True Life in God
Spiritual Retreat in Loutraki, Greece, May 5-10, 2016
“The Mercy of God”
With great joy and eagerness we had looked forward to this year’s spiritual retreat in the beautiful city of Loutraki, and we were right to feel so elated. The experience of such a spiritual meeting is always unique. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are many; every soul overflows with the Love of Jesus and a pervasive sense of fellowship unites all of us with the One Triune God.
While acknowledging the uniqueness of each person that makes a difference, as part of this report I shall include the numerical data of all those present at this year’s retreat. Of the many retreatants noteworthy is a Chinese man who had come from the other end of the world; a young lady from Congo who had decided to come to our country; a young Dutchman who, entrusting the undertaking of his journey to God, had come from his country hitchhiking. In total, 250 individuals from 32 countries had attended this year’s retreat, including 10 priests, all of whom spent five wonderful days at this beautiful place nestled within the European pines alongside the sea of the Corinthian Gulf.
On the Geraneia Mountain looming over the place there are four monasteries, two of which we visited.
As early as the first day of arrivals, the joy and Love of God were reflected on all faces. This joy comes from the reunion of people who love one another, though kept apart by physical distance only, as they are united in heart and, even more, in prayer.
Heidi Kyhl, Yannick Lalbatry and Anna Paula Melo
Fr. John Abberton and Friends
The retreat program began on Friday May 6th, with songs of praise and great enthusiasm. Vassula was the first speaker; she welcomed us by reminding us of the message of Jesus (May 21, 2001): “My Name reached many lands and distant islands. I ranged the earth as I had foretold you, with My Call, in order that every ear would hear Me and have the opportunity to discover Me.” She also added that what Jesus wants from us is to become His net and gather lost souls. Indeed, we are blessed because He has chosen us; we did not choose Him. To everyone who is willing, He assigns the task of going forth to bear fruit that is eternal.
In this year of Mercy and Charity, let us examine our conscience and meditate on the TLIG Messages so that we can become disciples of Jesus, spreading His Letter of Love so that everyone may read it and everyone may experience the new life it brings.
Father Gavin then spoke to us about the Mercy of God, explaining to us that the key to the journey we are making from flesh to Spirit is the Mercy of God. To ask Mercy from God means that we are moving from the self-sufficiency of the flesh to our trust in God’s generosity.
At this point Fr. Gavin discussed the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” relating how the Church has always been aware of the power it possesses.
He noted that in the first half of this simple prayer the demons tremble at the name of Jesus, while in the second half the heart is drawn to the Spirit every time it cries for mercy. The next step is to banish from us the accusations of the enemy and to free ourselves from the fear of not being forgiven. Indeed, fear stops us from turning to God for help. He emphasized that God’s mercy is so great that He invites us to bring the burden of our guilt and our obsessions to him, even with our imperfect desires, and he perfects them. Mercy is thus the antidote to the poison of accusation, for it gives us the courage to stand before God, to open up to Him and to throw ourselves in His arms.
Fr. Gavin related that even though we may time and again fall into sin and repentance may not always be maintained, the Mercy of God is always available to us. For the Mercy of God is given to us without measure; it is given to us without our asking for it and without our deserving it. Mercy is grace; it is forgiveness; it aims to draw us towards God, and where our will power is weak, our gratitude becomes the fuel that energizes us in our struggle for repentance.
It is important to bear in mind that while God’s Mercy, in itself, is timeless, these times of Mercy and Grace that God has extended to our generation are almost over. In the message of August 6, 1991, Jesus reveals, “I am giving you enough time to reform, but will your generation understand? Will they be willing to change their lives? I, the Anointed One will engulf you all with My Fire and consume you to give your soul a new life. I have little time left now; these times of Mercy and Grace are almost over.”
Finally, I wish to highlight two more points from Fr. Gavin’s talk. First, the Mercy of God brings us forgiveness and restoration, but it also makes God glad; it makes Him happy. Granting mercy is His joy and He asks us to participate in this pleasure and joy.
