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Into the desert

It’s summer in Arizona and what that means is from June to September, you can count on it being 105 or higher. This is the reverse of those who live in the Midwest or East when snow keeps you inside. Well, at least for me it does. I’ve gotten better over the years, as far as, not limiting my time if I’m out doing errands. But somehow, this last few days, I’m feeling a bit depressed.

I’ve always done good about not paying attention to it. Like keeping busy whatever that might mean. Either with things I have to do or not. I don’t work, so much of my time is either caring for my mom or doing something productive when she’s with my sister.

But I’m yearning for more.

In the past month, my husband and I were able to take two trips to beach cities. It was a great getaway! The weather and beach, as many of my family and friends know, gives me such energy. But I also feel like I’m connected to people more too. And I think that’s part of what I’m sensing.

Where we live it takes a car to get somewhere. We don’t live in the city center or near it. Because of the heat, I can’t just walk to a grocery store. There are no common parks or beautified parks at all except in central Phoenix. Can’t just hop onto a metro link and get to another town. And don’t get me wrong, if it’s fall/winter/spring everything is rosy for those eight months. I’m outside taking it all in! These thoughts don’t run in my mind of abandoning the desert during these luscious months.

So it was interesting to me that a conversation was brought up between my husband and I about where our future residence would be. Where would we retire?

I asked my husband if we would ever live anywhere else? Would we ever do that experience of living somewhere far from family? We do not have children that would keep us from taking on a big transition like this. My husband has a super career now. What if he was asked to move? The thought of moving to Newport Beach, CA, or Denver, CO, or Connecticut sounds tempting.

A part of me sees that I would be involved in more things if we lived in cities or places that are closer knit. Doing more exercise, church activities, volunteering, education, and art events.

I often feel like I’m meant to be somewhere else, but I know it’s not something that is going to happen. And I thankfully say that because in no way am I not grateful for the huge blessings my husband and I have, which now comes to the Catholic tie into these thoughts.

In my thoughts or actions that come in a away that does not bring joy, is a time to always self examine.  Well, not just for me, but for anyone. Because we know when joy is present, Christ is present.

In my restlessness of this, I know my call is to go to God with it. I cannot change our environment.  We cannot get up and move somewhere.  In fact, it may never happen.

Prayer becomes very important during these “down times”.  If I don’t include or pay attention to prayer in my day to day, I can very well let go of myself and turn the negative emotions into negative actions towards my husband, family, friends, etc.  When you pray, Our Lord gives you clarity, direction on what He wants you to focus on, which in most cases, is completely not your thoughts.

The challenge outside of prayer is to be active in things where you come second. Paying attention to helping someone in need. Putting others first. Soon you’ll realize more purpose.

Who knows what God’s plan for us will be in the next ten years. But in the meantime, my life, our life, our happiness, our home, is here today in this desert landscape.


John 15:10-11

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.

Little Italy, Big Blessings

My husband is fortunate to go to conferences that take him to other places.  This recent conference he’s attending is in  San Diego.  By the goodness of his heart, he asked me to come along  with him and take advantage of the ocean air.  No need for me to think twice, so I jumped on the opportunity.

We haven’t traveled like we used to.  By this time, midway through year, we usually have taken 3 trips.  Our marriage life has changed. Like mentioned before, Mom lives with us and so our decision making is based around her.  No complaints!  Just what we can do to make our lives balanced.

I always appreciate these trips.  Partly because it’s paid for by his employer and gives me time to think.  For some reason, I can’t think when mom is under my care.  My blogging for one is less.  Can’t seem to gather my thoughts.  I would like to work on that though.

There wasn’t much of a plan to my schedule while in San Diego.  I knew I wanted to think, have conversations with my husband, blog, read, and of course pray. I didn’t want to commit myself either.  Didn’t want to have to be somewhere if I was in the middle of  giving something attention.

