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Mar 03, 2021
Encounter Mar 03, 2021

Going through financial stress and debts? Here’s a solution for all your problems.

Ever since high school, when I read about the fifteen promises of the Virgin Mary to those who pray the Holy Rosary, I did my best to say a Rosary every day. As a student, I promised myself that I would never charge people for rendering any assistance, especially if it involved using my God-given talents. Words of gratitude from those who benefitted from my help, made me feel more fulfilled than any material form of appreciation.

Unexpected Twist

In undertaking undergraduate and graduate education at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) in Communication Studies and Organizational Communications, I had expected that I would always have enough financial support from my family, because we had a service station selling petroleum products. Of course, it is a booming business in my country, Nigeria, so I never anticipated any lack of funds. But as I entered my final year as an undergraduate, the federal government marked my family’s business premises and other buildings for demolition to expand a major road, promising generous compensation.

As a result of the intended demolition, my family had to shut the business and purchase another site to relocate the service station, expecting that compensation payments would cover the loan and the cost of rebuilding. However, six years hence, no compensation has yet been paid. This affected my education, because I could not pay my fees. Fortunately, my other siblings had already finished university.

Weighing Down

God being so kind, I had some savings, enabling me to pay my bills for the final year of my undergraduate studies. In the expectation that the compensation would soon be paid, I enrolled in a two year Master’s degree, but this never happened, so the family business couldn’t bounce back. Towards the final year of my Master’s studies, I had accumulated about three thousand dollars in debt. Until I had redeemed every penny, they would not allow me to graduate.

The stress of my debt was weighing me down physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I felt unable to ask anyone for help because I couldn’t stand the trauma of being rejected. I took to drinking alcohol and keeping late nights with friends to stave off the constant reminders of my penury which beset me when I was alone and unintoxicated. Some of my friends, who were surprised at the changes in my lifestyle, asked what was going on, but I felt too ashamed to tell them.

When the stress became unbearable, I finally confided in my thesis moderator—Professor Oladejo Faniran, who is also the head of my department, and a Catholic priest. After disclosing my troubles, I asked him to approve my deferment request, so I could forward it to the school registrar for approval. He objected, asking me not to give up. He encouraged me to trust in God, to pray my Rosary, to share the problems with others, and promised to talk to some people on my behalf. That night, instead of intoxicating myself with alcohol as usual, I went outside into the darkness of the night to pray the Holy Rosary. With tears in my eyes, I cried my heart out to God, calling for mercy and help.

The Ultimate Encounter

With just a few weeks to my graduation, I uncharacteristically found the courage to disclose my situation to anyone who cared to know, including friends, classmates and even my social media acquaintances. Even fellow students, who heard about it from others, came to my aid with financial contributions beyond my imagination. To me, the most miraculous aspect of all this was that nobody rejected me. People came to my rescue in ways I never expected. I was able to raise the whole sum, with money to spare.

Previously, I had always relied on my will power for excellence, but when the pressure became unbearable, I gave up and become depressed. But now that I am turning to prayer to help me cope with stress, especially the Rosary when I awake every morning, I am filled with a reassuring confidence that propels me to give of my best and hope for the best.

Even when things don’t turn out the way I had expected and desired, my spirit will still be lifted and at peace. I do not feel complete if any day goes by without saying the Rosary, because I cannot afford to miss out on the promises of Jesus Christ, as revealed through His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. My daily encounter with Him in Her Rosary continues to contribute significantly to building my self-confidence, nurturing my daily interactions and setting me on a path of responsible living.

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By: Innocent Umezuruike Iroaganachi

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Feb 26, 2021
Encounter Feb 26, 2021

Read the extraordinary story of Cintia who was miraculously saved from the clutches of suicide.

Joyful Lips

I grew up in a middle class family in Brazil. My father was a paediatric surgeon who taught the students before he moved into Health Management and my mother is a nurse, so there was plenty of money for every material thing—good schools, a beautiful house, delicious food. My father had two families to support, since it was his second marriage, so he worked a lot and so did my mother. Sometimes I didn’t see her at home for two or three days because of the shifts she was working. We had someone working in our house to help care for us and do the housework, but I really missed my parents.

When I was sixteen-years my father betrayed my mother with another woman and they separated. I felt even more abandoned and frustration boiled up inside me as I felt so helpless. Even though we still had every material thing, we were not happy.

Although my brothers and I had been baptized, we had not been catechized. Occasionally, we would attend Sunday Mass but because we didn’t really understand what was going on, we found it boring. We believed in God, but we didn’t have any relationship with Him. Regular prayer and an understanding of our Catholic faith were missing.

My friend and I were lamenting our lack of good friends and the need to build something better in our lives when my brother’s friend said, “Oh I know where you can meet lots of young people who could be good friends because they follow God. They’re from the Catholic Church. Maybe you could go to Mass or a retreat there.”

My friend and I liked the idea, so we went. It was very different to what I’d experienced before—a lot of young people joyfully sang beautiful music and praised the Lord. Then, I heard a guy praying and saying many things that really applied to my life. All the things I had held inside—the emptiness, the sadness and the thirst for God that I hadn’t understood. I hadn’t realized that it was God that I was looking for.

When I attended a four day retreat in this community, it was the first time that I really experienced God. I spent four days crying a lot as I heard so many basic elements of the faith explained for the first time. For the first time I felt the presence of God, so I started to read the Bible a lot and pray every day in my room alone.

A Difficult Terrain

My parents had always emphasized the importance of gaining a good profession so I could get a good job, have money to buy my own things and be independent. I took all this very seriously, but I also felt so emotionally empty, always looking for something. I didn’t know that God could help us in this way.

Because I felt so frustrated with my family situation, when a guy from school asked me to date, I jumped at the chance to get out of the house. Because no-one had taught me God’s way and I did not have anyone to guide me. I soon found myself enmeshed in a really difficult relationship.

We started to do many things that were not good. He started to control everything in my life. Initially he went to church with me but he used that to manipulate my mind. He would use words he heard in church or the Bible so I would be submissive to him and do everything that he wanted. My formation was so lacking that I didn’t understand how wrong he was and he started to draw me away from the Church.

Because I trusted him, I lost everything. He cut me off from my family and friends and even disrupted my university studies. After four years in this relationship, I was in a really bad way, feeling crushed by all the pressure. Finally, I started to pray again when I was alone. I said to Jesus, “Three years ago I felt real love from you, but I’m so sad now. What has happened?” I begged God to help me with the many things that were troubling me. I surrendered everything to Jesus again and promised Him that I would live His way not my way. I wanted to be free and trusted that if God died for me, He would save me.

