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

Lenten reflections

Last Sunday we had another golden opportunity to attend eleven o’clock Mass at St. Paul’s in Flour Bluff.

I told Steven that I intended to take photos afterwards, since the stained- glass windows are particularly dramatic when the sun brightens the otherwise unlit sacred space.

St. Paul the Apostle Church

We were active parishioners at
St. Paul’s for two-and-a-half years before returning to our home parish here at St. Joseph’s.  Still, we continue to be drawn there for a number of reasons.

Regardless of the time that passes between visits, we’re always welcomed with smiles and hugs as if we’d never left.  We continue to be an integral part of our Why Catholic? family.  We’re also invited to participate in special Masses, prayer meetings, pilgrim rosaries, and— three days this week— the Lenten mission.

Still, what initially beckoned years ago is what tugs at my heartstrings most of all.

St. Paul’s devotion to the Holy Infant of Prague.

Moreover, as recently as two Sundays ago I discovered yet another reason for the church being so uniquely special.

The stained-glass windows are St. Paul’s stations of the cross!

Lenten reflections

Originating in Jerusalem in the fourth century, these Lenten reflections are more than a permanent visual journey with Jesus through the most harrowing time of his life.  These depictions— when we make the time to look, ponder, and truly internalize— are a constant reminder of the crosses that we, too, must proactively engage as we make our way (back) to God.

What matters most in the stations of the cross is to follow Jesus Christ in his passion and to see ourselves mirrored in him.  To face life’s dark side in ourselves and in our world, we need images of hope; and Jesus offers images of hope in his passion.  By accompanying him on the way of the cross, we gain his courageous patience and learn to trust in God who delivers us from evil (Passionist Missionaries, 2002).

                

               

               

               

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Prayers

Before the crucifix…  Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart.  Give me, Lord, a correct faith; a certain hope; a perfect charity, sense, and knowledge that I may carry out your holy and true command.

Holy cross…  We adore your most holy cross, Lord Jesus, for it is the sign of your love.

Through the power of your most precious blood, cleanse us from all our sins and protect us from every Satanic influence.  May a river of peace and reconciliation flow from this place into the parish community, into the Church and into the entire world.  Bless and call into heaven all those who have built this cross.  Bless all those who have prayed before this cross and those who will pray before it, for they are listening to Mary, your mother, who is calling us to pray before the cross because many graces are coming from it.

Be blessed, O Jesus, for by your holy cross you have redeemed us for eternal life.  Amen.   

Jesus Christ crucified…  My good and dear Jesus, I kneel before you, asking you most earnestly to engrave upon my heart a deep and lively faith, hope, and charity with true repentance for my sins and a firm resolve to make amends.

As I reflect upon your five wounds and dwell upon them with deep compassion and grief, I recall, good Jesus, the words the prophet David spoke long ago concerning you: “They have pierced my hands and my feet; they have counted all my bones.”

April 15, 2014

“The remembrance of the most holy passion of Jesus Christ is the door through which the soul enters into intimate union with God, interior recollection, and most sublime contemplation” (St. Paul of the Cross).

September 14, 2014

The glory of the cross… has enlightened all those who were blinded by ignorance.  It has set free all those who were slaves of sin.  It has redeemed the whole human race (St. Cyril of Jerusalem).

March 31, 2015

We must not let our hearts be hardened.  Let us make Calvary echo with the sound of our sobbing.  Let us weep bitter tears for our sins and turn against ourselves with a holy anger.  Let us break all our unworthy habits and leave behind our worldly lives.  Let us carry in ourselves the death of Jesus Christ (Bishop Jacques-Benigne Boussuet, 1627-1704).

April 3, 2015

In the cross we see that Jesus Christ is the victorious Lord” (Fr. Robert Barron).

October 17, 2015

He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest.  He who rose for our sake is my one desire (St. Ignatius of Antioch).

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Links of interest…  5 reasons you should love (not hate) St. Paul…  Easter/Lent (meditations)…  His heart was pierced for us…  Holy Week: 1st four days / Triduum…  Lent & Christ’s thirst for us…  Origin of the wood of the cross…  Pilate said to him…  Prayer before the cross / a crucifix…  Praying Lent…  Resurrection (YouTube)…  St. Francis…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…  Stations of the Cross: about / devotions / fish eaters / for families / for kids / how to do / origins / prayers / printables / puppet show (YouTube) / significance / way of the cross…  Were women at the Last Supper…  Why churches have stained glass windows…  Word on Fire (Fr. Barron)…

WP posts…  Bearing one’s crosses…  Beloved joyful priest…  Concrete abstraction…  Connected tangents…  Dear God…  Growing pains…  Lenten meditations…  Lenten resources…  Prayerful ways…  Revisiting St. Simon…  Seven dwelling places…  Simple yet profound…  Sweet Jesus…  Two angels…  Two letters…  Two prompt replies…  Venerable Margaret

Connected tangents

Wishful surprises.  That’s what I received in Wednesday afternoon’s mail this week.