Some people don’t mind that but for me, I can’t function that way. I need to.  Cut off communication for a bit so I can do what I need and desire to do.

Like let things come.  For example, yesteday was truly a treat!  I had just dropped off my husband at the conference and drove our rental down to Little Italy. I love hanging out in that area because yes, it makes me feel just a little, that I’m somewhere in Italy.  There are many you walk past who are speaking Italian.  The food is great and the cappucinos are even better.  I mean, when I can still drink a cappucino outside in June is a holiday to me. So after I parked my car in the parking lot that charges you way too much knowing you are either not going to park for two hours so let’s just give them a second option of 8 hours and gouge them.  After I paid $18, I knew I just wanted to pop into Our Lady of the Rosary Church which is right next to the parking lot.  Doors were wide open on a Monday about 11:30a.  I thought ‘oh it must be for us tourists’, so I found a pew, bended down on one knee doing the sign of the Cross, and knelt in prayer.  As I was near done, I saw there was a line gathering near what looked like the confessional??  Sure enough, they were.  I thought what is the chance I’m here?  First of all, I didn’t feel very well since I had been having stomach issues but thought no, I have time why shouldn’t I stay here. I got behind the last person and waited.

Thought there might be the chance, where I wasn’t going to get in.  There were quite a few people, but thankfully I made it.  After stating my sins, the grandfatherly like Priest (older man for sure), gave me spiritual direction I’ve heard before but for some reason, I needed to hear again.  He said “fight the devil” to the sins I confessed first and then said “God is under control, we have nothing to worry”, when I responded to “do you have anything more to add?”  His voice was strong, full of authority, experienced, but sincere.  How could I not take his advice and the penance I needed with understanding.

I left the confessional feeling brave.  I thought “wow, thank you Lord for bringing me here”. But then, after I rose my head up from praying,  I noticed people were coming in for holy Mass.  Sure enough, Mass was beginning at noon.  Once again, I told myself, well there’s nothing better I wanted to do than keeping myself in the pew and attend Mass.  This little parish is old school.  The parish itself is 120 years old.  The prayers said before Mass were not what I’m accustomed to. There was also a good amount of parishioners gathered.

When Mass ended, I hesitated to just get up and leave.  I thought what next??  But sure enough, the faithful departed. And I left feeling lifted!  How much I was meant to be there!

There are certain trips where I have an agenda.  Mainly, new places we have never visisted. But when I travel most relaxed, there are blessings that come with it.  Allowing God to speak to me because how He knows well, that I busy myself in thought, and don’t let what is needed to get done!

+++++

Thank you Holy Spirit, just passing the celebration of Pentecost.  To know what is in my heart always, even before I speak, so that you know what I need help with. thank you Lord, for caring for us even when we think it is going a different direction. To pull back, help to refocus, and see where you want us to head next!

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.

 

Sidenote:  this parish, Our Lady of the Rosary, is undergoing renovations.  See their website to donate.  Also, if ever in Little Italy, San Diego, besides stopping at this parish, go to their gift shop as well.  Best shop with best variety I’ve ever seen.

Unplanned

In light of the release of the film “Unplanned” which tells the story of Abby Johnson who was once a director for Planned Parenthood, who goes through a conversion to becoming one of the most leading voices in the Pro Life movement, I wanted to share a time in my life that I became a part of the Pro Life cause.

After a tough two years from being diagnosed with Lupus, I was seeking ways to use my energies and my renewed Catholic faith.

In the Church bulletin, was a post “volunteer crisis pregnancy counselors needed”. I thought ‘that sounds like something I want to be a part of. I have the time and I love babies, how difficult could this be?’ How clueless I was to soon find the raw and vulnerable situations I would be involved in.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers, CPC for short, had a two week training course for all volunteers. The training was designed to also inform them if the volunteer who completed it, could really take on the role.

The training had videos, speakers, manuals, and role play. The training included videos of actual abortion procedures, interviews, that left your mind spinning, and many tears. What I thought I knew about abortion was a completely sheltered world than from its true reality.

