(“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 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.
After moving to the Holy Land in the summer of 2008, I lived for a while in the traditional Arab village of my husband in the heart of the Israeli countryside far from the major cities. This rural town of approximately 25,000 has more than ten mosques as all the residents who live there are Muslims. As there were no churches in the town, in order to attend Holy Mass I would have to drive more than sixty miles by car every Sunday along the Mediterranean coastal highway to the great port city of Haifa where the closest church was located. It became my custom that first year living in Israel to attend Holy Mass in Haifa at the magnificent Stella Maris Church which sits atop Mount Carmel. This shrine church is built over the cave of the Prophet Elijah. It was such a blessing to see not only Christians, but Muslims and Jews come to this shrine church as all three religions hold Elijah as one of their revered holy prophets. While devout Catholics adored the Lord during the Holy Mass which was being said in the sanctuary built over the cave, Jews and Muslims would enter in the midst of the sacred celebration and quietly walk down the aisle between the worshipping Christians and enter the cave below the High Altar while Jesus would be sacramentally Present and they would light candles and say their prayers to God. This holy shrine indeed was a “house of prayer for all nations.”
Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.(Isaiah 56:7)
Back in America, there were innumerable churches within a close distance to my home and I was immensely blessed to be able to go to Holy Mass every day without driving those sixty miles to get to the closet church. I was able to receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion daily. I was fully immersed in a vibrant Christian community life where I would join with my brothers and sisters of the Faith in fellowship, in prayer in several small groups, and where I served the Lord by visiting the sick and elderly in the area nursing homes as an assistant to a priest in his ministry. Every day my body and soul was nourished by hearing the Word of God proclaimed, receiving Our Lord sacramentally in Holy Communion and sharing the Holy Spirit in communal prayer with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)
Indeed, I felt loved by my husband’s Arab family and most assuredly, I was touched by the kindness of many of the town’s residents and absolutely, I rejoiced to be able to attend Holy Mass at the Stella Maris Church every Sunday, yet, during the remaining six days of the week I felt deeply the pangs of intense loneliness for fellowship with the members of my “Household of Faith.”
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
After about nine months living in the village, as usual I went up to Haifa to the Stella Maris for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In those most intimate moments just after having received Holy Communion I poured my aching heart out to my sweet Jesus in prayer telling him of my intense loneliness and feelings of isolation and how I longed to have fellowship with the Body of Christ, not just for one hour on Sundays. I said to Him, “I know You are always with me, but I miss my brothers and sisters! I am so lonely! Please help me find my family here as I am a stranger in an alien land.”
The Mass ended a few moments later and I got up to leave the church. When I turned around there was a woman looking directly at me whose face radiated joy and her beaming smile reached from one side to the other. Her bright eyes and glowing face captivated me. She wanted to say something, but I motioned to her to follow me out of the church as I did not want to disturb anyone who remained in prayer. When we were outside of the great shrine church, she greeted me with all the love and warmth of a long lost sister.
Hearing an accent, I asked her where she was from. She responded, “I am Mexican, but I have come from Jerusalem to find the one the Lord is calling.” When I heard her words, my heart leapt for joy as I realized my beloved Jesus had so compassionately and without delay responded to my heart’s cry and answered my prayer of just moments before when I poured out my soul to Him during Holy Communion. My sister in the Lord had come that particular Sunday by the leading of the Holy Spirit all the way to Haifa from Jerusalem where she had been living for nearly 18 years in the community of Catholic ladies of the Prelature of Opus Dei. As she herself said to me by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “I came to find the one the Lord is calling.”
From that very day and for the rest of my years living in Israel I enjoyed close Christian fellowship, and a deep Catholic community life in the Household of Faith with my new family of Opus Dei in Jerusalem and throughout all of the Holy Land.
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)
During our time of living in Israel, my family decided to take a trip to Rome during Easter holy week 2010. As we were driving from the airport into Rome, our jovial taxi driver enjoyed sharing with us his love for his city by telling us many facts about Rome. Of everything he told us, one fact stuck in my memory. “Rome has more than 1000 churches.” The day we arrived in Rome was Holy Thursday. I desired very much to attend the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper. The taxi driver dropped us off at our lovely hotel overlooking the Borghese Gardens. After checking in we made our way down into the center of Rome and began to enjoy our first afternoon’s adventures. We walked through the Borghese Gardens to the Spanish Steps, and then onto the Via del Corso, to the Piazza del Populo, and many other squares and streets until we arrived at the Pantheon. At this point the afternoon was getting late and I was becoming anxious about attending Mass.
I had thought we would go back to the hotel at some point where I could ask the Concierge for information about the times of Masses at particular churches nearby. But we never returned to the hotel that afternoon as my husband and children had every desire to stay in the center to continue sight-seeing and ultimately to find a good outdoor café on one of the squares to sit down for a long leisurely meal and watch the people walk by. I wanted to tell them how anxious I was becoming about not knowing when and where I would be able to attend Holy Mass on this most sacred of evenings, but as my husband doesn’t share my faith, I was alone in my inner turmoil. I felt awkward to ask him to make special arrangements for me. I could not fathom the idea of missing the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper while here I was in Rome during Holy Week just because I did not know where to go and at what time the great Mass would begin! And it seemed even more absurd when I recalled the taxi drivers’ comment about Rome having more than 1000 churches! The distressing thought that this might actually turn out to be the case caused me to suffer so very much within myself.
