St. Michael chaplet

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Steven and I first met Fr. Tito Ayo, SOLT at Sam and Ning’s annual pilgrim rosary, May 2011, and found his dry wit most refreshing.

“You remind me of my very special friend, Fr. Carmelo Fonseca,” I told Fr. Tito.  “We met as volunteers in the Latin American Mission Program (LAMP) in Matamoros, Mexico, July 1966.  I wish you could meet him!”

Long-lost friend

Carmelo and I were among a bunch of idealistic spring chickens back when— he a young seminarian, me a naïve green bean— but we remained close friends even though we lost contact with each other almost immediately after our month of service.

Carmelo visited mom off and on and one day left his address for me.  Regrettably, I misplaced it without having written even one letter!  Still, I never forgot and always longed to find him to the point of tearfully imploring not just St. Anthony’s intercession, but also that of all the angels and saints over the years.

Blogging buds

So what was the connection between Fr. Tito and Carmelo? I wondered.

Aside from the obvious, the only common trait I could attest to was their mischievous sense of humor.  Maybe Fr. Tito and Carmelo shared other attributes, but what really impressed me about Fr. Tito was his eagerness to start a blog on WordPress (WP).

FrTitoSOLTSteven and I couldn’t believe that he wanted to come over to the house for a day of intensive yet friendly tutoring when no one else had been even remotely interested!

What a fun, productive day we had!  Fr. Tito was relaxed, down to earth, and funny, as well as bright, well-organized, and self-motivated!  He set up his WP blog in no time, and we’ve followed him ever since.  (See widget in right sidebar.)

Coincidences?

Later that year Fr. Tito emailed to share his good news: The bishop had assigned him to St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Banquete, TX.

“That’s wonderful!” I responded.  “I can hardly wait to take photos of your church for my blog!”

Then we lost track of time until I had my own good news to share.  I’d serendipitously discovered Carmelo’s address, June 2012!  I couldn’t believe it’d been under my nose for years, so well-kept that it’d remained hidden from view with other important papers in a large ziplock bag crammed between books on a low shelf near my workspace.  I was so deliriously overjoyed that I laughed and cried.  Until reality set in.

The address might not even be valid anymore! 

As I searched for Carmelo’s name online, a duh moment left me totally stunned!  Why hadn’t I done this sooner?!!!

I laughed aloud when I located Carmelo’s address: Parroquia San Miguel Arcángel, Diaz Ordaz, Mexico! 

How sweet to discover that both Carmelo and Fr. Tito were connected to St. Michael through their parishes!  I immediately wrote my letter and mailed it the following day so I could hope for a quick reply.  (I had no way of knowing the significance of the date: Carmelo had been ordained June 18, 1971!  On mom’s birthday, no less!)

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St. Michael chaplet

More than two years passed before Steven and I finally got around to Sunday Mass at St. Michael’s, September 7, 2014.  Steven had checked the church website in advance and learned that parishioners pray the St. Michael chaplet before Mass.  He’d even printed the prayers from EWTN for us to join in, but I had difficulty keeping up with the devotion.  I felt no sense of ownership!

Interacting with Fr. Tito and his parishioners that morning made me wonder about Carmelo’s church community.  Did they also pray the St. Michael chaplet before Mass?

I really missed Carmelo!  Our letter exchanges had been filled with eager anticipation for lively conversations in what he’d hoped would be the near future.  Only God trumped our plans.  Carmelo was called home on June 26, 2014— just eight days after the forty-third anniversary of his ordination— so our visits would have to wait a bit longer.

Enjoying the drive home from Banquete gave me time to reminisce, reflect, and think.  Since May 2008, I’d developed an ongoing fascination with St. Michael but didn’t know why.  Maybe because the name and its variants are popular among both genders within our small family?  What other reason could there be? I wondered.

The “saints” page that I’d started for the blog came to mind as well as the leaflets and prayer cards received over the years from Franciscan Mission Associates, mostly, but also from other sources.  And Sr. Bernadette, OCD had sent me a St. Michael chaplet with the prayers too.  Only I didn’t gravitate to those!  Too uninviting!

I’d placed the chaplet by the praying Mary statue that Sr. Encarnación, OP had given me years before.  If I saw the chaplet every day, might I be inclined to pray with it?  Probably not.  Still, I sensed St. Michael beckoning to me with growing constancy.  But why?  How could I embrace the prayers if I couldn’t relate to the chaplet?  The colors were drab; the words, archaic.  Missing was the joyful presentation!

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On our way from Banquete the dilemma resolved itself.  I visualized a color-coded gold-blue-red St. Michael chaplet.  So, once home, I not only beaded the prototype, but also created the accompanying prayer cards.  Then, having bought the medals, I delighted in making the chaplets and printing the cards to share with others to grow the devotion.

