Welcoming spirit

The last weekend in September we attended the Angels and Demons Fullness of Truth conference at Holy Vietnamese Martyrs in Austin but, instead of returning there for Saturday evening Mass, we opted for Sunday morning Mass at St. Albert the Great.

Ten o’clock Mass

We arrived half an hour early to take photos as quietly as possible without disturbing anyone, and I did fine— until an older couple noticed me nearby.

The woman stood to speak.  “Are we going to be in your photos?”  And, before I even had the chance to answer, she added, “Because we don’t want our pictures taken.”

“Oh, no,” I said, trying to calm her.  “I’m only photographing the stations of the cross.  Aren’t they beautiful?”

I moved along to the Blessed Mother’s side altar and basked in her presence.  I was so grateful for her understanding that I couldn’t stop smiling.

Welcoming spirit

Then, out of nowhere, a crystalline voice called out to me!  Our Lady!  A child?  The Holy Infant filled me with so much love, joy, and peace that I wanted to cry!  My mind, heart, and soul scrambled to make meaning.  Was anyone even there?

I turned around and quickly surmised that, in wanting to console me, Our Lady had sent a child— a beautiful, precocious little emissary with a welcoming spirit— to help me see that everything was fine.

“Why are you taking all those pictures?” the youngster asked with great confidence and an even bigger grin.

Memories rushed my senses as I was transported to the familiar: the many fun lively discussions with my students over the years.  I felt totally at ease, wholly immersed in the teachable moment.  So, maintaining a respectful distance three chairs away from where the little boy sat, I bent forward slightly to chat from where I stood in the aisle as, no doubt, Our Lady listened in on the animated tête-à-tête she’d so graciously arranged.

          

          

          

          

          

          

          

      

      

         

Prayers

God, you made St. Albert great by enabling him to combine human wisdom and divine faith.  Help us to adhere to his teaching that we may progress in the sciences and… come to a deeper understanding and love of you.  Amen.

When I feel rejected…  Loving God, you made me who I am.  I praise you and love you, for I am wonderfully made in your own image.  But, when people make fun of me, I feel hurt, embarrassed, and even ashamed.  So, please, God, help me remember my own goodness which lies in you.

Help me remember my dignity, which you gave me when I was conceived.  Help me remember that I can live a life of love because you created my heart.  Be with me, loving God, when people hate me.  Help me to respond how you would want me to— with a love that respects others but also respects me.  Help me find friends who love me for who I am.  Help me, most of all, to be a loving person.

And, God, help me remember that Jesus loves me; for he was seen as an outcast.  He was misunderstood.  He was beaten and spat upon.

Jesus understands me and loves me with a special love because of the way you made me.  And, when I am feeling lonely, help me to remember that Jesus welcomed everyone as a friend.  Jesus reminded everyone that God loved them.  He encouraged everyone to embrace their dignity, even when others were blind to seeing that dignity.  Jesus loved everyone with the boundless love that you gave him.  And he loves me, too.

One more thing, God.  Help me remember that nothing is impossible with you, that you have a way of making things better, that you can find a way of love for me even if I can’t see it right now.

Help me remember all these things in the heart you created, loving God.  Amen (James Martin, SJ; edited).

St. Albert quotes

“I have never gone out to mingle with the world without losing something of myself.”

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

Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his.  Therefore she is unsure in herself.  What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions.  And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil….  Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man.  Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good.  [Poppycock!  And we wonder why Church (big C) is the way it is?!!]

November 6, 2018

To discover that you are loved is the center of all existence.  And, when we are filled with this total and delirious love, little by little, we grow and love in turn.  That gradualness in our journeys is a sign of the infinite tenderness of God (Simone Troisi & Cristiana Paccini in Chiara Corbella Petrillo).

November 14, 2018

When does God speak to us?  He speaks at all times, especially in prayer.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  But it is not a monologue.  When we pray, then, we should also listen (Fr. Kilian J. Healy in Awakening Your Soul to Presence of God).