I didn’t have the strength to break off the relationship, but my boyfriend got a job in another city twelve hours away. Finally, I was able to break off the relationship because he was too far away to come after me. It was like a miracle because I hadn’t been able to do that for so long.

Lean Over the Edge

However, I still held a lot of pain inside from all I had been through. One day, it all felt too much. I couldn’t support any more of this anguish. Suicidal thoughts tortured me and one day I gave in. I went to the window and prepared to jump out to commit suicide. I wanted to take my life away, but fortunately, I didn’t have the courage to simply jump. I leaned out further and further letting my weight take me over the edge. Suddenly, I felt a big hand in my chest pushing me back. I fell back on the floor and started to cry because I didn’t understand why I was feeling this way.

God had given me a second chance. He saved me and I didn’t understand why. I cried out, “What do you want from me?” Then I felt Him saying, “Turn on the TV.” When I turned on the TV, I saw a priest talking about why we shouldn’t give up on life. Tears welled in my eyes as his words penetrated deeply into my heart. I listened intently for an hour as he ardently preached about the gift of our lives. Over and over again he emphasized,

“Your life is important.” I finally understood why Jesus saved me and I needed His help because I couldn’t do anything alone.

My mother noticed my tears and asked me if I needed help. I finally admitted that I did. When I started therapy, I was able to return to my studies. At the same time I understood that I needed to come back to church. I desperately needed Jesus. Because He saved my life and gave me a second chance, I promised that I would trust in Him and learn to do whatever He wants.

In 2009, I spent a year in the Palavra Viva community in their evangelization school. Within a few months, God revealed my vocation. He spoke really deep in my heart and asked me to be a consecrated woman. I felt confused since I had always hoped to marry because I love children. I started to discern if this call to consecrated life was real. Finally I had people that could help talk to me and guide my vocational discernment. When I understood that my calling did lie in consecrated life, I said “Okay, I will do it”, even though I didn’t fully understand. In 2011, I professed my first commitments of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 2017, I made my definitive commitments and came to Tasmania where I live out my vocation today. I am just a limited human being with many, many sins, but if I trust in Him all will be well.

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By: Cintia Ramos Sozinho Amorim

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Feb 20, 2021
Encounter Feb 20, 2021

Sometimes what begins as a harmless pastime can spiral your life into a dark abyss!

Finding My Destiny

During most of my adolescence, I struggled to trust God and from this lack of trust came my decision to entrust myself and my future into the hands of powers that promised prosperity, love and happiness. I turned to New Age beliefs and soon found myself mesmerized by tarot cards, psychics, horoscopes and magic.

At first, dabbling in these things seemed fun and exciting. Because of the New Age practices, I felt I wasn’t walking blindly anymore—I clearly saw the path of my destiny and received helpful guidance for my life. I believed the cards and psychics knew me. They understood what was going on in my personal life that I had not shared with anyone, and because of this, I believed in them with all my soul. Pretty soon, what started off as a seemingly harmless hobby became an obsession that turned me away from God.

Beyond the Obsession

I was constantly consulting my tarot cards, desperate to find answers to my life’s problems. I worshipped false idols–gods and goddesses- -pleading for help that never came. I started looking into spells that were supposed to help me get out of uncomfortable situations or enhance my life. Thankfully, “looking into” was far as I got, but I came very close to actually casting spells. If it weren’t for guilt I felt as I researched witchcraft, I probably would have gone through with it. Looking back, I believe this was God’s grace keeping me away from something that would have led me on an even darker path.

My obsession impacted my faith drastically. Although I had grown up Catholic, I no longer considered myself Catholic. I felt that I resonated with New Age beliefs more than anything else. I told my friends and family I wasn’t sure if I believed in a God anymore. After all, if God existed, why did I seem so hopeless and lost? Why did God work miracles for others but not for me? I didn’t see myself ever returning to the Catholic faith, not after all the “truth” that I had learned about “enlightenment.”

I thought Christians were the blind ones, the ones who couldn’t see the truth right in front of them, while I could see past the lies and deceit of the world. I didn’t know that I was the blind one who was walking through life alone. I was desperate for guidance and thought New Age beliefs would give me something to hope for.

Come Back to Me

For weeks, my tarot cards were giving me mixed messages. They no longer made any sense, nor did they apply to what I was asking of them. I felt hopeless, frustrated.

My Tarot cards were my only assurance that things would turn out okay, but even they stopped working. It was like everything was spiraling, and I no longer had any control over my life. But that was just it! I was so obsessed with control that when I lost it, I felt weak and vulnerable.

I soon realized that God wants us to be vulnerable so that we can learn to surrender all control and put our complete faith in Him. In the end, it was Jesus who saved me and returned me to the truth that I had been seeking for so long. I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps (Jeremiah 10:23). I began to hear God whispering in my heart that it was time for me to trust Him. I opened the door to the Lord, and He did not hesitate to enter in.

After years of crying out to no one in particular, I received an inspiration from God rather than from my cards. God led me out in nature where I felt most at peace and He placed His loving arms around me. I looked up to the sky and God spoke to me, hidden in the clouds on that fateful afternoon. “Come back to me,” He said, and I was filled with more love than I had ever felt in my life. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

It only took a day for the healing light of the Holy Spirit to brighten the darkness within which had plagued me for several years. This is the beauty of God’s healing powers which illuminate even the dimmest of souls! Still, I knew that I needed to open my heart completely to the Lord so that I could experience His grace. That night, in my bedroom, I poured out everything to God. I told Him I was sorry I had strayed so far away and repented of all the sins I had committed. I told God that from now on, I would trust Him with my life.

I placed my destiny in God’s hands and I gave up New Age beliefs. I fell into the arms of a God who loved me as His child. Once I felt the comfort of resting in God’s merciful arms, I began to see that I could rely on the Catholic faith with all my heart, so I no longer felt the urge to be the sole director of my own destiny. I don’t obsess about answers anymore; now I trust in the Lord’s plan for me. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

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By: Ashley Fernandes

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Feb 09, 2021
Encounter Feb 09, 2021

I was praying for a miracle and then I heard the gentle voice of Mary, my mother.

Into Your Heart

I am an only child, loved and cherished by my parents. My father was a devout Catholic but my mother was a member of the Protestant Church of Scotland. However she was very happy for me to be raised in the Catholic Faith, so I attended a Catholic school where I was fortunate to be taught by the Sisters of Mercy and the Marist Brothers. I remember singing her all the hymns I had learned, but, as a non-Catholic, the hymns to Our Lady were unknown to her.

