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Ephesians 6

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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)

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The Easter Miracle

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.

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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)

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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.

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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!

Happy Easter!

Suddenly, There Is No More Time

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.

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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!

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“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!

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Romans: 11:13-14
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.

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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!
AMEN

The Beggar of Heaven

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The other night I slipped out of my house to find some solitude and peace while walking under the heavens in the crisp cold night air. The sky was like black velvet dotted with innumerable twinkling stars. It was breathtakingly beautiful and it didn’t take long for me to unite the rhythm of my heart and the steady beat of my walk to the pulse of the Holy Spirit.  I lifted my thoughts to the Lord and entered into a long unspoken prayer of the soul as I walked.  As I was making my final approach to my home in this deep and recollected state of being, suddenly the Holy Spirit brought to my mind an extraordinary encounter I had with a homeless man named “Roger” on a horridly frigid night outside of the great Westminster Cathedral of London just a few days before Christmas of 2010.

In order to relish in the glorious Christmas spirit that the city of London evokes as it decks it halls with every kind of adornment for this most blessed of seasons, my family decided to leave Israel where we were then living to take a week trip to London.  Despite it being the “Holy Land”, Israel feels very dreary at Christmas time for a Christian from abroad who is accustomed to the elaborate holiday displays in their home countries which witness to the sacred event of the birth of the Savior of mankind.  One must be in the Christian Quarter of Jerusalem or living in other pockets of Christian communities throughout the land to see the expression of Christmas joy manifested in the exterior decoration of homes and neighborhoods.   Our family was living in a Jewish town along the coast where our children’s American school was located and there was no evidence anywhere to be found that Christmas was coming – no wreathes, no Christmas trees, no outdoor lights, no Nativity displays, no carols being sung.  Some of our Jewish neighbors placed lovely Channuka lights in their windows which brightened the dark nights and shined forth hope during the drab winter season.   Although we put up our own Christmas tree inside our home, we wanted to share in the festive and sacred spirit of Christmas with others and so we left for London.

My husband and daughters and I had been Christmas shopping and sightseeing all day in the majestic and bustling city of London.  That afternoon I wanted to go to make my Confession before Christmas and to attend Holy Mass at the Westminster Cathedral of London. My family dropped me off across from the great cathedral and went back to the hotel. Considering what I may need for the offering during Mass and the taxi fare back to the hotel, my husband handed me $20 pounds.  I walked into the great plaza where the cathedral was situated. It was biting cold on this winter day in the city of London as it was late in the afternoon and the sun was low on the horizon. The wind was also sharp and piercing.  I was bundled well, with boots, a heavy overcoat, scarf, hat and gloves.  One of my earrings had been bothering me throughout the day as my ear had become infected so I had taken it off.  Not having any better place to store it, I placed it inside my rosary case (which was more like a little bag).  I had been wearing the diamond studs that my husband had given me for our wedding anniversary some years before.

I was very thirsty, and so before going into the cathedral I stopped at the corner of the great cathedral square where a fast food restaurant was located to buy a bottle of water.  Then I noticed that all along the square, under the porticos and along the walls there were homeless men and women strewn out on cardboard beds huddling under ragged blankets and dirty sleeping bags to keep warm against the cruel winter cold.  It was a most pitiful sight. My heart broke for them, as I considered their wretched plight. There were so many homeless persons out there in the bitter cold and some were begging for alms from the people who were going into the cathedral for the mass.  Their need was so much greater than a few coins or pound notes could satisfy. I felt helpless before their suffering.  I entered the great cathedral with a heavy heart.  Suspended high above the nave from the ceiling was a huge crucifix of our Lord Jesus Christ.  “Lord have mercy on all these cold and hungry homeless people who are just outside the doors of Your church,” I pleaded to Jesus with my whole heart as I gazed up in humble faith and with yearning hope on behalf of those poor suffering souls just outside the great doors.  I wondered how much help they received from the ministries of the great cathedral. I later learned that Westminster Cathedral with other loving Christians such as the nuns of the Daughters of Charity were hard at work to assist these downtrodden who live under the great shadow of Westminster Cathedral and under the ever-watchful eyes of our merciful Lord.  

http://archive.catholicherald.co.uk/article/10th-october-1986/7/in-the-shadow-of-westminster-cathedral-the-homeles )

Inside, under the outstretched arms of the Lord Jesus hanging from the Cross above me, I prepared myself to make sacramental confession by examining my conscience.  Fully aware of my own wretchedness and knowing the vital need for my soul to be cleansed, I humbly, yet confidently trusting  the love and mercy of Jesus, entered into one of the confessional boxes along the nave of the church where an English priest was waiting inside to hear the confessions of the meek and contrite souls who desire reconciliation with their Lord. Indeed, I too, am a beggar and know that I am always dependent on God’s forgiveness and mercy as I am so poor in love and need His grace to be able to do anything good at all.

