Bearing one’s crosses

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It’s been a little more than two months since my last post and, while things have been different, it’s not surprising that things have also remained the same.

Opportunity knocking

Ruthie and Bill came by for dinner yesterday— perfect for Ruthie’s lessons on Yahoo mail and navigating both the church blog and this one.  She’s one very quick study— “a sponge,” I call her.

Our visit also allowed us quality time together, so I could learn more about her.

Revisiting St. Simon

In talking about health issues, which we all seem to have these days, I immediately remembered “revisiting St. Simon;” so I clicked on the link.

On seeing the photo of Most Precious Blood Church, Ruthie’s face lit up.

“I know the church!” she exclaimed before adding that they’d attended a funeral there “just last week.”

We viewed the photo files of the St. Jude Shrine after which I clicked on the stone pocket-cross prayer.

“You see the cross in the photo?  It’s this one here,” I said, reaching across the desk.

I handed Ruthie the brown-black stone cross that David gave me last year, since I keep it here by my computer all the time.

           

Bearing one’s crosses

“It’s really difficult to bear one’s crosses,” Ruthie softly sighed.

I nodded smilingly in agreement.  “Which is why, when I’m facing something truly insurmountable, I reach for the little stone cross, hold it, rub it, and reflect on its relevance in my life.”

Ruthie held the small stone cross, rubbing it gently as if etching a memory of its smoothness in her small hands.

“How could David have known that I’d need this very personal reminder to carry me through the tough times?”  I wondered out loud.  “He couldn’t even come up with a reason for giving it to me other than he sensed that I needed it— or would need it— somehow.”

As we continued reading, Ruthie sat on the edge of her seat, wholely engrossed in the text’s message.

“So you see how simple it is?” I asked when I thought she’d finished reading.  “All you have to do is revisit St. Simon’s post to connect with the small stone cross and reread the prayer.”

Ruthie smiled.  “Simon was my father’s name, and I never knew anything about
St. Simon until now.”

I smiled, too, because just then Ruthie had made a personal connection that, hopefully, would help her remember that she’s not alone when she’s afraid.

Where two or more are gathered

It’s always so much easier to bear one’s cross when we have something to hold onto:  A memory, a special memento, the knowledge that someone’s with us through the tough times, maybe not in person but in one’s heart.

When I go through my rough moments, I come here to my thoughtful spot where I can gaze at the Holy Infant’s picture above my workspace.  I hold the small stone cross tightly, pressing my concerns and all my feelings into its surface as I dialogue with the Infant.

???????????????????????????????Forgive me, sweet Jesus.  I’m having a tough time bearing my cross right now.  I know you love me.  I know you’re with me.  I’m with you.  Please know that this, too, shall pass.  Thank you, Jesus.  Praise you, Jesus.  I’ll get through this somehow.

I think about Sister in Australia.  I think about the cathedral back home.  I think about my friends— Paty, Rose, Pat, Cammie, and others— who, like Ruthie, have shared their crosses with me.

Most of all I recall the Child Jesus chaplet prayer:

Divine Infant Jesus, I adore your cross.  And I accept all the crosses you will be pleased to send me…. 

At that moment, I sense that my mind, heart, and soul have penetrated the small stone cross to its core.  I’m infused with warmth.  I’m empowered all over again.

One cross overcome

This morning after nine o’clock Mass, I had a most joyful surprise.  Not only did I see Ruthie and Bill but I was also heartfully greeted by Rose, whom I hadn’t seen since before her recent throat surgery.

Rose’s beautiful blue eyes were barely visible as her smiles practically swallowed them up.  She was sooo happy that everything she said ended in exclamation points. 

“I’m healed!  The cancer is all gone!  I’m perfectly healed!  I’ve been praying my Child Jesus chaplet every single day, and Sister has been sooo wonderfully supportive!”

We hugged each other so tightly that I thought my right shoulder would crush her throat!  We rejoiced at her glorious news!

As I took photos of Steven with our friends, Rose shared her story with Ruthie, whom she’d just met.

“God is so amazingly awesome, isn’t he?” I enthused rhetorically.

Somehow or another we always get past our tough times.  And we find that we’ve been able to bear our crosses so much better with a little help from our friends— even when they’re with us only in spirit— because friends are, after all, God’s gift to us when we need him most.

Prayers from Retreat Booklet (Franciscan Mission Associates, B-20)

For a good life…  You are the protector, O God, of all who trust in you.  Without you nothing is right or holy.  Shower your mercy upon us.  With you as our leader and guide may we use the good things of life without losing those that will last forever.  This favor we ask through Jesus Christ, your son and our lord.  Amen.

