BOYKINOkay, I have to write this down. About five years ago, on March 8, 1995, my father died of bone cancer at the age of 75. He had been in the hospital for a couple of months, and I tried to visit him often. I remember dozing off in a chair next to his bed while I was visiting late one evening. I caught myself snoring and decided to sneak out and go to my moms apartment to sleep, so that I wouldnt wake up the entire hospital with my loud snoring.
A couple of hours later, around three of four oclock in the morning, my mothers phone rang and I answered it. My dad was on the other end telling me that he had to see me right away. I was so surprised to hear his voice on the phone, since I knew that from his bed he was unable to reach for the phone and dial. He kept saying on the phone that he had some work for me to do. I used to work for my dad years before, and so I thought it might have just been the morphine making him delusional, thinking that I still did.
Nevertheless, I quickly dressed and drove back to the hospital. I found him wide awake in his room, and the nurse said he had been trying frantically to reach the phone and to pull out his I-Vs. She told me that she had agreed to help him, and so she dialed the number and put the phone up to his ear.
I went near his bed and asked, "Dad, are you alright?" He made sure no one else was listening and whispered to me that the people there were not working for the hospital, but were with "Boykin." I kept asking him what he meant by Boykin, but he couldnt clarify it. He just went on and on about this big secret conspiracy or something, and clearly wanted me to know about BOYKIN.
I soon calmed him down and told him everything was alright, and again figured that the morphine was causing his state of mind. He passed away later that day, and I couldnt get that word out of my head. Where did he get that word from? I asked everyone he knew and relayed the story to several people. No one had ever heard of Boykin.
My youngest daughter was going to be in her middle school play and had a big part. My mother was visiting us in Ohio from New Jersey. She almost didnt come because it was approaching the one year anniversary of my dads death. But she wanted to watch her granddaughter, so finally decided to come, and we went to the play.
The next morning I woke up early and started to read the paper. Everyone else in the house was still asleep. Still drowsy, I scanned the pages, looking for interesting articles, when suddenly, I decided to turn back to the previous page. Some strange feeling came over me and told me to turn the page at that moment. There it was.....the word "Boykin" appeared in some little headline. I then realized the date, March 8, 1996, exactly one year after that night in the hospital! I was stupefied. I woke up my mother and my wife, hysterically trying to explain it and show them the article. The article itself didnt mean anything significant, it was just some policemans name who had saved someone or something. I just couldnt believe that after a year of wondering if that word meant anything, it was brought back into my life on THAT day! I believe that it was some kind of sign from my dad telling us, and especially my mom, that he was okay.
Months went by and I admit that I was becoming rather sullen and complacent. I was really questioning the meaning of life and my purpose in particular. I am a songwriter and have always struggled with lyrics. One day I started to try putting my feelings to the words of a melody I had written. I wrote from the heart about the way I had been feeling. I completed the song and called it "Theres a Light." It goes: "Theres a light out there somewhere for me to find, and Ive been searching, hoping for a sign." I recorded this song with some others and made a few CDs for my family and friends.
A short time thereafter, I made a trip back to New Jersey to visit my mom, brother and sister, and their families. I also went to see an old friend, Chuck, whom I had worked with years before. We got to talking about my father, and I told him the story of Boykin. We also discussed my new song and how I had been struggling lately with my faith.
For some reason, Chuck asked me if I had ever heard of Medjugorje. I hadnt, and he gave me a book to read called, Medjugorje, The Message by Wayne Weible. He told me it was about six children in a town in Yugoslavia who in 1981 and ever since have been visiting with our Blessed Mother, and receiving messages from her. I found this most interesting, and couldnt wait to read the book. He said he met someone who lived near him in Marlboro, NJ who was a visionary, like those children. He once went to his house with several hundred others who had heard of him, and while this man was receiving a message from Mary, Chuck saw, with his own eyes, a brilliant cross appear in the sky over the house. Chuck gave me copies of some miraculous pictures he had taken there.