I lifted my heart to the Lord in my distress right there outside the great Pantheon. Jesus could feel my agony of heart and suffering of mind and He knew how much I desired to be with Him this night during the Holy Mass – to be with Him in spirit, in the Room of the Last Supper and in spirit, to walk with Him afterwards to the Garden of Gethsemane and in spirit, to stay awake with Him there and keep Him company during His Agony. I trusted Jesus would help me somehow, although I could not imagine what He would do.
The Lord’s Supper
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you anew in the kingdom of my Father.” Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:26-30)
The Agony in the Garden
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress. Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me.” He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” When he returned to his disciples he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Withdrawing a second time, he prayed again, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!” Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open. He left them and withdrew again and prayed a third time, saying the same thing again. Then he returned to his disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand when the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners. Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is at hand.” (Matthew 26:36-46)
No sooner had I lifted my heart to the Lord in my distress than my husband said, completely out of the blue, and pointing to the left side of the great Pantheon, “ There’s a church over there which Claudio showed me the last time I came to Rome. There’s a saint in glass in there. You should go in and see it. I can’t remember which saint he said it was.”
I was stunned. My husband had just pointed out a church to me and suggested that I go inside! The fact that he told me to go into a church was quite enough to make me very happy. We approached the Church of Santa Maria Sopre Minerva and the big doors were wide open and I could see that many people were moving around inside. As soon as we stepped inside a well groomed young man in a black suit spoke in English to us asking, “Are you here for the Mass?” I was awestruck. I quickly asked him if the Mass of the Lord’s Supper was being celebrated there at this time. The polite young man acknowledged that Holy Mass would begin in five minutes! He handed me a missal and invited me to join them. I was overjoyed! My husband asked how long the Mass would last and after the young man answered him, he graciously permitted me to stay for the two hour celebration and told me that he would come back for me after the Mass had ended.
I found a seat in the middle of the huge church which was filled to capacity with the faithful. Observing around me I could see from a distance that under the high altar there was the glass sarcophagus which held the incorrupt body of St Catherine of Sienna. Looking around I also noticed that I was nearly the only female in the entire church. The church was filled with men. I wondered who they all were. I assumed they must be a pilgrim group visiting Rome during Holy Week. Mass began and my heart flew upwards into the Heart of Jesus. I was so grateful to Jesus for answering my heart’s desire to be able to be with Him at the Holy Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper in Rome and I was in a state of immense joy and awe-struck wonder over the way He had brought events to pass. How great is the Lord and what love and compassion He has for His children!
As the Mass progressed I felt so peaceful and joyful and safe, as if I was in my own home, like being with a dear family. Even though I was practically the only woman amongst a thousand men, I felt I was amongst all my brothers, the dearest of brothers. I was with my own family. God our Father was present, Jesus our Brother was with us, Mary our Mother too, and all our brother and sister saints in Heaven were also present with us there during the solemn celebration of the Eucharist, and all the members of the Body of Christ on earth were also united with us in this spiritual Household of Faith. Something else also felt so familiar to me and I could not put my finger on it. Then, when the general intercessions were made, St Jose Maria Escriva, the Founder of Opus Dei was named, and then I realized that all these men from all over the world were of the family of Opus Dei!
The Lord had sent the Mexican holy lady of Opus Dei to find me in Haifa in order to end my isolation and loneliness during my first year in Israel and to bring me into fellowship with these sisters in Jerusalem. Then when I was yet again a stranger in a foreign city our Good Shepherd led me right into the midst of my Opus Dei family in Rome! Remember there are more than 1000 churches in Rome! Only Our Great God can do such marvels!
Remember also that God our Father is calling you into His Family of Love through His Son Jesus Christ, Our Lord who came to earth to save us from our sins and by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead Jesus opened for us the door to Eternal Life. Jesus is our older Brother and the Head of God’s Household of Faith. He invites you to trust in Him, follow Him and He will lead you to the Heavenly Home of His Father and ours, and to all our brothers and sisters of the Household of Faith who have gone before us.
Have you ever felt lost and confused about which way to go? I have. Recently I was questioning whether some steps I had taken with regard to this writing apostolate were what the Lord desired. I want to be in and do only His Will. After a period of some struggle within my spirit, I lifted up a cry to the Lord for clarity.
During that intimate time of union with Jesus after receiving Him in Holy Communion He helped me understand that I had been “wandering” and that I should “take His Hand again” and permit Him to guide me as a father leads his little child and He will take me and our work together where He wants us to go. Because I have responded to Jesus, I feel very peaceful again and secure.
Our Lord cares for us at all times and keeps watch over us every moment of our lives. He desires that we always are safe in His love. To be united to Him in love we must have a relationship with Him through prayer and through obedience to His loving commandments and docility to His Spirit.
The Holy Spirit reminded me of an experience I had while in Israel that reveals the Good Shepherd’s care for and guiding of His sheep, the unity with the heart and mind of Jesus that comes through prayer and the fruit of such prayer: that the work of the Lord is accomplished and His will is done.
