South American TLIG Retreat and Evangelization, Brazil
31 March - 6 April 2008
This report presents the True Life in God (TLIG) retreat in Balneario Camboriu in Brazil. Two hundred and fifty people, including archbishops, bishops, priests and lay people who believe and read the TLIG messages (messages which God gives to people since 1985 through Vassula Ryden) gathered to pray together, celebrate Holy Mass and Liturgies around one altar, and hear Vassula speaking about TLIG. Also, several other homilies and testimonies from clergy and lay people took place during the retreat and depicted the fruits of the messages not only through personal conversions but also through charity teamwork such as Beth Myriams which are houses of charity and feed the poor with food to eat.
The trip to Brazil
At the Athenian airport I met with Vassula to travel together to Brazil, our first flight was to Zurich and the next one to Sao Paulo which lasted 12 hours and arrived next day about 9 o'clock in the morning. There we met Marina and Fr. Teofilo who were also going to the retreat, Marina has translated the TLIG messages into Portuguese and Fr. Teofilo knows Vassula and the messages for many years. Now we were four of us and all ready to take the flight from Sao Paulo to Florianopolis, which would last less than two hours and would take us near to the retreat place. When we arrived Isabel and Marcelo were waiting to welcome Vassula and the rest of us, then with their cars we went to Balneario Camboriu, where the retreat would take place. The day was sunny and the 40 minutes drive from the airport to the hotel was through green exotic places and by nice seasides. At the entrance of the hotel people were waiting to offer flowers to Vassula and give a warm welcome to all of us. I marveled at the fact that after 16 hours of flights and several hours waiting at the airports we were now in Balneario Camboriu, a beautiful place in Brazil in a quite period of the year (autumn) for the South American TLIG retreat.
The retreat in Balneario Camboriu
On the first day at the hotel we had the opportunity to see friends and meet new people. After lunch we all went to the conference room where the Archbishop Kissag Mouradian (Primate of the Apostolic Armenia Church for Argentina and Chile) gave a speech about the Armenia Apostolic Church and youth.
Fig. 1 Archbishop Kissag Mouradian speaks about the Armenian Apostolic Church and youth
Then priests and lay people witnessed how the messages brought them closer to God and changed their lives. The next day started with Holy Mass which was led by Bishop Terra and all Christians present were invited to receive Holy Communion.
Fig. 2 Bishop Terra in the middle leading the Holy Mass
After having breakfast we went to the conference room to attend a homily from Fr. Teofilo Rodriguez, Catholic priest in Panama. His speech made us to reflect on the need to be opened to the Holy Spirit and some of the expressions he used are:
"now is the time for us to walk in the Holy Spirit, so that we can walk together and overcome our fears and doubts", "abandon any pride and desire of being more important than the others" and "Christ is not divided, it is us who create divisions".
Fig. 3 Teofilo Rodriguez, Catholic Priest in Panama
After Fr. Teofilo's speech there was time for private meditation which was followed by adoration. Peace, serenity, love and reconciliation are some of the strong experiences that one comes across with at that time, I would say that demonstrate the presence of God. The next talk was given by Vassula and it was about the messages and how to live a True Life in God.
Fig. 4 Vassula is speaking about True Life in God
Fig. 5 Clergy and Lay People attending Vassula's speech
Fig. 6 Lay people attending to Vassula's speech
Fig. 7 Bishops, Priests and lay people attending to Vassula's speech
After the speech there was time for private meditation and prayer. However, in the mean time various people kept coming to the hotel to meet Vassula, I remember that priest (over 80 years old) who was ill and came to see and ask from Vassula to pray over him. After some time we went back to the conference room for adoration, again the feelings and the emotions that came out were nothing else but the proof we belong to God, are his Children, and when we get to know God it's difficult not to love Him!
After adoration, Nick McBride who is a lawyer and represented the TLIG Foundation at the retreat spoke about the Foundation and the reasons for its creation. People who are involved in various TLIG projects (Beth Myriams, evangelizing the messages, etc) had the opportunity to ask questions and understand how the Foundation can help them with their volunteer work. Also, Vassula spoke and explained that the Foundation was established to take the administration work involved in TLIG off her shoulders, thus giving her more time for the messages. Indeed, one can find messages (for example 2nd February 1993, 2nd March 1995) where God asks Vassula to unburden herself from the administration work in order to have more time for His Hymn of love peace and unity, which is the messages.
Fig. 8 Vassula and Nick addressing issues regarding the TLIG Foundation
The presentation of the foundation was followed by testimonies of various people and presentations of Beth Myriams in Brazil. Volunteers who sacrifice their personal time and run Beth Myriams showed pictures and shared with us stories and experiences from feeding, teaching, and taking care on a daily base of children and older people.
The next day started with rosary at 7:30 am, then we had breakfast and after this we boarded on the buses to go exploring the beautiful places of Balneario Camboriu.
Fig. 9 Vassula amongst the people
In Balneario Camboriu there is also a statue of Jesus, called Cristo Luz, which is similar to that in Rio but smaller size and at the foot of Jesus a small city is built. Returning to the hotel a crew from a local TV channel called "Rede Record" interviewed Vassula for the evening local news, they asked questions about the messages as well as why God is intervening in our times.
Fig. 10 Vassula is interviewed by the journalist of Rede Record tv channel, Marina in the middle is interpreting Vassula.
After the interview Vassula and a group of us (about seven people) went to visit the convent "Carlemo Santa Teresa" which was about 20 minutes driving from the hotel. All nuns welcomed Vassula inside the church with songs, what a beautiful choir!
