St. Catherine of Siena

As I was learning more about my faith, I heard many share with me who they chose as their patron saint.  I kept thinking how does one choose that?  I vaguely remember at confirmation it being a requirement to choose a Saint but if I did, I don’t remember who I chose.

Once I started to read more books and learn about my faith, there was always a Saint that would flutter my heart.  St. Catherine of Siena was the Saint for me.  My interest in her started about the same time the Catholic Church was being exposed for the awful sexual abuses.  I remember our parish had a sense of divide. Some left  since they could not separate the men who did harm from the Church, then there were those that followed the excommunicated priest to their own made up church, and others like me who stayed put.

The books I read about St. Catherine of Siena came at the right time.  Her history is based on recognizing what the Church is and what it is not.  Her determination to set things right and to share the intensity of following Christ.  She was a Dominican and is a Doctor of the Church. Her main caveat was her effort and success in reforming the papacy during the 14th century when she convinced Pope Gregory XI to move back to Rome from Avignon.IMG_6228 (2)

My husband and I were blessed in 2006 to go on a Catholic pilgrimage to Italy.  We really went into it blind not knowing what to expect. As a gift for our travels, a close friend of mine gave me a card she had wrote with a quote from St. Catherine.  I thought…wow…it’s a sign. There’s a reason why I keep connecting to this Saint.

On our trip, we made a stop in Siena. What a gorgeous place! Picturesque walkways that would lead to the piazza/main square.  Restaurants, bakeries, shops all set in medieval architecture.   The end of our day, our hosts guided us to visit the Chapel of Saint Catherine, Basilica of San Domenico.  Here only her incorruptible head entombed is shown. At first I was a bit freaked. Why was it that we only had her head and why was it shown?  On the tour, our great host priests clarified that back in the day, ma-il-campoany towns all over the world where the Saints walked had bits or pieces of their bodies for reverence purposes like bone fragments, clothing, “relics”.  Also, many had miracles tied to them so the thought was spread them around for the chance of increased faith to grow.

This trip gave me a boost! A boost in love of faith. I felt like a warrior ready to get back home and go deeper! To get a grip and better understanding of the Church with guidance from St. Catherine.  It’s amazing how much we can take for granted on what the Saints did for the Church, for us. If we took the time out and read up on  a Saint, we would see how relevant their examples are to our day today.  Most of the popular TV evangelists are not saying anything new.  And the Saints that did speak about similar life issues, most likely did it with their life in the balance.

Another inspiring tidbit about St. Catherine…she’s the Patron Saint of Italy!!!! Of course!! Of course she would be.  I have loved Italy for so long starting with pizza as a child,  which led to Italian food, and then developed into it’s beauty, food, art, lifestyle. Of course she would include that for me too.

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Hopefully, this will get you to thinking who would you like to read about? Google it! I’m telling you, you won’t be disappointed.

Thank God for the Saints and thank you St. Catherine for always punching those words into my heart and  set fire!+++

 

Help us God…parent.

Recently,  my husband and I became Godparents again.  By the way, is it Godparent or godparent?? Anyhow, we are so very thankful about it. This child is also the first grandchild on my husband’s side. My husband comes from a family of three boys. He is the middle child. His older brother unfortunately passed away at age 38. He and his wife did not have children. We never had kids. His youngest brother, who is two years younger than me, is first to have a child on this side of our family.  To say this was a special day is not exactly expressing what true joy this day was about.

Preceding the sacrament, it made me approach the idea of Godparenting differently. My husband and I are older and wiser in our faith since the last time we baptized a child. Our awareness to our faith is broader and stronger. Coming into this day and then it being first child celebrated, really drew some new perspective.

One new item we were given in our baptism certification class, that we were not aware of before, is what the role of the Godparent is about.  The focus is not  the child, but on the parents. Yes, that’s right! Did you get that? And….the second new item is that the parents do not have to be believers! That was another zinger!  I’ve never come across that situation before so I never knew that could be the case.

So what does this mean?  Well, for starters sure changes the game plan.  Easier to teach a child than an adult.  When I say teach in no way do I mean I come from the angle that we are all knowing.  It means that whatever knowledge we do have,we are obligated to share with the parents, for their sake and the Godchild.

The good position is the desire the parent(s) are already showing for their child to be raised in the Catholic Church.  This is the starting point.  I think if you are not a practicing Catholic, many come into the baptism with misconceptions and misunderstandings.

