Our Lady’s Assumption

            

            

            

            

                  

                        

                        

                  

            

         

Prayer

Bless me, O daughter of the eternal Father, and obtain for me the grace never to offend my God by my thoughts.  Bless me, O mother of the eternal Son, and pray that I may never offend my God by my words.  Bless me, O spouse of the eternal Spirit [that] by your intercession… I may never offend my God by my actions or omissions.  Bless me, O sanctuary of the most holy Trinity.  Pray for me that I may love and serve my God with my whole heart and soul and that I may enjoy him forever….  O Mary, receive me as your child for the sake of Jesus who [entrusted] me [into your] care in his agony on the cross.  Amen.

Sweet heart of Mary, be my salvation. 

Quotes

“Divine love so penetrated and filled the soul of Mary that no part of her was left untouched so that she loved with her whole heart, with her whole soul, with her whole strength and was full of grace” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

“The mystery [of Mary’s assumption] reminds us that our definitive homeland is not here on earth and that our longing for fulfillment finds complete satisfaction only in eternal happiness” (Pope Benedict XVI).

Links of interest…  Assumption: feast / history & why it’s a holy day of obligation / making assumptions / sermonssolemnity / three ways to honor Mary…  Our Lady of the Assumption: aboutfacebook / website…  Parish is the body of Christ…  Prayer (novena)…

WP posts…  Faces of Mary…  Fatima prayers…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s Immaculate Heart…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  Our Lady…  St. Mary revisited

St. Benedict’s

Steven and I ended up at St. Benedict’s by chance the morning of June 11, 2017.  We’d hoped to attend ten o’clock Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Harlingen and had even shown up early.  But, on entering, we’d found the church empty.

Oh! I thought.  We have the church all to ourselves!  How often does this happen?  I can take all the photos I want and not bother anyone!

We had no reason to think— no way of knowing, really— that Sunday’s English Masses at ten and twelve had been consolidated until the sacristan informed us about eleven-thirty Mass.

Patsy’s worst fear came true! I thought, vividly recalling our first conversation, February twenty-sixth, when we met after ten o’clock Mass.  She was concerned that dwindling numbers at the Masses would mean trouble for her church, and now this?  I need to contact her to learn more!

Change of plans

Since we had a commitment three hours away, we couldn’t wait around; so I suggested Mass in San Benito.

Decades ago (in another lifetime) I’d attended an all-day catechist’s conference at
St. Benedict’s, so Steven googled Mass times on his cell phone.

“If we leave right now, we can make it to eleven o’clock Mass,” Steven said, hoping to hurry me up.

“Just three more photos,” I declared, refusing to be rushed.  And then we were off on another of our impromptu adventures.

St. Benedict’s

We arrived with time to spare and, as I took photos here and there outdoors, Steven was warmly greeted by a very nice man— an usher or the sacristan, perhaps?

“Thank you for visiting St. Benedict’s this morning!” he smiled as he made his way into church even before nine-thirty Mass ended.

Then a welcoming woman approached.

Josie told us about “the many roles” she fulfills within the parish besides serving on the finance council, and she shared the church community’s present goals to make renovations and replace the broken stained-glass windows.  But what impressed me most was the unspoken manner through which she glowingly promoted St. Benedict’s.

                

            

            

                

          

      

      

                  

         

            

            

      

September 9, 2017

                

            

            

            

        

            

         

                

Prayer

Admirable saint and doctor of humility, you practiced what you taught, assiduously praying for God’s glory and lovingly fulfilling all work for God and the benefit of all human beings.  You know the many physical dangers that surround us today often caused or occasioned by human inventions.  Guard us against poisoning of the body as well as of mind and soul and thus be truly a blessed one for us.  Amen.

