Sweet treat

January 22, 2019, Steven and I joined the Texas Tropical Trail (TTT) group in Alice, TX for its 158th monthly partner event.  And what a time we had!

Everything— from the morning’s assortment of colorful doughnuts, coffee, and juice at the Chamber of Commerce to the tour of the historic courthouse to lunch at the country club to the four afternoon presentations— kept us clamoring for “more, please.”

The last speaker, Betty Ash, a retired teacher, captivated us beyond imagining.  Her early Jim Wells County history was a firsthand experience: exciting, hilarious, and memorable.  But her Native American stories— a glimpse of South Texas history that’s rarely discussed— had us wholly engrossed.  My hand hurt from trying to jot down every precious morsel.

Two-thirty came around, but we just weren’t ready to go!  So, Nancy Deviney, TTT executive director who plans surprises in advance, eased our reluctance by reminding us of “the optional tour for those of you who are interested.”

Sweet treat

Better than the bonus plan, the unexpected giveaway turned out to be quite a piloncito: the sweet treat that mom’s grandmother would gift to each of her country-store customers (and children) as both a token of appreciation and an incentive to return.

Because we’d visited the First Presbyterian Church in Corpus Christi in January and Pastor Chip Blackshear had told us about the beautiful stained-glass window that had been moved to the church in Alice, Kathy Wemer of the Nueces County Historical Commission had arranged for our group to view the window.  So, eighteen of us rushed to visit with Pastor Kris Bair at the First Presbyterian Church on North Adams Street.

What a pristine sacred space!  Regardless of where one sits or stands, the stained-glass window is the focal point behind the altar: a delectable ethereal delight.

        

           

                    

                       

       

       

       

               

               

Prayers from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Dear Lord, please forgive me when I forget that you are God and the owner of my heart, the caregiver of my life and the teacher of my soul.  I confess that the world is convincing in its teaching that the acquisition of material things can bring happiness and that being right and being in power are more important than following you.  Forgive me when I choose to judge others because of their politics, their education, the color of their skin, or the amount of money they have in their pockets.  The love of power, fame, and material wealth can twist my Christian intentions from selflessness to selfishness, from welcoming to wall-building, and from caring to critical.  I repent from my lack of faithfulness and ask that you light the way of love for me to follow so that I might be guided by the truth and the life found within the way of Jesus Christ in whose name I pray.  Amen.

Father, we come to you through your son and our lord, Jesus, and by the power of the Spirit with thanksgiving.  Continue to intervene in our lives in miraculous ways so that we may proclaim your miracles to those near and far from you.  Help us to not be gripped with fear, but instead give us the courage to be your spokespersons.  May you be glorified in all we say and do.  Amen.

Heavenly Father, my God, and King!  I come before you in awe of your greatness.  I pray that in those times of frustration that I will be gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love as you are so often with us, your children.  I thank you, Lord, for upholding me when I am falling and raising me up when I am bowed down.  I thank you and praise you for filling all my desires, hearing my cry, and saving me!  Amen.

Holy and most faithful God, we thank you for your grace and for the gift of your Son, Jesus.  Help us turn away from the worldly life of sin and turn instead to Christ Jesus so that your Spirit may dwell in us to give us life and peace.  Thank you that, in Christ, we do not stand condemned.  Thank you for your love and forgiveness which restore us to righteousness.  In Jesus’s name we pray.  Amen.

Lord, we are yours and you are ours.  Help us to sing a new song.  Let us worship you with the entirety of our bodies, thus bearing witness to the Incarnated One.  We pray in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Lord, you are our rock.  You are our foundation in times of darkness, and we know we can trust in you.  Yet sometimes we cannot feel your presence.  Give us strength to praise you and hope in you when we do not have the strength on our own.  Meet us in our despair, gracious God, and hear us when we cry out.  You are the one our souls long for.  We praise and pray to you now in your Holy name.  Amen.

Loving Father, we live in a world with many defined boundaries.  We view people on opposite sides of those boundaries as our enemies, our oppressors.  Purge our feelings of hate, enmity, and bitterness, and replace them with humility, patience, understanding, strength, and courage.  In our difficult work, help us to live with your eyes and your heart in the sure knowledge of our future hope in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Merciful God, I am grateful that your love surpasses all knowledge and understanding.  It is impossible to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love you have for me.  May you speak to me in my heart to influence, direct, and guide my every step so your purpose for me will be fulfilled to the fullest.  In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

You strengthen us and bless us, O Lord, because of your endless love for us.  This love is too great for us to comprehend, but we thank you for it and for the grace you shower upon us.  How wonderful you are.  You care for us.  You grant us your peace.  When we falter, Lord, you pick us up.  When we stray, you lead us home.  We long to be in your presence and ask for your blessings of strength and comfort that we may shine your light into the world.  We love you, Lord, and praise your name.  Amen.

