Dios Ti Agngina

Thank you in Ilocano

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Filtering by Tag: faith

Ash Wednesday

It's very rare for me to be up by 6:00 or 6:15 in the morning.  I've never been an early bird.  But yesterday morning was different because it's the start of the Lenten season and my family and I attended Mass for Ash Wednesday.  Even our five year old had to get up! 

There were two takeaways from the priest's homily.  He said, "You are dirt!"  We are reminded of Original Sin and that we are a sinful people.  Our bodies will die but our souls will live forever.  

I really resonated with the second takeaway.  Father said, "Prayer is like breathing.  It is necessary."

Prayer really needs to be our everything and I think it's the perfect Lenten activity to start again with God if someone's been away from the Church or feels like they're just going through the motions because they have to.  One young lady who I am health coaching picked the word "prayer" for her word theme for 2018.  Prayer is the best way to tighten our relationship or lack of relationship with Jesus.    

The saints can teach us how to pray.  Not only did St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney spend countless hours in the confessional reconciling people to God, these two holy priests had such a deep, rich, unwavering relationship with Jesus and Mary.  

I love this beautiful quote by St. Jean Vianney.

My little children, your hearts, are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God.  Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us.  Prayer never leaves us without sweetness.  It is honey that flows into the souls and makes all things sweet.  When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.

Doesn't that sound so poetic?  Let us open our hearts to our loving Father and let us do all that we can to make this Lent the best Lent ever so that one day we may enter into His everlasting embrace.

You are dirt!
Prayer is like breathing.  It is necessary.

The Night My Mom Cut Jesus' Hair

Recently, I remembered a story that my mom told me many years ago.  I was a teenager at the time.  She came home from work  late one night and said, "Tonight I cut a man's hair and he looked just like Jesus!"  

That got my attention so I listened intently.  She continued, "He was my last client and he told me to just cut but keep his hair long."  

She said he was the best client she ever had.  He was quiet the whole time.  He didn't complain or give her a hard time.  He just sat at her station quietly.  And at the end of the service he paid and then left.  My mom never got his name and she never saw him again.

Although I will never know the story of this man, my mom's encounter with a man who had such a physical similarity to Jesus made me contemplate Jesus.  It made me realize that Jesus is always with me, and will always be with me through the best and worst of times.

This incident happened in 1997, before my mom was diagnosed with three large tumors on her spinal cord.  My mom's neurosurgeon told her she had a 75 percent chance of paralysis.  That thought put my parents on edge for many days and nights.  She was very afraid before the surgery, and suffered greatly after it.  

During my mom's time of hardship I remember a great number of family members and friends lifting her up in prayer.  That, I believe, is the beauty of prayer.  Prayer brings people together for a common good.  Prayer allows us to unite for the sake of our loved ones.  Prayer is incredibly powerful and strengthens us in the most trying of times.

Mom's surgery was a very trying time, but she made it and recovered.  And the outcome of that surgery has had many positives!  Foremost, my mom and dad's faith grew a hundred fold and they have become more devout to our Lord and his Blessed Mother.  They have also become more committed to each other.  And their faith was strengthened for all the other surgeries and trials they endured over the years.

Because they believed in God who is all loving and healing, I witnessed and I also believed.  What my mom went through would have never been possible to endure without the Lord's strength and goodness.  Without a doubt He carried their burdens.

My mom's surgery for the ependymoma  happened 20 years ago.  Today, she is feeling well (and continues to recover from a recent surgery but that's another story).   Thanks be to God we got to celebrate her 70th birthday this month of July.  

And thanks be to God for my mom's beautiful life and for Jesus reminding us of His abundant love and blessings.  

Because they believed in God who is all loving and healing, I witnessed and I also believed.

