Christmas scenes

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Our Lady of Guadalupe Church – Brownsville, TX

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Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle – San Juan, TX

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St. Paul the Apostle Church – (Flour Bluff) Corpus Christi, TX

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Immaculate Conception Cathedral – Brownsville, TX

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Sacred Heart Church – Brownsville, TX

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Holy Cross Church – Corpus Christi, TX

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Links of interest…  Christmas: all about / artarticles / celebrating / eve & day / free & funflash mob (YouTube) / holy family – nativity (more) / in the simple things /  meaning of wishmas / movies / music: eleven hymns & songs (video) & seven originals / novena (Nov 30-Dec 24) / origami (calendar boxes – ornaments – treats for trees) / ornaments / poem (CSJ prayer app) / poinsettia / prayers for family (more) / printables / seasonal customs / traditions (more) / visit…  Five ways to put all those Christmas cards to good use…  How to keep your Christmas tree looking beautiful & why it’s very much a religious symbol…  Icon of Christian hope: St. Felix of Nola…  Real, live Christmas tunes: classics, countryDial-a-Caroliheartchristmas, & North Pole Radio (stations not accessible year ’round)…  Three temptations of Christmas

WP posts…  Advent prayers…  Angels keeping watch…  Blue heaven…  Capuchin Christmas…  Christmas blessings…  Christmas year ’round…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Church time blues…  Clarisas cookies…  Guadalupe Church…  Heartfelt traditions…  Merry Christmas…  Oh, happy day…  On being Christian…  Our Lady’s church…  Pink divinity…  Promise of hope…  San Juan Diego…  Santo Niño…  Slice of heaven…    Sweet Jesus…  Twelve candles…  Venerable Margaret

Beautiful sacred space

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Steven and I spent the Memorial Day weekend in Brownsville, so we looked forward to Mass.  But where to go?  We couldn’t decide between the Immaculate Conception Cathedral and one of its two missions several blocks away on East Elizabeth Street.

Timely decisions

I introduced Steven to Sacred Heart (SHC) on July 24, 2011; but we didn’t revisit.  Steven prefers early morning Mass— Saturday evening only if we can’t attend Sunday morning at nine— so eleven-thirty was too late for him.

When home in Brownsville, Steven and I had attended Saturday evening Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe exclusively.  But how could we decide on a church home if we didn’t give others a chance? 

We tried St. Mary’s, but it wasn’t right for us.  Back to Guadalupe we went.  Still, something was missing.

“How about the cathedral downtown?  Ten-thirty Mass is in English.”

Sunday morning Mass

Steven experienced Immaculate Conception, my heart of hearts, for the first time this year.  And he loved it!  Yet Sacred Heart, my wind song, has tugged at me in ways that I can’t even begin to express.  How could we not give it a second chance?

SHC52613-38Then this past weekend Steven asked, “Where do you want to go for Mass?”

We were down to the only two choices: Immaculate at ten-thirty or Sacred Heart at eleven-thirty.  Father Joe and Father Amesse from the cathedral also celebrate Mass at Sacred Heart, so either church would be just as sweet.

Still, I refrained from answering; so Steven kept repeating himself.  But did either of us even know the answer?

Sunday we got up at the usual time, certainly early enough for ten-thirty Mass at the cathedral; but Steven wasn’t in any rush to get ready.  Had he finally accepted that my heart was truly set on Sacred Heart that morning?

I could hardly wait to get there, but we didn’t talk about it.  We dressed for church and drove into town for eleven-thirty Mass.

The right place

Wonder of wonders, Steven really enjoyed Sacred Heart.

I have a preference for early Mass, but that’s how I was reared.  The rest of the day was then uninterrupted if I wanted to work (or play).  The late Masses were always for the lazy folks who slept in on Sunday, so that was something of a social stigma when I was growing up.

I think the people at Sacred Heart are very nice.  There’s less haste after Mass since there’s no service afterwards.  So, yes.  I’m with you on SHC being our likely church home in Brownsville.   Although the schedule isn’t one that I prefer, I can see how the change will be good.  It has the ability to force a day of rest; and, being that there’s no rush before or after, it’s very mellow.  If I have stuff to get done, I’ll get up early and do it while the day’s cool or wait until Monday.

That said, 11:30 A.M. Mass was great, very relaxed, and leisurely.  I think I adapted immediately to it, not to mention that it is the only one; so there are no options for SHC.  It’s the right place, so the time has to be right.

Beautiful sacred space

To me Sacred Heart feels richly familiar.  Mass with Aunt Rachel, then Segy and Acacia, and now Steven.  Fathers Moran, Sheehan, and Lanese.  An inclusive church community.  Discovering the Holy Infant, traveling to Prague to learn more about him, growing my devotion, and seeking him out in the churches that I visit.  In this beautiful sacred space my mind, heart, and soul resonate with love, joy, and peace.  I’m home at last, so it’s only natural that I should want Steven to experience the same.

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Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Most sweet Jesus, redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly kneeling before your altar.  We are yours and yours we wish to be; but, to be more surely united with you, each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your most sacred heart.

Many have never know you.  Many, too, have rejected you.  Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to your sacred heart.  May you be recognized as Savior by all those who are still in the darkness of disbelief.  Draw them into the light and kingdom of God.

Grant, O Lord, to your Church freedom and immunity from harm.  Give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry: Praise to the divine heart that wrought our salvation.  To it be glory and honor forever.  Amen.

More prayers

One…  Jesus, reveal your sacred heart to me and show me its attractions.  Unite me to it forever.  Grant that all my desires and every beat of my heart, which does not cease even while I sleep, may be a witness to you of my love for you and tell you, “Yes, Lord, I am yours!”  The pledge of my loyalty to you rests ever in my heart and shall never cease to be there.  Accept the little good that I do and be pleased to make up for all my wrong-doing so that I may be able to praise you in time and in eternity.  Amen.