Quotes

The eleventh degree of humility in the Rule of Benedict treats a situation like this quite specifically.  “Do only those things sanctioned by the community,” the sixth-century document reads.  Take counsel.  Listen.  Seek direction.  While moving ahead stay close to the kind of counsel that has strengthened the community in the past.  Stay close to the spiritual well whose life-giving water has brought you to this point.  The value of this saying is immeasurable.  It is much more than an exciting new answer, the effects of which no one knows.  It is a reaffirmation of spirituality based in experience, grounded in the wisdom of the elders, and rooted in self-control (Joan Chittister in In God’s Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics).

O gracious and holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, diligence to seek you, patience to wait for you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate upon you, and a life to proclaim you through the power of the spirit of Jesus Christ, our lord (St. Benedict).

Links of interest…  Angels & Saints at Ephesus…  Applying St. Benedict’s rule to families…  Benedict option for today / not for me…  Benedictine benedictions…  Church in San Benito, TX: facebook / Mass times (more)…  Escrivá Option: An alternative to the Benedict Option…  Fifty years later – the influence of Benedictine monks & nuns…  Liberating power of the St. Benedict medal (spiritual weapons)…  Key to avoiding distraction…  Sisters of St. Benedict: dome blog / facebook / gift shop & bakery / website…  St. Benedict (index) / about (more) / college / July 11medal (bracelet – jubilee – more – seven things to know) / monastic innovatormemorial / prayers: litany – novena – prayers (more) / video (based on book – writings of Rafael) / rule / ten helpful quoteswho is (more)…  What does a wise old abbot know about a good love story

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Church doctors…  Kindred acorns…  Mary’s Immaculate Heart…  Pink divinity…  San Giuseppe…  Sensory overload…  Unexpected detours

Fatima prayers

Seven years ago I visited Most Precious Blood in Corpus Christi, Texas for the first time and discovered Our Lady of Fatima at the St. Jude Shrine.  The following month we traveled to Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas, and found her at Sacred Heart.  Three years later we enjoyed her peaceful countenance at Marytown in Libertyville, Illinois and at both Our Lady of Corpus Christi and Sacred Heart in Corpus Christi.

Similarly, in the hundredth year since the apparitions, we’ve shared our devotion to Our Lady of Fatima at a friend’s healing Mass at St. Paul the Apostle in Flour Bluff on May 1; at a LAMP buddy’s wedding at St. Mary’s Visitation in Elm Grove, Wisconsin on May 13; and during Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Corpus Christi on May 27.

Truth be told, Our Lady of Fatima— on display year ’round or just for her feast day— evokes such sweet recollections of annual pilgrim rosaries at Sam and Ning’s house that I’m filled— sometimes emotionally overcome— with immense gratitude for both her spiritual guidance and her steadfast protection from life’s daily torments.

                        

                

                

Prayers

                       

            

                

        

                        

Contact information

October 12, 2017

The first three leaflets are from America Needs Fatima,
P. O. Box 708, Rossville, KS 66533-0708; the Shrine of the Infant of Prague, Dominican Fathers, 5 Hillhouse Avenue, P. O. Box 1202, New Haven, CT 06511-6815; and Hirten Company, 35 Industrial Road, Suite 2, Cumberland, RI 02864-4714, respectively.  The horizontal leaflet is from the Fatima shrine; and the prayer cards are from the Dominican Rosary Shrine of
St. Jude (formerly in Detroit), 501 Sixth Street SW, Washington, DC 20024-2716 and the Golden Prayer League, P. O. Box 1163, Kingston, PA 18704-1163, respectively.

August 3, 2017

If you truly want to help the soul of your neighbor, you should approach God first with all your heart.  Ask him simply to fill you with charity, the greatest of all virtues; with it you can accomplish what you desire (St. Vincent Ferrer).

August 9, 2017

“My longing for truth was a single prayer” (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross).

August 14, 2017

Faith is the first light, the heralding light, the foundation placed in us of what in its final perfection will be the beatific vision of God.  It is the beginning of the eternal ways in us, the commencement of our union with God (Fr. William Ullathorne in Patience and Humility).