Second, prophecy is an act of mercy. Our Lord tells us that the apostasy in which we have been trapped and by which we have been wounded had always been predicted by Him, and prophecy is God’s gift to his Church. For through prophecy God activates His mercy in order to liberate us from evil. Fr Gavin concluded his talk with the message of February 12, 2000 as follows:
“Wedded with the Truth, My prophet is sent out as My royal ambassador in every vile corner of this earth to hymn to you: righteousness, kindness, holiness, virtue and reminding all of you of My Ways; reminding every man from all ranks that:
- Unction of the poor in spirit, I Am;
- Guarantor of your well-being, I Am;
- Luminous Godhead and Source of Sublime love, I Am;
- Sovereign and Bridegroom of all creation, I Am;
- Restorer and Lamp of body and soul, I Am;
- Consoler of the persecuted in the cause of right, I Am;
- Balm and Ointment of the sick and the dying, I Am; and that I am your Lord and God but your Friend, your Companion and your Father as well.
I am, generation, ceaselessly giving Myself to you, to perfect your image which you have so deformed and sullied by all your evil doings, your sins and your obstinate resistance to acknowledge Me as your father; and if I am ceaselessly giving Myself to you, it is so as to elevate you by grace and that through grace your sight may be restored to see the invisible things that never wear out.”
The spiritual food given to us in these TLIG retreats is manna from heaven. It is given for all of us who daily find ourselves in the desert, starving until we find this oasis. For those of you who seek to take part in such retreats, and for those of you who were not able to attend them, read all the talks delivered at these retreats and meditate on them, for you will receive great blessings.
During this year’s retreat each day went by as planned: talks and testimonies were given by the laity and clergy in the morning; the rosary was prayed early in the afternoon, talks followed and later on people went to Confession and Holy Mass. Before dinner, we always concluded with a prayer of thanksgiving or a prayer of Healing and Deliverance.
There were several remarkable testimonies. I shall briefly mention the lawyer who told us he was so much against Catholics that he came to the point of praying for the Pope to die. However, it was not until he came to know of the TLIG messages that not only did he change his mind through the realization that Jesus prayed, “that all of them may be one, just as you, Father are united with me and I with you. May they also be united with us so that the world may believe that you have sent Me,” but he also married a Catholic!
There was a priest from Canada who had read the messages while still a layman. In experiencing God’s love through these messages, he decided to dedicate his life to God and become a priest.
There was also Jew who was touched when a TLIG book was given to a blind friend of his. As he was compelled to read it out to him, the messages completely changed his life and he became a Christian.
However, beyond these testimonies that took place throughout the years in which the TLIG messages have been in circulation, we were equally touched by the testimonies of people who were attending such a spiritual retreat for the first time and were taking part in the prayers and Holy Masses.
To give an example, I recall the Prayer of Healing and Deliverance which took place on the second day of the retreat, Saturday May 7th. The Prayer of Healing is intended for healing the spirit and body and is carried out for each person separately. All the priests and Vassula stand facing those present; one person at a time approached the priests and Vassula to receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit through the Prayer of Healing.
The various experiences during this process, especially as narrated by the newly converted, are all wonderful: the peace of Jesus, a sense of tranquility, abandonment to God’s Love, a sense of sweetness and lightness away from the everyday problems of the world. We even saw that a woman, who had been present at the talks and the prayers for two days, absorbing them only from a distance without actively participating in them, felt a need to take part in the Prayer of Healing. As she approached, she felt really unwell and was scared, as she had never been christened – never in her life did this concern her until then. In the course of these few days, she felt a great desire to change and asked to be christened.
Another story that I happened to hear and enjoyed was that of a modern grandma who had been present at the retreat right from the start, and asked her daughter who was in Athens to come join her, at least for the weekend, along with her husband and their one-year-old baby, so that they could receive the blessing of Healing. After the daughter arrived, she proceeded, with great hesitation to receive the healing, not knowing exactly what was happening, and more in order to please her mother. As soon as she had received the blessing, she ran away. Her mother was left speechless, watching her daughter and trying to understand whether something had upset her. She then saw her daughter return with the baby in her arms. She wanted her baby to also receive the same blessing. So did her husband, who followed with joy and trust, seeing his wife so changed.
