As I was talking to my mom today on the phone from Panama, our conversation worked its way to how it is we come to believe. I realized as we were talking that it is by ‘hearing’ that we come to ‘know.’ I was trying to think of some examples in the Scriptures of when by hearing someone say words with their human voice, God lifts the veil and transmits His grace. I thought of Ananias when he spoke to Saint Paul and “immediately something like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight.” (Acts 9:18)
This is what happened to me the day my mom called me all those years ago to tell me of the vision she had seen, and the message meant for me to hear. When I heard her say the words, something like scales fell from my eyes. Yes, this is what happened to me that day.
I went to adoration and began looking up other examples where God had used someone’s voice to bring about a profound change in a soul by His grace. I read about the first sermon given by Saint Peter to the crowds in the Acts of the Apostles, how after hearing his mighty message from God, the people were profoundly changed. The scriptures attest, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren what shall we do? And Peter said to them, “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2 37-38).
This reminds me of the words the angel spoke to my mother, “Pentecost, Pentecost, Pentecost.”
I am keenly aware that the grace I have received was totally a gift, of which I did nothing to deserve. I wasn’t even asking for it! He just gave it to me and allowed me to enter in to the great mystery of His life. He called me out of the darkness I had been living in for so long, bringing me to an awareness of reality. The life of God IS reality and I quickly learned that it didn’t matter what I thought. Reality is reality and there is a whole supernatural realm where God and His angels dwell. I felt like Saint Paul after being knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus. I needed to go into the desert for a period of time to catch my bearings and figure out what had just happened to me! Interestingly enough, three years has now passed since my conversion. Now God is sending me to Virginia. It is time for Christendom, time to get to work. Time to be weaned and eat solid food.
He knows I am ready, for I was born for this. Literally.
God knew me before I was born, He thought of me before I was conceived. He knew me at the beginning of time and has always loved me. He would have died on the cross in agony if it had been only for me. Imagine this love! Can we even fathom the depths of it?
God willed that you would be born, and He breathes life into your being at every moment of your life, keeping you animated with His very own Spirit. Even more than a mother for her own child, this is how He thinks of you. God’s love goes so far beyond even the most profound human bond. He says, “Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Isa 49:15)
How can we hear these words and allow them to pierce our hearts? For it is through the scriptures that we hear the voice of Our Father, calling us all by name.
Calling us closer and deeper into conversion. Wanting to make us all more like Himself so that one day, if we cooperate, we can be totally transfigured in heaven along with all the saints. Will we consent to His saving work and allow Him to change us? Will we choose the good over the evil?
I pray that we all will follow Him on this narrow road that leads to life. That we will finally know one day the unending depths of His Divine Love which, in its immensity, can envelope every single creature and never run out.
May God bless you.
I have started calling on the saints to help me with the blog. Some time ago, I “rescued” a relic of Blessed Manuel Lozano “Lolo” Garrido, the first journalist ever to be beatified by the Church. When I read about him, I was moved deeply by his heroic virtue and joyful demeanor. Blessed Lolo was a teenager during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. He was well known for sneaking the Eucharist to prisoners detained during this time in Spain. He had an incredible devotion to the Eucharist and was a lifelong layman. He worked as a journalist all his life, even after he became gravely ill. He had a disease called spondylitis which is a rare form of chronic, progressive arthritis that runs in families. A slow paralysis began to set in and only a year later, Lolo found himself confined to a wheelchair at the age of 23. He would stay in this state for the rest of his life, with the disease progressively getting worse. As the paralysis slowly moved up his body, he lost the ability to write with his right hand. So, not discouraged in the least, he taught himself to write with his left hand. Then, after the left hand became paralyzed, he would dictate his writings to his sister who was always by his side. Even though he progressively lost the use of his body, he worked for newspapers, Catholic periodicals and the Associated Press. He even founded a magazine called Sinai as well as a prayer group by the same name. This group was made up of 12 gravely and terminally ill lay people as well as a convent of nuns who dedicated their lives to praying for a particular section of the mass media. He also won the prestigious Bravo award for journalism in 1969 and wrote a total of 9 books on spirituality. He also wrote hundreds of Catholic articles despite his severe illness. He is thought of as the patron saint for bloggers, even though he has not yet been canonized. The miracle that led to his beatification was a miraculous healing of a two year old boy who was dying from gram-negative sepsis. He was healed through the intercession of Blessed Lolo in 1972.
Blessed Lolo was a man of great joy and humor, as attested to by those that knew him. He always had a smile on his face and he never uttered a complaint about his very painful condition. A friend of Lolo, upon coming into his room and witnessing his twisted body writhing in pain, wrote on his lampshade "Lolo, sacrament of pain." His last wish was to have a funeral mass celebrated in his room at the very moment of his death. His close friend Father Descalzo along with his sister Lucy, fulfilled this request and at the very moment of his last breath, celebrated the holy mass next to his bedside. The written account of this mass by Father Descalzo is as follows:
" MASS AT MANOLO’S"
(Recorded from “Words of Those Who Suffer” - in the author’s own voice- San Pablo Edition, 1971)
This letter is different to any other.
It has never been posted and has no stamp on it.
