A DESIRE IN MY HEART
On Christmas 2006, I had a great desire in my heart to find a place somewhere on the mountain of Lebanon, where I can bring the Blessed Sacrament and gather all people in the cold to worship the Lord.
So I went up to the mountain. There was a huge cross built in 1932. I said “Maybe we can build a tent and worship the Lord in the cold next Christmas 2007.” But the property was not for the church. It was for the nuns. So I went and met the general superior and told her about my desire: “Can we do this next Christmas?” She looked at me and said: “We will think about it.” I understood that she drove me away in a diplomatic way.
A GREAT DISCOVERY
I went to the township and asked: “What do we own here as a church.”
So they showed me maps. I looked at them and was surprised and shocked when I found out that we have a property on the mountain not too far from the Cross. So, overwhelmed with joy, I went immediately to the mountain. I entered a forest that had been neglected for decades because of the wars and turmoil in the Chouf region. And the vision began to form in my mind: “OK, I will build a way, like the way of the cross, that leads to a grotto. But where is that grotto?” So I told two of my friends to come with me and try to find out where is that place of worship. We went on January 9, 2007. My friends went in a direction. I went in a different direction. I climbed a small hill filled with bushes and thorns. So, I got scars everywhere. Then, suddenly, I discovered natural rocks hidden behind the bushes. So, I cried out in a loud voice: “George, George, I found it. I found the place.” “Where are you?” George asked. “I am here. Come and see.” My friends arrived and saw the natural rocks and said: “Wow, this is the place.”
I brought an excavation machine and removed the small hill filled with bushes. We found hundreds of stones beneath the hill. So, we kept them aside. Now, the news reached religious authorities that Fr. Antonio is building A WONDER LAND or A WALT DISNEY LAND on the mountain. So they sent me a priest to check what I was doing. The priest arrived, put his hand on his forehead and said: “What are you doing? This is a big project? It will cost you more than 50,000$.”
I said: “Please, just give me your blessing and let me work.”
He said: “You can’t do this.”
I said: “Tell the general superior to give me his blessing. That’s all I need.”
He said: “Listen, you cannot take one penny from the church, not even from your personal pocket. You cannot work with debts and you cannot make advertisements.”
I said: “OK. I won’t do these things. Whatever Our Mother Mary sends me, I will put it here. If she doesn’t send anything, I won’t do anything.”
He said: “OK, work in silence.”
RECOURSE TO MARY
On Sunday March 4, 2007, I entered the Shrine of Our Lady of the Hill, knelt down before Our Mother and prayed from the bottom of my heart saying: “O Virgin, I cannot do this project by myself. You take care of it.”
I said Mass and after Mass I saw a phone number of an old friend from North Lebanon on my cell phone. I called him.
- “Hey Joe, how are you doing.”
- “Hi Father, were you back from the US?”
- “Yes, I am here.”
- “What do you do these days?”
- “O Joe, I have a desire to build a Shrine on the mountain, but I don’t know where to start. For example, I need pebbles. But here one truck will cost me $240. I need a Bobcat. Here they want $100 a day.”
- “Don’t worry. I have a construction and I can send you pebbles as much as you want.”
- “Really? What about a Bobcat?”
- “I have a Bobcat and I can send it to you for free.”
I felt overwhelmed with joy. I knew that Mary our Mother was with that project.
THE COMING OF AHMAD
On Wednesday March 7, 2007, my friend came from up North Lebanon. He drove two hours. He came with his Bobcat and with him a foreign worker called Ahmad, a Sunni Muslim, 36-year-old, father of 8 kids.
My friend said: “OK, I will leave Ahmad here with you until you finish your work. Do not worry about anything. All you have to do is to find a room for this guy.” Then, he left to up-North.
Ahmad began to work. I was just observing his work on the Bobcat and making phone calls in order to find a room for him. Finally, I got a place for him.
(In Part 2, I will tell how Ahmad encountered the Lord Jesus)