Our Lady Star

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

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

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

September 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

            

                

            

            

            

            

            

            

            

November 21, 2017

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

            

            

               

            

                 

August 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steven joined us shortly, and we introduced ourselves.

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

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

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

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

          

                

          

                  

                

                        

          

                

                

September 8, 2018

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

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

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

         

            

     

      

September 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          

          

                  

          

            

      

Chaplet (edited)

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

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

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

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

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

        

More beaded samples

                

                       

Prayer

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

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

September 7, 2018

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

September 16, 2018

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

September 26, 2018

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

November 4, 2018

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

November 7, 2018

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

November 18, 2018

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

December 23, 2018

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

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

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

Three visits

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

June 18, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            

            

            

            

            

      

          

                

   

June 19, 2018

         

           

            

June 26, 2018

   

Prayers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pray three Hail Mary‘s.

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

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

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

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

Our Lady of Victories, please pray for us.

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

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

Our Lady’s snow

To avoid the colder, rainier drive to church on Friday, Steven and I attended six-thirty Mass at St. Benedict’s Thursday evening.

Fr. Luis and Deacon Sanchez wore white and blue in honor of Our Lady’s feast day, and the Advent altar was simple yet elegant.  The building was somewhat cold, so everyone kept their coat on.  And some coughed in response to the incense, but everyone was focused on the special celebration.

Feeling oh-so blessed during Mass, I closed my eyes without thinking and asked special blessings for everyone during the prayers of the faithful.  They love their church so much! I thought.  Fr. Luis interacts with them so genuinely that they truly are family.

Moreover, parishioners at St. Benedict’s are among the friendliest we’ve been around.  Welcoming and inclusive, they smile when they shake hands and, after Mass, engage us in conversation; so I keep them in my thoughts and prayers between visits.

            

                

Watchfulness

After Mass, Fr. Luis cautioned everyone to be very careful exiting church.  “The steps are slippery.  We will be fixing that problem in a few weeks; but, for now, watch yourself!  And drive safely!”

I couldn’t get to the vehicle quickly enough!  Cold, wet, all I could think of was getting home.  And, sure, the possibility of snow was on my mind, but really?  That’s just wishful thinking, I told myself.  Besides, it’s not even Christmas.

Traffic was heavy for a Thursday night.  Everyone was driving too fast despite the rain, but soon enough we were home safe watching the weathercast on the news.

Our Lady’s snow

Between twelve-o-five and one a.m. I started hearing noises: some, loud on the roof; others, “ticking” sounds on the window panes.  Raindrops?  Sleet?  It’s too dark to see anything.  I may regret not having looked, but I’m off to bed.  It was one-forty-five.

Then, five minutes to nine, Steven woke me.  “It’s snowing!  I figured you’d want to see!”

Those of us familiar with Our Lady of the Snows know that the Rio Grande Valley does not have a shrine in her honor.  However, on the Blessed Mother’s very special day, we were gifted with a fantastic surprise— a miracle, really— Our Lady’s snow.

            

            

           

            

Prayers

Allow me to praise you, O most holy Virgin Mary, with my personal commitment and sacrifice.  Allow me to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die for you, just for you.  Allow me to bring the whole world to you.  Allow me to contribute to your ever-greater exaltation, to your greatest possible exaltation.  Allow me to give you such glory that no one else has ever given up to now.

Allow others to surpass me in zeal for your exaltation and me to surpass them so that, by means of such noble rivalry, your glory may increase ever more profoundly, ever more rapidly, ever more intensely as He who has exalted you so indescribably, above all other beings….  Amen.

O most Holy Virgin, immaculate in body and spirit, look kindly on me as I implore your powerful intercession.  O most Holy Mother, receive my prayers as I present them to God.  (State your petition.)  O Mary, mother of Jesus and our mother, you intercede for us with your son.  O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.  Amen.

December 9, 2017

“The knowledge that God gives us of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin should cause us to glorify him eternally for this masterpiece of his omnipotence in a nature that is purely human” (St. Louise de Marillac).