            

Just three mementos from Sam & Ning’s many pilgrim rosaries: 2010, 2012, 2014

St. Mary’s Visitation – Elm Grove, WI

Our Lady of Perpetual Help – Corpus Christi, TX

Links of interest…  Crisis of faith in the Church…  Do Catholics worship statues…  Fatima: 100 years later / about / apparitions (more) / bookcelebrating / directivesessentials / five prayersmeaning / message to mothersmiracle of the sun (video) / more important than ever / October 12, 2017 / return / shrine (online transmissions) / story / three secrets…  Golden Prayer…  How anxiety thwarts gratitude, joy, & our interior well-being…  Prayer takes practice: Five ways to improve your prayer life…  Rewire your brain with a rosary of gratitude…  Seven quotes from Sister Lucia…  Why 100 years mattersJuly 13, 1917 “changed” the church / we need Fatima’s message today

WP posts…  Faces of Mary…  Familiar yet new…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s seven joys…  Marytown shrine…  May flowers…  Our Lady…  Repeated prayers…  St. Michael chaplet

Mary’s Immaculate Heart

Driving past Immaculate Heart of Mary, I just knew I had to visit; but we moved back to Brownsville in the fall and I simply forgot, except for every now and then when I recalled my brief but memorable life in Harlingen.

February 26, 2017

Of course, the older I get the more I’ve come to know that long-held heartfelt wishes do come true.  And so it was that we needed to attend Mass “somewhere,” allowing us three hours precisely to get to where we needed to be that afternoon.

“You remember that church in Harlingen?” I asked Steven.  “The one I told you I’ve been wanting to visit since June 1969?  Let’s check online to see if it has ten o’clock Mass.”

And, oh, what a blessing that turned out to be!

    

            

                

                

            

            

            

                  

June 11, 2017

Our first visit to Immaculate Heart of Mary had been so thoroughly fulfilling that I’d longed to revisit; but, again as before, we needed to be back home by two o’clock, this time to attend Sam and Ning’s annual pilgrim rosary.

The church parking lot was empty except for us, but we didn’t panic.  We’d shown up super early for me to take photos so that we’d have time to chat after Mass.  Then, on finding the church unlit, we were somewhat puzzled but not really concerned.

As I did my thing and Steven sat to pray, a family of three or four young adults walked in.  Like us, they were from out of town and pretty much congratulating each other for “finding this church in perfect time for ten o’clock Mass.”

“This is so exciting!” one woman said to the others.  “I’ve never been here.  I wonder what it’s like.”

They’ll find out soon enough, I smiled to myself, because I certainly knew what to expect— welcoming parishioners, some more daring to strike up a conversation about their beloved church than others, but everyone genuinely inclusive.

Then, out of nowhere, a man— most likely the sacristan— quietly approached Steven and the others.

Standing near the altar I couldn’t quite make out what he said, but I sensed great disappointment not only in the voices, but also in the shuffling feet as the small group exited in disbelief.  I wasn’t ready to stop taking photos but walked over to Steven nonetheless, since he was already standing in the aisle, ready to go.

“I don’t know what happened, but there’s no ten o’clock Mass,” he said.  “According to the man, the bulletin with the times is posted in the vestibule.  The next one’s at eleven-thirty, but we’ll be late to Sam and Ning’s if we stay for that.”

Despite the time crunch, I insisted on “just two more photos” before we scrambled to find eleven o’clock Mass elsewhere.

We had to attend Mass before heading back home!

            

                

            

            

June 17, 2017

Naturally, I didn’t give up on Immaculate Heart of Mary so, being that we returned to the Rio Grande Valley during the week, we agreed to stay for Saturday evening Mass and return home Sunday.

And the beauty of attending Mass at a different time?  Getting a more rounded perspective on the church community that— wouldn’t you know it— welcomed us in the same friendly fashion as our first time there.

