Merry Christmas

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November 30, 2016, we received this year’s invitation from the Capuchin Poor Clares at the St. Joseph and St. Rita Monastery and committed to Christmas Eve Mass as before.

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Afterthoughts

Left as a blog comment this Christmas morning, Steven’s memory of last night’s Mass clearly describes the small, intimate setting at St. Joseph’s chapel.

Angelic voices— soft, with Spanish accents, from the cloistered nuns behind the glass-and-wood partitions on either side of the altar— filled the chapel, first with the familiar prayers of the rosary and then with Christmas hymns.

Bishop Emeritus Reymundo Peña presided joyfully, his voice strengthening as he proclaimed God’s message of love for us.

Father Juan Manuel Salazar delivered the homily both in English and Spanish and, after Mass, lovingly presented the Infant Jesus for veneration.

Notable, too, was the family with three small children dressed in Christmas costumes similar to San Juan Diego’s peasant garb.  At first shy and unsure but then overcome with eagerness to partake in the ceremony, their spiritual innocence captivated our collective heart with their unwavering leap of faith.

And, at evening’s end, amid the hugs, well wishes, and picture-taking, Mother Superior cheerfully thanked us for celebrating Mass with them and bid us a very resounding “Merry Christmas” and a safe drive home.

Feliz Navidad!

Quotes

Behold the dear Infant Jesus and adore him fervently.  Contemplate his poverty and humility in imitation of his most holy mother and of St. Joseph.  Repose near him as sweetly as you can.  He will not fail to love your heart, void as you find it of tenderness and feeling.  Nothing will be wanting to you, since you will be in the presence of that holy Infant.  Abide there and learn of him, how meek and humble he is, how simple and amiable.  See how lovingly he has written your name in the depth of his divine heart, which beats on that couch of straw from the impassioned zeal it has for our advancement and heaves not one single sigh unto his Father in which you have not a part, nor a single movement of his spirit, except for your happiness (St. Francis de Sales).

“Dear parents, I implore you to imitate the Holy Family of Nazareth” (St. John Vianney).

God is here.  This truth should fill our lives, and every Christmas should be for us a new and special meeting with God, when we allow his light and grace to enter deep into our soul (St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Way).

“On this night let us share the joy of the gospel: God loves us; he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness” (Pope Francis).

With the shepherds let us enter the stable of Bethlehem beneath the loving gaze of Mary, the silent witness of his miraculous birth….  May she teach us how to treasure in our hearts the mystery of God who, for our sake, became man (Pope Benedict XVI).

December 27, 2016

“Let us love not in word or speech, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18).

December 28, 2016

Oh, Jesus, with joy in my heart and in a spirit of gratitude, I thank you for your great blessings in my life.  Thank you for the celebration of your birth.  Thank you for restoring my hope of eternal life with you.  Thank you for all the gifts I have received from your generous hand (Franciscan MediaA Eucharistic Christmas).

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

Links of interest…  Advent & Christmas page…  Alamo, TX: Capuchin Poor Claresquiet place for prayer / St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery (more)…  Away in a manger: St. Francis & the nativity…  Boxing Day…  Christ is born…  Christmas: antiphons, celebratingdeeper meaning, lights around the worldmad humility, spiritual life, & 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…  How Jesus makes heaven present to us today (Fr. Romano GuardiniMeditations on the Christ)…  Las posadas & the 2nd Christmas novena (Dec 16-24)…  Living the Good News: Days of Christmas…  Mary: cause of our joy / mother of God (more) & of our salvation…  Our Lady of the Rosary Library…  Prophecies fulfilled (Mary M. McGlone)…  Soul of Christmas (Thomas Moore)…

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

St. Agnes Church

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When Steven and I travel, we’re always on the lookout for Catholic churches in case we want (or need) to stop sometime.  This is why the sign for St. James Catholic Church in Sanderson caught our eye as we drove US Hwy 90 to Marathon on our way to Big Bend National Park Thursday morning.

