In the summer of 2010 my daughters and I came home for 7 week visit to the USA. My own family had been living in Israel for a couple of years by then, and we missed America. So we travelled back to my childhood home in New Jersey where my parents were still living.
We had a wonderful summer hanging around with my mother and father, sharing the simple pleasures of life: conversations over meals, coffee on the deck, shopping for food, and making small outings together. In September we returned so the girls could start a new academic year at their international school.
After a little while, as I was busy with my usual daily routines in Israel, I began to notice powerful sensations welling up in my heart that I came to realize were the deepest sentiments of love that I had ever felt for my parents during all of my life.
In all my fifty years I had never experienced such overwhelming emotions of love for my mother and father as I felt for them at that time. I became aware that this exceptional passionate love was not of my own making, but arose in my heart from an “extra”ordinary outpouring of grace by the Holy Spirit. As I came to realize this as a profound supernatural grace at work within my heart, I was deeply moved to thank and praise the Lord for this ordinary gift He was bestowing on me.
The light and love that the Holy Spirit was pouring into me drove me into deep prayer and I cried out to the Lord that He not take my mother and father from me as I loved them so much and needed them too. I was rather confounded in my intellect about these supplications – that the Lord must not take my parents away from me – as to my reasonable mind they seemed a rather odd response to such deep, positive, fiery emotions of love. I didn’t really know why I was praying such things.
During one of my telephone calls to my parents I opened my heart and told my parents of these strange new feelings – that a marvelous, mysterious wave of love had washed over my heart – and that I felt I now loved them more than I had ever loved them before, and I wanted them to know it. Not long after this telephone conversation, my father called me and stunned me with the remarkable and unexpected news that my mother had been just diagnosed with a late stage, incurable ovarian cancer.
I reflected that the Lord went before me and that through His signal grace of flooding my heart with torrents of His merciful love for my parents, He had prepared me for this challenging trial. Filled to overflowing with the Lord’s own divine love, I immediately booked a flight home to be at the hospital bedside of my mother who would undergo a massive surgery and then need chemotherapy for the rest of her life.
I remained with them for more than five weeks in America to attend to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of both of my elderly parents.
My husband, daughters and I moved home to America in June 2011. We would now be near to my parents to support them. My father’s mental and emotional state began to deteriorate rapidly upon learning of my mother’s cancer. His depression worsened, his anxiety increased astronomically, and his behavior became erratic and highly agitated, with frequent uncontrolled outbursts of anger and violence. His memory was failing him. He was confused and was unable to process what was going on around him. The situation of my mother and father became quite chaotic and dangerous as my father’s dementia increased. The problems and difficulties were further exacerbated by the fact that my middle aged sister was living with them in a state of chronic alcoholism. The troubles and needs of my parents and sister had become monumental.
I loved them all so much and desired with all my heart to help each one of them, and being the oldest daughter and closest to them, I felt responsible and considered it my loving duty to handle everything. I plunged head long into the role of caregiver to the three of them with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. I worked, strived, managed, scrambled, and wore myself to the bone trying to do it all. The Lord had placed in me a huge reservoir of His divine love, and during that trip back home in 2010 I had drawn deeply from that well.
But as the demands increased and challenges mounted during the subsequent years of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 I found myself sinking under their weight and falling into despair. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I was burnt out, stressed to the uttermost, at my wits end, desperately wanting the persons I loved to be free of their torments, as I suffered in my heart to see them suffering so, trapped in their own unique incurable conditions: mom with terminal cancer, dad with Alzheimer’s and my 52 year old sister with late stage liver disease, with no hope for a liver transplant, as she was still drinking and would surely die soon without one.
My mind and heart were warring with each other, as temptation after temptation assailed me, at one moment my heart was yearning to find still another possible way to save them and make them well, and the next moment my thoughts were replete with despair (or was it the Evil One’s suggestion?) thinking that it would be better if they died – if the Lord would take them to Himself and end their misery, and free me from this agony of caring and responsibility. I could not find rest or peace in the Serenity Prayer, although I knew it was true.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference
One afternoon before Easter 2014 I went to the chapel in a state of utter desperation. I cried out to the Lord with all my strength of agony and pitiful misery that I had come to the end of myself. There was nothing left in me. I was empty as a dry well. I was exhausted from the trials. I had no more to give and I was falling into bitterness and anger. I pleaded for Him to save me from myself, to lift me up from the quick sand that I was sinking in, from the slippery slope of the abyss that loomed before me. I was afraid. I felt my humanness, my misery, my wretchedness, my utter helplessness, and I cried to the Lord of Mercy to have mercy on me. Went I was totally spent in prayer, I sat in complete silence before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament like a baby being held exhausted and limp in her mother’s arms after a furious crying spell and I fell asleep.
