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Chapter 7
The Family Is Called to be
a Domestic Church
Soufanieh House Becomes a Little Church
NE DAY WHEN I was visiting with Myrna at Sou-
fanieh concerning the family, that is family life today,
Myrna mentioned that if she had known that God was going
to give to her the great mission bestowed upon her that then she would
have considered becoming a nun. In fact, with the supernatural happen-
ings of Soufanieh beginning hardly more than six months after mar-
riage, Myrna then wondered seriously if she should still separate from
Nicolas and become a nun. This thought did not seem impossible to
Nicolas for after all his recently claimed wife was being used by God in
a most unusual way. The signs connected with the mission given her
were extraordinary indeed. It hardly seemed that they could live as hus-
band and wife under these conditions.
Those who study Soufanieh must realize that the call for love and
unity is not simply love and unity of all Christians, for “one flock and
one Shepherd,” the call is also for love and unity in the family. This
means the family of husband and wife; the family of father and mother
and their children. At a time when a crisis of family life was exploding
throughout the entire globe, heaven intervenes with the family at
Soufanieh in the very shadow of the place where St. Paul was convert-
ed, baptized and became a Christian.
God and His Mother did not use a single person, He did not use
a religious in a convent or monastery, or a priest or bishop, to mani-
fests the great signs confirming His call for love and unity of Church
and family. Heaven used a young married women and is using her hus-
band and family.
Is it possible for one young woman, still in her late thirties as this
book is written, and after 20 years of the message and supernatural
events, is it possible that beginning with such humble beginnings, a
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message for the individual family and the universal family of all Chris-
tians reaches around the world?
“With God all things are possible” (Mt. 19:26). “For my thoughts
are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, said the Lord. For as the
heavens are exulted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your
ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).
God used one person to change the world when he chose St. Paul.
This is what St. Paul (died c. 67) did to a large degree. He is doubt-
lessly one person used to change the world, more so than anyone since
Jesus lived upon the earth just over 2000 years ago. He spread the
Good News about Jesus throughout most of the known world at that
time. Many responded to this man and his words, to his strong con-
victions, to the love in his heart, and these included Jews and
Gentiles.
His missionary journeys were more than enough for one human
person. But St. Paul also wrote letters, read today as part of Sacred
Scripture, integrated into the divine liturgy, and which the Church
describes as divinely inspired. St. Paul wrote a great portion of the New
Testament of the Bible.
All this was made possible, of course, by the Holy Spirit who gave
Paul His gifts of understanding, understanding of Jesus and His follow-
ers. Paul was given understanding about what must be done and also the
strength and courage from the Holy Spirit to do it.
With St. Paul his world was turned around and upside down and all
his worldwide work and influence began to happen in an instant. It was
much the same for Myrna and Nicolas Nazzour, whose supernatural
encounters began in Damascus, Syria, a few minutes’ walk to where it
began for St. Paul.
We read about the conversion and baptism of St. Paul in the Acts of
the Apostles, Chapter 9. His name was first Saul, a Roman citizen, born
in Tarsus in Cilicia. He was well instructed early on in the Mosaic Law.
His zeal for it could hardly be matched and so he persecuted those of
the new faith in Jesus Christ with a vengeance.
Saul would drag Christians out of their homes, bind them with
chains and thrust them into prison. He applied for a commission to take
up all the Jews in Damascus who confessed Jesus Christ, in order to
bring them to Jerusalem, where they would serve as an example to oth-
ers not to embrace faith in Jesus Christ.
Saul’s life and intended future underwent a dramatic transformation
while he was on his way to Damascus. A blinding light suddenly shone
from heaven on Saul and his companions. Saul was knocked to the
ground in this blinding light. He heard a mysterious voice: “Saul, Saul,
why are you persecuting me?”
Saul asked: “Who are you, Sir?” “I am Jesus, whom you are perse-
cuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goad.”
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And Saul, trembling and astonished, said: “Lord, what will you have
me to do?”
And the Lord said to him: “Arise, and go into the city, and there it
shall be told you what you must do.” The men who were in Saul’s com-
pany stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man.
Saul arose from the ground but when he opened his eyes, he could
see nothing. But his companions leading him by the hands, brought him
to Damascus.
“Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias.
And the Lord said to him in a vision: Ananias. And he said: Behold I
am here, Lord.
“And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the street that is called
Strait, and seek in the house of Judas, one named Saul of Tarsus. For
behold he prays.
“And he saw a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his
hands upon him, that he might receive his sight.
“But Ananias answered: Lord, I have heard by many of this man,
how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has
authority from the chief priests to bind all that invoke your name.
“And the Lord said to him: Go your way; for this man is to be a ves-
sel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the
children of Israel.
