Very dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
All of you must find my silence quite long. I do not know how to apologise about it. Your letters have been awaiting an answer for months.
As a matter of fact, I have been swamped with work, for a few months. I do not complain about it at all. It is only to stress how embarrassed I am not to have written earlier.
I therefore have decided to write a collective letter, even if I have to add one or two lines here and there. I am sorry about it because I had made a habit of writing to each of my correspondents, personally. But this time, I am sure you will forgive me. Thank you.
You may be wondering what has kept me so busy. Suffice it to mention to you briefly my program over the last four months. From the 1st to the 9th of June, with Myrna and her family in France. From the 9th to the 27th of June, with Myrna and her family in Canada. From 27th June to 13th July, a personal visit to the United States, for Soufanieh and to prepare a tour for the Choeur-Joie Choir founded in 1977. This tour is supposed to take place in September of 1994. Back in Damascus, on 14th July in the evening. There I go to the summer camp with the youth from 16th July at dawn, until 21st September in the evening, thus ending my eighth summer youthcamp. These used to take place at hundreds of kilometres from Damascus, all over Syria. They gave rise to meetings of reflection, prayer and relaxation, truly spectacular. I must tell you that the Lord has spoiled us with a youth full of human and spiritual wealth. Sometime, only a spark is necessary in order to trigger great actions. You know that the Lord and His Mother do not lack any of that spark. Alleluia.
I shall happily enclose with this letter the report of our mission trips to France and Canada. This will help us all to strengthen our unity of heart and prayer.
And since you are used to entrust yourself to the prayers of your Arab brothers and sisters of Soufanieh, I come to you today in order to also solicit your prayers for our personal intentions, as well as for the two major intentions that Jesus and Mary have entrusted us with in Soufanieh: The Unity of the Church and Peace in the world, especially in the Near East. Thank you so heartily.
Before wishing you the best, I would like to advise you that a small chapel has been built on the terrace of the Apparitions in Soufanieh. Its inauguration, celebrated on 26th instant, has been followed by abundant exudation of oil from the hands of Myrna. Furthermore, you will be glad to know also that Myrna has just come back from a month sojourn in Australia at the invitation of Mgr. George Riachi, Greek-Catholic bishop of Australia. He had come personally to Damascus in order to take her there. Only father Boulos Fadel accompanied her. We were told that it was extraordinary.
They spent one whole month, from 19 August to 20 September. Praise the Lord.
Let us continue to pray for each other, as well as for the whole Church
and all humans.
Father Elias Zahlaoui
Father Elias Zahlaoui
MYRNA'S PREVIOUS TRIPS
Needless to say that Soufanieh goes back to November 27th, 1982. Since then, in this modest district of Damascus, Syria, the "Virgin's House'' became a great centre of prayer, in uncompromising gratuitousness, and this after numerous and remarkable signs which followed: the exudation of oil from a small paper picture of the Virgin holding the Infant Jesus and from Myrna's body as well; physical and spiritual heals; apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to Myrna, mostly accompanied with messages; stigmata on Myrna's body and finally ecstasies, almost always accompanied of messages. The messages of the apparitions and ecstasies are centred on the necessity to turn ourselves to God, to do penance, the necessity to pray, love, the necessity of mutual forgiveness and Unity of the Church as well.
Naturally, many in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan hoped to see Myrna and pray with her. Myrna allowed herself to be guided by the Spirit, doing nothing without the agreement of her husband or the priests who were advising them.
During all these trips, the signs were always present (the exudation of oil either from the reproductions of the picture of Our Lady of Soufanieh, or Myrna's body and also the ecstasies). Always, they raised up a movement of ecumenical prayer at which even Muslims took part spontaneously. Myrna's visits in the different towns and localities of these three countries had become part of the life of Soufanieh until the evening of November 26th,1987, the day before the fifth anniversary of Soufanieh. That evening, during common prayer, Myrna had an ecstasy. She saw Our Lord who gave her a long message telling her among other things: 'Go without fear and tell the whole world that we are working for Unity ". Since this call of Our Lord, Myrna's trips took a new dimension altogether: two trips in Egypt in 1990, two more in 1992-1993, two trips in Belgium and in Holland in 1990-1991, a trip to Germany and to France in 1991. During each of these trips, all went on as if a mysterious hand had organised everything: duration, program, cost of the trip and stay. Signs occurred constantly: two ecstasies in the United States, one in Belgium, oil exudations either from Myrna or from numerous reproductions of Our Lady of Soufanieh.
The Soufanieh phenomenon was bringing about profound waves of prayer here and there, in close relation with the centre of this prayer: Soufanieh, Damascus.
MYRNA'S TRIP TO CANADA
It all began with the wish of a few laymen, favourably accepted by the authorities of the Greek Melkite Catholic Church of Canada. Then it was Mgr Georges Coriaty, general Vicar of His Excellency, Mgr Michel Hakim, in a letter dated January 22nd, 1993, that he invited Myrna, her husband and her two children to Montreal. A priest was supposed to accompany them and I was very happy to do so. The cost of the trip was entirely covered by friends, Christian Arabs from Montreal and Damascus.
The organisation of the program was shared between three persons: Mr. Roger Kahil, Greek-Catholic from Montreal, Mr. André Rostworowsky and his wife Geneviève, both animators of the religious organization: Rassemblement à Son Image in Montréal.