When I awoke from this sweet sleep about an hour later I recalled my agonizing prayer. I serenely asked the Lord for wisdom to help me go on. Just then I heard an interior Voice say to me, “Ephesians 6.” A little distance from me on the pew was a paperback Bible. At first I was hesitant to reach for it to open it to the book and chapter spoken to me. I was afraid that my faith would be stumbled. The thought came to me that if I should open the book and read Ephesians 6 and it not have any meaning for me, that I would then know that I was deluded – that I was imagining the Lord had spoken to me, and what utter vanity and pride this would be. I overcame this fear and reached for the book, and opening it to the New Testament Epistle of Ephesians, chapter 6, I looked down at the first verse and was immensely astonished. The words were Living and True – the words were Jesus Christ the Lord Who was speaking
“Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise,
“that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth” ( Ephesians 6: 1).
My heart was racing with joy and amazement as I continued reading Ephesians 6.
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power…
Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.
Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,
and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.
In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God…
…With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit… (Ephesians 6)
I knew that Jesus had just answered me and given me His Divine Wisdom. I knew this beyond any shadow of doubt, because I could not deceive or lie to myself, as I knew for certain that I DID NOT KNOW what was written in Ephesians 6. I could not have said this to myself. With this substantial Word from the Lord, I received not only wisdom from Jesus, but His grace, power and strength to do what His Word commanded! The good Lord raised me up in an instant and empowered me to carry on doing His perfect Will:
Over the months to come my dear sister continued to decline and she passed to the Lord on October 2, 2014, dying in the state of grace, having been blessed with every spiritual gift before she crossed into eternity. I was able to arrange the spiritual support she needed, caring Christian hospice and a Catholic funeral Mass and burial. She is in Peace now with Jesus. My father is now being cared for in an Alzheimer’s facility which I was able to arrange for him. I am looking after my mother who continues to live with stage four cancer but my heart is full of joyful confidence in the Lord Who:
“The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads.” (Psalm 145:14)
”Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”(Psalm 54:4)
“Uphold me that I may be safe, That I may have regard for Your statutes continually.”(Psalm 119:117)
I awake this day and I thank You for Your gift of Life
for the joy of hearing the sounds of the morning
a wondrous cacophony of Your creation
the chirping crickets
the roisterous tweeting, crackling, squawking of the birds
the sweet cooing of the mourning doves
the melodious chimes on my neighbor’s porch tinging in the gentle breeze
the distant rumbling of a jet passing overhead
the wooshing of cars both near and far
popping of staple guns from the construction site
tapping of pipes in this old house
the creaking of doors and floors
the grumbling of my tummy telling me it’s time for breakfast.
But lo! I am hungry for You
for Your heavenly food
Your Body and Your Blood
which gives me the strength to run the race of this day
and complete its course,
until dusk comes and
then I will thank Your for the living of this day
and the pleasant repose of this night.
I shall listen to the sounds of the evening
as all of creation
settles down into quiet and silence
and I can hear Your still small voice speaking to my heart,
“Goodnight, sweet child, until the morrow,
rest now in My arms of Peace”
Copyright©, Ann Ammar 9-8-2014
James, did you say a prayer
or were you silent as you listened to angels’ wings
brushing against your hair?
Your face so fair
You held yourself with great courage and marvelous dignity
The nation grieves
Good people weep
You’ll surely exchange your prisoner’s orange gown
with a holy robe of liberty.
James, did you see your Lover’s eyes
looking into yours
as you gazed across the horizon of Eternity?
His Face so fair
You witnessed to the sanctity of life against their brutality
The Heavens heave
With sighs of mercy
You’ll surely receive the Victor’s golden crown
God’s prize for love and humility.
Easter 2014 is almost here. I have been a believing Christian since 2000, when I experienced a radical conversion from agnosticism to a living faith in Jesus Christ, as my personal Lord and Savior. On that Easter in 2000, when I truly first believed that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins, and that He had risen from the dead, Jesus revealed to me the power of His saving love in a most personal and extraordinary way. I will now share the account of what happened at the midnight hour as the evening of Holy Saturday 2000, became Easter Sunday morning, the Day of our Lord’s glorious resurrection.
A devout evangelical Christian friend of mine, Joanne, whom the Lord used to help bring me to faith in Jesus Christ, as my personal Lord and Savior, had won two tickets to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” This show was being performing at a local theater on Holy Saturday, the night when the church keeps vigil at Christ’s tomb, awaiting His glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning.
Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices that they had prepared. When they found the stone rolled away from the entrance, they went in. But they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus, and they did not know what to think. Suddenly two men in shining white clothes stood beside them. The women were afraid and bowed to the ground. But the men said, “Why are you looking in the place of the dead for someone who is alive? Jesus isn’t here! He has been raised from death. Remember that while He was still in Galilee, He told you, ‘The Son of Man will be handed over to sinners who will nail Him to a cross. But three days later He will rise to life.’ (Luke 24: 1-8)
I picked Joanne up at her home and we drove together to the theater, which was about a thirty minute drive from our town, to an area of which I was unfamiliar.
Joanne, many years before, had given her life to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. We were both passionately in love with our Divine Bridegroom. As we drove to the theater together that evening, our hearts were united in faith and love, and profound gratitude, to Jesus our Savior, for the gift of eternal life that His passion and resurrection made possible for us.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s moving musical presentation of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, lifted our souls to a state of deep worship and adoration. The performance concluded shortly before midnight. We left the theater with our hearts filled with intense joy and deep thanksgiving, as we appreciated how much God loves us, to send His Son into the world, to save us from our sins, and to give us His eternal life.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
When we got into the car, Joanne told me to buckle my seatbelt. It is difficult for me to relate to you the sense I had within myself, when she said these words to me, since it would seem quite natural that a good friend would care about my safety, and would remind me to buckle my seatbelt before we set out driving. It would seem to be nothing out of the ordinary. But, as soon as she said these words to me, I had a mysterious sensation within my spirit. Yet, as quickly as I sensed it, the awareness of its peculiarity left me. I buckled my seatbelt and thought no more about it. Later, I came to understand that it was the Holy Spirit speaking these words to me through her.
We set out for home. Once we left the area around the theater, the roads we entered were very dark. As I drove down the road, I felt we were going in the wrong direction. I slowed down, and looked all around, to see if it was clear to make a U-turn. There were no other cars coming or going in either direction. Turning my steering wheel to the left, I began my U-turn.
Suddenly, my steering wheel was jerked by an unseen power, which turned my car sharply back towards the right. Just then, a taxi which did not have its headlights on smashed into my car driver’s side at high speed. If the steering wheel had not been jerked to the right at that precise moment, the car would have hit us head on.
We felt the powerful impact as my car was hit broadside. Joanne and I were numb with shock. When it penetrated our minds what had just happened, we realized that neither one of us had any injuries. Had I not been wearing my seatbelt, I may have been killed. If the steering wheel had not been jerked to the right, we surely could have been killed in the head-on collision that would have resulted. My car had been “totaled.” It could not be driven at all, and needed to be towed. Yet, we were safe and uninjured. To this day, I believe it must have been an angel, who supernaturally took over my steering wheel, to turn my car to the right in that critical moment, to prevent a head-on collision with the speeding taxi without its lights on.
We stepped out of the car uninjured, yet in shock. In the impact of the collision, the dark taxi that hit us, had been propelled quite a distance further down the road. As we stood outside my wrecked car in numbed disbelief, a stranger suddenly appeared to help us. What was this man doing there on this dark rural road at midnight on Holy Saturday? We immediately and gratefully accepted the “good Samaritan’s” help. He took charge of everything. He checked to see if we were injured. Then, he went over to the taxi to check on the driver with whom we had no contact at all during the entire accident. He called the police and filed the accident report for us and arranged for the towing of my car. He managed everything for us quickly and efficiently. Then he told us he would drive us home!
It was just after midnight and had become Easter Sunday morning! We got into the car of the “good Samaritan” and saw that it was filled with Bibles! He prayed for us as he drove us all the way to our homes.
I was alive. I was 40 years old. That day was the first Easter of my life that I had living faith – that I believed in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, and my Savior. How awesomely Jesus had revealed His saving love to us through these miraculous events!
The Holy Spirit inspired Joanne to tell me to “buckle my seat beat” so I would be protected from death. The only wise God, the all-knowing Lord of Life knew what was coming. The Lord had His angel take control of my steering wheel in the split second needed to save both of His beloved children’s lives. Then, He sent the stranger to come our aid in the darkness of night, in a lonely place, to help us, pray for us, bless us, and bring us safely home.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me.
In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him “Master, we do not know where You are going; how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
If you know Me, then you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father…”
“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me, because I live and you will live…”
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”
(John 14: 1-10, 18-20, 27-29)
Jesus is God. He gives eternal life to everyone who will put their faith and trust in Him. You can trust Him! He loves you!
