She has stared at a pulsating sun and not burned her eyes.
She has smelled the sweetness of roses as she climbed the mountain, a scentshe believed marked the presence of the Virgin Mary.
Now Ruth VonDenBosch, owner of a religious bookstore in Linthicum, is planning her fourth trip to Medjugorje, the small Yugoslavian town where for the past 10 years Mary, the mother of Jesus, has reportedly appeared to young visionaries.
"It's a calling. You hunger forit. I haven't been anywhere else on this Earth (where) you can feel the presence of the Mother of God except when I go to Mass. She's like your mother. She's the mother of all creation," says VonDenBosch, 56.
Three times she has journeyed to Medjugorje, a hamlet of about 1,000 Roman Catholics, seeking some enhanced spiritual reality. She has not been disappointed.
She found herself able to stare at the sun, cloaked by a thin silver disc, for an hour at a time -- although the authorities at Medjugorje do not recommend it, and two pilgrims have suffered eye damage.
When she came home last year, VonDenBoschhad her eyes checked by her doctor, whom she claims found her long-distance vision mysteriously perfected.
But more significant was the spiritual enlightenment that accompanied her pilgrimages, VonDenBosch says.
"You're inspired to read about Jesus and to study more," she says. "I love going to Mass every day. I just love it. It's part of my daily routine now. I even determine the hours the store is openaround the Mass schedule."
VonDenBosch, an attractive redhead, doesn't look much like a mystic, nor even a saint.
She is practical,chatty, whimsical. But her approach to faith is to accept without proof, without doubt.
"If you have faith, no explanation is necessary. If you don't have faith, no explanation is possible," she says.
The saying could be the motto for Medjugorje, ever since five teen-agers and one child reported seeing the Virgin Mary on June 24, 1981, on a hill outside the Croatian town.
In the decade since, more than 15 million people have visited Medjugorje, making pilgrimage to thehill, hoping to see the sun spin or change colors, hoping for healing or a vision.
VonDenBosch felt some of this religious energy on her third trip in May 1990, she says, "felt the Holy Spirit continually. It's like the hills come alive.
"That's why I can't wait to getback."
Reminders of this interest fill her Angels R Reading, her bookstore on Camp Meade Road.
Books, cassettes, video tapes and pamphlets describe the reported wonders of Medjugorje. Copies of a coloring book VonDenBosch wrote and printed at her own expense tell the story for children. She's given away hundreds of the coloring books, as well as1,000 copies of a newspaper story about the mystical events.
The bookstore, which VonDenBosch opened last year, resulted from her third trip to Yugoslavia. She decided to open it, signed a three-year lease and only then realized the commitment she'd made.
"Had I done a lot of discerning, the store wouldn't be here," she says. "But God must have wanted me here. It's more ministry than business."
The store offers books about about supernatural healing, about prayer, about cults, a surprising mix of conflicting opinions ranging from charismatic preacher John Wimber to Norm Geisler, who opposes Wimber's teaching on the miraculous.
And there are angelic pins and pictures and books.
"I'm very involved with the angels," says VonDenBosch, matter-of-factly. "Every night when I leave the shop, I ask St.Michael to watch over the place."
"Each person does have an angel, and there's an angel at every township," she says.
"From the stories I've read, every angel is different. Some are 6 feet high. Some 10 feet high."
Her personal angel is small, VonDenBosch believes, because she's seen him in a dream.
"I woke up and there was this white-on-white-on-white angel sitting on my headboard. He had a white pageboy haircut and looked about 10 years old.
"I asked, 'May I touch you?' and he never answered, just smiled. I touched his arm and the dream ended."
VonDenBosch knows there are many skeptics, both about the supernatural in general and Medjugorje in particular.
Sheknows the Roman Catholic Church has not approved the sightings at Medjugorje as valid apparitions, and the local bishop there has deemed them fraudulent.
But, she points out, the six visionaries still fall to their knees every evening, speaking to a presence no one else can see.
In September, if the political situation has calmed, VonDenBosch plans another trip, led by Father Joe McDonough of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Glen Burnie.
So far, more than 30 county residents have signed up for the trip.
"Go," VonDenBosch says to both skeptics and believers, with the certainty of a woman who does not doubt. "Go and you will see."