In the nick of time

I’m reminded of the opening scene from It’s a Wonderful Life during which lots of prayers are being offered up to God on behalf of one man before Clarence, a simple though caring angel, appears to George Bailey in the nick of time. 

God does listen after all, doesn’t he?

Treasures

Sister’s parcel was a breath of fresh air: invigorating, full of promise, filled with prayers of love and support, received in the nick of time, just as I’d lost hope a couple of days before.

I was immediately overcome with emotion even though Sister had emailed almost three weeks earlier that a parcel would be arriving through Maria in Seattle.  My heart was pounding; my gratefulness, over the moon. 

God still believes, even when I give up.  He knows my saturation point; so he distracts me, amuses me, consoles me, and shares other kinds of information through well-placed messengers along my path in life. 

God eases my burden with his lovely treasures, that I may have light through the darkness.  “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Proverbs 119:105).

Dashed hopes

Thanks to a text message received Monday afternoon, our hopes for a long-awaited visit from the grandkids once again evaporated.  My heart hardened as I told Steven that I was throwing in the towel. 

Not having a mountain from which I could go scream to let out my frustration and disappointment, I had a heart-to-heart with God.  “I succumb to your will.  Give me the family you want me to have, not the family I pine for.” 

Having resolved to wait patiently for God’s response, I felt at peace and immersed myself in cleaning house.

I also looked forward to Tuesday evening, since our dear friend Sam had invited us to Father Frank’s talk on prayer at St. Paul’s.

Special visit

Although we hadn’t been to St. Paul’s in about two years, our quiet drive there felt like the many trips we’d made for Mass, meetings, and so much more as parishioners.

On arriving, we walked to the adoration chapel, entered, then exited, taking a chance on the church being open early for that evening’s vigil Mass.

We peeked through the windows and saw movement within. 

“Oh, my gosh!” I enthused smilingly. 

Stepping into the foyer, I was enveloped by the heartwarming memories of times past.  I looked around wordlessly with reverent excitement. 

“Are you going to visit with the Infant?” Steven asked, bringing me back to the present. 

I’d been so glad to be there that I’d momentarily forgotten all about him. 

               

               

Thanks to Sam’s invitation, the Infant had beckoned me home for a visit.  Moreover, brief as our time in church may have been that evening, the Infant tenderly energized my spirit the way he did our first time there early in 2006.

What a joyful reunion we had! 

Nevertheless, we left church somewhat disappointed at not having seen our friends, Junebug and Gary, at the meeting that evening.

Serendipity

On our way home, we stopped for groceries at HEB, which is down the road from church. 

Surprisingly, we spent more time there than anticipated because we couldn’t find the sesame seeds; so Steven and I split up to look elsewhere.

Having checked in this and that aisle, I finally asked one of the store clerks who happened to walk by. 

As I turned to go look for Steven, he was already walking back toward me; and who should we bump into at that moment?  None other than Junebug and Gary!

Our trip to Flour Bluff that evening was complete! 

We spent time with the remainder of the gang, our extended Why Catholic? family, for the first time since Valentine’s Day 2009 and reveled in each other’s company as if we’d last been together just the day before.

I smiled all the way home.

Memories

Except for the one lamp that Steven had left on in the living room, the house was mostly dark when we returned. 

I was reminded of the not yet fully lit church we’d entered earlier as well as the cathedral back home. 

I’d visit Immaculate Conception at odd hours during the day when the only light source was that of the sun filtered through the stained-glass windows.  Quiet and awe-inspiring, the cathedral always embraced me with its scent of times long past mingled with the present. 

I felt very much at peace there, which is why lifelong memories of that sacred space come alive each time I enter a dimly lit church, although the feeling is also replicated toward the end of the year when the rooms in the house begin to darken earlier than usual in the evening. 

Autumn, my most favorite time of the year.  Such wonderful recollections!

I thoroughly enjoy the coziness of a candlelit room during the harvest season.