Dawn was gently breaking over the city of Jerusalem. Located in the vicinity of our hotel, The Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family, which is situated on the Via Dolorosa at the bend in the road between the 3rd and 4th Stations of the Cross, I could hear a rooster crowing from a nearby courtyard of one of the ancient stone houses. He was greeting the rising sun and majestically announcing the start of a new day, just as the Lord of creation had ordained from the beginning of the world.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth….and God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1)
The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaims its Builder’s craft. One day to the next conveys that message; one night to the next imparts that knowledge….. God has pitched there a tent for the sun. It comes forth like a bridegroom from his chamber … from one end of the heavens it comes forth; its course runs through to the other; nothing escapes its heat. (Psalm 19:2-7)
For from the rising of the sun, to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering. For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:11)
Father Avitus and I had arranged to meet in the lobby of our hotel very early on that special morning, when he would celebrate Mass for just the two of us in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Father Avitus and I are old friends. Father Avitus, who is from Tanzania, had been sent by his African Order, The Apostles of Jesus, to minister to the sick and dying in the nursing homes and hospitals of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, where I was living at that time. Within days of his arrival to America, the Lord had arranged for us to meet in a marvelous way. From that moment, the Lord put in my heart the desire to assist Father Avitus in his ministry. I served as a lector, reading the Holy Scriptures, when he said Mass at the nursing homes. Further, for several years now, we have been working together on a medical mission for Tanzania.
After living in Israel for two years, I wanted to share my precious experience of the Holy Land with my dear friend and fellow laborer for the Lord. So, my husband and I, invited Father Avitus during June 2010, to come to Israel for a twelve day visit. I knew that Father Avitus, as a Catholic priest, should celebrate holy Mass daily. Thus, I endeavored to make arrangements through the Latin Patriarchate to reserve a time at the important sacred Christian shrines throughout the country for Father to celebrate Mass every day of his visit. Then I planned to arrange our pilgrimage around the Mass schedule that would be assigned to us. During June, there are many Catholic pilgrim groups from all over the world travelling to Israel. Thus, the priests who lead these pilgrim tours, have set up their mass schedules at these shrines, many months, and even years, before their planned trips.
With such short notice, and considering the few days which we had available to spend in the Old City of Jerusalem during Father’s pilgrimage, I knew that it would be highly improbable that I would be able to reserve any of the many altars inside the holiest of Christian Shrines, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, for Father to celebrate Mass. This large and extensive Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built over the last five Stations of the Cross: 11th, the nailing of Jesus to the Cross, 12th, the Crucifixion, 13th ,the taking down of Jesus’ Body from the Cross, 14th, the Burial of Jesus in the Holy Tomb, and 15th, the Resurrection.
I simply could not believe what I heard when the secretary informed me that she was assigning Father not only to an altar inside the Basilica, but, to the altar at the Tomb of Christ! I was filled with immense joy! I thought, Lord, how gracious You are to give us this most sublime blessing, to receive Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion at the precise place where You rose up from the dead in Your glorified resurrected Body!
Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid Him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. (Luke 23:50-54)
And He said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:5)
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. (Mark 16: 1-5)
But at daybreak on the first day of the week they took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.” And they remembered his words. (Luke 24:1-8)
With hearts full of joy, Father and I set out through the large iron gate of our hotel, all the while praising God for this new day, for we live in the resurrected life of the Spirit of Christ.
Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; Behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith in the Son of God who has loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit .For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)
We made our way along the Via Dolorosa and walked through the narrow cobblestone streets of the Muslim Quarter, which led into the Christian Quarter, until we reached the entrance to the large courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We could see before us, just inside the huge doors, many lamps hanging over the pungent, chrism- drenched, Unction Stone, where Jesus’ Body, after having been taken down from the Cross, was laid and anointed before His burial in the Tomb.
In the center of the Basilica, underneath a large dome, is an area containing two small rooms: the Chapel of the Angel, with an altar containing a piece of the stone which was rolled away by angels at the Resurrection, and, the tiny Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, which contains the Tomb of Christ. A marble slab covers the place where Christ’s body was laid and from which He rose from the dead. A vase with candles marks the spot where His head rested.
Father went into the sacristy to get vested to celebrate Mass. I waited outside the door of the Sacristy for him. It was about 7:30 in the morning, and there were some small pilgrim groups at various altars inside the Basilica, where the priests that accompanied them were saying Mass. I pondered how awesome it was, that in just a few moments, I would be inside the tiny Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, which was barely big enough for three persons to stand in, all alone with Father Avitus, who would be celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass where our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
All of a sudden, a wondrous, generous thought entered my mind, and a deep feeling of bountiful love welled up in my heart. Unexpectedly, I was filled with an intense desire to share Holy Communion with another member of the Body of Christ. I sensed the Holy Spirit was moving in me and prompting this beautiful intention. It must not be only Father and me, together in Christ’s Tomb, who would receive our merciful Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. He must be shared in Holy Communion with another one of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ! Aware of this remarkable prompting, I began praying silently for this desire to be realized, while waiting for Father Avitus to come out of the sacristy.
