(A poem I received October 21, 2013 from Jesus
while in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament)
Waiting in the silence
all alone with Thee
knowing if I’m quiet
I will hear You speak.
Your words of love to me,
while my heart’s embracing
Your wounded, bleeding feet.
Just like sister Mary
who chose the better part,
I sit in complete silence
to hear words from Your Sacred Heart.
And, as John, Your most beloved,
I lay my head upon,
Your warm and tender bosom
and feel your beating Heart.
Your love and mercy flows
from Your pierced side,
enraptured in the silence
You draw me deep inside.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)
It was raining steadily as I drove my car from my husband’s hometown of Baqa along a remote winding country road in the area of Israel known as the Triangle, whose villages are mostly populated by Arab Muslims, with the occasional Israeli kibbutz interspersed between them. Each day my husband would leave to go to work near Tel Aviv and my children would head off to attend their American International School near Netanya. As a family we had left everything behind – country, American family, friends, neighbors, church and school, house, and possessions, in our sudden and unanticipated move to my husband’s homeland.
After my husband and children departed each day I was left alone in our new “home” to build a new life for myself. I felt very much as an alien in the country, not yet having found my place amongst the peoples of the land. I was feeling terribly lonely. I missed my prior life in America where I was totally “at home” with no language or cultural barriers and where I lived in full community – especially with my “family in Christ.” I knew my way around at home, had a happy, fulfilling daily routine and was fully connected with others. Every day I would attend Holy Mass at my local parish church where I prayed with my brothers and sisters of the “household of God,” and received the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion and was both spiritually and physically united with the Body of Christ.
Some days I would assist a close friend and Catholic priest from Tanzania in his ministry to the sick and dying of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, serving as his lector for the Scripture readings at the Masses that he would say at the nursing homes. Often, I would “make rounds” with Father, or on my own, to the rooms of the nursing home residents, to console and encourage them through their illness and loneliness by reading passages from the Bible, praying for and with them, or simply sharing time with them, talking and listening, being present to them in body and one with them in spirit and heart.
As the cool rain poured onto my windshield, my own warm tears flowed down my face, and waves of homesickness washed across my lonely soul. How I yearned, in that moment, for the companionship with a brother or sister in Christ with whom I could talk and share my heart. The dreary grey sky, soggy wet road, and dank dampness of the car seemed to permeate my soul, and I felt a profound loneliness and sense of alienation.
As I was driving along I saw a middle-aged Arab Muslim woman in her traditional dress walking in the rain along the roadside carrying atop her head a plastic bag which was filled with something. She was carrying some items she had likely purchased in the nearby village, and she was walking home to her own village along the roadside and using the bag as a kind of umbrella. As I passed her I thought, “Oh! I should have stopped to offer her a ride!” The thought came too late and the cars behind me made it difficult to stop and turn around. I also considered that she might not feel at ease with a stranger or foreigner stopping to pick her up. I also did not know how to ask her in Arabic if she wanted a ride. I would never know if I had missed being a “good Samaritan” to her. I apologized to the Lord for thinking and acting too slowly, as I continued driving towards the intersection where the rural road intersected with the highway.
As I was stopped at the red light I saw another middle-aged woman standing in the rain. Sensitive to having missed the previous opportunity to be charitable, I rolled down my window and in English asked the lady if she would like a ride somewhere. She understood me and she quickly ducked out of the rain and got into my car. I asked her where she was going. “Yerushalayim,” she responded in Hebrew. Sensing her English was not so strong, I spoke slowly and clearly to her informing her that I could take her as far as the entrance to Even Yehuda along Highway 4, where I was heading. That would be approximately a half hour drive together and a third of the way to Jerusalem. It would take at least one hour from there to get to “Yerushalayim,” if someone else picked her up at that point, immediately after I dropped her off. She nodded in agreement.
We drove for a while in silence, except for the tapping of the raindrops on the windshield, and the whooshing of the tires from the wet road. Out of the side of my eyes I saw the Israeli passenger peering above my head. I glanced up to see what she was looking at and then I realized she was studying the Face on the holy card that was tucked into my sun visor. Her eyes caught mine, and clutching her hands to her heart, my Jewish passenger exclaimed with exuberance and love, “Yeshua!”
I reached up and took the prayer card with the holy Face of Jesus from my visor and handed it to her. Her face was radiant with joy. Jesus had connected me on that dark and dreary afternoon, which fully reflected the sadness in my soul, with a sister in faith. I was enthralled and astonished at the loving- kindness and goodness of the Lord. Tali, slowly shared with me, in her broken English, that she recently found her divine Lover and Savior, Yeshua, whom she had accepted as her Lord and Messiah. Tali had been visiting her grown son who lived in the Kibbutz near Nizzane Oz, the junction where I had picked her up at the red light. She had been sharing her newfound faith in Christ Jesus with him. She showed me a book that she had been reading and that she brought with her to share with her son, Heaven: Your Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada, the quadriplegic Christian author, artist and evangelist.
I had read this same book of Joni’s many years before immediately after my own conversion. My sister in Christ, Tali and I, shared with each other how much Joni’s book about Heaven encouraged our new faith.
Tali also told me that she was attending an Arabic church in Jerusalem where she praises and worships the Lord Jesus, even though she can barely speak or understand Arabic. Her intense love for Jesus, the Savior of all men, brought her into full communion with Palestinian Christians whom she, as a Jewish Israeli, and believer in Messiah, loves as her own brothers and sisters.
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they told Him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for You.” Who are My mother and My brothers?” He asked.
