Grapes of generosity


Hebbronville did such a fantabulous job hosting June’s TX Tropical Trail Region (TTTR) meeting last week that its memory lingers.  The place Bill Hellen refers to as “the old church,” the food, and the guest speakers specially invited to build on the day’s theme made our day unforgettable.

What impressed me most, though, was the down to earth quality of the people we met.  The smiles were genuine; the showing and telling, energized and personal.  The day was a perfect getaway, a mini vacation in vaquero country, a place where hospitality is a gift that keeps on giving.

“The old church”

Our first tour was at Scotus College, adjacent to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.  Both were built by the Franciscans who settled the area after fleeing persecution in Mexico in the 1920’s.  From there, the Franciscan priest led the group to the church, while Steven and I stayed behind enjoying the grounds at our own pace.

On entering the church, we were transported to another place in time.  Our sole purpose for attending the day’s presentations had been to spend time at “the old church;” so, when the group moved to the chapel for the next lecture, we continued taking pictures as we explored the church on our own.

Shortly, one of the workmen told the other three to move the scaffolding for us to have better access to the altar.  When I thanked him, we immersed ourselves in conversation.

Lorenzo said that, although Father Ricardo’s been at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church only three years, he’s been the only priest interested in its restoration.  Father Ricardo’s goal is to restore the church so that it matches its Mexican counterparts.  He wants frescos and murals painted on the multi-level ceiling and the walls, too.  Sadly, however, Father’s been asked to return to his hometown in Mexico within a month, although Father will return to monitor the project’s progress on a regular basis.

Lorenzo said that the story of Jesus, beginning with Joseph leading the donkey that carried Mary to Jerusalem, will be painted above the entrance opposite the altar; but there’s a lot to do first.  All the cracks, including the gap in the domed area’s stained glass above the altar, will be repaired; and the church will be rewired so that the surfaces are aesthetically pleasing once everything’s painted.

I asked Lorenzo about the completion date and quickly determined that, with the amount of work yet to be done, the restoration will take longer than the few months he’s anticipating.  “We’d like to attend Mass here and admire the building’s transformation,” I said.  “But how do you manage to have Mass here in the meantime?  Or is Mass not held here?” 

Lorenzo quickly informed us about their all-day cleaning ritual at week’s end to ready the church for Saturday and Sunday services.  “You’re welcome to come any time,” he added.  “The church is ready for Mass every weekend.”

I thanked Lorenzo for his time.  “God bless you and your men, Lorenzo!  You’re doing a fine job.  We’ll be back another time.”

“No te levantes, honey” tortillas

Next was the tour at Hillcrest Tortillas, Inc.       

The owner, Patricia Gonzalez, told us that the factory had never hosted a group our size, but “the family” was “very happy to welcome” all of us.

I really enjoyed her story of the leftover tortillas!


In 2001, Hillcrest began selling breakfast tacos, but not all the tortillas were sold by the end of the workday.  Rather than toss them, Hillcrest chose to share the leftover tortillas with the community.  The tortillas were packaged and set out front for folks to pick up after store hours.  Before long, there weren’t enough packages to satisfy everyone on a daily basis, so Hillcrest purchased a tortilla making machine at “no compromise or sacrifice.”

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Now, the packaged tortillas are sold at local and out of town businesses, and no wonder.  The flour delicacies, which Bill Hellen describes as “no te levantes, honey” tortillas are so light that one’s not enough!

And the tamales?  Oh, my gosh!

I endorsed them on the spot.  “They’re as healthy as the ones Mom makes, only tastier!”

The hospitality and the lemonade complimented the Hillcrest samples, but the best part was taking Hillcrest home with us.  Each person received packages of both white and whole wheat flour tortillas on the way out.

It was like winning the lotto!


Steven told me, “We’ll freeze the tortillas when we get home and take out only what we need so that none goes to waste.”  I told him that the family’s generosity toward the community reminded me of St. Anthony’s bread.  When one does a kindness for others, God’s blessings are multiplied.

Rustic sans snakes

From the tortilla factory we drove across Smith Avenue to the Longhorn.  Walking in was like stepping back in time.  Rustic ambiance, friendly service, tasty barbecue, great lemonade.  Definitely reminiscent of Wagon Train but without the snakes or the desert.