Fig. 11 Vassula at Carmelo Santa Teresa convent
Vassula spend more than half an hour speaking to them and answering questions about the messages. At the end she was asked to bless each one of them, which she did with her crucifix.
Fig. 12 Vassula is blessing with her Crucifix
Also, the nuns asked to kiss Vassula's right hand, the hand which God uses to write the messages. For a moment I realized Vassula was a bit reserved (from humbleness) but then slowly stretched out her right hand and all nuns with piety bent and kissed it.
Fig. 13 Kissing Vassula's hand
It was an emotional moment and all of us there could see the love these nuns have for Vassula, the bearer which God chose to carry His hymn of love, peace and reconciliation to all humanity. At the very end they thanked Vassula again and offered gifts to her. By that time many local people were gathered in the church and asked from Vassula to bless them too, which she did with her crucifix.
Fig. 14 Vassula is blessing local people at Carmelo Santa Teresa convent
The time was about six in the evening and we decided to remain at the convent and attend the evening Holy Mass. After this we quickly went back to the hotel in order to attend the orthodox Divine Liturgy which was led by the Orthodox Ukrainian Bishop Jeremias with Fr. Nicolas and Fr. Dimitrios.
Fig. 15 Preparing for the Orthodox Ukrainian Divine Liturgy
Fig. 16 Celebrating the Orthodox Ukrainian Divine Liturgy
It was a beautiful celebration with lots of chanting and incense! All participants (about two hundred and fifty people, including the clergy) received Holy Communion.
The next day starts with the usual morning Holy Mass, then we had breakfast, and then Vassula's speech was followed with subject "Intimate Union with God". After the speech there was time for private meditation and praying the Rosary. The next event after lunch was Fr. Teofilos' speech which was about love and unity among Christians. During his homily he emphasized on the brotherhood between the Christian churches. He used an event that happened the previous day during the Orthodox Ukrainian Divine Liturgy when the Holy Communion finished before all people receiving it. Then two Catholic priests went to the small chapel of the hotel (at this chapel every night adoration was taking place) and brought Consecrated Hosts to give to the rest of the people. This demonstrated that the Body and Blood of Christ is ONE for all Christians! The speech was followed by private meditation for about 20 minutes and the program of the day was concluded with healing service from Vassula and Fr. Teofilo.
Vassula in Curitiba
Five days already passed and the time came to leave Balneario Camboriu and travel to Curitiba. After our lunch Vassula, Marina, Jacqueline, Marcelo and I departed for our two hours and a half trip to Curitiba. The reason for travelling there is because Bishop Jeremias (who was at the retreat) lives in Curitiba and invited Vassula to speak to the Ukrainian community. In the first evening we met Bishop Jeremias at our hotel and all together we went to the Catholic Ukrainian church for the Holy Mass, there is brotherhood between the two Churches and this is a good example for all. After the Mass we were invited to go to the community hall of the church and have supper with the clergy and about one hundred people (nuns and lay) who where there and had attend the mass. The supper was an offer of the church and this happens every year after Easter. Indeed, the Catholic Church has celebrated Easter and the Orthodox not yet! The day which it was only once for all Christianity throughout the world and is related to the death and resurrection of our lord Jesus Christ, we the Christians do not celebrate together!
Next day in Curitiba was a beautiful Sunday and our plans were at 9:30 to leave the hotel and go to St. Demetrius Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral where Bishop Jeremias and his community gave us a warm welcome and offered flowers to Vassula. A special choir was arranged for the Divine Liturgy which Bishop Jeremias led with four more priests, two Orthodox and two Catholics. We all were deeply touched seeing the five of them being united around the same altar. At the end of the Liturgy the secretary of the Cathedral red a welcome speech to Vassula and after taking pictures Bishop Jeremias invited us to his house, which is next to the Cathedral.
Fig. 17 The secretary of the Cathedral is reading the welcome speech to Vassula
About at 2:00 pm we left the restaurant where we had gone for lunch and headed towards to the Ukrainian community hall where Vassula would speak about TLIG. There were about 200 people (including, clergy, nuns, and lay) and a Ukrainian folklore choir. After their warm welcome Vassula thanked them and talked about the messages focusing on how it started, what are the messages about and why God is interceding in our days. She also talked about intimacy with God, unity and reconciliation. The homily lasted about an hour with Marina translating into Portuguese.
Fig. 18 Vassula speaks to the Ukrainian people in Curitiba
Fig. 19 About two hundred people attended Vassula's speech in Curitiba
After the talk the folklore Ukrainian dancing group performed very impressively on the stage and at the end Bishop Jeremias thanked Vassula for once more for coming to Curitiba. Apart from the enthusiasm that people had and wanted to see and speak to Vassula there was an old man who came close to her and said it was a moment that he smelled a sweet fragrance during the holily.
Next morning Bishop Jeremias and his secretary come to the hotel with their cars to take us to the airport, it was time to say farewell to our friends in Curitiba and travel back to Greece.
God gave us the grace and opportunity to be with Vassula to South American TLIG retreat in Balneario Camboriu, in Brazil. The retreat was attending by two hundred and fifty people including archbishops, bishops, priests, and lay. Holy Mass and Divine Liturgies were celebrated from all Christians around one altar and adorations to God were taking place on a daily and night base. Vassula spoke about the messages and how people should live a True Life in God through unity, humility, intimacy with God, and love. Powerful speeches from clergy made us to reflect on the need to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit. Witnesses from lay people demonstrated how the messages have enriched their Christian lives and presentations showed some of the fruits from charity teamwork, such as Beth Myriams.