“Three o’clock Mass on Sunday?” we both asked in disbelief.  Quite late in the day, but something to keep in mind.

Since Segy (our youngest) and I attended Mass at Big Bend, August 1993, we’d anticipated that a priest would most likely visit for Sunday Mass this time, too.  If not, we’d figure something out.  And Sanderson seemed doable.

Change in plans

We’d intended to remain at Big Bend through Monday, April 18, until we learned Friday afternoon that the park hosts only an interdenominational Sunday service at the Chisos Basin amphitheater.

“Do you want to do that?” we asked each other.  “Could we be okay with that?”

We agreed that we could do confession before Mass the following weekend, but it just didn’t feel right.  We decided instead to leave Big Bend by no later than seven-thirty Sunday morning to attend ten-thirty Mass at St. Agnes in Fort Stockton and maybe even stop by Notre Dame in Kerrville off Interstate 10, viable choices that would get us home between seven and nine that evening.

First impressions

The morning was chilly, so we quickly opened the door and stepped into the spacious vestibule at St. Agnes Church.  We could see and hear a class in progress in the large adjoining parish hall.

Since we’d arrived half an hour early and no one else was around, I explored my surroundings by taking photos until a man with two teenaged boys arrived.

“Good morning!” I smiled.

The man engaged us in small talk before making his way to his pew.  “The church will be filling up soon!” he beamed.

I had no doubt that the church community would be just as welcoming as the sacred space was beautiful.

St. Agnes Church

As more and more parishioners arrived, I wondered about the time.  The church was filled with too many tantalizing treasures— exquisite stations, paintings, statues, stained-glass windows, and more— to do them justice; so I turned off my Coolpix and changed gears, hoping for a subsequent visit someday.

I walked over to the intriguing duo— a friendly woman and an equally affable man— occupying the folding chairs to the right of the sacristy’s doorway, complimented their vibrant church community, and inquired about the stations of the cross.

Sweet parishioners, Mary Gonzales and Johnny Cordero were so eager to tell me about St. Agnes that I learned quite a bit before the opening song that prompted the start of Mass.

And the big reveal?  Besides St. Agnes and St. Joseph in Fort Stockton, St. James in Sanderson is the third mission that Fr. Serafin Avenido shepherds as part of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  Small world, though not so much for Father, who travels more than sixty-five miles to Sanderson to celebrate Sunday Mass at three o’clock.

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Deacon’s homily (edited from the audio recording of 10:30 A.M. Mass)

We sit here, and we listen.  Last week we heard a long gospel, and today’s is very short.  You wonder, “What is the Holy Spirit trying to tell us?”

So today I’ll tell you a story of a good shepherd whose flock asked questions as they walked together.

Why do we continue celebrating Easter?”

The good shepherd tells his followers, “Remember the Good Shepherd who opened salvation— all the gates of heaven— to us, his faithful.”

“How did he do this?”

“God, the father, gave up his son, the true lamb, as a sacrifice for all of us.”

“What does that mean?  Why do continue to celebrate Easter?”

“It takes our response to Easter to pass on [the faith], to help each other out.”

“How can we with all these faults; all these failures; all these weaknesses, disease, violence?  How can we continue the celebration of Easter?”

“Through [Christ’s] sacrifice, the Holy Spirit, and [all that the Church offers], God graces you with his infinite love and mercy.”

“How do we know this?”

“As you walk with me [and] live your lives, what I’ve asked you to do and what I do for you [gives] you strength [through] grace and forgiveness.”

The shepherd’s followers think back on the graces received that helped them with their problems— the times they received sacraments, the times they were embraced when they were most in need, the times they were forgiven, and the times they forgave someone— and they begin to understand why celebrating Easter is so necessary.

“So what do we do?”

“Celebrate Easter.  Be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection.  You are today’s disciples.”

Members of the flock exchange glances.

“Where does this lead us?  What do we do?”

