Capuchin Christmas

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December 14, 2015, we received another lovely card from the Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns who manage the chapel at the St. Joseph and St. Rita Monastery in Alamo, TX and quickly made plans to celebrate Christmas Eve at their St. Joseph Chapel.

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Then, Thursday evening, we showed up early to savor every tasty morsel— the singing, the rosary, Mass, and lots of photo ops— thanks to the Sisters, the altar server, concelebrants Bishop Emeritus Reymundo Peña and Fr. Juan Manuel Salazar, and everyone eager for a very special Capuchin Christmas.

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Christmas Eve homily

I see many happy faces here tonight and rightly so because Christmas is a time for joy. The greetings that we hear everywhere— “merry Christmas,” “feliz navidad,” even “happy holidays”— denote joy.  Songs like Joy to the world, Angels we have heard on high, Singing alleluia, We wish you a merry Christmas— all of those stand for joy and happiness.

St. Luke’s narrative that we just heard includes people from all social levels and all walks of life. Just listen carefully to what he said.

Who was there?  Just Mary and Joseph, a housewife and a carpenter.  There was the innkeeper, a businessman who would not let them in; the humble shepherds, uneducated and working in difficult labor every day and night; the Magi who came from distant lands to worship and honor the newborn king; and King Herod, the politician appointed by the emperor who wanted to kill the Lord.  So you can see that some were naughty and some were nice.

CSJC122415s-36Mary and Joseph received [Jesus] and wrapped him in swaddling clothes.  The shepherds immediately went to see him but didn’t find him.  The Magi came from far, far away.  The innkeeper who was only about the money wouldn’t let them in.  And King Herod, of course, as I mentioned earlier, wanted to kill him.  So, again, some were naughty and some were nice.

There’s a quote on someone’s Facebook page that I saw this morning: “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future” [Oscar Wilde].

Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.  Let’s look at some of the examples.  There was St. Augustine who was a great, great sinner, who never went to church, who committed every sin in the book; but his mother kept praying for him.  He was converted.  There was Mary Magdalene who shed tears for her sins and went to wash the Lord’s feet.  [Each] received God’s mercy for the rest of their lives.

We are all sinners except for the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I often think of my own sins; but even if I try to repair them, I still have that inclination to want to sin.  I’m sure all of us feel that way.

We want to be perfect.  We want to love God.  But the devil keeps tempting us because he’s jealous.  He does not want us to reach heaven.

In his mercy Jesus came to save you and me.  He forgives me; he forgives you.  His birth makes salvation possible, and that’s why we rejoice.  It wasn’t the fact that he was born.  Joy comes from [knowing] that he was born in order to save us from our sins.

Every sinner can and should be saved because Christ came to save us all.  As I mentioned a minute ago, St. Augustine had his mother pray and pray and pray until he changed.  He was converted.  He became a holy man.  He became a bishop.  He became a saint.  And, as I mentioned before, Mary Magdalene committed every sin in the book; but, when she saw Jesus, she repented.  She cried, and he gave her his mercy as she washed his feet.  She was at the foot of the cross with Mary.

CSJC122415s-14You and I here tonight are Augustine of Hippo.  You and I here tonight are Mary Magdalene.  We have sinned, but we have repented.  Otherwise, we would not be here.  And we rejoice!  We rejoice today because Jesus, the simple little baby in Bethlehem, today made our weaknesses his own so that we’re not weak by ourselves.

Jesus accepted and embraced our weakness so that he would overcome; and, by overcoming that weakness, he could save us.  He comes to us whether we are naughty or nice, just as he came to Mary and Joseph, to the shepherds, to the Magi, and to Herod.

Jesus sends our guardian angel to remind us of his birth just as he sent the angels to the shepherds to tell them that he had been born.  Jesus sends the Church to tell us that Jesus was born and to tell us that he lived as the star guiding the Magi from distant lands.

Today we rejoice.  We are back because the promise of Christmas is what we live for.  We are not celebrating nearly a historical death: that Jesus was born some two-thousand fourteen, fifteen, twenty years ago.  That’s historically true, but we are here more to celebrate the [reason] he was born.

He was born to be our savior.  He was born to forgive our sins.  And that’s why we’re happy because right here today, this Christmas day, we are beginning to taste the everlasting heaven: happiness that will be ours on Christmas forever; our salvation; our eternal union with God; our perpetual gaze at the face of our creator, our savior, and our God.

CSJC122415s-15Yes, we have reason to be happy.  Yes, we have reason to enjoy.  Yes, we have reason to say “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.”  So today, tomorrow, and the next few weeks enjoy the Christmas lights.  They remind us of the light of which Isaiah speaks in the first reading:

The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.  You have brought them abundant joy [9:1-2].

They foreshadow the eternal light that is God.  So rejoice.  Enjoy the lights.  Enjoy the Christmas songs.  They’re like the choirs of angels who sang to the shepherds “glory to God in the highest” and with whom we will praise God in heaven forever.

Peace and close advice in the epistle: “Live temperately, justly, and be loved in this age as we await the blessed hope and the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ” [Titus 2:12-13].  So today, my brothers and sisters, be happy.  Enjoy.  Praise God.