Not long after my family moved to Israel I journeyed from the town where we were living along the coast to Jerusalem one day on my own. I did not know the city and knew nobody yet in the city. My goal was to drive up to Jerusalem and park outside the old city walls and enter through the Damascus Gate. From there I would walk through the old city streets and make my way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and pray a rosary there. I would take my time sauntering through the narrow cobblestone streets, soaking in the atmosphere and looking at the stores and shrines along the way and begin to get my bearings in this foreign country and in this mysterious, majestic and holy city.
I rejoiced when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built like a city
that is closely compacted together.
There the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD,
As it was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
There are the thrones of justice,
the thrones of the house of David.
For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
“May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your ramparts,
prosperity within your towers.”
For the sake of my brothers and friends I say,
“Peace be with you.”
For the sake of the house of the LORD, our God,
I pray for your good. (Psalm 122)
I walked for long time. After a while I realized I was completely lost. I did not know where I was. I had wandered into an area of the old city where there were not so many people around. I found myself on a street that seemed like a back alley far from the beaten path and I did not know which way to turn.
There was no one to whom I could ask directions. I was all alone. Although it was daylight, I felt suddenly nervous to be all alone in a big strange city on the other side of the world, not even knowing if I were in a safe area of the city as I had surely left the tourist and pilgrim area. Where were the people?
I was disoriented and had no sense of which way to go to find my way back to where I had come from. Then in my disquiet I lifted my heart to Jesus and He could see my distress. I don’t recall if I used any words in my prayer crying out to the Lord for help. I know He is always with me. I know that even if there is no one else around, He is there. He is always with me and Jesus Himself said that He would never forsake us or leave us! I stood there at a bend in the alley and looked around. I was all alone in this foreign city seven thousand miles from home and lost and very uneasy.
As I pondered in faith the knowledge of the truth that my Lord Jesus is always with me, I calmed myself. Just then, two women came around the corner of the alleyway and began walking towards me. As they drew nearer, one of them called out, “Ann!” I was struck with complete surprise and total be-wilderment as I wondered how in the whole wide world could my own name be called out like that by strangers. Who could know my name? How can this be? Then I saw their faces and realized that these two women were part of a Catholic group that lived outside of the old city of Jerusalem.
I had been introduced to them in a brief introduction a few weeks before when I had been invited to join in a “tour” of a holy site with others from their group. They had remembered me! And more amazingly, they had appeared “out of no-where” here in the old city on this remote back alley way right after I had called out to the Lord in my distress to help me. I was overjoyed when I realized our compassionate Lord had instantly answered my prayer and delivered me from my fear!
I told them how I had ventured to Jerusalem that day on my own and had gotten lost and ended up there in that back alleyway all alone. I told them that I had just prayed to Jesus asking His help as I was getting scared. I asked them what they were doing in Jerusalem on this little alley-way. They then told me that they had come into the old city to go to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in order to pray the rosary! That is where they were heading and what they were intending to do! I was utterly amazed. I shared with them that that too was my intention but that I had gotten lost.
I told them that the Lord had clearly sent them to me to help me find my way! Our joy was immense as we rejoiced at Jesus’ kindness and care for His children. They led me through the narrow cobblestone back streets of Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and together we entered and went to the back chapel where on our knees before the Good Shepherd of our souls we poured our hearts of love out to Him while praying the holy rosary.
After we parted I made my way back the now familiar path to the Damascus Gate where I departed the old city and picked up my car. As I drove the highway home to the coastal town I worshipped Jesus with all my heart. So enraptured in prayer was I that I missed the exit of the highway to my town. I took the following exit, and at the bottom of the exit ramp I stopped at the traffic light.
There was a man standing there and he was seeking a ride. Generally I did not pick up hitch-hikers, but having been in a near state of ecstasy I was not thinking. My window was half rolled down and he leaned forward and asked where I was headed and if he could catch a ride. I joyfully told him that I was going near to the place where he wanted to go, and so I would be happy to take him.
As I mentioned, I was quite beside myself in joy having been praising Jesus all the way from Jerusalem on the account of His rescue of me in that alleyway by the remarkable way He affected it. Therefore, I was not fully concentrated on the man getting into my car. As we drove away I looked over at him and was suddenly struck by the fact that he was dressed in the religious attire of the Jews and on his lap was a huge book with gold-leaf pages and an impressive gilded cover.
He looked at me and asked, “did you make Alliyah?” I understand what he was asking me. He wanted to know if I was a Jew who had returned to Israel under the law of birthright. I smiled and pointed to my crucifix hanging from my front mirror, and sweetly told him, “No, I am a Christian,” at which point we both suddenly fell quiet.
I had not realized my hitch-hiker was a Yeshiva student who was to become a rabbi, and he did not know that he had hopped into the car of “a goyim” (meaning: a gentile/of the nations) as he afterwards in complete seriousness referred to me! But just as in the back alleyway Jesus had brought the holy ladies to me, our Lord had also brought this encounter about with Itzhak, the rabbinical student!
After a moment of silence the Holy Spirit moved and a deep and intense conversation began and what a conversation it was!
The drive took only about half an hour to the bus stop where I would ultimately bid Itzhak a fond farewell and “Godspeed.” As the busses pulled in and out and the passengers got on and off, we sat there for over two hours in my stopped car with the engine running conversing together about the Lord God and His Word.
