Even after taking the incredible "Good Shepherd" photo in 1988, Hooker
admits that he was having a difficult time in his spiritual walk. "That
photo was such a powerful sign, such an incredible gift to me and an
answer to my prayer, but it was almost like after taking it, I had a
more difficult time than ever staying on the right track. I have always
believed steadfastly in my Catholic faith, never missed Church or
confession, but the problem was that I kept screwing up.
"I've heard people say, 'I had one foot in hell, and
the Lord came to my rescue....' Well, in my case, He had to go SCUBA
diving to pull me out..."
Not one to give up, Hooker subjected himself to a very strict regimen of fasting and prayer during Lent of 1990. "I attended three Masses a day, prayed three to five of my 'Singing the Rosary's' every day, and I ate ONE meal a day at 3:00 PM -- not a cracker before or after, just water -- and I did this all Lent. I lost 40 pounds that Lent! And my prayer was just to meet that woman, for God to let that one person come into my life who'd guide me and help me do His Will..."
It must have been the right prayer, for Joseph and Bridget fell in love on Easter Sunday 1990 atop Mt. Krizevac after being briefly introduced to one another under the Medjugorje moonlight only hours earlier.
"When this cross appeared over our heads after I gave Bridget the engagment ring -- a gold Rosary ring I had bought right there at the foot of Mt. Podbrdo (Apparition Hill) -- I really felt like it was a sign from God that this was the girl I had prayed for. I really didn't feel worthy of her, and if this cross hadn't appeared, I don't really know if I could have gone through with the marriage.
"She was 12 years younger than me," Joseph explained, "a Stanford University Magna Cum Laude graduate, and a virgin. She was everything I had prayed for, and more... I didn't feel worthy, but she was definitely up to the task of helping me do God's will. Many of the things I used to have trouble with became firmly a part of my past once we met. And we're both growing in many ways... October 7th, 2011 is our 20th wedding anniversary, and our marriage has brought us five wonderful children."
The couple's wedding day, October 7, 1991, was the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. They had their first son, Luke John, on Sept. 4, 1992, who later died of liver cancer in 1997 after a grueling two year battle with the disease. "He was a gift," said Joseph, "another fruit of Medjgorje whose life in itself, though it was so short, inspired so many, and continues to encourage and touch others."
"These pictures never meant a whole lot to me before Luke John became sick," Bridget said, "I mean, I thought they were incredible and I knew they were from God, but I didn't need them or depend on them for my faith. I used to think it was a little immature spiritually to put too much into something like a photo, and I still don't 'need' them to believe. But I have to admit that at some of the most desperate moments as a mother watching her 4 year-old son suffocate to death, I would look at these pictures and just think, 'Why, Lord?' And though I was confused and scared... desperate and afraid... they helped me to really know that God was with us and loved us in a very special way."
These images have been broadcast and published worldwide, and have been a source of inspiration and conversion to thousands. The testimonies of other witnesses to this inspirational moment will be posted shortly on this site, and a documentary detailing persons and events is in prayer. (Please join us by praying that God's will may be done in this regard.) Even the most hardened atheists have a hard time ignorning how very incredible it must have been to see a cloud in the shape of a perfect cross, hovering only about 20 feet off the ground.
Joseph Hooker can be emailed directly at:
Bridget Hylak can be emailed directly at:
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