“Look for the good shepherds.  Look especially for the Good Shepherd who will lead you if you follow his ways.  Be good disciples, and lead others as well.  Remember that each of us was baptized to be priest, prophet, and king.  Remember that God sacrificed his own son to open heaven to all, that the Good Shepherd called us to be good people, holy people, to lead each other to the divine pasture, heaven.”

By this point, the shepherd’s followers are inspired.  They know they can walk through the dark valley of tears [through faith].

“So how about this celebration?”

“Let me tell you.  It’s not about a great deal of music, food, dancing, drinking, partying, flowers, and barbecue.  No!  It’s not that kind of celebration.

“It’s responding to God’s call with your mind, heart, and soul,” the good shepherd continues.  “It’s responding with gratitude, praise, thanksgiving, and forgiveness.  It’s asking, ‘What am I to do, Lord?  What is my mission?  Wake me up where I am.  Let me follow you.  How am I to respond within my family, my community, my parish?  What am I being called to do?’  Then just do it.

“Don’t worry.  God will give you what you need.  He’ll provide the grace, the strength, the forgiveness to get up and follow that divine Shepherd.  Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

“And then there you’ll be, entering the most divine pasture that you’ve ever seen, with anything and everything that you’ve ever wantedAmen.”

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame.  Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr, Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

June 10, 2016

Jesus, you are my rock!  Deepen my faith in your love, your wisdom, and your provision— no matter what collapses around me (the Word among us, June 2012, p. 49).

January 21, 2017

“You may stain your sword with my blood; but you will never be able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ” (St. Agnes).

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Links of interest…  Fort Stockton: about / attractions / county seat…  Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish…  Missing Mass on vacation…  Santo Niño de Atocha: miracle / novenaprayers / requests / Sanctuario de Chimayo (website) / Traditions (blog)…  St. Agnes: about (more) / devotions (more) / eve & day / feast day (more) / for kids / martyr (more) / novena / prayer (more)…  St. Agnes Church: Catholic directory / Discover Mass (bulletin) / facebook / parish history / pastoral team

WP pages…  Praise…  Saints…  St. Joseph

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Faith and prayer…  Finding St. Rita…  Forever grateful…  Grapes of generosity…  Guadalupe Church…  Kateri’s sainthood…  Little gifts…  Living one’s gifts…  Notre Dame revisited…  San Giuseppe…  Slice of heaven…  Sorrowful redemption…  St. Elizabeth Church…  St. Michael chaplet…  St. Monica…  St. Peregrine relic…  Today’s Beatitudes…  Vattmann church

Father’s roses

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

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

Miracle shared

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

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

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

Faith revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

’I did,’ the woman replied.

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson gleaned

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

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

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

Father’s roses

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

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

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

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March 18, 2016

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

March 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

God’s loving mercy

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Saturday evening we attended the Santo Niño celebration at St. Pius X in Corpus Christi, TX.  Well, the Mass, actually.

Since our Bible study group had engaged in a thoroughly invigorating discussion on the Sunday readings— the “Wedding at Cana” in particular— Steven and I had anticipated that Bishop Mulvey’s homily was sure to be the icing on the proverbial cake.  For this reason, I recorded his homily (below) to share with the group.

Setting the tone

SPX11616-StoNA marvelous story of Santo Niño and so many other stories of protective help from the saints, from Mary, from God.  We’ve moved them back into history.  When you think about the feast, the miracle of Santo Niño back in the 1600s, you look at the life of the people, probably very simple.  Very simple, simple life.  They had the elements of the earth.  They depended on the rain to water their crops.  They depended on the water to produce fish.  They needed the elements of the earth.  They needed the help of God.  They relied upon the help of God.  And we see that notion throughout the scriptures.

As we rise every morning in the Office that we pray as priests, religious, and lay people in the church, the opening psalm is the psalm of praise to God that he has created us, at heart that we should not harden our hearts against him but [be] open to God’s help.

I say that because we might, each one of us, think of this morning and yesterday morning and the morning before.  [What was] the first thing you did when you got up?  What did you think of?  If you try to examine yourself, say, “As I get up each morning, who do I rely upon?”