Wishful thoughts

Sunday before Thanksgiving, I was working on a sewing project at the dining table when I happened to focus on the orange-cupped wrought-iron candle holder on the chest of drawers. 

Steven bought it for me at the Fredericksburg Christmas Store in 2007, but we’ve never used it.

“I’d like some really nice candles for this,” I said, hoping for a worthwhile dialogue.

“You know there are plenty of tea lights on the pantry shelf.”

“Yes, we have lots of those, but I want special candles.  Some that will match the big yellow candle that Ricky, one of my fifth graders, gave me for Christmas 2005.”

And that was that.  The topic was dropped.

Burst of sunshine

Thanksgiving Day, Sister emailed from Australia.

Re: Parcel
Thursday, November 25, 2010 5:27 AM

Dearest Deli and Steve,

Praised be the Holy Child Jesus!

I do hope you and your family are well.

Today is the 25th, a special day of the Incarnation.  I prayed for you and all your intentions in a special way and am continuously asking Little Margaret to help you.

Also, our friend Maria (who lives in Seattle) will be posting a small parcel, which she carried for me.  [It contains six] Holy Child Jesus beeswax candles, which I made, and a chaplet for you.

Thank you, and may the Holy Child Jesus bless you with his peace in abundance.

With lots of love and prayers,
Gratefully in the Holy Child Jesus….

 Oh, happy day!

Re: Parcel…
Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2:43 PM

Dearest, dearest Sister,

It’s 55 degrees, and the wind’s somewhat blustery; but the sun’s out, and it’s a gorgeous day….

We attended eight o’clock Mass this morning to celebrate the Blessed Mother’s special day, and I’ve been editing photos and more for our church blog ever since Steven dropped me off afterwards.

And… because I saw the mail carrier at the mailboxes across the street a while ago… I just got back from walking over to see what’d come in the mail… wondering if maybe we’d received another Christmas card for Steven’s reindeer.

And… surprise, surprise, surprise!!!  Your parcel arrived.  OMG!!!!

It’s here on my desktop… waiting, waiting, waiting.  But I’m sooo excited that the only thing I could think of to do was email you right away to thank you.

Thanks sooo much!

And I’ve taken some pix from our front porch, so you can share in the day… since you’re here keeping me company as I work.

Again, thank you so very much!!!

Love & hugsss….

Delightful surprises

On finally opening the box, I couldn’t believe my eyes! 

Even though Sister had emailed almost three weeks earlier to let me know about her parcel’s contents, I was filled with immense gratitude and awe.

The box was brimming over with messages of love and heartfelt support as I pulled out each delightful surprise and savored it thoroughly, tearfully.

Sister’s thoughtfulness included laminated prayer cards and information on Venerable Margaret; both a chaplet and its small pouch for our daughter; and, best of all, her message of prayerful blessings and hope.

We are praying for you….

A lamp is lit daily, and I continuously ask Little Margaret to help you and to intercede for your intentions.

Wishing you and your family a holy Advent and a happy Christmas!

God bless you with lots of love and prayers….

Connected tangents

Again and again, we’re reminded— as I was this past week— that everything is relative no matter how disconnected our thoughts, our prayers, and our heartfelt wishes may seem

Despite the obstacles we face, God is always listening.  But he’s always trying to help us listen to his messages, too. 

God is so brilliant that he employs creative measures to let us know how much he cares, especially when we need his consolation and his tenderness. 

God is the constant beacon in one’s stormy life.  He alone gives meaning to one’s existence.

Affirmation

My dear friend, Rose, said it perfectly in her email today.

Received a Christmas card from Sister for my whole family.  Made my day because she sent me [a message] in her own handwriting wishing me love and prayers. 

Deli, this is God’s way of telling me he is in charge, and I just need to love and praise him.

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Links of interest…  Flower of Carmel (Goonellabah): contact info / home page / prayer…  Immaculate Conception Cathedral: parish…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Bearing one’s crosses…  Forever grateful…  Heart of hearts…  Holy relics…  One prayer…  St. Jude novena…  Sweet Jesus…  Venerable Margaret

Disquieting moments

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

Late December 2005

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

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

I could hardly wait to satisfy my curiosity!

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

Fall 2007

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

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

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

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

Two weeks ago

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

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

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

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

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

What a wonderful surprise!

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

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

Old-world ambiance

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

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

“Ma’m, are you Catholic?”

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

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

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

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

“Ma’m, are you Catholic?” she chided.

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

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

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

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

Discomforting disequilibrium

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

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

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

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

Undaunted

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I walked away, undaunted.

