Etched in time

Our first look inside San Agustin Cathedral, September 15, 2009, was made possible by the priest exiting the side door on his way to the dieciséis de septiembre celebration at the plaza across the street.  “You can visit only until the cleaning is done, but you’re welcome to return for noon Mass tomorrow if you like.”

December 18, 2017

Having waited too long, we returned to Laredo for the Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event and, again, stayed at La Posada near the cathedral so we could finally make it to noon Mass, enjoy a good while within, and take photos to my heart’s content.

                

            

            

            

                

December 19, 2017

Walking back to the hotel from our afternoon meeting at the museum provided backside views of the cathedral.  I could hardly wait to spend time at the historic sacred space.

            

            

December 20, 2017

From the groundskeepers to the hotel workers to the people on the street by the plaza, everyone was all smiles.  Warm sunshine had overtaken the cold and the rain from previous days.  Again and again, we heard grateful expressions: “What a beautiful day!”  “We really needed this!”  “It’d been too long since we’d last seen the sun!”  “Enjoy your day!”

Churchyard observations

Steven drove us to the cathedral, since we’d agreed to leave Laredo from there for his meeting in San Benito that afternoon.  We were about ten or fifteen minutes early, so I had time to explore the churchyard and observe not just the birds, but also the people gathered about waiting for the sacristan to unlock the front doors.

That’s when I noticed a diminutive, humble man in day laborer attire.  He sat pensively, almost invisibly, clutching a small, rather worn brown paper sack by the fence under the oak tree.  His forlorn look made my heart ache!  Had he traveled far to come to church? I wondered.  Is that why he’d packed a little something to eat along the way?

God-filled moments

When the sacristan opened the cathedral’s doors, we were the first to enter.  Standing just two feet within but allowing enough space for others to walk through, I acclimated to the tiny vestibule before stepping into the nave.  And, as I turned to look back outside before the sacristan closed the door, I saw the little man with the heaviness of the world on his shoulders.

“Good morning!” I smiled.  “¡Buenos días!”

The khaki-clad man, pained to be awakened from his self-imposed (prayerful) trance, glanced at me, uttered an almost inaudible response, and shuffled head down toward the inner doors.

As I continued greeting others arriving for noon Mass, I wondered if the small man had missed his chance to work with the able-bodied day laborers awaiting rides across the street from the cathedral.  How I longed to ease his pain!  But all I could do was entrust him to God.

Jesus in repose

The cathedral was still somewhat dark as I took photos in the back of the church, but I knew my way around.  Jesus was waiting in the alcove by the confessionals on the left.  I’d photographed him previously as the baby in the glass-and-gold enclosure and also as the adult in repose on the stone slab below the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

With my third eye leading the way, my peripheral vision caught sight of someone bent ever so gently, ever so faithfully, with hands lovingly placed on Jesus’s legs and feet.  I didn’t want to move!  I didn’t want to intrude!  I’d unknowingly walked into a very private moment and didn’t know what to do.

Dear God, please, add my prayers to his.  Let me not be an impediment.

I didn’t want to disturb the person whom I sensed was quite distraught, so I took photos ever so quietly.  And, when the person sat up, I saw the little man in wrinkled clothing.

He said nothing and mostly was oblivious of me.  He hadn’t been startled, so his silence came across more as acceptance than discomfort.  Yet I’d walked into such an intimate scene that I couldn’t just ignore it.

Lowering my Coolpix for a few moments, I softly greeted the man and spoke to him in Spanish.  “Look how beautiful Jesus is with Our Lady keeping a watchful eye on him from above.  She’s never far from those she loves.”  Then, as I photographed Jesus, the downtrodden man spoke to me in littles.

I reciprocated in calm, even tones, voicing encouragement while praying within.

Dear God, please, what can I do to help?  Don’t let this moment pass without our interceding on his behalf. 

I wanted to do something for the man but had only my camera in hand.

Etched in time

Finally, Steven came into view.  With all the dignity and friendship I could muster to help the man feel valued, I introduced them to each other.  Then, as naturally as possible in English, I briefly shared the man’s story with Steven who, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, stepped away and out of sight.

Had Steven not heard the plea in my voice?  Had he not intuited my message?  I’d been mentally dialoguing in three directions, and I was concerned.  I seldom carry money, so I had no means of assisting the man— not that he’d even asked— but I wasn’t giving up!

Once our talking and my photo taking reached the perfect level of mutual trust and understanding, I stepped out of the alcove hoping to share my desire for Steven to intervene somehow and—

Surprise! 

