Slice of heaven

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Until December 6, 2013, the only Capuchins Steven and I had met were those affiliated with the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit.  Then we attended Bishop Danny’s annual dinner in Weslaco and learned about the Poor Clares at the Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Rita in Alamo, TX.  Amazing, considering that the only Poor Clares we’d heard about were those Father Mario had visited in June when he’d taken St. Anthony’s relics to their monastery in the Chicago area.

Clarisas cookies

CPC12613Bishop Danny’s annual fundraiser for the various charities in the diocese was the perfect venue for sales.  The Capuchin Poor Clare nuns had provided a palette of cookies to be sold
before the live auction, so Steven purchased a box of Clarisas and quickly handed them to me.  Gingerly examining the container without flipping it over, my fingertips felt something on the underside of the soft plastic container; so, naturally, I picked away at it with my nails until the tape gave way.

The neatly folded paper square, once smoothed open, satiated some of our curiosity— when, where, and why the Poor Clares had taken up residence in the Rio Grande Valley and why their cookie sales were so important— but the invitation to prayer immediately propelled us into let’s-check-it-out mode.

We fully intended to visit the Capuchins during the Christmas holidays, so we had work to do.  I’d write to the Sisters and learn more about the chapel, and Steven would search online for a map and directions.

My letter

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Sisters’ email

Subject: Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns - Alamo, TX
Date: Monday, December 23, 2013 9:39 AM

Pax et bonum!

Dear Deli and Esteban Lanoux,

May God reign in your hearts.  Thank you for your letter.  God be your reward.

Ten years ago our monastery was established in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  Here, we adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

We’re glad you liked the cookies that we make.  We sell our cookies only at the convent.  We do not sell online because they are very fragile and may break during shipping.  The cookies that you viewed on the website are sold by the Capuchin Sisters of Denver, CO.

We hope to meet you one day and personally thank you for your support.

May God bless you always, especially this Christmas.

In Francis and Clare of Assisi,
Your Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns

St. Joseph and St. Rita Monastery
P. O. Box 1099
Alamo, TX 78516-1099

My response

Subject: Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns - Alamo, TX
Date: Monday, December 23, 2013 9:55 AM

Dearest Sisters,

What a delight to hear from you personally!  Oh, my goodness, yes.  Steven and I will be going down to Brownsville during the Christmas holidays, so we’ve already made plans to go visit you before the New Year.

It’s wonderful to know your monastery is so welcoming, that you responded to my letter right away, and that we can buy your delicious cookies when we’re there at the monastery.  (Something I’ll definitely post on my personal blog!)

God bless y’all most abundantly!

Merry Christmas!

Heartfelt hugsss,
Deli & Steven

St. Anthony Guide.

SJRM122713-1Our visit: December 27, 2013

Reminiscent of Isaiah’s “treasures in secret places” (45:3), Steven and I are always in awe of the wonderful places (and people) we find here and there.  For instance, not long after we arrived at the St. Joseph Chapel in Alamo, we met three lovely visitors, a mother and her two daughters from south of Houston, in the chapel foyer’s gift shop.  Like us, they were so taken with their first visit to the Capuchin sacred space that they’ll be returning again and again.

Slice of heaven

Before leaving the chapel, Steven lit twelve votive candles for the twelve months in 2014.  As we think back on our visit, our prayers for everyone will be doubly special for having been remembered a year in advance as well as daily wherever we happen to be.

Next, we made our way to the monastery.  When we’d walked the grounds earlier, we’d spotted a family dropping off a box of clothing to one of the Sisters; so we thought we might ring the doorbell.  Still, we were reluctant to disturb the Poor Clares, since they’re cloistered nuns.  Even the chapel has the one-way glass panels on either side of the altar, so the Sisters can attend Mass unseen by the public!

Standing outside the small, wrought-iron barred patio area in the biting cold, I guess we made enough noise that one of the Poor Clares stepped out of the house to see what we needed.  When we explained that I’d written to let them know we’d be dropping by, Sister Marta started to let us in; but I motioned to her that we didn’t want to intrude.  We merely wanted to leave off some items, find out more about the Clarisas cookies— which we now know are sold at Breadsmith in McAllen— and thank them for the invitation to visit their beautiful chapel.

“Oh, you’ve seen it already?” Sister asked.

“Yes.  It’s lovely,” Steven told her.

“Did you photograph it?” Sister asked.

“Yes,” I chuckled.  “We spent about three hours in the chapel, so we had more than enough time to pray and take photos.”

Sister was glad for our visit, and we were most appreciative of Sister’s time.  The day was cold and damp, but we’d enjoyed a very special slice of heaven that day.