Two…  Lord Jesus, I come before you just as I am.  I am sorry for my sins.  I repent of my sins.  Please forgive me.  In your name, I forgive all others for what they have done against me.  I renounce Satan, the evil spirits, and all their works.  I give you my entire self, Lord Jesus, now and forever.  I invite you into my life, Jesus.  I accept you as my Lord, God, and Savior.  Heal me.  Change me.  Strengthen me in body, soul, and spirit.

Come, Lord Jesus.  Cover me with your precious blood and fill me with your Holy Spirit.  I love you, Lord Jesus.  I praise you, Jesus.  I thank you, Jesus.  I shall follow you every day of my life.  Amen.

Mary, my mother, queen of peace; St. Peregrine, the cancer saint; all the angels and saints, please help me.  Amen.

Say this prayer (1993, Rookey & Servite Fathers, OSM) faithfully no matter how you feel.  When you come to the point where you sincerely mean each word with all your heart, Jesus will change your whole life in a very special way.  You will see.

Three…  Heart of Jesus, truly human, have mercy on us.  Heart of Jesus, truly divine.  Heart of Jesus, still praying for us to the Father.  Heart of Jesus, in all things like us except sin.  Heart of Jesus, loving your friends to the end.  Heart of Jesus, whose love for men is scorned by many.  Heart of Jesus, my hope in sadness.  Heart of Jesus, my strength in temptation.  Heart of Jesus, my protection in danger.  Heart of Jesus, loving me now despite everything.

Almighty and everlasting God, look upon the heart of your beloved Son and upon the praise and satisfaction he offered you on behalf of sinners.  Forgive those who now seek your mercy in the name of the same Jesus Christ, your son who lives and reigns with you forever and ever.  Amen (Liturgical Prayer Book, 1991, p. 37).

Four…  Thanks be to you, my lord, Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given me, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for me.  O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know you more dearly and follow you more nearly.  Amen.

June 8, 2013

Mary, your immaculate heart is open to all who ask for your help and intercession.  Teach me how to draw nearer to your son, Jesus.  Show me how to stay close to him at all times (the Word among us, June 2013, p. 28).

June 10, 2013

Looking through my treasure boxes of prayer books, cards, and more I came across some gold nuggets from my great-aunt.  Among them was Tía Queta’s Liturgical Prayer Book, which includes “Jesus prays to his father,” (Psalm 139; Bullen, 1970, pp. 32-33).

Lord, you examine me and know me.  You know if I am standing or sitting.  You read my thoughts from far away.  Whether I walk or lie down, you are watching.  You know every detail of my conduct.

The word is not even on my tongue, Lord, before you know all about it.  Close behind and close in front you hold me, shielding me with your hand.

Such insight is too wonderful to grasp, a height to which my mind cannot aspire.

Where could I go to escape your spirit?  Where could I flee from your presence?  If I probe the outer space, you are there.  If I lie down in the grave, you are there, too.

Were I to fly to the point of sunrise or westward across the sea, your hand would still be guiding me, your right hand holding on to me.  If I chose to live in perpetual night in a darkness excluding all light, that darkness would not be dark to you.  For you, that night would be as light as day.

Since you, yourself, have created my very being and put me together in my mother’s womb, in wonder I thank you for making me.  How mysterious, like everything you make!

You know me through and through, from having watched my bones take shape when I was being assembled in secret, stitched together in the darkness of the womb.

God, examine my heart to see what I love.  Analyze my mind to see what I think.  Make sure I am not likely to offend you, and guide me on the path that is eternal.

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Links of interest…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville TX…  Ignatian Spirituality: blessings (archives / reflections)…  dotMagis (blog) / e-retreatonline community /
picturing Godprayer online / spiritual exercises / Thinking faith (blog) / videos:
(1) What is Ignatian prayer? (2) Ignatian prayer: An overview (3) Finding God in all things…  Jesus: 365 devotions for kids (book; phone app) / devotion (more) / nonviolent revolution…  Miracle prayer (Fr. Peter Mary Rookey; YouTube)…  Sacred Heart: about / beads / book / church (about / centennial / video) / consecration / devotion (more / what to know) / divine love / enthronements / explanations / first Friday / history (visual) / introduction / meaning (more) / meditation / novena (YouTube) / postcards / prayers / reparation / significance / twelve promises…  Wind Song: 1973 / 1996 (Matchabelli fragrance, 1953)…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Budding relationships…  Building community…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Connected tangents…  Familiar yet new…  Father now retired…  Father’s guided tour…  Guadalupe Church…  Heart of hearts…  Home again…  Marian devotions…  Memory lane…  Noon visit…  Our Lady’s church…  Promise of hope… A real church…  Right at home…  Sacred Heart…  Sacred Heart Church…  Seven dwelling places…  Soulful…  St. Mary’s…  Sweet Jesus

Father now retired

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Christmas decorations, nativity scenes, and trees delicately lit adorned every bit of the Oblate Madonna Residence on December 23, 2011, our first visit there.  I was so glad to finally be there that I hadn’t even thought to call ahead to make sure Father Sheehan would want (or have time) to share space with us that day.  After all, we hadn’t seen each other in almost seven-and-a-half years, not since I’d driven from Brownsville to Roma to meet Father at Our Lady of Refuge before going to dinner at Dairy Queen.

Even though Father Sheehan had been one of three priests assigned to Immaculate Conception Cathedral and its missions, Sacred Heart and St. Thomas, for a number of years, I, as a parishioner, hadn’t interacted with Father other than having participated in the Masses he’d celebrated.

God’s master plan

ICC81411-187Then, after work on September 12, 2002, I called the cathedral and asked if either Father Moran or Father Lanese were at the office so I could go by to talk.

“They’re both unavailable,” the secretary told me, “but Father Sheehan is here.  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind your dropping by to see him.  Would you like for me to let him know you’re on the way?”

I didn’t respond right away.  I was comfortable with Father Moran, since he was our priest at Sacred Heart, and I’d gone to confession with Father Lanese; but I’d never dealt with Father Sheehan before.  Yet, I was desperate to sit and talk about a personal crisis from the day before.

“Yes, please,” I finally said.  “I should be there in about fifteen minutes.”

