Thursday, August 28, 2014

nada te turbe...solo Dios basta

Teresa, la peregrina, Ávila

A follow up to yesterday's Ávila story...

This year marks the 500th birthday of Santa Teresa de Jesús, Teresa of Ávila, whose feast day is October 15.

Not only has Teresa always been close to my heart, this October 15 of 2014, will be my son's 32nd birthday--and it is also the due date for his fourth child (our 5th grandbaby)!

This week I came across this beautiful video in honor of this year's feast, and its beauty brought tears to my eyes.

It is one of two virtual choirs produced for the celebration of Santa Teresa's 500th birthday, and it features Carmelite nuns virtually singing "together" from around the world, accompanied by the Teresian Orchestra of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Washington.

Sister Claire Sokol composed this beautiful rendition of Teresa's famous prayer, "Nada te turbe."  I know you will enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

as in the Camino, so in life...

our new wooden door... how it changes the entrance to our home!
Pat and I began our Camino pilgrimage by spending the first several days of our Spanish adventure in the well-preserved medieval city of Ávila, home of our beloved Santa Teresa. 

For lodging, we had arranged to stay at the Convento Santa María de Jesús, located on a hill right outside the famous walled city.

Not actually running a hotel for tourists, the Franciscan nuns (las Clarisas) at the convent agreed to let us stay in the Convent's guest rooms after I explained that Pat and I were pilgrims, headed to Pamplona, where we would begin walking el Camino de Santiago.

I will never forget our arrival in Ávila. After the taxi dropped us at what appeared to be the main entrance to the convent, Pat and I could not figure out how to get into the building!

First timidly, then forcefully, we knocked on the wooden door and waited. Several times.

Hungover from jetlag, I searched the massive door with black iron nails for something obvious that could announce our presence. A doorbell, a bell, a knocker.  There was nothing but the handle that we kept trying to twist open, without success.

We set our backpacks down against the wall with a beautiful carved image of St. Francis and St. Clare.  And Pat and I took turns knocking on the door and walking up and down the front of the building looking into the windows.

Nothing. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to get in!

I decided to walk the entire street block looking for a different entrance to the building.  When that didn’t work, I walked down the hill to a paint store that had its door open, and I asked the clerk behind the counter if he could tell me how to get into the convent.

The man looked puzzled by my question, then generously offered me the store’s phone to call the convent.

The door isn’t locked,” said the confused nun who answered the phone. “It’s not locked,” she repeated, “Just open the door.

So once again, I walked back to the intimidating door. Stood in front of it for a moment. And this time, instead of knocking or reaching for the handle--I gave it a slight push.

The door was heavy, but it was, indeed, unlocked!

All we had to do was move forward to go through the open door.

As in the Camino, so in life…

from the nun's current website

Friday, August 15, 2014

on this day in history

Today, August 15, is the feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, as well as my Cuban grandfather Alipio’s birthday!

On this date in 1945, church bells rang throughout the world as the Second World War finally came to an end. For Koreans, today is also Independence Day—commemorating the end in 1945 of what was a bitter and cruel Japanese rule over the Korean people.

It seems like no coincidence, therefore, that Pope Francis chose this date for his first visit to AsiaHe wasted no time calling all of us to pray -- and work -- for peace!

 “[Korea’s] national legacy has been tested through the years by violence, persecution and war. But despite these trials, the heat of the day and the dark of the night have always given way to the morning calm, that is, to an undiminished hope for justice, peace and unity. What a gift hope is! We cannot become discouraged in our pursuit of these goals which are for the good not only of the Korean people, but of the entire region and the whole world…

Peace is not simply the absence of war, but “the work of justice” (cf. Is 32:17). And justice, as a virtue, calls for the discipline of forbearance; it demands that we not forget past injustices but overcome them through forgiveness, tolerance and cooperation. It demands the willingness to discern and attain mutually beneficial goals, building foundations of mutual respect, understanding and reconciliation. May all of us dedicate these days to peace, to praying for it and deepening our resolve to achieve it.”

¡Asi sea! (may it be so).

[Click here for the full text of Pope Francis’ August 14 speech to South Korean leaders on his first day of a 5-day visit.]

During his visit this week, Pope Francis will beatify Korea's first martyr,
Paul Yun Ji-chung, and his 123 companions

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

sand, surf, and holy moments

I returned last night from a long weekend on the Texas coast with all my family and with a group of dear friends, many of whom I’ve known since my days—500 years ago!—as an undergraduate attending the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas in Austin.

Being at the beach for me is always and foremost a tangible, undeniable glimpse into God’s presence in all of creation, and in this present moment. it is in the sand and the waves that I inevitably touch, however briefly, the mysterious essence of eternity.

In that sense, these past few days on the coast were no different.

Yet like all other things in my life right now, even in this most familiar place, being with these most familiar and intimate friends and family—everything seemed foreign, different, even “off.”   

I am aware that, the truth is, it is *I* who feel strange and different. I am the one who is “off.” 

What was such a blessing about this weekend is that it didn't matter. I allowed myself to be off, to feel strange and different in front of my family and friends. I acknowledged this unfamiliar and unusual state where my heart dwells right now. And I knew that I was (I am!) still loved and accepted, as I am, where I am.

What a holy moment!