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Links of interest…  Breadsmith (Clarisas)…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville TXSt. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery…  Capuchin Poor Clares: about / blog / email / monastery
prayer (intentions) / vocations / work…  Franciscan: calendar / prayers / requests…  St. Clare: about / book / chaplet / companions in prayer / don’t bring eggs (article) / enlightened one / for healing / patroness / profile (Aug 11) / prayer requests / prayers / successor…  St. Rita: about / biography / chaplet / feast day (May 22) / forty-six miracles / growing in holiness / life / miracle / national shrine / novena / patroness / prayers / profile / rose legend / story (YouTube)…  St. Joseph: about / celebration
(more) / feastlitany / memorial (May 1) / name / prayers (more) / solemnity (Mar 19) / who is / zeppole…  Viva San Giuseppe

St. Joseph Church pages…  Saints…  St. Joseph

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Christmas blessings…  Clarisas cookies
Finding St. Rita…  God’s master plan…  On being Christian…  Pink divinity…  Promise of hope…  Revisiting St. Simon…  San Giuseppe…  Santo Niño…  Seven dwelling places…  St. Jude Shrine (Corpus Christi)…  Sweet Jesus…  Venerable Margaret

Clarisas cookies

An invitation to the bishop’s annual dinner arrived in the mail, and we couldn’t resist— not because we’d never attended, but because we wanted to support “Bishop Danny,” beloved son of the Corpus Christi diocese, especially at St. Paul’s, his home parish, and now calm, confident-yet-unassuming shepherd of the Brownsville diocese flock.

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Diocesan fundraiser: December 6, 2013

What a cold night to be out and about, but the lively conversations among those of us huddled double-s fashion within the Catholic War Veteran’s foyer warmed our spirits.

Waiting for our passes, we smilingly connected with two young women, Laura and Tracy with Catholic Charities, who invited us to their Spring 2014 event before we made our way through the crowded room to table forty-one.  Then, leaving my coat and bag on our chairs, we headed for the hors d’oeuvres and the silent auction where Item #1331 immediately captivated our curious, collective eye.

This unique, wood carved image of Our Lady, with ivory accents, is simply amazing.  Her face is radiant and motherly.  She adds taste and value to any home or office (Auction book, p. 10).

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Of course, the best part about window shopping all the items on display was seeing Bishop Danny within a few feet from us.  Shaking hands and interacting with anyone who took time from eating and admiring the silent auction items long enough to engage him in conversation, he was relaxed, genuine, celebratory, and… here and there… quietly conducting business as he remained very much in the moment among us.

Precious moments

Steven and I approached Bishop Danny, shared our recollections of him: Sunday Mass on TV while at the Corpus Christi Cathedral; evening Mass at St. Paul’s in Flour Bluff during one of his visits from his post in Detroit; meeting his sister, Tess, at St. Joseph’s (where his mom now is parishioner as well, we learned from him); viewing his annual appeal video at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville; and more.

Bishop Danny smiled when I told him I’d enjoyed the story about the crayons he’d received from his niece (or nephew) at Christmas, and he was surprised to hear that we associate him with the Solanus Casey Center.  Spending precious moments with Bishop Danny was wonderful.  We could’ve taken more of his time; but others wanted the same privilege, so we wished him well and continued our browsing.

An unforgettable evening

Not long after we returned to our empty table three women— a mom with two young ladies— took the seats on my left.  We smiled and exchanged introductions.  The more the woman beside me shared about herself, the more we realized we had in common.  We became fast friends in a flash.  How special to learn not only that Josefina’s a retired elementary school teacher, but also a Franciscan laity aspirant!

Steven was otherwise distracted.  Another person had been bidding against him for Item #1331, so he’d gone back and forth to the silent auction area until he was crushed to learn the outcome: The other person had “overbid by a lot right as time ran out.”  And, while we were disappointed, we were also very grateful that someone had wanted Our Lady so much that they’d generously contributed to Bishop Danny’s cause that evening.

The music started after dinner, so talking over the loudness was difficult.  Fina, her daughter, and their friend got up to leave; so I stood to say goodbye.  As we hugged, Fina told me again, “I think God planned for us to meet this evening.”  She’d already jotted her email address down on a napkin, so we agreed to stay in touch.

Clarisas cookies

DBV12613-1377LaAs we waited for the live auction, we were urged to buy cookies.  Certainly, this was a simple distraction compared to what pulled on my heartstrings— the irresistible Santo Niño.

Devotion to the Christ Child under the avocation of “Atocha” originated in the 13th century in Spain and spread to Latin America centuries later.  It is still very popular today.  The plaster statue is over 100 years old.

I consoled myself knowing that I already had a beautiful miniature, but the Santo Niño kept beckoning.

Take me home with you!

Steven was prepared to outbid whomever for Item 1377L, “if you really want him.”  But where would we put the Santo Niño? I kept asking myself.  Besides, someone else needs to grow the devotion.  I prayed that the Child find a good home with a loving family.  Then, to keep the tears from bursting past my eyeballs, I focused on the cookies.

“Not just any cookies!” the evening’s hostess, Letty Garza, KRGV TV news anchor, exuberantly extolled.  “These cookies are the bishop’s favorites!  Aren’t they, Bishop?” she grinned across the room to where Bishop Danny sat.  “You told me they’re your favorite cookies!  These delicious Clarisas cookies are the best I’ve ever eaten!  They’re specially made by the Capuchin Poor Clare nuns in Alamo, TX.  And you have to buy them because they help support the monastery and the chapel they manage.”

