Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Divine Encounter with Saint Pope John Paul II

My Divine Encounter with Saint Pope John Paul II 
As our Catholic Church Celebrates the Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on 27 April 2014
Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be declared Saints of the Catholic Church this Sunday - 27 April 2014. Pope Francis had announced in July 2013 that he would canonize two of the 20th century's most influential popes together.
Millions of Catholics all over the world have been inspired by both these Holy Fathers who brought reform and a zeal for evangelization into the Catholic Church. Pope John XXIII was responsible for setting up the Vatican II Council. In his short 4 1/2 year papacy, Pope John XXIII was greatly loved as the "Good Pope" for his simple, pastoral and fatherly love in dealing with the Catholic faithful. Yet Pope John XXIII had a sharp mind and was a top Vatican diplomat handling difficult assignments prior to his papacy. 
Pope John Paul II brought the papacy to the world stage through his charismatic and courageous personality, love for the Youths through International World Youth Days and for spearheading the New Evangelization efforts within the Catholic Church for a dynamic and Christ-centred life among all Catholics - young and old alike. In his final years and death, His Holiness exemplified with great personal dignity what it means to accept suffering from the Hands of God and to continue to serve Jesus with immense courage.
Today, as Pope John Paul II is being canonized as a Holy Saint of our Catholic Church, I wish to share my very own personal experience with this inspirational Holy Father who has made an indelible and deep influence upon my priesthood and my personal Catholic faith. To this day, I recall and practice with greatest love what I learnt from this Great Pope.
In 1979, I was sent to Rome as a young priest to study for my Doctorate in Philosophy at the Gregorian University. I wanted very much to meet Pope John Paul II and had written to the Vatican Papal Office for a personal meeting. To my great joy, I received a letter that I could have this opportunity in early December 1979. I was very excited and filled with joy! However, just a day before that, I received a telegram that left me extremely distressed and disturbed. My elder sister, who was a nun, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer and given less than 6 months to live – she was too weak for further treatment! I received a second telegram a little later saying that my sister, Sr. Simbrose, was slipping in an out of a coma.
In those days, it was practically impossible to make telephone calls between Italy and India. The telephone landlines were practically non-existent and there were no mobile phones yet. What is more, as a student, I could not afford the airfare to fly back to see my sister. I kept recalling the words my much beloved sister had told me at the airport - “Augustine, study well and come back to us in India as soon as possible. We are waiting for you.” All I could think of was that I would never again see my sister and there would be no way I could even go back for her funeral.
With this great sorrow and burden in my heart, I went the next day to meet Pope John Paul II. As the Holy Father was nearing towards me, greeting those near to me, I was overwhelmed with tears of sadness meeting the Holy Father. Pope John Paul II spoke in the special way he had. Pronouncing every English word distinctly he said, Young priest, why are you sad?” With tears rolling down from my eyes, I said, “Holy Father, my sister is dying of cancer.”  Pope John Paul II closed his eyes praying and then looked at me, “Tell your sister the Pope is praying for her.” He then told me these words, This sickness is not to end in death but in the manifestation of the Glory of God.” I immediately recognized this as the Word of God from the Gospel of John 11:4. His Holiness smiled at me, held me around my shoulders and said, “Your sister will not die.”  And my sister did not die – she lived for another 28 more years!
The first lesson I learnt when I later prayed over this special meeting with Pope John Paul II is to learn to close my eyes and pray. In every situation of our life, God has a Word to give us. When we wait for a Word of God, we will hear God’s Voice speaking to us to comfort us. Jesus is the Word of God! Happiness in life is to hear the Word of God.
The second important lesson I learnt was that any pain, struggles and sufferings offered to our God, Jesus takes charge! When Jesus takes full authority and control, Jesus makes good out of all situations and circumstances of our life. I understood what it meantto take up the cross and follow me”. I need to look at the Face of Jesus and He will take all the pain of our sufferings.
On that December day in 1979 now over 34 years ago, I learnt a great lesson of the mystery of our faith from Saint Pope John Paul II which I have never forgotten. We need to turn to Jesus in our moments of distress not to other people. Let Jesus enter our life! God is greater that any problem in our life.
I always remember the words of St. Peter. “Rejoice when sufferings come your way because you are being given a share in the Cross of Jesus Christ!” (1 Peter 4:13)
Only a Christian can say that because our God is a Crucified Lord!
Saint Pope John Paul II has been an inspiration to me throughout my priesthood, my life and in the growth of our Divine-Potta Ministry.
Yours lovingly in Christ 
Rev. Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C.
Director - Divine Retreat Centre

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sunni Muslim Faisal Malick from Pakistan - Personal encounter with Jesus - the son of God

Faisal Malick - From Sunni Muslim to Jesus Christ

Faisal Malick’s ministry is to communicate God’s love to the Muslim people. He was born in Pakistan and raised a devout Sunni Muslim. Although he was steeped in this religious training, he felt empty inside. This Canadian businessman considered Jesus to be no more than a Prophet, the Bible inaccurate, and the worship of Jesus unforgivable blasphemy. He took pleasure in challenging Christians in heated debates and was determined to win them to Islam.

A friend invited Faisal to go to church with him. Faisal declined and instead asked the friend to go to the mosque with him. This same friend invited him to a business conference with approximately 20,000 people. An offer had been given for front row seats at the afternoon business conference for all who attended the Sunday morning session. As an entrepreneurial businessman and eager student, Malick understood that the best instructors are those that had already achieved success in their area of instruction and purposed to take advantage of opportunities to learn from the “masters”. A guaranteed front row seat for the seminar was an enticing reward for simply attending the early meeting. It wasn’t until the morning session started that the realization of the purpose of the Sunday service became clear. As the speaker stepped to the podium, he welcomed the crowded room announcing, “Jesus is the Son of God.” Faisal thought this was blasphemous! However, he admired the technique that was used and made the decision that he would use the same strategy to promote Islam.