November 28, 2018

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

Links of interest…  Albertus Magnus quotes (more)…  Church & science are not at war…  Good science/bad science…  Mary’s intercession speeds up the hour of grace…  Meditation vs. reflection…  Statements on women by church doctors, fathers, & saints…  St. Albert the Great: about / champion of faith & reasonchurch (bulletins) / doctor of the church / litanyMarian prayerNov 15 / novenaoptional memorial / prayer chainscientist (more)…  Tune into silence

WP posts…  Holy Vietnamese Martyrs…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  St. Austin…  St. Jude chapel…  St. Mary Cathedral…  St. Mary revisited

St. Jude chapel

Steven and I recently spent several days near downtown Dallas, so we chose a lovely storefront chapel— St. Jude’s— for Saturday evening Mass at four o’clock.  A delightful experience, we were greeted not as travelers, but as close friends dropping by for warmth and conversation on a very cold, misty afternoon.

            

            

            

           

            

    

                

                

          

      

Prayers

May Jesus comfort you in all your afflictions.  May he sustain you in dangers, watch over you always with his grace, and indicate the safe path that leads to eternal salvation.  And may he render you always dearer to his divine heart and always more worthy of paradise.  Amen (St. Pio).

Most holy apostle, St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, place myself into your hands at this difficult time.  Help me to know that I am not alone.  Please pray for me, and ask God to send me comfort for my sorrows, bravery for my fears, and healing for my suffering.  Ask our loving God to strengthen my faith and give me the courage to accept his will for my life.  Thank you, St. Jude, for the hope you offer to all who believe in you.  Amen (Baltimore Pallottines).

O Lord, my savior, come into my heart.  Take away from me all depression and anxiety.  Lift me up into your arms.  Hold me with your empowering love and release me, Lord.  I need you more than ever, dear Lord.  Embrace me now with your all-powerful healing love.  I know we can make it together, just you and me.  Amen (Rogationist Publications, 2015).

March 2, 2018

“The Christian life is not limited to prayer, but requires an ongoing dedication and courage born of prayer” (Pope Francis).

April 9, 2018

What comes from God touches gently; comes quietly; does not disturb freedom; and leads to quiet, profound, peaceful resolve within the heart.  And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted (Romano Guardini in Meditations on the Christ: Model of All Holiness).

Links of interest…  Dallas: downtown chapel / facebook / Mass times / parking / website…  Happy 20th anniversary, Fr. Jonathan Austin…  St. Jude: chaplet (more) / faith & intercession / in suffering & desperate times / novenas (in Spanish, too) / prayers

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Finding St. Rita…  Forever grateful…  October novena…  Prayer power…  Revisiting St. Simon…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude novena…  St. Jude shrine: ChicagoCorpus Christi…  St. Monica

Unbounded joy

Steven and I were Unbound (CFCA) sponsors five years before we learned that others within the Corpus Christi diocese knew about the program, too.

From: Unbound
Date: Monday, June 26, 2017 11:12 AM
Re: Unbound volunteer opportunity at St. Pius X

Dear Steven & Deli,

We will be in your area on July first and second hosting a weekend sponsorship event at St. Pius X.  Fr. Thomas Landgraff, an Unbound presenter, will be celebrating Mass and inviting parishioners to visit the sponsorship table and see folders of children, youth, and elderly friends awaiting sponsorship.

Would you be available to volunteer at the sponsorship table after one of the Masses?  It only takes about thirty minutes of your time, and we’ll make sure you’re prepared before the event.

Please reply to this email or call us to let us know you are available.

We are grateful for your continued support in creating change in our world.

Sincerely,
Maureen Ortiz
Outreach Coordinator

CFCA

We first learned about the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) from Dotty and Loren Smeester, April 2012.  Although they’d wintered in Port Aransas the month of February most years, I’d never seen them in church until they happened to occupy the pew behind ours at nine o’clock Mass.

February 2012

I so enjoyed Loren’s singing, richly reminiscent of a cowboy on a long cattle drive, that I imagined him as a farmer or a rancher.  I complimented him as we exchanged the sign of peace and received a great big smile in return!

After Mass, Loren approached the ambo, introduced Dotty and himself, and told us about the two items— an I’m #3 card and a CD— that he felt compelled to share with our St. Joseph Church community.   He was friendly, unassuming, and faith-driven; so I couldn’t wait to hear more of his story before we left church that morning.

               

                

Invitation

Taking photos for the church blog (as usual after Mass) I had the opportunity to observe not just Loren in his interactions with Fr. Xaviour and the parishioners, but also Dotty as she very patiently waited for him to complete his mission.  They were so attuned to each other that they communicated wordlessly, effortlessly— truly a match made in heaven.