“Oh, darling!” I turned to Steven.  “You just have to buy some!  They’re only five dollars a box, and I’ll bet they’re the ones I spied in the shrink-wrapped palette in the silent auction area.  Oh, my gosh!  I’ve been wanting some since I saw them earlier.  Here’s our chance to sample them.”

And that was that.  I didn’t have to sell them further.  Steven got us… um, me… a box that I shared equitably with him.  And before we even got home to Brownsville, they were pretty much gone.  Yum!  They were good!  Delish, in fact. 

CPC12613-1Then reality hit!  I didn’t photograph the cookies!

Of course, once I found… and read… the neatly folded paper carefully taped to the underside of the soft plastic container, I definitely had to know more.  After all, I’d heard about the Poor Clares just once before.  At St. Anthony of Padua Church in Rockford, Illinois in June.  Father Mario had taken St. Anthony’s relics to visit the Poor Clares in the Chicago area before Mass that evening.

I couldn’t believe that the Rio Grande Valley had its own Capuchins!  How did I not know this before? 

I was intrigued!

“When we get back home, I have to contact the Capuchin Poor Clares,” I told Steven.  “We have to go see them!”

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Links of interest…  Catholic diocese of BrownsvilleBishop Daniel E. Flores (Palm Sunday) / St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery / Stewardship & Development Office…  Capuchin Poor Clares: about / blog / email / monasteryphotos / prayer (intentions) / province / vocations / work…  Franciscan prayers / requests / saints…  KRGV: Channel 5 News team…  Messenger of St. Anthony: newsletter / petitions (Dear St. Anthony) / sermons / wallpapers & images / website / writing reed (Friar Mario)…  Santo Niño de Atocha: about / chapel / history / miracles / origin / prayers / story (more)…  St. Anthony USA (petitions; portal to Italian website)…  St. Joseph in Franciscan theology

St. Joseph Church pages…  Saints…  St. Joseph

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Budding relationships…  Christmas blessings…  Connected tangents…  Finding St. Rita…  God’s master plan…  Heart of hearts…  Lenten reflections…  Prayerful ways…  Revisiting St. Simon…  San Giuseppe…  Slice of heaven…  St. Felix…  St. Jude Shrine (Corpus Christi)…  Thanksgiving prayers

Multicultural Mass

On Friday, January 17, the Corpus Christi Cathedral held its annual multicultural Mass, which we joyfully celebrated with our diocesan church family.  Afterwards, we hurried downstairs to St. Joseph Hall for the festivities: An abundance of ethnic foods, lively entertainment provided by the youngsters, and delightful conversations with friends and acquaintances alike.

How funny to hear the bishop tease, “Are you still eating?” as he passed our table on his way out at evening’s end!

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Prayers for Christian unity (Sisters of the Holy Family; January 18-25, 2014)

Day 1…  Merciful God, together with all those who call on the name of the Lord in our brokenness, we hear your call to be saints.  Yet you have made us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  By the power of your Holy Spirit, draw us together in the communion of saints and strengthen us to do your will and to proclaim the mighty acts of Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

Day 2…  Most loving and gracious God, we give thanks for the gifts of your grace that we experience not only in our own tradition, but also in the traditions of other churches.  By the grace of your Holy Spirit, may our gratitude continue to grow as we encounter one another and experience your gift of unity in new ways.  This we pray through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Day 3…  Faithful, open-handed God, we bless you for giving us all the spiritual gifts we need to come to the measure of the full stature of Christ: for wisdom, for gifts of service, and for bread.  Help us be signs of your abundance gathered in unity to bring the gifts of your everlasting kingdom to every place of pain and lack.  Filled with the Spirit, we pray in the name of the One whose gift was the bread of his life broken for us now and forever.  Amen.

Day 4…  Faithful God, we give thanks for your steadfast love and your devotedness that extends to the clouds.  As we wait in joyful hope, working and praying together for the full visible unity of your church, fill us with confidence in your promises.  We make this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Day 5…  Father of love, you have called us into the fellowship of your son and appointed us to bear fruit in our witness to the gospel.  By the grace of your Spirit, enable us to love one another and to dwell together in unity so that our joy may be complete.  Amen.

Day 6…  Loving God, you give us prophetic witnesses in times of conflict and division.  When we seek you, Lord, send us your Holy Spirit to make us artisans of reconciliation united in the same mind and the same purpose.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray.  Amen.

Day 7…  We give you thanks, O God, that you bless each and every member of the body of Christ with the gifts of your Spirit.  Help us to be supportive of one another, to be respectful of our differences, and to work.  Amen.

Day 8…  Gracious God, you sent your son Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit to redeem your people.  Unite us in our diversity that we might affirm and proclaim together the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for a world in need of his gospel.  Amen.