Driving to the cathedral, I didn’t know which would be worse, sharing my dilemma with Father Sheehan or— dread of all dreads— being chastised when I really needed patience and understanding.

All the way there, I thought back to the two times (in 1970 and in 1990) that I’d sought assistance from a priest.  Neither had gone well, so my mind teetered between feeling apprehensive and needing peace of mind.  Having matured since then, however, I knew better than to back away.  Besides, I’d already committed to showing up.

Overcoming adversity

I parked adjacent to my old school, across the street from the office.  No turning back now.

I’d been to the office a few times, namely, when I’d registered and when I’d turned in raffle ticket money; but, so unlike the cathedral itself, the place seemed unfamiliar and lacked personality.  Nevertheless, the secretary was gracious and kind.

“You’re here to see Father Sheehan?” she asked smilingly.

ICC81411-9“Yes,” I said politely.

“Follow me, please.”

Father Sheehan’s office was across from the reception area.  The top half of its door was glass; everything else around it, shades of yellow.  I didn’t have much time to think ’cause the door opened right away.

Friend in need

Much taller up close than from the fifth pew in church, Father greeted me with a warm, boyish smile.  He was so down to earth that I felt I’d known him all my life.

Father’s office had three or four chairs around a small table with magazines, so we sat to converse within that circle as friends, not as a priest and a stranger seated with a desk-barrier in between.

Of course, I didn’t know how or where to start.  So Father said,

By the time people come into my office, they’ve already gone through a lot.  A lot of grief.  A lot of worry.  A lot of penance.  They’ve been harder on themselves than either I or God would ever be.  My job isn’t to scold or to punish.  My role as a priest is to listen, accept, and understand.  We all make mistakes, and we suffer dearly for them.  By the time people come in, they’re at the end of their rope; so I’m not going to make things worse.  Just tell me what’s on your mind, and we’ll take it from there.

Forever friends

For almost two months I visited daily.  Sometimes we talked about books we’d read; other times, about work.  We’d both suffered recent losses: Father, his mother and his sister; me, someone I’d thought was a lifelong friend.

“We’ll commiserate,” he’d tease.

Certainly, we did our share of laughing and crying to the point that Father Lanese would pass by, look in on us through the door’s window, and shake his head.

We learned about each other’s family, too, which Father really enjoyed.  He told the best stories.

We became forever friends in a short span of time so that, even when Father was transferred to Roma, which might as well have been the other side of the world, we began our correspondence.  Plus, I drove there a couple of times with Acacia-Darling, my one and only grandchild then, to visit a few hours and enjoy a meal at Dairy Queen, since both Father and Acacia loved chicken fingers with mashed potatoes, gravy, and Texas toast.

               

               

Of course, my life got busier and busier.  I taught school, did paperwork and more at home, and continued with my graduate studies; so I didn’t have time for visits anymore.  Then, as time passed, I corresponded less and less.

Not Father, though.  He sent cards regularly even though I was on another planet altogether.

Still, if we could’ve communicated telepathically, he would’ve known that I always vividly recalled our talks, the stories, the laughter, and the tears.

Beloved priest

Over the years, I’ve treasured Father not only for his greeting cards, but especially for his being my forever friend— caring, loving, supportive— no matter how infrequently I’ve corresponded.  To this day, too, Father Sheehan is synonymous with Immaculate Conception Cathedral, my heart of hearts since age five when I attended first grade in the building across the street.  So how could I ever possibly forget when the memories are so entwined?

For this reason, I’d always wanted to visit Father Sheehan again.  So, when we finally had the chance on December 23, 2011, I wasn’t going to give up just because Father didn’t remember me.

As I later wrote in a letter to Father Bob, whom Steven and I met as we were leaving the Oblate Madonna Residence that afternoon,

Our visit was truly memorable.  I only wish we lived closer, so we could surprise Father more often.  But, having had such a great time, we’ll simply have to drive to San Antonio more than once every four or five years if we want to enjoy his sense of humor and, perhaps, your smiling face should you happen to be in at the time.

To me, there’s no one as kind, as attentive, or as real as Father.  When I was most in need of someone, he welcomed me into his office and made me feel that everything was going to be just fine.  And it was.

I’m sooo blessed to know him!

      

     

           

        

       

January 13, 2013

Steven and I had a fantabulous time as usual visiting Father Sheehan again.

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Pdf files: Letters to…  Father Bob / Father Sheehan

Links of interest…  100 prayers for priests…  Holy hour for priests…  Prayers for priests & for religious…  Ten short meditations for making a good confession

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Beautiful sacred space…  Building community…  Call of service…  Connected tangents…  Father’s guided tour…  Gifts…  Heart of hearts…  Home again…  Marian devotions…  Memory lane…  Our Lady…  Promise of hope…  A real church…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus…  Two angels

Heart of hearts

Two weekends ago Steven and I headed down to Brownsville after Sunday Mass and, as agreed, drove straight to the Immaculate Conception Cathedral to take photos of my most favorite sacred space.

Recently captured

“It’s funny,” I told Steven as I categorized the photos on the computer desktop last night.  “I thought I’d seen everything in the cathedral; but, here, my third eye’s captured bits and pieces that I’d missed over time.  I guess I’ve always been so taken with the Madonna and her Child in the left alcove that I failed to notice St. Francis and St. Thérèse in the right alcove.  And did you see the windows high up in the alcoves?  They’re beautiful!  I’d never even noticed the lower windows either, and they’re at eye level with the pews.”

        

Looking but not seeing

Over the years, I occupied three different pews… on the right, in the center, on the left.  I had a lifetime’s worth of opportunities to see everything, yet I overlooked the obvious.  Whether attending Mass or just dropping by for an afternoon visit, I was totally captivated by the scent of times long past.  The cathedral’s warm embrace drew me into its heart of hearts, heightening my awareness and my emotions beyond the senses.  So maybe I was there more to feel than to see?

Abstractions

But how does one describe thoughts and feelings, soulful expressions, that tug at one’s heartstrings for a lifetime?

