Special Edition Report
November 15, 2016 A.D.
This past Sunday November 13, 2016, the founder of Caritas and his family, surrounded by the Caritas Community knelt and prayed around the freshly dug grave of Rebel to thank God for a creature that at times seemed to be possessed by the very goodness of God.
Fourteen-year-old Rebel had been slowly deteriorating over the past several months. Our founder knew that it was only a matter of time before Rebel would no longer be with us. And yet, faithful to the end, Rebel continued to follow he and his wife, Annette, out to the Field as he did everyday when the bells for Rosary would ring. Now much older, the dash that Rebel used to make in his grand entrance at Rosary Time, became a slow, often painful walk. But, Rebel didn’t know any other life. He knew that when the bells rang, it was Rosary time and all the Community would be gathered in the Field. Early Sunday morning on November 13, Rebel followed our founder out to the Field to attend, what would be his last, 5 AM prayer, and like always, never left the Field until our founder went home.
It was during Sunday pasta that Annette noticed something terribly wrong with Rebel. They all soon realized that he was dying, and the call went out to the Community. Within minutes, everyone was gathered to comfort Rebel and say goodbye.
God is great. Our Lady of Medjugorje said on October 25, 1995:
When God created the world, He saw that all creation was good. All of good creation came from a great God. This is why Our Lady said, “pray to be able to understand the love and goodness of God…,” not the love and goodness of the creature. Before placing Rebel in his grave, our founder spoke to his family and the Community saying that today there is often an inordinate love for nature, and an inordinate love for pets. He said that many choose to love animals over people because to love people is far more difficult. Yet, when God is the center of one’s life, within the love of God, this love towards God overflows into a grateful heart for the blessing of the creature.
For 27 years now, the Prayer for the Abode of God has been prayed during the daily Rosary in the Field at Caritas. This prayer was a compilation of many prayers that the founder of Caritas would pray when he first moved out here in this Valley. Often falling into deep prayer in the mountains surrounding his home, he would pray:
“God, all of creation does Your will perfectly. I, alone, am the sinner here in the midst of Your creation. Therefore, bless this place, not seeing me the sinner, but instead see Your creation that does Your will perfectly and bless it.”
In the daily Rosary in the Field of Apparitions, part of the Prayer for the Abode of God, is a consecration to God of all creation surrounding this Valley. Our founder wrote:
“…I consecrate every living plant, animal, person, and the mountains themselves to You, so that Our Lady, Jesus and You might dwell here…”
In the Poem of the Man-God, Italian mystic, Maria Valtorta, writes that when man turns against God, nature comes to God’s defense. Our founder of Caritas understood that if this is true, then when man wants to live for God and His will, would not nature then come to man’s aid? We have seen in our history many things that have amazed us within the creation that surrounds us, in which we could clearly see the hand of God for our good. Everything from our animals, to the rain, to drought, to storms, to rainbows--all works to our favor and to bless us. Here is a small glimpse of our life, behind-the-scenes with Rebel, a blessing from God the Creator. We share it with you as many of you, Field Angels, pilgrims to Caritas, and many others across the world have come to know and love Rebel over the years through through the writings of A Friend of Medjugorje who has shared stories of how Our Lady would often use Rebel to lead hearts towards conversion.
Pictures from Our Life with Rebel
When Rebel was just a puppy in 2002 he immediately began to show special traits that were gifts from God’s hand. Rebel was way too smart. Here he plays with the founder’s son, Joshua, trying to “figure him out.”
Rebel was not always “behaved,” but he was always smart. When Rebel was just a few years old, our founder’s wife, Annette, began to notice dog hair on their living room rug. Now, Rebel was not allowed in the living room, and in fact, the house was closed up when no one was home. So how was Rebel getting in? Annette asked her boys -- Joseph and Joshua and another Community boy, Johnny -- if they were letting Rebel in the house. No, they assured her that they were not. She asked her husband, a Friend of Medjugorje, himself, if he was letting Rebel in the house. No, again, he assured her he was not. One day, Joseph and Johnny were in the house and behold they see Rebel on the porch. Rebel, looking around, was standing up on his hind legs, put his front paw on the door latch and let his weight push the handle down -- and voila, the door opened!
