Lebh Shomea

On May seventeenth the 150th Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event was celebrated at Lebh Shomea, the house of prayer at La Parra Ranchin Sarita, TX.

With great excitement we toured the original Big House, a wood structure that now belongs to the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and the Blessed Sacrament; the Big House, a stucco structure which took five years to complete; and the Sacred Heart Chapel, flanked on the right and on the left by family cemeteries, the bigger of which includes a Lourdes grotto “in loving memory of John G. Kenedy, 1932” (Plaque).

Still, what Steven and I enjoyed most was our Tuesday through Thursday stay at the Zechariah and Elizabeth hermitage, which included daily Mass, meals, walks, afternoon visits to the main chapel, and nature’s sights and sounds at La Parra’s Listening Heart.

            

           

            

            

            

            

            

            

            

            

           

            

            

            

      

Handouts

                  

            

           

Sign at the Kenedy Ranch Museum – Sarita, TX

Links of interest…  Be quiet: What do you do on a silent retreat (more)…  Elizabeth & Zechariah: about / biographyelder patrons of patience & praise / Jesus’s familial lineMary’s relatives / saints…  Five ways to increase patience…  If you love me you will do my will (prologue)…  Interior life: How to be one through contemplative prayer…  Jesus found time for solitude & prayer…  Kenedy County’s celestial battle / Ranch Museum (actual site)…  La Parra Ranch cemetery…  Lebh Shomea (anecdote – facebook – spiritual renewal – story)…  Living Faith: Silence & solitude…  Modern-day hermits: Answering the call to solitude, prayer…  Petra Kenedy: aboutlegacy / profile…  Prayer of the heart: Solitude & community…  Practice of contemplative prayer…  Sarita Kenedy East (foundation)…  Sarita’s secret…  Sit down & be quiet: How to practice contemplative meditation…  Solitude…  Texas Tropical Trail Regionfacebook / map / Tour Texas (attractions) / The Tropical Traveler (blog)…  Why & how to make a spiritual retreat

WP posts…  Angels keeping watch…  Beautiful sacred space…  Building community…  Father’s guided tour…  Father now retired…  Heart of hearts…  Home again…  Memory lane…  Promise of hope…  A real church…  Soulful

Etched in time

Our first look inside San Agustin Cathedral, September 15, 2009, was made possible by the priest exiting the side door on his way to the dieciséis de septiembre celebration at the plaza across the street.  “You can visit only until the cleaning is done, but you’re welcome to return for noon Mass tomorrow if you like.”

December 18, 2017

Having waited too long, we returned to Laredo for the Texas Tropical Trail monthly partner event and, again, stayed at La Posada near the cathedral so we could finally make it to noon Mass, enjoy a good while within, and take photos to my heart’s content.

                

            

            

            

                

December 19, 2017

Walking back to the hotel from our afternoon meeting at the museum provided backside views of the cathedral.  I could hardly wait to spend time at the historic sacred space.

            

            

December 20, 2017

From the groundskeepers to the hotel workers to the people on the street by the plaza, everyone was all smiles.  Warm sunshine had overtaken the cold and the rain from previous days.  Again and again, we heard grateful expressions: “What a beautiful day!”  “We really needed this!”  “It’d been too long since we’d last seen the sun!”  “Enjoy your day!”

Churchyard observations

Steven drove us to the cathedral, since we’d agreed to leave Laredo from there for his meeting in San Benito that afternoon.  We were about ten or fifteen minutes early, so I had time to explore the churchyard and observe not just the birds, but also the people gathered about waiting for the sacristan to unlock the front doors.

That’s when I noticed a diminutive, humble man in day laborer attire.  He sat pensively, almost invisibly, clutching a small, rather worn brown paper sack by the fence under the oak tree.  His forlorn look made my heart ache!  Had he traveled far to come to church? I wondered.  Is that why he’d packed a little something to eat along the way?

God-filled moments

When the sacristan opened the cathedral’s doors, we were the first to enter.  Standing just two feet within but allowing enough space for others to walk through, I acclimated to the tiny vestibule before stepping into the nave.  And, as I turned to look back outside before the sacristan closed the door, I saw the little man with the heaviness of the world on his shoulders.

“Good morning!” I smiled.  “¡Buenos días!”

The khaki-clad man, pained to be awakened from his self-imposed (prayerful) trance, glanced at me, uttered an almost inaudible response, and shuffled head down toward the inner doors.

