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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Hallowed be Thy name"(Lk 11:2) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Divine Call Archives

"My Spirit Exults In God My Saviour" (Luke 1:47) - Caroline Grace Wong, Singapore

Caroline Grace Wong, Singapore

For some years now, the month of May for me, has been a month of celebrations. Three of us in the family have our birthdays in May - my husband, my elder son and myself. Then there is Mother's Day and last but not least, May is the month of Mother Mary according to Catholic traditions and is usually marked by special devotions to Our Lady. My last trip to Mumbai recently to visit my sick mum-in-law, which also happened to be in May, made it an even more memorable month. For the first time, the words of Jesus to John at Calvary, which were words to the whole of humanity also - "Behold, your mother!" (John 19:27), came alive. I really experienced Mary as a real mother to me, caring for her children, concerned, holding me by the hand and protecting my soul from the dangers that daily surround me. I experienced the power of Her intercession through the Rosary and felt a greater closeness to her more than ever before.

I have had encounters before of the Presence of Our Lady through the smell of roses once at the "Maranatha Spring and Shrine" in Elyria, Ohio, twice in my confessor's office and when I visited the house of the Holy Family in Nazareth and once through a dream which I had after my retreat in Divine Retreat Centre about 9 years ago. But this time, it was a different encounter. There were many things which reminded me of Her in Mumbai even though it was not a Christian city. Firstly, the trip was in the month of May, the month of Mary. My mum-in-law, for whom we have been praying constantly, was born on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which explains her name Lily Concepta, and also reminded me of Our Lady. In Mumbai, we went for daily Mass at a nearby church, called "Our Lady of Salvation". We brought our two sons to see their dad's school which is next to the Shrine of Don Bosco's Madonna. The front of the church had a huge rosary hanging from the top of the building. It was a really beautiful rosary, the biggest I have ever seen in my entire life with the nicest shade of blue and a beautiful sign of the presence of Our Lady. Indeed the Queen of Heaven was everywhere, in everything!

Actually looking back at my growing years, Our Lady has always been there watching over me without me even knowing it. I remember being very attracted to the statue of Our Lady of Grace, placed on an altar high on the wall of my mum's bedroom when I was in nursery school. It was a gift from my mum's god-mother. She still has it on the same altar till today even after we moved house. I remember my mum relating to me and my sisters time and time again, how during a cyclone, when everything was blown away by the strong winds, including the house rooftop, that little statue was left intact! My mum would keep rosaries and rosary prayer booklets in a drawer beneath the altar. I recall spending a long time looking at the rosary beads, the crucifix and was very fascinated by the colourful pictures of the various mysteries. I was always amazed by the serenity on Our Lady's face in contrast to the agony on the snake's face being crushed under her tiny feet. I would always wonder how such delicate feet could have so much strength and power! I remember also being chosen to present flower bouquets to Our Lady in my primary school on Mother's Day as I was the only one born in May in my class. Such were my little encounters of Our Lady then!

I experienced the power of Our Lady's intercession through the Rosary. I did not know what to expect from the trip as my mum-in-law had been in and out of hospital, and her condition was quite unpredictable. Furthermore, I did not have much time or energy to think of what-ifs before the trip as I was too busy packing - getting last minute things for my sisters-in-law, the things needed as our two young children were traveling with us. However the small voice inside me had only one advice, "Pray!" "Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17) And so I entrusted all to God through praying the Rosary. The more I prayed, the more peace I felt and the more God and His Will were all that mattered in my hear! Hence on the way to the airport, I was praying the Rosary when we found ourselves stuck in a major traffic jam for at least one long hour. I immediately sent a prayer SOS to my sister and two members of our Serra Club ministry, to say a decade of Rosary each. And soon the jam was cleared and we managed to check-in half an hour before our flight departure. When we reached Mumbai International airport, the children's luggage which had their milk powder, clothes, nappies and all their needed items somehow remained in Singapore and only came one day later. But thanks to God's Goodness, bearing all these inconveniences patiently and cheerfully paid off in the end! My husband, two children and I were all able to go for daily Adoration at 6.30am, followed by Mass at 7.30am at the parish church everyday for the 14 days we were in Mumbai. Every morning as I woke up, I found myself looking forward to see Him in the Blessed Sacrament first thing at the beginning of the day, to hear His Word and to be united with Him in the Eucharist at Mass. It was heaven on earth!

