Twelve and five

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Steven and I usually attend Saturday evening Mass.  Only we couldn’t do that January twenty-first because we were on field trips that day.

Too tired to get up early Sunday morning, we slept in and opted for noon Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Brownsville, TX.

Noon Mass

A beautiful sacred space with good music, enthusiastic parishioners, and an excellent homilist enveloped us as we occupied the right-hand center aisle seats on the third pew.  Who could ask for anything more?

Then, after Mass, I approached one of the Extraordinary Ministers to ask when church would close.

The young woman smiled Mona Lisa style and softly responded.  “Take your photos.  I have the key.  I’ll wait until you’re done.”

Without knowing, I’d gone up to the parish secretary, Sandra Castillo, a beautiful young woman, patient and generous with her time.  I was beyond grateful, so I got busy.

Before we left, we met her sister, Anita; and they met Steven.  I told Sandra that I’d email to let her know when I’d uploaded the photos onto my blog, but half of the photos were too dark to salvage.

Still unaccustomed to the settings on my new Coolpix, I’d forgotten to set the flash.  The altar and the alcove appeared so dark that, even with adjustments, the photos were useless.  The only solution?  Attend five o’clock Mass the following weekend.

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Evening Mass

What a difference between the two Masses!

Music at noon had been louder, more upbeat, with younger families and teens in attendance, while evening Mass featured a pianist-cellist duo whose music was somewhat nostalgic with older family members in mind.

Moreover, the ambiance was relaxed and inviting, conducive to spontaneity.

As I photographed the statues in the alcove before Mass, a young mother with a tall candle embraced like a beloved child, waited just a few feet behind me.  Sensing her, I instinctively turned and stepped aside.

olgc12817-23I was a mix of regretful thoughtlessness for impeding the woman’s time before the saints and awe at her unanticipated response.  Instead of greeting me with frowned disdain, she touched my heart with her warm, modest smile, ojo a ojo, as we unintentionally rubbed arms passing each other by.

In those fleeting moments I wanted to say “excuse me,” but she’d immersed herself in prayerful intimacy before I could say anything.  So I added my sentiments in silence, thanked God for the blessing, took my photos, and walked back to where Steven sat.

During the sign of peace I reached over to shake hands with a young man at the end of the pew in front of ours and, on making eye contact, was immediately whisked away to another place in time.

“Rey?!!” I asked incredulously.

The young man smiled knowingly.  “You haven’t changed at all!”

Rey Ramirez and his cousin, Norma, had both been my sixth-grade students the year my oldest, William, had been in a different classroom.  Collectively a really excellent crop of kids, I was overjoyed that some had remained friends over the years despite life’s changes and intermittent communications.

“The two altar servers are my kids,” Rey beamed, unable to contain his pride and joy.

Oh, my gosh, how the years had passed.  What a gift to see him again!

After Mass I was drawn back to the alcove for several minutes.  Standing within the stillness of my spirituality but very much aware of others moving about, I noticed an upbeat teenager approaching with intent.

“This is a wonderful church!” I enthused as she neared the candle holders.

“I’ve attended Our Lady of Good Counsel for fifteen years….  I can’t imagine belonging anywhere else.  I love it here!” the young woman declared.

Her faith, light and soulful, flowed effortlessly, reminiscent of the natural water source that St. Teresa of Avila described in The Interior Castle (Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., 1979, pp. 33-34).

God’s favored her, I thought.  Does she have any idea how special she is?

Then, bidding each other well, I walked away as her candle lighting ritual began.

In the meantime, Steven had been chatting with the woman who’d rushed me before Communion to exchange a heartfelt handshake.

She looked somewhat familiar, but did I know her?  I’d made that mistake before.

When I reached them, the smiling woman introduced herself.

Rose Rivas, I later learned, is the cellist’s wife.  She was so effusive that we conversed until we somehow intuited, based on the sacristan’s concerned looks and the times he walked past us, that he needed to lock up for the night.

“You have to come back!” Rose insisted, her heart on her sleeve.

