The Chosen TV Series – Episode 2: Shabbat

”He called me Mary. He said I am His. I am redeemed. … I was one way, and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between was Him. So, yes, I will know Him for the rest of my life.” – Mary Magdalene

These have to be my favorite lines from the entire Season 1 from The Chosen. When I tell stories about my younger days and decisions that I made, people don’t often believe me. A dear priest close to my heart once told me as much after my general confession.

“Yes, it is all true,” I said. “All of it.”
“A lot of very bad things could have happened to you,” he replied. “I want you to go out there, look at the crucifix, and ask Jesus why He spared you.”

I have tears in my eyes as I write this. There was an immense conviction I felt that day because I finally understood the mercy of God and knew I couldn’t keep it to myself. Being yoked to Christ, I needed to share the truth, goodness, and love that was poured into my heart that day.

The confession of every single one of my sins committed in my lifetime was not meant to shame me and leave me in the mire of guilt. It – and every confession before and after – had the purpose of showing me that after every turn I made away from Jesus, He was still loving me through it all…waiting for me to come back. And when it happened, He was the one who pursued me.

I couldn’t deny Him anymore. He was too important. It was too painful to do life without the Him. There would be fierce battles to fight against habits, behaviors, and a very negative mindset, but the Lord gave me the grace to show up everyday and seek His face. And now I see it more as a process of becoming. He and I working together – Him doing more of the molding and conquering while I do the yielding and obeying.

The evidence of Mary Magdalene’s redemption in Episode 2 reminded me of God’s simple work in my heart. I would be the one to complicate things, but every time I made a choice to return to Him and honor Him and His commandments, I would recognize His presence once again…not that He ever really left.

I love the character development in this show. The writers do a beautiful job of drawing out their personalities and daily experiences that make these biblical figures come alive. It is also calling me back into the richness of Scripture, opening my mind again to the Word of God in a way familiar to the early days of my conversion.

And Shabbat…yes, I am praying for its meaning and purpose to truly direct our family’s celebration of the Lord’s Day. It was so central to the lives of the Jews, as they gave worship and thanks to God for all His benefits. Sunday Mass has always been important to us, but even beyond this sacred hour, what else is He calling us to do with one another? This is something we will be listening for in the next few days…
#thechosentv #getusedtodifferent

The Chosen TV Series – Episode One: I Have Called You By Name

“What do we do when we are scared?” … Adonai’s words: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.” – The papa of little Mary Magdalene

I committed to this series of reflections on The Chosen episodes, and in light of the recent church vandalism at Ss. Peter and Paul here in Wilmington and St. Catherine of Siena in Reseda – on top of the increasing hatred, violence, and destruction wreaking havoc in our country – this seems to be perfect timing.

Episode One tells the story of Mary Magdalene who we know from Scripture was possessed by seven demons. Mind you, hers is an intense journey with a heart-breaking beginning eventually leading to a beautiful ending. (Be forewarned – our children hid under blankets during particular scenes)

Other characters are introduced, wrought with inner turmoil and desperate situations. As the minutes went by and a vivid depiction of human brokenness was clearly drawn out for us, the kids kept asking me and Gary, “When is Jesus coming? When is Jesus coming?” because they know by both knowledge and experience that Jesus makes everything better. When the Lord finally makes His presence known, there is a spark of hope and a torrent of tears upon seeing how divine goodness and power heal through love.

On more than a few occasions I have witnessed demons torment people, showing intense resistance to releasing the poor souls they have been attached to for so long. It always takes faith in the name of Jesus, focused prayer in the Holy Spirit, and the Father’s merciful hand to finally free them from their deep-rooted anguish. And we would thank Jesus every time for the peace that would follow. Straight out of the Gospels is how I would describe these encounters where the glory of the kingdom is made as real on earth as it is in Heaven.

The words of Nicodemus in this episode ring true: “Only God Himself could have drawn them out.” These spirits exist, and they are very active in our world. Those of you who know me well understand that I would not make this up. For 20 years, I have read, studied, and “sat at the feet” of mentors and spiritual directors who are trained to meet pain and evil face-to-face. It is an important part of my spiritual formation I don’t openly share, but given the present state of our times, I have realized that the bushel basket needs to come off.

Why? Because I cannot sit back watching more of our brothers and sisters struggling alone without meeting the Love who can save them. There is still work to be done in my own heart…deeper wounds that this quarantine has brought to the surface…but at this point I know too much to keep the fullness of the message to myself.

