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).

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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…  Surprises: God’s (more) – gracious rescue

WP pages…  M 2016…  Meditations…  Praise…  Saints

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Serendipity

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About ten years ago I came across a wonderful place online that I immediately longed to visit.  The National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague was in Oklahoma, though— too far from home to just drop by one afternoon— so I did the next best thing.

Way better than Calgon, technology can have us there quicker than one can say, “Take me awaaay!” so I clicked on the link to the shrine’s website and imagined myself there.

Serendipity

On our drive back from Wisconsin last October, Steven changed our route on a whim.  I doubt he even knew why; but we agreed that it would save us time, something we desperately needed, since we’d both been under the weather the entire trip, me with awful nosebleeds that only South Texas sunshine could remedy.  I was sure of that!

Feeling light-headed, I mostly drifted in and out of my wishfulness to be home; so I entertained myself by comparing and contrasting places we drove through, memorizing landforms and landmarks, figuring we wouldn’t be that way again.

Then I saw it!

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  A sign announcing the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague?!!  Oh, my gosh!  I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but I knew I’d read the sign correctly as we’d zipped past it on my right.

Steven wasn’t feeling well at all, so I didn’t want to impose on him by insisting on a detour.  Still, without emotion or expectation, containing myself as much as possible, I quietly muttered, “We just passed a sign to the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus.”

I said nothing more, resumed my koala bear existence, and took in the scenery as I immersed myself in NPR’s political commentary once again.

Okay, I thought.  Another time, maybe.  Right now we just need to get home.

And then, much later on, Steven took an exit.

“Where are we going?  Is something wrong?” I asked.

We were headed to Prague, Oklahoma.

Wowza!  Another long-held, heartfelt wish come true!  I could hardly wait!

St. Wenceslaus Church

Of course, as we’ve discovered during our travels, a shrine is usually, though not always, within a church that serves the parish.  In Chicago, for instance, the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus is at St. Pius V, while the Claretian St. Jude Shrine is at Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Similarly, the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague is housed within St. Wenceslaus, though, really, they are one and the same, wholly synonymous as a singular sacred space for parishioners and visitors alike.

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Letters to Fr. Long Phan

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Prayers

Dearest Christ-child, O divine child, O thou lovely Jesus mine, see thy children would invite thee; come into these hearts of thine.  Yes, we know thy place and grandeur, though thou be but weak and small; for we say with deep assurance, thou art Savior of us all.

Powerful novena…  O Jesus who has said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened,” through the intercession of Mary, your most holy mother, I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be granted.  (State your request.)

O Jesus who has said, “All that you ask of the Father in my name, he will grant you,” through the intercession of Mary, your most holy mother, I humbly and urgently ask your Father, in your name, that my prayer will be granted.  (State your request.)

O Jesus who has said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but my word shall not pass away,” through the intercession of Mary, your most holy mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted.  (State your request.)

This novena can be recited at the same time every hour for nine consecutive hours— just one day— or once daily for nine days.

Thanksgiving…  Divine Infant Jesus, I know you love me and would never leave me.  I thank you for your close presence in my life.

Miraculous Infant, I believe in your promise of peace, blessings, and freedom from want.  I place every need and care in your hands.

Lord Jesus, may I always trust in your generous mercy and love.  I want to honor and praise you now and forever.  Amen.

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Contact information

Thanks to Cathy Saccente from St. Mary of Victories Church in St. Louis, MO for the booklet, Novena to the Infant Jesus of Prague (Reverend Harry E. Stitz, 1945), from which I took both the Christ-child rhyme and the novena; and to Sister at the Carmelite Monastery in Goonellabah, Australia for the Relic of the True Crib prayer card.

February 6, 2017

A soul of holiness does not strive for that holiness.  It strives to love, to love wholeheartedly; there lies the difference….  The simple soul loves; that is all (Raoul Plus, SJ in Holy Simplicity).