Disquieting moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prayers

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.  Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.  Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.  Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.  Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.  Amen.

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

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

July 14, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

June 12, 2015

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

January 5, 2016

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

January 17, 2016

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

January 18, 2016

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

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

January 20, 2016

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

January 28, 2016

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

July 22, 2016

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

January 5, 2017

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

January 10, 2017

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

February 17, 2017

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

April 4, 2017

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

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

June 22, 2017

When we feel us too bold, remember our own feebleness.  When we feel us too faint, remember Christ’s strength (St. Thomas More).

July 10, 2017

When you agree to live simply, you can understand what Francis meant when he said, “A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions.”  Most of us find out that this purse is far more dangerous and disguised than a money purse, and we seldom let go of it (Richard Rohr in Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi).

August 18, 2017

“Catholicism is a deep matter; you cannot take it up in a tea cup” (Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman).

September 27, 2017

While proofreading a manuscript I’d better keep my mind on the text, not on God.  If my mind is torn between the two, the typos will slip through like little fish through a torn net.  God will be present precisely in the loving attention I give to the work entrusted to me.  By giving myself fully and lovingly to that work, I give myself fully to God.  This happens not only in work but also in play, say, in bird-watching or in watching a good movie.  God must be enjoying it in me, when I am enjoying it in God.  Is not this communion the essence of praying? (Brother David Steindl-Rast in The Way of Silence: Engaging the Sacred in Daily Life).

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

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

Franciscan experience

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Steven and I toured Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hebbronville, TX the day of Vaquero Fest.  (The edited version below is from the audio recording made November 7, 2009.)

“My name is Azalia Perez, and I’m the president of the Hebbronville Museum Foundation and member of the Jim Hogg County Historical Commission.  I’m also an active parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Hebbronville.”

The church

OLG11709-85“This is Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.  Our Franciscan friars got here in 1926 from the Province of the Saints Francis and Santiago, or James, in Guadalajara, Mexico; and they’ve been here ever since.

“The church is in the form of a cross.  All Franciscan churches are built in the form of a cross.  You have the main altar with two small altars, one on either side.  The church gets a new priest every three years, since Franciscans are missionaries subject to reassignment more often than regular priests.

“In 2005, Father Ricardo Rivera came to Hebbronville and started changing our church, which was very plain.  Father said we have a beautiful church, so we need to show it off.  It was donated by Stella Kenedy in memory of her husband.   It’s the only Franciscan church in South Texas.

“The altar is made from wood that was brought from San Luis Potosi.  Father had the altar moved toward the front, and it’s bigger now.

“We also got new lights, marble on the sides of the church, and lit panels.  The ceiling will be getting a new cover, and more changes are coming.”

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St. Anthony’s relic

“We have St. Anthony on the right as one faces the altar.  In May, part of St. Anthony’s elbow, or relic, visited our church.  The bishop was present for the ceremony, a special Mass, and fellowship before the relic was taken to another church.”

“This is similar to the activities at St. Paul’s in Flour Bluff when Our Lady of Guadalupe’s tilma arrived for a three-day visit,” I said.  “We had a wonderful Mass and, of course, a potluck afterwards.  Different festivities took place during her stay and, at the end, a despedida Mass and a short procession from the church to the van that transported the tilma to its next destination.”

“When St. Anthony’s relic crossed the border from Mexico into the United States, it got to San Agustin Church, the basilica in Laredo.  Although our diocese is not Franciscan, the bishop did not want to release the relic until all our churches were blessed, so he invited everyone to the cathedral for Mass and a celebration.  Only then was the relic brought to Hebbronville.  We were very blessed to have St. Anthony’s relic, even if for a short time, Sunday morning until Sunday night.  It will visit every Franciscan church in the United States and Mexico before it returns to Italy.”

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Devotions

“Here at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church we celebrate the Divine Mercy.  We are very blessed because not every priest supports this devotion.  We also have a spiritual relationship with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Francis, and St. Joseph.  We have a statue of St. Isidore on one of the side altars because he’s the patron of farmers.  Since ours is a farming and ranching community, the church was originally named St. Isidore.  But that changed in 1926, when the Franciscans arrived from Mexico.  Our Lady of Guadalupe is the protector of our priests as well as the patroness of the Americas.”

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The chapel

Next, we walked into the Annex, which is through the side door on St. Anthony’s right.

“After tomorrow this will be known as the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament,” Azalia continued.  “Our provincial is visiting here from Guadalajara, so he’ll bless the chapel after seven o’clock Mass.”