So praise God for Dallas Jenkins, Jonathan Roumie, and the rest of the cast and crew of The Chosen. In the following episodes and coming seasons, they will show us who we really are and who He really is. If you need to rewatch the show multiple times like I do, feel free to download the app on your phone…and as I said before, make sure to grab some tissue before you hit play. It’s that good.

#thechosentv #getusedtodifferent

FOREVER: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage (Week One)

Spontaneous date night in the middle of the week. Not totally unheard of in the Dyogi home after our spur-of-the-moment boba date in August, so I figured we could pull this one off. I asked my sister Emeline if she could watch the kids so that Gary and I could make it out all the way to Christ Cathedral for Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel’s book release of their new Catholic marriage devotional. We desperately needed time together and something concrete to keep us connected on a regular basis, as super-busy as we are.

Surprisingly, after eleven years of marriage, connection still doesn’t always come easy for us. At least when it comes to any interaction beyond letting my husband know whether I have a client appointment to go to when he comes home…if the kids ate dinner or not…who wasn’t getting electronics the next day because they were fighting with a sibling. I’ve addressed the importance of actively working on our marriage, but it is definitely a challenge because the kids and work have been our main priorities since our oldest was born. If you ask Gary, he will tell you that we have a good marriage, which I agree with; however, I know that there’s a deeper intimacy that we can share and model for our children.

So yes, I’d bug him every so often about it. And no, I wasn’t planning on letting it go.

Why? Because marriage is incredibly fragile in our society. The sacrament itself in the Church is solid, but with brokenness, concupiscence, temptation, complacency, emotional baggage, etc., etc., etc., the husbands and wives of today need to fiercely nurture the love that God has placed in our hearts for each other.

Hence, down the 405 and 22 freeways in rush hour traffic we went.

It was a beautiful evening, with Jackie and Bobby starting off with a Q&A about their book and their marriage. We appreciated their candid, honest, and grace-filled responses, knowing well the struggles of living as both spouses and parents of young children. Finding their experiences common to our own got us excited about starting the devotional together, and it came at a perfect time as we’d been planning to grow our ministry and start a YouTube channel for it. Lifting up our relationship in prayer during adoration that night led to the beginning of a new journey for me and Gary – one that would teach us more about each other and about God’s plan for our family.

We made this video at Christ Cathedral immediately after meeting Jackie and Bobby and committed to doing the devotional every day for 6 weeks.

We just finished Week One a whole three weeks later because life happened. Between work schedules, kiddos, chores, family events, much-needed rest, and a temporary pause due to issues we needed to work out with each other, it was hard getting the time in to do the daily devotions. Nevertheless, we made it to Day 7. I’m proud of us for even starting this because it’s more than we’ve ever done before, and I’m so grateful to Gary for persevering through it with me.

My favorite Week One challenge was from Day 3 when we had to find time to be alone with God.

A lot went through my mind and heart as I stood in front of the statue of St. Anthony.

St. Anthony statue
St. Anthony of Padua

I knew that if I myself was not abiding in the Lord, it would be very difficult to strengthen my marriage and see my husband with the eyes of Jesus. As I write this, I’m making a mental note to be more intentional with my individual prayer time so that it can then feed into my relationship with Gary and the kids.

The topics in FOREVER do touch on very personal aspects of marriage, and we will speak to these as best we can. Many of the subjects have already been publicly discussed in our talks over the years or shared with my Creighton Model clients at our follow-up appointments. These videos are primarily for our Dyogi kids so that they can witness the beauty of our vocation with all of the hills and valleys. And if there is something others can learn or be consoled by, praise the good Lord.

To get your copy of FOREVER: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage by Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel, visit Pauline Books & Media or Amazon.com for the Kindle version. There’s no better time to start than right now!

If you can do it in 6 weeks, that would be awesome. But if you have to take some time working through it like we do, that’s okay! No matter what, you would be building the foundation of your domestic church with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. It’s worth the investment. Your family depends on it. Have fun!

In Search of Me and Finding More of HIM

My goodness…a whole two years have passed! Here is my 2016-2017 update in a nutshell…

I went back to classroom teaching! It was an unexpected but very blessed experience for our family that began in November 2015 at St. Anthony of Padua in Gardena. My children attended school where I worked – a first for the Dyogi kids – and they absolutely loved it. They made so many really good friends, and so did I! I was privileged to serve under one of my favorite pro-life heroes Mrs. Angela Baraquio Grey, principal and Miss America 2001. I came onboard because we shared the same vision and philosophy for Catholic education, and I gained so much as an educator in the SAP school community. The students and their families were amazing, and I couldn’t ask for a better faculty and staff to work with. My favorite moments were seeing my own kiddos running around at recess with their friends, coming up to hug me as we passed each other in the lunch line, and having their teachers share with me the beautiful insights they would volunteer in class discussions.