March 30, 2019

Working on the thank-you card that I’d promised to send Pastor Kris, I googled the address of the church and was stunned to learn that the First Presbyterian Church will close by December 31, 2019.  This is very sad for the church community, but what will become of the beautiful stained-glass windows?  Both a final worship service and a celebration of the life of the church are planned (Meghan Donald; Alice Echo, 2019).

April 5, 2019

The church is not that building.  The church is the people.  The building is the sanctuary where we meet so, if we stay together as a congregation, the church is alive and well.  We can rebuild the building as long as we stay together (Rev. Gerald Toussaint).

Links of interest…  First Presbyterian Church of Alice to close by the end of the year…  History of the stained-glass window originally at the First Presbyterian Church in Corpus Christi…  Pittsburgh Theological Seminary: Advent & Lent devotionals & archive / publications…  Texas Historic Sites atlas…  Texas Tropical Trail

WP posts…  Dunes chapel…  Prayerful messages…  Third charm

Holy Vietnamese Martyrs

Initially the Fullness of Truth Angels and Demons conference was to have been hosted by St. Mary Cathedral but, most likely because of limited on-street parking, the venue was changed to northeast Austin.

Holy Vietnamese Martyrs

The church was beyond gorgeous— eye candy for the mind, heart, and soul— so I made the most of my time between sessions and photographed everything in sight.

September 28-29, 2018

          

         

         

          

        

                       

                  

          

          

         

         

         

          

         

         

          

Fullness of Truth

                  

                  

      

                  

Prayers

Lord, so great is our love for you that, even though we walk in a world where speaking your name can mean certain death, your faithful still speak it— and speak it all the louder.  Help us work for a world where all may speak their creeds and pray their prayers without fear of violence.  Hear the prayers of those who abide with you in dangerous times and in dark valleys and who die with your name on their lips.  Draw them quickly to your side where they might know eternal peace.  Amen (Catholic Relief Services).

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does, in fact, please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that, if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadows of death.  I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone (Thomas Merton).

O God, source and origin of all fatherhood who kept the martyrs, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, faithful to the cross of your Son even to the shedding of their blood, grant, through their intercession, that, spreading your love among our brothers and sisters, we may be your children both in name and in truth.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen (The Roman Missal).

Señor, tan grande es nuestro amor por ti que, a pesar de que vivimos en un mundo donde pronunciar tu nombre puede significar una muerte segura, tus fieles aún lo dicen— y lo dicen con más fuerza.  Ayúdanos a trabajar por un mundo donde todos pueden hablar sus credos y rezar sus oraciones sin miedo a la violencia.  Escucha las oraciones de los que están contigo en tiempos difíciles y en los valles oscuros y que mueren con tu nombre en sus labios.  Llévalos pronto a tu lado donde puedan conocer la paz eterna.  Amen (CRS).

January 2, 2019

“Intimacy with the Lord is not a matter of physical kinship; rather, it is achieved by cheerful readiness to do the will of God” (St. Basil the Great).

January 3, 2019

The gift of faith, which comes to us from God, is a sublime grace.  But we are not intended to keep it to ourselves— in effect, to bury it in the ground.  The apostolic fishermen were ordained to be fishers of souls and not custodians of an aquarium (Fr. George W. Rutler in Hints of Heaven).

January 5, 2019

My God, how great you are, how wonderful in all your works!  Teach me your will that I may begin and end all my actions for your greater glory (St. John Neumann).

April 9, 2019

This is the perfect will of God for us: You must be holy.  Holiness is the greatest gift that God can give us because for that reason he created us.  Sanctity is a simple duty for you and me.  I have to be a saint in my way and you in yours (St. Teresa of Calcutta in The Love that Made Mother Teresa).

Links of interest…  Fullness of Truth: Angels & Demons / Why do Catholics do that…  Holy Vietnamese Martyrs church: facebook / Mass times / photos / website…  St. Andrew Dung-Lac & companions117 martyrs / about (more) / Nov 24 (more) / prayer / quote

WP posts…  Angels all around…  Angels keeping watch…  St. Austin Church…  St. Mary revisited…  St. Mary’s…  St. Michael chaplet…  Two angels…  Welcoming spirit

Welcoming spirit

The last weekend in September we attended the Angels and Demons Fullness of Truth conference at Holy Vietnamese Martyrs in Austin but, instead of returning there for Saturday evening Mass, we opted for Sunday morning Mass at St. Albert the Great.

Ten o’clock Mass

We arrived half an hour early to take photos as quietly as possible without disturbing anyone, and I did fine— until an older couple noticed me nearby.

The woman stood to speak.  “Are we going to be in your photos?”  And, before I even had the chance to answer, she added, “Because we don’t want our pictures taken.”

“Oh, no,” I said, trying to calm her.  “I’m only photographing the stations of the cross.  Aren’t they beautiful?”