But I knew it in my heart, I wanted to continue and felt like the courage I was experiencing was not from me. I felt purpose!

When I served in this ministry, the women who came in for assistance, were of many backgrounds and nationalities. The women who worked or volunteered were from different Christian backgrounds. Out of these group of women, I would say out of the 40, maybe 5 were Catholic. CPC was not a Catholic agency.

I think if it wasn’t for some boisterous women who would like to voice their opinion of the Catholic Church, I would’ve stayed longer. It’s too bad such an important cause would have to have some bitter helpers.

But in either case, the women I counseled will always be a big piece to my heart.

There was a set of go to resources we would give the woman once we did their pregnancy test and if it showed positive. Like next steps, medical care, resources for food/nutrition, etc. We were given the freedom to pray with them and most of the time I did.

I’ll never forget one gal in particular. She came in appearing confused. She was young (like most) possibly 20. By her appearance, her clothes did not look fresh nor her hygiene. When I walked her into a counsel room, I then noticed her arms. They were riddled with heroin track marks. I didn’t want her to think I paid attention. And what came next was complete guidance by the Holy Spirit. By her approval we prayed waiting for results. Being a complete germaphobe, I lost myself in the fact, that I could’ve harmed myself since I was holding her bare arms. But it didn’t stay my focus.

Here I thought I was helping her in the beginning, yet I felt strength from her at the end. She seemed tired, scared, and needed someone to give her time.

Honestly, my memory doesn’t recall if her test was positive. All I remember, is how she touched me and know my Lord used me to meet her.

The women who came to CPC received love, direction, and support. Many are in need of hope. Most do not have money. But centers like CPC, are there for women to know they are respected and their unborn child will be cared for by the many resources who support CPC.

One of my biggest questions I have for the Pro Choice movement, is if they have really taken the time to see what an abortion does? To see what a “fetus” (BABY) shows in form and what it brutally does to a woman. If Planned Parenthood cares so much for the woman, I would like to see testimonies from the women who had abortions and what follow up care (emotional especially) they were given. Because I’ll tell you what, I never seen it. Where are the YouTube videos, website, Twitter, or feminist groups highlighting the post abortion care? I mean if it’s such a liberating action to have an abortion, why not film women explaining how valuable the process was? Where are these testimonies?

Kudos to Abby Johnson and the team who put this film together. Hopefully, there will be many who are not Pro Life, who will see this film.

If we practice our faith – Catholic or Christian, than our life decisions are based on that first. Not a political party, celebrity, or our opinion. If we place ourselves in all of God’s creation, we will take honor to His design.

Psalm 139

You formed my inmost being;

you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;

wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.

My bones are not hidden from you,

When I was being made in secret,

fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw me unformed;

in your book all are written down;

my days were shaped, before one came to be.

False Witness

In order to write this post, I have to reveal an area of sacrifice I’m working on this Lent.  A part of self control, for me, is the sin of gossip.

Throughout my life, I have wrestled with this sin. Before I began practicing my faith, I never knew gossiping was a bad thing.  It was all around me.  Family and friends always used gossip in conversations. It was and still is a way to either vent or share things because we feel we can in either making fun of someone or puffing up our chests to make ourselves look better.

Over time, for me, I realized my confessions continued to cough up this sin and yet, no real self reflection struck me on why this was repeated.

At this stage in my life, I do find myself gossiping, but it’s like I told myself in a certain way…well, I’ll only go this far in sharing, or I won’t say too much as to not fall into the trap. But regardless, I would find myself reflecting on discussions I’ve had with others after that fact and see that no matter how  I wanted to classify it, it was still gossip.

There is a fine line I want to say when it comes to being concerned  over an individual when sharing things for the sake of helping them without their knowledge.  Speaking about their decision making or ways that could hurt them spiritually, those incidents may cause for others to discuss and plan out what could be done to get them back on track.  But to just have a  field day about someone’s lifestyle or continued same actions that cause pain to others, does nothing to keep talking about how awful this person is to everyone.