The moment we looked at each other, Steven, trying hard to contain his emotions, extended his hand for me to take his offering.

“Thank you,” I whispered, and walked back to the disconsolate man.

Bending close I placed my hand in his, talked a little more, wished him and his family a merry Christmas, smiled, and walked away.  The man had no idea what I’d pressed into his hand, and I didn’t wait for him to find out.  But, moving about taking photos, my peripheral vision did notice that he sat gazing at both Jesus and Our Lady for a very long time before departing.

A sweet memory etched in time, God answered our heartfelt prayers that day.

           

          

         

                

               

               

                  

                  

      

   

                

                

                

               

                

                

                

         

September 15, 2009

                

Prayers from St. Augustine

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.  Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.  Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, so that I love only what is holy.  Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.  Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.  Amen.

Give me yourself, O my God; give yourself to me.  Behold I love you and, if my love is too weak a thing, grant me to love you more strongly.  I cannot measure my love to know how much it falls short of being sufficient, but let my soul hasten to your embrace and never be turned away until it is hidden in the secret shelter of your presence.  This only do I know: That it is not good for me when you are not with me, when you are only outside me.  I want you in my very self.  All the plenty in the world which is not my God is utter want.  Amen.

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know you and desire nothing save only you.  Let me hate myself and love you.  Let me do everything for the sake of you.  Let me humble myself and exalt you.  Let me think of nothing except you.  Let me die to myself and live in you.  Let me accept whatever happens as from you.  Let me banish self and follow you and ever desire to follow you.  Let me fly from myself and take refuge in you that I may deserve to be defended by you.  Let me fear for myself, let me fear you, and let me be among those who are chosen by you.  Let me distrust myself and put my trust in you.  Let me be willing to obey for the sake of you.  Let me cling to nothing save only to you and let me be poor because of you.  Look upon me that I may love you.  Call me that I may see you and forever enjoy you.  Amen.

Quotes from St. Augustine

Do you wish to rise?  Begin by descending.  You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds?  Lay first the foundation of humility.

Hope has two beautiful daughters.  Their names are Anger and Courage— anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.

What does love look like?  It has the hands to help others.  It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want.  It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.  That is what love looks like.

You aspire to great things?  Begin with little ones.

February 28, 2018

Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God’s heart.  You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart.  In fact, on certain occasions, you should only speak to him with your heart (St. Pio).

Links of interest…  Augustine of Hippo: apostolic letter (JPII) / architect of the Middle Agesauthor / bishop & doctor / book on prayer / commentary on the Sermon on the Mountconfessions (quotes) / doctor of grace (more) / factsfor all seasons /  memorial (Aug 28) / on the Beatitudes / prayers / philosophy / prodigal son / quotesraised to new life / seeking God / thinking faith…  dieciséis de septiembre…  Burial slab of Jesus found in Jerusalem (limestone piece of rock / uncovered)…  Laredo: churches / La Posada Hotel / museumstours (events – heritage walking tour)…  Padre Pio’s words of faith…  San Agustin: cathedral (diocesan page – facebook – history –  Mass times) / historic district / obispo (bishop) / restoration (new renderings of project)…  TX Tropical Trail Region

WP posts…  Historic nuggets…  St. Austin Church…  St. Monica…  Sweet Jesus

St. Monica

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A few days ago, I received a letter with a couple of prayer cards from Father Robert at Franciscan Mission Associates.

Tried but true

St. Jude looks more striking than ever in rich earthen tones, I thought.  But St. Monica? 

What a weathered look!  Yet she’s beautiful despite her sadness.

I read St. Monica’s prayer card and set it aside, but her expression stayed with me.

I know that look firsthand.

Model of patience

In today’s Daily Inspiration, Father Joseph Fogarty, OP focused on St. Monica, too.

St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, was a model of patience.  She bore with her husband, Patricius, who had a violent temper, and with her son, Augustine, who lived for [fifteen] years with a woman companion.

Monica managed to live happily with Patricius, despite his defects.  He was baptized in 370.  Her son, Augustine, was baptized in 387.  She patiently prayed both toward full communion with the community of believers.

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Unconditional love

One of my favorite readings came to mind.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It… does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury… but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

St. Monica

Ever faithful to God and her family, St. Monica bore her crosses with patience.  In this respect, she reminds me of St. Helena, who also overcame great adversity.

Resilient, courageous, both women are role models to emulate in good times and bad.