On entering the chapel, I couldn’t help but say, “Oh, I love angels.  I love angels.”

“If you look around, we have paintings, beautiful paintings.  The artist is from Monterrey.  We use the chapel every day for early morning Mass at seven and again at twelve-fifteen.  This room used to be longer; but, when Father Ricardo arrived here, he turned part of it into an office and put up some Tau windows.

“Earlier today, part of our Franciscan fraternity met with the provincial.  I told him, ‘We, in Hebbronville, are in love with the Franciscan charisma, with St. Francis.’  We will never change our priests for anything, so now he knows that we won’t let him take our priests away from us.”

“Are you kidding?” I interjected.  “This is ever so special!”

Building community

“The church remodeling is an ongoing project.  We still have lots to do here and in the church.  It takes a lot of money.  We’re a poor community, so we greatly appreciate not only the heartfelt efforts and contributions from our parishioners but also the generosity of others willing to help us with this endeavor.”

“So have you always been fascinated with all of this?” I asked.

OLG11709-bk“Yes.  A priest who was here for a time wrote a history of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and the Franciscans in South Texas.  I have seven copies to sell, but the book’s in Spanish.”

Knowing my fascination with Franciscans, Steven got me a copy (Villalobos Avendaño, 2006) after today’s book reading in the church basement.  I can hardly wait to see the old photos and read through the interesting facts.

I stopped taking photos for a moment, then continued.

“We came to Vaquero Fest today because we love Bill Hellen.  From the beginning, he piqued our curiosity when he insisted we ‘come see the old church.’  During our first visit, Lorenzo [one of the workmen] invited us back.  Then, in Laredo, you told us, ‘You have to come because it’s ready.’  So I told Steven, ‘She invited us.  That’s it.’  You’re the reason we’re here.”

“Oh, thank you!  I’m so glad to hear that!”

“This visit means a lot to us,” I continued.  “Even though we’re in different places, still, we’re part of the same community.”

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“What more can I tell you?  All our windows were donated by parishioners.  They’re very old.  They’re as old as the church.  I don’t know if the work was completed in 1962, more or less, or in 1963.  Construction started, stopped due to lack of funds, then started again.  We’re very blessed with our church.  There’s something unique about it.”

“It’s gorgeous!” Steven enthused.

“So tell me about your history with the church growing up.  Your mother brought you?”

“My mother and my grandmother,” Azalia continued.  “Actually, my grandmother on my dad’s side.  I grew up when the priest was facing the altar.  Most of the time, you didn’t know what he was saying.”

“Yes, in Latin.  Yes.  I understand,” Steven chuckled.  (We both took Latin in high school, but it’s a dead language nonetheless.)

“We would walk four or five blocks from my grandmother’s house to church for Mass at six.  My husband and I got married in 1966, baptized my children here; and my son, who now lives in Kingsville, got married here.  I’ve been working with the church since 1982.”

“My gosh,” I said, recalling my own early morning walks with Sylvia to attend six o’clock Mass as a kid.  “That’s a very long, personal history with this church.”

“I had a special-needs child who took all my time, so I couldn’t be here fulltime.  But, after he passed away, I said, ‘Lord, here I am.’  So this is what I’ve been doing ever since.”

“Was your child a boy or a girl?” I asked, as Steven listened intently.

“A boy.  Actually, up until the time that he was born he was okay.  But, because of complications at birth, he died in 1992.  That was seventeen years ago.  He would’ve been thirty-one right now.”

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“What a blessing to have him the time that you did but how very sad, too,” I said.

“You learn early on that God has sent your trial to show you something or to teach you something.  And we did.  We did.  We think we did.”

“All he wants is the very best for us,” I continued.  “But, as you said, he allows us to go through situations he knows we can handle, even though it’s tough at times to understand that.”

“As soon as he passed away I sponsored the altar servers for twelve years.  Then I joined the choir and the Franciscan fraternity.  And, when Father Frank arrived, he gave me the ministry for baptisms.  I’m very happy with that.”

“You get to deal with the little ones!  Well, they come in all sizes for baptism.”

Azalia smiled.  “They do.  They’re precious.  I try to be at every baptism.  Sometimes I can’t, but this new priest is adorable.  He’s very spiritual.  Father Frank replaced Father Ricardo in August.  The first time I saw him celebrating a baptism, he lifted the baby all the way and announced, ‘Parishioners, I present to you a newborn Christian.’  That was beautiful.  I tell the parents, ‘Bring your cameras because, once your baby’s up there, it’s awesome.’”