I moved along to the Blessed Mother’s side altar and basked in her presence.  I was so grateful for her understanding that I couldn’t stop smiling.

Welcoming spirit

Then, out of nowhere, a crystalline voice called out to me!  Our Lady!  A child?  The Holy Infant filled me with so much love, joy, and peace that I wanted to cry!  My mind, heart, and soul scrambled to make meaning.  Was anyone even there?

I turned around and quickly surmised that, in wanting to console me, Our Lady had sent a child— a beautiful, precocious little emissary with a welcoming spirit— to help me see that everything was fine.

“Why are you taking all those pictures?” the youngster asked with great confidence and an even bigger grin.

Memories rushed my senses as I was transported to the familiar: the many fun lively discussions with my students over the years.  I felt totally at ease, wholly immersed in the teachable moment.  So, maintaining a respectful distance three chairs away from where the little boy sat, I bent forward slightly to chat from where I stood in the aisle as, no doubt, Our Lady listened in on the animated tête-à-tête she’d so graciously arranged.

          

          

          

          

          

          

          

      

      

         

Prayers

God, you made St. Albert great by enabling him to combine human wisdom and divine faith.  Help us to adhere to his teaching that we may progress in the sciences and… come to a deeper understanding and love of you.  Amen.

When I feel rejected…  Loving God, you made me who I am.  I praise you and love you, for I am wonderfully made in your own image.  But, when people make fun of me, I feel hurt, embarrassed, and even ashamed.  So, please, God, help me remember my own goodness which lies in you.

Help me remember my dignity, which you gave me when I was conceived.  Help me remember that I can live a life of love because you created my heart.  Be with me, loving God, when people hate me.  Help me to respond how you would want me to— with a love that respects others but also respects me.  Help me find friends who love me for who I am.  Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.

And, God, help me remember that Jesus loves me; for he was seen as an outcast.  He was misunderstood.  He was beaten and spat upon.

Jesus understands me and loves me with a special love because of the way you made me.  And, when I am feeling lonely, help me to remember that Jesus welcomed everyone as a friend.  Jesus reminded everyone that God loved them.  He encouraged everyone to embrace their dignity, even when others were blind to seeing that dignity.  Jesus loved everyone with the boundless love that you gave him.  And he loves me, too.

One more thing, God.  Help me remember that nothing is impossible with you, that you have a way of making things better, that you can find a way of love for me even if I can’t see it right now.

Help me remember all these things in the heart you created, loving God.  Amen (James Martin, SJ; edited).

St. Albert quotes

“I have never gone out to mingle with the world without losing something of myself.”

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man and man to God.”

Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his.  Therefore she is unsure in herself.  What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions.  And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil….  Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man.  Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good.  [Poppycock!  And we wonder why Church (big C) is the way it is?!!]

November 6, 2018

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 (Simone Troisi & Cristiana Paccini in Chiara Corbella Petrillo).

November 14, 2018

When does God speak to us?  He speaks at all times, especially in prayer.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  But it is not a monologue.  When we pray, then, we should also listen (Fr. Kilian J. Healy in Awakening Your Soul to Presence of God).

November 28, 2018

We do not define ourselves as men or as women through our work, our house, our health, or our reputation.  We define ourselves as men and women through the way we love (Simone Troisi & Cristiana Paccini in Chiara Corbella Petrillo).

Links of interest…  Albertus Magnus quotes (more)…  Church & science are not at war…  Good science/bad science…  Mary’s intercession speeds up the hour of grace…  Meditation vs. reflection…  Statements on women by church doctors, fathers, & saints…  St. Albert the Great: about / champion of faith & reasonchurch (bulletins) / doctor of the church / litanyMarian prayerNov 15 / novenaoptional memorial / prayer chainscientist (more)…  Tune into silence

WP posts…  Holy Vietnamese Martyrs…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  St. Austin…  St. Jude chapel…  St. Mary Cathedral…  St. Mary revisited

Our Lady Star

Of the three visits in three years to Our Lady Star of the Sea, the third was the charm: Sunday Mass in a lovely church, welcoming parishioners, and lots of great photo opportunities.  Who could ask for anything more?

“This is really nice!” Steven whispered, as if reading my thoughts.

“Yes,” I grinned.  “Let’s come back as often as we can!”

September 20, 2016

After the Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event, Steven and I visited Our Lady Star of the Sea for the very first time.

In the late nineties the Oblate priest assigned to the church in Port Isabel substituted for Fr. Moran just once at Sacred Heart in Brownsville.  Yet his analogy of the soul, “a multifaceted crystal,” captivated me so thoroughly that I longed to learn more.

Weekly, I contemplated the long drive to hear the priest’s homily but, always, I was  exhausted from work, kids, and everything on my lunch tray in life.

Then came the awful news that the priest had died.  What a terrible loss not just for his parishioners, but also for my soulful searching.