I read Medjugorje straight through, and then read Voices of the Children, The Final Hour, and another, and then another. I was like a sponge becoming an expert in Marian Apparitions. I felt a strong desire to get a statue of Mary but could not find a place to buy one. I called several places in the phone book and visited all the Christian book stores in and around my area. They just didnt have them and I was getting quite frustrated. After a few days of searching, on my way home from a weekday morning Mass, I stopped at a traffic light. I glanced over to my right and saw a statue of Mary in the window of a Catholic shop. I couldnt believe my eyes. I had traveled that way everyday for years and never knew it was there, so close to my house. Of course I went in and asked, "how long has this place been here? It had been there for years and I was thinking "no way, this place wasnt here yesterday." And so another incident that made me feel that something extraordinary is going on. I felt a conversion of my heart and deep longing to be like a soldier for Mary. I asked her in prayers what does she want me to do? I went to confession, for the first time in about 35 years.
My wife and kids were worried about me. I think they thought I had "gone off the deep end." I was careful though not to embarrass them with all the little statues of Mary in the house, and when their friends came over, I often took them down. I was truly changed by these stories of apparitions, and started to feel as though I had found the "Light" that I had been searching for. It might have been just good timing for me, but none the less, I was, and still am, hooked on this subject.
I was now involved in the new technological craze of surfing the internet, and soon became a member of the Catholicity subscription, where we share our views and information with others about Marian Apparitions. A lot of information on Medjugorje and Fatima, Our Lady of Guadeloupe, and others can be researched on this internet site. I ordered a set of Rosary Beads from Medjugorge that had been blessed during an apparition. Beautiful blue glass on a silver chain. The chain has since turned into gold. I had heard of this happening to others.
I prayed the Rosary often, and would like to share another story. I was lying in bed one night with the worst sore throat I could imagine. I felt it must surely be Strep. The following night I was scheduled to perform with my weekend band. I am the lead singer, the only singer in this band, and I was terrified with the condition of my throat. I grabbed my Rosary and before I finished praying the decades, I was completely healed. My throat was perfect, not a sign of pain or discomfort when I swallowed. I am to this day a firm believer in the power of the Rosary.
Sometime in March of 1999, I came across something on the internet about a man in Jersey City whom Mary was appearing to. I found out his name, Ray Skop, and got his address. This person who posted the message said that on the first Friday of the month a crowd would gather to pray the Rosary and see some holy painting that Ray had. It was apparently weeping some kind of oil and images were appearing on the walls of his house, and statues were bleeding.
I called my mom who lives nearby and she, with a couple of her friends, went to check him out. They went on a Friday, but not a first Friday. They somehow convinced Ray to let them into his home anyway, and he gave them the grand tour. He showed them the picture and oil and everything. That night my mom called to tell me it was fantastic. She had taken some pictures and was going to mail me some.
I think it was Tuesday morning when I went to 8:30AM Mass, and afterwards went into the little gift store they had in the back of the Church. I go there from time to time looking for statues or pictures or other little items. This time, though, I came upon a statue I had never seen before and was attracted to it. I didnt know who it was of. I went home, and when the mail came, my moms pictures were there. The picture of Rays weeping painting was the same as the Statue I saw earlier in the day! I rushed back to the church to buy it but it was no longer there. I ordered one from the internet.
I continued to be fascinated thinking about Ray, and decided I just had to meet this guy. I had quickly given up all hope of ever going to Medjugorje, but I did make a visit to Emmitsburg, Maryland to see Gianna Tallone Sullivan, who had been there and now is a visionary receiving messages from Our Lady. It was a great trip.
So now I drove to New Jersey for a family visit at Easter and planned to see Ray Skop as well. My mom had told him about me and begged him to meet with me while I was visiting. She had his phone number and had tried to call, but there was no answer. We were running out of time as our visit was almost over. Holy Saturday morning he picked up the phone and I could hear my mom pleading, "Just five minutes, he came all the way from Ohio!"
Finally, he agreed and it was set up, wed visit my dads grave and then see Ray Skop who lived right next to the cemetery. We drove up to his house and he greeted us at the door. We were brought into his bedroom where this picture was on display. This picture I guess is about 18" by 24", and theres an oil dripping down from within it. On the walls of his bedroom were holy images of oil. We took pictures and when I asked to get a picture with him, he reluctantly said okay. I noticed the blood on both of his hands and asked him how long he had the Stigmata. He said it started the night before, on Good Friday, and his bed was a bloody mess.
