Multicultural Mass

On Friday, January 17, the Corpus Christi Cathedral held its annual multicultural Mass, which we joyfully celebrated with our diocesan church family.  Afterwards, we hurried downstairs to St. Joseph Hall for the festivities: An abundance of ethnic foods, lively entertainment provided by the youngsters, and delightful conversations with friends and acquaintances alike.

How funny to hear the bishop tease, “Are you still eating?” as he passed our table on his way out at evening’s end!

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Prayers for Christian unity (Sisters of the Holy Family; January 18-25, 2014)

Day 1…  Merciful God, together with all those who call on the name of the Lord in our brokenness, we hear your call to be saints.  Yet you have made us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  By the power of your Holy Spirit, draw us together in the communion of saints and strengthen us to do your will and to proclaim the mighty acts of Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

Day 2…  Most loving and gracious God, we give thanks for the gifts of your grace that we experience not only in our own tradition, but also in the traditions of other churches.  By the grace of your Holy Spirit, may our gratitude continue to grow as we encounter one another and experience your gift of unity in new ways.  This we pray through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Day 3…  Faithful, open-handed God, we bless you for giving us all the spiritual gifts we need to come to the measure of the full stature of Christ: for wisdom, for gifts of service, and for bread.  Help us be signs of your abundance gathered in unity to bring the gifts of your everlasting kingdom to every place of pain and lack.  Filled with the Spirit, we pray in the name of the One whose gift was the bread of his life broken for us now and forever.  Amen.

Day 4…  Faithful God, we give thanks for your steadfast love and your devotedness that extends to the clouds.  As we wait in joyful hope, working and praying together for the full visible unity of your church, fill us with confidence in your promises.  We make this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Day 5…  Father of love, you have called us into the fellowship of your son and appointed us to bear fruit in our witness to the gospel.  By the grace of your Spirit, enable us to love one another and to dwell together in unity so that our joy may be complete.  Amen.

Day 6…  Loving God, you give us prophetic witnesses in times of conflict and division.  When we seek you, Lord, send us your Holy Spirit to make us artisans of reconciliation united in the same mind and the same purpose.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray.  Amen.

Day 7…  We give you thanks, O God, that you bless each and every member of the body of Christ with the gifts of your Spirit.  Help us to be supportive of one another, to be respectful of our differences, and to work.  Amen.

Day 8…  Gracious God, you sent your son Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit to redeem your people.  Unite us in our diversity that we might affirm and proclaim together the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for a world in need of his gospel.  Amen.

July 26, 2015

Treasure your families….  The future of your society, the future of humanity, pass by the way of the family (St. John Paul II).

September 15, 2016 (for Hispanic Heritage Month, 15 Sept – 15 Oct)

O God, you have made of one blood all the people of the earth; but you have also richly blessed us with a world of many languages, cultures, and traditions.  We thank you for the many contributions which Hispanic Americans have made— and continue to make— to our great country.  Enable us always to learn from and appreciate each other.  Make us even stronger as one nation because of our diverse gifts and experiences.  Enrich our minds, bodies, and spirits, we pray, as we celebrate together.  Amen.

O Dios, has hecho de una sangre todas las naciones de la tierra y también has ricamente bendecido un mundo de muchas lenguas, culturas, y tradiciones.  Te damos gracias por las muchas contribuciones que los hispanoamericanos han hecho— y siguen haciendo— a nuestro gran país.  Siempre permítenos aprender de y apreciar uno al otro.  Haznos fuerte como una sola nación a causa de nuestros diversos dones y experiencias.  Enriquezca nuestras mentes y nuestros cuerpos y espíritus, te rogamos, mientras celebramos juntos.  Amén (Friars of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, 2016: 1024; edited).

March 24, 2017 (composed by the late Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, MI)

A future not our own…  It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.  The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.  Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.  No statement says all that could be said.  No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.  No program accomplishes the church’s mission.  No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about.  We plant the seeds that one day will grow.  We water the seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise.  We lay foundations that will need further development.  We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.  This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.  It may be incomplete; but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.  We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.  We are prophets of a future not our own (Friars of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, 2017: 1094, p. 3; edited).

April 12. 2017

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.  Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds (Martin Luther King Jr. in Letter from a Birmingham Jail).

August 23, 2017

Culture connects us to a history, not merely as an assortment of past facts, but as an evaluative means of remembering.  Culture enables us to remember and be remembered— to connect with the larger set of human wisdom through which we find a way to live in the truth.  In theological terms, this is called anamnesis, the recollection… in which we draw our own lives back into the tradition of faith and recognize that our worship in each particular service is continuous with the worship that has gone before us (Ragan Sutterfield in Wendell Berry and the Given Life).

September 13, 2017

Creator God, we thank you for our wondrous diversity; for our cultures, traditions, and languages; for all the ways we celebrate our humanity and praise your divinity.  We value all peoples; and in this time, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.  May we remember in our churches the leaders, teachers, and theologians who have been part of our Christian faith tradition.  May we continue to hear from diverse voices that speak the truth of God’s love, peace, and justice for all peoples.  Guide us in ways of new understandings to build a more inclusive church.  In the name of Christ Jesus, our savior, redeemer, and friend, we pray.  Amen.

Dios Creador, te agradecemos por nuestra maravillosa diversidad; por nuestras culturas, nuestras tradiciones, nuestras lenguas; por todas las formas en que celebramos nuestra humanidad y adoramos tu divinidad.  Valoramos a todas las gentes y es por esto que hoy celebramos el Mes de la Herencia Hispana.  Que siempre recordemos en nuestras congregaciones el liderato, los maestros, las maestras, los teólogos y las teólogas que han sido parte de nuestra fe cristiana.  Que siempre podamos escuchar las diversas voces que hablan de tu amor, de tu paz, y de tu justicia para todas las personas.  Guíanos en nuevos caminos de entendimiento para que podamos construir una iglesia más inclusiva.  En el nombre de Cristo Jesús, nuestro salvador, redentor, y amigo.  Amén (Friars of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph, 2017: 1108, p. 3; edited).