Pdf file…  Corpus Christi Cathedral (guide, six pages) / Multicultural Mass (booklet, twelve pages)

Links of interest…  Catholic Communications Network…  Corpus Christi Cathedral: aboutfacebook / home / landmark / marker / parishes online / TV Mass / TX State Historical Association / website…  Sisters of the Holy Family: about / blog / Christian unity / national migration week / prayer for migrants…  South Texas Catholic
Tinikling (shown in the last five photos): about / dance / origin

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Heart of hearts…  Heart’s desire…  In the pink…  Letter to Santa…  Noon visit…  Sacred Heart Church (CCTX)…  Saturday evening Mass…  Soulful

Advent prayers

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On Saturday I received a wonderful letter from Tom Muscatello with the Anthonians at St. Adalbert Friary in New York.  Tom caught us up on Father Mario’s latest adventures traveling with St. Anthony’s first-class relics and included “some Advent prayers for your pleasure.”

O shepherd of Israel, hearken.  O guide of the flock of Joseph, rouse your power and come to save us!  O Lord of hosts, restore us.  If your face shine upon us, then we shall be safe.  O Lord of hosts, how long will you burn with anger while your people pray?  You have fed them with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in ample measure.  You have left us to be fought over by our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.  O Lord of hosts, restore us.  If your face shine upon us, then we shall be safe.

Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan.  Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory, and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people’s hearts for the coming of your son.  Help me to hear his words and repent of my sins so that I may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for him, our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Lord God, may we, your people, who look forward to the birthday of Christ, experience the joy of salvation and celebrate the feast with love and thanksgiving.  We ask this through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.  Amen.

To Our Lady…  O Mother of Advent, be with us and see to it that he will remain with us in our difficult struggles for truth and hope, for justice and peace: He alone, Emmanuel.

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Additional prayers

Come, long-expected Jesus.  Excite in me a wonder at the wisdom and power of your father and ours.  Receive my prayer as part of my service to the Lord who enlists me in God’s own work for justice.  Come, long-expected Jesus.  Excite in me a hunger for peace: peace in the world, peace in my home, peace in myself.  Come, long-expected Jesus.  Excite in me a joy responsive to the father’s joy.  I seek his will so I can serve with gladness, singing, and love.  Come, long-expected Jesus.  Excite in me the joy, love, and peace to bring to the manger of my Lord.  Raise in me, too, sober reverence for the God who acted there, hearty gratitude for the life begun there, and spirited resolution to serve the Father and the Son.  I pray in the name of Jesus Christ whose advent I hail.  Amen.

Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan.  Lift our minds in watchful hope to heart the voice which announces his glory, and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

??????????God of love and mercy, help us to follow the example of Mary, always ready to do your will.  At the message of an angel she welcomed your eternal Son and, filled with the light of your Spirit, she became the temple of your Word who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome.  Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Gracious God, you bring glad tidings to the poor.  Create in us this Advent season the desire to help those in need that we may recognize in them the face of Christ.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Jesus, you are our eternal salvation, the unfailing light of the world.  Light everlasting, you are truly our redemption.  Grieving that the human race was perishing through the tempter’s power, without leaving the heights you came to the depths in your loving kindness.  Readily taking our humanity by your gracious will, you saved all earthly creatures long since lost, restoring joy to the world.  Redeem our souls and bodies, O Christ, and so possess us as your shining dwellings.  By your first coming, make us righteous; at your second coming, set us free so that, when the world is filled with light and you judge all things, we may be clad in spotless robes and follow in your steps, O King, into the heavenly hall.  Amen.

SJC121210-10Lord, our God, we praise you for your son, Jesus Christ.  He is Emmanuel, the hope of all people.  He is the wisdom that teaches and guides us.  He is the savior of every nation.  Lord God, let your blessing come upon us as we light the candles of this Advent wreath.  May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Lord Jesus, master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.  We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.  We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.  We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.  We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.  We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.  To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”  Amen.

Merciful Father, you have given us your Son as your loving presence in this world.  Create in our hearts the room for your love to grow.  Forgive our shortcomings, and prepare our hearts for your coming.  We ask this in the name Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

O God, who gladdens us by the annual expectation of our redemption, grant that we, who now receive with joy your only begotten son as our redeemer, may behold him without fear when he comes as our judge, even the same Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.

??????????Son of God, You are the light of the world.  Shine your light on all our choices this day.  Create in us the ability to let your light shine forth for others.  We ask this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of your only begotten son, that we may attain to serve you with purified minds, through his advent.  Who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.  Amen.

Wise and loving God, that I may come to know you more deeply and that others may come to know you through me, pervade and penetrate my entire being.  Make me a pure emanation of your glory, a radiant reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of your presence in the world, an image of your goodness.  Lord, help me to live with your wisdom and not my own, that I may be a beacon of your friendship for others.  Amen.

To obtain favors…  Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold.  In that hour vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of our savior, Jesus Christ, and of his blessed mother.  Amen.

This prayer, dating back to 1897, may be recited throughout the day from the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30) until Christmas.

December 17, 2013

“Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence” (Caryll Houselander).