            

                

            

            

            

            

            

            

            

November 21, 2017

This Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event included a talk by Pat Marchan, parishioner at Our Lady Star of the Sea.  Besides learning about the church’s history, especially in regard to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Steven and I also concluded that the parish, like St. Joseph’s in Port Aransas, is small, thus welcoming and most appreciative of its visitors’ generosity.

            

            

               

            

                 

August 19, 2018

The drive to Our Lady Star of the Sea was sunshiny pleasant.  We’d allowed ourselves ample time to get there and were surprised to arrive half an hour early for ten o’clock Mass— in perfect time for the rosary, no less.  And, as others smilingly filled the pews around us, we knew we’d chosen the right church that morning.

After Mass I took photos as usual and noticed a young couple with a new candle at the alcove to the right of the altar.  “Would you take our picture?” the woman asked.

“Sure!  Just tell me what to do since I don’t know how to take photos with a cell phone.”

“It’s easy,” the woman enthused as she showed me where to click.

What a fun experience!  They not only waited for me to take extras, but also shared that the photos were for family members.  What a sweet, gracious duo!  We wished each other well and then broke away to do our own thing: them, praying at the side altar; me, giving full rein to my third eye.

As I rejoined Steven at our pew, a light-hearted man approached.  He offered Steven a bulletin from his stash.

“We already have one, thanks,” Steven said.

The man, Cayetano, turned out to be quite chatty, very friendly.  We were in no rush— noon Mass was still a ways off— so we took our time listening to what he had to say.

I reached into my tote to retrieve a couple of calling cards.  I offered one to Cayetano before he moved on to the man seated two pews ahead of us.  Then I walked back across the center aisle to talk with the couple from before.

Steven joined us shortly, and we introduced ourselves.

Cynthia and Jesse were visiting from Roma, TX and, as we conversed, Cynthia handed me a dainty Lady of Guadalupe rosary lapel pin.

“I like to share these with others,” she said with a joyful heart.

I was quite touched, very grateful, and told her I’d treasure her gift.  Then I gave her my card, and we exchanged email addresses.

Cynthia and Jesse attend Mass at Immaculate Conception in Rio Grande City— a church I’ve long waited to visit— so maybe we’ll see each other again where they were married twenty-five years ago.

          

                

          

                  

                

                        

          

                

                

September 8, 2018

A great deal can be said about diversity and perspective, so we often attend weekend Mass at different times.  Over the years we’ve found that the ambiance, the music, the people, and the priest’s homily— both content and delivery— are quite telling of a church community; so we eagerly opted for five o’clock Mass.

Taking photos afterwards I met Francis, who enthusiastically shared personal stories of the former church school and Our Lady’s statue in the alcove, gave me two of the altar postcards she retrieved from the sacristy, and introduced her daughter and her son-in-law who were visiting her that weekend.  Then I met the greeter— a sweet, thoughtful woman whose name eludes me at the moment— who allowed me the privilege of taking the last of my photos even after church was closed for the night (since we could exit through a self-locking door leading to the parking lot).

To be allowed free reign within a sacred space was quite fulfilling; to be valued for my gifts and talents, immensely gratifying.  I felt so very blessed!  

         

            

     

      

September 23, 2018

We’d talked about returning to Our Lady Star of the Sea for Sunday morning Mass, but rain was anticipated.  Being that I hate to be out and about in bad weather and that the drive to Port Isabel would be long, we chose St. Benedict’s instead.

When we arrived at ten forty-five, the parking areas were already full, as if Mass had been in progress for a while.

“Get down and see,” I said to Steven who, within moments, returned with a bulletin indicating that Sunday morning Masses are now at eight, ten, and twelve— not eleven.

“So, do we wait around for noon Mass or go elsewhere?” Steven asked.

“The sky’s clear, the sun’s out, and we have enough time to make it to Port Isabel by twelve.  Let’s just go.”

What a memorable experience!  Now I understand why Cynthia and Jesse drive all the way from Roma for noon Mass.  The music was singable, lively, heartfelt; the homily, relevant; and everyone present, fully engaged.

After Mass I exited the street-side door and walked over to the chapel, only to find its entryway locked.  Next time, I thought.  Then, on turning, I discovered the outdoor statue of Our Lady and Jesus.  Oh, my goodness.  I hadn’t expected that!

          

          

                  

          

            

      

Chaplet (edited)

Most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, blessed mother of the Son of God, immaculate virgin, assist me in my necessity.  O Star of the Sea, help me!  (State your heartfelt request.)

Holy Mary, mother of God, queen of heaven and earth, I humbly ask for your help from the bottom of my heart.

On each of the three beads…  Pray an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Gloria.

On each of the twelve beads…  Pray a Hail Mary and say,

Our Lady Star of the Sea, help and protect us!  Sweet mother, I place this matter in your hands.