We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. (Isaiah 64:6)

But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one! (Psalm14:3)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

How fervently I desired my conscience to be purified so as to be able to receive my Lord Jesus in Holy Communion worthily at that evening’s mass.  I also wanted to “prepare the Infant King Jesus room” in my heart for His arrival on Christmas Day, just a few days hence.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

let every heart prepare Him room,

and heaven and nature sing…” 

(Christmas Carol, lyrics by Isaac Watts 1674-1748)

I opened my heart’s secrets to the priest who heard my confession “in Persona Christi” and I walked out of the confessional box with immense joy knowing that my soul had been forgiven and fully cleansed by the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.

The penance that the English priest had given me during my confession was to say a rosary.  I determined that I would pray the rosary before I left the Cathedral that evening.  So after Mass I stayed to recite the rosary. I opened my rosary case and not recalling the diamond earring that had been put into the little bag I pulled out my rosary and began to pray with a heart full of contrition for having offended my loving and good Lord by my sins and yet, brimming with joy and gratitude for the forgiveness I knew I had just received from Him.

As I left the great cathedral it was now dark outside and a gentle snow was falling. I saw each tiny snowflake with its ice crystals in all their whiteness reflecting the light of the street lamps.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  And then I thought of all those who love God and turn to Him constantly in trust and faith to be forgiven and purified from their daily sins, when possible in sacramental confession and at other times responding in the moment with a spontaneous cry of “Lord forgive me” as the Holy Spirit shines His light of truth on something we just said or did, or did not say or did not do – where we fell short in love and mercy in that circumstance or situation.   These blessed souls are like those snowflakes, clear as crystal and pristine white in their purity and reflect the glory of the Light of the Lord.  

As I descended the steps of the great cathedral a wretched man wrapped in a ragged blanket approached me.  Our eyes met and I loved him. I saw Jesus in him. I saw the Beggar of Heaven in the eyes of this poor, suffering man of the streets of London who lived in the shadow of the great Westminster Cathedral on a bed of cardboard under filthy rags. 

When our Lord Jesus hung dying on the cross to pay the ransom for our sins – for all the sins for all time, for all of humanity’s sins, and for my own sins and your own sins –   He cried out “I thirst.”  He thirsts for our love.  Jesus Christ was begging for our love – for my love, for your love.  Jesus Christ is the Beggar of Heaven.   

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took His clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took His tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down.

So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,” in order that the passage of scripture might be fulfilled (that says): “They divided My garments among them, and for My vesture they cast lots.” This is what the soldiers did.

 Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.

When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple there whom He loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your Son.”

Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.”

There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.

 When Jesus had taken the wine, He said, “It is finished.” And bowing His head, He handed over His spirit.

(John 19:23-30)

Roger told me his whole life story as the snow fell gently on our shoulders. He had been abused as a child. As a teen-ager he fell in with a bad group of boys and he made many bad choices and got into many troubles. He paid the price that society’s justice demanded and spent time in jail. Then he determined to be good and lead a decent and honest life. For a while things were better. He found a job and got a place to live, and worked and fed himself. Then he lost his job and in time he was left with nothing. Now all he had in this world were the greasy rags on his back and the cardboard mat that he lays on at night in the frigid cold on the rock hard pavement of the great square under the looming shadow of the great Westminster Cathedral. I wept and hugged him hard. I told him I had nearly nothing  to give him to help him that night. I pulled out what was left of my 20 pound note. I had bought a bottle of water with it earlier. I hadn’t finished drinking it. He would gratefully take my half drunken bottle of water. I gave it to him, recalling Jesus’ words on the Cross, “I thirst.” I had given ten pounds for the offering and this left me with about seven pounds which I needed to pay for a cab back to the hotel. I thought quickly and told Roger. “Roger, I can take the Tube!  So let me give you 5 pounds and I can buy a one-way ticket back to my hotel on the Edgeware Road with the remaining two pounds!”  But what real help is a five pound note who a man who has nothing at all in this world, I thought to myself.  I was so sorry I had nothing more to give him. But indeed I did. I had Jesus. I would give Roger Jesus. I would give Roger to Jesus.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6)

I asked Roger if I could pray for him. I asked him if he had faith. Roger told me he would like very much for me to pray for him and that he had a little faith. I assured him that faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain.

Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” ( Matthew 17:20)

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So grasping Roger’s hands in the middle of the great square, we bowed our heads, and I prayed for Roger with all my heart and mind and soul that Jesus would give him a Christmas miracle and that 2011 would be a new start for Roger filled with every heavenly blessing.  We kissed each other warmly on the cheeks a final farewell and “Godspeed” and in a last moment of connection, I reached into my purse and pulled out my little rosary bag and handed it to him saying. “Take this rosary, and hold onto it, and pray with it as you can… for the Lord will go with you and will never leave you. Trust in Him.”  I turned toward Victoria Station where I would catch the underground train to the Edgware Road, and left Roger standing in the shadow of the great cathedral with the snow still falling all around him.

I entered the Tube station. I went over to the ticket kiosk to buy my one way ticket. I had underestimated the cost of the ticket. I did not have enough money to buy it. I was stranded at Victoria Station with no cell phone to call my family. Because I had stayed in the cathedral to do my penance of praying the rosary, and on account of my lengthy encounter with Roger, I had been much longer than expected. My family would be worried about me. I then began to consider the very long walk in the biting cold night air between Victoria Station and the Edgware Road where my hotel was located on the other side of the city of London!  I was in trouble.  But before there was enough time for anxiety to completely overwhelm me, the Lord came swiftly to my rescue. Still standing in front of the ticket kiosk, a stranger approached me and extended his hand and said, “Here, take this.  I don’t need it anymore.” He handed me his daily Tube pass! He had bought it in the morning and used it all day and was now leaving the Tube station and would not be using it anymore that day or night. Instead of throwing it in the garbage, he must have seen me standing at the kiosk and decided that he would simply be nice and give it to a total stranger who could still use it until midnight! Incredible! The Lord is my provider! How much He loves His children and watches over us.

I hopped on the train heading to the Edgware Road and half way to my destination I had a strange feeling come over me. I suddenly remembered the diamond earring that I had placed in my little rosary case earlier in the day!  Oh my Goodness! I had given the rosary bag to Roger in the square as we parted ways completely forgetting that inside the case was not only my rosary but my expensive diamond stud earring that my husband had given to me for our wedding anniversary!  What was I to do?

The passengers all round me sensed that something was wrong with me. I could see it in their faces in their reflections in the train windows.  I tried to collect myself and breathe deeply.  The train continued to the next station and I tried to think. What should I do? How can I tell my husband how careless I was with his precious gift? How would he react? Would he be angry at me? Would he think it was a beautiful thing – a miracle – that this earring was “accidentally” gifted to Roger, the homeless man in the square, in my little rosary bag? Then I wondered what if Roger never noticed the earring in the bag? What if it would fall out? What if he threw the bag away?  Maybe he would never know that the earring was in there? Maybe he would find it and try to sell the diamond and then be arrested, as who would believe that a homeless man hadn’t stolen it? Thoughts as fast as the passing images appearing in the train window raced through my mind.

I had to turn around and go back. At least I could tell Roger what happened. I could see how the conversation would go. Perhaps he would insist on returning the earring because he knew that it was not intended for him – that the earrings were a gift from my husband to me for our anniversary and that husbands can be very sensitive about such things. Or I could show him the earring was in the bag and insist that he keep it, but that I wanted him to know it was there so it did not get lost and he could profit from it.  I even thought about ways that we could try to sell it so Roger could have the money to better his life. So many thoughts flooded my mind.

I used the “miracle” Tube pass to return to Victoria Station and ran to the square. All the homeless were now tucked into their grimy blankets and ragged bedrolls. I gathered my composure and walked slowly around the great square looking for Roger trying not to stare. I tried to be respectful as I could while looking the homeless over. I didn’t see Roger anywhere. A heavy set homeless woman was leaning against the wall in the square and I timidly approached her. I asked her, “Do you by any chance know Roger?”  I explained that I had just met him and had given him something as a gift but that by accident I had left something else sentimental inside the bag. I didn’t tell her what it was in case it could cause trouble for him. Maybe someone would try to forcefully take it from him if they knew a diamond and gold earring was in the little bag. The homeless woman replied, “Yes, I know Roger. He got helped tonight and so he gets to sleep in the shelter! He had enough money to buy one night in the shelter and so he went there to get warm, have a shower, a hot meal and sleep in a warm bed tonight!”