Izthak, at one moment in his utter exasperation, as the Holy Spirit was assisting me to eloquently and accurately expound and unfold the true meaning of the Old Testament scriptures of Micah, Jeremiah, Daniel and Isaiah and their prophetic fulfillment in Jesus as the true Messiah of the Jews, Itzhak cried to me, “I am not allowed to listen to a goyim, or a woman, only my rabbi! ”
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone…..For a Child is born to us, a Son is given us; upon His shoulder dominion rests. They name Him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, From David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which He confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this! (Isaiah 9:6)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” (Matthew 2:1-6)
But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne; and the rest of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel. He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, His God; and they shall remain, for now His greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; He shall be peace. (Micah 5:2)
But nonetheless Itzhak just could not leave me. He seemed powerless to be able to with-draw himself from my car – although of course, he was free to leave at any time. I was surely not holding him hostage! – for the truth is that Itzhak was completely captivated by the Holy Spirit who was convicting his heart and mind of the Truth of Jesus Christ, who is the long-awaited Messiah of the Jews.
He was simply awe- struck by the truth that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Living God of Israel could be known personally and intimately (by a woman!) through the Person of Jesus Christ, the Father’s Only Begotten Son, who is God incarnate, the Lord of lords, the King of kings, the Son of David, the Messiah and King of the Jews, and that Jesus loves him (Itzhak) so much that He died for him personally to save him from his sins.
Itzhak who was literally trembling from the Presence of the Holy Spirit who was powerfully with us in the car thanked me for all that had been shared and upon leaving he asked me for my telephone number. I gladly gave it to him and I assured him that night or day I would be willing to meet with him anywhere he wanted to share with him the Lord Jesus Christ – the lover of his ( Itzhak’s) soul and the Good Shepherd of Israel.
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.
What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus answered and said to him, “How can this happen?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?
Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.
If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3: 1-17)
As he was leaving my car I told Itzhak I would always keep him in my prayers. I also encouraged him to pray to his Messiah, Jesus that same night and that surely Jesus would hear and swiftly respond to his call. As Itzhak was departing I also reassured him he was travelling on the right road to eternity!
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
During these past five years, I have been dealing with many serious issues in my family: a mother with late stage cancer, a father who suffers from extreme anxiety, a daughter who suffers from depression and anxiety, an alcoholic sister, and my own experience of battling breast cancer, to name just some of the many trials I have had to face and intense worries for those I love. Jesus has stayed close with me and helped me gradually accept each of these challenges and struggles bringing me into His peace and giving me His calm assurance of His loving presence in the midst of these heavy storms of life.
This past August I took a trip to visit my dear friend, Marianne in her home country of Holland. One evening we paid a visit to one of her Dutch friends and shared a meal together. As the three of us are Christians we shared our faith in prayer and through exchanging some of our personal issues with each other and testifying to the goodness of the Lord in each of our lives. At one point during our conversation, AnnaLies said to me, “The Lord is working quietly behind the scenes.” She was reassuring me, with regard to my cares over the seemingly un-surmountable problems of my family that Our Lord was indeed at work concerning them. She encouraged me to “cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you…”(Psalm 55:22) and that I should trust Jesus even more and have stronger faith as “…with people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
About a week after I returned home from Holland I attended a prayer group on a Thursday morning with a group of devout Catholic women, the majority of whom I had never met before. Towards the end of the prayer time two of the ladies went around to each woman and laid hands on each of the ladies present and prayed over us in the Holy Spirit. They came to me and prayed over me. They moved on to the woman seated next to me on my right and prayed over her and then on to the woman to her right and so forth. As soon as the woman to my right had been prayed over she turned to me and spoke to me privately, saying, “The Lord has something He would like for me to tell you. He said: He is working in a hidden way.” Upon hearing this word I was overjoyed. I had never met this woman before and she did not know me at all! I knew for certain, however, that through these words, the Holy Spirit was truly speaking to me to encourage my faith and trust in Him just as AnnaLies had exhorted me to do! Our Lord had communicated to me the same message that He was working mysteriously behind the scenes. We rejoiced together when I shared with her the previous word I had been given from the Holy Spirit through AnnaLies in Holland just a short while before!
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! (Psalm 55:22 NLT)
After this experience I knew which should be the next account that Jesus would have me share with you. In 2006 I used to go to a particular Catholic gift shop in the town where I used to live at that time. I had come to be friendly with one of the sales assistants there. She was a grandmother. She knew that I was soon to leave on a trip to the Holy Land that summer and she requested of me that during my trip I would pray for her grandson who suffered from a serious degenerative illness. (I can’t recall which disease she said it was. I think it was spinal muscular atrophy.) She wrote the name of her grandson on a small piece of paper and gave it to me and asked that I place it in one of the holy shrines for her while I was in the Holy Land. I folded the little piece of paper with her grandson’s name on it and put it in my wallet assuring her I would pray to Jesus for her grandson’s healing and that I would leave the written prayer request in a special place in the Holy Land. I told her I would let the Holy Spirit guide me as to in which shrine I should leave her written prayer intention.
