Saturday, 24 March 2018

Into the Light .. a story from America

After whistling to get the attention of the city's homeless, who stood in line to get chili and bread, Kellie Ross, clad in a simple white dress and fleece, yelled, If you want to get your feet washed come see me.

In an almost surreal sight, 50 volunteers joined Ross, the co-founder of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy, a prayer group from Bristow, to enter the park in the heart of the nations capital where many homeless dwell, and see Christ in them and be Christ to them. The outreach to the homeless is not the typical sandwich distribution of big cities. These volunteers not only set up a large buffet style table with hot food, but they come bearing foot washing kits. They sit on little stools and humbly wash the feet of the homeless and then clothe them with brand new socks. The air is filled with a sense of reverence as two guitarists lead praise and worship songs. The music was just the starting point for the prayerful tone of Sundays picnic, where nearly 150 men and some women were fed. After having their fill, and while some still waited to get their feet washed, several of the park residents joined the volunteers for a rosary procession around the park. Touting pictures of Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the volunteers attracted more people for the procession as they wound their way through the park. I'm just a fool for Jesus, said Ross, noting that she strives to make the poor and homeless comfortable. I do whatever it takes to bring a soul to Christ. Regarding their mission, Ross said, We are a little grain of sand. Were feeding them with mercy and we try to develop a relationship with them. Were allowing God to use us. She explained, We're called to be servants to others. Everything is a prayer. She emphasized the importance of just being with the poor and listening to them. Ross, who is a nurse by profession, noted that many of them have not taken off their shoes in months, and encourages them to have their feet washed and disinfected.

The ministry is a profound integration of deep prayer and radical action and Ross makes it clear that her passion for social justice does not supersede her fervent love and longing for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, two people who pray 24 hours a day for the intentions of the ministry. Work without prayers is dead. Ross spends time in adoration each day for strength and sustenance in her ministry and encourages other members of the group to do the same. We want to change the world through prayer, said Ross. The image of Divine Mercy is the impetus behind the ministry, which stemmed from a Divine Mercy Prayer Group. After reading the Diary of St. Faustina, to whom Jesus appeared in the 1930s in Poland, Ross felt compelled to spread the devotion of Gods fathomless mercy. The prayer group started with the help of Father Jack Fullen, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Its all a miracle of God. God is glorifying Himself through this ministry, said Ross, who takes no credit for the work. She spoke about receiving Gods mercy in the sacraments, and she added, Mercy is a verb. We pray, we listen and we act with faith and trust. The message of mercy transfigured into action has drawn many to the ministry of the missionaries. Theresa Fortman, 19, conceded that she initially thought it might be weird to wash the feet of the homeless. However, she has found that washing their feet is absolutely beautiful. Fortman, who has worked with the ministry for a year said, This is an amazing way to serve Jesus. I can see how beautiful the homeless are and this just means the world to me. As she cheerfully scrubbed the foot of a resident in the park, Emi Curi said with a smile, This is what I'm called to do. Curi, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church, came Sunday with her two teenage sons. I love the poor and the homeless. They preach to me, she said. I go to daily Mass, but I get my greatest homilies here. They teach me about humility, abandonment, surrender and trust. The most significant aspect of the groups charism is that all their work is done with great love.I feel in my heart that love transcends every affliction in this world, 

Aside from their work in the park, the missionaries have a free clothing store called the House of Mercy. Run entirely by volunteers, the overtly Catholic store provides free clothing to the poor and homeless. Images of the Blessed Mother and Divine Mercy are plastered on the walls and the Eternal World Television Network plays in the background. Instead of price tags, all items have prayer cards attached to them. Although the clothing is used, only the best is distributed,. The shoes and socks, however, are brand new. There is a sense of dignity in giving out new shoes. All who come to volunteer at the House of Mercy are required to spend at least 15 minutes of prayer during their shift. If you cant get into the right frame of mind you cant serve the poor, The main goal is to project Christ. Its not about the food and the clothes. Its about giving them hope and providing human contact. The ministry transcends the temporal needs of the poor and homeless.There's a huge hunger for God, said Ross. The goal is to Bring people hope. We're trying to do corporeal works of mercy. 

