Reading Notes:

Oranges and Apparitions

'It takes a special person and great effort to write an autobiography such as Oranges and Apparitions' writes Judy Bartosy in her review of the book, which is the first part of an autobiographical trilogy, in which the author describes her childhood, the horrors of war she lived through, her life in Australia and how she found spiritual peace in close contact with nature and through a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.
About the Author

Felicity Stehlik, born in 1927, lived in Gdansk—Poland until 1945. In 1949 she migrated to Australia, where she qualified as Secondary School Teacher and taught for twenty-five years. After her husband's death, she still lives in the country, west of Ballarat, where besides spending most of her time caring for her animals (dogs, a flock of geese, an emu and a small herd of goats), her church and all who touch her life, she writes reviews for, and helps compile, the Australian Multicultural Book Review, is awaiting the publication of her second book Life in the Italian Gully and writing the third part of her autobiographical trilogy, Educating Lyta.


... Looking back at my home of seventeen years, it has become something of a historical treasure for me.
We lived in a four-storey apartment house. A wide staircase led up to each floor on which there were two flats. The eight families of similar backgrounds, who lived at Weidengasse 48, enjoyed friendship within a social life with each other and their children.
The washroom (Waschküche) in the basement of the house, and the drying level (Trockenboden) at the very top, by today's standard, were the most curious rooms. We had different laundry days rostered to each family, once a month, in this cellar-located washroom, with its huge boilers for the linen and towels. Special soap was used for the linen which had been soaked overnight. The day was always a big event in our young lives. A special woman came in, whom we all liked very much. She was big, strong and kind, and she always smelled nice.
The steam in that washroom with its wooden tubs and the fire constantly being stoked under the boilers, was so different from our every day life. So were the big, thick slices of freshly baked rye bread with butter and home made jam and the hot coffee in urns, that came down regularly from upstairs.
Then finally, there was the trip upstairs to the drying level right under the roof. When we were little, the big key to open it seemed enormous, and so did the long lines of laundry baskets which were heavy with wet cloths. I could not believe that we were ever so dirty as to need so much washing. At each landing we all had to rest.
The washing on the line often hung for days; especially in winter, when most of it froze stiff and looked really strange, the long johns, for instance.
Each family had a small cellar for coal, coke and potatoes, and another small cubicle near the drying room, in which unused pieces of furniture were stored. It was fun to ramble through everything.
In winter, we all took turns to shovel the snow from the entry and from around the part of our house. We heaped it up at the edge of the footpath—effectively clearing it ... But oh! ... How mushy in springtime, when these mountains of snow began to melt slowly.
Our flat had two bedrooms which we all shared, and a very big lounge-room with a parquet floor, over which rugs were spread. These rugs had to be taken down to the backyard every week, where they were hung over an iron rail, and beaten. Cleaning day was always another special event in our lives. On those days we were not so closely supervised.
One of the two big front rooms was my Mother's library which had about three thousand books which were hired out. Everyone took turns in 'serving the customers'. My parents and grandfather were mostly occupied, talking to readers, and making friends with them.
In those days, radio being a luxury, people read for entertainment. Books being part of our lives, helped us through the long winter nights. ...

... At English Mass today, the Father's message was that we are all called to sainthood. Not that we will be canonised, but saints we are!—and he urged us not to be Christians who bargain with God, 'If you give me what I want, dear Lord, I shall do what you want me to do?
'Unconditional love of the Father deserves unconditional surrender of the child', the Father said, before he told us the following story:
'When I was a little boy and wanted a bike for Christmas, my father told me to ask Jesus. So I prayed in front of a statue of Our Lady, then sat down and wrote the following note: 'Dear Jesus, if you will give me a bike, I will do my homework for three years'. Thinking about it, I decided to change the note. So I wrote: 'Dear Jesus, if you will give me that bike, I shall not quarrel with my sister for two years'. Again I tore up that slip to write a third one: 'Dear Jesus, I want that bike, and I shall eat my vegies for one year'. But even that, I felt, was too much. So I took the statue of Our Lady, wrapped it up and put it into the bottom of a drawer. Then I wrote: 'Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again, you'd better give me that bike'.?
Later in the day, Father Jozo returned from Mostar, to preach again in church.
It is so good to hear the message of Our Lady from the mouth of a man who suffered in prison and was chosen to see Her. Father Jozo has been made an instrument of healing, of which Our Lord has done much here in Medjugorje. When Jesus walked this earth, a woman was healed, when by touching his garment, she showed great faith.
Father Jozo reminded us how much Grace is poured upon those of us who have been called here at a time when Our Lady still appears, because the Apparitions will cease one day.
I stayed on for the Rosary and the Apparition. There was utter silence until the sweet, high sounds of a quiet, suppressed Ave, Ave, Ave Maria were heard again, and we all knew that a few metres away, Our Lady had come to her children. To us!
The thought and feeling was so overpowering that I didn?t even hear when the sound ceased and the Apparition had receded.
Not all visionaries see Her. Two of them have had all the messages and, now, see her only on special occasions. Monthly messages are now given, and Apparitions last from five minutes to even longer.
It seems strange, that there are six visionaries, six children, chosen to see, hear and relate her messages. As if she had picked one for each continent. I have the strangest feeling that Ivan was meant for us. He has devoted his life to youth service and wants to become a priest. I shall pray for his intentions. Please, do likewise.
At the Croatian Mass today I had my own hymn book, identical to the one Ruth got from the Harvest People. The Lord did guide me to the only shop in town that stocked it.
The Meditation session with Father Slavco ended at 7.45pm. I had no idea that I had been sitting in the Church of St. James for so long this afternoon (since 2.30, to be precise), in the front seat (where I usually sit at home in St. Patrick's). This is what Medjugorje does to you.
It is 1.00am. I will now go back to sleep.