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Links of interest…  Advent: about / & Our Lady of Guadalupe / anticipation & hope / antiphons (about / more / overviewseven / video) / calendar (family; more; stitched) / celebrating the season (more) / crafts & activities (more) / Emptying the stable / examen
for CCE teachers / liturgical resources / meditations / prayers & customs (daily / more /
still more) / Praying Advent / readingsreflection / resources (more) / retreat / time of preparation / traditions / what is / What would Joseph do? / with St. Jude / wreath prayers (more; pdf) / video (more)…  Anthonians: Messenger / newsletter / petitions / sermons / St. Anthony USA (petitions) / wallpapers & images / website / writing reed
(Friar Mario)…  Kids’ activities: Advent adventure / books / calendars (countdown / more / printable / Santa) / candles song / children’s prayers / crafts & activities (more) / creating prayers of petitions / definitive guide / for kids / gospel talk / history & meaning / ideas (blog) / meditations / paper chain / placemat / prayers & customs / preparing children / printables & more / resources (more / still more) / season / teaching / traditions / videos & activities (free fun) / wreath (making / more / prayer)…  Music: Carol of the bells (song) / carols / holiday animations / index / list / lyrics / music & videos / remix (nine songs) / sing-a-longs / Kididdles / Mary, did you know? (song) / White Christmas (song)…  Solemnities: Dec 25th / Jan 1st

St. Joseph Church pages…  Home…  KC…  Kids…  Library…  Messages…  Petitions…  Praise…  Prayer…  Saints…  SJC…  SJM…  Special…  St. Joseph…  Weblinks: A-L / M-Q / R-Z

WP posts…  Blue heaven…  Budding relationships…  Christmas blessings…  Christmas year ’round…  Church time blues…  Concrete abstraction…  Faith and prayer…  Letter to Santa…  Oh, happy day…  On being Christian…  Our Lady…  Powerful intercessor…  Promise of hope…  Santo Niño…  Sweet Jesus…  Thanksgiving prayers

St. Mary revisited

??????????On May 5, 2013, Steven and I attended Mass at St. Mary Cathedral in Austin.  We’d visited during Advent almost two and a half years before when we’d vowed to return one day soon, so we felt quite blessed to finally be there again.

Except for the physical signs of a major restoration project underway on the tower and the façade, all else was the same.  The church community was genuinely welcoming; the choir, robustly ethereal; the homilist, focused on gratitude.

What a God-filled day!

Blessings and gratitude

After Mass, the choir heartily rewarded us with one last song.  Everyone applauded gratefully, and the organist continued to play.

Captivated by the majestic notes filling every nook and cranny within the church, we lingered motionlessly, savoring each melodic morsel to the very end.  Then we applauded enthusiastically a second time.

“Wow!  This is truly different from our church,” I said to Steven.

“Yes!”

“Look.  One of the ladies is taking flowers up to Mary’s altar.”

I turned to see a woman carrying a rather large bouquet of fresh, long-stemmed flowers as she walked to the main altar.  What were they for?  Something special after eleven o’clock Mass?

“Are you going to take pictures?” Steven asked.

“I’d like to.  This time I want some good photos of the stained-glass windows.  This is such a beautiful place!  And the music?  Oh, my goodness.  It’s just amazing.”

The young woman who’d been listening to the music from her pew made eye contact with me as she stepped into the aisle next to us.  “Thank you,” she said, smilingly acknowledging my effusive compliments.

“Are you a parishioner?” I asked.

The young woman nodded.

“So you enjoy this all the time?  This is our second visit here.  The music is just heavenly!”

“We’re very spoiled,” the young woman twinkled.

“Yes!” I agreed.

“I was going to a different parish until I got married.  My husband was a parishioner here, so this is our church now.  We’re spoiled rotten.”

“Enjoy for the rest of us who can’t be here every Sunday!”

“I will.  I think of that.  I think of the people in all the places I’ve been to in my travels.  Some worship in makeshift churches, and our dear Lord is there nonetheless.  From now on I’m going to enjoy this place for you all.”

“Thank you!”

St. Mary revisited

Next, a man of the cloth approached.  “Hi, are you visiting?”

“Yes,” I softly replied, waiting for Steven to say something.

“Yes.  We’re from Port Aransas,” Steven told him.

“Port Aransas.  Lovely place.”

“Good morning, Father,” I said without realizing that the man was a deacon.

“Good morning.  How are you doing?”

“Just fine,” I said, as Steven mentioned to him that my recording device was still on.  “It’s that I have a personal blog,” I explained.  “I’ve posted about this church before, and I’m going to do it again.  I just love this place!  Earlier, I was telling a young woman, a parishioner, that you all are so blessed to be here every Sunday.”

??????????“The church is beautiful,” Steven agreed.

“This glass came from Germany; the glass up there in the nave came from France.  The Carmelite nuns in France made that.”

“Really?  I correspond with a Carmelite Sister in Goonellabah, Australia.  She’ll be thrilled to learn that, so I’ll definitely send her a photo.”

“The window in the nave came a long time ago,” the deacon added.

