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by Christine (prev. Hammill) and Anthony Cregan

Christine and Anthony. While writing an article for Mary’s Mantle entitled “Look at them and love them” in November 2006 I had no idea that six months later I would write a sequel on another love found in Medjugorje.  During the summer of 2006 I spent eight weeks in Medjugorje and in the last article I shared some of what impacted me the most, including the reminder that the essence of our lives is to love, as St. John teaches us in the Gospel, “Love one another, just as I love you!”

 

In November 2006 I was blessed to attend Fr. Jozo Zovko’s talks and Masses with prayers for healing both in New York and Miami.  While saying goodbye to Fr. Jozo’s interpreter and friends, Nancy and Patrick Latta, Nancy reminded me to come home to Medjugorje soon.  She then emphatically challenged me to bring my father when she said, “your father is a man of faith who has given so much, and Jesus wants to place himself in his heart, bring him to Medjugorje!”  My mother had been to Medjugorje nine times since 1985, and my five sisters have been there as well, yet my father had never made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.  Although I felt somewhat reluctant, I heeded the call and acted on it immediately.   

           Two weeks later, my father and I arrived in Medjugorje on November 30th and in some way it felt like returning home to my host family,  the Tunin Vasilj family.  Friday morning, December 1st, I awoke at 6am to climb Mount Krizevac.  It was dark and quite cold when I started and it somehow felt eerie.  Although I had climbed the mountain with the Stations of the Cross in the dark several times before, this morning it felt different. I was overcome by a feeling of fear and anxiety; it was extremely dark with no moonlight and it was also quite cold. In addition, as I climbed the mountain alone I heard a rustling in the leaves and there seemed to be something or someone lurking about.  I was reminded of stories of snakes on the mountain and my imagination went even further than that.  I quickly started praying the Rosary and calling for Mary’s mantle of protection while I considered abandoning my walk and returning home.  However, I felt stubborn and persistent and I decided that if there was anything out there to “get me”, then it would “get me”.  I trusted the protection or at least the perfection in what was waiting for me on the mountain.  By the 13th Station the sun was beginning to peak above the mountain and was shining the first rays of light onto the bronze placard and the Cross.  Any fear and anxiety dissipated as the sun began to shine.  I was grateful to be back in Medjugorje and to be on this mountain that I loved.  As I reached the Cross, at the top, I enjoyed the solitude of having the mountain to myself.
 

Descending the mountain, I met Nancy, Patrick, Gabriel, Maria Louisa, Svjetlana and their ‘family’ praying at the 6th Station.  We looked at each other and began to laugh, as it was only two weeks since our goodbyes in Miami. We shared long embraces and laughed some more.  After a few moments, Nancy excitedly and with an almost drum roll effect said with all her heart, “and this is our Anthony”.  He and I shook hands and said hello.  It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized the divine providence in meeting Anthony on Cross Mountain at the 6th Station only hours after I arrived.
 

            Greetings from Anthony as I’ve just skooched over to the computer seat to share with you how I came to meet Christine.  For quite some time I had been trying to discern where God was calling me to be.  Following a retreat conducted by Fr. Jozo Zovko in Siroki Brieg, near Medjugorje, in October 2005, I decided to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and become more active in my discernment process.  Whilst receiving guidance from a friend, Rev. Fr. Gerry, back home in County Donegal, Ireland, I felt a need to take some time away from the normal routine so that I could listen more carefully to the Holy Spirit. A couple of months later I received an email from Catherine, who had also been on Fr. Jozo’s retreat, requesting help in raising funds to purchase an incubator and ventilator for a children’s hospital.  For some reason or another I thought: yes, I could do a sponsored cycle from Donegal to Medjugorje in the hope of raising the money needed for the two machines and it would also give me the time I needed to be alone with God.
 

By the time I had tidied up all loose ends at work and tried to arrange some fundraising, it was September 1st, 2006 when I set off on my bicycle.  Before I left, I asked Jesus to teach me to love, as He would want me to love.  When I said this little prayer, I thought that I would either be joining a religious order or entering a seminary.  Little did I know the surprise God had awaiting me in Medjugorje.  Seven short weeks later on October 22nd, I arrived in Medjugorje and stayed with Patrick and Nancy Latta at their home of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.  I spent the next ten weeks helping with the daily duties of washing dishes, making beds and cleaning toilets.  As I met different groups that came through their home, I contemplated to which order of priests or brothers I would feel drawn.   Then on the morning of December 1st, on Mt. Krizevac, Christine came into my life.  From the first moment we met, I knew there was something special about her.  We instantly became friends, yet I did my best to ignore any other feelings as I thought God wanted me to spend my life in a religious order.
 

             Yes, Anthony and I were fast friends as he is a kind and gentle person, easy to be with and he always makes me laugh.  We spent time as a ‘family’ with Nancy and Patrick, who graciously opened their hearts to my father and me.  I had planned to depart with my father after two weeks and return to New York for Christmas.  Yet I also felt a pull to stay in Medjugorje for Christmas and New Year and my mother encouraged me to stay.  After seeing my father off at the airport and changing my airline ticket until January 7th, I questioned why I was spending the holidays alone with my ‘Medjugorje family’ and new friends.  I had lived abroad for seven years and always returned to New York for Christmas, while now I lived in New York and was spending Christmas in Medjugorje ‘by myself’. It didn’t make much sense, yet I am immensely grateful for that gift.  
 