On the fourth day, Monday, May 9th, we departed early for the monastery of Saint Patapios, which is located on the Geraneia Mountain at an altitude of 650 metres, overlooking the Corinthian Gulf. The relic of Saint Patapios was discovered there in 1904 and the monastery was founded in 1952. The nuns have many stories to tell about the living presence at the monastery of this saint of the 4th century who is still working miracles.
Our next visit was to the monastery of St Gerasimos located on the same mountain side, a bit further down from the monastery of St Patapios. The location of the church offers a breath-taking view to its visitors.
Outside the west wing stands a stone cross 13 meters in height, which is intricately lit at night. According to tradition, it was on this very spot that a pious clergyman met St Gerasimos himself; the saint was holding a large cross and throwing firecrackers.
At this monastery the nuns were particularly hospitable, offering coffee, water and sweets to everyone. We prayed and gave the nuns lists of people’s names to pray for that included the living and the deceased.
Our next stop was at Ancient Corinth and the altar where St Paul addressed the Corinthians for the first time. First, however, we stopped briefly at the Corinth Canal, a man-made impressive piece of work. Upon arriving in Ancient Corinth, we found our tour guides waiting for us.
A tour guide speaks as Amani Henry listens intently.
From early morning the weather indicated a beautiful day, which is ideal for a tour. The guides spoke to us mainly about the Roman period of Ancient Corinth, the time when St Paul had visited it in 50 A.D.
This was when the city was at its peak as the capital of Roman Greece, with a population of 800,000. They explained to us the nuances of the architecture of the city and how the public buildings occupied its centre.
We were enchanted by the site where St Paul addressed the Corinthians for the first time. The Altar of St Paul actually marked the beginning of the evangelization of the Greeks. Corinthians had open hearts, ready to receive the Holy Spirit and his teaching. The first time he was there, St Paul stayed in Corinth for eighteen months, founding a Christian community. His Epistles to the Corinthians are considered among the most important in terms of information and advice for the early Church.
After the tour, we returned to the hotel to get some rest and have lunch.
During our break, some pilgrims noticed a strange phenomenon. A ring of light, like a circular rainbow – known as a “solar halo” – appeared around the sun! Some people took pictures of this phenomenon.
Sun with a rainbow: or solar halo and small luminous sphere
By looking at the pictures closely, apart from the solar halo, one can notice a small luminous sphere which, when enlarged, reveals bright smaller spheres within it.
A staff member of the hotel informed us that he had seen the same circle around the sun last year during Pentecost. While discussing this phenomenon with some priests we learned that, although this can be explained scientifically, God also uses nature to give us signs. In fact, our Lady in one of her messages to Julia Kim of Naju, explained this specific sign (December 5th, 1991). Our Lady said: “These signs from Heaven signify the mystery of salvation; they also mean that the Lord is with you and is blessing you and this land; it means that my victory is being accomplished in you.” We thank our Lord and our Virgin Mary for giving us this grace.
In the afternoon of the same day, Vassula read out some messages and commented on them.
She referred to an extract that I had always liked where the Father asks: “You want to enjoy heaven? You want to rejoice in My Presence? Then come to Me as a child! You want to meet Me and see Me? Then come to Me with innocence in your heart. Come to Me with a pure heart…”(January 3, 1996). Vassula explained that children allow Him to form, educate, and discipline them, and that He will continue to enlighten them, granting them peace so that they can reach perfection.
Vassula waves to the young singers
Our day concluded with Holy Mass at the hotel’s conference hall where we had spent most of our time.
I felt a sense of joy intermingled with the sorrow of saying goodbye. I tried to say goodbye to everyone I knew and embrace them, especially those I had met for the first time. I believe that we were overflowing with the Love of Jesus. The gifts granted were many, and we shall see more healings of souls in the days to follow, as nothing ends here.
I pray that God paves the way for all souls yearning to take part in such a spiritual retreat, and grants them the privilege of attending and surround them with his healing gifts. Amen.
By Candy Giannoutsikos