St. Monica’s feast day is August 27; St. Helena’s, August 18.

Prayers

Model of motherly love…  O glorious St. Monica, greatly admired among mothers, I feel particularly [drawn] to you who gave such an example of motherly love.

Who could understand better than you the anxieties and fears of a mother worrying about the eternal salvation of her children?  You endured all, since… St. Augustine is the fruit of your womb and… the fruit of your tears.  For this reason I am greatly convinced that… with the sanctity of your life and the perseverance of your prayers, you are not only [a great model] of Christian [motherhood, but also] a singular protector.  Obtain for me the grace to imitate your graces faithfully.

May my children avoid those errors and failures you disapproved of… in your son.  And, if it should happen that they, too, should fall, grant me the grace to obtain (this request…) with my prayers… as perfect a conversion as you were able to obtain for your son.  Amen.

Novena…  Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son.  Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity.  By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your own son.  (Mention your intentions here.)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God.  Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God.  Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.  Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God.  Amen.

Patron of parents…  St. Monica, patron of Christian mothers, we entrust to your protection the children whose names you can read in our hearts.  Pray for them that they may be granted strength to combat weakness, victory over temptations, guidance to resolve their doubts, and success in all their undertakings.

May they enjoy health of mind and body, see beauty and worth in all created things, and serve the Lord with firm faith, joyful hope, and enduring love.  Amen.

Petition…  Dear St. Monica, once the sorrowing mother of a wayward son, be pleased to present our petitions to the Lord God of heaven and earth.  Look down upon our anxieties and needs, and intercede for us as you did so fervently for Augustine.

We have full confidence that your prayers will gain a favorable hearing in heaven.  Mother of a sinner turned saint, obtain for us patience, perseverance, and total trust in God’s perfect timing.  In his appointed hour, in his merciful way, may God respond to [our] prayers.  (State your petition.)  Amen.

                 

                  

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Contact information

Except for the novena, the prayers to St. Monica are from Favorite Patron Saints (The Leaflet Missal Company, n. d., pp. 18-19); the leaflets, from Father Primo at Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598.

August 31, 2011

Another of my favorite readings, which goes hand in hand with love and forgiveness, is good for all time, too.

Love-aFor a brief moment I abandoned you; but with great tenderness, I will take you back.  In an outburst of wrath, for a moment, I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you… so I have sworn not to be angry with you or to rebuke you.  Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you (Isaiah 54:7-10).

November 4, 2012

“Lord, show me the treasures you have placed in all the people around me— especially those I find hardest to love!” (the Word among us, November 2012, p. 23).

April 3, 2013

Lord, lift the veil that keeps me from seeing how precious people are in your eyes.  Help me to see your love for every person, and give me the compassion and the courage to extend your love to them (the Word among us, April 2013, p.23).

April 4, 2013

Jesus, touch my heart and shape my mind with your word!  Teach me, Lord, so I can stand firm in your truth no matter what happens (the Word among us, p. 24).

May 21, 2013

Lord, give me your eyes that I may see my neighbors as you see them.  Give me your heart that I may love them with your love (the Word among us, May 2013, p. 40).

June 6, 2013

“Jesus, help me to reach out to those who are searching for you” (the Word among us, June 2013, p. 26).

June 18, 2013

Father, help me to remember that my enemies are your friends.  I bring their needs before you now (the Word among us, p. 38).

July 20, 2013

Thank you, Lord, that I don’t have to qualify for your mercy.  Let this awareness help me to love you more— and to love others as you have loved me (the Word among us, July/August 2013, p. 39).

August 12, 2013

Jesus, thank you for you patience with me.  Help me to be patient with other people.  Teach me to focus on loving them instead of correcting them.  I trust you to work out the details (the Word among us, p. 62).

August 14, 2013

“Jesus, help me to exercise the power to forgive and to reconcile; to set free and to pronounce blessings on myself, my family, my friends, and even my enemies” (the Word among us, p. 64).

August 21, 2013

“Father, help me be just as generous as you are with all who are joining you in the vineyard” (the Word among us, p. 71).

August 23, 2013

“Lord, teach me to love all of the people you put around me with all my heart” (the Word among us, p. 73).

October 20, 2013

Lord, guide my footsteps and strengthen me for the challenges that I will face in your name.  Thank you for loving me so much that you give me the honor to do your will on earth (the Word among us, October 2013, p. 40).

October 31, 2013

Jesus, thank you for loving me even when I turned away from you.  Bring everyone— even those who seem far away from you— into your embrace (the Word among us, p. 51).