It is such a particular letter that I’ll tell you the name and surname of the one who signs it.
He ́s someone who left us some months ago and I could even say that these words come to me from the ‘supernatural.’
It’s a mere card.
One side of the card tells about MANUEL LOZANO GARRIDO, now resting in peace forever, after many long years of cruel illness. The other side shows a short letter, Manolo’s message for all his friends:
We won’t meet for a time,
I’m going on ahead to meet Our Father.
I’m really grateful that you all have gathered
To comfort and share my death
Just the same as you did when I was in my wheelchair. I always be yours and I’ll be waiting for you.
In the JOY.
City of Lucy.
Always remember that all is grace.”
These words have lashed my soul as clearly as a flash of lightning.
And I have felt amazed.
As there’s nothing so deep as a soul that has taken faith seriously.
Only with true faith can one speak about death with such an amazing calm, free of pomposity, just like he would write at the point of his death.
Because Manolo has been dying for so long.
In the 1940s rheumatism in his joints attacked his body, which slowly took bits of his life until total paralysis and blindness set in.
Nevertheless, sitting in his wheelchair, he wrote and published nine books, hundreds of articles and tales and he even headed a magazine for the sick.
I met him when he was already a paralytic.
No, that's not true, he still had some slight movement: his forefinger was able to press the button of a recorder that he used to dictate his books and thoughts; then, Lucy, his sister, his secretary, his second soul, typed them up to be published. I remember when I once came into his room and greeted him “Hello, Manolo!”, and he said, “I’ve heard this voice before”. Sure enough, he had heard a lecture of mine on the radio three years before!
Manolo was a living file: sounds, voices, ideas, thoughts ... his incredible memory recorded and sorted out everything. He recited pieces of an article I published eight years before, that I could hardly remember. Blind, as he was, he kept the innermost experiences he had lived when he had his sight close to him.
“Look for the number four blue file”, he asked his sister, “In the middle there’s a tree-column article from ‘YA’ where it can be read about Juan XXIII’s death”
He was impressive! And he was so due to his impressive joy.
God was no tall tale for him. To believe and to be a Christian were his profession. He devoted his whole life to the Christian faith and so he always felt cheerful and was happy.
His paralysis had not concealed his soul, all the contrary, how interested he was in the world! How passionately he kept in touch with the living Church! How well he realized the crisis and how little he distressed about it! He professed hope!
That Monday morning I had been to his home town, Linares, to give a lecture. I said the mass in the tiny room where he went through his life. Scarcely was there enough room for the little altar between the bed and his wheelchair.
He was facing me, his body withered down to his bones but he answered my liturgical words in the strength and joy of a young seminarian. I became a bit embarrassed to realize that I felt Manolo the real priest, much more priest than I, much more victim, anyway.
I felt as though there were two altars and two victims in the mass this time. Christ was alive in that consecrated wafer. Christ was also alive in that struck and shattered body after so many years of happy suffering.
And now I’ve received this card which speaks of his death
“We won ́t meet for a time
I’m going ahead to meet Our Father ... I renew my time in the JOY
... remember that all is grace”
Yes, Manolo. Dying was for you nothing but going ahead to meet Our Father. Leaving your friends for just a bit, the ones you will meet again, just round the corner of death. You're in the "JOY" (you always wrote JOY with capitals), this is certain.
You felt JOY like a PERSON fully united to CHRIST. You had assumed so deeply the calm certainty that ‘all is grace’, that living without a body and seeing with no eyes was a precious gift.
Your bright death has been so important for me as we are all at the point of distress. All of us, who believe we are living Christian lives, are living with plenty of arguments and stress.
Just while we were arguing, you were thinking in depth. While we were bitterly upset, you were willing us in the JOY. While most hesitate and even are afraid about the future of the faith and the Church, you kept on saying that ‘all is grace’.
Yes, indeed, Manolo, ‘ALL IS GRACE’.
Your life was a special grace for me on that day I said the mass in your home. Your dying has been another bright grace in these times when as we keep watch for what Christ gives us so clearly everyday.
- (Father José Luis Martín Descalzo, From the original recording)
Such beautiful words about such a luminous soul! I can understand why people would flock to his house just to be around him. I want to keep him close to me too and maybe I could become more like him, even just a little.
I bring him with me to adoration and I prop his relic up on my laptop. He helps me write my blog posts and adores the Eucharist with me. I also take the relic of Blessed Lolo with me to mass and I hold him close to my heart. He inspires me greatly every time I think of him. I imagine him at mass with me, standing next to me. He looks like he did before his illness overcame him. He is standing strong and tall, gazing at the altar, looking at the lover of his soul. I ask him for favors...I ask him to help me accept my suffering, whatever it may be. I ask him to help me to be a person filled with happiness that does not waver.
And should I make it to heaven, I also ask him to be there waiting for me too.
.......In the JOY.
Blessed Manuel "Lolo" Lozano Garrido, Pray for us!
Attending mass one Sunday at Holy Rosary I witnessed something that may seem small to some but to me, was anything but ordinary. When we were in the middle of the mass, intensely listening to Father’s homily, there was a slight commotion in the back of the Church. I was back in the crying room with Judah and one other mother with children. I noticed that Father was looking towards the back as well as many of the parishioners. As I moved up to look through the glass to get a better look I witnessed the love of Christ in such a profound way.