When Loren had dispensed all his wares, I approached the beautiful couple smilingly.  Steven joined in the conversation, too.  We learned that the Smeesters owned the Silver Bison Ranch in Baldwin, Wisconsin.

“Come see us when you’re in the area!” Loren insisted.  “You’re welcome anytime!”

I chuckled within because the thought, while appealing, was almost outrageous.  I’d never been up north before, and I doubted that we’d travel there just to take in a tour of the ranch and Dotty’s home cooking.  Still, I graciously accepted.

April 2012

The following month Steven was asked to attend a conference in Marinette, Wisconsin in April; so Steven made all the arrangements, allowing extra time for Dotty and Loren.

Without giving the Smeesters advance notice— in case we had a change in plans— we flew into Minneapolis, drove to Baldwin, and stopped by the family gift shop before calling Dotty and Loren for a quick “hello” and then be on our way.

Long story short, we visited their home twice— a few hours that evening and an entire day before returning to the airport to head back to Texas.  And, for reasons that I don’t recall at the moment, Loren shared the story behind the letter they’d recently received from their precious godson in Central America and very gently encouraged us to sponsor a child, too, because it was a mutually rewarding experience.

Sponsorship

When we got home days later, Steven looked into CFCA and signed us up.

Mid-May we received three packets with photos and information about our sponsored friends: two girls— the older one in Costa Rica; the younger, in Lima, Peru— and an elder, Freska, in the Philippines.

My letter-writing skills from childhood were quickly embraced; and my Spanish, though rusty, began a slow-but-steady comeback, thanks in part to the internet.  How amazing to correspond without the need of a CFCA translator!  The girls and I wrote in Spanish; Freska’s grandchildren and I, in English.  A worthy endeavor for all of us!

In 2013, an unexpected change disrupted my correspondence with the older girl when her family relocated to a country that CFCA didn’t serve.  I miss Vanessa’s long, soulful letters and often wonder how she’s doing!  Still, her photo, on display with the other two that change periodically, represents not just our hope for her well-being, but also our continued thoughts and prayers for her success.

Unbound

CFCA has since changed its name— “Unbound sums up our work in one simple and powerful word” (Website; January 2, 2014)— but all else remains the same.  Letters, drawings, cards, and updated photos, along with Unbound pamphlets and inserts, arrive at different times during the year.  And sponsors are encouraged to write (and include photos) at least twice a year, though more often is incredibly fulfilling.

July 2, 2017

Until we received Maureen’s email invitation to volunteer, we had no idea that other Unbound sponsors lived within the diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas; so imagine our surprise at being asked to assist at the weekend sponsorship event!  We were happy to attend Mass at St. Pius X, a church we visit on special occasions.  But we were especially delighted to meet Ana, a young woman who has sponsored a little girl since 2012, and Fr. Tom Landgraff, OSFS who, himself, sponsors an elder.

And the icing on the cake?

Among those we met, two families who already were part of a sponsorship program added friends.  A couple with four children in tow took home the packet of a darling little girl in a festive gold-and-green dress; and a very thoughtful woman gifted herself with the sponsorship of an elder from Mexico, an addition to her one child from before

As for Steven and me?

For months I’d wanted to grow our sponsored family, so we knew we’d be taking a packet home.  But, as usually happens, the heart always yearns for more.

Unbounded joy

As we’d spread out the packets on the table to prepare for potential sponsors (before and after the Masses), we’d been smitten by the little girl and the elder whom we later enthusiastically promoted to the two families (above) who readily accepted them.

Our thinking was to find good homes for as many children and elders as we could, so we rejoiced with each perfect match.

But what about us? I wondered when church had emptied except for us.

In that brief, quiet moment I had no idea that, even before the morning sessions had concluded, Steven had found the three remaining packets from Mexico in Fr. Tom’s box.  He hadn’t forgotten my request: “I want someone I can write to in Spanish.”

“These are all that’s left,” Steven approached with the youngsters from Merida.

“We’ll take them!” I exclaimed with unbounded joy.

I knew that the sooner I mailed my introductions, the sooner I’d receive our sponsored children’s replies.  What a promise of hope!