“We will,” I smiled.  “The church is very welcoming, Father’s homilies hit the spot, and I love the cello.  Being here feels just right.”

And we said our goodbyes.

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Twelve and five

Looking back on our time at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Sandra’s graciousness left a lovely, indelible imprint; but our overall impression encompassed not just priest and parishioners, but environment as well.

I gravitate toward statues, stained-glass windows, and the stations of the cross.  I enjoy interactions between light and dark areas, subliminal reflections of our daily lives, within sacred spaces.  And I cherish impromptu moments— a demure smile, a shared anecdote, a silent prayer— among would-be strangers, if not for our Catholic (Christian) faith.  So, based on these appealing attributes, we felt very much at ease within this vibrant church community.  And, oh, the memories gleaned!

We arrived early for Mass both times, since my blog requires weekly photographs of the altar for the “meditations” page.  This gave us unhurried quiet time to experience the comings, doings, and goings all around.  Heaven forbid that we should sit and gawk, though!  Mom would never have put up with that!  We would’ve gotten coscorrones; hard, twisted pinches on the arm; and/or, heaven forbid, La Mirada!

Twelve o’clock Mass was energized, not at all “for lazy folks” (quite the inference eons ago).  Everyone was wide-awake and glad to be there.  Lively proactive engagement for sure!  But, unlike St. Paul’s where parishioners linger endlessly after Mass, Our Lady of Good Counsel emptied quickly.  Maybe because the midday meal harkened the hungry soul?  Maybe because, as I’ve tried to explain to Steven, the culture is different?  Maybe because work, familial obligations, and other factors were at play?

Five o’clock Mass was different, though.  The music was calming; the atmosphere, serene.  The lighting was softer, more contemplative; the evening, aglow with gratitude.

All week long I’d awaited Saturday with joyful expectation, but never could I have imagined the surprises that God had in store.  By returning to Our Lady of Good Counsel, we delighted not just in the ladies and Rey, but also in his two precious children and Norma’s parents before we left church that evening.  God is sooo good!

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Prayers

God of heavenly wisdom, you have given us Mary, mother of Jesus, to be our guide and counselor.  Grant that we may always seek her motherly help in this life and so enjoy her blessed presence in the life to come.

O Mother of Good Counsel, patroness of the National Council of Catholic Women, intercede for us that we may be wise, courageous, and loving leaders of the church.  Help us, dear Mother, to know the mind of Jesus, your son.

May the Holy Spirit fill us with the reverence for God’s creation and compassion for all God’s children.  May our labors of love on earth enhance the reign of God, and may God’s gifts of faith and living hope prepare us for the fullness of the world to come.  Amen.

Most glorious virgin, selected by the eternal councils as mother of the eternal word made human, treasury of divine grace and advocate of sinners, I, the most unworthy of Christians, have recourse to you.  [Be] my guide and counselor in this valley of tears.  Obtain for me, by the precious blood of your divine Son, the pardon of my sins, the salvation of my soul, and the means necessary to secure it.  Obtain the triumph of the truth taught by the holy Church over those who would reject it and the spread of the reign of Jesus Christ over all the world.  Amen.

We turn to you, our Mother of Good Counsel, as we seek to imitate your faith-filled life.  May we be led by the same wisdom which God sent forth from heaven to guide you along unfamiliar paths and through challenging decisions.

Keep us united in mind and heart as we go forward in joyful hope toward the grace-filled freedom that Augustine recommends.

O Virgin Mother of Good Counsel, hear our prayer as we look to you for guidance.  Pray for us to our loving and merciful Father, to your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit, giver of all wisdom, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

February 5, 2017

If we wish to make any progress in the service of God, we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness.  We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor (St. Charles Borromeo).

February 8, 2017

“The best thing for us is not what we consider best, but what the Lord wants of us!”
(St. Josephine Bakhita).

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me not pass you by in the quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow (Mary Jean Irion).

February 9, 2017

“‘Great’ holiness consists in carrying out the ‘little duties’ of each moment”
(St. Josemaría Escrivá).

