Disquieting moments

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Two weeks ago my Coolpix and I visited the St. Jude Shrine on Saratoga for the third time, and I finally captured St. Simon’s stained-glass window to my liking.  But I’d also planned a long-awaited outing to Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church, so I could hardly wait to get there!

Late December 2005

We seldom drive into Corpus Christi unless we really have to, so imagine my fascination at seeing an old-style church off South Padre Island Drive during my first trip into town. 

Is it Greek Orthodox?  Is it Catholic?  It reminds me of the church that Segy and I stumbled across in Prague.

I could hardly wait to satisfy my curiosity!

“I’m going to visit that church one day soon,” I told Steven.

Fall 2007

SPC102301-tilmaTime passed.  The week of October 23-27, the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe visited St. Paul the Apostle Church in Flour Bluff; so the parish had two festive celebrations.

At both the welcoming and the despedida Masses, a group of very talented mariachis led us in song; so Father Stembler thanked them afterwards, adding that they perform regularly at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church.

Hearing that, Junebug, a friend who’d also wanted to visit the church for a long time, and I caught up to one of the musicians as they were leaving.  We asked about the Mass schedule and, much to our delight, were enthusiastically invited to “come for twelve-thirty Mass on Sundays to hear the mariachis.”

Since obligations at our respective parishes kept us home on Sundays, we never made it.  Still, my desire to explore the old-world church persisted.

Two weeks ago

So here, five years later, my wish came true.  Having driven into town for quite a few doctors’ appointments, I finally felt confident about venturing out on my own in Corpus and, oh, the surprises that awaited me at Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

SCMC61410-21First, I took note of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s statue not because of its inviting garden setting, but because of the message on the church wall.

No temas…  ¿No estoy yo aquí, que soy tu madre?  Do not fear…  Am I not here, am I not your Mother?

A couple of years ago I’d read the same message online.

Then, on entering the church, I noticed the room to my left.  I walked in, took photos, and— on turning around— found the Infant on his pedestal.

What a wonderful surprise!

Next, I walked past the glass doors into the dimly lit church.

A man and four or five women sat in silence: some with their prayer booklets, others with rosary in hand; some departing, others taking their place.

Old-world ambiance

I sat in the back for a while, joyfully dialoguing with God about this new adventure before getting up to make pictorial memories for others to enjoy through my blog.

Other than my Coolpix snapping photos of the windows and the stations of the cross and flashing intermittently, I walked around soundlessly, respectful as usual, mindful of not being a distraction to the others.

“Ma’m, are you Catholic?”

Having gone full circle, I made my way to the front of the church.

Bowing in reverence to the altar as I had done each time I’d approached the front of the church, I turned to take my final three shots of the back (the entrance) of the church.

My peripheral vision caught sight of two women: one, shielding her face with a booklet as if to keep from being photographed; the other, beckoning to me with her right hand.

I acknowledged the latter smilingly and walked over thinking I should’ve had one of my calling cards with me, but the woman scowled at me.

“Ma’m, are you Catholic?” she chided.

“Yes, I am.  I’m from St. Joseph’s in Port Aransas.”

“Can’t you see we’re praying here?” she scolded me in a low, rough voice.

She had fire in her eyes and, clearly, she was speaking for the others, like the woman seated close by who nodded in agreement to my being treated like an insolent child.

“Don’t you know that we’re here to pray?!!” she vehemently rebuked me.

Discomforting disequilibrium

StsCMC61410-75I was a stranger, an intruder.  How dare I take photos and “disturb the adorers!”

“Yes.  I understand,” I said, being shushed by the woman time and time again as I told her that I, too, had sat awhile before taking photos.

The woman was beside herself with disgust.  But I remained cool, calm, and collected.  Even as I patiently, succinctly, tried to explain my presence there, she avoided making eye contact and shushed me as if I were a despicable nonperson.

“I apologize for having offended you,” I told the woman in a quiet voice despite her unwillingness to stop shushing me.  “Clearly, this was not my intent.”

Undaunted

Although I would’ve wanted one or two more photos of the back of the church, I relented.

“I apologize for having offended you, but each of us adores God in his own way,” I told the woman and walked away feeling neither one way nor the other.

Once outside I felt embraced by the warm breeze as I looked around, gauged the traffic on the frontage road, and walked to Steven’s palomino.  I unlocked the door, got a couple of my calling cards, turned to take three shots of the building’s exterior, tossed the Coolpix in the vehicle, and headed back into church.

