Beloved, joyful priest

When Steven and I first joined St. Paul the Apostle Church in Flour Bluff in 2006,  Father James Stembler was our beloved, joyful priest.

What a glorious time for us!  Everyone was so thoughtful and caring that, for the first time in our lives, Steven and I felt that we truly belonged!  We were more than just parishioners; we were part of a church family, a God-given gift so immensely gratifying that we couldn’t imagine life without this intricately woven church community.

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Change

Father John Xaviour arrived at St. Paul’s in January 2007, and everyone loved him.  But, as Father Stembler likes to recall, “he was in Flour Bluff only three months before Bishop Carmody reassigned him.”

At Father Stembler’s gentle but insistent nudging that Steven and I return to our home parish to “assist Father Xaviour” however we could, we relented after the third attempt.  Late April 2008, our very strong desire to remain with our church family finally gave way to our rejoining St. Joseph Church with Father Stembler’s enthusiastic blessing.

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Our heartwrenching departure became a heartfelt mission that called us— me in particular— to build community within God’s kingdom in ways we’d never imagined… until Father Xaviour was reassigned again in July 2013, and the door to St. Paul’s opened for us once more all on its own.

Only, by then Father Stembler had also been reassigned— twice during our absence— first as full time vocation director for the diocese and then as pastor of St. Gertrude Parish in Kingsville where he’s happily fulfilling his call of service at the present time (South Texas Catholic, September 2011).

Church family

Yet the spirit of the St. Paul family knows no bounds!

Regardless of time apart, lack of communication, distance, and/or proactive engagement at our respective parishes, we’re forever linked within this uniquely festive body of Christ: A veritable fan base, delightful, nurturing, always present.

No matter where we’ve ended up or how we happen to come together— for a brief encounter at the HEB on Waldron Road or for a very special event within the diocese— every shared instance is a memorable occasion.

Beloved, joyful priest

So, without missing a beat, the moment the collective we heard about Father Stembler’s upcoming celebration to commemorate the anniversary of his ordination (January 21, 1989), we made plans to attend.  Eagerly carpooling to St. Gertrude’s in Kingsville, the St. Paul family paid tribute to our beloved, joyful priest for his twenty-five years of faithful service to God and his people!

Faithful shepherd

Father James came to me for the blessing before the homily.  I think I should’ve asked his blessing before I say what I’m going to say.

FrS12514sa-7a[Playfully slicking his hair back with his left hand, Bishop Mulvey's antics evoked a hearty
eruption of laughter.]

I think those are the last two things I told you when you left the seminary: “Don’t be snooty, and don’t think you know it all ’cause, even if you do, they’ll teach you different.”

No.  I want to thank you, Father James, for your friendship first of all, for being a priest of our diocese, and for being such a good and faithful pastor.  Wherever you’ve been and, again, the church reflects all those places and people that you have served.  And I want to thank you for that.

He was so right in saying what he said in those few little gestures, that it is true that the young priest leaves the seminary and he does think he knows it all.  And he might think that he’s a bit cut above the others.  But as Pope John XXIII used to say— soon to be saint— Pope John XXIII used to say that the people were not given to the priests.  Priests are given to the people: To walk with the people; to shepherd the people; and, as our present Holy Father puts it, “to smell like the people.”

But it takes a true act of an open heart, an expanded heart, of a sincere and noble heart to be able to accomplish that: To know that we don’t know it all, that we don’t have it all, that we’re not better than anyone else.  We’ve been called.  And you were called to be a priest of the Church, to be a good shepherd to your people.  And when we come to these moments in our life when we celebrate anniversaries, it is so wonderful and moving, I would say, to be able to look out over the flock that you have walked with and shepherded and have become one.  And that is also a tremendously humbling experience, but it is also an experience that I’m sure tonight you have joy in your heart to experience it.

And so, as Father James says, we want to thank you, people of God, who form us and form him.

We also want to thank him for his fidelity and his deep concern for the Church and his faithfulness.