We may have been visitors, but we weren’t treated like strangers.  We were like everyone else, basking in the smiles before and during Mass, the warm handshakes during the sign of peace, and the joy in seeing all the dads go up to the altar to receive a special blessing and a St. Joseph key fob for Father’s Day.

And the icing on the cake?  The lector stopping by our pew to chat with us after Mass.

My only regret, sort of, was not leaving a “hello” message for the lector to pass along to Elvira, Joe, and Patsy— cherished hearts— whom we met in February.  But that’s okay.

We can always go back for late Sunday morning Mass!

            

July 9, 2017

We returned for eleven-thirty Mass with the hopes of seeing Elvira, Joe, and Patsy; but it just wasn’t meant to be.  Instead, we delighted in joyful expressions— effusive smiles during Mass and playful hellos after Communion— with the two lively little boys seated alongside us with their parents on the sixth pew facing the ambo.

            

                  

Prayers

Daily offering…  O Jesus, through the immaculate heart of Mary I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.  I offer them for all the intentions of your sacred heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sins, the reunion of all Christians.  I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all apostles of prayer and, in particular, for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.  Amen.

Daily renewal…  Queen of the most holy rosary, I renew my consecration to you and to your immaculate heart.  Please accept me, my dear mother, and use me as you wish to accomplish your designs upon the world.  I am all yours, my mother, my queen.  All that I have is yours.

Immaculate heart of Mary…  Father, you prepared the heart of the Virgin Mary to be a fitting home for your Holy Spirit.   By her prayers may we become worthy temples of your glory.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

Novena…  O most blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer.  As your children we implore your intercession with Jesus, your son.  Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially….

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer.  We trust to your gentle care and intercession those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting.  Help all of us, holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.  Amen.

                        

                

                

Contact information

Our Lord’s Virgin and Mother is from Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598; and the Immaculate Heart of Mary prayers are from The Grail, St. Meinrad, IN; and Hirten Company, 35 Industrial Road, Suite 2, Cumberland, RI 02864-4714, respectively.  The prayer card is from Golden Prayer League, P. O. Box 1163, Kingston, PA 18704-1163.

Quotes

For unless our Lady is recognized as the mother of God and as the queen of all the saints and angels and as the hope of the world, faith in God will remain incomplete.  How can we ask him for all the things he would have us hope for if we do not know, by contemplating the sanctity of the immaculate virgin, what great things he has power to accomplish in the souls of men? (Thomas Merton).

Let us pray to the immaculate heart of Mary for all the graces that we need to be a brilliant light and a holy comfort to others each and every day in this darkened and sometimes frightening world.  Don’t forget to offer your sufferings to God and to make sacrifices to save souls (Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle in Our Lady of Fatima).

July 20, 2017

There are three things we must do to be at peace: have a pure intention to desire the honor and glory of God in all things; do the little that we can unto that end, following the advice of our spiritual father; and leave all the rest to God’s care (St. Francis de Sales in Roses Among Thorns).

Links of interest…  Blessing of Catholic friends…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Church & spiritual maturity in Christian life…  Consecration to the immaculate heart of Mary…  Discernment, action, & WDGWMTD…  Finding your true self in Marian devotion…  Five words you need to hear at church…  God’s favorite garden…  IHM church: directionswebsite…  Immaculate heart of Mary (door of mercy – feast: Aug 22 – symbolism)…  Immaculate Mary Song…  Mary: beloved of the Trinity / celebrating May / corner / devotion / gate of heaven / litany / meditations / mother (of the church) / page / picturingprayers (miracles – more – novena – queen of angels) / untier of knots…  Prayer: devotion (more – purpose) / novenas / podcasts…  Society of the green scapular (heaven’s promises – Mary’s gift)…  Ten ways to grow in friendship with Jesus & Mary…  Thirteen quotes

WP posts…  Faces of Mary…  Lady of sorrows…  Lingering memory…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  Marytown shrine…  May flowers…  Our Lady…  San Juan Diego…  Sorrowful redemption…  St. Benedict’s

Afternoon delights

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

January 25, 2017

               

        

April 18, 2017

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

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

                  

        

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

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

“We’re going there next,” I smiled.

