(Presented November 6th, 1999,at the Embrace the Eucharist III Mission, Cathedral of the Transfiguration,Unionville, Ontario.)
I was born and raised a Roman Catholic in San Antonio, Texas. While growing up, I attended Catechism and Mass every Sunday. However, after finishing high school, I didn't go as often.
While attending College in 1977, I met my husband, Hamid. He is Iranian and at the time was a practising Moslem. Because of the chaos in Iran and then the hostage situation, he thought it best to return home. Shortly after that, President Carter broke off relations with Iran, and Hamid was unable to return to Texas. We wrote to each other and called once a month to keep in touch. But it wasn't until after 2 years that I would see him again. While in Spain, waiting for his VISA to come to America, Hamid asked my father for my hand in marriage.
I began to prepare for the wedding. It didn't matter to Hamid whether we'd get married in the Catholic Church or a Moslem Mosque. When I spoke to my parish priest, he tried to convince me that it wouldn't be a good marriage, not only because Hamid was a muslim, but also because he was Iranian: different cultures, different religions - NO, not good. The Priest also required that Hamid promise to baptize the children in the Catholic Church and convert to Catholicism himself. I told him that this would be impossible. I then spoke with a monsignor. His response was, "As God forgave Mary Magdalene, God will forgive you." I was very angry at his answer. How could he compare my situation with Mary Magdalene's? My father, however, gave me his blessing and told me to do what I thought best.
We were married in a civil ceremony on March 6th, 1982. Needless to say, I stopped attending church. I remember telling my mother that God would not bring two people together from opposite sides of the world, with different cultures and religions, for nothing.......It was meant to be.
For the next 15 years, the only time I was in a Catholic church was for weddings or funerals. In the meantime we moved to Toronto, Canada and had 2 beautiful little girls, Natalie and Nadia.
In 1996, I first saw Dr. Michael Rozeluk for a dental appointment. As he examined me, he asked if I believed in God. I said, of course, I'm Catholic. He answered that he was a Catholic too. I told him I was not a practicing Catholic. He then told me about his miraculous healing in Garabandal. That sparked up something in me. I didn't want to leave his office. His story was amazing and it pierced my heart. I wanted to hear more. I felt happy and sad all at the same time.
The day was cold and cloudy. I remember, as I was driving towards the church, my heart was beating so fast. I was impatient to arrive. I felt so happy, so joyful, as if my heart were dancing....never had I felt this way before.
The rosary was being said. As I was praying, I looked to my left towards the windows. It was no longer cloudy. Suddenly the sun appeared in the window over there, so bright and beautiful. I could see the actual roundness of the sun. It began pulsating and changing colors: first a bright yellow, then pink, blue, purple, green, all different colors.....so magnificently beautiful!.. I was in awe. I'm not sure how long I stared at it, but I think it was about 10 minutes. At first I thought I was imagining things, but my daughters and a few other people saw it too. I began looking for Dr. Rozeluk to tell him, but I heard someone say, "Don't say anything or else it will be chaos."
I felt so peaceful, calm and happy. But I was skeptical and couldn't believe it. Why me? I bowed my head in prayer and asked our Blessed Mother to give me a sign. Was it Her Spirit here with all of us that day? If it was She.....Thank you Mother for choosing my daughters and me to be part of this magnificent blessing. I then looked up to the Icon of our Blessed Mother behind the altar... and there was a cloud covering Her face. However, from the neck down I could see Her clearly. "O my God!" I said. Then I began to cry. Was this my sign or were my eyes playing tricks on me? Well, I had been staring at the sun for about 10 minutes. Maybe it had affected my sight. I began to rub my eyes and focused myself. Again I bowed my head in prayer and asked for one more sign. I looked up at the Icon and there again was the cloud covering Her face, and again from the neck down I could see Her perfectly clearly. My heart began to beat very fast. I began to cry. Then tremendous peace came over me. I was in awe. I remained in church until about 4:30 p.m. My daughters began to feel tired and hungry. We had to leave. I had hoped to stay there longer, but I couldn't. I had to think of the girls.
When we returned home, although my husband and I were still upset with each other, we had both forgotten about the incident. He was dressed and ready to leave. He told me, "I was asleep and something woke me up. I had to get ready to go to church." I then told him what the girls and I had experienced in church. He said he wished he had been there.
I opened the gift. It was a beautiful Tilma of Our
Lady of Guadalupe. The wonderful thing about it was, that when I was unfolding
the Tilma, Our Lady's face was covered with a cloud, just as I had seen
Her at the Cathedral several hours earlier.
I later had it blessed and it now hangs in my house. It is a very special gift for my family and me. My husband is very fond of it. One day I found him weeping like a child as he was praying before Her. Hamid said he felt Our Lady's sadness and he saw Her crying. Since that day, he prays to Her often and soon began attending Mass with us at the Cathedral as well.
A few months later, in May, 1997, I attended the 2nd Embrace the Eucharist Mission. That evening, Dr. Rozeluk asked me if I would like to meet Bishop Roman Danylak. I said, "Yes, if he has the time." The Bishop asked me if he could pray over me and I said, "Of course, I would be honored." I was a bit afraid, as I didn't know what to expect. The Bishop put his hand over my head and began to pray. I listened to his soft voice and closed my eyes. I began to pray silently. All at once my heels began to elevate and I felt myself falling forward. I tried my best to bring my heels back to the ground but I couldn't. Suddenly I felt myself going forward and then I fell. I believe I was out for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, Bishop Danylak, with the help of Dr. Rozeluk and Helen Rozeluk, his wife, laid me down. Bishop Roman anointed me with a special healing oil. I remember seeing a bright light and felt a wonderful peace. I felt so happy.