May you all have a happy, holy, safe Christmas filled with his love, filled with his peace, and saying night and day “glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will” (Bishop Emeritus Reymundo Peña; December 24, 2015; transcribed audio recording).

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January 4, 2016

We must rise up and value every instant of time that passes and is in our power.  We must not waste a single moment.  By divine grace we find ourselves at the beginning of a new year.  This year, which only God knows if we shall see its end, must be used in reparation for the past and in preparation for the future (St. Pio).

January 23, 2016

The heavenly babe suffers and cries in the crib so that for us suffering would be sweet, meritorious, and accepted.  He deprives himself of everything in order that we may learn from him the renunciation of worldly goods and comforts.  He is satisfied with humble and poor adorers to encourage us to love poverty and to prefer the company of the little and simple rather than the great ones of the world.

This celestial child, all meekness and sweetness, wishes to impress in our hearts, by this example, these sublime virtues so that, from a world that is torn and devastated, an era of peace and love may spring forth.  Even from the moment of his birth he reveals to us our mission, which is to scorn that which the world loves and seeks.

Oh, let us prostrate ourselves before the manger; and, along with the great St. Jerome who was enflamed with the love of the Infant Jesus, let us offer him all our hearts without reserve.  Let us promise to follow the precepts which come to us from the grotto of Bethlehem, which teach us that everything here is vanity of vanities, nothing but vanity (St. Pio’s Christmas meditation, translated by Rega, 2005).

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St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery – 725 E. Bowie Avenue – Alamo, TX 78516-5500

Links of interest…  Alamo, TX: Capuchin Poor Clares / quiet space for prayer / St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery (more)…  Boxing Day…  Christmas trials, mercy, & Padre Pio (more)…  Christmastide: customs / days / foods / octave (more) / other countries & cultures / overview / prayers (guide) / twelve days (more) / why celebrate…  Cloistered nuns want to pray for you…  Las posadas & the 2nd Christmas novena (Dec 16-24)…  Pope Francis: Christmas 2015

WP posts…  Advent prayers…  Blue heaven…  Christmas blessings…  Christmas scenes…  Christmas year ’round…  Church time blues…  Clarisas cookies…  Finding St. Rita…  God’s master plan…  Merry Christmas…  Oh, happy day!…  On being Christian…  Pink divinity…  Promise of hope…  Santo Niño…  Slice of heaven…  St. Felix…  Sweet Jesus…  Twelve candles…  Venerable Margaret

Slice of heaven

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Until December 6, 2013, the only Capuchins Steven and I had met were those affiliated with the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit.  Then we attended Bishop Danny’s annual dinner in Weslaco and learned about the Poor Clares at the Monastery of St. Joseph and St. Rita in Alamo, TX.  Amazing, considering that the only Poor Clares we’d heard about were those whom Father Mario had visited in June when he’d taken St. Anthony’s relics to their monastery in the Chicago area.

Clarisas cookies

CPC12613Bishop Danny’s annual fundraiser for the various charities in the diocese was the perfect venue for sales.  The Capuchin Poor Clare nuns had provided a palette of cookies to be sold
before the live auction, so Steven purchased a box of Clarisas and quickly handed them to me.  Gingerly examining the container without flipping it over, my fingertips felt something on the underside of the soft plastic container; so, naturally, I picked away at it with my nails until the tape gave way.

The neatly folded paper square, once smoothed open, satiated some of our curiosity— when, where, and why the Poor Clares had taken up residence in the Rio Grande Valley and why their cookie sales were so important— but the invitation to prayer immediately propelled us into let’s-check-it-out mode.

We fully intended to visit the Capuchins during the Christmas holidays, so we had work to do.  I’d write to the Sisters and learn more about the chapel, and Steven would search online for a map and directions.

My letter

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Sisters’ email

Subject: Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns – Alamo, TX
Date: Monday, December 23, 2013 9:39 AM

Pax et bonum!

Dear Deli and Esteban Lanoux,

May God reign in your hearts.  Thank you for your letter.  God be your reward.

Ten years ago our monastery was established in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.  Here, we adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

We’re glad you liked the cookies that we make.  We sell our cookies only at the convent.  We do not sell online because they are very fragile and may break during shipping.  The cookies that you viewed on the website are sold by the Capuchin Sisters of Denver, CO.

We hope to meet you one day and personally thank you for your support.

May God bless you always, especially this Christmas.

In Francis and Clare of Assisi,
Your Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns

St. Joseph and St. Rita Monastery
P. O. Box 1099
Alamo, TX 78516-1099

My response

Subject: Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns – Alamo, TX
Date: Monday, December 23, 2013 9:55 AM

Dearest Sisters,

What a delight to hear from you personally!  Oh, my goodness, yes.  Steven and I will be going down to Brownsville during the Christmas holidays, so we’ve already made plans to go visit you before the New Year.

It’s wonderful to know your monastery is so welcoming, that you responded to my letter right away, and that we can buy your delicious cookies when we’re there at the monastery.  (Something I’ll definitely post on my personal blog!)

God bless y’all most abundantly!

Merry Christmas!

Heartfelt hugsss,
Deli & Steven

St. Anthony Guide.