A sculptor and two authors

As we listened, first, to the local speakers and then to the guest lecturers, I was thoroughly impressed with the resourcefulness of the town’s planning committee.  The guest speakers from Laredo… Armando Hinojosa, whose sculpture will be displayed at the State Capitol; and José Antonio López, an author of Texas lore… easily captivated our attention and our amazement.  Each man spoke passionately about his craft and displayed his wares— drawings and books, respectively— for those who wished to buy.




Another author who hadn’t even heard about the TTTR meeting taking place at the restaurant that afternoon, serendipitously walked in for lunch and “was asked to join the group.”  Then he, too, availed both himself and his book to us.

Hernán Moreno-Hinojosa told me that he writes with a triple purpose: “to inform, to entertain, and to stay as historically correct as possible.”

What a great lesson for students past, present, and future!

I learned so much that I felt I’d attended a seminar.  What a privilege to have interacted not only with these incredibly talented men, but also with the group responsible for creating an indelible imprint on both our dendrites and our taste buds!

South Texas hospitality

The icing on the proverbial cake came after the educational presentations when R. J. Molina, Pamela J. Garza, and others doled out lots of unexpected goodies, including pencils, pens, planners, calendars, carpenters’ aprons, candles, and so much more from the various banks and businesses.  The unexpected thoughtfulness went beyond the grapes of generosity.

Two sets of comments heard from our hosts certainly made my day: “We have some tee shirts for you!  And, if you need more, just let us know.  We’ve got ’em!” and “I made the [sand tart] cookies [in the gift bags] using my special recipe.”

The town’s local representatives at the TTTR meeting showed that the town works together to build community.  For such a small place, Hebbronville knocked our socks off by Texas-sizing its story.  Wow!

We’ll definitely be back!

October 17, 2017

On our way home from the Texas Tropical Trail (TTT) monthly partner event in Rio Grande City, we stopped by Hillcrest Tortillas for sweet bread, mouth-watering tortillas, and the best ever tamales.



Perfect timing, too, since Patricia Gonzalez, the owner, was about to leave on her daily delivery run.  Nevertheless, she made the time to share her great news: Nancy Deviney, TTT executive director, had interviewed her for an article in Authentic Texas!

Naturally, we were over the moon for the recognition in the beautiful quarterly, but not really surprised.  Patricia is the epitome of excellence and service within the community and beyond.  She’s giving and down to earth, approachable and good-natured.  She certainly makes time for others.

Stephanie, though shy about being photographed, graciously filled us in on more of the story after Patricia left on her work route and we made our purchases.

We couldn’t believe that more than eight years had passed since our first (and only) visit to Hillcrest.  The business location had changed, but the South Texas hospitality was still as sweet.  So, even as we headed home with our freshly bought stash of sweet bread, tortillas, and tamales, we were already planning our next trip for more.


Links of interest…  Artist: Armando Hinojosa (Tejano Monument)…  Authors: José Antonio López / Hernán Moreno-Hinojosa…  Hebbronville: aboutcounty seat / history / landmarks & legacies…  Hillcrest Tortillas, Inc. (bakery): Authentic Texas (pp. 52-53) / monthly partner event (Sept 2014) / reviews…  La Mota Ranch: Bill Hellen
(agritourism: more / fishing & hunting)…  Mexico: persecution of Christians / plenty of priests / undercover priest (Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro: video)…  Our Lady of Guadalupe Church & Scottus College (more)…  South TX ranching traditions celebrated in Hebbronville…  St. Anthony’s bread…  TX Tropical Trail Region

WP posts…  Franciscan experience…  Franciscan treasures…  Historic nuggets…  Honoring Joselito…  Persistence…  St. Anthony…  Vaquero Fest Saturday

Two takes

At nine o’clock Mass yesterday Fr. Xaviour spoke about fatherhood.  He also read “On Children” to us from Gibran’s The Prophet (1923/1951, 1976).  Listening to him I thought back to when I was five.

My father

My dad was my hero even before I knew the word or its meaning.  He taught me my letters, my numbers, and how to relate to others.  What I recall best about my dad, though, is that, during his lengthy illness, the priest would visit him late in the afternoons.  So, through my dad, I learned about God.

Then, early in the morning, July twenty-first of my fifth year, Dad called me to his bedside.  The memory of that day still lingers vividly.