In late 2015, I was interviewed for “The Catholic View for Women” on EWTN and the episode called “The Vocation Journey” aired this past May. It has replayed a few times already and, thanks be to God, there have been women around the country who were able to identify with different parts of my story. The interview did not include details about my meeting with Mother Angelica in the summer of 2003 which was an integral turning point for my vocation, but it was a great honor to be featured on the worldwide cable network that she founded. Watching the show with my family gave me an opportunity to see my life for the first time through God’s eyes. Mine has not been an easy road to walk, as I’ve had to make some hard choices and reach for the hand of Christ after falling under the weight of my cross. I am realizing more and more that all I need to do is to stay faithful to what is in front of me and depend on the Lord for the grace I need to sustain me every step of the way.

Rosary 10 months

Baby Dyogi #5 joined our family! Her name is Rosary Angelica named after my favorite spiritual weapon and favorite TV nun. She is a very sweet, charming little girl who is turning a year old next month already! I am so grateful that the Lord gave her to us because I can see how she pulls the rest of her siblings together and brings so much joy into our household. The pregnancy was a difficult one for me ridden with horrible panic attacks, but God is good. Rosary is healthy and has a very strong spirit. She has a keen observant awareness about her and already loves so generously. I cannot wait to see how her life’s mission will unfold as she gets older.

We are back to homeschooling! As of last June, Gary and I decided to once again have me stay home with the kids due to some new health issues that came up earlier this year. It was definitely not an easy decision to leave St. Anthony; however, we needed to choose what was best for our family overall. I have since been doing much better physically and continue to see Creighton clients part-time. I am also making a return to the speaking circuit and look forward to the new adventures that await us in the future!

Aside from all the “happenings”, this year in particular has been one of deep searching, healing, and transformation. My 40th birthday last December set me on a very interesting path – one that required a level of openness and humility that I’d never experienced before. I will be spending the rest of 2017 sharing my insights here on this blog, in hopes that my testimony will help someone out there discover the joy and peace that is possible in a life that is sprinkled (or showered) with suffering. As I said, God is ever loving and merciful, and He wants to give us so much more than we even dare to ask for. Because He has blessed me, I know He will bless you, too. Will you join me on the journey?

Be Bold, Be You, Be Loved

Every person longs for acceptance. We want to know we belong somewhere and fit in like pieces of a puzzle. This is why human beings have always sought community and solitary confinement is used as punishment for criminals.

When we don’t feel we quite measure up to the standard held in our families, our workplaces, our social circles, and even our churches, our first instinct is to walk away. The depression and anxiety that stems from deep insecurities lead us into isolation and suffocating interior darkness.

But God desires to love us into freedom. He created us with gifts, talents, and particular temperament that were meant to bless the world. Trying to navigate through a broken society and dealing with our own fallen humanity often makes it difficult to recognize our intrinsic value. Media advertising blares deceitful messages of simultaneous conformity and reckless abandonment.

It’s a challenge to walk the line between compassion and justice. We’re hard on ourselves and hard on each other. At the same time in regards to objective sin, sometimes we’re too forgiving and complacent walking down a dangerous road towards accepting terrible wrongs as normal and acceptable. But St. Teresa of Avila accurately defines humility as truth. If we want to be humble enough to grow authentic virtue, it is absolutely necessary for us to pray for the eyes of Jesus through which we will learn to see ourselves as He does.

What do we do that are “kingdom actions”? What thoughts do we think are “kingdom thoughts”? As I pray through my days, I’m trying to be more aware of the motivations and stirrings of my heart that manifest themselves in word and deed. A recent soul project I’ve undertaken is a greater movement toward authenticity because I can only contribute to the Kingdom of God the person God made me to be.

It’s taken some time to figure out who exactly that is, but I’ve gained great consolation in knowing that the “Me” that I give the world doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s a bit scary because I’m afraid of being judged for my faults and imperfections. Yet I find that even in the daily struggles, my heart is being refined and purified from attachments I didn’t even know were disordered. So while people may misunderstand me or form opinions about me based on the limited knowledge they have, I can still thank God for the hidden work He is doing within me that is taking root in my soul.