I thanked the woman and walked back to Victoria Station accepting the will of God. I would genuinely  be happy for Roger to have found the earring. If he is meant to have it, then God’s will be done. My husband surely would understand.  I praised Jesus that tonight Roger would sleep in security and peace with his rosary at his bedside and hope in his heart.  I trusted Jesus’ unfathomable love for Roger and that He would fully provide for him in answer to our prayers.  Even with faith a small as a mustard seed Roger can expect miracles – mountains can be moved.

I made my way back to the hotel using for the third time my “miracle ticket”, and prepared myself to share this mysterious and wonderful story with my husband.  I told him everything. He was not angry and he was gracious about the “misplaced” earring. He has a generous and caring heart too.

Later that night I organized my handbag for the morning. As I emptied the contents of my purse onto the hotel bed to my shock and utter amazement my diamond earring fell out of the handbag.  I didn’t know whether to be grateful to the Lord to have found it, or disappointed in consideration of the loss to Roger.  My husband and I had already joyfully accepted the “loss” from our hearts for sake of Roger.

It appears that it was indeed the will of the Lord that my husband’s anniversary gift remained with me. When I pulled my rosary out in the cathedral to pray my penance there, the earring must have caught in the chain and as I lifted the rosary up to pray it must have dropped back into my purse.

Nevertheless, the Lord provides for those who love and trust Him. Roger was in a shelter this night, and tomorrow, with his faith the size of a mustard seed, yet growing, the Beggar of Heaven, Our Lord Jesus Christ would provide again for Roger and would remain with him always.

Saint Patrick’s Breast-Plate

In July of 2008, a few days before we moved to Israel, I was driving towards the mountains to pick up my oldest daughter who had been camping there for a month as it was time to bring her home.  The green woodlands carpeting the rolling foothills as I approached the mountains presented a majestic and spectacular vista.  I was lost in the wonder of God’s creation and I felt my heart rise to the Lord in love and awe and contemplation.

For some reason I thought of Saint Patrick. Or was he touching my spirit just then?  The delightful view of the lush green hills could make one think of Ireland.  I thought about the remarkable life of St Patrick, how at age sixteen he was carried away from his native Britain into captivity by Irish marauders  and sold as a slave to a barbarian pagan chieftain of that green island. With its high, rugged and sharp cliffs surrounded by treacherous waters, escape for those captured as slaves and brought to Ireland was virtually impossible.  Capture by the slave traders would be a sentence of a life-time of exile or death.

As one Biography of St Patrick relates, “Until he was 16, Patrick considered himself pagan. Some Irish marauders raided his village at that age in the British mainland, and he was sold into slavery to Ireland. During his captivity He became aware of God’s presence, and became a Christian.”   Like so many youth, he did not appreciate the sublime gift of the Catholic Faith and despised the precious blessings of the holy sacraments which Christ left to His Church. As so many youths of that time and today he preferred the “world” to the “Truth which is in Jesus.”

So I declare and testify in the Lord that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance; because of their hardness of heart, they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess. That is not how you learned Christ, assuming that you have heard of Him and were taught in Him, as truth is in Jesus, that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth. ( Ephesians: 4 17-24)

As St Patrick relates in his autobiography, “Confessio,” during  the extreme trial of his captivity and in his profound distress,  for six years as he tended his master’s flocks he turned to prayer, lifting his mind and heart many times a day to the Lord. Before, in the comfort of his prior life in Britain, as so many other youths, he had not appreciated, nor given the Lord Jesus Christ, his Savior any attention, love or homage.   St Patrick writes, “And there the Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins and then turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my low estate, and took pity on my youth and ignorance, and watched over me before I knew Him, and before I was able to distinguish between good and evil, and guarded me, and comforted me as would a father his son. Hence I cannot be silent – and indeed, I ought not to be – about the many blessings and the great grace which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me in the land of my captivity;…the love of God and His fear increased in me more and more, and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers, and in the night nearly the same, so that whilst in the woods and on the mountain, even before the dawn, I was roused to prayer and felt no hurt from it, whether there was snow or ice or rain; nor was there any slothfulness in me, such as I see now, because the spirit was then fervent within me.”

