Remembrances

Since our monthly Saturday meeting in McAllen was rescheduled, attending four o’clock Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows was out of the question.  We needed another plan, so we opted for church closer to home.

For two days I vacillated between St. Benedict’s in San Benito and Our Lady Star of the Sea in Port Isabel.  Both are very special to us, very welcoming.  But I finally gave in to the gentle though insistent nudge from the voice within.

St. Benedict’s

Walking to our usual spot— fourth pew on the left— we quickly noticed a rather large frame topped with a floppy black bow with a large wreath beside it next to the ambo.

“Someone died,” I whispered to Steven.  “Is it a priest or a deacon?”

Once seated, I leaned forward and quietly asked the woman in the third pew who the man was.

“Fr. Nacho, our former priest, died March fifteenth,” the woman replied.  “He was with us sixteen years.  And then Fr. Tinajero took his place.”

I thanked the woman, sat back on the pew, and told Steven he’d been correct.

Remembrances

We’d been to St. Benedict’s two or three times when Fr. Nacho had celebrated Mass in Fr. Tinajero’s absence, so we’d delighted in his fatherly love: anecdotal homilies oozing with gentle wisdom, self-deprecating humor, and genuine engagement.  He loved his sheep, and they responded accordingly.  What a gift to witness their interactions.

Fr. Nacho had a positive outlook on life.  When he spoke about his mortality and his physical limitations, we chuckled.  Many even laughed out loud.  He was undaunted, down-to-earth funny, and gratefully aware that God was in charge.

Naturally, we were saddened to learn of his passing.  But, mostly, we were glad to have known him, even if just for a little while, so we could remember him with his flock.

       

     

       

       

           

Prayers

Daily prayer for the dead…  Immortal God. holy lord, father and protector of all you have created, we raise our hearts to you today for those who have passed out of this mortal life.

For all the faithful who have died we pray but, in particular, for those dear to us: parents, relatives, friends.  Nor do we forget all who did good to us while on earth and who helped us by their prayers, sacrifice, and example.  We pray also for any who may have done us harm and who stand in special need of your forgiveness.

May the merits and prayers of our virgin mother, Mary, and those of all your angels and saints speak for us and assist them now.  This we ask in Christ’s name.  Amen.

For the faithful departed…  Give them eternal rest, O Lord, and let them share your glory.

God, our creator and redeemer, by your power Christ conquered death and returned to you in glory.  May all your people who have gone before us in faith share his victory and enjoy the vision of your glory forever where Christ lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

You are, O God, the creator and savior of all the faithful.  Forgive your servants all their sins and, by our loving prayers, grant them the pardon they always hoped for.  You live and reign forever in union with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

For a priest…  God of mercy, we who receive the sacraments of salvation pray for [name], your servant and priest.  You made him a minister of your mysteries on earth.  May he rejoice in the full knowledge of your truth in heaven.  We ask this through Christ, our lord.  Amen.

Quotes

Happy are those who die in the Lord.  Happy indeed the Spirit says; now they can rest forever from their work (Revelations 14:13).

In meadows of green grass he lets me lie.  To the waters of repose he leader me: There he revives my soul (Psalm 23:2).

“What eye has not seen and ear has not heard, what has not entered the human heart [is] what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Contact information

Prayers and quotes are from Let Us Pray for Our Faithful Departed (B-11/12) and Twelve Days of Prayer for Your Faithful Departed (B-16/07) from Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mount Vernon, NY 10551-0598.

                

April 5, 2019

Death— whether one of many deaths to the false self or our final physical dying— is simply returning to our spacious ground of being, to our foundation in love.  Life doesn’t truly end; it simply changes form and continues evolving into ever new shapes and beauty (Richard Rohr, OFM).

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May Fr. Nacho rest in peace.

Links of interest…  Benedictine benedictions…  Church in San Benito, TX: facebookMass times (more) / website…   Commending the soul to God…  Immeasurable charity of praying for the dead…  Liberating power of the St. Benedict medal (spiritual weapons)…  Making the case for fraternal correction…  Prayers: book /  death & dying / for holy soulsthe deceased – those in purgatory – when one fears death / meditations / more…  Praying the stations of the cross while mourning a loved one’s death…  St. Benedict: medal (braceletjubilee – more – seven things to know) / memorial / prayers: litany – novena – prayers (more)…  Turn mourning into joy

WP posts…  Call of service…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Mourning joy…  Our Lady’s snow…  Pilgrim’s journey…  Prayerful messages…  St. Benedict’s

Unbounded joy

Steven and I were Unbound (CFCA) sponsors five years before we learned that others within the Corpus Christi diocese knew about the program, too.

From: Unbound
Date: Monday, June 26, 2017 11:12 AM
Re: Unbound volunteer opportunity at St. Pius X

Dear Steven & Deli,

We will be in your area on July first and second hosting a weekend sponsorship event at St. Pius X.  Fr. Thomas Landgraff, an Unbound presenter, will be celebrating Mass and inviting parishioners to visit the sponsorship table and see folders of children, youth, and elderly friends awaiting sponsorship.

Would you be available to volunteer at the sponsorship table after one of the Masses?  It only takes about thirty minutes of your time, and we’ll make sure you’re prepared before the event.

Please reply to this email or call us to let us know you are available.

We are grateful for your continued support in creating change in our world.

Sincerely,
Maureen Ortiz
Outreach Coordinator

CFCA

We first learned about the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) from Dotty and Loren Smeester, April 2012.  Although they’d wintered in Port Aransas the month of February most years, I’d never seen them in church until they happened to occupy the pew behind ours at nine o’clock Mass.

February 2012

I so enjoyed Loren’s singing, richly reminiscent of a cowboy on a long cattle drive, that I imagined him as a farmer or a rancher.  I complimented him as we exchanged the sign of peace and received a great big smile in return!

After Mass, Loren approached the ambo, introduced Dotty and himself, and told us about the two items— an I’m #3 card and a CD— that he felt compelled to share with our St. Joseph Church community.   He was friendly, unassuming, and faith-driven; so I couldn’t wait to hear more of his story before we left church that morning.

               

                

Invitation

Taking photos for the church blog (as usual after Mass) I had the opportunity to observe not just Loren in his interactions with Fr. Xaviour and the parishioners, but also Dotty as she very patiently waited for him to complete his mission.  They were so attuned to each other that they communicated wordlessly, effortlessly— truly a match made in heaven.

When Loren had dispensed all his wares, I approached the beautiful couple smilingly.  Steven joined in the conversation, too.  We learned that the Smeesters owned the Silver Bison Ranch in Baldwin, Wisconsin.

“Come see us when you’re in the area!” Loren insisted.  “You’re welcome anytime!”

I chuckled within because the thought, while appealing, was almost outrageous.  I’d never been up north before, and I doubted that we’d travel there just to take in a tour of the ranch and Dotty’s home cooking.  Still, I graciously accepted.

April 2012

The following month Steven was asked to attend a conference in Marinette, Wisconsin in April; so Steven made all the arrangements, allowing extra time for Dotty and Loren.

Without giving the Smeesters advance notice— in case we had a change in plans— we flew into Minneapolis, drove to Baldwin, and stopped by the family gift shop before calling Dotty and Loren for a quick “hello” and then be on our way.

Long story short, we visited their home twice— a few hours that evening and an entire day before returning to the airport to head back to Texas.  And, for reasons that I don’t recall at the moment, Loren shared the story behind the letter they’d recently received from their precious godson in Central America and very gently encouraged us to sponsor a child, too, because it was a mutually rewarding experience.

Sponsorship

When we got home days later, Steven looked into CFCA and signed us up.

Mid-May we received three packets with photos and information about our sponsored friends: two girls— the older one in Costa Rica; the younger, in Lima, Peru— and an elder, Freska, in the Philippines.