A man had fallen down on the floor in the back of the Church and multiple people rushed to help him. The man appeared to be homeless, with tattered clothes and a weary look in his eyes. He was an older man and appeared to be confused and possibly intoxicated. One of the people who rushed to help him up was a young man who I had not seen before. He helped the homeless man up, put his arm around his shoulder and helped him sit down in the last pew. Then, the young man affectionately sat down next to him, putting his arm around him as though he was a dear old friend that he had known all his life. The way that he sat down next to this man, who I’m sure he had never met before, and put his arm around him and his filthy clothes, touched my heart to the deepest degree. In that moment, I could see Christ. I could see Our Lord in this young man, reaching out and touching the leaper without any hesitation.
Society would see a man like this and recoil in disgust. The smell coming off a body that hasn’t had the opportunity to shower for some time and had to constantly keep in movement surely is something to suffer the nose not accustomed to it. I know, that when I was homeless, and had no access to a shower for months, I had to have offended more than one delicate nostril. My clothes, like the clothes of this man, were so dirty and worn, they seemed to adhere to my skin. With so many other things on my mind, my focus quickly turned from thoughts about my clothes to other more pressing issues. It is not that Our Lord did not notice the smell of the leaper, or the state of their physical body. What He saw was the soul of the person, something that cannot be covered up by foul odors or filthy clothing. Something, that if it is humble and contrite, shines through with a radiance that no amount of physical deformity or filth could cover. We have all witnessed this in a person, maybe homeless, maybe not. Where you can see the soul of the person, and it shines like the sun. It’s almost as though you can see the humility in the soul, the deep sense of one’s nothingness and it is a beautiful sight to behold. In moments like this, we are reminded why Our Lord says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
This is what I saw in this man when he was brought back into the crying room where we were. He allowed the people who came to his aid to help him, with a sense of gratitude that you could see. They sat him down and began to ask him questions about his health as Divine Providence would have it two of them were nurses. I was so struck by the intentionality and professionalism of these people that I assumed that they were with some type of homeless outreach group that maybe had been called to the parish earlier. As I asked them later, I was made aware that they were from no such group. They had just come to our mass here as Holy Rosary was not their home parish.
As the mass continued, I felt compelled to briefly speak to this man and offer him a Miraculous Medal. He gratefully took it from me, allowing me to put it around his neck. He admitted to us that he was confused and that he had a history of seizures along with other health problems. I leaned over, noticing that he was intently staring up toward our preist as he offered the sacrifice of Jesus to the Father. I asked him, “Do you believe in Jesus?” He answered, “Oh yes, I was raised Lutheran.” I said to him, “You know that Jesus loves you very much.” He said, “Yes, I know He does…” His voice trailed off as he intensely stared at our priest at the altar. After watching the mass for a few moments, he very clearly said, “Something serious is going on up there….” I nodded my head in agreement as I gazed upon the sacrifice being offered to the Father happening right in front of us.
This man intuitively knew that something very serious was indeed happening on the altar. What a simple and yet profound statement he made. One I am sure that will stay with me for years to come.
As I said my goodbyes after mass, leaving this man in the care of three loving fellow Catholics, I was filled with a real sense of sorrow for his pain. It had just started to snow, and the frigid wind blew into my face, stinging my eyes. I hurried Judah into his car seat and after I closed the door to my car I allowed the weeping to come. I cried for this man, thinking about the possibility of him sleeping outside, with no blanket or proper jacket. I prayed for him, begging Our Blessed Lord to make something happen for him on that icy, lonely night. I begged pardon for all the times I complained to Him about my own life. I was ashamed at how often I found myself ungrateful for all the gifts He has bestowed upon me. I thanked Him for allowing me to meet this humble, soft-spoken homeless man at mass. I was reminded of the words of Saint Paul, “God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.”
I was grateful for the reminder. Our Lord is always reminding me of where I came from, always lovingly bringing to my awareness my tendency to be ungrateful. What a gift He gives me when I have encounters like this one.
I pray that I always remain grateful to Him for I know that everything I have is a gift.
God bless you.
It is official, I have been accepted to attend Christendom College in the fall as a theology major! I just recently got the news from the admissions director. Who would have thought that I would be attending one of the most prestigious Catholic colleges in the nation, when only three years ago I was literally living on skid row. See, this is what God can do if we let Him take control of our lives. He really can make us new, transform us into who we were always meant to be. Front Royal Virginia, here we come! This is going to be such an exciting and challenging chapter in my life. I am so eager to study theology and immerse myself in the Catholic culture there. I am so looking forward to getting to know all the staff and professors. I think about how many wonderful, solid, faithful friends I will make while I am there. Being exposed to the old latin mass and all the beauty of the authentic faith. Studying philosophy and classic Christian literature. Going to the walk for life in D.C and doing volunteer work with the Missionaries of Charity, sisters so dear to my heart. Raising my son in a truly Catholic culture, surrounded by people serious about their faith. How wonderful and challenging all of this will be!
If there is one thing I will say I am good at, it's adapting and rising to a challenge. And now, with God by my side, I know that He will be my strength. I will walk and not grow weary, run and not grow faint.