As I continued greeting others arriving for noon Mass, I wondered if the small man had missed his chance to work with the able-bodied day laborers awaiting rides across the street from the cathedral.  How I longed to ease his pain!  But all I could do was entrust him to God.

Jesus in repose

The cathedral was still somewhat dark as I took photos in the back of the church, but I knew my way around.  Jesus was waiting in the alcove by the confessionals on the left.  I’d photographed him previously as the baby in the glass-and-gold enclosure and also as the adult in repose on the stone slab below the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

With my third eye leading the way, my peripheral vision caught sight of someone bent ever so gently, ever so faithfully, with hands lovingly placed on Jesus’s legs and feet.  I didn’t want to move!  I didn’t want to intrude!  I’d unknowingly walked into a very private moment and didn’t know what to do.

Dear God, please, add my prayers to his.  Let me not be an impediment.

I didn’t want to disturb the person whom I sensed was quite distraught, so I took photos ever so quietly.  And, when the person sat up, I saw the little man in wrinkled clothing.

He said nothing and mostly was oblivious of me.  He hadn’t been startled, so his silence came across more as acceptance than discomfort.  Yet I’d walked into such an intimate scene that I couldn’t just ignore it.

Lowering my Coolpix for a few moments, I softly greeted the man and spoke to him in Spanish.  “Look how beautiful Jesus is with Our Lady keeping a watchful eye on him from above.  She’s never far from those she loves.”  Then, as I photographed Jesus, the downtrodden man spoke to me in littles.

I reciprocated in calm, even tones, voicing encouragement while praying within.

Dear God, please, what can I do to help?  Don’t let this moment pass without our interceding on his behalf. 

I wanted to do something for the man but had only my camera in hand.

Etched in time

Finally, Steven came into view.  With all the dignity and friendship I could muster to help the man feel valued, I introduced them to each other.  Then, as naturally as possible in English, I briefly shared the man’s story with Steven who, for reasons I couldn’t fathom, stepped away and out of sight.

Had Steven not heard the plea in my voice?  Had he not intuited my message?  I’d been mentally dialoguing in three directions, and I was concerned.  I seldom carry money, so I had no means of assisting the man— not that he’d even asked— but I wasn’t giving up!

Once our talking and my photo taking reached the perfect level of mutual trust and understanding, I stepped out of the alcove hoping to share my desire for Steven to intervene somehow and—

Surprise! 

The moment we looked at each other, Steven, trying hard to contain his emotions, extended his hand for me to take his offering.

“Thank you,” I whispered, and walked back to the disconsolate man.

Bending close I placed my hand in his, talked a little more, wished him and his family a merry Christmas, smiled, and walked away.  The man had no idea what I’d pressed into his hand, and I didn’t wait for him to find out.  But, moving about taking photos, my peripheral vision did notice that he sat gazing at both Jesus and Our Lady for a very long time before departing.

A sweet memory etched in time, God answered our heartfelt prayers that day.

           

          

         

                

               

               

                  

                  

      

   

                

                

                

               

                

                

                

         

September 15, 2009

                

Prayers from St. Augustine

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, so that I love only 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.

Give me yourself, O my God; give yourself to me.  Behold I love you and, if my love is too weak a thing, grant me to love you more strongly.  I cannot measure my love to know how much it falls short of being sufficient, but let my soul hasten to your embrace and never be turned away until it is hidden in the secret shelter of your presence.  This only do I know: That it is not good for me when you are not with me, when you are only outside me.  I want you in my very self.  All the plenty in the world which is not my God is utter want.  Amen.

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know you and desire nothing save only you.  Let me hate myself and love you.  Let me do everything for the sake of you.  Let me humble myself and exalt you.  Let me think of nothing except you.  Let me die to myself and live in you.  Let me accept whatever happens as from you.  Let me banish self and follow you and ever desire to follow you.  Let me fly from myself and take refuge in you that I may deserve to be defended by you.  Let me fear for myself, let me fear you, and let me be among those who are chosen by you.  Let me distrust myself and put my trust in you.  Let me be willing to obey for the sake of you.  Let me cling to nothing save only to you and let me be poor because of you.  Look upon me that I may love you.  Call me that I may see you and forever enjoy you.  Amen.

                       

Quotes from St. Augustine

Do you wish to rise?  Begin by descending.  You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds?  Lay first the foundation of humility.

Hope has two beautiful daughters.  Their names are Anger and Courage— anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are (Attributed but unverified).

