Moving Mountains

“Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

Today I pray for:

  • The Lord to be my strength
  • more faith
  • a greater expectation for the impossible

I am weary, Lord. Shower upon my soul the graces I need to persevere with love. Amen.

Out of my prayer, I learned:

  • the purest love given is when I have no strength left
  • moving mountains isn’t up to me
  • the impossible may not happen overnight

  

Celebrating Papa Joseph

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Today is the feast of St. Joseph, and I must thank him for being the epitome of everything an earthly husband and father should be. I am also grateful for his intercession because were it not for his prayers, Gary may not have been formed the way that he was after his conversion.

A friend of mine shared this beautiful video of “Joseph’s Lullaby” to Jesus. It really enters into his mind and heart as the foster father of our Savior.
What an amazing privilege it was for him to be chosen, as Our Blessed Mother was, to help raise the Son of God and teach Him everything he knew.

It was not an easy time period to live in for the Jews. They were not completely free, and the cultural and political pressures imposed by the Roman Empire surely took their toll on Joseph and Mary. But they trusted in the Father’s plan and believed in the greater mission of ushering in the kingdom of God for the salvation of all humanity. Heaven was always their focus and not once did they lose sight of it. From the moment they were each aware of His presence within Mary’s womb through the years that they would watch Him grow into adulthood, the King of kings would serve as a daily reminder to His parents that they were meant for greater things than this world had to offer..

Gary and I were talking about how desperate our society has become – hungry for power, material wealth, and self-indulgence. The thought of eternal Paradise was the only thing that kept us from hypothesizing all the despairing possibilities for our children’s future. We have to prepare them, we said. At least they will have each other, as well as the other young ones whose parents are instilling and preserving the values that yield a resilience no one person or government can destroy.

Following the example of Joseph, I watch my husband take the lead as head of our family to guide and protect as best as he can. We are not perfect by any means, but it is a great consolation to know that we can beg for the grace to walk in the footsteps of history’s most courageous husband and wife team. May we fall into the merciful arms of Jesus as we actively engage our children in the Culture of Life. There is much work to be done…saints to be made…truth to be taught. So with the long and narrow road ahead of us, here we go!

St. Joseph and Mama Mary, pray for us!

The Walk: Why, hello again, Jesus

College. Spring 1997. I thought I had it all. The friends…the cool boyfriend…rockin’ siblings…a restored relationship with my mom…a nice car…and I even held down 2 jobs while going to school so I could buy whatever I wanted. Being President of the sorority I helped found and also heavily involved in the Pilipino club, I couldn’t have dreamed up better times. Younger girls would follow me around campus and say, “Can I just be you for one day?” Sounds ridiculous, I know. But it’s true.

For the sake of this part of the story, I have to admit that from the outside looking in it seemed like I had it together – at least through the world’s eyes. Not only was I fairly accomplished and respected, I was even proud to say that I could hang at the bar with the best of them. My weekends were full of places to go and people to see. There was nothing more I could really ask for.

…until a sinking feeling cut deep into my heart and I found it completely…empty.

My boyfriend and I were walking to the parking structure one day after school. He took one look at me and asked, “What’s wrong?”

I started crying. “I don’t know. Everything’s fine. I just…hurt inside.”

Nothing bad happened. No one was responsible for my unhappiness except me. It’s not that I didn’t feel loved by the people in my life. It’s just that “all that I had” now wasn’t enough.

That night I sat down at the dinner table with my head in my hands, quiet and reserved. I wasn’t one to open up much anyway, but my mom knew. The new-found depression was written all over my face.

“I think you should come to church with me and Emeline,” she suggested.

I rolled my eyes. “We already go to church on Sundays.”

“No. You need to come to this program on Thursdays. It’s good!”

There was something different in her voice. Something I’d never heard before…as if light was shining through her words…if you could “hear” light…

“What do you do there?” I asked glumly.

“Watch videos! The speaker is excellent!”

Oh great. I was already bored at Mass. What could videos possibly do to pull me out of this funk? The fact of the matter, though, was that I really didn’t like feeling this way, and my mom seemed to be convinced that she had something I needed.

“Fine,” I answered reluctantly. “I’ll go.” Honestly, I didn’t have anything better to do. I mean, there was the Arena on Thursday nights, but the clubbing scene was getting old fast.