After a conversion back to the faith she was baptized in, Ross found herself yearning to continue to learn more about the Church. If you give your heart to Jesus your heart will never be the same, she said. Over a year ago, Ross made a radical decision to give away all her fashionable clothing and jewellry and now dresses simply. God was calling me out of darkness and into the light.

From St Faustina's diary v 742 :..You are to show mercy to your neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

St. Joseph in Sicily ... Providence in action

On March 19th, we celebrated the Solemnity of the great St Joseph. Many offered him a Novena or even a Thirty Day Prayer, entrusting him with their most urgent intentions. One of my dear sisters tells this story that illustrates the kindness of this saint, his humor and his effectiveness.

"I was in a house belonging to the community of the Beatitudes, in Pettineo, Sicily. This house was an old Franciscan convent, very cold and very humid. At that time, there were about 30 of us in the House and we lived in great and very severe poverty. There were neither small nor larger sources of income. We often had many guests who came to pray with us and who stayed for a meal.

I remember that one day, we had nothing to eat. Many of us were young and it was not easy for everyone to eat their fill. Our superiors always told us that Saint Joseph is the father of Providence, and they would tell us a lot of stories about people who had received his help. So we, the younger crowd, still full of zeal, said, "Let's make a shopping list with everything we need, and also add some things we'd like to have", and that's what we did. So in that list, there are all sorts of things and there was something for everyone... even Nutella and so many other things that were not really useful. Trusting St Joseph blindly, we put that list behind his image, in the prayer corner in the kitchen. 

Every day, we prayed to St. Joseph. We were completely taken by surprise when someone suddenly knocked at the door and left lots of bags! We couldn't believe our eyes! We put all the bags on the big kitchen table. We dared not open them... and then someone exclaimed: "Take the shopping list!" It felt like a treasure hunt: one sister read the products on the list and the others looked inside the bags to see if they were in there. We were amazed, it was like a game of tombola! Nothing was missing! Well ... almost nothing!

I remember Piero's face, he just fell silent in sadness when the sister finished reading the list. Only one thing was missing, peppers! "No, that's not possible! Saint Joseph, should have remembered my peppers! No, that isn't fair!" While he expressed his criticism because there were no peppers, suddenly a familiar voice was heard on the stairs: it was Madame Inès, God rest her soul...

Ines was an elderly lady, a widow who lived alone in Pettineo and who often came to see us. Inés raised her voice on the staircase, she was annoyed by something. In the meantime, Piero was grumbling against St. Joseph in the kitchen, while Ines was expressing her irritation.

- 'What's wrong, Ines? Why are you angry?'
- 'Well nothing! I brought you some peppers in oil, and the jar opened in my bag!'

Poor thing! She did not immediately understand why her purse stained with oil turned our home into a party!

No, St. Joseph had forgotten absolutely nothing! He just had his own plan: he wanted someone else to become an instrument of God's Providence, and that was Ines. He wanted us to no longer be doubters, he wanted us to be believers!"

St. Joseph did not have an easy time in his life! The torment of seeing Mary with child, the rejection of the people of Bethlehem, the extreme poverty of the stable where Jesus was born, the flight to Egypt by night and the long stay as a political refugee there, without any regular work nor any income, losing Jesus at the age of 12 with those three days of terrible anguish... In short, this man was weathered by ordeals and humiliations, how could he not understand our troubles of today? As Mary said on March 2nd, "Near Him (Jesus), everything is easier. Suffering next to Him is easier because there is faith. Faith helps when you are in pain, and suffering without faith leads to despair. Suffering that is experienced and offered to God raises us up."

(from Children of Medjugorje Newsletter)

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Language of God

Some years ago a University Chaplain, (who had a PhD in pure Mathematics) stated that ‘Maths was the language of God’ and leaned back in his chair with a smug grin. 

I can see now that he was onto something. But Maths, as any high school student knows, is merely one of the many dialects of His universal language...suffering. 

Suffering cannot be understood or avoided; it can only be felt and journeyed through. From the minor irritations that fill our days to the big stuff, cries out the message that we are not made for this place, that finding permanent happiness and fulfilment on earth is not really part of the plan, indeed any such attempt will be thwarted. 

Mother Teresa framed our future hope well with the statement that “in light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel”. 