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

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

                

                    

            

                        

        

                

April 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

            

            

Afternoon delights

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

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

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

Prayers from St. Faustina’s writings

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

St. Paul the Apostle – CCTX

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

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

Our Father…  Hail Mary…  Glory be….

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

Quotes

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

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

April 25, 2017

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

May 8, 2017

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

May 10, 2017

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

May 21, 2017

The courage to live the call to share Jesus with others comes from a hope that gives way to the discipline of prayer.  Prayer inspires a life of joyful dependence on the Lord, which allows us to see and recognize him at work in the most surprising of ways.  And from a heart focused on God blossoms the thanksgiving that overflows into sharing Christ with a waiting world (Colleen C. Mitchell in Who Does He Say You Are?).

May 22, 2017

When one finds themselves with Jesus, they live the wondrous awe of that encounter and feel the need to look for him in prayer, in the reading of the gospels.  They feel the need to adore him, to know him and feel the need to announce him (Pope Francis).

June 18, 2017

If you wish to adore the real face of Jesus, we can find it in the divine Eucharist where, with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, the face of our Lord is hidden under the while veil of the host (St. Gaetano Catanoso).

June 23, 2017

“Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams” (Pope John XXIII).

July 21, 2017

“We ascend to the heights of contemplation by the steps of the active life” (Pope St. Gregory I).

July 28, 2017

“My past, O Lord, I entrust to your mercy; my presence, to your love; my future, to your providence” (St. Padre Pio).

August 11, 2017

Our labor here is brief, but the reward is eternal.  Do not be disturbed by the clamor of the world, which passes like a shadow.  Do not let the false delights of a deceptive world deceive you (St. Clare of Assisi).

Links of interest…  40 hours devotion: Spending personal time with the Lord…  Alamo, TX: Capuchin Poor Claresquiet place for prayer / St. Joseph & St. Rita Monastery (more)…  Blessed Sacrament prayers…  Catholic Harbor of faith & morals (index of saints)…  Cloistered nuns want to pray for you…  Dwelling of faith, hope, & love…  Eucharistic adoration…  Fatima & Divine Mercy are eternally linked / & Faustina offer striking, frightening visions of hell / surprised by…  Have you ever lost faith…  Hope: A misunderstood virtue…  How Jesus makes heaven present to us today (Fr. Romano GuardiniMeditations on the Christ)…  Litany of trust…  Move to religious life…  No mercy without conversion…  Perpetual adoration…  St. Faustina: aboutprayers (all occasion – Eucharist – intercessory – thanksgiving) / prophet of God’s mercy…  St. John Chrysostom (hourly)…  Trust in Jesus: Four reasons Catholics are full of hope…  Visits to Jesus in the tabernacle: Hours & half-hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (Lasance, 1898)…  What is Divine Mercy (chaplet – devotionnovena)…  the Word among us

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

Twelve and five

olgc12217-11

Steven and I usually attend Saturday evening Mass.  Only we couldn’t do that January twenty-first because we were on field trips that day.

Too tired to get up early Sunday morning, we slept in and opted for noon Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Brownsville, TX.

Noon Mass

A beautiful sacred space with good music, enthusiastic parishioners, and an excellent homilist enveloped us as we occupied the right-hand center aisle seats on the third pew.  Who could ask for anything more?

Then, after Mass, I approached one of the Extraordinary Ministers to ask when church would close.

The young woman smiled Mona Lisa style and softly responded.  “Take your photos.  I have the key.  I’ll wait until you’re done.”

Without knowing, I’d gone up to the parish secretary, Sandra Castillo, a beautiful young woman, patient and generous with her time.  I was beyond grateful, so I got busy.