“For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s
sake.
“And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house. And laying
his hands upon him, he said: Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus has sent me,
he that appeared to you in the way as you came; that you may receive
your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
“And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he
received his sight; and rising up, he was baptized.
“And when he had taken meat, he was strengthened. And he was
with the disciples that were at Damascus, for some days.
“And immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that he is
the Son of God.
“And all that heard him, were astonished, and said: Is not this he
who persecuted in Jerusalem those that called upon this name: and came
here for that intent, that he might carry them bound to the chief priests?
“But Saul increased much more in strength, and confounded the
Jews who dwelt at Damascus, affirming that this is the Christ” (Acts
9:1-30).
Eventually they conspired to kill Saul. But he and his disciples
learned of the plot and his friends lowered Saul in a basket through an
opening in the wall. After that he made his way back to Jerusalem. There
Saul became known as Paul (cf. Acts 13:9) and he reported on his
mystifying conversion. “He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem
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and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:28).
Paul never forgot what he had been and how God saved him. Years
after his conversion Paul wrote: “Christ Jesus came into the world to
save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). Paul never
took credit for his transformation. He knew he owed everything to the
absolute mercy and forgiveness of God. “I formerly blasphemed and
persecuted and insulted him, but I received mercy . . . and the grace of
our Lord overflowed” (1 Tim. 1:13-14).
We know that the grace and mercy which transformed the “Terror
of Tarsus” into the heroic St. Paul are still working today. When St. Paul
wrote of “the grace of our Lord overflowed” it reminds one of the first
apparition of Our Lady of Soufanieh when the oil overflowed from
Myrna’s hands unto the concrete floor and formed the suffering face of
Jesus Christ. One thinks too of the abundant oil given throughout the
world through Jesus and the Virgin of Soufanieh. Is Jesus Christ not
suffering today, not simply from his followers being persecuted, but from
the divisions among Christians themselves?
The great Apostle St. Paul in his scriptural writings speaks both of
marriage and unity in the Church. As director of the Fatima Family
Apostolate, dedicated to the sanctification of the family in particular and
all individuals in general, I believe that the message of Our Lady of
Soufanieh is especially endearing. At a time when family life is in crisis,
God has chosen a couple in Damascus, in the very vicinity of St. Paul’s
conversion, to call the family to love and unity and all Christians so that
“they may be one.”
When Myrna was chosen for a divine mission she seriously consid-
ered becoming a nun. She and Nicolas did not touch each other for a
long time after the supernatural happenings began. When Myrna asked
Fr. Elias Zahlaoui about becoming a nun since she was given this mis-
sion he responded: “Myrna, if the Lord had wanted to choose a single
woman, He had a wide choice because the world is full of single girls
and nuns. And if He has chosen a newly-wed woman, and especially a
young bride, it is because he has things to tell us about marriage.
Marriage is sacred. And St. Paul compares the relationship between a
man and a woman to that between Christ and the Church. It is a sacred
relationship. Therefore, why are you thinking about leaving Nicolas?”
While Myrna was having overwhelming thoughts, so was Nicolas.
He said, “At the beginning of the events, I spent one year not daring
even to think about Myrna as my wife. I felt in a state of sin each time
I even thought about her. And, in spite of all that was said to me, despite
what priests told me, it was only very slowly that I was finally able to
accept the fact that Myrna, although if chosen by the Lord, and because
she was chosen by the Lord, is, to a higher degree, my wife.”
Many people, without direction from the Church, were saying: “But,
if Myrna really is an object of divine choice, she cannot continue her
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married life or her social life.” The fact is that Myrna was already lead-
ing a life in many ways more recluse than many nuns in a convent. It
seems the difficulty some people were having in accepting such
profound mysteries taking place in the home of a married couple and
with a young married wife, could possibly be a failure to have a high
enough regard for the sanctity of marriage.
Nicolas told me that both Myrna and he loved children. Myrna was
very sad that she had no children after several years of marriage. This
was even after our Blessed Mother told Myrna that she was to live as a
normal wife. She used to show affection for other mothers’ children.
Myrna spent several years without becoming pregnant.
Our Blessed Mother and Jesus handled the matter of those who
thought Myrna must become a nun. They answered the question too of
the concerns of Nicolas and Myrna. On November 25, 1983, the Holy
Virgin said to Myrna: “I have not come to separate. Your married life
will remain as it is. . . .” On September 7, 1984, the Holy Virgin said to
her: “Live your life, but let not life prevent you from continuing to pray.”
Jesus was even more explicit. He gave Myrna a very long message that
very same evening: The message included: “Continue in your life as wife,
mother and sister.”