The odd case for my husband and I is that most of our Godchildren, except one, live in another city.  Chances to have one on one conversations are less.  How do we guide?  Any chance given is what I’m receiving. Always be an example.

Must try to be mindful of it and pray before visits occur. Asking the Holy Spirit to use your voice and heart for things to be said and not said.  Conviction will allow you to speak easy and with love.

It’s not that your influence isn’t on the child too.  I know we still enjoy treating our Godchildren as our own, sharing our support, giving gifts or reminders not just on Christmas or birthdays.  But throughout the year, send reminders to the parent(s) as well.

When you reflect on it, what you end up acting upon with the baptized family, is what our Church reminds us daily. Our Church is the Body of Christ, baptized believers, working out their salvation with fear and trembling.  Reaching out and always pointing to Christ. We do our best and ask Jesus to admonish us where we go wrong.+++

 

Mid Life Crisis Awareness Month

Actually, this might just be on my calendar.

Lately,  it seems some of my sisters (not literally, I mean friends) are battling emotional struggles all at the same time.

It feels weighty on my relationship with them and I can see some headed down a damaging road.

With my own life changes, I always try to do my best and stay in touch with my girl friends or my female cousins who I refer all as “Sisters”.  My friendships have not always kept up and I know I am part to blame, but I still care for them and if there was ever a chance to meet up, I would do it.

At times, I don’t know if it’s just my life but I don’t have many gal pals. I think it has to do with not having children, not staying in the workforce, or other entities to cause some to dismantle.  In any case, I haven’t really worried about it but I noticed some relationships appear to be ending.

I feel some around me are going through emotional changes.  Mid life crisis maybe?  I don’t know.  I don’t know why all of a sudden a shift has occurred in our relationships. Am I focusing too much on my life that maybe these individuals were always this way and I’m barely now taking notice?? I truly care about them and do wish our friendship’s would stay strong.

I try to be patient and let them know I’m here for them. I do my best in understanding all factors to a situation.  We don’t always know everything going on in one’s life.

In any case, I realize we all have trials and tribulations. I’ve had times where I’ve felt unaccomplished and know those closest could see it in me. It can be hard to break out of that ‘spell’ of feeling down and depressed.  The evil one can certainly make you start believing things that are untrue about yourself and about those around you.

What I have learned in practicing my faith is to ask myself questions.  Identifiers.  Like whatever it is I’m feeling, is this a thought from God or the evil one?  If the feeling is causing me to be down, then it’s not from God. If it is to cause harm on anyone, then it’s not from God. If it’s something that doesn’t keep me on the side of virtue, then it’s not from God. You know what I mean?

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Is it okay to do something once and a while that is foot loose and fancy free? Sure.  At least I think so. The issue is whether you start believing this is all your life needs.  Ways to give you short term, empty joy.

I’ve seen some who end their marriages because they found “true happiness” in other outlets. They start to believe this is what they need and end up ridding their life of important people. Most of the time, it relates to the idea of feeling young again.  I’ve seen this false sense cause damage and havoc in many lives.

For myself, my guard against these realms need attention.  Don’t take the bait! Combat with prayer! I pray with and over my husband, our home, our life.  Asking Jesus to consecrate our marriage! It’s true!  You spend less time with Jesus, you leave an door open for weakness to come in.

John 4:10-14

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
[The woman] said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 

 

 

 

How I learned grace from Cdiff!

When I got really sick with C-Diff in 2008, my stomach, digestion, and lifestyle changed.  I had caught a bad cold and made the mistake by going to an urgent care center.  Having Lupus, I should have waited to see my doctor.  So the urgent care center, gave me a general prescription to treat cold with a 14 day antibiotic.

I took it and immediately after stopping, I got sick. It depleted all the good bacteria in my intestines.  C-diff kicked in my already low immune and I was sent to the ER. I had severe pain in my stomach. I couldn’t stop going to the bathroom.  I was feverish. They admitted me and placed me on powerful antibiotics and morphine. I was weak and miserable. The hospital doctor said that I could’ve died.  I still can’t believe that!

I was mad that I couldn’t go home by the second night and was released on the fifth day. At this time, my emotional demeanor took a bad turn.