Our visit: December 27, 2013

Reminiscent of Isaiah’s “treasures in secret places” (45:3), Steven and I are always in awe of the wonderful places (and people) we find here and there.  For instance, not long after we arrived at the St. Joseph chapel in Alamo we met three lovely visitors, a mother and her two daughters from south of Houston, in the gift shop in the vestibule.  Like us, they were so taken with their first visit to the Capuchin sacred space that they’ll be returning again and again.

Slice of heaven

SJRM122713-1Before leaving the chapel, Steven lit twelve votive candles for the twelve months in 2014.  As we think back on our visit, our prayers for everyone will be doubly special for having been remembered a year in advance as well as daily wherever we happen to be.

Next, we made our way to the monastery.  When we’d walked the grounds earlier, we’d spotted a family dropping off a box of clothing to one of the Sisters so we thought we might ring the doorbell.  Still, we were reluctant to disturb the Poor Clares, since they’re cloistered nuns.  Even the chapel has the one-way glass panels on either side of the altar so the Sisters can attend Mass unseen by the public!

Standing outside the small, wrought-iron barred patio area in the biting cold, I guess we made enough noise that one of the Poor Clares stepped out of the house to see what we needed.  When we explained that I’d written to let them know we’d be dropping by, Sister Marta started to let us in; but I motioned to her that we didn’t want to intrude.  We merely wanted to leave off some items, find out more about the Clarisas cookies— which we now know are sold at Breadsmith in McAllen— and thank them for the invitation to visit their beautiful chapel.

“Oh, you’ve seen it already?” Sister asked.

“Yes.  It’s lovely,” Steven told her.

“Did you photograph it?” Sister asked.

“Yes,” I chuckled.  “We spent about three hours in the chapel, so we had more than enough time to pray and take photos.”

Sister was glad for our visit, and we were most appreciative of Sister’s time.  The day was cold and damp, but we’d enjoyed a very special slice of heaven that day.

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Prayer

Holy patroness of those in need, St. Rita, so humble, pure, and patient, whose pleadings with your divine spouse are irresistible, obtain for me from the Crucified Christ my request (mention here).  Be kind to me for the greater glory of God, and I promise to honor thee and to sing thy praises forever.  O glorious St. Rita, who miraculously participated in the sorrowful passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, obtain for me the grace to suffer with resignation the troubles of this life and protect me in all my needs.  Amen.

March 19, 2014

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus, and the Church?  By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence, and receptive to God’s plans, not simply to his own (Pope Francis).

March 24, 2015

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

February 2, 2016

We often think we receive graces and are divinely illuminated by means of brilliant candles.  But from whence comes their light?  From prayers, perhaps, of some humble, hidden soul whose inward shining is not apparent to human eyes (St. Thérèse of Lisieux).

February 28, 2016

“When the afflictions of this life overcome us, let us encourage ourselves to bear them patiently by the hope of heaven” (St. Alphonsus).

April 12, 2016

“The more we indulge ourselves in soft living and pamper our bodies, the more rebellious they will become against the spirit” (St. Rita of Cascia).

March 13, 2017

We engage in works of mercy not so that we can present Saint Peter at the pearly gates with our list of accomplishments but because we cannot live honestly before God and with others unless we are attentive to human need (Pat McCloskey in Peace and Good).

August 11, 2017

While both Clare and Francis left the world to pursue God insofar as they abandoned their status, wealth and security, never did they renounce the world for the sake of God.  Rather, they realized that the created world was the world embraced by God; thus God could not be found apart from the world.  The world, not the monastery, was the true cloister (Ilia Delio, OSF in Clare of Assisi: A Heart Full of Love).

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St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery – 725 E. Bowie Avenue – Alamo, TX 78516-5500

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Links of interest…  Alamo, TX: Capuchin Poor Clares / quiet space for prayer / St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery (more)…  Breadsmith (Clarisas)…  Brownsville diocese…  Franciscan: calendar / prayers / requests…  St. Clare: about / book / chaplet / companions in prayer / don’t bring eggs (article) / enlightened one / for healing / patroness / profile (Aug 11) / prayer requests / prayers / successor…  St. Rita: about / biography / chaplet / feast day (May 22) / forty-six miracles / growing in holiness / hope for the impossiblelife / memorial / miracle / national shrine / novena / patroness / prayers / profile / rose legend / story (YouTube)…  St. Joseph: about / celebration (more) / feast / litany / memorial (May 1) / name / prayers (more) / solemnity (Mar 19) / who is / zeppole…  Viva San Giuseppe

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Capuchin Christmas…  Christmas blessings…  Clarisas cookies…  Finding St. Rita…  God’s master plan…  On being Christian…  Pink divinity…  Promise of hope…  Revisiting St. Simon…  San Giuseppe…  Santo Niño…  Seven dwelling places…  St. Felix…  St. Jude Shrine (Corpus Christi, TX)…  Sweet Jesus…  Twelve candles…  Venerable Margaret

Saturday evening Mass

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On January 25, 2013, Father Mathias celebrated morning Mass at our church.  He is such a joy to be around that, later in the day, I emailed him.

We’d like to attend Mass at Holy Cross Church tomorrow, but Steven says HCC has no Saturday evening Mass.