November 3, 2013

Lord, fill me with your love.  Help me look at the people around me the way you look at me (the Word among us, November 2013, p. 24).

November 9, 2013

Lord, help me recognize all the goodness and knowledge that you have already given me.  Help me use these gifts to grow into the person that you want me to become (the Word among us, p. 29).

November 29, 2013

The modern poet Danny Siegel translates a rebbe’s proverb that tells us…

If you will always assume [that] the person sitting next to you is the messiah waiting for some human kindness, you will soon learn to weigh your words and watch your hands.  And if he so chooses not to reveal himself in your time, it will not matter (Dosick, 1995, p. 50).

December 29, 2013

“Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt. 4:8).

So put on love!  Love knows it’s not perfect yet, so it makes allowances for other people’s mistakes and forgives their wrongs.  Love knows its understanding is limited, so it looks upon other people with respect and tries to learn from them.  Love knows the world is full of hurtful words and deeds, so it tries to make the home a haven of kindness and gentleness.  Love realizes that growth takes time, so it practices patience.  Love gratefully welcomes and treasures every family member, looking for the good in them, however deeply it may be buried (the Word among us, Advent 2013, p. 47).

April 20, 2014

Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra!  The resurrection of the Lord is our hope! (St. Augustine).

July 23, 2014

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

August 9, 2014

When night comes and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much that one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as is, lay it in God’s hands, and offer it up to him.  In this way we will be able to rest in him, actually to rest, and to begin the new day like a new life (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross / Edith Stein; translation, 1987).

August 28, 2014

“Let us understand that God is a physician and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, not a punishment for damnation” (St. Augustine).

November 19, 2014

I beg you, join with me in love.  Run with me in faith.  Let us yearn for our heavenly home. Let us sigh for it.  Let us realize that we are strangers here below (St. Augustine).

November 26, 2014

“To know whom to avoid is a great means of saving our souls” (St. Thomas Aquinas).

December 20, 2014

“Endeavor to be patient in bearing the defects and infirmities of others of whatever kind, for you also have many things which others must bear with” (Thomas à Kempis).

January 16, 2015

“As our body cannot live without nourishment, so our soul cannot spiritually be kept alive without prayer” (St. Augustine)

February 25, 2015

I will not live an instant that I do not live in love.  Whomever loves does all things without suffering or, suffering, loves his suffering (St. Augustine).

March 13, 2015

“All our striving in this life consists in healing the eye of the heart in order to see God”
(St. Augustine).

August 27, 2015

If you desire to be truly Christian wives and mothers, fix your gaze on
St. Monica.  Read her life and you will there see the care she bestowed on her Augustine and find much to console you (St. Francis de Sales).

March 7, 2016

“Let us pray for peace, and let us bring it about starting in our own homes” (Pope Francis).

January 5, 2017

Though God hates sin more than any other thing, he loves us poor miserable sinners.  He ardently desires the welfare of our souls as if his own happiness dependent on it (St. John Neumann).

March 9, 2017

Pope Francis reminds us that prayer is the best way to overcome blind spots in our attitudes toward others.  He doesn’t say it will be easy. But neither does he let us off the hook.  If we search our hearts, we know that we’ve all been guilty of that desire to hold someone accountable long after we think we’ve forgiven him or her (Diane M. Houdek in The Hope of Lent).

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Lost Mine Trail – Big Bend National Park, TX

Links of interest…  5 ways to make a meaningful apology…  Augustine of Hippo: apostolic letter (JPII) / author / bishop & doctor / book on prayer /  confessions (more) / doctor of grace (more) / for all seasons / memorial (Aug 28) / on the Beatitudes / prayers / prodigal son / raised to new life / seeking God / son of tears / thinking faith / why study his works…  Edith Stein essays: book / spirituality of the Christian woman…  Five saints who didn’t get along with their families…  Franciscan: Mission Associates / prayer book / prayers / sisters…  How do we get better at being patient…  Living Judaism (Dosick)…  Mary, our Lady of Consolation (more)…  St. Monica: about (more) / all in God’s timebook review (book) / chaplet / feast (more) / heroic faith & patience / life / memorial (more) / model of Christian motherhood / mother (of Augustine of Hippo – more – more) / parents’ helper / patron saint (more – more) / perseverance in hopein prayerin service / prayers (litany – novena – readings)…  God turns sinners into saints…  Pallottines: devotions / prayer network (join) / shrine…  Power of patience & persevering prayer…  Ten lessons on wayward children…  Things kids tell psychologists but are too afraid to tell their parents…  Thirst for heaven…  What to do with your mind when worries won’t let you sleep…  the Word among us

WP page…  Steven’s looking-glass

WP posts…  At long last…  Bearing one’s crosses…  Forever grateful…  Gifts…  Lady of sorrows…  Making meaning…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  My Franciscan Crown…   Morning exchanges…  One prayer…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Soulful

Historic nuggets

LTX91509-1381Last week, Steven and I attended the monthly TX Tropical Trail Region meeting in Laredo. 