           

                              

                     

            

            

            

                        

                                

            

            

            

Postscript

Today, November twentieth, is Juanito’s seventh birthday.  He is the oldest of the three youngsters we began sponsoring in July.  His sister, just three years older, wrote two of the most delightful, endearing letters I’ve ever received.  Infused with love, her accounts latched onto me mind, heart, and soul.  But, October eighteenth, we received word from Unbound’s office in Kansas that the family was relocating from Merida because of the dad’s new job.  This meant Juanito’s exit from the program.

While I was ever so grateful for the family’s much-needed economic blessing, I couldn’t help but think of Hania’s colorful perspectives on her little brother and the family.  I’ll miss being part of their lives and the many adventures Hania has yet to share!  Still, as with Vanessa, Juanito’s family will remain with us through the brief but indelible memories forged in just a few months.

And, when one door closes, another opens.

While Unbound’s telephone message was terribly disheartening— and the realization of not hearing from Hania again immensely disappointing— I had to do something to honor, not mourn, the loss of Juanito and his family.  Instead of returning the phone call right away, I took a few hours to clear my thoughts… and made quite a discovery.

After visiting “Find someone to sponsor” on Unbound’s home page, I telephoned the Kansas office not only to express my gratitude for having learned about Juanito’s family through Hania’s beautiful letters, but also to discuss the sponsorship of a child in Kenya whose Mona Lisa smile tugged at my heartstrings, a five-year-old girl who, like Juanito, dreams big and loves to sing.

Prayers

Compassionate God, you have called us to act as agents of your love in our world, and blessed us with the gifts we need to fulfill that mission.  Following the example of Jesus, may we embrace our calling to be your partners in creating a world of justice and mercy.  We ask this in your holy name.  Amen (Fr. Dave Noone).

Faithful God, we know that all things work for good for those who follow you.  Remind us of that truth and empower us to look to the good that you have for us and trust the path you’ve laid out.  We thank you for all the success with which you’ve blessed Unbound families, that they may find greater confidence in themselves and in your love.  Amen (Maureen Lunn).

Generous God, in the Blessed Virgin Mary we see the grace of one who dedicated herself to the fulfillment of your will.  May we, like her, have the courage to let it be done to us according to your word, that we may give ourselves in loving service to our sisters and brothers in need.  We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen (Larry Livingston).

Glorious God, you created the human person to proclaim your goodness.  May we never shrink from that magnificent calling.  Bolster us in times of doubt and send us companions in times of loneliness.  At all times, give us the grace to live life to the full.  Amen (Larry Livingston).

God of creation, help us to see beyond ourselves.  Thank you for the community you’ve provided us, our coworkers, family members, and those we serve.  Remind us to be grateful for the work of all of society, and empower us to be kind as we create together.  In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen (Maureen Lunn).

God of open arms, thank you for welcoming us into your love and forgiveness.  Thank you for making space for us in your heart.  Give us the wisdom to see others with the same welcoming eyes through which you see them.  We desire to foster a world where everyone belongs, and we pray for your guidance.  Amen (Maureen Lunn).

Lord, we thank you for being a loving father who calls us to you no matter who we are.  The love we feel being included in your family is overwhelming.  We pray that others living on the margins of society will know how much they’re also loved, wanted, and welcomed.  Show us how we can include those around us, drawing them into your love.  Amen (Clair Paul).

O God, you are our creator.  You are good, and your mercy knows no bounds.  To you arises the praise of every creature.  O God, you have given us an inner law by which we must live.  To do your will is our task.  To follow your ways is to know peace of heart.  To you we offer our homage.  Guide us on all the paths we travel upon this earth.  Free us from all the evil tendencies which lead our hearts away from your will.  Never allow us to stray from you.  O God, judge of all humankind, help us to be included among your chosen ones on the last day.  O God, author of peace and justice, give us true joy and authentic love and a lasting solidarity among peoples.  Give us your everlasting gifts.  Amen (St. Pope John Paul II).

October 24, 2017

Pause for a moment and look around you. Simply thank God for all the gifts that you have right now, all the gifts saved from the wreck of life: the lamp that illumines this page, the chair that gives you comfort, the home that provides shelter.  That’s a good exercise of stewardship.

Thank God for the sun and stars in the sky, for the support of friends, for the opportunities of a new day, for the ability to laugh and cry.  A disciple receives everything with gratitude.  It is prayer that helps keep the heart grateful and filled with joy (Robert F. Morneau in Living Prayer: A Simple Guide to Everyday Enlightenment).