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Links of interest…  Calgon (commercial)…  Child Jesus: aboutchaplet (more) / devotion / feast / infancy & childhood / meditations / miracles (books) / novena / of good health / photos / questions & answers / reverence / shrine / solemnity…  Holy Infant of Prague: about / artifacts / chaplet / feast / history / league / novena / of good health (more) / petitions / prayers…  How you & your kids can “become like children”…  National Shrine of the Infant Jesus (Prague, OK): facebook / gentle travelswebsite / YouTube…  NPR…  Practice of the presence of God…  Real mystics love Jesus…  Santo Niño de Atocha: about / chapel / history / miracles / origin / prayers / story (more)…  Santo Niño de Cebú: basilica / feast (more) / history / homily / novena / origin / prayerssong…  St. Wenceslaus: about (more) / king & martyr (more) / memorial
(more) / prayer (more) / profile / professing faith / song (about – lyrics – more) / story

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Celebrations…  Christmas year ’round…  Connected tangents…  Faith and prayer…  Forever grateful…  God’s loving mercy…  Making meaning…  On being Christian…  Pink divinity…  Promise of hope…  Santo Niño…  St. Anthony Claret…  Sweet Jesus…  Venerable Margaret

Merry Christmas

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

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Afterthoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feliz Navidad!

Quotes

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

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

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

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

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

December 27, 2016

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

December 28, 2016

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

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

Links of interest…  Advent & Christmas page…  Alamo, TX: Capuchin Poor Claresquiet place for prayer / St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery (more)…  Away in a manger: St. Francis & the nativity…  Boxing Day…  Christ is born…  Christmas: antiphons, celebratingdeeper meaning, lights around the worldmad humility, spiritual life, & trials, mercy, & Padre Pio (more)…  Christmastide: customs / days / foods / octave (more) / other countries & cultures / overview / prayers (guide) / twelve days (more) / why celebrate…  Cloistered nuns want to pray for you…  How Jesus makes heaven present to us today (Fr. Romano GuardiniMeditations on the Christ)…  Las posadas & the 2nd Christmas novena (Dec 16-24)…  Living the Good News: Days of Christmas…  Mary: cause of our joy / mother of God (more) & of our salvation…  Our Lady of the Rosary Library…  Prophecies fulfilled (Mary M. McGlone)…  Soul of Christmas (Thomas Moore)…

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

Heartfelt traditions

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Mid-afternoon Saturday, Steven asked, “So where would you like to go for Mass?”

My response was quick.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) beckoned, so we arrived early enough for me to photograph the altar.

Request

How delightful to see a priest conversing with a woman outside the south church entrance as we drove up.

“Are we going in that way?” I asked, motioning toward the priest donned in purple.

“No, let’s go this way.  It’s closer,” Steven said, already making his way across the parking lot.

Opening the door, we were totally taken aback.  Father Darryl was waiting for us!

How did he do that? we wondered, eyeballing each other with stifled amusement and disbelief.  Who is this man that he can be there and here so effortlessly?

“I remember you,” Father Darryl said, extending his hand to shake Steven’s.  “I haven’t seen you since the men’s ACTS retreat.”  Then he asked us to carry the Advent candle in the opening procession.  “Will you do it?”

Steven and I, still grinning from dumbfoundedness, didn’t respond quickly enough.

“It’s not difficult,” Father Darryl insisted, telling us what was expected.

“Sure!” I smiled.

But how did he know we’d say yes?  And what else did God have in mind?

Heartfelt traditions

Wholly immersed in the ritual before Mass, I observed every little movement through perfectly timed photographs that only my third eye, sans Coolpix, could capture.

From the confident, knowing hands that filled the incense cup in the wreath’s center to the graceful, attentive hands that received the candle, every moment was recorded mind, heart, and soul.  In the swirling incense permeating the air, I instinctively affirmed as heartfelt traditions renewed Father’s prayers, the altar server’s lighting of the candle, and all blessings bestowed not just for the Advent season, but for our continued faith journey as a married couple, too.

Happy anniversary, darling!