February 12, 2017

Patience is power.  Patience is not an absence of action; rather, it is “timing.”  [Patience] waits on the right time to act, for the right principles, and in the right way (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen).

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Links of interest…  About saints...  Finding hope & healing in prayer…  Importance of lighting candles (prayers)…  Josemaría Escrivá: about / home / Opus Deiquotes…  Mary: beloved of the Trinity / celebrating May / corner / devotion / gate of heaven / litany / meditations / mother (of the church) / Our Lady of Hope / page / prayers (miracles – more – novena – queen of angels) / untier of knots…  Mother of Good Counsel: about (book – more) / feast (more) / history of the apparition / mater boni consilii / miraculous fresco (image) / story…  Our Lady of Good Counsel Church: about / facebookwebsite…  Pray for us in these times of confusion, O Mother of Good Counsel…  Prayers for valor & virtue / litany / novena…  Pray  Surprises: God’s (more) – gracious rescue

WP pages…  M 2016…  Meditations…  Praise…  Saints

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Faces of Mary…  Faith and prayer…  God’s lovely gifts…  Guadalupe Church…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  My Franciscan Crown…  Our Lady…  Our Lady’s church…  Repeated prayers…  San Juan Diego…  Seven dwelling places

Second looks

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My junior high school science teacher, Mr. Beimler, always insisted that second looks allow not just for comparing and contrasting, but also for enrichment.  So, over the course of my lifetime, I’ve tested and tweaked that notion, adding depth and complexity as well as enjoyment and perspective.

Do-over

When Steven emailed from his Wednesday evening ACTS team meeting that we’d be returning to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), I was relieved.  One of my posted photos of the stained-glass windows looked fuzzy, so I was glad for the opportunity to replace it.

Still, what I’d really hoped (and longed for) since our first visit to OLPH was to indulge my third eye in its post-Lent unveiled statues.

Second looks

Attending Saturday evening Mass presented a slight dilemma, however.  The lighting was different.  But I took my time, made lens adjustments, and hoped for the best.

As Steven recruited for the men’s ACTS retreat, I moved about capturing not only what I’d missed during our first visit, but also what the church community holds dear.

The all-white angels on either side of the all-white Madonna and her child dazzled me.  Who thinks to have uncolored statues in church?  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph reminded me of the original statues from the old St. Joseph Church in Port Aransas.  They resemble collectible prayer card depictions.  And Mary, featured prominently near the altar, emotionally transported me to daily Mass as a first-grader at Immaculate Conception School.  Even now Mary is celebrated with floral bouquets in May.

All in all, Our Lady of Perpetual Help was just as insightful the second time around!

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Prayers

O Mother of Perpetual Help, grant that I may ever invoke your most powerful name, which is the safeguard of the living and the salvation of the dying.  O purest Mary, O sweetest Mary, let your name henceforth be ever on my lips.  Delay not, O blessed Lady, to help me whenever I call on you; for, in all my needs, in all my temptations, I shall never cease to call on you, ever repeating your sacred name, Mary, Mary.  O what consolation, what sweetness, what confidence, what emotion fill my soul when I pronounce your sacred name or even only think of you.  I thank God for having given you for my good, so sweet, so powerful, so lovely a name.  But I will not be content with merely pronouncing your name.  Let my love for you prompt me ever to hail you, mother of perpetual help.  Amen.

My powerful Queen, you are all mine through your mercy, and I am all yours.  Take away from me all that may displease God and cultivate in me all that is pleasing to him.  May the light of your faith dispel the darkness of my mind, your deep humility take the place of my pride, your continual sight of God fill my memory with his presence.

May the first of the love of your heart inflame the lukewarmness of my own heart.  May your virtues take the place of my sins.  May your merits be my enrichment and make up for all that is wanting in me before God.

My beloved Mother, grant that I may have no other spirit but your spirit  to know Jesus Christ and his divine will and to praise and glorify the Lord, that I may love God with burning love like yours.  Amen.

V.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
R.  I give you my heart and my soul.
V.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
R.  Assist me in my last agony.
V.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
R.  May I sleep and take my rest in peace with you.