Amazingly, these became her favorites and she would proudly sing them when she attended May devotions and Marian Processions with my Dad and I. She encouraged me to join “The Children of Mary” and it was her love for the Mother of God which led her to join the Catholic Church many years later. I was also fortunate to have a very devout aunt who fostered my love for Mary. I loved to visit the beautiful church of Our Lady of Victories, next to my school, on my way home and spend a few minutes before the Lady Altar and felt that this was pleasing to Her and that She loved me.

This relationship which was born in my childhood continued into my adult life, so in times of stress or hardship I would turn to Mary, my Mother and always feel Her tenderness, concern and loving help. I had a very difficult marriage, due to my late husband’s addiction to alcohol, so one day I decided to pray a Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.

My parish at that time was run by the Redemptorists who have a particular devotion to Our Lady under that title. A week later my husband stopped drinking! We had 14 months of peaceful sobriety, but unfortunately the addiction returned. Nevertheless, I am so grateful to Mary, because during that time, my youngest daughter, Alice was born—a fourth blessing.

Pentecost without Mary?

In 1989, I experienced the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. My spiritual life was enriched by being part of a Charismatic prayer group and I helped run “Life in the Spirit” seminars for several parishes. Then in 1993, I began to lead a prayer group and we ran these seminars again. I have always been grateful for the new relationship with Jesus that came about as a result of my baptism in the Holy Spirit, but became very aware that there was no mention of Our Blessed Mother because the seminars were based on a programme introduced by the Pentecostal churches. How can we have a Pentecost experience without Mary? When I suggested that this was an omission, my good friend John Vaughan Neil agreed and rewrote his excellent seminar, “Sons and Daughters of the Living God” with prayers to bring participants into a new and deeper relationship with their Heavenly Mother.

In I994, I felt a strong call from Our Lady to visit Medjugorje and although the war was still going on in Bosnia, my friend, Anne and I managed to travel there with a small group from Ireland. This led to a radical change in my spiritual life. We were privileged to be in this holy village for the 10th anniversary of the Consecration of the World to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. So on the 25th of March, we took part in a procession up the Hill of Apparitions (Podbrdo) led by a Czechoslovakian Bishop who was a personal friend of Pope John Paul II.

There, he urged us to consecrate ourselves and our families to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, telling us that this was a place of refuge and safety for the whole world. I did this, feeling happy that I had offered such a lovely prayer. The next day, I was surprised to find that I repeated the same prayer, word for word, and realized that it had been given to me by Our Lady. I have prayed it every day since. I have also prayed the 33 Day Consecration to Mary, as written by St. Louis de Montfort, which I cannot recommend highly enough. To entrust everything into Our Lady’s hands and to Her most powerful intercession is to experience Her maternal loving care and find true peace.

A Gentle Voice

I would need all of Her unfailing support in 2016 when my younger son Ruairi, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was only 33, a fit and healthy father of 2 young children. I immediately called upon Our Lady, asking Her to hold my son in her arms just as She had held Jesus and to sit with him on Her lap, at the foot of the Cross. I also asked Jesus that He would only see Ruairi in the arms of His Mother. Sadly, in spite of the treatment that he received and all the many people who were praying for him, it became obvious in July of 2017 that there was to be no miracle. My son was dying. One Saturday at Mass, I sensed a gentle voice within me saying, “I need your permission.” I tried to ignore it, but it continued, gently yet persistently, “I need your permission”.

I knew it was Our Lady asking me to allow Her to let Ruairi go. I wept so many tears but knew that God loved my son and wanted the best for him, so I gave my permission. How gracious is Our dear Mother to ask. Days later, my darling son passed away, but the knowledge that he was with our Heavenly Mother was a huge consolation for me. Now, 3 years later, I can even thank God for the great privilege He granted—allowing me to share in the sorrows and sufferings of Mary. We have both experienced the agony of losing a son. Ruairi chose St. Maximilian Kolbe as his Confirmation saint. Like this great saint, he loved Our Lady and The Memorare was his favorite prayer. St. Maximilian said, “Never be afraid of loving Mary too much because you can never love her as much as Jesus does”. How true! Put your hand in Hers and let Her lead you to Heaven.

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By: Patricia Dowey

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Nov 02, 2020
Encounter Nov 02, 2020

Last Christmas SEAN BOOTH received an unexpected gift that’s etched in his memory forever!

I have received many blessings in my life, but the most memorable Christmas gift I received in my life involved paying a prostitute.

Tentative Meeting

Around three years ago, I was helping at a homeless centre in Manchester, England, where we shared the Gospel with people who came each Sunday for a meal. One of the men that came was a Muslim man. He was not homeless, but joined us for fellowship. Over the course of a few months, we struck up a close bond, sharing about our respective faiths. Often our conversations would last for hours. As Christmas drew nearer, I explained how special Christmas time was for us as Christians and asked if he would like to join me at Midnight Mass. He gladly accepted the invitation, since he had never been in a Catholic Church, let alone attended a service.

At the same time, I was also volunteering with a city centre, Catholic Church, who worked with a charity providing meals and a bed for homeless asylum seekers. Many of these men were also Muslim. By the grace of God, I was on the rota to sleep over on Christmas Eve. It was all hands to the pump since the priests were busy preparing for the celebration of Mass. As we shared a meal that night, I invited the men to come to Holy Mass and five of them accepted the invitation. I explained I had to pick up a friend but would be back before Mass started.

After picking up my Muslim friend, we drove into the city centre. Along the way, we noticed a distressed lady waving her hands at us. Although I thought she was a prostitute, I turned the car around to make sure she was okay. When I wound the window down, she begged me for a lift to the pharmacy because there were no buses running and it closed at midnight. I agreed and as we drove, she leaned forward from the back seat and asked if I would ‘like some business’. I declined her offer, explaining that we believed in God and were on the way to attend a church service. Then, I invited her to join us.

Need for Money

She apologised if she had offended us and said she could not come because she had to ‘earn some money’ on the streets. We reached the pharmacy in time and she went inside. I felt inspired to follow her inside to ask if I could pray with her. While her prescription was being prepared, she closed her eyes and held out both of her hands. We prayed, standing at the counter, holding hands. It was beautiful. She was so open.

After we came out, I asked her once more to join us, but again she explained that her need for money prevented her from coming. In that moment, I had a thought. I’d brought money for the collection during Mass, but if I spent it bringing her to God’s house, that was still giving it to the Church. Potentially, that could open her heart to encounter Jesus in the Mass, where Heaven meets earth, whilst also keeping her from potential evil. I offered her the money, explaining that it would only be an hour long and, at the very least, would be warmer than standing on the street. She deliberated and eventually agreed. My heart skipped a beat as I thanked God. When we arrived at the church at two minutes to midnight, the asylum seekers were waiting for us on the steps. I was in absolute awe of God. Before we all went inside, I asked everyone if we could pray together. I asked for The Lord’s blessing on each one of these beautiful people, that they would each feel welcome and for the Christ’s peace to rest upon them all. The lady asked if I was a priest and looked surprised when I laughed and said “No.”