Coming back to my sin of gossip during this Lent.  I’ve come to take on an action that I first saw as my own penance. And that is to correct myself with those who I gossiped with as a way to reconcile my behavior and sin. Explaining to the individual, that I did wrong and that I shouldn’t have said what I said.   Doesn’t matter if it was one word blurted out or ten.  Doesn’t matter if I didn’t mean harm in sharing, because it is harmful no matter what.  It places me in accountability.  Makes me humble myself that I sinned and want to correct myself because Jesus placed it in my heart and eyes to see what I have done.   Oh how much Our Lord wrestles my heart to show me my sin. I’m thankful.

What catches me to about gossip, is that I wish those individuals who do know it’s wrong, don’t pin it on me or correct me right on the spot. Gosh, how I wish they would. I’m not saying it’s easy to do but I’m going to start trying. Sometimes we don’t do that enough or at least in my circle I don’t see it.  I also don’t see much in asking forgiveness for daily actions that can hinder unity or cause disruption. Most of the time, we don’t want to take notice we’ve done some thing wrong or pride ourselves that we are doing all things right. Really?  There are some things to dig deep about and frankly, I would appreciate if my fellow Catholic/Christian would call me out when I sin so it’s corrected right then and there.  But I know it’s not easy.  Honestly, I know.  And I know I will slip up again, but my hope is the day it completely stops for me. That I am so rooted, it doesn’t make me budge.  And most of all, throughout this self examination, how the path through it gets me to God’s mercy.  It’s there every time.  Like the Light at the end of the tunnel. Once I’ve reflected, accounted for, asked forgiveness, His mercy is there…and I move on.

If the dialogue isn’t fruitful brothers and sisters, there is no end that points to a helpful solution, then do yourself and me a favor….don’t go there!

 8th Commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

 

Added note: The Catholic Church has always taught there is a communal reconciliation

Strike One, Strike Two, Strike Three

I feel like such failure.

For some reason lately I am greatly battling my attitude. I feel more than ever my response can be negative and unwelcoming. Where I’m pessimistic and say things without a care whether what I’m saying is heard or not. And through it all, signs of impatience are easily given off.

Is it me? Is it hormones? Is it just Lent and because I’m walking through I’m being attacked?

All I know about this, is that I hate it! I hate that there’s that piece of me that I show others that doesn’t show Christ in my life. That I have not asked or done my part to rid myself of it. At least, that’s how it feels. Like I’m not doing enough about it.

I notice when I get high strung, stressed, impatient, this negative side of me appears. It is more so when I think I’m being provoked. But regardless of how it comes, I should not be allowing it to rear its ugly head.

I was told by a priest in the confessional in order to respond to these situations, I should stop and call our Lord in prayer. To pray and not react. But I’m not consistent. A part of me wonders will I ever change? What am I missing?

My heart is heavy right now. Because I’ve been helping others in their own area of lives, with virtue and prayer, yet I demonstrated something to them that was not an example I wanted to convey.

Now that I know damage is done, I’m struggling on how to correct it without placing to much emphasis towards me but letting the other person who I feel received my sin know my remorse. I’ve asked Our Lord for His correction. And even though I’m carrying regret from my actions, I am thankful Jesus showed me my wrong doing.

Thus, the purpose of prayer is perhaps less to obtain what we ask than to Become someone else. We should go further and say that asking something from God transforms us, little by little, into people capable of sometimes doing without what they ask for.  -Father Bernard Bro, o.p.

I want to be free of this but more importantly to gain a stronger charitable spirit, peace, and patience no matter what the situation.

Lord, help me, change me.