My letter-writing skills from childhood were quickly embraced; and my Spanish, though rusty, began a slow-but-steady comeback, thanks in part to the internet.  How amazing to correspond without the need of a CFCA translator!  The girls and I wrote in Spanish; Freska’s grandchildren and I, in English.  A worthy endeavor for all of us!

In 2013, an unexpected change disrupted my correspondence with the older girl when her family relocated to a country that CFCA didn’t serve.  I miss Vanessa’s long, soulful letters and often wonder how she’s doing!  Still, her photo, on display with the other two that change periodically, represents not just our hope for her well-being, but also our continued thoughts and prayers for her success.

Unbound

CFCA has since changed its name— “Unbound sums up our work in one simple and powerful word” (Website; January 2, 2014)— but all else remains the same.  Letters, drawings, cards, and updated photos, along with Unbound pamphlets and inserts, arrive at different times during the year.  And sponsors are encouraged to write (and include photos) at least twice a year, though more often is incredibly fulfilling.

July 2, 2017

Until we received Maureen’s email invitation to volunteer, we had no idea that other Unbound sponsors lived within the diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas; so imagine our surprise at being asked to assist at the weekend sponsorship event!  We were happy to attend Mass at St. Pius X, a church we visit on special occasions.  But we were especially delighted to meet Ana, a young woman who has sponsored a little girl since 2012, and Fr. Tom Landgraff, OSFS who, himself, sponsors an elder.

And the icing on the cake?

Among those we met, two families who already were part of a sponsorship program added friends.  A couple with four children in tow took home the packet of a darling little girl in a festive gold-and-green dress; and a very thoughtful woman gifted herself with the sponsorship of an elder from Mexico, an addition to her one child from before

As for Steven and me?

For months I’d wanted to grow our sponsored family, so we knew we’d be taking a packet home.  But, as usually happens, the heart always yearns for more.

Unbounded joy

As we’d spread out the packets on the table to prepare for potential sponsors (before and after the Masses), we’d been smitten by the little girl and the elder whom we later enthusiastically promoted to the two families (above) who readily accepted them.

Our thinking was to find good homes for as many children and elders as we could, so we rejoiced with each perfect match.

But what about us? I wondered when church had emptied except for us.

In that brief, quiet moment I had no idea that, even before the morning sessions had concluded, Steven had found the three remaining packets from Mexico in Fr. Tom’s box.  He hadn’t forgotten my request: “I want someone I can write to in Spanish.”

“These are all that’s left,” Steven approached with the youngsters from Merida.

“We’ll take them!” I exclaimed with unbounded joy.

I knew that the sooner I mailed my introductions, the sooner I’d receive our sponsored children’s replies.  What a promise of hope!

           

                              

                     

            

            

            

                        

                                

            

            

            

Postscript

Today, November twentieth, is Juanito’s seventh birthday.  He is the oldest of the three youngsters we began sponsoring in July.  His sister, just three years older, wrote two of the most delightful, endearing letters I’ve ever received.  Infused with love, her accounts latched onto my mind, heart, and soul.  But, October eighteenth, we received word from Unbound’s office in Kansas that the family was relocating from Merida because of the dad’s new job.  This meant Juanito’s exit from the program.

While I was ever so grateful for the family’s much-needed economic blessing, I couldn’t help but think of Hania’s colorful perspectives on her little brother and the family.  I’ll miss being part of their lives and the many adventures Hania has yet to share!  Still, as with Vanessa, Juanito’s family will remain with us through the brief but indelible memories forged in just a few months.

And, when one door closes, another opens.

While Unbound’s telephone message was terribly disheartening— and the realization of not hearing from Hania again immensely disappointing— I had to do something to honor, not mourn, the loss of Juanito and his family.  Instead of returning the phone call right away, I took a few hours to clear my thoughts… and made quite a discovery.

After visiting “Find someone to sponsor” on Unbound’s home page, I telephoned the Kansas office not only to express my gratitude for having learned about Juanito’s family through Hania’s beautiful letters, but also to discuss the sponsorship of a child in Kenya whose Mona Lisa smile tugged at my heartstrings, a five-year-old girl who, like Juanito, dreams big and loves to sing.

Prayers from the Unbound community

Bountiful God, your faith in your children overflows and overwhelms us.  Help us to embrace the confidence you have in us so that we may realize how truly magnificent it is to be human.  May gratitude to you, expressed in loving care for others, guide us and fill us with the joy that is the reward of the good and faithful servant.  We ask this in your holy name.  Amen (Larry Livingston).

Compassionate God, you have called us to act as agents of your love in our world, and blessed us with the gifts we need to fulfill that mission.  Following the example of Jesus, may we embrace our calling to be your partners in creating a world of justice and mercy.  We ask this in your holy name.  Amen (Fr. Dave Noone).

Dear God, I pray for anyone going through new, difficult or uncertain times to feel your constant love and support.  I pray they can learn from your example and the example of others to rise above their situation and embrace the journey and the growth.  More importantly, I pray we continue to count our blessings, to see life as a gift.  I pray we develop the strength to endure life’s difficulties and the wisdom to appreciate life’s splendor.  Amen (Gustavo Adolfo Aybar).

Dear God, thank you for believing in us.  When we don’t believe in ourselves or others, you show us compassion and our hearts are filled.  Wonderful teacher, thank you for showing us, through our sponsored friends, that nothing is insurmountable if we believe in each other and put our faith in you.  Help us become better sources of encouragement and light in each other’s lives.  We ask this in your name.  Amen (Jordan Kimbrell).

Dear Lord, your work takes us to many places for which we are thankful.  We offer our gratitude to you for all you have given us.  May we continue to walk along the path you have chosen for us with humility, as we carry our gifts to those we serve.  Amen (Bernetta McKindra).

Faithful God, we know that all things work for good for those who follow you.  Remind us of that truth and empower us to look to the good that you have for us and trust the path you’ve laid out.  We thank you for all the success with which you’ve blessed Unbound families, that they may find greater confidence in themselves and in your love.  Amen (Maureen Lunn).

Father, when we look at our lives and see how fragmentary everything is, how many plans have gone undone, and all the reasons we have to be embarrassed and ashamed, help us to realize that there has not been a minute in any day when we have not been embraced by your love.  Amen (Fr. David Noone).

Generous God, in the Blessed Virgin Mary we see the grace of one who dedicated herself to the fulfillment of your will.  May we, like her, have the courage to let it be done to us according to your word, that we may give ourselves in loving service to our sisters and brothers in need.  We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen (Larry Livingston).

Glorious God, you created the human person to proclaim your goodness.  May we never shrink from that magnificent calling.  Bolster us in times of doubt and send us companions in times of loneliness.  At all times, give us the grace to live life to the full.  Amen (Larry Livingston).

God of all, you have created us to build one another up and help each person reach their full potential.  Bless us as we strive to live in solidarity with our sisters and brothers.  Give us the wisdom to look past that which separates us to that which we have in common, our sacred identity as your beloved children.  We ask this in the name of your son and our brother, Jesus the Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.  Amen (Larry Livingston).

God of creation, help us to see beyond ourselves.  Thank you for the community you’ve provided us, our coworkers, family members, and those we serve.  Remind us to be grateful for the work of all of society, and empower us to be kind as we create together.  In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen (Maureen Lunn).

God of open arms, thank you for welcoming us into your love and forgiveness.  Thank you for making space for us in your heart.  Give us the wisdom to see others with the same welcoming eyes through which you see them.  We desire to foster a world where everyone belongs, and we pray for your guidance.  Amen (Maureen Lunn).

God whose goodness runs deeper than we can fathom, speak to us in sacred stillness.  Deliver us from the noise and clutter of the world and bring us to the depths of our hearts, where we may listen to you in peace and confidence.  Fed by your grace, may we be messengers of hope and agents of love in a world in need.  We ask this in the name of your son and our brother, Jesus the Christ.  Amen (Larry Livingston).