When I asked Myrna if she was convinced that the call of Soufanieh
was also a call for good family life as well as Church Unity she answered,
“I believe so. For Jesus told me to continue my life as wife, mother and
sister.”
Finally, Myrna’s desire for children would be answered. On May 1,
1985, the Holy Virgin, after delivering a message calling for unity, held
Myrna’s hand in hers. Myrna said she was looking to the ground, had a
very sad face. Then the Virgin said to Myrna: “My (small) children,
assemble. My heart is wounded. Do not allow My heart to break because
of your divisions. My daughter, I shall give you a gift for your hardships.”
On October 15, 1986, Myrna gave birth to a baby girl which the
parents named Miriam. Myrna received the “gift” which the Virgin had
promised her. Forty days later, on November 26, 1986, Myrna had an
ecstasy. She would live as a normal wife and mother and still fulfill the
mission from heaven while testifying too to the goodness and sanctity of
marriage.
In Western countries marriages have been breaking up with ever-
greater frequency for decades and the same was beginning to happen in
Middle Eastern countries, namely, more frequent divorces and
separations.
When I would be giving homilies at Soufanieh during Mass time,
with the altar set up immediately before the Icon with the container to
catch the oil, I found myself accidentally speaking of Nicolas as Joseph.
I found out I was not the first to do so.
Each day at Soufanieh, at the House of the Virgin, I celebrated the
Chapter 7. The Family Is Called to be a Domestic Church 157
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Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Latin rite, whereas those
present were used to the Melkite Catholic rite, but all present seemed to
understand it was the very same Holy Eucharist, very same Real
Presence of Jesus Christ, and very same Sacrifice of the Cross perpetu-
ated, as in their own Eastern rite. I discovered that instead of saying,
“Lord have mercy . . . Christ have mercy . . .” If I said “Kyrie eleison . . .
Christe eleison”
there would come an enthusiastic response.
All this took place within the home of the Nazzours when on occa-
sion more than 100 people would participate and receive Holy Com-
munion. The singing of hymns in Arabic at each holy Mass was indeed
an edification. For me, and for the participants, it was a real experience
in Unity. I was from the West and a priest of the Latin rite. At times a
Melkite rite Catholic priest would assist me at the time of Holy Com-
munion. Participants were from the East. Yet, we knew we had the same
faith, the same Real Presence and same action of Jesus Christ in the
Divine Liturgy, whether it be of the Western tradition or Byzantine rite
of the East. Some Orthodox would also be present.
It was a delightful experience when after each holy Sacrifice of the
Mass those present would line up and I would be presented a large Icon
of Our Lady of Soufanieh, first to bless all with it and then the people
would come forth to kiss the Icon of the Virgin and Christ Child.
I made the statement that at Fatima I would experience the pres-
ence of our heavenly Mother Mary in the Cova da Iria. Here at Sou-
fanieh, it was an experience of the presence of both Jesus and Mary at
the same time. Of course, I experience Jesus in the Holy Eucharist
always at Fatima and every holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In both places,
East and West, Mary leads to her Son, Jesus Christ.
One can add that offering the Sacrifice of the Mass in the home of
the Nazzour family, one truly experiences the family as a little church, a
miniature Mystical Body of Christ. The family is the domestic church.
Pope John Paul II wrote of the family in this manner in his Apostolic
Exhortation, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World
(Familiaris Consortio)
, in response to the World Synod of Bishops,
September 26 to October 25, 1980.
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We quote below from this Apostolic document.
The Church’s Sanctuary in the Home
¶55. The proclamation of the Gospel and its acceptance in faith
reach their fullness in the celebration of the sacraments. The Church
which is a believing and evangelizing community is also a priestly peo-
ple invested with the dignity and sharing in the power of Christ the
High Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant.
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The Christian family too is part of this priestly people which is the
Church. By means of the sacrament of marriage, in which it is rooted
and from which it draws its nourishment, the Christian family is con-
tinuously vivified by the Lord Jesus and called and engaged by Him in
a dialogue with God through the sacraments, through the offering of
one’s life, and through prayer.
This is the priestly role which the Christian family can and ought to
exercise in intimate communion with the whole Church, through the
daily realities of married and family life. In this way the Christian family
is called to be sanctified and to sanctify the ecclesial community of the world.
¶56. The sacrament of marriage is the specific source and original
means of sanctification for Christian married couples and families. It
takes up again and makes specific the sanctifying grace of Baptism. By
virtue of the mystery of the death and Resurrection of Christ, of which
the spouses are made part in a new way by marriage, conjugal love is
purified and made holy: “This love the Lord has judged worthy of spe-
cial gifts, healing, perfecting and exalting gifts of grace and of chari-
ty”(Gaudium et spes, 49).