Mom and I had been on a palette on the floor by the bed; my brother, in his crib— all of us sleeping in the same room.  I’d find out many years later that Mom, exhausted from working the night shift at the shrimp processing plant to support the four of us, had helped my dad with his bath and changed the sheets on his bed before falling asleep herself that morning.

I get emotional each time I remember because dad’s illness was so senseless!  With the proper medical care, he wouldn’t have died.  My biggest regret has always been that my brother never had the chance to know dad as I did.  He loved us so much!

So, when Dad called out to me, I immediately got up from where I lay with mom and stood at his bedside.

Dad’s eyes were closed; his voice, very calm.  But he was struggling somehow.  This is what chokes me up every time.  He knew.  And he didn’t want me to see him die?

Hija, go get me some orange drink and some sweet bread.”

We lived behind my uncle’s grocery store, which was a wall away from his family’s residence in the back.  And the bakery was right next door.  

Sensing some sort of urgency I ran to the kitchen door, looked out, saw that our part-time caregiver was busy doing laundry, and ran back to my dad.  “But Rosita’s washing all my dresses,” I said, concerned about disappointing him.

Awaiting his response, I observed dad for a few very long moments.  He lay very still, his ashen color contrasting against the white sheets.  His eyes were closed, and his face looked peaceful until— most unexpectedly— he noisily gasped for air and exhaled.

I remained perfectly still, entranced, trying to understand.  Was death even part of my vocabulary or experience at the time?  I didn’t want to wake mom, but something important had happened.  Then, realizing dad was gone, I immediately woke Mom, who, seeing dad, frantically cried out for me to fetch her brother.

I guess Dad had held on as long as he could.  Despite his tiredness, his swollen feet, and his being bedridden more and more as his illness progressed, Dad had looked after my brother, barely six months old, and me while Mom was at work.

Dad was only forty-three; Mom, just twenty-six.  They were so young, yet the inevitable had come to pass, affecting our lives in unimaginable ways.

Not until I was much older did Mom tell me that Dad’s biggest regret had been leaving her the immense responsibility of caring for two young children.

Dad had been an only child, brought up by his dad and his grandmother.  His mother had died from childbirth complications, so Dad had to have anticipated what our lives would be like without him.

Listening to Fr. Xaviour during Mass reminded me of Dad.  The prayers, the blessings, and the homily on fatherhood all touched my heart and soul.

Being with Dad was easy.  He was good to us!  He was loving, gentle, funny, kind.  But, most of all, he kept me safe.

I wiped the tears from my eyes and felt ever so grateful for my father’s loving ways.  God had made sure that Dad loved me enough for a lifetime because, even now, his genuineness nurtures my resilience.  He’s always with me!  And it’s through my father’s love that I’ve come to understand God’s presence in my life.


Getting home after Mass I went to my thoughtful spot to begin updating our church website.  When Steven didn’t follow me into the office, I got up to check on him.

Steven sat on the sofa with The Treasured Writings of Kahlil Gibran (1947, 1957, 1965) open on his lap.  He was leafing through the book when I asked, “Are you looking for what Fr. Xaviour read during Mass today?”

Without waiting for a response I walked over to my books, returned with The Prophet opened to “On Children,” handed it to Steven, and walked back to my desk.

A father’s letter

After a while, Steven came in to work at his computer.  We quietly did our own thing until he said, “Here.  Read this and let me know what you think.”

Steven’s two-page letter to our four kids made me realize that he, too, had been impacted by Fr. Xaviour’s reading during Mass.

June 21, 2009
Summer Solstice
Father’s Day

The enclosed writing from Kahlil Gibran was our blessing from Mass this morning.  It is a gentle admonishment to parents, reminding us that the future belongs to you, our children.  It is profound, more so because of its simplicity and brevity.

You may struggle from time to time, but you have your wings of freedom, your minds and abilities, and your enthusiasm for tomorrows.

I am privileged to have you in my life, and I am grateful that I am alive today and have the opportunity to share this philosophy with you.  More lasting than that conferred by a priest at Mass, you are our true blessings.  We will pass on, but we will continue through you and the generations you produce.

May God bless you and bring you many successes in life, and may you keep him close in your heart as he does you.

We love you.

“On Children”

Steven’s second page was from The Prophet (Gibran, 1923/1951, 1976, pp. 17-18).

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and he bends you with his might that his arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so he loves also the bow that is stable.

