December 16 - 18, 1998
For four years sister San Luis who is 86 years young had prayed and worked to bring Vassula to Venezuala. In her convent of, The Servants of Jesus several of the sisters had studied the messages very thoroughly. After a previous attempt and failure, this time they met with success and Vassula was able to answer the call to bring messages from the Two Hearts and meet with the sisters and the people of Venezuala.
I was deeply impressed as I accompanied Vassula on this trip by the amount of cooperation and work local organizers have to make in order to bring these meetings about. The sisters along with several local lay people all worked together in humility and prayer to make this a very successful visit. The efforts of people like Benito Prieto and Mary Trevino especially demonstrate that which seeks no personal reward other than being pleasing to God and helping in the uplifting and evangelization of their fellow Venezualans.
On Wednesday December 16th we left from Rome airport at 5am. In Amsterdam we had exactly 10 extra minutes where Vassula was able to get a big piece of her Christmas shopping done! Then our plane flew about 10 hours onto Caracas, the seacoast City surrounded by mountains, on the northern coast of South America.
In Caracas we were met at the airport by a small delegation that expedited us through customs/immigration and presented Vassula with fresh roses. Upon arriving at the hotel, Vassula went to her room for rest and prayer while I was given a short tour of the modern metropolis of Caracas, highlighted by a trip to a local ice-cream shop where we were joined by Father Solinas (who was to attend the meeting the next day) who happened to be walking by!
At 9 a.m. the following morning we drove from our hotel to the convent of the Servants of Jesus where they also manage the Bethlehem School. Here, Vassula held a meeting on "How to cultivate the True Life in God messages". This meeting was televised by Venezualan National Television on behalf of the local organizers for their use in evangelizing the whole country through meetings. Excerpts would also be used for a national broadcast on the main news channel. The sisters of the convent were in attendance as were the main local organizers. Vassula focused on many of the points given in the talk at the 1998 International True Life in God Meeting in Jerusalem (available in booklet form).
She encouraged the local people to hold meetings for True Life in God using excerpts from the messages as Vassula herself does; to be an "echo of the echo". Messages on unity, repentance, The Holy Spirit, Mary, and so forth, can be presented and from time to time rotated. She also encouraged the possibility of setting up a soup kitchen in Caracas. Caracas has an extremely large poor population. Vassula explained how Beit Miriam (Mary’s House) in Bethlehem will offer free meals to the poor. And it will be done with good quality meals, sit down style, without regard to a person’s religion. This she said; would confer a certain dignity to the people, a dignity we are all worthy of, as children of a loving Father, our Creator.
Vassula encouraged the group to be persistent in their efforts to evangelize the messages and to anticipate many setbacks for it is through these very setbacks that people grow. A true apostle never gives up, no matter what problem he might face.
Another important point made in the meeting was not to focus on "events". Rather we should be oriented to penetrate more and more into intimate love of Jesus. Many people are keyed to "end time prophecies" and this can be a distraction to the point where prayer is put in a secondary position along with complete abandonment and intimacy with God. I find it ironic that most of the prophets of doom and gloom agree that "the events" will happen as a result of humanity’s lack of love for God and fellow man. And rather than focusing on exactly these things as True Life in God does, they focus on physical survival- like storing food. Nowhere in the True Life in God messages does it talk about storing food.
After the meeting we were graciously served lunch at the convent where we tasted several delicious local dishes. After lunch Vassula had about an hour of preparation before the meeting. This hour she always requests to be alone.
The True Life in God meeting was held at the Teatro Colegio Maria Auxiliadora, (known locally as Salesianas).There were about 1300 people in attendance. Along with the The Servant of Jesus sisters, there were three priests, one of which was Syrian Orthodox. Mary Trevino translated for Vassula.
Vassula began her talk with a short overview of how the messages started. This included the purifications she went through and how Satan even burned her fingers so that they were blistered and she could not write. When God seemed to abandon Vassula for three weeks, even though her friends and other tennis players surrounded her, she felt extremely lonely-this brought her to the realization: "without God my life is nothing, without God my life has no joy". Many people think that writing the messages came easy for Vassula but it was not.