The first night home was awful.  I cried in panic over what I was feeling physically. I couldn’t sleep at all. So for days after, the routine was the same.  I sweat through t-shirts at night, didn’t eat much throughout day,  always woke up with anxiety, stayed in our room for the most part, and cried.  When I left the hospital, they continued me on a high antibiotic.  During the day, my mom or sister would take care of me. Mom made cream of wheat cereal, which was the only thing that would satisfy my hunger and go well in my stomach.  I ate it for dinner too.

After a week or so, I remember having an urge to just be by myself. So I asked my mom and sister to go out for a bit. As soon as they left,  I dropped down and cried. I felt suffocated. I cried in fear asking God once again to help me out of this misery.

Days ahead, I tried to start eating again. From the time I was in the hospital to about a week out, I had lost much weight. When I had a follow-up visit with the doctor I weighed in at 98 pounds.   I tried to reintroduce food into my system again.  But everything I ate hurt to digest.  It wasn’t worth it.  So then I started becoming accustomed to a new diet. A friend of mine introduced me to JuicePlus supplements and alkaline foods.   I couldn’t eat any fried foods, any rich sauces, any dairy, any treats/baked goods, etc.  Couldn’t drink coffee like I used to.  I also started taking a daily probiotic supplement that helped with good bacteria.  All started to give me some life again.

But this was only one side of the struggle.

Even though I could start eating again, my emotional battle was something else.  I felt many days as if I was trying to run away from myself. Still had anxiety and panic attacks. I spent much time with my aunt who lived near the ocean.  The ocean gave me relief. Some peace. For about six months, I still had been living this same way.  In the midst of it all, I was prayerful, attending Church, and keeping up with life.  I know that my prayer had to stay strong.  I knew Our Lord was helping me even if I couldn’t see the results right away. I remember getting myself to weekday Mass not feeling good and fighting with the thoughts of just going home, staying in bed.  Kneeling in the pew, feeling dizzy and weak, but always feeling better after.

It took about two years, before I could have coffee the way I liked  – cappuccinos, lattes.  I also started eating some fried foods and enjoying my favorite food – Italian.  Much time after that, I was able to drink wine, eat rich cheeses, ice cream, salad dreOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAssing, chili/salsa which is where I am now.

I have a new profound respect for food.  I also have this defense in that if a sick person wants to eat something that no one should stand in their way.  Obviously, I don’t mean a diabetic.  My Dad during his battle with cancer still had an appetite and I loved watching him eat. Food gives so much comfort!  Now I recognize that when I do get sick if I can still eat and taste the food, I’m good!  What is also strong to my senses is human suffering.  My body reacts different when I find what pain and suffering someone maybe going through. A sense I didn’t have before.

I love to make food and try new recipes.  I love to go out to eat, try new spots, and enjoy meals with friends and family.  I even plan trips with my husband based on the food scene in those places.  Food is my joy.  If I can enjoy it without it causing my health to go bad, then I’m going to enjoy it and not feel bad if a pound or two latch on.  I can’t only do healthy eating. We do well during the week, we balance and then on the weekends we feast!

And never once do I take my eating for granted.  I give thanks to God we have the food to eat and enjoy all its flavor.

So the point is even though I had already experienced much with my faith at this time, my response to this trial was different. I had never known fear this way. I had never experienced panic attacks.  My faith in action was completely new and the battle for my soul was on! But I never took the bait even after months of having to fight it! And that’s it!  Your prayer is always heard. Never stop praying or speaking to Our Lord always offering up your suffering for His peace in your heart. You keep on and He will make all things new! +++

2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Lupus…thank you God!

From the time of diagnosis (SLE) through now, my faith has carried me through. I have not always responded in the best way, but I learned much and it has given me a deeper relationship with Jesus.

So much of my life after my lupus diagnosis took different directions that I soon realized my life wasn’t mine but Our Lord’s.

When I was diagnosed, I had been going to Church but I was not yet knowing the whole picture.  My husband hadn’t been going and we were married for 4 years at this time.

There were many signs and symptoms I was having that led up to this, but even once learning what it was, I had some denial. I was even more shocked to learn the lupus I was diagnosed (and there are 3 forms), is the terminally ill one.

Even though I thought I would have some time to wrap my head around this new reality, turned out not to be the case for me.  My physical pain took over. I was given some heavy duty drugs to cope. I started losing hair and gaining weight because of the prednisone.  My stomach was always making me uncomfortable or in pain.  I had less energy and started to find myself less outgoing. To top it off, the sun became an enemy and of all places to live, Arizona, was hard to avoid.