        

More beaded samples

                

                       

Prayer

Our Lady Star of the Sea, through you came the light of the world.  You cared for the Son of God.  Now all God’s children are your charge.  To those who are in distress you provide a beacon of hope.  If we wander from our faith, you guide us back to our true course.  In dark times we pray to you! 

Everlasting light of our lives, blessed virgin chosen by God, Our Lady Star of the Sea, pray for us.  Amen.

September 7, 2018

Purpose is the reason you journey.  Passion is the fire that lights your way (Angel Chernoff).

September 16, 2018

Photograph things you care about, not what you think others want to see.  There is no substitute for passion (Sarah Rice).

September 26, 2018

Watch the light.  Photography is made by light.  If the light is interesting, your images will be as well (Michael “Nick” Nichols).

November 4, 2018

Know the light in your environment and adjust your position in relation to it.  You can create depth in a picture by moving so the light strikes your subject from angles rather than head on (Sarah Polger).

November 7, 2018

Photography is a strange phenomenon….  You trust your eye and cannot help but bare your soul (Inge Morath).

November 18, 2018

Be open when photographing people.  If you are asking someone to share their life with you, share your life with them.  Don’t make it a one way street (Greg Kahn).

December 23, 2018

“Use your camera not just as an extension of your eye, but also as an extension of your heart” (Ana Vitale).

March 3, 2019

When you enter into a room, stand on a cliff, or gaze in awe at the world around you, don’t look for what it is— look for what it is not.  Delve into the unexpected (John Stanmeyer).

April 14, 2019

“Photography is a journey, an exploration toward our unconscious, a tool of self-knowledge and personal exploration that allows us to be children again because it gives us the ability to be amazed” (Tamara Merino).

April 29, 2019

Be prepared to open up to the people you photograph.  It is a brave and admirable thing to be vulnerable in front of someone’s camera.  If you let yourself be vulnerable as well, you can experience incredibly meaningful interactions (Sarah Price).

Links of interest…  Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (prayerdaily – novenas – request)…  National Geographic…  Our Lady Star of the Sea: early churchfacebook / mapMass times…  Port Isabel:  cemetery / Oblate memorial…  Praying with your eyes: How to get started with visio divina…  Star of the sea: Seafarers prayers…  Star of the Sea: about / chaplet: Our Lady of the Sea – Stella Maris / medals (origin)…  Texas Tropical Trail

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Beautiful sacred space…  Building community…  Call of service…  Connected tangents…  Dear God…  Etched in time…  Father now retired…  Father’s guided tour…  Gifts…  Heart of hearts…  Home again…  Lebh Shomea…  Marian devotions…  Memory lane…  Our Lady…  Promise of hope…  A real church…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus…  Two angels

Three visits

Severe weather had been predicted in the Coastal Bend and the surrounding area, so we chose to get ahead of the deluge.  Instead of driving to Cotulla the morning of the Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event, we left home mid-morning the day before.  And, sure, we experienced rain— intermittent water bursts, showers, and the cat-and-dog variety— but the sun was its usual bright self when we arrived.

June 18, 2018

Settling in at the hotel Steven searched churches online.  “Sacred Heart Church has daily mass at six this evening.  You interested?”

Churches fascinate me so, naturally, I was curious.  We arrived half an hour early to take photos before Mass.  We’d been to a few churches by the same name— not that they’re anything alike— but, walking into Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Brownsville came to mind.

One woman led the rosary as others took turns introducing the decades.  Afterwards, Sister approached the ambo to tell us about the framed picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  She explained that, because Our Lady’s powerful intercessions are miraculous, the group would petition God for a permanent priest.

When the first-day novena prayers ended, people began to leave.

I approached Sister to ask about Mass, and she explained that Sacred Heart has been without a pastor for three years.  The elderly retired priest who celebrates Mass in the interim has Monday off, so daily Mass is Tuesday through Friday.

Others had comments, questions, or just wanted to bid Sister goodbye; so I turned my attention to the couple that lingered a bit on the way out.

Although they were upbeat and smiling, they were in pain.  The woman could barely move even with the use of her walker; the man seemed heavily burdened.  She had so much she wanted to do, she said, but her legs were a serious impediment.  He simply nodded as he listened to our chatter.  God, faith, crosses in life— I sensed the struggles.  Yet they were faithful.  And hopeful. 

For whatever reason God had brought us together that evening.  Some longed to believe, to belong, to touch the hem of Jesus to be healed, while others were there to console, to encourage, to simply be whatever God intended.  And, even if ever so briefly, we connected as lifelong friends, baring our true selves among kindred spirits.

O Cotulla, your people are so endearing.  How I long to be there again!

            

            

            

            

            

      

          

                

   

June 19, 2018

         

           

            

June 26, 2018

   

Prayers

Blessed St. Joseph…  I consecrate myself to your honor and give myself to you that you may always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of salvation.  Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life.  After your example, may I perform my actions for the greater glory of God in union with the divine heart of Jesus and the immaculate heart of Mary.  Pray for me, St. Joseph, that I may experience the peace and joy of your holy death.  Amen.