For abundant blessings…  You are all powerful, O God, and your mercies last forever.  They exceed not only what we deserve, but even our highest hopes.  Pour down your graces on us, forgive the sins that haunt our conscience, and even grant us the favors we dare not presume to ask.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, we implore you.  Amen.

For true happiness…  It is you, O God, who makes your faithful people of one mind and heart.  Give us, then, the grace to love your commands and to desire your promises.  Amid the allurements of life let our hearts ever be fixed on the true source of our joy.  Through your son, Jesus Christ, our lord, we ask this blessing.  Amen.

May 13, 2011

Father Robert, OP shared his thoughts on worry, anxiety, and serenity.

“When your heart has fallen, raise it gently, humbling yourself greatly before God and acknowledging your limitations.  Do not undertake your affairs with disquietude, anxiety, and worry.  Do not hurry and excite yourself… for this hinders reason and judgment and prevents us from doing well the very thing about which we are excited.  Commend yourself to God and soften and moderate your concerns with reason” (St. Francis de Sales, 1567-1622).

One of the greatest treasures you can have is inner calm and peace.  Complete serenity of mind is a gift from God; but this inner quiet is not without our own intense effort.  God will not give you this unless you work with all your strength to obtain it.  Do not confuse serenity with being lazy or careless [or] with putting off decisions.  You must be diligent and decide you can deal with your problems.  Therefore, you need to get control of your mind and feelings and identify the specific causes of uneasiness.  Then, with God’s help and [with] prayer, take one step at a time.

November 12, 2011

“Let us bear our cross and leave it to God to determine the length and the weight”
(St. Rose Philippine Duchesne).

July 20, 2014

“When the afflictions of this life overcome us, let us encourage ourselves to bear them patiently by the hope of heaven” (St. Alphonsus Liguori).

September 14, 2014

From here on earth love cannot live without suffering.  It is through loving the cross that we discover his heart, for divine love never lives without suffering (St. Bernadette Soubirous).

November 24, 2014

“The greatness of our love of God must be tested by the desire we have of suffering for his sake” (St. Philip Neri).

December 18, 2014

“If there be a true way that leads to the everlasting kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering patiently endured” (St. Colette).

March 10, 2015

“In all trials I will say always, ‘Lord, your will be done’” (St. Gerard Majella).

March 26, 2015

“Detachment is the secret of perseverance” (St. Sebastian Valfre).

March 30, 2015

“Follow after Christ and carry your cross for your salvation as Christ carried his cross for your salvation” (St. Anthony of Padua).

March 31, 2015

“Bear the cross and do not make the cross bear you” (St. Philip Neri).

April 17, 2015

Pray that we remember that the crosses we are given are not too heavy.  And when we carry our cross we carry it towards Christ (Matthew Archbold).

May 27, 2015

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

“Who, then, can be so shameful as to desire to enter into the kingdom of Christ with ease, when he himself did not enter into his own kingdom without pain?” (St. Thomas More).

May 29, 2015

“For pity’s sake, don’t start meeting troubles halfway” (St. Teresa of Avila).

June 1, 2015

There is nothing which we more earnestly desire than to endure torments for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, for this is what will provide our happiness and give us confidence at his bar where all men must appear to be judged (St. Justin).

June 8, 2015

You must constantly carry the cross which he lays on you, be it interior or exterior, without growing weary or complaining of its length or weight.  Does it not suffice that it has been given you by the hands of a friend whose all-loving heart has destined it for you from all eternity? (St. Margaret Mary Alacoque).

June 5, 2015

What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ.  For he is all-powerful, and he tells us: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light”
(St. Boniface).

July 12, 2015

“Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent” (St. John of the Cross).

September 28, 2015

“God sends us trials and afflictions to exercise us in patience and teach us sympathy with the sorrows of others” (St. Vincent de Paul).

May 26, 2016

“Men are generally the carpenters of their own crosses” (St. Philip Neri).

June 30, 2016

Suffering overwhelms you because you take it like a coward.  Meet it bravely, with a Christian spirit, and you will esteem it like a treasure
(St. Josemaría Escrivá).

November 15, 2016

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man and man to God” (St. Albert the Great).

December 10, 2016

“Nature easily complains of want and of trouble, but grace bears poverty with constancy” (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ).

January 30, 2017

In the same way that a powerful medicine cures an illness, so illness itself is a medicine to cure passion.  And there is much profit of soul in bearing illness quietly and giving thanks to God (St. Amma Syncletica).