God, our most gracious father, I pray that we all might reach out in solidarity and befriend one another.  May we “get our feet wet” in the courageous belief that loving others means not taking ourselves too seriously, but seriously believing in the potential of others.  Amen (Shantel Davis).

Gracious God, open our ears to hear your voice.  Lead our feet on your path as we walk with you and in solidarity with others.  Fill our lives with your presence and peace as you bless and make use of us.  Amen (Benjamin Haley).

Lord, thank you for simple reminders of our past.  May we reflect on them and continue to grow.  Thank you for the founders of Unbound, who heard your call of service and created something that has lasted nearly four decades.  Thank you for the children, youth and elders we serve, as they continue to remind us that poverty is still among us.  Bless us as we continue the journey started by Bob and the other founders. We ask this in your name.  Amen (Jordan Kimbrell).

Lord, we thank you for being a loving father who calls us to you no matter who we are.  The love we feel being included in your family is overwhelming.  We pray that others living on the margins of society will know how much they’re also loved, wanted, and welcomed.  Show us how we can include those around us, drawing them into your love.  Amen (Clair Paul).

Loving God, you gave us the gift of free will to chart our own course.  You also gave us the blessing of accompaniment by the Holy Spirit and our fellow human beings.  Open our eyes to see potential, our ears to listen to dreams, our minds to create opportunity and our hearts to give freely of ourselves.  May we seek your wisdom as we go forth with faith and confidence, knowing we’re not alone. We ask this in your holy name.  Amen (Loretta Shea Kline).

O God, who feels our pain, open our hearts to those in need.  May our own pain and hurt help us feel that of others and lead us to walk with them through suffering to hope.  We are grateful for the life you pour out upon us and that we, in turn, pour out on others in Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen (Paco Wertin).

Thank you for the beauty, O God, that lies deep within each of us.  Help us to love everyone and everything that you love.  Help us to know that recognizing the dignity of each opens a door to new possibilities of forging that path out of poverty, a path that emerges from and leads to the depths of our hearts, where you live and reign forever and ever.  Amen (Paco Wertin).

October 24, 2017

Pause for a moment and look around you.  Simply thank God for all the gifts that you have right now, all the gifts saved from the wreck of life: the lamp that illumines this page, the chair that gives you comfort, the home that provides shelter.  That’s a good exercise of stewardship.

Thank God for the sun and stars in the sky, for the support of friends, for the opportunities of a new day, for the ability to laugh and cry.  A disciple receives everything with gratitude.  It is prayer that helps keep the heart grateful and filled with joy (Robert F. Morneau in Living Prayer: A Simple Guide to Everyday Enlightenment).

October 28, 2017

An admirer of Mother Teresa once gifted her with her own personal “calling card.”  Teresa liked the card so much that she had copies made and regularly handed them out to people for the rest of her life.

Written on the small yellow cards were spiritual lessons Teresa had learned from the Church, her prayer life, and her ministry to the poor.  She summed them up in five steps.

The fruit of silence is PRAYER.
The fruit of prayer is FAITH.
The fruit of faith is LOVE.
The fruit of love is SERVICE.
The fruit of service is PEACE.

Mother Teresa carried that prayer around with her— its words emblazoned on her heart (Kerry Walters in St. Teresa of Calcutta: Missionary, Mother, Mystic).

November 1, 2017

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal” (Steve Maraboli).

November 8, 2017

To discover that you are loved is the center of all existence.  And when we are filled with this total and delirious love, little by little, we grow and love in turn.  That gradualness in our journeys is a sign of the infinite tenderness of God (Chiara Corbella Petrillo; Simone Troisi & Cristiana Paccini in A Witness to Joy).

November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving focuses on God’s gifts.  Our challenge is to take nothing for granted, but to appreciate every blessing.  Thanksgiving is a way of life.  Indeed, the prayer of thanksgiving characterizes a eucharistic people.

Our gratitude centers on the greatest gift of all— Jesus.  This gift, and all the other gifts through God’s providence, are expressions of God’s love.  How fitting and just it is that we always and everywhere express our gratitude to the Lord (Robert F. Mourneau in Living Prayer: A Simple Guide to Everyday Enlightenment).

November 25, 2017

God calls every one of us into a relationship of intimate, personal, loving, and life-giving communion.  He is inviting us to share his life and the life of his whole family.  Our response to God’s invitation to intimacy and communion is to be the person he created and calls us to be— to make a gift of ourselves— because, when we give ourselves away in love, we truly find ourselves (Sonja Corbitt and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers in Ignite: Read the Bible Like Never Before).

November 27, 2017

Every family is a work in progress, but each one can move toward wholeness.  Circumstances differ, but every family needs peace, love, and trust.  Christian hope springs from belief in God’s presence during life’s high and low points.

In the struggle for wholeness, families become holy and generate holiness in others.  Holy families, not perfect families, are sources of hope to those facing dark and painful times (Robert J. Hater in Your [Imperfect] Holy Family: See the Good, Make it Better).

November 28, 2017

“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day” (Sally Koch).

December 1, 2017

We may read volumes and volumes on the art of swimming, yet we’ll never understand what swimming is like unless we get wet. So we may read all the books ever written on the love of God and never understand loving unless we love.

Where love is genuine, belonging is always mutual. It is like submerging ourselves into an ocean of sublime grace (Brother David Steindl-Rast in The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life).

October 15, 2018

Charity works.  It gets good jobs done.  It gives form and life to all of the virtues.  Infused by God, it reigns supreme in loving goodness over the talents of learning and the talents of living (Kevin Vost in Unearthing Your Ten Talents).

December 17, 2018

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.  Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof (Richard David Bach).

August 7, 2019

Everyone, young or old, strong or weak, can love.  But, in this world, love is bound up with giving; it entails sacrifice.  The highest kind of love means self-offering (Fr. Killian J. Healy, O. Carm in Awakening Your Soul to the Presence of God).

Links of interest…  Catholic group continues Blessed Stanley Rother’s work in Guatemala (influence remains strong)…  CFCA is now Unbound…  Changing the world one grandchild at a time…  Fr. Stanley Rother: American martyr in Guatemala / beatification (video; 9.23.17) / blesseddevotional / fact sheetguild / holy relics: preparing the remains / martyrmissionary / my cousin the martyr / prayer for intercessionpriest / Servant of God / Shepherd who didn’t run (book) / sister remembersstories by those who knew him / Unbound…  Glorify God in body & spirit…  Godparents: Faithful examples to their spiritual children…  Missionary work begins with everyone…  Mother Teresa & the power of silence…  Mully: A documentary with heart & soul…  On belonging: How adoption is like a sacrament…  Providing hope to children, aging for 35 years…  Spiritual adoption: What it is, why we do it, & the joy it brings…  St. Pius X: facebook / Santo Niño devotion / patron saint: about (more) – catechism – novena – profile –  schedule of services / website…  St. Pope JPII prayer card…  Unbound (Bob Hentzen dies – impactprayer requests – sponsor – writing letters)…  What children teach us about our relationship with God…  World vision flips the script on child sponsorship

WP posts…  Call of service…  Celebrations…  Dear God…  Gifts…  God’s loving mercy…  Mercy and justice…  Multicultural Mass…  Niño de Cebú…  Time well spent

Afternoon delights

Steven and I attended Christmas Eve Mass at the Capuchin St. Joseph chapel in Alamo, TX; and, much to the delight of Sister Luz and Sister Marta, I promised to send them copies of the photographs I took that evening.  But time got away from me!

January 25, 2017

               

        

April 18, 2017

With so much going on in our daily lives, being that we’d undertaken a three-month training program that had us both exhilarated and exhausted, I could only work mentally on “the project for the Sisters”— that is, until I began in earnest here and there the second week of April when we graduated from the Texas Master Naturalist program.

Then, since the monthly Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event was happening at the San Manuel Ranch on April 18, we agreed to stop by the Poor Clares’ monastery to deliver the booklets on our way home.