January 25, 1995
A Friend of Medjugorje says that the messages of Our Lady become alive in your life, when you desire to pattern your life after them. If we are to look at the flowers as an example on how to open the door of our hearts, then, Rebel, is an example of what happens when we do not want to open that door. Jesus finds a way to get a hold of the latch, and push it open!
And, as for Rebel, what could you do with a dog that smart? You have no choice but to let him in the house, at least on special occasions.
This picture taken in 2003, captures Rebel sharing a bed with the founder’s son, Joseph, his great friend. Notice, he sleeps on his back like a human. Joseph, now a top world- trainer of horses, learned much traning from Rebel, while Rebel taught him. Rebel was a companion on every camping trip, every adventure down the creek, every… well… every day for kids here in the Community is an adventure not to miss!
Though Rebel was now “allowed” in the living room, he was not however, allowed on the couch. That was forbidden. However, Annette started to notice dog hair on the couch. So, the question went around, who was letting Rebel get on the couch? Once again, the “no” answers came back. Figuring it must be the kids who were dragging in the dog hair and getting it on the couch, the “dog hair on the couch” mystery was considered somewhat “solved.” However, the boys, Joseph and Johnny, once again devised an investigation of their own. They tried to trap Rebel on the couch, but every time they snuck up on him, he was fast asleep on the floor. As the founder often quotes Sun-Tzu, “know your enemy, know yourself,” they had to change their tactics. So one afternoon, they, very, very, slowly snuck onto the porch, practically crawling, making not the slightest peep, not the slightest noise that could startle Rebel. And in the corner of the window, what did they find? Rebel sleeping on the couch! They had him now! Making a run for it, the boys bolted to the front door to catch Rebel in the act. As the front door flew open, there was Rebel, on the floor fast asleep! They called out, Rebel! And much to the admiration of the boys, Rebel slowly lifted up his head in an apparent daze, as if they had just woke him up.
April 25, 1993
A Friend of Medjugorje, whose background was in tree surgery, said that when nature “appears” to be sleeping, it is in reality, very much alive, just beneath the surface. In the same way, love is alive, just beneath the surface, the love of God the Creator. It may take some work to wake that love within us. It may take devising every means, and marking out every dead-end road to find it, perhaps sneaking up on it, but it is there, whether we feel that love or not. God the Creator’s love is right before our eyes, if we are willing to work to find it.
“I don’t know Johnny. Should we go out there to the beach?”
Pictured above, Rebel, standing next to Johnny, accompanied the Caritas kids to the beach during the very first Project WAVE in 2004. W -- AVE stands for Worldwide AVE. Project WAVE was the work to begin building Mej.com, now Medjugorje.com. When a Friend of Medjugorje says that there is more behind Mej.com than just a website, it is summed up in one word: Life - and there was Rebel, right in the midst of it.
Rebel sits outside the schoolhouse at Caritas with some of the school kids in 2003. Rebel was quite the patriot - a southern one of course. Notice the holes in the jeans of some of the girls. A Friend of Medjugorje has always encouraged our “rough and tumble” school, complete with dog mascot. No, Our Lady is our mascot. Rebel was a student like the rest of them.
Through the years, there were several orphaned baby deer that Rebel helped to rescue and raise. For those of you who haven’t had much experience with animals, in the agrarian life, it is common to see nursing calves, colts and baby deer butt their heads against the teats of their mamas which is nature’s way of releasing the milk when babies are wanting to nurse. It is always amazing to see how God has programmed His ways into these newborn animals who act through their instincts, and yet a Friend of Medjugorje said that in today’s culture, people disconnected from the simple agrarian life, oftentimes do not act with even the simplest instincts that animals act with. This is part of the reason why Our Lady says:
July 25, 2001
A Friend of Medjugorje often says that nature is the great teacher of common sense, with the lessons and joys that it brings from God. It was always very comical to see the little deer butting their heads up underneath Rebel—hoping for a morning or afternoon snack from him, who they knew as their “mother.” Rebel always suffered this “indignity” with patience and resignation. How many human mothers treat their husbands and children with at least the same patience as this dog towards a deer? If they would, then they would find joy in their heart.