Yes, this is meant to be.
Now, preparing myself to leave Portland and all my wonderful friends that I have come to love so much will be hard. I would like to say that I am coming back for sure, but the truth is, God will direct my life. He will guide me where I am to go and I don't know where that will be. I do know one thing, the next place that He wants me is at Christendom. I pray that He will stay close to me and I will remain faithful.
Yes, Lord Jesus, stay close. Be my helper and my strength. For I am surely going to need it. Without You, I can do nothing.
Please keep Me and Judah in your prayers.
Nothing can really compare to the evil and horror of abortion. We are witnesses to the pain and suffering this grave moral evil causes all the people involved, not to mention the lives of all the little babies that are lost each day all across our nation. A group of us faithfully congregate at multiple clinics here in Portland to pray and witness to life in a very important way. We try to give the women going in to the clinic help if they will accept it. We tell them that there ARE other choices for them to make. That we can help them with whatever they may need so that they don't have to kill their baby. We say, "Please, have pity on your baby!" ...Sometimes they stop and listen to us, often they do not and go inside to their appointment. We are there for them when they come out, if they want support then. Most importantly, I always ask for God to baptize these poor babies as they go in to their deaths, ripped apart in the one place where they thought they were safe. Their mother's womb. I think of it as a baptism of desire on my part and I pray that God will listen to my request. I am sure He does. As my good friend Therese put it, "We stand with the unborn babies as they die." Spiritually, we send ourselves inside the clinic, hoping that at least, the child knows there is one person who mourns for them. For the loss of the only earthly life they will ever get.
Yes, it is sad stuff, and often I wonder how I am not burned out completely from going to the clinics so often. Only by God's grace can I go there, day after day, and witness the devastation caused by the abortion industry.
Just when I think I am reaching my limit, God gives sends me a consolation. Something to keep me going for a while longer. Spiritual food for the long journey. And this time, the consolation came in the form of His devoted priest who came to help us laity fight the evil one. We are so very blessed at Holy Rosary Parish in Portland, as we have many good, holy, fearless priests. One of them is Father Gabriel who graciously answered my request to come to the clinic and say an exorcism prayer. He is known among the laity of being a priest that makes himself available to us. He is always ready to show up to do battle with the culture of death and all its evil cohorts. Among us, he is highly esteemed and respected. We so look forward to his homilies at daily mass, and treasure his boldness in teaching the authentic faith. Even when the teachings are hard. As our shepard, he loves us enough to tell us the truth. For this, we are grateful.
As we all stood around in front of the clinic waiting on Father and Brother Joseph to arrive, you could almost feel the heaviness of evil in the air. Looking at the building, one is taken with a sense of how massive and powerful the forces of evil we face are and how in comparison, we are so small. This is why Our Blessed Lord founded a Church, with a hierarchy. He put the authority into place that He knew we would need. He foresaw this battle long ago, and out of love, gave us the means by which to fight it. Our priests have an authority which comes from Him. They stand in "persona Christi", acting in the person of Christ. Jesus comes to us through His priests, and when He does, the diabolical tremble in fear.
I always think of the gospel passage about legion. How when Jesus comes upon the man with an unclean sprit who lived in the tombs, they cried out to Him, " Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!" Yes, the demons pleaded with Our Blessed Lord, they begged Him to let them go out into a herd of pigs. They were truly terrified, for they knew EXACTLY who it is they were up against. Their time of reckoning had come and they would have to answer to Him who was and is and is to come.
There is a whole reality that we do not see. An invisible realm where good and evil are caught up in a tremendous battle. As Saint Paul so wisely put it, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.”
The evil one seeks to snatch souls from the hands of God, all the while, God in His Mercy is offering us the way to salvation. What may seem like just a building, a clinic where abortions are performed, is actually a battlefield. The diabolical seek to destroy the infant in the womb, to profane this sacred space of femininity. After all, it was from the womb of a women that their Vanquisher came forth. I am convinced that this is the reason behind the crime of abortion committed against humanity. It's almost like the devil is trying to get even with the Women, who he knows will ultimately destroy him and crush his head.
Thanks be to God for the Church and all Her ministers! The fact that we can call on our priests to aid us in this fight is a source of great consolation to me. I have to admit, that when I saw Father Gabriel and Brother Joseph walking up to the clinic that day, dressed in the habit of Saint Dominic, I was filled with awe and wonder. Awe at what God has done for us and wonder at His mighty power. I was struck by the knowledge that God is in control, no matter what it seems like. As the sun radiated down on us that day , I could feel the loving presence of the Holy Spirit moving through us as we prayed the rosary, invoking the aid of Our Blessed Mother.
After Father had finished his prayer in Latin, he walked around the perimeter and sprinkled holy water on the blood-soaked ground. Even though it may look like regular dirt and concrete, we knew the reality of all the lives lost that stained its surface. All the dreams that would never be realized, birthdays that would never be celebrated.
How much longer, Oh Lord, will You hold back Your wrath from us! For how much time can we hope to keep Your justice at bay?
For now, we continue, day after day, grateful for the consolation given to us by the Church’s ministers. That truly, without them, without our priests, the laity would be lost. We thank God for their service to the faithful and pray that He will reward them greatly for all their tireless service.