November 22, 2017

Thanks to U.S. Catholic for the prayer for families by the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council for the Canadian National Day of Prayer in solidarity with indigenous peoples.

O Great Creator, we give praise and thanks to you for our lives and for our families.  Your gift to us of human community is one of your greatest blessings.

We thank you for our elders— our grandfathers and grandmothers— whose patience and wisdom guide our lives.  We thank you for our fathers and mothers, who by giving their love to each other bring us into the world, nurturing and leading us.  We thank you for our brothers and sisters with whom we come to know what sharing and caring really means.  We thank you for young people whose hope for a better world energizes and inspires us.  We thank you for the little ones— the children— whose innocence and promise bring gladness and joy.

O Creator, may our families always be that blessed and first community that we honor and cherish.  As you continue to make all things new, may we hear your invitation— in all creation— to receive and share all that is good and true with each other.

O God, we also face many challenges and crises in our lives and world.  May our families continue be the first and constant community that shows us how to live intimately and respectfully with all people, and all Creation.  Amen.

Pdf file…  Corpus Christi Cathedral (guide, six pages) / Multicultural Mass (booklet, twelve pages)

Links of interest…  Catholic Communications Network…  Corpus Christi Cathedral: aboutfacebook / home / landmark / marker / Mass times (TV) / TX State Historical Association / website…  Mother Cabrini: patron saint of immigrants…  Pope offers prayers for migrants (three prayers)…  Sisters of the Holy Family: about / blog / Christian unity / national migration week / prayer for migrants…  South Texas Catholic…  Tinikling (shown in the last five photos): about / dance / origin

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Heart of hearts…  Heart’s desire…  In the pink…  Letter to Santa…  Noon visit…  Sacred Heart Church (CCTX)…  Saturday evening Mass…  Soulful

Noon visit

Driving up Leopard Street toward the courthouse Monday morning, I could see the cathedral in the distance.

You realize, don’t you, I told the Infant, that I won’t be able to go visit with you today.  Last time, I didn’t finish with jury duty till five; so there’s no way I’ll be making it to noon Mass if that happens.  And I was at peace with that.

Teresa of Avila kept me company as I occupied my assigned seat, but sleepiness hit hard  at eleven.  Since I’d been anxious about exiting SPID at Crosstown I hadn’t slept much during the night, and only the dread of nodding off in public was keeping me awake.

Thankfully, the next to the last group was called fifteen minutes later.  I was glad to be four of eighty on Panel J.  Walking from one end of the jury selection room to the other I went from wilting, wilting, wilting to energized.  Then, within five minutes, we were out the door with written instructions to call the next day.

By eleven-thirty-five, I was at the cathedral with half an hour to spare.  Church was dark except for the sunlit stained-glass windows.  Since I couldn’t very well read my book, I took photos as others arrived in time for twelve-o-five Mass.  And what a Mass! 

Beautiful music, wonderful homily.  Father Pete’s message was perfect.

“We have the gift of everlasting life.”

     

               

       

       

               

         

       

         

               

               

               

               

Prayers to the Holy Trinity

I praise you, Father all-powerful.  I praise you, Divine Son, our lord and savior.  I praise you, Spirit of love and consolation.  One God, three persons, triune unity, be near me in the temple of my soul.  Draw me to share in your life and love.  In your kindness grant to me and to my family the riches of your mercy, and a share in your blessing, that we may come to the glory of your kingdom and rejoice in loving you for all eternity.  Amen.

Reparation…  O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly.  I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended.  By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners (Fatima).

December 12, 2012

“The pure soul is a beautiful rose, and the three divine persons descend from heaven to inhale its fragrance” (St. John Vianney).

May 26, 2013

My God, Blessed Trinity!  Draw from my poor being what most contributes to your glory, and do with me what you wish both now and in eternity (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity).

August 6, 2015

“The glory that shone around the disciples on the mount of the Transfiguration prefigures the contemplation of God in eternity” (Dionysius).

April 20, 2016

When it’s God who is speaking… the proper way to behave is to imitate someone who has an irresistible curiosity and who listens at keyholes.  You must listen to everything God says at the keyhole of your heart (St. John Vianney).

July 23, 2016

“Let everyone who has the grace of intelligence therefore fear that, because of it, he will be judged more heavily if he is negligent” (St. Brigid of Sweden).

May 26, 2017

Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God, grant us in our misery that we may do for your sake alone what we know you want us to do and always what pleases you so that, cleansed and enlightened interiorly and fired with the ardor of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to follow in the footsteps of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ (Pat McCloskey, OFM in Peace and Good: Through the Year with Francis of Assisi).

June 2, 2017

The only thing that matters in life is doing the will of God.  Once you are doing the will of God, then everything else matters (Hubert van Zeller in Holiness for Housewives).

June 3, 2017

Everything came into being through the life-giving dynamic of the one who is Love.  God is never-ending and unchanging.  As it was then, it is now.  This Trinity of Persons, the infinitude of love, seeks to share the life-giving dynamic of their loving union with others— to “go outward” to others who will love back in the same self-donative way.  This is gratuitous action on God’s part.  Being the infinitude of love, the Divine Persons have no need of more love, but they seek to share with others their divine pleasure.  And so God created the heavens and the earth and beings with whom he might share his very life (Johnnette S. Benkovic & Thomas K. Sullivan in The Rosary: Your Weapon for Spiritual Warfare).

June 11, 2017

“You, O eternal Trinity, are a deep ocean into which the more I penetrate, the more I discover; and the more I discover, the more I seek you” (St. Catherine of Sienna).