“And the church was built when?” I asked.

“Around the Civil War, but the parish started before then.  The church was completed in 1892, I believe,”
twenty years after having been commissioned.

“This time around you all are fixing up the façade?”

“What happened is that some stones were falling from the bell tower.  When some of the stones were replaced, the workers determined that more stones might fall off.  They did a large renovation of all the stonework; and they did this other tower, too.  Then, in checking the rose window, they found that it was also compromised.  Some of the wood was splitting, so they’ve taken the window out and are repairing all that wood.  They’re putting in some stainless-steel braces to hold the glass together.”

“Anything and everything to preserve the beauty of this sacred space,” I added.

“We are lucky to have this beautiful church,” smiled the soft-spoken deacon.

“And we look forward to returning, believe me.  Thank you, Father.”

“Deacon Vince,” he gently corrected me.  “It’s good to meet you.”  The deacon shook Steven’s hand and started to walk away.

“God bless you,” I said, before resuming my picture taking.

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Prayers

For the grace of love…  O Mary, my dear Mother, how much I love you!  And yet in reality how little!  You teach me what I ought to know, for you teach me what Jesus is to me and what I ought to be for Jesus.  Dearly beloved Mother, how close to God you are, and how utterly filled with him!  In the measure that we know God, we remind ourselves of you.  Mother of God, obtain for me the grace of loving my Jesus; obtain for me the grace of loving you!

Heartfelt request…  Mary, my dearest mother, give me your heart so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, so full of love and humility that I may receive Jesus as you did— and go in haste to give him to others (Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta).

In time of need…  May we be assisted, we ask, O Lord, by the worshipful intercession of your glorious mother, the ever Virgin Mary, that we, who have been enriched by her perpetual blessings, may be delivered from all dangers and, through her loving kindness, made to be one heart and mind.  Who lives and reigns world without end.  Amen.

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Links of interest…  Discerning hearts (blog; downloads)…  Mary…  about…  and the Holy Spirit…  beloved of the Trinity…  mother…  mother of the church…  page…  prayer corner…  prayers (more)…  Our Lady of Corpus Christi…  chapel (virtual tour)…  MMM novena hour…  retreats…  St. Mary Cathedral…  about…  Mary, blessed virgin…  Mass times…  nave…  prayer requests…  restoration…  visitors…  website…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Faces of Mary…  Faith and prayer…  Familiar yet new…  Franciscan experience…  Franciscan treasures…  Guadalupe Church…  Heart of hearts…  Lady of sorrows…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  My Franciscan Crown…  Our Lady…  Our Lady’s church…  Painted churches…  Repeated prayers…  San Juan Diego…  St. Mary Cathedral…  St. Mary’s…  Time well spent…  Two novenas

Beautiful sacred space

SHC52613-3Steven and I spent the Memorial Day weekend in Brownsville, so we looked forward to Mass.  But where to go?  We couldn’t decide between the Immaculate Conception Cathedral and one of its two missions several blocks away on East Elizabeth Street.

Timely decisions

I introduced Steven to Sacred Heart (SHC) on July 24, 2011, but we didn’t revisit.  Steven prefers early morning Mass— Saturday evening only if we can’t attend at nine— so eleven-thirty was too late for him.

When home in Brownsville, Steven and I had attended Saturday evening Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe exclusively.  But how could we decide on a church home if we didn’t give others a chance? 

We tried St. Mary’s, but it wasn’t right for us.  Back to Guadalupe we went.  Still, something was missing.

“How about the cathedral downtown?  Ten-thirty Mass is in English.”

Sunday morning Mass

Steven experienced Immaculate Conception, my heart of hearts, for the first time this year… and he loved it!  Yet, Sacred Heart, my wind song, has tugged at me in ways that I can’t even begin to express.  How could we not give it a second chance?

SHC52613-38Then this past weekend Steven asked, “Where do you want to go for Mass?”

We were down to the only two choices: Immaculate at ten-thirty or Sacred Heart at eleven-thirty.  Father Joe and Father Arnesse from the cathedral also celebrate Mass at Sacred Heart, so either church would be just as sweet.

Still, I refrained from answering; so Steven kept repeating himself.  But did either of us even know the answer?

Sunday we got up at the usual time, certainly early enough for ten-thirty Mass at the cathedral; but Steven wasn’t in any rush to get ready.  Had he finally accepted that my heart was truly set on Sacred Heart that morning?

I could hardly wait to get there, but we didn’t talk about it.  We dressed for church and drove into town for eleven-thirty Mass.

The right place

Wonder of wonders, Steven really enjoyed Sacred Heart.

I have a preference for early Mass, but that’s how I was reared.  The rest of the day was then uninterrupted if I wanted to work (or play).  The late Masses were always for the lazy folks who slept in on Sunday, so that was something of a social stigma when I was growing up.

I think the people at Sacred Heart are very nice.  There’s less haste after Mass, since there’s no service afterwards; so, yes, I’m with you on SHC being our likely church home in Brownsville.   Although the schedule isn’t one that I prefer, I can see how the change will be good.  It has the ability to force a day of rest; and, being that there’s no rush before or after, it’s very mellow.  If I have stuff to get done, I’ll get up early and do it while the day’s cool or wait until Monday.