Sobbing Like a Baby

As we walked in, if felt so surreal, I thought that I should pinch myself, I felt so blessed. Only God could have arranged this. I stood with tears in my eyes, thanking God, in absolute awe of His goodness, thanking Him for allowing me to be in His presence with my new group of friends. The gratitude and love in my heart exploded. There was nowhere else in the world, I would rather have been.

During reception of Holy Communion, I explained how they could receive a personal blessing from Christ through the priest. The lady said, ‘Look at me. Look at what I am wearing. People will look at me. I can’t go up there’. I told her that if they were truly Christians, they would not judge her, because Jesus exhorted us not to judge, lest we be judged for the sins we are ashamed of. I explained how Jesus came for the sinners, those on the edge of society, the outcasts. He even came to the defence of a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). He often ate and drank with tax collectors and prostitutes, assuring her that she was both worthy and welcome.

The Muslim man heard our every word and agreed. I told her that the Lord’s eyes were the only eyes that she needed to be conscious of. She went up, sobbing like a baby. If only every person went for a blessing or Holy Communion aware of their own unworthiness and brokenness like this beautiful child of God, we would have a very different church.

A priest once told me in Confession; ‘The Church is not an exclusive club for saints, but a hospital for sinners’. Saint Paul also reminds us that ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). ALL of us!

As we came back to our seats, she cried again. The asylum seekers and Muslim man also went up to receive Christ’s blessing, through the priest. As I contemplated the reality of Jesus being truly present within me through Holy Communion, I was able to pray with even more love for my companions.

The Greatest Gift

As The Mass concluded, the priest wished everybody a happy Christmas before the final blessing. In typical, reserved Catholic style, there was not much of a response, apart from one person—my lady friend, who replied, “And a very merry Christmas to you too Father.” Instantly, I beamed with a massive smile and my insides lit up. The priest, almost shocked, smiled and thanked her. As people turned to see who had spoken, she said ‘Well, he said it to us!’. Nobody could deny saying Amen to that.

I mentioned in the beginning that this was the most memorable Christmas gift I had received and what an absolute honor, privilege and blessing it was to be with these beautiful human beings that night. Nothing can compare, though, to the very first and greatest gift the whole world received over 2000 years ago, at that very first Christmas—when God Himself took on human flesh to become a helpless baby; when the Light was born into our darkness and the world was changed forever.

This is the true message of Christmas; welcoming Jesus into our lives—for the first time or once again. This is the real giving and receiving. Allowing Him to be born inside us, welcoming Him with joy, love, awe, and wonder. He gives Himself to us every moment of every single day. We must hear and respond like the shepherds, who were invited to come and see. After they encountered Jesus, they went away ‘glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard’ (Luke 2:20). We must also be like the angels, God’s messengers, inviting and leading people to discover Jesus for themselves.

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’ (Isaiah 9:2). This Christmas, will you witness to this Light, to those in the darkest of places? The lonely, the depressed, the oppressed, the rejected, the dejected, the forgotten, the lost, the abandoned, the sick, the homeless, the prisoners, the elderly, the orphans and the widows? You may not have to look far. These could be members of your own household or family. It could be as simple as remembering them in your prayers. Or will you put yourself out this Christmas to personally share the greatest gift that anybody could ever wish to receive—the gift of Jesus Christ? Make this your most memorable Christmas for other people, as well as yourself.

“We must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

Let us remind the world that Christmas is about Christ.

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By: Sean Booth

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Nov 02, 2020
Encounter Nov 02, 2020

Have you heard about one of the earliest recorded Eucharistic miracle?

Did you know that the earliest recorded Eucharistic Miracle comes from the Desert Fathers in Egypt, who were among the first Christian monks? One of the monks in the monasteries of Scetis (Roman-governed Egypt) was a hard worker who lacked instruction in the Faith. In his ignorance he would say: ‘The Bread we receive is not really the Body of Christ, but a symbol of that Body.’

Two of the more experienced monks heard his comment and knowing he was a good and pious monk, decided to speak to him. They gently told him: ‘What you are saying contradicts our Faith.’ The uneducated monk replied: ‘Unless you can show me evidence, I will not change my mind.’ The older monks said, ‘We will pray to God about this mystery and we believe God will show us the truth.’

At Mass the following Sunday as the words of consecration were spoken all except the uneducated monk saw a small Child in place of the Host. When the priest raised the Eucharistic Bread to break, the monks saw an angel with a sword pierce the Child. As the priest broke the sacred Host, Blood ran into the chalice. The monks drew near to receive Communion and when the skeptical monk looked down his bread had become a morsel of bloody flesh. Seeing this, he cried out: “Lord the Bread is Your Body and Your Blood is in the chalice.” Immediately the flesh became bread again, and the monk received reverently giving thanks to God.

This account goes back to the first centuries of Christianity and is found in the sayings of the Desert Fathers whose life in the desert followed the example of Saint Antony, Abbot. The miracle is but the first of many experienced by other holy men and women throughout the centuries. They came to believe that every Mass is like Christmas when Christ comes down from Heaven to be on our altars and in our hearts “dwelling among us” under the appearance of bread and wine.

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By: Shalom Tidings

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Nov 02, 2020
Encounter Nov 02, 2020

In a debilitating condition for nearly nine years, JULIANA ELARDE struggled to find meaning in the pain and suffering, until a pilgrimage to Lourdes changed her life!

It was a day like any other when Juliana stepped into the elevator. She felt healthy, strong and independent, but her life was about to change forever. Stabbing pain suddenly radiated across her lower back and darted down her right leg. She collapsed onto the floor in agony. Despite tests and treatments, her condition continued to deteriorate until she was completely debilitated. Doctors could give it a name—Complex Regional Pain Syndrome—but around fifty medical specialists in eight and a half years could offer no effective treatment or pain relief and certainly no hope for a cure. Again and again, she tried complicated, expensive treatments in the hope that something would make a difference, but to no avail.

Excruciating Pain

She felt hopeless and helpless. From the knee down to the toes, her right leg was grossly swollen, turning purple from lack of circulation as gangrene threatened. Her toes were twisted and purple while a painful, open sore oozed for years without healing. The constant load on her arms from the walking frame resulted in carpal tunnel syndrome which sent pain shooting through her wrists, making it hard to do the smallest things for herself. Even taking a shower was excruciatingly painful. The water felt like nails piercing through the leg and the slightest abrasion felt like a knife scraping through the skin.