October 28, 2017

An admirer of Mother Teresa once gifted her with her own personal “calling card.”  Teresa liked the card so much that she had copies made and regularly handed them out to people for the rest of her life.

Written on the small yellow cards were spiritual lessons Teresa had learned from the Church, her prayer life, and her ministry to the poor.  She summed them up in five steps.

The fruit of silence is PRAYER.
The fruit of prayer is FAITH.
The fruit of faith is LOVE.
The fruit of love is SERVICE.
The fruit of service is PEACE.

Mother Teresa carried that prayer around with her— its words emblazoned on her heart (Kerry Walters in St. Teresa of Calcutta: Missionary, Mother, Mystic).

November 1, 2017

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal” (Steve Maraboli).

November 8, 2017

To discover that you are loved is the center of all existence.  And when we are filled with this total and delirious love, little by little, we grow and love in turn.  That gradualness in our journeys is a sign of the infinite tenderness of God (Chiara Corbella Petrillo; Simone Troisi & Cristiana Paccini in A Witness to Joy).

November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving focuses on God’s gifts.  Our challenge is to take nothing for granted, but to appreciate every blessing.  Thanksgiving is a way of life.  Indeed, the prayer of thanksgiving characterizes a eucharistic people.

Our gratitude centers on the greatest gift of all— Jesus.  This gift, and all the other gifts through God’s providence, are expressions of God’s love.  How fitting and just it is that we always and everywhere express our gratitude to the Lord (Robert F. Mourneau in Living Prayer: A Simple Guide to Everyday Enlightenment).

November 25, 2017

God calls every one of us into a relationship of intimate, personal, loving, and life-giving communion.  He is inviting us to share his life and the life of his whole family.  Our response to God’s invitation to intimacy and communion is to be the person he created and calls us to be— to make a gift of ourselves— because, when we give ourselves away in love, we truly find ourselves (Sonja Corbitt and Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers in Ignite: Read the Bible Like Never Before).

November 27, 2017

Every family is a work in progress, but each one can move toward wholeness.  Circumstances differ, but every family needs peace, love, and trust.  Christian hope springs from belief in God’s presence during life’s high and low points.

In the struggle for wholeness, families become holy and generate holiness in others.  Holy families, not perfect families, are sources of hope to those facing dark and painful times (Robert J. Hater in Your [Imperfect] Holy Family: See the Good, Make it Better).

November 28, 2017

“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day” (Sally Koch).

December 1, 2017

We may read volumes and volumes on the art of swimming, yet we’ll never understand what swimming is like unless we get wet. So we may read all the books ever written on the love of God and never understand loving unless we love.

Where love is genuine, belonging is always mutual. It is like submerging ourselves into an ocean of sublime grace (Brother David Steindl-Rast in The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life).

October 15, 2018

Charity works.  It gets good jobs done.  It gives form and life to all of the virtues.  Infused by God, it reigns supreme in loving goodness over the talents of learning and the talents of living (Kevin Vost in Unearthing Your Ten Talents).

December 17, 2018

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.  Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof (Richard David Bach).

Links of interest…  Catholic group continues Blessed Stanley Rother’s work in Guatemala…  CFCA is now Unbound…  Fr. Stanley Rother: American martyr in Guatemala / beatification (video; 9.23.17) / devotional / fact sheetguild / holy relics: preparing the remains / martyrmissionary / my cousin the martyr / prayer for intercessionpriest / Servant of God / Shepherd who didn’t run (book) / sister remembersstories by those who knew him / Unbound…  Glorify God in body & spirit…  Godparents: Faithful examples to their spiritual children…  Missionary work begins with everyone…  Mother Teresa & the power of silence…  Mully: A documentary with heart & soul…  On belonging: How adoption is like a sacrament…  Spiritual adoption: What it is, why we do it, & the joy it brings…  St. Pius X: facebook / Santo Niño devotion / patron saint: about (more) – catechism – novena – profile – schedule of services / website…  St. Pope JPII prayer card…  Unbound (impact – sponsor – writing letters)…  What children teach us about our relationship with God

WP posts…  Call of service…  Celebrations…  Dear God…  Gifts…  God’s loving mercy…  Mercy and justice…  Multicultural Mass…  Time well spent