God bless you all. Please keep us in your prayers, and all the people injured by the abortion industry.
Saint Catherine Laboure and the Virgin Mary. The Miraculous Medals I hand out.
"My child, I am going to give you a mission." These were the first words spoken by the Blessed Virgin to a novice of the Daughter's of Charity by the name of Catherine Laboure. The year was 1830 and Catherine was awakened by her guardian angel and told to go to the chapel where she received a vision of the Virgin. Later, during a second vision, she saw Mary standing on a globe with rays of light coming from rings on her fingers. Mary explained that the rays of light were the graces she obtains from God for those who ask for them. When Catherine asked her why some of the gems on the rings were dark and emitting no light, Mary answered, "The graces are available but did not come because no one asked for them."
Then, during the third vision, Catherine saw our Lady standing on a globe with her hands outstretched, the rays of light radiating down. Framing the figure was the inscription: O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Then the vision turned to show the reverse side of the medal. Shown were twelve stars encircling a large "M" from which rose a cross. Thorns encircled one heart and a sword pierces the other. The twelve stars represent the twelve apostles and the M stands for Mary. The cross coming out of the M shows the close relationship that she has with her Divine son. We must never forget how important this relationship is and how much Our Lord wants us to love and honor His mother.
Mary then spoke to Catherine: "Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck."
With the approval of the Church, the first medals were made in 1832 in Paris and were quickly distributed to the people. Immediately, the blessings that Mary had promised began to shower down on those who wore the medal and word spread about this Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin. The Miraculous Medal is not a good luck charm or anything related to superstition. It is, in fact, a great testimony to the power of trusting prayer and our faith. God uses the medal, not as a sacrament, but as an agent to transmit grace to us. "The weak things of this Earth hath God chosen to confound the strong."
When Our Blessed Mother gave the medal to Saint Catherine she said, "Now it must be given to the whole world and to every person."
I have made a habit of carrying around miraculous medals, that have been blessed by my priest, to hand out to people in my day to day encounters. I make sure I keep them in the outer pocket of my backpack so I can grab them quickly if need be. I have handed them out in drive thrus, at grocery stores, at stop lights, gas stations, malls and in every place in between.
I have so many stories in the short time I have been doing this, of people being so moved by the Miraculous Medal and the grace that God gives through this little object. I have had people burst into tears when I handed them one, I have had people hug me and people literally light up with joy. Most people allow me to put them around their necks, and while I am reaching around them, I am silently praying to Our Blessed Mother. I ask her to bring the person to her son. To give them the graces they need the most right now in their lives. I ask for those graces that are available and that no one has asked for...
I have had the great joy of seeing people wearing these medals around town that I have given them in the past. This always makes me smile. I hope that this very small gesture makes Our Lady happy and brings her some consolation. I know how greatly offended she is.
I pray that all the people I have given these medals to will allow God to change their hearts and to draw them closer to Himself. I pray also that through this small act of kindness on my part, God will continue to convert me to love Him more and more. That He will help me to be better, closer and more like Him. Often I feel so very far away, but when I can get outside of myself and reach out to someone else, this is when I really get the sense of the divine life. This divine life that overflows with love towards the other, whoever they may be. The person in the check out line, the clerk at the McDonalds or even the person next to you in the DMV waiting room.
Very rarely I will have someone refuse the medal. This is also a good thing, because then I know to pray for that person especially. We can resist God's grace when He offers it. Every time we sin, this is what we are doing. He is constantly offering more and more grace to us. Every day that we wake up and are alive, we have a new opportunity to receive this incredible gift of God's love.
May we all choose the good instead of the evil that we are so inclined to want. I hope to always remember that there is no such thing as something "small" in the eyes of God. These little medals make a difference. They touch people's hearts as I have witnessed countless times.
*I purchase these medals from the Saint Paul Street Evangelization store @ streetevangelization.com
The chains they sell are also very good quality and do not rust. The medals are beautiful and people really love them. *
The saints are our friends, they are our family. They watch out for us, always attentive to our prayers. Interceeding for us to God in all our trials while we fight this great battle.
We are the Church millitant and the battle we fight is for souls. Our own and also the souls of others that the evil one tries to steal from God. The last thing that the enemy wants is for us here on earth to ask our heavenly friends for help. The saints are a great source of assistance in everything we face. Just on a day to day basis, even with little things, I am convinved that they have great care and concern for us.
I have come to know and love the martyred nuns of Nowogrodek. Their story of heroic virtue and self sacrifice fills me with joy. Blessed Mary Stella was the mother superior of her community of Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Nowogrodek, Poland. They arrived there in 1929 by the invitation of the Bishop to found a school and care for the local Church. At first, the people did not want the nuns there and made this fact well known. There were many jews and protestants there at the time, so people were sceptical of the little nuns in black. The people would soon come to appreciate these nuns when the darkness of Nazi occupation overshadowed them in 1942.
The murderous rampage of the Nazis began with the arrest and execution is 60 persons in the town. Two of which were priests. A similar situation occurred in July a year later where 120 persons were arrested and detained. They were destined to be executed. When the sisters became aware of their plight they expressed a desire to sacrifice themselves in the place of the 120 family members. Sister Stella shared the desire of the community with their chaplain saying, "My God, if sacrifice is needed, accept it from us and spare those who have families. We are even praying for this intention."