June 9, 2016

“Most people have no idea what God would make of them if they would only place themselves at his disposal” (St. Ignatius of Loyola).

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Links of interest…  ACTS Missions…  Immaculate heart of Mary…  Mary: Indispensable to the gospel…  Never be afraid to take the same photograph again…  OLPH: facebook / Mass timeswebsite…  Our Lady of Perpetual Help: about / devotionshistory / image (elements – icon) / meaning / prayers: novena – safeguard – thanksgiving (petitions) – video / who is…  Time to free Mary…  Your blog is your mothership…  Why priests (& all evangelists) need Mary

WP posts…  Building community…  Call of service…  Church time blues…  Faces of Mary…  Faith and prayer…  For all time…  Gifts…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  Notre Dame revisited…  One prayer…  Our Lady…  Picturing God…  St. Mary Cathedral…  St. Mary revisited…  St. Mary’s…  Today’s Beatitudes…  Undeniable familiarity

Celebrations

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When Steven and I attended Saturday evening Mass at St. Pius X in Corpus Christi, TX, we got way more than we’d anticipated.

Real meal deal

Before Mass— actually, between the service at five-thirty and ours at seven— I’d wandered around doing my usual thing: taking photos here and there, mostly captivated by the four angels in the portico leading to the church entrance.  So I’d overheard a constant stream of lively conversations among parishioners exiting the earlier Mass and the tall, friendly priest, well-spoken and sincere.  Lots of heartfelt wishes were exchanged along with a rather large gift bag that I later saw the priest carry into church.  But what captivated my listening ear were the “God bless you” sentiments that the shepherd dispensed in the same upbeat tone to each of his sheep.

Walking around with my third eye (Coolpix) certainly has its perks! I kept thinking.  At a time when religious and priests have shortened the message to “God bless”— a pet peeve for sure, since I’ve heard it used as an expletive over the course of my lifetime— I was truly moved not just by the flock, but by the shepherd, too.

I smiled within.  He’s the “real meal deal,” as Fr. Ralph Jones at Stella Maris might say.

Angels and sheep

SPX11616-25Then a voice called me back to earth.  “Those angels are something special, aren’t they?” the priest quipped as he soundlessly passed me by on his way into church.

“Ye—es,” I stuttered, momentarily losing my quiet comfort zone.  I’d been caught red-handed in the proverbial cookie jar!  “Yes they are,” I immediately rebounded, still gazing at the angel with the torch.

The priest had been focused on his flock, reminiscent of “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14).  Yet he’d acknowledged the strange sheep lurking about, feigning invisibility behind the camera lens.  Nice touch.

Celebrations

After Mass concluded but before the procession, a vivacious young woman stepped up to the ambo to deliver the speech she’d prepared.  She giggled; we laughed.  She’d been volunteered to do the honors; but, really, she’d come to the realization that she wanted to do it.  Her exuberance was contagious!

As I listened to the young woman’s anecdotes, I felt as if I’d known Fr. Paul all along.  From my brief time eavesdropping out in the portico, he’d come alive as a down-to-earth shepherd who smells like his sheep.

Talks (below) by the young woman, Fr. Paul, and Bishop Mulvey, respectively, were transcribed from my audio recording of the Mass.

Good evening.  I was given a task to give a simple and short tribute to a very important person in our community.  I was confused on where to start.  How do I even do this?

SPX11616-128This person is loved by so many people in this community that I felt pressured, so my solution was to have some help from some of you.

I interviewed a couple of people in this room and asked them, “Who is Fr. Paul?”

Some of the answers were “a spiritual leader,” “a mentor,” “a friend,” “a role model.”  One even said “a Filipino convert.”  And the list goes on and on.  But I promised to be quick, so I’ll stop there.

[“You didn’t ask me!” Bishop Mulvey interjected humorously.]

Fr. Paul means a lot to all of us.  He is a very important pillar to our community.  He plants and waters the seeds.  That’s why we’re here celebrating our tenth annual Sinulog celebration with his constant support and guidance.

Who is Fr. Paul to you?

The little kids told me, “Jesus Christ.”

