Vassula in Newcastle, England, September 24, 2000
It all started at one of the First Friday meetings of the Newcastle True Life in God prayer group at the Sacred Heart Church, North Gosforth. The group was very new and was still benefiting from monthly visits from Carol Chamberlain from Scotland. At the meeting in February, Carol informed us of the possibility of a visit from Vassula following a meeting in Edinburgh in September 2000.
We were new to the scene and had no experience of arranging such events. At that time we were without Fr. Tom Cass, our Parish Priest, through bad health. He had always arranged such things for us but this time we had to place our trust in God and go it alone. Sometime later, we did not know God's plan for Fr. Tom's replacement, Fr Joe Travers was appointed our new Parish Priest. We could not have been more blessed. Fr Joe had often attended and was actively involved in our First Friday meetings.
I had just acquired a computer for studying and used it to make contact with True Life in God people as suggested by Carol. Not having organized such a meeting we needed a lot of help. The help came in the form of the "True Life in God Guidelines for organizing Vassula's meetings" from Tom Austin.
At first glance these appeared very prescriptive and awesome but after a while we realized they were exactly what we needed. We also made contact with Ewa Allan early in March and her swift response was heaven sent. Not only did Ewa answer all of our direct questions, but informed us of "the Anglo Catholic Dean of the North" who had been asking for Vassula to come for about three years. As we had been asked for a non Roman Catholic venue, this was one of the first 'God-incidences' that were to happen.
We found that the Anglo Catholic Dean was Dr Christopher Rogerson who's church was in the center of Newcastle. He lived at The Deanery in a place called Shilbottle which was a good distance from Newcastle. Having obtained the blessing of Bishop Ambrose Griffiths, a small group arranged to visit Fr Rogerson and meet with some of his parishioners. We met after mass at The Sacred Heart to depart on our journey to Shilbottle and the second of the 'God-incidences' was that the series of road maps issued with a national paper that day actually covered that area and we arrived with a minute to spare.
At this first meeting it was truly amazing how much progress was made towards arranging the event. It was at this meeting that we met Sheila Mullighan for the first of many times. Sheila was to become one of the most sincere and hard working people I have ever had the privilege to meet. We later visited the Church and realized that we had been directed to this place for the venue. A preliminary program was developed and work tasks allocated. The upper floor in the church had not been used for some time and needed a good cleaning program. It was hard work but made easier by knowing it was the Lord's work.
Arrangements were made for sound, lighting and recording of the event. The "Good Morning Sunday" program on Radio 2, and the "God Channel" on Sky TV were informed of the event and asked to publicize it. (We were too busy to know if they ever did broadcast anything, but we did get a positive response).
Accommodation for Vassula and her companion had been arranged at a local convent but we were informed that a mistake in bookings had occurred and a double booking had been made. We quickly reserved accommodation at a Hotel in the center of Newcastle at very good rates, thanks to contacts in the tourist trade. The final program went out to Tom Austin and requests for prayers went out to everyone. Fr Cass, though now retired, continued to encourage us, even when he was on holiday in Ireland he was on the telephone. Thank God for answering all those prayers.
Once the event was published in the magazine and on the web the telephone started ringing from all over the world. We had calls from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden and e-mails from Tasmania and Canada. The whole world was praying with and for us.
Posters and leaflets were published by Ewa, twice as many as we had asked for but they all went out together with tourist accommodation guides and maps. Posters, leaflets accompanied by explanatory leaflets and a letter were distributed to all Roman Catholic churches within the Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, including Bishop Ambrose who sent us a most encouraging reply. The Anglican churches in the Northern region were similarly given the information and it was hoped that the Archbishop of York would be able to attend. Unfortunately he could not but sent a wonderful letter to Fr Rogerson.
Eventually, and all so sudden, Sunday September 24th arrived. I checked that everything would be OK at the hotel only to be told that rooms would not be ready until 2.00 pm. I pointed out that a private mass had been planned for 12 noon and quickly one room was freed up for noon.
We had arranged for a group of people including Fr Cass to meet and welcome Vassula at Newcastle Station from the 11.15 am train. (Unfortunately Fr Joe Travers had had to rerturn to Ireland for a family bereavement.) Unlike Vassula's flight to Edinburgh, the train arrived 5 minutes early and I was to greet the party alone. However on exiting the Station the rest of the group arrived to complete the welcome.
We traveled the short distance to the hotel and successfully checked Vassula and her companion Anthippie in. Fr Cass said mass in a syndicate room for those present and was joined by Ewa and others who had traveled down from Edinburgh by road. (I still don't know how they knew where the mass was being said.)
While mass was in progress I went to the venue to meet our hosts and check that everything was according to plan which it was, thanks to Sheila. A sizeable group then had lunch with Vassula at the hotel but Carol and I had to return to the Central Station to meet Angela on the next train from Edinburgh. Carol and I talked about the program and I was advised to 'Go with the Flow!'. I later found out what she meant.
