A Beggar’s Heart: A Short Tale of a Soul Called Forth

Once upon a time, there was a disciple of Jesus. He was a good disciple – quiet, unassuming, and humble. Given the name Azarel (“God helps”) by his father, he was raised with lofty expectations to do in his life what many others could not. The bar was set so high that Azarel always fell short. Nothing he did was ever good enough, and an immense fear of failure quickly took root in his heart. But the day he met Jesus inspired an openness he had never experienced before…a yielding towards something much greater that made him want to be more than he thought he could be.

There was never anything Azarel lacked growing up. Yet meeting this man who could calm storms on command, heal the sick, and raise the dead led him to realize a deep emptiness in his heart. Just as many others did before him, Azarel left what he had to follow this Jesus of Nazareth.

But when His Lord was crucified, it seemed all was over. At least to everyone except one: her name was Mary of Nazareth, mother of the Christ. Azarel watched her eyes after they rolled the stone in front of the tomb. No longer were they focused on the suffering her Son had endured, the humiliating death he had died, or even the place where the disciples had laid His body. The eyes of Mary appeared to be waiting for something. There was a peaceful hope no one else could understand.

Not until three days later.

After the miraculous resurrection, Jesus had spent the next forty days visiting His friends and consoling His mother. It was a time of great preparation for still another departure; one so mysterious that when it finally happened, even the Apostles could not believe what they had seen together with their very own eyes.


Into the heavens He went, and there they were…suddenly without Him again. Azarel remembered Jesus’ last words to them before He left: “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The promise. What did the Father promise?

So young and inexperienced, Azarel couldn’t even begin to interpret the Lord’s parting message. All he knew was that he didn’t want to leave the others. He especially didn’t want to leave the Blessed Mother because,
unlike the disciples who were scared and confused, Mary brought a comforting presence to them all.

Nine days.

With each passing moment, Azarel’s anxiety was countered with joyful anticipation. They all felt a stirring in the air. The Apostles in particular had drawn from Mary’s encouragement. Each one of their questions about the promise received the same response, “Just trust Him. Wait and pray as He told you.”

Wind. Fire.

What was this happening in their midst? Mary knew. She stood there, unmoved by the commotion. “She is not afraid,” Azarel thought to himself. “The way that she is receiving this gift is not a new experience for her. She has met this Spirit before.”

He was so focused on the mother of His Lord that he didn’t notice the others had left.

In her stillness she turned her gaze towards the young disciple crouched in the corner of the Upper Room. “Will you follow your brothers, Azarel?” Mary asked him as she motioned towards the door.

“Follow? Oh no, Mama. I don’t think they need me out there just yet. I’m not ready to go.”

“Are you afraid?”

“Yes,” Azarel responded, his eyes downcast.

“Of what?”

He couldn’t bear to admit it. “I don’t know.”

Mary’s shadow fell upon Azarel and she gently placed her hand on his head. “You have spent three years listening to my Son, watching Him work miracles, witnessing Him forgive sins. There is no question that many lives have been changed because He was here. He has since left us – you saw Him ascend to the Father. Now you are to be His hands and feet in the world.”

“I don’t think I can do it, Mama,” Azarel said sadly. “The Apostles were directly instructed by Him. The other disciples sought His attention and were formed to be much better leaders than I am. I’m not sure if Jesus even noticed that I was around half the time.”

“Oh but He did. Look.” Mary brought her right hand in front of Azarel’s face and resting just above it was a burning flame.

“Your hand!” Azarel gasped. “It’s on fire!”

“No, my dear. This is the Gift…the Promise we were praying for,” Mary explained. “Everyone had the same outpouring and each one was given the Holy Spirit. Including you.”

“So what am I to do with this Gift?”

Guiding Azarel to his feet, she commanded, “You need to go. Join the others. You have been given a great mission to proclaim the kingdom. Do not worry about what you are lacking. Jesus has empowered you with all that you need.” Still sensing his fear, Mary took the flame and covered his heart with her hand, “The Spirit of Love is strong in you. There is no doubt that your faithfulness will require sacrifice. Allow Him to purify you and lead you to greater courage.”

“Thank you, Mama. But would you come with me?” he desperately pleaded.

Removing her mantle, Mary placed it carefully around his shoulders. “Take this with you. It will protect you well.”

Azarel nodded obediently.

“God be with you. It is time.”

“Will God ever ask you to do something you are not able to do? The answer is yes–all the time! It must be that way, for God’s glory and kingdom. If we function according to our ability alone, we get the glory; if we function according to the power of the Spirit within us, God gets the glory. He wants to reveal Himself to a watching world.”
– Henry T. Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit: The Power of Pentecost Every Day

There’s Something About Mary

On this feast of Our Lady – Mary, Mother of God – I need to take this time to thank her for her constant prayers and guidance. So much so that I wouldn’t be married without her. See for yourself…

Gary’s grade schools: MORNING STAR Elementary School and STAR OF THE SEA Catholic School in San Francisco (titles for Our Blessed Mother)

Gary’s college: Loyola MARYMOUNT University

Gary’s devotion upon his “prodigal son” return: Daily ROSARY and Mass

Booklet given to Gary by his mom that helped him come back to Jesus:


My name: Marianne (named after MARY and her mother St. Anne)

The picture that Gary clicked on when he found me on MySpace: (check out who’s behind me and my sisters)


What attracted me to Gary on the day that we met in person: The ROSARY he pulled out of his pocket

My regular spot at St. Peter Chanel for Daily Mass when I was single: 3rd row in front of OUR LADY OF FATIMA

The first day of our courtship: January 1, 2005 – Solemnity of MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

The place where Gary proposed, where we prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage, and where we got married: St. Peter Chanel staffed by the Oblates of the VIRGIN MARY


Call it chance or coincidence, but we truly believe that Mary has taken us as her children, woven her way throughout our lives, and tied us together for good. Whatever lies ahead will be covered by her mantle and cradled in her arms…where the joy will be sweeter and the trials easier to bear.