My youngest sister was SO excited that I’d be joining them. Emeline worked at the Christian bookstore in the mall. She would come home singing strange songs from some cartoon about vegetables and fly through novels that were thicker than my biology textbooks. This girl was like walking sunshine, and I just didn’t understand how she could be so cheery all the time. It was sheer perpetual perkiness. See, my baby sister was born to be everything I thought I could never be: obedient, studious, hard-working, loyal, and incredibly optimistic. From where I was standing, she always did everything right. So it only made sense that she became the Jesus-loving, Bible-verse-reading evangelist who wanted to set the world on fire with the love of God. Deep down I envied her, although I was so set in my ways that I never thought to follow in her footsteps. After all, I was the big sister. I knew who I was and what I was doing. Sort of.

This time, however, I was desperate.

Each passing day turned into an eternity. I finally accepted the fact that I needed help when I looked around my bedroom and noticed a slew of wine cooler bottles scattered throughout my desk and bookshelves. Who knows how long they’d been there? For months I didn’t think it was a problem. And it wasn’t like I was taking shots by myself, right?

Wrong.

In that moment, my eyes were able to see into my heart and find the reason for this growing dependence on alcohol. I was trying to drink myself into becoming someone I knew I was not. And my sister…well, apparently she didn’t need to turn to a substance to get comfortable with her identity. She had a Person.

I was curious about this relationship Emeline and my mom had developed with Jesus. I did know about Him. He hung on the crosses at church. My dad used to act out these fun Bible stories where Jesus would raise people from the dead. There was even a picture of Him in our hallway whose painted eyes would slowly follow me as I walked from the stairs to my room – especially when I did something I wasn’t supposed to do. His face was very familiar.

The thing is that Mommy and Emeline now talked to Him and about Him as if He was their FRIEND. Weird. I didn’t get it. But after going to one of those Thursday sessions in this ALPHA program, I wanted to be His friend, too. I wanted what they had. JOY…PEACE…simple appreciation for LIFE. Every Thursday I would go, and for some reason I didn’t miss the lifestyle I was leaving behind. For the first time ever, I both experienced and understood unconditional Love…the kind of acceptance I’d always longed for…even stronger than the greatest love my parents had for me.

If it wasn’t for my mom’s invitation, I truly believe I would still be wandering the world aimlessly searching for meaning in my life. Because she cared so much for my soul, she brought me to a place where I would begin to heal from my past mistakes and be forgiven for the worst sins I’d ever committed. And Emeline was my most enthusiastic cheerleader. This was typical of her – ever since she was little, she always had my back. At every performance I had, she’d yell the loudest and didn’t care who was around. If I did something, she wanted to do it, too. If I had a friend, she’d want to be their friend, too. I’d never felt more supported by anyone else before…and I took it for granted until I realized that this was when I needed her more than ever.

Now she was cheering me on towards Heaven.

God puts certain people in our families because He knows how badly we will need them. I wouldn’t have stuck through the end of the ALPHA program if Emeline wasn’t there with me. I wouldn’t have joined the Charismatic prayer group on Tuesday nights if it wasn’t for her either.

I remember driving with my sister to church one day and she was telling me about this OTHER program she attended on Tuesday nights. It was called a Life in the Spirit Seminar with talks (in person) about our faith. It sounded similar to ALPHA, but she said that – just the week before – this particular woman who spoke about the suffering and death of Jesus made it so very personal for her.

“When she was talking, I could see Jesus in front of me…bleeding and dying…just for me,” Emeline shared openly. “I was totally crying the whole time! Oh my gosh, B.anne…YOU HAVE TO GO!”

“You HAVE to go.”

That was my sister’s signature phrase. She said it to everyone with such a contagious spirit that we all were so curious about whatever it was that we “had to go to”. Emeline never second-guessed her invitations; she joyfully and unapologetically told people about Jesus and exactly where they could go to meet Him. Her zeal for the Gospel was overflowing and we somehow knew that this Living Water she was offering could perhaps quench the thirst our souls had inside for truth…for faith…for love.

This was the best gift Emeline has ever given me. Hands down.