In almost immediate answer to the sisters wishes, the plans for the prisoners was suddenly changed. They were deported to work camps and some were even released! Then, the life of their rector was threatened and the sisters of course renewed their offering by saying, "There is greater need for a priest on this earth than there is for us, we pray that God will take us in his place if sacrifice of life is needed."
God accepted their sacrifice. The people that were still imprisoned and the chaplain were spared. They attested to the holiness of the nuns and their powerful intercession before God.
The sisters were arrested, all but one. The one that was spared would stay behind and care for the common grave that would be the resting place of the martyrs. They were lead out into the woods and made to kneel in front of a giant hole in the ground. The Nazis had dug them a mass grave and allowed the mother superior, Blessed Stella, to bless her sisters before one by one they were shot in the head.
And there they lay, together, a sacrifice of love.
Let us ask the intercession of the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek, that they may teach us what it truly means to be united with Christ in perfect love.
God continues to bless me in many surprising ways. At times I find myself so humbled by the fact that He would choose me for something so important. Just when I was in need of some serious spiritual direction in my life, along came Father Duffner. What a special gift he has been to me!
I remember noticing Father when he was on his way to mass in his wheelchair. I always wondered who he was and wanted to one day get to meet him. Then, one day, one of our priests asked me if I would consider helping care for Father Duffner who is 102 years old. I of course right away said yes! Honestly I was honored that they would think of me as an option. At our parish, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Portland, our priests are greatly admired. They are wonderful examples for all of us of holiness and faithfulness. When Father asked me if I would help, I felt that it was Jesus asking me. Of course, with a gladdened heart I accepted.
During the time I have known Father Duffner, he has helped me spiritually more than I can put into words. At first, he seemed a little weary of me. Not ever talking to me and keeping himself immersed in his work at the Rosary Center. Our schedule consists of me taking him to co-celebrate mass three days a week and then taking him to the Rosary Center across the street from the Church to work until the afternoon. I am with him 5 days a week and it's something I look forward to every day. He founded the Rosary Center to be a headquarters for spreading devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the world and in the missions. They sell many different kinds of books in their online book store and send out countless free rosaries to the missions worldwide. Father Duffner, for many years, wrote articles in a newsletter that went out to many people. All his writings were published in two books called "To know Him". The way that he can take very complex theological concepts and explain them in layman's terms is an apparent gift of his. I recommend anyone to read his writings and to let his wisdom guide you.
As some time went on, I noticed Father opening up a little with me and talking to me briefly. I started to ask him questions about his writings as I read his books. Slowly, we developed a friendship. Day after day spent working together and talking about the faith. We especially like to talk about the saints and their relics. I tear up when I think about taking Father Duffner to the Church and getting him ready for mass. I dress him in his vestments and comb his hair. In his quiet, peaceful way, he shows me how to be patient. His biggest lesson to me has been to accept the daily crosses that God sends us without complaining. He calls it, "Anything that goes against the grain." Our little daily crosses that we are asked to carry. He tells me that if I complain I lose the merit! How we could all attain to sanctity quickly if we stopped complaining! I surely need to take in this lesson.
Father Duffner NEVER COMPLAINS. He just doesn't. He is so inspiring to me, he makes me want to be better, more holy and more like Our Lord. I see in Father Duffner what I hope to one day be. A soul who truly says, Lord Your will and not mine be done.
We recently celebrated Father's anniversary of his ordination, on December 21st 1940. He has been a priest for 77 years! What a gift he has been to the Church and to all the faithful that have come to know him.
One afternoon after Father heard my confession, I asked him is he would pray for me when he gets to heaven. He simply looked at me and said, "If I make it there...."
I knew at that moment what a holy priest he was. That is the perfect answer. May we all work out our salvation in fear and trembling.
In the words of Father Duffner, "May God give you the grace you need most and may our Blessed Mother keep you under her protection. This we ask in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Amen.
Forty days of prayer and fasting for an end to abortion is the slogan for 40 days for Life. All over the world, people are mobilizing at abortion mills to peacefully pray and be witnesses for life. What a special honor it was when my dear friend Therese (seen in the picture above) asked me to be one of the local leaders for this campaign. It has been so spiritually intense so far. I will tell you two stories from the campaign.
The first Friday of our vigil at the LoveJoy Surgicenter (a notorious late-term abortion mill in Portland), we witnessed a women leaving the clinic in a hurry, still pregnant! As I stood praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with one of my faithful comrades, a women came storming out of the back door of the abortion clinic. She was walking so quickly, her boyfriend was having a hard time keeping up. Dressed in her pink sweat suit, she lit a cigarette and mumbled something to us that we couldn't hear. Then she said loudly, "I didn't do it! I didn't do it!" I, of course, was so excited and wanted to talk to her! I said, "Oh, thats so wonderful! We can give you a baby shower!"...She was so upset she just told me she couldn't talk right now and kept speed walking down the street. I shouted out to her, "I want you to know that you're my hero! God will reward you for your choice today, I promise!" I shouted out that we would be there every day if she wanted to come back to talk to us. What a special day! I was so grateful to God that this little baby's life was spared the horror of the abortion that awaited it. May God bless that young women for her courageous choice that day.