It was in one of her homes for the dying that I witnessed a most extraordinary transformation. My wife and I used to visit a lady who had been lifted from the streets by the sisters and brought into the home with terminal cancer. She had, what to me, an unimaginably hard life; it was etched into her angry, weary face. 

At first she was disinterested in anything to do with God. Over the coming months as her pains worsened and the sisters and carers looked after her daily needs, she became more open to prayer. The wards encircle the chapel and the sanctuary lamp burns at the heart of the home. Bathed in constant prayer her heart softened, she opened up, told her story, wrote to people she would never see again to tie up loose ends. The last time we met she told my wife that she had offered her last days and all her sufferings to Jesus. She was peaceful and even smiled through the pain. 

She was following a well trodden path. Her saviour had gone ahead of her and beckoned her ‘follow me’, this is the way of the cross and from the cross into the light of eternity. (Rev 21:4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”)

Saturday, 17 March 2018


Distance no object...a story from Africa (by Dr David Jeremiah)

While serving at a small field hospital in Africa, I travelled every two weeks by bicycle through the jungle to a nearby city for supplies. This required camping overnight halfway. On one of these trips, I saw two men fighting in the city. One was seriously hurt so I treated him and witnessed to him about the Lord Jesus Christ. I then returned home without incident.

Upon arriving in the city several weeks later, I was approached by the man I had treated earlier. He told me he had known that I carried money and medicine. He said, Some friends and I followed you into the jungle, knowing you would camp overnight. We waited for you to go to sleep and planned to kill you and take your money and drugs. Just as we were about to move into your campsite, we saw that you were surrounded by 26 armed guards. I laughed at this and said, I was certainly all alone out in the jungle campsite.The young man pressed the point, No sir, I was not the only one to see the guards. My five friends also saw them, and we all counted them. It was because of those guards that we were afraid and left you alone. 

At this point of my church presentation in Michigan, one of the men in the church stood up and interrupted me. He asked, Can you tell me the exact date when this happened? I thought for a while and recalled the date. 

The man in the congregation then gave his side of the story. He stated, On that night in Africa it was day here. I was preparing to play golf. As I put my bags in the car, I felt the Lord leading me to pray for you. In fact, the urging was so great that I called the men of this church together to pray for you. Will all those men who met to pray please stand? The men who had met that day to pray together stood. . . there were 26 of them!

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Prayer and Fasting saves Souls ...a story from Bosnia

In 1987, my wife Dianne and her mother went to Medjugorje. For a year after the trip, unknown to me, Dianne fasted and prayed for my conversion. I was about as anti-Catholic as you could get. I had been raised Catholic but fell away in my teens and my total lack of spirituality was a really big problem in our marriage. Dianne knew that if she even tried to talk to me about any religious topic, I would be out of there! By a quirk of fate, which is a story in itself, she managed to get me on a plane to Medjugorje the following year. I was thinking about a divorce and going to Medjugorje was sort of an appeasement to her before I left her for good.

While in Medjugorje on the second day, I re-injured an old back injury that I incurred in a motorcycle accident 16 years earlier. I had none of the prescription drug with me needed to relax my back and Dianne and I both knew I would be confined to bed for at least a week, which was the entire rest of the nine day trip! After all of the prayer and fasting she had done, Dianne was horrified that her chance of using Medjugorje to convert me was probably ruined before it got off the ground.As soon as I reached the villa we were staying at, I just kicked off my shoes and went to bed without supper. I was in intense pain and totally crippled and spasmed like a pretzel. I managed to go to sleep and cannot remember anything until the next morning. 

I woke up the next morning and realized that Dianne had allowed me to oversleep. It was breakfast time and I was several minutes late already. I stood up and immediately realized that I had no pain or limited movement at all. For the first time in 16 years I could move my head fully to the left. For the first time in 16 years, I had absolutely no pain at all in my back. Even without the current spasm, my back always hurt in varying degrees, day and night, 365 days a year. I could not believe the way I felt! I walked up to the breakfast room and all eyes were on me as I walked into the room. I felt like Lazarus walking from the grave. Someone asked how I felt and I relayed to them that not only was the intense pain and spasm gone, but the constant residual pain and immobility were also gone for the first time in 16 years. They all applauded and praised the Lord. Unknown to me, they had prayed that night for my recovery so that my Medjugorje experience for a conversion would be a success. I did not believe in healings, especially for someone who was an unbeliever like me! Their faith overcame my total lack of faith! 