Before we left, we met her sister, Anita; and they met Steven.  I told Sandra that I’d email to let her know when I’d uploaded the photos onto my blog, but half of the photos were too dark to salvage.

Still unaccustomed to the settings on my new Coolpix, I’d forgotten to set the flash.  The altar and the alcove appeared so dark that, even with adjustments, the photos were useless.

The only solution?  Attend five o’clock Mass the following weekend.

olgc12217-30      olgc12217-101      olgc12217-31

olgc12217-29      olgc12217-38      olgc12217-39      olgc12217-41

olgc12217-42      olgc12217-43      olgc12217-44      olgc12217-45

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Evening Mass

What a difference between the two Masses!

Music at noon had been louder, more upbeat, with younger families and teens in attendance, while evening Mass featured a pianist-cellist duo whose music was somewhat nostalgic with older family members in mind.

Moreover, the ambiance was relaxed and inviting, conducive to spontaneity.

As I photographed the statues in the alcove before Mass, a young mother with a tall candle embraced like a beloved child, waited just a few feet behind me.  Sensing her, I instinctively turned and stepped aside.

olgc12817-23I was a mix of regretful thoughtlessness for impeding the woman’s time before the saints and awe at her unanticipated response.  Instead of greeting me with frowned disdain, she touched my heart with her warm, modest smile, ojo a ojo, as we unintentionally rubbed arms passing each other by.

In those fleeting moments I wanted to say “excuse me,” but she’d immersed herself in prayerful intimacy before I could say anything.  So I added my sentiments in silence, thanked God for the blessing, took my photos, and walked back to where Steven sat.

During the sign of peace I reached over to shake hands with a young man at the end of the pew in front of ours and, on making eye contact, was immediately whisked away to another place in time.

“Rey?!!” I asked incredulously.

The young man smiled knowingly.  “You haven’t changed at all!”

Rey Ramirez and his cousin, Norma, had both been my sixth-grade students the year my oldest, William, had been in a different classroom.  Collectively a really excellent crop of kids, I was overjoyed that some had remained friends over the years despite life’s changes and intermittent communications.

“The two altar servers are my kids,” Rey beamed, unable to contain his pride and joy.

Oh, my gosh, how the years had passed.  What a gift to see him again!

After Mass I was drawn back to the alcove for several minutes.  Standing within the stillness of my spirituality but very much aware of others moving about, I noticed an upbeat teenager approaching with intent.

“This is a wonderful church!” I enthused as she neared the candle holders.

“I’ve attended Our Lady of Good Counsel for fifteen years….  I can’t imagine belonging anywhere else.  I love it here!” the young woman declared.

Her faith, light and soulful, flowed effortlessly, reminiscent of the natural water source that St. Teresa of Avila described in The Interior Castle (Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc., 1979, pp. 33-34).

God’s favored her, I thought.  Does she have any idea how special she is?

Then, bidding each other well, I walked away as her candle lighting ritual began.

In the meantime, Steven had been chatting with the woman who’d rushed me before Communion to exchange a heartfelt handshake.

She looked somewhat familiar, but did I know her?  I’d made that mistake before.

When I reached them, the smiling woman introduced herself.

Rose Rivas, I later learned, is the cellist’s wife.  She was so effusive that we conversed until we somehow intuited, based on the sacristan’s concerned looks and the times he walked past us, that he needed to lock up for the night.

“You have to come back!” Rose insisted, her heart on her sleeve.

“We will,” I smiled.  “The church is very welcoming, Father’s homilies hit the spot, and I love the cello.  Being here feels just right.”

And we said our goodbyes.

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Twelve and five

Looking back on our time at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Sandra’s graciousness left a lovely, indelible imprint; but our overall impression encompassed not just priest and parishioners, but environment as well.