Then He looked at those seated in a circle around Him and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does God’s will is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3: 31-35)
We arrived at our destination on Highway 4, and I pulled over to the shoulder of the road to let Tali out at a covered bus stop, so she might catch a late afternoon bus to Yerushalayim. It was still raining hard, but in my heart, the “Son” was shining. Tali and I embraced each other with an enormous bear hug, and held on to each other for a long time, considering that we may never see each other again until we would meet one day in Heaven. We kissed each other farewell on each cheek, then looked deeply at each other with beaming smiles, and sweetly bid one another, “Shalom.” We were total strangers, yet, in truth, we were sisters, bonded together in the Blood of Christ, and in unifying love that flows from the pierced Heart of the Savior.
For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. (Ephesians 2:14)
Less than 45 minutes later, my cell phone beeped. A text message from Tali informed me that she had already arrived in Yerushalayim. I deduced that she must have been picked up at the bus stop on Highway 4 by a “good Samaritan” who did not heed the speed limits. Perhaps angels are not bound by earthly driving rules? I never heard from Tali again, but I know I will see my sister in Heaven one day.
A little more than a year ago my youngest daughter, then age 14, became suicidal. She had suffered a long and deep depression which began when she was just eleven years old. Her extreme depression may have resulted from a combination of factors: genetic predisposition, hormonal changes from puberty, mixed with the stress brought about by our family’s sudden and unexpected intense trials, some of which included my diagnosis of breast cancer, and being uprooted from her familiar and secure environment when we moved to Israel, and then back again, all within a four year period. Her highly sensitive nature felt deeply these traumatic life events and she plummeted into extreme anxiety and an unimaginable deep, dark depression.
Despite good medicine and therapy, both in Israel and in America, that terrifying night that no parent can ever imagine they would ever personally experience came, when our teenage daughter attempted suicide, and she needed to be rushed by ambulance to the emergency room to save her life.
Oh, a mother’s heart in agony! All the years since the birth of her tender infant, God’s gift of life – a mother nurtures and loves her baby, prays for, and does everything within her power, to guard her precious child from any danger. A mother endeavors to show and teach her child just how much she is loved, both by her family, and also by God ,so that her child can grow up to be happy and secure about herself, and her place in the world, and to know confidently, that she is a beloved child of God who has a special plan for her life.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
How could this be happening to my child I wondered? Why have all our many fervent prayers for so long for her healing seemed to have had no effect? Her depression had worsened not improved. Now things had come to such a dire point in time. Will she live to see tomorrow? Will she ever get better – fully well? Will she find the happiness and peace and purpose which God has for her life? I was terrified. I felt as if I was in utter darkness – in a dense fog – within a thick cloud of unknowing what the future held. It was a type of dark night of the soul – of mind and heart.
Yet, I had faith. Yes, I had faith. It was profoundly living. Inside the depth of my being, the Holy Spirit kept His gift, His grace of faith alive, even vibrant, despite the horrifying outward circumstances of this situation. I trusted Jesus. He would not abandon me. Our Lord told us that he would never leave us nor forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:8, Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20)
Indeed, it was a dark, dark night, but the light of faith in my heart was still shining. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)
Our daughter was treated as an emergency at a local hospital and then moved immediately to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she received further critical care, until she was transferred to another health care facility for several more days.
During the evening of one the days of my daughter’s hospitalization, I went out alone, to take a walk with Jesus under the heavens, seeking His consolation and peace, as my mother’s heart was unbearably heavy with anguish. In looking up, on this summer’s nigh, I saw only continuous grey skies, as there was a pervasive and thick cloud covering over the face of the heavens that evening. I could not see the stars in their affixed places through the dense veil of clouds, but by faith, I knew they were there.
The gentle light of the moon, too, was diffused by the heavenly canopy of clouds. But by faith, I also knew the moon was right above, hidden behind the clouds, just where Our Lord has set it at the foundation of the world. And by faith, I trusted that Jesus was right there with me, in my own obscure night, His love and peace surrounding me, like the clouds blanketing the sky, because He is true to His Word. And in awe and adoration my heart exclaimed:
“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—Who are we that you are mindful of us, and a son of man that you care for us? Yet you have made us little less than a god, crowned us with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:4-6
As we continued our walk together, Jesus spoke this song into my heart, and His Spirit filled me with His peace. I trusted Him. All would be well. The Lord would fulfill His plans to give my daughter “hope and a future.” She began to recover immediately, and has gotten stronger and stronger throughout this year. She turned sixteen in July, and there will be many more birthdays to come!
Walking by Faith
Grey skies, crickets and fireflies,
Under the clouds tonight;
Walking by faith, not sight.
Warm air, caressing my skin and hair,
Your presence everywhere;
A love so pure and fair.
Even though I cannot see You, I believe.
Night birds, sing their sweet lullabies,
My heart-song then replies;
I know that You’re nearby.
Even though I cannot see You, I believe.
Grey skies, hiding the stars tonight
Cover their twinkling lights
We walk by faith not sight
Dark night, a place of the mind and soul
We feel we’re all alone
Your Word says it’s just not so
Even though I cannot see You, I believe.
Moon light, veiled by a shroud of clouds
Yet, Your love and peace surround
For faith is where You are found
Even though I cannot see You I believe.
Copyright©, music and lyrics by Ann Ammar 6-22-2012
(Click this link to listen to the song Walking By Faith)
(“Day of Honey, Day of Onions”)
I’ve been in the Holy Land for a month’s visit. This was my first trip back to Israel, since we moved home to America, two years ago. Returning to Israel brought back a flood of memories from the three years we lived amongst the two main communities, the Arabs and the Israelis, who inhabit this beautiful, yet complicated, land.
For the first seven months of our new life in Israel we lived in my husband’s childhood house where he grew up, in the oldest part of the “medinah” of Baqa Al-Gharbiyyah (“bouquet of the west”), a traditional Arab Muslim town. Baqa is situated in the center of Israel, in a rural farming area, on the border of the West Bank.