Two takes

Living with Steven is so amazing.  From the beginning he’s said that we think in quantum leaps without skipping a beat.  We don’t need to explain; we simply understand.

Yesterday, both of us were inspired by the enormity of Gibran’s metaphorical wisdom, even though our perspectives focused on opposite generations.  On Father’s Day I longed to converse with my dad, just as Steven longed to hear from our kids; so, through Fr. Xaviour’s reading and our writings, God— father of all time— responded to our needs: mine through Steven, Steven’s through me.

God is sooo awesome!

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Contact information

The Father’s Day prayer cards are from Lift your Spirit! (James Doherty Company).

December 29, 2013

God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.  Whoever honors his father atones for sins and preserves himself from them.  When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother.  Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children and, when he prays, is heard.  Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives.  Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins— a house raised in justice to you (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14).

October 20, 2014

Entrust yourself entirely to God.  He is a father, and a most loving father at that (St. Paul of the Cross).

October 22, 2014

Only by praying together with their children can a father and mother— exercising their royal priesthood— penetrate the innermost depths of their children’s hearts and leave an impression that the future events in their lives will not be able to efface (Pope St. John Paul II).

May 1, 2015

“Fatherhood is a vocation in God’s service to be not held lightly or frivolously, but with the serious determination of serious men” (Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik in The Catholic Family Handbook).

May 20, 2016

At the beginning of her life, she will feel your love.  At the end of her life, you will be on her mind. And what happens in between is up to you.  Love her extraordinarily.  This is the heart of great fathering (Meg Meeker: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters).

July 13, 2018

Papa’s death didn’t have on me the effect of a death but a true life.  I find him again after six years of absence.  I sense him around me, looking at me and protecting me.  Dear little sister, aren’t we more united now that we look to the heavens to find the father and mother who offered us to Jesus? (St. Therese of Lisieux in Mornings with Saint Therese).

Pdf file…  GAX* © Lanoux

Links of interest…  Catholic dad: The call, the craft, the cross / family handbook…  Father is a complex metaphor for God / shares ten most important things he learned after losing his three-year-old son…  Fathers: Best catechesis is a life well lived…  Guide to holiness: BeDADitudes…  Job & my greatest fear…  Kahlil Gibran: about / book (more) / prophet (motive) / quotes (more) / review…  On Father’s Day: Christmas in June / when your father has died…  Research is in: Fathers are not replaceable…  Strong daughters need strong fathers…  Virtual Father’s Day retreat…  What my dad taught me about holiness

WP posts…  Backtracking…  Forever grateful…  Gifts…  Lingering memory…  Making meaning…  Mourning joy…  One prayer…  Picturing God…  Soulful…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude Shrine (Chicago)

St. Jude shrine

OLG61513-18The first Wednesday of the month is a special day of prayer at the National Shrine of St. Jude in Chicago.

May the Lord bless you and keep you and all those you love, especially those affected by cancer.  Throughout Wednesday’s liturgies…, we will pray in a special way for all those who suffer from cancer.  We invite you to join us today, and on the first Wednesday of every month, as we call upon St. Jude for the healing of cancer (National Shrine of
St. Jude).

Let’s all join in prayer for our loved ones— family and friends here and gone— to thank God for the many blessings, big and small, that he bestows on us daily.

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O holy St Jude, apostle and martyr, great in virtue and rich in miracles, near kinsman of Jesus Christ, faithful intercessor for all who invoke you, special patron in time of need: To you I have recourse from the depth of my heart and humbly beg you, to whom God has given such great power, to come to my assistance.  Help me now in my urgent need and grant my earnest petition.

I will never forget thy graces and favors you obtain for me, and I will do my utmost to spread devotion to you.  Amen.

St. Jude, pray for us and all who honor you and invoke your aid.

Pray three Our Father‘s, three Hail Mary’s, and three Glory be’s.


National Shrine of St. Jude – Our Lady of Guadalupe Church – Chicago


Links of interest…  Claretian: history / impact bloginitiativeorder / senior housing…  National Shrine of St. Jude: about / directions / home / novena schedule / prayers & eletters (free) / remembrance & healing / shrine / slideshow…  Prayers: devotions / litany / novena (more) / site

WP posts…  Forever grateful…  October novena…  Prayer power…  Revisiting St. Simon…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude shrine (Corpus Christi, TX)