Week 1 & 2: Italy

THANK YOU

IMG_2902.JPG

Hello my friends! I want to say first and foremost, thank you, to everyone that sent love and positivity my way over the past fourteen days. I was overwhelmed and astounded by the responses I received and the courage I was a witness to for all those that shared their personal struggles and triumphs with me. Please continue to share your thoughts; in the vastness of the universe, I pray that you come to understand that your individual stories do matter and can change the lives of those around you. Let your voices be heard. Your words mean so much to me. For all the times I doubted myself in sharing my 'hope story' with the world, your courageous hearts have made it clear that there is purpose in all of this. I want to clarify that my message was never intended to demonize or draw negative attention to the actions of others, but rather bring others closer to a place of healing and love. The only way to love is through forgiveness, and I hope this serves as an invitation to all who read this to explore the individual depths of your soul and spiritual connection to the world. 

I will do my very best to update my travel page once a week, so if you are interested in following, please subscribe on the 'Contact' page under the 'About' tab. These two weeks officially mark the first fourteen of the total seventy two days I will be abroad. I want this to be a journey I can share with you. One that can give readers a glimpse of the world while sipping a cup of coffee or tea in their pajamas. I myself am still wearing my pajamas as I write this, and although we are are on different sides of the world, do not forget that we are still so very much alike. 

I want to give both my personal experiences as well as a cultural snapshot of each city/ country I visit, so that readers can gain brief knowledge about the cultural customs and history of each place. Although it will not be as informative as a history course, or captivate everything within my heart, I hope it expands your knowledge and views of the world. This week has been very special to me because I was able to spend it with my entire family on my mother's side. We arrived in Tuscany Saturday afternoon, and stayed together in a large villa that is unlike anything I have ever seen. It was once an old mill that was transformed into a beautiful Tuscan home in a town called Loro Ciuffenna. The property is entirely surrounded by woods and a natural stream that can be heard from every open window. The villa is made entirely out of stone and there are various nooks and crannies throughout the home that have private seating if one desires to spend some time alone. My favorite seat has been on a long wooden table that has a shaded awning made entirely out of wood. Every time I sit down to write, someone is invited to my table. Over the course of a week I've had many personal and blessed conversations with all of my family members. When they leave me, I am completely absorbed by the impression the conversation left on me, as well as the hymns of natural sounds. The way of life here is slow and patient, yet everything grows with authority. The plants are Jurrasic, wild strawberry patches can be found along the sides of the house sprouting like weeds, and the flowers bloom with passionate intention, making them hard to ignore. It took me a full week to adjust to the six hour time difference and many nights I laid in bed listening to the stream and meditating on all that I've seen thus far. Throughout the two weeks in the Tuscan villa, my family and I have taken several days to travel amongst various cities in Italy. We've visited Florence, Venice, and hiked the foothills of the Cinque Terre (known as the five terraces) along the Mediterranean coast. I started my holy pilgrimage with a trip to Rome and then headed onward to Assisi, where I have began my travels alone. Despite the busy days, I’ve found myself in a deep peace, wondering why I didn’t decide to move to Italy all together. Maybe one day I will.

After my sophomore year of college, I studied abroad in Florence for six weeks and I have been dying to come back to Italy ever since. My experiences encouraged my family to make Italy a vacation destination and this year that dream came to fruition. It was magical being able to share a piece of my heart with them. Now please allow me to share it with you:


Day 1-2: Florence

After arriving the Tuscany, my family took a day trip into Florence. After dodging the narrow streets and crazy drivers, we parked our cars at the train station and managed to navigate our way to the correct platform, which was an event in itself. When we arrived in Florence we spent the afternoon visiting various churches, galleries, and walking the streets that still remain so familiar to me. I tried giving my family a tour the way my teachers did many times, yet there weren't enough words or time to capture the timelessness of the city in just one day. We went to the Gallaria de Academia which is home to Michelangelo's 'David' and many of his other unfinished projects. Although extremely successful, he was also the king of 'unfinished projects' and had many failed attempts at sculpture. Although he tried to recreate 'The Pieta' many times throughout his life (sculpture of the blessed Mary holding Jesus after his cruxificition, located in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome), he could never duplicate it. It is very cool to know that even Michelangelo, a Renaissance master of his time, also had extreme imperfections and failures as well. 

