Afternoon delights

Steven and I attended Christmas Eve Mass at the Capuchin St. Joseph chapel in Alamo, TX; and, much to the delight of Sister Luz and Sister Marta, I promised to send them copies of the photographs I took that evening.  But time got away from me!

January 25, 2017

               

        

April 18, 2017

With so much going on in our daily lives, being that we’d undertaken a three-month training program that had us both exhilarated and exhausted, I could only work mentally on “the project for the Sisters”— that is, until I began in earnest here and there the second week of April when we graduated from the Texas Master Naturalist program.

Then, since the monthly Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event was happening at the San Manuel Ranch on April 18, we agreed to stop by the Poor Clares’ monastery to deliver the booklets on our way home.

                  

        

What a wonderful surprise to be greeted by Sister Betty who, soon after, called Sister Luz, Mother General, to speak with us instead.

“Have you visited the chapel yet?” asked Sister Luz.

“We’re going there next,” I smiled.

Sister Luz told us about their beautiful Easter service; and she invited us to their three o’clock Divine Mercy chaplet prayers, considering that we’d arrived in perfect time.

And, oh, the altar!  I could’ve sat there for hours, immersed in peace and good.

                

                    

            

                        

        

                

April 22, 2017

Saturday afternoon we drove to the monastery for an impromptu visit with the Sisters.

Just days before, when we’d last spoken to the Sisters, we’d received a text (while still at the chapel) that our youngest granddaughter was in the midst of a medical crisis; so I’d requested prayers.  And, within a couple of hours, Karina’s health had rebounded.

We wanted to personally thank the Sisters, but the gate to the monastery was locked; so Steven and I headed to the chapel instead.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when we entered.  The chapel was empty except for us!

Were you waiting for us, dear God?  How special to have you all to ourselves.

            

            

Afternoon delights

In one week’s time we’d been blessed with two afternoon delights at the chapel— the first to pray with others; the second, by ourselves.

We luxuriated in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and gave thanks and praise for all God’s blessings.

Good health, an abundance of gifts and talents shared with others, friendships with like-minded individuals, spiritual fulfillment— could we ask for anything more?

Prayers from St. Faustina’s writings

Healing…  Jesus, may your pure and healthy blood circulate in my ailing organism; may your pure and healthy body transform my weak body; and may a healthy and vigorous life throb within me if it is truly your holy will (Diary 1089).

St. Paul the Apostle – CCTX

Hope…  O my Jesus, my master and director, strengthen and enlighten me in these difficult moments of my life.  I expect no help from people, all my hope is in you.  I feel alone in the face of your demands, O Lord.  Despite the fears and qualms of my nature, I am fulfilling your holy will and desire to fulfil it as faithfully as possible throughout my life and in my death.  Jesus, with you I can do all things.  Do with me as you please; only give me your heart and that is enough for me (Diary 650).

Intercession…  O Jesus, you inspired St. Faustina with profound veneration for your boundless mercy.  Deign, if it be your holy will, to grant me, through her intercession, the grace for which I fervently pray (state petition).  My sins render me unworthy of your mercy; but be mindful of St. Faustina’s spirit of sacrifice and self-denial and reward her virtue by granting the petition which, with childlike confidence, I present to you through her intercession.

Our Father…  Hail Mary…  Glory be….

Thanksgiving...  O Jesus, eternal God, I thank you for your countless graces and blessings.  Let every beat of my heart be a new hymn of thanksgiving to you, O God.  Let every drop of my blood circulate for you, Lord.  My soul is one hymn in adoration of your mercy.  I love you, God, for yourself alone (Diary 1794).

Quotes

Mary, mother of mercy, help us always to have this trust in your Son, our redeemer.  Help us too, St. Faustina, whom we remember today with special affection.  Fixing our weak gaze on the divine savior’s face, we would like to repeat with you: “Jesus, I trust in You!”  Now and for ever.  Amen (St. John Paul II).

When I am before the Blessed Sacrament I feel such a lively faith that I can’t describe it.  Christ in the Eucharist is almost tangible to me.  When it is time for me to leave, I have to tear myself away from his sacred presence
(St. Anthony Claret).

April 25, 2017

I want to be a woman whose faith in God’s promises holds no matter how long there is no visible evidence of it— a woman who uses her voice to bring hope to the weary and to rejoice with those who rejoice.  I want to proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness steadily, with great joy, regardless of what the world around me looks like— because, when it is darkest, that is when my voice is most needed (Colleen C. Mitchell in Who Does He Say You Are?).

May 8, 2017

Hope is an eminently practical virtue; it is the virtue that drives far from our heart the specter of discouragement, the most frequent dangerous temptation in the spiritual life.  As the inseparable companion of suffering, it confirms and strengthens peace in our soul (Luis M. Martinez in When God is Silent).