What does love look like?  It has the hands to help others.  It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy.  It has eyes to see misery and want.  It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.  That is what love looks like.

You aspire to great things?  Begin with little ones.

February 28, 2018

Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God’s heart.  You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips, but with your heart.  In fact, on certain occasions, you should only speak to him with your heart (St. Pio).

Links of interest…  Augustine of Hippo: apostolic letter (JPII) / architect of the Middle Agesauthor / bishop & doctor / book on prayer / commentary on the Sermon on the Mountconfessions (quotes) / doctor of grace (more) / factsfor all seasons /  memorial (Aug 28) / on the Beatitudes / prayers / philosophy / prodigal son / quotesraised to new life / seeking God / son of tearsthinking faith…  dieciséis de septiembre…  Burial slab of Jesus found in Jerusalem (limestone piece of rock / uncovered)…  Laredo:  churches / La Posada Hotel / museumstours (events – heritage walking tour)…  Padre Pio’s words of faith…  San Agustin: cathedral (diocesan page – facebook – history –  Mass times) / historic district / obispo (bishop) / restoration (new renderings of project)…  TX Tropical Trail Region

WP posts…  Historic nuggets…  Persistence…  St. Austin Church…  St. Monica…  Sweet Jesus

Vattmann church

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As part of our TX Tropical Trail Region (TTTR) outing in January, we visited Vattmann, an unincorporated community off Highway 77 at the intersection of farm to market roads 626 and 772, just sixteen miles southeast of Kingsville.

The big attraction was Our Lady of Consolation Church (OLCC), which was dedicated in 1920 and remains the heart and soul of its surroundings.

OLC11811-10Morning presentation

Our TTTR group began its tour in the parish hall, which includes the original church schoolhouse that changed as the size of its student population grew and subsequently became a community center.

Ms. Goldia Hubert, a member of OLCC, shared both historic and anecdotal information about life on the “tracts of land” (not a town) that comprise Vattmann.

In 1907, Theodore F. Koch, a Minnesotan, was among those who purchased land from the 86,000 acres offered by the King Ranch for the purpose of populating South Texas (Kleberg County: The TXGenWeb Project, 1996-2011).

Koch founded Riviera and used the St. Louis, Brownsville, and Mexico Railway to entice potential buyers and settlers to the area.  Koch also met with Father Edward J. Vattmann, secretary of the Catholic Colonization Society of America, to encourage Catholic families to move there. 

The first German family from Westphalia, TX was joined by Edward J. May, who bought forty acres in 1908 before the arrival of more German families from Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio (Coalson with the Texas State Historical Association, 2011).

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A rose by any other name

The settlement, Vattmannville, honoring the priest who started the movement to South Texas in 1914, later shortened the name to Vattmann

“The town [sic] was first called Vattmannville, [sic] but the second ‘n’ was later deleted” (Bigger-Cantu in the Kingsville Record and Bishop News online, 2009). 

TTTR also has the site listed as Vattman; but most of the sources I checked show the site’s name ending in nn; so that’s what I’ve chosen to use.  My prerogative, as I’m an old school South Texan who also adheres to the original pronunciation of, say, Riviera (Ree-vee-eh-ra, not Ree-veh-ra [Rivera]) and Refugio (Re-foo-hee-o, third and fourth syllables as one [hyo], instead of Re-foo-ree-oh).

Annual Thanksgiving feast

For the past ninety-six years, Vattmann has hosted a fall fundraiser. 

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1914 in a grove of mesquites [sic] beside a small lake directly behind the present location of the Vernie Hubert home.  A platform constructed in front of the picnic area concluded the activities that evening with a dance held under the star with local musicians participating in the orchestra (Bigger-Cantu, 2009).

The yearly event hosts a country store, which sells arts and crafts made by the OLCC Women’s Club to benefit Our Lady of Consolation Church.

“We paint anything that stands still,” said Gwen Rudellat, one of the members.  Club members began meeting [ten] years ago.  This spring they began meeting on a weekly basis to work on their creative projects to sell at the thanksgiving. At least five or six women meet regularly all year long (Bigger-Cantu).

Best of all, the Vattmann holiday tradition, which includes various activities, games, and music played until midnight, is open to anyone interested in joining the community in a historic, fun-filled day. 