I can understand the response because Fr. Paul always takes time to laugh with the kids with their silly jokes and always smiles even though he’s tired [from] his other responsibilities.  He even high-fives the kids after Mass.

SPX11616-129In one of Fr. Paul’s homilies in these nine-day novena Masses, he stated that he wishes for people to see Christ in him. And I guess that’s the answer.

Yes, we see Christ in you.

As you will be celebrating your twentieth anniversary of priesthood this Monday, January eighteenth, we pray for you to have good health so that you continue doing what you do best, which is being the fisher of men.

We would like to present to you a small token of our appreciation.  This reads “May you continue to be sustained by His grace and may your life in God’s service be always filled with joy.”

Let me end this by asking for Santo Nino’s protection [for] you at all times.

Pit senyor con Fr. Paul caron!

Fr. Paul was presented with a large framed Divine Mercy picture that he very graciously accepted.  And, without hurrying, he spoke to us briefly so the procession could begin.

Thank you very much.  I will cherish this.  Actually, you caught me by surprise.

I really appreciate your thoughtfulness tonight in recognizing me, but I’ve always felt that this celebration and the devotion that we’ve had for the past ten years every first Friday has been about you.

SPX11616-72It’s been about your traditions and about your faith and your devotion to the Santo Niño, so it’s been wonderful to see how the devotion has grown starting with maybe a handful of people in a home.  Maybe about fifty.  Maybe it was seventy-five people in the home that first year.  And now there’s almost five-hundred people here tonight, I can see.

So, what a wonderful gift.  I think that’s the power of the Santo Niño, the Child Jesus, who brings us all together and who draws us into communion with one another.

And so, what a special blessing it has been to be with you these past ten years.  Thank you for who you are and for embracing me into your life of faith and into your community, so God bless you all.

And, before we go in procession and we then move over to the festivities, I want to say a special word of thanks to Bishop Mulvey for being with us tonight.  He’s a very busy man.  But he takes time out of his schedule and he wants to be a part of this celebration, I know.  He has a very special place in his heart for all of you; so thank you, Bishop Mulvey, for being here with us.

Of course, we also need to thank Fr. Kisito for coming to celebrate with us.  I think that he’s been with us most of the years that we’ve been celebrating, and he comes to assist with the novenas.  So thank you very much,
Fr. Kisito.

Does everybody know what they’re doing?

But wait!  Hold on!  Not so fast!

Bishop Mulvey managed to pull another of the last-minute antics we’ve come to relish: On his way to the ambo he somewhat excused the interruption by saying, “You know, the bishop always gets the last word!”  Hilarious— as in, whom has he not mentored?!!

SPX11616-136I’ve known Fr. Paul longer than any of you.  I was the director of spiritual formation at St. Mary’s Seminary when Fr. Paul was head full of hair and playing the guitar.  But what I want to say— are you sure it’s not twenty-five years?  It’s twenty-five.  It better be twenty-five ‘cause I’m forty.  And I thought it has to be more than twenty.  But twenty-five years?  That’s wonderful!

I wasn’t prepared for this.  This is kind of off the cuff, but Fr. Paul is what-you-see-is-what-you-get.  And I say that most sincerely because, what we saw twenty-five years ago— or twenty-six, twenty-seven years ago at the seminary— is what we see today: A man who is just very sincere, very generous, very joyful, very transparent.  And it’s an honor.

I never knew twenty-five years ago that I would be his bishop.  But it is an honor to be your bishop.  I’m very grateful for all that he does here in the parish and in the diocese.  So, Fr. Paul, many congratulations to you and many, many— many, many, many, many— more years.  You’d better outlast me, anyway.  So, God bless you on this celebration.  And God bless each one of you for all the good that you do for your families, for the diocese, and for your church.  God bless you!

Pope Francis would be so proud, I thought.  This priest has heeded the call of service for twenty-five years and he looks, acts, and sounds like a spring chicken.  I’d say that’s a match made in heaven!