On Sunday, Steven will attend the all-day Knights of Columbus ceremonies at St. Paul’s.  A couple of our friends, Sam and Gary, parishioners at SPC and longtime friends of ours, are getting their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degrees; so Steven will be an observer.

Of course, this means Mass on Saturday.  Are you celebrating Mass elsewhere, so we can join you?

Father Mathias replied.

We don’t have Saturday evening Mass at Holy Cross; but tomorrow I will be offering five o’clock Mass at Sacred Heart Church near the cathedral.  You are most welcome to attend.

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Sacred Heart Church

I’d visited the chapel twice in 2010, but not the church.  Except for Mass, Sacred Heart is kept locked for security reasons.  I could hardly wait to finally see the church within, so I emailed Father Mathias to let him know we’d be there.

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Lady in blue

Father Mathias was in the confessional when we arrived, but before the start of Mass he invited us to view the treasure inside that small room.

“I don’t know who she is,” Father admitted, reverently motioning to the lady in blue.  “I’ve never seen her before.”

“She’s an antique version of Our Lady of San Juan,” I said delightedly.  “The basilica in the Rio Grande Valley was built in her honor.  Her likeness is prominently displayed at St. Anthony of Padua in Robstown, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hebbronville, and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Brownsville.  How special to see her this way!”

Still, what happened to Our Lady’s crown?

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Saturday evening Mass

Father Mathias, who substitutes as needed throughout the diocese but whose home parish is Holy Cross Church, celebrated Mass with Deacon Benny Vargas in Father Motta’s absence.

After Mass, we spoke with both of them and met one of the readers.

Selena extended a heartfelt invitation for us to return for Mass anytime.  “You’re always welcome.  You’re always welcome,” she repeated with gracious inclusivity.

“Thank you so much!  The church is beautiful.  Thank you!” I gushed as she departed.

Then I asked both the sacristan and Deacon Benny if I could take more photos.  “I promise I’ll make it quick.  I know you have family waiting for you at home.”

Frescoes

Steven checked on the frescoes.  Except for those on either side of the altar, which were commissioned in 1950, the fresco on the wall behind the altar as well as those around the church were commissioned between 1942 and 1945.  (The church was founded in 1916.  The date of the present building?)  Steven noted that the artist, Antonio E. Garcia, painted a man holding the Veil of Veronica depicted in the sixth Station of the Cross.

The most recent version of the legend recounts that St. Veronica from Jerusalem encountered Jesus along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Calvary.  When she paused to wipe the blood and sweat (Latin suda) off his face with her veil, his image was imprinted on the cloth.  The event is commemorated by the sixth station of the Stations of the Cross.  According to some versions, Veronica later traveled to Rome to present the cloth to the Roman Emperor Tiberius.  The veil possesses miraculous properties: being able to quench thirst, cure blindness, and sometimes even raise the dead (Wikipedia, 2013).

“No doubt the benefactor was honored for his financial contribution,” Steven said.  For this reason, he, not Veronica, is shown in the fresco as the one who gifted the holy napkin to the king.

Questions

I joined Steven and Deacon Benny by the ambo and started in with my questions.

“How long does the chapel stay open?” I asked.

“Usually, the chapel is open during the day and closes after evening Mass.”

“I was here twice in 2010,” I said.  “I have pictures of the Christ.”

“I know it used to scare the heck out of me when I was little,” Deacon chuckled.

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Call of service

“Have you always come here?” I continued.

SHC12613-77“I grew up in this neighborhood many, many years ago.”

“How special!”

“Then, just recently, I was ordained in November and got assigned to this parish; so it worked out beautifully.”

“What a blessing!” I enthused.

“Two of our good friends— Francisco Rodriguez and David Castillo— were in that class,” Steven added.

“We’re from the same class, yes.  I think they stayed in their own parishes.  I told them, ‘Don’t throw me in the briar patch!'” Deacon Benny laughingly recalled.  “I was happy.  It was beautiful to have been assigned here.”

“That was when?”

“That same week.  It was an immediate assignment.  We were under the impression, initially, that we’d stay at our home parish for the remainder of the month, but no.  I was a parishioner at the cathedral for over twenty-five years, but here I am where I grew up.”

Gratitude

Knowing that I’d keep the conversation going, Steven interrupted.

“Which is the way out?” he asked.

Since the front doors were already locked, the side door would take us past the chapel onto the sidewalk that led to the end of the block where we’d parked across the street, so we began our farewells.

“Thank you for allowing me to do this,” I said gratefully.  “I waited a long time.  My dream came true!”

“It’s been a blessing for all of us.”

“For many reasons,” I agreed.

“Yes.  With your pictures and the story behind them?  Works wonders.  God bless you both.”

“God bless you, Deacon!  We’ll see each other again.  Congratulations on heeding the call of service to God Almighty!”

“Thank you.  It’s truly a privilege,” Deacon Benny said humbly.

“We may be back!”

“You’re welcome anytime!”

“Thank you!  That’s what Selena told us.  She was so welcoming!”

“It doesn’t have to be on official business!” Deacon Benny teased.

“God bless you,” the sacristan finally chimed in after waiting patiently for us to finish.  “Y’all have a good night.”