I think, if we’re honest, we’re going to rely upon the TV— turn it on first, get the news.  Gotta get the news.  Gotta go to that computer.  Gotta go to that iPhone.  Gotta go to that text message.

We have become dependent on all of these things.  And the question for us is [this]: In the midst of all this relying on news and media and connection with my friends on facebook around the world and all these things that I need to exist, where is [my] God?

Have these things become our gods because God is what is beyond us?  God is the one who is superior to us. But God is also the one who loves us, tenderly, gently.  And so, if we examine ourselves, sisters and brothers, and we think about just the very simple act of getting up in the morning, do we get up with a grateful heart and say, “Good morning, Lord Jesus?”  “Good morning, Father of mercies?”  “Good morning, another morning, so that I can rely on you?”

How we get up in the morning sets the tone for the day.  Sets the tone for the day.

If I get up immediately relying upon technology, then my day will be technological.  And, when I get exhausted by the end of the day, I’ll say— gasp— “Oh, I forgot!  Hail Mary, full of grace.  The Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou amongst women—  In the name of the Father and the Son—  Goodnight, Lord.”  But that’s not who we are as a people.  The beautiful faith of the Filipino people and so many other rich, rich cultures of faith rely from the very beginning on the love, the mercy, of God.

Goodness and hope

SPX11616-83I had a pastor that I worked for as a deacon in England.  He was part of the Apostleship of the Sea, which is very close to our seamen here in the Port of Corpus Christi and probably many of your own family members.

He told me one thing as a young deacon.  He said, “Michael, the people who are closest to God are the ones who are closest to the elements of the earth.  They, too, are those who work with the land and those who work at sea because they rely and depend upon God’s goodness.”

In the Philippines, especially in the past years, you know that the weather and the elements of the water have brought great destruction.  But the faith of the people grows even more.

So many farmers in this area with the drought have really felt devastation, and yet there’s that hope that continues to live in them.  No machine can do that for us.

Finding meaning

And so as you celebrate— as we celebrate— this evening, I think it’s important to go back to those rudimentary principles of who we are as human beings, created not manufactured, created not in a laboratory but in the image and likeness of God in our mothers’ wombs.  Simple.  Thank you very much.  And it’s because of that human nature that we rely upon the divine.

Look at Jesus. In the gospel of John, several times, he said, “I have not come to do my own will, but the will of my Father.”  [He tells] us, “I’ve not come to do my own thing.  I rely upon, I depend upon, I find my meaning and my fulfillment in God’s will for me.”

What did that mean?  He had to stay in close contact with him.  And he didn’t have an iPhone.  He didn’t have facebook.  He didn’t have all these mechanisms we have to stay in touch with his Father.  What he had was prayer.  What he had was a secluded place in the mountains or in the back yard to be silent and listen to the Father.

That’s how Jesus got up every morning, giving praise to the Father.  That’s how he lived the day.  And that’s how he returned to a night’s sleep, depending on the will of the Father in all that he did.

Seeking God’s will

And so we find ourselves saying sometimes, “You know, WWJD.  What would Jesus do in this moment?

Well, there’s a bigger question.  There’s a bigger context.  What does Jesus want?  What does God want of you, especially the young people?  Have you ever thought—  What does God want from you, not what you want to do [or] what your parents and your grandparents want you to do?  What does God want of your life?

We see St. Paul in the reading today lining out [the] different ministries.  There are different ways to serve God.  That’s what the body of Christ is all about.  Different ways.  Nothing’s I invent, but how God calls each one of us forth to do his will.  And to do his will, I can’t put a magic formula in somewhere.  I’ve got to listen.  I’ve got to be able to pray and listen with silence.

I would’ve never thought, ever, of being a bishop.  Many of you probably would not have ever thought of doing some things that you’ve done or be someone that you are.  But it’s by God’s grace, and so we have to listen.