            On Thursday, December 14th, I began a three-day fast in conjunction with attending 6 a.m. Mass in a novena leading up to Christmas with the local community.  During the three days while praying at the foot of the Cross on the top of Mt. Krizevac, I embraced Christ in a new way, with unrestrained love.  I felt this genuine longing to reach out and give Jesus a big hug with love and gratitude like embracing my beloved family, or a friend, or a small child; a hug without a barrier.   I felt this longing without constraints and without judging myself as being strange or odd to want to have a personal embrace with Christ as I leaned over and kissed the Cross.  Yesterday during Adoration I realized that for me Jesus always had a more calming and gentle persona, and one not likely to give big hugs.  Yet it occurred to me that this is reflective of who I am and how I am with Him.  If I give Him a hug I will receive a hug, if I sit quietly next to Him, I will receive His quiet calming support.
 

During my three-day fast in Medjugorje, as I began embracing Christ in a new way it was no coincidence that I also began to see Anthony differently.  We had immediately been friends and spent time with our mutual ‘family’, yet something seemed different this week.  On Friday morning as I reached the top of Mt. Krizevac, I saw him among a few others praying at the foot of the Cross.  The only way I can describe it is that it was as if he was like a character in a pop-up book, where everyone seemed to be in one dimension and he seemed to be in three-d. It was something I noticed; yet it didn’t knock me over.  As I stood on top of the mountain Anthony turned around with a big hello and a hug as he was visibly surprised to see me – he asked where I had come from as it was as if I just “appeared”.  We shared the walk down Cross Mountain talking intimately as friends often share in that intimate and real space of Medjugorje. 
 

During that evening’s Veneration of the Cross, at St. James’ Church, I saw Anthony sitting across the Church and I felt pulled to go over and sit with him, a call to which I didn’t heed as I had already been sitting in another section.  The following evening I arrived late for Adoration and I was looking for a friend, Lane, who offered to bring my Christmas cards home to the US and send them.  I looked around for Lane, yet didn’t find her, and I saw Anthony sitting alone, and again I felt a pull to sit with him.  I don’t often join people during Adoration, yet without thinking much I let the pull lead me and I sat down beside Anthony.  During Adoration I felt the pain of love tugging at my heart and it felt somehow connected to this man, which felt strange as I didn’t know him that well.  I say the pain of love because it was more like a pain felt when one loses someone they love and I didn’t know why I felt that way, but I seemed to notice the strange feeling.  Sitting next to Anthony during Adoration that Saturday night meant something to me, yet I learned only later that it was also fulfilling a sign for which Anthony had asked. Although this quietly prayerful man was not one to ask for signs, he went there and asked for it. 
 

            I knew I had feelings for Christine, yet I felt uncertain what, if anything, I was meant to do with them.  Eventually on Friday, December 15th, whilst varnishing the floor of St. Anthony’s room in a moment of desperation I asked God if He could give me a sign as to whether or not he would be happy if I married Christine. I suggested to Him that if Christine sat down beside me at Adoration on Saturday evening then I would take that to mean that God would be happy for me to marry her.  Of course no sooner had the prayer been sent that I wanted to kick myself and take it back as it seemed terribly unlikely to happen as in the past few weeks she had never sat beside me.  Also, if Christine didn’t sit down beside me on Saturday I might want to try another prayer or seek a different sign.  On Saturday evening, Gabe and I had been out for a bite to eat before Adoration and by the time we returned to St. James’ it was 9:05 PM.  I thought that surely Christine would be in the Church already, and there was no hope of her sitting down beside me.  In I went and found a seat.  After about ten minutes while praying with my eyes closed, I felt someone sit down beside me. Although I felt certain that when I opened my eyes I would see a little old lady, it was Christine.  Well, had I not been kneeling down holding onto the seat, I’m sure I would have fallen over with the shock.  I spent the rest of the time either thanking God for answering my prayer or wondering what I was going to do next and how was I going to tell Christine how I felt about her?         
 

The following morning, on December 17th, Anthony waited for me after Sunday Mass and together with Fr. Kevin Devine we went to Colombo’s for lunch.  Before dinner that evening, Anthony presented his heart to me, and in one week, on Christmas Eve, I felt a love in my heart like I had never felt before.  I was walking along the path to the Cross of the Risen Christ and I felt a love so deep, so new and so endearing.  I smiled that it was only when I had opened my heart to Christ that a loving man, to whom I could lovingly open my heart, walked into my life.   I had felt the pain of love during that Saturday night’s Adoration, and on Christmas Eve I received the gift of feeling joyful, unbounded, peaceful love in my heart.  During a two hour Adoration before midnight Mass I sat next to Anthony and felt abundantly joyful to be sharing the moment with him.  By New Year’s Eve, although everything had gone so quickly, I felt overjoyed to spend the rest of my life with Anthony.  When Anthony asked me to marry him he presented me with Rosary beads and asked me to say the Rosary with him every day for the rest of our lives.  On January 3rd, Fr. Kevin Devine celebrated an engagement Mass for us with the English speaking community in Medjugorje. We are grateful for the blessing of the Mass and the sense of community we shared in that grace filled place.
 

             We decided to wed in New York on Divine Mercy Sunday, a constant reminder to trust in the love and mercy of God.  As our time spent in Adoration was instrumental in embracing our love of God and each other, we had a beautiful Medjugorje-style Holy Hour prior to our Wedding Mass.  It was an added blessing to have Fr. Kevin Devine travel from Medjugorje to be the main celebrant at our Mass.  We are abundantly grateful to Our Lord and Our Lady for showering their love and graces upon us.  Anthony and I continue our daily Rosary and with gratitude in our hearts we began a monthly prayer group in our home for the grace of love -- the grace of love of God, love of all persons and love of each other.

 

Last Updated ( Friday, 07 December 2012 )
 
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Immaculate Conception, Mary, my Mother.

Live in me. Act in me. Speak in and through me.

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