Indelible Mark +

It was in a bible study class from my parish, where I first learned about the indelible mark.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1121 : The three sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders confer, in addition to grace, a sacramental character or "seal" by which the Christian shares in Christ's priesthood and is made a member of the Church according to different states and functions. This configuration to Christ and to the Church, brought about by the Spirit, is indelible, it remains for ever in the Christian as a positive disposition for grace, a promise and guarantee of divine protection, and as a vocation to divine worship and to the service of the Church. Therefore these sacraments can never be repeated.

The clarity of this mark became known to me in my early 40s.  The whole time before that I had no idea what it meant.

Once I learned of this love that deciphers us from the world, it made my heart grow in a sense that the family, the Church, widen up to a bigger picture.

At times, when I walk around my city, or in the Church pews, or when I’m traveling, I often receive an emotion of peace and a strength because even though I can’t see that others are also marked I know among them they are around me.


For me, it’s a badge of honor, coat of arms,  military colors, a wedding band.  It helps me remember who I am to be.

In my family, I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning the significance of this mark and how very important I should keep myself reminded of it.  I can’t fully blame my immediate family because my parents carried their faith into our lives on how they received it.  No one dug deep into the faith.

I feel because of what God has given me, the knowledge I have to this point, the fire/zeal to learn about the faith, makes me responsible for sharing it. We all are called to.

What a precious gift we’ve been given in these sacraments where the ‘mark’ is given.  How even when we do the Sign of the Cross, it’s a pronounced action of what is already transfixed in us.

I recall a bible study that explains when the end of time comes, Our Lord will identify us by this indelible mark.

Revelation 7:4 I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked* from every tribe of the Israel.

The work from those with this mark have much to do.  Until the very end, our lives need to keep proclaiming for God’s will to be done.  Often at times in my life, I feel like I could be doing more.  But I recognize I have allowed fear to halt the work and all I can do is ask God to get me where He wants me to be and remove whatever barrier(s) are preventing me from living out my purpose.

I value more the fact that when I rise in the morning, the first thing I do is the Sign of the Cross.  This is how I begin my day and end it.

Lord God, this day, and everyday, may we live out the indelible mark. +

 

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque – Tucson, Arizona

My first parish.

I was baptized here, made my first holy communion, confirmed, and was also married.

It was also my grandmother’s and mother’s parish since it was located in their neighborhood.

I remember it feeling very grand walking in. I remember the sights and smells also. Burning candles or incense. Dark reds, blues, golds. Fresh flowers.

As you walked in you faced the altar that had a tall cross hanging from the ceiling upon red velvet centered behind. On either side there were niches with saints and kneelers to which you could go to and pray.

On the top balcony at entrance, this is where the organ pipes would ring out vibrating sounds. Sometimes the sounds would scare me because it always pounded out loud pitches.

I remember clearly the day of my confession. It was not inside the confessional, which I was sort of hoping for. Instead, the priest and I sat face to face in a pew near front. I guess for kids, they felt this to be the better approach than an a dark small room.

I also remember many weddings and baptisms at this parish. My family in Tucson is large, so every year it felt like there was some event to attend there.

This parish also has special significance because it so happens my husband also received all of his sacraments here as well.

Now that I’m moved away and my mom no longer lives in Tucson, I do not attend it much. There are still weddings or special masses given to which from time to time I’m there, but not as a regular Sunday participant.

With new priests and changes over the years, the altar is no longer the same. It saddens me because the original invoked many spiritual thoughts and the new appearance does not provide that for me.

In any case, I try to remember the times as a child I had there and still find it a special place that I hold close to my heart.

This was taken before all the changes were made to the altar. I want to say most here was original to what it was like when first built. Now the altar does not have any of this appearance but instead a wall with a painted cross.

On each side leading to altar are stained glass windows to this day I believe are the original. Also there are two altars aside the main altar. One with St. Therese of Lisieux and I believe St. Joseph.

I’m not sure who provided these art depictions in front of the parish, possibly the city, but this one is right in front. I love the touch it brings the community and the history of this neighborhood church.