With a profound ecumenical spirit, all three took at heart the organisation of this program, thus sharing the essentials of Soufanieh. Their program went from June 12th to 20th. Yet, due to problems related to airline schedules, Myrna's stay was extended to July 13th. I myself had to leave Canada for the United States on June 27th and couldn't follow the rest of the day by day's improvised and loaded prayer and meeting program.
SPIRITUAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL PREPARATION OF THIS TRIP.
For those who were close to Myrna during her stay in Canada, it seemed evident that it had been the object of a double preparation. The first, more distant and quiet but nonetheless effective due above all to the 1989 video cassette documentary recorded in Damascus by Mr. André Rostworowsky. Given the quality of this cassette, it was to be diffused 12 times on Canadian T.V. channels.
The second preparation; more direct this time, was due' among other things to a special edition of l'INFORMATEUR CATHOLIQUE of Montreal, printed at the end of May 1993, one month only before Myrna's arrival. Needless to say that every church or parish where Myrna was expected to pray, announced her visit in their weekly bulletin. Public opinion, hearts and spirits were therefore alerted.
Yet, during Myrna's stay, it seems to me that the popularity of the Soufanieh phenomenon in Canada surpassed all expectations, which is in striking contrast with the intended discretion of her second visit in France.
BRIEF RECAP OF MYRNA'S STAY IN CANADA.
This journey bears such importance for many and for Soufanieh, that I hope it will soon be widely published and illustrated. Meanwhile, I will give you a brief report of what seems essential to my mind and relevant. From my point of view, this trip followed two parallel but quite complementary lines. I would call these lines: official and domestic.
The official line included the celebrations of the Eucharist which took place in different churches of Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec. For one who could closely follow the many meetings and celebrations, it would appear that a spiritual avalanche fell on the slopes of St-Joseph Oratory, where the first prayer with Myrna took place and also on most of the churches and congregations of the regions, stopping only with Myrna's departure.
As for the second line which I would label as domestic, it includes the countless meetings at the house where Myrna and her family were welcomed in Montreal. It is the home of Mr. Emile Sara and his wife Marie. This house was also a replica of the Virgin's House in Damas. This welcome for personal meetings with Myrna or for group prayers or for celebrations of the Eucharist was expressed day and night with a great simplicity and joyfulness.
This resting-place was even spontaneously offered to some of Myrna's and Nicolas' many friends who came from different parts of the United States (Los Angeles, Detroit, Florida, San Francisco). The celebrations of the Eucharist and priests of different oriental congregations, catholic as well as orthodox (without offending in any way the rules of ecclesiastic authorities concerning communicatio in sacris), gathered the faithful from all places who had but one concern: find God in the Unity of His Church.
The few prayer meetings in which Myrna took part in other homes, occurred with the same simplicity and communion, from both human and Christian. Thank God signs from Heavens weren't absent. The first in importance is the exudation of oil from Myrna's hands. While the Eucharist was celebrated, the oil infallibly exuded during Holy Communion. But we waited imperatively for the end of the Divine Liturgy before announcing it.
The same thing happened again and again in the home of the Sara family and also in the many other homes of friends, at moments we cannot but consider as providential. Beyond this tangible sign, there are many more, we would certainly regret not having noticed. To my mind, the astonishing affluence of a crowd, mostly Canadians, is one worth mentioning. Behind a facade of self-sufficiencies, perhaps even indifference, isn't there a sign of a deep quest for God? Also, I see another sign in the quality and length of the prayers. Isn't there a cry for spiritual hunger which all the imperatives of this famous consumer society has not yet succeeded to kill? There are even more signs in the bursting joy of many who experienced internal and spiritual healing.
However, without exaggerating, it seems to me and to many witnesses, that the most important Sign is Myrna herself. Whether she prays, relates her experience or whether she is silent or busy taking care of her children or husband. Myrna is always consistent with herself: simple, humble with a total gratuitousness and availability. Such a sign does not lie and testimonies on this matter are numerous. Some people were pleased and had the courage to write about this, such as a Canadian Journalist, Michel St-Amant, who wrote an article called "MYRNA" which I have just received from Canada, without date nor name of the paper.
AND THE MEDIA ?
In opposition to the powerful and voluble media of the Occident, we have set a long time ago in Soufanieh a very severe line of conduct: refuse all interviews which could not translate an exact impression of the phenomenon. This attitude has always been followed, wherever we were in Canada. Myrna came to pray, not to exhibit herself.
However, as soon as we felt a concern for spiritual honesty on the part of the journalist, we gladly accepted the interviews capable of serving our cause. This for example, was the case with Mrs. Michèle Boulva, from "L'Informateur Catholique" and also with Miss Colette Dergham, from Lebanese Radio Station "Al-Mahatta". Full of this missionary concern, Miss Dergham offered to produce an audio-cassette about Myrna's passage, thus offering to Arab and non-Arab Canadians a live souvenir of Myrna's stay. This required a whole day spent in the studios of the Radio Station. Henceforth, with a Joyful and moving remembrance, Canadians, especially those of Arab origin, will be able to hear Myrna and others presenting songs and messages from Soufanieh.
It will be a long time before the people in Canada who have lived what I dare call the Soufanieh Event will be able to measure all its immediate or its far-off consequences on a personal or community level. However, a group was happy to agree on the necessity of periodical meetings centred on prayer. The Lord and the Blessed Virgin will certainly guide them to the heart of this prayer, where They await them and where they would therefore ought to be.
Yes, God Alone is Great.