Needless to say, my Medjugorje experience was off to a truly great start! Many things happened on that nine day trip that I could spend months talking about. We saw rosaries turn gold, we saw the miracle of the sun, we saw other physical healings, we saw spiritual healings (which I also received two days later) and many, many other wondrous events. Before the trip I was always in back pain and my neck was always stiff. Today, nine years later, I have not had a single pain ever again in the area of the damaged disc. I can lift, bend, etc., as well as any twenty year old and I am now age 50! 

I know there will always be discussions about any ongoing apparition. It is human nature to doubt the supernatural. It is also Satan's intent to downplay anything from Our Lady or her Son. 

I feel like Saul of Tarsus after he changed to Paul after his little road event. I thank God that He did not call me from this earth before I had a chance to start turning my life around and I now know I belong to him for whatever he wants of me from now on. God uses places like Medjugorje to wake up the dead, which is what I was.

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Handmaid and the voice of God,...a story from Austria

Once I was in a packed waiting room of a hospital and there was a woman in a wheelchair. I heard the Lord say, 'God and pray with her.' I said, 'No! No! NO! Lord, I am not doing that here. How can I pray with her? It is impossible without people seeing. I felt ashamed that I couldn't but the voice came again and again, Please go pray with her. So that people wouldn't notice, I crossed the waiting room and pretended to pull something from the pocket of my jacket that was handing behind her. On my way back I stopped at her wheelchair and put my arm around her and asked her what was wrong with her that brought her to the hospital. Then I prayed.

Not loud but loud enough so that she could hear. I knew exactly that it was the right thing to do. 25 years before I had an experience that changed my life. I was living in Salzburg, Austria. Our parish priest sent me to a sick couple to see if they needed anything and if I could help them somehow. They were Evangelical. So I went to their house, it was Christmas Eve. The gentleman suffered from a stroke and he could not speak anymore. So I talked to them saying, I would love to pray with you if it is alright with you. They thought about it for a moment and then his wife said, Well, if you want you can pray. So I did and then I promised to come back and see them as soon as possible. The next morning, for the first time in my life, I heard an inner voice say, Go and see the Davidson family. I kind of pushed the thought away even though I recognized His voice. I thought to myself, it can't be Jesus, it is Christmas, I have to be with my four children today! However, this voice came three or four more times that morning, Go and see Mr. Davidson. Eventually I decided to go the following day. When I arrived on the 26th, I learned that Mr. Davidson had died on the 25th. Immediately I knew in my heart that the Lord wanted me to be there on the 25th and I missed the chance because I wasn't obedient. From that time onwards I started hearing Jesus voice pretty often. Sometimes it is terribly embarrassing, but slowly I learned that I can't push it away, I have to obey immediately. When this voice comes, I have to let go of everything else. Otherwise, I miss the occasion for the graces the Lord wants to give to this other person. I have had many sad experiences where I did not obey because I was too shy or embarrassed. I saw the consequences immediately. 

I am now 76 years old and I have been widowed for six years. All of my children are grown up and have left my house so I work in my parish in Salzburg. I mostly work with people who are sick and dying. I pray with them but most of all I take time to listen to them. If I visit someone in the hospital I usually encourage people to receive the Sacrament of the Sick from a Priest. I think it is one of the most wonderful Sacraments we have and I have experienced so many beautiful things with this Sacrament! People immediately feel the peace of God rest on them. Once I took my friend Fanz to the hospital, he was full of cancer all over his body, and I said, Fanz, do you want the Sacrament of the Sick? He said, Yes please. And I went to call the priest. There were about five other people in the room at the time. So before I left the room, one of them said, Can I too get the Sacrament of the Sick? Of course! I said. I'll get the priest and you can talk with him. If you are prepared to receive it then he'll give it to you. The Franciscan priest came shortly after that and at the end four of them received the Sacrament of the Sick. They never received it before just because no one ever told them they could.

I see so many people dying in nursing homes who need our love and prayer. The worst is when patients are in their last moments; nurses or even sometimes nuns send them to die in the sterile, lonely hospital where everything is strange to them. Why don't they keep them at home while they are dying? Hold them. Pray with them!"