Thanks to the combined efforts of my mom and my sister, I was at church at least 3 days out of the week and I couldn’t have been happier. It was a difficult time since I was withdrawing from the social scene I once was a part of. Friends stopped calling me to go out. My convictions got stronger and I had to pick up where my 3rd grade Catholic school girl self left off many years before. There was a lot of letting go and catching up to do all at the same time. But with Emeline by my side, it was going to be okay.

Before long, our other sister Roselynn was going to ALPHA and prayer meeting. Our cousins joined us and many others who were looking for a community of brothers and sisters in the Church. We volunteered as group leaders and speakers for both the adult ALPHA program and Youth ALPHA. I was relieved that I finally found my identity in Jesus Christ and no longer had to try living two totally separate lives. Having two feet in separate boats didn’t work for me. The path I had chosen was a difficult one, but there was comfort in knowing that I wasn’t alone.

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My Secrets to Surviving This Journey Called Life – #1 PRAYER

Some friends recently asked me about my daily prayer routine, so I thought I’d also share with you what keeps me afloat and fuels my days…

There was a period of time when all I could cry out to God was, “Jesus, help me!” Very much like Peter begging the Lord to save him from drowning, I was desperately seeking the hand of God to pull me out of the raging sea. My sister chuckled when she noticed the prayer bouncing around my computer screen – it was that much a part of my life.

Fortunately I’m in better times, but I still need that constant communication with my Maker, especially because I know I can’t go through life spiritually blinded. So I start my day with the following:

• MORNING OFFERING – I’ve been praying this for about 7 years every day both when I wake up and first thing in the school day with my students. It’s a beautiful prayer that helps me give to Jesus everything that is going to happen in my day so that each moment becomes a gift back to Him, even if I go through difficult times. You can find the prayer here: http://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/morning-offering.html

• LITANY OF HUMILITY – I fell in love with this prayer back in 2002 and recently started including it in my morning ritual after hearing the suggestion from Catholic speaker and former model Leah Darrow. Now this is definitely a transformative prayer because it helped prepare me for situations that would have otherwise broken and discouraged me. Instead of dwelling on the hurt I felt, I offered it back to Jesus and thanked Him for the opportunities to humbly suffer for love of Him. I cannot recommend this litany enough for the graces and virtues that flow through it! You can find the litany here: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/humility.htm

• Meditate on the DAILY MASS READINGS on my iMissal app – I slowly and prayerfully read through these “lectio divina” style…asking the Holy Spirit to speak to me in the words of Scripture. Once a verse stands out among the others, I copy it and share it on my Facebook page!

• MUSTARD SEED REFLECTION from Matthew Kelly – Emailed from Dynamic Catholic (you can check out their website dynamiccatholic.com and subscribe to receive the emails). These quotes often relate to experiences we all go through on a day-to-day basis and make the Gospel message more tangible for today’s Catholic-Christian.

• FACEBOOK NEWSFEED – Only if I have time…this is extra…I totally flooded my Like Pages with Catholic ministries, organizations, homeschooling groups, inspiring priests/evangelists/speakers so I get a lot of good stuff on FB to encourage me throughout the day.

…and then at some point during the day (it was usually on my morning commute to work…now it’s whenever I have a 15-minute block of quiet time) I pray the Rosary, give thanks before each meal, visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament after I’m done seeing Creighton clients in the evenings. This is in addition to the numerous occasions I have to lift up any physical pain I experience for loved ones or others I know who need conversion.

And this is my current bedtime routine (after praying with Gary and the kids):

• THE POWER OF A PRAYING WIFE by Stormie Omartian – A little devotional book one of my clients gave me – I write my own personal prayer for Gary in the book, too! I love these short prayers because they truly focus in on all the details of my husband’s life. I has kept me united in spirit with him in a way that we’ve never connected before, as I’ve asked God to cover and bless everything about him and what he goes through that I may not understand or even know about.

• IMITATION OF CHRIST by Thomas a Kempis – I’m also trying to read more classic spiritual books, and this one was both one of St. Therese’s favorites as well as my dad’s. I use the iPieta app so I can copy and paste the tidbits that really strike my heart. I have a Facebook album of quotes for each chapter.

• 33 DAYS TO MORNING GLORY: Preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary by Fr. Michael Gaitley – It’s an AMAZING book jam-packed with spiritual gems from some of my favorite saints! I made a FB album for this, too! Not only is this helpful for me to look back on when I need to revisit the messages, it becomes a spiritual “memory book” of sorts for me and keeps me accountable to doing the meditations every day.