Abstractions are uniquely individualistic based on prior knowledge and experience, but photographs are tangibles that can easily be shared and seen.

Real deal

Thanks to my Coolpix, my scope is no longer limited to just my recollections and the left alcove.  Now I have a fresh concrete perspective of the cathedral on a grander scale.  Still, I have one more photo to take.

Revisiting the cathedral as I sorted through and selected from two hundred photos, I suddenly remembered a chance meeting almost ten years ago when I happened on the unexpected, the small statue of the Holy Infant of Prague, as I looked for Father Sheehan after Mass.

Oh, my gosh!  How could I have missed him?!! 

Then again the sacristy was closed.  So, with the wishful thought of seeing the Infant once again, I’ve got a countdown going until our next visit.

       

        

        

                

                

       

       

               

               

            

               

           

           

                       

               

               

           

                

               

       

              

                         

Prayers

Mary, Queen of All Hearts…  Father, you have given us the mother of your son to be our queen and mother.  With the support of her prayers may we come to share the glory of your children in the kingdom of heaven.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.  Amen.

Mary, mother of mankind…  Mother, I commend and entrust to you all that goes to make up earthly progress, asking that it should not be one-sided but that it should create conditions for the full spiritual advancement of individuals, families, communities and nations.  I commend to you the poor, the suffering, the sick and the handicapped, the aging and the dying.  I ask you to reconcile those in sin, to heal those in pain, and to uplift those who have lost their hope and joy.  Show to those who struggle in doubt the light of Christ, your son.  Amen.

Mother of God…  As you are above all creatures in heaven and on earth, more glorious than the Cherubim, more noble than any here below, Christ has given you to his people, firm bulwark and protectress, to shield and save sinners who fly to you.  Therefore, O Lady, all-embracing refuge, we solemnly recall your sweet protection and beg the Christ forever for his mercy.  Amen.

Our Lady of Bistrica…  Immaculate mother of Jesus, we honor you as God’s chosen one, beautiful, beloved, and free from all sin.  Keep watch over us.  Pray that we rise above our sins and failings and come to share the fullness of grace.  Be a mother to us in the order of grace by assisting us to live your obedience, your faith, your hope, and your love.  Amen.

Our Lady of Siluva…  Most holy virgin, Mary, you appeared to the shepherds in the fields at Siluva.  Your tears bathed the rock where once an altar stood.  You, with plaintive voice, said, “You plow and seed here where formerly my son was honored.”  Grant that we, moved by your tears, may once, as our forefathers did, revive the spirit of adoration of your son in our fallow hearts; strengthen the tottering structure of the shrine that is the family; and seek forgiveness for the negligences and sins of our nation.

Mother of God, we desire to raise up the glory of your revelation from forgotten ruins so that we may honor you even more, patroness of our country.  With your help, obtain for our nation the spirit of a living faith.  Through Christ, our lord.  Amen.

July 28, 2013

Finally!  The Holy Infant in three photo ops: July, February, and March, respectively!

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August 22, 2014

Jesus is king throughout all eternity by nature and by right of conquest.  Through him, with him, and subordinate to him, Mary is queen by grace, by divine relationship, by right of conquest, and by singular election.  And her kingdom is as vast as that of her Son and God, since nothing is excluded from her dominion (Pope Pius XII).

August 23, 2014

Mary, give me your heart so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate; your heart so full of love and humility, that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life and love him as you love him and serve him in the distressing guise of the poor (St. Teresa of Calcutta).

Pdf file: Immaculate Conception Cathedral (guide, six pages)

Links of interest…  Border time…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville, TX…  Enchanted faith…  Immaculate Conception Cathedral (ICC): abouthistorical landmarks (#38/39) / national registry / TTTRwebsite…  Our Lady of Siluva…  Promise of the Immaculate Conception…  Sacred Heart Church (ICC mission – video)…  Sacristy

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Connected tangents…  Father now retired…  Father’s guided tour…  Gifts…  Heart’s desire…  Marian devotions…  Memory lane…  Noon visit…  Our Lady’s church…  Promise of hope…  A real church…  Right at home…  San Juan Diego…  Seven dwelling places…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus…  Two angels…  Venerable Margaret  

A real church

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I still vividly recall my first visit to Sacred Heart with Aunt Rachel, mom’s youngest sister.  I was about four or five and so totally awed by the grandness of the church— wood floors, very high ceilings, enormous stained-glass windows— that I was too captivated to make a peep.

Sacred Heart Church was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen!

Segy’s tuba

Decades later when Segy and I were parishioners, we met some of the nicest folks at Sacred Heart.

Segy was in the high school band program then, so all on his own he decided to bring his tuba along to accompany the organist who looked more than surprised— most likely tiffed— that he’d dared to do the unthinkable.  I mean, c’mon.  A tuba?!! she must’ve thought.  But Segy was not to be dissuaded.

Sometimes Mrs. Merta, a teacher friend we’d met at the elementary school where I’d taught and Segy had attended, would substitute.  Her husband was a well-known band director who loved the tuba, so Mrs. Merta was always complimentary of Segy and even rewarded him with a well deserved token of her esteem.  “Let him keep it.  He earned it,” she’d insist smilingly.

It was a very special time for me, too, as I was part of the choir even though I’d never thought I had a good singing voice.  And everyone in the group was so very, very nice.

Gosh, what a wonderful experience!

Lots of memories

As Steven opened the door for me to enter Sacred Heart a couple of weekends ago, the greeter wasn’t the Irish gentleman who’d always twinkled at Segy and me when we arrived for eleven-thirty Mass on Sunday morning.

John O’Leary was always glad to see us.  He’d get really close as he handed me the church bulletin and tell me a quick story or two about his beloved Chicago.  His take on the great fire of 1871 was a hoot.  Then again he always got a charge out of making me laugh.  He was such a spiffy dresser, too.  John was the leprechaun’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  A real gentleman.