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Pdf file…  Corpus Christi Cathedral (guide, six pages)

Links of interest…  Catholic Communications Network…  Corpus Christi Cathedral: diocese (facebook) / home / landmark / marker / parishes online / TV Mass / TX State Historical Association / windows…  Finding God’s presence in prayer…  God-sized vision…  Pentecost: A new revelation of God…  Holy Trinity: devotions / prayers (four) / thanksgivingvideo…  Russian icon that reveals the mystery of the Trinity…  Seek God in your soul…  Transfiguration: meeting God face to faceof the Lord Jesus

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Heart of hearts…  Heart’s desire…  In the pink…  Letter to Santa…  Multicultural Mass…  Sacred Heart Church (CCTX)…  Saturday evening Mass…  Soulful

Heart’s desire

Looking back to the last week in July, I’m still in awe of God’s impeccable timing.

Tuesday

Late afternoon that week, Steven and I attended a meeting related to a topic dear to my heart, one that had been scheduled ten days prior but had been unexpected just the same.

Usually we go into Corpus only for doctor’s appointments, so this was quite a departure from the norm.  And, yes.  I’d expected Steven to back out, but— surprise, surprise— he went along without complaint.

       

While at the meeting, Steven’s Blackberry went off twice; but Steven didn’t check it until we were halfway down Shoreline Drive toward Ennis Joslin on our way home.

“What happened to my messages?” Steven asked.  “I didn’t open them.  I didn’t even touch the buttons on the phone during the meeting, so why have they disappeared?”

He was sooo upset that he drove up onto a vacant lot and turned off the vehicle to give the Blackberry his full attention.  He tried and tried to no avail to access Pat’s two messages, until he just gave up and called her instead.

That’s when we learned that Carlos, Pat’s husband, had been admitted to the hospital with a brain tumor and would be undergoing surgery Wednesday night.

Steven assured Pat that he’d take care of things at work and told her not to worry about anything.  He also asked to be kept informed, adding that we’d keep her family in our prayers.

“So maybe this is the real reason why we’re in Corpus at this time and place?” I asked rhetorically.

We’d just driven past Christus Spohn Hospital a few blocks before the phone call, so Steven made a u-turn and drove back into town.

We totally surprised Pat and her family by showing up unexpectedly.  No doubt, she must’ve thought that Steven had called from home; but, no.  God had taken care of things by placing us in the vicinity, so we could do the right thing: visit and show our love and support when we all needed it most.

Afterwards, Steven and I spent time at the chapel.  I’d left my Coolpix in the vehicle; so Steven took photos with his Blackberry while I jotted my request in the book of petitions near the entrance.

I thought about the folks who, like us, had purposely found their way to the chapel to pray for loved ones; so I added my prayers to theirs and theirs to mine.

I also wondered what the chaplain was like.  I imagined that only a specially gifted individual would heed God’s call to minister to patients and loved ones in such great need of consolation and spiritual guidance, but I wanted to find out for myself.  Without mentioning this to Steven, I resolved to attend eleven-thirty Mass at the chapel one day that week, even though I knew I probably wouldn’t make it on time.

Wednesday

In the morning, I drove to my doctor’s appointment first and had plenty of time to read the latest issue of the Word among us (August, 2010) in the waiting room.

How timely, I thought, to read about the power of prayer and love on healing when Pat’s family is going through such a harrowing experience.   

Then I took the back roads to Christus Spohn and visited with Pat, Carlos, and their family, as they waited for Carlos to be prepped for surgery at seven-fifteen that evening.

Thursday

I visited with Pat and her daughters, including an adopted daughter whose family had driven down from Lake Jackson for the day.

Carlos had been in surgery until two A.M., so a group of forty had spent the night with Pat and the girls in the ICU waiting room.

Not until the doctor had shared his findings with the family, and Pat had been assured that Carlos was safe and sound in his room, had she and the others gone home to rest for a few hours.  Of course, they didn’t stay gone for long and found, on returning, that Carlos was in great spirits.

We took turns visiting Carlos in spurts during the first one-hour visitation that afternoon.  As silly as ever, Carlos showed off the fresh wounds on his shaved head; but he did have excruciating head pain that even the strongest meds coudn’t suppress.

With Pat on my left and his daughters across the bed from us, I held Carlos’s hand.  Gently stroking his face and his arm, I silently prayed over him.  I also shared what I’d read in the Word among us just the day before: Praying for healing requires confidence, knowing what to pray for, touching the person in need of healing, praying calmly and peacefully, and giving thanks and praise (pp. 16-19).

Then I told them the story I’d heard from my cousin, Rosie, an anesthesiologist in Corpus, many years ago.

One day, during her internship at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston, the lead surgeon on their team announced that he’d be on sabbatical for a month in his native country in South America.  On hearing this, his replacement panicked.  “But all your patients recover!  How am I going to top that?  You have to teach me everything exactly as you do it, so all my patients do well, too!”

Just then, I performed the same ritual that the doctor had chanted after each operation.  I stroked Carlos’s injured part, his forehead, and softly chanted, “Sana, sana, colita de rana.  Si no sana hoy, sana mañana.”

“No one’s done that to me since I was a kid,” Carlos said with tender recollection.  “I’d forgotten all about it,” he added, still in koala bear mode.

“I do that to Steven every morning before he leaves for work,” I said, thinking that Carlos was referring to my crossing his forehead three times.  Then I realized he was referring to the children’s rhyme.  “Yeah,” I chuckled.  “My students, even my sixth graders, would roll their eyes when I’d do that to them after getting an owie on the playground, but they loved it!”

We all laughed at the thought, since the generations-old practice is used among Hispanics to soothe kids’ feelings— and maybe even make them giggle— when they’re hurt and need some TLC. 

After that, the nurse walked in with a couple of really potent pain tablets for Carlos to take; and, within moments, they took effect.

