Saturday, August 31, 2019

Our Lady of Charity Blog Novena, día #2

Print depicting the apparition, Cuban Heritage Collection, 
Richter Library, University of Miami

Today I am delighted to introduce you to a talented author with a great name, María Morera Johnson,  who has a new book, "Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped me Grow in Faith and Love" (Ave Maria Press).

It is not too late for you to join this special Blog Novena in honor of Cachita, Nuestra Señora de la Caridad of el Cobre, patron of my birth island, Cuba.

Please pray with us... 
+     +     +
Day Two 


Holy name of Mary! O most loving mother, seal with your name our petitions, giving us the comfort that your son, Jesus, will lovingly grant them in accordance to His Will.
O beloved Virgen Mary, my Mother, I consecrate myself to you today: my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my heart, in other words, my whole being. I am yours, Oh Mother of Mercy, guard me and defend me as your son/daughter. Amen.

Ask for your petition here

REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

+     +     +

Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre, patron of Cuba, may not be as well known in American culture as Our Lady of Guadalupe. But one can find Our Lady of Charity’s image in churches around the world.

Wherever Cuban refugees have resettled, they have brought with them their devotion to la Caridad.

She is in a side chapel at the pre-eminent Marian shrine in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

She stands to the right of the altar at the open-air of St. Andrew by the Sea Catholic Church in North Padre Island, Texas.

An image of La Cachita, Cuba's beloved patron, was even given a place of honor a few years ago in the Vatican gardens.

And in Miami, just south of the downtown skyscrapers, there is a beautiful shrine built in her honor by Cuban refugees 50 years ago.

La Virgen de la Caridad is the most profound symbol of the Cuban nation,” said Bishop Felipe de Jesús Estévez of St. Augustine, FL. “The British have their queen, the Cubans have la Caridad. Even before Jamestown, El Cobre kept this gracious statue.”

For a personal reflection on what she means to me, drop by here or read my article from a few years ago, here.

But above all, don't miss this new book, "Our Lady of Charity: How a Cuban Devotion to Mary Helped me Grow in Faith and Love," by the other María, my gifted tocaya!

                                                                             +     +     +

"This is our most valuable treasure (Cobre), this is our greatest wealth and the best legacy we can give: to learn like Mary to leave home and set out on the path of visitation.  And to learn to pray with Mary, for her prayer is one of remembrance and gratitude; it is the canticle of the People of God on their pilgrimage through history.  It is the living reminder that God passes through our midst... he has come the aid of his servant, even as promised to our forebears and their children for ever."
~Pope Francis at the Sanctuary of 
Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre,  
Our Lady of Charity of el Cobre, Cuba (2015)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

who says Aggies and Longhorns can't be friends?

“You saw how the Lord, your God, carried you, as a man carries his child, all along your journey until you arrived at this place.”
                                                            ~Deut 1:31

+    +    +

“Sometimes our travel takes us to the places of our dreams, and sometimes it serves to remind us of who we are and where we came from. Our family excursions have rarely taken us to exotic places, but they have reconnected us with people we adore and given us new relationships to cherish. The every day holy is real, we just have to open our eyes to appreciate it.

Whatever road life has paved for you, consider this: Forget about the destination and focus on the journey. Wherever you go, do it with intention and purpose. Travel with a heart anxious for accompaniment. And remember that the drive is always sweeter when Jesus is riding shotgun with you.”
~Kathryn Whitaker

+    +    +

God has a tremendous sense of humor. 

When I first saw the title, then the book cover – with the beautifully edged cowboy boots, I was intrigued by Kathryn Whitaker’s book, “Live Big, Love Bigger: Getting Real With BBQ, Sweet Tea, and a Whole Lotta Jesus.” 

I mean, what is there not to like?  Texas, boots, BBQ, love and Jesus!

I immediately signed up to follow her on Instagram, then found her on Facebook under @TeamWhitaker

Then when I received a copy of the book, courtesy of Ave Maria Press, and browsed through the chapter titles, I smiled thinking how much my Texas-loving daughter would enjoy reading this book.

Even when I randomly opened a chapter and began reading, I chuckled, enjoying the author’s great sense of humor, and thought about several people who’d enjoy getting their hands on this one. 

So then I opened another chapter, and another one, then another one. Well, you get the picture. I loved reading this book! And I think that you will, too.

Let’s be honest, who can’t relate to the sentence, “Sometimes, you want to tell God to shove it.”

I don’t know Kathryn Whitaker, but I know we could be good friends. She is genuine, funny, insightful, intuitive, a great storyteller, honest – and did I mention humorous?

Setting aside the facts that Kathryn Whitaker and I have one major thing NOT in common (I don’t particularly enjoy Dr. Pepper) – as well as one irrevocably major distinction (I am a displaced Texas Longhorn living in central Oklahoma, and she is a displaced Texas Aggie living in Austin), after reading this book, I know that I’ve found a faith-sister.

And needless to say, we are in two very different phases of our life journey. Aka, I am muchmucholder. 

But our desire to live a whole-hearted life for Jesus is identical. The yearning to live a life with purpose and intention is the same. And the only difference in our love and prayers for our family, for our children and husbands, is that I have one more generational layer of prayer devotion – praying for my amazing Grands! 

