I heard this word from the Holy Trinity today following receiving my Lord in Holy Communion during the Holy Mass in the Cathedral.
“Be at peace, My daughter, I have cleansed you of your sins. They are far behind Me – as far as the east is from the west, so far are your sins from Me. (Psalm 103:12).
Do not trouble your heart or conscience about them anymore. They are dead to Me and should – must – be dead to you too. You are free now in My love and mercy.
How simple it is. How simple it can be for all those who turn to Me with broken and contrite hearts, confessing their sins in sincerity; and I will forgive them and heal them, -restore them to fullness of life with no weight on their shoulders, free from worry and anxiety, – a new creation in the moment I forgive and heal their souls.
What joy to be free! If the Son sets you free you are free indeed! (John 8:36). All who turn to Me in sincerity and truth, confessing their sins will receive mercy from Me. For I am mercy Itself.
I love to be merciful. I relish in being merciful. It gives me great joy to be merciful to sinners. Know this My daughter, I love all My children with an everlasting love and want to grant mercy to them all.
Little children, won’t you come to Me and receive My mercy? I am gentle and forgiving and so easy to approach as My heart is bared open in love for you.
I love you to abandon. My heart aches with love for you and I want to expend My mercy so I can rejoice. Let Me love you. Let Me forgive you. Give Me this joy!
You burden yourself so unnecessarily, weighed down with buckets, tons, of sins that I could so easily remove in the fiery love of My heart. Let Me do it! Let Me do so! I want to liberate you, – free you to walk lightly in joy and freedom as My children – children of the living God who is love and mercy. I Am love and mercy.
It is Me, your God, – this is who I Am. I Am no other God. Do you understand this? I Am that I Am! My truth, My reality is love and mercy – the foundation of all I have created out of Myself – My overflowing Self. This is who I Am, your God.
Why do you wonder about things – about truth, and confuse yourselves. I am truth. I have told you so. I have revealed Myself to you. I have made Myself known to you.
Trust Me. I do not lie. I cannot lie for I Am truth – there is no lie in Me – only truth. Thus, you can know what I say and do is truth. Believe! Simply believe. Wonder no more. Think no more. Accept Me as Am – your true and ever living, loving God who made all that is from Myself – from My fullness – and I am everything. There is nothing beyond or outside of Me. I Am the great Reality. I Am who Is.
Be at peace to know and believe this and your lives will be peaceful, joyful and without confusion. Be simple and walk humbly with your God.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does the LORD require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Little children, you are forever loved by Me. Know this!”
Gordon: When and why did you join Holy Angels Parish?
Ann: We moved into Woodbury, New Jersey when I was seven years old and in the second grade. My father was a vascular surgeon and established his private medical practice at the Underwood Memorial Hospital in this small, lovely, and typical American town founded in the 1600s and situated across the Delaware River from the City of Philadelphia. My parents originate from Norway (my mother was a first generation immigrant) and Germany, (my father’s family came to America in the early 1700’s as farmers and settled in Pennsylvania). Below is the photo of my Norwegian grandfather leading the singing praise hymns to the Lord by all my Norwegian cousins in the traditional Lutheran Church in my mother’s farming village of Ekne, Norway on my baptism in 1962. I’m the little toddler on the right side running around the church.