Spending quality time with St. Michael has been so much fun!

Beaded samples

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StM-a  StM-archangel  StM-guardian  StM-b

StM112314-4        KGS1815-1        MH111514a        MiA4315-5

Oh, dear Michael, you are the keeper of justice and goodwill.
Please watch over me that I may make sound decisions in my life,
and help me not to stray off the path of righteousness
(St. Michael medal; edited).

Prayers

Lon-StM-1a       Lon-StM-1b      Lon-StM-1c      Lon-StM-1d

Lon-StM-2a      Lon-StM-2d      Lon-StM-2b      Lon-StM-2c

For divine guidance…  Enlighten our minds, O Lord, by your shining radiance.  Then, we can see how best to act and may have the needed strength to do so.  Through Christ, our lord, your son, we ask this gift.  Amen.

For special friends…  You flood the hearts of all the faithful, O God, with the gifts of love by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  Give health of mind and body to all our friends for whom we entreat your favor.  May they love you with all their strength and be always pleasing to you in every way.  Through Jesus Christ, our lord, your son, we ask this blessing.  He it is who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the same spirit, one God, for all the ages to come.  Amen.

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FMA-R-8R-a      FMA-R-8R-b      FMA-R-8R-c      FMA-R-8R-d

Contact information

The two prayers above (from Retreat Booklet, B-20) and the St. Michael Archangel leaflets (R-40 and R-8R) are from Fr. Primo, OFM at Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mount Vernon, NY 10551-0598.  The two sources below are from Miniature Stories of the Saints (Lord, 1943, pp. 26-27) and The Pieta Prayer Booklet (MLOR Corporation, 1996, p. 56).

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St. Michael the Archangel – Banquete, TX

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Thanks to Letty Garcia, parish secretary pictured above with Fr. Tito,
for graciously assisting me when I’ve contacted the office.

May 26, 2015

Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in the good life.  Therefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits
(St. Philip Neri).

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Links of interest…  Angels: about (more) / book / choirscreation (more) / holy angels / servants of God / spiritual lifestories…  Archangels: feast (more) / Gabriel / Michael / Michael, Gabriel, St. Raphael / novenas / prayers (for protection / to St. Michael) / Raphael (joyful friend) / rosary / Urielseven…  Christian angelic hierarchy (book / more)…  For God & country (book / more)…  Fr. Carmelo Fonseca: LAMP / obituary / San Miguel Arcángel: facebook – parish…  Fr. Tito Ayo: One word. Only hope. / St. Michael’s…  Franciscan Mission Associates: light a candle / prayer requests / saint & prayer of the month…  Guardian angel: about (more) / badge / chaplet / eight things to know & share about the guardian angelmemorial / prayers (for humanitymore / special)…  Keeping it Catholic (more)…  Our Lady, queen of angels (miracles / novena)…  Lessons from a monastery: hospitality…  Rosaries & chaplets: collection / eleven / for the sick & dying / maker’s guide / pictures & prayers / St. Michael (YouTube) / various…  Social media…  There’s dynamite in praise (Gossett, 1974): about / book (more) / miracle healing testimonies…  We are called to be angels

WP posts…  Angels all around…  Angels keeping watch…  Call of service…  Familiar yet new…  Making meaning…  Mary’s seven joys…  Promise of hope…  Si quaeris miracula…  Sweet Jesus…  Today’s Beatitudes…  Two angels

Sensory overload

BDF2014-1bBDF2014-1aA year since attending Bishop Danny’s annual fundraiser in Weslaco, we made our way to La Sierra Event Center in Harlingen with great anticipation.

Diocesan fundraiser: December 5, 2014

Except for a very memorable first experience, we had no idea what awaited us until we reached the smiling hosts standing beside the check-in table.

BDF2014-1dBaldemar, Jesse, and Rosie graciously interacted with guests, assisted with seating, answered questions, and set the tone for the evening: supporting Bishop Danny’s charities and ministries.

“Be sure to check out the silent and live auction items,” Baldemar smiled.  “And do get some refreshments.”

We followed Jesse to our table, chose our seats, and set off to explore the unknown.

Pretty pinks

Oohing and ahhing over the beautiful items leading to the room in the southeast corner of the hall, I kept my wits about me.  But, sure enough.  Once inside the tiny space, I knew we wouldn’t leave without bidding on something.

“Oh, darling.  Look at these exquisite doilies.  Think of the time spent crocheting them!”

SG12614-134“Hours— or days.”

“More like weeks,” I gently corrected, knowing how long it takes me to sew puppets.  “They’re gorgeous, absolutely priceless.  But who made them?  And what inspired her?  There should be a card.  She must feel so good to have donated her works of art for such a worthy cause.”

I picked up one of the doilies.  Hmm.  Light, heavenly scent!  I wanted to take them home then and there!