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Links of interest…  Annual Thanksgiving fundraiser: giving thanks / holiday tradition / King countrypicnic (about) / special report (KIII; more)…  Father Edward J. Vattmann: about / chaplain (more) / more / photos: 1 / 2…  King’s Inn Restaurant: food / fried & true / website (contactevents)…  Manual for spiritual warfare…  Kleberg County (roots web)…  Our Lady: feasticon (more) / litany / meets us right where we arenovena / prayers / shrine (about)…   Our Lady of Consolation Church: diocesan map / facebook / one-room school house / photo / website (contact – events – history)…  TX Tropical Trail Region…  US Genealogy Web Project…  Vattmann: about / cemetery
(find a gravelocation – photos) / history / photos: wedding (c. 1910) & “where I grew up”…  The visitation & Mary, the walking tabernacle…  What does God want? A practical guide to making decisions

WP posts…  Repeated prayers…  Thanksgiving prayers…  Then and now…  Unexpected detours…  Vattmann Thanksgiving…  Venerable Julia Navarrete

Venerable Julia Navarrete

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December 21, 2010, the Texas Tropical Trail Region (TTTR) hosted its monthly meeting in Kingsville— for me, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity— that we wouldn’t have missed for anything, not even the high fever I’d been running since the night before.

Invitation

A real saint from South Texas?

After lunch we will visit the only convent in Kingsville/Kleberg County, the Convent of the Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary, founded in 1916 by the late Mother Julia Navarrete Guerrero.

Mother Julia was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 1881, and joined the church at 19.  She left her home at the height of the Mexican Revolution when, in some areas, it was forbidden to celebrate Mass.  At the request of her home diocese, she came to Texas and started her ministry in a one-room house on Richard Avenue that was purchased from King Ranch founder, Richard King.

Her mission was to educate the children and minister to the adults.  Mother Julia died in 1974 at the age of 93.

In 2004, Pope John Paul II proclaimed Mother Julia venerable, the second of four steps on the way to sainthood.  She was nominated for the honor by her holy order, which is based in Mexico, though much of her work was in Kingsville (Nancy Deviney, TTTR Kingsville Partner Event, December 2010).

A worthwhile cause

TTTR122110-11During lunch guest speaker Maggie Salinas, charter member of the Kleberg County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of Kingsville’s Historical Development Board, shared the story behind her lifelong commitment to help the Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary (MDPVM) preserve the convent founded by the Venerable Mother Julia Navarrete.

So, after lunch, we drove to 408 East Richard Avenue where Sister Maxie shared the history of her religious order and invited us into the newly renovated chapel.

The rest of the story

The best part of the tour for Steven and me was when everyone else departed for the presentation at the King Ranch Museum, and we had Sister Maxie all to ourselves.

I told Sister that, from the time we’d read about the day’s upcoming events, our anticipation had crescendoed at the prospect of not only seeing the chapel, but also learning all we could about a saint in waiting in our own South Texas community.

Sister Maxie spoke glowingly and compassionately about Mother Julia’s numerous accomplishments— founding their Order and establishing more than forty-five convents in Mexico and the United States— and the Venerable Mother’s long, terrible illness, respectively.

Sister Maxie nursed Mother Julia through the ordeal and was greatly inspired by the Venerable Mother’s spirituality and resilience.  The doctors would prescribe all the wrong treatments, seriously compounding her physical suffering; but Mother Julia never complained.  Instead, she bore the pain with patience and resolve until her death.

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Mother Julia’s legacy

TTTR122110-118The number of nuns at the old convent has dwindled due to age and illness, so Sister Maxie lovingly takes care of all of them as she did Mother Julia.  She also juggles a busy schedule that includes driving the Sisters to their doctors’ appointments and managing countless obligations that encompass both the restoration of the original schoolhouse that has been moved across from the chapel and the preservation of the old convent.

Thanks to community supporters like Maggie who have embraced Mother Julia’s legacy, the Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary can dedicate themselves to more divine aspirations— “the treasure of [Mother Julia’s] spirituality and a profound devotion to the Holy Spirit, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to the most Pure Virgin Mary” (MDPVM, 1983)— while others labor to prepare for the big day ahead.

Saint-in-waiting

Of course, canonization is a lengthy process which can take decades; so everyone familiar with Mother Julia is spreading the word.  If you pray for her intercession, as did the gardener and his wife on behalf of their daughter, please report favors granted to the Missionary Daughters.  (Refer to the prayer card above.)

Treasured relic

In the meantime, Sister Maxie continues to keep Mother Julia close to her heart through a very personal relic.  Sister’s crucifix has a bloodstain from the time that Mother Julia was gravely ill.