Making connections

SPX11616-98We have today in the gospel a marvelous story of listening to one another, a story that you all know.  If I were to ask you— as adults or people who go to religion class, CCD— [to] tell me the story of the wedding feast of Cana, you could tell it, probably.  No problem.  Still ain’t right?  You know it.  The familiar story, we know it.  But what really was happening there?

What was really happening there?

Jesus was invited to a wedding feast.  He was not a religious stuck-in-the-mud, you know, kind of guy that had a long face and didn’t enjoy being in people’s homes or enjoy being at a wedding.  He went!

Some scholars say it may have been one of Mary’s in-laws that was getting married, so she was there as kind of a hostess.  And she saw that the wine was missing.  So she went over to Jesus, who, by the way, brought some uninvited guests.

You ever been to one of those parties where somebody brings five extra people with them that you weren’t planning?  We’re not saying that they drank the wine and made it go bad or made it go away, but they were out of wine.  Probably other people brought extra guests.

They were in need.  And there was Mary.  She saw that because, perhaps, she was kind of the hostess of the day.  So she went over to Jesus.

“Son, they have no wine.”

Language of the day

Now the response many of us will say is, “Wow.  I wouldn’t treat my mother like that.”

“Woman, what does your concern have to do with me?”

We always have to go back to the language of the day.  Many scholars say that language— “woman, what does your concern have to do with me”— basically says “Mom, I’ll take care of it.”

I’ll take care of it.

Not the way she thought or not the way other people were taught.  “Well, you have to go down to the grocery store or to the wine store and get some more.”  You know, all those kinds of things.  How did that ever happen?  But, remember, Jesus came to do the will of the Father.  And that’s why he said, “My hour has not come yet, but don’t worry.”

Fulfilling God’s will

And so he just took the simple jars of water— six jars, thirty gallons each— and changed water into wine.  A simple gesture to take care of people’s needs so that the party could continue.  But look at the relationship of Mary and Jesus.

Mary depended on Jesus.  Jesus depended on his Father so that this miracle could happen.  But, in other parties, he said, “My hour has not yet come.”  In other words: “It’s not time for me to do that first miracle.”

The hour that Jesus is speaking of is the hour on the cross.  That was the miracle of miracles.  That’s why he came.  That’s why the Father sent him.  That’s what he was anticipating.  That’s why, whenever he did a miracle, he said “don’t tell people” because that’s what [they were] waiting for— redemption.  But Jesus was so in tune with his Father and so in tune with his mother that he did what was needed at the time.

This happened, friends, at a wedding.

So many times today I think people— we’ve— lost a sense of the dignity and the sacredness of a wedding feast in the Church.  Jesus went to a great wedding feast where everyone participated, where it was part of his faith.  He went there.  But the other beautiful thing was that it was at somebody’s home.

You know, when people think of miracles, they’re always looking for some big bash, some big splash somewhere.  This was at somebody’s home!  Something that was needed right there in front of them, something simple.  And it was Jesus responding in that simple way in simple people’s lives to bring about a simple solution to a need.

Living the gospel

SPX11616-103And so what does all that say to us today?  How do we bring that gospel of two-thousand years ago into our own lives?

We all have needs.  We all get disappointed.  Things happen to us in a given day.  Things happened today.

Who do we rely upon?  To whom shall we go?

Remember when the people left Jesus after he transformed the bread.  He multiplied the loaves so that everyone could eat?  He said, “I am the bread of life.”

And people left!

So, to his disciples standing there, he said, “Will you leave me, too?”

And they said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

When things don’t go our way in life— we have a bad day— [or] when something tragic happens in our lives, to whom do we go?

Do we go and kneel down and offer our life to the Father, depending on him?  Or do we try to resolve every situation that we have the way we think it should be resolved?

If we do that, sisters and brothers, we close the door to Santo Niño.  We close the door [and] say, “We don’t need you.  I’ll take care of it.  I’ve got a computer.  I’ve got a TV.  I’ve got all these things.  I’ve got a car.  I’ll take care of it.”

But that’s not who we are.  That’s not who you are as men and women of faith.  Stand there and say, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words. You have the resolve for everything.”