The massive concrete separation wall, that the Israelis built about 15 years ago, divides Baqa Al- Gharbiyyah, which is in Israel, from the town of Baqa Al Sharqiyyah (“bouquet of the east”), which sits on the other side of the “green line”, in the West Bank. Before the wall was built, the farmers of the West Bank, who lived in Baqa Al Sharqiyyah, and whose small family farms surrounded the town, would bring their agricultural produce to sell in a bustling market on the border, between Baqa Al Sharqiyyah and Baqa Al Gharbiyya.
Life was quite hard for these farmers of the West Bank before the wall was built. But after the wall went up, Baqa Al Sharqiyya was completely sealed off from Baqa Al Gharbiyya and other towns of Israel. Without access to their former markets, these small farmers of the West Bank became totally destitute. With the construction of the dividing wall, these small farmers and their families’ lives had been suddenly changed by circumstances out of their control. They would struggle to accept this harsh new reality, and find a new way forward, through the grace of God.
Many, I believe, must have grown even closer to God, and come to trust Him more than ever before. And, like Job, many of these good and faithful people, would still bless God for His continued loving providence.
My move to Israel in 2008 followed some very grave, sudden, and unexpected, life trials for me. One of the struggles I faced was my diagnosis of breast cancer in 2007. I underwent six months of treatments, which included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, which would be followed by five more years of cancer medications and other interventions. The cancer was very insignificant in comparison to some other grave moral injustices I had been made to suffer, and other emotional traumas I had to face at that same time. Like the West Bank farmers, I, too, would have to struggle to accept the things that had happened to me, learn to embrace my crosses, and allow them to be the means the Lord would use, to deepen my faith and trust in Him.
I knew, with certitude, from the teachings of my Catholic faith, that through these painful life events the good Lord was giving me opportunities to grow in mercy and forgiveness, self-less love, patient perseverance, and fortitude. In faith, I believed our Lord would give me all the grace I needed, to face these sufferings and be victorious through them, by His power and strength. It was up to me to abandon myself to Him, and, in trust, let Jesus lead me forward on the way of the cross.
“…not by might, and not by power, but by my Spirit”, says the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
While my mind assented to this truth, my heart was filled with sadness and emotional distress. These words of scripture were true for me.
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.
But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1: 8-9.)
After moving to Israel, I took a short course in Arabic. During one of our classes, Mohammed, my teacher, shared with me an Arab proverb, “Yom asal; yom basal,” which translated means, “one day honey; one day onions.” While I did not remember much of the Arabic he taught me, that phrase stuck in my memory. I understood it was an expression of life itself.
While my husband went to work each day in a suburb of Tel Aviv, and my daughters went to their American International School near Netanya, a Jewish town located at quite a distance from the Arab village of Baqa, I was left alone in my husband’s childhood house, to start a new life amongst a very different cultural and religious community; and this, on the heels of the painful experiences that had occurred in my life in America, right before we moved. I felt very isolated and extremely lonely in that new place. My heart was heavy with sorrow and anguish from the prior traumatic events. I could feel the cloud of depression hovering over my soul.
One day, many months after we moved to Baqa, I left our house to take a walk with Jesus, in order to be comforted by Him. The sun was bright in the sky. It was high noon and quite a hot day. I yearned for Jesus to still the storms in my soul, and shine the light of His love, into my broken heart.
Someone in the village had told me of a “good walking trail”, not far from Baqa, along the edge of an Israeli farm field. I had tried to walk during the day in the town, but I was too much of a curiosity for the villagers. Muslim women in Baqa do not dress in western clothing and “walk” through the streets of the town in the middle of the day. So, I found my way by car to the “good walking trail”, which, as it turned out, was just a dirt road used by the Israeli farmers to drive their tractors between the crops.
I parked my car near the highway and began walking along the red dirt tractor trail of the farm. I was all alone with Jesus. I lifted my heart, and began to open myself to the Lord’s peace and healing, which I needed so desperately, and for which I thirsted in all my weakness.
Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God. (Psalm 42:1)
I walked in silent contemplation for quite some time on the dirt road. Then, the Lord drew my attention to a solitary woman, sitting in the middle of the farm field. She was fully covered from head to toe in a long garment, which I could not distinguish. It had long sleeves to shield her from the intense rays of the burning sun. She wore a wide brimmed straw hat. Was she one of the Asian migrant farm workers so common in Israel? Could she perhaps be a destitute Palestinian from the West Bank? I could not know. Her back was deeply bowed, with her face bent down towards the dirt, as she sat in between the rows, picking the farm’s produce. I looked to see what crop was being grown there, and I was amazed to discover, that it was an onion field!
There were no other workers with her. She was all alone in the vast field of onions. She did not look up at me. She continued slowly and steadily to pick the onions one by one and put them in baskets. It was lonely, back- breaking work, under the fierce Israeli sun.
I slowed down my pace, as the Lord allowed this remarkable scene to penetrate deeply into my heart. Tears welled up in my eyes in compassion for my “neighbor”, as I watched her out there all alone in the vast onion field, laboring under the blazing sun far from her home – wherever her home might have been – to eke out a living to support herself, or perhaps, her family, in a far-off land. My tears also flowed from a sense of shame, as the Holy Spirit helped me to see clearly, that I had been wallowing in self-pity over my own little “onions” of life.
I had so quickly forgotten, and so easily taken for granted, the many, many, sweet days of honey, that our most merciful and loving Lord had lavished on me all through my life. Even now, during this time of suffering and testing of my faith, Jesus was sweetly present, helping me to carry my little splinter of His Cross. I was filled with profound gratitude and immense love for Jesus in that moment, as I reflected on the infinite number of spiritual graces and material blessings that He had showered on me since my conception.