May 10, 2017

“It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation”
(St. Damien),

Links of interest…  Alamo, TX: Capuchin Poor Claresquiet place for prayer / St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery (more)…  Blessed Sacrament prayers…  Catholic Harbor of faith & morals (index of saints)…  Cloistered nuns want to pray for you…  Eucharistic adoration…  Fatima & Divine Mercy are eternally linked / & Faustina offer striking, frightening visions of hell / surprised by…  How Jesus makes heaven present to us today (Fr. Romano GuardiniMeditations on the Christ)…  Move to religious life…  No mercy without conversion…  Perpetual adoration…  St. Faustina: aboutprayers (all occasion – Eucharist – intercessory – thanksgiving)…  St. John Chrysostom (hourly)…  Trust in Jesus: Four reasons Catholics are full of hope…  Visits to Jesus in the tabernacle: Hours & half-hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (Lasance, 1898)…  What is Divine Mercy (chaplet – devotionnovena)…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Capuchin Christmas…  Clarisas cookies…  Finding St. Rita…  Merry Christmas…  San Giuseppe…  Slice of heaven…  Twelve candles

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...  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) / 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

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

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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Again, as on Christmas Eve 2015, we showed up early to relish every heartfelt gift— the singing, the rosary, Mass, and lots of photo ops— thanks to the Sisters, the altar servers, the deacon, concelebrants Bishop Emeritus Reymundo Peña and Fr. Juan Manuel Salazar, and everyone eager for a very special Capuchin Christmas.

Christmas Eve homily

Today we celebrate the birthday of Jesus.  Hoy celebramos el cumpleaños del Señor Jesús, nuestro Salvador; nuestro Dios; en el cielo, Jesucristo, Jesús.

En estos tiempos de festividades, tenemos muchas tradiciones y ¿cómo lo celebramos?

Con las amistades, los vecinos, y especialmente con nuestras familias que vienen de todas partes.  Y en este poquillo de alegría, pues celebramos compartiendo estas cosas que nos une.  O sea la familia, el gran amor que tenemos unos a los otros.  Entonces este tiempo están juntos.  Están llenos de la presencia de muchos conocidos y sencillos, pero también este tiempo de navidad tiene que ser una porción de contradicción.  Contradictions.  ¿Porque?

Porque también en este tiempo puede invitar pensamientos, sentimientos de soledad y tristeza porque tal vez hay un ser querido que ha fallecido recientemente y es la primer navidad en que no lo tenemos con nosotros.  Es un momento de verdadera tristeza.  Tal vez hay un pleito en la familia y no se han reunido en esta ocasión por el mal entendimiento o el pleito que tienen.  También puede ser una ocasión de soledad o tristeza en este tiempo de navidad.

Igual el nacimiento de Jesús es una ocasión de contradicción.  Porque al momento de ser rey de reyes no encuentran lugar donde posturarse por la noche, Jesús, María, y José.  Y, donde estando solos, los ángeles mismos invitan gente para ser testigos de la ocasión de su nacimiento.  Y, aunque son pobres, llegan los reyes magos ¿no? exquisitos, y presentan regalos.

Entonces en este tiempo el Príncipe de Paz, como la primera lectura nos dice, ha nacido.  Pero en la noche en ese tiempo también el rey Herodes busca su vida.  No hay paz.  Y a la vez tiene su hogar; su país; y muy, muy grande otro país cerquito.

Que tristeza ¿no? pero José y María no pierden la esperanza porque tienen todo en Jesucristo, hijo de Dios.  Y, en eso, Jesús por eso vino porque el entra en nuestra miseria.  El entra a nuestro dolor y tristezas y él se entrega.  El viene a darnos un regalo, el regalo de su presencia, el regalo de su cuerpo y sangre.

Y les digo esto porque por mientras que todos nosotros entramos este mundo para vivir como, por ejemplo, cuando nosotros sacamos nuestro primer respiro o los primeros llanes de los niños ¿verdad? usamos la vida, luchamos por la vida.  Pero Cristo, Dios hecho hombre, cuando el entró  al mundo, el vino para morir.  El vino para dar su vida para que nosotros la termináramos.

Este regalo que él nos ha dado— su cuerpo, su sangre— este regalo que él nos pide de nosotros a compartir a unos a los otros esta navidad, no nomas en este tiempo sino todos los días, [es] darnos el regado del amor a nuestro propio, nuestros hermanos.

Y si esto se entrega en los regalos que nos damos unos a los otros.  Pero en toda manera de ser… lo importante no son las cosas materiales que compramos sino el amor que compartimos.

