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!”
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.
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).
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 “reflections” widget in right sidebar.)
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!)
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!
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!
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).
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.
The two prayers above (Retreat Booklet, B-20) and the St. Michael Archangel leaflets and cards 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).
St. Michael the Archangel – Banquete, TX
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).
September 29, 2016
The angels lead the soul to the peaks of the spiritual life. In revealing the beauty of God, they awaken in the soul a more burning thirst for union with him (Jean Danielou, The Angels and Their Mission).
Links of interest… Angels: about (more) / book / choirs / creation (more) / holy angels / servants of God / spiritual life / stories… Archangels: feast (more) / Gabriel / Michael / Michael, Gabriel, St. Raphael / mighty / novenas / prayers: for protection – in a time of terror & grief – to St. Michael / Raphael (joyful friend) / rosary / Uriel / seraphim / seven… Christian angelic hierarchy (book – more)… For God & country (book / more)… Fr. Tito Ayo: Hope in the word (Sunday reflections) One word. Only hope.
(blog) / SOLT / St. Michael’s… Franciscan Mission Associates: contact / devotional saints / light a candle / prayer requests / quarterly newsletter / saint & prayer of the month / who we are… Guardian angel: about (more) / badge / chaplet / eight things to know & share about the guardian angel / memorial / prayers (for humanity – more – special)… Keeping it Catholic (more)… Lessons from a monastery: hospitality… Our Lady, queen of angels (miracles / novena)… Padre Carmelo Fonseca: LAMP / obituary / San Miguel Arcángel: facebook – parish… Prayer to St. Michael: Our defense in daily battle… 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… Quiet prayer time… Si quaeris miracula… Sweet Jesus… Today’s Beatitudes… Two angels