Yes, Jesus has always been with us. He will always remain with us, through our good days and our bad days – through easy and happy times and hard and painful times – through our “days of honey and days of onions.” By His love, mercy, and saving power, our Lord brings us through the vast onion field of this present life, to share in the sweetness of His eternal glory, where days of honey continue without end.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:35)
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! (2nd Corinthians 4:17)
I’ve come back to Israel for a month visit. It’s been exactly two years since I moved back to America from this unique and spiritually laden land, which was the will of God for me and my family at that time. What a wonderful feeling to be “home” here again. I have missed this Holy Land so much. I awoke this morning to a symphony of birds and the persistent meowing of Marianne’s tabby cat who greeted me as if to say, “Where have you been all this time?”
I am staying with Marianne for the first half of my visit to Israel in her quaint cottage in the kibbutz of Nahshon outside of Jerusalem. Nahshon is a community of about 400 souls, of which Marianne is the only Catholic living amongst the Jewish habitants of this little village. It is here where our Lord called Marianne, a fallen away Catholic, back to Himself by extraordinary signs and wonders after she had come from Holland as a teenager to serve as a volunteer for six months in this communal society.
She had always felt a “call” to come to Israel, but did not understand yet the plan the Lord had for her life when she responded to the Spirit’s prompting at age 19 to leave Holland to come to the Holy Land.
The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you (Genesis 12:1).
She has been living in Nahshon for more than 37 years. After about 15 years of worldly living in Israel, the Holy Spirit began moving mightily upon Marianne’s heart to bring her to repentance and a radical conversion. In His mysterious will, our Lord had purposed from eternity that in His perfect timing Marianne be positioned in the heartland of Israel to become one of His faithful laborers in the harvest of souls for His Kingdom. Jesus had called Marianne as a witness to His merciful love and abiding truth to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel”.
Marianne’s tiny hamlet of Nahshon is situated in the valley of Ayalon in the shadow of the great stone Monastery of Latrun. During the three years I was living and laboring for souls for the Lord in the harvest fields of Israel, Marianne and I attended Holy Mass together every Sunday with the monks of the monastery. The monastery sits high on a rise overlooking the Ayalon Valley. It was in this valley where the Lord made the sun and moon stand still to give Joshua the advantage over his enemies. (Joshua 10)
Nahshon is also located across the Jerusalem highway from the town of Emmaus where our Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself after His Resurrection to the two disciples who were walking along the Emmaus Road ( Luke24: 13-33).
Every Sunday I would drive from the town along the Mediterranean coast where I was living with my family to Nahshon to go with Marianne to Holy Mass at Latrun. Where I was living with my family there were no churches in the town as the community was Jewish. The closest churches were in Haifa, Jaffa and Latrun, all of which were more than an hour drive by highway. To attend Holy Mass every Sunday was a veritable pilgrimage. Love for Jesus and an intense desire receive my Lord in Holy Communion more than outweighed any burden of journey. Marianne too had made many pilgrimages of love for our Lord after the years since her conversion. As she had no car, Marianne would have to walk several miles or try to hitch hike to the monastery on the hilltop.
It became our custom after Holy Mass to drive towards Jerusalem to share a meal together at En Kerem. En Kerem is situated in the Judean hills near Jerusalem and is the birthplace of St John the Baptist and the place of Holy Mary’s visitation to St Elizabeth.
On one particular Sunday, Marianne and I went after Mass to our usual place in En Kerem. We always sat at a table on the second floor balcony of the restaurant to enjoy the magnificent view of the onion shaped golden domes of the Russian Orthodox Church and Convent of the Sisters of Zion which was built on the slope of the hill which overlooks the town. After a delicious meal of Middle Eastern delicacies and a time of Christian fellowship we started our journey back to Nahshon.
As we were slowly driving down the narrow road of the town that led to the highway, we noticed a man hitch-hiking. Hitch-hiking is a common practice here in Israel as many people cannot afford to own a car and public transportation is very poor in rural places. I had at times felt the call to be a “Good Samaritan” and stop and give someone a ride, although my husband and children often scolded me for taking a risk to my safety by picking up strangers and begged me not to do so. The hitch-hiker had his thumb extended.
We slowly drove past him but I did not wish to pick him up. We continued our journey. Close to the entrance of the highway that goes towards Tel Aviv we stopped at a red light. I noticed through my driver’s side window another man standing on the sidewalk there. He was not hitch-hiking. He did not approach us, nor did he have his thumb extended in the universal sign of the hitch-hiker. Suddenly, nudged by the Holy Spirit, I rolled down my window and blurted out, “Do you need a ride?” I had passed by the first hitch-hiker as my own will had determined not to pick up any strangers. Yet, the Holy Spirit’s will was quite different from mine. Our Lord had His eyes fixed on this particular son of Abraham.
…they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth (Zechariah 4:10).
Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth (Revelation 5:6).
Using me as His instrument the Lord had invited this man into our car. Jesus desired to engage one of His sons of the “lost sheep of the Tribe of Israel” in conversation. Amazingly, the stranger responded to my spontaneous and unsolicited invitation, saying, “Yes, I need a ride. I want to go to Beit Shemesh,” (which means house of the sun).
The Holy Spirit’s prompting of my un-premeditated invitation to the man happened so suddenly that I did not take notice of the traditional Orthodox Jewish attire he was wearing. The Orthodox Jew entered our car and sat in the back seat. Marianne and I were amazed as we comprehended the extraordinary thing that was happening. Traditionally, an Orthodox Jewish man would never get into a car with two women who are not his relatives.
We began driving and entered onto the highway in the direction of Beit Shemesh, Nahshon, and Tel Aviv. After a brief moment, the Orthodox Jew spoke up from the back seat and initiated a conversation by asking us, “Did you make aliya?” Aliya is the program of emigration to the Land of Israel under the law of Jewish “birthright.” Responding to his question, I pointed to a crucifix hanging from my rear view mirror. He looked at the cross with the corpus dangling from the mirror.