Thus, our family’s spiritual history is Protestant from the time of the Reformation. I was baptized in 1962 as a toddler in my mother’s traditional Lutheran church on a visit to my devout Lutheran Norwegian farming grandparents. When my parents moved into Woodbury in 1967 they became members of the First Presbyterian Church at Woodbury, as they were told it was a “nice” church with a good pastor. While growing up in Woodbury, I was active with the Presbyterian Church in their youth activities, singing in the church choir, and studying piano and organ under the church music director. Although I had attended Sunday school, and went to church services on Sunday where I would usually sing in the choir, and even though I had been Confirmed in the Presbyterian Church at age 13, I did not really know Jesus and I did not have living and active faith. Church for me was social, -a community and musical experience. Music touched me deep in my soul, and although my heart rose in joy when I sang the hymns, I did not specifically lift my heart to the Lord or knowingly sing to God and Jesus in worship, love and Adoration. When I recited the Apostles Creed, I did not understand the words that I was saying. Despite my church life, I was spiritually ignorant and blind, and did not have “ears to hear or eyes to perceive” the Gospel at that time in my life. St Patrick’s Church was the only Catholic church in our town of Woodbury when I was growing up and still is the only Catholic church in the town. Many of my classmates from elementary and high school attended CCD, and CYO at St. Patrick’s. I remember some classmates coming to school on Ash Wednesday with the sign of the cross traced in ashes on their forehead. I did not understand what this sign meant. I did not have a hunger to know why they did this act and so I never inquired about their faith, and furthermore, none of my Catholic classmates ever spoke to me about their Church or shared their Catholic Christian faith with me, and so I remained ignorant. I left Woodbury at age 17 after my high school graduation to pursue my education and I moved to New York City to attend New York University. By then I was an agnostic, totally focused on worldly and secular pursuits. I was a very lost sheep, but I did not even know it! During my university years I was not exposed to any witness of the Christian or Catholic faith by anyone at any time. My New York City experience was secular, hedonistic, humanistic, and worldly and I was exposed to many sinful and evil persons, places and things leading me further and further away from God.
I graduated from NYU and then moved to London to continue my studies, earning an MBA in international business. I began my international banking career in Philadelphia when I returned to America in 1983, married my husband in 1985, whom I had met in London during my graduate studies, and moved with him to Madrid, Spain in 1991 to open an office for the bank as my successful career advanced. During all these years I was spiritually dead, and not looking for God, and my husband was a self-proclaimed atheist despite having been brought up in a devout Muslim family in a Palestinian village in Israel. Upon returning to America from Madrid, due to my promotion to head up the Southern European Region of the International Division for CoreStates Bank, we started a family, and our two daughters were born in 1995 and 1997, respectively. It was during this period from 1994 through 1998 while I was still working at the bank and traveling for business through Southern Europe that the Lord pursued me mightily to come to Him in faith, beginning with His mysterious call to my heart and soul during a routine business trip to Italy in 1994.( Further below I will share my testimony for it was the beginning of my journey towards full Conversion to Jesus Christ and into Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church). But first I will return to the question of why I have returned after 40 years to my hometown of Woodbury and am now attending St. Patrick’s Church, one of the three churches that were merged to form Holy Angels Parish. I started coming back to Woodbury from Israel where I was living with my husband and two daughters during 2008-2011, in order to assist my parents and sister who had become very ill during the time we were living abroad. Since I was by then a Catholic convert, I began to attend Saint Patrick’s Church every time I came home to the USA. Because of the increasing complexity of my father, mother and sister’s illnesses, and simultaneous trial we were going through to find a cure for my youngest daughter’s years’ long, chronic and life- threatening depression, my husband and I decided we should return to America to seek better treatment for her. Then, in 2014, I moved to Woodbury without my husband and youngest daughter, in order to live with my parents and sister who were suffering tremendously and could not care for themselves. My mother was battling late stage ovarian cancer, my sister who had been living with my parents was dying of liver failure due to alcohol addiction and my father was deteriorating rapidly from Alzheimer’s disease. After my sister passed away, and we were finally able to relocate my father to an assisted-living facility for Alzheimer’s patients, my husband and youngest daughter joined me in Woodbury so we could live together as a family, helping my mother until she finally succumbed to her disease in 2016. After the death of my mother, my husband and I decided to remain and settle in my family home in Woodbury, and it is then when I formally joined St. Patrick’s Church. We have been living in Woodbury for the past few years, and during this time St. Patrick’s Church was merged with two other local churches forming the new Holy Angel’s Parish. I was not involved with the merger process in anyway, so I cannot really speak about it. I understand that it was due to financial reasons that the merger was necessary. I love our parish! There are a group of very devout, pious, deeply spiritual Catholics who attend daily Mass, and adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and whose worship and devotion to our Lord keeps the Holy Spirit present and moving amongst us. We have had new priests assigned to our parish, due to the retirement of Monsignor, and due to serious illnesses of several other of our priests. We are blessed with two holy priests from Africa who have recently been assigned to our parish.