A very good night, I thought.

How special to have another wish come true thanks to Father Mathias’s invitation to have us join him for Saturday evening Mass.

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Efficacious novena to the sacred heart of Jesus

O my Jesus, you have said, “Truly, I say to you, ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.”  Behold, I knock; I seek and ask for the grace of…

Our Father….  Hail Mary….  Glory be to the Father….  Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O my Jesus, you have said, “Truly I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”  Behold, in your name I ask the Father for the grace of…

Our Father….  Hail Mary….  Glory be to the Father….  Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O my Jesus, you have said, “Truly I say to you, heaven and earth will pass away; but my words will not pass away.”  Encouraged by your infallible words I now ask for the grace of…

Our Father….  Hail Mary….  Glory be to the Father….  Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us miserable sinners and grant us the grace which we ask of you through the sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary, your tender mother and ours.

Say the Hail, Holy Queen and add, “St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.”

This novena prayer was recited every day by Padre Pio for all who asked for his prayers.  The faithful are invited to recite it daily so as to be spiritually united with the prayer of St. Pio.

Prayers to Our Lady of San Juan

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

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

SHC12613-46

Our Lady of San Juan del Valle – San Juan, TX

Links of interest…  Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle: facebook / gift shop / history (more) / icon / national shrine / prayer (Spanish) / prayer card (other) / video (YouTube)…  Knights of Columbus…  Our Lady: beloved of the Trinity / celebrating May / corner / devotion / gate of heaven / litany / meditations / mother (of the church) / page prayers (miracles – more – novena – queen of angels) / untier of knots…  Sacred Heart: about / beads / consecration / devotions / devotionals / history / novena (YouTube) / parish (CCTX) / significance…  San Martin de Porres: about / biography / book / facts / feast (Nov 3) / novena / patron (YouTube) / prayers / saint of the broom / who is…  Santo Niño de Atocha: about / chapel / history / miracles / origin / prayers…  St. Anthony: 1195-1231 / biography / Franciscan / life / mail deliveries (S.A.G.) / miracles & traditions / more prayers / shrine / stolen relic / wonder worker…  St. Joseph: about / blog / celebration / feast / name / prayers / solemnity…  St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus & the Holy Face: 1873-1897 / about / Carmelite / celestial roses / centenary / chaplet / history / inspiration / invocation / life / oblation / feast (Oct 1st) / little way / novena / petitions / prayer (YouTube) / relic / story (YouTube)…  Veronica’s story: chaplet / devotion / golden arrow & promises / litany / namenovena / prayer / reparation / veil (poem)…  Why Sunday Mass is celebrated Saturday evening

WP posts…  Beautiful sacred space…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Connected tangents…  Faces of Mary…  Finding St. Rita…  Franciscan treasures…  Heart of hearts…  Heart’s desire…  Holy Cross Church…  Home again…  Lady of sorrows…  Lenten reflections…  Our Lady…  A real church…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Right at home…  Sacred Heart…  Sacred Heart Church (CCTX)…  Sensory overload…  St. Anthony’s finally…  St. Jude Shrine (CCTX)…  Sweet Jesus

St. Joseph’s chapel

My dream of visiting St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota finally came true during our first trip up north.  (That’s what we South Texans call the northern part of the United States.)  And what a place!

The school, which borders on the expansive Missouri River that sometimes overflows, is a gold-eyed needle in a haystack on the Lewis and Clark Trail off Interstate 90.

       

       

     

       

       

               

       

       

St. Joseph’s chapel

On reaching the chapel, Steven shared his regret about not arrived early enough for us to attend Mass there that day. Then Margie, our tour guide, explained, “Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel is only for Sunday Mass.  Daily Mass is held in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel down the hall, but it’s just for those who work and live here at the school.”

We were nearing the end of our walking tour of the school, and I really wanted photos of the chapel.  Still, we’d been told that we couldn’t take photos at the museum; so I’d been careful not to photograph anyone or anything without asking first.

“May we take photos of the chapel?” I asked.

“Of course!  We want you to take photos of the chapel.  You’re welcome to come back after our walk and take lots of them.”

“Thank you!  We’ll be sure to do that before we leave.”

               

               

Our Lady of the Sioux Chapel

        

               

       

       

           

       

       

       

       

       

Prayers…  The first two are from Black Elk, Oglala Lakota Sioux, 1863-1950; and the third is from Frank Fools Crow, U.S. Senate, 1975.

One…  Hear me, four quarters of the world– a relative I am!  Give me the strength to walk the soft earth.  Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you.  With your power only can I face the winds.  Great Spirit… all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike.  With tenderness have these come up out of the ground.  Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.  This is my prayer.  Hear me!

Two…  Hey-a-a-hey!  Hey-a-a-hey!  Hey-a-a-hey!  Hey-a-a-hey!

Grandfather, great mysterious one, you have been always; and before you nothing has been.  There is nothing to pray to but you.  The star nations all over the universe are yours, and yours are the grasses of the earth.  Day in and day out, you are the life of things.  You are older than all need, older than all pain and prayer.  Grandfather, all over the world the faces of the living ones are alike.