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Prayers from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

God of a thousand years and the blink of a millisecond, grant me the willingness to cast aside the demands of this world, now in the days of these weeks before Christmas, that my heart may be humbled to receive more fully the gift of the Christ-child and my life enlarged to await more hopefully the return of my Savior and Judge.  Amen (Rev. Dr. Cathy Brall).

Almighty God, it is truly good to spend time in your house praising your name.  We give you thanks that you do not stand far off, but that you enter into our suffering.  Teach us to be advocates for peace in this restless world, in Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen (K. J. Norris).

Precious Lord, it is with great humility that we turn our attention from the demands of this season to focus on you.  We need you, we trust you, we hope in you.  Let your steadfast love be upon us.  It is in your most holy name that we pray these words.  You, the alpha and the omega, from ages unto ages.  Amen (Dr. Michelle Keane Domeisen).

Come, holy savior, Jesus Christ, God with us.  How we need you!  If our night is dark, shine all the more with the radiance of your light.  Amen
(Rev. Dr. Ron Cole-Turner).

Lord God, the well waters of poverty are rising around us while a select few sit on the perimeters with full water buckets in their hands, poised to add to the misery of others.  Grant relief to the suffering and the hearts of those inflicting pain.  Remind us all of why it was that you came.  Amen
(Rev. Dr. John Welch).

O God, you “are enthroned forever, and your name endures to all generations.”  But our days are “like an evening shadow.”  Therefore, we lay before you our every weakness— the brevity of our lives are but signs of our failure to live as your people.  We trust ourselves to you, O God; and we pray that, by your grace, we might live securely in your presence now and forevermore.  Amen (Psalm 102:12, 11; Rev. Dr. Jerome F. D. Creach).

Lord, we thank you for the wonder of this season.  We thank you that you are our refuge and strength, and we ask you to help us follow you even when it is difficult.  Amen (Rev. Derek Davenport).

Sunday reflections from the OLPH bulletins

olph112616-141st: Hope…  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come (Matthew 24:42).

People who have had health issues or near-death experiences generally have a greater appreciation for each day being a gift from God.  The rest of us usually take for granted that we will be around tomorrow.  But when you start to look at each day as a gift, you realize all the little miracles that happen daily and grow in gratitude for all that we have been given (November 27, 2016).

olph12316-342nd: Love…  Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 3:10).

Do you bear good fruit for Christ?  Or do you spend your time, talent, and treasure constantly acquiring more toys, clutter, and junk?  Our time, talent, and treasure are gifts that God has given us.  What we do with them is our gift back to God.  What gifts are you planning to give to the Lord during this upcoming Christmas season? (December 4, 2016).

olph121116-553rd: Joy…  You, too, must be patient.  Make your hearts firm because the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:8).

Patience is… one of those things many of us struggle with.  We want things to go according to our plan and our schedule.  Any change brings anxiety and fear.  Through daily prayer we better align ourselves with God’s will and his plan, which is far better than anything we can come up with on our own (December 11, 2016).

olph121716-43a4th: Peace…  When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home (Matthew 1:24).

Putting our complete trust in the Lord without expecting anything in return.  Striving to put God first in all things and follow him wherever he may lead us.  As we prepare for the birth of our Lord, pray for the strength and courage to be a model of discipleship, just as Joseph was (December 18, 2016).

November 28, 2016

“Advent is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of divine love growing in silence” (Caryll Houselander).

From the gospel we learn the happy news of our salvation.  Learning it, we rejoice in it.  We behold God’s glory, and we glorify him.  Let us rise to the high places, to the sublime part of ourselves; let us rise above ourselves to seek God in himself and, with the angels, to rejoice in his great glory (Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Advent).

“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives” (Russell M. Nelson).

This Christmas, when Christ comes, will he find a warm heart?  Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern (St. Teresa of Kolkata, Love: A Fruit Always in Season).

November 29, 2016

The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again.  When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace (St. Charles Borromeo).

December 3, 2016

Where do you look for your life?  Forward or behind?  May the Lord grant you the grace to leave things behind, even those which you consider precious in this life; and may he allow you to look ahead, where Christ is waiting for you for a glorious meeting that will open the gates of eternity
(Gus Encino, Aleteia).