                  

        

What a wonderful surprise to be greeted by Sister Betty who, soon after, called Sister Luz, Mother General, to speak with us instead.

“Have you visited the chapel yet?” asked Sister Luz.

“We’re going there next,” I smiled.

Sister Luz told us about their beautiful Easter service; and she invited us to their three o’clock Divine Mercy chaplet prayers, considering that we’d arrived in perfect time.

And, oh, the altar!  I could’ve sat there for hours, immersed in peace and good.

                

                    

            

                        

        

                

April 22, 2017

Saturday afternoon we drove to the monastery for an impromptu visit with the Sisters.

Just days before, when we’d last spoken to the Sisters, we’d received a text (while still at the chapel) that our youngest granddaughter was in the midst of a medical crisis; so I’d requested prayers.  And, within a couple of hours, Karina’s health had rebounded.

We wanted to personally thank the Sisters, but the gate to the monastery was locked; so Steven and I headed to the chapel instead.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when we entered.  The chapel was empty except for us!

Were you waiting for us, dear God?  How special to have you all to ourselves.

            

            

Afternoon delights

In one week’s time we’d been blessed with two afternoon delights at the chapel— the first to pray with others; the second, by ourselves.

We luxuriated in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and gave thanks and praise for all God’s blessings.

Good health, an abundance of gifts and talents shared with others, friendships with like-minded individuals, spiritual fulfillment— could we ask for anything more?

Prayers from St. Faustina’s writings

Healing…  Jesus, may your pure and healthy blood circulate in my ailing organism; may your pure and healthy body transform my weak body; and may a healthy and vigorous life throb within me if it is truly your holy will (Diary 1089).

St. Paul the Apostle – CCTX

Hope…  O my Jesus, my master and director, strengthen and enlighten me in these difficult moments of my life.  I expect no help from people, all my hope is in you.  I feel alone in the face of your demands, O Lord.  Despite the fears and qualms of my nature, I am fulfilling your holy will and desire to fulfil it as faithfully as possible throughout my life and in my death.  Jesus, with you I can do all things.  Do with me as you please; only give me your heart and that is enough for me (Diary 650).

Intercession…  O Jesus, you inspired St. Faustina with profound veneration for your boundless mercy.  Deign, if it be your holy will, to grant me, through her intercession, the grace for which I fervently pray (state petition).  My sins render me unworthy of your mercy; but be mindful of St. Faustina’s spirit of sacrifice and self-denial and reward her virtue by granting the petition which, with childlike confidence, I present to you through her intercession.

Our Father…  Hail Mary…  Glory be….

Thanksgiving...  O Jesus, eternal God, I thank you for your countless graces and blessings.  Let every beat of my heart be a new hymn of thanksgiving to you, O God.  Let every drop of my blood circulate for you, Lord.  My soul is one hymn in adoration of your mercy.  I love you, God, for yourself alone (Diary 1794).

Quotes

Mary, mother of mercy, help us always to have this trust in your Son, our redeemer.  Help us too, St. Faustina, whom we remember today with special affection.  Fixing our weak gaze on the divine savior’s face, we would like to repeat with you: “Jesus, I trust in You!”  Now and for ever.  Amen (St. John Paul II).

When I am before the Blessed Sacrament I feel such a lively faith that I can’t describe it.  Christ in the Eucharist is almost tangible to me.  When it is time for me to leave, I have to tear myself away from his sacred presence
(St. Anthony Claret).

April 25, 2017

I want to be a woman whose faith in God’s promises holds no matter how long there is no visible evidence of it— a woman who uses her voice to bring hope to the weary and to rejoice with those who rejoice.  I want to proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness steadily, with great joy, regardless of what the world around me looks like— because, when it is darkest, that is when my voice is most needed (Colleen C. Mitchell in Who Does He Say You Are?).

May 8, 2017

Hope is an eminently practical virtue; it is the virtue that drives far from our heart the specter of discouragement, the most frequent dangerous temptation in the spiritual life.  As the inseparable companion of suffering, it confirms and strengthens peace in our soul (Archbishop Luis M. Martinez in When God is Silent).

May 10, 2017

“It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation”
(St. Damien).

May 21, 2017

The courage to live the call to share Jesus with others comes from a hope that gives way to the discipline of prayer.  Prayer inspires a life of joyful dependence on the Lord, which allows us to see and recognize him at work in the most surprising of ways.  And from a heart focused on God blossoms the thanksgiving that overflows into sharing Christ with a waiting world (Colleen C. Mitchell in Who Does He Say You Are?).

May 22, 2017

When one finds themselves with Jesus, they live the wondrous awe of that encounter and feel the need to look for him in prayer, in the reading of the gospels.  They feel the need to adore him, to know him and feel the need to announce him (Pope Francis).

June 18, 2017

If you wish to adore the real face of Jesus, we can find it in the divine Eucharist where, with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the face of our Lord is hidden under the while veil of the host (St. Gaetano Catanoso).

June 23, 2017

“Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams” (Pope John XXIII).

July 21, 2017

“We ascend to the heights of contemplation by the steps of the active life” (Pope St. Gregory I).

July 28, 2017

“My past, O Lord, I entrust to your mercy; my presence, to your love; my future, to your providence” (St. Padre Pio).

August 11, 2017

Our labor here is brief, but the reward is eternal.  Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world, which passes like a shadow.  Do not let the false delights of a deceptive world deceive you (St. Clare of Assisi).

September 22, 2017

Always bear in mind as a safe general rule that, while God tries us by his crosses and sufferings, he always leaves us a glimmer of light by which we continue to have great trust in him and to recognize his immense goodness.  I urge you, therefore, not to be entirely disheartened in the face of the cross… heaven bestows on you, but to continue to have boundless confidence in the divine mercy (Patricia Treece in The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio: Stories, Letters, and Prayers).

Links of interest…  40 hours devotion: Spending personal time with the Lord…  Alamo, TX: Capuchin Poor Claresquiet space for prayer / St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery (more)…  Blessed Sacrament prayers…  Catholic Harbor of faith & morals (index of saints)…  Cloistered nuns want to pray for you…  Difference between meditation & contemplation…  Does the Eucharist change us…  Dwelling of faith, hope, & love…  Evening prayer as a way to honor the cycle of time…  Eucharistic adoration…  Fatima & Divine Mercy are eternally linked / & Faustina offer striking, frightening visions of hell / surprised by…  Have you ever lost faith…  Hope: A misunderstood virtue…  How Jesus makes heaven present to us today (Fr. Romano GuardiniMeditations on the Christ)…  Is Mary praying the rosary to herself…  Litany of trust…  Move to religious life…  No mercy without conversion…  Not silent prayer, rather prayer in silence…  Perpetual adoration…  Silence: A challenging but valuable discipline…  St. Faustina: aboutprayers (all occasion – Eucharist – intercessory – thanksgiving) / prophet of God’s mercy…  St. John Chrysostom (hourly)…  Trust in Jesus: Four reasons Catholics are full of hope…  Tune into silence…  Visits to Jesus in the tabernacle: Hours & half-hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (Lasance, 1898)…  What is Divine Mercy (chaplet – devotionnovena)…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Capuchin Christmas…  Clarisas cookies…  Finding St. Rita…  Merry Christmas…  San Giuseppe…  Slice of heaven…  Twelve candles

Vattmann Thanksgiving

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Some stories, like seeds planted in fertile ground, become more real, more memorable, when nurtured.  Then, thanks to curiosity and subsequent experience, they flourish with each revisiting, becoming finely woven tapestries steeped in depth and complexity.

First visit

Such were my thoughts regarding Our Lady of Consolation in Vattmann, TX since January 11, 2011, when, thanks to the Texas Tropical Trail Region (TTTR) monthly outing, we were treated to the history of this quiet, little church community southeast of Kingsville.