Glorious St. Anthony…  You have exercised the divine power to find what was lost.  Help me to recover the grace of God, and make me zealous in the service of God and in the practice of living the virtues.  Let me find what I have lost, thus showing me the presence of your goodness.

Anthony, glorious servant of God, famous for your merits and powerful miracles, help us to find what was lost.  Give us your help in times of temptation and enlighten our minds in searching the will of God.  Help us to find again the life of grace, which our sin destroyed, and lead us to the possession of the glory promised us by the Savior.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Recite an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Gloria.

Mother of Perpetual Help…  Grant that I may ever invoke your powerful name, the protection of the living and the salvation of the dying.  Purest Mary, let your name be ever on my lips.  Delay not, blessed lady, to rescue me whenever I call on you.

In my temptations, in my needs, I will never cease to call on you, ever repeating your sacred name, Mary, Mary.  What a consolation, what sweetness, what confidence fills my soul when I utter your sacred name or even only think of you!  I thank the Lord for having given you so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name.  But I will not be content with merely uttering your name.  Let my love for you prompt me ever to hail you, Mother of Perpetual Help.  Pray for me and grant me the favor I confidently ask of you.

Pray three Hail Mary‘s.

Our Lady of Guadalupe…  Dear mother, we love you.  We thank you for your promise to help us in our need.  We trust in your love that dries our tears and comforts us.  Teach us to find our peace in your son, Jesus, and bless us every day of our lives.  Help us to build a shrine in our hearts.  Make it as beautiful as the one built for you on the mount of Tepeyac, a shrine full of trust, hope, and love of Jesus growing stronger each day.

Mary, you have chosen to remain with us by giving us your most wonderful and holy self-image on Juan Diego’s cloak.  May we feel your loving presence as we look upon your face.  Like Juan, give us the courage to bring your message of hope to everyone.  You are our mother and our inspiration.  Hear our prayers and answer us.  Amen.

Our Lady of Victories…  O sweet and gentle Lady, immaculate mother of God, we beg you to be our mother now and all the days of our life.  Shield us Mother Mary with your holy mantle that nothing of the enemy could harm us.

Ask your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to spare us from any calamities that will cause our life misery.  Pray for us that we may lead a life pleasing to him and, when our end comes, present us to him [that] we may live in his kingdom forever and ever.  Amen.

Our Lady of Victories, please pray for us.

Links of interest…  Cotulla: aboutcounty seat / history / livabilityTexas Bucket List…  Feast days of Mary…  Our Lady of Perpetual Help: June 27 (more) / miraculous icon  (background) / novena (June 19) / story / who is…  Sacred Heart Church: facebookwebsite…  Texas Tropical Trail

WP posts…  Faces of Mary…  Faith and prayer…  For all time…  Heartfelt traditions…  Marian devotions…  Second looks…  Twelve and five…  Undeniable familiarity

Persistence

Driving home from Cotulla we had every intention of stopping at Hillcrest Tortillas and Bakery in Hebbronville.  We’d eaten the last of the tamales purchased mid-October; and my sweet tooth was already contemplating the prospect of empanadas, pan de nuez, or some other caloric treat.  But one does not live by bread alone!

Photo opportunity

“Do you think we can swing by Our Lady of Guadalupe first?” I asked.

We’d first visited Hebbronville with the Texas Tropical Trail group, June 16, 2009.  Then Steven and I had returned for Vaquero Fest the first Saturday in November.

After the parade we’d followed the celebration to the plaza and learned that Our Lady of Guadalupe was hosting its own festivities: a tour of the chapel; a book reading in the church basement; and, for the fortunate few like us, a tour of Scottus College.  Oh, the views from the breezeway!

Steven interrupted my thoughts.

“What if it’s locked?  It’s just past noon.  What if Mass already started?  I don’t want to get down in shorts.”

“It’ll be okay,” I said.  “We’ll stay in the back, and I’ll take photos afterwards.”

Persistence

Several cars occupied the parking area in front of Scottus College.  Mass?  A conference? 

A mom and her kids walked out to their vehicle.  Vacation Bible school?  Day care?

With my Coolpix and the Word among us in hand, we approached the church entrance and found, to our amazement, that one of the doors was wide open.

Stepping into the vestibule, we looked past the glass doors into the darkened nave.  Our persistence had paid off.  We had the church all to ourselves!

            

                        

                

                        

                        

                        

                  

                        

         

                  

            

                

Prayers

Blessed Mother, queen of peace…  Ever blessed and immaculate Mary, you are the heavenly patroness of our country.  In your generous kindness, we beg you to obtain for us a more perfect union, domestic tranquility, justice for all our citizens, and the blessings of peace and prosperity for us and our descendants.  Help us view all the people of this world as children of God and as our brothers and sisters.  [Help us] to seek just and peaceful means to redress even the most grievous wrongs done against us.  Amen.