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Crosses to share and to keep / gifts: Jim Moreno, 2015

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Grounds at the Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House – Lake Dallas, TX

Links of interest…  Backtracking…  Bearing the cross / one’s crosses…  Can suffering be a gift from God…  Cross that we bear…  Crucifixes & crosses…  Final hours of Jacques Fesch…  Finding hope in the trials of life…  God comes to you in your lowliness…  How to endure suffering…  Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House (aboutfacebook)…  Other people’s blessings…  Sanctifying suffering in union with Christ…  Secret of avoiding bitterness in suffering…  St. Francis de Sales: about / Introduction to the devout life (ebook)…  Stories in stone…  Suffering with the distressed…  Upset & turned upside down…  What is your cross made of…  When God doesn’t answer / life disappoints you

WP posts…  Connected tangents…  Forever grateful…  Growing pains…  October novena…  One prayer…  Prayerful ways…  Repeated prayers…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Sweet Jesus…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude shrine (Chicago)…  St. Jude shrine (Corpus Christi)…  Unexpected detours…  Vattmann church…  Venerable Margaret

Revisiting St. Simon

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Six days passed between my first and second visits to the St. Jude Shrine on Saratoga, but I wanted to replace the somewhat blurry photo of St. Simon’s stained-glass window with a better one.

Steven had already agreed to have us attend Mass at Most Precious Blood Church one day soon, but I didn’t want to wait to revisit the shrine.  I knew where the church was, so I chose to drive there before my two o’clock doctor’s appointment.

Another photo-op

On the way to the shrine, I wondered about St. Simon.  

What do I really know about him?  Except for hearing his name here and there during the gospel readings at Mass, not much.  I guess this means he wants me to find out more.

Unexpected outcomes

Once home, I was disappointed yet again.  St. Simon’s photo was dark.  The vibrant colors that showed on the camera monitor at the shrine hadn’t been captured.

I took my time snapping photos with and without the flash to get better ones the second time around, so how could this have happened?

Reflecting on my second visit to Most Precious Blood Church and the St. Jude Shrine, I quickly realized that St. Simon had drawn me there not to take his photo, but to give me a totally different experience altogether.

Visiting the shrine that day, my wish from the week before had come true: I’d been able to see and photograph the interior of the church.

More importantly, I’d received a very special gift from someone who hadn’t expected to be at the shrine that day.

             

What happened

As I was taking the last of my photos at the shrine that afternoon, a man walked in and set down his bag of tools on one of the pews.

“Good morning,” I said, quietly acknowledging his unexpected presence.

“Good morning.  I guess I’m the acting handyman today,” he chuckled more to himself than to me, as if surprised to be there.

I was so excited to have found the shrine that I couldn’t hold back. 

“I was here last week, but when I got home and edited the photos for my blog post, I was disappointed to find a blurry photo of St. Simon.   So this is why I’m here today.”

“Have you seen our church?” the man asked without knowing that I’d wished just that since my first visit there.

“No,” I said, well aware that the church was closed during the day.  “It was locked the last time I was here, so I told my husband that we’ll need to come back for Sunday Mass.”

The man’s face lit up.  “I’ve got the keys.  Come on!  I’ll open the church for you to spend as much time there as you want and take as many pictures as you like.”

Wish come true

We walked from the shrine’s foyer onto a partly enclosed corridor for him to unlock the door through which I’d taken a photo of the church foyer the week before.

“Oh, my gosh!” I kept saying, my eyeballs bugged out.

The man tried to contain his amusement.  “Just let me know when you’re done, so I can lock up again,” he smiled, turning on the lights before leaving to make repairs.

What an absolutely glorious place!  I longed to have Steven there, so he could ooh and ahh along with me.  

I was thrilled to the moon to be allowed such a gift of time and space, but I was especially grateful to have been at the shrine at the perfect time.  I mean, think about it.  I could’ve gone to the doctor’s first and missed this golden opportunity to explore the church all on my own that afternoon.  It was truly a blessing to be privy to such a treasure trove! 

The lens on my Coolpix had gotten jammed on our way home from Nacogdoches, so I was using Steven’s big camera.  I took lots of photos to give myself more choice just in case I flubbed some.

Then, before I knew it, the man returned.

I was photographing the angels in back of the church, so we talked as I snapped here and there. 

“Just a moment, please,” I kept saying.  “I need to take some in the foyer.” 

He wasn’t simplifying things either ’cause he kept pointing to different things for me to see and, of course, photograph.

Finally, I made myself stop ’cause the A/C was off, and I desperately needed fresh air. 

Unexpected gift

“We haven’t introduced ourselves,” I said, as we stood by the side door we’d first entered.  “I’m Deli from St. Joseph’s in Port Aransas.”

“I’m David Castillo, one of the very busy parishioners here at Most Precious Blood Church,” he twinkled. 

We stepped out onto the covered corridor, continued talking as he locked the door, and walked toward the office on the far right. 

David reached into his left pocket for something.  “Here,” he extended his closed hand.  “I don’t give them to just anyone.  I give them to folks whom I sense have a need, a problem.”  He looked at me, as if trying to understand why he felt compelled to give me this object.  “Or something.  I want you to have this.” 