Making Friends. Rebel helped to raise more than 30 of our community children over the past 14 years. Baby Tony, grandson of a Friend of Medjugorje, is one from the newest generation of the Community, the last to know Rebel “up close and personal.”
“And the lion and the lamb laid down.” Rebel knew when to be gentle around smaller, weaker animals and when to be a fierce enemy -- like raccoons. "...a time for war, and a time for peace." Our Lady said on July 21, 1982:
A Friend of Medjugorje often tells the Community that what we experience here in the seemingly everyday miracles where the laws of nature are suspended, is the fruit of a life of sacrifice. Without prayer and fasting, this everyday occurence would not be possible.
There are many stories from pilgrims who, while climbing to Grotto La Pluie nestled in the mountains behind Caritas, suddenly found Rebel by their side, who appeared from out of nowhere. He would remain with them the entire time until they were safely home again. On occasion we had a few pilgrims get lost coming down from the mountain. Their prayers for help were answered by a very “angelic” Rebel suddenly appearing and assuming the responsibility of guide dog, leading them back to the right path.
After being kicked out of the house enough times, after not being allowed on the couch, after all the forced baths that he did not want to take, Rebel had finally had enough and called the Sherriff on Annette. Not really, but, sometimes circumstances fall perfectly together to make a perfect scenario for a perfect joke.
In August 2005, Marija was at Caritas for the first public celebration of Our Lady’s August 5th birthday. August 2nd of this same year happened to be our founder’s wife, Annette’s, 50th birthday. As a rouge to set up a surprise party for Annette, our founder sent Marija out shopping with Annette with instructions to Marija to make sure they returned home at a certain hour. Because there were thousands of pilgrims who had come to participate in the days of prayer with Our Lady, we had hired several sheriffs to help with traffic control.
Our founder, knowing when Marija and Annette would be returning, had the sudden inspiration to ask one of the sheriffs to be part of a joke for Annette’s birthday, which he good-humoredly agreed to. The sheriff deputy drove down the road and laid in wait for Annette and Marija to drive by. When they did, he turned on his lights and siren and pulled them over on the side of the road. Looking up Annette’s driver’s license, the deputy played his part perfectly when he said there was something seriously wrong with her record—having a past due traffic ticket that she hadn’t paid, or something to that effect. Annette protested saying that she lived just down the road. The sheriff deputy said that he could not allow her to drive home because her license was not valid. Marija, not realizing this was a joke, pulled her own driver’s license out and asked if Annette could use hers. The sheriff, very stern and gruff, glared at Marija and said, “I’m sorry ma’am that license won’t work here in Alabama.” The deputy put them both in the backseat of his car, and, perfectly according to the plan he worked out with a Friend of Medjugorje, got a “call” on the radio that he needed to urgently attend to. So the deputy told Annette and Marija that, he was sorry, but they were going to have to go with him on a ride. He turned his lights and siren on and off they went up and down the road. Both of them were distressed of what this scene would look like, there were reporters around, and how badly this would reflect upon a Friend of Medjugorje.
By the time they drove into the driveway, both Annette and Marija, not knowing still it was a joke, were red-faced and filled with trepidation. When the deputy turned towards their house, Annette, sitting in the back seat finally caught on and said, “I can’t believe those guys!” As they got out of the car, the whole family and community came bounding out of the house, led by a Friend of Medjugorje, with laughter and shouts of “Happy Birthday!” The realization of the joke immediately hit them when the sheriff deputy stepped out of his car with a huge grin on his face. Annette promptly broke out into tears of relief, and Marija erupted into gales of laughter to have been the butt of a perfectly executed joke.
Rebel knew none of this, of course, but he knew that everyone was happy, and he wagged his tail in the midst of all the hugs, laughter and good wishes. By the smell of the birthday feast drifting out from the kitchen screen door, he also knew a good meal of leftovers awaited him in the near future.
Just before Thanksgiving in 2002, Kyle, our founder’s oldest son, who is pictured above, brought little Rebel home as a gift for his younger brothers. It was love at first sight, for everyone. No doubt it was by Our Lady’s hand that brought Kyle back home this weekend. Almost to the day, 14 years ago, his hands carried Rebel into this yard—and now they were used to help give comfort to this creature who was leaving behind so many wonderful memories within their family and the Community. It had been a gift well given and a gift well lived.