December 5, 2016

“With faith I await this blessed day, on which you will receive the name of Jesus, the day on which you will be my Emmanuel, always with me, amid so many temptations and peril” (Bishop Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Advent).

December 9, 2016

Pope Francis reminds us again and again that we bring the Word to life each and every day in the way we reach out to others with the love and mercy of God, the way we bring the light of Christ to a world too often shrouded in clouds and darkness, and the way we show to others a face that mirrors the face of God (Diane M. Houdek, Franciscan Media, The Joy of Advent).

December 10, 2016

“Advent is a time for renewal… because God brings his forgiveness to us in the shape of his Son” (Catherine Doherty).

December 21, 2016

Mary sustains our journey toward Christmas, for she teaches us how to live this Advent season in expectation of the Lord.  For this time of Advent is a time of waiting for the Lord who will visit us all on the feast, but also… in our own heart.  The Lord is coming!  Let us wait for him! (Pope Francis).

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Links of interest…  Advent: announcing the coming / anticipation & hope / blessed & brokendaily prayers /  deeper meaning in Latin / four attitudes & comings of Christ / from fear to faithGaudete Sunday (not pink, rose) / history / how can this be / lift up your headsmaybe you’re doing it wrong / meditating on Mary & keeping me from being a slackerO antiphons (hope – retreat – soothing balm) / one who is to comeour hope not in this world / passion for the possible / pregnant with expectationspreparing our hearts / real meaning of Christmas lights / reorienting ourselves to a slower paceseason (forgotten repentance) / seven counter-cultural ways / song of trust & acceptance / St. Joseph’s teachings & kissing him / time: for greater silence & prayer & of waitingtradition / what is / when it’s not yet Christmas / wreath (about – history – prayers – symbolism) / yoke that is easy & light…  Awake from your sleep…  Difficult art of being present…  Faith is not a philosophy, but an encounter with Jesus Christ…   Holy Communion nourishes your supernatural life... Homilies: Christ is the solutionlighting candles in the dark / recipe for readiness…  Make a resolution to start being brave…  OLPH: facebook / Mass timeswebsite…  Open to dreams…  Pittsburgh Theological Seminary: Advent & Lent devotionals…  Reflections of family & faith…  “Rorate” Mass…  Seven endearing books to read to children at Christmastime…  Signs of salvation…  Six ways to tune out distraction & be more attentive…  Slouching toward BethlehemSlouching toward Bethlehem…  Want to know what God wants from you?  Try total immersion

WP posts…  Advent prayers…  Blue heaven…  Christmas blessings…  Christmas year ’round…  Church time blues…  For all time…  Gifts…  Letter to Santa…  Oh, happy day…  On being Christian…  One prayer…  Our Lady…  Picturing God…  Promise of hope…  Santo Niño…  Second looks…  Sweet Jesus…  Thanksgiving prayers…  Twelve candles…  Undeniable familiarity

Comforting thought

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During our weekend stay in St. Louis we strolled down Lindell Boulevard to the cathedral basilica to see for ourselves what Deacon Frank at St. Paul’s (back home) had so excitedly shared about his visit years ago.

Massive edifice

Regarded as one of the largest mosaic installations in the Western Hemisphere, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is also known for its burial crypts and its outdoor sculpture, The Angel of Harmony, that epitomizes racial accord.  The massive stone-grey edifice, visited by Pope John Paul II in 1999, is topped by a striking green dome that boldly proclaims its undeniable presence in the neighborhood even from afar.

Bigger than life

For me, entering the dimly lit vestibule was like stepping into a medieval masterpiece, only dark and foreboding for lack of white space.  I felt stifled by this looming sense of something bigger than life waiting past the inner doors.

Nothing prepared me for the sensory overload that blinded my third eye, rendering it useless on site (sight) the moment I entered the colossal nave.

My little Coolpix could never do any of this justice! I thought.  I’ll have to rely mostly on Steven’s shots with the big camera.