Every night, Juliana lay awake in such excruciating pain those 2 hours of uneasy dozing was all she could hope for. “I thought my life had ended. My independence had been taken away. I was so angry with God. I blamed him and I could see no meaning in this pain—emotionally, spiritually, physically—I was a complete mess.”

World of Happiness

Even though Juliana had been brought up in a devout Croatian Catholic family who prayed the Rosary every night, she had abandoned the practice of her faith when she was only 19, occasionally turning up for Easter and Christmas Masses. She had wanted to be in charge of her own life, so she didn’t want God in it. But the more she had sought happiness out in the world, the lonelier and more unsettled she had become. She did not understand the concept of offering up her suffering to Jesus, as someone had advised after her malady began. However, when she was given a prayer card, she started praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet. “Although I had no feeling in my heart, I felt compelled to do it.”

Since Juliana had no devotion to Mary, she was surprised when a friend suggested that she could also ask Mary to intercede for her. A pilgrimage to Lourdes was even recommended in the hope of receiving a miraculous cure. “If Jesus wants to heal you, He can.” Juliana felt like a hypocrite. How could she ask Mary to help her when she had no devotion to her and even feared Mary? But she decided that she had nothing to lose, so humbly started to ask Mary to pray for her.

Peace Like a River

Not knowing anything about its significance, she attended a special Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday. On that day, she made a General Confession of all the sins she could recall over her whole life. Everything changed spiritually for her from then on. She started praying for an hour, three times a day and fulfilled a promise to spend a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament every Monday from 4 to 5pm. Her seven-year-old daughter loved spending that time there with her.

Once she understood the meaning of her pain and suffering and united them to Our Lord in His Divine Mercy, she was able to surrender her will to God’s Will, and trust in His great plan for her life. She learned to deal with pain and suffering by praising and thanking God every moment of the day. He knew when the perfect time to travel to Lourdes would come, so she was at peace.

With the help of her mother and her daughter, Juliana was finally able to join Harvest Pilgrimages on their journey to Lourdes in 2008 for the 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s visions to Saint Bernadette. Paul, the leader of the group was very helpful to her and she felt encouraged by the strength of his devotion to Our Lady.

Waiting for her turn at the baths, Juliana felt very nervous. Since she had been told that the water was freezing cold, she feared it would cause spasms and increase her pain. Before she stepped into the bath, she gazed at a statue of Mary and requested her to warm up the water. To her delighted surprise, when the attendants gently lowered her into the water, it was completely warm. She was overcome with emotion that this simple prayer had been answered so completely, but more was to come.

When they returned her to the wheelchair, Juliana’s daughter noticed with excitement that the dark purple skin on her toes was fading. They were turning pinker. As they wheeled her out of the cubicle, she felt a sensation like cool, flowing water passing over the top of her foot. She kept asking her mother and daughter if her foot was wet, but it wasn’t. The pain in her wrists had also disappeared.

The next day, she went to the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction in the underground basilica. As she waited in her wheelchair in the front row, gazing at Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, she asked Him, “If it’s Your Holy Will, could you please heal me spiritually, as well as physically, so that I can be a mother to my child in the way I’ve always wanted to be.”

When the priest lifted the monstrance in Benediction, she felt a tremendous jolt from her waist down to her toes in both legs. It felt like she was being electrocuted. Such intense pain, on top of her usual agony, made her want to scream, but she gripped the arms of the wheelchair tightly and held the suffering deep inside. As the priest placed Jesus on the altar and began the Divine Praises, the pain started disappearing, from her waist down to her legs, section by section.

Mystical Moment

At that moment, she knew that something had taken place, but what? She was still in pain, but her right leg felt very light. She felt in her heart that Jesus was calling her to go to the Grotto right away, so that she could pray the Rosary in the place where Mary had appeared to Saint Bernadette.

As they prayed the Rosary at the Grotto, she experienced a very special, mystical moment with Our Lady. Although, the sun was shining on her right she saw a tiny light in the sky ahead of her. She had a deep sense that Mary was behind this light and heard Mary’s voice in her heart saying, “Julie don’t worry, everything will be all right. Just trust!”

Immediately Juliana felt deep, tender, motherly love from Mary, and love for Mary spontaneously burst from Juliana’s heart in return. Without judgement or fear, Juliana felt she could really trust Mary. Only then, did the Lord allow the completion of her physical healing.

Her toes, which had been so twisted and mangled, felt like they were being stretched out. She started crying, “My toes, my toes!” When her mother removed her slipper, the toes were wiggling. The pain in her lower back and leg had totally disappeared and she could even touch her leg without wincing, which had been impossible for the last eight and a half years.

“I think I can stand up!” she exclaimed. As Paul and her mother lifted her out of the wheelchair, she rejoiced at being able to stand without any pain at all. “I think I can walk!” she declared, feeling as if she were gliding on a cloud, as she moved toward the beautiful statue marking the spot where Saint Bernadette had seen Our Lady. “Wow! Is this really happening?” she thought, astonished at the lack of the pain which had been her constant companion for eight and a half years. Later, she would realize that the day and hour of her healing was that of her usual Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament.

The open wound on her leg, that had failed to heal for several years, closed up a few days later and healed over permanently. Apart from some initial physiotherapy to strengthen the disused muscles, she has needed no further treatment. She has no more symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome—a condition that she had been told was incurable—or any after effects. The purple, mangled toes returned to normal in Lourdes and have been perfect ever since. The carpal tunnel syndrome, which healed immediately after the Lourdes bath, has also not returned. Her doctor still refers to her today as his “miracle patient.”

Most importantly, at Lourdes she experienced her Heavenly Mother’s love, the moment of Mary, as she calls it. She cherished that moment and nurtured the maternal affection Mary had given her by lovingly praying the Rosary every day. To keep Our Lady with her always, she invites Mary to join her in all the activities of her daily life. She asks Mary to use her as Mary’s little instrument and as a result, “I’ve never been happier in my whole life.”

Our Lady has interceded for her to grant even the hopes she had felt were too much to ask for. Crucially, Mary brought her a loving husband to share her life with and be a wonderful stepfather— modelling Saint Joseph—to her daughter as she entered her teenage years. Even better, he shares her love for Jesus in His Divine Mercy and for Mary. She met him on the pilgrimage to Lourdes—Paul, who cared for her so tenderly and was present when she was healed. Juliana and Paul are looking forward to their pending 10th anniversary.

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By: Juliana Elarde

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Nov 02, 2020
Encounter Nov 02, 2020

You can be instrumental in bringing your life partner closer to God! The story of STEPHEN KING, and his journey into Catholicism is sure to inspire you.

