VASSULA'S MISSION IN ASIA - January 1998
Seeing that there was no hope, Vassula told Fr. "X" to give the talks in her place until she could arrive. So Fr. "X" and Sister Johanna left for the convent. Vassula and her companions had to stay the night at the airport after deciding to go to Colombo Sri Lanka to apply there for the Indian visa. (Sri Lanka, like most other countries, allows Europeans to get their visa at the airport.) All of this was very discouraging and unexpected, though we knew that this was not just bad luck; as Jesus said, there is no word "luck" in His vocabulary. In other words, all of this was for the greater glory of God. (Cf. Jn 11:15 on the death of Lazarus. Although, the apostles thought Jesus had made a mistake in delaying too long to save Lazarus, God in fact had another plan.) Of course, we are aware that God knows how to draw good out of evil. Nevertheless, we saw in all of this the hand of Satan who thought he had played a trump card. But his victory was to be short-lived. As Mother Mary had once told Vassula: "Jesus will never ever ask from you something that could harm you" (January 29, 1988). Another thing was a consolation to us, God had provided Vassula with other companions to console her in this Gethsemani situation: "My heart is nearly broken with sorrow. Remain here and stay aware with me" (Mt 26:38).
When sister Johanna realized the situation, she took matters in hand, and she and Fr. "X" worked out some of the practical problems to face in the new situation. Vassula shows extraordinary foresight in her mission, and already in Bangladesh she had asked Fr. "X" to photocopy her itinerary with important names and addresses. These were invaluable in making the necessary contacts to continue the mission. One of the great blessings of this journey was the fact that Sister Johanna had succeeded in getting Vassula's talk to the World Council of Churches in the most important English Catholic weekly in India and the rest of the subcontinent. The prestigious Bombay Examiner had selected Vassula's talk as the cover story for the week of Christian unity, and it was accompanied by an article that stated clearly that Vassula's writings are in complete accord with the Holy Scriptures. This article was to prove invaluable in presenting Vassula in this part of the world and will continue to be a precious blessing. The fact that it was published is no doubt one of God's miracles, for Vassula's writings are still not widely known in India.
The next day, January 16, Fr. "X" arrived at the airport in Cochin Kerala, where Vassula's first talk was scheduled, but there was no one to meet him, once again a mix-up had occurred. In fact, our whole stay in India seemed to be marred by Satan's darts. As we traveled about by car, quite often the malevolent eyes of the Onida advertisements stared down at us. (Onida uses a devil's face as its advertising logo.) It is hardly surprising that in a stronghold of mythological monsters and fantastic figures, Christ crucified is unwelcome as are his emissaries. This latest mix-up brought to mind the words of Fr. "X"' patron : "My brothers, count it pure joy when you are involved in every sort of trial. Realize that when your faith is tested, this makes for endurance" (Jas 1:2-3).
Kerala is a land full of priests and nuns, so Fr. "X" contacted one who was there in the airport who quickly arranged for a taxi to take him to Palai where the organizers lived. After a two hour drive on winding roads, Fr. "X" was able to meet Fr. Kurian Mattom, the principal of St. Thomas college; arrangements were then made to go forward with the program. Although Fr. Kurian Mattom was in charge of the program in general, the task of working out all the practical difficulties of food, lodging, and transportation was taken care of Mr. John Thomas Kottukappally and his wife Leelu.
Although Fr. "X" had never guessed that he would have to give the talks, Providence had not neglected to provide him with sufficient material to faithfully present True Life in God. In fact, Sister Johanna had given him Vassula's talk in 1992 as well as the leaflet The Trinitarian Spirituality of True Life in God. This, plus his own memory of Vassula's past meetings and God's unfailing grace provided enough material for the talks that were scheduled. As Jesus had said to Vassula (and therefore to us all) "I am fully aware of your capacity and wisdom; I know I have with me a nothing ... I will of course choose a nothing to send on earth My Words and My desires without the slightest negation" (May 29, 1987).
The diocese of Palai, where the first talk was scheduled, would appear to be one of the most Christian places on the planet. Churches are numerous and shrines in the form of towers appear quite frequently as one journeys along the road. The first level of the tower may be dedicated to a statue of St. Joseph, the next level to Our Mother Mary, with one of the Sacred Heart on top. The statues are usually life-size or larger, so they are an impressive sign of faith in a land which is not excessively wealthy.
