Educating the mind and the heart
Much time has passed since I last posted anything on this blog. My apologies, but I was fully consumed with my studies at Christendom College. A brief review of my time there is in order. I graduated in May of this year with a BA in History while at the same time earning my MA in Theological Studies with a concentration in Catechesis and Evangelization from the Norte Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. I was allowed to complete the two degrees concurrently, so as you can imagine I was very busy with academic work during my time in Virginia. At first, the rigor of the academic program at Christendom was overwhelming. In all honesty, I did not know if I could keep up; at times I felt like I was sinking. Through it all, the sheer grit that I know is part of my character became aparent. There was no way I would give up. This is not just about the degree…it is a calling from God and I was going to see it through.
Then, something miraculous happened. As the first school year progressed, I noticed it was becoming easier. My professors had now trained me to pick up a work of Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas and be able to really read it. I started to understand that the intellect is like a muscle and the more you work it, the better it functions. The intellectual virtues began to manifest in me as time went on. Then, two years in to the program, all my classes started to converge on one another. I can’t explain what a beautiful experience this was. The rich patrimony of Western Civilization, flowing from the great classic literature, philosophy, history and a profound theological tradition all started to come together to form one cohesive whole like a glittering mosaic on the ceiling of a cathedral, meant to stir the soul to the contemplation of higher things. What an incredible gift this education has been to me. I am not the same person as I was when I started at Christendom three years ago.
Now I am continuing my education in Washington DC with the Dominicans at their House of Studies. Given that I am pursuing the ecclesiastical degree (Bachelor of Sacred Theology), I am one of the few lay students in many of my classes. Most of my other classmates are Dominican Brothers in training to become priests. I am grateful for their maturity even though their average age is quite young compared to myself. It takes a special kind of young man to make a commitment like the one they have. I so admire their dedication to Christ and the Church. This semester I am taking five classes, mostly philosophy as she is the handmaid of theology and will prepare me for the classes that will come later. Ultimately, I will complete the terminal ecclesiastical degree of Sacred Theology Doctorate with a concentration in Moral Theology. I hope to teach in the seminary or wherever the Church has need of me.
Living in the city has brought other blessings to me as well. I made a connection with the Missionaries of Charity who have a home for the elderly here in the city and I volunteer with them three days a week after school. I answer the door and help the women with their dinner when the time comes. The home was founded by Mother Teresa herself and in the front by where I sit there are many relics of hers in glass cases. I often can hear the sisters singing in the chapel which is close to the front door. Sometimes when I walk by, I can see them kneeling on the floor in front of Jesus exposed for adoration. Every day, the sisters call all the residents together and they have a holy hour before the Lord. Witnessing the great hidden faith of these people, so poor in spirit and often in health, has moved me deeply. I’ve often thought perhaps God would allow their witness to bring me deeper into relationship with Himself as I study and pray along the spiritual path of life.
Judah continues to do very well in school and in general. He has really grown into my best little buddy. He is so kind, affectionate and funny. The older he gets the better our relationship becomes. We are so close to each other and with each passing day I love him more and more. Our priest here in DC has agreed to allow me to prepare him for his First Holy Communion which will take place next May. This will be a most joyous day.
As I settle into my studies and a new city, I hope there will be much more to recount here on the blog. I am looking forward to what God has in store and I am prepared to do the work needed to run this race He has set before. I pray for a docile spirit as He brings to completion the good work He has begun, educating both my mind and my heart.
Thank you for reading and may God bless you!
After moving right along at Christendom, I think I have adjusted to the persistent state of wonder that I've been in. Sometimes I cannot even believe that I am sitting in the classrooms and learning from the faculty. The degree of excellence in the professors is not something I have ever experienced before. I have never been in such an environment as this, where the integrity of everyone involved permeates every single aspect of activity on campus. The faithfulness of the people I have the privilege to learn from and be helped by, is the most humbling experience of my life. The young people I go to school with are unlike any young people I have ever met. They are of a certain excellence as well that I have not known before.