Fully dressed in pure white vestments, Father came out to me, and we turned towards the Tomb of Christ, to begin our two-person procession into the tiny Chapel. As I turned, I saw a woman, who had not been there before. She looked at me with yearning and pleading eyes, with her arms held up in front of her chest, with her hands pressed together in the prayer position. She did not have to say one word to me, as I completely understood that she desired with all her being to join us at Holy Mass in the Tomb of Christ. My heart leapt for joy as I fully appreciated that the Lord had immediately answered my silent prayer! Further, I truly believe, as Jesus surely would know of the woman’s intense love for Him, and her heart’s desire to receive Him in Holy Communion, He stirred up in my heart, through the Holy Spirit, love, to want to share Holy Mass with her, and even to pray for this to be fulfilled. In every way, I felt the Lord’s Will had been done!
The three of us processed in single file to the Tomb of Christ, where we entered into the Chapel of the Angel, and then passed into the tiny sanctuary of the Holy Sepulcher. Father prepared the altar on the marble slab, which covers the sepulcher, for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He asked the woman if she spoke English. She shook her head and responded, “no, Italiano.”
Father began the Mass and we lifted up our hearts, minds, and souls, to the Lord with all our strength of love and adoration. The woman responded in Italian, as I responded in English, to Father, as he said the Mass. Even though we came from different countries, Tanzania, America, and Italy, and all spoke different languages, in the Body of Christ, we are one in the Lord.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4: 4-6)
When the time came in the Order of the Mass for Holy Communion to be distributed, we could not “come forward” to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion from Father as the chapel was so tiny. We could only kneel, which we did, and Father held the sacred Host high and stated, “Ann, this is the Body of Christ.” “Amen” I replied with all my faith, and then I received our Lord on my tongue with all the love I had in me. To our astonishment, there was another Host under the first One. Father lifted this second host and placed it in my mouth and so in the Tomb of Christ I received a “double portion” of Holy Communion, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, of the risen Jesus Christ, our Lord!
“But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her.” (1 Samuel 1:5)
Now, the sacristan had been told, that there would be only two persons attending Holy Mass in the tiny Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher that morning at 7:30, the priest and me, thus, only two wafers of altar bread were required to be consecrated at Mass. When the sacristan prepared all that was needed for the celebration of the Mass, he did not know that the Italian woman would join with us, and that there would be three persons in the Tomb. Yet, the Lord had prepared everything according to His good pleasure and perfect Will, as we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.( Romans: 8-28)
At the moment Father Avitus distributed Holy Communion, there was not just two hosts but rather three hosts! The Lord provided one for the Italian woman who loved Him so much and two for me for *to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her.” *
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might, which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:18-23)
* I am named Ann, which comes from the Hebrew name of Hannah, meaning “favor” or “grace.” As I am writing this account I am suddenly recalling something quite mysterious that happened just last night. While I was lying in bed before falling asleep, for no apparent reason, I contemplated my own name! I do not know why I thought about my name Ann? I was pondering how it came from the Hebrew name of Hannah. I said to myself last night while lying in bed, “I like the name Hannah. I would have liked to have been called Hannah.” Then, just this morning, another mysterious thing happened. I went to my local church and attended the 8 am daily Mass, and the Old Testament scripture verses that were read were 1st Samuel 1:1-9 which include: “But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her” (1 Samuel 1:5). I can only conclude that these two mysterious “coincidences” of last night and this morning and their perfect timing and relation to the writing of this account today are of the Holy Spirit and serve to confirm that this writing is of His inspiration and according to His perfect will. Thank you Lord for all your gracious and abundant blessings!
This past Sunday was the First Sunday of Advent, 2013. In the late morning, I attended Holy Mass at my local parish church.
In the afternoon, I felt very fatigued from the very busy Thanksgiving week. Even more so, I was worn out from the intense trials and heavy crosses of this entire year, which had accumulated to the point, where I was very weary mentally, emotionally, and physically. I went to my bed, shortly after three pm in the afternoon, to take a needed rest. Even though I was so tired, I recalled that this was the hour of Divine Mercy, and so I wanted to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, for the Lord to have mercy on the world.