Momentous blessing

Being so in awe of holy relics, I felt specially privileged to have been invited to touch— and will always remember— that very personal connection to Mother Julia.  But I was beyond moved to have been encouraged to kiss the crucifix and share in the love of Mother Julia’s congregation.

And I’m doing my part to share the story so that the Venerable Julia Navarrete becomes a saint in my lifetime.

Think of it.  A saint from our culture, our time, our very own South Texas community.

Simply amazing.

         

         

                

         

         

         

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Links of interest…  Capia de la Madre Julia nuevo lugar para oración (p. 6)…  Community celebrates Mother Julia jubilee…  In memoriam: Sister María Del Carmen Villalpando (obituary)…  Maggie Salinas: For Kingsville woman, helping others “is a gift we should all share” / TX story project…  Missionary Daughters (MDPVM)…  Mother Julia’s Good Samaritan Shop (open 1st & 2nd Saturday)…  Museum to honor Kingsville’s Mother Julia (10.26.15)…  Praying to the saints:   Christian practice / gracious advocates / heavenly intercessors / intercessory prayer / litanies / novenas (221) / why pray to the saints…  Sainthood: 87 new causes for sainthood / becoming a saint (five stepshow – models – process – rules – what is – what makes) / John Paul’s beatification…  Sister Maria Elena Casillas (more)…  Sister Maxima Cruz: A life of devotion (Sister Maxi; pp. 22-24)…  South Texas Catholic…  St. Martin of Tours Parish: 100 years as a faith community / diocese parish finder / facebook…  TX Tropical Trail Region (more; Tropical Traveler, p. 1)…  Venerable Julia Navarrete: about (facebook – YouTube) / celebrating 100th anniversary /  “Christmas miracle” planned / decrees of the congregation for sainthood causes / gardener’s miracle / Julia of the Thorns of the Sacred Heart / quoteTejano Talks No. 13

WP posts…  Holy relics…  Honoring Joselito…  Multicultural Mass…  Sacred Heart Church…  Saturday evening Mass…  Solano, Solanus, Solani…  Then and now…  Today’s Beatitudes…  Unexpected detours…  Vattmann church…  Vattmann Thanksgiving…  Venerable Margaret

Stella Maris

After attending the September twenty-first TX Tropical Trail Region outing in Rockport, Steven and I went in search of the chapel I’d discovered online a couple of years ago. 

Although we’d anticipated that Stella Maris might be closed on a Tuesday afternoon, we were disappointed nonetheless but perked up at the thought of returning for Mass, October 9th.

What a joy to hear Father Ralph’s stories about his first-class
St. Peregrine relic and the miracles God has performed!

           

       

            

       

       

               

         

Prayers to St. Peregrine

O God, in Saint Peregrine you gave us an outstanding example of faith and patience.  We humbly ask you that, by imitating him and by the help of his prayers, we may believe more fully in your healing help, bear the suffering of this life without wavering, and come with joy to the peace of heaven.  We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For strength and healing…  Loving and gracious God, in faith and trust we place ourselves before you.  Fill me with your healing love.  In St. Peregrine you have given the world an outstanding example of courage, faith, and hope in the midst of pain and affliction; and you showed your greatness and compassion by the miracle of his cure.

Now I ask you, through the intercession of St. Peregrine, to help me, your servant, to endure my illness with courage; and, if it be your will, to restore me to health.

Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

                  

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Contact information

St. Peregrine prayers are from Father Primo at Franciscan Mission Associates, P.O. Box 598, Mt. Vernon, NY 10551-0598.

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Father Ralph’s homilies: 10 Oct 2010 / 22 Jan 2012 / 16 Sept 2012

Links of interest…  Franciscan Mission Associates prayer requests…  Gratitude…  Relics (first-class)…  Msgr. Rory Deane (d. 3.6.16)…  St. Peregrine: about / articles (prayer cards) / “cancer saint” / chaplet / feast / friends of / healing intercessor & friend / healing power / May 1st / novena / prayers (requests) / shrine…  Stella Maris: anniversary / facebook / history (more) / Lamar, TX (more) / marker…  TX Tropical Trail Region

WP posts…  Delightful visit…  Father’s roses…  Healing service…  Holy relics…  Memorable as ever…  Powerful intercessor…  Prayers and blessings…  Saintly connections…  St. Peregrine relic…  Stella Maris moments

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.

We 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.  He 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).