Comforting thought

I didn’t know what to do.  Steven kept insisting that I “pick a spot.”  But there was so much— too much, really— that, after standing there counting the pews to determine the middle, I chose an outer aisle seat on the left and simply sat.

Immersed in my quiet solitude, I just knew that Sunday morning Mass at St. Mary of Victories would be more in keeping with who and what I am than Saturday evening Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

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Prayers from A year of daily offerings (James Kubicki, SJ; 2016)

Fortify me with the grace of your Holy Spirit and give your peace to my soul that I may be free from all needless anxiety, solicitude, and worry.  Help me to desire always that which is pleasing and acceptable to you so that your will may be my will (St. Frances Xavier Cabrini).

Loving God, I give myself to you.  Take my day with its sorrows and joys.  Give me what you wish (James Kubicki, SJ; 2016).

November 14, 2016

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

March 14, 2017

“Nothing, how little so ever it be, if it is suffered for God’s sake, can pass without merit in the sight of God” (Thomas à Kempis).

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Links of interest…  Cathedral basilica of St. Louis: about / facebook / historyMass / photostours / videowebsite…  Heavenly St. Louis (tours)…  Mother Cabrini’s first miracle…  Prayer: devotions (pdf) / lexionarylitany / novena…  St. Louis, king of Franceabout / admirable kingAug 25 / life (1903 ebook) / patron of barbers & grooms / servant of the poor (more)…  Year of daily offerings (p. 254)…

WP posts…  Heart of hearts…  Heart’s desire…  Noon visit…  Old cathedral…  Sunday morning visit…  Two angels

Sunday morning visit

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I’m grateful for having found St. Mary of Victories (SMV) online because God planted the seed thentwo or three years ago, that he harvested today.  His playfulness is uplifting.  I’ve learned that listening to the voice leads me to discover the Holy Infant waiting for me.  His peek-a-boo antics are delightful.  Most of all, I love that God places wonderful folks on my faith journey (My email to Cathy and Bill Saccente, parishioners, who welcomed us sweetly before nine o’clock Mass; 10.9.16, edited).

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Call of service

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Outdoor scenes

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Parish hall

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About the church

After Mass, Max Kaiser, acolyte and lector who serves at St. Mary of Victories “most of the time,” spoke to us about the church and, afterwards, shared a bit of family history and service to the community (October 9, 2016; transcribed audio recording, edited).

smv10916-24This church was dedicated to our Blessed Mother.  It was the first ethnic parish of the archdiocese established by the Old Cathedral in 1843 by the Germans who immigrated to the United States in large numbers.  It was the home for the Maronite community when they came over in 1890s and established
St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral here.  And it was yet a third spiritual home to the Hungarian expatriates who fled the Communist revolution of Hungary in 1955 and 1956.  Today it is an indulgence church.  You’ll note that the altar was dedicated with the consecration by Pope Leo XIII [1878-1903], granting a plenary indulgence.  That means [that,] at the time of death, if an individual is in a state of grace and makes a worthy Holy Communion, they get four hundred days’ remission off their stay in purgatory.  And that is a specific request by Leo XIII to this specific church.

One of the other things I might note is [that the church] was consecrated at the behest of Pope Pius IX… in 1866.  That’s why we have the brass candelabra on the wall.  Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick [1843-1895] anointed each pillar with chrism oil— the oil of kings and bishops— to consecrate and dedicate this church formally to Roman Catholic worship and to no other purpose.

Consecrations are specifically governed by canon law.  They are not easily bestowed; they are not easily revoked.  We’ve had twenty-six consecrated churches in the archdiocese.  In the three-hundred-year history of the diocese, only one has been closed; and it took twenty-six years for the Vatican to lift the consecration of St. Liborius Church on Hogan and Market [North 18th Street], which some of you may remember.

You may also be interested to know about these triangular reliquaries and the large red ones and other relics we have embedded in the altars.  We are the third largest repository of relics in the archdiocese after both cathedrals and the CSJ motherhouse.  That’s the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet down on [Holly Hills] and Minnesota Avenue and, itself, worth a visit to see the remarkable chapel where they have the body of a child saved from Roman times entombed.