Indeed, I felt too exhausted to get up and find a rosary to use to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. So, I began to pray the chaplet while lying on my bed, using my fingers instead of rosary beads, to recite the chaplet. I did truly want to get down on my knees by my bedside to pray, but I was just too weak. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the following scripture passages:
Psalm 3: “You are a shield around me, O Lord, my Glorious One, who lifts up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud and He answers me… I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear … Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! “
Psalm 63: …. “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You … On my bed I remember You…”
Psalm 4 …. “meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still… In peace I will both lie down and sleep…”
In recalling them, He gave me peace about praying this holy chaplet while lying on my bed instead of on my knees. I began to implore our compassionate Lord to pour out His mercy upon this hurting world.
After a while, as I was praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the salvation of the world, without realizing it, I slipped into sleep.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:21.)
Just as I was waking from sleep, I heard a Voice speak to me interiorly, saying: “Suddenly, there Is no more time.” I heard this remarkable message clearly! I repeated it in my mind several times so I would not forget it. I pondered what it could mean. I then proceeded to finish praying the remainder of the Divine Mercy Chaplet more fervently for the salvation of sinners.
The next day, December 2, 2013, I went to the Miraculous Medal Shrine, in Philadelphia, and during prayer before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and during the Holy Mass, I sought light and understanding from the Holy Spirit as to the meaning of this message.
The Holy Spirit led me to understand that this message, “Suddenly, there is no more time” is a warning to the world that He desires I share with all readers of this blog and website. The Lord is saying to all of us: “Now is not the time to sleep! Stay awake! Be prepared! Time is short! Be vigilant and unceasing in prayer for the conversion of sinners! Watch and pray! Be as the wise virgins and keep your lamps trimmed and filled with oil and burning!”
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you. ‘Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.’” (Matthew 25)
In these strong words spoken to me, on the First Sunday of Advent 2013, while I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Jesus is stressing the urgency for us to prepare ourselves, to be ready to “meet the Bridegroom when He comes”, and to pray unceasingly for the conversion of sinners, during this “eleventh hour” of His Mercy, before the day of His Justice dawns.
This urgent warning is in keeping with Jesus’ words to St Faustina to whom He gave the Divine Mercy Chaplet :
You will prepare the world for My final coming. (Diary 429)
Speak to the world about My Mercy … It is a sign for the end times. After it will come the Day of Justice. While there is still time let them have recourse to the fountain of My Mercy. (Diary 848)
Tell souls about this great Mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My Justice, is near. (Diary 965).
I am prolonging the time of Mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation. (Diary 1160)
Before the Day of Justice, I am sending the Day of Mercy. (Diary 1588)
He who refuses to pass through the door of My Mercy must pass through the door of My Justice. (Diary 1146).
In addition to these words of Our Lord, Sr. Faustina gives us the Words of the Mother of Mercy, the Blessed Virgin,:
You have to speak to the world about His great mercy and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great Mercy while it is still the time for granting Mercy. (Diary 635).
Further, as I sought His counsel about the meaning of “Suddenly, there is no more time,” the Lord revealed to me today, while I was at the Shrine, that the Scripture readings for the First Sunday of Advent cries out this same urgent warning!
Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
Gospel of Matthew 24:37-44
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
COME LORD JESUS!
O COME, O COME EMMANUEL!
(A poem I received October 21, 2013 from Jesus
while in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament)
Waiting in the silence
all alone with Thee
knowing if I’m quiet
I will hear You speak.
Your words of love to me,
while my heart’s embracing
Your wounded, bleeding feet.
Just like sister Mary
who chose the better part,
I sit in complete silence
to hear words from Your Sacred Heart.
And, as John, Your most beloved,
I lay my head upon,
Your warm and tender bosom
and feel your beating Heart.
Your love and mercy flows
from Your pierced side,
enraptured in the silence
You draw me deep inside.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
It was raining steadily as I drove my car from my husband’s hometown of Baqa along a remote winding country road in the area of Israel known as the Triangle, whose villages are mostly populated by Arab Muslims, with the occasional Israeli kibbutz interspersed between them. Each day my husband would leave to go to work near Tel Aviv and my children would head off to attend their American International School near Netanya. As a family we had left everything behind – country, American family, friends, neighbors, church and school, house, and possessions, in our sudden and unanticipated move to my husband’s homeland.
After my husband and children departed each day I was left alone in our new “home” to build a new life for myself. I felt very much as an alien in the country, not yet having found my place amongst the peoples of the land. I was feeling terribly lonely. I missed my prior life in America where I was totally “at home” with no language or cultural barriers and where I lived in full community – especially with my “family in Christ.” I knew my way around at home, had a happy, fulfilling daily routine and was fully connected with others. Every day I would attend Holy Mass at my local parish church where I prayed with my brothers and sisters of the “household of God,” and received the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion and was both spiritually and physically united with the Body of Christ.