I was surprised to find out that I absolutely LOVE studying philosophy! Right now we are learning about Aristotle and the "four causes." The last thing we learned was arguments for the immortality of the soul from Socrates' dialogue, the Phaedo. My absolute favorite though has been our dear Boethius and his Consolation of Philosophy. I recommend that if you have not read it, do! it is truly a beautiful work that, at times, has me in tears reading it.
How wonderful it is to know how rich the intellectual life is! It has been so enriching and also challenging. The fact that it has been challenging is what makes it so much fun! At this school, there are no multiple-choice only tests. We have to write essay responses on exams, which is a sure way to verify that we know the material! In theology, we have been reading the Summa of Saint Thomas, which I have found to be so beautiful and exciting to read. At this point in the semester, we are discussing Christology and Soteriology (the study of salvation). Before every class, we all stand at our desks and pray. We pray either the Hail Mary or the Our Father followed by a prayer to a certain favorite saint of the professor or the saint who's feast day we celebrate. As a class, we make the sign of the cross and ask God to help enlighten our minds and strengthen our wills. What a gift all my classmates have been to me!
As we come up on All Saints day, classes are canceled and the whole school volunteers for various "Day of Service" activities. I volunteered to clean around and beautify the grave of Christendom's founder, Dr. Warren Carroll. He is buried on site at the college, overlooking the Shenandoah river. I can imagine him smiling down on us as we struggle with difficult material and later, light up with the satisfaction felt after truth permeates the mind of the pupil. Dr. Carroll famously said that "One man can make a difference!".....and he certainly has for so many. I am forever grateful to him and all the founders of this excellent center of higher learning.
The college is sharing my story with their donors and has printed my conversion from this blog. My prayer is that it helps to highlight how very important this college is to the mission of Christ and His Church. Christendom is the ONLY accredited Catholic college in the United States that does not accept any federal funding. Christendom is free to teach the truth to us through our exceptional professors. The government does not interfere here! This is the only place, in my humble opinion, where I can totally relax and know that whatever my professors are teaching me, that it is the truth!
Now I truly know that there is no other place like this one! What an incredible experience it has been so far and I look forward to the years to come. This college is not only forming my mind, but forming my soul.
I was telling my mom the other day that when I see the steeple of Christ the King Chapel, come into my line of sight while driving to the school, I feel an overwhelming sense of peace. After I pull in, and my feet hit the pavement, the sense of completeness is all consuming for me. For the first time in my life, I really feel that this is where I belong.
May the Good Lord continue to help me in the spiritual life and the communion of saints guide my intellect as I run the race set before me.
God bless you all!
I know it had been such a long time since I have written a blog post and I apologize! Judah and I have moved to Front R0yal Virginia and school will be starting for me very soon at Christendom College. The campus is breath taking and I can't shake the feeling that I am where I belong. Where I have always belonged....
As we settle in to our new life here in Virginia, God contiues to bless us in extrordinary ways. My little son Judah has always been a "hand-full." Anyone who knows us knows what I mean. As he grew older I started to really notice that something was not right. All the times I blamed myself for his massive temper tantrums in public and his innability to adapt to social situations...all the times I allowed myself to think that everything was my fault. It turns out none of that was true and God has revealed to me the answer of why Judah acts the way he does.
Judah has autism. A doctor recognized it because of his intense love for dinosaurs.
Through a series of strange events, God placed my son and I in the office of a local pediatrician. After coming in and being with us for a while, she asked me if Judah really likes dinosaurs, since she noticed a theme. Judah was wearing a dinosaur vest, had dinosaur toys in his dinosaur bag and kept talking to her about dinosaurs during our visit. I told her that in fact, YES, Judah LOVED dinosaurs and obsessively memorized all their names. I mean, he is three and can say the longest most complex dinosaur names. For a long time I would hear him recite their names, and I just thought he was making them up. Then one day, I picked up a book he had with dinosaurs and their names in it and realized that he was in fact naming all his toy dinosaurs correctly! I mean, I almost dropped the book when I realized it! Judah has an amazing memory and very intense focused interest, which is common for children with Aspergers syndrome. Some of these children, like Judah have incredible vocabularies and often have higher than average IQ's. Judah's memory is astounding and he amazes me every day with his ability to memorize words. At his age he can recite the Our Father, Hail Mary, Saint Michael prayer and many others. Children with high functioning autism suffer with social interaction however and this can cause problems for them especially later on in life. They can have special gifts in very focused areas of interest, normally math or science. For Judah, at three years old, it's dinosaurs.