FrS12514sa-8aAnd I want to say something to Wally and Virginia because we don’t just learn to be faithful.  We don’t just learn to be dedicated priests.  We learn that from where we come, from our homes, from our families.  And I’ve witnessed over the last few years your fidelity to your parents who now are not able to travel to be with us.  But you and your siblings have been so faithful to your mother and father, and that was obviously instilled in you so that you could be faithful to them and that you could also be faithful as a disciple of Jesus Christ and a disciple of the priesthood and of this particular church in the diocese.

So I am also very grateful and very joyful tonight to be with you and to share this moment with you.  And, as you continue this journey of faith, this journey of being a good shepherd, we learn more and more of the heart of this shepherd, Jesus Christ.  God bless you (Bishop Michael Mulvey; January 25, 2014; transcribed audio recording).

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Acknowledgments

Well, um.  You won’t believe this, but I don’t know what to say.  [Everyone burst into laughter.]

One thing I do want to acknowledge.  One of my assignments was to be the secretary to Bishop Gracida for five years, and I learned in those five years that being a secretary is a very important role, a very important function.  So I want to acknowledge the secretaries that I’ve worked with over the years.

Jeanette Vela at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  She was a parishioner at St. Paul’s, too.  There was Anna de Leon Ramos.  She was not able to be here this evening.  For three years we worked with Bishop Gracida in the various responsibilities.  I want to acknowledge— she’s not able to be here; she lives close to her daughter now— Bertha Bedellin who worked at St. Elizabeth’s, a wonderful person.  Carol Wondolowski right here, the secretary at St. Paul’s.  And Kathy— you’re back there, aren’t you?  Yes. Kathy Taylor, who’s the secretary here at St. Gertrude’s.

I thank you all very much for helping me along and all of that.  I do believe the statement that says, “Do you want to talk to the boss? Or do you want to talk to the one who knows what’s going on?”  They know what’s going on.

Well, there are a lot of people waiting to be thanked tonight.  I want to thank the choir. Rachael [Bustamante] for the music and the musicians up there [in the choir loft].

I want to thank the Knights of Columbus for falling out this evening.  This is a wonderful attendance of the fourth-degree Knights.  I worked with the Knights of Columbus in parishes over the years.  It’s always been a very good association.  It’s very good here at St. Gertrude’s, so you Knights keep up the good work.

I want to thank the ladies from the National Council of Catholic Women.  I know they’re back there.  It was one of you, Delma Guerrera, who urged me to continue with the NCCW.  And I have.  It’s been a wonderful association.  It took me all the way up to now a national office.  It’s been wonderful working with all for twenty-three years, so thank you for your friendship.  You all are wonderful people, and it’s good to get together.  It’s good to support the Christian presence in the Holy Land.  Something we need to do through prayer and through financial support, too, huh?

It’s wonderful work that you all are engaged in.  Certainly, it’s been a pleasure to be with the Knights and the ladies….

Then there’s my older brother.  I’m the youngest in the family— can’t you tell?  Paul and his wife, Mary are here.  This is warm weather to them, so that’s why they’re in short sleeves.  It’s great to have you with us this evening.

I mentioned all the priests and all the deacons earlier.

Thanks to the servers for serving.  To Benencio— where are you?  Back there somewhere.  Benencio is the housekeeper.  He does a good job.  Thank you for your presence here this evening.  It’s so great to see all of you from these past twenty-five years.  It’s truly a great joy, as the bishop said.

We’ll see what God has in store for the next twenty-five years.  But, if it’s been like the first twenty-five years, it’s going to be wonderful as well.

Thanks for everything (Father James Stembler; transcribed audio recording).

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Thanks to our dear friend, Sam Apiado, for his photos in the “faithful shepherd” and “acknowledgments” sections.  The pictorial, “relic of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” in the introduction is a much appreciated gift from the Legion of Mary (through Luz P. Garcia; October 23, 2007).  Thank you!