The other encounter that stands out in my mind was with a young man I'll call "Tony". Tony had come to the clinic with his girlfriend who was pregnant with their first child. When he walked out the back door, I started a conversation with him, asking him why he was there. He told me that his girlfriend was inside at her appointment for her abortion. He was holding her purse and looked like he wanted to talk. I explained to him that he had just as much a right to the life of his baby as anyone else! Tony admitted that he felt sort of bullied into the whole thing. He said that they weren't financially able to care for the baby at this time. I told Tony that I understood how he felt and once I had found myself in the same situation, when I put my first son up for adoption at birth. I said that it may seem like the more difficult choice now, but in the long run, I don't have to live with the guilt that I killed my son. He patiently listened to me and agreed with everything I said.
I handed him a little fetal model of a 12 week old fetus and gave him some other literature about human development. I also gave him two miraculous medals and a couple rosaries. He told me that he was a Christian and I asked him how he thought Jesus would feel about his decision. Tony looked down and I could tell the reality of the abortion was starting to sink in. He said, "Well, let me go see if I can call her and try to talk to her!" He went off with cell phone in hand and I didn't see him for a while. As I walked around, praying, I ended up on the other side of LoveJoy.
About 20 minutes later, I see Tony come to the end of the driveway, looking around for me. As I approach him, I can see the sadness in his eyes. He told me that he couldn't get to her, they had separated them, which is their normal practice, and had her turn her cell phone off. We both knew that possibly at that very moment, his baby's life was being extinguished. I stood there with him as my friend, as my brother in Christ and just let him talk to me. Tony started thanking me, he said, "I want to thank you, for making me feel that I could really live my faith, that I could really be the man God intended me to be. I wanted to ask you....would you pray for me? Would you pray to Jesus that He would forgive me?" (He had tears welling up in his eyes at this point and so did I. There's something about a man crying that always gets to me). I said, "Oh, of course I will! Would you like me to pray with you right now?" His face lit up and he said, "Yes, please!"
So....there on the sidewalk, outside the abortion clinic where a baby was losing its life as we spoke, I took Tony's hands in mine and I began to pray to Jesus. I asked Him to have mercy. I asked him to forgive Tony and his girlfriend for what they had done that day, I begged Him to give them another chance at parenthood one day, if that was His will. Then, I gave Tony a little prayer book of Catholic prayers which he joyfully took from me and said he would go read right away. I gave him a big, genuine hug and told him that he had a friend in me. I told him that no matter what he's done, Jesus still loves him...that he loves him so much He died on the cross for his sins. All he needed was true contrition for them, and they would be forgiven. I could see the grief of this man for his sins that day...it truly was a beautiful sight to behold.
I had made a friend that day, and even if I never see Tony again, I'll always remember him walking out with his girlfriend, with a huge beaming smile on his face, waving to me to the bemusement of his partner...all I could do was smile back at him and wave goodbye. A genuine, warm, familiar smile. The kind you give to someone who you've known and loved.
God bless you all and may He keep these souls close to Him forever....
It's amazing what can happen when we make ourselves available for God. He uses our weak and broken vessels to show forth His glory. I've always said, and truly believe, that it is the most willing souls that are given the most graces. It's not about how "special" or "holy" we are (trust me), it's about how WILLING we are to show up. I really think its that simple. Show up, make yourself available, and God will use you! Oh how He delights in it! I can feel it when we are out there talking to people about Him. I sense His loving gaze on us as when speak of Him and His mother. When I silently pray to the Blessed Virgin when I put a miraculous medal around someone neck, It's almost as if I can hear her say "Yes, daughter...I will bring them to my Son..."
The other day Scott and I walked from Holy Rosary over the Burnside Bridge to downtown. We had our usual supplies, cooler full of cold drinks, chocolate, rosaries and my bag of miraculous medals. The first people we met were a couple who had been homeless for 8 months and their friend, a marine vet. At 10 in the morning, the marine had already gotten drunk and was holding a beer in his hand. The couple were high on meth and yet seemed so coherent and friendly. We stopped and offered them a cold drink and some candy to strike up a conversation with them. They gladly consented and seemed to want to talk to us. Scott started talking to the Marine while I spoke to the couple. This made me realize why it is so good to go out in pairs. A real "tag team" of evangelization, if you will. Plus, this way I can listen to Scott's responses and learn from his wisdom. He really helps me know how to engage people in conversation about the faith and the advice he gives me I hold in high esteem.
The women I spoke to accepted a rosary from me gladly and let me put a miraculous medal around her neck. She started to tell me about her problems with meth addiction and how it had taken everything from her. She has three children who, for obvious reasons, were removed from her care. Mostly listening to her story, I chimed in to let her know I had experienced the same heartaches in my life at times. I was struck by her smile and her apparent lack of sadness. Her skin was smooth and glowing. It took some effort for me to notice the telltale signs that she was homeless. Her clothes were dirty and she had healing MRSA sores on her arms. Despite all this, before I left her, I hugged her. I like to touch the people we meet whenever I sense they want me to. I see Jesus in them, wanting to be touched and loved. I hope they see that not everyone is repulsed by their filthiness and that Jesus desires to embrace them as a loving Father. As this women was talking to me, I gazed into her eyes. They were clear and bright...a beautiful shade of light blue. This was another instance when I felt like I could see right into someone's soul and it was so beautiful I could see why Jesus wanted to claim it back for His own.