During the visit, as the doctor asked me more questions, every one of them I answered YES! Does Judah ever wander off? Does he run away? Does he have problems with body awareness and transitions in daycare? Does he have "melt-downs" that seem extreme given the situation? Does he "line up his toys" and meticulously organize them instead of using imaginative play? YES YES YES!
Now everything is making sense, all the pieces are coming together. My poor little Judah, all this time I did not know what was going on with him and did not know the right way to help him. God, in His mercy, allowed this doctor to recognize what was going on with my son. As a mother, I KNEW that something was not right. I pushed it back in my mind, thinking that because Judah looks normal he must BE normal, neurologically speaking. I know now that this was not the right way to look at it and to follow my gut instinct. As his mother, no one knows him better than I do.
This has been quite a blow for me and yet for some strange reason, I am RELIEVED! I am not crazy! and there is something wrong with my son! And now we can take the steps we need to help him. Now we can start all the early intervention therapies and whatever else he needs as treatment. If you have a special needs child, REJOICE in God's great gift to you! Do not despair for these children are precious gifts to our world and can help us become holy on our way to God.
God has blessed me with a special needs child and in His infinite wisdom, I trust that He knows best. I don't know what the future will hold for Judah, but I will be there with him at every step. Together we will help each other get to heaven. I know that Judah is my best friend and has been my little pal since the beginning of this journey back to life. When I look into his beautiful, deep blue eyes, I think of Blessed Father Solanus Casey. Everyone said he had the most piercing, deep bluest eyes. I ask Father Solanus to pray for Judah and to help him cope in his day to day life. Please keep us in your prayers as we move forward.
God bless you all and God bless my sweet little Judah!
God have mercy on me a sinner!
I was very blessed to be able to attend two Eucharistic Processions back to back this year. The first one taking place in Beaverton which my three-year-old son Judah attended as well. After the procession, my good friend Marie and I set up a Saint Paul Street Evangelization table at the farmers market while Judah played with Marie’s husband in the fountain. I must admit, I find it so much more difficult to connect with “normal” people. Especially rich people, you know, the types of people with high paying jobs and disposable incomes. I have realized that I become closed off and nervous around people like this and these were the types of people who were at the all organic, expensive farmer’s market.
It is amazing how far some of these people are from God and how very close the poor are to Him. Our Lord knew this when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” It is interesting that I find it easier to be around the outcasts of society; the homeless, the drug addicts and the prostitutes. There is something so very beautiful about a soul who is “poor” in every way, and something so very ugly about a soul who is “rich” in things of the world. Our Blessed Lord is helping me to be more comfortable with these “rich” people, but I am a work in progress for sure.
The real beauty of the poor was made clear to me again during the Eucharistic Procession in downtown Portland with the Archbishop. Many more people processed in this one and I found out later the numbers reached a thousand! If only I could describe the absolute “oneness” of all of us that day, even with all our different cultural expressions of the faith. There were the beautiful Vietnamese women with their long, flowing dresses praying the rosary in their native tongue. Then there were the Hispanic Catholics singing and shouting “Viva Cristo Rey!” All of us united in the one true faith yet all reflecting a different facet of the beauty of God. It was a glorious sight to behold, all the different people of God.
' Then, you had us, in our Jesus Caritas tunics, trailing behind the massive line of the faithful. Rolling coolers in hand, pockets full of sacramentals, on the lookout for the “poor in spirit” and breaking all the “rules” of the procession by not staying in a neat line. We could be seen running back and forth across the street to wherever the Spirit would lead us, much to the dismay of the official “procession attendants” who were watching to make sure everyone stayed together.