David’s face was radiant as he gently pressed something into my outstretched right hand.  “I’ve carried it around for a long time.  It’s the last one I have, but I want for you to have it now.  There’s a second part that goes with it,” he said before retracting his hand for me to see what the treasure was.  “But I have it in my truck,” he added, gesturing to the parking lot across the way.  “So could you please give me a few minutes while I step into the office to return the church keys?”

“Sure,” I said, feasting my eyes on the very smooth, brown, almost black, stone cross I’d just received.

David stepped out of the office on the corner about ten feet from where we’d stood and began walking away. 

“My truck is over here.”

“I’ll walk with you,” I said, hurrying a bit to catch up.

David chattered away as he placed his tools on the bed of the truck, unlocked the cab, and retrieved what he wanted to give me.

stone-cross-3stone-cross-2My friend started making these crosses… um… about a year ago.  To the day!”  David chuckled somewhat surprised to recall that tidbit.  “He usually gives me a bunch of them with the cards, so I can give them out.  And then he gives me more when I run out.  I’ve had this one a long time, but now it’s yours.”

Building community

We talked for a very long time in the hot sun; but, every time I’d almost thoroughly wilted, we’d get a really nice, refreshing breeze that would start us up again.  David told me that he’d had no intention of fixing the two kneelers that day; but, having had second thoughts, he’d shown up anyway.  We agreed that our meeting had been part of God’s master plan. 

I chuckled inwardly at St. Simon’s part, wondering what else he had in store for me. 

We also talked about the beautiful angel on the school grounds.  David told me an eagle scout had just completed the project the week before. 

Aha! I thought.  Just in time for me to capture it with my camera lens the day after!  I love angels!

Then, almost as if he knew somehow, David asked, “What time is it?”  And, noticing I wasn’t wearing a watch, answered himself.  “It’s two o’clock.”

“Yes.  I have a two o’clock appointment,” I said.  “I need to go.”  His was at four-thirty, so he had plenty of traveling time; but he cautioned me about getting back onto Saratoga.

“Traffic around here can be very dangerous around this time of day, so be very careful.”  David made a couple of suggestions on getting back onto the road.  “Just be patient, and you’ll be all right,” he repeated a few times. 

Did he know something I didn’t?

We shook hands for the third time, agreed that it’s a great idea to build community by attending Mass at churches other than our own, and wished each other well.

And, sure enough.  Just as David had predicted, traffic was heavy.

I was careful and took my time, but I knew everything would be just fine.

I also knew I’d revisit St. Simon at the shrine one day soon.

Last but not least

St. Simon was eleventh among the twelve apostles called, yet little is known about him.

Simon was one of the two whom Jesus sent ahead of him into a village to untie and bring the ass and the colt that the Messiah might enter Jerusalem as the prophets had foretold.  This unknown apostle never stood out from the rest, was neither prominent nor distinguished.  He was always in the group, together with the others, almost without a personality, only an apostle, only one of the twelve.  Just this remaining quiet, obscure, unknown has become a mark of his character.

Simon, the unknown apostle, is the patron of the countless Christians who go through life without fame, without a name.  He is the patron of the army of unknown workers in the vineyard of the Lord who toil in the last places for the kingdom of God.  He is the patron of the unknown soldiers of Christ who struggle on the disregarded and thankless fronts.  No one notices, no one praises, no one rewards these obscure and often misunderstood apostles… no one except the Father, who sees through all obscurity, who understands all misjudgments (Ferris, n. d.).

June 14, 2010

The third time was the charm!  I finally captured the vibrant colors in St. Simon’s stained-glass window.

September 28, 2010

On reading the Dominican shrine’s page on St. Jude this morning, I learned that he and St. Simon were martyred together, which explains their shared feast day, October 28th.

February 10, 2013

“Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men'” (Luke 5:10).

October 28, 2014

“May both Simon the CananSrMA12512-9aaean and Jude Thaddeus help us… to live the Christian faith without tiring, knowing how to bear a strong and, at the same time, peaceful witness to it” (Pope Benedict XVI).

June 29, 2016

We celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood.  Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith (St. Augustine).

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Links of interest…  Apostles: sending out / who is one…  Most Precious Blood Church: facebook / website…  St. Simon & St. Jude: apostles (more) / biography (about) / cathedral / feast (more) / martyrs (more) / prayer / praying to St. Jude (more) / sketches (more)…

WP posts…  Bearing one’s crosses…  Connected tangents…  Disquieting moments…  Finding St. Rita…  Forever grateful…  Growing pains…  Kindred acorns…  Making meaning…  October novena…  One prayer…  Prayer power…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude Shrine (Chicago)…  St. Jude Shrine (Corpus Christi, TX)