It feels good to be home in my childhood town, after forty years away, and I can only say with Saint Augustine, “too late have I loved Thee”! How I wish I had had living faith in our Lord Jesus Christ during my childhood and had known the truth about the holy Eucharist and the holy Catholic Faith and had received Him in holy Communion at Saint Patrick’s during my childhood!
Gordon: You have a fascinating background as a former international banker, who, after visiting Assisi, had a life-transforming experience. Could you share this with our readers?
Ann: I would like now to pick up where I left off above, in my personal history, when I was still working for Corestates Bank and traveling to Southern Europe as Regional Manager, and to share with you details about one extraordinary life-changing day I experienced on a business trip to in Italy in 1994 when the Spirit of God came upon me mightily in the holy town of Assisi and thus, transformed my life forever! I was a 34 year – old, ambitious Vice President who had successfully opened an office for Corestates in Madrid, Spain. I had built up the market successfully to such a point where my proposal to open a representative office on the Peninsula was heartily approved by senior management. After three years of success in managing the Madrid Office, I was offered a promotion to Regional Manager of Southern Europe, which included responsibility for Spain and Portugal, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel and the other countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin. It seemed I had everything going for me. I had been married 10 years at that time, was very well paid, and after this lucrative overseas ex-patriot assignment for several years had returned to a more senior position at the bank with further upward success looking promising. On the surface of things, it appeared that my life was very good and that I was lacking for nothing, but I would soon discover by no attempt of my own that I was utterly poor and empty in all that truly mattered! I was scheduled for another routine trip to Italy, accompanied by my colleague, a young woman who reported to me, and who was one of the country managers for Italy. She had arranged the entire itinerary for our Italian trip and one of our appointments was with a bank in the town of Perugia. It was scheduled as a brief courtesy call to show our appreciation to the international division manager for all the business that he and his bank conducted with ours. Our arranged agenda was to spend about half an hour having a coffee with the manager and then continuing on the rest of our business trip to Rome.
I had never met the head of the international division at this bank, so I was unknown to him, and he had no knowledge of my agnosticism. My colleague had told him nothing personal about me regarding matters of faith and religion, as these topics were unrelated to our business purposes. When we arrived at the bank that morning, I discovered that the bank manager spoke no English.
After a brief introduction, he proceeded to cup his hand under my elbow and gently lead me away, with my colleague following, through the halls of the bank and then down into the garage where he encouraged us to get into his car. Not speaking any Italian, I was not able to converse with him and did not understand what was happening. He began to drive us to a destination, and when we arrived we found ourselves at Assisi, the holy pilgrimage town of Saint Francis of Assisi. We wondered why he would bring us there without discussing these plans with us in advance. We had scheduled a standard international corporate bank appointment and had not arranged any time for sightseeing. Furthermore, we had plans to drive on to Rome that morning. No amount of explaining our desires to the banker moved him to bring us back to the bank. After about an hour with the Italian banker leading us through the holy sites of Assisi, we gave up our protestations and yielded to his agenda, and let go of our need to control the day’s events.
Not being Catholic, and not even a practicing or believing Christian I had no idea what Assisi meant, except that it was the name of the town from where Saint Francis came. I knew practically nothing about St. Francis except that I often saw his statue adorning gardens because he was associated with birds. At first, the banker took us to the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli a little distance outside of the main town of Assisi where after he took us to visit the other famous shrines. In the Church, he pointed out the holy icons and paintings, and I did not have a clue as to what they signified and thus, did not know how to appreciate their spiritual importance. Then, he motioned to me to go inside the Porziuncola (the little chapel which name means “small portion of land” which belonged to the Order of Saint Benedict of Monte Subasio), which is thought to have been erected under Pope Liberius in the mid- 4th century by hermits from the Valley of Josaphat in Jerusalem, who had brought relics from the grave of the Blessed Virgin to Assisi. The chapel became known as the Chapel of Our Lady of the Valley of Josaphat or the Chapel of the Angels because of the relics brought from the site where Mary’s Assumption into heaven accompanied by angels occurred. Furthermore, it also derives its name from the witness of many persons over the centuries claimed to hear the singing of angels inside!