That said, 11:30 A.M. Mass was great, very relaxed, and leisurely.  I think I adapted immediately to it, not to mention that it is the only one; so there are no options for SHC.  It’s the right place, so the time has to be right.

Beautiful sacred space

To me, Sacred Heart feels richly familiar.  Mass with Aunt Rachel, then Segy and Acacia, and now Steven.  Fathers Moran, Sheehan, and Lanese.  An inclusive church community.  Discovering the Holy Infant, traveling to Prague to learn more about him, growing my devotion, and seeking him out in the churches that I visit.  In this beautiful sacred space my mind, heart, and soul resonate with love, joy, and peace.  I’m home at last, so it’s only natural that I should want Steven to experience the same.

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Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Most sweet Jesus, redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly kneeling before your altar.  We are yours and yours we wish to be; but, to be more surely united with you, each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your most sacred heart.

Many have never know you.  Many, too, have rejected you.  Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your sacred heart.  May you be recognized as Savior by all those who are still in the darkness of disbelief.  Draw them into the light and kingdom of God.

Grant, O Lord, to your Church freedom and immunity from harm.  Give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine heart that wrought our salvation.  To it be glory and honor forever.  Amen. 

More prayers

One…  Jesus, reveal your sacred heart to me and show me its attractions.  Unite me to it forever.  Grant that all my desires and every beat of my heart, which does not cease even while I sleep, may be a witness to you of my love for you and tell you, “Yes, Lord, I am yours!”  The pledge of my loyalty to you rests ever in my heart and shall never cease to be there.  Accept the little good that I do and be pleased to make up for all my wrong-doing so that I may be able to praise you in time and in eternity.  Amen.

Two…  Lord Jesus, I come before you just as I am.  I am sorry for my sins.  I repent of my sins.  Please forgive me.  In your name, I forgive all others for what they have done against me.  I renounce Satan, the evil spirits, and all their works.  I give you my entire self, Lord Jesus, now and forever.  I invite you into my life, Jesus.  I accept you as my Lord, God, and Savior.  Heal me.  Change me.  Strengthen me in body, soul, and spirit.

Come, Lord Jesus.  Cover me with your precious blood and fill me with your Holy Spirit.  I love you, Lord Jesus.  I praise you, Jesus.  I thank you, Jesus.  I shall follow you every day of my life.  Amen.

Mary, my mother, queen of peace; St. Peregrine, the cancer saint; all the angels and saints, please help me.  Amen.

Say this prayer (1993, Rookey & Servite Fathers, OSM) faithfully no matter how you feel.  When you come to the point where you sincerely mean each word with all your heart, Jesus will change your whole life in a very special way.  You will see.

Three…  Heart of Jesus, truly human, have mercy on us.  Heart of Jesus, truly divine.  Heart of Jesus, still praying for us to the Father.  Heart of Jesus, in all things like us except sin.  Heart of Jesus, loving your friends to the end.  Heart of Jesus, whose love for men is scorned by many.  Heart of Jesus, my hope in sadness.  Heart of Jesus, my strength in temptation.  Heart of Jesus, my protection in danger.  Heart of Jesus, loving me now despite everything.

Almighty and everlasting God, look upon the heart of your beloved Son and upon the praise and satisfaction he offered you on behalf of sinners.  Forgive those who now seek your mercy in the name of the same Jesus Christ, your son who lives and reigns with you forever and ever.  Amen (Liturgical Prayer Book, 1991, p. 37).

Four…  Thanks be to you, my lord, Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given me, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for me.  O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more dearly and follow you more nearly.  Amen.

June 8, 2013

Mary, your immaculate heart is open to all who ask for your help and intercession.  Teach me how to draw nearer to your son, Jesus.  Show me how to stay close to him at all times (the Word among us, June 2013, p. 28).

June 10, 2013

Looking through my treasure boxes of prayer books, cards, and more I came across some gold nuggets from my great-aunt.  Among them was Tía Queta’s Liturgical Prayer Book, which includes “Jesus prays to his father,” (Psalm 139; Bullen, 1970, pp. 32-33).

Lord, you examine me and know me.  You know if I am standing or sitting.  You read my thoughts from far away.  Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching.  You know every detail of my conduct.

The word is not even on my tongue, Lord, before you know all about it.  Close behind and close in front you hold me, shielding me with your hand.

Such insight is too wonderful to grasp, a height to which my mind cannot aspire.

Where could I go to escape your spirit?  Where could I flee from your presence?  If I probe the outer space, you are there.  If I lie down in the grave, you are there, too.

Were I to fly to the point of sunrise or westward across the sea, your hand would still be guiding me, your right hand holding on to me.  If I chose to live in perpetual night in a darkness excluding all light, that darkness would not be dark to you.  For you, that night would be as light as day.