"Make God your only joy and He will give you what your heart desires." (Psalm 37:4) Besides daily rosary prayers, I felt that the daily Adoration and Mass were great sources of strength and peace enabling me to be rooted in God and face the daily difficulties, uncertainties and discomforts which presented themselves during my stay in India. On my previous trips to Mumbai, I would complain about the heat, the food, the dust, the perpetual vehicles' blaring their horns on the streets and my in-laws (!) among many other petty things. However, this time I was able to embrace all the food, the dust, the heat, my in-laws, everything with great joy, love and openness. How could this be if not through God's Grace and the powerful intercession of Our Lady through my daily rosary? "Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?" Genesis 18:14 Moreover, my mother-in-law though she had to be rushed to hospital at some point during our stay, was still very peaceful and cheerful. I was inspired by how devoted she was to saying her many rosaries everyday on her hospital bed, faithfully wearing her scapular, drawing all strength from Our Lady and ready to face death at any time. Everyday we would visit her at the hospital and pray the rosary with her. The amazing thing is despite her pain and weakness, she was very alert. Normally before and after the rosary, being an Auxiliary member of the Legion of Mary, I would pray the little prayer from the Legion of Mary Tessera prayer leaflet which I did by her bedside. My mum-in-law was touched by the prayers and asked me for my only copy which I gladly passed to her. I eventually got another copy from the Legion of Mary from "Our Lady of Salvation" church and my 2 sisters-in-law also got enrolled as Auxiliary members that same day. Indeed it was truly a blessed trip, thanks to the powerful intercession of Our Lady!

During this trip, I also found myself blessed with new understanding while meditating on the Magnificat during the Liturgy of the Hours in the evenings. "As Your Word unfolds, it gives light, and the simple understand." (Psalm 119:130) In the scene of the Visitation in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:46-55), when Elizabeth praised Mary for her faith, Mary sings the Magnificat in response. I realised that the Magnificat was such a spontaneous, heartfelt response, coming from the heart of not just anyone but that of the most beautiful, greatest woman on earth, Mary! There is so much truth revealed in that song, of God's greatness and our nothingness, of His Mercy, of True Wisdom, that I could not stop thinking about it. However I found myself pondering on the first verse Luke 1:47, "My spirit exults in God my Saviour." It revealed to me how much Mary delights in God, the amazing joy that she finds in Him, that Her heart cannot contain all the love that She has for God but overflows to Her lips with great spontaneity.

As I meditated on that verse, I was led to this other scene in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10:25-28) , whereby a lawyer asked Jesus, "Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus asked him to read the answer from the Book of Deuteronomy whereby it was written - "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself." I felt this was exactly what Mary did! Every part of her being was filled with passion for God alone and nothing else. Her affection, her conscience, her thoughts, her will and desires were all devoted to God. There was great harmony in her whole being towards God. She loved God, she had no doubts in her mind, and she was willing to do everything and stop at nothing to please Him alone. Moreover she did not allow anything to dampen her joy even in the most stressful situations. When she and Joseph found 12-year old Jesus among the doctors of the Law after 3 days of searching, she "stored up all these things in her heart." (Luke 2:52).

And the questions which I was prompted to ask myself were did I enjoy God? Was He my only delight and joy? How much did I enjoy Him, was my joy conditional upon His gifts to me? Would I still love Him even if He took away everything from me? Was my joy limited to the material realm, measured in terms of material abundance only? Did I delight and rejoice in God alone or was I busy with His Gifts only? "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Luke 12:34) . Regarding the latter question, John Piper made a very good observation in one of his books titled "Hunger for God". He wrote that God's greatest adversaries are His Gifts. He continued by saying, "The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie … the simple pleasures of earth (decorating, traveling, investing, TV-watching, Internet-surfing, shopping, collecting, talking…). And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of His Love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). For when these replace an appetite for God Himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable."

The above questions would take some more reflection on my part. I would just like to conclude that my real journey with Mary, my dearest Mother, has only just begun! She is leading me closer to Her beloved Son Jesus. And I just want to say, "Thank you, dearest Mother!" And my whole being cannot but cry out to God the words of Mary, for the gift of Her to us on Calvary (John 19:27), to accompany us on our earthly journey - "My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour."(Luke 1:46-47)

 
Divine Updates

MAGNIFICAT in Chennai

Divine comes to Chennai with the 'Magnificat', on June 23, 2018. Fr. John Prince VC will lead the services. With special sessions for children.

Venue: Stella Maris College, Cathedral Road

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - drcsydney@gmail.com. Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2018 - December, 2018

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK, has announced several English and Malayalam language retreats to be led by Fr. George Panackal VC and Fr. Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Dates: Jan - Dec, 2018

POWER 2018 at Divine Retreat Centre

DRC is back with the highlight of the year: the 13th International Youth Conference - POWER 2018. The very best international preachers and gospel bands will be here to lead us into worship. Be there to experience a totally different atmosphere of prayer. A Couples' Retreat and a Kids' Retreat will be held simultaneously. Don't miss it.

Date: July 22 - July 27, 2018

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