When Vassula speaks of the Second Pentecost that Pope John XXIII had prayed for at the time of the Second Vatican Council, she often remarks that this blessing does not arrive from one day to the next. It has already begun and is growing in intensity. Vassula compares it to a tide which continues to rise until it completely covers everything. This is what seems to be happening in Kerala, where Christians are about one fourth of the State's population. Most of the Christians are either Syrian Orthodox or Catholics of the Syrian or Latin rites. The Syrians trace their conversion back to St. Thomas the Apostle. There are abundant vestiges of his presence in southern India. The Sacred Heart's cry for unity is so fitting in this land so religiously divided. The Holy Spirit of unity is manifesting himself in a dynamic charismatic movement which draws together people of all faiths, including the Muslims and Hindus. These meetings are both prayerful and enthusiastic and many healings are reported, which motivates people to travel long distances to attend. These kinds of meetings often number in the thousands, and these were the sort of meetings that had been prepared for Vassula in Kerala.
On January 17, Fr. Mattom and Fr. "X" arrived at the Charis Bhawan center. About 5,000 had gathered. The organizers had expected more, but word had been spread among many that Vassula was not coming. For us, it was a pity that Vassula could not be there to address the crowd and to officially inaugurate the sale of the second volume of True Life in God in Malayalam, the local language. The first printing of volume one of 2000 books had completely sold out in just two weeks at the end of November and beginning of December. This rapid diffusion is truly a sign of the triumph of the Two Hearts. The people of Kerala make up a very large percentage of the missionary clergy in India, so from this center the message will now spread even to the remotest jungles and crowded cities of this nation of more than 800 million souls. Almost all of them are still waiting to hear the Gospel. A half dozen priests and scores of nuns were present at the moment when the second volume was solemnly inaugurated and presented to Fr. Devasia Kuzhippil, the director of the Charis Bhawan. The first Indian edition of True Life in God (printed in English) was also shown to the people from the podium and placed on sale at the center.
In his talk, Fr. "X" began by saying that he was there as an "echo" of Vassula, who in turn is an "echo" of Jesus; thus the talks were an "echo of an echo." In fact, in a telephone conversation, Vassula had explained that she now realized that the whole visa problem which had occurred was opening up yet another door. True Life in God is now beginning a period when others will have to go about like Vassula to share this message. Vassula mentioned that these talks cannot just be ordinary homilies like anyone might give, they have to stick to the messages. An hour is the right length of time to give the message, and the message has to be delivered in a lively way. In other words, the messenger has to do his best to present the message on God's behalf. In fact, in his talk, Fr. "X" simply presented material from Vassula's talks of the past, especially the one she gave in 1992 at the World Council of Churches. He also used the presentation which is found in the pamphlet The Trinitarian Spirituality of True Life in God. The people were moved by the messages, and Fr. Mattom gave a lively a spirit-filled translation which seemed amazingly effortless and fluent.
That same evening, Fr. Mattom took Fr. "X" to visit the Bishop of Palai, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Pallickaparampil. The bishop received them very cordially. Some anonymous person from Vienna had contacted the bishop about the notification of 1995. Fr. "X" explained to him about the latest information from the Bishops of Brazil who had spoken about Vassula to Cardinal Ratzinger last October 1997. At that time the Cardinal confirmed his early statement (May 10, 1996) "you may continue to promote her writings." Later, we also arranged to get the latest words of the Cardinal from the internet to give to the bishop.
On Sunday January 18 (which is Vassula's birthday and the first day of the Christian unity octave), an afternoon meeting was held St. Thomas High School. Besides the main hall, a number of loudspeakers had been set up outside the hall and in the surrounding rooms. The organizers estimated the crowd at 10,000, and 500 books were sold on the spot. In a country like India where wages are low, buying the books is quite a sacrifice, but later during her visit, Vassula insisted that in her talks she was only able to give the people a drop of the ocean that is contained in these 12 years of messages. As she explained, if someone really believes that these words come from God, how can they ignore them? How can they ignore this love letter from God? "Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul longs for you my God" (Ps 42:1).