As he gazed at the crucifix, Marianne and I, almost in unison, answered, “No, we are Christians.” There was a long silent pause. Then, our unlikely passenger, in a deeply reflective and serious tone said, “I don’t really understand about Jesus.”
I looked at his face in my rear view mirror and saw from his expression that he was keenly awaiting a response. The love of Jesus for His own kinsman of the Abrahamic faith filled my heart and the fire of the Holy Spirit burned in my soul. In that intense moment, I felt just as St Paul, For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1st Corinthians 9:16).
I yielded totally to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ speaking through me began to reveal to Tzvi, the Orthodox Jew, who with bright eyes and eager expectation continually gazed at me through the rear view mirror, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:13-35).
Our car must have been navigated by our guardian angels, as the entire half hour drive down the steep and winding highway from En Kerem to Beit Shemesh, I could not take my eyes off of Tzvi’s face which I beheld in my rear view mirror as I was sharing the gospel with him. Tzvi’s countenance was filled with wonder and delight as the Holy Spirit touched his heart and mind with the truth about the Person of Jesus Christ.
Just as the resurrected Christ revealed Himself to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel, opened the Scriptures to Tzvi to give him revelation of his long-awaited Messiah.
At Beit Shemesh we stopped the car along the side of the highway and Tzvi got out. From the gratitude in his voice and the joy on his face as he thanked us extensively for what he had heard and the ride home, we had every reason to rejoice seeing evidence of the Holy Spirit’s revelation of Christ to this son of Abraham.
Surely, Tzvi’s heart was burning within while Christ talked with him on the road and opened the Scriptures to him? (Luke 24:13-35).
Nearly thirty years ago, in 1988, when I was in my late twenties I went with my husband to Washington DC for a weekend to attend a convention of a newly founded organization called “Roots.” Our mutual profound concern for the intrinsic dignity of the human person and passion for justice was the means the Lord used to bring us together some years earlier while we were students in London. We shared a deep compassion and empathy for the suffering, poor, oppressed and disenfranchised peoples. Our sensitivity and tenderness of heart towards suffering and injustice was a gift from God. We did not recognize this however, nor did we think much about God in those days. We had many years earlier left the practice of the religions of our childhood and had been following our own wills.
My husband had been brought up as a Muslim in a traditional Arab village in Israel, but by the age of twenty he had turned away from the traditions of his fathers and had become an atheist. He maintained this posture when we first met in London and he has continued to express his doubts in the existence of God even until today despite the many remarkable evidences to the contrary and extraordinary experiences that occurred during our thirty years of marriage. Perhaps, what is revealed in this book may open his heart toward the God who exists and loves him so much.
By the time I met my husband in London as a graduate student I too had drifted far from God and no longer practiced the Christian faith from my childhood. In pursuing my own passions and self-will I had lost my way, and I no longer knew if God was real. I had not become an atheist though. I hoped that God really existed. I did not want to die and cease to be. I wanted there to be life after death but did not know if it was true. I was an agnostic who often said, “I would like there to be a God, but I don’t know how to know.”
The convention attracted many prominent people as panelists for the various lectures and discussion groups. Notable private citizens and public officials interested in the topics were also present. Among them were: U.S. Senators and House Representatives, reporters from the major television networks and newspapers, radio broadcasters, heads of various political, humanitarian and charitable organizations, prominent artists, musicians and writers, business owners, professors, Arab diplomats and lobbyists.
Standing around in the lobby of the large hotel we could rub elbows with many of these people. Turning around my husband noticed a well-known Palestinian Arab author, poet and essayist, Mr. Fawaz Turki who graciously greeted us and spent a few moments conversing with us. With great enthusiasm I told him how much I had enjoyed reading his autobiographical book, Soul in Exile, and that I had been deeply touched by his personal accounts in the book – his recollections and reflections on his own unique life journey.
In a sudden burst of mysterious and uncontained joy I blurted out to him, “I would like to write a book!” I don’t know why I said that.
I had never had a desire to become a writer. The thought had never entered my mind. I had not studied for this purpose at the university. I had no plans to write a book or write anything else for that matter. Then I couldn’t begin to imagine what in the world I could ever even write about. The words just flew out of my mouth without my pre-meditating them. I was surprised to hear myself say this, and immediately I felt a sudden embarrassment before the renowned author. My husband recalls the famous writer’s response given what clearly seemed to be an impetuous, naive and even perhaps, disrespectful outburst.
“Why is it that someone thinks they can simply say, ‘I’d like to write a book’, but would never say, ‘I think I’d like to do brain surgery.’”?
But what all three of us could not know at that precise moment was that these seemingly foolish and mindless words were not my own but rather were prompted by the Holy Spirit – they were a prophetic utterance of the Holy Spirit concerning my life which one day God would effect. And when the Lord did bring His purpose to pass He would recall my memory to this long-ago mysterious experience and give me understanding.
Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them!( Psalm 139:16-17)
The Lord’s hand was upon me, guiding my days even when in my own heart I had strayed so very far from Him. For many more years I would continue to pursue earthly vanities and follow my own desires. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in His patient and enduring love would call out over the years to His straying lamb and in His Perfect timing would come to rescue my soul from this place of exile – from the world, sin and the Devil – and lift me up on His shoulders high above all of earth’s lamentations, and carry His once lost sheep onwards towards her Eternal Home.
Pressing me close to His Sacred Heart we would begin our journey of love together through this present life into eternity. With each beat of His heart for me Jesus reveals His unending love for this most ordinary soul. Jesus has asked me to write down our experiences and they now are filling this book. Thus, the prophecy spoken by the Holy Spirit more than a quarter of a century ago is being fulfilled.
Standing by the cross of Jesus (was) His mother…. 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. (John 19:26-27).