When Stephen King grew up as a Protestant in Northern Ireland, he never imagined that he would one day cross the divide and become a Catholic. The Troubles between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland turned Stephen and his family away from the idea of religion. Although he occasionally went to Sunday School in his early youth, after his father’s death when he was 11, the family stopped going to Church altogether.

He developed a cynical, materialistic outlook on life, expecting Science to have the answer for everything. He felt no need for God and that religion only caused people trouble, so he’d stay away from it. “Being a materialist or a scientific type of guy is a terrible handicap to faith. It gives you an arrogance that is very hard to get rid of.”

After finishing his Geology studies, he worked for a company based at Trinity College, Dublin. Although the significance of the name escaped him, the Lord hadn’t abandoned him. His work frequently took him overseas and he was asked to base himself in Brisbane, Australia. He came to Australia, not really knowing anyone or having much support, but, in His providence, Our Lord took a hand.

Love Is in the Air

On the train to work, he had noticed another regular passenger—a beautiful, young lady who stood head and shoulders above all the other women and many of the men. Nicole Davies felt a strong attraction to this tall, dapper, young man—one of the few who could outmatch her in height.

After six months of admiring him from afar, her sister dared her to ask him out. “That very day, we were the only people on the platform, then we were the only people in the railway carriage, but I still couldn’t speak to him. But when we got out of the carriage and I saw him walking away, I remembered my sister’s words, ‘Don’t ever mention that man again if you don’t ask him out.’” So she finally gathered her courage, ran after him and asked him out. He refused initially, but she persisted.

They soon found an affinity with one another to such an extent that Nicole was already talking about marriage. Stephen was in love, but didn’t feel ready for that. However, Nicole was clear that if their relationship wasn’t headed toward marriage in 18 months, she’d be looking elsewhere. So, after a year of dating, he invited her to join him on a trip to Europe to meet his family, go skiing and do some sightseeing.

A Major Revelation

Nicole was a lapsed Catholic, but her mother had recently experienced a reconversion. Just before they left for Europe, Nicole accompanied her mother to a talk by a Catholic visionary. Something incredible happened to her that night. She experienced a major revelation from Our Lord. Simply hearing that Jesus loved her, changed how she thought about everything. All of a sudden, it all made sense to her and it overwhelmed her. From that time, she was driven in her faith to be an absolutely committed Catholic. While it was very good news for her, it was the start of a difficult period in their relationship.

The movie, “The Case for Christ” depicted a very similar ordeal in the relationship of the atheist journalist and his wife after she experienced a conversion. His feelings of anger, annoyance and inconvenience mirrored Stephen’s. He was not happy that Nicole’s mother had taken her to this meeting and changed everything. Their trip to Europe turned into a complete disaster. “Nicole wanted to see every church we went near, and there’s a lot of churches in Europe.” Every day there were arguments and every evening ended in tears at the dinner table, “I think all the waiters wanted to kill me.” Eventually, she returned to Australia early.

Stephen thought that they were finished. How could they possibly continue together after this? But although personal conversion was far from his thoughts, he still loved Nicole and didn’t know what to do without her. He sought her out again on his return, made up with her and made it work. Within seven months, they were married. “Although we were at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of Religion, I loved this woman and we were morally quite aligned, which I think is very important in relationships.”

There were terrible difficulties for Nicole because none of their friends were religious at all. In any discussion, Nicole would be alone with everyone else piled on against her. Somehow, she found the strength to maintain her faith. Because Nicole’s faith journey had begun from a visionary’s testimony, it felt very foreign to Stephen. He didn’t think that any of these visions or miracles could be true. She was caught up in the fervor of the revert, alongside her mother. He didn’t warm to some of the people she was meeting in the Catholic Church, who, while professing faith, didn’t seem to be nice people. So, it didn’t attract him.

A Favor Done

Over time, Nicole became more reflective and after trying a number of different parishes, she started going to the Latin Mass. The priest was Father Gregory Jordan SJ. He became a big part of their lives and a good friend. One day, he took Stephen aside and said, “Nicole is really struggling with the children at Mass. Would you do me a favor? Would you come along to Mass on a Sunday and just sit there helping her look after the kids, not making any commitment to the faith or doing anything. It would make life so much easier for her.” That seemed reasonable, so, he started going along with her to Mass every week and would absorb things that were going on. He enjoyed spending this time with his children, then chatting with friends afterwards.

“It turned out to be no big imposition for me. Some people can be really intimidated by how regimented the Latin Mass, but I was really struck by the reverence. That attracted me. One day a friend gave me a book, “Has Science Buried God?” by Professor John Lennox who teaches Mathematics at Cambridge. I read this book and it opened my eyes to the possibility of faith. It asked questions that Science couldn’t answer. Our Lord’s amazing universe is much more complex than any of us could realize. How you could think it came from nothing is incomprehensible to me now.

Having sat in the Catholic Church for quite a while, it became very clear to me that the One, True Church was the real answer. I moved very slowly on my way on that journey of faith. The Lord gave me a kick in the pants when I had a heart attack in 2015 and that really changed things for me. It changed my timeframe. I realized that I wasn’t going to live forever. I had better work out what’s real and what’s important pretty quickly. The Lord had been speaking to me all that time, but He had to hit me over the head with a sledgehammer for me to hear it. I’m a bad listener.”

While he was recovering, with three months off work to sit and think, he read the Bible. As he thought about it and prayed about it, he gradually came to realize that he would have to make a decision. “I had no great revelation, but it became clear that it was the right thing to do, the right way to live my life and the right way to be a good father to my children and a husband to my wife.”

Three months later, he was accepted into the Catholic Church. It was a very emotional day for everybody; especially his family, seeing him come into the Church after all these years. Receiving Holy Communion for the first time, he realized how much he needed the Lord’s help. “I’d always been very self-contained and thought that I had everything I needed to keep myself going. In that first Holy Communion, I realized that He was what I needed.”

“When Nicole became a Catholic initially, it was very annoying. She brought something into our lives that I didn’t want. It didn’t attract me at all. The progression came when I met Catholics that I actually admired and liked and could see what good people they were. Father Jordan was a big part of that. Without him I don’t think I would have ever ended up where I am.”

“I rely on Our Lord’s support and sanctuary and guidance now, trying to live my life a different way, in the way that someone who follows Christ should live it. I say the Rosary with the family now and I try to read the Bible every day, reflecting on the graces I’ve been given. I go to Mass in a different way. I am mystified by that sacrifice He made for us. It’s changed my life forever. Even though there may be difficulties, I’ll be a Catholic for the rest of my life.”

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By: Stephen and Nicole King

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Nov 02, 2020
Encounter Nov 02, 2020

Have you realized the power of prayer in your life?