The gift of Jesus Christ is not exhausted in the actual celebration of
the sacrament of marriage, but rather accompanies the married couple
throughout their lives. This fact is explicitly recalled by the Second
Vatican Council when it says that Jesus Christ “abides with them so that,
just as He loved the Church and handed Himself over on her behalf, the
spouses may love each other with perpetual fidelity through mutual self-
bestowal. . . . For this reason, Christian spouses have a special sacrament
by which they are fortified and receive a kind of consecration in the
duties and dignity of their state. By virtue of this sacrament, as spouses
fulfill their conjugal and family obligations, they are penetrated with the
Spirit of Christ, who fills their whole lives with faith, hope and charity.
Thus they increasingly advance towards their own perfection, as well as
towards their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the
glory of God” (Ibid., 48).
Christian spouses and parents are included in the universal call to
sanctity. For them this call is specified by the sacrament they have cele-
brated and is carried out concretely in the realities proper to their conju-
gal and family life (Lumen Gentium, 41). This gives rise to the grace and
requirement of an authentic and profound conjugal and family spirituality
that draws its inspiration from the themes of creation, covenant, cross,
resurrection, and sign, which were stressed more than once by the Synod.
Christian marriage, like the other sacraments, “whose purpose is to
sanctify people, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give wor-
ship to God”(Sacrosanctum concilium, 59), is in itself a liturgical action
glorying God in Jesus Christ and in the Church. By celebrating it,
Christian spouses profess their gratitude to God for the sublime gift
bestowed on them of being able to live in their married and family lives
Chapter 7. The Family Is Called to be a Domestic Church 159
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the very love of God for people and that of the Lord Jesus for the
Church, His bride.
Just as husbands and wives receive from the sacrament the gift and
responsibility of translating into daily living the sanctification bestowed
on them, so the same sacrament confers on them the grace and moral
obligation of transforming their whole lives into a “spiritual sacrifice.”
What the Council says of the laity applies also to Christian spouses and
parents, especially with regard to the earthly and temporal realities that
characterize their lives: “As worshippers leading holy lives in every place,
the laity consecrate the world itself to God” (Lumen gentium, 34).
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Marriage and the Holy Eucharist
¶57. The Christian family’s sanctifying role is grounded in Baptism
and has its highest expression in the Eucharist, to which Christian mar-
riage is intimately connected. The Second Vatican Council drew atten-
tion to the unique relationship between the Eucharist and marriage by
requesting that “marriage normally be celebrated with the Mass”
(Sacrosanctum concilium, 78). To understand better and live more intensely
the graces and responsibilities of Christian marriage and family life, it is
altogether necessary to rediscover and strengthen this relationship.
The Eucharist is the very source of Christian marriage. The Eucha-
ristic Sacrifice, in fact, represents Christ’s covenant of love with the
Church, sealed with His blood on the Cross ( John 19:34). In this sacri-
fice of the New and Eternal Covenant, Christian spouses encounter the
source from which their own marriage covenant flows, is interiorly
structured and continuously renewed. As a re-presentation of Christ’s
sacrifice of love for the Church, the Eucharist is a fountain of charity. In
the Eucharistic gift of charity the Christian family finds the foundation
and soul of its “communion” and its “mission”: by partaking in the Eu-
charistic bread, the different members of the Christian family become
one body, which reveals and shares in the wider unity of the Church.
Their sharing in the Body of Christ that is “given up” and in His Blood
that is “shed” becomes a never-ending source of missionary and apostolic
dynamism for the Christian family. [End of quotations from Familiaris
Consortio
]
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The supernatural events of Soufanieh began just one year after this
Apostolic Document was signed by Pope John Paul II on November 22,
1981. It soon becomes clear it is heaven’s call for love and unity in the
family and in the Church.
To review: I observed to Fr. Elias Zahlaoui that Myrna was only in
her 18th year when she married May 9, 1982. “Why would God pick
such a young bride for this?”
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The priest replied: “First, you have to ask God. I have a second
answer. At the beginning of a new marriage, the Sacrament of
Matrimony which was recently given to them is the moment of holiness.
The holiness is great. The Sacrament is new.”
Nicolas had made mention to me while at Soufanieh that the events
of Soufanieh, the first vision, was at the same date and time as the first
vision of St. Catherine Labouré who was shown the Miraculous Medal
to make known to the world (see p. 132).