Seeing how so many Christians express their affection for the Virgin Mary, surely you also feel more a part of the Church, closer to those brothers and sisters of yours.  It is like a family reunion.  Grown-up children, whom life has separated, come back to their mother for some family anniversary.  And even if they have not always got on well together, today things are different; they feel united, sharing the same affection (St. JosémarÍa Escrivá in Christ is passing by, 139).

Seek God in the depths of your pure, clean heart; in the depths of your soul when you are faithful to him.  And never lose that intimacy.

And, if ever you do not know how to speak to him or what to say, or you do not dare to look for Jesus inside yourself, turn to Mary, tota pulchra, all pure and wonderful, and tell her: Our Lady and Mother, the Lord wanted you yourself to look after God and tend him with your own hands.  Teach me, teach us all, how to treat your Son! (St. JosémarÍa Escrivá in The Forge, 84).

Links of interest…  Brownsville Herald: snow forecast / South Texas gets a rare snowfall…  Holy days of obligation are also days of opportunity…  Immaculate Conception: 8 things to know / Dec 8 (more) / feast (more – prayer) / in scripture (discussion – more) / meaning of the celebrationoctave no longer observedprayers / solemnity (more – prayer – readings) / why Catholics believe…  Our Lady of the Snows: about / Aug 5miracleshrine / story (video)…  Sabbatical for suffering with the Immaculate Conception…  St. Benedict Church: facebook / Mass times (more) / website…  St. JosémarÍa Escrivá: fifteen leadership lessonsOpus Dei…  White Christmas in Brownsville, TX (2004)…  Why Mary is patroness of the United States

WP posts…  Faces of Mary…  Fatima prayers…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s Immaculate Heart…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  Our Lady…  St. Benedict’s…  St. Mary revisited

Our Lady’s Assumption

Years ago, when we were parishioners at St. Joseph’s, I noticed an invitation from Our Lady of the Assumption in our church bulletin.  How I wanted to attend!  But I barely knew my way around town, so I chose not even to attempt the drive to Ingleside.

Our Lady’s Assumption

Then, almost ten years later, we received the Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event invitation to spend the day in Ingleside.

“We can stop by church before the meeting!” I told Steven excitedly before realizing that Tuesday, August 15, 2017, was Our Lady’s feast day, a holy day of obligation, and the perfect opportunity to visit the church I’d longed to see.

So, we arrived early enough to explore the extraordinary sacred space that is Our Lady of the Assumption and immersed ourselves mind, heart, and soul in the quiet semi-darkness that envelopes exquisite treasures and stunning stained-glass windows, like the focal point on the altar that dates back to fourteenth-century Spain.

This church was dedicated to the worship of God and the honor of Our Lady of the Assumption, May 26, 1975, by Most Rev. Thomas J. Drury, DD, LLD.  Built by voluntary labor (Plaque by the entrance).

And, days later, we returned for Sunday morning Mass!

            

            

            

            

                  

                        

                        

                  

            

         

Prayer

Bless me, O daughter of the eternal Father, and obtain for me the grace never to offend my God by my thoughts.  Bless me, O mother of the eternal Son, and pray that I may never offend my God by my words.  Bless me, O spouse of the eternal Spirit [that] by your intercession… I may never offend my God by my actions or omissions.  Bless me, O sanctuary of the most holy Trinity.  Pray for me that I may love and serve my God with my whole heart and soul and that I may enjoy him forever….  O Mary, receive me as your child for the sake of Jesus who [entrusted] me [into your] care in his agony on the cross.  Amen.

Sweet heart of Mary, be my salvation. 

Quotes

“Divine love so penetrated and filled the soul of Mary that no part of her was left untouched so that she loved with her whole heart, with her whole soul, with her whole strength and was full of grace” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

“The mystery [of Mary’s assumption] reminds us that our definitive homeland is not here on earth and that our longing for fulfillment finds complete satisfaction only in eternal happiness” (Pope Benedict XVI).

November 21, 2017

Mother Mary knows each voice singularly.  She hears the call, perceives the need, and rushes to her child’s side.  This sweet Mother of mercy and grace will be there for her children in all dangers, difficulties, needs, doubts, and fears.

Mary knows your voice.  She will hear your call, she will perceive your need, and then she will rush to your side.  Call her now.  She is waiting to hear your voice above all the others (Marge Steinhage Fenelon in Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace).