Some days I would assist a close friend and Catholic priest from Tanzania in his ministry to the sick and dying of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, serving as his lector for the Scripture readings at the Masses that he would say at the nursing homes. Often, I would “make rounds” with Father, or on my own, to the rooms of the nursing home residents, to console and encourage them through their illness and loneliness by reading passages from the Bible, praying for and with them, or simply sharing time with them, talking and listening, being present to them in body and one with them in spirit and heart.
As the cool rain poured onto my windshield, my own warm tears flowed down my face, and waves of homesickness washed across my lonely soul. How I yearned, in that moment, for the companionship with a brother or sister in Christ with whom I could talk and share my heart. The dreary grey sky, soggy wet road, and dank dampness of the car seemed to permeate my soul, and I felt a profound loneliness and sense of alienation.
As I was driving along I saw a middle-aged Arab Muslim woman in her traditional dress walking in the rain along the roadside carrying atop her head a plastic bag which was filled with something. She was carrying some items she had likely purchased in the nearby village, and she was walking home to her own village along the roadside and using the bag as a kind of umbrella. As I passed her I thought, “Oh! I should have stopped to offer her a ride!” The thought came too late and the cars behind me made it difficult to stop and turn around. I also considered that she might not feel at ease with a stranger or foreigner stopping to pick her up. I also did not know how to ask her in Arabic if she wanted a ride. I would never know if I had missed being a “good Samaritan” to her. I apologized to the Lord for thinking and acting too slowly, as I continued driving towards the intersection where the rural road intersected with the highway.
As I was stopped at the red light I saw another middle-aged woman standing in the rain. Sensitive to having missed the previous opportunity to be charitable, I rolled down my window and in English asked the lady if she would like a ride somewhere. She understood me and she quickly ducked out of the rain and got into my car. I asked her where she was going. “Yerushalayim,” she responded in Hebrew. Sensing her English was not so strong, I spoke slowly and clearly to her informing her that I could take her as far as the entrance to Even Yehuda along Highway 4, where I was heading. That would be approximately a half hour drive together and a third of the way to Jerusalem. It would take at least one hour from there to get to “Yerushalayim,” if someone else picked her up at that point, immediately after I dropped her off. She nodded in agreement.
We drove for a while in silence, except for the tapping of the raindrops on the windshield, and the whooshing of the tires from the wet road. Out of the side of my eyes I saw the Israeli passenger peering above my head. I glanced up to see what she was looking at and then I realized she was studying the Face on the holy card that was tucked into my sun visor. Her eyes caught mine, and clutching her hands to her heart, my Jewish passenger exclaimed with exuberance and love, “Yeshua!”
I reached up and took the prayer card with the holy Face of Jesus from my visor and handed it to her. Her face was radiant with joy. Jesus had connected me on that dark and dreary afternoon, which fully reflected the sadness in my soul, with a sister in faith. I was enthralled and astonished at the loving- kindness and goodness of the Lord. Tali, slowly shared with me, in her broken English, that she recently found her divine Lover and Savior, Yeshua, whom she had accepted as her Lord and Messiah. Tali had been visiting her grown son who lived in the Kibbutz near Nizzane Oz, the junction where I had picked her up at the red light. She had been sharing her newfound faith in Christ Jesus with him. She showed me a book that she had been reading and that she brought with her to share with her son, Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada, the quadriplegic Christian author, artist and evangelist.
I had read this same book of Joni’s many years before immediately after my own conversion. My sister in Christ, Tali and I, shared with each other how much Joni’s book about Heaven encouraged our new faith.
Tali also told me that she was attending an Arabic church in Jerusalem where she praises and worships the Lord Jesus, even though she can barely speak or understand Arabic. Her intense love for Jesus, the Savior of all men, brought her into full communion with Palestinian Christians whom she, as a Jewish Israeli, and believer in Messiah, loves as her own brothers and sisters.
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they told Him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for You.” Who are My mother and My brothers?” He asked.
Then He looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does God’s will is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3: 31-35)
We arrived at our destination on Highway 4, and I pulled over to the shoulder of the road to let Tali out at a covered bus stop, so she might catch a late afternoon bus to Yerushalayim. It was still raining hard, but in my heart, the “Son” was shining. Tali and I embraced each other with an enormous bear hug, and held on to each other for a long time, considering that we may never see each other again until we would meet one day in Heaven. We kissed each other farewell on each cheek, then looked deeply at each other with beaming smiles, and sweetly bid one another, “Shalom.” We were total strangers, yet, in truth, we were sisters, bonded together in the Blood of Christ, and in unifying love that flows from the pierced Heart of the Savior.