Our hosts came across as a hardy lot: resilient, independent yet mutually supportive of each other, and wholeheartedly invested in their rural hamlet.  Their rich family histories were fascinating; but church was their life-giving core, honored above all.

Listening to the presentations, I gleaned that Vattmann’s mission in life (imbued innately, it seemed) was to know its history by heart and support its cherished sacred space— the latter through an annual fundraiser, the Thanksgiving picnic and country store— to keep the tiny unincorporated town alive and well for future generations.

Naturally, I wanted to experience this incredible, almost century-old tradition; but Steven wasn’t too keen on foregoing his very own turkey with all the trimmings at home.  So my wish quietly percolated as I patiently waited.

Second visit

Between 2011 and 2016, I thought about Our Lady of Consolation Church a lot.  Since we travel regularly to and from the Rio Grande Valley, I asked Steven if we could stop by King’s Inn for lunch “the next time.”

Thursday morning, March 31, 2016, we discovered that the road to the restaurant went past the church, too.  So, after lunch we stopped, took photos, and chatted a while with Maria, who takes Communion to the homebound in the parish.

“I hadn’t planned to come by church today, but I’m glad I did,” she said.

We talked about prayer and God’s wisdom.  “He placed us on each other’s paths for a reason.”  We agreed and exchanged email addresses to stay in touch.

On our drive back from the valley Saturday afternoon, we stopped for lunch in Kingsville.  “Do you think Mother Julia’s chapel is nearby?” I asked.  “I’m curious to see how the Sisters’ project turned out.”

Never mind that I took photos through the holes in the chain-link fence because the chapel and the gift shop were closed.  The place was totally different from six years earlier when Sister Maxie had shared her dream with the TTTR group, December 21, 2010.

We were so impressed!

Within three days’ time, Steven and I had visited two sacred spaces that I’d previously written about.  “I have so much to email Maria about when we get home.”

Only I was even more amazed by her response.

Maria volunteers at Mother Julia’s gift shop, so she works closely with Sister Maxie.  And now we have more in common than before, thanks to our impromptu meeting at Our Lady of Consolation.

Third visit

Bill and Robin invited us to their family’s Thanksgiving gathering, but Steven held out hope that our youngest son would join us for dinner.  Still, we knew that we’d do our usual— attend morning Mass; spend a leisurely day at home; watch football; and enjoy a quiet, intimate meal all by ourselves.  But that was before viewing Michael Gibson’s “Vattmann Thanksgiving picnic” on the evening news (KIII, November 21, 2016).

“I’ve wanted to attend for the past five years,” I reminded Steven.  “It’d be great to go, even if just once.”

Knowing Steven, he had his heart on fixing Thanksgiving dinner at home.  No rush, no fuss with traffic or lines, lots of football viewing, and eating to his heart’s content at will.  He’d started his pre-planning in October and had been adding to his grocery list day by day.  So he was ready to take on the bird and all the trimmings.  Never mind that these other delectable options had cropped up.

Still, I really, really wanted to experience Vattmann on Thanksgiving Day.  And Michael’s piece three days before had to have worked its magic because Wednesday afternoon Steven suggested that we “stop by St. Paul’s for ten o’clock Mass on our way south.”

Vattmann Thanksgiving

During Mass I thought about Father Stembler, pastor at St. Paul’s before his transfer to St. Gertrude’s in Kingsville.  I wondered how he was doing, especially since his dad had passed away late September.  We’d been out-of-state so hadn’t attended the memorial Mass in October.  But I had every intention of writing to him, so I mentally penned a letter to our beloved joyful priest on the drive to Vattmann.

And whom should I see as we approached the path to turn left onto the church parking area?  Father Stembler, all smiles, waving us along!  Unbelievable!  

If this was God’s way of letting me know that we’d chosen wisely in attending the picnic at Our Lady of Consolation, the rest was bound to be unforgettable.

I was able to spend a bit of time with Father Stembler as we all stood waiting in line.  He even hammed it up for my Coolpix!  And Bishop Carmody was there, too.  We love that he married us at the cathedral.  How special was that?  Two for one.

What an uplifting experience!  So many wonderful parishioners heeding the call of service!  So many happy faces engaged in outdoor activities, feasting on Thanksgiving dinner, buying all kinds of goodies at the country store, and just-plain conversing with each other in little clusters here and there.

For Steven and me, the ladies at the country store made our day.  Gwen told us the story of Jan’s husband, Stan, who made all the wooden crosses on display before he died November 8, 2016.  “He wanted to vote more than anything, and he did.”

Then she gave us a very special pass to the workroom where the ladies meet, February through November, to turn cast-offs into treasures.  And, while there, we met Jan and Betty, sweet ladies whose smiles and stories delighted us beyond imagining.  “Santa’s magical elves in Santa’s workshop,” Steven called them.

Of course, the ladies behind the pay-out counter were very nice, too.  One in particular smiled so blissfully— like a kid in a candy shop— that I wished I could’ve gotten to know her better.

Above all, however, I was grateful for my not-so-alone time spent in church.

As I took photos of the beautiful sacred space for the third time, I was taken by the perfectly lit stained-glass windows; the cheerful ambiance graced by impeccably painted walls and icons; and the thoughtful visitors who came and went, paying their respects lovingly as they sat, knelt, or walked about lightly in total reverence.

What a gift to be in the presence of God with these joyful hearts!

I melted within as I gave thanks and praise for my gifts and talents shared with others.

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Country store

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Thanksgiving picnic

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Afterthoughts

Seeing the posted photos from our Thanksgiving in Vattmann, Steven typed a comment for the blog.

“Ooh!  Nice!  May I include your thoughts in the post itself?”

“Sure!”

So, you may say, you had Thanksgiving dinner with a few thousand total strangers is a crowded parish hall and you call that a good time?

The answer is a resounding yes.

The long line moved fast; and everyone was friendly, chatting with each other, interested in how far each had come.  The priest who facilitated our marriage and the now-retired bishop who performed the ceremony at the Corpus Christi Cathedral were there, too.

The picnic was incredibly well-organized, and the family style serving worked better than anyone could expect as helpers in high-visibility orange vests waved new arrivals to empty seats.  And the food kept coming!  If you left hungry, it was your fault.

There was the rattle of constant gunfire at a skeet range set up behind the hall.  We saw several sharpshooters carrying away prize turkeys.  The Knights of Columbus were there with a raffle, and the kids had another one going as well.

Lots was going on; but the real deal for us was the country store, which displayed ornaments of all kinds, pot holders, statues, wall crosses, and other delightful items in an irresistible Christmas setting.

Since we were friendly and Deli was taking photos, we earned a very special pass to Santa’s workshop where the ladies shared some of their stories.  To prepare for the annual fundraiser, they work their Christmas elf magic ten months every year.

So, next Thanksgiving, why not do something different?  Head on into Texas brush country for a fun, friendly, bountiful dinner.  Help the fine folks in Vattmann, TX raise money for Our Lady of Consolation Church.

You’ll be glad you did!

November 20, 2017

Last year Steven and I attended our first Vattmann Thanksgiving and had a terrific time!  This year dinner will be served between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.  The cost is $15 per adult and $7 per child.  See Our Lady of Consolation’s announcement for details.

Prayers

Almighty Father, you are lavish in bestowing all your gifts and we give you thanks for the favors you have given us.  In your goodness you have favored us and kept us safe….  We ask that you continue to protect us and shelter us in the shadow of your wings.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite.  As we come before you on Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts to have concern for every man, woman, and child so that we may share your gifts in loving service.  Through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

December 7, 2016

Whatever mission God gives us, no matter how common it may appear, carries within it our potential sainthood.  What God asks of us during our lifetime is the most appropriate and suitable means to our growth in holiness— whether our lives remain ordinary or take an extraordinary turn (Julie Onderko in Discover Your Next Mission From God).