Links of interest…  Assumption: feast / history & why it’s a holy day of obligation (more) / making assumptions / sermonssolemnity / three ways to honor Mary…  Five ways to seek grace…  Ingleside parish celebrates with Father Doherty…  Our Lady of the Assumption: aboutfacebook / website…  Parish is the body of Christ…  Prayer (novena)…  Texas Travel Time / Tropical Trail Region (about – facebook – map) / Tropical Traveler (blog & signup)…

WP posts…  Faces of Mary…  Fatima prayers…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s Immaculate Heart…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  Our Lady…  St. Mary revisited

Fatima prayers

Seven years ago I visited Most Precious Blood in Corpus Christi, Texas for the first time and discovered Our Lady of Fatima at the St. Jude Shrine.  The following month we traveled to Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas, and found her at Sacred Heart.  Three years later we enjoyed her peaceful countenance at Marytown in Libertyville, Illinois and at both Our Lady of Corpus Christi and Sacred Heart in Corpus Christi.

Similarly, in the hundredth year since the apparitions, we’ve shared our devotion to Our Lady of Fatima at a friend’s healing Mass at St. Paul the Apostle in Flour Bluff on May 1; at a LAMP buddy’s wedding at St. Mary’s Visitation in Elm Grove, Wisconsin on May 13; and during Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Corpus Christi on May 27.

Truth be told, Our Lady of Fatima— on display year ’round or just for her feast day— evokes such sweet recollections of annual pilgrim rosaries at Sam and Ning’s house that I’m filled— sometimes emotionally overcome— with immense gratitude for both her spiritual guidance and her steadfast protection from life’s daily torments.

                        

                

                

Prayers

                       

            

                

        

                        

Contact information

October 12, 2017

The first three leaflets are from America Needs Fatima,
P. O. Box 708, Rossville, KS 66533-0708; the Shrine of the Infant of Prague, Dominican Fathers, 5 Hillhouse Avenue, P. O. Box 1202, New Haven, CT 06511-6815; and Hirten Company, 35 Industrial Road, Suite 2, Cumberland, RI 02864-4714, respectively.  The horizontal leaflet is from the Fatima shrine; and the prayer cards are from the Dominican Rosary Shrine of St. Jude (formerly in Detroit), 501 Sixth Street SW, Washington, DC 20024-2716 and the Golden Prayer League,
P. O. Box 1163, Kingston, PA 18704-1163, respectively.

August 3, 2017

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

August 9, 2017

“My longing for truth was a single prayer” (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross).

August 14, 2017

Faith is the first light, the heralding light, the foundation placed in us of what in its final perfection will be the beatific vision of God.  It is the beginning of the eternal ways in us, the commencement of our union with God (Fr. William Ullathorne in Patience and Humility).

            

Just three mementos from Sam & Ning’s many pilgrim rosaries: 2010, 2012, 2014

St. Mary’s Visitation – Elm Grove, WI

Our Lady of Perpetual Help – Corpus Christi, TX

Links of interest…  Angel of Fatima, messenger of peace…  Crisis of faith in the Church…  Do Catholics worship statues…  Fatima: 100 years later / about / apparitions (more) / beyond the anniversarybookcelebrating / directivesessentials / five prayersmeaning / message to mothersmiracle of the sun (four great lessons – video) / more important than ever / October 12, 2017 / return / shrine (online transmissions) / story / three secrets / woman of the promise…  Golden Prayer…  Hope & mercy & the miracle of the sun…  How anxiety thwarts gratitude, joy, & our interior well-being…  I won’t pray the rosary the same way again…  Let prayer be your air…  Litany to Our Lady…  Prayer takes practice: Five ways to improve your prayer life…  Rewire your brain with a rosary of gratitude…  Seven quotes from Sister Lucia / ways to live Fatima’s message…  What happens when you don’t pray / I learned from Our Lady’s hide-and-seek game…  Why 100 years mattersJuly 13, 1917 “changed” the church / we need Fatima’s message today

WP posts…  Faces of Mary…  Familiar yet new…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s seven joys…  Marytown shrine…  May flowers…  Our Lady…  Repeated prayers…  St. Michael chaplet

Mary’s Immaculate Heart

Driving past Immaculate Heart of Mary, I just knew I had to visit; but we moved back to Brownsville in the fall and I simply forgot, except for every now and then when I recalled my brief but memorable life in Harlingen.