Day’s activities

Our group met at the art center and later took the trolley to the Laredo Community College, situated on the site of the historic Fort McIntosh.  We took a guided walking tour of the environmental science center and were entertained by a couple of dancers from the Folklorico Ballet before returning to the art center for the delicious three-course meal prepared by Chano Aldrete.

After lunch we viewed two films— the story of the TX Tropical Trail and the history of Fort McIntosh— presented by Rick Villarreal and Margarita Araiza, respectively.

Invitation

After the meeting, we exited the art center along with four lovely women from Hebbronville.  They excitedly shared their good news: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church has undergone its transformation.  “You have to come back for a visit!  The church is beautiful,” the ladies enthused.  We agreed to return, most likely during the town’s Vaquero Festival on November 6-7. 

Around the plaza

Steven and I headed to the hotel to await our very first dieciséis de septiembre celebration, which was set to start with “el grito” at the plaza across from La Posada.

Around six, we walked over to the San Agustin Cathedral before strolling around the plaza, but the front door was locked.  We talked to a young woman who’d grown up in Laredo.  Gigi, now a middle school teacher, told us about her Catholic school experience in the building next to the church.  She encouraged us to return the following morning when the church would be open again, said she’d introduce her family to us if we saw each other later, then left to find her loved ones at the plaza.

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We enjoyed the view from where we stood before crossing the street to join in the festivities.

We took lots of photos and mingled with others who, like us, enjoyed the entertainment, the freebies, and the tantalizing aromas of gastronomic delights.

LTX91509-10Once back in front of the hotel, I couldn’t help but wonder about the opposite end of the cathedral.  “Let’s go check out what’s behind the wall.  I want to see the other side,” I insisted, even though Steven reminded me that the church was closed.

As we walked past the gate onto the churchyard, we saw the priest making his way toward the plaza.  “Excuse me, Father,” Steven said.  “We’re from out of town, so we’d like to visit the church before we leave.  What time is Mass tomorrow?”

“At noon, but you can go in now.  Just enter through that door,” he responded, motioning to the wooden doors behind him.

Overjoyed, we thanked him and hurried in for a look. 

As we entered, we noticed the couple cleaning the church.  I explained that the priest had given us permission to look around.

We took photos until the man informed us that Father had said to lock up the church.  I thanked him, adding that the church is beautiful and reminiscent of the one in Brownsville, which was also established by the Oblates.  The man smiled and spoke proudly about the church before we bid each other goodnight.

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Savoring the evening

Steven and I walked happily back to the plaza.  We took in the sights and sounds for a while before opting for dinner at the hotel restaurant.

We sat and talked about the day as we gazed at the happenings through the window.  The plaza and its surrounding areas were standing-room only by then.  We took our time, conversing with both Tony, our lighthearted waiter, and our gracious hostess, who spoke glowingly about her family.  Then, for dessert, we stepped back out onto Zaragosa Street to savor the dieciséis de septiembre celebration through its flavorful music, dancing, and ambiance in Laredo’s historic downtown district.

We had a fantabulous time!

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Links of interest…  16 de septiembre…  Augustine of Hippo: apostolic letter (JPII) / author / bishop & doctor / book on prayerconfessions / doctor of grace (more) / for all seasons / memorial (Aug 28) / on the Beatitudesprayers / prodigal son / raised to new life / seeking Godthinking faith…  Ft. McIntosh:  about (more) / army post / history…  Laredo: churches / center for the arts / Chano Aldrete / community college / La Posada Hotel history / Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center (facebook) / museums / tours (eventsheritage walking tour)…  San Agustin: cathedral (diocesan pagefacebookhistory – Mass times) / historic district / obispo (bishop)…  TX Tropical Trail Region

WP posts…  Answered prayers…  Franciscan experience…  Franciscan treasures…  Grapes of generosity…  St. Anthony…  St. Austin Church…  St. Monica…  Vaquero Fest Saturday