Carlos was tired but calm and very much at peace.  He stated what all of us were thinking, that everything would be all right, no matter what.

I knew that to be true ’cause God was present all around us in the smiles, the genuine optimism, the talks of what would happen next.

Friday

I’d hoped to attend Mass at the hospital’s chapel; but, traveling down SPID, I felt compelled to bite the bullet and drive on Crosstown my second time ever.  I had to stop by the chapel at Sacred Heart Church to write in the book of petitions.

While there, a man entered and saw me gazing at the Jesus icon from across the room.

The chapel held warm memories from my first visit mid-March, so my thoughts were off on multiple tangents.

I recalled what Esmeralda and I had talked about and wondered how she and her family were doing.  Have they been here recently?  Did Reymundo recover from his illness?  Did he find work?  Did Esmeralda work things out with her daughter? 

The lighting in the chapel was different, too, so I was visualizing better photo ops the second time around when a man’s gentle voice broke my train of thought.

“You can get closer,” he said softly as he gestured to the area with the pew and the kneelers.  “You can take better pictures from here.”

“Thank you!  You’re very kind,” I responded as I walked over smilingly and gratefully touched his sleeved arm as he turned to leave.

I knelt and reflected for a bit.  I wondered if the man was the priest there and if I should talk to him about scheduling a visit to take photos in the church, but I had somewhere else to be.  I could always return to Sacred Heart another time.  At that moment, too, I realized that I’d probably missed Mass at the hospital chapel ’cause I’d lost track of time as usual.

Being unfamiliar with the streets in Corpus, I looked for landmarks as I drove to the hospital.  And then my pea brain made the connection between Karankawa Street and the Cathedral!

I hadn’t been to the Cathedral in more than a year; but it’s tugged at my heartstrings ever since I first noticed its rooftop from the third-floor window at the Omni Bayfront Hotel in May, 2000.

I’d stood in the sunlight, contemplating my drive back to Brownsville at day’s end.  Although I’d been to the annual Gifted and Talented Conference by the Sea every year since April, 1995, I’d never noticed the church steeple until then.

Incredible! 

So after the conference ended I found my way to the Cathedral.  And who should be there waiting for me but the Holy Infant of Prague!

Every time since then, whenever I’m in the vicinity, the Infant always beckons to me; and this time around was no different.

I found a free parking space across the street from the Cathedral; and, thankfully, I happened to have a quarter for the meter.  I’d stopped off at the Catholic Shoppe on my way home from the hospital the day before, so I’d gotten change from the bill I’d paid with— a rarity, since I seldom carry, much less pay with, cash. 

I got my Coolpix, made my way to the side door, and experienced an Our-Lady-of-Victory-Church-in-Prague dèjá vu on opening the door.

Being that I don’t wear a watch or carry my cell phone around, I had no idea what time it was; but the Infant had known my heart’s desire.  Mass had started just minutes before, and I’d entered in perfect time for the gospel.  I felt very much loved.

After Mass, I spent time with the Infant
before driving to the hospital.  Then, on getting to the ICU waiting room, I visited with Pat and the girls even though I didn’t see Carlos that day.

Their three doting daughters were such a joy to be around!  Very concerned, but very proactively unified about taking care of all that needed to be done.  As they came and went at different times, I had the opportunity to listen to each of them.  What a blessing to have been part of their lives even for a brief time!

Pat hoped to take Carlos home either that evening or the following day, so we knew our third visit would be the last one at Christus Spohn.  Pat, Carlos, and his doctors had already discussed the probability of further treatment at M. D. Anderson Hospital (MDA) in Houston after the test results were in the following week.  Nevertheless, we were all in agreement: Carlos was going to be perfectly fine.  None of us had any doubts about that.

Saturday

Pat called to give us an update: Carlos was home.  They expected to travel to MDA in about ten days, so all we could do was wait patiently and keep our prayerful thoughts in synch.

Looking back

So much happened in just one week.  Then, just like that, time whizzed by so fast that it’s been three weeks since Carlos had brain surgery.

At present, the family’s awaiting the test results from MDA.  According to Pat’s email today, Carlos can’t wait to get back to work.  So, yes.  The family continues to thank and praise God for his infinite wisdom and his countless blessings as the rest of the story unfolds.

Finally, on a more personal note, God granted my other heartfelt wish, too.

While our parish priest visits family and friends in India for a month, his replacements— August seventh through September fifth— are none other than the chaplains from Christus Spohn Hospital on Shoreline Drive!

How special is that?!!

September 12, 2010

God accepts our desires as though they were of great value.  He longs ardently for us to desire and love him.  He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor.  His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving.  So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests, nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness (St. Gregory Nazianzen).

November 5, 2010  

I posted the following on the St. Joseph Church blog.

Dear All,

Sometimes building community and supporting people we know supersedes greying the waters.  By this I mean that, while I maintain two blogs— Shared thoughts and the one for our church— I try to keep them separate as far as the writing goes; but sometimes I have to mix things up a bit for a good cause.

If you read my personal blog in August, then maybe you came across ”Heart’s desire.”

Our dear friend, Carlos, underwent surgery for a brain tumor; and his miracle of life continues!

Of course, with medical treatment comes huge debt.  Insurance doesn’t pay for everything.

For this reason, I’m posting an invitation to tomorrow’s fundraiser in Ingleside.  Dinner plates will be sold starting at 11 A.M., and the auction starts at 5 P.M.

If you can participate, wonderful!  If you can’t, please keep Carlos and his family in your prayers!

However you can help is a huge blessing that’s greatly appreciated.

Thanks sooo much!

just ME again, Deli
St. Anthony guide.

November 6, 2010

Steven and I went by The Patio Bar this afternoon and found the place packed with friends and supporters.

