“We Saw a Great Light”
“I always pray for faith because I think I have too little faith, and this is my tragedy.
I went on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje where they said that Virgin Mary was revealed. I wanted very much to go there, although I was already old. I went there and had a revelation in church.
We were attending mass and there I had a confession of all my life. I wanted to offer God my confession of all my life because I felt very guilty for my youth. And after mass, there were crowds of people, but those people were really nice. Those Croatian people, those old people. They always welcomed you and they were so friendly. It was wonderful. Such an atmosphere over the whole church, we held hands and we prayed together. And after mass, I had a silver bracelet which I wanted to leave as an offering. And suddenly there was only a little group of us near the altar—we saw a light, you know? I don’t know. Now I don’t know, but I remember then that I saw the Virgin Mary with Jesus Christ. And I felt so happy as if I were in heaven. In paradise. When I left the church I was just flying! And I met afterwards some women who were with me and who saw the same thing and they asked me, ‘Did you see it?’
I said, ‘Yes! I saw it!’ But I couldn’t believe it because, you know, I feel so sinful, how could I see the Virgin Mary really? But this was a great thing to me, this revelation, because it was a sign I was wanted. I did not even expect it. I yearned for a sign, a sign that God had not left me. That I am in His protection. I understood that it was a sign that He will never leave me if I turn to Him.”
I met Zofia Cybulska in her flat in Warsaw when she was already 80 years old and have never forgotten that very special encounter. It was very early in my Portraits in Faith journey and her interview had a deep impact on me. Zofia grew up initially in affluence because her father was a doctor and owned quite a bit of real estate in Warsaw. But with the arrival of the Nazis and World War II and the Soviet occupation afterwards, her family’s property was confiscated. Zofia was sent to the countryside during the war for her protection. And when she returned after the war the family had almost nothing left. Remarkably, Zofia actually saw a great blessing in that loss:
I will tell you that they destroyed completely our home in Warsaw where we had souvenirs and, and lots of things from my grandparents. All my life there was war, and I saw only ruins. I considered, but later on, not then, that it was for me…it was a good thing that happened because I would never have known what life really was. I would have grown up in this prosperity and never thought about the other people. So it was a good lesson which God taught us.
That same humility was palpable when Zofia shared with me the pivotal spiritual experience of her life. She was on pilgrimage to a Catholic holy site in Bosnia and Herzegovina when she saw a vision of the Virgin Mary. She was with several other women who saw the same vision in the light above the altar. For Zofia, it was a sign that God had not left her, that she was forever in his protection.
I’ve listened to Zofia’s interview probably more than any other interview in the project because it was one of the earliest video edits I used in presentations. And I can repeat her testimony almost word-for-word. There are so many lessons here for me: That we are never too old to seek God’s forgiveness. That we can pray to be reminded of God’s presence. That there are signs of God all around us and, sometimes through grace, we may even experience those signs in a miraculous way.