Sunday, November 24, 2002
Arriving in Hong Kong is always impressive. Seeing the islands dotting the South China Sea, and the towering skyscrapers reaching the heavens as our airplane approaches in the mist of the day, evokes some awe at man's achievement. Having been occupied by Great Britain from 1841-1997, Hong Kong developed into a bustling free market and a center for international trade. In 1997, Hong Kong was handed back to China with the agreement that under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist system would not be imposed on Hong Kong and that it would enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the next 50 years. This was the bastion of materialism in Asia, and this is the threshold of China. Of the 7.3 million population, 95% are Chinese. 10% are Christian and 90% are a mixture of local religions including Buddhist and Taoist.
We were met at the new Hong Kong airport on Lantau Island by Prof. Yuen's wife Jessie and his colleague, Mr. Man Li. We learned that both were Protestants and through the Messages of True Life in God, Jessie was baptized a Catholic just 3 months before, and Man Li was preparing for his own baptism. Jessie told us that her husband, Prof. John, was born a Catholic but for about 30 years abandoned his faith and has now come back in full strength because of True Life in God. He is responsible for inviting Vassula for her first meeting in Hong Kong. It is interesting to mention that Vassula visited Hong Kong on a shopping holiday with her family long ago, at the beginning of her conversion, during her time in Bangladesh. She had a vision and saw the numerous skyscrapers transformed into tall dark crosses.
We were brought to our hotel in Kowloon and were welcomed by some members of the TLIG Association from the Philippines who had flown in from Manila to assist in bringing the books and forming prayer groups among the 500,000 Filipinos living in Hong Kong. This great number of expatriate Filipinos is made up of professionals, factory workers, and domestic helpers. On a Sunday, one can see hordes of them gather in the parks after church, certain streets are closed off by local authorities to accommodate them.
It is important to point out that by this time, the Catholic hierarchy in Hong Kong had decided to persecute Vassula and the Messages. A vital part in the preparations for any of Vassula's visits to a country is the submitting of proper information to the local Church authorities. We must remember that the only official statement made by the Catholic Church unfortunately is the Notification of 1995 published in the Observatore Romano and had spread like wildfire to all the dioceses in the world. One of the key functions of the True Life in God Association in a country is to visit the Church authority to introduce the Messages, to inform them of their activities (prayer groups, prison ministry, Beth Myriam, etc.), on the progress of their mission, and especially to clarify the Notification by an update on the succeeding statements made by Cardinal Ratzinger on Vassula and the Notification in the magazine 30 Days. This step was not done in Hong Kong perhaps through the inexperience or oversight of the organizers.
Vassula later shared with us her discernment, recognizing the style in which the persecution ensued. This particular demon's procedure was to inspire the publishing of an article in the Sunday Examiner, the weekly Catholic newspaper, exaggerating the Notification of 1995 by taking the most negative passages and magnifying them to an extent that one would think True Life in God was the most terrible and dangerous sect. There was a total disregard or a total ignorance of the later statements made by Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, allowing the Catholic faithful to read the messages of True Life in God with prudence and discernment. Then, the priests of Hong Kong were encouraged to go to their pulpits to "warn" their faithful orally against Vassula and to prohibit them from attending her meeting. Her books were banned and removed from the shelves of the Catholic bookstore. It was the exact modus operandi that ruined Vassula's first and only visit to Singapore in March 2001. After the warmth and the openness of the hierarchy in Taiwan, Hong Kong was a cold shower. The organizers were shaken by the opposition but not discouraged. Firmly determined to finish what they started, they distributed free entry tickets to everyone.
A small group met at the Inter Faith conference that afternoon. There was a Lutheran minister, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, 2 Catholic priests and one more who came incognito. Vassula started the meeting by telling them about the True Life in God Inter-Religious Pilgrimage in Egypt last October, continued with the invitation she received to speak at the Third Ecumenical Symposium of the International Bridgettine Centre of Farfa in Italy the previous year, reading excerpts from her speech, and sharing her recent Inter-Religious experiences in Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Taiwan. She presented True Life in God and its main theme of Unity. The Lutheran pastor thanked her for her talk, the incognito Catholic priest slipped quietly away, and the two other Catholic priests remained wanting to talk to Vassula. Fr. Frank Elsinger is an American priest who has spent 37 years in Asia, lives a semi-hermit�s life on Lamma island and is also responsible for the Marian Movement of Priests in Hong Kong. He is quite well known to the Catholic hierarchy of Hong Kong to propagate the apparitions of Our Lady and the like. His friend, Fr. Paul Chan S.J., is also very involved with the Marian Movement of Priests, works in a Retreat Centre on another island in Hong Kong, and like Fr. Frank, has been reading True Life in God for years. It turned out that these two Marian priests had longed to invite Vassula to Hong Kong for a while now and were pleased to welcome her. They celebrated Holy Mass for us there and then, offering it for the success of her mission in Hong Kong. Fr. Frank volunteered to speak to the Chancellor of the diocese who was responsible for all the unfavorable publicity that confused the clergy and lay people. How good the Lord is to have sent us two fervent defenders, He indeed never abandons us.