At 4.00 p.m. we took Vassula down to the Church of St Willibrord and All Saints where she was given a warm reception by Fr. Rogerson. However, as yet, there were no other church dignitaries present to meet her so we returned to the hotel where Carol and Vassula prepared an Introduction for the meeting. The 'Flow' was going.
At 5.00 p.m. we returned to the Church where Vassula was given a marvelous welcome by Bishop Stephen, the Orthodox Bishop of York. The program that we had prepared and printed had quickly become a mere guide, we were 'flowing' in the power of the Spirit.
Carol Chamberlain welcomed people from all parts of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well as those from European countries. The welcome was followed by a brief description of the 'Trinitarian Spirituality of True Life in God' and Vassula's Apostolate. Carol outlined the extent of Vassula's mission in extending to all religions including Roman, Anglican, and Orthodox Catholic as well as Lutheran, Copts, Malachites and extending to the Buddhist Religion. Vassula has even met with and adressed Voodoo leaders in Africa. The basic message is always; - Reconciliation and Unity.
After the introduction, Vassula led the meeting in one decade of the rosary, the Resurrection, in a novel manner. Vassula recited the Our Father in Aramaic, followed by Angela singing it in Aramaic also. Vassula then said the first part of the Hail Mary in Aramaic and the people replied in English. At the end of the decade, the Glory be to the Father was followed by the Fatima prayer and then Angela sang the prayer 'Jesus my only love ...'
Then the main part of the meeting. Vassula started her talk by saying that "I have heard rumors that this will be my last time here, I don't know." However, she explained, Jesus is calling her away from many countries so that she is free to visit others. Our Lord is asking her to visit countries where she has not been before, like Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania etc. As the Father said to her in the beginning "I will send you to all the nations so that My Word, My Love Hymn, is heard by everyone".
Vassula described how the Father was telling her things in 1985 that seemed impossible but, the impossible becomes possible with God. After describing how God had told her that Russia would be transfigured from the dead daughter she was, communism fell on the feast of The Transfiguration.
Vassula asked the 350 present, how many were hearing her for the first time. On finding that some 50% were, she gave a brief personal history and how the messages began and how it was so difficult to understand what was happening to her at the time that Jesus was speaking to her. (A mention of the booklet "Divine Bridal Call" ensured a lot of interest in that booklet after the meeting.) Eventually, when the Father came, Vassula "knew in a split second that I belonged to God - that we should all feel that we belong to God". While talking, Vassula addressed God as "Dad" and was fearful that she had addressed her creator in this way. But the Father said "do not fear daughter because I have taken this word Dad into my hand like a jewel". We should become intimate with God but always respect Him, honour Him and praise Him.
The key to Unity lies here. "If you don't love the Father in heaven the way you should, how can you even think about unity". The foundation of unity is Love and humility. Vassula explained that God asked for equality of Love from us. Vassula said that we can't ever give as much love to God as he gives to us and God replied "Give me all that is mine". This means that when the Holy Spirit fills you with love it is God's and you have to return it - it will be like a cycle, He gives and we give back.
Vassula then described how God gives us hope even during this current apostasy and how Jesus is now revealing the apostatized times through the True Life in God messages. The hope that is given to us is that in spite of the revolt, the rebellion and the rejection of God, the Father will send the Holy Spirit "as never before". This is the second Pentecost and it is happening already.
Vassula then talked more about Unity and what is needed to achieve it. The first request is that the dates of Easter are unified in the Orthodox and Roman churches. As long as this difference remains there will be a problem. Jesus wants the unification of Easter and promises - "the Holy Spirit will come in so much power and in so much light that the church will become one." Vassula then outlined what we are to do:
Whatever you can do, she said, do it.
Vassula then talked about "the Sweetness of God" and how we should feel the joy of God by constantly thinking about God. This is what is meant by "unceasing prayer. All small jobs that we do with Jesus, for Jesus and with love become great in His eyes." We then heard how it was to be expected that God would intervene whenever His people left Him, abandoned Him, or made idols out of stone. So of course He will intervene in this great apostasy that we are now experiencing. "God will speak to open our eyes and ears so that we hear and come back to our senses and really live holy as He is Holy because the greatest and most holiest theology is the contemplation of God."
Vassula then said the Healing Prayer and gave the blessing after which the meeting concluded with the Thoxa, Thoxa lead by Angela. As the final Hymn started, it was time to shepherd Vassula safely back to the hotel. But before we could she was warmly embraced by Bishop Stephen, the Orthodox Bishop of York. In whisking Vassula away, her companion Anthippie was unfortunately left behind but was quickly reunited at the Hotel. The evening ended with a group meal at a local restaurant and then out into the pouring rain.
Next day we met Vassula and Anthippie in the hotel lounge for a coffee and a discussion about a wide range of subjects. Having heard of Vassula's previous difficulties in taxis to airports etc, I was very glad when we did arrive at Newcastle Airport in good time for check-in. This time it was the plane before Vassula's that had been cancelled for some reason and we bad our visitors farewell into the departure lounge. I suppose and hope that it is only starting now so keep on praying for the people in Newcastle and the rest of the UK that we may strengthen the prayer groups we have and be active in creating more.