Vast crowds are able to be accommodated at these places because the people are all squeezed together sitting on the floor with no real room to walk. A large picture of the Sacred heart dominated the podium, and Fr. "X" gave particular emphasis to the way the revelations of St. Gertrude and later St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had led up to this latest revelation of the loving Heart of Christ. Using words and phrases he had heard Vassula say on numerous occasions, Fr. "X" kept the people's interest and enthusiasm alive. That evening, Fr. "X" and his host made a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Alphonsa, a local sister who was made a saint recently by John Paul II; there her blessing was asked on this mission of True Life in God.
On Monday, January 19, Fr. Kurian Mattom and Fr. "X" went to the Indian Missionary Society Retreat Center at Punnapra, Alleppey. A crowd of about 15,000 had gathered. Each Monday there is a large enthusiastic gathering of people to hear the word of God. Fr. "X" explained how initally he had rejected the idea that these writings were really from God; afterwards Vassula had asked Jesus to convince him as a confirmation that these writings are really from God. Jesus had gravely assured her that he would "bend" him, which is why he was there to speak on behalf of the messages.
At this meeting, Fr. "X" was amazed to discover that the third volume was ready, and the organizers asked him to present it officially to Fr. Prasanth, the Director of the I.M.S. center. At the end of his talk, Fr. "X" blessed the people with a cross from Jerusalem which Vassula had given him earlier. The concluding prayer was the prayer for the gift of piety which Jesus gave to Vassula: "Holy Spirit ... grant me that I, too, may grow in love to know God and obtain His Kingdom ..." The day was a long one due to the distance involved. We left Palai at 9:00 AM and arrived back only around 4:30 PM. The winding roads make driving hazardous and in the two hour drive there are more near head-on collisions than most people have in their whole lives. Yet another reason to thank God! Although January is the cooler time of the year, the temperature each day goes up around 32C (90F). One cannot help but admire the people who come from far away and spend hours and hours at prayer in these centers. This particular crowd had all been fasting. In the evening, the joyful news arrived that Vassula and her two companions had reached Madras and would be arriving on January 20.
Vassula and her companions, Erwin Schlacher and Giorgia Braun arrived after their "way of the cross" via Madras. After the two hour drive along the winding highways and lunch, we left for St. Alphonsa College auditorium. As news spread that Vassula had finally arrived, people from all around the area converged on the site and the auditorium had an overflow crowd. People stood on the verandah and in the areas surrounding the hall. There were scores of sisters, and the front rows had a number of priests. A choir had prepared music both in English and the local language. Sister Jessy Maria, the principal of the college gave the welcoming address. Those present listened in rapt attention during Vassula's talk.
During this talk, Vassula touched on a topic which is not commonly mentioned. She spoke of the need for reconciliation and peace between prayer groups. This is something that caused some comment, and the local people admitted that in fact this was an appropriate theme. Another theme was one that Vassula often mentioned in her talks: the need for generosity. She gave examples from her own life where she had given away things that she held dear, and then showed how quickly God had rewarded her generosity. In fact, Vassula's mission requires a great spirit of sacrifice. The question that Jesus had asked her long ago, "Will you serve Me?", is still a daily reality, for now her whole life is consumed by this mission. Though God never interferes in her family life, the rest of her time and energy is taken up by this work. As she says "God's pace is fast."
It is also a difficult mission. This particular journey involved many hours of travel, and the days preceding her arrival in Kerala were particularly difficult as she tried to solve the problem of the visa and how to arrive in the best and quickest way to this meeting so as not to lose any chance at all to proclaim God's message of love. Almost no one really can understand what it means to "live out of a suitcase" for so many days of the year. Everyone in this world likes to control their surroundings, their food, their clothes, their schedule, etc. Vassula in many ways lives the difficult life of the first apostles who had to accept what they were offered and what was possible under the circumstances. As St. Paul put it, in many ways she must be "all things to all men." This talk for example took place after a difficult journey, and yet, right after lunch she had to be on her way to the scheduled place. As Jesus had once said to her: "you will resemble Me; be a victim of Love' (Oct. 5, 1987)