I left shortly thereafter for my trip to the Holy Land with my family. We visited our own extended family there and as was our custom during every trip we went around to all the holy places. During these travels, somehow I lost the little piece of paper with the grandmother’s prayer intention written on it. When I discovered I had lost the paper, I felt very sad. I felt so badly in my heart knowing how important this was for the grandmother, not only that I would pray for her grandson’s healing to Jesus at one of the most holy places which He had sanctified by His holy Presence there, but also that I should leave the prayer intention physically at one of the holy sites where Christ in His flesh had been while He walked on this Earth.
One day my husband and I drove to Mount Tabor, the place of the Transfiguration of Christ. While on the Mount I prayed to Jesus for my own husband’s conversion – that one day he would come to faith in Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. My husband at that time was a professing atheist. While we travelled together to all these holy Christian sites, he did so for purely for my benefit, (and may the Lord bless him for his expression of love to me in this wonderful way!) As we were descending the steep mountain by car down the winding road, a sudden and strong desire came into my heart. Many times we had been to Mount Tabor during past visits to Israel. Once down from the mountain back onto the flat land the highway passes a small village called NAIN. We had passed in our car by this village many, many times and had never entered into the village. At the entrance to the village of Nain is a brown tourist sign that marks the place as a biblical spot. As we were driving near to the village, the desire to enter it arose strongly in my heart. But I did not ask my husband to go in this time as during all the other visits to Israel when I had requested this to my husband he always gave some excuse not to enter. My heart was lifted high to the Lord with the strong desire to go into the village as we approached it along the highway. It was almost as if my heart was burning. To my utter astonishment, my husband slowed the car and said to me without my asking him, “Do you want to go in to see?” I couldn’t believe it! This was remarkable! In that moment, I knew full well in my heart it was the complete working of the Holy Spirit to move him to this action. But I had no idea why or what was in store for us.
We wound our way through the narrow small streets looking for a sign that would show us the way to the holy site somewhere hidden in the village. The village is no longer a Jewish or Christian village since the Islamic period. It is today a Muslim village. We searched the skyline and saw a high stone structure in the middle of the village. We headed for it. When we arrived at the building, we saw that it was an ancient church. The sign indicated it was part of the Franciscan Custody of Christian sites in the Holy Land. It was not being used for daily worship as the village has no Christians living there. We approached the historic church and rattled the big wooden door. It was locked. There was a small Arab house next to the church. A Muslim woman came out and my husband began to speak with her in Arabic. She explained that the church was closed. It was only opened for pilgrim groups by pre-arrangement through tour guides. She went into her modest home and returned carrying a large ancient key – the sort you might see in a movie depicting the middle ages. I was delighted. She was going to let us in to see this ancient shrine church which had been built to commemorate the miracle that Jesus performed in this little dusty village about 2000 years ago – the raising of the widow’s son.
Soon afterward He journeyed to a city called Nain, and His disciples and a large crowd accompanied Him. As He drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and He said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.” This report about Him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region. (Luke 7: 11-17)
The Muslim woman put the huge key into the keyhole and opened the door. My husband remained outside. He did not want to enter the church. I stepped through the huge wooden doorframe into the ancient solid stone church. Inside it was nearly bare. It had an altar with candles on it and a solitary kneeler for prayer positioned in front of the altar. It was cold and damp and austere. I kneeled on the kneeler and began my prayers recalling this tremendous miracle that Our Lord had performed out of his compassionate love and mercy and great power to raise the boy back to life and restore him to his grieving mother. I thought of the grandmother’s agonizing heart for her very sick grandson and recalled her prayer petition. I prayed for the boy’s healing and consolation for his grandmother’s suffering heart.
This sacred site was indeed most perfect to lift up in prayer the intention of the grandmother for her young chronically ill grandson. The Holy Spirit had led us to this special place by first inspiring my spirit with His burning fire to desire and lift a silent prayer in my heart while we drove toward the village of Nain, and simultaneously moving my husband’s heart to offer (against all his previous objections) to go into the little town and find the holy site. The Holy Spirit also moved the Muslim woman’s heart to go and get the key and open the door to us. When I found myself alone inside, it was only then that I thought to pray for the grandmother’s sick grandson because of the specific miracle that Christ did there of the raising of the boy to give back to his mother. All this was the work of the Holy Spirit because Our Lord loves us so much and cares for us and knows our heart’s desires and needs, even before we call on Him.
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! (Psalm 55:22 NLT) Having finished my prayers alone in the old church I walked toward the big door to exit. Above the door hung a huge old oil painting of Jesus raising the widow’s son at Nain. Before I passed out of the doorway of the church the Muslim woman came in and smiling she grabbed my elbow and began to lead me back towards the altar. She did not speak to me assuming I would not understand Arabic. Instead she motioned with her hand in the action of one writing a note. And she pulled out a pen and piece of paper and indicated to me through sign language to write a prayer intention on it. And she then led me to the backside of the altar table where a smaller table was hidden where she pointed at all the written prayer intentions that had been left by pilgrims there! I was astounded. This kind Muslim lady could not know what I had just prayed about, nor that I had been given the charge to pray for a miracle healing for the grandmother’s very ill grandson, nor that I had previously lost her own hand-written prayer intention! I beamed a huge smile at the woman, knowing this was the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit. I hugged her and thanked her for the paper and pen which I had not asked for, nor hinted at in anyway, nor would I have ever known without her leading me of the hidden table full of such petitions on the back side of the altar. I joyfully proceeded to write out the prayer petition for the boy and place it on the altar table, it being the most perfect holy site in the Holy Land to place it! The Lord who knows all the secrets of our hearts wished to help me keep my promise to the grandmother, and to reveal his love and care for each one of us!