Monday, November 25
The whole day was geared towards making contacts to help the fledgling TLIG core group of Hong Kong. The whole situation reminded Vassula of Singapore, of how good seeds were planted, and how the same opposition from the hierarchy washed them away. The organizers in Singapore were not able to withstand the persecution, and TLIG Hong Kong was likely to follow suit. A last hope that the Chancellor would lift the prohibition was dashed by evening.
The big Meeting at the Jockey Auditorium of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University offered a seating capacity of 1,000. We were overjoyed to see a crowd of 400 people, many who did not have any knowledge of God, many Protestants, and some very brave Catholics, one being the only priest in the audience. Vassula was very relaxed and I think happy to see a very decent number of people in spite of all the negative publicity. With the help of an interpreter, she went into the very beginning of the revelation describing her angel's approach, introducing the messages, and interlacing the themes of Unity, the Apostasy, Repentance, etc. with the little stories of how Jesus taught her using everyday situations. The audience was charmed beyond belief. To see the stoic, disciplined Chinese respond like children, completely mesmerized, was a sight to see. One could hear a pin drop, no one moved, only myself going to the back to take a full view picture of the crowd, only to be told by a security person that cameras were prohibited in the hall. To my surprise, I heard her speak in depth for the first time on this trip about the prophecies on Russia found in the Messages which speak of the fall of communism, of the transfiguration of Russia, given before it all actually came to pass. Her talk was once again tailor-made for her audience; Hong Kong is now part of Red China. She ended the conference with the Prayer of Healing and Deliverance, explaining that the crucifix she uses to bless the people contains a relic of the True Cross.
Tuesday, November 26
The feedback after this meeting was so positive, the organizers were enthusiastic and eager to attend the Organizing Committee Meeting to be held later in the evening. But before that, the Lord had other plans. The contact-making efforts of the day before were beginning to bear fruit. What looked like a restful day for Vassula turned out to be a "let's go where the Spirit leads" day for us! One call brought us to speak to the only priest who dared attend last night's meeting. In the whole of Hong Kong, the person who answered the phone was this particular priest, Fr. Resty Quintillano, a Filipino who is the assistant to Msgr. Gonzales, the Chaplain of the Filipino community in Hong Kong. Fr. Resty is one with a lot of street sense, finding creative ways to get his job done which is guiding Filipinos far from home in their spiritual life. He invited us to attend his daily 3 p.m. Mass at the Catholic Diocesan Center for Filipinos in the heart of Hong Kong island. Attending were many domestic helpers on their only day off, hearing the Mass they were unable to attend the previous Sunday. Fr. Resty invited Vassula to say a few words about True Life in God, and then Cora of TLIG Philippines spoke to them about the books and about forming a TLIG prayer group. Msgr. Gonzales who had only just then met Vassula and heard her speak for the first time, warmly invited us to share some drinks with him, and requested us to furnish their library with the whole series of True Life in God books.
We proceeded to the Organizing Committee meeting at the One Heart Prayer Chapel where Fr. Frank and Fr. Paul were waiting. They were happy to see Fr. Resty with us, joining the TLIG ranks. Fr. Frank informed Vassula of the 10 a.m. appointment he was able to make for her with the Chancellor the following day. During the Organizers� meeting, Vassula congratulated the organizers on the success of the meeting the day before. She spoke of the need to have all the books in Chinese, to get together to form prayer groups, to persevere at clarifying the Notification and informing the clergy and laity about the statements made after. We were surprised to meet many Protestants in the committee and all were reading the Messages. Suddenly, a man came up to the front and asked to speak to the group. He introduced himself: a Catholic belonging to a charismatic community in Hong Kong and who had, for the past ten years, been reading True Life in God, has believed in the Messages all this time, was so touched to hear Vassula speak the night before and was very happy finally to meet her. Vassula was amazed to hear one so convinced drop out of nowhere that she refers to him until now as "the one who parachuted down from the sky"! It was a perfect opportunity for everyone to get to know each other and for the Filipinos from TLIG Philippines to share with TLIG Hong Kong their experience in forming prayer groups in homes, schools, offices, prisons and drug rehabilitation centers, and eventually going into the Beth Myriam project. Vassula was then asked to pray over the group individually. It was the first time for most of them to see the Holy Spirit in action, many were slain and rested in His embrace.