On The Street Where We Lived

Somehow Stone Barn Road reminds me of Cherry Tree Lane in the Disney film Mary Poppins probably because of the fantastic, well thought out planned walking community, the well-manicured landscapes, and the cobblestone curb appeal throughout.  I even imagined adding two pink cherry trees in the backyard and an adorable English garden with a butterfly way station.  I have to confess that I've had a difficult time letting go of our beloved home in our neat little village in Central PA.  We moved out last month and my son and I still think fondly of it.  It was where I had hoped we could spend more time -- more time to see our son grow and more time to spend with our friends.  But God has different plans for us.  

So we are moving again.  This is our fifth move in seven years and so the adventure starts back up again.  I have to mention that this exercise of constantly moving has helped me to appreciate the present moment.  We never know how long we will stay in an area so I think that I've learned to really savor the here and now and take nothing for granted.   

We are Catholic first before all of our wants and needs.  I stand committed to our faith foremost before anything else and this has helped me throughout times of tribulation.  For me there is no other way but to let God guide us in everything that we do.  

I am hopeful in our future in the new place.  What lies ahead are new places to see, new people to meet, and new memories to make.  My husband's company has been very good to us.  But more so, God has given us much more than we have ever imagined.  

Goodbye Stone Barn Road.  Goodbye Central PA.  I arrived unwell, weak, and exhausted and I left healed, renewed, and faithful.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the cherished memories.

We are Catholic first before all of our wants and needs.

Bethesda Revisited

My family and I keep going back to Bethesda.  It's become the meeting place to see our good friends from Dallas.  We last visited in September of  last year and had a blast.  This past trip was just as enjoyable.

We first visited a lovely church nestled in the city called Our Lady of Lourdes.  As my son and I approached the back entrance we were welcomed by an awesome image of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette.  

I suppose St. Bernadette inspired my prayer for Eucharistic Adoration.  St. Bernadette was the peasant girl in Lourdes, France who encountered the Mother of God, Our Lady of Lourdes, several times.  She was simple and innocent and so I let my prayer be simple as well.  These days when I pray I usually pray more so for others.  My thoughts were of our friends' oldest who will be attending medical school.  

In the past I found myself in prayer visiting the Blessed Sacrament almost always focusing on my own issues and problems.  I know better now.  God knows everything, even our most hidden thoughts and fears. I think prayer should be simple, not complicated at all.  That's why I love the rosary so much.  It's a prayer simply saying "I love You Jesus and I love Your mother."  The beauty of the Blessed Sacrament is that Jesus is right there waiting for us.   I place all my trust in God and say, "Jesus, I love You!"  over and over again.  It is always refreshing and comforting.  

We went to visit our friends next.  This time we met with father and daughter and had a nice dinner at a Spanish and Latin American restaurant called Guardado's in Bethesda.  It's quite cozy and friendly and a good place to catch up.  We ordered a number of tapas dishes like the delicious special -- stuffed mushrooms.  For our entrée we shared the seafood paella.  We also shared a carafe of sangria.  Overall, the food was very good!  Since we had leftovers I recooked the paella the next day with lots of dark leafy greens and minced garlic and it turned out even more delicious.

I will always remember Bethesda.  It's a place where we can always worship and give thanks to Our Lord and where we can enjoy and cherish camaraderie just as we have in the past.  Thanks again Bethesda for a wonderful trip!  Till next time!

Jesus, I love You!

Bruno Versus Jesus

Oh, the joys of parenthood!  My boy was in one of his defiant moods as I was struggling to get him dressed in time for church.  We were running late as usual.  I had tried to calmly brief him that we were going to church because it's Sunday.  This was not working in my favor.

Feeling flustered and perturbed I blurted out to Constantine, "Who do you prefer?  Bruno or Jesus?"  Without pause he answered, "Bruno."  I flashed back, "Wrong answer!  Do you think Bruno will help you get to heaven?!"  Then the little boy responded, "Daddy, heaven."  Sighing in relief I said, "Yes, that's a better answer.  Daddy will help us get to heaven."

This was an opportunity for me as a parent to weigh in on the effects of what is too much for a little child.  There is no doubt that Bruno Mars is a talent and huge iconic force today but my husband and I will not adhere to him or any other public persona getting in the way of our family's obligation to spend it with the Lord.  Foremost, God comes first before our own wants and needs.