My wife and I have a Christmas tradition of bringing our children and grandchildren together for the Christmas celebrations. On Boxing Day my wife takes the grandchildren to a pantomime, accompanied by some of our adult children. I know the grandchildren looked forward to the panto with much excitement. The last time we did this was four years ago. Since the grandchildren have now all grown up a little, the pantomime does not quite appeal as it used to.

Fourteen years ago, I had a heart attack. After I received two stents and some rehabilitation I was absolutely fine. But 10 years later, at 3AM on Boxing Day, I awoke in a great deal of pain. It felt like a re-run of my heart attack. Because I didn’t want to disturb my wife, I got up and went downstairs to pray in the kitchen. I decided not to call an ambulance, mainly because I didn’t want to spoil all the Christmas celebrations.

I have never prayed so hard or so fervently in my whole life, imploring the Virgin Mary to ask her son, Jesus for this not to happen right now, not for my sake, but for my family. I imagined the heartache this would cause them all if I was taken to hospital. In my prayer to Our Lady, I recalled the granting of her request in the Miracle of Cana. It gave me so much hope that she would listen to my supplications. As time passed, the pain increased more and more. Ten years previously, I had suffered the same symptoms. To my relief, after several hours of fervent, urgent prayer, the pain subsided and then left me altogether. I was so grateful to our Holy Mother for comforting me in my pain and anxiety and interceding for me.

Now, four years later, I have remained completely free of pain from my heart condition and am able to cycle many miles each week.

Trust in the power of prayer.

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By: Michael Maxwell

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Sep 01, 2020
Encounter Sep 01, 2020

Want to be the best version of you? Take the first step!

Missing Link

My testimony is not about a powerful conversion, a life changing moment or a miraculous healing. It is a journey of small steps—a journey where I continually stumbled and fell, but God always picked me up and walked with me. I was born and raised Catholic. However, as many people could attest, this does not always amount to much. I participated in the Sacraments and went to Church regularly, but a personal relationship with Jesus was lacking.

During my university life, whenever I encountered difficulties, I turned to God for comfort. He was always there for me, but I was not always there for Him. I put God in a compartment and I turned to Him only when I needed. He was certainly a part of my life, since I continued to go to Church on Sundays and pray frequently, but He was not central to my life. My own interests and desires were at the forefront of my mind. I never really paused to think about God’s will.

Six months before graduation, my whole world turned upside down. I went through a really deep depression and for a long time, there was only darkness. The despair and hopelessness I felt is hard to convey in words, but I think that many of you reading this will have felt it at some point. When it happens, we go one way or another. We run towards God seeking refuge in Him or run away from Him in anger.

Sadly, I chose the latter. I could not understand why God would put me through something so horrific if He loved me. For the best part of a year, I completely isolated myself. I stopped attending Church. I stopped going anywhere at all. I was caught up in feelings of shame and worthlessness. Thoughts like ‘you’re a burden’ and ‘everyone would be so much better off without you’ constantly invaded my head. My mind was like a prison that I just could not escape from.

Thankfully, that was not the end of my story. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose”. This reassures us that, whatever may happen in our lives, God will work it out for our good. It also lovingly reminds us that we have been chosen by Him and we have a purpose through Him. This became evident in my life when I slowly returned to the faith with the help of various people and incidents that God surely orchestrated.

Baby Steps

This time, it was different. I attended daily Mass and retreats as I truly sought God’s love. However, my mental health struggles kept recurring. There was not any progression or recovery, so my future looked bleak. I was fed up with life constantly. The hope and peace Jesus promised seemed far away. As I said before, there was not a magical moment when things turned around for me as I would have liked. I had to wait for God’s timing. Nevertheless, some small steps helped me progress to a more positive state.

My family is my biggest blessing. They have stood by me through the darkest times and I am truly grateful to God for them. About two years ago, we started reading the Bible for thirty minutes daily—something we continue to do. Even though it can be arduous, especially when delving into some of the Old Testament, it is definitely worth persevering. When we appreciate that the Bible is the living Word of God, we realize that there is an answer in there for everything.

“Satan’s target is your mind and his weapons are lies. So fill your mind with the Word of God”—Greg Locke.

This quote emphasizes how the devil uses lies against us as weapons. My struggles were mainly with my mind and I felt trapped. I wrestled with many sins that kept coming up again and again. The devil told me that I was unloved, broken and worthless when in actual fact, I am a child of God, who is infinitely loved. These are a few affirmations that the Word of God gives each of us:

“I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works that He has prepared for me to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

“The Spirit of God, who is greater than the enemy in the world, lives in me.” (1 John 4:4)

“I am chosen by God who called me out of the darkness of sin and into the light and life of Christ so I can proclaim the excellence and greatness of who He is.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Flawless Love

One of my favorite things about the Catholic faith is the Sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation). Being able to run to Confession and pour out my heart to Jesus has been immensely valuable. Receiving His forgiveness frees us from the guilt and shame which the devil condemns us to. The Holy Spirit helps us realize when we are on the wrong path, needing to repent and turn back to God. As long as we do this, there is nothing to worry about, although we may have to do it over and over again. The further we have strayed from God, the more He rejoices when we come back, just as the father celebrated when the prodigal son returned.

This took me a while to realize and I still have not grasped it fully; I do not need to do anything at all to earn God’s love. It is an unconditional gift that He pours out on us. His love is not dependent on me or my flawed self. It is dependent on His nature which is all loving and merciful. Even through my darkest times and yours, this love gives us hope. In the book of the prophet Hosea, God proclaims that He will “transform the Valley of Trouble into a Gateway of Hope” (Hosea 2:15). This beautifully portrays what happened in my life. Through His love, God transformed my troubles into an opportunity to have hope and share that hope with you.

Step by Step

In hindsight, my pain led me to ultimately get closer to God. He is the only one who has truly been there for me through everything. He is not only the majestic, all powerful God, He is my comforter and friend. I have learned to be more accepting of God’s will and His timing. My life definitely didn’t pan out the way I planned, but that is not a bad thing because God’s ways are higher than my ways. “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’, declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Many small factors contributed over time to increasing my faith. It led me to a deeper appreciation and understanding of God. I also truly believe that the power of prayer has helped me survive life’s many challenges. I humbly request that you keep me in your prayers and that we all adopt a mentality of praying for each other. As my testimony shows, we do not necessarily have to do ‘big’ things to get closer to God. Small steps are all it takes. I hope you are able to take a small step towards God today. He is waiting lovingly with open arms.