In tenderness they have come up out of the ground.  Look upon your children with children in their arms that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.  Teach me to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that live.  Sweeten my heart and fill me with light, and give me the strength to understand and the eyes to see.  Help me, for without you I am nothing.

Hetchetu aloh!

Three…  In the presence of this house, Grandfather, Wakan-Tanka, and from the directions where the sun sets, and from the direction of cleansing power, and from the direction of the rising sun, and from the direction of the middle of the day.  Grandfather, Wakan-Tanka, Grandmother, the Earth who hears everything, Grandmother, because you are woman, for this reason you are kind, I come to you this day.

To tell you to love the red men, and watch over them, and give these young men the understanding because, Grandmother, from you comes the good things, good things that are beyond our eyes to see have been blessed in our midst for this reason I make my supplication known to you again.

Give us a blessing so that our words and actions be one in unity, and that we be able to listen to each other, in so doing, we shall with good heart walk hand in hand to face the future.

In the presence of the outside, we are thankful for many blessings.  I make my prayer for all people, the children, the women and the men.  I pray that no harm will come to them, and that on the great island, there be no war, that there be no ill feelings among us.  From this day on may we walk hand in hand.  So be it.

Links of interest… Creation stories you probably haven’t heard…  First People…  Nicholas Black Elk: American catechist / great circle  (YouTube) / life is a circle / may be a saintneed for catechistssainthood cause advances with U.S. bishops’ vote…  St. Kateri Tekakwitha: blessed /  chaplet (more) / inspiration / lily of the Mohawks: article – celebrating – more /  model ecologist / special prayers…  St. Joseph’s Indian School: blog / chapel / culture / museum / river / town / website

WP posts…  Kateri’s sainthood…  Sioux chapel stations

Goliad chapels revisited

I’ve always enjoyed visiting Goliad, especially when the weather’s good and the company’s exceptional.

On March 20, Virginia, Gene, and their beloved granddaughter, Juju, accompanied us to the TX Tropical Trail Region outing in Goliad, which is part of the TX Independence Trail Region.

On the agenda, of course, was the Presidio La Bahia, which I’ve visited many times since seventh grade.  Then, after lunch, we explored Goliad State Park, another of my longtime faves, on our own.

Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahia

During our visit, I learned two things about the chapel’s altar: The mural was painted by a local artist in 1946; and “the doll,” whose garments change to reflect the church season, is more than three-hundred years old.  Additionally, the presidio has been renovated since we were last there three years ago.

               

               

               

               

               

               

Mission Nuestra Señora del Espiritu Santo de Zuñiga

               

            

       

                  

               

       

Links of interest…  Goliad: 250th birthday bash / about / attractions / history / massacre reenactment (video) / Palm Sunday, 1836 / tourism / video (YouTube)…  Goliad State Park: about / mission / official video (YouTube) / photos / state park…  Presidio La Bahia: about / award / brief look (YouTube) / facebook / fort tour / history / landmark…  Our Lady of Loreto Chapel: historic mission / national park / photo album (more) / quarters / restored / South TX site / Spanish mission / two videos (YouTube) / website
…  Texas: day by day / highways (more) / parks & wildlife

WP posts…  Dunes chapel…  Dunes chapel redux…  Elvis moment…  In the pink…  Memory lane…  Painted churches…  Prayers and blessings…  St. Peregrine relic…  Stella Maris…  The third charm…  Two chapels

Elvis moment

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March third, my UH buddy, Paty, and her longtime friend, Becky, dropped by for a visit.

Dunes chapel

“Steven would like to give y’all a tour of the town.  Are you game?” I asked.

“Sure!  I’d never heard of Port Aransas until you came here to live.  I’ve visited Corpus Christi many times, but I never imagined this place was here.  Yes, I want to see it!” Paty said with great anticipation.

“And the dunes chapel?” I reminded Steven.

“What’s that?” asked Paty.

“You’ll see,” I teased.

Priceless moment

Of course, our afternoon adventure became quite memorable when Becky made an unexpected discovery.

“I see Elvis!” Becky exclaimed.

“Where?” Paty asked.

“There!  On the ceiling!” pointed Becky.  “Don’t you see him?”

We burst out laughing

The dunes chapel was built in the 1930s, and Elvis was born in 1935; so I guess it’s possible.

Another sighting

Then again, who knows?

The following day, while Paty and Becky were shopping at the outlet mall in McAllen, Becky sighted Elvis again.

Very funny, Becky.

Links of interest…  Chapel on the dunes…  Moynihan: Days of heaven…  Port Aransas: museum / things to do…  “Two chapels” exhibit (more)…  TX Tropical Trail Region

WP posts…  Dunes chapel…  Dunes chapel redux…  St. Austin Church…  The third charm

Prayers and blessings

Neither the dreariness of the day nor the rain, which alternated between a fine mist and serious clusters of heavy drops, kept us from driving to Stella Maris with Mary Ellen and Steve last Saturday.

For two weeks we’d anticipated the payoff.  We’d have lots of time to do what we do best— talk— though, regardless of how much time we spend together, it’s never enough.

Stella Maris

We arrived early enough to chat with Father Ralph before Mass, and right away he asked how Olivia was doing.

A familiar face from St. Joseph Church
came up to us, so I hugged Kathleen hello.