At one point after having to call into work sick every week, I remember crying and just wanted things to go back to the way they were.  I was home alone, got out of bed, and looked out of our bathroom window just asking God to help me.

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My work had become more difficult to do and I took this hard. I had worked myself into a promising career and then had to let it go, at least for a while I thought. So I had to resign.

I wanted to be a part of something so I signed up to go to a bible study and attended a women’s fellowship at our Church. I met some great people and felt very comfortable.  Eventually, I went on a retreat with my husband that was life changing for the both of us. My husband’s oldest brother had passed away and his heart too was seeking answers to what was going on with his life and connection to those who were suffering.

For the both of us, we started to take our faith more seriously. I remember having a huge desire to learn more about the faith even during the hard hit news abuses of the Church and the number of people leaving.  I felt a clear distinction that my faith was real and could not be broken.  There was too much I didn’t know about it to leave it and the atrocity, the evil, that wanted to ruin it wasn’t going to include me as a collaborator to break its foundation. As it’s said in Mass, “Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church”.

Sure enough to this day, I find myself defending Church teaching to untruths. Getting stronger cleared my eyes to see I am a part in the Body of Christ.

My fervor grew and I tried things I didn’t think I would do like public speaking, host bible studies at our home, and volunteer.

When my Dad got diagnosed with stage 4 sarcoma,  I felt as though I had been prepared.  It gave me new insight to suffering as I saw my Dad go through it. Dad and Stef (dancing)He too found Jesus after he spent most of his adult life to drug and alcohol addiction. He became a born again Christian and restarted his life. So when we got news of his cancer, our family life was about helping him. My Dad passed away 6 months later.

A few months after, my husband and I were blessed to go on a pilgrimage to Rome.  The timing was perfect! It swept us off our feet! All the rich Church history, meeting other Catholics who were in different points in their journey, and answers to areas of the Church we thought we knew.  This experience placed love in our hearts and protection for our faith to not just see our faith as a building and good advise but living, breathing, as clear as Christ is the Church! Can’t separate.

There was a conversation I had with a friend close to this time. She asked me if I was angry at God for allowing my lupus to be.  It hit me and said to her it was a blessing.  From it, my life has forever changed in my deeper faith to Him and continues too.  Thanks be to God! +++

“What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:6-8

Cradle Catholic, not really.

My parents did not share the same faith.  My mom received the sacraments in the Catholic church and my Dad was a son of a Free Methodist Pastor.  My mom wanted me to have the sacraments too and my Dad supported it.

My Godparents as I grew up were not faith nurturing but despite that I had an abundance of love from them.  Our family was not "church going".  I can't recall us going to Mass as a family unless it was for a reason like someone getting married.  In fact, I don't remember ever praying with my parents or spending time learning what faith was about.

During my time as a child, my maternal grandmother took care of me while my parents were at work.  In her humble house she had an altar.  It had a pastel painted Virgin Mary and other smaller sized saints made out of plaster which in my Mexican culture are called "Santitos".  I remember when it was nap time, she would have me lay in the bed that was right near her altar of Saints.  I would often play with them like they were barbie dolls. I wondered who they were and why she had them in a corner in her room that had candles and flowers. I can remember the smell of burning wax from her prayer candles and the reflections of the Saint figures on the walls.  I remember feeling all this but I can't recall why she had this in her home and why it was important to her.  My grandmother passed away when I was eleven.

For my First Holy Communion, I remember loving the idea that I would be wearing a mini wedding dress including a veil. I remember the excitement about the party that was coming to celebrate it. Oh it was a big party too! Tons of family brought me gifts like rosaries and prayer books. I had a sugared cake with white frosting and a plastic communion girl on top. But soon after the party, all that I was taught in catechism was lost.  I had no more nurturing from the teachers nor did what I learn come from my parents. 

Around this same time, my Dad's drug addiction started. Our family life became more about drinking.  There was no spiritual direction in our home. No compass.

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When my only sister got married, I was in 6th grade, I would attend Church with her and her new little family.  We went to the neighborhood Church.  I remember feeling peace and happy she would always include me.

My high school years were not filled with guidance from my faith.  In fact, all that a teenager can do without someone being there to protect or set straight, I did. Drugs, sex, suicidal tendencies, etc.  I didn't know my value.

