Disquieting moments

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Two weeks ago my Coolpix and I visited the St. Jude Shrine on Saratoga for the third time, and I finally captured St. Simon’s stained-glass window to my liking.  But I’d also planned a long-awaited outing to Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church, so I could hardly wait to get there!

Late December 2005

We seldom drive into Corpus Christi unless we really have to, so imagine my fascination at seeing an old-style church off South Padre Island Drive during my first trip into town. 

Is it Greek Orthodox?  Is it Catholic?  It reminds me of the church that Segy and I stumbled across in Prague.

I could hardly wait to satisfy my curiosity!

“I’m going to visit that church one day soon,” I told Steven.

Fall 2007

SPC102301-tilmaTime passed.  The week of October 23-27, the tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe visited St. Paul the Apostle Church in Flour Bluff; so the parish had two festive celebrations.

At both the welcoming and the despedida Masses, a group of very talented mariachis led us in song; so Father Stembler thanked them afterwards, adding that they perform regularly at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church.

Hearing that, Junebug, a friend who’d also wanted to visit the church for a long time, and I caught up to one of the musicians as they were leaving.  We asked about the Mass schedule and, much to our delight, were enthusiastically invited to “come for twelve-thirty Mass on Sundays to hear the mariachis.”

Since obligations at our respective parishes kept us home on Sundays, we never made it.  Still, my desire to explore the old-world church persisted.

Two weeks ago

So here, five years later, my wish came true.  Having driven into town for quite a few doctors’ appointments, I finally felt confident about venturing out on my own in Corpus and, oh, the surprises that awaited me at Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

SCMC61410-21First, I took note of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s statue not because of its inviting garden setting, but because of the message on the church wall.

No temas…  ¿No estoy yo aquí, que soy tu madre?  Do not fear…  Am I not here, am I not your Mother?

A couple of years ago I’d read the same message online.

Then, on entering the church, I noticed the room to my left.  I walked in, took photos, and— on turning around— found the Infant on his pedestal.

What a wonderful surprise!

Next, I walked past the glass doors into the dimly lit church.

A man and four or five women sat in silence: some with their prayer booklets, others with rosary in hand; some departing, others taking their place.

Old-world ambiance

I sat in the back for a while, joyfully dialoguing with God about this new adventure before getting up to make pictorial memories for others to enjoy through my blog.

Other than my Coolpix snapping photos of the windows and the stations of the cross and flashing intermittently, I walked around soundlessly, respectful as usual, mindful of not being a distraction to the others.

“Ma’m, are you Catholic?”

Having gone full circle, I made my way to the front of the church.

Bowing in reverence to the altar as I had done each time I’d approached the front of the church, I turned to take my final three shots of the back (the entrance) of the church.

My peripheral vision caught sight of two women: one, shielding her face with a booklet as if to keep from being photographed; the other, beckoning to me with her right hand.

I acknowledged the latter smilingly and walked over thinking I should’ve had one of my calling cards with me, but the woman scowled at me.

“Ma’m, are you Catholic?” she chided.

“Yes, I am.  I’m from St. Joseph’s in Port Aransas.”

“Can’t you see we’re praying here?” she scolded me in a low, rough voice.

She had fire in her eyes and, clearly, she was speaking for the others, like the woman seated close by who nodded in agreement to my being treated like an insolent child.

“Don’t you know that we’re here to pray?!!” she vehemently rebuked me.

Discomforting disequilibrium

StsCMC61410-75I was a stranger, an intruder.  How dare I take photos and “disturb the adorers!”

“Yes.  I understand,” I said, being shushed by the woman time and time again as I told her that I, too, had sat awhile before taking photos.

The woman was beside herself with disgust.  But I remained cool, calm, and collected.  Even as I patiently, succinctly, tried to explain my presence there, she avoided making eye contact and shushed me as if I were a despicable nonperson.