I gravitate toward statues, stained-glass windows, and the stations of the cross.  I enjoy interactions between light and dark areas, subliminal reflections of our daily lives, within sacred spaces.  And I cherish impromptu moments— a demure smile, a shared anecdote, a silent prayer— among would-be strangers, if not for our Catholic (Christian) faith.  So, based on these appealing attributes, we felt very much at ease within this vibrant church community.  And, oh, the memories gleaned!

We arrived early for Mass both times since my blog requires weekly photographs of the altar for the “meditations” page.  This gave us unhurried quiet time to experience the comings, doings, and goings all around.  Heaven forbid that we should sit and gawk, though!  Mom would never have put up with that!  We would’ve gotten coscorrones; hard, twisted pinches on the arm; and/or, heaven forbid, La Mirada!

Twelve o’clock Mass was energized, not at all “for lazy folks” (quite the inference eons ago).  Everyone was wide-awake and glad to be there.  Lively proactive engagement for sure!  But, unlike St. Paul’s where parishioners linger endlessly after Mass, Our Lady of Good Counsel emptied quickly.  Maybe because the midday meal harkened the hungry soul?  Maybe because, as I’ve tried to explain to Steven, the culture is different?  Maybe because work, familial obligations, and other factors were at play?

Five o’clock Mass was different, though.  The music was calming; the atmosphere, serene.  The lighting was softer, more contemplative; the evening, aglow with gratitude.

All week long I’d awaited Saturday with joyful expectation, but never could I have imagined the surprises that God had in store.  By returning to Our Lady of Good Counsel, we delighted not just in the ladies and Rey, but also in his two precious children and Norma’s parents before we left church that evening.  God is sooo good!

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Prayers

God of heavenly wisdom, you have given us Mary, mother of Jesus, to be our guide and counselor.  Grant that we may always seek her motherly help in this life and so enjoy her blessed presence in the life to come.

O Mother of Good Counsel, patroness of the National Council of Catholic Women, intercede for us that we may be wise, courageous, and loving leaders of the church.  Help us, dear Mother, to know the mind of Jesus, your son.

May the Holy Spirit fill us with the reverence for God’s creation and compassion for all God’s children.  May our labors of love on earth enhance the reign of God, and may God’s gifts of faith and living hope prepare us for the fullness of the world to come.  Amen.

Most glorious virgin, selected by the eternal councils as mother of the eternal word made human, treasury of divine grace and advocate of sinners, I, the most unworthy of Christians, have recourse to you.  [Be] my guide and counselor in this valley of tears.  Obtain for me, by the precious blood of your divine Son, the pardon of my sins, the salvation of my soul, and the means necessary to secure it.  Obtain the triumph of the truth taught by the holy Church over those who would reject it and the spread of the reign of Jesus Christ over all the world.  Amen.

We turn to you, our Mother of Good Counsel, as we seek to imitate your faith-filled life.  May we be led by the same wisdom which God sent forth from heaven to guide you along unfamiliar paths and through challenging decisions.

Keep us united in mind and heart as we go forward in joyful hope toward the grace-filled freedom that Augustine recommends.

O Virgin Mother of Good Counsel, hear our prayer as we look to you for guidance.  Pray for us to our loving and merciful Father, to your son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit, giver of all wisdom, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

February 5, 2017

If we wish to make any progress in the service of God, we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness.  We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor (St. Charles Borromeo).

February 8, 2017

“The best thing for us is not what we consider best, but what the Lord wants of us!”
(St. Josephine Bakhita).

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.  Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.  Let me not pass you by in the quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow (Mary Jean Irion).

February 9, 2017

“‘Great’ holiness consists in carrying out the ‘little duties’ of each moment”
(St. Josemaría Escrivá).

February 12, 2017

Patience is power.  Patience is not an absence of action; rather, it is “timing.”  [Patience] waits on the right time to act, for the right principles, and in the right way (Venerable Fulton J. Sheen).