“It’s just that one quick moment, and then it’s over,” I said, remembering.  “It has to be captured in photos, so the child can know that this very special event happened.”

We talked a bit more before Azalia realized that she had tours to give as well as other duties to fulfill that afternoon.

“Well, thank you for coming!  I didn’t expect for y’all to come, but I’m glad you did.”

“Thank you!  You are very blessed, Azalia!”

Steven and I were most appreciative of the time she spent with us.

Prayer

Lord God, to whom belongs all creation and who call us to serve you by caring for the gifts that surround us; inspire us by the example of Saint Isidore to share our food with the hungry and to work for the salvation of all people.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

December 13, 2009 

Azalia emailed and included photos.

Azalia121209-22We just finished with Our Lady of Guadalupe feast.  It was wonderful.  We had a large turnout for the Mass and the dinner.  Thanks be to God.

I’m sending you some pictures of the altar.

Oh, the last picture is of Father Juan José.  He was with us for two months but is leaving for Spain on Wednesday.  Azalia121209-23He will be helping another Franciscan who is by himself and needs help.  Great example of St. Francis.

“We are minstrels of the Lord, whose work is to lift people’s hearts and move them to spiritual gladness” (St. Francis).

          Azalia121209-29

April 4, 2014

All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.  By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned
(St. Isidore of Seville).

April 4, 2017

“There are two kinds of martyrs, one in open suffering, the other in the hidden virtue of the spirit” (St. Isidore).

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Links of interest…  Divine Mercy: about / song (YouTube)…  Franciscan: experience / prayer / resources…  How early churches came to be built in the form of a cross…  La Mota Ranch: Bill Hellen (agritourism: more / fishing & hunting)…  Mexico is the most violent Latin American country for priests…  Our Lady of Guadalupe: church (Hebbronville) / mother / patroness / tilma…  Sacred Heart of Jesus…  Scottus College (more)…  St. Anthony: miracles & traditions / relic…  St. Francis: about / biography / national shrine…  St. Isidore:  farmer (more) / feast / litany / novena / preserving our inheritance of faithprintable prayer / quotes…  St. Joseph…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…  Stella Kenedy…  Tau cross…  TX Tropical Trail Region

WP posts…  Franciscan treasures…  Grapes of generosity…  Historic nuggets…  Holy relics…  Making meaning…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  My Franciscan Crown…  Prayer…  Si quaeris miracula…  St. Anthony…  St. Felix…  Vaquero Fest Saturday

My Franciscan Crown

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May 6, 2006, I broke my right kneecap in three places and was confined to the house except for the periodic visits to the orthopedic surgeon.  After six weeks, the doctor gave me two choices: be driven to the physical therapist’s office two or three times a week or do the physical therapy on my own.

My looming reality involved three dilemmas.  I had to drive more than four hundred miles all together to take my doctoral comprehensive exams mid-August.  Steven had advisory council responsibilities that couldn’t be dismissed or handed off to someone else.  And I wasn’t coping well with being a backseat passenger: motion sickness is the pits.

The way I saw it, I had no choice.  I had to drive myself to comps, so I had to become my own taskmaster.

Change of pace

Until the doctor’s visit that day, my right leg had been in an immobilizer, not a cast.  I’d had to be very careful not to bend my knee at all.  The pain had been so unbearable that I hadn’t been able to sit at the computer, even with my leg propped up.

Accustomed to always doing, moving, problem solving, I’d had a tough time accepting that I had a legitimate excuse for not working on dissertation or preparing for comps.  I couldn’t slow down mentally, though eventually I began to enjoy the little things I’d said I’d do “one day soon,” namely observing the black-bellied whistling ducks from the back porch, learning to identify the birds at Steven’s feeders, and reading the stockpile of magazines I’d salvaged from the recycling bin for more than a year.  Yet the moment the doctor said “start” I was raring to go.

Purposeful walking

My daily regimen on the beach began the next morning.  I managed only a mile and a half unaccompanied.  The rest of the time through mid-July, I walked about three miles daily with the best company ever.

My rosary kept me focused, smiling, and upbeat, although I dreaded Tuesdays and Fridays.  I told God that the sorrowful mysteries made me very sad.

Isn’t there a way you could fix it so I don’t have to say them?  Isn’t there another way to pray the rosary? 

BW32813-21Still, I continued with the rosary in the traditional manner.

Answered prayer

The pain and the swelling were constant.  But the sand and the water under my bare feet, the sunshine, and all else out there in the real world made me see what I’d been missing while chained to my desk.