“I apologize for having offended you,” I told the woman in a quiet voice despite her unwillingness to stop shushing me.  “Clearly, this was not my intent.”

Undaunted

Although I would’ve wanted one or two more photos of the back of the church, I relented.

“I apologize for having offended you, but each of us adores God in his own way,” I told the woman and walked away feeling neither one way nor the other.

Once outside I felt embraced by the warm breeze as I looked around, gauged the traffic on the frontage road, and walked to Steven’s palomino.  I unlocked the door, got a couple of my calling cards, turned to take three shots of the building’s exterior, tossed the Coolpix in the vehicle, and headed back into church.

Barely touching the woman’s left shoulder, I whispered, “This is my calling card.  Should you ever want to visit St. Joseph’s,” I said, pointing to the St. Joseph stained-glass icon on my card, “this is the window above our church entrance.”

The woman, still shushing me, took the cards without looking at me, placed them next to her on the pew, and gave me the cold shoulder.

“Again,” I said for the last time, “I apologize for having offended you, but each of us adores God in his own way.”

Then I walked away, undaunted.

Disquieting moments

I’d been sincere toward the woman, but she’d overly exaggerated her right to be there more than mine to visit that afternoon.  Nevertheless, I knew that God understood both of us.  So that was all that mattered.

As I drove off the church parking area onto a road I’d never traveled, I had time to reflect on the disquieting moments experienced at Sts. Cyril and Methodius.  But even after Kostoryz connected to McArdle— a street I’m familiar with, thanks to the Catholic Shoppe— my pea brain was still trying to come to somehow.

I wasn’t annoyed or angry.  I wasn’t amused or perplexed.  I wasn’t even embarrassed.

I was stunned… numb… calm.  Very, very calm.  

I’d “never ever ever” (to quote our youngest child) been treated as an outcast in any church, much less within my own Catholic community.

This had been such a unique, unexpected experience that my system was in shock— unable to mentalize, much less verbalize, my thoughts and feelings.  Yet, driving home I was sure of one thing: My visit to Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church had been part of God’s master plan.  Just another of his extraordinary lessons in real time.

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Prayers

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, that I love but 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.

Grant, O Lord, your protection.  And, in protection, strength; and, in strength, understanding; and, in understanding, knowledge.  And, in knowledge, the knowledge of justice; and, in the knowledge of justice, the love of it; and, in the love of it, the love of all existences.  And, in that love, the love of spirit and all creation.  Amen.

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight; and give your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.  Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ.  Rest your weary ones.  Bless your dying ones.  Soothe your suffering ones.  Pity your afflicted ones.  Shield your joyous ones.  And all for your love’s sake.  Amen.

July 14, 2010

Discussing this post with a couple of friends last week, I had a momentous epiphany: I’ve experienced this exclusivity before!

I don’t know what makes people so apprehensive about strangers and not so familiar faces at church.  We’re all part of the same community regardless of who we are or where we’re from, so we should be particularly accepting of each other as Catholics.  But this isn’t always the case.

I know what it is to be an outsider within my own parish.  This is why I started the church blog— a perfect opportunity to smilingly welcome newcomers and returning visitors as I take photos before, during, and after Mass.

I’m friendly, genuine, inclusive.  I treat others as I’d like to be treated.  The way we were back home.  The way Segy and I experienced church when we attended Mass in Budapest, Prague, and Berlin.

Because being Catholic is more than just sitting quietly (meditating, petitioning, praising, praying, problem solving, and/or reflecting, for instance), we should embrace (engage, explore, make meaning of and/or try to understand) the diversity that is our Christian faith.  After all, to be Catholic is to be universal.

June 12, 2015

If work is God’s will, it must be sanctifying; for, in ultimate analysis, sanctity is only doing the will of God.  Therefore, work is a sacred thing; it is a “sacramental”— an outward sign that can give grace.  Hence, you can go to work for the same reason you go to church to worship God!  Work is a religious thing.  It is holy (Fr. M. Raymond, OCSO, Spiritual Secrets of a Trappist Monk).