Some people make it much easier to see Jesus in them for they are more transparent. Some people seem to have a more clear soul, there is more goodness in them. Other people, when I look in their eyes, I see only darkness. The disturbing reality that some souls have chosen against God and have been consumed with evil. Its always those people who are the first to say that the devil has "no power" over them that they "aren't afraid of evil spirits". Scott and I shudder whenever we hear someone say those words, for we know what a formidable enemy the devil really is. I always say that the devil doesn't care if you know you're in his army or not, he doesn't need any kudos. He'll take anybody he can get to do his bidding. In fact, I think he prefers to lead his slaves of darkness in secret. That way, he can betray them at the last moment and they won't even know what hit them. Every time I think of it, I feel an icy chill wash over my soul.
As we said our goodbyes and kept walking, we started to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as is our custom when we are walking, waiting to see who God will send our way next. Walking over the bridge, looking out at the waters, along side my very best friend, I had a sense of real peace. I felt like Jesus was saying to me, "Yes, this is what I made you for... I had the real sense that Scott and I were very special to Jesus because we were wiling to let Him use us. We both share an unshakable conviction that Jesus and His Church are everything. There really is nothing else! We are not saints...but we want to be and thats what matters. Every day, we try, sometimes we fail. As Father Gabriel said in a homily once, "If you fall, pick yourself up and walk the way of the Cross with Our Lord!"
As we came to the end of the bridge, the first person we met was "John". John was leaning forward with his eyes closed, lost in a heroin nod. We woke him from his chemical coma by asking if he wanted a cold drink. He gladly took it and I put a miraculous medal around his neck. John then did something that is rare, but when it happens is so special. He asked us to pray for him right there. He looked so saddened as he told us that he experienced the soul of his diseased mother coming to ask for his help. He said he felt that her soul was in unrest and this greatly disturbed him. I instantly wondered if this meant her soul was crying out to her son from purgatory, because the souls of the damned have no such recourse. Scott put his hand on one of his shoulders and I on the other. I let Scott take the lead in prayer and I added my own petitions silently. We asked God to heal this young man and to help the souls of his mother find eternal rest. It is so wonderful when these types of encounters happen. It's amazing how certain souls recognize their need for intercessory prayer. This is the type of example I use to defend the pious practice of praying to the saints for their help, especially the Mother of God. As we left John, he thanked us sincerely for our prayers and seemed a little more at peace. I knew that after we left him he would fall forward, back into the abyss of the devils "rest".
We walked around some more and emptied our cooler, having brief conversations with the "poor in spirit." Each time I go out, I am keenly aware of two things. One, I understand why Jesus loves the poor so much and Two, that He expresses such great delight in us as we work for Him, being such wretched sinners who have turned in repentance.
Walking back over the bridge to our cars, Scott stopped to teach me some of his wisdom. I stood next to him as he pointed to a swimming pool in an apartment complex. It was a perfect shade of blue and sterile with chlorine. He said, "See that pool? That is what the devil offers. So "pristine" and "perfect". Now look over at the river and compare the sheer size of it to the pool. The river is what God offers. Notice the rushing, life giving waters of the river. All the fish that swim and the animals that drink from its source. Compare that life giving power to the swimming pool, where nothing can live as it is a chemical soup." Then he pointed to the river as a boat rushed by causing many large waves. He said, "See that boat? That boat is like one of the saints. Its one great missionary causing so many ripples in their wake, affecting a great multitude of souls." As I listened to him, I allowed the words he spoke to lull me into a place of serenity within me. He told me the giant trees on either side of the street were like giant angels in heaven and painted the whole scene so that I could really see it. I told him I could just imagine the two of us sitting with our favorite saints, no longer needing their relics because we had them right in front of us! Oh the stories they will tell us! Oh how we will reunite with them in the loving embrace of a long lost friend when we run up to them for the first time in heaven! We will sit at their feet and ask them all the questions we've been longing to ask. Ask them to tell us all their stories from their lives of such virtue and beauty...what a glorious day it will be. I am so grateful for my friendship with Scott who takes the time to impart his wisdom to me. He truly is so special to God.
As we move forward into the winter months in Portland, we are anticipating the rain and cold. We will fondly remember the bright shining sun and glittering waters of the river as we tread through the snow and bitterness of cold. This is the glory of our faith, that even in the suffering of penance, there is real beauty to behold united to the Cross of Christ. Soon, the summer will seem like just a dream as we walk in the spirit of penance, offering up all our little sufferings for the conversions of all the poor sinners we meet.
The weather has started to turn and rain is coming this next week. As I put my sweater on for the first time, I feel the sweetness of gratitude for all the graces God has given me this summer. In May I started walking the streets with Scott and my whole spiritual life changed. I've gained life-long friends and the knowledge of what God created me to do.
What more could I ask for?