So, long story short, we celebrated not just the feast of Santo Niño de Cebú, but also the ordination anniversary of Fr. Paul Hesse, beloved shepherd.  And, just like that, I quickly understood why Uncle Johnny’s family, along with Allie and Stephen Carter, have been part of the St. Pius X church community from the very start.

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Prayer

Eternal God, please bless our priests who represent you on this earth.  Make them more greatly aware of the grace that you pour out through them when they minister the sacraments, and help them to fall more deeply in love with you after each and every Mass that they celebrate.

Please strengthen our priests, who shepherd your flock, when they are in doubt of their faith that they may be examples of your truth and guide us always on the path to you.

We ask these things of you, our eternal priest.  Amen.

January 25, 2016

A man of prayer is capable of everything.  He can say with St. Paul, “I can do all things in him who strengthened me” (St. Vincent de Paul).

January 27, 2016

“You will accomplish more by kind words and a courteous manner than by anger or sharp rebuke, which should never be used except in necessity” (St. Angela Merici).

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Pdf file…  Child Jesus chaplet prayers

Links of interest…  Altar server surrogate…  “Amazing:” What happened when one parish invited anyone to stop by & meet a priest…  Do beautiful churches produce beautiful priests…  Dom Hubert Van Zeller, OSB (1905-1984): about / books (more – titles) / correspondence with MertonGospel priesthood / How to find God / spiritual master – writer’s cramp…  Everything can turn into prayer…  Forgotten benefits of Christ within…  Open yourself to goodness…  Mysticism: It’s not just for saints…  Pope Francis’ Fatal 15…  Prayers: cardholy hour / missionaries / novena / one hundred / priests / priests & religious…  Priest: dignity & vocation / quadriplegic / soldier & simple poet…  Santo Niño website …  St. John Vianney: about / catechism on the priesthood / ten maxims & quotes…  Three hints on getting more from the homily…  Unlikely calling…  Veteran’s Day & the Body of Christ…  What’s your mission…  When God says no to your yes…  You can bring Christ to the world

WP posts…  Beloved joyful priest…  Call of service…  Capuchin Christmas…    Father’s guided tour…  Father now retired…  God’s loving mercy…  God’s master plan…  Home again…  Memory lane…  Mercy and justice…  Prayer power…  Prayerful ways…  Promise of hope…  Quiet prayer time…  Santo Niño…  Solano, Solanus, Solani…  St. Michael chaplet…  Sweet Jesus…  Today’s Beatitudes

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

Church time blues

SJC3611-29A few days ago, I decided to look for answers to some questions I’d been lugging around for a while.

For instance, what’s the difference between the liturgical year and the church calendar?  What are lexionary cycles?  And why does Steven prepare for the Sunday readings using workbooks marked A, B, or C?  Why does Ordinary Time come around twice?  Why is it called Ordinary Time?  What signals a season’s start and its ending?  Are blue vestments now worn to differentiate between Advent and Lent?

Of course, during the search and find process, new questions always come up; but here’s what I’ve found in the meantime.

Liturgical year

The liturgical year is divided into four parts.  Its two themes, or cycles— Christmas and Easter— are based primarily on the Gospel of John.  Each cycle has its seasons and colors.

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The Christmas cycle consists of Advent, Christmastide, and the time after Epiphany.

The Easter cycle has four seasons: Septuagesima; Lent (Quadragesima); Paschaltide, or Eastertide; and the time after Pentecost.  Moreover, the last two weeks of Lent are called Passiontide.  Holy Week with its Sacred Triduum— Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday— begins with Palm Sunday and is the second week of Passiontide and the last week of Lent.

Ordinary Time, on the other hand, isn’t associated with a theme; hence, its name.  Its thirty-three or thirty-four Sundays are divided into two sections, which recount the life and work of Christ based on the three remaining gospels.  The first part lasts from Monday after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord through Tuesday before Ash Wednesday; the second, Monday after Pentecost until Saturday evening following the Feast of Christ the King.  This holy day ends the liturgical year, after which the new year begins with the Christmas theme.