Bridget, our founder’s only daughter out of a family of six older brothers, considered Rebel “her” dog also. Even though Rebel was mostly with “the boys”— but the memory of Rebel will be forever connected in her heart to the love of her brothers.
When the call went out Sunday afternoon that Rebel was dying, the Community rushed to the home of the founder and his wife to gather around and say goodbye, and to say our thank-you’s to God for the gift of Rebel.
The third generation of kids that Rebel helped raise, gather around and lay their hands on Rebel, alongside our founder, as a way of giving gratitude to God for the great gift we had been given from God in him. The joys that surrounded Rebel in our life we knew were from the blessing that God had given through Our Lady. We are to always give thanks for a new car, a house and even more, for the blessings of a life of an animal that gave so many joys.
As each person came forward Sunday, a flood of memories came with them. Tony, the founder’s son pictured here with the hat, had plenty of memories that God had given to their family through Rebel. One such memory is told later in this special edition Behind the Scenes.
After all the goodbye’s, Rebel’s box was finally nailed shut and placed in the freshly dug grave.
The founder asked each community member to come forward and place a shovel load of dirt on Rebel’s box.
All of the Community took turns placing a shovel of dirt on Rebel’s grave. Here, Victoria, the founder’s granddaughter, took her turn.
One of the things that the founder noticed early on in Rebel’s life, was that Rebel was not a barker. Barking was a serious matter, and it was general knowledge in the Community that Rebel simply did not bark. Our founder often would tell of his days as a kid and how unpeaceful it was to hear the neighborhood dogs barking at all hours of the day. When Our Lady came to his home in 1988, She said through Marija during the December 25, 1988, message:
Following the message, our founder walked down his driveway towards his lake blessing the trees with the Sign of the Cross, asking for a blessing of peace upon all creation here. Our founder had always seen that Rebel, not barking, was part of the blessing of peace that Our Lady was referring to; a blessing of peace that Our Lady said was for all creation.
When Victoria, pictured above, was still in the womb, actually just a few weeks before she was born in 2009, her mother Erin, along with her little daughter, Faith, was crossing the street to join the rest of the Community for a Christmas party at the single consecrated men’s house. Her husband, our founder’s son, Tony, was out hunting and did not know about the Christmas party. So Erin left Tony a note and started to walk up with Faith past our founder’s home, down towards the lake. This was the same driveway that the founder had walked down blessing the trees, 21 years before. As Erin was stepping over a creek, she slipped and fell, breaking her leg. Erin, 9 months pregnant, with little Faith at her side, was immobilized in pain.
Meanwhile, Erin’s husband Tony arrived home and found a note telling him that she had walked up for a Christmas party, and to join her when he got home. Tony started to get ready to leave.
It had already started to become dark when Erin had fallen down. She started to hear coyotes howling in the distance. Erin was becoming very scared, especially since her little one Faith was able to walk, and the two of them were dangerously close to the lake. Little Faith could easily wander out. Erin started to call out. No response. She continued to call, nothing. No one was around.
Her fears grew when out of the blue, the outline of something appeared. With the coyotes howling what seemed to be close by, Erin was scared of who this unknown visitor was. As the shadow got closer to her, cautiously drawing near, Erin could tell that a coyote had found her. It came closer and closer to her. When shades of its fur appeared before her, she could tell - it was Rebel! Erin called out to Rebel for help. Rebel saw her and then, uncharacteristically started barking. Little Faith at her side, was now occupied with Rebel, laying at least one fear aside, and Erin knew that the coyotes would also stay away now.
Erin’s husband Tony had gotten ready to leave for the party and stepped out the door of their house, which is just down from the house he grew up in. He heard something strange. It sounded maybe like someone screaming. Then he heard Rebel barking. It was well after dark now and something in his gut told him that there was a serious problem if Rebel was barking, so Tony followed the sounds. He ran past the home of his childhood, down the driveway following the barking, towards the lake and there before him was Rebel. Then he saw Erin and little Faith. Though in pain, she was relieved when Tony appeared before her.