Devotion to St. Francis…  Beloved St. Francis, gentle and poor, your obedience to God and your simple, deep love for all God’s creatures led you to the heights of heavenly perfection and turned many hearts to follow God’s will.  Pray for us [and for] the many who come here searching for peace.  Intercede for us as we come before the Lord with our special requests.  Blessed saint of God, from your throne among the hosts of heaven, present our petitions before our faithful Lord.  May your prayers on our behalf be heard and may God grant us the grace to lead good and faithful lives.  Amen.  St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

Meditation…  Lord God, you watch over us every moment of the day, even when we are not thinking of you.  Help us turn to you from time to time as we pause in our work.  Let us not forget who you are, who we are, why we are here and that we are all, however slowly, returning to you who made us for yourself.  Please teach us how to pray even when words won’t come, when our spirits are heavy, when our minds are tired.  By the merits of Christ, our savior who knew times of tiredness and lonesomeness, we ask your aid.  Amen.

Contact information

The prayers above are just three of fourteen featured in Prayers for peace (B-140) from Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598.

        

August 11, 2018

“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart” (St. Francis of Assisi).

Links of interest…  Hillcrest Tortillas, Inc: Authentic Texas (pp. 52-53) / monthly partner event (Sept 2014) / reviews…  Let prayer bring peace to your soul…  Our Lady of Guadalupe Church & Scottus College (more)… Our Lady: mother / patroness / storytilma…  Persistence: Francisco Joaquin…  Sacred Heart of Jesus…  St. Anthony: traditions & miraclesrelic…  St. Francis: about / biography / national shrine…  St. Isidore: farmer (more) / feast / litany novena / preserving our inheritance of faith / printable prayer / quotes…  Texas Tropical Trail

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

Etched in time

Our first look inside San Agustin Cathedral, September 15, 2009, was made possible by the priest exiting the side door on his way to the dieciséis de septiembre celebration at the plaza across the street.  “You can visit only until the cleaning is done, but you’re welcome to return for noon Mass tomorrow if you like.”

December 18, 2017

Having waited too long, we returned to Laredo for the Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event and, again, stayed at La Posada near the cathedral so we could finally make it to noon Mass, enjoy a good while within, and take photos to my heart’s content.

                

            

            

            

                

December 19, 2017

Walking back to the hotel from our afternoon meeting at the museum provided backside views of the cathedral.  I could hardly wait to spend time at the historic sacred space.

            

            

December 20, 2017

From the groundskeepers to the hotel workers to the people on the street by the plaza, everyone was all smiles.  Warm sunshine had overtaken the cold and the rain from previous days.  Again and again, we heard grateful expressions: “What a beautiful day!”  “We really needed this!”  “It’d been too long since we’d last seen the sun!”  “Enjoy your day!”

Churchyard observations

Steven drove us to the cathedral, since we’d agreed to leave Laredo from there for his meeting in San Benito that afternoon.  We were about ten or fifteen minutes early, so I had time to explore the churchyard and observe not just the birds, but also the people gathered about waiting for the sacristan to unlock the front doors.

That’s when I noticed a diminutive, humble man in day laborer attire.  He sat pensively, almost invisibly, clutching a small, rather worn brown paper sack by the fence under the oak tree.  His forlorn look made my heart ache!  Had he traveled far to come to church? I wondered.  Is that why he’d packed a little something to eat along the way?

God-filled moments

When the sacristan opened the cathedral’s doors, we were the first to enter.  Standing just two feet within but allowing enough space for others to walk through, I acclimated to the tiny vestibule before stepping into the nave.  And, as I turned to look back outside before the sacristan closed the door, I saw the little man with the heaviness of the world on his shoulders.

“Good morning!” I smiled.  “¡Buenos días!”

The khaki-clad man, pained to be awakened from his self-imposed (prayerful) trance, glanced at me, uttered an almost inaudible response, and shuffled head down toward the inner doors.

As I continued greeting others arriving for noon Mass, I wondered if the small man had missed his chance to work with the able-bodied day laborers awaiting rides across the street from the cathedral.  How I longed to ease his pain!  But all I could do was entrust him to God.

Jesus in repose

The cathedral was still somewhat dark as I took photos in the back of the church, but I knew my way around.  Jesus was waiting in the alcove by the confessionals on the left.  I’d photographed him previously as the baby in the glass-and-gold enclosure and also as the adult in repose on the stone slab below the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

With my third eye leading the way, my peripheral vision caught sight of someone bent ever so gently, ever so faithfully, with hands lovingly placed on Jesus’s legs and feet.  I didn’t want to move!  I didn’t want to intrude!  I’d unknowingly walked into a very private moment and didn’t know what to do.