Pat told us that the various companies in town had pre-ordered one-hundred-fifty meals, which were picked up before regular sales began for the day.  What a boost to their fundraising event!  Additionally, ninety-five donated items from the various communities will be auctioned by a professional who donated his time and expertise.  “Everyone came together for us, and we’re very grateful!”

The best part for me today was visiting with Carlos for the first time since July 28th.

Carlos gave me a heartfelt hug that couldn’t be put into words.

“I can’t believe it!  It must be everyone’s prayers.  It’s just amazing!” he said, misty-eyed.  Clearly, he was overcome with emotion, “holding it in as much as possible,” he added.

Carlos has been feeling so well for the most part that he can’t believe what the big fuss is all about.  “So far the doctor in Corpus has reported positive results based on regular tests and blood work” since his initial treatment at MDA.  “Everyone’s saying” that he’ll “receive very good news from MDA” when he goes for thorough testing the week of Thanksgiving.

“That,” Pat beamed, “will be our Thanksgiving treat!”

Praise God!

November 29, 2010

On Thanksgiving Day, Pat called Steven to say they’d returned from MDA in time to share their blessings with the family.  Carlos is progressing nicely and will continue with his medications.

In today’s email, Pat wrote,

All went well in Houston, and we were home to feast and have Thanksgiving.  It was a good holiday….  Thank you for all the prayers and love.  I know Carlos is better because of it.  He has more prayers then we can count.

God continues to bless the Lamas family with love, hope, and healing.

February 22, 2011

Pat emailed to say that she’ll be taking Carlos back to MDA tomorrow.

Subject: Good morning
Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 11:20 AM

I hope the day finds you well.  I am doing well.  Trying to get everything done, so we can leave tomorrow to Houston.

I had to have a long talk with GOD to set my spirit straight.  You know, sometimes we let the ways of the world affect us; so I needed to do some soul searching and remember that God always wants us to do as his word says, not as the world says.  As humans, we don’t always react to situations the correct way.

Part of my daily prayer is always asking GOD to open my ears and shut my mouth, so I can hear what he’s telling me.  I know with all my heart that I would be a lost soul if I didn’t have God and Jesus Christ in my life.  With him all things are possible.  I feel heartache for those who don’t know his power.

I guess I needed to share my thoughts.  Thanks so much for being there.

Have a wonderful week, and may God bless you always.

Take care….

I’d read an article in the Word among us just days before.  I scanned the page I’d made notes on and emailed it to her.

Subject: Bearing one’s crosses
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 1:54 PM

In keeping with what you said about God being the light and the way?  Absolutely!  But he also places us in each other’s paths to lighten our burden and make it more bearable.

And— as with St. Anthony, St. Jude, and all the folks we know with whom we enjoin in prayer— what we’re doing is building community, focusing on the same petition so that God knows that we ask together for that singular purpose.

God knows you love him, believe in him faithfully, and will always walk in the light; but, with a little help from our friends, we feel a little more at ease that we’re not alone.

Friends are, after all, God’s gift when we need him most.

I’ve got you in my thoughts and prayers.

Pat was surprised to know that I understood where she was coming from.

Subject: Bearing one’s crosses
Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 2:52 PM

AMAZING!!!  This is exactly what I was trying to say to you before lunch.  You hit it right on the nose.

Thank you so much.  I needed this and you, an angel, delivered it to me!!!!!

AMAZING.  TOTALLY AMAZING.  Thanks so much.

Pat’s faith is so amazing, so positive, so endearing.  She’s a wonderful friend, a true-blue hero who bears her crosses with love.

Subject: Bearing one’s crosses
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 2:59 PM

Yes.  We’re the angels-in-synch duo!  I tell you, two birds of a feather.

All you needed was affirmation to know that I understood.  And I most certainly did.

February 26, 2011

Pat emailed Steven to say that the checkup went well.  Carlos’s doctor is very happy to see such good results.

Praise God!

We’ll continue to keep Pat’s family in our thoughts and prayers as Carlos continues with his at-home treatment.

June 24, 2011

This morning, Pat emailed with terrific news.

Wednesday, Carlos and I went to see the cancer doctor in Corpus.  He said that Carlos’s bloodwork was great!  He’s still losing weight.  He’s exercising, and he’s lost about thirty pounds since last year.  His blood pressure is perfect, and his diabetes numbers are great.

BOY!  Are we BLESSED or what?

Great friends, good health, GOOD JOB.  GOD really does provide all our needs.  What else could a person ask for?

This is a great day!  I am so glad to rejoice in it.

And my response was?

Last night Steven started with, “Oh, I didn’t tell you” and then proceeded to add the GLORIOUS NEWS about Carlos as he tried to mimic how the doctor must’ve jokingly told Carlos, “And I don’t want to see you for three months!”

We were OVER THE MOON about it.

“To think,” I responded, “that all this happened in just eleven months!”

WOW.  That’s A LOT OF PROGRESS in such a short time when you stop and think about the seriousness of Carlos’s condition a year ago!  And, in the process, his other health issues have improved as well. Wow.

Thank God and all his angels and saints.  Thank God for Carlos’s will and determination, for your unshakable faith, and for your family’s love.

Everyone came together even more so that your prayerful healing powers were magnified by God’s sweet, lovely miracles.

Just AMAZING, really.

July 26, 2012

Wow!  It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since Carlos underwent major surgery.

Waiting, praying, always with the most positive outlook, Pat and her family didn’t let the brain tumor diagnosis daunt their family’s spirit.  So Pat’s email today makes perfect sense, being that Carlos always said he fine.

Re: Carlos update
Thursday, 1:38 P.M.

I just wanted to share the news about Carlos.  His cancer is GONE!!!  All that the doctor saw was scare tissue.  YEA!!

Now he’s off chemo.  He’ll go back in four months for a checkup, then again in four more months.  The doctor’s not putting him on maintenance till then so his body can heal from the two years of chemo.  He’ll go on a preventive plan; and we’ll go to MDA every four months for one year, then every six months for five years.