February 26, 2017

Of course, the older I get the more I’ve come to know that long-held heartfelt wishes do come true.  And so it was that we needed to attend Mass “somewhere,” allowing us three hours precisely to get to where we needed to be that afternoon.

“You remember that church in Harlingen?” I asked Steven.  “The one I told you I’ve been wanting to visit since June 1969?  Let’s check online to see if it has ten o’clock Mass.”

And, oh, what a blessing that turned out to be!

    

            

                

                

            

            

            

                  

June 11, 2017

Our first visit to Immaculate Heart of Mary had been so thoroughly fulfilling that I’d longed to revisit; but, again as before, we needed to be back home by two o’clock, this time to attend Sam and Ning’s annual pilgrim rosary.

The church parking lot was empty except for us, but we didn’t panic.  We’d shown up super early for me to take photos so that we’d have time to chat after Mass.  Then, on finding the church unlit, we were somewhat puzzled but not really concerned.

As I did my thing and Steven sat to pray, a family of three or four young adults walked in.  Like us, they were from out of town and pretty much congratulating each other for “finding this church in perfect time for ten o’clock Mass.”

“This is so exciting!” one woman said to the others.  “I’ve never been here.  I wonder what it’s like.”

They’ll find out soon enough, I smiled to myself, because I certainly knew what to expect— welcoming parishioners, some more daring to strike up a conversation about their beloved church than others, but everyone genuinely inclusive.

Then, out of nowhere, a man— most likely the sacristan— quietly approached Steven and the others.

Standing near the altar I couldn’t quite make out what he said, but I sensed great disappointment not only in the voices, but also in the shuffling feet as the small group exited in disbelief.  I wasn’t ready to stop taking photos but walked over to Steven nonetheless, since he was already standing in the aisle, ready to go.

“I don’t know what happened, but there’s no ten o’clock Mass,” he said.  “According to the man, the bulletin with the times is posted in the vestibule.  The next one’s at eleven-thirty, but we’ll be late to Sam and Ning’s if we stay for that.”

Despite the time crunch, I insisted on “just two more photos” before we scrambled to find eleven o’clock Mass elsewhere.

We had to attend Mass before heading back home!

            

                

            

            

June 17, 2017

Naturally, I didn’t give up on Immaculate Heart of Mary so, being that we returned to the Rio Grande Valley during the week, we agreed to stay for Saturday evening Mass and return home Sunday.

And the beauty of attending Mass at a different time?  Getting a more rounded perspective on the church community that— wouldn’t you know it— welcomed us in the same friendly fashion as our first time there.

We may have been visitors, but we weren’t treated like strangers.  We were like everyone else, basking in the smiles before and during Mass, the warm handshakes during the sign of peace, and the joy in seeing all the dads go up to the altar to receive a special blessing and a St. Joseph key fob for Father’s Day.

And the icing on the cake?  The lector stopping by our pew to chat with us after Mass.

My only regret, sort of, was not leaving a “hello” message for the lector to pass along to Elvira, Joe, and Patsy— cherished hearts— whom we met in February.  But that’s okay.

We can always go back for late Sunday morning Mass!

            

July 9, 2017

We returned for eleven-thirty Mass with the hopes of seeing Elvira, Joe, and Patsy; but it just wasn’t meant to be.  Instead, we delighted in joyful expressions— effusive smiles during Mass and playful hellos after Communion— with the two lively little boys seated alongside us with their parents on the sixth pew facing the ambo.

            

                  

Prayers

Daily offering…  O Jesus, through the immaculate heart of Mary I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.  I offer them for all the intentions of your sacred heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sins, the reunion of all Christians.  I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all apostles of prayer and, in particular, for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.  Amen.

Daily renewal…  Queen of the most holy rosary, I renew my consecration to you and to your immaculate heart.  Please accept me, my dear mother, and use me as you wish to accomplish your designs upon the world.  I am all yours, my mother, my queen.  All that I have is yours.