Fr. Zahlaoui describes Nicolas this way:
“Nicolas is really surprising. Somewhat like St. Joseph. People often
tell him that. And he replies humbly, ‘Who am I?’ One must have seen
and known Nicolas before. As for me, I did not know him. But at the
beginning of the phenomenon, he was always very well-dressed, always
worried about his appearance. And then, slowly, this man has been trans-
formed by the Holy Virgin, by Jesus, and has gradually become more and
more familiar with God, and has bared himself before God. Now, you feel
his presence, but it is a very humble presence. Silent, very considerate,
very concerned with safeguarding the primacy of God and prayer. He
does not allow anything to hamper the atmosphere of prayer. But he
never seeks to glorify himself. Never. If he ever suspected anyone from
profiting from the prayers at Soufanieh, either by words or manners, he
immediately remedied the situation. With utmost discretion. . . .
“Nicolas has truly changed, and in a surprising manner! Here are
some of his reactions. At the beginning of the phenomenon, an impor-
tant official of the Syrian secret service came to Soufanieh. He took
Nicolas aside for a moment and told him, ‘Nicolas, I pity you. Now, it is
only the beginning of the phenomenon, and your home is no longer
yours. What will things be like in a few years? You will have to close your
door.’ Nicolas replied, ‘I did not open this door. The One who opened it
will close it.’
“A second reaction, the Defense Minister himself, General Mus-
tapha Tlass, had come. He had seen oil oozing. Afterwards, he returned
with the staff of the Syrian army to pray at Soufanieh. He took Nicolas
aside and told him, ‘Nicolas, I think that your home will become a place
of pilgrimage. You can no longer live here. The government is offering
you an apartment that you will choose wherever you want, to be com-
fortable. Nicolas replied, ‘What God has blessed, I would not exchange
for anything in the world.’
“This was at the beginning of the phenomenon. After that, on Holy
Thursday, April 16, 1984, when the Stigmata opened for the second
time, the wound on Myrna’s side measured exactly 10 cm. 2mm. (.5
inch). It was so deep that one of ten physicians there said to Nicolas, ‘We
must stitch the wounds.’ Nicolas replied spontaneously, ‘Doctor, the One
who opened it will close it.’ And that same evening, the wound was
completely healed.”
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Fr. Zahlaoui explained how on November 22, 1987, after he had
been to France, he returned to go to Soufanieh. He found the patio and
rooftop terrace newly renovated, in a very simple manner for the fifth
anniversary of the phenomenon. Nicolas was happy to show this priest
to the rooftop terrace where the Holy Virgin had appeared to Myrna.
Now the entire floor was paved with cement, except the very spot where
oil had oozed from Myrna’s hands and where the Holy Virgin had
stood. A pedestal or pillar was placed at this spot with a beautiful statue
of the Holy Virgin.
Nicolas explained: “While we were repairing the patio, we used to
gather here daily for prayers.” The priest asked, “Were there many peo-
ple?” Nicolas replied, “Sometimes about seventy. Sometimes more,
sometimes less.” Fr. Zahlaoui said: “But you are mad! Nicolas, this is an
old house. With the concrete that you have added, plus the tiles for the
paving, the pedestal and the [solid] statue, all this could collapse with 70
people!” Nicolas looked at the priest and said, “But, Father, you don’t
really think that! The walls are not supporting the Holy Virgin. She is
supporting all of us!” Fr. Zahlaoui said he felt small before him at this
evidence of a religious evolution.
Nicolas had offered to show me the oil stains still under the pedestal
where the image of Our Lady stood and into which petitions were placed.
It was on this rooftop patio where I was privileged to offer the holy sacri-
fice of the Mass on my final evening in 2001 in Soufanieh with many peo-
ple, especially youth, present when the phenomenon of the oil occurred.
I placed my own petition into the pillar asking Our Lady of Sou-
fanieh for the success in writing this book to help make this heavenly
movement properly known among more English-speaking peoples and
for which I felt called to Soufanieh. I placed onto the pillar by the beau-
tiful statue enclosed in glass also, holy cards with images of Our Lady of
Soufanieh and prayer on the reverse side. These I would take with me
when I returned to America to share with people.
I myself was honored one day to show visitors to the rooftop terrace
where Our Lady appeared and stood, touching Myrna’s hands with the
crucifix of her rosary whereupon oil overflowed onto the floor. I was in
the main room where pilgrims enter when they arrive at the Virgin’s
house, see the Icon in the glass globe, the paintings and prayerful
inscriptions on the wall of this main room of their home and then pray.
English-speaking people arrived, none of the Nazzour family hap-
pened to be present at the moment and I asked the visitors if they knew
that the apparitions of Our Lady had taken place on the upper terrace.
They were deeply grateful when I took them to the rooftop terrace and
explained what happened there. It seems many people who come and
pray in the lower main room do not go to the upper terrace, either not
knowing about it, or not wanting to take too much for granted. What is
important is they pray before the Icon.