I’m so glad he does not need to have chemo any more.  Now we’re just down to our hometown doctor with normal physicals and such.

Praise God for the Miracle Guy’s incredible news!

August 31, 2015

Steven emailed from work to share the latest on the Miracle Guy.

Sent: Monday, August 31, 2015 12:36 PM
Subject: Miracle

Pat is back today.  She was out Thursday and Friday to take Carlos to MDA.  Another good check-up.  He’s now been cancer-free for twenty-six months.  If he’s good the next check-up, he will go to a six-month (instead of a four-month) protocol.

As I told her, the power of prayer cannot be denied.

Amen and hallelujah!  We are forever awed and eternally grateful!  Praise God!

June 6, 2016

“The will of God is not a fate which has to be endured, but a holy and meaningful act which ushers in a new creation” (Romano Guardini in The Art of Praying).

Photo files…  Christus Spohn Chapel / Corpus Christi Cathedral / Sacred Heart Church

Links of interest…  CCTX Cathedral: abouthistory / parishes onlinewebsite…  Healing: book (notes) / how to pray…  Holy Infant: about (more) / church (images / map) / patron saint / prayers / statue (more)…  In the name of Jesus…  Live in the light…  Sacred Heart Church: parishes online / map / profile…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Building community…  Easter surprises…  Holy relics…  Noon visit
One prayer…  Picturing God…  Powerful intercessor…  Prayers and blessings…  Sacred Heart Church…  Saintly connections…  Saturday evening Mass…  Si quaeris miracula…  St. Anthony chaplets…  St. Bonaventure Church…  St. Peregrine relic…  Stella Maris

Letter to Santa

Our dear friend, Sam, forwarded Jesus Is Better Than Santa to me a few days before Christmas.  It was just what I needed to get started with my post on St. Nicholas.

“I’ll send you the link when I’m done,” I emailed back.

Looking for Santa

Early October I began setting up the “Kids” page on our church website.  Since I really didn’t know much about Santa, our dear St. Nicholas, I wanted kids to learn about his background; but I also wanted fun stuff— stories, prayers, games, things to do, and more— without the commercialism.

Tough expectations, I thought, until I serendipitously received the first link, Santa Claus and the North Pole, from a friend who’d discovered the site with her granddaughters.

I was impressed with the site’s versatility and the recipes from the kitchen of Mrs. Claus; but I persisted with my online search nevertheless until found a few worthwhile sites on the life of St. Nicholas, his wonder-worker status, and an interesting chapel tour.

Thinking about Christmas

Growing up, I neither visited Santa at the department store nor wrote him a letter; and I never asked for Christmas gifts.

Sure, my brother and I were curious about wrapped gifts hidden in the closet or under the tree.  Christmas presents were a big mystery to unravel, but on Christmas Day we were glad for whatever we received.

As an adult, however, I didn’t want to participate in gift exchanges at work or at home with either family or friends.  I went through the motions ’cause guilt is an awful monster to deal with, but my heart was never in it.  Too costly, too time-consuming, too stressful.

Santa’s mailbox

I’ll admit, though, that one Christmas season— the first time I’d driven to the main post office for stamps during the holidays— I discovered Santa’s mailbox near the entryway.

Wow! 

All the way home, I imagined myself driving back to the post office to mail my letter to Santa late Christmas Eve.  I’ll finally have my chance, I giggled.

I was really excited, but the weather turned bad.  I decided the drive wouldn’t be worth my while, but I did give the letter a lot of thought.

My kids no longer live at home, so they wouldn’t find out.  Besides, if anyone saw me mail a letter to Santa, they’d think I was dropping it off for a child. 

Bottom line?

I really wanted to do it, but I didn’t know what to ask for much less how to write my letter; so the bad weather merely gave me an out.

Mixed-up thoughts

Looking back I have to wonder what I told my kids about Santa when they were young.

Growing up mom used to say, “Christmas isn’t about the presents.  It’s every little thing we do for each other throughout the year,” but my perspective differs somewhat.

While we agree that Christmas Mass commemorates the joyous celebration of the birth of Christ and sparks heartfelt gratitude throughout the year, we totally disagree on the commercial aspect of Christmas.

I prefer sharing homemade goods and spending time together talking, laughing, eating, not gifting last-minute, store-bought presents stemming from guilt.

Living on a shoestring budget, I spoke to Mom off and on about making Christmas shopping less stressful.

“Why don’t we draw names instead?  The adults will be fine with one gift, and the kids will still receive gifts as usual,” I suggested.  “In fact, I’m perfectly fine not receiving any gifts.  All of us already have everything we need, and we can buy what we want on our own.”

“You don’t have to buy anything if you don’t want to,” Mom told me.

Based on mom’s tone of voice and her facial expressions, Christmas traditions would continue as they had for years.  I’d be excused from gift giving, but she wouldn’t bring up gift exchange options to the other family members.

Discomforting disequilibrium

In essence I was the only one granted immunity from the insanity.  This meant that everyone would shop for everyone else while I didn’t have to unless, of course, my guilt got the better of me.

But why does it have to be this way?

Mom’s mixed messages were a year-round agony.  With each month of the year Christmas loomed big, bigger, biggest.  Spending at Christmas meant having to spend on other special occasions, too.

I saw it as a never-ending money pit.  And never mind that I’ve never enjoyed shopping for others because I had to do it.

Additionally, my nonconformity weighed me down so much that I dreaded the holidays.  I was resentful of the commercialism, resentful that I couldn’t relax during our two weeks off from school, resentful of having to accept mom’s ways.

If Christmas is truly about celebrating God’s gift to us, then why bother with the commercialism?

Nevertheless, my kids always sided with mom.  They loved gifts, so Christmas was all about presents and being at mom’s house during the holidays.