Let me tell you a story. So an Aggie living in Austin and a Longhorn living in Oklahoma walk into a bar…

+    +    +

“This life was meant for living, so I encourage you to set fear aside and love bigger. Can I get a hell yes? Let’s say it a little louder for the folks in the back, shall we?”
~Kathryn Whitaker

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe's ministry of presence

A sad nun is a bad nun. . . . I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits. . . . What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others. 
                                ~Teresa of Ávila

At this time last year, I had my head down as I ran towards a finish line, completing a full draft of my latest book – a biography of the amazing Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, a sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus community who lives and works in Gulu, Uganda.

The biography – Rosemary Nyirumbe: Sewing Hope in Uganda -- is part of the Liturgical Press series, People of God. You can check out their other titles here.

It is difficult to express just what a pleasure it has been to write about Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, to be the author who has the privilege of introducing this formidable woman to readers in the U.S.
A woman of deep faith, Sister Rosemary is grounded in the Eucharist, and deeply devoted to Mother Mary. But as she likes to say, don’t dismiss her struggle because she is a nun!
Sister Rosemary is a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ who chooses to grapple daily with what it means to live out her vocation—especially reaching out to the broken and bleeding and needy, the living Body of Christ whom she sees in the women and orphans in northern Uganda.
It is her ministry of presence, above all, that makes her example so powerful and meaningful.
To give you a taste of my book, here’s a brief sample from its beginning:

Our four-wheeling Toyota Land Cruiser snakes and curves in the twilight, struggling to miss as many potholes as possible. But some dirt holes are simply so large that they bring our vehicle to a complete stop before our skilled driver can finally, slowly, move us forward.

Fast or slow, red dirt rises around us like a thick fog, restraining our vision and overpowering our sense of smell. Shockingly, neither the darkness nor the dirt, not even our speed, impedes pedestrians of all ages from sharing the road with us.

I watch a line of three women, one behind the other, carrying five-gallon yellow containers of water on their heads. Even as our car slides past them, the women continue, seemingly unaffected, determined, skillfully maneuvering their own steps around both the fast-moving vehicles and potholes.

We are in northern Uganda, in what is colloquially known as West Nile, a mere stone’s throw away from the South Sudan border.

I’m sharing the back seat of the four-wheel-drive vehicle with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, who nudges me, then raises her hand to point to the sign rushing past us, announcing our destination: Moyo. It’s no wonder that she warned me as we got in the car, “The road to Moyo is like going to Calvary! But Moyo . . . Moyo is paradise!”

Much like the way that New York City locals describe distance in time, not miles, Sister Rosemary’s eyes smile as she turns and whispers to me, “Only twenty more minutes,” which in non-Uganda time really means at least another half hour, although not quite an hour.

No matter. She continues fidgeting with the beads of her rosary with her left hand…

The landscape surrounding us is anything but an urban metropolis. It smells humid, and it is eerily silent. The car headlights bounce light into the growing darkness, occasionally revealing a goat in the bush or a group of barefooted children herding a cow with a stick on their way home for supper.

We are slowly climbing up, with mahogany trees and luscious bush showing off their beauty to either side of us.

In modern African history, northern Uganda is infamously known for its violent stories. Idi Amin carried out mass executions of its native Acholi and Lango Christian tribes as well as other ethnic groups, a tragedy followed by years of tribal “bush wars.”

Soon afterward, for decades that persisted into the early 2000s, the region sheltered the violent guerrillas of warlord Joseph Rao Kony and his militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), as it moved across the borders of Sudan, Congo, and back.

Hearing the stories of Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe’s life makes the history of northern Uganda seem simultaneously otherworldly and intensely relevant. Her story is, in fact, intricately woven with the tragic, extreme, yet ultimately hopeful history of this region in central Africa.

Best known as the driving force who saved hundreds of children from abduction during the bloody wars that have devastated northern Uganda and Sudan for decades, Sister Rosemary walks with a sense and force of purpose and, always, with joy.

No small task for a woman who not only lived through these often brutal moments in her country’s history, but who also stood up to the evil before her, time and time again—all in the name of what she calls the gospel of presence, healing, and forgiveness.

She was born in Paidha, approximately one hundred miles—but four and a half hours by car—southwest of Moyo. For almost twenty years, she has lived and worked at St. Monica’s Girls Tailoring Centre rescuing and teaching marketable skills to women and children who suffered first when they were abducted, and then again when they were forced to join the violent, gruesome world of Kony’s militia. The one place that has always welcomed them back from the bush is St. Monica’s in Gulu…

Rome Reports described her in 2017 as “the Mother Teresa of Africa.” But, she will interrupt to say, grinning, “None of these things make me taller than what I am! I’m level headed because I don’t see these things as lifting me to be someone different.”

Although active abductions of children in northern Uganda ended in 2006, even now the girls are continuing to escape from their bush captivity. And Sister Rosemary passionately describes story after horrifying story of what these children have lived through and why they need us.

You can order my book here and here! And see an article I wrote about her for St. Anthony Messenger magazine here.