The dangers of bombarding our children with too much TV and Internet are real and it's important to set the parameters straight and clear at a young age.  Besides the questions of how much is too much and possible harmful effects on our children, we have to ask if what our children are exposed to will be a benefit to them spiritually.  Can it help build their character and moral fiber?  

It's easy to turn on the TV to keep our children preoccupied but do we let them go unguarded?  I've grown accustomed to this behavior enumerating in my mind all the must haves that I want to get done before the day is over but what about my most important responsibility?  I have asked myself from time to time, "Am I spending enough time with my boy?  Am I pointing him to Christ?  Am I showing him how to love Him?"

It's a balancing act that needs to be played out throughout the day and it's taxing. My consolation is always prayer.  It's what gets me through the day.  As a wife and mother I know that I cannot do it all, not without His help.  I can always count on His help.

Though we are fans of Bruno Mars we are bigger fans of Jesus Christ whom we hope to spend eternity with in heaven.  God bless my little boy and all the children.  May we help the little ones get to heaven.

My consolation is always prayer.

Heaven

My eyes grew large -- really large, the first time my son said "heaven."  He kept repeating the words over and over.  He's a late talker just as he was a late walker.  I was thrilled that my boy was talking but at the same time shakened.

Constantine actually said, "Daddy . . .heaven." about ten times.  For a short while, it was as if he couldn't stop.  Goosebumps formed and apprehension came over me.  What was my son trying to say?  

Many times when we think of heaven, we think of God's kingdom and the faithful departed.  But my husband is alive and well!  I viewed my son's words as a contradiction that gave me pause.

As I walked downstairs and pondered just what happened, I decided to clean up a bit and go through a small stack of mail lying in the laundry room.  The first envelope that I opened happened to be from the life insurance company.  And there it was all laid out.  The life insurance plan in the event that my husband were to suddenly pass away.  Despite my best efforts not to, tears streamed down my face.  I cannot imagine my life without my loving, adoring husband.  He's my rock and my best friend.  I didn't want to think about it anymore so I shushed my mind.

Later that night words of wisdom came to me.  I remembered an episode of Mother Angelica of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) that was taped years ago in which she said the words, "We are born to die."  And though perhaps we don't like to think about it, she's absolutely right -- everyone is born to die.  Death is an inevitability.  Accepting that truth has made me realize that life is just a stopover.  But while our time here is temporary, heaven is eternal.  

We need to do all that we can to get to heaven and help our loved ones and even our not so favorite people get there too.  I realized that that means living each day as if it's our last.  It means living the faith and not allowing ignorance of the faith to stand in our way.  It means seeing Jesus in every person.  

During our wedding, the celebrant said something that struck me during his homily.  He said a spouse's role is similar to a bridge, supporting you as you attempt to cross into heaven. I am Martin's bridge supporting and helping him and he is my bridge.  Martin is the gift from God that I must cherish and love all the days of my life, "for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."  

So yes, Constantine, you are right!  Not only is daddy the head of our domestic church which is our home, but he is our bridge to heaven!

We are born to die.


Advent

The saying:  "Better late than never" holds true.  I meant to post this article at the start of Advent but I never got around to it.  I'd say there were many distractions that kept me.  But here it is with just two more days till Christmas.

My family and I certainly did not start off with our best feet forward at the beginning of Advent.  As my family and I hurried to get to Mass I started asking myself:  what does Advent mean to me?

We were really, really late.  It was embarrassing because we seem to not learn.  We missed the first and second readings and even the Gospel.  Father was in the middle of his homily already so we decided to wait to enter until he finished.  I could barely hear because the speakers were not working properly on our corner of the church.  So that meant that I missed the homily too.  Then my thoughts traveled back to my initial question.