When I returned to America I shared this entire remarkable and miraculous account with the grandmother to encourage her in her faith in our merciful and powerful Lord who both heals and saves. I gave her a wooden cross carved from of olive wood of the Holy Land to give to her grandson and to tell him that the Lord sees him, loves him and cares for him. I have no doubt that our awesome Lord is caring for the boy perfectly!
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! (Psalm 55:22 NLT)
The other day I was folding the huge pile of my family’s laundry. I offered this mundane ordinary household task to our Lord out of love for Him when I asked Jesus, “What would You desire for me to me write in order to witness another of Your many precious blessings to all those who may not know of Your merciful and boundless love?” I added lightheartedly, “Well, let’s think on this together!'” And then I turned around to pick up another piece of clothing from the floor to fold when my eye caught sight of the bedroom wall where a large framed portrait of me in my wedding dress at the age of twenty-five was hanging. I beamed broadly as the Holy Spirit gave me an immediate understanding upon glancing at the portrait what Jesus would have me next share with you.
My husband and I celebrated our twenty-seventh wedding anniversary on June 8, 2012. We met in 1982 as foreign students living in London. I had come from America to do my graduate studies. My future husband, a Palestinian from a poor Muslim family from an Arab town in central Israel had come to London the year before me. He had come to London from Jerusalem where he had been working since leaving his village to what he hoped would be a new life full of many opportunities. We were both about 22 years old. I found a small studio near Marble Arch and moved into it the weekend before classes began.
That particular Sunday morning I spontaneously decided to walk across nearby Hyde Park and go alone to a museum on the other side of the park. (On Sundays I did not go to church. Although I had been baptized as a toddler in my mother’s Norwegian Lutheran church and sent to Sunday school until the time of my confirmation at age 13, I had never formed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a teen-ager and later as a college student and then a graduate student I lived a very worldly life far from God.)
As I walked back across Hyde Park I arrived at Speaker’s Corner and there I saw a large group of people gathered around one man who was standing on a soap box speaking to the crowd about foreign affairs. In particular he was discussing the Israeli – Lebanese – Palestinian war which had broken out during that summer of 1982 and a terrible massacre of men, women and children in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon that had occurred. I stopped and listened for a while to a conversation he was having with one young American student about this subject.
Although I had left the Lord years ago by my life choices, He had not abandoned me! As compassion moved within my heart – all love and goodness has its origin in God – I felt the suffering of all these peoples caught up in a brutal war – their struggle, their pain, their yearning for justice, for acceptance, for dignity, for security, for peace, for hope, for life.
I could not hold back any longer. I felt compelled to lift my hand to indicate to the speaker that I too had something to share with those gathered there. I spoke words arising and flowing from God’s love and mercy even though I did not realize this as His presence at that time. In the back of that crowd was a young man who approached me from behind when the session had come to an end and the crowd was dispersing. He was “attracted” to me because of the words of understanding and compassion that I had spoken. The young man wanted to get to know me. Yet, in truth, it is the Lord he really heard – the Spirit of love and goodness – the One all our hearts innately desire to know.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through Him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is brought to perfection in us.
This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us, that He has given us of His Spirit…
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him… We love because He first loved us… for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1st John 4)
And so began the journey of our lives together. We fell in love and thinking that was valid enough reason, we moved into my little studio at Marble Arch “knowing” each other but not “knowing” God. At that time we were spiritually ignorant of the truth that every human being is called to live a life of godliness in reflection of the glorious image of their Holy Creator.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
2 Peter 1:4
By which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
Both of us having long before turned from the spiritual truths taught to us in our youth and following the ways of the world our consciences became dim over the years. We came to believe that it was acceptable to have sexual relations before marriage and to cohabitate. Our minds had been re-fashioned according to the pervading ungodly modern secular world view and we had lost the sense of sin.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…( Ephesians 2:1-22)
At Easter-time 1983 during the University break we decided to make a romantic trip to Rome. Neither of us had ever visited the Eternal City before.
One night we went out dancing and drank way too much wine. We woke up the next day close to dinner time, completely disoriented to the time and place. We regretted our foolish behavior, but not out of shame that our actions offended our holy and loving Heavenly Father, but rather because we both had headaches and felt sick.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
One afternoon we went to the Trevi Fountain where we threw three coins into the waters vowing to each other that we would get married and one day return back to Rome to throw three coins in the fountain again after having been married. Even though we were far from God at that time, in His long-suffering and merciful love He would never forsake us. He would continue to call us patiently and perseveringly to eventually draw us back to Himself.
Some time later we went to St Peter’s, not out of any religious motivation, but as tourists. The exact time we happened to walk into St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II was processing across the courtyard. What a “coincidence” that we had arrived at that exact moment to see the Holy Father at very close proximity completely in the open. We took an entire roll of film.
We were excited to see, not the Vicar of Christ, nor the visible Head of Christ’s Universal Church, nor the Supreme Pontiff of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church or the beloved Holy Father to more than a billion Christians, but for both of us at that time, simply a “famous personality” for whom we had no particular sentiment.
