My Conversion Experience with Our Lady

Many people have asked me over the years why we do what we do. Why would I give up my business, my career, and my livelihood to devote all my time and effort over the last 24+ years to help spread the message of Medjugorje? To many people it sounds completely crazy. But my experience with Our Lady changed my life, and is something I will never forget. I hope by sharing it with you, you will understand why Medjugorje is so important not only to me, but also to you, and to the entire world.

Let me first say I did nothing to deserve God's grace or Our Lady's visit, and probably quite the opposite. I take comfort in knowing that when Ivan once asked Our Lady why She chose him, She answered: "Because I do not always choose the best." I certainly fit into that category! I know that conversion is a lifelong process and struggle, and as Ivan says, "I try to be better each day." That is our lifelong challenge.

I believe the grace I received that day in March 1995 was, in part, a result of people praying for me. The power of prayer is something that we should never underestimate. If you have a loved one that is lost, pray for him or her unceasingly. God hears every one of our prayers. Miracles do happen, and I am a living witness.

I thank God every day for the opportunity to be a miniscule part of His plan for the salvation of the world through Medjugorje. I pray that I never disappoint Him.

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. I was born a cradle Catholic, and lived through the Kumbaya Catechism of the 60's/70's in Catholic school. As a young boy I remember growing up in government subsidized housing during the years my father was going to school for his PHD. Those were difficult years, and they stuck with me, and influenced my decisions later in life. I was determined to be successful in life, and to be able to have all the material things I didn't have as a child.

From a young age I was always a hard worker. My first job was as a paperboy in the third grade. I worked all through grade school and high school to make money. Like many teenagers, I found myself seduced and immersed in all the pleasures and false promises "The World" had to offer. Looking back, I do believe if we had prayed the rosary in our family throughout my childhood and teenage years, as Our Lady requests, I would have made different choices in my life.

From my Catholic school years I held many grudges and harbored many misconceptions about the Faith, to such an extent, that I vowed never to set foot in a Catholic Church again. At age twenty I went back to school and became an engineer, which ultimately led to my starting my own computer company towards the end of the 80's. The company was extremely successful, and it fed my endless desire for material things. I knew there was something missing in my life, and in my heart, but I didn't know what it was. I was constantly trying to fill that void with "Big boy toys," but after each purchase I still felt empty and unfulfilled. What I didn't realize at that time was that the void in my heart could only be filled by God's love and His presence in my life.

It was early 1995, and one evening I went out to dinner with my parents. Our dinner conversation was focused on recent television shows about near death experiences and angel stories. My father took the opportunity to ask me if I had ever heard of a place called Medjugorje. I answered, "No, I haven't". My father explained that it was a place in former Yugoslavia where six young people claimed to be receiving apparitions and messages from Our Lady. The idea seemed impossible to me. If this was really taking place, why wasn't it all over the news? I mean, Mother of God visits earth, is big news. My father told me he would give me a series of articles written by a man named Wayne Weible, which were all about this place called Medjugorje.

A few days later, as I sat alone in my house, I felt a strong prompting to read the article. As I picked it up and started to read it, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that this was all true. I had never experienced a feeling like that before, and it was profound. Then, in an instant, there was a beautiful bright white light in front of me that filled my entire field of vision. It was a light I had never seen before. It had depth and life. I could see its beauty, color, and brightness, but also felt its purity and holiness. I was literally pushed back in my chair, and I could feel the warmth of the light on my face. The whole experience is very difficult to explain or put into words, but I knew it was Divine. I knew Our Lady was there before me. I felt indescribable love and peace pouring down upon me. I hadn't cried in over twenty years, and tears were streaming down my face. I was sobbing, but out of pure joy. In an instant, I experienced a moment of clarity. All the grudges I had held against the Church and all the misconceptions I had harbored were gone, and I was infused with a knowledge of the Catholic faith. I could clearly see the Church in its simplicity, beauty, and truth. I immediately felt a deep love in my heart for the beliefs and traditions of our Faith. It was a feeling like I was home again after a long journey. I then heard Our Lady speak to my heart, and She said, "Will you help spread my messages?" It took me about one second to respond, but within that one second it was as if time stood still. In that instant, I understood in my heart the seriousness and depth of the question. I also understood that my answer was literally choosing God or denying Him. And from the absolute depths of my heart, I answered out loud, "YES! Blessed Mother, but I don't know what to do." I somehow understood that the method of spreading Her messages would be the internet, but at that time I knew nothing about the internet. A moment later the bright white light and Our Lady were gone. I was literally shaking with excitement and in awe at what had just happened.

The next days were busy. I booked a trip to Medjugorje, invited Wayne Weible to our parish, went to confession for the first time in twenty five years, and went to Mass for the first time in fifteen years, I re-learned the rosary and started praying it every day. I also started fasting strictly on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was a time of great joy, blessing, and excitement for me. I could not wait to get home each day from work to pray the rosary. I remember searching and searching for a rosary from Medjugorje, and I finally found a woman on the east coast that ran a Marian Center. When the rosaries arrived, I couldn't wait to open the package. They were clear light blue heart-shaped beads, with a note in the box that said they were blessed by Our Lady during an apparition in Medjugorje. I immediately started praying with them. I remember always feeling a warm burning sensation in my chest when I prayed the rosary, and my fingers that held the beads would tingle. Within a few days I noticed the links had turned gold. I could see through the beads, and could see that even the wire inside the bead had turned gold. It was a beautiful gift from Our Lady, and one that I cherish to this day.

The day after Our Lady's visit, I was praying in the morning before work and was pondering Our Lady's question. I wondered how this would all happen. I knew nothing about the internet and had no idea where to even begin. I owned a computer hardware company, but in early 1995 the internet was mainly confined to universities. Our company certainly didn't have any involvement or knowledge of the internet at that time. I got into the office and settled down to get some work done. The phone rang, and it was an internet service provider. We spoke, and thirty days later our company was an internet service provider.

I immediately began to work on the web site and named it The Medjugorje Web. I knew nothing about html or how the internet or web pages worked. It was truly a gift from God that I was able to sit down and just started hand writing html for the site. It was effortless for me to learn. To this day, I still do all of our web site work with a simple text editor. I remember in those early days spending eighteen to twenty hours a day typing in Our Lady's messages, and adding content about Medjugorje to the web site. It was a very blessed time filled with great joy. Within a few months, The Medjugorje Web was born. It was the very first web site on Medjugorje, and is still the largest Medjugorje web site with over 4000 pages of content, and receives almost a million hits a month.

My life will always be dedicated to helping Our Lady and Jesus in any way I can. The rest of my story is about how I met my wife Ana. But I will save that, and many other stories of the miracles and wonders we have both experienced taking over 200 groups to Medjugorje over the past 24+ years, for another day.

Steve Shawl
The Medjugorje Web

Last Modified 07/22/2014