Scott, Chris, Nick, Dave and Shawn..all of us together for the first time. I was grateful for the chance to be around such souls, so close to Our Lord's Sacred Heart. Truly, these men have a gift which the world so desperately needs. They are not afraid to follow the Spirit even when it leads “outside the lines” and the radical nature of the Gospel of Christ becomes manifest in their presence. It was one of those times when you could literally FEEL the Holy Spirit bouncing off of us and on to the people we spoke to.
One such person who touched me deeply was named Michael, please pray for him. I don’t think I have witnessed true contrition in this way when doing the street ministry before. Not like this. When I tried to give Michael a miraculous medal, he wouldn’t take it. Looking down, he simply stated to me “ I am not worthy to have that…” Michael was homeless, missing his teeth and his dignity as a child of God. Truly, Michael was so very “poor in spirit.” I sat down next to him and responded that none of us were worthy! I confessed to him that I had been a heroin junkie, too selfish to stop using and had lost two of my children to the state at the same time, Scott telling him how he robbed banks and spent time in a maximum security prison. Michael looked up at Scott and reached out to shake his hand. They had made a connection and God’s grace was getting through to Michael. Michael told us how he had “squandered all the good things in his life, all the opportunities.” He softly cried with his head down, apologizing for allowing his masculine exterior to fail him in this moment as he became emotional. He became like a little child in the presence of the Lord, who was only a few blocks away in the Monstrance…lovingly held up by our Archbishop for the world to see and to love.
That day I did not hear any blame coming from Michael, he never said it was anyone’s fault that his life was a mess except his own. This is not very common, let it be known. Almost all the people I talk to while doing this type of ministry have someone else to blame…the boyfriend, the government, the parents and the school system…but not Michael. He knew that he had “squandered all his talents.” Michael told me that “When I get right, I’ll go back to God.” I exclaimed, “Michael don’t wait! God doesn’t want you to wait until you are all better to come to Him! Come to Him now!” I told him that if he would allow Our Lord to help him, that He would. Softly crying, looking down and shaking his head, Michael confessed, “This can’t be it…this can’t be it…” I, of course, knew exactly how he felt in that moment. Not very long ago, I had been homeless, sitting on the side of the road and also saying to myself, “This can’t be it….it can’t be!”
Certainly, I had been right. And I knew that if Michael would just give Jesus a chance, He would change his whole life…I told Michael about how much He loved him, How Jesus would have died on the cross if it had been ONLY for him! I asked him to to imagine this type of love!
After we spoke to Michael for a while, we got up to keep going…the procession having trailed many blocks ahead without us. Patting Michael’s back, I asked him if he would now take the miraculous medal. Smiling he nodded and I asked if I could put it around his neck. Gratefully, he excepted and as I placed Our Lady’s medal around his neck, I silently prayed for the Blessed Virgin Mary to bring him to her Son. I knew that Mary’s feminine presence had softened Michael’s heart while at the same time, the masculine presence of my comrades had given him solidarity with his fellow man. How obvious was it the beauty of the two sexes, male and female? How they complement each other so wonderfully is so clear to me in moments like this one.
With Our Lady’s medal around his neck, we left Michael and carried on. As we were walking back to the Cathedral, Scott reminded us to look for Michael again. Thankfully, we spotted him across the street. Gleefully, we all raised our voices to him, “Hi Michael!” as he smiled waving back at us…it was as though we were long lost friends of a sort. Anyone watching would think we had known Michael for ages and had a close bond. This notion would not be far off at all, for we did have a special bond….We were all bonded in the “poverty of our spirits” before the Good Lord. There were no doubts amongst us of our real, desperate need for God’s grace. We shared in the awareness that we are all so very poor, begging God for every good gift.
There is no difference between Michael and the rest of us, for we are all beggars of God. I thank the Almighty for the gift of Michael that day, helping me to remember how blessed are we when we are poor in spirit! Amen.
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.
"Lolo, Sacrament of pain."
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.
Christendom, the next chapter
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 Woman, 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. *
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