But one day, many, many years later after having being pursued in long-suffering, passionate, merciful love by the Heavenly Bridegroom, I would turn my whole being back to the Jesus of my childhood to receive His total forgiveness for my multitude of sins and so enter into the joyful intimacy of “knowing” Him – who is the Divine Lover of my soul. I can clearly see the tender Hand of the steadfast God gently holding and guiding my (and my husband’s life) throughout all these years and I understand that there is no such thing as “coincidence.”
We completed our studies in London and together moved to America. In 1985 after cohabiting for three years, we were married in the protestant church of my childhood for sake of “tradition.” I still recall the good efforts of the dedicated pastor who tried so hard to share the truth of the Gospel with us, but we still did not have “ears to hear.”
Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God…
And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow His seed. And as He sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!…”
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved…. (Luke 8)
Nonetheless, the good pastor performed the rite of “holy matrimony” before the living God and Lord of Heaven whom we did not yet know or recognize at that time of our lives. Yet, we entered into our marriage with full knowledge of our actions and complete sincerity towards each other intending our solemn vow to be binding “until death do us part.”
Like most married couples, we experienced times of joy and passion, times of hardships and dryness, times of closeness and alienation and lack of communication, times of triumphs and grave moral failures towards each other. Careers began, children were born, illness struck, vows were broken and forgiveness was offered… Over three decades we had experienced nearly everything possible – good and bad – in a marriage. Without the grace of God, we could not have made it.
About 15 years into our marriage I began to follow Christ after He sought me, a lost sheep, and found me, carrying me as His little lamb and gently leading me into His Holy Catholic Church. The years after my conversion were extremely challenging years with my husband who remained an avowed atheist. The hard words of Jesus were fulfilled in our case:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.’” Matthew 10:35-36
After coming into the Catholic Church I began to pray for a miracle. I prayed alone secretly to Jesus that by our 25th wedding anniversary which would take place in June of 2010, the Lord would bring about a change of heart in my husband, and would bless me by giving us the extraordinary gift of a renewal of our 25th wedding vows in the Catholic Church. While I prayed for this dream to come true, in all honesty I could never imagine it as a reality, even with all the faith I had. How little faith we really have! How little we trust our all- powerful Lord! I hoped for it, but I did not believe it would come to pass. It would be an unimaginable miracle!
One morning my husband woke having had a powerful dream. He dreamed that we were renewing our wedding vows. I was astounded and began to wonder what Jesus may be doing. My husband until that moment did not know about my secret prayer that I had been praying since coming into the Catholic Church in 2004. Only the Lord knew this! After his dream, I told him of my secret prayer of all these years. Because of the suffering in our marriage and the work of forgiveness, his heart had been softened and he was able to receive this!! He told me he would be willing to renew our marriage vows in Church!
This was the first part of my prayer being answered by our Lord Jesus – that He brought about a softening and change of my husband’s heart through our sufferings and through the mercy and forgiveness that only God (Jesus) makes possible.
The Lord used our suffering to move us to Israel a few months later. After my husband’s mysterious dream and my revealing my secret prayer to him – as I could now share spiritual things with him in conversations for the first time – I could openly begin to try to make an arrangement to renew our 25th wedding vows in the Catholic Church. So I wrote a letter to a close friend in Rome asking him for his help to set up something thing special for us for this occasion. At one point he contacted me and told me that he was working on something extraordinary! He was trying to set things up so that we could come to Rome and join a small group to receive a papal blessing from Pope Benedict XVI our marriage. How exciting!
The months passed and the summer of 2009 approached. I received a call from Claudio, my Roman friend a few days before heading home to America to visit my parents that summer. He told me very sadly that he had tried everything to set up this blessed event during the entire year, but that his “inside” contact, had just been moved from their official post and all his hard efforts to “make it happen” had come to naught. He had come to a “dead end.” He expressed how terribly sorry he was to disappoint me. Oh well, I guess it not supposed to happen, I thought.
I left for the USA and arrived in New Jersey. The very next day I went to the local Catholic Church in my parents’ town for a daily mass. A short, stocky Italian-American monsignor had celebrated Mass that day. I did not know him. He must have recognized that I was a visitor and not one of his regular daily mass attendees. He came over to me and greeted me warmly. We spoke a few minutes, and he mentioned Rome and Italy. I responded casually that I had been planning to make a trip next year with my husband after 28 years since our first and only trip together of 1982 as young students. I shared with him that we would make a type of pilgrimage back to the Trevi Fountain to throw three coins in it to fulfill the vow we made before we married. I shared about our fateful “coincidental” encounter with Pope John Paul II in front of St Peter’s during that long-ago trip years and years before I would return to the Jesus of my childhood or could ever imagine He would bring me into His Church.
I told him nothing of my recently dashed hopes concerning Claudio’s failure to set up a renewal of our 25th wedding vows in Rome nor the secret prayer I had made for years after coming into the Catholic faith for that purpose, nor all the suffering in my marriage, nor the conversions of hearts that the Lord worked which brought things to this point.