Although I didn’t recognize the greeter this time, the first person I noticed talking to someone in the very last pew was the organist whom I’d always thought was a nun.  She wouldn’t have remembered me, so I kept walking to the seventh center pew, outside right, that Segy and I had occupied until we joined the choir.

Sitting there, I recognized two others.  A white-haired woman with a sweet smile sitting in her usual spot— left center aisle seat, third pew— whose sister mom had known through the altar society at Christ the King.  And a tall man— the lector with the same robust voice as before— who sat on the extreme left near aisle seat, first pew, in front of the pulpit.

None of the other regulars were there but, looking around, I readily envisioned them in their respective places.  I hadn’t known them all by name, yet I easily remembered their heartfelt smiles and their lighthearted conversations.  No matter that most of them had been much older than the rest of us, they welcomed all who celebrated Mass in their beloved Sacred Heart.

Lots of delectable recollections gushed forth as I savored my time in church!  Hanging out in church after Mass.  Talking with various folks.  Charles and his sister whose parents always helped with counting money and other responsibilities.  Vicki and Tom, newlyweds in their much later years.  Evening choir rehearsals for Christmas and Easter Masses.  Fathers Moran, Sheehan, and Lanese.  Judge Garza, whom President Kennedy appointed to the U.S. district court, and his family who shared space with the rest of us off and on during the year.  The visiting priest from Port Isabel who, in his infinite wisdom, compared the soul to a multifaceted crystal vase in his unforgettable homily.

So many excellent memories!

Same as always

??????????I was beyond glad to be back at Sacred Heart after so many years— too many, really— that I wondered what’d kept me away after Segy left for Wabash.

Tears filled my eyes.

Don’t do it.  Don’t cry.  You won’t be able to stop.

I felt Segy’s presence so strongly that persistent tears streamed down my face even after wiping at them.

I’d been gone more than twelve years, and yet I’d never left.

Funny, too, how Steven had taken Segy’s (Steven’s) place beside me at the same pew we’d occupied so many years before.

A real church

In the midst of all these memories and emotions, I’d been listening to Father Joe’s homily.

“This is a real church” Father said before repeating for emphasis.  “This is a real church.”

Um, yes, I thought.  This is what I’ve been telling Steven all along.  Not all churches are real, but I know real.  So maybe now, having heard it from someone else who knows, he’ll believe me.

And whomever’s said, me included, that one can’t ever go back isn’t altogether correct.

Sacred Heart Church is as it’s always been.  Beautiful.  Peaceful.  Embracing.  Real.

            

               

            

              

              

       

               

               

                

                

April 20, 2015

In a spirit of openheartedness, we need to listen to the unexpected and to embrace the new and different in the passage of scripture that we are pondering.

As I am reading the scriptures as if for the first time, help me, Spirit of God, to surrender to the unknown, letting your Word shape and form me into your likeness ((Sister Maria Tasto, OSB, 1938-2014).

June 15, 2015

There is a subtle difference between listening and reflecting.  So often we do not listen as deeply as we could.  We tend to rush right into reflective thoughts and miss the real point of the conversation.

Gently remind me, O God, to listen deeply to what you are communicating. Give me the patience to hang out with the reading, letting it take me to a deeper level within myself.  Help me to savor the word or phrase that catches my attention, hearing WHAT is being said (Sister Maria Tasto).

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Links of interest…  Catholic diocese of Brownsville TX…  Great Chicago fire…  Immaculate Conception Cathedral (ICC)…  Judge Reynaldo Garza: biography (YouTube) / collection…  Sacred Heart Church (about / video)…  Sisters of St. Benedict (Indiana): Monday messages / prayer requests / storiesvirtual tour / ways of praying / website…  Valley Catholic: Church of the week (SHC)…

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Backtracking…  Beautiful sacred space…  Budding relationships…  Building community…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Connected tangents…  Father now retired…  Father’s guided tour…  Heart of hearts…  Home again…  Memory lane…  Our Lady’s church…  Promise of hope…  Right at home…  Sacred Heart…  Sacred Heart Church…  Seven dwelling places…  Soulful…  Sweet Jesus

Building community

When I joined Steven for UTMSI’s annual family Thanksgiving luncheon last fall, we sat with a delightful group of women.

I hadn’t met most of the ladies face to face, but I knew who they were from the glowing comments I’d received about them from both Pat, their supervisor, and Steven.

Among them was Mary, a sweetheart with joyful eyes who, through Pat, had sent me a Divine Mercy photograph that her husband had received at the installation of Bishop Mulvey at the Corpus Christi Cathedral, March 25, 2010.

“Mary, I’m so happy to meet you!  Thanks again so much for the photo.  It’s posted on our church blog as a widget, so it links to the Divine Mercy song on YouTube when you click on it.”

Shared thoughts

That opener led to more conversation on prayer related topics.

“Have you heard of My Father’s House?” Mary asked smilingly.

“No,” I said somewhat perplexed as my mind scrambled for ways to ask what she meant.  “Is that the church you attend?”

Mary told me about her visit to the place in Corpus, but I could barely hear her since the lunchroom had filled and everyone was talking.

I was intrigued.

“I want to give you a book on St. Anne that I received there,” Mary continued, knowing she had to finish eating so that she could get back to work.  “I’ll give Steve the book and a couple of papers from My Father’s House tomorrow.  This way you can look into it online and maybe visit one day soon.”

Sure enough, Steven brought me the literature the following day after work; so I sent Mary a thank you.

Of course, working at the computer every day makes online searches most convenient; and Mary’s place interested me, so I checked into it right away and found something that truly piqued my interest.

Charismatic Mass

Although my most favorite church is the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, I’ve had an extra special place in my heart for mom’s church, Christ the King, not because I belonged to the parish practically from birth, but because I discovered the joy of attending charismatic Mass there after teaching an eighth grade CCE class Tuesday evenings.

The best part was that my three catechist friends also attended, which was comforting ’cause I didn’t know anyone else there; and both the Mass and the long service afterwards were in Spanish.

What a heavenly delight to experience the fervor of faith with Lupita, Sally, Gracie, and all those believers!

