Scroll down to see Patrick’s testimony on video.
I recently traveled to Medjugorje for just two days to be interviewed by ABC Nightline for their show on Mary. One of my fondest memories of that blink-of-an-eye pilgrimage entailed visiting Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Retreat House, an impressive castle-like structure that tickles the eye—the home and vision of Patrick and Nancy Latta, who built it, and are still building it, to support, refresh, and foster vocations to religious life.
On the “castle” grounds, I felt like I was walking into ancient history and a bit of Disneyland, all in one. As I walked onto the property, a friendly, vibrant man, with white hair and a white smile, welcomed me like a dear relative. I didn’t know I was shaking the hand of Patrick Latta—the reason I had come there.
Earlier that morning, a fellow pilgrim had told the pilgrims at our breakfast table that Patrick was going to share his testimony, and we weren’t to miss it. I’m so glad I didn’t.
Later that day, I followed a handful of pilgrims into a petite, round, stone chapel, where Patrick mesmerized us with a lively telling of his story of conversion. With humor and humble self-effacement, mixed with shock and disappointment over his own past behavior, he shared a life of debauchery turned disciple. Just one sentence, from one Medjugorje message, saved him from a life of “doing it my way,” which included affairs, adultery, and alcohol. Once the owner of seven car dealerships, with twenty-eight salesmen working underneath him, he swam in what he worshipped: money. On weekends, he traveled from his home country of Canada all the way to Las Vegas, to “live it up.” And on week nights, he took his employees to a bar, announcing proudly, “Drinks are on me.”
“How much do you think that cost me?” He asked us, as were calculating numbers in our heads.
“Two divorces,” he said, and shared how he ruined his own family and never took any of his four kids to church, although he was supposedly Catholic.
When his son came home one day and asked, “Dad, what’s this God stuff?”
Patrick took out a few bills, gave them to his son, and said, “What is God stuff? Here, my son. Here’s God. Get a sack of these, and you’ve got all the God you want.”
To this day, that one encounter is all the son remembers of his father from his childhood. “Dad,” he said years later. “You handed me money and said it was God.”
“My kids had everything money could buy,” reflected Patrick. “And it corrupted them. I corrupted them.”
Patrick didn’t change his ways, even after marrying his third wife, Nancy, a lapsed Catholic. Then one day, Nancy handed him a book, containing messages from Medjugorje. Patrick gave it back, telling her to throw it away, but his wife retorted, “You throw it away, my pagan husband. Let it be on your conscience.”
Patrick suddenly found himself wrestling with a conscience he didn’t know he had. To allay this strange new feeling of guilt, he decided to read nothing more than “a little two-liner,” before throwing the paperback away. So he opened to the back of the book and laid eyes on the shortest message he could find:
I call you to conversion for the last time.
“I don’t know what happened at that moment,” Patrick told us pilgrims. “I have no idea to this day what happened. All of a sudden, my heart was beating twenty miles per hour, and tears were running down my cheeks.
‘Nancy!” I yelled, ‘Why didn’t you tell me about these messages? Nancy, why didn’t you tell me that they were true? Nancy, that message was for me!’
It was the first time I saw myself. I had been living in mortal sin for thirty years. I had walked away from the Catholic Church when I was fourteen years old, saying, ‘I don’t need this.’ You can walk out of the Church and walk straight into hell quite easily—a lot easier than you can walk into heaven. You get into mortal sin, and then you convince yourself you’re right. ‘I can do what I want. I don’t need Church. I don’t need Confession.’
My Italian immigrant mother—five feet, two inches, both ways—prayed for me for forty-eight years. Forty-eight years of rosaries, and she saw nothing. Then one day, one message changed my life. I believe her prayers helped me believe that the Medjugorje messages were true.”
Today, Patrick, alongside his wife, Nancy, serves pilgrims from sun up to long past sun down, as people come and go from their home and retreat center, the “castle.” A friend of mine, who knows Patrick well, said that although he’s seventy-two and his back gives him constant, sometimes debilitating pain, he never complains and treats everyone he meets with a father’s love and acceptance.
Below are videos of Patrick Latta, on the grounds of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Retreat House, giving his testimony of conversion to a large group of pilgrims—an account similar to the one he shared with my little group that day in Medjugorje. His story concludes with him saying . . .
“Our Lady has appeared on this property twelve times, not because I’m holy or spiritual. It’s just that Marija, the visionary, lives next door, and she has four boys. So at about four o’clock in the afternoon, we get out the hot dogs and ice cream for the boys, and she comes over with her kids, and I say, “If you’re bringing us all an apparition, you might as well stay.” The car dealer in me never dies.
It’s been a great grace, and two years ago, Our Lady gave a message for this place. She said through Maria, “I am joyful that you consecrated this place to me and my Son, that He may reign here.” And then Our Lady added the big words, “Those who come here I will bless and protect.”
Imagine that. This is the guy who did everything wrong in his whole life. “Those who come here, I will bless and protect.” Marija was shocked. I was shocked. We were all in tears over this message, because this was a message for a private home. It was unbelievable. But it really did happen. This message is for you!”
By Christine Watkins
Read more stories, such as this, in Watkins’ book, Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion through Mary’s Intercession.