Suddenly, the Monsignor said to me, I can make arrangements for you and your husband to celebrate your 25th renewal of wedding vows at St Peter’s with a private mass. I was astounded! I couldn’t believe this was happening! My joy was uncontainable! I then shared with the Monsignor the entire sequence of events. Now, I would wait to see if he would indeed follow up with his offer. He did. He sent me emails throughout the year apprising me of all his efforts. He identified a priest in Rome who would be the one to say the private mass for us and who renew our vows at St Peter’s Basilica. The priest began communications with me from Rome to Israel. We had at first made plans to have the mass exactly on our wedding anniversary date of June 8.
As June 8, 2010 approached, we realized that travelling to Rome during that week would be difficult as our two daughters would still be in school. So we agreed with the priest to set the mass up during Easter week when they would be out of school for the Easter holiday. We travelled to Rome during Easter week 2010. Early one morning we met the priest at St Peter’s Basilica. The sun was just coming up over the horizon behind the great Basilica. I entered the sacred space with immense joy in my heart as I reflected on all that the good Lord did to bring us to this place and this point in our lives. What gratitude and adoration I felt. He had accomplished the seemingly impossible. He had brought us together through His Spirit, given us two beautiful daughters as the fruit of our love, guided us and protected us all through the years, waited for us, called us, sustained us in our trials, sufferings, agonies, transformed us, blessed us…….and here we were at His doing. Praise you Lord for your unfathomable love!
The priest vested for the mass. He led us to one of the altars inside the great Basilica that had been assigned to him that morning for our private mass. We approached the niche which was the altar of St Thomas. Above the altar was a massive oil painting of St Thomas putting his fingers into the side of the Risen Christ after His Resurrection. I thought to myself in that instance, “how appropriate ” as my husband ( although now with a new heart towards me and respectful of my life of faith) did not yet outwardly believe or profess faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord, God and Savior.
A moment before the priest would begin the private mass for my family of four, an unknown woman approached me and leaning towards my ear, she whispered, “Do you doubt?” I was surprised that she should come up to us in the way she did, being that this was a private mass, and further, I was taken aback by her question. My first reaction was to think she was speaking about my husband’s unbelief. And so I responded to her quietly and quickly, “No, I do not have any doubts, but my husband does.” She then said to me, “May I join you in this mass? I will pray for your marriage and family.” Of course, I gladly accepted that she join us.
The priest celebrated a beautiful mass during which my husband and I renewed our wedding vows and received a special blessing on our marriage and love in the presence of the Lord and our children and the mysterious woman. At the end of the mass, the woman said, “Let us sing a song to the Lord in thanksgiving!” She began to sing a hymn, one of my favorites, of which I knew all the words, “How Great Thou Art,” and I joined her in loud voice expressing all my love and gratitude to our great God who does all things well!
In these past two years I have pondered often on this extraordinary “intruder” to our private mass, and this remarkable stranger’s words to me, “Do you doubt?” I do not yet fully comprehend this mysterious encounter. I have come to believe that it is much deeper than I at first understood. I believe that the questioned posed to me is less about my husband than myself. Do I believe all that Lord has done? Do I truly believe he will bring my husband to a good confession of Faith? Do I trust the Lord fully on my own faith journey?
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he (Thomas) said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see My hands, and bring your hand and put it into My side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in His name. (John 20: 25-31)
Two months after the private mass at St Peter’s in Rome during Easter, and few days before our actual 25th anniversary date of June 8, 2010, my dear friend Marianne and a priest friend Father Avitus from Tanzania who was visiting us in Israel were all together at En Kerem, the place of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth. As we were walking up the hill towards the shrine church, from a distance we saw four other priests dressed in black at the top of the hill where the Magnificat plaques in all languages were hanging in the courtyard outside of the Church of the Visitation.
One of the priests called down to me and inquired as to whether I spoke Spanish. I told him I did. We approached the four priests and we introduced ourselves briefly. Father Barry who had asked if I spoke Spanish never followed up on why he had asked me that. In other words, I did not translate anything for him. There was no evident need to ask for any help in Spanish as the Magnifact plaques were written in every language including English which the priests were all speaking together.
Still to this day, I think back on the absurdity of his question! However, it served to bring us into conversation with them. Father Barry, a total stranger, then asked an extraordinary question to me. He asked, “When is your wedding anniversary.” I told him it was coming up on the next Tuesday, June 8, 2010, which was three days from that day. Bewildered, I asked him why he asked me this question. He responded, “I knew to ask.” He then told me that on that Tuesday coming up, June 8, the date of our 25th wedding anniversary, he would be in Rome and he would lift up my me and husband and our marriage to the Lord at the great Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. Incredible!
It seems to me that this miraculous encounter with Father Barry was purposed by the Lord so that he could perfectly complete the good work that He had begun… from the first moment when his Spirit inspired my husband towards me in 1982, through all the years of our marriage, through inspiring my secret prayer for the renewal of our marriage vows in the Catholic Church, not only as it had been carried out in St Peter’s at the private Mass celebrated for this purpose during Easter, but to correct our alteration of the date to the exact day of our 25th wedding anniversary, June 8, 2010. Thus, in my heart I believe that Our Lord mystically con-validated our marriage in Rome on June 8, 2010 in this extraordinary way! Do I doubt? When I recall all this, how can I doubt? Jesus I trust in you!
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?” …. For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)