Faisal attended two additional religious services connected with the business conventions. It was at the third service that he had an encounter with God. This was on July 3, 1994. He received the message of God’s love; he noticed that Christians had a peace about them. As the altar call was given at the conclusion of the meeting, Malick watched without emotion as others responded to the invitation for salvation.  

Suddenly he sensed God’s presence right in front of him. His first thought was - why would God manifest himself among these people! Immediately he had a multitude of questions racing through his mind, but in his heart, he asked Him only one:  “God, what are you doing here? I thought these Christians were the bad guys.”

In response, Malick heard an audible voice reply three times with the same answer, “No, these are My children.” As God spoke, His voice moved through Faisal and everything he had ever known up to that moment shattered.

He also asked the Lord, “Take away my stony heart and give me a new heart,” was Malick’s cry as he experienced new birth. “I didn’t completely understand what happened or how completely I had been changed until later.”


Now, the same zeal which had motivated him to win others to Allah, was directed at winning people to Christ. Sharing his testimony became a daily event and within two or three years Faisal had led approximately 1,500 people to the Lord - Muslims to Jews and Hindus, most of them in his car which was affectionately called the “Save Mobile.”

He didn’t realize that what he was doing was unusual. Faisal recalls that one Muslim man came for two years without accepting Jesus. On the night he finally did decide to receive Christ he said a presence kept following him and didn’t leave until he accepted the Lord.

Another Muslim man came to him with his top 20 questions no Christian could answer. Faisal did not know what the man was going to ask or what he would answer him. Suddenly, an answer came after the man’s first question - and the answers kept coming. By the fifteenth or sixteenth question, God’s change came upon the man. He had to run to the bathroom because he was weeping. He came back and his twentieth question was, “How do I know what you’re saying is truth?”

Faisal answered, “Truth is a person.”

Then the man’s next question was “How do I know this Jesus?”

Faisal’s family somehow heard about his newfound faith and sold the house they allowed him to live in. Faisal had to live in his car during one of the worst winters in Canada. He would move from parking lot to parking lot in the evenings and go to McDonald’s in the mornings to shave. This did not stop him from sharing the Gospel with others.  He eventually was able to move into a basement and his life went back to normal.

However, now he had the challenge of his family. He went back to visit them in Pakistan six years after he saw them last. When his step-father, who is a great man of integrity and well respected in the family and community, saw Faisal, he sensed Faisal was a “holy person.” After his three-week visit, although his family did not receive Christ, his stepfather said, “You have exceeded my expectations and seem to be a pure and holy man of God.”

Also, God has given him a unique opportunity among the Muslim and Hindu people through both his background and what is referred to as the “mehrab.” Faisal says in the Islamic world a mehrab is a mark on the forehead, which Muslims believe is a sign from God of a holy man. Hindus favor this mark too as a sign of God’s miraculous blessing.  Many try to achieve this mark from their faithful devotion to the ritual of daily prayers. Faisal has a mark on his forehead. The most interesting thing is that it is not a birthmark. It just appeared when he was about 14-years-old. At the time, he didn’t understand its significance. But today Faisal sees it as a gift. Through this sign, God has opened doors of acceptance Faisal could never open himself.

In Canada, he would meet people at the local Perkins Restaurant. But this newly found passion took him on the road traveling and ministering life in schools, homes, churches and business communities. People would also invite him to speak at home groups, most averaging 150 people, and lives would be transformed. Many that attended these group meetings became pastors, knew pastors, etc., that would tell others about Faisal.

Once he was invited to speak at a church; the pastor told him there were two TV cameras at the back of the church and that it would be telecast in Canada and the U.S. – and he would minister in front of the church. Faisal read a passage from the Gospel of John. He felt the power of God, and one third of the crowd gave their lives to Christ. This was the first time Faisal was on TV. More ministry opportunities presented themselves.

In August 2003, Faisal’s ministry made a transition to TV. God told Faisal to ‘love these My people.’ God showed Faisal the power of TV and that Faisal would be used in a great way on TV to minister to Muslims. God also showed Faisal that the wall of Islam would fall. He was also making more TV appearances on the Inspirational Network, Sid Roth’s show and others. He launched his daily show, Plumbline, on February 2, 2009, which reaches at least 55 nations a month.


God loves the Muslim people. About 40 percent of the gentile population is Muslim. God has not forgotten them, has a Father’s heart towards them, and hears their cry and longing for their Father. Just like in the story of Ishmael, the firstborn son of Abraham, who was exiled into the desert in favor of Abraham’s promised son Isaac (see Genesis 21:17). The name Ishmael means, “God hears.” He was one of four people in the Bible named before they were born, which indicated their destiny). Ishmael and his mother, Haggar, were exiled to the desert at the request of Sarah for the sake of Abraham’s promised child, Isaac. After a long journey in the desert, Ishmael was dying of thirst and cried out. God heard Ishmael’s cry and took care of him.

God promises to hear the Muslims’ hearts and be their loving Father. Understanding the roots of the Muslim people is an important key to understanding the current situation as well as ministering to Muslims. Dreams and visions are important to the Muslim. There will be a generation of Muslims that come to Jesus through dreams and visions – in the dreams and visions they see a Man clothed in white.  The Church needs to be ready to explain. Muslims are open to dreams and visions, open to God speaking to them in this way.

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