God’s loving mercy

SPX11616-104Those stone jars, sisters and brothers, I think for this Year of Mercy represent the abundance of God’s mercy.

You know, [like] St. John, you can’t just [think], Okay, there’s six jars, thirty gallons each, one-hundred eighty gallons.  You can’t look at it that way because St. John always had a symbol [for] what [he] saw.

In this Year of Mercy, we can definitely see those six jars, water becoming now wine, richness.  Those represent God’s mercy coming to a difficult situation.

During this Year of Mercy, let us look at those jars and say, “That’s God’s merciful grace overflowing in my needs.”

Whatever happens to you today, tomorrow, the next day— let’s not limit it to this year but the rest of our lives— but [for] the rest of this year, make a resolve tonight.  Whatever happens today, whatever happens this year, depend on the grace of God.

Don’t try to solve it yourself.  Go to your knees.  Stand in front of the Lord and say, “Your will be done.”  Not just as a saying that your grandmother or mother taught you.  Say it from the depth of your heart.

“Your will be done.  I don’t understand.  I don’t know why this happened.  I don’t want this to happen.”

And, just as Jesus stood in front of that couple that needed something— it would’ve been a shame in the culture of the time to run out of wine— his abundant grace [will flow] over and [come] to [your] aid, [too].

And so, sisters and brothers, as we rededicate ourselves to Jesus Christ in the figure of Santo Niño, praying for all the needs of families in the Philippines and people throughout the world, let us do our part to be men and women of faith who love God so much that we depend not only on the technology of today but, first and foremost at the beginning of every morning, on God’s grace and loving mercy (Bishop Michael Mulvey; January 16, 2016; transcribed audio recording, edited).

Evening prayer to God by St. Macarius

O eternal God and Ruler of all creation, you have allowed me to reach this hour.  Forgive the sins I have committed this day by word, deed or thought. Purify me, O Lord, from every spiritual and physical stain.  Grant that I may rise from this sleep to glorify you by my deeds throughout my entire lifetime and that I be victorious over every spiritual and physical enemy.  Deliver me, O Lord, from all vain thoughts and from evil desires; for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.  Amen.

January 23, 2016

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

January 24, 2016

By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God.  Begin all your prayers in the presence of God (St. Francis de Sales).

January 27, 2016

Turn your eye to God’s will and see how he wills all the works of his mercy and justice in heaven and on earth and under the earth.  Then, with profound humility, accept, praise, and then bless this sovereign will, which is entirely holy, just, and beautiful (St. Francis de Sales, Roses Among Thorns).

January 30, 2016

“God gives each one of us sufficient grace ever to know his holy will and to do it fully” (St. Ignatius of Loyola).

June 1, 2016

We set forth our petitions before God not in order to make known to him our needs and desires, but rather so that we ourselves may realize that in these things it is necessary to turn to God for help (St. Thomas Aquinas).

June 11, 2016

“Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to his love, and the future to his providence” (St. Augustine).

November 18, 2016

Let us never lose courage or despair of God’s mercy.  We have only to humble ourselves before God in order to obtain grace to become all that we ought to be (St. Rose Philippine Duchesne).

November 21, 2016

Humility is the virtue of our Lord Jesus Christ, of his blessed Mother, and of the greatest saints.  It embraces all virtues and, where it is sincere, introduces them into the soul (St. Vincent de Paul).

November 28, 2016

We shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavoring to know God; for, beholding his greatness, we realize our own littleness.  His purity shows us our foulness; and, by meditating upon his humility, we find how very far we are from being humble (St. Teresa of Ávila).