After St Francis returned from a pilgrimage Rome, he had a vision of Christ on the way, who said to him, ‘Francis can’t you see that My house is falling into ruin, Go and rebuild it!” Francis, not yet understanding that the Lord was speaking to him about reforming the entire Catholic Church, Francis took the words of Jesus at face value and began restoring several local ruined churches, among them the Porziuncola, the little chapel of St Mary of the Angels. Afterwards, Francis built himself a small hut near the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels and was soon joined by other followers. It was here that Francis founded the Franciscans.
I entered timidly into the chapel as I did not know what to do in such a holy space. There were devout pilgrims kneeling in prayer on the wooden pews along the sides of the chapel. I didn’t consider kneeling down to pray as I did not know God, nor even how to pray, as I had not said prayers since I was a young child, and even then, I seldom prayed. I stopped and remained still in the middle of the aisle facing the altar. I simply stood there alone in the aisle without being aware of any thoughts. It was there that a mysterious Presence came upon me. I felt a wonderful sense of Peace and Love and Light flood my soul, – a place I did not know even existed within me. I realized that I was in the Presence of a Person who personally knew me, loved me, and cared about me. I did not hear any Voice nor see any Face. My experience was a mystical sensation in my innermost being. I had an immediate understanding that this Person was God Almighty who created me and knew me and was revealing Himself to me that He exists and loves and cares for me. I was forever changed by this brief but sublime Encounter.
On two other specific occasions during that marvelous and mysterious day, the Spirit of God came upon me again and continued to call me to Himself. When finally, the banker took us back to his car, he gave me as a gift the Prayer of St Francis and quite curiously he asked me in his poor and broken English, “are you different?” I did not know how to answer his mysterious question, but tears welled up in my eyes and when I looked at him I saw that he too had wet eyes. I saw him only one time after that day, six months later in Milan, on another business trip at a bank event, where this mysterious banker simply gave me a hug and offered me another gift – a print rolled up like a scroll of St Francis with his arms raised to heaven in praise to God.
I never saw the banker again, but his name if you translate it into English means “soldier of the Cross”. This gentle banker was surely an instrument of the Holy Spirit in my life. When I see him again one day in Heaven I will thank him for his faithful obedience to the promptings, inspirations and nudges of the Holy Spirit which forever changed the direction of my life. I continued seeking the Lord of Assisi with all my heart, mind soul and strength in the years to follow and our loving Triune God ultimately let Himself be found by me, – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and each One of the Divine Persons individually and distinctly revealed themselves to me. I left everything to love, follow and serve the one True Triune God of St Francis and the Christians and who is the only Living God of all humanity.
Gordon: Your Battle Cry is an extraordinary publication, and the title also reflects a challenge that many of us may not often reflect upon. Could you comment on some of the reasons why you chose this title?
Ann: The Battle Cry apostolate came directly from the Lord. I would never have considered beginning such a ministry on my own. The Lord gave me the name, “The Battle Cry” and confirmed His selection of this name through another Catholic who serves Him. Initially I was very reluctant to begin this ministry, because it involved transparently exposing my inner life and making myself vulnerable by sharing intimate words from the Lord that I receive in prayer.
However, the Lord continue to reassure me that this was His will, and that this was not only for my benefit, but also for the benefit of many souls who do not yet know and love Him, in order to draw them to salvation through repentance from sin and receiving of the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus. These words from the Lord are also for all Christians who do know and love their Lord yet, He desires to draw them into a deeper and more intimate relationship in order to prepare and strengthen them spiritually for much more difficult times that will be coming in the Church and the world as the evil spirit of apostasy, heresy, immorality, violence, and callous cold-heartedness increases in power and influence.
I believe that the Lord chose the name “The Battle Cry” in order to alert His Church and anyone of goodwill in the world who will read His words, to the urgency of the need for sincere contrition and deeper repentance, and a profound conversion of heart, through increased prayer, deeper trust and stronger faith in God and faithful obedience, service and living our lives in the light of His Holy and perfect Will.
I was prepared for the transition to share such intimate words and inspirations from the Lord through years of obedience to writing my personal faith testimonials in the first blog that the Lord asked me to write beginning in 2010. This first blog is .Walking with our Lord.
