In June of 2012, our pilgrimage group visited the “castle” in Medjugorje to hear the testimony of Patrick Latta. Patrick began his testimony by introducing himself as a businessman from Canada. He began, “I quit going to school when I was 16 to go wash cars in a car lot….10 years later I bought the company. I was a super salesman. I bought my own Honda dealership. I bought my own BMW dealership. We were the top gun in Western Canada. Nobody could outsell us.”
Patrick’s wife, Nancy, popped in as he was speaking. “This is my wife, Nancy – this is my treasure." Nancy says the story he is telling is not their story, but the fruit of 48 years of prayer by Patrick’s mother – an orphan raised by sisters of St. Joseph – and the faithful prayer and perseverance of her own mother, who was praying for her for 30 years. “The story you are about to hear is a story of God's mercy and grace. We have never seen Our Lady. We have had no mystical experiences. We have no special gifts. This story is a result of the faithful prayer of two mothers.”
Patrick continued his story. “I had nothing to do with God, church, marriage, sacraments, school. I had a horrible time in Catholic school." One day, when Patrick was on the football field, the head coach yelled in front of everyone, “Hey, Latta, you can't play because you don't pay to come here." Patrick did not know he did not pay. "That was the end of my school – that was the end in believing in God."
"I have four children [from two previous marriages]. My children never saw the inside of the church – ever." He used to say to his children, "This is god," and would hold up money. “When you have enough of this, you have all the god you want." Patrick lamented, “That's a father speaking to his children.” He said that one day his youngest son came home from school and announced he had been baptized Anglican. Patrick said to his son, “You're supposed to be Catholic." "Dad, you never took me inside a church." Patrick again lamented, “Wasn't I a great father? And that's how I lived – no God, no prayer, no church. But my business was fantastic, so I have a huge successful business and I don't need God. It was I, I, I …”
After his second divorce, Patrick met Nancy. Within two months they were living together. “No God, no prayer, no church, no marriage, no sacrament – nothing – living in mortal sin. We lived together six years.” One day, Nancy said that they should get married. Patrick agreed, and they got married the next day in a helicopter on top of a mountain. He hired a JP and asked the pilot to be the best man. He didn't even know his name. When he came home from work the next day, Nancy was crying. She said, "I don't feel married." She wanted to get married in a church. Patrick said, “Nancy, do you know how much that helicopter cost?" She said, “I don't care about your helicopter. We have to get married in a church." Patrick reminded her that he had two previous divorces.
Nancy went to see the bishop, who had documentation on Patrick's annulment from his first marriage. Patrick did not even know the marriage was annulled! The second document said that Patrick’s second marriage was never valid. The next day Nancy went to a church called “Immaculate Heart of Mary” to ask the priest to marry them. The priest agreed, but said to Nancy, “You’re out of your mind to marry this guy in church. He'll never change. He's the worst case I've ever seen. You are not going to make a success of this marriage – there's no chance." Patrick agreed to attend marriage preparation classes and he made many promises – go to Mass, Confession, etc. – but admits he is a “professional promiser” since he is a car dealer. They did get married in the church, but Patrick said it didn't mean anything, and he broke every promise he made. That's how they lived… until one day when Nancy's brother sent them a book of messages of Our Lady of Medjugorje.
When they received the book, Patrick was not interested, so he handed the book to Nancy, but she gave it back to him and said, "Here, my pagan husband, you throw them away and it's on your conscience." The word “conscience” wouldn't let Patrick throw the book away. He opened it and looked for the shortest message in the book. It said, “I call you to conversion for the last time." Then something happened. The tears just started and they wouldn't stop. He asked Nancy, "Why didn't you tell me about these messages? Why didn't you tell me they were true?" Patrick confessed, “I saw myself for the first time – I'm Catholic and lived in mortal sin for 30 years. And it came back to me in one second – boom! In one minute everything changed in my life.” He warned, “The day you see yourself as you live on this earth and you are Catholic and you are living in mortal sin – it's the worst day of your life, because reality hits you so hard and it's the truth."
Patrick began to read the messages – they became his whole life. He and Nancy even traveled to Oregon to attend a conference about the messages. Patrick was very touched when a priest at the conference suggested that everyone consecrate their children to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
At this point in the talk, Patrick decided to do some audience participation. There was a group of high school boys there from Boston, so he chose three of them to role-play as his sons. He said to the first boy that the school called and said he was expelled for using drugs and possibly dealing drugs. Patrick said – as he held up some money – that the principal had told him that this was the problem. “Your kids have too much." Patrick said that his son, who had dreadlocks at the time, replied, “This is my life. Leave me alone." Then Patrick called over the boy who was to play another of his sons, and said this kid was a super rugby player, but had a drinking problem. He mentioned the time that this son could not find his yellow Barracuda in a parking lot because he was so drunk.
Then Patrick called over a young woman from our group to play his 17 year-old daughter who wanted to get married. When she was divorced at age 19, Patrick gave her his car and his credit card and told her to go to California and find someone else. That's exactly what she did, and two years later she was divorced again.