Each of us is loved by God with a limitless, unconditioned, and unconditional love that we can never destroy or even diminish. We are loved into existence; cherished in our existence; affirmed absolutely in death and beyond. This love is independent of our merit or demerits. Nothing whatsoever can separate us from this love. For it is the breadth; it is the length; it is the height and it is the depth—there is nowhere beyond it, above it or below it. It is All: the limitless ocean that encompasses our tiny, threatened, fragile yet definitely precious self.

This is not merely impersonal, protective benevolence but a love that gives self, that offers inconceivable intimacy and that seeks reciprocity. We can never define or draw a line around what God will do for each one of us. We are exposed to the infinite. Against this truth what does our sense of impotence matter?”
                                                                                            ~Sister Ruth Burrows, O.C.D.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

what we need is here

Mont Saint-Michele, France
The Wild Geese Horseback on Sunday morning,harvest over, we taste persimmonand wild grape, sharp sweetof summer’s end. In time’s maze
over the fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, namesthat rest on graves. We opena persimmon seed to find the treethat stands in promise,pale, in the seed’s marrow.Geese appear high over us,pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,as in love or sleep, holdsthem to their way, clear,in the ancient faith: what we needis here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to bequiet in heart, and in eyeclear. What we need is here. 

~Wendell Berry, “The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

Monday, August 4, 2014

you can't fake surrender

It is I” ~Mathew 14:27

“God is in all things, sustains all things, directs all things. [To] see his will in all things was to accept each circumstance and situation and let oneself be borne along in perfect confidence and trust… By renouncing, finally and completely, all control of my life and future destiny, I was… freed from anxiety and worry, from every tension, and could float serenely upon the tide of God’s sustaining providence in perfect peace of soul.” ~Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.

michael & michelle walking the Italian beach

It is often only in retrospect that life can be seen accurately. A good example is looking back and remembering the worse, most difficult, most painful moments in my life, or other critical life changing events.

Days, months, or more likely, years later, I eventually recognize that one of the graces—or dare I call them blessings? —of these moments is how clearly I later see the hand of God in the details of my life.

A few years when Michael, Michelle and I fell asleep on a deserted beach in southern Italy and, while we were sleeping, our travel bag stolen. Not only did the bag have our passports, money, credit cards, camera, it also had the keys to our rental car, so we weren’t going anywhere!

My honest but bold prayer that day still makes me laugh.  As I walked up and down the beach cussing under my breath and checking every trash bin in the hope that some of our things had been dumped and left behind, the words I burst out loud were more of a dare than a prayer: “Oh fine. Let’s see how you’re going to get us out of this one!”

In God’s eternal, faithful, and even humorous love, the answer was immediate.  A young couple down the beach came to ask how they could help us. They drove us to the nearby police station, and even took us to the flat that was our home for the week, even though it was several towns away. We are now Facebook friends with our Italian angels.

On a more serious note, during recovery from surgery on my cervical spine eight years ago, I remember feeling so completely empty, powerless, and broken that my only prayer was one of surrender. I felt lonely and vulnerable, yes. But I wasn’t asking God for help as much as keenly aware that only in Him, through Him, with Him, could I continue living. It was both sobering and liberating.

But why do I wait for a moment when I feel completely helpless to trust the God who loves me so faithfully day after day? How can I make the shift in attitude from having confidence in God because that’s what I should do—to truly and completely surrendering myself to God in trust with every detail of my life?

The thing is that I don’t want my actions and prayers to be based on a religious or pious definition of what or how a good Catholic Christian should act.

What I really want is that serenity Father Ciszek describes and that I've experienced during crisis, the type that frees me from anxiety and worry. I want to surrender to God—because I am loved, and that changes everything.

I want love to be my catalyst.

Monday, July 28, 2014

remembering Father Stanley Francis Rother, Oklahoma martyr

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the death of Father Stanley Rother. 

You may recall that I’ve been commissioned by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to write a biography of Servant of God Father Stanley Rother, the Oklahoma missionary whose cause for canonization is in progress.

I've blogged about him and his ministry to the Tz'utujil indians of Guatemala many times, for example here and here. And I have published several articles on him. Here’s one, and here’s another.

It all began here, growing up as a member of the Rother clan in the town of Okarche, Oklahoma:

remembering Stan, at the home of her brother Tom and sister in law Marti
Okarche, OK
Memorial to their hometown saint, Holy Trinity Catholic School and parish
a young Stanley, with his nephew at a Christmas gathering in Okarche

As a missionary priest serving in the Oklahoma mission in Santiago Atitlán, Padre Francisco, called Apla's by the Guatemala Tz'utujil indians, had a special place in his heart for the children. 

It's not difficult to see how this love and concern manifested itself in his earnest commitment and ministry for the widows and the orphans during Guatemala's bloody civil war.

Please join me and the Church in Oklahoma and Guatemala in praying for the canonization of this faithful priest and martyr:
Heavenly Father,
source of all holiness,
in every generation you raise up
men and women heroic in love and service.
You have blessed your Church
with the life of Stanley Rother,
priest, missionary, and martyr.
Through his prayer, his preaching,
his presence, and his pastoral love,
you revealed Your love and Your presence
with us as Shepherd.
If it be your will,
may he be proclaimed
by the universal church
as martyr and saint,
living now in your presence
and interceding for us all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
And would you join me also in praying for a publisher for my Rother biography? I am confident and waiting for the right home for this important manuscript.

To join the cause, visit the Father Stanley Rother Guild -- or contact me!