I, on the other hand, was always the family misfit who never got Christmas right.

2004

Then came the first of two of the most grueling years of my life in 2004, thanks to the self-inflicted UH chaos that both exasperated and revitalized me.

My only escape came very late each night when I flopped onto bed with my rosary beads.  As I lay in an almost catatonic state in the dark, the repetitive prayers were fulfilling and purposeful until I’d peacefully fall asleep.

That entire summer I took three whopper online courses that left time for only late morning Mass on Sunday and, on occasion, quick stops for supplies at Kmart, Staples, and Walmart on the way home.

Twelve-thirty Mass at St. Mary’s was the big event in my week.  I celebrated my visits to God’s house by dressing up for the special occasion.   I told God I needed only him in my solitary life.  He was with me day and night through my doctoral studies and all else.

Autumn followed, accompanied by my elementary school teaching assignment and all the extras: grading papers, writing lesson plans and timelines, and so much more.

My responsibilities grew enormously as the semester progressed, and Christmas break included developing a training session— a last-minute holiday assignment from the principal— that my teacher-buddy, Elsa, and I were to present to our campus paraprofessionals our first day back at work, January 2005.

Christmas Eve

Although Elsa and I had met a couple of times to plan the overview, the responsibility was mine alone; so I put in very long hours each day.  I enjoyed the self-imposed challenge, but sometime past eight P.M. on Christmas Eve I was suddenly distracted.

Sitting by the window in the front bedroom I looked onto the street from my thoughtful spot at the computer and had a revelation.

I’ll write a letter to Santa.  Anyway, God will listen.  Together they’ll work it out.

For almost three-and-a-half hours I worked on the letter.  It wasn’t easy.  I had to be sure my words were precise but, eventually, I organized my thoughts into three lists: what I want, what I’m willing to compromise on, the deal breakers. 

Then, just as I completed the letter, I heard my neighbors’ grown children out in their front yard so I looked out the window from where I sat.

What’s going on?

“Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!” Lucy’s kids and grandkids shouted as they hopped around gleefully on their front lawn next door.

It was midnight, and they were all excited.

What are they saying? 

I couldn’t make out what they were so ecstatic about.  I listened intently, couldn’t believe my ears, went to the front door, opened it to take a look and…

Sure enough.  It was snowing!!! 

Would you believe it?

As I’d completed my letter to Santa snow had fallen, this based on when the commotion from Lucy’s kids had started.  Nevertheless, being a scientist at heart, I was quite skeptical.  As far as I knew Brownsville hadn’t seen snow in my lifetime.  Or maybe even at all.

I closed the door and walked back to my work space, and he doorbell rang.

Bah, humbug!

My next-door neighbor had sent over a plate of food with Eric and Mary.  Lucy’s grandkids were so wired that they went on and on about the snow, which I insisted was only ice.

Once the kids left I returned to my letter, printed it, and taped it onto the closet door.

I continued working on the prototype for the paraprofessionals’ inservice till four-something.  I’d attended early evening Mass, so I didn’t have to think about being out and about in the morning.

On rising hours later I opened the front door.  Everything was covered with white slush.  The sun was out and Lucy’s family, still making a big deal out of the snow, was outdoors.

I refuted the obvious.  Snow could never fall in Brownsville.  It’s way too tropical for that.  But one thing I could bank on was having a legitimate excuse not to drive to mom’s for Christmas dinner and have to deal with the guilt of not having bought gifts.

I continued working without giving Santa’s letter a second thought that day.

Between then and fall 2005, however, I did read through the three lists to Santa at least twice.  I wasn’t wishing.  I was merely checking my lists to see if I still agreed with what I’d written.

I forgot the snow as if it’d never happened and, the following year, refused to acknowledge the unexpected miracle even when the book with the Christmas photos sold in stores.

I never made the connection between the specialness of the snow and my letter to Santa on Christmas Eve!

Unexpected happenings

Interestingly nonetheless, something did begin to happen less than eleven months later.

Immersed in my studies and way too inundated by work to have paid attention, my life, personally and professionally, began to change.  The more I tried to stay on track with daily decades-old routines the more I was drawn, pushed, and forced in other directions.

My life was unbelievably comical and out of control!  Every situation was exaggerated and discombobulated.  Caution led to upheavals; acceptance to change, good outcomes.  Figuratively, doors slammed in my face in my relatively-stable-until-then life.

At the same time I glided through unknowns that I’d never seriously considered would lead to my future life— all this after Dr. Weber, our research methodologist, had advised against making changes during our doctoral studies.  We had too much going on in to tackle anything else.

God’s gift

Nevertheless, God introduced Steven and me through a smile, a simple electronic postcard through a trusted Christian network.

Scenarios evoked laughter and disbelief as our life became a flowchart of endless possibilities pushing us together quickly.  Life spun out of control beyond imagining.

We fell in love with each other’s mind before meeting face to face for the first time in one month’s time, Friday, December second.  Totally nutz!

The more we tried to slow down our long-distance relationship, the more we were catapulted to events and dates we hadn’t even discussed so we agreed to let God take over our lives.  We stopped fighting the inevitable, since God’s master plan included a rushed special delivery in time for our first Christmas.

Continued affirmations

Even now we’re still God’s bestest gift to each other.  And God continues to stay in touch through impeccably timed  Easter egg messages.

Three lists revisited

For instance, several months after we got married I serendipitously discovered my letter to Santa.  Reading through the lists I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Every single item on the what I want list had come true down to the very last detail.  And then some!

My eyes watered as I recalled Christmas Eve 2004.  God had indeed been listening!

God’s master plan

Mind you, we have our days like everyone else.  We struggle, we fall, we pick ourselves up.  But, on occasion, we wonder what if until God, in his infinite goodness, faithfully communicates through perfectly timed messages like those received during Mass last Saturday.