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The main room, near the entrance door which is open daily, and
before the Icon, is where many people gather each evening for prayer. It
is where Mass is offered, especially on Saturday evenings. I was privi-
leged to offer Mass there daily the full week I was present in the
Soufanieh home. In this same main room the Nazzours set up a portable
table when they are to eat together. I noticed one Sunday when we were
all eating together, people still came during the meal to stand and pray
before the Icon in the same room.
Nicolas now says the house no longer belongs to him and his fami-
ly. It belongs to the Virgin and our Lord. It reminds me of what the
father of Jacinta and Francisco of Fatima said on the occasion when the
bodies of the children were exhumed and moved after death. “The chil-
dren now belong to the world.”
Nicolas said to me one day, as we sat in the large room near the
entrance as he extended his hands, “Isn’t there a peace here? I feel so
much peace here.” I agreed, for I felt the same way, much like I had for
years in Fatima in the Cova da Iria which Bishop Serafim of Fatima
translates “Cradle of peace.”
Fr. Zahlaoui says that one day when he was in his office Nicolas
unexpectedly showed up. After they had chatted for a short time, sud-
denly Nicolas said, “Father, it is obvious for me that the Lord wants to
strip me from everything. He wants me to throw myself at His feet,
completely naked, on just a small mat. Since the beginning of the phe-
nomenon, I have not succeeded at any of my projects. I am sure that the
Lord wants to bare me completely in order that I become His prisoner.
And I am ready.”
Some years ago Nicolas had heart surgery. He mentioned to me one
day he does not know his future. “I could die tomorrow.” The home
legally belongs to the various members of his family, his brothers, et al.
It seemed obvious they live trusting in divine providence.
Nicolas’s and Myrna’s immediate family are most cooperative.
Nicolas’s mother was still living, advanced in age, when I was there in
2001. She used to make herself available to keep the house clean for
Mary’s visitors. Nicolas’s sisters and their husbands, their children and
neighbors, the family members of Myrna’s side as well, all are gracious
to the people who come to the Virgin’s House for prayer.
Soufanieh has had to contend with the same traffic and commotion
as other sites of apparitions and heavenly messages, however authentic.
There always seems to be those who try to profit for themselves from
unusual phenomena. Some claim they have had visions too, and thus
attempt to get people’s interest and respect for themselves.
While some will make great efforts to gain notice and notoriety, I
found the opposite true of Myrna and Nicolas. I would await opportu-
nities when I could interview them in a quiet way, when I felt it was a
proper time. It never seemed that they came forward or ever pushed
Chapter 7. The Family Is Called to be a Domestic Church 163
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themselves for notice. Each time, when I inquired, they would tell me
no more than I asked. Nicolas did say that I would have to stay much
longer to experience all the things that took place and seemed anxious I
return for Easter. I had reliable resources for research, however, and
spent what time I could.
Most people in Syria, including those in government, are Muslims.
When the events of Soufanieh began, there was a violent and even
bloody clash between the government and the Muslim fundamentalists
(called the Muslim brothers). The Syrian government, however, was
wise enough in a religious sense to send a delegation, formed of a physi-
cian and four officers from the secret service. Two officers identified
themselves while two others mingled informally in the crowd. That was
their mission.
At the end of their investigation, it was summarized by these words
of the physician to the officers: “God is great!” Before leaving, each one
took a small piece of cotton saturated with oil, placed it in a small plas-
tic bag. Ever since the government has had a very respectful attitude
toward the phenomenon of Soufanieh.
In Jesus’ own time there were people who believed, and those who
did not. There were those who made derogatory remarks, thinking
themselves intelligent and especially enlightened. Soufanieh has not
been different. But there have been many expressions of faith and con-
versions. What is most important is that the events of Soufanieh have
been the occasion of a massive prayer movement which is spreading
throughout the world.
Among the rich, and even among some clergy, there have been the
doubtful cases. Some of these think there is a so-called physiological or
psychological, perhaps physical, explanation to the phenomenon. But no
one has been able to explain what is happening with images throughout
the world that exude oil. Those who would attribute such phenomenon
to the devil seem forgetful of what Jesus said about a house divided. The
fruits are what count. And there have been many conversions and turn-
ing to prayerful faith in Jesus and to His Church. As the papal nuncio
said to me, “It does not matter whether there are miracles or not, impor-
tant is that people go there and pray.”
While Fr. Malouli was still living, he and Fr. Zahlaoui used to speak
of the phenomenon of Soufanieh, and its results, as “an evangelical expe-
rience.” There would be a shock in people who experienced the oil, a
reaction of prayer, followed by a certain humility on the part of many.
Then, in a modest way, the phenomenon would enter the heart. God
works gently and discreetly in souls.