For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (Ephesians 2:14)
Less than 45 minutes later, my cell phone beeped. A text message from Tali informed me that she had already arrived in Yerushalayim. I deduced that she must have been picked up at the bus stop on Highway 4 by a “good Samaritan” who did not heed the speed limits. Perhaps angels are not bound by earthly driving rules? I never heard from Tali again, but I know I will see my sister in Heaven one day.
A little more than a year ago my youngest daughter, then age 14, became suicidal. She had suffered a long and deep depression which began when she was just eleven years old. Her extreme depression may have resulted from a combination of factors: genetic predisposition, hormonal changes from puberty, mixed with the stress brought about by our family’s sudden and unexpected intense trials, some of which included my diagnosis of breast cancer, and being uprooted from her familiar and secure environment when we moved to Israel, and then back again, all within a four year period. Her highly sensitive nature felt deeply these traumatic life events and she plummeted into extreme anxiety and an unimaginable deep, dark depression.
Despite good medicine and therapy, both in Israel and in America, that terrifying night that no parent can ever imagine they would ever personally experience came, when our teenage daughter attempted suicide, and she needed to be rushed by ambulance to the emergency room to save her life.
Oh, a mother’s heart in agony! All the years since the birth of her tender infant, God’s gift of life – a mother nurtures and loves her baby, prays for, and does everything within her power, to guard her precious child from any danger. A mother endeavors to show and teach her child just how much she is loved, both by her family, and also by God ,so that her child can grow up to be happy and secure about herself, and her place in the world, and to know confidently, that she is a beloved child of God who has a special plan for her life.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
How could this be happening to my child I wondered? Why have all our many fervent prayers for so long for her healing seemed to have had no effect? Her depression had worsened not improved. Now things had come to such a dire point in time. Will she live to see tomorrow? Will she ever get better – fully well? Will she find the happiness and peace and purpose which God has for her life? I was terrified. I felt as if I was in utter darkness – in a dense fog – within a thick cloud of unknowing what the future held. It was a type of dark night of the soul – of mind and heart.
Yet, I had faith. Yes, I had faith. It was profoundly living. Inside the depth of my being, the Holy Spirit kept His gift, His grace of faith alive, even vibrant, despite the horrifying outward circumstances of this situation. I trusted Jesus. He would not abandon me. Our Lord told us that he would never leave us nor forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20)
Indeed, it was a dark, dark night, but the light of faith in my heart was still shining. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)
Our daughter was treated as an emergency at a local hospital and then moved immediately to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she received further critical care, until she was transferred to another health care facility for several more days.
During the evening of one the days of my daughter’s hospitalization, I went out alone, to take a walk with Jesus under the heavens, seeking His consolation and peace, as my mother’s heart was unbearably heavy with anguish. In looking up, on this summer’s nigh, I saw only continuous grey skies, as there was a pervasive and thick cloud covering over the face of the heavens that evening. I could not see the stars in their affixed places through the dense veil of clouds, but by faith, I knew they were there.
The gentle light of the moon, too, was diffused by the heavenly canopy of clouds. But by faith, I also knew the moon was right above, hidden behind the clouds, just where Our Lord has set it at the foundation of the world. And by faith, I trusted that Jesus was right there with me, in my own obscure night, His love and peace surrounding me, like the clouds blanketing the sky, because He is true to His Word. And in awe and adoration my heart exclaimed:
“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—Who are we that you are mindful of us, and a son of man that you care for us? Yet you have made us little less than a god, crowned us with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-6
As we continued our walk together, Jesus spoke this song into my heart, and His Spirit filled me with His peace. I trusted Him. All would be well. The Lord would fulfill His plans to give my daughter “hope and a future.” She began to recover immediately, and has gotten stronger and stronger throughout this year. She turned sixteen in July, and there will be many more birthdays to come!
Walking by Faith
Grey skies, crickets and fireflies,
Under the clouds tonight;
Walking by faith, not sight.
Warm air, caressing my skin and hair,
Your presence everywhere;
A love so pure and fair.
Even though I cannot see You, I believe.
Night birds, sing their sweet lullabies,
My heart-song then replies;
I know that You’re nearby.
Even though I cannot see You, I believe.
Grey skies, hiding the stars tonight
Cover their twinkling lights
We walk by faith not sight
Dark night, a place of the mind and soul
We feel we’re all alone
Your Word says it’s just not so
Even though I cannot see You, I believe.
Moon light, veiled by a shroud of clouds
Yet, Your love and peace surround
For faith is where You are found
Even though I cannot see You I believe.
Copyright©, music and lyrics by Ann Ammar 6-22-2012
(Click this link to listen to the song Walking By Faith)