The biography on the life of St Patrick continues, “In the ways of a benign Providence the six years of Patrick’s captivity became a remote preparation for his future apostolate. He acquired a perfect knowledge of the Celtic tongue in which he would one day announce the glad tidings of Redemption, returning to the country years later after his escape to evangelize all of Ireland for Christ.  Admonished by an angel, St Patrick after six years in captivity fled from his cruel master (a Druid high Priest) and travelled about 200 miles to the west of Ireland where as he relates in his “Confessio”  there he found a ship ready to set sail and after some rebuffs was allowed on board. In a few days he was among his friends once more in Britain, but now his heart was set on devoting himself to the service of God in the sacred ministry…

As I was driving through the green mountains meditating on the admirable life of St Patrick I recalled the beautiful words of the famous prayer which is attributed to him. St Patrick wore the prayer sewn into his clothing placed over his heart as a shield of faith and trust in the God who saves and delivers, and thus it is called, “St Patrick’s Breast-Plate.”  I made St Patrick’s sublime prayer my own as these intimate and trusting words which St Patrick had composed to the God he had come to know and love and have faith in during his time of isolation in captivity rose as a song in my own heart to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I told my Jesus that He was deserving of the most exquisite music to accompany the words of this wonderful prayer, but that I did not have the skills of a great musician to make such a beautiful melody to praise and worship Him as he deserved. I wondered then if any fine musician had even tried to put the great prayer of St Patrick’s Breast-Plate to music to give glory to Our Lord. Surely this prayer should be a sung hymn! But I was not aware of one to sing to Him. Just then, I turned on the car radio to a random station as I was out of the area in which I live. I began to listen to a song that was playing on that particular station. After a few seconds I was utterly astonished as I recognized the lyrics of the lovely song which was being sung as those of St Patrick’s Breast-Plate!

St Patrick’s Breast-plate Prayer

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through the belief in the Threeness,

Through confession of the Oneness

Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today

Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,

Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,

Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,

Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today

Through the strength of the love of the Cherubim,

In obedience of angels,

In the service of archangels,

In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,

In prayers of patriarchs,

In predictions of prophets,

In preaching of apostles,

In faith of confessors,

In innocence of holy virgins,

In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven:

Light of sun,

Radiance of moon,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of wind,

Depth of sea,

Stability of earth,

Firmness of rock.

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me:

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me

From snares of devils,

From temptations of vices,

From everyone who shall wish me ill,

Afar and a near,

Alone and in a multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,

Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,

Against incantations of false prophets,

Against black laws of pagandom

Against false laws of heretics,

Against craft of idolatry,

Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,

Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today

Against poison, against burning,

Against drowning, against wounding,

So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in the Threeness,

Through confession of the Oneness,

Of the Creator of Creation.

It is now 2011, and we have just returned to America from our three years living in the Holy Land. My daughter continued attending the same summer camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania during the past three summers.  As my husband was away on a business trip it fell upon me to drive up to collect her from the camp after her month stay.  I was driving past the spot at the foothills of the mountains  where three years before I had contemplated the life of St Patrick and sung in my heart to my Lord and Mighty Defender the great prayer which St Patrick  wore over his own heart as he preached fearlessly in the Power of the Holy Spirit the Gospel of Love and Salvation of Jesus Christ to the heathen and barbarians of Ireland.  I recalled with wonder the amazing timing of the beautiful hymn set to the words of his prayer that had come on the radio at that precise moment! And I praised the Lord for His marvelous deeds and unfathomable marvels and His special blessings to me!

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor?”

“Or who has given Him anything that He may be repaid?”

For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

(Romans 11:33-36)

On this drive up in 2011 I had been listening for the first time to a new CD that I had recently purchased recorded by Mark Mallet, the Canadian Catholic song-writer, entitled, “Deliver me from me”. I was not familiar with any of Mark’s songs.   I did not even know the titles of the songs on this particular CD as I had blindly purchased it  because  I like Mark’s writings on his blog and have been blessed by reading his books and I wanted to support his important ministry by buying a couple of his music CD’s. And right there, just at the place where it had occurred in 2008, the Lord revealed His mighty Presence again!  The next track of Mark’s CD began to play and stunned and in utter astonishment  I heard  the familiar and beautiful words of St Patrick’s Breast-plate being sung by Mark in his own adaptation of the wonderful prayer:

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left

Christ before

Christ behind

Christ beneath

Christ above

Christ within me

Christ, my all

Chorus:

Christ You’re all around me

Christ, You are my all

Christ in my hands,

Christ in my feet

Christ in my eye

Christ in my ear

Christ on my lips

Christ on my mind

Christ within me

Christ, my all

Words from Isaiah welled up in my heart as I contemplated the great kindness and love of our God who blesses us with so many blessings and Who is so ever Present with me and with you in every moment and every detail of our lives!

As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways and My thoughts above your thoughts.

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

Yes, in joy you shall depart, in peace you shall be brought back; Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you, and all the trees of the countryside shall clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:8-13)

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