I may not have been much into the singing or the body posturing— arms raised, eyes closed, clapping, swaying to the music— but I was certainly moved through association.

A couple of times I’d also tried the Wednesday evening service at St. Luke’s, but the community’s spirit had been so lacking that I only attended Christ the King’s after that.

Mind you, one doesn’t have to attend weekly or even regularly to become familiar with the power of united prayer at those gatherings, just as one doesn’t have to be absolutely sold on the idea of charismatic Mass.  One only needs to be predisposed to miracles.

Soulful experience

After the CCE school year ended, I attended charismatic services off and on.  Then, little by little, the girls and I got busy with our separate lives; and that was that.

Still, to have been part of the Tuesday night charismatic services was to have known not only the power of prayer, but also the gratitude expressed through the thanksgiving and praise that flowed freely among everyone present.

And I never forgot.

I mean, how can one not be touched by the suffering and pain that others feel?  How can one not be moved by others’ tears?  How can one not share in someone else’s joy?

The sights, the sounds, the faces, the stories, the community building, the rock solid faith of the folks at those charismatic services left no doubt that the spirit truly moves at Christ the King.

Personal anecdote

Then came November 1995.  I’d struggled with serious back problems for eight weeks and had been laid up for six of them.  I wanted to be up and about.  I wanted to be back at work.  And then, out of the blue, I remembered.

It was Tuesday!

Barely able to move out of bed, I told my parents, “Take me to charismatic Mass at Christ the King.”

They looked at each other in disbelief.  “But how?  You can’t even walk!”

“Just take me.  You don’t have to stay.  Just drop me off at the front door.  I’ll be all right.”

I struggled to get out of the vehicle alone, but I was determined to enter church on my own.  As I set foot on the entryway, I heard my voice deep within myself: I want to be able to run again!  Butmy head was more realistic: What?  Run?  Silly rabbit!  You can’t even walk!

Unfettered, I made my way to the fifth pew on the right where I’d sat with the girls so many times before.  I didn’t know anyone there, but I soon lost myself totally in the service.

After Mass as usual, individuals, sometimes accompanied by family members, got up to share their stories prior to the healing service.

If they can do it, so can I.  I know I’m not healed yet, but I want to give thanks and praise for being here.  I want to share my story so that God knows I believe.

Somehow, with those around me extending their hands and arms to keep me from falling, I made it to the front of the church.

In my funny Spanish, I expressed my gratitude to those present whose faith was so great and so inspirational that I’d had to be there that evening.  I don’t know how I did it ’cause I was fighting against the tearful emotions that wouldn’t be contained, but the faces looking back at me clearly understood.  And empathized.

They applauded as I made my way back to the pew.

Then, when the service was over, I held onto each pew I passed so as not to tumble down the middle aisle.

Reaching the door through which I’d initially entered, I could see the red lights on the back of my stepfather’s van.  He was stopped more than twenty yards in the distance.

Vehicles were backing out and exiting the parking lot; and the rain was intensifying as big, cold drops landed everywhere with wild abandon.  My stepfather’s van wasn’t turning back to get me, so I had to act quickly.

More concerned about getting drenched than about falling, I covered the top of my head with my left hand as my right arm instinctively swung back and forth.  And I ran for the van as if my life depended on it.

Without even thinking. 

Wow!  I still get emotional just remembering. 

My Father’s House*

As I checked the website Mary had referred to during lunch, I determined that Tuesday evening’s Mass and healing prayer is a charismatic service, one I’d most definitely like to attend.

Maybe I can talk Junebug into joining me, so I can compare it to those at Christ the King.

Funny isn’t it, how God answers prayers in perfect time ’cause I’d been talking to the gang at St. Paul’s about charismatic Mass.

Sacred Heart

Finally, two weekends ago Steven and I headed down to Brownsville early enough for us to reach Sacred Heart in time for its only weekend Mass at eleven-thirty Sunday morning.

I wanted Steven to experience the church firsthand, the way Segy and I had.

I readily recognized three of the regulars from more than twelve years ago, but I wondered where the others were.  Many of them had been part of Sacred Heart for a very long time, and they’d had lots of interesting stories to share.  How I longed to visit with them again!

My mind wandered as I smilingly looked around.  I was enjoying every moment of my recollections when I suddenly came to.

Oh, my gosh!  I can take the photo of St. Anne that I’ve waited for all these months, the perfect complement to the book Mary gave me last fall.

           

St. Anne

Patroness of Christian mothers, the childless, widows, and laborers, St. Anne is also the comfortress of the sorrowing, mother of the poor, health of the sick, help of the pregnant, and model of married women and mothers.

Tuesday is St. Anne’s special day, since that’s when she died.  “It will give her great joy if we give alms in her honor on Tuesdays” (Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration, 1958; TAN Books and Publishers, 1998, p. 41).

One may also pray the Hail Mary nine times in honor of the nine months during which she bore the Immaculate Virgin Mary in her womb.  Clients of St. Anne should devoutly celebrate her feast day, July 26, and prepare for it by a novena (a prayer said for nine days).  Lastly, we should try to spread devotion to good St. Anne, which can be done effectively by circulating [her prayers and devotions].

Prayers

Christ the King…  Christ Jesus, I acknowledge you king of the universe.  All that has been created has been made for you.  Make full use of your rights over me.

I renew the promises I made in Baptism when I renounced Satan and all his pomps and works.  I promise to live a good Christian life and to do all in my power to procure the triumph of the rights of God and your church.

Divine heart of Jesus, I offer you my efforts in order to obtain that all hearts may acknowledge your sacred royalty [so that] the kingdom of your peace may be established throughout the universe.  Amen (From A treasury of prayers, The Leaflet Missal Company, n. d., p. 9).

Memorare to St. Anne…  Remember, O holy mother St. Anne, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, and sought your intercession was left unaided.  You are a most merciful mother and aid all who are in distress.

Inspired with this confidence, I take refuge with you and implore you by your great advantage of being the mother of the Queen of Heaven and grandmother of the Savior of the world.