I had a foretaste of the beauty of spring during a vacation with my extended family in the Caribbean isle of Dominican Republic over this past Holy Week 2013. There – as it must have been in the Garden of Eden – the immense variety of fragrant and colorful exotic flowers amongst the lush green gardens were blooming in full force, the tropical birds were singing and the gentle sweet breezes of the sea and the warm rays of the sun awakened my senses and invigorated my soul giving me the feeling of rebirth after this year’s long, dark, cold and wet winter in Pennsylvania.
While “walking in the garden” there with Jesus He reminded me of that most beautiful encounter I had with His and, indeed, our most holy Mother Mary six years ago on that same Island. But before I relate to you the story of my “visitation” from Mamma Mary I would like to share with you some history of our Church.
The Catholic practice of assigning a special devotion to each month goes back to the early 16th century. The most widely known of these devotions is the dedication of May as the month of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The May devotion to our Lady in its present form originated at Rome in the late 18th Century with the Society of Jesus, to counteract infidelity and immorality. By the early years of the 19th century, the devotion spread quickly from the Jesuits in Rome to nearly every Catholic church of the Latin Rite having been encouraged by Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and the twelve encyclicals and five apostolic letters on the Rosary which Pope Leo XIII wrote between 1883 and 1889.
In the past centuries May “crownings” and other special events in honor of Mary, such as public recitation of the Rosary and Rosary processions took place. Our holy Church encourages such extended pious Marian devotion throughout the month of May to honor the divinely appointed role that our Blessed Mother played in our salvation through her freely-given “fiat” – her joyous and total “Yes” to the Will of God at the Annunciation and all through-out her earthly life and which she continues even from heaven as she co-operates with her Divine Son Jesus to bring about the Triumph of Christ in the world.
The month of May gives us another opportunity to renew our own devotion to the Mother of God by praying our rosaries and reflecting on Mary’s spiritual Motherhood of all God’s children. In western culture, both Greek and Roman, May was recognized as the season of the beginning of new life and fecundity. This ancient tradition of associating May with new life and fecundity led to a realization that May can be considered as the “month of motherhood” and is one reason why Mother’s Day is celebrated during May not only in the United States but in many other countries and cultures of both East and West. In the month of May, the dark and barren winter comes to an end and new glorious vibrant life springs forth as from the womb of the earth.
The connection between motherhood and May led Christians eventually to adopt May as our Mother Mary’s Month. May is the Month of our Lady precisely as the Mother of God – the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ and our Mother, as we are the children of God and Christ’s own brothers and sisters.
Over the past several centuries the Lord sent His own Mother Mary to Earth to help guide His children on the Way of Faith – conversion, justification, sanctification and holiness – which leads them to Heaven. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in her various visitations over these centuries as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Peace of Medjugorje, just to name a few, came to plead with us as our loving Mother to turn over our lives and open our souls fully to the Savior of Mankind, her Son Jesus Christ and to unite our hearts with her Immaculate Heart in spirit and pray and reflect on the divine mysteries of Christ’s life contained in the most holy Rosary.
“O God whose only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation. Grant, we beseech Thee, that while meditating on these mysteries of the most holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Concluding prayer of the most holy Rosary)
Mary told us that by the rosary:
•you will not be led into heresy and apostasy.
•you will convert people who are on their way to hell.
•you will be protected in times of chastisement.
•you will obtain spiritual needs.
•you will obtain material needs—for your family, your household, your country, your friends, yourself…
When our Blessed Mother Mary visited Earth over a six month timeframe in 1917, appearing to the three shepherd children of Portugal as “Our Lady of Fatima” she repeated many times her admonition that they and all the faithful of God of that era should say the prayers of the Rosary to obtain peace, protection from the Evil One and endurance in the holy Faith through the horrific trials of that period of history. She was also exhorting us, the believers of today to pray the Rosary in our own time for endurance and perseverance in the holy Faith, Hope and Love during the great Tribulation that is coming upon the world and for the Peace that will reign at the ultimate Triumph of the united Hearts of Jesus and Mary over Satan.
May 13, 1917: “Say the Rosary every day to obtain world peace and the end of the war”.
June 13, 1917: “I want you to say the Rosary every day”.
July 13, 1917: “I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day.”
August 19, 1917:” I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day”.
September 13, 1917:” Continue saying the Rosary to obtain the end of the war.”
October 13, 1917: “I want you to continue saying the Rosary every day.”
One of the child visionaries of Fatima, Sister Lucia, summed up the divine wisdom and good counsel of Our Mother as follows:
“Let people say the Rosary every day. Our Lady stated that repeatedly in all her apparitions, as if to fortify us against these times of diabolical disorientation, so that we would not allow ourselves to be deceived by false doctrines…
The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Holy Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
Our Mother’s coming to Fatima as “Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary” must be seen as a gift of love and a warning – a dreadful ultimatum to the world to stop sinning and turn their hearts back to the Lord. The enormity of mankind’s rebellion against God and God’s infinite hatred of sin is the foundation of Mary’s Message at Fatima. In His immense mercy God gives the world one last hope in the Immaculate Heart of Mary – through the holy Heart of His Mother which is in total union with His own Sacred Heart – the holy heart of Mary spiritually pieced through by the sword of sorrow in total union with our Lord’s Jesus’ Divine Heart pierced for our sins on the Cross.
“Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The Child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about Him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.“(Luke 2:29-35)
But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: “Not a bone of it will be broken.” And again another passage says: “They will look upon Him whom they have pierced.” (John 19:33-37)
Now I return back to my personal story of our Mother Mary’s visitation to me in the Dominican Republic seven years ago. I was sitting alone reading a book on a chair in the shade under the trees at quite a distance from the poolside. The book I was reading was entitled: “The Secret of the Rosary” by St Louis de Montfort. As I am writing this account I have just discovered that St Louis de Montfort was a tertiary in the Dominican Order of the Church!