Barely touching the woman’s left shoulder, I whispered, “This is my calling card.  Should you ever want to visit St. Joseph’s,” I said, pointing to the St. Joseph stained-glass icon on my card, “this is the window above our church entrance.”

The woman, still shushing me, took the cards without looking at me, placed them next to her on the pew, and gave me the cold shoulder.

“Again,” I said for the last time, “I apologize for having offended you, but each of us adores God in his own way.”

Then I walked away, undaunted.

Disquieting moments

I’d been sincere toward the woman, but she’d overly exaggerated her right to be there more than mine to visit that afternoon.  Nevertheless, I knew that God understood both of us.  So that was all that mattered.

As I drove off the church parking area onto a road I’d never traveled, I had time to reflect on the disquieting moments experienced at Sts. Cyril and Methodius.  But even after Kostoryz connected to McArdle— a street I’m familiar with, thanks to the Catholic Shoppe— my pea brain was still trying to come to somehow.

I wasn’t annoyed or angry.  I wasn’t amused or perplexed.  I wasn’t even embarrassed.

I was stunned… numb… calm.  Very, very calm.  

I’d “never ever ever” (to quote our youngest child) been treated as an outcast in any church, much less within my own Catholic community.

This had been such a unique, unexpected experience that my system was in shock— unable to mentalize, much less verbalize, my thoughts and feelings.  Yet, driving home I was sure of one thing: My visit to Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church had been part of God’s master plan.  Just another of his extraordinary lessons in real time.

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Prayers

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.  Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.  Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.  Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.  Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.  Amen.

Grant, O Lord, your protection.  And, in protection, strength; and, in strength, understanding; and, in understanding, knowledge.  And, in knowledge, the knowledge of justice; and, in the knowledge of justice, the love of it; and, in the love of it, the love of all existences.  And, in that love, the love of spirit and all creation.  Amen.

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight; and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.  Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ.  Rest your weary ones.  Bless your dying ones.  Soothe your suffering ones.  Pity your afflicted ones.  Shield your joyous ones.  And all for your love’s sake.  Amen.

July 14, 2010

Discussing this post with a couple of friends last week, I had a momentous epiphany: I’ve experienced this exclusivity before!

I don’t know what makes people so apprehensive about strangers and not so familiar faces at church.  We’re all part of the same community regardless of who we are or where we’re from, so we should be particularly accepting of each other as Catholics.  But this isn’t always the case.

I know what it is to be an outsider within my own parish.  This is why I started the church blog— a perfect opportunity to smilingly welcome newcomers and returning visitors as I take photos before, during, and after Mass.

I’m friendly, genuine, inclusive.  I treat others as I’d like to be treated.  The way we were back home.  The way Segy and I experienced church when we attended Mass in Budapest, Prague, and Berlin.

Because being Catholic is more than just sitting quietly (meditating, petitioning, praising, praying, problem solving, and/or reflecting, for instance), we should embrace (engage, explore, make meaning of and/or try to understand) the diversity that is our Christian faith.  After all, to be Catholic is to be universal.

June 12, 2015

If work is God’s will, it must be sanctifying; for, in ultimate analysis, sanctity is only doing the will of God.  Therefore, work is a sacred thing; it is a “sacramental”— an outward sign that can give grace.  Hence, you can go to work for the same reason you go to church to worship God!  Work is a religious thing.  It is holy (Fr. M. Raymond, OCSO in Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk).

January 5, 2016

“As Christ has his work, we too have ours; as he rejoiced to do his work, we must rejoice in ours also” (St. John Neumann).

January 17, 2016

“I do take my work seriously, and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously,” (Alan Rickman).

January 18, 2016

God is always summoning us, calling us out of the hustle and bustle of our lives to be his companions.  Developing the contemplative dimension of our Christian lives involves developing our capacity to hear this summons in whatever way it comes (“The Complete Christian“).

“It is not enough to pray thy kingdom come, but to work so that the kingdom of God will exist among us today” (St. Ursula Ledóchowska).

January 20, 2016

The pleasure of those who injure you lies in your pain.  Therefore they will suffer if you take away their pleasure by not feeling pain (Tertullian).

January 28, 2016

“We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject; for both have labored in the search for truth and both have helped us in finding it” (St. Thomas Aquinas).

July 22, 2016

“Take care not to meddle in things which do not concern you, nor even allow them to pass through your mind; for perhaps you will not then be able to fulfill your own task” (St. John of the Cross).