Come to my aid with your powerful intercession.  Obtain from your immaculate daughter this favor….

In honor of the nine months during which you bore the ever blessed virgin in your womb and brought her forth without stain of original sin, I now pray nine Hail Mary‘s, which I offer you through my guardian angel.  Amen.

                 

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Contact information

St. Anne prayer leaflets are from Franciscan Mission Associates, P. O. Box 598,
Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598 and from the Dominican Shrine of the Infant of Prague,
5 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven, 06511-6815, respectively.

*August 15, 2013

This morning St. Anne beckoned.  How or why I ended up on this post I’m not sure, but I found broken links that I just now replaced.  What’s more is that I found some really interesting tidbits in my online searches.

The man who began the charismatic movement at My Father’s House died in 2009, so the worship services stopped and the worship center closed.

Since the property had initially been blessed by Bishop Carmody, the family tried to donate it to the Corpus Christi diocese.  However, Bishop Mulvey declined the offer due to the diocese’s limited resources.  Instead, “the shrine of Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos [was] relocated… to a former mission,” Mary Mother of the Church, that is located at 1755 Frio Street (Corpus Christi Caller-Times, July 21, 2010).

June 16, 2014

As we come to a greater knowledge of God and of self, we will grasp the meaning and purpose of our spiritual journey to become ambassadors of Jesus, carrying His message of love to all peoples.

Free me, O God, of all that prevents me from being a messenger of your love. Let me be a pencil in Your hand giving expression to your compassion and mercy (Sister Maria Tasto, OSB).

April 3, 2015

“In an absolutely delicious bit of irony, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, places over the cross, the declaration, in the three major languages of the time, that Jesus is the King, effectively de-throning Caesar and becoming, despite himself, the first great evangelist” (Fr. Robert Barron).

June 29, 2015

“Truly, matters in the world are in a bad state; but, if you and I begin in earnest to reform ourselves, a really good beginning will have been made” (St. Peter of Alcántara).

August 17, 2015

“Thanks to the charismatic movement, a multitude of Christians, men and women, young people and adults have rediscovered Pentecost as a living reality in their daily lives” (St. John Paul II).

July 26, 2016

Anne is the glorious tree from which bloomed a twig under divine influence.  She is the sublime heaven from whose heights the Star of the Sea neared its rising.  She is the blessed barren woman, happy mother among mothers, from whose pure womb came forth the shining temple of God, the sanctuary of the Holy [Spirit], the Mother of God! (St. Jerome).

January 15, 2017

“Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium;
also Meeting God in the Upper Room).

Links of interest…  Angels: all about / guardian / magnificent servants of God / stories…  Archangels: about / feast / Michael, Gabriel, & Raphael / rosary / verses…  Bebop Catholicism & the charismatic renewal. (about)..  Brownsville churches: Christ the King / Immaculate Conception Cathedral (ICC) / Sacred Heart (ICC mission) / St. Luke…  Cause of Jesus matters (audio)…  Charismatic Mass…  Christ the King…  Christianity is not for soloists…  Community doesn’t look the same for everyone / gift of witness / having the right intention…  Corpus Christi diocese: Bishop Michael Mulvey / cathedral / My Father’s House (mission)…  Cultivating community all year long…  Divine Mercy: video / website…  Lessons from a monastery: Building a Christian community…  Pray more novenas…  Sisters of St. Benedict (IN): Monday messages / prayer requests / storiesvirtual tour / ways of prayingwebsite…  St. Anne: about / devotion / grace / life / novena / patroness of Detroit / prayer (more) / shrine with a relic (more)…  Sts. Anne & Joaquim: grandparents of Jesus / July 26 / Mary’s parents / memorial / more…  Ten things Pope Francis wants you to know about evangelization…  Who are you…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Angels all around…  Angels keeping watch…  Connected tangents…  Easter surprises…  Guadalupe Church…  Heart of hearts…  Heart’s desire…  Noon visit…  Our Lady’s church…  Prayer and praise…  Soulful…  Two angels

Marian devotions

SJC122610-53Last week Steven surprised me with two prayer cards from the Lovely Ning that Sam had dropped off at the office so, of course, I emailed an exuberant thanks that evening.

Covenant day*

Ning emailed the following day to say that she and her friends had visited the Schoenstatt shrine in Rockport.

Just in case you’ve never been there, I do suggest that you and Steve go there.  It’s a miraculous place from what I’ve heard, and it’s true coz I got my miracle when I went there the first time with Sam.  They celebrate a covenant day every 18th of the month.

Recollections

I’ve known about the Virgin of Schoenstatt ever since mom first told me about the Sisters and the shrine.  I have no idea when or how she and my stepfather first learned about the place, but they often stopped to visit and bought prayer booklets for family and friends back home in the Valley.

Then, sometime in the mid-to-late 1980s, mom lit the fire under the other altar society ladies at Christ the King Church when she offered to drive the group to the shrine.  The ladies enjoyed themselves so much that they made the trek a regular outing.  To hear mom tell the story, the ladies couldn’t stop talking about the beautiful little shrine.  It was such a big deal that a photo of the Virgin of Schoenstatt continues to be displayed in the church foyer despite changes in the building over time.

Mom was very devoted to the Virgin of Schoenstatt, but I just couldn’t relate.  Although I carried the prayer booklet with me and read the literature daily for a long time, the devotion wasn’t for me.  Still, mom insisted that she’d take me to “the little church” one day even if I didn’t want to go!

Two promises, two visits

In the fall 1995, I’d been laid up in bed for six to eight weeks so, of course, mom promised that, as soon as I got better, she and my stepfather would take me to see the Virgin of Schoenstatt.

But why did I have to go when I hadn’t promised anything?

Never mind that I endured serious bouts of carsickness.  Mom got her wish anyway— not that she needed an excuse to visit the shrine— and she was quite pleased with herself for having fulfilled the promise.

Then, in the spring 2004, when I was having major cows with the second semester of research ’cause I was working at school way, way, way too much to have time to focus clearly on the semester project, one of my cohort buddies who also felt challenged beyond the breaking point promised the same thing.