February 25, 2017

Do everything for love.  Thus there will be no little things: Everything will be big.  Perseverance in little things for love is heroism (St. Josemaría Escrivá).

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Serendipity

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About ten years ago I came across a wonderful place online that I immediately longed to visit.  The National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague was in Oklahoma, though— too far from home to just drop by one afternoon— so I did the next best thing.

Way better than Calgon, technology can have us there quicker than one can say, “Take me awaaay!” so I clicked on the link to the shrine’s website and imagined myself there.

Serendipity

On our drive back from Wisconsin last October, Steven changed our route on a whim.  I doubt he even knew why; but we agreed that it would save us time, something we desperately needed, since we’d both been under the weather the entire trip, me with awful nosebleeds that only South Texas sunshine could remedy.  I was sure of that!

Feeling light-headed, I mostly drifted in and out of my wishfulness to be home; so I entertained myself by comparing and contrasting places we drove through, memorizing landforms and landmarks, figuring we wouldn’t be that way again.

Then I saw it!

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  A sign announcing the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague?!!  Oh, my gosh!  I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but I knew I’d read the sign correctly as we’d zipped past it on my right.

Steven wasn’t feeling well at all, so I didn’t want to impose on him by insisting on a detour.  Still, without emotion or expectation, containing myself as much as possible, I quietly muttered, “We just passed a sign to the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus.”

I said nothing more, resumed my koala bear existence, and took in the scenery as I immersed myself in NPR’s political commentary once again.

Okay, I thought.  Another time, maybe.  Right now we just need to get home.

And then, much later on, Steven took an exit.

“Where are we going?  Is something wrong?” I asked.

We were headed to Prague, Oklahoma.

Wowza!  Another long-held, heartfelt wish come true!  I could hardly wait!

St. Wenceslaus Church

Of course, as we’ve discovered during our travels, a shrine is usually, though not always, within a church that serves the parish.  In Chicago, for instance, the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus is at St. Pius V, while the Claretian St. Jude Shrine is at Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Similarly, the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague is housed within St. Wenceslaus, though, really, they are one and the same, wholly synonymous as a singular sacred space for parishioners and visitors alike.

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Letters to Fr. Long Phan

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Prayers

Dearest Christ-child, O divine child, O thou lovely Jesus mine, see thy children would invite thee; come into these hearts of thine.  Yes, we know thy place and grandeur, though thou be but weak and small; for we say with deep assurance, thou art Savior of us all.

Powerful novena…  O Jesus who has said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened,” through the intercession of Mary, your most holy mother, I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be granted.  (State your request.)

O Jesus who has said, “All that you ask of the Father in my name, he will grant you,” through the intercession of Mary, your most holy mother, I humbly and urgently ask your Father, in your name, that my prayer will be granted.  (State your request.)

O Jesus who has said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away but my word shall not pass away,” through the intercession of Mary, your most holy mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted.  (State your request.)

This novena can be recited at the same time every hour for nine consecutive hours— just one day— or once daily for nine days.

Thanksgiving…  Divine Infant Jesus, I know you love me and would never leave me.  I thank you for your close presence in my life.

Miraculous Infant, I believe in your promise of peace, blessings, and freedom from want.  I place every need and care in your hands.

Lord Jesus, may I always trust in your generous mercy and love.  I want to honor and praise you now and forever.  Amen.

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Contact information

Thanks to Cathy Saccente from St. Mary of Victories Church in St. Louis, MO for the booklet, Novena to the Infant Jesus of Prague (Reverend Harry E. Stitz, 1945), from which I took both the Christ-child rhyme and the novena; and to Sister at the Carmelite Monastery in Goonellabah, Australia for the Relic of the True Crib prayer card.

February 6, 2017

A soul of holiness does not strive for that holiness.  It strives to love, to love wholeheartedly; there lies the difference….  The simple soul loves; that is all (Raoul Plus, SJ in Holy Simplicity).

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