January 5, 2017

We might not be able to control how people react to us, or see us, or feel about us.  But we can train ourselves not to be crushed.  We can learn not to take it personally— even if it’s personal (Heather King in Loaded: Money and the Spirituality of Enough).

January 10, 2017

“If you wish to arrive speedily at the summit of perfection, animate yourself to a true love of shame, insults, and calumny” (St. Ignatius).

February 17, 2017

Persevere in the exact fulfillment of the obligations of the moment.  That work— humble, monotonous, small— is prayer expressed in action that prepares you to receive the grace of the other work— great and wide and deep— of which you dream (St. Josemaría Escrivá).

April 4, 2017

Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across difference to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis….   In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus promises to be with those who offer hospitality to the least of our brothers and sisters.  From this it would seem that hospitality can be understood as solidarity with strangers, a mutual relationship of care and trust in which we share in the struggle for empowerment, dignity, and fullness of life….

The ministry of the church is to be partners with strangers, to welcome those whom Christ welcomes, and thus learn to be a community in which people are made one in Jesus Christ in spite of their difference classes, religious backgrounds, genders, races, and ethnic groups (Letty M. Russell in Just Hospitality: God’s Welcome in a World of Difference).

June 22, 2017

When we feel us too bold, remember our own feebleness.  When we feel us too faint, remember Christ’s strength (St. Thomas More).

July 10, 2017

When you agree to live simply, you can understand what Francis meant when he said, “A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions.”  Most of us find out that this purse is far more dangerous and disguised than a money purse, and we seldom let go of it (Richard Rohr in Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi).

Links of interest…  Answering the call to work…  Catholic community doesn’t look the same for everyone…  Catholics should welcome questions…  Complete Christian (YouTube)…  Delanceyplace: archives / homesecond guessing ourselves (Presence)…  Everything can turn into prayer…  Gift of work…  Go to church, meet annoying people…  Holy Infant: artifacts / history / prayers / stories…  Hospitality: A forgotten virtue…  Lorica of St. Patrick…  Our Lady of Guadalupe…  Photographer on how capturing light is a call from God…  Practice of silence for lay people…  Scripture speaks: The better part…  South Texas Catholic…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…  Sts. Cyril & Methodius: about / apostles / church: facebook – website / enlighteners / saints…  Suffering for a reason: Not what Yoda would advise…  We help people because we’re Catholic, not because they’re Catholic…  Who are we to judge

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Bearing one’s crosses…  Building community…  Call of service…  Connected tangents…  Full circle…  Gifts…  Heart of hearts…  Kindred acorns…  On being Christian…  Prayerful messages…  A real church…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Right at home…  St. Jude shrine (Corpus Christi)

Revisiting St. Simon

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Six days passed between my first and second visits to the St. Jude Shrine on Saratoga, but I wanted to replace the somewhat blurry photo of St. Simon’s stained-glass window with a better one.

Steven had already agreed to have us attend Mass at Most Precious Blood Church one day soon, but I didn’t want to wait to revisit the shrine.  I knew where the church was, so I chose to drive there before my two o’clock doctor’s appointment.

Another photo-op

On the way to the shrine, I wondered about St. Simon.  

What do I really know about him?  Except for hearing his name here and there during the gospel readings at Mass, not much.  I guess this means he wants me to find out more.

Unexpected outcomes

Once home, I was disappointed yet again.  St. Simon’s photo was dark.  The vibrant colors that showed on the camera monitor at the shrine hadn’t been captured.

I took my time snapping photos with and without the flash to get better ones the second time around, so how could this have happened?

Reflecting on my second visit to Most Precious Blood Church and the St. Jude Shrine, I quickly realized that St. Simon had drawn me there not to take his photo, but to give me a totally different experience altogether.

Visiting the shrine that day, my wish from the week before had come true: I’d been able to see and photograph the interior of the church.

More importantly, I’d received a very special gift from someone who hadn’t expected to be at the shrine that day.

             

What happened

As I was taking the last of my photos at the shrine that afternoon, a man walked in and set down his bag of tools on one of the pews.

“Good morning,” I said, quietly acknowledging his unexpected presence.

“Good morning.  I guess I’m the acting handyman today,” he chuckled more to himself than to me, as if surprised to be there.

I was so excited to have found the shrine that I couldn’t hold back. 

“I was here last week, but when I got home and edited the photos for my blog post, I was disappointed to find a blurry photo of St. Simon.   So this is why I’m here today.”

“Have you seen our church?” the man asked without knowing that I’d wished just that since my first visit there.