“Drugs, alcohol, divorce – a fourth kid I can't even talk about. His immorality is so off-the-wall. Why that lifestyle?” His son told him, “Because I never had a father.” Patrick looked at the young people who were playing his kids. “These are my four children that I never baptized. I never said a prayer with you from the day you were born. I never took you inside a church… You had everything money could buy. Your cars were $70,000.”
Referring to the priest at the conference, Patrick said, “And the priest said to consecrate these kids to the Mother of God. Well, they’re the most helpless situation you could have with four children. These words ‘consecrate them to the Mother of God’ hit me so hard.” Patrick didn't know how to do the consecration. So he looked at the statue of Our Lady at the conference and said, "Blessed Mother, take my kids, and, Blessed Mother, You be the parent that I never was, because I'm a total failure.”
Patrick and Nancy spent two days at this conference and learned all about the messages. He said the number one message of Our Lady is to pray the Rosary, because when you do, you’ll see miracles in your family. The second message of Our Lady is to go to Mass – minimum of Sunday. Patrick started to say the Rosary and go to Mass.
The third message Patrick said is the most difficult. Our Lady said She wants us to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. Patrick looked up all the messages on fasting, and found that Our lady said, "When you pray and fast you can stop wars." Patrick thought, “What war am I going to stop?” Then the light went on – “I got a war on drugs, I got a war on alcohol, I got a war with divorces, I got a war on immorality you can't even talk about. My house is a war zone!” He repeated, “Fasting stops wars." So they learned to fast every Wednesday and Friday. “When you fast you have no fear of the future.” Patrick admitted he had a hard time fasting. “It's the hardest message because we think fasting is for somebody else, but if you don't listen to the coach he can’t help you.”
The next message is reading the Bible. They didn't even own a Bible, so Nancy had to buy one. Patrick said the fifth message is the big message of Medjugorje. “You can't start conversion without Confession.” Patrick had not been to Confession for 30 years and had lots to confess." You know what the priest did? He said, ‘I absolve you.’ I broke into tears. ‘I absolve you.’ Who can say that? Nobody has that power – only a priest. I'm shocked at the mercy of God and I'm shocked at the power the priest has in Confession. 30 years of mortal sin went down the drain in one Confession!”
Speaking about the “castle” Patrick and Nancy built, Patrick said, “This is why this is a house of prayer for priests – because the priest in Confession saved my life. Everything changed with that Confession.” They have 300-400 priests a year come there, and also look after the religious, sisters, and seminarians and young men looking for vocations.
Patrick went back to talking about his kids. He asked the youngest son if he’d like to pray a Rosary with them and he declined for months before he finally agreed. Today, 19 years later, that son is a Catholic, married, with two beautiful kids. He is a teacher at a Catholic high school, and one year he even took 52 kids from his school to Medjugorje.
The second son went to Medjugorje once, and Patrick gave him a rosary. He went back to Canada and later called Patrick to tell him he quit drinking, quit rugby, and became a fireman. Patrick said, “How is that possible?” And the son said, "The rosary you gave me in Medjugorje." Today he is married and has two beautiful kids. Patrick paraphrased, “Our Lady said if you do this (holding up the rosary), I'll show you miracles in your family.”
For 10 years, Patrick did not hear from his daughter. In February of 2012, he got a phone call from her. She said she was in Canada and wanted to come to Medjugorje."Daddy, I want to start again. Daddy, I don't want to be separated from the family anymore." At this point, she had been through three divorces. She came for two weeks to Medjugorje. She got a healing of her problem with alcohol and went back to the University for a nursing degree. Her life completely changed. “The divorce is gone – the alcohol is gone – the drugs are gone – from someone who started to pray.” Patrick asked for prayers for his oldest son who still lives an immoral lifestyle. Our Lady said that when you consecrate your kids to the Immaculate Heart, they will be saved. For 48 years, as Patrick's mother prayed, she saw nothing; but then he went home to Canada one time, and took his mother to Mass. She cried, "The black sheep is home; the prodigal son has come home!"
This year Patrick and Nancy will celebrate their 25th anniversary. Patrick held up his rosary as he recalled how the priest said their marriage would not work. Patrick sold his car dealerships, boat, house, cars, and everything to move to Medjugorje without even knowing where it was. Why? He quipped, “The Mother of God lives here and I want to be Her neighbor.” Patrick said that Our lady appeared 17 times on their property, since Marija lives next door. During an apparition, Marija consecrated their property to Our Lady and Her Son. Our Lady smiled and said, "I'm joyful that you consecrated this place to me. Those who come here I will bless and protect." Patrick beams, “A real message from the Mother of God to a guy who did everything wrong – 30 years of mortal sin. Can you imagine the mercy of God?” Holding up a rosary, he concluded, “This is the answer to every problem. This is the answer to your marriage. This is the answer to your kids."