December 9, 2016

“The work of life is to tend the divine fire of holiness that has been kindled within against every breath that may endanger it; and every holy deed and thought helps to feed and fan the flame” (Basil W. Maturin in Christian Self-Mastery).

December 14, 2016

“In the evening of life we will be judged on love alone” (St. John of the Cross).

December 21, 2016

“We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives; so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt, that peace and abundance may manifest for all” (Dorothy Day).

December 22, 2016

“If you wish to take up your abode in the tabernacle of the heavenly kingdom, you must reach there through your good works without which you cannot hope to enter”
(St. Benedict).

December 27, 2016

“Know that God speaks to you and that, when God does, your assigned task, whatever it is, regardless of how modest it appears in the eyes of the world, takes on eternal importance” (Kerry Walters in Perfect Joy).

January 6, 2017

“Be a soul of love in order to become an apostle and you will discover a very beautiful thing: that at the bank of love, the more you give, the richer you become” (Fr. Jean C. J. d’Elbée in I Believe in Love).

January 28, 2017

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship” (St. Thomas Aquinas).

February 23, 2017

“Let us, therefore, forsake the vanity of the crowd and their false teachings and turn back to the word delivered to us from the beginning” (St. Polycarp).

April 3, 2017

“It is far better to do a few things well than to start many good works and leave them half-done” (St. Francis de Sales).

May 5, 2017

“Nothing liberates our greatness like the desire to help, the desire to serve” (Marianne Williamson).

May 20, 2017

“Thus a true sacrifice is every work which is done that we may be united to God in holy fellowship and which has a reference to that supreme good and end in which alone we can be truly blessed” (St. Augustine).

July 7, 2017

We all long for happiness, but we might be settling for merely existing because we have grown comfortable thinking that total autonomy and satisfying our immediate needs and desires are all we can hope for.  Scripture and the teachings of the Church tell us that there is so much more for us to do here on earth and eventually in heaven.

See how many scripture verses you can find about finding true and lasting joy.  Spend some time reflecting on how your life compares with what God promises.  Get out your journal and write about how your actions and view of the world may be preventing you from having that abundant life (Teresa Tomeo in Beyond Me, My Selfie & I).

July 9, 2017

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light (Matthew 11:28-30).

September 18, 2017

It is in work that we find the test of our relationship to the creation because work is the question of how we will use the creation.  For Berry, work done well brings us into a wholeness and cooperation with the creation in which we can find health.  Bad work destroys the connections that make life possible.  For Berry, good work is like a prayer— it is an act of both gratitude and return.  Good work accepts the gifts of creation and uses those gifts to further their givenness.  There are seeds that lie for decades in the soil, waiting for the right conditions before springing to life.  Good work is that which creates the conditions for such life to burst forth from the whole of the creation (Wendell Berry and the Given Life).

October 13, 2017

“Let us continue to cultivate well; there is no ground so ungrateful that a laborer’s love cannot cause it to bear fruit” (St. Francis de Sales in Roses Among Thorns).

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Links of interest…  Annual Thanksgiving fundraiser: giving thanks / holiday tradition / King countrypicnic (about) / special report (KIII; more)…  Call to communion & service…  Fr. Edward J. Vattmann: about / chaplain (more) / more / photos: 1 / 2…  Gift of work…  How can I live out my faith at workto exercise “the discipline of gratitude”…  Human work as cooperation with God…  It’s a beautiful day to get to work…  King’s Inn Restaurant: food / fried & true / website (contactevents)…  Living a life of gratitude…  Manual for spiritual warfare…  Kleberg County (roots web)…  Life can be bountiful…  Our Lady: feasticon (more) / litanynovena / prayers / shrine (about)…  Our Lady of Consolation Church: diocesan map / facebook / one-room school house / photo / website (contact – events – history)…  Quotes from saints about work…  TX Tropical Trail Region…  US Genealogy Web Project…  Vattmann: about / cemetery (find a gravelocation – photos) / history / photos: wedding (c. 1910) & “where I grew up”…  The visitation & Mary, the walking tabernacle…  What does God want? A practical guide to making decisions

WP posts…  Beloved joyful priest…  Noon visit…  Repeated prayers…  Thanksgiving prayers…  Then and now…  Unexpected detours…  Vattmann church…  Venerable Julia Navarrete

Sunday morning visit

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I’m grateful for having found St. Mary of Victories (SMV) online because God planted the seed thentwo or three years ago, that he harvested today.  His playfulness is uplifting.  I’ve learned that listening to the voice leads me to discover the Holy Infant waiting for me.  His peek-a-boo antics are delightful.  Most of all, I love that God places wonderful folks on my faith journey (My email to Cathy and Bill Saccente, parishioners, who welcomed us sweetly before nine o’clock Mass; 10.9.16, edited).

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Call of service

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Outdoor scenes

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Parish hall

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About the church

After Mass, Max Kaiser, acolyte and lector who serves at St. Mary of Victories “most of the time,” spoke to us about the church and, afterwards, shared a bit of family history and service to the community (October 9, 2016; transcribed audio recording, edited).

smv10916-24This church was dedicated to our Blessed Mother.  It was the first ethnic parish of the archdiocese established by the Old Cathedral in 1843 by the Germans who immigrated to the United States in large numbers.  It was the home for the Maronite community when they came over in 1890s and established
St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral here.  And it was yet a third spiritual home to the Hungarian expatriates who fled the Communist revolution of Hungary in 1955 and 1956.  Today it is an indulgence church.  You’ll note that the altar was dedicated with the consecration by Pope Leo XIII [1878-1903], granting a plenary indulgence.  That means [that,] at the time of death, if an individual is in a state of grace and makes a worthy Holy Communion, they get four hundred days’ remission off their stay in purgatory.  And that is a specific request by Leo XIII to this specific church.

One of the other things I might note is [that the church] was consecrated at the behest of Pope Pius IX… in 1866.  That’s why we have the brass candelabra on the wall.  Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick [1843-1895] anointed each pillar with chrism oil— the oil of kings and bishops— to consecrate and dedicate this church formally to Roman Catholic worship and to no other purpose.

Consecrations are specifically governed by canon law.  They are not easily bestowed; they are not easily revoked.  We’ve had twenty-six consecrated churches in the archdiocese.  In the three-hundred-year history of the diocese, only one has been closed; and it took twenty-six years for the Vatican to lift the consecration of St. Liborius Church on Hogan and Market [North 18th Street], which some of you may remember.

You may also be interested to know about these triangular reliquaries and the large red ones and other relics we have embedded in the altars.  We are the third largest repository of relics in the archdiocese after both cathedrals and the CSJ motherhouse.  That’s the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet down on [Holly Hills] and Minnesota Avenue and, itself, worth a visit to see the remarkable chapel where they have the body of a child saved from Roman times entombed.

You’ll also notice the wonderful organ we have in the back choir loft built in 1856 by [?] Jacob Pfeiffer.  And, immediately above it, we have the crest of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger, the first German pope in seven-hundred years.  As the first German church of the diocese, we’re honoring him [by using], at his request, the emblem of his office using a mitre rather than the tiara which is on Pope St. John Paul II’s coat of arms here.

As an overture ecumenically to our East Orthodox brethren, he switched to the mitre for his coat of arms and incorporated elements of his see in Munich-Freising, Germany that he was promoted by them to become pope.  And, having ancestors from Bavaria, that means a little something to me.

The stained-glass windows were made between 1846 and 1896 by two firms: the Hoffman Company and the Emil Frei Art Glass Company.  The Hoffman Company went out of business in 1890; the Emil Frei Art Glass Company is still in business.  And you might have seen the article in the Post-Dispatch last week on Erin and Nicholas Frei who have been down to this church as visitors along with their dad and granddad, Robert Frei, who was the gentleman who inherited the studio from Emil Frei, Sr., himself a Bavarian immigrant who came first from San Francisco in the 1890s, then to St. Louis and really developed the art of stained glass for Roman Catholic, Lutheran, evangelical, and many other denominational churches.