I had a good feeling about this man from the start and believed instantly that he was truly blessed. I thanked God for allowing me to meet him. So I guess we hit it off, we were there long after five minutes and he showed us some photos and told us stories. We started talking about how we were visiting my dads grave, and about my dad. To all our surprise, he told us that he knew my dad, and in fact, they had been good friends. He went on and on about how much he liked and admired him. How about that?
That trip to New Jersey and meeting Ray Skop kept me on a spiritual high for quite a while. Things were going great for me and my family. We were able to purchase and move into a great home, which we love, and bought a new car. We planned and took a vacation trip to Clearwater Beach, Florida, where we now go each spring. Clearwater, by the way, is a place where an image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe is still appearing on the side of a building. I now have a continuous feeling that I am being looked after, as if all of the good things happening are the result of some special graces bestowed on me ever since this whole thing started.
I think the best example of this new good fortune for my family has to do with my childrens education. My son was accepted and now attends the University of Dayton, where a giant statue of Mary looks down on the campus. UD is also famous for their "Marian" library. A year later my daughter was the recipient of a full, four year academic scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, all expenses paid, including a travel allowance and spending money. Unbelievable! My wife and I cried when we heard the news, and I still choke up thinking about it now. We brought back a big statue of Mary from a statuary in South Bend, and it is now featured prominently in our back yard.
Almost a year since I met him, I wondered how Ray Skop was doing, and decided to get his number from my mom. She was attending some of the Rosary gatherings on the first Fridays of each month. There were stories circulating of miraculous healings at Rays house, like a little boy who was cured of a brain tumor and a little girl who couldnt walk was now walking. I was fascinated by these stories and desperately wanted to know more details.
My mother had his number but was unable to reach him. So I called him myself from Ohio, and I guess because he had caller ID and recognized my name, he answered the phone. He told me he still had the Stigmata from time to time and some unbelievable stories of miraculous cures. He also gave me a number where I could call him at work. This began a long series of correspondence between Ray and me, which I will elaborate on in the next chapters.
Okay, heres another story. On Mothers Day, my family attended Mass at our church. At the end of the Mass the choir started singing a song called "I Believe." I hadnt heard that song in about forty years, since I was a child and used to sing it for my mother. I felt tears in my eyes as I listened, and thought this was another little sign from our Holy Mother.
Later that night, or maybe it was the next day, I was on the internet and got a message from someone, asking "Does anyone know the words to the song I Believe?" I thought to myself, "What a coincidence!" A day or so later, after morning Mass, I was in that same church store where I saw that statue, and the song came on the speakers. I couldnt believe it! I said out loud to the lady behind the desk, "This song is following me." She said she knew it, but hadnt heard it in years.
I called Ray at work a day or so later and he said that he was meeting with Mary and getting her messages regularly. He said he had a message for me from Mary. For me? Really? What did she say? I was excited to say the least. He told me, "She wants you to write a ballad." Now, I dont remember ever telling Ray that I was a songwriter, and found it ironic that he would suggest me writing a song. "She wants me to write a song?" I asked.
"Yeah," he continued, "and Mary will inspire you. It will be about the Rosary, and your name is to be in the song." My name in the song? That sounded strange, but I figured there must be a reason. After my talk with Ray I remembered the experience with the "I Believe" song and thought that could have been another sign.
The song I wrote about the Rosary was certainly inspired and was written effortlessly. The song starts with the words, "I Believe, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be." These are the first words of each of the prayers recited when praying the Rosary. When I played it over the phone to Ray, he said he loved it, and that Mary told him she was "very, very pleased with me, and the song was eventually going to be heard by many people."
I was visiting my mom and family once again in New Jersey and since it was the first Friday of June, 2000, we went to the Skops Rosary, as the prayer meetings are now called. The crowd had grown so that it was held in a Church in downtown Jersey City, rather than in front of Rays home. My mom, myself, and my daughter went, as she was able to travel during her summer break from Notre Dame.