Readers can go to this site where I share many personal testimonials of my journey of conversion and walking with Jesus in increasing faith living in America and in the Holy Land. Each of the testimonials are true and reveal many miracles and wonders that our Lord has done in our intimate relationship and which he desires to have with all His beloved children. I wrote each of the accounts after the Holy Spirit revealed the story that He specifically desired that I share publically on the blog.
Gordon: You are also a popular Songwriter & Composer Based on your experience, how can music be a helpful evangelization resource?
Ann: As I shared above in my personal history, ever since childhood, I had a special love for music, singing in the church and school choirs, and studying piano and organ, and composing songs as a teenager, and playing in two bands, and even during my university years in New York City, managing a new wave band, and aspiring to a music career. For reasons I do not fully understand, but in reflecting back over the years, it would seem that the Lord had other plans for my life before He would stir up the gift of music He gave me and fulfill the desire of my heart.
Despite the earlier path towards music, while at NYU I found myself pursuing a major in history, and then, going on to study for my Master’s in international business in London and returning to the US to start a career in international banking. It wasn’t until after I returned home from living in the Holy Land, in 2011, that the Lord opened the floodgates of inspiration, and began sharing from His heart to mine both lyrics and melodies, which I diligently struggled and worked to annotate as musical scores.
I have composed a little more than 100 compositions over the past few years of songs and choral works that are in various stages of development. I never studied music theory or composition, so I had to teach myself how to score and arrange music. This has at times so frustrated me that I have become discouraged. I cannot accomplish all that my heart desires as I do not have the technical training and skill required. However, the Lord in His goodness has brought other Catholics to assist me in developing some of my simpler pieces into more advanced works as orchestral scores, and also to produce professional recordings in the studio of some of my songs and those that I have cowritten with them.
There is a story that I have yet to write and post on the Walking With Our Lord blog that I am still meditating upon. I had a miraculous encounter with someone, “Tony”, who prophesied to me about my music mission. When I get discouraged and begin to doubt this beautiful gift the Lord has given to me, and the music mission which He has inspired, I recall the encounter with the mysterious and angelic? “Tony” and try hold his amazing words of encouragement and counsel deep in my heart. I haven’t been working too much over the last six months on the Lord’s music, so I must get back to work! Saint Augustine once said, “He who sings, prays twice!” Music is the international language of the soul, and reaches deep into the hearts of all people, and thus music can be a very effective and sweet form of evangelization and sharing with others the love and truth of God who is the Divine Author and Composer of Music!
Today, while in prayer after receiving our Lord in Holy Communion, Jesus inspired me to tell you the following heart- warming story which I experienced some years ago, a story which reveals His Mother’s tender love and concern for and gentle presence with her dear children throughout the ages. In prayer the Lord brought to mind my young God-daughter and niece, Alenka, who will be turning 13 this summer. Jesus is prompting me to send her a lovely little ladybug devotional bracelet with a Cross and an image of our Lady of Grace connected by a string of little red ladybug beads, which I was wearing today at Mass. This devotional bracelet was given to me A couple of years ago by a Catholic friend, after I shared with her my experience with our Mamma Mary and some ladybugs during Easter. To my delight and surprise, my friend told me that the ladybug (also known as a ladybird and a ladybeetle) has an historical connection with our Blessed Mother Mary because of a miracle she performed in Europe in the Middle Ages.