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Pdf file…  Child Jesus chaplet prayers

Links of interest…  Apostleship of the Sea…  Are your decisions born of fear or love…  Bringing back what is true & good…  Child Jesus: devotion / infancy & childhood / meditations / miracles (books) / photos / questions & answers / reverence / solemnity…  Diocese of Corpus Christi (office of the bishop – videos)…  Divine Child: about / devotion…  Forgiveness & contemplation in prayer…  Holy Infant of Prague: about / artifacts / chaplet / feast / history / league / novena / of good health (more) / petitions / prayers…  Office: about / breviary / liturgy of the hours / universalis…  Saintly former slave a model of mercy…  Practice of the presence of God…  Santo Niño de Atocha: about / chapel / history / miracles / origin / prayers / story (more)…  Santo Niño de Cebú: basilica / feast (more) / history / homily / novena / origin / perpetual novena / song (YouTube)…  Signs & symbols (Mary McGlone, CSJprayer request app)…  South Texas Catholic…  St. Pius X: facebook / Santo Niño devotion / schedule of services / website…  Word to life: Sunday scripture readings (Official Catholic Directory – Catholic News Service)…  Year of Mercy makes sense only if you haven’t lost the sense of sin

WP posts…  Beloved joyful priest…  Call of service…  Celebrations…  Christmas year ’round…  Connected tangents…  Dear God…  Faces of Mary…  Faith and prayer…  Gifts…  Heart’s desire…  In good time…  Little gifts…  Living one’s gifts…  Making meaning…  Mercy and justice…  Multicultural Mass…  Noon visit…  On being Christian…  One prayer…  Pink divinity…  Santo Niño…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus…  Venerable Margaret

Stella Maris moments

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Saturday evening Mass: January 2, 2016

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St. Joseph’s Hall: Tour with Joe Shaw

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Stella Maris moments: 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013, respectively

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

Links of interest…  Gratitude…  Stella Maris: anniversary / marker / facebook

WP posts…  Call of service…  Delightful visit…  Father’s roses…  Healing service…  Holy relics…  Memorable as ever…  Powerful intercessor…  Prayers and blessings…  Promise of hope…  Saintly connections…  St. Peregrine relic…  Stella Maris

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 Claresquiet place 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

Delightful visit

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Visiting Stella Maris is a treat.  Father Ralph is such a joy that I long to sit and talk with him for hours on end.  God bless him and keep him healthy!  He needs our prayers!

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Prayers

Father Ralph, eager as ever to promote St. Peregrine, gave us two booklets— prayers below are from pages 20-21— and two sets of cards.  “I had the big one specially made!” he beamed.  Father’s generous to a fault.  He knows I share, too!

For healing…  God of goodness and mercy, I praise and thank you for the many blessings I have received through your generous love.  Grant me the grace to be attentive to all you are asking of me at this time in my life and to respond with courage and faith in your compassionate love for me.  Let me spend my life doing good and avoiding all that is not in accord with your will for me.

Trusting in your goodness and with confidence in your power to heal I humbly ask, through the intercession of St. Peregrine, for this grace (mention your request).  May all nations come to know the power of your love and the unfailing gift of your mercy so that one day we may glorify you with all the saints in heaven.  Amen.

For someone with cancer…  Almighty and eternal God, healer of those who trust in you, through the intercession of St. Peregrine, hear my prayer for (name).  In your tender mercy restore her/him to bodily health that she/he may give you thanks, praise your name, and proclaim your wondrous love to all.  I ask this through Christ your son, our Lord.  Amen.

For the family of a cancer patient…  Compassionate and loving God, among your many gifts one most cherished is the love of family.  I ask now that you be particularly mindful of ___’s family.  Hold each of them in your loving hands and care for them.  Give them courage and patience, hope and optimism; relieve their fears and anxieties.  During this difficult time let your love sustain them and their love for one another be a support and consolation.  Amen.

St. Peregrine, pray for them.

Praise and thanksgiving…  Lord Jesus, I praise, glorify, and bless you for all the graces and privileges you have bestowed upon your chosen servant and pastor of souls, St. Peregrine.  By his merits grant me your grace, and through his intercession help me in all my needs.  At the hour of my death be with me until that time when I can join the saints in heaven to praise you forever and ever.  Amen.

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

Links of interest…  Gratitude…  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 / facebook / history (more) / Lamar, TX (more) / marker

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