“Please make a bid,” I softly insisted before returning to what first caught my eye.

Lovely Lady

Some months back someone used the search term coronita de la virgen de san juan de los lagos on my blog.  Immediately, I knew exactly where the person had gone looking, too.  My “Saturday evening Mass” post.

Father Mathias had substituted at Sacred Heart Church that weekend, so he’d invited us to the five o’clock service.  And he’d shown us a small statue in the confessional that he was puzzled about, until I told him that she was Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos sans crown.

Anyway, because someone had gone looking for the devotion, I’d added the category to the left-hand column to help the reader locate the prayer in the post.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos stayed with me more strongly, so I made a mental note to remember the churches where I’d seen her: Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hebbronville, Sacred Heart in Corpus Christi, and St. Anthony of Padua in Robstown, respectively.

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Of course, I’d also seen her each time we’d gone to my heart of hearts, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville.  I realized, too, in looking through my photo files that her display changes over time (just like St. Charbel’s ribbons that denote answered prayers and/or miracles).

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What I didn’t know, however, was how much Our Lady of San Juan had been tugging at my heartstrings.  Until the bishop’s fundraiser, that is.

??????????Even among all those other lovely silent auction items, Our Lady of San Juan’s delicate features stood out.  She seemed to be waiting for me!

“Please,” I told Steven, “please bid on her.”

“How much?”

“Just go for the entire amount.  If someone else wants her, we’ll know they’re serious if they bid beyond.”

“And then what?” asked Steven.

“We’ll play it by ear,” I said calmly though inwardly hopeful that Our Lady would accompany us home that night.

Promises and ribbons

I was really happy with our— um— my two finds.

We could easily have gone to sit and begin the waiting game.  But nooo!  Not the curious person that I am.  We walked across the hall to the live auction items.  And who should I see but someone who’s fascinated me for years, a companion of Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos at the cathedral back home.

There he was in all his finery, bedecked in silver promises and colorful ribbons, so how could I resist?

SG12614-80St. Charbel Makhlouf and I had met some years back the same way Father Casey and I had met, the same way I’ve come across other intriguing souls of the faith.  Online.

Sensory overload

I was totally beside myself to have this likeness of the Lebanese monk so close!  My mind was racing!  Could I pass up having Our Lady of San Juan and
St. Charbel together in our home the way they’re displayed at my heart of hearts?

Never had I imagined the possibility.  Yet here was Golden Opportunity knocking.  Talk about sensory overload.  Oh, my gosh!  I couldn’t contain myself!

Still, I kept thinking, Yes, dear God.  If it is your will that we should be so blessed as to have them both accompany us home, I will be ever so grateful.  To the moon and back, in fact.  If not, then I’ll be just as grateful that someone else wanted them sooo much that they outbid us and helped Bishop Danny’s cause.

I giggled to myself as we made our way back to the table.  I couldn’t believe that we’d found such keepsakes and that they’d beckoned so heartily.  We were in for the time of our lives, and it was so much fun!

December 8, 2014

I had two prayers for St. Charbel: the card that the artist had attached to the sculpture and the photo of the framed prayer at the cathedral that I intended to add to this post.  But I don’t have one for Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos, I told God.  Where— how— can I get one?

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Steven and I drove to St. Paul’s for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  And, as is my custom before Mass, I rummaged through the wicker basket with the bookmarks and prayer cards in the back of the church on our way in.

Lo and behold, on my fourth or fifth dive to get at the cards at the bottom, I found exactly what I needed— a prayer card to Our Lady of San Juan from— you guessed it— the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in the Rio Grande Valley.  Wowza!  I was so thrilled that I even shared the story with Steven and Father Pete before Mass.

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Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos

Devotion…  Most holy and immaculate Virgin of San Juan, be our faithful companion on our life’s journey.  We thank you because many have found [your] shrine a place [to] feel at home with you and our brothers and sisters.  Help us to come closer to your son, Jesus, that we may find in him the way of life, which gives meaning to moments of sorrow and happiness in our earthly pilgrimage.

Novena…  Amada Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos, cuídanos de todo mal, acompáñanos en nuestra vida, y libéranos de todo tipo de pecado.  (Haga su petición.)  Doy gracias a Dios y a la virgen de los lagos por el favor concedido.

Rece durante nueve días el rosario.  También se reza la “Coronita de los doce privilegios de la inmaculada madre de Dios.”

Offering…  Our Lady of San Juan, mother of God and mother of the Church, with a sincere heart I offer you this prayer.  In imitation of your union with your divine son, I offer you my daily actions.  Guide me in my work so that my undertakings may be divinely blessed.  Because you are truly a mother to me, I am confident that you will heed these requests, if they serve for the greater glory of God and are spiritually beneficial.