Jesus had a plan, a method, and a pattern to teach her and He had to start at the beginning, as she never even had catechism. He teaches fast! Only by means of the light he infuses into the soul can the soul, without words, grow in understanding. Vassula stressed we cannot divide our love between the world and Jesus. God is urging us to decide for Him and to die completely to ourselves so that the Holy Spirit can breath in us. He wants to hear a firm "Yes" and complete abandonment to him. We find God through prayer from our heart. This means we long for God- even all day without words-this prayer without ceasing is how we win God’s favor and friendship and fulfill the First Commandment. Again, Vassula reminded us all that the True Life in God Messages are like a school where we learn to grow in intimacy with God.
Over 20 people led the audience with guitars and songs with much enthusiasm. Patricia Benito had practiced with the choir many hours and even wrote and arranged a special song for Jesus and Mary. After the meeting Vassula prayed over the whole audience with Her Crucifix containing a relic of the True Cross and then Mass was celebrated for everybody.
There were preliminary reports that many people saw Jesus’ face appear in place of Vassula’s. In Venezuala there is a phenomena of glitter, associated with The Holy Mother’s presence. In some places there are manifestations of oil, blood or weeping on statues or icons. In Venezuala, glitter is held to be a special supernatural manifestation. After the talk I noticed a silver speck on Vassula’s forehead and was curious about it. Every time light hit it - it would sparkle. This silver speck was very obvious and I took two photographs of it. Vassula removed the glitter and saved it in a piece of cotton. It was physically real but Vassula did not express a definite opinion about this glitter. Two people reported seeing glitter coming out of Vassula’s crucifix ring as she spoke. They said it was almost blinding.
Father Solinas reported afterwards that he saw Vassula’s face become Jesus’ face during the meeting. At least four other persons reported this also. At least three persons saw Vassula’s face covered in blood like Jesus’ face during the passion. Many people reported seeing the picture of Jesus’ face behind the podium with moving eyes looking at the audience, sometimes smiling, sometimes more serious, according to the content of Vassula’s talk. One sister of the convent of Lauritas who reluctantly came to the meeting was touched by God a few days afterwards and then wanted her whole convent to hear about the True Life in God messages.
The next day our faithful driver and security men escorted us again back to the convent, of the Servants of Jesus. Vassula had a taped interview by Venezualan National Television which was to broadcast excerpts later after we left. The interviewer asked many questions about how the messages began and how they effected Vassula and her family. Thankfully, one of the local organizers was able to ask what is in the messages themselves!
There was a nationwide broadcast made on the 18th of December and the local organizers received many phone calls from all over from people who wanted to set up prayer groups. Praise be to God! After the television interview Sister San Luiz, Mary Trevino and another sister took Vassula and myself for a drive through Caracas then lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Part way through lunch we saw a rainbow. Surely Our Father in Heaven loves His creation and especially the people of Venezuala!
After lunch we went through heavy traffic to arrive at the airport for our long trip home. About 20 people came to say goodbye to Vassula. I now understood why Vassula moves quickly through customs and makes the goodbyes short. She doesn’t want adulation or praise or undue attention on herself. The attention should rightly be on the message. She knows, for sure, it is only by grace that she is the message bearer and it is the messages that bring people closer to God. Attention beyond plain friendliness and common courtesy make her uncomfortable. How many of us would handle worldwide recognition as well, as balanced, as Vassula without succumbing to the temptation of thinking we were more than we really are?
Out of His infinite love, Jesus Christ comes to our doorstep, with His Sacred Heart in His hand to gather, to refresh, to inspire, to teach, to renew, to rebuild. In this short mission to Venezuala Jesus sent a reminder of Himself via His message bearer. In private Vassula remarked to me how childlike Sister San Luiz was. I had not noticed until she said this to me. She then said; "That’s how Jesus likes us to be". All glory be to our loving Father that so many "childlike", open hearts could hear His call. We pray the seeds planted in this mission will sprout and grow throughout Venezuala!