Our Lady said on December 25, 1988:
Creation needs to know peace, so that creation can return peace. Our founder, walking down his driveway towards the lake in 1988, just after the above 25th messaeg was given in his home had decided to bring Our Lady’s blessing of peace. Twenty-one years later, creation returned the blessing of peace to Erin in the dark of night at the same place of consecration. No one doubted that Rebel’s presence this night was from the hand of God.
On Sunday morning, November 13, 2016, the Caritas Community with our founder went through the Holy Doors in St. Paul’s Cathedral in Birmingham, just before the Holy Doors closed, which ended the Year of Mercy in our diocese. With the close of the Year of Mercy, one era was ending and another beginning. Rebel’s death and the action of burying him on this day, as night fell, whose life had spanned not only the lives of so many of our children in Community, but also the tumultuous times of our nation and world, from the aftermath of September 11, 2001, to this present election of November 8, 2016, seemed not to be an action “by chance,” but was a poignant reminder of the passing of a particular time of grace. In a message our founder often quotes, we once again experienced the following words of Our Lady to be true in Rebel’s passing:
March 25, 1990
To emphasize this even stronger, on November 13, 2016, a super moon appeared rising over the horizon, bringing many in the Community together again in the evening to watch it rise behind the Field of Apparitions.
The moon hadn’t been this close to the earth since 1948, just after World War II. As it rose in the night sky, a large halo formed around the moon’s circumference, larger than we had ever seen before.
The halo around the moon was so big this night, that even with our wide-angle camera lens, we barely caught the edges of the halo. Meditating on this sight, we recalled an article in Birmingham Magazine that had been written in November, 1989, by a reporter who was present for one of the apparitions of Our Lady in 1988. Though the apparition was in the home of our founder, many pilgrims were gathered in the Field just beyond the house. The reporter wrote of this night in November 1988:
“One of the curious, I arrived on a November Sunday as an early full moon hauled itself up over the blue Alabama hills…I walked a worn cattle trail down a hill and up a grassy rise, my feet raising the smell of new hay. On the hilltop, I paused, amazed. Below me spread a scene from El Cid, or some other religious epic of the screen. Three thousand people waited in that Alabama field, in a hollow that held them like a pair of gentle hands… Many here had been waiting all day. Now these faces turned to the house where Marija lay waiting for her vision.
“A ruffle of emotion swept the crowd. The feeling leaped across the field, a visible physical jolt to some…The lights burned. Four minutes. Five minutes. The hillside settled, grew quiet. When the lights went off a quick noise swept the throng, then moved on, leaving reverence and quiet sobs.
“The writer, the observer, came back to life in me then, and detached me from that remarkable experience: Look around you. This is faith.
“I glanced upward, too. There in the heavens hung another unforgettable sight. Over the house and field that night—and you, reader, will have to take this on faith—the full moon wore a huge autumn halo, the largest I ever saw. Its circle of light seemed larger than the world.”
November 1989 Issue
The closing of our Holy Doors, a super moon taking place wearing a huge autumn halo, on a November Sunday, just as what was described above from the first apparitions of Our Lady in the Field in 1988, and the passing of our beloved Rebel—all in a singular day. Rebel was a gift to us from God’s merciful heart that brought so much joy into the life of our Community. He was our faithful companion through a particular time of grace in the growth of the Community. We know we are heading into a new time, a time that will follow this Year of Mercy. For the Community, Rebel’s death, the super moon with its large halo, and the closing of the Holy Doors were all signposts of this new time. We will always remember Rebel’s passing in connection with the end of the Year of Mercy, he who was one of the beautiful mercies of God to us.
In Rebel’s 14 years of life, he had witnessed events such as the first days of school, to the summer fun in the fields, to kids graduating, to courtships and marriages, to new births, to burials in the Caritas Cemetery, to prayer events with Marija here at Caritas, and the private visits of Marija’s family. Even his name, Rebel, speaks of our founder and his walk against the entrenched system that caused him to start Caritas in the first place, as a revolution against the culture of death. Rebel was a creature of God, through whom we were blessed. Sinners though we are, we learned from Rebel the words that a Friend of Medjugorje once saw on a bumper sticker of a car:
“God expects me to be at least half the person that my dog thinks I am.”