Thank you, Mama Mary. We love you!


My Journey to Bethlehem

Well…I’m not REALLY going to Bethlehem.

On July 13, I began the preparation for total consecration to Jesus through Mary using Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Morning Glory. I made my very first consecration in 2002 and have renewed it repeatedly over the years, but this time I experienced a much deeper connection to our Blessed Mother because now I am both a wife and mother. I have also switched roles with my husband and become the full-time homemaker. And I’m PREGNANT.

I was expecting my re-consecration day (August 15 – the Feast of the Assumption of Mary) to arrive with this monumental epiphany accompanied with profound revelations about the new and ever-growing responsibilities I have taken on. But, no…it was very quiet on God’s end…probably because it was very noisy on my end.

Being a Holy Day of Obligation, we needed to go to Mass – and we did. However, I had to take the kids without Gary because he had already started work at LMU and was going to catch a Mass in LA. So…we were late. Really late. It was the second week he was working, and these were some long hours he was putting in. I don’t adjust to major changes very quickly, so I was tired…overwhelmed…and spent in every which way possible.

The one thing that helped keep me going was my “FIAT”.

No, not the car.

It was the “YES” I had given to God, to my husband, and to my children to accept wholeheartedly the place reserved for me in the home during our kids’ most formative years. This was a big decision and a huge transition for us to make as a family, and it was something I wanted since I was carrying Meleana in my womb six years ago.

But, let me tell you… This is no easy job. I have a belly the size of a basketball, currently starting my 33rd week with baby Jean-Paul. It is now my job to take food orders throughout the day…homeschool our two girls…change Kali’s diapers…wash dishes…cook meals…clean…do laundry…take them all grocery shopping…run errands for the family…and get myself (still with the 3 kiddos) to all my prenatal appointments. Oh, and of course there are days when they’re sick, and I have to clean up “other stuff”.

On top of all that, it’s HOT.

There would be nights when I was so exhausted, I would cry. I missed having Gary here all the time to talk to and help with the kids. He’s been going through his own adjustments with an incredibly rigorous practice schedule and a trying commute, so I tried to hold down the fort as best as I could without too much complaint.

After a while I couldn’t hold the frustration in anymore, and I needed to find balance for the sake of our marriage…our family…and my own sanity.

The consistency of my prayer routine rooted my relationship with God, and it gave me the courage to be honest with my husband about what I needed. Now that we’re both used to the daily grind, it’s a little easier to carve out the time to check in with each other. Gary has been great about sharing the household duties, as time permits, and taking care of a sometimes fussy Kali when I just need a full night’s sleep after a challenging day.

As much of a roller coaster that the last few weeks have been, I have not once regretted the choice we made to do this. It was time.

It’s always an incredible comfort to know that my husband understands what I’m going through (apart from the pregnancy). He devoted five years to these little ones, and they all truly were his priority. Everything I do now, he did, too. So when he comes home from work and I look frazzled, he knows why. On the days when I share our small victories and lessons that the kids are learning, he is also able to appreciate them all right along with me.

So what does this have to do with Bethlehem?

Around this same time in her pregnancy, Mary hopped herself with her growing belly on the back of a donkey and rode some 100+ miles away from home so that her husband would not have to travel alone to his birthplace for the required Roman census. She did not worry about where or when she would give birth. She didn’t even give a second thought to the discomfort she would endure for the last trimester…again, on the back of a DONKEY.

There was no air-conditioned SUV. No restaurants to stop at. No hospitals in case of an emergency. When they arrived at their destination, there wasn’t even a clean, comfortable place for them to stay.

All the while, she knew that the child in her womb had a very special purpose, and whatever God led her and Joseph to do in each and every moment would play an important part in the Plan for her Son.

It was TRUST and OBEDIENCE at their finest.

Although my own journey does not completely mirror that of Mary’s, I am realizing more and more how close she really is to me as I live out God’s will in these days. I am called to faithfully and prayerfully support my husband. I must put my complete trust in the Lord to care for all our needs. If He should summon us out of our comfort zones, I have to obey Him without fear because His plans are always good and perfect. And should I be graced with difficult moments, I will choose to offer them up so that Jesus Christ Incarnate will reveal Himself to each one of my children, as we teach them about His merciful Love and the eternal Truth handed down to us through His Church.

I will reach Bethlehem. And then I will make my way to Nazareth…Galilee…Jerusalem…and Calvary.

When all is said and done, there will be Heaven…and that will be the final reward.



“As for me and my household, we will serve The Lord.” (Joshua 24:15c)

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us

“Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”

– Blessed Mother to Juan Diego, 1531