And the thing that means something here also is [that] these pews, this remarkable communion rail, that baptismal font were all fabricated along with most of the altars by Professor Maximilian Schneiderhahn.  And, even though Maximilian is my first name, we are not related.

He was the first liturgical artist brought from Germany by Archbishop Kenrick to make church interiors for Catholic churches that were being built.  This was his first church interior; St. Pius V on South Grand Avenue was his last.  And he worked in stone, wood, marble, plaster, all sorts of media.  He made these pews in 1846.  He made that baptismal font in 1834.  More than fifteen-thousand people have been baptized.  And, our most recent addition, in terms of liturgical history, is the statue made of Father [now] Blessed Francis Seelos, a nineteenth-century Bavarian priest, in the Vatican statuary foundry in Italy.  I was privileged to uncrate it twelve years ago.

We also have a copy of Blessed Francis Seelos’s death mask on the side altar.  You’re welcome to take a look at it.  We have a portion of his sternum bone, which is locked in our safe in one of the reliquaries that honors him.  And we’re hoping the second miracle gets validated so he can be canonized— the second saint in the metro St. Louis area after Mother Philippine Rose Duchesne.

The church is remarkably churched.  As I said, it’s a granddaddy of all the ethnic parishes of the archdiocese, of all nationalities.  It is especially loved by many of the Marian Catholics in the St. Louis area.  And the Germans, the Hungarians, and the Lebanese all revere this church.  St. Raymond’s, even though it’s Maronite Rite, is very supportive of our continuance.

Something the guys and gals in this day and age might want to know, is [that] the archdiocese allows churches like ours that are historic to be open for Catholic weddings from Catholics outside parish boundaries.  Many of you grew up in the suburbs and, if you choose to hold your wedding here, you can.  And you can even bring your own priest, if you so choose.

Father Harrison, who is our chaplain— we are a chapel of ease of the archdiocese— will do the final paperwork; but the priest who will marry you will have responsibility for the preparation and the actual ceremony.  And we’ve done that many times.

I invite you to walk around and see all the remarkable artworks in the church.  And, when you realize that this church is 174 years old, in this type of condition, it’s pretty obvious Our Lord wants St. Mary of Victories Church to continue.

So, welcome, and thank you all for coming today.

Max is a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, an honor bestowed on him by Cardinal Ratzinger for his part in preserving historic churches.

smv10916-23My dad, my uncle, and, to a lesser extent, myself were German liturgical craftsmen who fabricated and plated the bronze, gold, and silver textures in the churches for the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Lutheran, and some of the Reform churches.  Many of the Reform churches use rather notable metal ware, believe it or not.  We’ve had our business for more than 118 years.

[My dad and my uncle] volunteered down here in the 1930’s, [and] I’m glad to keep the tradition going.  I really like the German, the Hungarian, [and] the Lebanese who settled this church because… they [were] more flexible.  You could join the parish even if you weren’t that ancestry, [and] now we have all nationalities represented.

Come back anytime and have a great visit.

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, CSsR

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Prayer from SMV church bulletin

Our heavenly Father, long ago you inspired our… forefathers in the faith to raise this beautiful house of prayer and sacrifice in honor of your Son’s most holy mother, Our Lady of Victories.  Your providence then brought many… here under the co-patronage of this holy king, St. Stephen.  We humbly place before you today the spiritual and temporal needs of our historic church and its present-day community.  Grant us the grace to discern your holy will and to fulfill it zealously as faithful witnesses to the gospel here in the old heart of our city for as long as it may please your divine majesty.

St. Mary of Victories, pray for us.  St. Stephen of Hungary, pray for us.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

November 9, 2016

“The world tells us to seek success, power, and money; God tells us to seek humility, service, and love” (Pope Francis).

December 15, 2016

The Christian heart has always known Mary as the essence of compassion and love, to whom man can turn with particular and unreserved confidence.  This is expressed so well by the intimate name that was given her from the beginning, the name of mother (Fr. Romano Guardini in The Rosary of Our Lady).

March 5, 2017

Mother Mary is right there with us, granting her graces and lovingly pushing us forth— always towards her son, Jesus, so that we will be able to continue each day to put one foot in front of the other to walk in faith (Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle in Our Lady of Fatima).

June 1, 2017

“For our leader, the Divine Word, does not demand a strong body and beautiful countenance or high and noble birth, but a pure soul well-grounded in holiness”
(St. Justin Martyr).

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Links of interest…  Adoremus…  Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos: about / biography
(more) / healernational shrine (more) / prayersprofileten tips / wonderworker…  Catholic community doesn’t look the same for everyone…  Criticism of Pope Francis rooted in misunderstanding of Vatican II: parts one, two, & three…  Desacrilized churches…  Hidden heart of Catholic St. Louis…  I love the Mass, imperfect as it is…  Palm Sunday (2016)…  Scapulars: Just another weird Catholic thing…  Spirit of 79: The number of Americans proposed for sainthood…  St. Louis Mass mob: aboutfacebook…  St. Mary of Victories: about / archdiocese page / early historyfacebook (landmark) / help save the churchmediaphotos / relicswebsite…  St. Stephen: about / Aug 16 / devotion to Mary / Hungarian apostlememorial / prayerprofile / quote…  Ten ways you can love Mother Mary…  Why I wear a brown scapular / sacramentals aren’t Catholic superstition

WP posts…  Comforting thought…  Faces of Mary…  Familiar yet new…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  Marytown shrine…  Old cathedral…  St. Mary Cathedral…  St. Mary revisited…  St. Mary’s

Then and now

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Of all the Texas Tropical Trail Region outings, Kingsville certainly made a long-lasting impression, mind, heart, and soul when we visited the Missionary Daughters’ Solemn Place of Prayer and learned about Venerable Julia Navarrete, known also as Julia of the Thorns of the Sacred Heart, though more lovingly regarded as “Mother Julia.”

Then: December 21, 2010

Sister Maxie, spokesperson for the Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary (MDPVM) congregation, was all smiles with stories to tell and a dream to share.

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With the assistance of community activists like Maggie Salinas, Sister Maxie and the Missionary Daughters hoped to restore the original school house where their foundress, Mother Julia, generously invested her gifts and talents, time and love to spiritually nurture South Texas residents in our Catholic faith.

We were inspired!

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Growing curiosity

As years passed, my need to know grew stronger and stronger.  How is the school house restoration progressing?  Did they get the funding they so desperately sought?  Who’s helping them?  So many questions and no one to ask.

Again and again, I kept telling Steven, “I want to go back.  I have to see how they’re doing.”  But, mostly, I wanted to hear more stories from Sister Maxie.

Then, late October 2015, an article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times really piqued my curiosity.  Mother Julia’s museum was to open to the public in November!

Now: April 2, 2016

Of course, life is funny.  Time passes.  We forget.  We don’t have time.  Then, just like that, everything falls into place just because.

Driving north from Brownsville on Highway 77, we took an unexpected detour, drove up and down streets in search of the restaurant where we’d eaten more than five years ago, and settled on a new place instead for an early afternoon lunch.

“Do you think we can we look for the Missionary Daughters’ Solemn Place of Prayer afterwards?” I asked even before we got off the vehicle.

“Yes.”

And, wouldn’t you know it?  By the time we got back in the vehicle, I’d forgotten.

But Steven hadn’t! 

So off we went with great anticipation.  And, oh, my! 

The Sisters’ dream had indeed come true!

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Prayer from the Friars of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph (2016: 1061)

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it: A world where the weak are protected and none go hungry or poor, a world where the riches of creation are shared and everyone can enjoy them, a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect, a world where peace is built with justice and justice is guided by love.  Give us the inspiration and courage to build it through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

April 3, 2016

Act in such a way that all those who come in contact with you will go away joyful.  Sow happiness about you because you have received much from God; give, then, generously to others.  They should take leave of you with their hearts filled with joy, even if they have no more than touched the hem of your garment (St. Maria Faustina Kowalska).