Speaking of the Saint’s contribution to the Rosary, Father R. Poupon, a well- known Dominican writer stated: “ St Montfort’s genius prolongs… that of…. of Saint Dominic….it contains everything that can be said about the Rosary, about its content and form, its real worth, about the instruction necessary for its appreciation and use.” In the “Secret of the Rosary” Saint Montfort tells the reader the authentic message of the Rosary, that it is a true school of Christian life and includes in its essence meditation of the mysteries of the life, death and glory of Jesus and Mary with a view to both honoring and imitating their virtues as we consider them in each mystery of the Rosary.
Saint Montfort warns both the ignorant and scholars who scoff at the importance of the Rosary saying: “The Rosary is a priceless treasure which is inspired by God.” Even though it was written more than two and a half centuries ago, the book has lost none of its timeliness and freshness, especially in light of the specific requests of Our Lady of Fatima! (my comments are derived from the preface and back cover of the book published by TAN).
After a while, inspired by the wisdom in the book, I began to pray my rosary there under the palm trees. I held the small paperback book in my left hand and in order to pray discreetly I held my rosary in my right hand and concealed it behind the open book as I prayed the mysteries of the Rosary silently.
My sister’s mother in law from Croatia (formerly a part of Yugoslavia) who spoke no English and my sister’s little five year old son were in the pool together. My nephew came towards the poolside and called out to me, “Baba wants to know what you are reading.” Baba means grandmother in the Serbo-Croatian language. I thought for a moment how odd it seemed to me that she should wonder what I was reading and for her curiosity to be so strong that she would send her five year old grandson over to me to inquire about it in English. I told him to tell her that I was reading a Catholic book about the rosary.
I know he heard me and understood by his facial expression and the nodding of his head (he attended Catholic elementary school). I assumed he would go straight- away to tell her what I said. But as I watched him return into the pool I saw that he did not tell her anything, rather, he began playing in the water as if the entire incident never happened at all. Just then I heard a soft and gentle Voice speak to me interiorly, “Give her the rosary.”
For a moment I was bewildered wondering where this thought came from. Was it my imagination? Could it be the Lord? Then I realized it must be my Mother speaking to me. I just knew it, but still I doubted myself. I began to talk with our Blessed Mother telling her that I would gladly obey but I needed to be sure that she was asking me to do this as I did not want to give my rosary away if this was just my own imagination at work. This particular rosary had been given to me as a gift when I had entered into the Catholic Church the prior year and I had been praying the mysteries of the Rosary on it every day since I received it. The elderly lady who gave it to me had travelled on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje and bought it for me and had it blessed there. The rosary beads were made of small stones collected from the Apparition Hill where Our Lady of Peace had appeared to the Yugoslavian children in 1984 during the time of Communist rule in that country. I treasured it. If my Mother Mary was asking me to give Baba my special rosary, I would be happy to do it but I needed to know for sure that I had truly heard Our Lady’s command.
I also wondered why I should give my rosary to Baba. While Baba had lived under Tito’s Communist rule in Yugoslavia, I knew that she came from a Catholic family. She likely would already have a rosary of her own, I considered. So I said to my Mother, I will do as you say, but give me a sign that I may know when and how to do it as you would like.
I did not share a word about my mysterious experience with anyone. The rest of the day I pondered over and over in my heart the event of the morning as I walked on the beach and through the gardens of the resort and wondered if I had simply imagined the “message.” When evening came, all the family gathered for dinner: my parents, my husband and my daughters, my sister and her husband, my nephew and niece and Baba. After dinner members of the family began to leave and I found myself sitting with my brother in law and Baba alone at the table. Baba does not speak any English and for that reason we have hardly had any communication in all the years since my sister married her son in 1989. I was chatting with my brother-in-law and Baba said something to him in the Serbo-Croatian language. He turned to me and said, “Baba wants you to know that she went to Medjugorje.”
I was stunned. I knew nothing about her faith life. I never imagined she would have made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. That she would suddenly interject into our conversation and share this one thing with me through her son that particular evening was nothing short of miraculous to say the least. I knew immediately in that moment without hesitation that this was the “sign” I had asked for from my Mother Mary to confirm her message that she had given to me earlier that morning while I was praying the rosary.
I reached into my purse and pulled out my cherished rosary from Medjugorje and holding it in the palm of my hand I presented it to Baba just as my Mamma Mary – Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary – Our Lady of Peace of Medjugorje – had requested me to do. Baba received my rosary with joy, and smiling broadly she said to her son in Croatian who translated into English, “I didn’t get a rosary in Medjugorje.”
Hail Mary full of Grace
The Lord is with you
Blessed are you among women
Blessed it the Fruit of your womb, Jesus
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death
(A poem I received March 21, 2013 from Jesus during Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament)
“I am here My child
Surrender all to Me
I am living
the very air you breathe
“Give your heart to Me
and you will see
the wonders I will do
in love to set you free
“Little child can’t you see?
There’s no fear when you stay near to Me
Calm and peace surround your heart
Your mind is still
My light penetrates the dark
“There is no rush
Time fades away
In My Presence
is Eternal Day
“I lift your soul in My embrace
Where I am
beyond time and space
to the heights of Heaven
to My Holy Place
and there you see Me Face to face”.
A couple months ago Jesus delivered me from my anguish and taught me to trust Him more. I had been in a chronic state of anxiety for a good stretch of time. My burdens and trials of life were weighing me down and overwhelming me. Cross after cross had come and I was trying desperately to carry them on my own.
I did not think that I was carrying them on my own, of course. I thought I was trusting Jesus totally. However, the weight of these challenges became heavier and heavier and I felt that I was being crushed. I felt all the bodily and mental and emotional symptoms of anxiety – heart beating rapidly, nervous sensations, mind racing, agitation, and I could not fall asleep without a sleeping aid or an anxiety pill.