After high school and a bad breakup with a high school boyfriend, I started back up and attended Church with my sister and her family.  And even though I had a foot in the door (so to speak) I still was living a sinful life.  Doing what most young 20 year olds do – going to clubs, drinking, and being promiscuous. Not grasping what I was hearing in Church or realizing it was to be my life.

In fact outside of going to Church with my sister and her family, not much about Jesus was spoken of.  Don't recall family talking much about Him either. If anyone was showing me any path it was my sister, who was receiving some guidance through her in-laws.

However, now looking back I know that those "seeds" that were planted by my mom and sister throughout my young life were there to help me where I am now.  I can look back and see the Hand of God despite the child life I was given or the choices I made.  

We all have journeys and not everyone takes the same path to finding a relationship to Jesus. This is why I find it important for me to share with others who might have a similar past or are living this now.  To make aware how our Father God is truly real, is always by our side, and never gives up on us. Ask, seek, and knock! In the end it's about when you desire Jesus in your life! +++

God’s design in a Spouse

Before I cry my eyes out, I’m going to try to write this blog on how I met my husband.

I was working at a telemarketing company that changed to a teleservice company, where calls would come in and we would schedule service appointments. I had already been working in the building when Noah started working there. He was a manager and I was a clerk working in the human resources office.

We had mutual friends and so getting to know each other was easy. Even though we would share time on weekends at the same bars, our worlds were not exactly the same.

He came from a family that was in my view a traditional Mexican family. His parents were married and his make up included higher level education.  For being in his mid twenties, he showed determination, motivation, and success for which I didn’t see in anyone else around me.

My life at that time was finding who I wanted to be. After a horrible six-year relationship with my high school boyfriend. I had quit college and was enjoying the life I had. The teleservice job was the best thing I had going. It helped me to meet new people and to think differently of what I wanted to pursue. So ending this relationship and working in this place was a God-send.

My previous six years before I met Noah, consisted of a dark world. I met this boy in my Freshmen year and thought I found someone who would give me attention. My sister was married and out of the house, my parents were divorced. My life was up in the air and he came in at the right time. Much of my time and energy went into this guy. He was in a rock band and had dreams of becoming a rock star. I thought I was in love. My high school years consisted of following him around, losing myself in the mix.

What do I mean by that? I had been an honor roll student. I had a good group of friends. Once I found myself dependent on his attention towards me, I lost sight of both. He made me feel insecure without him and knew how to work my already low self-esteem. To not have to share too much about this and rather get to the point, he broke my spirit which was easily done since I had no spiritual nurturing throughout high school. No one telling me I am a child of God.

After six years and facing up to the abuse he showed me (verbal, physical, trust issues, low self-confidence), I decided to break free.

I tried a stint at college but that only led me to going out to clubs and enjoying the small check I was receiving. I didn’t have to worry about responsibilities because my Dad bought me a car for my senior graduation gift and my mom didn’t demand I contribute to the home.

I worked a few jobs before I took on work at the telemarketing/teleservice center.

After a year, going out with Noah and a group of friends each time, I let him know that I liked him more than a friend. This led to our first date. I’ll never forget I was at my sister’s home in her kitchen, telling her that I think Noah is going to be my husband. She thought that’s quick! But I just knew it in my heart! 

Noah and I dated for almost two years before he asked me to marry him. My family right away loved him. He was respectful, honorable, and they knew he came from a good family.

When he asked me to marry him, he was already out of Tucson and had been living in Phoenix pursuing his career. I knew by accepting his proposal would mean leaving my family, leaving all that was familiar. I was so ready!!!

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In all of my choices/life decisions I had made, what I went through, what I saw in marriages around me, Our Lord knew how much I wanted what was of His design. To have someone who would love me, care for me, treat me with the dignity and respect any woman should have. To have a marriage that would in turn not be about us, but about living for God. I know 100%, Noah and I got married for many reasons. I know that moving away was for a bigger reason. I can see all of God’s work through it all. My husband and I know now, that we are here to help those in our family and anyone else.  My Lord truly gave me someone who I can’t imagine never having in my life.  He is a big force in the life of my nephews and is greatly loved by his family and friends. He shows me time and time again on charity, patience, and selflessness. Through Noah, my good Lord, shows me that His presence is with us everyday. That He is guiding us through our marriage and has always had us, even when we didn’t make the best decisions. He knew we were to be together and if we allowed Jesus to be in our hearts, He would show us the way.

Thank you Lord God for having your hand in our marriage. May we ask you to consecrate us into your most sacred Heart+++.