Seeing the Light in Medjugorje:
A Man's Story of Redemption

Pilgrims at Medjugorje.
World Youth Day in 2011. My nephews did not want to go at first but they eventually relented to the wishes of their mother. When they returned home, my young nephews, between the ages of 18 and 21, encouraged me to go to Medgugorje as well. I had never seen them so happy and so excited, and it became clear to me that ‘something happened to them in Medjugorje.’” planned a trip in October 2011, along with his wife and a close friend. “I have to admit that the days before our trip were not smooth as there was a lot of tension at home concerning the studies of our eldest son. I was also rusty in the sense that I had not taken a trip outside the country for seven years. I had my doubts whether I was wasting my time going to Medjugorje which to me was not an appealing tourist destination,” Rafael recalls.

Rafael the prodigal son saw no  blinding light nor heard any voice telling him to stop kicking against the goads as St. Paul had experienced on his way to Damascus. His conversion nevertheless was no less profound and life changing.years ago.
In my mind, what happened to Rafael in Medjugorje was a miracle which “to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary” but “to one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

Rafael was a competitive runner winning bronze in an intercollegiate sports competition while studying at the Opus Dei-run Colegio El Prado in Madrid, where he received his first communion and where he was confirmed. As a student, he acted in school plays. He got married in 1997 to Isabel with whom he has four sons: Alvaro (aged 17) Rafael (15), Thomas (13) and Assisi (11). The four boys attend Gaztelueta College. Of Scottish descent, Rafael’s forebears got involved in Spanish politics and, through public service, earned the admiration of the Spanish Crown, which bestowed upon their family a title of nobility. 

“We are a practicing Catholic family, and my wife and I direct all ours efforts towards both the human and spiritual formation of our children. We are convinced that our faith is the most important legacy we can give them,” Rafael says. Before returning home to his Catholic faith, Rafael was adrift in his spiritual life, caught up in the pursuit of providing a good life for himself and his family. Although his efforts were crowned with the commercial success of Trattoria La Casetta (www.restauranteitaliano.com), a restaurant he owns in Getxo, it left an arid spot in his soul. 

To paraphrase a French philosopher and moralist, out of difficulties grew the small miracle that restored his religious beliefs. Tension at home with his eldest son’s difficulties in school and other family issues almost posed an obstacle to his path towards his own Road to Damascus. Rafael recalls how it occurred: “The first time I heard of Medjugorje was from one of my sisters returning from a trip there in May 2010. Her enthusiasm and excitement about her trip encouraged her to return along with her three older children during the first week of August the following year, perhaps to escape the horde of at least 50,000 youth delegates who descended on Madrid for 

"To paraphrase a French philosopher and moralist, out of difficulties grew the small miracle that restored his religious beliefs. Tension at home with his eldest son’s difficulties in school and other family issues almost posed an obstacle to his path towards his own Road to Damascus." 
“We spent three days in Medjugorje attending religious services and hearing testimonials from pilgrims. The stream of people coming to pray was nonstop. But it was not until I was back in the bus, while leaving Medjugorje,  where I began to feel something that until then I had not noticed. There was great sadness in my heart that I had never acknowledged before I came to Medjugorje. It was a sadness — an emptiness, really— that became more intense as we drove away. It was like saying goodbye to your girlfriend and having a knot in your stomach because you may not be seeing her again.”

In my mind, what happened to Rafael in Medjugorje was a miracle which “to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary” but “to one without faith, no explanation is possible.”

​When Rafael returned to Spain, it took ten days for the enormous sadness he had felt to be lifted, during which his journey inwards started.
“Whenever someone asked me about my trip, I started to mourn unintentionally, but it was a cry of happiness! God blessed me with me with the awareness that he loves me and that I am embraced and loved by the Virgin Mary. The feeling that the Virgin has ‘touched’ me with her mantle makes me completely happy.” 

According to Rafael, his scale of values ​​has changed completely. “If you stay close to God, everything goes well. If there is something you don’t see clearly, you have to entrust it in his hands. Then you have to pray and wait.”  Despite his spiritual transformation, Rafael admits he is far from being a saint, although he considers his present state of spirituality as being in a much better place that where he was almost five years ago. 

In my mind, what happened to Rafael in Medjugorje was a miracle which “to one who has faith, no explanation is necessary” but “to one without faith, no explanation is possible.”