You’ll also notice the wonderful organ we have in the back choir loft built in 1856 by [?] Jacob Pfeiffer.  And, immediately above it, we have the crest of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger, the first German pope in seven-hundred years.  As the first German church of the diocese, we’re honoring him [by using], at his request, the emblem of his office using a mitre rather than the tiara which is on Pope St. John Paul II’s coat of arms here.

As an overture ecumenically to our East Orthodox brethren, he switched to the mitre for his coat of arms and incorporated elements of his see in Munich-Freising, Germany that he was promoted by them to become pope.  And, having ancestors from Bavaria, that means a little something to me.

The stained-glass windows were made between 1846 and 1896 by two firms: the Hoffman Company and the Emil Frei Art Glass Company.  The Hoffman Company went out of business in 1890; the Emil Frei Art Glass Company is still in business.  And you might have seen the article in the Post-Dispatch last week on Erin and Nicholas Frei who have been down to this church as visitors along with their dad and granddad, Robert Frei, who was the gentleman who inherited the studio from Emil Frei, Sr., himself a Bavarian immigrant who came first from San Francisco in the 1890s, then to St. Louis and really developed the art of stained glass for Roman Catholic, Lutheran, evangelical, and many other denominational churches.

And the thing that means something here also is [that] these pews, this remarkable communion rail, that baptismal font were all fabricated along with most of the altars by Professor Maximilian Schneiderhahn.  And, even though Maximilian is my first name, we are not related.

He was the first liturgical artist brought from Germany by Archbishop Kenrick to make church interiors for Catholic churches that were being built.  This was his first church interior; St. Pius V on South Grand Avenue was his last.  And he worked in stone, wood, marble, plaster, all sorts of media.  He made these pews in 1846.  He made that baptismal font in 1834.  More than fifteen-thousand people have been baptized.  And, our most recent addition, in terms of liturgical history, is the statue made of Father [now] Blessed Francis Seelos, a nineteenth-century Bavarian priest, in the Vatican statuary foundry in Italy.  I was privileged to uncrate it twelve years ago.

We also have a copy of Blessed Francis Seelos’s death mask on the side altar.  You’re welcome to take a look at it.  We have a portion of his sternum bone, which is locked in our safe in one of the reliquaries that honors him.  And we’re hoping the second miracle gets validated so he can be canonized— the second saint in the metro St. Louis area after Mother Philippine Rose Duchesne.

The church is remarkably churched.  As I said, it’s a granddaddy of all the ethnic parishes of the archdiocese, of all nationalities.  It is especially loved by many of the Marian Catholics in the St. Louis area.  And the Germans, the Hungarians, and the Lebanese all revere this church.  St. Raymond’s, even though it’s Maronite Rite, is very supportive of our continuance.

Something the guys and gals in this day and age might want to know, is [that] the archdiocese allows churches like ours that are historic to be open for Catholic weddings from Catholics outside parish boundaries.  Many of you grew up in the suburbs and, if you choose to hold your wedding here, you can.  And you can even bring your own priest, if you so choose.

Father Harrison, who is our chaplain— we are a chapel of ease of the archdiocese— will do the final paperwork; but the priest who will marry you will have responsibility for the preparation and the actual ceremony.  And we’ve done that many times.

I invite you to walk around and see all the remarkable artworks in the church.  And, when you realize that this church is 174 years old, in this type of condition, it’s pretty obvious Our Lord wants St. Mary of Victories Church to continue.

So, welcome, and thank you all for coming today.

Max is a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, an honor bestowed on him by Cardinal Ratzinger for his part in preserving historic churches.

smv10916-23My dad, my uncle, and, to a lesser extent, myself were German liturgical craftsmen who fabricated and plated the bronze, gold, and silver textures in the churches for the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Lutheran, and some of the Reform churches.  Many of the Reform churches use rather notable metal ware, believe it or not.  We’ve had our business for more than 118 years.