After passing the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, I took them to the apartment I once called home in 2014. There is a picture of me crossing the street next to the green panel windows I opened everyday on my street level apartment. I remember that on St. John the Baptist's Feast day, which is like Florence's Forth of July, my roommate and I watched the parade and fireworks from our windowsill and celebrated with a bottle of wine. We talked about all things and I remember feeling so fortunate to have spent a summer abroad with someone who was real, authentic, and unlike many other people our age. It hardly seemed like three years had passed since the two of us had sat there together, laughing and talking about our dreams for the future. It felt surreal to know how much has changed since then, yet to also know how much good has come from my return. 

My family and I moved onward to the flea market near the Fontana del Porcellino (or the Bronze Boar), where it is customary to place a coin in its mouth and make a wish. It is said that if the water washes the coin from the pig’s mouth and it falls into the grate below, you will have good luck and you will be sure to return to Florence. It turns out that the fable was true after all! 

After venturing through the city, we had dinner near Giotto's Campanile (bell tower). Traditional Italian meals are not at all like we perceive them to be in America. When the average American thinks of Italian food, they often picture spaghetti and meatballs or fettuccine alfredo. I hate to be the person to break this kind of news to you, but these dishes simply do not exist. While it is tradition to serve pasta with most meals, meatballs are only an Americanized 'add on' that is only served separately as a second course in Italy, if served at all. Alfredo does not exist and depending on the region you are in, béchamel sauce is often substituted for ricotta cheese in lasagna dishes. Most Italian pastas include vegetables or seafood and if meat is served, it it almost always advertised separately on a menu as a second course/ main dish. Most extended traditional Italian dinners include an appetizer, first course, second course, and dessert. While they are not huge in portion, there is certainly a lot of food which is intended to be served over a 2-3 hour span of time. I found it comical to see many of my cousins fidgeting in their seats and asking when we could leave, because it is not at all what we are accustomed to in America. Italians value socializing at the dinner table, which is very opposed to our society of convenience, where it is expected to eat on the go, stop at a fast foot restaurant, or eat at your desk while working. Many restaurants here are only open briefly for coffee in the morning or sandwiches for lunch, are closed for several hours in late-afternoon, and then re-open around 7pm for dinner. Italians don't usually start dinner until 8pm and when my family arrived any sooner, there was often no one else (besides other Americans) at the restaurant!

I had veal scaloppini for dinner that night in Florence along with a fabulous glass (or two) of Chianti wine, and we capped the night off at my favorite gelato shop!

Cultural Snapshot: Florence

The city of Florence has a rich history dating back to the Roman Empire in which economic and commercial activity thrived. Florence was the birthplace of Renaissance culture and art in the fourteenth century and continues to remain evident throughout the city today. The Ponte Vecchio is the only original bridge arching over the Arno River that survived World War II because Hitler took a 'particular liking' to it. The Baptistry and Duomo (dome) are in the heart of Florence and are hard to miss as the central church of Florence. The idea is that one would be baptized in the baptistry and head directly into the church following the service to be blessed directly by God. The Galleria de Academia is the home of Michelangelo's David and other works he never finished. David was never meant to be seen at the ground level, but rather on top of the Duomo, which is why his hands and head appear to be of significant disproportion. The Uffizi Gallery is the other main art gallery in Florence which is home of The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, The Doni Tondo (or 'Holy Family') by Michelangelo, and The Original Madonna by Giotto and many other famous works. Florence was home to the Medici family who ruled between 1434 and 1737 as the wealthiest family in commerce and banking. Their legacy remains throughout the city today. 


Days 2-5: Venice

On Monday and Tuesday, my immediate family traveled via train and water taxi to Venice. Together we roamed the streets of the ‘romantic city’ and did touristy things like hitch a gonadal ride, feed the pigeons in St. Mark’s square, and have dinner on the waterfront. We took an elevator to the top of the Campanile di San Marco, which is the bell tower in Venice with a spectacular bird’s eye view of the entire city. The most memorable part of the trip for me was being able to see St. Mark’s tomb in St. Mark’s Basilica (the church in Venice). The church ceiling is covered entirely with gold mosaics (which are images made from the assemblage of many smaller pieces of glass or other materials). My neck hurt by the time we left because I could not unglue my eyes from the ceiling. Getting to see St. Mark's tomb directly under the church alter, was also an astounding site to see. We spent our second day in Venice taking a boat tour to various islands. We stopped at Murano, Burano, and Torcello, which are three of the most famous islands of Venice. Murano is known for their glass around the world, Burano is considered the 'lace-making island', and Torcello was the first island ever inhabited. 