The meaning of Advent tends to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season.  We all have our wish lists and to do lists and it can all get hectic and stressful.  We act like St. Martha many times -- worriedly rushing to prepare and cook our favorite foods and baked goodies, buying presents for ourselves and loved ones, mailing Christmas greeting cards, decorating the inside and outside of the house.  There's so much to do and it seems like we're always on a time crunch.  The truth is that we make Christmas all about ourselves.

But if you think about the beginnings of Christmas, wasn't it all peaceful and silent with the birth of the most perfect human being that ever lived?  If we focus on the Christ Child He can help us answer our questions about Advent.

Mary, Joseph, the wise men, and the shepherds and animals knew.  On that cold, winter night, all fell silent and still.  All were in awe with the perfect greatness and presence among them.  They all adored Him. 

Several months ago the retired priest at our parish was giving a homily that really struck a chord.  During his homily my eyes welled up and I felt chills rushing through me because of a simple, powerful phrase.  The priest said Jesus is telling us, "Show me, show me how much you love me."  

I believe that is what Advent is all about.  The Child Jesus is telling us just that:  "Show me how much you love me."  Maybe it's not enough to get all the cooking done, to check off everything on our Christmas gift lists, and to get all those Christmas cards done on time.  Jesus is telling us that there is so much more.

To me Advent is about recommitting myself to Christ.  It's about putting Christ first above everything else.  It's about committing to getting to church early to pray and adore Him, committing to family prayer and devotions, and almsgiving.  For me it's about teaching my son the faith.  I think Advent means something different for every one of us.  

For others, preparing for Advent could look like going to daily Mass for the rest of Advent and the Christmas season.  Or what about going to midnight Mass with the family?  After Mass have a midnight snack and talk about the humbling experience of the very first Christmas.  What was it like for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the manger?  What about volunteering at a soup kitchen or a crisis pregnancy center to help those in need?  Advent is about sharing Christ with others.

To really show Christ love means to be dynamic Catholics in action.  It's doing what others would rather not do.  It's not always easy but let's face it -- what Jesus did for us was not easy.  Now is the time to show Christ how much we really, truly love Him.

The song that I remember from the first Sunday of Advent during Communion was Christ Be Our Light.  It's so fitting because it's such a cheerful, optimistic prayer.  I love it because it's like starting anew and asking Christ to help us lead the way during Advent.  So ask Jesus to be your light during this Advent and Christmas season.  Ask Him to show you what Advent means to you.   Let the Lord of lords and the King of kings be your light and your peace for a blessed Christmas season for you and your loved ones.

 

The priest said Jesus is telling us, “Show me, show me how much you love me.”

Give A Blessing

It was a blessing to be able to hear the homilies of different parish priests in Northern Virginia.  Many were thought provoking and inspiring.  I remember a parish priest whose homilies did not usually resonate with me.  For some reason, his sermons didn't connect with me.  However, there was one that did.  He spoke about visiting his dad, and how during every visit, his dad would give him a blessing.  I thought what a lovely gesture, to do something so simple yet touching to your child, entrusting him to the Lord. 

At the time, Martin and I were newly married and lived just minutes away from two of my godchildren.  I decided that I would bless them every time we visited.   I would simply take my thumb and mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross.  It's just a simple, loving blessing for their protection.  I now have five godchildren and unfortunately do not see them as much as before, but I bless them when I see them.

I do the same for my family.  Whenever Martin leaves the house for work or for errands, I mark his forehead.  It somehow gives me peace knowing that I am asking the Lord to watch over him.   I bless our son several times a day, in the morning and evening and before meals.  

Our night time ritual is pretty consistent.  Constantine gets a quick bath, we read books, then we pray the rosary together as a family, I sing songs, and I always kiss and bless him right before I put him down for bed.   I'm a mama who wants to ensure a very good night's sleep for my son.  These are some of the many cherished blessings that fill our lives with joy!

 


I do the same for my family. Whenever Martin leaves the house for work or for errands, I mark his forehead. It somehow gives me peace knowing that I am asking the Lord to watch over him. I bless our son several times a day, in the morning and evening and before meals.