. Become holy. Be the light Jesus wants to become. This island could become holy. Our lady has hope in you. She is our future. Our guide to Jesus. Let her guide you. She sees far. We are missing joy! Her purpose is not to give importance to herself. She points at Jesus. Life is short. She invites us to start playing a serious game… the prize is eternal life. Say yes! There is possibility of a new way. I don’t want to hear your questions. I will be responsible for my soul. You be responsible for yours. Finally she says: during the apparition, she prayed over us and blessed us. Today here, tomorrow in paradise. God bless you.

Dodging cars and people on my bike I sing church songs all the way home. I feel alive and open to the Universe. I’m not a devout Catholic but I embrace God, life and love. We learn from everything and everyone. Today I remember that believing is the basis of hope and inspiration. Believing becomes the miracle! A heartfelt hug and uniting hands is universally magical. We all have our own ways of dealing with godliness and they only have to be right in our own hearts. In the end we are all the same… we all want a piece of Heaven!

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