Immaculate heart of Mary…  Father, you prepared the heart of the Virgin Mary to be a fitting home for your Holy Spirit.   By her prayers may we become worthy temples of your glory.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

Novena…  O most blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer.  As your children we implore your intercession with Jesus, your son.  Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially….

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer.  We trust to your gentle care and intercession those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting.  Help all of us, holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.  Amen.

Solemn act of consecration…  Most holy virgin, Mary, we consecrate ourselves and our families to your sorrowful and immaculate heart; and we recommend to you all the people of our country and all the world.  Please accept our consecration, dearest mother, and use us as you wish to accomplish your designs in the world.

Sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary, queen of the most holy rosary and queen of the world, rule over us together with the sacred heart of Jesus Christ, our king.  Save us from the spreading flood of modern paganism; kindle in our hearts and homes the love of purity, the practice of a virtuous life, an ardent zeal for souls, and a desire to pray the rosary more faithfully.

We come with confidence to you, mother of fair love.  Inflame us with the same divine fire which has inflamed your own sorrowful and immaculate heart.  Make our hearts and homes your shrine and, through us, make the heart of Jesus, together with your rule, triumph in every heart and home.  Amen (Companions of St. Anthony; edited).

                        

                

                

Contact information

Our Lord’s Virgin and Mother is from Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598; and the Immaculate Heart of Mary prayers are from The Grail, St. Meinrad, IN; and Hirten Company, 35 Industrial Road, Suite 2, Cumberland, RI 02864-4714, respectively.  The prayer card is from Golden Prayer League, P. O. Box 1163, Kingston, PA 18704-1163.

Quotes

For unless our Lady is recognized as the mother of God and as the queen of all the saints and angels and as the hope of the world, faith in God will remain incomplete.  How can we ask him for all the things he would have us hope for if we do not know, by contemplating the sanctity of the immaculate virgin, what great things he has power to accomplish in the souls of men? (Thomas Merton).

Let us pray to the immaculate heart of Mary for all the graces that we need to be a brilliant light and a holy comfort to others each and every day in this darkened and sometimes frightening world.  Don’t forget to offer your sufferings to God and to make sacrifices to save souls (Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle in Our Lady of Fatima).

July 20, 2017

There are three things we must do to be at peace: have a pure intention to desire the honor and glory of God in all things; do the little that we can unto that end, following the advice of our spiritual father; and leave all the rest to God’s care (St. Francis de Sales in Roses Among Thorns).

Links of interest…  Blessing of Catholic friends…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Church & spiritual maturity in Christian life…  Consecration to the immaculate heart of Mary…  Discernment, action, & WDGWMTD…  Finding your true self in Marian devotion…  Five words you need to hear at church…  God’s favorite garden…  IHM church: directionswebsite…  Immaculate heart of Mary (door of mercy – feast: Aug 22 – symbolism)…  Immaculate Mary Song…  Mary: beloved of the Trinity / celebrating May / corner / devotion / gate of heaven / litany / meditations / mother (of the church) / page / picturingprayers (miracles – more – novena – queen of angels) / untier of knots…  Prayer: devotion (more – purpose) / novenas / podcasts…  Society of the green scapular (heaven’s promises – Mary’s gift)…  Ten ways to grow in friendship with Jesus & Mary…  Thirteen quotes…  Why the Immaculate Heart is so close to the Sacred Heart

WP posts…  Faces of Mary…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  Marytown shrine…  May flowers…  Our Lady…  San Juan Diego…  Sorrowful redemption…  St. Benedict’s

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).

February 25, 2017

Do everything for love.  Thus there will be no little things: Everything will be big.  Perseverance in little things for love is heroism (St. Josemaría Escrivá).

October 31, 2017

Receive our Lord, and keep him as long as you can.  Make plenty of room for him within you.  To let Jesus Christ increase in one’s soul is the most perfect act of love (St. Peter Julian Eymard in How to Get More out of Holy Communion).

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Links of interest…  About saints...  Becoming community...  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) / teach us how to loveuntier 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…  Surprises: God’s (more) – gracious rescue

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