We approached Ray, whom I had only met once before but had spoken with a number of times long distance. He was glad to see me and I introduced my daughter to him. I gave him a couple of CDs and cassettes with "The Ballad of Skops Rosary" on them. He had the Stigmata on his hands. Someone announced that I was a special guest and that I had written this song that they proceeded to play before the Rosary started.
The weeping picture was placed on the altar for everyone to see and afterwards cotton balls that had been dipped in the oil were distributed. People were also having their Rosary beads dipped in the oil.
Ray introduced me to Deeni, whose little daughter, Samantha, had been miraculously healed. My daughter and I spoke to her for a while. Deenis story is amazing, and she loves to tell it. I have her permission to recount it here.
She had gone to all kinds of specialists and doctors and clinics and hospitals to try to help her daughter Samantha. Samanthas feet were curling around and she could not walk. Deeni was being told to prepare for her not ever walking again. Then, a doctor told her about Ray Skop, and she drove an hour or so to meet him. She said that Ray told her Samantha would walk again. They prayed the Rosary together and Deeni went home. Forty days later, and on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Samantha, whose legs had suddenly turned bright red, said she wanted to walk. Her feet curled around, right-side out, and she began to walk. Im afraid I dont quite do the story justice and to hear Deeni tell it is amazing. She and I have become good friends and we speak together on the phone from time to time about these miracles.
Ray told me I needed to write two more songs; one about Samantha and one about Nancy, his wife who is now also meeting with Mary and has a special mission to help childless couples. They come to her and touch her hand and say a prayer, and the stories are going around about babies being conceived.
Ray told me one day on the phone a remarkable story about a "Child with no face." The story was about a teacher who had taken a group of students to a park for a field trip, when one of the little girls wandered off near the Morris Canal. The teacher saw a little girl in a red jacket pointing to a place in or on the banks of the Canal. After the student was found and saved, the teacher went to the girl in the red jacket to talk to her and said she was horrified to see that the girl had no face! This greatly disturbed the teacher, as you can well imagine.
She told the story to others and eventually, I dont know how, but she ended up meeting Ray. Ray had already had a dream about this "child with no face that will soon be in place," as he told me. Three times he dreamt this and the third time he heard "the child with no face is now in place." As you might have guessed, that very teacher had been having trouble getting pregnant. She called Ray to say that she was finally with child. The wandering students mother also became pregnant and the two of them had their babies on the same day, Dec 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
Before my daughter went back to Notre Dame to begin her sophomore year, I called Ray. He said he was going to send me an article about Samantha written by her grandfather. I was about to start on her song, but decided to wait for the article. During our conversation, he also told me that he spoke to Mary and that Marys light is shining on me and my family.
Then, out of the blue, he asked me if my daughter was going to college and where, and what were the circumstances surrounding her. I told him that she went to Notre Dame on a full scholarship. He seemed to be saying "oh, okay" and "now I see," like something was beginning to make sense to him. He told me that Notre Dame is where Dr. Ms daughter goes. I had no idea who Dr. M was. He said that he was a friend and his daughter had come to see him. She was a singer and had a beautiful voice.
My daughter and I were curious about this connection, and looked her up on the Notre Dame web site to see if she was registered and what year she was in. We found her sure enough, a second year student, just like my daughter. I drove her back to school and helped her move into her new dorm room. That evening, she called me to say that the girl who moved in the next room is Dr. Ms daughter, and we were both surprised. So I called Ray the next morning to tell him that they met and their rooms are next to each other. He said Dr. M was the Doctor who sent Samantha to him. He was amazed and called Deeni on his cell phone while I hung on listening to him tell her about Dr. M and our daughters.
The odds of these things all happening are beyond comprehension. I told Ray that I would write it all down and he said no one would believe it. I called Deeni to talk to her and she told me some more stories about Rays hands bleeding as he prayed over some kids and then how they were healed. The stories go on and on, and I hope Deeni is keeping notes too. She told me she was. Im going to send this to both of them now.