When I awoke, Dr. Rozeluk asked if I was OK and I said, "Yes., why?" He told me that I fell in the arms of the Holy Spirit. I didn't know what that meant at the time and he explained. He also told me that, as I was falling forward, I almost pushed the Bishop down. Just imagine, here I am this short little person, pushing down this big tall man! Well, that must have been some great wonderful power. Later that evening Dr. Rozeluk asked Bishop why I fell forward and he replied: "She opened her heart completely to Jesus."
Our family began to attend Mass on a more regular basis.
And She answered me: I was not a good wife, nor a good mother because I never married in the Church. In God's eyes I was not married and my children had not been baptized. I was not complete! I realized that this was the reason for my unhappiness. But then I also thought that Hamid would never agree. I had never suggested to him to marry in the church, much less convert or even consider the children to be baptized.
I continued to pray. I asked God to please help me. I felt so lost and alone. I prayed to Our Lady to give me a sign as to what to do.
Oh my God ... please, please show me the way. What shall I do? I continued to pray and told God: "Whatever Your Will may be, then let it be."
After praying, I sat by Hamid's side and began to tell him what I thought. To my surprise, he said YES! I was shocked. He asked me to talk to Dr. Rozeluk, so that he can help us. "Wait a minute", I said, "Do you know what you're saying?" He said "Yes, let's marry in the Church. Let's have the girls baptized and, if I can, I'd like to learn more about Catholicism."
Oh my God! What a gift! I was so happy. I spoke with Dr. Rozeluk and he suggested I speak with Bishop Danylak. This was at the beginning of February, 1998, one month before my wedding anniversary. Remember how impatient I was? Well this was my big test. I prayed to Our Lady for patience.
Hamid made an appointment with Bishop Danylak. He asked us many questions to make sure that we were ready to take this great step. Bishop told me that he had to get a few documents together, get more information and make some phone calls. Now it was one week before March 6th. Finally, Bishop called me. He said, "I have to give you marriage counselling classes before the ceremony. So I'll give you a crash course."
From Monday, March 2nd, 1998 to Wednesday March 4th, 1998 we met for 2-3 hours with Bishop every night. I asked him if we will be able to get married on our anniversary day, March 6th . He said: "Don't worry,...be patient. Our Lady does things at the right time." He made a phone call to Fr. John Fetsco at this Cathedral to arrange the ceremony for Friday at 4 p.m. and to arrange a Baptismal Ceremony for the girls. Fr. John also said yes, everything was arranged.
Can you imagine? What perfect timing! Our Lady not only sent Dr. Rozeluk and his wife, Helen, into my life, but also this wonderful Bishop to make it possible to complete my life in God's embrace.
We began to attend Mass on a regular basis. The children began classes to prepare for their First Holy Communion and Hamid began to have classes with Fr. Andrew in preparation for his Baptism. The girls were scheduled to have their First Holy Communion on Father's Day, June 1998.
After three months of instruction with Fr. Andrew, Hamid asked if it would be possible for him to receive his first Holy Communion together with his daughters. Fr. Andrew said: "Well, you must be baptized first." Hamid said, "Well, if it can be done, I really would be happy."
Fr. Andrew spoke with Bishop Danylak. Bishop wasn't aware of what Hamid had in mind. Bishop called Dr. Rozeluk....he didn't know either. Saturday morning, I got a call from Helen Rozeluk. Helen said, "What's going on"? "Nothing, why?" "Well what is this about Hamid wanting to have his First Holy Communion with the girls?" I said, "I don't know." Helen told me, "Find out if he wants this, because he has to get Baptized first. And if so, we have to let Bishop Danylak, Fr. John and Fr. Andrew know as soon as possible." We hung up.
Hamid, very calm, cool and collected said "Well, I just asked Fr. Andrew, and if it can be done, that would be great. But if not, it's o.k.." I said, "HELLOOO, you have to get Baptized first and these things have to be arranged. And the Baptism has to be done today." Hamid said, "O.K.", very calm and cool.
I called Helen and told her. She laughed, but I know she was happy because "Mama", as she calls Our Lady, was once more working at her own time. Helen told me to be at the Cathedral that afternoon. Helen also mentioned that Hamid needed Godparents. I told Hamid and he said, "I think it best be Helen and Michael." When I asked Helen, she was very pleased. However, Hamid told me to ask Helen about one thing. "What?" asked Helen. Hamid wondered, "Which one of them will be carrying me? Helen or Michael?" We just laughed.
That same afternoon, the day before Father's Day, we went to the Cathedral. As we all entered, Helen noticed a strong fragrance of roses. We knew that "Mama" was there with us. During the ceremony, while the holy water was being poured on Hamid's forehead, I looked up to the Mosaic of our Lady behind the altar (even as I am writing this, I still get tears in my eyes) and saw Her beckoning with both Her hands, confirming to me, "Let him come, so that I can embrace him". I cried so much. Now I felt complete. The last piece of the puzzle was finally put in place. By the way, Hamid chose the name Andrew in honor of Fr. Andrew.
The next day was a very special day for my family. The church was full. There were other first communicants with my daughters, Natalie and Nadia, and then Hamid. The First Communicants all sat in the front row. Their parents were seated behind them. Fr. John made a beautiful homily addressed to the First Communicants. However, he made a special announcement in reference to our family - "Today is a special day for the H. family! Not only will Natalie and Nadia receive their First Holy Communion, but their father, who just got baptized yesterday, will also receive his First Holy Communion with them." Everyone in the church stood up and clapped for my family. It was a very joyful and emotional day.
I'm very, very happy.
Thank You, my God, for all You do for me.
Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus to rescue me.
Thank You, Jesus, for sending Your Mother to be my guide.
Thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to give me life.
I love You with all my heart!