Gospels are presented in three-year cycles: Matthew, A; Mark, B; and Luke, C.  First readings, based on the Old Testament, support the message in the corresponding day’s gospel.  Second readings are taken from the apostles’ letters in the New Testament.  Although the letters are delivered sequentially, Peter’s and John’s are read during the two church themes: Christmas and Easter.  Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is read at the start of Ordinary Time in Years A, B, and C, since it covers assorted topics and is rather lengthy; James’s Letter to the Hebrews, in Years B and C.

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Church calendar

The church calendar refers to four types of remembrances.   Feast days denote the dates when saints died, or entered heaven.  Memorials honor saints, dedications of churches, or other such special times in church history.  Commemorations are celebrations during which parts from two separate Masses are combined to acknowledge both special days, since they can’t be transferred to other dates.  Holy days, usually observed with a Vigil Mass, glorify events in the life of Jesus, Mary, or other important saints.

Lexionary

A lexionary is a book of lessons that contains the scripture readings sequenced in such a way that the life of Christ is told from beginning to end each calendar year.

Colors

The colors of liturgical vestments depend on the occasion. 

vestments2White  is for Easter, Christmas, and Holy Days; red, for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Pentecost Sunday; green, for Ordinary Time; violet or purple, for Advent, Lent, and Requiem Masses; violet, white, or black, for funerals; and rose, for the third Sunday of Advent and the fourth Sunday of Lent.  Vestments that are either festive or different in color may also be worn.

In the United States, gold- or silver-colored vestments are also allowed on solemn occasions.

Church time blues

And, personally, I like the idea of royal blue for Advent not only to distinguish the season from Lent, but also to signal that the birth of the Infant is near: a joyous occasion, blue, as opposed to a somber event, purple.  However, ten of the twelve online articles I read expressed their dislike, disdain, disgust, and/or disapproval of blue vestments.

One priest referred to a musical parody on the color blue.  Another saw red at the sight of a priest wearing blue.  If he closed his eyes, he wrote, the colors would blend as purple, which meant compliance with church rules.  A couple mentioned blue is worn on special occasions in other countries, while two others noted that Protestants have adopted the color blue for Advent.  One blogger was tickled pink to see Pope Benedict XVI wearing blue, and a different source described blue in optimistic shades of patient anticipation.

Maybe I won’t see blue vestments become a reality in my lifetime, but I can dream.

After all, blue is Father Xaviour’s favorite color, as well as the color of the tile near the walls in our new church building.  But, no, I haven’t asked Father’s opinion on blue vestments yet.

Links to explore

In the meantime, I’ve got some excellent links to follow (on homilies, church customs, and celebrations) before revisiting the Fish Eaters’ list of recommended movies to view during the liturgical year.

Maybe you’d like to do the same?

November 29, 2010

On entering church for eleven o’clock Mass yesterday, the first day of Advent, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Blue on the altar?  Amazing.

Since replacing the photo on the left (2009) with the photo on the right (2010) on our church blog yesterday, I’ve revisited Sunday’s post numerous times.

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The blue is so bright and uplifting compared to the subdued purple that the altar appears to be signaling a glorious event.

I wonder, Will Father Xaviour wear blue to match next year?  Will I see blue vestments during Advent in the Catholic Church in my lifetime?

Links of interest…  Advent blues…  Approved colors (meaning / more)…  Blue: chasuble / color / not a liturgical color / not for Christmas / rant & poll (more – still more)…  Calendar of saints…  Catholic fidelity (why I am Catholic)…  Colorful guide to the liturgical year in one infographic…  Gospel: homilies / Luke / page: index – introduction…  LectionaryMatthew, A / Mark, B / Luke, C…  Liturgical: calendar / colors / feast days / memorial (liturgy) / seasons & cycles (more) / time travelvestments (more) / year…  Movies with Christian themes…  Ordinary time (symbols)…  Proper of saints: Sanctoral cycle…  Seasonal customs…  Solemnity…  Why do priests wear green in Ordinary Time

WP post…  Blue heaven…  Call of service…  Concrete abstraction…  Growing pains…  Prayer power…  Prayerful ways…  Simple yet profound…  Sweet Jesus