“Tell her the story,” Father prompted.

“Another miracle,” Kathleen concurred in a soft, almost whispery voice.

Then Father asked, “What?  Did you want to see me, Kathleen?”

“Father Deane wants to invite you over for Mulligan stew after Mass.”

“Sure, sure,” said Father Ralph.

Just then a tall, robust man with white hair greeted Father.

“Oh!!!  I’m being invaded by the Irishmen!  I’d better get my kalelis,” Father Ralph laughed.

Conversations here and there

I turned to Mary Ellen as Father Ralph continued to greet the newcomers.

“I was talking about Olivia and—“

“Praise God!” Father Ralph interjected.

“Yes, praise God!” I agreed.

“Always,” Mary Ellen chimed in.

The man with the lovely Irish brogue stopped to greet us on his way to the chapel.

“Hello there.  How are you?” he asked, extending his right hand.

“Hello!  How are you?” I smiled, reaching out to shake hands.

“I’m Father O’Callaghan directly from the old sod.”

“The old sod,” Steve echoed.

“I thought you were coming from heaven,” Mary Ellen twinkled.

“[Mary Ellen’s] family came from the old sod also,” Steve added.

“It’s wonderful to meet you, Father!” I said excitedly, not yet making the connection between Father Deane, our former priest at St. Joseph’s, and Father O’Callaghan.

Angel in our midst

Father and his group headed to the chapel, and I turned to Mary Ellen again.

“After Mass, Father Ralph… will talk and show you the relic.  He stays a little after.  I know Kathleen is here, and she wants [Father to head over to the house for dinner; but he’ll do it].”  Then I realized I hadn’t yet documented the moment.  “I want to take a picture of you all.”

“Should I stand here and smile and all?” Mary Ellen asked.

“Yes!”

“She wants to see natural, though,” Mary Ellen told Steve and Steven.  “Don’t act silly now!”

I snapped a few photos.

               

“And I want to get the bell.  I got you in the back, too,” I said to the sacristan.

“Good, good,” Mary Ellen said, “Like our little guardian angel back there.”

“Nowhere to go when I’m breaking the camera,” the sacristan quipped as he walked over to us.

“Hello.  How are you?” I smiled.

Two weeks before, the sacristan had stood in our midst as I’d prayed for Olivia’s healing with the St. Peregrine relic; so I shared her remarkable news.

“It was awesome; so, of course, I’m going to tell the world.  Earlier, Father Ralph told Kathleen and me about a woman from Cuero.”

“Yeah,” nodded the sacristan.

“And there was a miracle, too?” Mary Ellen finished my sentence.

“Then there was… a lady with a tumor in her shoulder,” I continued.  “And she had been completely healed.”

“There’s been a lot of them,” the sacristan said.  “An awful lot of them.  Father’s trying to help me right now [with my] cancer.”

“Well, may you be healed!” Mary Ellen offered.

SMC12112-13a“I’ll be healed,” the sacristan asserted.

“Absolutely!” I agreed wholeheartedly.

“[Father Ralph’s] a healer,” continued the sacristan.  “Anyone who comes here for that, he’s here for them.  I just love him to death.  We came here two years ago, and I became the sacristan….  I serve at all the Masses except Sunday when I work.”

“Of all days,” I said.

“But you’re able to be here all the others?” Mary Ellen asked.

The sacristan elaborated.  “I train and schedule the altar servers so that they know what to do when I can’t be here.”

“That’s wonderful!” enthused Mary Ellen.

“Before I leave here today, I’ll set the altar up for tomorrow.  And my wife… in the white [robe… is] a Eucharistic Minister, so we’ve both been serving for two years.  We just love it.”

“Just enchanted to be here, huh?” added Mary Ellen rhetorically.

Then we all turned to acknowledge the folks whose path we were blocking on their way to the chapel.

“Hello!  Excuse us,” they said.

“Hello!  We’re the official welcoming committee,” I teased.

Everyone laughed.

“We’re here to bless everybody.”

“Well, Sister Mary, you think you’re ready to go inside?” asked Steve.

“Oh, this is their first time,” I told the sacristan about Mary Ellen and Steve.

“Come again.  We always need people.”

Before heading to the chapel, I introduced the four of us to the sacristan.

Then he did the same.  “I’m Joe, and my wife’s Sharon.  We’ll see you after church, probably.”

“Yes.  It’s such a blessing to be here!”

“It’s a blessing to have you,” Joe replied.

     

More conversations

After Mass I asked Mary Ellen, “Are you going to ask Father about the relic?  I want to photograph that.”

Mary Ellen had wanted to have her chaplets blessed, too.

“I have both of them [in my purse].”

               

       

“Good to see you,” Father O’Callaghan said to Steven.

“Thank you for visiting, Father.”

During Mass, Father Ralph told us that Father O’Callaghan has known Father Deane since their seminary days in Ireland.

So that’s the connection between them!  That’s why Father O’Callaghan attended Mass at Stella Maris.  He’s visiting Father Deane here on Goose Island.  That’s why Kathleen showed up to invite Father Ralph to dinner!

Interestingly, Father O’Callaghan served at Our Lady of Victory Church in Victoria; so I shared that we’d been to Our Lady of Victory Church in Prague.