Cultural Snapshot Venice:

The history of Venice dates back to 400 A.D. when the Roman Empire collapsed and many people were seeking refuge from barbarians that were sweeping through many Italian cities. The first settlers escaped to nearby marshes and found refuge on the sandy islands of Torcello, Iesolo and Malamocco. Although the settlements were initially temporary in nature, the Venetians gradually inhabited the islands on a permanent basis. Although many people think Venice is one large mainland, there are actually 118 small islands connected by numerous canals and bridges. The buildings in Venice were not built directly on the islands but rather built upon wooden platforms that were supported by wooden stakes driven into the ground. Venice is home to St. Mark’s square which contains the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist. The story goes that two Venetian merchants stole his remains and brought them back to Venice by ship after Venice had declared Mark as their patron saint. It was welcomed in triumph and they had the basilica built in his name. 


Day 6-8: Cinque terre

The Cinque Terre was an experience that does not do it justice on paper. The Cinque Terre is known as the ‘5 Terraces’ which are five towns perched on the mountainous terrain alongside the Mediterranean Coast.  Each of the five terraces are within a few miles of one another and can be hiked during certain seasons throughout the year. You need to purchase a pass in order to get from checkpoint to checkpoint, and if you ever take a trip to Italy, I would absolutely make this journey a priority. I spent one day in the Cinque Terre when I was abroad in 2014 and I was able to hike one of the foothill paths with my friends. It was a venture that left such an impression on me that after showing my parents pictures, it became my mother’s personal mission to get herself there one day and hike as many of the footpaths as possible. When she fell ill with her autoimmune disease two years ago, the dream seemed even further away. Which is why this trip was both a celebration and a personal testimony to her good health today. She even wore her Natural Life T-shirt on the first day that says, “Somedays you just have to create your own sunshine.” I can’t tell you the joy and happiness I felt for her throughout these two days we were together. We spent the night in the quaintest of the five towns and hiked three of the four foothill paths. It was absolutely terrifying but well worth the labor. For several hours you’d be hiking up steep, narrow steps, sweating profusely and feel like you were hardly making any progress, and then you’d turn around or reach a peak and be a witness to God’s ultimate beauty and perfect design. For a moment you’d forget all the turmoil it has taken to get there and be completely absorbed in the view. My aunt may disagree, as she continued to tease me along the way that this was not her idea of ‘vacation’ and for extra punishment for suggesting the idea, she was going to make me hike all the way back! But even she was a good sport about it, along with my uncle, sister, brother, father, and four cousins, ranging in ages 12-18. These trails are not for the faint-hearted, and I would recommend taking a full two days to get through them all if you plan to hike them. With two days we were able to take our time, shop around, and enjoy the delights each terrace had to offer. The terraces are known for their sardines, pesto sauce, and cheesy facottia bread. We made sure to have them all and at dinner we even dared to order fried sardines off the appetizer list! They were absolutely delicious!

Cultural Snapshot cinque terre:

The Cinque Terre is located in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. The names of the five villages are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Day 8-10: Tuscany

On the days in between hiking, train hopping, and venturing through various Italian cities, we rested at the Tuscan villa. Although I had every intention to wake up before the sun, I often found myself hitting the snooze button out of pure exhaustion from the previous day’s activities. But each morning waking up in the villa was even more spectacular then the last, and I often enjoyed an espresso or a cup of coffee in the shade outside with a small plate of proscuttio and melon. My cousins and I hiked alongside the creek by the villa and we found various pebbles and stones that were beautifully shaped and thousands of tadpoles laying low in a shallow pool nearby. One afternoon a photographer came to take family pictures for us and later that evening our hosts prepared a spectacular Tuscan meal for all thirteen of us. We learned that it was bad luck in Italy to set a table for thirteen, so there was always a fortieth plate placed somewhere on the table. Our lovely hosts are pictured above, along with the beautiful place settings and delicate appetizers they served us. My cousin Colin and I both share June birthdays, and since I will be away for my birthday this year, my grandmother insisted we celebrate it together. Our hosts made this magnificent tart cake display with wild strawberries, cherries, and individual yogurt cups surrounding the tart. It was incredible. We sat outside for many hours after dinner and laughed and drank wine. 