After my walks I usually plopped onto Steven’s Olongapo chair, put my legs up on the ottoman, and read.

The Infant Jesus of Prague (Nemec, 1978, 1986) and Saint Anthony of Padua (Miles & Gianopoulos, 1991) beckoned to me from the bookshelf.  I’d bought them at the
St. Jude Shrine gift shop in Chicago two and a half years earlier but hadn’t had time to read them.

       

Mostly, though, I reflected on my situation.

I didn’t take meds for the pain, and I didn’t complain.  I was glad to be out and about.  I was grateful for every step I took because I could shower without being afraid to hurt myself, dress quickly, walk up and down stoops, be a front-seat passenger, attend Mass at church, and receive Communion.  I thanked God for allowing me a break from my studies and for having a weird sense of humor about getting me alone time with him.  And then it happened! 

I got to page sixty-eight in St. Anthony’s book.

I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I reread the page several times.  The Franciscan Crown was the answer to my prayers!

Thank you, dear God!  Thank you, St. Anthony!  

I was ecstatic beyond words.  The answer had been under my nose since January 2004, but I’d first needed to ask the question.

Another request

The following day I began praying the Franciscan Crown using my traditional five-decade rosary.

Two and a half Franciscan Crowns equal one mile, I told God.  It’s tough remembering which decade I’m on, so now I need a rosary with seven decades.

Quick response

The Knights of Columbus at St. Paul’s had their monthly breakfast the following Sunday.  It was Steven’s first time to attend, so we had no idea that family members were also invited.

SPC12316-18We quickly befriended two lovely couples— Olivia and George, a devoted rosary maker, and Mary and Jack, leader of the Legion of Mary— who listened with stifled amusement to the story of how I’d had to break my kneecap to discover the Franciscan Crown.

“I’ve never heard of the Franciscan Crown,” George told me.  “If you want a rosary with seven decades, I’ll make you one!”

Six days later at Saturday evening Mass, Olivia came up to hug me hello.  “George has a surprise for you!”

George’s baby-blue Franciscan Crown filled me with both joy and gratitude.

God had responded through George!  George had believed without seeing the page in St. Anthony’s book!

My Franciscan Crown

I continued to use George’s rosary on my walks that summer, but I envisioned a different design.  The Franciscan Crown celebrates Mary’s motherhood so I associate it not with a crucifix, but with the miraculous medal of Mary.

Steven gave me the three medals that had belonged to his mom until she died in 1998.  He also took me to Walmart to buy assorted beads.

I used Steven’s medals on the first three Franciscan Crowns I beaded.  The first rosary was a prototype, so it was for me.  I did better on the second one, which Steven wanted.  The third one, intended for mom, was beautiful.  I placed the big beads close to each other so her arthritic hands wouldn’t struggle.

I knew Mom would pooh-pooh on the idea of this strange new way of praying the rosary, but I saved the rosary for her anyway.  We gave it to her during one of our trips down to Brownsville.

When Mom finally tried the Franciscan Crown, she liked it so much that it’s the only rosary she prays now.  She was thrilled to get the second one (right), which she keeps at her bedside for nighttime meditation.  She even asked for extras to give to her visitors.

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Wishful thoughts

Summer 2006, my knee still swollen and achy every day, I resolved to get back to normal.  I dialogued with God as I prayed.  The more I enjoyed my Franciscan Crown, the more I wished others would pray with me.

Thinking how ridiculous my idea must’ve sounded, I thought, They don’t have to be here walking on the beach with me.  They can be wherever they are.  I just want to share this rosary so that others can experience the joy that comes from praying it. 

I told God, I want for us to be called the Society of the Franciscan Crown.

It’s a bit much to ask, I know.  This is why, until now, I’d only shared my thoughts with our Why Catholic? church family.  Still, one never knows unless one plants the seed.

Miraculous healing

When I returned to the doctor’s office for my scheduled appointment, July thirteenth, I knew it’d be my last visit.  I was so excited that I contained myself by reviewing for comps in the waiting room.  The doctor hadn’t seen me in weeks and was quite impressed to see me walk as if I’d never broken my kneecap at all.

I thanked him.

“No,” he shook his head as he lowered his humbled gaze and raised his hand upward.

“You’re right,” I said knowingly.  “God gave me the power to heal myself.”

We both knew he’d done nothing more than check my x-rays and talk with me briefly during our visits.