“No,” I said, well aware that the church was closed during the day.  “It was locked the last time I was here, so I told my husband that we’ll need to come back for Sunday Mass.”

The man’s face lit up.  “I’ve got the keys.  Come on!  I’ll open the church for you to spend as much time there as you want and take as many pictures as you like.”

Wish come true

We walked from the shrine’s foyer onto a partly enclosed corridor for him to unlock the door through which I’d taken a photo of the church foyer the week before.

“Oh, my gosh!” I kept saying, my eyeballs bugged out.

The man tried to contain his amusement.  “Just let me know when you’re done, so I can lock up again,” he smiled, turning on the lights before leaving to make repairs.

What an absolutely glorious place!  I longed to have Steven there, so he could ooh and ahh along with me.  

I was thrilled to the moon to be allowed such a gift of time and space, but I was especially grateful to have been at the shrine at the perfect time.  I mean, think about it.  I could’ve gone to the doctor’s first and missed this golden opportunity to explore the church all on my own that afternoon.  It was truly a blessing to be privy to such a treasure trove! 

The lens on my Coolpix had gotten jammed on our way home from Nacogdoches, so I was using Steven’s big camera.  I took lots of photos to give myself more choice just in case I flubbed some.

Then, before I knew it, the man returned.

I was photographing the angels in back of the church, so we talked as I snapped here and there. 

“Just a moment, please,” I kept saying.  “I need to take some in the foyer.” 

He wasn’t simplifying things either ’cause he kept pointing to different things for me to see and, of course, photograph.

Finally, I made myself stop ’cause the A/C was off, and I desperately needed fresh air. 

Unexpected gift

“We haven’t introduced ourselves,” I said, as we stood by the side door we’d first entered.  “I’m Deli from St. Joseph’s in Port Aransas.”

“I’m David Castillo, one of the very busy parishioners here at Most Precious Blood Church,” he twinkled. 

We stepped out onto the covered corridor, continued talking as he locked the door, and walked toward the office on the far right. 

David reached into his left pocket for something.  “Here,” he extended his closed hand.  “I don’t give them to just anyone.  I give them to folks whom I sense have a need, a problem.”  He looked at me, as if trying to understand why he felt compelled to give me this object.  “Or something.  I want you to have this.” 

David’s face was radiant as he gently pressed something into my outstretched right hand.  “I’ve carried it around for a long time.  It’s the last one I have, but I want for you to have it now.  There’s a second part that goes with it,” he said before retracting his hand for me to see what the treasure was.  “But I have it in my truck,” he added, gesturing to the parking lot across the way.  “So could you please give me a few minutes while I step into the office to return the church keys?”

“Sure,” I said, feasting my eyes on the very smooth, brown, almost black, stone cross I’d just received.

David stepped out of the office on the corner about ten feet from where we’d stood and began walking away. 

“My truck is over here.”

“I’ll walk with you,” I said, hurrying a bit to catch up.

David chattered away as he placed his tools on the bed of the truck, unlocked the cab, and retrieved what he wanted to give me.

stone-cross-3stone-cross-2My friend started making these crosses… um… about a year ago.  To the day!”  David chuckled somewhat surprised to recall that tidbit.  “He usually gives me a bunch of them with the cards, so I can give them out.  And then he gives me more when I run out.  I’ve had this one a long time, but now it’s yours.”

Building community

We talked for a very long time in the hot sun; but, every time I’d almost thoroughly wilted, we’d get a really nice, refreshing breeze that would start us up again.  David told me that he’d had no intention of fixing the two kneelers that day; but, having had second thoughts, he’d shown up anyway.  We agreed that our meeting had been part of God’s master plan. 

I chuckled inwardly at St. Simon’s part, wondering what else he had in store for me. 

We also talked about the beautiful angel on the school grounds.  David told me an eagle scout had just completed the project the week before. 

Aha! I thought.  Just in time for me to capture it with my camera lens the day after!  I love angels!

Then, almost as if he knew somehow, David asked, “What time is it?”  And, noticing I wasn’t wearing a watch, answered himself.  “It’s two o’clock.”

“Yes.  I have a two o’clock appointment,” I said.  “I need to go.”  His was at four-thirty, so he had plenty of traveling time; but he cautioned me about getting back onto Saratoga.

“Traffic around here can be very dangerous around this time of day, so be very careful.”  David made a couple of suggestions on getting back onto the road.  “Just be patient, and you’ll be all right,” he repeated a few times. 