Since Nicolas seemed to have real interest that Myrna’s supernatu-
ral experiences began on the anniversary and hour of the supernatural
events associated with St. Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous
Medal, I asked Fr. Zahlaoui what association he saw in this. His reply:
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“As 1830 began the Marian Era for the West, Soufanieh began the
Marian Era for the East. But still, Soufanieh is for all the world. People
come from Egypt, India, Iran, etc. Fatima is now the great one in the
West and Myrna senses that Fatima is important. This indicates the
unity of all in Mary. We call Mary our Mother of ‘At-one-ment’
through Mary at Fatima. She is working to bring all Christians and
Muslims together in unity.
“It is clear from the first message given December 18, 1982. [See
total message above.] It is a clear message to love everyone, even those
who do bad to you. ‘I am asking for love. . . . I shall visit homes more
often, because those who go to Church, sometimes, do not go there to
pray. I am not asking you to build me a church, but a shrine. . . .’
“The Soufanieh message is important for all and especially in the
Middle East where there is much conflict.”
Fr. Zahlaoui’s insights and comparison with Fatima were very
meaningful to me as I have studied Fatima in depth and have written
countless articles and books, and lectured on Fatima for years, having
formed the Fatima Family Apostolate. That the message of Our Lady of
Fatima in the West is also for the entire world is symbolized by the gold-
en ball that hangs near Our Lady’s waist and under her Immaculate
Heart. Fatima is a call to love as Mary loved. It is a call to imitate the
virtues of Mary, the first and perfect Christian, she who is Mother and
Model of the Church.
Years ago theologians met at Fatima to discuss the essence of the
Fatima message and came to the conclusion it was a call to devotion to
the Immaculate Heart of Mary and all that it means—love. I personal-
ly know, starting ten years ago when I first talked to Myrna by phone,
her great love for Our Lady of Fatima. Fatima came up again in my dis-
cussions with her in September, 2001, which will be related later.
Fr. Zahlaoui said, “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. . . .
C
Permanent Welcoming in the Strictest Gratuity
The Virgin’s House [of the Nazzours] remains always open,
throughout the day, to anyone, and with a permanent gratuity which
continues to defy all slanders and calumnies. The welcome remains sim-
ple, frank and discreet at the same time. . . . Among the countless visi-
tors, one should mention the Nuncio, Msgr. Pier Giacomo de Nicolo,
Chapter 7. The Family Is Called to be a Domestic Church 165
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Msgr. Georges Coueter, Greek-Catholic bishop of Sidon, Lebanon, and
Msgr. Georges Riachi, Greek-Catholic bishop of Australia.
In Chicago, a New Soufanieh—Since July 14, 1994, an enlarged
picture of Our Lady of Soufanieh exudes oil without interruption, in
the house of Mr. Daoud Hanna, a Syrian-Orthodox family originally
from Hasake in Syria. The house has become a shrine for thousands of
pilgrims from the United States and Canada, and this in the strictest
gratuity.
Nicolas and Myrna, together with their children have thus far pre-
sented a good example of a Christian family. Their simplicity and the
welcoming warmth of their home is edifying indeed and doubtlessly
unmatched any place in the world. For what other family has people
from throughout the world walk into their house, without knocking, day
after day.
The Apostolate given by heaven, especially to Myrna, offers, it
would seem, almost a super-human challenge to her duties as a wife,
mother and sister. Fr. Joseph Malouli, a priest of the Holy Roman
Catholic Church, and who was so close to the Nazzour’s from the begin-
ning of the phenomenon until his death in 2000, said Myrna and
Nicolas “rely a lot on our prayers so she can remain faithful to the grace.”
Studying the events of Soufanieh, especially as they relate to family
life, do so much to remind us that God the Creator, who made us auton-
omous and free, is our Father and concerned in love with every detail of
our lives. He knows and loves each one of us. God created us from love
and destines us for eternal love and union with him, beginning already
here on earth. He has an intimate relationship with each of us, more
than each has with himself.
Our own condition should remind us of the transcendence of
Almighty God. He is infinite; we are finite. Still, in Soufanieh, we see a
sign of his imminence and closeness. There is an indissoluble bond
between the Creator and the creature man. God desires to live in each
one of us, in a special way, as in a temple, when we are in the state of
sanctifying grace.
While Mary is a creature like ourselves made in the image and like-
ness of God, as each one of us is, yet Mary, Mother of the Lord, is the
most perfect and beautiful Icon of God. By grace she is greater than all
angels and saints collectively. God gave the Virgin a special mission for
His Son, the greatest mission ever given to a human person. God placed
the Virgin Mary in our midst to familiarize us with God. Thus Mary
became a privileged manifestation of the mercy of God to mankind.