Petición…  María inmaculada y siempre bendita, singular, e incomparable Virgen María, madre de Dios, templo suyo muy agradable, sagrario del Espíritu Santo, puerta de reino de los cielos, por quien después de Dios vive todo el orbe, inclina, madre de misericordia, tus ojos reflujentes a mi, pecador.  Haz, señora, que tus milagros rayos de la luz inclinen y alumbren mi alma; y, si lo que te pido conduce este fin, concédemelo a mayor gloria de Dios y tuya.  Amén.

Request…  We pray that you, most holy and immaculate Virgin of San Juan, guide us throughout our lives.  Please make us mindful of the needs of others and help them through our prayers.  Give us spiritual strength so that we are close to your son, Jesus, and through him may have love and compassion for others.  Grant us peace and happiness.  Amen.

St. Charbel Makhlouf prayers

One…  Lord, infinitely holy and glorified in your saints, you have inspired Charbel, the saint monk to lead the perfect life of a hermit.  We thank you for granting him the blessing and the strength to detach himself from the world so that the heroism of the monastic virtues of poverty, obedience, and chastity could triumph in his hermitage.  We beg you to grant us the grace of loving and serving you following his example.

Almighty God who has manifested the power of St. Charbel’s intercession through his countless miracles and favors, grant us… through his intercession.  Amen.

Our Father….  Hail Mary….  Glory be….

Two…  O God of silence, in stillness your adorable and mysterious Trinity lives, loves and acts.  In the silence of time, your great mysteries have been accomplished.  Blessed is the one who quiets everything within himself and listens to the impelling voice which leads to you.

Charbel heard this voice and closed himself in solitude.  He separated himself from a self-seeking world and spoke with you.

You taught him to deny himself and to die like the grain of wheat.  You asked him to bind himself to you in a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Freed from himself he discovered you, O Lord, embraced the way of the Cross, and filled his spirit with the memory of your son’s passion and death.  The holy mysteries became his life; the Eucharist, his real food; and the mother of God, his consolation.  Day and night he sought you in the scriptures and in the lives of the saints.  Through unending prayer his whole life became a living hymn of praise to you and ended in a sacrifice of love that continues to proclaim your glory.

We beg [your] intercession to inspire us to a life of prayer and sacrifice.  Help us to live lives of quiet dedication to the service of your church forever.  Amen.

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Links of interest…  Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle: aboutfacebook / gift shop / history (more) / icon / national shrine / parishes online / prayer (Spanish) / prayer card (other) / stationsvideo (YouTube)…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville: Bishop Daniel E. Flores (2013 / Palm Sunday) / stewardship & development / website…  Immaculate Conception Cathedral (ICC): historical landmarks (#38/39) / national registry / parishes onlinewebsite…  Our Lady of San Juan de los Lagos: about / better known Marian shrinepaintings (more)…  St. Charbel Makhlouf: biography (about / more) / chaplet / last prayer / Lebanese hermit / miracles / monk (more) / movie / novena / who is…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Clarisas cookies…  Heart of hearts…  Saturday evening Mass…  Slice of heaven

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).  And the photo of Bishop Mulvey and Steven?  Our whimsical Alice Olaes (¡Olé!) asked that I keep her three photos to myself, but how could I resist using just one?  (Alice in blue is pictured next to Father Stembler, above center, by the way.)  Thanks to our beloved church family for making the evening extra memorable for us!!! 

More memories

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November 16, 2014

“Eternal Father, I offer you the most precious blood of your divine son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church [including] those in my own home and within my family” (St. Gertrude).

May 18, 2015

“A pure, simple, and stable heart is not bogged down by a multitude of tasks because it does all for the honor of God; and, since it is not self-seeking, it is not eager to follow its own will” (Thomas à Kempis).

June 19, 2015

“Love consists not in feeling great things, but in having great detachment and in suffering for the beloved” (St. John of the Cross).

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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 / spiritual chair (Father James Stembler: search results)…  South Texas Catholic…  St. Gertrude Parish: Catholic directorywebsite…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…  Thomas à Kempis: about (more) / biographyhumility firstImitation of Christ (book – chapter links – free ebook – more) / monkprayer / quotes

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.

June 15, 2014

In response to the anniversary card I created, Father Michael sent us Our Lady of Hope prayer leaflets and a copy of his homily for Ascension.  Thank you!

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Links of interest…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville TX…  Immaculate Conception Cathedral (ICC): historical landmarks (#38/39) / national registry / parishes online /
website…  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.

Prayer

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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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).

March 24, 2015

“God is so good and merciful that, to obtain heaven, it is sufficient to ask it of him from our hearts” (St. Benedict Joseph Labre).

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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

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

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…  Sensory overload…  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.

July 26, 2015

Treasure your families….  The future of your society, the future of humanity, pass by the way of the family (St. John Paul II).

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

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