As a Community, God expects us to be the people that Rebel thought we were and this is the witness of our life that we share with you, just a single-day’s worth. Rebel always was a “ham” around pilgrims at Caritas, and many of you shared with us your stories in which he was used by God for your conversion. It could possibly be said that Rebel loved you, perhaps seeing in many of you what you are supposed to be.
We shared with you a little glimpse of our life with Rebel, behind-the-scenes in a life that was invested with prayer and sacrifice by a Friend of Medjugorje and his family, over 30 years ago. These blessings can be your own if you begin today to walk this path of bringing peace to all creation, an action that our founder did in blind faith in Our Lady’s words of December 25, 1988, not knowing that creation itself would return the blessing on a daily basis. This is not out of reach. For those who are beginning to start new communities, the Prayer for the Abode of God by a Friend of Medjugorje, is a witness that God will act upon your good will if you desire it. The path to community, the path to the future is not easy, but it does begin sometime and in some way. In the uncertain days ahead, the Prayer for the Abode of God is an investment that one can make to bring peace to all creation. If there is anything one can concretely do for their future that does not cost anything, that doesn’t require a change of jobs or home, that does not even require that one’s whole family be on-board, but that may lead to those changes in family, the Prayer for the Abode of God is the investment that brings only a positive return.
And so we remain grateful to God for His goodness, which He blesses us with everyday, and as we approach the feast of Thanksgiving , we continue to thank Him for His blessing upon our families, Community and Nation.
We began this Special Behind the Scenes Edition with the message of Our Lady from October 25, 1995. Reading Our Lady's message about the goodness of the love of God the Creator, there is one more very important part of the message. Our Lady said:
Truly, Our Lady is the greatest gift we have received from God in this, Her time. Through what we have learned from a Friend of Medjugorje’s actions in following Our Lady’s messages blindly, when we step out in faith, and bring the blessing of peace to creation, we are bringing the Queen of Peace, Herself. It is for Her, this Thanksgiving that we are the most grateful. And so, on behalf of a Friend of Medjugorje, his wife Annette, the boys and Bridget, the whole Community of Caritas, Caritas of Birmingham, BVM Pilgrimages, Medjugorje.com and Radio WAVE, we pray for you to become the people that Rebel thought you were…
In the Love of God the Creator,
The Community of Caritas
The Prayer for the Abode of God
by a Friend of Medjugorje
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY GOD, I present myself to you with all my good deeds, my charity, my accomplishments as nothing. I have done nothing, nor will I ever do anything for You. Even if I labored to eternity for You, I still could not stand before You and say I merit anything.
I, now before You in prayer, naked, weak, and wretched, am ashamed, for I ask of You a great intention and have nothing to give You in return. Yet boldly and strongly do I say, “grant what I ask because I ask in the Passion of Your Son.” His suffering, I argue, merit me anything I ask of You. With His blood and Its merits, can you deny me anything? I ask of You not only to grant the intentions of Our Lady, but to go beyond and to grant one hundred-fold Her intentions pertaining to the Valley. I ask You to establish Her Heavenly Queenship here as no other place on earth. I desire Her as the Foundress of what is to be and I beg You to give Her untold powers to accomplish Her plans. I consecrate every living plant, animal, person and the mountains themselves to You so that Our Lady, Jesus, and You might dwell here. Amen. 9/1/89
One Special Gift from a Friend of Medjugorje
to All of You
When we knelt down to pray in thanksgiving to God for the gift of the creature Rebel, a Friend of Medjugorje played a song that seems to have been written just for us. We share this moment with you, that you may also share in the grace of the moments of grace with God, through Our Lady. Turn on your speakers, and be sure to open in full screen.
If you have trouble opening full screen.
by a Friend of Medjugorje
We cannot possibly tell every story and lesson we have learned from Our Lady through Rebel. However, knowing that what was read above warms the heart, be sure to also read a special story about Rebel that a Friend of Medjugorje wrote back in 2003, titled, Dixie. Order Here in the MejMart.