“Prague, TX?” Steve asked.

“Czechoslovakia,” I said, quite surprised to hear there’s a Prague, Texas, too.

Prayers and blessings

Waiting for Father Ralph was a joy.  We listened as folks spoke with him in littles.

“Thank you for joining us tonight,” Father said as folks departed.

“Oh, my goodness!  How long has he been on crutches?” a woman asked as a man gingerly made his way out.

“Three weeks, and then it’ll be another week or two,” the man’s wife answered.

“On the seventeenth… I’ll get a boot,”  the man added.

Then Father asked both the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Peregrine to intercede on the man’s behalf, but I only heard part of the prayer:

I ask for you to put your protective mantle around him.  I ask you to open up the providence of the gifts and talents that you have right now….  Amen?

“Amen!” we all responded resoundingly.

“Come back again when you can,” Father said, bidding the man and his wife a good night.

“I will.”

“We’ll be praying for you!” Father Ralph told the man.

Finally, Mary Ellen had her chance.

“Okay.  You have things to be blessed?”

“Yes.”

Mary Ellen showed her two chaplets to Father Ralph.

               

“Oh, my goodness!  What’s this a chaplet of?”

“One’s for St. Anthony; the other, for the Holy Infant.”

Father Ralph said that he’s belonged to the St. Anthony Guild for many, many years.

“Do you think I could see the relic?” Mary Ellen asked.

“You want to see the relic of St. Peregrine?” Father wanted to know.

Mary Ellen was quiet.

“I’m serious!” Father Ralph offered.

“Yes!”

“Oh, she wants a full meal deal, John.  What do you do with someone like that?  Better be like McDonald’s.  Give her the whole thing.”

“Yes!”

“I’ve seen real miracles— a lot of them— with this saint.  A lot.  A lot of them, including two today.  The one you talked about that other people were involved in,” Father said, referring to Olivia, “and one this morning.  I was told about someone whose tumor on the shoulder totally disappeared before they could go through surgery.  So okay.  We’ll pray for you.”

“Pray for my sister,” Mary Ellen requested instead.

“I’ll let you kiss [the relic],” Father told Mary Ellen.  “And you, too,” he said to me.

Mary Ellen repeated, “Please pray for my sister because she’s ill.”

“Oh, okay.”

Father touched the relic to Mary Ellen’s forehead as he prayed; and then he did the same with me.

“Amen!  Amen!  Thank you, thank you!” Mary Ellen and I said.

               

In the meantime, Father O’Callaghan had been observing.  “I see four angels with halos.  May I receive a blessing, too?” he asked.

“Yes!” Mary Ellen and I both said at once.

Then Father Ralph prayed over Father O’Callaghan.

Mary and St. Peregrine:  Mother Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Prompt Succor, the mother of your vocation, the one that’s kept you, prospered you, and blessed you all these years.  Mother, we ask you to go to Jesus so that he that began a good work in the Monsignor will bring it to a satisfactory conclusion in the right time.  Keep him healthy, well, and wise.  And we pray, in virtue of your Queenship, that you would dispatch Raphael, the archangel who’s the archangel of healing and deliverance and of travel that he would go with you as you do these trips.  In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Amen!” Father O’Callaghan agreed with childlike enthusiasm.

“And for all for whom you may be praying in holy sod, Ireland,” Father Ralph added.

               

On that note, Father O’Callaghan reminded Father Ralph about dinner.

“Oh!  Yes.  I’ll come by.”

We took that as our cue to depart; so Steve, Mary Ellen, Steven, and I effusively thanked all those remaining.

“I’ll say one thing for sure,” Steve noted as we walked to the vehicle.  “With you, there’s never a dull moment.”

How very nice indeed!

Prayer

Our Lady, Queen of Ireland…  Holy Mary, if you will, hear your supplicant.  I put myself under the shelter of your shield.  When falling in the slippery path, you are my smooth, supporting hand staff.  There is no hound in fleetness or in chase, north wind, or rapid river as quick as the Mother of Christ to the bed of death to those who are entitled to her kindly protection.  Amen.

March 17, 2015

May the strength of God pilot us, may the wisdom of God instruct us, may the hand of God protect us, may the word of God direct us….  Always ours this day and evermore (St. Patrick).

August 28, 2015

“God is more anxious to bestow his blessings on us than we are to receive them”
(St. Augustine).

Chaplet prayers…  Child Jesus / St. Anthony (WP posts)

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

Links of interest…  Monsignor O’Callaghan: about / celebrating Mass…  Relics: first-class / about (more – still more)…  St. Patrick’s prayers…  St. Peregrine: about / articles (prayer cards) / “cancer saint” / chaplet / feast / friends of / healing intercessor & friend / healing power / May 1st / novena / prayers (requests) / shrine…  Stella Maris: anniversary / chapel (more) / marker / facebook / historic site / map

WP posts…  Christmas year ’round…  Delightful visit…  Father’s roses…  Healing service…  Holy relics…  Memorable as ever…  Powerful intercessor…  Saintly connections…  Stella Maris…  Stella Maris moments…  St. Anthony chaplets…  St. Peregrine relic