January 5, 2016

“As Christ has his work, we too have ours; as he rejoiced to do his work, we must rejoice in ours also” (St. John Neumann).

January 17, 2016

“I do take my work seriously, and the way to do that is not to take yourself too seriously,” (Alan Rickman).

January 18, 2016

God is always summoning us, calling us out of the hustle and bustle of our lives to be his companions.  Developing the contemplative dimension of our Christian lives involves developing our capacity to hear this summons in whatever way it comes (“The Complete Christian“).

“It is not enough to pray thy kingdom come, but to work so that the kingdom of God will exist among us today” (St. Ursula Ledóchowska).

January 20, 2016

The pleasure of those who injure you lies in your pain.  Therefore they will suffer if you take away their pleasure by not feeling pain (Tertullian).

January 28, 2016

“We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject; for both have labored in the search for truth and both have helped us in finding it” (St. Thomas Aquinas).

July 22, 2016

“Take care not to meddle in things which do not concern you, nor even allow them to pass through your mind; for perhaps you will not then be able to fulfill your own task” (St. John of the Cross).

January 5, 2017

We might not be able to control how people react to us, or see us, or feel about us.  But we can train ourselves not to be crushed.  We can learn not to take it personally— even if it’s personal (Heather King, Loaded: Money and the Spirituality of Enough).

January 10, 2017

“If you wish to arrive speedily at the summit of perfection, animate yourself to a true love of shame, insults, and calumny” (St. Ignatius).

February 17, 2017

Persevere in the exact fulfillment of the obligations of the moment.  That work— humble, monotonous, small— is prayer expressed in action that prepares you to receive the grace of the other work— great and wide and deep— of which you dream (St. Josemaría Escrivá).

April 4, 2017

Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across difference to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis….   In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus promises to be with those who offer hospitality to the least of our brothers and sisters.  From this it would seem that hospitality can be understood as solidarity with strangers, a mutual relationship of care and trust in which we share in the struggle for empowerment, dignity, and fullness of life….

The ministry of the church is to be partners with strangers, to welcome those whom Christ welcomes, and thus learn to be a community in which people are made one in Jesus Christ in spite of their difference classes, religious backgrounds, genders, races, and ethnic groups (Letty M. Russell in Just Hospitality: God’s Welcome in a World of Difference).

Links of interest…  Answering the call to work…  Catholic community doesn’t look the same for everyone…  Catholics should welcome questions…  Complete Christian (YouTube)…  Delanceyplace: archives / homesecond guessing ourselves (Presence)…  Everything can turn into prayer…  Gift of work…  Go to church, meet annoying people…  Holy Infant: artifacts / history / prayers / stories…  Hospitality: A forgotten virtue…  Lorica of St. Patrick…  Our Lady of Guadalupe…  Practice of silence for lay people…  Sts. Cyril & Methodius: about / apostles / enlighteners / saints…  South Texas Catholic…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…  Sts. Cyril & Methodius Church:  facebook / website…  Scripture speaks: The better part…  Suffering for a reason: Not what Yoda would advise…  We help people because we’re Catholic, not because they’re Catholic

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Bearing one’s crosses…  Building community…  Call of service…  Connected tangents…  Full circle…  Gifts…  Heart of hearts…  Kindred acorns…  On being Christian…  Prayerful messages…  A real church…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Right at home…  St. Jude shrine (Corpus Christi)

Kindred acorns

If you watched the AFC-NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday, you know that the famous Mannings played on opposite teams.  Each a great quarterback in his own right, Peyton and Eli wowed spectators the entire game.  The brothers played in different halves, so fans doubled their viewing pleasure.  I told Steven that the game was a win-win and cheered for both sides.

Nature, nurture

Still, what’s the attraction for the fans?  Is it that the brothers followed in their dad’s footsteps or that they have a great family dynamic?  I can’t decide which impacted them more.  Nature or nurture?