First, my eyes watered as I read through the previous day’s meditation: Zechariah’s doubts changed to trust and belief in God’s message.

Lord, let me trust you, even in difficult times.  Fill me with your Spirit, and equip me to proclaim what you have spoken in the silence of my heart! (the Word among us, Advent 2008, p. 42).

Next, Father Xaviour’s homily resonated with the fullness of truth as if he’d known exactly what I’d been feeling.

Accept and become a servant of God’s master plan.  With God nothing is impossible.

Then, after communion, the gold goose egg dropped out of the sky.

Heavenly Father, I ask you for a sign today.  Show me that you are with me….  Let me rely on you as the one who provides for my deepest longings (p. 43).

The enormity of the triple-treat revelation blew me away!

Ask, receive

Looking back, my letter to Santa led to God’s gift of love. 

“Ask and you shall receive… for the one who asks, receives” (Mt. 7:7-8).  And then “look for signs of God’s love, even silly signs, signs that make sense only to us” (Meyer, 2008).

The unexpected miracle of snow at midnight Christmas Eve, 2004, had been God’s special way of acknowledging my request.  Just as it’d been his wish that Santa deliver the gift of marriage within a year’s time.

Wow!

Santa, wonder-worker

Finally, revisiting Sam’s forward, yes.  Jesus is better than Santa.

But personally?  I prefer to keep Christmas year ’round.

When needs are “great and the crisis so near,” it’s okay to turn to Santa, our dear
St. Nicholas, the wonder-worker, for “a happy ending” (Perrotta in the Word among us, Advent 2008, p. 55).

When we humble ourselves and accept God’s master plan, Santa does indeed make good on his deliveries regardless of the time involved.

Merry Christmas!!!

December 23, 2012

Mary went without delay to communicate her joy to her cousin Elizabeth….  This is the real commitment of Advent: to bring joy to others.  Joy is the true gift of Christmas, not expensive presents that demand time and money (Pope Benedict XVI in the Word among us, Advent 2012, p. M59).

December 9, 2013

God, our Father, we pray that through the intercession of St. Nicholas you will protect our children.  Keep them safe from harm and help them grow and become worthy in your sight.  Give them strength to keep their faith in you; and to keep alive their joy in your creation.  Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.  Amen.

May 23, 2014

When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her.  The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her.  The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen).

September 30, 2014

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart” (St. Jerome).

November 24, 2015

We do not define ourselves as men or as women through our work, our house, our health, or our reputation.  We define ourselves as men and women through the way we love (Chiara Corbella Petrillo).

December 1, 2015

“Love consists of a commitment which limits one’s freedom— it is a giving of the self, and to give oneself means just that: to limit one’s freedom on behalf of another”
(St. John Paul II).

December 18, 2015

“Love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial”
(St. John Paul II).

July 6, 2016

Jesus has invested marriage with a dignity which represents something quite new in reference to all that we have considered until now.  He raised it to the rank of a sacrament.  He made of this sacred bond a specific source of grace.  He transformed marriage— already sacred in itself— into something sanctifying (Dietrich von Hildebrand, Marriage: The mystery of faithful love).

December 6, 2016

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven” (George Bernard Shaw).

“Our first great responsibility is to be a family, a community, revealing first to one another something of God’s love and concern and tenderness” (Saint Teresa of Calcutta).

December 6, 2017

It’s well known that Saint Nicholas, a sixth-century bishop, is behind our use of the secular “icon” of Christmas, Santa Claus.  The legends of Nicholas involve his generosity to those in need.

The details of Nicholas’ life are few; but legends often have a kernel of truth and, if so, he forms a worthy basis for reflection during this season of preparation for Christmas.  Advent is a time to expect God’s intervention in our lives.  It may be dramatic, or— more typically— quiet and perhaps not immediately evident.  God may even use a bit of stealth, as the legendary Nicholas did, to gift us.  May we keep the windows of our heart open! (Greg Friedman, OFM in Advent with the Saints: Daily Meditations).

Pdf file…  Jesus is better than Santa

Links of interest…  All about Christmas: festive family fungames, coloring, & more / inspiration / recipes / songs / North Pole / stories & poems (more) / traditions…  Doing what Christ has done…  Excited for Christmas, but not the Christmas season…  Five unexpected lessons about thinking…  He isn’t Santa, but he gives us what we need…  Isaiah: The prophet of Christmas…  Lessons in growing up…  Marriage: adventure & crisis / as martyrdom / Catholic / dangers of “filler relationships” / five steps to surviving a crisisfostering holy matrimony / lifetime / sacramental light in the darkness / trusting in God’s help…  Prayer of a single person…  Presence not presents…  Santa Claus: about / do you believe inNorth Pole Times (news, games, & more) / origin / sanctitysetting up a news alert / village / website (site index)…  St. Nicholas: about (more) / anecdote / biography / bishop (more) / chapel tour / chapels / crafts (more) / devotions / ecards / facts / feast (Dec 6) / gift giver (more) / history / legacymiracles & deeds / patron (more) / prayers / saintsocieties / still lives at the North Polestory / truth / visit / what he looks likewonder-worker…  Strange story of a real-life Santa Claus…  White Christmas…  Why my kids get letters from St. Nick every year the Word among us

WP posts…  Advent prayers…  Blue heaven…  Budding relationships…  Christmas blessings…  Christmas year ’round…  Church time blues…  Concrete abstraction…  Faith and prayer…  Making meaning…  Morning exchanges…  My Franciscan Crown…  October novena…    Oh, happy day…  On being Christian…  One prayer…  Our Lady…  Picturing God…    Powerful intercessor…  Prayer power…  Promise of hope…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Santo Niño…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude Shrine (Chicago)…  St. Jude Shrine (Corpus Christi, TX)…  Sweet Jesus…  Thanksgiving prayers