Since you, yourself, have created my very being and put me together in my mother’s womb, in wonder I thank you for making me.  How mysterious, like everything you make!

You know me through and through, from having watched my bones take shape when I was being assembled in secret, stitched together in the darkness of the womb.

God, examine my heart to see what I love.  Analyze my mind to see what I think.  Make sure I am not likely to offend you, and guide me on the path that is eternal.

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Links of interest…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville TXSacred Heart Church (photos / video)…  Heart to heart…  Ignatian Spirituality: blessings (archives / reflections)…  dotMagis (blog) / e-retreatonline communitypicturing Godprayer online / spiritual exercises / Thinking faith (blog) / videos: (1) What is Ignatian prayer? (2) Ignatian prayer: An overview (3) Finding God in all things…  Jesus…  Mary…  nonviolent revolution…  Miracle prayer (Fr. Peter Mary Rookey; YouTube)…  Sacred Heart…  1st Friday…  about…  beads…  book…  consecration…  devotion…  devotionals…  divine love…  enthronements…  explanations…  history (visual)…  introduction…  meaning
(more)…  meditation…  novena (YouTube)…  postcards…  prayers…  reparation…  significance…  twelve promises…  Valley Catholic: Church of the week (SHC)…  Wind Song: 1973 / 1996 (1953 Matchabelli fragrance)…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Budding relationships…  Building community…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Connected tangents…  Familiar yet new
…  Father now retired…  Father’s guided tour…  Guadalupe Church…  Heart of hearts
…  Marian devotions…  Noon visit…  Oblate chapel…  Our Lady’s church…  Promise of hope…  A real church…  Right at home…  Sacred Heart…  Sacred Heart Church…  Seven dwelling places…  Soulful…  St. Mary’s…  Sweet Jesus

Honoring Joselito

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Steven and I attended ten o’clock Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Taft, TX.

Invitation

On December 4, 2012, Grand Knight of Council 15512, Herman Rodriguez, extended an invitation to all fourth-degree Knights of Columbus within the diocese to assist at the presentation and veneration of the first-class relic of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río (Joselito) on the eighty-fifth anniversary of his death, February 10, 2013.

Although Steven and I had heard about the persecution of priests in Mexico from a Franciscan at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Hebbronville, TX, we’d never heard of Joselito until we viewed For Greater Glory (2012) last year.OLG11709-bk

Sympathetic to Joselito’s story and very much interested in his relic, Steven responded right away.

My wife and I will be delighted to attend the ceremony, and I’ll be falling out in full regalia with you.  It will be an honor.

Honoring Joselito

We’d awaited our first visit to Taft with great anticipation.  What excitement to finally see the church, show support for the parish, and enjoy the festivities.  Parishioners were welcoming, everyone was cordial, and Father Lopez was everywhere all at once.  Mass was standing room only, and most in attendance took part in the solemn procession.

I’d been anxious about barking dogs running out onto the streets as we circled the block, but the neighborhood was so peaceful that we were able to focus on the rosary before returning to church for the icing on the cake.

Spending quality time one-on-one with Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río ??????????through his precious relic was very special, so no one rushed.  Some sat as others waited their turn in line.  Some observed while others quietly conversed.  Father Ed Roche sang to a child before reminiscing with us about Father Mike Jordan, a fellow SOLT in heaven since July 2012.  Yet the smiles on the two Dominicans, Sisters Patricia and Elena whom we met before leaving church, reflected our collective joy most of all.

As Steven and I talked about the celebration on our drive home, he chuckled.  “I’m in awe of the Knights.  I don’t know how they got the neighbors to keep their pets quiet and out of sight, but they pulled it off!  Simply amazing.”

Honoring Joselito, thanks to the concerted efforts of the Immaculate Conception Church community, was a momentous occasion that we were blessed to have experienced.

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Prayers

Devotion…  I do not wish to fight, live, or die except for you, my Lord, and for your holy Church.  Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, be at my side in the agony of this poor sinner.  Grant that my last shout on earth and my first canticle in heaven be ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Petition…  Blessed José Luis, watch over, defend and protect all of the children whose innocence is threatened from all sides by evil, direct their hearts to all that is good and holy, and instill in their hearts a living faith and confidence in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, our King and Lord.  Amen.

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Links of interest…  Biographies of new Blesseds (2005)…  Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río: about…  beatification / biography / blessed / facebook / feast / martyr /
martyrdom / memorial / patron (ECyD) / pray for / story…  Cristero War (La Cristiada)…  Exposition of relics…  For Greater Glory (background)…  Immaculate Conception Church: article / diocese pageparishes online…  Mexican government versus the Catholic Church…  Mexico’s forgotten pain…  Of saints & sinners in a fevered Mexico
…  Persecution of Christians in Mexico…  Sacred relics…  Treasures of the Church: about relics / expositions / healing / home / photo gallery / prayer requests / who we are…  What Mexico teaches us

WP posts…  Franciscan experience…  Franciscan treasures…  Grapes of generosity…  Historic nuggets…  Holy relics…  St. Anthony…  Vaquero Fest Saturday

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