Dear God, please, add my prayers to his.  Let me not be an impediment.

I didn’t want to disturb the person whom I sensed was quite distraught, so I took photos ever so quietly.  And, when the person sat up, I saw the little man in wrinkled clothing.

He said nothing and mostly was oblivious of me.  He hadn’t been startled, so his silence came across more as acceptance than discomfort.  Yet I’d walked into such an intimate scene that I couldn’t just ignore it.

Lowering my Coolpix for a few moments, I softly greeted the man and spoke to him in Spanish.  “Look how beautiful Jesus is with Our Lady keeping a watchful eye on him from above.  She’s never far from those she loves.”  Then, as I photographed Jesus, the downtrodden man spoke to me in littles.

I reciprocated in calm, even tones, voicing encouragement while praying within.

Dear God, please, what can I do to help?  Don’t let this moment pass without our interceding on his behalf. 

I wanted to do something for the man but had only my camera in hand.

Etched in time

Finally, Steven came into view.  With all the dignity and friendship I could muster to help the man feel valued, I introduced them to each other.  Then, as naturally as possible in English, I briefly shared the man’s story with Steven who, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, stepped away and out of sight.

Had Steven not heard the plea in my voice?  Had he not intuited my message?  I’d been mentally dialoguing in three directions, and I was concerned.  I seldom carry money, so I had no means of assisting the man— not that he’d even asked— but I wasn’t giving up!

Once our talking and my photo taking reached the perfect level of mutual trust and understanding, I stepped out of the alcove hoping to share my desire for Steven to intervene somehow and—

Surprise! 

The moment we looked at each other, Steven, trying hard to contain his emotions, extended his hand for me to take his offering.

“Thank you,” I whispered, and walked back to the disconsolate man.

Bending close I placed my hand in his, talked a little more, wished him and his family a merry Christmas, smiled, and walked away.  The man had no idea what I’d pressed into his hand, and I didn’t wait for him to find out.  But, moving about taking photos, my peripheral vision did notice that he sat gazing at both Jesus and Our Lady for a very long time before departing.

A sweet memory etched in time, God answered our heartfelt prayers that day.

           

          

         

                

               

               

                  

                  

      

   

                

                

                

               

                

                

                

         

September 15, 2009

                

Prayers from St. Augustine

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

Give me yourself, O my God; give yourself to me.  Behold I love you and, if my love is too weak a thing, grant me to love you more strongly.  I cannot measure my love to know how much it falls short of being sufficient, but let my soul hasten to your embrace and never be turned away until it is hidden in the secret shelter of your presence.  This only do I know: That it is not good for me when you are not with me, when you are only outside me.  I want you in my very self.  All the plenty in the world which is not my God is utter want.  Amen.

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know you and desire nothing save only you.  Let me hate myself and love you.  Let me do everything for the sake of you.  Let me humble myself and exalt you.  Let me think of nothing except you.  Let me die to myself and live in you.  Let me accept whatever happens as from you.  Let me banish self and follow you and ever desire to follow you.  Let me fly from myself and take refuge in you that I may deserve to be defended by you.  Let me fear for myself, let me fear you, and let me be among those who are chosen by you.  Let me distrust myself and put my trust in you.  Let me be willing to obey for the sake of you.  Let me cling to nothing save only to you and let me be poor because of you.  Look upon me that I may love you.  Call me that I may see you and forever enjoy you.  Amen.

                       

Quotes from St. Augustine

Do you wish to rise?  Begin by descending.  You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds?  Lay first the foundation of humility.

Hope has two beautiful daughters.  Their names are Anger and Courage— anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are (Attributed but unverified).

What does love look like?  It has the hands to help others.  It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want.  It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.  That is what love looks like.

You aspire to great things?  Begin with little ones.

February 28, 2018

Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God’s heart.  You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart.  In fact, on certain occasions, you should only speak to him with your heart (St. Pio).

Links of interest…  Augustine of Hippo: apostolic letter (JPII) / architect of the Middle Agesauthor / bishop & doctor / book on prayer / commentary on the Sermon on the Mountconfessions (quotes) / doctor of grace (more) / factsfor all seasons /  memorial (Aug 28) / on the Beatitudes / prayers / philosophy / prodigal son / quotesraised to new life / seeking God / son of tearsthinking faith…  dieciséis de septiembre…  Burial slab of Jesus found in Jerusalem (limestone piece of rock / uncovered)…  Laredo:  churches / La Posada Hotel / museumstours (events – heritage walking tour)…  Padre Pio’s words of faith…  San Agustin: cathedral (diocesan page – facebook – history –  Mass times) / historic district / obispo (bishop) / restoration (new renderings of project)…  TX Tropical Trail Region

WP posts…  Historic nuggets…  Persistence…  St. Austin Church…  St. Monica…  Sweet Jesus