Day 11-13: Rome

Rome was everything and more I had hoped it would be. I was initially most excited to hear the Pope speak, but it was actually through humbler encounters that lead me deeper into my faith.

The first day we arranged as a travel day and when we arrived we had time to do a bus tour that gave us the ability to stop a range of historical sites. The buses arrived in fifteen minute intervals, allowing tourists to spend as much time as they liked at any particular site. We saw the Collosium, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, and had a lovely dinner at a restarant that our AirB&B host recommended. I ordered the chicken ‘roman style’ and it was covered in a red pepper tomato sauce. Another customary drink in Italy that we all tried for the first time was an orange spritzer that contains Persecco and Aperol, which is a sweet Italian liquor. It was incredibly refreshing. We finished our meal with another European custom: nutella crepes. I don’t know what it is about Nutella that has every European craving the stuff, but they even sell it in gas stations. I plan to take full advantage of it while I can. Molto buono! 

The second day we got up bright and early and took a tour of Vatican City, which included the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. I have a little bit of information about this as well as the church history in the ‘Cultural Snapshot’ if you feel compelled to skip ahead. We had a cab driver that said, “One lifetime is not nearly enough to experience all that there is to see in Rome,” and that statement is entirely true. Although this was my second guided tour of the Vatican, I could not stop asking questions or scouring for details I had missed the first time. I did actually miss a full thirty minutes of my first guided tour after getting lost in a gift shop to purchase a crucifix. I felt fortunate and somewhat amused reflecting on the experience. This time I wouldn't have to run through the basilica as rudely as I did the first time in a total state of panic searching for my group. The highlights from the tour included seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta, standing before the tombs of previous popes in the basement of St. Peter’s Basilica, and seeing the Sistine Chapel. The moment my grandmother stepped into the chapel her eyes filled with tears. I myself started crying at the thought that I was able to share this moment with her. There was a priest in the corner and our tour guide asked if we desired a blessing. My heart beamed and after looking at the expression on my grandmother’s face, we all huddled around the priest as he prayed over us.  It was overwhelming to stand in such a beautiful place where people from all over the world, speaking in different tongues, were gathered to witness a piece of history. I felt the grace of God come down upon us all as the priest lead my family in prayer. I knew God was working in the hearts of all of my family members in different ways, and it was both a humbling experience and a real blessing. 

We were also able to see the tomb of St. Peter the Evangelist. Saint Peter was the first Pope recognized by the Catholic Church, as Jesus instituted the need for a church figure in Matthew 16:18, "Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." Peter was an imperfect man, denying Jesus three times before his death and fleeing Rome before his own crucifixion. It is humbling to know that one of Jesus's most trusted friends and apostles, was flawed, just as we all are. Peter returned to Rome to face his own death, where he was crucified upside down at his own request, because he saw himself unworthy to be crucified the same way Christ was. I prayed to St. Peter while standing next to his tomb, and asked that God help purify my soul. This was one of several moments that helped renew my spirt. 

Another moment happened by chance. A priest recommended we stop at the Scala Sancta (or Holy Steps) and a church containing relics from the cruxifixction called Santa Croce Gerusalemme. Both the Holy Steps and the relics in the church were said to be brought back to Rome after Jesus's death by St. Helena. The church we ran into by accident, and if you google Santa Croce Gerusalemme the artifacts it contains are unbelievable. There wasn't a sole to be seen around the church and I wondered why more people were gathered at Trevi Fountain then making themselves witness to the relics involved in Jesus's death. I would highly recommend reading more about the relics, because I could write an entire post on the effects they left on me. I do however want to talk about the Scala Sancta. 