He loves me. He loves you, too. He loves each and every one of us so much that He shed His blood so that we might be saved from the hands of the enemy. The devil doesn’t want us to be real with ourselves and with each other. If he can’t get us to physically destroy our own lives, he will deceive us into creating a world of fabricated selves that look nothing like the image that God created us in.

The Lord desires us to be FULLY ALIVE…not the Walking Dead! May we wake up to the reality of God’s good graces and accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit that empower us reflect the presence of Jesus in our world.

“We will be the happiest people in the world if we belong to God, if we place ourselves at his disposal, if we let him use us as he pleases. To be this happy, we must belong to Jesus fully without reservation. He alone is worthy of our love and our total surrender. Once we really belong to him then he is free to use us, to do with us whatever he pleases.”

— Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Be Filled With the Spirit

“Brothers and sisters:
Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” (Ephesians 5:15-20)

Today I pray for:

  • wisdom
  • knowledge
  • discernment

Lord, I would like to know what to say, when to say it, and how Your message needs to be delivered. Please pour out Your Spirit upon my life – not only when I am called to do “big” things, but in the tasks and interactions  that I face every day.

My kids ask me questions all the time. They want to understand the world around them. They’re figuring out how to have healthy relationships with the people in their lives and what actions are good and bad. I pray that I will guide them rightly and most importantly be able to live out an example worth following. Amen.

The Inheritance

“I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”  (Joshua 24:13)

Today I pray for:

  • a deeper awareness of the shoulders I stand on
  • gratitude for the labor of love I have inherited in building up the Body of Christ
  • GUSTO (a.k.a. zeal for souls)

Tonight I was blessed to be in the presence of brothers and sisters in Christ who are very comfortable with tears. I needed to release the heaviness. I had to surrender the crosses I was not meant to bear.

In a recent conversation with a dear friend, I talked about how “edited” our lives end up becoming when we are trying so hard to be strong and hold it all together. This prayer meeting let me offer the “uncut” version of myself and receive the peace The Lord wanted to give me.

I’m grateful for these gatherings…for the authenticity…for the intercession. The healing process continues and the work will not be done until we take our last breath. In the meantime…

“ADELANTE! Onward!” – Ven. Mother Luisita, OCD

 

YOUR PRAYER LIFE

Between Jesus and the soul there flows a current no one can see and a dialogue that no one hears. Form a rich and beautiful tabernacle for Our Lord within your heart and then do not let Him go. In that way you will always have Him within you. Enter within yourself and, meeting Him, tell Him all your experiences. Adore Him within yourself, as if everything were in silence.

How beautiful it is to be in the Hands of God, searching His divine Gaze, in readiness to do whatever He wishes. If you don’t omit prayer, you will find all your answers there. Prayer can do all things. It is our most powerful weapon against the devil and nothing can withstand it or resist it. Therefore, prayer is what will save you from the many dangers surrounding you daily. With courage, trust, and prayer adelante (onward), even if you have to walk among thorns.

Are you becoming a saint? God our Lord has given you a soul for that very purpose. God loves you very much, my child. Correspond to that love, by making acts of humility, especially interiorly. Be truly simple and try to detach yourself from everything that is not God. You’ll be able to do this through the intercession of Our Blessed Mother. Don’t doubt it.

(Excerpted from letters written by Venerable Mother Luisita)

My Gift to the World

“Let your countenance shine upon your servant and teach me your statutes.” (Psalm 119:135)

Today I pray for:

  • a greater security in belonging to Jesus
  • a more complete detachment from the world’s attractions
  • metanoia

I’m not being called to mimic or duplicate any other woman. The unique gift of myself that I offer back to The Lord is the greatest contribution I will make in this life. I’m praying with all my heart that it will be enough for me. Because that’s all I can really give…

In the Midst of Us

“Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

Today I pray for:

  • the inspiration to pray
  • to fight the temptation to worry
  • to include my husband and my children as I am praying

Out of my prayer, I realized that:

  • there is so much I haven’t given to God
  • the enemy is actively trying to steal my peace
  • I just need to pray

Cheerful Giving

“Brothers and sisters: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2Corinthians 9:6-8)

Today I pray for:

  • a deeper appreciation for the mission I have been given to preach the truth 
  • the ability to recognize the abundance of grace from which all of my work flows
  • more cheerfulness, especially when I am tired

I gave the first of these two talks at the Holy Family Young Adult prayer meeting tonight:

  

I definitely felt the weight of responsibility addressing such a heavy topic, but I hope that the beauty of authentic self-giving love will be embraced and shared by all who understand how desperately the world needs it.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…we love you, save souls. Amen.