After that very fruitful meeting, we were invited to partake of a very delicious Thai dinner with the organizers. Again it was a celebration after a long day�s work accompanying Our Lord through doors He opened for us, showering us with consolations. It is always delightful to live everyday moments like sharing a meal and listen to Vassula speak so familiarly about someone like God the Father, describing the feeling she had at their first meeting, how He made her feel she was His daughter, that she really came from Him, belonged to Him, that she came from heaven down to earth, and that He imprinted on her soul that she is His child. The organizers informed Vassula of the positive feedback from yesterday's meeting, that many were touched and eager to read the books. She explained that the Messages are a gift from God, that out of His Mercy He gives us this Treasure to lift us up from the Apostasy of our times to save us. When the Messages are persecuted by people, they persecute God's Mercy, not Vassula. They persecute the Divine Work of the Holy Spirit. If the persecution persists and they call what comes from the Holy Spirit evil, the risk of falling into the unpardonable sin is very close.
Wednesday, November 27
Fr. Frank Elsinger had spoken to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Hong Kong, Msgr. Lawrence Lee, the spokesman for the commission in charge to guide the Catholics on the subject of Vassula's visit. He had pleaded with him to reverse the prohibition, explaining the Notification and Cardinal Ratzinger�s stand, but to no avail. Fr. Frank had even invited him to listen to Vassula speak at her meeting and formulate his own opinion but he refused. Msgr. Lawrence conceded by granting Vassula an appointment to introduce herself and to clarify some matters. She was happy to have been given this opportunity, so many of the faithful were confused and the air had to be cleared.
The 10 a.m. Meeting with the Catholic Chancellor took place at the Cathedral where the hierarchy holds office. Fr. Frank met us there and brought Vassula into the meeting. Jessie and I planted ourselves in front of the beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart dominating the side altar of the Cathedral, admiring the golden crown on His Head. I had never seen the Sacred Heart with a crown, so I clutched my rosary tighter and we started to pray. I was almost in ecstasy in the quiet of that peaceful church with the Sacred Heart shining on us, waiting to see Vassula and Fr. Frank come out floating on a cloud with a smile of triumph. An hour and a half later, we saw them hurriedly approaching us, there was something wrong, Fr. Frank said goodbye and rushed to catch a plane. Apparently all hell had broken loose! Vassula told us that the Chancellor was polite and listened to her objection to the manner the Church handled her visit to Hong Kong. She asked him why they persecute the work of someone that converts the unbeliever and helps them fill up the churches, and brings people back to the sacraments. Why do they not ban the pornography in the marketplace and the freemasonry books instead? The matter of the Notification came up and Fr. Frank quoted Cardinal Ratzinger saying after that it was not a condemnation. He mentioned the Cardinal's statements after 1995, citing the interview in "30 Days" magazine where the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the same Cardinal Ratzinger of the Notification, stated that prophecy exists today. There are priests who do not believe or do not want to believe in the charism of prophecy that God gives today and he was one. He was quite bothered by people whom he heard of have visions or locutions. Fr. Frank, filled with shock, flew off the handle, raised his voice and a battle of words ensued. The Chancellor blamed Fr. Frank for not informing the hierarchy properly. Vassula tried her best to neutralize this embarrassing situation but the animosity between the two won that day.
Fr. Paul Chan came to our hotel to celebrate a Holy Mass of Reparation in the room. We offered it up for Hong Kong and the TLIG group we were leaving behind. Vassula took stock of the situation: there was the persecution from the Church hierarchy in the very disciplined and "obedient" Catholic community; the Lord sends 3 priests: an American, a Chinese and a Filipino who have proven their bravery in moments of persecution; there are Prof. John and his group of protestant converts burning to evangelize; there is the Catholic charismatic community member, the one who "parachuted down from the sky" so fervent and deeply rooted in the Messages; and there are the Filipinos in Hong Kong already forming prayer groups. We were able to clearly see the Lord's plan and that He indeed takes care of His Work after all.
Thursday, November 28
Today is the 17th anniversary of True Life in God, and our departure from Hong Kong. This was celebrated with a mass by Fr. Resty in the hotel room attended by the core group of TLIG Hong Kong, the TLIG Philippines Association members, Vassula, and myself. Vassula said a few words thanking the organizers and wished all the members of both groups success in helping each other. There ended Vassula�s first visit to Hong Kong but not her last. We took off on the last leg of our journey a few hours later.