(From Catholic.org, article dated October 30, 2004) “The original name of the ladybug is “Our Lady’s Bug.” It seems that during the Middle Ages, a plague of small insects (aphids) attacked the crops, threatening Europe with starvation. The people had recourse to Our Lady, and petitioned her to save them from this plague. In answer to their prayer, a cloud of small, black-spotted, orange-red insects arrived and promptly ate all the offending pests. The grateful population gave to them the name, “Our Lady’s Bugs.” News of this miracle spread and a comparison of over 40 languages, including different dialects, this small beetle was given a great variety of names, referring to Our Lady and God such as: “God’s Little Cow” (Dievo Karvute, Lithuanian; Vaquilla de Dios, Spanish); “Dear God’s Little Creature” (Lieve Heersbeestje, Dutch);
- Ye Mariam Tinziza … “Mary’s Beetle”, Amharic (West Ethiopia);
- Arca de la Mare de Deu…“Mother of God’s Ark”Catalan;
- Gallinetta de la Mare de Deu… “Mother of God’s Chicken” …Catalan
- Bubamara … “Mary’s Beetle” …Croatian
- Mariehøne … “Mary’s Hen” …Danish (and Norwegian, if the ‘e’ is made an ‘a’)
- Onzer-lieve-vrouwe Beestje… “Our Dear Lady’s Little Creature” …Dutch
- Bete de la Vierge … “The Virgin’s Creature” …French
- Frauenkäferlein … “Our Lady’s Little Beetle” …German (Bohemia)
- Scarpa de la Madona … “The Madonna’s Shoe” …Italian (Turin)
- Kafsch Dus … “God’s Beetle” …Persian (Iran)
- Boul-popei … “The Pope’s Ox” …Romanian
- Jungfru Maria Nyckelpiga… “Virgin Mary’s Key Maid” …Swedish.”
I had no idea how universal this association between the ladybug and our Blessed Mother Mary and God is! I just knew that our Lady had revealed her Presence and tender care for me through a ladybug!
Here is my story. While living in Pennsylvania, during the winter months, I would find some ladybugs in our bedroom on the curtains and window frames. Somehow they had crawled in through small crevices/cracks, seeking warmth inside our home from the harsh winter cold. The first winter I saw them, I paid no attention to their plight because I didn’t understand that they would not survive inside, as they would dry out from the heating. They should’ve been hibernating outside under the earth for the winter where their body temperatures would drop and their internal system would slow down until the first warmth of spring when they would awake and come out of hibernation. Those ladybugs that had come into a heated home, their bodies would not know to hibernate, rather they would simply dehydrate and die. The second winter that I saw the lovely ladybugs inside my house, I was curious about them and so I looked up on the Internet information about ladybugs and learned that in order to be humane it would be necessary to build a terrarium. One must place the ladybugs in the terrarium and provide water and honey for them to survive until spring when they could be released. I worked very hard on this and created a beautiful terrarium with twigs and earth and leaves in a glass container with a aerated lid for the seven ladybugs that I rescued that second winter. I provided them with fresh water and honey daily, using plastic bottle caps for their little bowls.
I became a caring mother to the seven ladybugs from November until April. Occasionally some of them would manage to get out of the lid, and in a panic I went looking for them all over the house, knowing that if they did not return to the terrarium they would dry out and die. I did find them, usually on the windows, and replaced them in their temporary home. One of them even laid eggs in the terrarium, so I knew that they were male and female, although I could not tell them apart. It was a joyful labor of love for the six months of winter looking after these little creatures of God, although my husband and children did not understand why I should care about “just bugs”. But I have the spirit of Saint Francis, and I care about every living creature no matter how small or seemingly unimportant. To me all life is sacred and beautiful. I discovered that one can become attached even to ladybugs, as love does not discriminate!
The week of Palm Sunday approached, and our family had plans to make a trip to Chicago to visit our older daughter. I found myself faced with the dilemma. Should I release the ladybugs outside since I would not be there for the week to provide water or honey for them? The temperature did not yet seem warm enough to release the ladybugs outside. What would happen if I left them for the duration of the trip in the terrarium and they dried out due to lack of water? I didn’t know what was the best course of action to take. I had been doting on them for six months and I couldn’t bear the thought that it would have all be in vain, that they would either die outside or inside if I made the wrong decision about their care. I sought guidance from the Lord on this matter. Ultimately, my sense was that they should be kept inside the terrarium until I got back. We left on our trip to Chicago. The weather took a sudden turn, and temperatures rose dramatically. I thought how I should have let them out. But how was I to know? I worried that the temperature inside the house without the air conditioning on would rise and the terrarium would dry out quickly and I would return to dead ladybugs. Remarkably the temperatures outside climbed into the nineties in Pennsylvania during that week!
There I was in Chicago and there was nothing I could do but pray for my precious ladybugs to survive. My husband, my daughters and I were walking through Millennium Park in Chicago on that very hot afternoon in mid week of our trip. I thought about the ladybugs in their dry as a bone glass terrarium with shriveled and brown leaves and clippings.
