Ken Bovey Part 3, Medjugorje

June 13th, 2011 was the 20th anniversary of the death of a friend of mine, Ken Bovey.   Ken died at the age of 32 from scleroderma, a rare auto-immune disease.  This is the story of the last 10 months of Ken’s life.  It is a story of how one man prepared for his own death.

In September, Ken and I got together once a week to pray.  He ‘d bring over a pot of vegetarian stew, soup, and homemade bread.  We’d eat dinner, then start to pray.  Sometimes we’d pray a rosary and sometimes we’d  just talk out our prayers.  The one thing we never did was pray for a cure.  We knew that praying for one would be a stretch.  We did pray for peace – peace in our hearts.

On October 10th of 1990, I flew with 300 other pilgrims to the ancient port city of  Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia (think the Old City of Quebec, but on the Adriatic Sea).  Six months later, the war in the Balkans started and the city was bombed.  Dubrovnik had no military significance; it’s destruction was merely symbolic of the deathly hatred that festered in the region.

I went to Medjugorje after I returned to Catholicism from Zen Buddhism.   My Zen teacher, Sifu Dr. Jinyeo Kim, had sent me packing with the words, “Catholic is your path, Do Chun (Korean for Dharma River, my Zen name).”  My return was not easy.  I fought with the very thing that lead me away from it: the mistaken belief that Christianity was a head trip, like belief in Santa Claus.    However, after reading a book my Godmother had given me about Medjugorje, I sensed something real was happening there and I wanted to experience it for myself.

From Dubrovnik we took a 3 hour bus ride to Medjugorje.  Just like in my book, I expected to see old stone houses and roads blocked by sheep.  Instead, I was shocked by all the restaurants (Our Lady’s Pizza!), neon signs, and the shops with thousands of statues and rosaries – rosaries of every description.

Life in Medjugorje, a town dedicated to prayer, was very peaceful.  It was easy to meditate there, to pray, and to live in the present moment.  One evening, in a moment of silence, with only the wind as my companion, I understood intuitively that the Virgin Mary was a person, an individual, a human being – a mother.  I knew she did not share rank with Jesus, nor was she in Medjugorje  that we would worship her.  It was a consoling thought.  It made me feel like I was a part of her family, like I was her son, so to speak.

On day three, our group marched along the narrow roads of Medjugorje to meet with the visionaries (person who saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary), Ivan.  He was a very serious man and I remember being disappointed that he didn’t seem happier.  People asked him questions which he answered methodically through an interpreter.   I gave Ken’s letter to a guide to give to Ivan, in hopes that it would be presented to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On day six in Medjugorje,  I made an afternoon appointment for confession with a priest from Kingston, Ontario.  I planned to share with him all my dark secrets, all my sins, in the hope of cleansing my soul of the angst I felt deep down.   We met outside the church and walked among vineyards.  I poured out my story to him, told him as much as I could think of.  Nothing happened.   He turned to me and said, “That’s all very interesting, Patrick, but I don’t think that’s it.”  A wave of confusion washed over me and he said,”Let’s ask the Holy Spirit what needs to be said.”  Making little signs of the cross over my forehead, my mouth, and my heart, my knees buckled.  I fell to the ground with deep sobs and weeping.  As tears flowed from my eyes and my chest heaved with crying, the priest patted me on the back and said, “This is why you are in Medjugorje.”

It is so strange how crying can make one feel whole.  To this day, I do not understand for certain why I wept in Medjugorje.  Perhaps it was from childhood wounds, or maybe it was the existential angst that is the human condition of being separated from God on earth.  It is not really important.  All I know is that, as the sobs came welling up from deep within me, I knew that I was loved in a very real and, dare I say, divine way.

After a week in Medjugorje, and a tourist day in Dubrovnik, we flew back to Canada.  All the struggles I had left in London 10 days earlier were there waiting for me – especially that of helping my terminally ill buddy, Ken.   Yet, now I knew in the depths of my being that everything would be alright.    I would need this certainty for the road ahead.


  1. by Robert Feagan

    On July 18, 2011

    I am struggling to get something positive out of this story, but I am constrained by my reservations about this thing called God, and the belief(s) which I see so fundamentally rooted in this kind of journey you shared here. I do like the story of the priest-figure who asked a fairly simple question of you in this village, and you fell to your knees crying — for I judge that it is in the body and not so much in the head I feel where men really come to grips with our world of truth.

    Anyway, nothing more than that, other than there is likely much for me to consider in my gut reaction to this section of the story.

    Robert F.

  2. by Patrick

    On July 19, 2011

    Hi Robert:
    I can’t really say anything to address your comment about “this thing called God,” for each man must wrestle with the question: does God exist? But I certainly resonate with your comment about men being out of touch with their bodies and therefore, out of touch with themselves and the/our world of truth. It all starts on the body level and moves through the heart, the mind, and to the spirit.
    I’m glad to have you are reading along. I’m trying not to spin it in any particular way. I just want to tell the story as it happened to Ken and to me.

  3. by Wendy Blain

    On August 3, 2011

    I’m glad you came back ‘changed’ and that you felt loved like never before. Divine love does that, amazing how much He loves us!

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