The Manning brothers are indeed talented and highly regarded in their professional lives.  Moreover, fans love them, even if their public presence is different: Peyton’s commercials exude a comedic flair; Eli’s, focus on purposeful public service.

Also during Sunday’s game, Steven and I got the answer to our big question this season: Is Ronde Barber, cornerback for Tampa Bay, related to the charismatic Tiki, former running back for the NY Giants?

What a hoot to watch Tiki interview his mirror image on the TV screen!  The Barber brothers are identical twins with more than football in common.  Not only do they write books together, but they also host The Barber Shop on Sirius NFL radio.  Tiki and Ronde are equally personable and bright, but Tiki writes children’s books.  Another difference?  Tiki has two sons; Ronde, two daughters.

Although their parents divorced when they were kids, their dad was a star running back; so, again, which influenced them more?  Nature or nurture?

Religious siblings

In the case of the Mannings and the Barbers, the acorns didn’t fall far from the oak, but have you ever pondered the nature-nurture factor among our Catholic saints?

Until a few days ago, I’d only read about one saint, the Little Flower, whose four sisters were nuns, too.

Considering that their mom died when Thérèse, the youngest, was four, one can only imagine the enormity of parenting five daughters, let alone instilling such impeccable Christian values in one’s children.  No wonder Pope Benedict XVI beatified their parents, Marie Zélie and Guérin Martin, in Lisieux on October 19, 2008!

This week the church celebrates the feast days of three siblings: a nun whose twin brother founded the Benedictine Order and two missionary brothers whose linguistic giftedness lit the darkness.  Moreover, among these siblings, Saints Benedict, Cyril, and Methodius share the distinction of being Europe’s co-patrons.

Scholastica

Scholastica (c. 480-543; Feb. 10th), foundress of the Benedictine Sisters, lived about five miles away from her twin brother, Benedict of Nursia, Italy.  Since rules prohibited members of the order from entering each other’s residence, the siblings met halfway between his Monte Cassino monastery and her convent to discuss spiritual matters.

After one such meeting, Scholastica begged Benedict to spend the night so that they could spend more time together, but he refused.  When Benedict learned that Scholastica asked for God’s intervention, he was furious.

How dare she waste God’s time on such a trivial request!

“I asked a favor of you, and you refused it.  I asked it of God, and He has granted it!”

Scholastica died three days later.

In his Dialogues (c. 540-604), St. Gregory the Great wrote that God honored Scholastica’s request because she’d always placed him first in her life; and, as a gift to her brother, God allowed Benedict to witness his twin’s ascent to heaven as a dove.

One has to wonder…  Could Scholastica have sensed her death was near?  Might she have wanted time to talk about heaven with Benedict?  How would he have felt had he not spent the extra time with his sister before her death?

Because of her devotion to God St. Scholastica is known as the saint of right relationships, and she’s also the patroness of convulsive children and nuns.

Scholastica’s Benedictine Sisters seek God through prayer, work, silence, and community.  They believe that silence invites God’s presence and grows their heartfelt efforts for others in the world around them (YouTube, n. d.).

Cyril and Methodius

Unlike the quiet Benedictines, brothers Cyril (Constantine, c. 827) and Methodius (Michael, c. 826) carried the message of Christianity with voiced intent. 

Sons of prominent parents, a Greek father and a Slavic mother, their uncle provided them protection and opportunities when their father died.  Constantine studied in Constantinople where he became a deacon and learned Arabic and Hebrew.  Michael was a government official until he entered the monastery, received the sacraments, and changed his name to Methodius.

In 860, the brothers were sent out as missionaries to prevent Judaism from taking hold in the Khagan, an effort which wasn’t altogether a failure since some of the people embraced Christianity.

On returning home, Constantine became a university professor.

In 862, Constantine and Methodius were invited to preach Christianity in the territories belonging to Great Moravia so that Prince Rastislav could rid his lands of the German missionaries who taught in Latin.