I lifted my heart up to our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God , Help of Christians, and approached her Immaculate and Holy Heart in prayer right there in Millennium Park with all trust and confidence as my loving and caring Mother and indeed, the Mother of All the Living, appealing to her for protection of the little creatures that I had left back in Pennsylvania. I prayed out loud, and my daughters witnessed my call on her powerful intercession. Immediately after this deep and sincere cry from my heart, a ladybug landed on my hand!! I rejoiced while showing this miracle to my husband and daughters.
This was beyond astounding! I praised the God of heaven and His Mother for their awesome Love and power. I believed in faith that all would surely be well with my ladybugs when I returned to Pennsylvania.
Several days later we arrived back at home and I found a bone dry terrarium filled with shriveled, dry and crumbling leaves and not a drop of water. But the ladybugs were there safe and fully alive! I released them on Easter Sunday morning into a pink flowering tree while praising Our Lord Jesus Christ who rose from the dead, and Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life!
All Creatures Great and Small, the Lord God Loves Them All – The True Story of Mittens and Her Kittens.
This evening I’ve been sitting on my deck looking out over my yard, which is surrounded by many old trees, some which are more than 100 years old. The grass is green because we’ve had so much rain here in southern New Jersey. The trees are thick with green foliage and the sun is setting, as night is falling, but I can’t see the setting sun because there is an expansive grey cloud cover above me. I had to put an elegant white plastic swan in my swimming pool which I just opened for the summer, and which is sparkling blue and creating a tranquil and pleasant vista from my deck in order to deter a determined pair of Mallard ducks which have been feeding all spring under my bird-feeders, from swimming in my clean pool.
I have been feeding this faithful duck pair for several years now, and I understand that ducks mate for life. I also put food out daily for squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and I fill several birdfeeders for all the many bird species that live here in the middle Atlantic United States. I even leave out leftovers from our dinner plates for any other wild animal that comes up from the woods and from the lake searching for some morsels to eat. I’ve fed a red fox, and nearly pure white skunk, a possum, and two raccoons with the scraps from my dinner table. Recently, a grey tabby cat has appeared and has devoured anything and everything I put out in the evening. I’m thinking it may be a feral cat although it could be one of the neighbors cats that just has a very ravenous appetite.
In this peaceful and blessed state of mind and spirit, I began singing a hymn that I wrote a few years ago, “Walking by Faith” to the Lord in adoration.
It’s then that Jesus surprised and delighted me by bringing to mind an experience we shared 10 years ago and that I feel He desires that I relate to you in order to reveal His tender love and compassionate care for His beloved Creation and to witness to His close attentiveness to every one of our prayers.
One evening, in May 2007, while I was living in Pennsylvania, there was a terrific thunderstorm that broke out in the evening. I noticed my gorgeous white Himalayan puffball of a cat sitting in our breakfast room window looking intently into our backyard through the driving rain at something on the other side of the pool, close to the fence. Since she was staring so fixedly despite the rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning, I went to the window to see what she might be looking at. It was then that I noticed a small motley and bedraggled calico cat whose fur was soaked through and who had the appearance from which the expression came, “it looks like something the cat dragged in from the rain”! What was this poor creature doing outside during such a torrential down pour, I asked myself. I opened the door and leaned out over the deck and tried to call the cat to come. She seemed scared. I quickly poured some cat food in a bowl, and shook the bowl to attract her attention and to try to draw her in. I set it down on the deck near the door where she could eat if she was hungry with some protection from the harsh elements.
I went inside and shut the door and waited and watched to see if she would come to eat. She did come, as she was starving. When I saw that she ate all the food I gently opened the door to encourage her to come in. She was scared and she ran to the side of the house. It’s then that I thought open the garage door to see if she would come in to take shelter. She indeed wanted to escape the storm and after a little while she entered the door to the garage. Now I had her! I prepared a box with some bedding and put a water bowl and food bowl next to her new little “house” in my garage. She would be warm and safe tonight. My daughters and I came into the garage and allowed her to get accustomed to our presence. She could feel that she was loved and being cared for, and she soon relaxed and accepted us. We realized that she had been someone’s pet, and had been dropped off in our nice neighborhood to fend for herself, as sadly she was no longer wanted. I came to this conclusion the next day after I took her to the veterinarian to be checked.