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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: traditions & miracles / relic…  St. Francis: about /  biography / national shrine…  St. Isidore: farmer (more) / feast / litany novena /  preserving our inheritance of faith / printable prayer / quotes…  Texas Tropical Trail…  St. Joseph…  St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website…  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…  Persistence…  Prayer…  Si quaeris miracula…  St. Anthony…  St. Felix…  Vaquero Fest Saturday

Vaquero Fest Saturday

November seventh, Steven and I headed to Hebbronville very early in the morning.  We were excited about our first Vaquero Fest experience, so we arrived before nine to await the parade on North Smith Avenue.

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Landmarks

Afterwards, we walked over to explore what I thought had been a hotel in another lifetime.  What a gem!  I wondered what it would say if it could speak.  Steven later asked Bill Hellen about the building and learned that a man from Fort Worth owns it now.  Historical landmarks like this one come with lots of regulations attached to preserve their integrity, so maybe this is delaying its beautification.

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We walked down the main street for a few blocks before heading back to the car, so we could drive around town.  A really quaint barbecue place by the railroad tracks caught me eye.  The small, narrow, triangular building looks like a long-ago whistle stop.  Unfortunately, we were in traffic on the wrong side, so I missed the photo op.  I’ll save it for next time around, I guess, though I did get another goodie instead.

Festivities

At the plaza, we listened to some mighty fine singers, young folks trying to break into the music industry.

The young woman, Mallorie, handed out autographed CDs afterwards.  She told me she’ll be cutting an album soon, so I wished her great success.

Making the rounds, we finally found Bill and his lovely Elva and then visited briefly with Joe and Cordy on our way to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church diagonally across from the plaza.  We didn’t want to miss Hernan’s cuentos viejos presentation in the church basement.

       

Up until then, we’d been thinking only about the tour of the Scotus College breezeway that we’d missed back in June.  We’d spoken with R. J. at the parade, and he’d promised us a tour if we arrived early for Hernan’s lecture.  We’d thought the church would be locked; but, much to our surprise, two ladies, Julie and Rosa Elia, were monitoring the front doors.  We asked if we could enter and were graciously told that Azalia, one of the ladies whom we’ve met through the TX Tropical Trail Region (TTTR) meetings, was giving tours of the church and the chapel.  Boy, oh, boy, were we excited to have our very own VIP tours!

After the tours and the presentation, we agreed we’d accomplished our goals for the day, so we decided to swing back by the plaza before heading for home.  First, we spent time observing Isaac and Gabriel at their kettle korn booth.

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Steven and I love making popcorn from scratch, but this looked dangerously intriguing.  Isaac has to wear gloves, long sleeves, and a face mask!

VF11709-166Isaac told us he buys huge bags of ACT II, since it pops best; and he’s not at all concerned about stray poppers lost during the process.  He and his brother travel to numerous fairs from Hebbronville to Floresville to Alice and back, and he really enjoys what he does.  Next, we visited with Louie and his assistant, Mark.  Louie had samples of his pan de campo, so we couldn’t resist buying some of that, too.  It’s an immense glorified flour tortilla with an appealing name, cowboy bread, absolutely perfect for Vaquero Fest and just fine without butter, too.

Fun times

VF11709-171Walking around the plaza one last time, we saw kids of all ages enjoying themselves as they listened to the music, ate, strolled around like us, bought items from the vendors, or just plain window shopped.  We were glad to have joined in the day’s festivities.  We’d bought delicious tacos from the Knights of Columbus, visited the fine folks we’ve befriended through TTTR, and enjoyed our time at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

Once again, we were taken with the friendliness of the townspeople with whom we interacted.  The church parishioners this time around were as nice as Lorenzo and his co-workers were during our first visit.  We felt so welcomed into their community that I’m pretty sure we’ll go back to visit, especially since Azalia told us that Father Frank intends to have murals and frescoes painted in the church.

Won’t that be an awesome sight?!!

Photo files…  book reading…  old hotel

Links of interest…  Hebbronville: aboutcounty seat / history (more) / landmarks & legacies…  La Mota Ranch: Bill Hellen (agritourism: more / fishing & hunting)…  Our Lady of Guadalupe Church & Scottus College (more)…  South TX ranching traditions celebrated in Hebbronville…  TX Tropical Trail Region…  Vaquero Fest

WP posts…  Franciscan experience…  Franciscan treasures…  Grapes of generosity
…  Historic nuggets…  Honoring Joselito…  Persistence…  St. Anthony