“If we make it through Dr. Weber’s course this semester, I’m taking you to the Schoenstatt shrine in Rockport,” Becky insisted.

“But why do I have to go with you?” I asked.  “I didn’t make the promise.”

Yet, there we were— Becky, her daughter, and me with my carsickness— on our way to Rockport; and Becky didn’t even know where the shrine was!

Oh, my gosh.  The torture of it all.  But we found the place, finally, and that was that.

Familiar yet out of sight

Aside from the framed picture of the Virgin of Schoenstatt at mom’s church, I hadn’t seen one displayed elsewhere.  Then one morning after Mass at our old St. Joseph Church, I happened to notice the picture (shown here) hung on the back wall in the musicians’ nook.

After our new church was dedicated I saw the picture propped up against a wall in the foyer, as if waiting to be hung, but it isn’t in the public eye anymore.

Maybe the devotion wasn’t popular to begin with?

Still, it’s not uncommon to showcase pictures and/or statues of saints that don’t have an active following within the parish.

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Marian devotions

In retrospect, I’ve sampled the Schoenstatt experience through mom, Becky, and now Ning; and I still have my prayer booklet even though I haven’t read it in many years.

I think that each person’s devotion to Our Lady is as uniquely different as each person’s relationship with her.  For this reason, it’s only natural to embrace the devotions to the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and/or however one’s come to know her best.

For instance, my first recollections of Our Lady stem from when I was just a child of four or five.

Sitting next to mom at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Brownsville, I noticed the very beautiful lady up high for the very first time and started singing about a little red rooster.  Mom pinched me hard on the arm— “Ssssh!!!”— so I sat there quietly gazing at the lady in green until mom finished praying.

Of course, I was also taken with Mary in blue at the Catholic school across the street from the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.  She was the first person I saw every morning (as I entered the building to walk to my first-grade classroom and then as I opened the side door to church for daily Mass) so blue comes to mind when I string my Franciscan Crowns with Mary’s miraculous medals, even though green is my favorite color.

Looking back, my relationship with Our Lady was influenced not by words and deeds, but by place.  There’s something so very special about walking into Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and sensing a strong familial bond.  (Mom, dad, and I attended Mass there.)  Similarly, I feel very much at home at Immaculate Conception.  Yet the cathedral— my “heart of hearts,” my favorite sacred space— is a far greater spiritual connection to the Blessed Mother: I became part of that church community on my own through my Catholic school experience.

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Evolving spirituality

Sorting through my stash of prayer cards and more in my Christmas box yesterday I realized something.

Over the years I’ve collected so many keepsakes that, unless I explore my treasure box from time to time, I forget what I have.  Yet my spirituality continues to evolve nonetheless as I work, read, pray, and go through the day dialoguing with God.

So, I think that devotional practices can be powerful tools that help us become proactively engaged, just as Ning’s thoughtful gift was a personal invitation to share the Schoenstatt experience with others.

Prayers

Sub tuum praesidium…  We fly to your protection, O holy Mother of God.  Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

              

Contact information…  Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary – 130 Front Street Rockport, TX 78382-7800: calendar of events / contact & directions / home page

*Covenant day celebration…  10 A.M. Adoration (shrine) / 10:30 A.M. Mass / 11:30 A.M. sack lunch / 1 P.M. Benediction (shrine)

General events…  Daily Masses at the Provincial House: Monday – Saturday, 6:45 A.M. & Sunday, 10 A.M

August 2, 2011

You can make a difference.  You can tell people about the love of God.  You can even help some of them to become fishers of men, spreading the net of Christianity even farther.  There are opportunities everywhere….  All you have to do is tell your story; the Holy Spirit will give you the right words (the Word among us, July/August 2011, p. 49).

July 3, 2013

Lord Jesus, I treasure the faith you have placed in my heart.  Though I don’t see you, still, I believe.  Help me to tell everyone around me that you are alive.  Use my words and my witness to speak to their hearts, just as you have spoken to mine (the Word among us, July/August 2013, p. 22).

July 30, 2013

Thank you, Lord, for loving me!  Help me to extend your love to everyone I meet.  Today, please send me to at least one person who needs you in their life (the Word among us, July/August 2013, p. 49).

September 13, 2013

Lord, I am amazed that you have called me to share your good news.  By your spirit, fill me with confidence and courage to be your ambassador (the Word among us, September 2013, p. 32).

November 30, 2015

“But the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (Deuteronomy 30:14).

April 4, 2017

Speaking about God and bringing the message of God’s love and salvation in Jesus Christ to men is the duty of all the baptized.  And this duty involves not only speaking with words, but in all one’s actions and way of doing things.  Our whole being should speak of God, even in the ordinary things.  In this way witness is authentic, and thus shall it always be new and fresh in the power of the Holy Spirit (Pope Francis in The Spirit of Saint Francis).

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Schoenstatt Chapel – Lamar, TX

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Adoration Chapel – Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church – Corpus Christi, TX

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Links of interest…  Apostolic movement…  Blessed Virgin Mary, untier of knots…  Catholic devotions: A spiritual vocabulary…  Christ the King Church: facebook / Mass times…  Father Joseph Kentenich…  Fifteen steps to better evangelization…  Good habits…  Immaculate Conception Cathedral: diocesan website / parishes online…  Marian devotions (fivehope) / finding true selfmoms share…  Our Lady of Guadalupe Church…  Schoenstatt shrine: founder / jubilee / movement / news / novena (Spanish) / photos / prayers / rosary campaignshrine (Rockport) …  Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary…  Sub tuum praesidium: ancient prayer to Mary in times of persecution / oldest known Marian prayer is from Egypt…  Understanding what it means to be devout…  Why Mary always wears blue…  the Word among us

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Faces of Mary…  Faith and prayer…  Familiar yet new…  Guadalupe Church…  Heart of hearts…  Lady of sorrows…  Lourdes novenas…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  My Franciscan Crown…  Our Lady…  Our Lady’s Church…  Repeated prayers…  Seven dwelling places…  Soulful