There was a sense of urgency to get her checked immediately the next day so that I could find her a new home. My husband did not want to take in a second cat, and he gave me an ultimatum, that if I did not find a home for her the next day she would have to be brought to the SPCA shelter. I surely didn’t want to do this, as I know how many animals languish in shelters waiting for adoption, and in many cases are put down if they cannot be resettled into permanent homes quickly.
So I determined to take the little cat that I named “Mittens” because of her mutation of having six toes on each paw! These kind of cats are known as polydactyl cats or Hemingway cats. Each of her paws looked like she was wearing mittens; she was extremely adorable because of this deformity. Who would want to dispose of such a cute little creature? When the veterinarian performed her examination, she sensed that Mittens might be pregnant. She took an x-ray and could clearly see there were at least two developing kittens in her womb. That might be why she was released, as she had not been spayed and perhaps her owners did not want any more mouths to feed or to deal with the birth of kittens.
How could I find a home for Mittens and her soon-to-be kittens in only one day, I asked myself in exasperation! I begged the veterinarian to adopt her on the spot and to try to find a home for her amongst their many clients and using their connections. Unfortunately, the veterinarian would not be able to help me. I paid her services and left the clinic dejectedly. Then with a sudden burst of Faith, I lifted my heart and voice to the Lord Jesus and begged Him instead to help me, as “all things are possible for God”! My faith in that moment felt substantial. Hope rose in my heart and I felt a sense of peace and joy flood my soul.
When I returned from the veterinarian I proceeded to make phone calls to everyone that I knew, asking if they would be willing to adopt mama Mittens and her kittens, leaving messages on their answering machines since I did not reach anyone in person.
Having completed numerous phone calls, I had to run an errand, so I left the house and drove away, calling on St. Francis of Assisi to advocate for me to our Lord, for extra grace to solve this crisis. I love Saint Francis not only because he is the Saint most associated with animals, but also because he was instrumental in my conversion to Christ in 2000 after decades of agnosticism, and ultimately for my coming into full communion with Christ’s one, holy Catholic and apostolic Church some years (in 2004) after my turning to Jesus with my whole heart.
When I returned home it was later afternoon, and time was running out. I knew by evening I would need to take Mittens to the SPCA after my husband returned home from work, if I had nowhere else to bring her.
The phone rang, and a friend, an Arab Muslim woman from Jerusalem, now living with her husband and daughters in New Jersey, had picked up my message and was calling me back. I could not believe my ears when I heard her say to me that she wanted to adopt Mittens! It was a miracle! – an answer to my prayer by both our Lord Jesus and St. Francis. The call came just minutes before my husband walked in the door from work! But even more astounding, was what Amal shared with me as the reason to why she wanted to adopt Mittens.
Amal told me that last night she had had a dream about her father. Her father had died in Jerusalem last year and she told me that he had appeared to her in a dream last night, the night before the one year anniversary of his death! Today, ( the day I had called and left a message asking her if she would adopt Mittens and her kittens) was the one year anniversary of her father’s passing. Her father lived on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and he loved cats. He had “adopted” three stray cats that hung around his house and he fed them and cared for them. Only he cared for them, and no one else paid any attention to them. On the day he died, no one was there to look after them anymore, and so they disappeared. Amal just knew she had to adopt Mittens and her two soon-to-be-born kittens, believing that her father would surely want this and be pleased, and that she could demonstrate her love and show her honor to her father by adopting the pregnant Mittens. She firmly believed that God had specifically granted her this vision of her father in the night to prepare her for this act of charity. I knew it was true because I had prayed to the Lord asking for His urgent and essential help, fully trusting He had heard my prayer and knowing, believing and trusting in His love for me, and for Amal and her father and for every one of His creatures. When I dropped off Mittens to Amal’s home, we saw on Mitten’s neck a golden mark in her fur of a large cross! The rest of her pattern of fur was all splotchy calico with no other distinct markings!
Not long after that Mittens gave birth to her kittens, and they have been loved by Amal and her family for all these years!
“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
The purple headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.”
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!