Did he know something I didn’t?

We shook hands for the third time, agreed that it’s a great idea to build community by attending Mass at churches other than our own, and wished each other well.

And, sure enough.  Just as David had predicted, traffic was heavy.

I was careful and took my time, but I knew everything would be just fine.

I also knew I’d revisit St. Simon at the shrine one day soon.

Last but not least

St. Simon was eleventh among the twelve apostles called, yet little is known about him.

Simon was one of the two whom Jesus sent ahead of him into a village to untie and bring the ass and the colt that the Messiah might enter Jerusalem as the prophets had foretold.  This unknown apostle never stood out from the rest, was neither prominent nor distinguished.  He was always in the group, together with the others, almost without a personality, only an apostle, only one of the twelve.  Just this remaining quiet, obscure, unknown has become a mark of his character.

Simon, the unknown apostle, is the patron of the countless Christians who go through life without fame, without a name.  He is the patron of the army of unknown workers in the vineyard of the Lord who toil in the last places for the kingdom of God.  He is the patron of the unknown soldiers of Christ who struggle on the disregarded and thankless fronts.  No one notices, no one praises, no one rewards these obscure and often misunderstood apostles… no one except the Father, who sees through all obscurity, who understands all misjudgments (Ferris, n. d.).

June 14, 2010

The third time was the charm!  I finally captured the vibrant colors in St. Simon’s stained-glass window.

September 28, 2010

On reading the Dominican shrine’s page on St. Jude this morning, I learned that he and St. Simon were martyred together, which explains their shared feast day, October 28th.

February 10, 2013

“Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men'” (Luke 5:10).

October 28, 2014

“May both Simon the CananSrMA12512-9aaean and Jude Thaddeus help us… to live the Christian faith without tiring, knowing how to bear a strong and, at the same time, peaceful witness to it” (Pope Benedict XVI).

June 29, 2016

We celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood.  Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith (St. Augustine).

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Links of interest…  Apostles: sending out / who is one…  “Comfort cross,” crucifix, & Christ’s five wounds…  Most Precious Blood Church: facebook / website…  St. Simon & St. Jude: apostles (more) / biography (about) / cathedral / feast (more) / martyrs (more) / prayer / praying to St. Jude (more) / sketches (more)…

WP posts…  Bearing one’s crosses…  Connected tangents…  Disquieting moments…  Finding St. Rita…  Forever grateful…  Growing pains…  Kindred acorns…  Making meaning…  October novena…  One prayer…  Prayer power…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude Shrine (Chicago)…  St. Jude Shrine (Corpus Christi, TX)

Sacred Heart

SHC52210-118Until Steven and I visited Nacogdoches recently, I’d carried around only two recollections of the oldest city in Texas: reading about the place in seventh grade social studies class and driving— umm, riding— through the town on our way to and from Walt Disney World one summer looong ago.  So my memories were limited only to what I’d thought were cobblestone streets and turn-of-the-century houses.

Towering pines

What I hadn’t expected were the piney woods.

Oh, my!  We’re still in Texas!  I don’t want to go back to the Coastal Bend, not even to our island paradise. 

Highway 59 North, take me awaaaay.

Nacogdoches

We arrived Saturday afternoon, familiarized ourselves with the town, and attended five o’clock Mass at Sacred Heart Church.

We met some very friendly people: the church deacon; Richard at Casa Tomás and Chao at Peking, both Stephen F. Austin (SFA) students who wait tables to earn spending money; the young man at Auto Zone who replaced the battery in Steven’s palomino; Stacey, the desk clerk at La Quinta, and other staff members; the young woman at the visitors’ center; the fine folks at SFA the day we dropped in unannounced and were gifted with a tour of the early childhood facility; and others with whom we interacted during our three-day stay.

In fact, we were sooo smitten with Nacogdoches that we’re counting the days until we’re back there again!

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Photo files…  Sacred Heart Church: one / two / three / four

Links of interest…  Daily Sentinel…  Nacogdoches: about / chamber of commerce / first TX town / Nine Flags Festival / oldest city in TX / piney woods / profile / things to do / town / visitors bureau / website…  Restaurants: Casa Tomás / Peking…  Sacred Heart Church: parishes online / website…  Stephen F. Austin State University…  TX Forest Trail Region

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Beautiful sacred space…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Heart of hearts…  Holy relics…  Home again…  A real church…  Right at home…  Sacred Heart Church (Corpus Christi, TX)…  Saturday evening Mass