St. Catherine Labouré said that the Virgin of the Incarnation lean-
ing over the crib, the Virgin of Cana and the Virgin of the apparitions
is one and the same. The Virgin Mother continues to intercede for us
before Christ saying: “They have no wine.” They have exhausted the
wellsprings of joy for which they were made. She continues to repeat to
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us what she said to the servants of Cana when she pointed to Christ:
“Do whatever He tells you” ( John 2:5).
The family home of the Nazzours has been turned, in a way, into a
sanctuary for the world, inviting families to love and unity. All individ-
uals of various religious persuasions who come there are thus encouraged
to pray and work for unity in faith and love as Christ established His
Church to be one. The open courtyard where the first oil-exuding Icon
was set up has been roofed over and it is now the central room of the
house and seems almost like a church. Pilgrims come in and calmly pray
before the miraculous image. When Myrna and Nicolas decided to put
up the notice in red, near the Icon, “Sorry, we do not accept gifts or
money,” it did not occur to them that this gesture would contribute to
their credibility.
In addition to writing this book to help spread the messages of
Soufanieh, I have tried through the Fatima Family Apostolate, which
exists for the sanctification of families, to introduce a replica of the Icon
of Our Lady of Soufanieh into as many homes as possible.
It is my hope and prayer that many thousands of homes, displaying
this Icon of Soufanieh, and accompanying it with the basic message of
Soufanieh, will thus be reminded of the love and unity that should exist
in the home. Whenever family members look upon this Icon, they will
be reminded of their family vocation to love and work for unity.
Having the Soufanieh Icon as a shrine in one’s home, with Mary as
Mother who presents to us her Son, Jesus Christ giving His blessing, can
serve as a daily reminder to all in the home to live in love, to live in grace,
to live in unity with each other. Each time one looks at the Icon in the
home he or she will be reminded of becoming worthy of the goal to
which they are called (cf. Eph. 1:15-23).
“I plead with you, then, as a prisoner for the Lord, to live a life wor-
thy of the calling you have received, with perfect humility, meekness, and
patience, bearing with one another lovingly. Make very effort to preserve
the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force.
There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given
all of you by your call. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one
God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in
all” (Eph. 4:1-6).
For those in the United States the replica of the Icon in two sizes
can be obtained by writing: Fatima Family Apostolate, Box 158,
Alexandria, South Dakota 57311. Phone: 1-800-213-5541.
While at Soufanieh, as mentioned in a previous chapter, I asked
Myrna if Our Lady or our Lord had ever mentioned the Holy Eucharist
in any of the messages she had received. Her immediate reply was: “Not
yet.” It was a personal joy to me that when the miracle of the oil occurred
at the end of the Mass I offered at the site of the Soufanieh apparitions,
that the Holy Eucharist was still present at the altar, for she had asked
Chapter 7. The Family Is Called to be a Domestic Church 167
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me to consecrate a couple extra hosts that would be taken to the sick.
On the anniversary of Soufanieh, which was a little more than two
months after I departed Damascus, Jesus Christ gave Myrna the follow-
ing message on November 26, 2001:
“How beautiful is the family, which lives unity, love and faith. Its path
is Mine and My Mother is its support.
“My children, I offer Myself to you. The acts of adoration, meditation,
thanksgiving and spiritual guidance rejoice Me, but are only ful-
filled through your unity at the altar.
“I offer you My Body and My Blood as a proof of My fidelity and love.
Receive from Me this Sacrament with trust and faith, because this
Sacrament comforts you, provides you with strength and wisdom
and increases you in grace.
“Difficult days lie ahead. Turmoil within the Church.
“He who does not enjoy true peace is prone to division.
“Do not surrender to failure.
“Do not worry about the judgment of others on you.
“Do not defend yourselves and seek only what I have prepared for you.
“I am the One Who takes care of you because you are the work of My
hands.
“Prove to Me your love, because through love I walk at your side. And
through the Sacraments, I unite Myself to you.
“And do not forget that I am the reason for your existence on earth and
I am the reason for your happiness in heaven.”
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The author meets var-
ious church officials:
(left) Orthodox Arch-
bishop Dionysius Beh-
nam Jajjawi; (center)
Moran Mor Ignatius
Zakka I, Patriarch of
Antioch, head of Syriac
Orthodox Church; (bot-
tom) Greek Melkite
Catholic Patriarch Greg-
ory III of Damascus.
169
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(Left) The author
meets with Papal
Nuncio, Bishop Diego
Causero; (Bottom)
The author uses the
chalice (used by Pope
John Paul II at
Damascus) as he offers
Mass daily at the
Virgin’s House.
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