The images seen here are actual unretouched photographs taken by two separate cameras during Easter Week, 1990, in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, site of miracles and alleged apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to six shepherd children since 1981.
Many people, some pictured here, witnessed with astonishment this remarkable cloud formation which hovered motionless about 20 feet off the ground for approximately 10 minutes. (Several people snapped photographs during that time.) The cloud then dissipated into a pierced heart, surrounded by thorns (to be posted shortly). Note that the cross and heart are traditionally signs of God's mercy.
These two particular pictures were taken by two eye witnesses, Joseph Lee Hooker (photographer of the "Good Shepherd", also featured on this site) and his soon-to-be wife, Stanford University graduate Bridget G. Hylak. This cloud formation appeared over the couple's heasd at the very moment in which they became engaged in Medjugorje during Easter Week 1990, only one week after meeting there on Easter Sunday.
Unbeknowns to Bridget, Joseph had been praying steadfastly all Lent for "God to send me a woman who would guide me and help me to do His Will. I knew that without that special person," Hooker candidly added, "I was in danger of not making it to Heaven on my own..."
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 two to 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 met on Easter Sunday atop Mt. Krizevac, and fell in love almost instantly.
"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 -- 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...we just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and our marriage has brought us five wonderful children."
Bridget and Joseph were married on October 7, 1991, 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.
"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, they helped me to really know that He was with us and loved us in a very special way."
These images have been broadcast and published worldwide, and have been a source or inspiration and conversion to thousands. 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 25 feet off the ground.