[My dad and my uncle] volunteered down here in the 1930’s, [and] I’m glad to keep the tradition going.  I really like the German, the Hungarian, [and] the Lebanese who settled this church because… they [were] more flexible.  You could join the parish even if you weren’t that ancestry, [and] now we have all nationalities represented.

Come back anytime and have a great visit.

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, CSsR

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Prayer from SMV church bulletin

Our heavenly Father, long ago you inspired our… forefathers in the faith to raise this beautiful house of prayer and sacrifice in honor of your Son’s most holy mother, Our Lady of Victories.  Your providence then brought many… here under the co-patronage of this holy king, St. Stephen.  We humbly place before you today the spiritual and temporal needs of our historic church and its present-day community.  Grant us the grace to discern your holy will and to fulfill it zealously as faithful witnesses to the gospel here in the old heart of our city for as long as it may please your divine majesty.

St. Mary of Victories, pray for us.  St. Stephen of Hungary, pray for us.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

November 9, 2016

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

December 15, 2016

The Christian heart has always known Mary as the essence of compassion and love, to whom man can turn with particular and unreserved confidence.  This is expressed so well by the intimate name that was given her from the beginning, the name of mother (Fr. Romano Guardini in The Rosary of Our Lady).

March 5, 2017

Mother Mary is right there with us, granting her graces and lovingly pushing us forth— always towards her son, Jesus, so that we will be able to continue each day to put one foot in front of the other to walk in faith (Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle in Our Lady of Fatima).

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Links of interest…  Adoremus…  Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos: about / biography
(more) / healernational shrine (more) / prayersprofileten tips / wonderworker…  Catholic community doesn’t look the same for everyone…  Criticism of Pope Francis rooted in misunderstanding of Vatican II: parts one, two, & three…  Hidden heart of Catholic St. Louis…  Palm Sunday (2016)…  Spirit of 79: The number of Americans proposed for sainthood…  St. Louis Mass mob: aboutfacebook…  St. Mary of Victories: about / archdiocese page / early historyfacebook (landmark) / help save the churchmediaphotos / relicswebsite…  St. Stephen: about / Aug 16 / devotion to Mary / Hungarian apostlememorial / prayerprofile / quote

WP posts…  Comforting thought…  Faces of Mary…  Familiar yet new…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  Marytown shrine…  Old cathedral…  St. Mary Cathedral…  St. Mary revisited…  St. Mary’s

Old cathedral

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October was a good month for travel and heartfelt wishes realized.  While in St. Louis, Missouri, we delighted in sunny daylight hours, lots of friendly folks, and three sacred spaces— the last of which was “the old cathedral,” the Basilica of St. Louis, King, in the city’s historic downtown area.

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Prayer

O God who called your servant, Louis of France, to an earthly throne that he might advance your heavenly kingdom and gave him zeal for your Church and love for your people, mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works and attain to the glorious crown of your saints through Jesus Christ, our lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

October 28, 2016

If God sends adversity receive it in patience, give thanks to our savior and think you have deserved it and that he will turn it to his advantage.  If he sends prosperity, thank him humbly so that you become not worse from pride or any other cause, but better.  For we should not fight against God with his own gifts (St. Louis of France, edited).

November 24, 2016

“In prosperity give thanks to God with humility and fear lest, by pride, you abuse God’s benefits and so offend him” (St. Louis IX).

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Links of interest…  Fire of 1849about / Laclede’s Landing / more…  Gateway Arch…  Heavenly St. Louis (tours)…  Old St. Louis Cathedral: abouthistory / hours / Mass / parkingphotos / restoration / video…  Prayer: devotions (pdf) / lexionarylitany / novena…  St. Louis, king of Franceabout / admirable kingAug 25 / life (1903 ebook) / patron of barbers & grooms / servant of the poor (more)…

WP pages…  Meditations…  Prayer…  St. Joseph

WP posts…  Comforting thought…  Heart of hearts…  Heart’s desire…  Noon visit…  Sunday morning visit…  Two angels