Dear God, I firmly believe and hope in You. Each day I rise up to take one more step closer to You. All I ask is for the grace to know You and love You. Let me be enfolded in Your loving arms. Amen

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By: Steffi Siby

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Sep 01, 2020
Encounter Sep 01, 2020

Father Chris da Sousa was blind until a pilgrimage to Fatima brought him a miracle and that wasn’t the last miracle she obtained for his family.

My devotion to Our Blessed Mother started right from my earliest days. I’m Australian born, but my parents are Portuguese immigrants, so we’ve always had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. We would pray the Holy Rosary in front of her altar in our home daily, so I developed a great trust in her intercession.

I was born legally blind in my right eye and afflicted with a pathological condition in my left eye which caused my vision to deteriorate each and every year. As I grew up, my parents determinedly took me from one specialist to another, hoping for a cure, but always receiving the same news. There was no real treatment and by adulthood I would become completely blind.

Take a Risk

By the time I entered early adulthood, no vision remained in my left eye, so my study of Law was severely hampered. My parents were distressed by witnessing my struggles to read big law books with my severely limited vision. So, in my second last year, they went on a pilgrimage to Fatima to plead for Our Lady’s intercession to restore their son’s vision. I remained to undertake my final year. When they returned with strengthened faith and trust in Our Lady’s intercession, they found a specialist who had learned a new procedure in Belgium that might help me. Although an appointment with this specialist was almost unobtainable, they asked Our Lady to help and I was unexpectedly called in for a consultation. Although I was resigned to my lack of eyesight, I couldn’t disappoint my parents after all their efforts.

Immediately after assessing my vision, the specialist said that he wasn’t sure if this procedure would help me. It was also very risky and, because it didn’t have government approval, it would be very expensive. However, my parents had such a great trust in Our Lady’s intercession that they immediately agreed to put up the money and urged me to go ahead. I was apprehensive, but assented, consigning myself into Our Lady’s loving care.

Take a Chance

They started with my right eye—he legally blind eye. The surgeon had said that it may take some months before you see any real improvement, so I wasn’t expecting any immediate difference. But within 15 to 20 minutes after the operation, I could see clearly for the first time in my legally blind eye. Colours and definition I had never seen before!

I came running out of that operation exalting God, praising Him and thanking Our Blessed Mother for her guidance and intercession. As I joyfully embraced my parents, the specialist, who wasn’t a believer, hailed it as a miracle. He was unable to explain this immediate gift of clear vision, after the procedure, in an eye that had never had clear vision.

One month later, he operated on the other eye, my left eye. A repeat of the miracle seemed too much to hope for, but God’s blessing are abundant. Once more, within 15 to 20 minutes, I could see clearly in my left eye. Complete vision had been restored. Thanks to Our Blessed Mother’s intercession and my parents’ great faith and trust, I was able to kickstart life as an advocate.

Make a Change

I had always desired to be a lawyer, but I also opened myself to the Lord. What was He asking of me? I knew that this miracle was a free gift that didn’t need to be earned, but together with Our Blessed Mother, I would ask Him, “Lord what is it that you want from me? Why have you restored my vision when so many others remain blind?” This commenced a period of discernment, as I started working. Even though I felt fulfilled as a lawyer and projected a life of marriage and family, I received a calling in my heart to religious life and the priesthood during a World Youth Day pilgrimage.

I felt overwhelmed with fear and it took me several months to come to terms with my calling. On the 13th of May, during Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in my hometown, I asked Our Blessed Mother, “If this is what your Son wants from me, help me to see this just as clearly as you helped me to see.” It was like a veil was lifted from my eyes. I knew that her Son was calling me to religious life. Her Son was calling me to the priesthood. Entrusting myself into her maternal hands, I eventually discerned that I should give my life to the Lord, with the Somascan Fathers.

Following an ancient tradition in our religious order, when I professed my vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, I also consecrated myself to Our Lady and added her name, Maria, to mine. Our founder, Saint Jerome Emiliani, had been miraculously liberated by Our Blessed Mother when he was a prisoner of war 500 years ago, enabling him to care for the sick, hungry and orphaned. I was miraculously liberated from my blindness, through her intercession, enabling me to give my life entirely to her Son.

Miracles Do Happen

When I was in Rome, preparing for my final Theology exams, my father became very ill with blood cancer. As he prepared to receive treatment, I went on pilgrimage to Fatima to entrust the health of my father to Our Lady’s care and to thank her for obtaining the miracle of my restored vision. On the same day that I walked on my knees to the place where she had appeared to the children 100 years earlier, my father’s specialist discovered that the cancer had completely disappeared from his blood. Once more, Our Blessed Mother’s intercession had miraculously restored another family member to health.

Following years of mission in India, Sri Lanka and Mozambique, I returned to Australia to prepare myself for my solemn vows and priestly ordination. My ordination took place in Mary’s month, May, on a Saturday, in her honor. I entrusted my entire priesthood into her maternal hands. The next day, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, 13th May, I celebrated my first Mass. It was succeeded by a beautiful, candlelit procession, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, through the streets of Fremantle.

Our cup had runneth over until, at the apex of our joy, my mother fell gravely ill and was taken to hospital immediately in an ambulance. I followed quickly so that I could give her the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick – the sacrament of healing. She was the first person that I anointed with this sacrament. It strengthened my priesthood so much to be able to minister to her, not only as her son, but as a priest. The doctors thought she had suffered a heart attack and were giving her medication to thin out her blood. In fact, she had an aneurysm and was haemorrhaging internally.

They only realized this after several days of treatment with blood thinners. Their treatment was actually causing her to bleed more and more internally. She was rushed into an emergency operation, not expected to survive, but God blessed us once again with a miracle, thanks to the intercession of Our Blessed Mother, The doctors were unable to explain how my mother could still be alive after bleeding internally for so many days. My mother explained to them that Our Lady had interceded for her. “My son has consecrated himself to her and, as a priest, he’s been offering the Holy Mass for me every day. That is why I am healed, that is why this miracle has taken place.”

Mamma Leads the Way

These profound experiences have deepened my devotion to Our Blessed Mother. I encourage you to entrust your lives to her heavenly intercession. I can bear witness to the miracles that occur when she intercedes for us to her Son. She, who is immaculately conceived, received the graces, gained by her son on the Cross, from her conception. She was able to say “Yes” to being the Mother of God, preceding Our Lord’s assent to His Passion and Death on the Cross. Our Blessed Mother’s desire to help the couple at Cana brought about Our Lord’s first miracle. Our Blessed Mother’s heart was pierced with sorrow (Luke 2:35) foreshadowing Our Lord’s Heart being pierced with a lance on the Cross (John 19:34). So, she shows us how to follow Jesus, in all our joys and sufferings, entrusting them to her.

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By: Father Chris da Sousa

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