April 4, 2016

Then, overcome by joy, I cried, “Jesus, my love.  At last I have found my vocation.  My vocation is love.  In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love; and then I will be all things” (St. Thérèse de Lisieux).

April 5, 2016

If you truly want to help the soul of your neighbor, you should approach God first with all your heart.  Ask him simply to fill you with charity, the greatest of all virtues; with it you can accomplish what you desire (St. Vincent Ferrer).

April 9, 2016

“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God, we must begin every day of our life with new ardor” (St. Charles Borromeo).

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Mother Julia’s chapel & museum – 408 East Richard Avenue – Kingsville, TX

Links of interest…  Capia de la Madre Julia nuevo lugar para oración (p. 6)…  Community celebrates Mother Julia jubilee…  In memoriam: Sister María Del Carmen Villalpando (obituary)…  Maggie Salinas: For Kingsville woman, helping others “is a gift we should all share” / TX story project…  Missionary Daughters (MDPVM)… Mother Julia’s Good Samaritan Shop (open 1st & 2nd Saturday)…  Museum to honor Kingsville’s Mother Julia (10.26.15)…  Praying to the saints:   Christian practice / gracious advocates / heavenly intercessors / intercessory prayer / litanies / novenas (221) / why pray to the saints…  Sainthood: 87 new causes for sainthood / becoming a saint (five stepshow – models – process – rules – what is – what makes) / John Paul’s beatification…  Sister Maria Elena Casillas (more)…  Sister Maxima Cruz: A life of devotion (Sister Maxi; pp. 22-24)…  South Texas Catholic…  St. Martin of Tours Parish: 100 years as a faith community / diocese parish finder / facebook…  TX Tropical Trail Region (more; Tropical Traveler, p. 1)…  Venerable Julia Navarrete: about (facebook – YouTube) / celebrating 100th anniversary /  “Christmas miracle” planned / decrees of the congregation for sainthood causes / gardener’s miracle / Julia of the Thorns of the Sacred Heart / quote / Tejano Talks No. 13

WP posts…  Holy relics…  Honoring Joselito…  Multicultural Mass…  Sacred Heart Church…  Saturday evening Mass…  Solano, Solanus, Solani…  Today’s Beatitudes…  Unexpected detours…  Vattmann church…  Vattmann Thanksgiving…  Venerable Julia Navarrete…  Venerable Margaret

Father’s roses

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Last year Steven and I drove to Goose Island for Palm Sunday Mass at Stella Maris, and Father Ralph was overjoyed to see us.

“I was hoping you two would show up!  I’ve got great news!  Follow me so we can talk,” Father said, leading us to the slightly bigger than standing room only space behind the altar.

Miracle shared

Without being asked Joe, attentive sacristan and devoted friend, opened a folding chair for Father to sit as he shared his latest stories with us.

“I’m healed!” Father gushed and then proceeded to fill in all the glorious details as Steven bent down to listen and I looked up intently, almost breathlessly, from where I sat on the old wood floor.

We couldn’t get enough!  After all the trips to M.D. Anderson and more, Father Ralph’s news was the answer to our collective prayers.  We were so grateful for Father’s reprieve from his medical roller coaster ride that we couldn’t stop smiling.  Again and again we thanked and praised God for his merciful kindness.

Faith revisited

Father Ralph was on fire.  He was  a walking-talking miracle whose homily, in part, focused on a familiar story from the Bible.

Or take the woman who had obviously heard Jesus preach.  She might even have seen some of the miracles.  She’d gone to doctors for twelve years.  She had a hemorrhage.  Only women can appreciate the misery of all that, day in and day out.  No cure.  And she’d spent all her money.

’If I could just touch the hem of his garment,’ she thought, ‘I would be healed.’

That’s a position of faith, isn’t it?  She wanted a point of contact, so she could release her faith.  And the power of God would come flowing through her body.

Did she find it easy to get to Jesus?  Oh, it was easy to see him.  ‘Yes, there he is over there.  Uh-huh.  I see the prayer shawl.  Oh, my goodness.  There are so many people around him!’

She didn’t let the press interfere with the possibility of cure.  She didn’t let the devil talk her out of it.  She pushed and shoved— did whatever she had to do— until, finally, she got behind him.  She touched his garment, the hem of his prayer shawl.

Jewish men wear the tallit in Israel to this day when they pray at the Wailing Wall.  I’ve been there.  I’ve seen it.  I have one that I use.  At the base of it are all these tassels that represent the Commandments of God, the promises of God.

What the woman was thinking was, ‘If I touch the one that keeps all the Commandments and if I touch the one for healing, I will be made whole.’

The woman released her faith when she touched it, and Jesus said, ‘Virtue has come out.  Who has touched me?’

’I did,’ the woman replied.

’Your faith has made you whole,’ Jesus told her.

So it’s always an impediment to get to Jesus, isn’t it?  Sometimes it’s our own doubt.  Most of the time, it’s the devil.

‘Oh, but you don’t deserve to have a miracle.  Remember what you did when you were a young man?  Or a young woman?  Just forget that, and just keep going.  You can’t change, and God can’t forgive you.  You’ll never have a miracle.’

Oh, my goodness.  The devil is the father of lies, isn’t he?

Although Father’s homily wasn’t perfectly geared for Palm Sunday, it certainly touched on the faith— the “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)— that Jesus embodies for us to witness during Holy Week.

Lesson gleaned

Through Father Ralph God refreshed us with yet another of his extraordinary lessons.  Believing requires stoutheartedness, courage, and patience.  Believing is trusting that God knows best.  “Your will be done,” not mine (Matthew 26:42).

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Father’s roses

After Mass Father Ralph insisted that Steven and I accompany him to the back yard.  With scissors in hand he snipped at his prized rosebush; created a lovely, fragrant, lavender-pink cluster; and jubilantly presented me with the unexpected bouquet.

Thoughtful?  Yes.  Then again, healthy or unwell, that’s Father Ralph.

On the drive home, in the days that followed, and especially now that Father Ralph’s health has waned again, his roses are more than just a sweet remembrance of our time at Stella Maris; they’re an enduring recollection of God’s loving mercy celebrated on Palm Sunday a year ago.

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March 18, 2016

I struggled with [the devil] in my imprisonment.  At one moment I thought I was victorious; the next day I was defeated.  This cruel and stubborn fight lasted five years.  Then God gave me the grace to triumph over my enemy (St. Augustine).

March 20, 2016

“The Mass is long,” you say; [to which] I add, “because your love is short”  (St. Josemaría Escrivá).

March 24, 2017

We are not to be without pain.  Pain is Jesus suffering in us, but we are to look to him for strength and courage.  We are to learn this ability to shoulder our cross by gazing at him and being gentle and humble in heart (Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnout).

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Father Ralph’s homilies: 10 Oct 2010 / 22 Jan 2012 / 16 Sept 2012

Links of interest…  Christ’s way of the cross…  Do you want to be well…  Fr. Ralph: service to God & country / story of healing (3.13.15)…  How to overcome worry by trusting in God’s providence…  Open-&-shut case for Jesus…  Pope laments “defeated Christians” who do not fully trust in God…  Saints: novenas (188) / prayer
St. Peregrine: about / articles (prayer cards) / biography / “cancer saint” / chaplet / feast / friends of / healing intercessor & friend / healing power / May 1st / novena / prayer / prayer requests / prayers / shrine / story…  Stella Maris: anniversary / facebook / history (more) / Lamar, TX (more) / marker…  Trusting in God completely / in uncertain times…  Would you have touched Jesus’ cloak

WP posts…  Delightful visit…  Healing service…  Holy relics…  Memorable as ever…  Powerful intercessor…  Prayers and blessings…  Saintly connections…  St. Peregrine relic…  Stella Maris…  Stella Maris moments