August 22, 2000
On November 3rd 1999, my 26 month old daughter, Samantha, woke up, screamed in pain and said me no walk mommy. I carried her to the couch to see what was going on. Two weeks previous Sammi stopped walking for 3 days. The year before in Oct. and Nov. Sammi didnít walk on 3 separate occasions for 1 day each time. She was always sick so it was originally thought to be muscle weakness or vertigo (inner dizziness). This last time was different. We went to our pediatrician and he ordered a number of tests. Nothing showed up so the next day we saw a neurologist. More specific tests were ordered for muscular dystrophy and other rare illnesses. I was heartbroken and had to wait an agonizing week for these results. After she wasnít walking for 6 days they ordered an MRI of the spine to check for tumors. I was numb. My baby was getting needle jabbed into her, she was screaming in pain and the roar of the machines was enough to fill myself up with nothing but fear. So far the tests gave us no answers. Our neurologist was perplexed. He called other doctors around the country to see if anyone had any answers. He felt I should try to see a neurologist at Columbia Pres. Hospital. The best in the world I was told, but I probably would not be able to get an appointment. I called and he had no openings for a month. I cried hysterically to his secretary. My babyís feet were now flipping backwards (posturing). It looked terrible! She called me back and said come in 3 days. God was there with me then. This doctor diagnosed Sammi with painless paraphrasis - cause unknown (partial paralysis of the lower limbs). More grueling tests were ordered that I, as a mom, had to suffer through. She had to fast for hours, get needles stuck in her, machines with radiation zooming over her, and wires all hooked up to her to test response times. Now almost 4 week had past. We had no answers except doctors telling me they were sure it was a central nervous system disorder or brain disorder. I prayed and cried and prayed and cried. I went back to my pediatrician. He told me to call this man Ray in Jersey City. I called Ray and finally got through to him November 30th. Sammi wasnít walking now for 27 days. For the first time in a month I felt some peace. Ray has a painting of Mary and St. Anne (Jesusí grandmother) that began weeping oil in October 1998. He also has the stigmata on his hands and feet. He often begins to bleed many times on holy days, also when a healing is taking place. Ray told me to come to the next rosary at his home. Fortunately for me it was only 3 days later, Friday, December 3rd. As soon as I talked to Ray, I knew this was where my daughter had to be.
On Friday, I drove the 40 miles to his house. I saw about 100 people standing in front of his house. Next I saw roses in his garden. This is pretty amazing since it is December in NJ and cold. He waved me into his home right away. Samantha went right into Rayís arms, something she never did with anyone - ever! Ray had all those there praying for my little angel. I felt such a inner peace and I went home very happy. Just seeing his painting and his stigmata was a miracle itself. 4 days later Ray called again to check on Sammi. He was very spiritual and told me to cut a deal with upstairs Promise to pray the rosary once a week for the rest of your life and I promise your daughter will be walking this weekend. I promised with all my heart and soul. The next day I was off to the hospital for 2 days for spinal tap, bone scan and lots of more blood tests. It was December 8th, Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The morning was tough and for Sammi couldnít eat or drink. Her tests were at 2:00. We were both crying. Once at the hospital. Though the spinal tap went perfect, as well as the other tests. Seven neurologists were looking at her brainstorming to find a cause for her condition. Thursday night we went home still not knowing anything. But in my heart I carried Rayís promise with me. Saturday morning Sammi woke up and crawled to me. I picked her up and for the first time in 39 days her feet flipped the right way. I was so excited! My heart was pounding and I was praying so hard! Suddenly I noticed from her knees to her toes were a bright red - like a terrible sunburn. I was baffled and worried so I took a picture of it in case I needed to show more doctors this now. I went to bed exhausted and praying and hoping and believing - it was the weekend and tomorrow was Sunday the holiest day of the week.
Sunday morning Sammi woke up and crawled in my room. She said me want to walk. I picked her up and her feet flipped the right way again. I held her little body up for her to try the walking motion and she was doing it and I let her go. She fell right down. My heart broke. She looked at me determined and said me want to walk. So I picked her up again. Again she did the walking motion and as I held her suddenly within 2 to 3 minutes I felt her body lifting away from mine. She was walking. I was so happy! About 3 minutes later she was running and hasnít stopped yet - 20 months later! It was the best day of my life!