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…  Angel of Fatima, messenger of peace…  Crisis of faith in the Church…  Do Catholics worship statues…  Fatima: 100 years later / about / apparitions (more) / beyond the anniversarybookcelebrating / directivesessentials / five prayersmeaning / message to mothersmiracle of the sun (four great lessons – video) / more important than ever / October 12, 2017 / return / shrine (online transmissions) / story / three secrets / woman of the promise…  Golden Prayer…  Hope & mercy & the miracle of the sun…  How anxiety thwarts gratitude, joy, & our interior well-being…  I won’t pray the rosary the same way again…  Let prayer be your air…  Litany to Our Lady…  Prayer takes practice: Five ways to improve your prayer life…  Rewire your brain with a rosary of gratitude…  Seven quotes from Sister Lucia / ways to live Fatima’s message…  What happens when you don’t pray / I learned from Our Lady’s hide-and-seek game…  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

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).

September 22, 2017

Always bear in mind as a safe general rule that, while God tries us by his crosses and sufferings, he always leaves us a glimmer of light by which we continue to have great trust in him and to recognize his immense goodness.  I urge you, therefore, not to be entirely disheartened in the face of the cross… heaven bestows on you, but to continue to have boundless confidence in the divine mercy (Patricia Treece in The Joyful Spirit of Padre Pio: Stories, Letters, and Prayers).

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…  Difference between meditation & contemplation…  Does the Eucharist change us…  Dwelling of faith, hope, & love…  Evening prayer as a way to honor the cycle of time…  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)…  Is Mary praying the rosary to herself…  Litany of trust…  Move to religious life…  No mercy without conversion…  Not silent prayer, rather prayer in silence…  Perpetual adoration…  Silence: A challenging but valuable discipline…  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…  Tune into silence…  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

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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.

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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).

October 31, 2017

Receive our Lord, and keep him as long as you can.  Make plenty of room for him within you.  To let Jesus Christ increase in one’s soul is the most perfect act of love (St. Peter Julian Eymard in How to Get More out of Holy Communion).

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Links of interest…  About saints...  Becoming community...  Finding hope & healing in prayer…  Importance of lighting candles (prayers)…  Josemaría Escrivá: about / home / Opus Deiquotes…  Mary: beloved of the Trinity / celebrating May / corner / devotion / gate of heaven / litany / meditations / mother (of the church) / Our Lady of Hope / page / prayers (miracles – more – novena – queen of angels) / teach us how to loveuntier of knots…  Mother of Good Counsel: about (book – more) / feast (more) / history of the apparition / mater boni consilii / miraculous fresco (image) / story…  Our Lady of Good Counsel Church: about / facebookwebsite…  Pray for us in these times of confusion, O Mother of Good Counsel…  Prayers for valor & virtue / litany / novena…  Surprises: God’s (more) – gracious rescue

WP pages…  M 2016…  Meditations…  Praise…  Saints

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Building community…  Christ’s sacred heart…  Faces of Mary…  Faith and prayer…  God’s lovely gifts…  Guadalupe Church…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  My Franciscan Crown…  Our Lady…  Our Lady’s church…   Pink divinity…  Repeated prayers…  San Juan Diego…  Seven dwelling places

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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Links of interest…  Calgon (commercial)…  Child Jesus: aboutchaplet (more) / devotion / feast / infancy & childhood / meditations / miracles (books) / novena / of good health / photos / questions & answers / reverence / shrine / solemnity…  Holy Infant of Prague: about / artifacts / chaplet / devotion / feast / history / league / novena / of good health (more) / petitions / prayers…  How you & your kids can “become like children”…  National Shrine of the Infant Jesus (Prague, OK): facebook / gentle travelswebsite / YouTube…  NPR…  Practice of the presence of God…  Real mystics love Jesus…  Santo Niño de Atocha: about / chapel / history / miracles / origin / prayers / story (more)…  Santo Niño de Cebú: basilica / feast (more) / history / homily / novena / origin / prayerssong…  St. Wenceslaus: about (more) / king & martyr (more) / memorial (more) / prayer (more) / profile / professing faith / song (about – lyrics – more) / story

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Celebrations…  Christmas year ’round…  Connected tangents…  Faith and prayer…  Forever grateful…  God’s loving mercy…  Making meaning…  On being Christian…  Pink divinity…  Promise of hope…  Santo Niño…  St. Anthony Claret…  Sweet Jesus…  Venerable Margaret