Looking back

May through July had been Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.  I’d fallen and seriously broken a bone for the first time.  I’d been forced into molasses mode, but my recovery had been quite a learning experience; my self-imposed walks on the beach, a journey in faith.

Dialoguing with God and praying my Franciscan Crown had gotten me through the ordeal.  I’d recovered beyond the doctor’s expectations despite the scary, frustrating moments in his office.

God’s listening ear

During the healing process I beaded many crowns for friends, friends of friends, several family members, some folks at St. Paul’s, and even some strangers.  With each one I gifted my wish to have others pray with me came true.  Yet the best part of the experience was God’s listening ear; the most amazing part, the miracles.

I delighted in documenting those wishes come true! 

Joyful experience

Deli71709b-mfc2Of course, I’ve learned more about the Franciscan Crown since then.  Known as the seven joys of the Blessed Virgin, this rosary dates back to 1422, is celebrated August 27
(St. Monica’s feast day), and is part of a beautiful story.

Although the devotion varies slightly depending on the source, its seven decades exclude prayers recited before, between, and after those of the traditional rosary.  But what I especially love is that each joy (decade) in the life of the Blessed Virgin is reminiscent not only of Mary’s love as mother of Jesus, but also of one’s sweet recollections as parent.

Finally, because the Franciscan Crown is synonymous with tranquility, embarking on a faith journey with Mary is such an extraordinary experience that I’m compelled to share it with others!

June 26, 2014

Put your heart aside.  Duty comes first; but, when fulfilling your duty, put your heart into it.  Be gentle (St. Josemaría Escrivá).

September 12, 2014

In doubts, in difficulties, call upon Mary.  Don’t let her name depart from your lips; never allow it to leave your heart.  And, that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, don’t neglect to walk in her footsteps
(St. Bernard of Clairvaux).

October 7, 2014

“The holy rosary is the storehouse of countless blessings” (Blessed Alan de la Roche).

October 16, 2014

The essence of the rosary is a steady incitement to holy sympathy.  If a person becomes very important to us, we are happy to meet someone who is attached to him.  We see his image mirrored in another life and we see it anew.  Our eyes meet two eyes that also love and see.  Those eyes add their range of vision to ours, and our gaze may now go beyond the narrowness of our own ego and embrace the beloved being, previously seen only from one side.  The joys that the other person experienced, and also the pains he suffered, become so many strings whose vibrations draw from our heart new notes, new understanding, and new responses (Fr. Romano Guardini, 1885-1968).

May 6, 2015

Do not be afraid.  Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.  Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch (St. John Paul II).

May 13, 2015

“Mary is our great helper; she it is who presents to her divine Son all our prayers, our tears, and our sighs; she it is who obtains the graces for us which we need for our sanctification” (St. John Vianney).

May 19, 2015

“To speak heart to heart with God, you must love to be with him alone” (St. Peter Celestine).

May 18, 2016

Mary, I depend on you totally as a child on its mother, that in return you may possess me, protect me, and transform me into Jesus.  May the light of your faith dispel the darkness of my mind; may your profound humility take the place of my pride; may your contemplation replace the distractions of my wandering imagination; and may your virtues take the place of my sins.  Lead me deeper into the mystery of the cross that you may share your experience of Jesus’s thirst with me (Mother Teresa in Thirsting for God: Daily Meditations).

May 30, 2017

The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same.  Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination (Don Williams Jr.).

October 24, 2017

It is Mary on whom the rosary is centered in a focus ever new.  This prayer means a lingering in the world of Mary, whose essence was Christ.  In this way, the rosary is, in its deepest sense, a prayer of Christ (Romano Guardini in The Rosary of Our Lady).

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Pdf file…  MMM novena prayers (printable) from CAMM’s virtual novena

Links of interest…  Devotion to Mary brought me closer to God…  Franciscan: Article V / blogs / crown (Aug 27 – more) / resources / rosary…  How I pray the rosary with my friends (the saints)…  Mary: God’s spiritual masterpiece…  National Shrine of St. Francis…  Our Lady of Corpus Christi (OLCC): adoration chapel / bookstore & café / deep prayer / retreatsvideo / website…  Road not taken (Frost, 1916)…  Rosary: The spiritual sword of Mary…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…  What Robert Frost taught me about feeling alone

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Faces of Mary…  Lady of sorrows…  Lourdes novenas…  Marian devotions…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  May flowers…  Our Lady…  Powerful intercessor…  Prayers and blessings…  Repeated prayers…  Saintly connections…  St. Monica…  St. Peregrine relic…  Stella Maris