The Scala Sancta is a stairway of 28 white marble steps in a building near the Archbasilica of St. John. According to Catholic tradition, they are the same steps that Jesus Christ walked up on his way to trial with Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. Religious pilgrims in Rome who visit the Holy Staircase ascend each of the 28 steps on their knees in return for a sizable plenary indulgence (forgiveness of past sins) that amounts to 9 years for each step, as decreed by Pope Pius X. I decided to climb the staircase and I can't truly convey how emotional the experience was. I felt extreme humility and shame that we allowed our savior to be condemned in such a humiliating and painful way. The staircase was encased in wood to protect the marble and the hard surface was uncomfortable and difficult to scale on your knees alone. I had to crawl on both my knees and palms to support myself and several times I slipped and imagined the pure rejection and exhaustion Christ felt as he fell three times on the way to his own death. I felt deep mourning within my soul for his pain and sacrifice. His suffering was patient and horrific, yet he did not retaliate for he knew it was a part of God's greater plan. Even if it was only for a fraction of a moment, it was overwhelming to get a taste of the extreme vulnerability and grief Christ may have felt as he walked up those stairs. 

On my last day in Rome, the rest of my family went back home while my mother and I stayed to hear the Pope speak. Although attendance was free, you needed a ticket to present at the gate. I acquired mine through a group of nuns that oversee the general pulpit and had emailed them a month in advance. If this is something you wish to do in the future, I'd be happy to send you the details about acquiring tickets. Mass is held every Wednesday morning at 10:00am, but the Pope went around the square in his Pope mobile starting around 9:30am. We arrived at 7:45am to get second row seats and when he drove by us I was so overwhelmed that I didn't take a single picture. I was in tears and fortunately my mother was able to take some good pictures instead! The Gospel was first read in Italian and then in eight other languages, including English. The Pope gave a ten minute sermon and then the highlights were translated back. After receiving a blessing, the mass concluded close to 11:00am and the audience all sang the 'Our Father' in Latin, which is the universal language of the Catholic Church and the first language the Bible was transcribed in. The entire experience was overwhelming, incredible, and one I will surely never forget. 

Cultural Snapshot:Rome

Rome's history spans more than 2,500 years and is renowned as one of the founding cities of Western Civilization. Along with its central place in the history of the Roman Empire, Rome also has a significant place in the history of Christianity. Up to the present day it endures as the Vatican City, the home of the papacy, which is the office held by the pope as head of the Roman Catholic Church. The worldwide Roman Catholic Church is administered from the Vatican City, which is considered it's own independent state within Rome and the world's smallest sovereign state. Today, Rome is a modern, cosmopolitan city, and the third most-visited tourist destination in the European Union. Rome has been described as a global city and is known worldwide as the "Eternal City." As one of the few major European cities that escaped World Wall II relatively unscathed, central Rome remains essentially Renaissance and Baroque in character. The historic center, including numerous religious and public buildings, is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. 


Day 14: Assisi

Today marks the first official day of travel on my own. My mother dropped me off at the train station yesterday and I headed to Assisi! I arrived in early evening and enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant that TripAdvisor had recommended. There was not a sole to be found on the streets or in the restaurant I ate at. A stray cat joined me on the chair next to me for dinner. This lovely woman waited on me and we conversed in broken English. She asked if I wanted salad, pasta, or meat. I jokingly laughed and exclaimed, "All three!" and before I could correct myself, she brought me half a pitcher of wine, a salad, a pork chop and a bowl of pasta. I couldn't help but laugh, and felt fortunate to enjoy it out on a terrace that overlooked the city. I read for a while and took in the view. This is it. This starts your 'big girl' adventure, I thought to myself. I felt a little unnerved knowing that I was now all alone; there was no going back now. I reminded myself that this was just another step. A small leap of faith necessary in my growth towards God and towards love. Her dog joined me towards the end of the meal and I was grateful that he sensed I needed a friend.

All of my anxieties were eased when I woke up the next morning in my single room apartment flat. I had an email notification confirming that I had a scheduled tour to see the city of Assisi. It turns out there were no group tours available, and to my amazement this charismatic woman in her late seventies greeted me to give me a personalized-private tour. She stood outside of St. Francis's Basilica waving and calling to me, "Megan! You have found me! I am here! Come here, child!!" I was fifteen minutes late and completely out of breathe after realizing I had met her at the wrong church. It was a rookie mistake. She was forgiving anyways, and the two of us had the most wonderful afternoon together. She took me all across Assisi and educated me about the famous frescos on the walls painted by Giotto, as well as his master, Cimabue, from whom he learned the technique. She explained to me the significance of the Tau cross, which can be seen in the grass courtyard of the St. Francis's Basicllia next to the large letters PAX; latin for Peace. The Tau cross was first recognized in the Old Testament by Ezekiel where he describes the poor of Israel being instructed to leave the mark on their forehead to be saved from extermination. It was therefore recognized as a sign of salvation. Tau was later adopted by early Christians and St. Francis because the form immolated the cross on which Jesus gave his life for the salvation of the world. The symbol can be found on nearly every street corner.