Links of interest…  Bishop installs seven new pastors…  Catholic, Baptist churches unite for Christmas pageant…  Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (prayer / vision & faith)…  National Council of Catholic Women: article (Father James Stembler)…
St. Gertrude Parish: website / diocesan page…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website

St. Joseph Church pages…  Father Stembler: homily (16:25) / photos (August 22, 2010)…  Home…  KC…  Kids…  Library…  Messages / Petitions…  Praise…  Prayer…  Saints…  SJC…  SJM…  Special…  St. Joseph…  Weblinks: A-L / M-Q / R-Z

WP posts…  Call of service…  Connected tangents…  Familiar yet new…  Holy relics…  Lenten reflections…  Marian devotions…  My Franciscan Crown…  Venerable Julia Navarette

Home again

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In February Steven and I switched membership from St. Joseph’s back to St. Paul’s in Flour Bluff, still within the Corpus Christi diocese.  But it’s just not the same.

April 27, 2014

More and more, we long to be home again at Sacred Heart in downtown Brownsville.

Although changes have taken place within this beautiful sacred space— the altar, the statues, and the stations of the cross have all been repainted— its ambiance remains the same.

Thanks to its dedicated lifelong parishioners, Sacred Heart is so tenderly nurtured that the diligence of past generations keeps the spirit of this cathedral mission community joyfully engaged despite changes in membership over the years.

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May 11, 2014

This Sunday was doubly special.  Father Michael Amesse, an Oblate, celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of his ordination which took place on Mother’s Day, May 10, 1984.

As Father Michael blessed the mothers, everyone sang “happy anniversary” to the tune of Happy Birthday and applauded robustly.

Before long, others in church also rose to join in the heartfelt ovation.

“You certainly made me blush!” Father Michael rather humbly but laughingly admitted afterwards.

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Home again

Since July 2011, Steven and I have attended Mass at Sacred Heart only six times; but our collective heart yearns to be there more and more.

Truly, there’s nothing like being home again.  Even if it’s just a visit.

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Prayer for priests by John Joseph, Cardinal Carberry (+1998)

O Jesus, our great high priest, hear our humble prayers on behalf of our priest, Father Michael Amesse.

Give him a deep faith, a bright and firm hope, and a burning love that will ever increase in the course of his priestly life.

In his loneliness, comfort him.  In his sorrows, strengthen him.  In his frustrations, point out to him that it is through suffering that the soul is purified.

Show him that he is needed by the Church, needed by souls, and needed for the work of redemption.

O loving Mother Mary, mother of priests, take to your heart your son who is close to you because of his priestly ordination and because of the power which he has received to carry on the work of Christ in a world which needs him so much.  Be his comfort, his joy, his strength; and, especially, help him to live and to defend the ideals of consecrated life.  Amen.

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Links of interest…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville TX…  Immaculate Conception Cathedral (ICC): historical landmarks (#38/39) / national registry…  Jesus: 365 devotions for kids (book; phone app) / devotion (more) / nonviolent revolution…  Miracle prayer (Fr. Peter Mary Rookey; YouTube)…  Sacred Heart: about / beads / book /
church (about / centennial / video) / consecration / devotion (more / what to know) / divine love / enthronements / explanations / first Friday / history (visual) / introduction / meaning (more) / meditation / novena (YouTube) / postcards / prayers / reparation / significance / twelve promises…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Beautiful sacred space…  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…  Lenten reflections…  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

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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March 19, 2014

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus, and the Church?  By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence, and receptive to God’s plans, not simply to his own (Pope Francis).

May 22, 2014

Holy patroness of those in need, St. Rita, so humble, pure, and patient, whose pleadings with your divine spouse are irresistible, obtain for me from the Crucified Christ my request (mention here).  Be kind to me for the greater glory of God, and I promise to honor thee and to sing thy praises forever.  O glorious St. Rita, who miraculously participated in the sorrowful passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for me the grace to suffer with resignation the troubles of this life and protect me in all my needs.  Amen.

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Links of interest…  Breadsmith (Clarisas)…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville TX:
St. 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 / memorial / 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.

Ponderings

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.

Clarisas 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 (2013 / 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 blog 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: beloved of the Trinity / celebrating May / corner / devotion / gate of heaven / litany / meditations / mother (of the church) / page prayers (miracles / more / novena / queen of angels) / untier of knots  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

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