It is the love we share that is the true love that God gives us….   That’s the gift he wishes us to share with one another.  Love one another.  Respect one another and listen.  But, most especially, offer [everything] rooted in love; for that’s the reason why he came— to give up his life so [that we might] have it, to make sure we know [God’s love].  Amen (Fr. Juan Manuel Salazar; December 24, 2016; transcribed audio recording, edited).

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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 as well.

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…  Enchanted faith…  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 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

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

Marytown shrine

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After exploring Mundelein that very frigid morning, Martha, Steven, and I drove a little more than two miles— just seven minutes— to the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe and arrived in perfect time for noon Mass.  We were beside ourselves with joy!

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Prayers

Immaculata, queen and mother of the Church, I renew my consecration to you this day and for always so that you may use me for the coming of the kingdom of Jesus in the whole world.  To this end I offer you all my prayers, actions, and sacrifices of this day.  Amen.

Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you and for all those who do not have recourse to you, especially the enemies of holy Church and all those recommended to you.  Amen.

O God, who gave the Church and the world the priest and martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe, burning with love for the Immaculate Virgin Mary and with apostolic zeal for souls and heroic love of neighbor, graciously grant through his intercession that, striving for your glory by eagerly serving others, we may be conformed even until death to your son who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen (Companions of St. Anthony, 2016).

Our Lady of Czestochowa…  Mother of God, immaculate Mary, to you do I dedicate my body and soul, all my prayers and deeds, my joys and sufferings, all that I am, and all that I have.

With a joyful heart I surrender myself to your bondage of love.

To you will I devote my services of my own free will for the salvation of mankind and for the help of the holy Church whose mother you are.

From now on my only desire is to do all things with you, through you, and for you.  I know I can accomplish nothing by my own strength, whereas you can do everything that is the will of your son and you are always victorious.  Grant, therefore, helper of the faithful, that my family, parish, and homeland might become in truth the kingdom where you reign with your son.  Amen.

Quotes from St. Maximilian Kolbe

The most deadly poison of our times is indifference.  And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits.  Let us strive, therefore, to praise him to the greatest extent of our powers.

Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much.  You can never love her more than Jesus did.

No one in the world can change truth.  What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.

“Prayer is powerful beyond limits when we turn to the Immaculata who is queen even of God’s heart.”

August 4, 2016

How sweet and full of comfort are the moments spent before the Blessed Sacrament.  Are you in trouble?  Come and throw yourself at his feet
(St. John Vianney).

August 5, 2016

Man has a noble task: that of prayer and love.  To pray and love, that is the happiness of man on earth (St. John Vianney).

August 18, 2016

“The guest of our soul knows our misery; he comes to find an empty tent within us— that is all he asks” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux).

August 22, 2016

“God placed Mary far above all the angels and saints and so filled her with every heavenly grace from his own divine treasury so that her innocence and holiness exceeded every creature but God himself” (Pope Pius IX).

October 28, 2016

From Mary we learn to surrender to God’s will in all things.  From Mary we learn to trust even when all hope seems gone (St. John Paul II).

December 15, 2016

I will not allow myself to be so absorbed in the whirlwind of work as to forget about God.  I will spend all my free moments at the feet of the master hidden in the Blessed Sacrament (St. Faustina Kowalska).

December 23, 2016

I hope that your example attracts many souls to the adoration of Jesus Christ who is present on the altar to be of comfort and hope to those who confide in him with faith and love; they look on him as the Emmanuel, God with us, who wished to dwell among us: his heart in our heart (Pope St. John Paul II).

December 26, 2016

Make a visit to the tabernacle.  Much more will follow.  God will make limitless poetry out of the prose of your life, and he will renew the face of the earth, beginning with your little corner (Editors of Servant Books, A Eucharistic Christmas).

April 18, 2017

Suffering gives you the opportunity to grow.  Your trials give you a gift: the opportunity to become the person you always wanted to become.  A holier person.  A more patient person.  A person who endures.  A person who is kinder.  A person who is more merciful (Jeff Cavins in When You Suffer).

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Adoration & Mass: Marytown chapel schedule

Links of interest…  Come, pray the rosary (virtual)…  Enter the world of devotion to Mary…  St. Maximilian Kolbe: 9 things to know (more) / about (more) / biography (more) / Conventual Franciscan / lessons from / martyr of charity (booklet) / moral heropoor weaver’s son / prayers: consecrationfreedom from addictionnovena / profile (more) /  quotes / relics / saint of Auschwitz / story (anecdote) / timeline / writings (Immaculate Conception – more)…  Life for life (movie)…  Marytown: about / chapel live streaming (Mass & adoration) / facebook / video…  Mission of the Immaculata (Niepokalanów)…  Practice of silence for lay people…  Prayer library…  Spiritual reflections

WP posts…  Call of service…  Honoring Joselito  Lady of sorrows…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  May flowers…  Today’s beatitudes…  Twelve candles