After learning all about the life of St. Francis and St. Clare, whom is also a saint honored in Assisi, I took on a personal mission to find the street pedlar that made leather bible covers. I had a friend back home who had the most beautiful personalized one of her own, and the only information she could give me was that this man was in Assisi. My guide led me to his shop, which was completely vacant, aside from a sign in the window with the address of his new location, about ten minutes outside of town. I got into a cab to find the shop, and was largely disappointed when I found it was also closed. I called the number on the door and after explaining myself, the owner told me he would come in (although it wasn't during his normal business hours) and make an exception for me. When he arrived there wasn't a cover on the shelf that fit my Bible, so he made a new one and at my request put a tau cross on the front, and an M on the back signifying Mother Mary and Jesus. I was overjoyed that my labors had been worth the wild goose-chase! I included the address of his new shop in the pictures above, and if you ever have a chance to go to Assisi, stopping in this man's shop is a must. 

I capped off the evening with a delicious meal at a local place in town and had the mushroom truffle pasta and boar stew. 

Cultural Snapshot:

A holy city for Christians, Assisi is a destination for pilgrims wanting to the see the place where Saint Francis was born, lived a life of humility, chastity and rebuilt God's church, and died. St. Francis is celebrated as the Patron Saint on October 4, where thousands of pilgrims come each year in lieu of the celebration. Having been the birthplace of the Franciscan order since the Middle Ages, Assisi has been the center of the Franciscan order and the movement’s diffusion throughout the world, focusing on a message of peace and tolerance, especially in regard to other religions. St. Francis was born into a life of luxury, but in his early twenties decided to give all of his possessions back to his father, including his clothing. He heard God's call while praying before an old Byzantine crucifix at the church of San Damiano, where reportedly the crucifix spoke to him and told him to rebuild God's Church. Francis obeyed and devoted himself to Christianity. He was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history. Stigmata is a term used to describe bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands, wrists, and feet. Padre Pio is the most recent documented saint to have developed the stigmata which were studied by several 20th century physicians. The observations were reportedly unexplainable and the wounds never became infected. St. Francis died at the age of 44, and only two years later, he was canonized in an official Church ceremony in Assisi, on July 16, 1228. On that same day Pope Gregory IX laid the first stone of the future Basilica, destined to become the “mother house” for the Franciscan Order. His remains were lost for several years and then rediscovered, where they can be seen today in the St. Francis's Basilica.


NEXT ADVENTURE:

This week I will be traveling by train, ferry, bus, AND taxi to get to Medjugorje, Bosnia which is the  next stop on my holy pilgrimage! I will be accepting prayer requests to submit as offerings, which I will send a notification out about next week, explaining in greater detail. In the mean time, please continue to pray and think about your own personal prayer requests for God. You can learn more about Medjugorje and the apparition miracles at https://www.medjugorje.org

June 02, 2017 Message from Mother Mary to the world:

 "Dear children, as in the other places where I have come to you, also here I am calling you to prayer. Pray for those who do not know my Son, for those who have not come to know the love of God, against sin, for the consecrated - for those whom my Son called to have love and the spirit of strength for you, for the Church. Pray to my Son, and the love which you experience from His nearness will give you the strength to make you ready for the works of love, which you will do in His name. My children, be ready. This time is a turning point. That is why I am calling you anew to faith and hope. I am showing you the way by which you need to go, and those are the words of the Gospel. Apostles of my love, the world is in such need of your arms raised towards Heaven, towards my Son, towards the Heavenly Father. Much humility and purity of heart are needed. Have trust in my Son and know that you can always be better. My motherly heart desires for you, apostles of my love, to be little lights of the world, to illuminate there where darkness wants to begin to reign, to show the true way by your prayer and love, to save souls. I am with you. Thank you."