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In sickness and suffering, Amber VanVickle witnessed to Christ’s love

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Dave VanVickle via Facebbok

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 03/05/23

The devoted Catholic wife and mother died with the courage and love that defined her life on earth.

Those who knew Amber VanVickle describe her as “beautiful, funny, heroic.” Radiant. Wise. Her story captured so many hearts, as countless prayers rose to heaven for her.

And now she has died, leaving an unfillable gap and an incredibly inspiring legacy.

Who was Amber VanVickle?

Amber VanVickle was a devoted Catholic and homeschooling mother of five children: Sam, Max, Judah, Josie and Louisa. She had a degree in English from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and her writings were featured in national publications. She lived in Pittsburgh with her husband Dave and their five children until her death from cancer on February 23, 2023. 

But that only captures a little of her story.

Her husband, Dave VanVickle, is a nationally known evangelist and expert in spiritual warfare. He works as a speaker and retreat leader who focuses on proclaiming the universal call to holiness, authentic Catholic spirituality, spiritual warfare and deliverance. He has over 10 years of experience assisting priests with their ministries of exorcism and deliverance. Amber’s prayerful and loving presence was essential to his work. 

The family faced a number of serious trials before Amber’s cancer diagnosis.  Three of the VanVickles’ children were born with a number of health disorders, including spina bifida and cerebral palsy. You can contribute here to assist the young family with expenses after Amber’s death.

Heartbreak brought conversion

Amber turned away from the natural temptation to anger and bitterness, and took the heroic path of drawing nearer to God in her suffering. She wrote with powerful eloquence about her sorrow over her children’s health and what it taught her about God in her articles, When the Miracle Doesn’t Come and A Mother Finds Love at the Foot of the Cross.

Amber was a practicing Catholic all her life, but her relationship with God changed in a profound and important way after her children’s diagnoses. You can see her tell the story of this powerful inner conversion in this interview. She wrote that, after enduring these great heartbreaks, she was finally able to love God freely and totally.

When her own final illness began, Amber faced it with the valiant courage and faithful trust in God with which she lived her life. Shortly before she died, she wrote on Facebook,

Hello All, The doctors tell us there is nothing more they can do but make me comfortable, so we are are at hospice. But Drs and I have never seen eye to eye 😉I am resigned to God’s will, whatever that may be, but am also full of the hope of the Women of the Gospels,” If I may but touch Him, I will be healed.” Whatever He wants!! I would never have been able to do it without this army of a family of prayer warriors behind me, your prayers, love and financial support have been unbelievable. We could never thank you enough.

Amber in her own words

But you can learn so much more about this extraordinary and holy woman from her own words than from anything I can say. Here are a few of the most important quotations from her public writings. 

The absence of God’s miracles does not signify the absence of his love but the very presence of it, an offering of it and invitation to greater intimacy, a sharing in his life so efficaciously achieved by the stripping and fire of the cross.

Stripped and broken, I stood with nothing left of my heart. Only then could I finally say: I know nothing, Lord. Who are you? Reveal yourself to me!

And what did I find in the surrender? Peace, lightness, freedom. The Lord took the chains… I found freedom to love him for who he is; freedom to love God because he loved me so desperately first. Despite my burdens and my heartbrokenness, because of my crosses, I was finally able to say to God, “I love you, always, always, always.” 

Perhaps the Lord is telling us that his love is not measured simply in the physical, in the miracles and the healings, but perhaps even more so, in the absence of those. That his love is shown, even more deeply, in the crosses, the trials and tempests of our lives, in the seeming absence of his power and love.

I have learned to stop asking why, and to start asking what. As Father Jacques Philippe says, to have “courage” to leave some questions unanswered and ask, “What does God want from me?” Freedom. Broken chains. Freedom in knowing that it’s not my picture, but God’s. Freedom in knowing that God’s ways are beyond us, beyond our understanding. Freedom to know that God will do anything to bring us to him, even break our hearts, because the reward is so much greater.

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