During the next four years, Constantine and Methodius fulfilled their true mission in life through their wholehearted belief that people should practice their faith in their native language.  The brothers’ extraordinary background, education, and multilingual giftedness prepared Constantine and Methodius for their lifetime achievement.  Creating the basis for the Cyrillic alphabet, still used by Russians today, resulted in the Slavic language through which translations of written church materials were possible and future missionaries could teach.  This great feat earned Constantine and Methodius the title of saints, “equal to the apostles” (Orthodox Wiki, 2008),

Around 866, the brothers were summoned to Rome to defend their work.

At that time, Constantine took his monastic vows and changed his name to Cyril.  He died soon after, never returning to Great Moravia where he and Methodius had been made welcome.  Methodius became bishop and then archbishop before being imprisoned and released; but constant opposition debilitated him.

Eventually, however, he returned to Great Moravia and, together with his wife, continued to spread Christianity until his death in 885.

Building community

Like the Pro Bowl athletes, this week’s sibling saints, Scholastica and brothers Cyril and Methodius, appear to have received much support and encouragement from family members and interested others.  Never mind the healthy, although sometimes overwhelming, doses  of discomforting disequilibrium sprinkled along life’s path.

Sooo…  Which influenced the call to service— nature or nurture?

Realistically, heredity and environment are both to be credited, of course.  The important thing, Christians will say, is that each individual fulfilled his or her mission, respectively, by building community within God’s kingdom.

Prayer

O God, to show us where innocence leads you made the soul of your virgin, Saint Scholastica, soar to heaven like a dove in flight.  Grant through her merits and her prayers that we may so live in innocence as to attain to joys everlasting.  This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

July 11, 2013

“Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else” (St. Benedict).

July 11, 2014

“It is well to deny ourselves that which is permitted in order to avoid more easily that which is not” (St. Benedict).

December 28, 2014

If you wish to have pious, good children, you must first of all yourselves be God-fearing and lead good lives.  As the tree, so will the fruit be (St. John Vianney).

December 4, 2015

The first necessity is to find in your soul a respect for your vocation.  Once you have this sense of mission, this sense of dedication to a cause more worthwhile than any purely personal claim, the rest can follow.  Prayer, self-sacrifice, loyalty, perseverance, and in fact the whole list, come spontaneously to the soul who concentrates upon the vocation over the hill.  These virtues come spontaneously…but, of course, this does not mean that they come easily (Dom Hubert van Zeller, Holiness for Housewives and other Working Women).

February 2, 2016

“It is well to deny ourselves that which is permitted in order to avoid more easily that which is not” (St. Benedict).

Links of interest…  Barber: Identical twins / playmates / Ronde / Tiki…  Benedictine benedictions…  Beatification of St. Thérèse’s parents (more)…  Benedictine Sisters (video)…  Catholicism & baseball: Lessons to teach…  Chapel of the patron saints of Europe…  Genetics are not as predictive as we might think…  Manning: book / Cooper / Eli / Peyton / weirdly alike…  Pope Benedict…  Pro Bowl…  Sisters of St. Benedict (IN):  Monday messages / prayer requests / stories / virtual tour / ways of prayingwebsite…  Society of the Little Flower…  St. Benedict: & joyful aging& St. Thérèse: Father & child / luminous star of history / option for today / three things to know about his medal…  St. Scholastica: about (more) / Benedict’s sister (twin) / book / feast (Feb 10) / icon (more) / litany / stories…  Sts. Cyril & Methodius: about (more) / apostles (more) / brothers / co-patrons / death (Cyril) / enlighteners / feast (more – more) / July 7 / love & evangelism / memorial / origin & ethnicity / patron saints / prayer (more – readings – vocations) / profile (more) / veneration…  What was Old Church Slavic…  What would Cyril & Methodius do

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Church doctors…  Disquieting moments
Gift of love…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Sacred Heart Church