My dear Jesus had been calling out to me for a long time in various ways to surrender to Him more fully – to trust Him more deeply – to let Him increase His faith in me:Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)
I do not know why I was holding on and not “letting go and letting God”! I didn’t want to carry these burdens. How do I let go and let God and abandon myself more fully to Him and trust Him more? I didn’t know what was holding me back and I didn’t know how to do it. I knew that I loved Him and I did trust and have faith in Him. But God wants to draw us deeper and deeper into the fullness of His life and love. He wants to increase our faith and trust in Him more and more and bring us to completion and perfection in faith. Our Heavenly Father revealed this to us in the Life of His Son, Jesus Christ who is the Way and the Truth and the Life.
Jesus showed us that it is the way of the Cross, through trials, hardships, sufferings and testing that we are made perfect in the obedience of faith. And He can empathize with us, His beloved brothers and sisters, and be our compassionate Advocate before the Father because He Himself has been tested by the God the Father just as we are.
Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified Himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to Him: “You are My Son; this day I have begotten You”;
Just as He says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
In the days when He was in the flesh, Jesus offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.
Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered;
and when He was made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5)
The Lord was permitting me to meet trials of various kinds so that the testing of my faith would produce steadfastness and that I would be “conformed to the image of His Son,” Jesus. (Romans 8:29)
As the Apostle said, “let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4) and “blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
It was Sunday morning and I got ready to go to Mass usual. Looking back I can see now that the Holy Spirit guided me that morning. At the last moment I had a sudden thought to go to another church in the area in which I lived where I had not attended Mass before. At the end of Mass I remained for a little while speaking with a lady who had been seated in the pew in front of me. All the parishioners left the church and we remained alone there talking quietly.
The priest approached us and greeted us. The lady then departed from us and I was left alone with the priest in the sanctuary. I can’t fully explain what happened next. Without my sharing anything personal with this priest whom I did not know and never met before, he seemed to be able to “read my soul” and understand my inner spiritual condition. Without my asking he proceeded to offer me some extraordinary counsel that fit perfectly with what I was wrestling with inside my soul, although he did not know from my having told him.
The gentle priest led me to the adoration chapel where no one was present except Our Lord hidden in the Tabernacle and told me to remain there in the silence and open my heart totally to the Lord, to hold nothing back, and to empty myself and let Jesus heal me and fill me with His peace.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.( 1 Peter 5:6-7)
Greatly encouraged by the gracious and mysterious words of this remarkable priest who was the Lord’s instrument to rescue me from my inner turmoil, I knelt in front of the Tabernacle where our Lord awaited me in His love and humility in His Presence in the consecrated Host . With all my strength- with all that I had within me of love and trust and faith and hope in God – I lifted my heart, mind and soul to my merciful, compassionate Jesus in an unspoken prayer arising from the depths of my soul. I implored Him to deliver me from me! I cried silently, “Help me, O Lord, to let go as I do not know how to let go. Help me to let You carry me and all my worries and fears and inadequacies.”
Out of the depths I call to you, LORD;
Lord, hear my cry!
May your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy. (NAB, Psalm 130)
Stillness and peace came over my soul during this time of deep silent prayer. Surely I knew this was the true Presence of the Lord in me and evidence of His lifting my burden and giving me His rest. Yet, as I prepared to leave the chapel, I spoke one request to the Lord out loud. I asked Him to remember how weak I am and how I will struggle with doubts and not feel confident that I am unburdened and healed. I begged Him for even more – for a confirmation – a sign of His Presence with me – in some other way that I could understand and by which I could gain more confidence in Him. Oh, how in that moment I understood the words of the father of the boy who Jesus delivered from the unclean spirit, when he said:
Lord, I believe! Help me overcome my unbelief. (Mark 7:4)
So I said to Jesus, please Lord, when I go to bed tonight, I just want to lie down and sleep in peace. Please manifest Your Presence with me in this way so I know I am healed. I want to fall asleep in Your Arms. I asked for this, dear readers, but did I believe it would happen? Did I trust that the Lord would answer this specific request? I don’t think I had such faith at that moment. Only the Lord knows.
Night came and I prepared for bed. I did not think of my earlier petition to Jesus. I had forgotten all about it. I tell you the truth, dear readers, I did not recall it at all. Settling into my covers and becoming still to begin to try to fall asleep I suddenly realized that my body was not agitated. I did not feel the usual nervous sensations or accelerated heartbeat, and all the other symptoms that the body feels with extreme anxiety. My mind was calm. No racing thoughts, no hyper-active mental state. Suddenly, I remembered my request from the afternoon. My heart lifted, my soul was filled with wondrous joy and I exclaimed “Lord, are you here with me? Is this You, sweet Jesus?”
It was Him. He had come to me in just the way I had begged Him to! My faith strengthened, my trust bounded, my joy overflowed! Then I knew for sure that tonight I would not need to take a sleeping pill or any anxiety medication. No, tonight I would sleep like a baby in the Arms of Jesus in His heavenly peace. Indeed, I fell quickly to sleep and slept soundly all night. I woke in the morning refreshed and faith-filled, and full of gratitude and love for Jesus who had shown such tenderness and mercy to me. Jesus had answered the cry that came from the depths of my heart, had increased my faith, lifted my burden of anxiety, given me new courage and encouragement, and peace.
Since that day and night which is now nearly two months ago, I am hitting the pillow and falling quickly to sleep every night with no medications! Those anxieties that I had been carrying, are now being shouldered by the Lord. I am trusting Jesus with them. Dear reader, do not think I am now perfect or complete! Oh no, new trials and crosses have already come, and more will surely come. I still am not casting them all immediately onto the Lord but I am releasing them faster than before, and they are not keeping me up at night anymore!
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
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.
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.
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)
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.