"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
I often look at the nationality of those who read my blogs, and am thrilled when they're from a far off country where the reader may not be Catholic. I pray for them to come to the Catholic faith, and hope I have given good reasons for my hope. When I discussed Our Lady's relationship to Muslims on the blog, I never dreamed that I was only preparing to do it in person, in a place where I least expected it.
Today I met some friends at a Catholic conference with some of my favorite speakers, Bud McFarland Sr., and Dan Lynch . I wanted to share their talks here, and educate my children, who were to accompany me. I knew it wouldn't be easy with Christina, but normally in church settings, she sees lots of smiles, and gets called an angel once or twice, even if she isn't acting like one.
Today, she WAS behaving fairly well, yet she was shunned, rejected and told to move so many times by so many insensitive people that I was about to flee the building in tears to protect her (and myself) from further hurt. Only the fierce protectiveness of my loyal friends allowed me to hold my ground enough to hear two talks and meet some beautiful friends like Mary who brought the pilgrim image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to my home, Sara who has worked in the Life Center for many years, and Anna whose daughter has Down syndrome and will be sharing her story in my book. These women kept me from tears, and, thanks to Anna's suggestion, I was able to offer up the pain caused by the uncharitable people for the salvation of souls.
My friend Dana came with me and my daughters outside to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, during lunch, and soon we noticed a lovely little boy toddling over to smile at us. We kept smiling back until I asked his parents, "What is his name?"
"Michael", his father answered. That and the veil worn by his lovely mother told me that this family was Muslim.
Instantly I realized that they were attracted to the Conference by the Blessed Mother, as reverence for Our Lady is what Catholics and Muslims have in common. What ensued can only be described as one of those experiences where the power of the Holy Spirit takes over and you feel like you're just watching from afar. I had no problem speaking and the man seemed so open to hearing about Catholicism, and especially about Our Lady.
Since the man's wife couldn't speak English, he spoke with me about our mutual Marian devotion, Marian shrines in his native Egypt, Our Lady's 1967 apparition in Zeitun(see You Tube video here), Mary's house in Ephesus, how Mary is prominent in the Qu'ran and the stories of the secrets and the miracles of Our Lady Fatima and Our Lady of Guadalupe, and how they relate to Muslims in a special way. I shared about how Mehment Ali Agca viewed Our Lady of Fatima and his role in the Third Secret of Fatima.
I was elated to learn that when a Muslim woman wants to conceive a child, she reads the passages about the Virgin Mother in the Qu'ran. This brought to mind the one other time I have interacted with Muslims at a conference on Islam at Suffolk Community College, where we found ourselves agreeing on moral issues. This man and I agreed that people of faith need to reclaim this country from the secularists.
I was able to share how to pray the rosary, and Dana ran into the auditorium looking for a pamphlet explaining how to pray it. A lady inside donated her personal prayer book, knowing that it would be given to a Muslim family, and I found a rosary I had in my purse, explained how to say it, and gave it to him.
The man was genuinely touched by the generousity shown him by everyone, and asked for some of my blessed salt. I gave that to him and quietly asked Gabbi to buy a book for him inside, without knowing which she would buy, as there were no books specifically for non-Catholics. While she was gone, he explained how his father, who was a devout Muslim, had a statue of Our Lady of Fatima AND St. Michael the Archangel. I was stunned to see that Gabbi on her own, had purchased a book on St. Michael the Archangel!!!
So was the man, he began to sense the power of God at work, and told me so. He shared how Fr. Ianuzzi had blessed his wife on her head and her stomach, and that he thought the priest must have been guided as she sought out this healing conference specifically for healing of chronic pain in that area.
He told me that he looked forward to attending Mass, and I gently explained that his family couldn't receive Holy Communion, however I told him that there is great healing in the Mass. We discussed the beauty of Mother Teresa's life and I told him of her letter to me where she told me, "put your hand in Mary's hand and she will lead you to Jesus". Isabella has been reading a biography of Mother Teresa and he recognized her portrait on the book, and had great respect for her.
Meanwhile, Christina played gently with little Mahmoud, gazed angelically at the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes with her hands folded like the statue of Bernadette, and played quietly with a little girl whose mother was watching us, and no doubt praying for us. If she had been disruptive my conversation with that man would not have happened. She was peaceful because, when she was restless earlier in the Conference, the friend that first told me about it, and had been looking forward to it, offered to watch Christina so I could listen to the talk . I declined, knowing how Christina can be, and she instantly began praying the rosary with me for her to calm down.
So, without her prayers, sacrifices, cooperation, charity, and generousity of many good Catholics, who allowed me to give the reason for my hope, a special moment of grace would never have happened. I'll never know how many more people were helping with their prayers, shutins far away, cloistered nuns praying for souls, and busy moms like me who offer up daily little sacrifices, so that when a soul is ready, the truth of the Faith can be shared.
Let us pray for our Muslim friends to put their hands in that of Our Lady, who will lead them home. THIS is the hope for peace in this world.
My friend Dana wrote the following about what happened to this beautiful family after I left.After the healing Mass, the family went up to obtain the blessings from Fr. Iannuzzi. Fr. would pray his prayer over most of the people there within 30- 60 seconds and then move onto the next person. When He got to the father of the muslim family, I saw him from the back of the church to sway back and forth. I thought he was going to "fall in the spirit", but he didn't, he just swayed as others around him held their hands out in case he should go down. Fr Iannuzzi kept his hands over him , and then I saw the Muslim man shake and begin to cry. Fr. Iannuzzi remained praying over him as he cried uncontrollably. 5 minutes must have gone by, It was unbelievable and beautiful. Thank You Jesus, for a most outstanding beautiful day.
Thank you, Jesus, for using us to help souls enter into relationship with You.