Sammi's miracle was also very symbolic. It was Sunday, December 12, Mary's Feast Day of Guadalupe. It was also the 40th day of her illness and the number 40 is written many times in biblical stories. I know Mary and St Anne were with me the entire time. Since then I have become very close with Ray and I have been very blessed to witness many miracles around him. He is definitely a special messenger picked by God to help us all when we think we canít carry our cross anymore. Ray only says it is God - not him - who creates these miracles. Also you must have faith. Without faith and trust in God nothing will happen. My family is truly blessed for our miracle. And I will never forget my promise to pray the rosary. With prayer I truly believe anything is possible. Ray is very modest about his special gift, but to all those he has prayed for and helped, we will never forget him and how he has helped us grow close to the Lord. I pray for him daily to keep up his strength and courage while leading all those who need Jesus so desperately. I try to do my part now in telling all to keep praying. All the chaos in our lives can be much more peaceful if we pray, and always, always, always, believe in miracles!!! They do happen.
Deeni Saltarelli, August 2001
I was scared and didn't know what to do, until I remembered my friend Marie telling me about a man named Ray in Jersey City, who works as an investigator with the prosecutor's office. A man who had also been responsible for many healings, and organizes a children's cancer charity known as the Ray of Hope Foundation. I tried to visit Ray one night in December, but couldn't find the right address. Somehow I knew we had to try to see him again, and after calling on many resources, I got Ray's phone number. It was Feb.22nd when I called the number for the first time. It rang and rang and then finally, an answer, it was Ray. He was on his way out and locking up when he heard the phone and came rushing back to answer it. He took a moment to listen as I told him what had happened to my husband. Ray said he would pray for him and in return asked if I would promise to have a rosary at my home every Feb. 22nd, I did.
Whenever people would ask about Joe, I would ask them to pray for him. As more friends started to call a chain reaction of events occurred, it led us to a doctor at Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital in New York City. Joe was then scheduled for 7 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment everyday, all while meeting with a speech therapist. Finally, on May 31st, 2001 Joe was ready for operation. They had removed the upper section of his left lung, and did so successfully. The rest of the tests would show that the cancer had not spread and he was on his way to recovery. On the day Joe had his last CAT scan I called Ray at 8 a.m. and he prayed with Joe. From the moment Ray learned of us he had friends pray for us as well, and from the first time we attended his rosary and took some of the oil home, he gave us faith. Joe used the oil to bless himself every night. He would also rub it near his heart, near his tumor, and every time things got tough, when Joe got sick, I would call on Ray for a prayer and he always had time to help, and he reminded us that God was with us.
I have since taken it upon myself to donate to the children, most recently helping to organizing a trip for the sick children and their families to the New Jersey Shore where they can enjoy the Aquarium, the Boardwalk with rides, games and beach. I am writing to ask for your help. Help me repay a friend by helping the children.
Lucille Buoncore, August 2001
Then the principal at my school asked if she could put an article in the newspaper to see if there were any other people in the area with something similar. I'm very lucky that she did because a week later I got a phone call from Deeni. She told my mom that she was calling because she read about me in the paper and she knew someone that might be able to help me. She told my mom an amazing story about her daughter and a few stories about other people. The stories were about miraculous healings and a guy named Ray. Deenie explained a lot about Ray and told me he was the holy man with a twist. I didn't understand why until I met him later on, but it was perfect description of him. Ray has been blessed with an amazing gift and God works through Ray to heal people and to strengthen people's faith.
The first time I met Ray was at a rosary in June of this past year. I went to a few more rosaries after that and enjoyed them more each time I went. I talked to Ray about once a week from then on and one day he told me that the following Friday something good was going to happen and that I needed to come to that rosary. I promised him I would get there even though my parents couldn't take me. So on September 1st I got a ride with Deenie and went there not expecting anything to happen. When I got out of the car he told me that I was going to get better and that I was going to be able to walk normal. We walked into the gym and sat down. Then my face got red and burning hot and my legs started to twitch. Ray walked over to me and held out his hand and told me he wanted to go for a walk with me. I got up and my joints tightened and my muscles got strength in them and since September 1st I have been perfectly healthy.
Lori Christiansen August, 2001
Maria, thanks for asking and thanks so much to the Ray of Hope Foundation. I know it was set up to help children, but I was once a child too. I was named after Saint Anne and the Blessed Mother, Donna Ann, so that is another possibility.
Have a great day.