The Evening routine is the one that evolves depending on what I need at the moment. When I’m finished with these books, I’ll need to search for other devotional reading that will speak to the particular circumstances I am dealing with.

When things get really bad, I just keep saying His name, “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus” through my tears because it is the name of Jesus and only His name that can deliver me out of darkness and despair.

Prayer is the life-blood of my soul. If I decided to stop praying, my spirit would shrivel up and waste away, very much like a neglected plant without water or a body without breath. It looks like a lot, but it only takes about 15 minutes at most to get through the Morning routine and just as long for the Evening prayers. It’s not realistic for me to get in a solid uninterrupted Holy Hour like I did when I was single and going through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, but now that I have my own children it’s nice for them to see me praying throughout the day and keeping my personal relationship with Jesus a priority.

In the past, it was hard for me to develop a regular prayer schedule. Working at a Catholic school helped since we had to pray certain prayers at certain times, but I knew that I needed something for me…something I could do on my own apart from my job so that I could more clearly hear God’s voice in my heart. It was a gradual working up to what I do now – very much as it would be when you start exercising – but these prayers and meditations really do give me the peace and the strength I need to carry out His will in all aspects of my life.

So if you’re thinking about getting a routine together, start simple and do what your heart calls for. The important thing is that you are consistent. Don’t stop praying just because you don’t feel like it because you’ll fall back into that spiritual funk really quickly, and it’s hard to get out of when you’ve given it up for so long. Before you know it, you’ll notice a difference in how you react to life’s challenges…you’ll be more aware of those daily blessings and miracles that happen all around you…and you’ll see the fruits of your prayers in every relationship that you have.

LIFE IS SHORT. PRAY HARD.

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“Hey, you, the Superhero!”

Yeah, I’m talking to YOU!

The ordinary person made to do extraordinary things who is sitting in front of your computer right now…or lounging in bed on your iPad/phone…reading this, thinking, “Sorry, you must be talking to the wrong person, sister.”

Nope, I got it right. Think about it. Superheroes usually have very humble beginnings. Looking at these people, you would never guess they had the ability fly…leap from tall buildings in a single bound…much less save the world from evil. But they are particularly chosen and given special powers to help society, set aside for an incredible mission that must be completed for the good of all humanity.

YOU have been chosen. YOU have been endowed with amazing gifts called “charisms” that are meant to be used for the salvation of souls. In this time. In this very place. For this era that you have been born into, God wants to use you in a powerful way – to the same extent and with the same passion and intensity that He used every saint who has lived before you.

Saint? Yes, I say. You were made to be a saint! A spiritual superhero – filled with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord – who is involved in the world, not as a spectator but as salt and light. You are meant to join the ranks of St. Paul…Sts. Perpetua and Felicity…St. Patrick…St. Martin de Porres…St. Teresa of Avila…St. Damien of Moloka’i…St. Josephine Bakhita…St. Maria Goretti…St. Maximilian Kolbe…St. Toribio Romo, and the countless faithful who left the mark of Jesus Christ in both the crosses they bore and the victories they claimed for His Kingdom.

But, see, you are not supposed to be another St. Pio of Pietrelcina, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, or St. Lorenzo Ruiz. You are supposed to be YOU.

On this feast of Pentecost, it is crucial for each of us to remember who we are in the eyes of God. WE ARE HIS CHILDREN. So that we are not left to our own devices, the Father and the Son sent us the very Love between them – the gift of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity – to dwell within our hearts and set us on fire with a flame that would purify our lives and empower us with an ardent desire to spread the Gospel message in word and in deed.

St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:1-7, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Upon accepting this gift, we should act heroically. We should love heroically. We should help save the world from utter spiritual destruction. We should be courageous enough to risk ridicule and criticism to give to others what we ourselves have received.

The greatest encouragement we hear from Jesus Himself is that we are not alone. As He was dying, He gave to us His own Mother. He sent the disciples out to the villages two by two. He established the Church before He ascended to the Father. We have the entire communion of saints – Church Triumphant in Heaven, Church Militant here on earth, and Church Suffering in Purgatory – to intercede for each one of us in the work we are called to do.

This holy assembly is much more powerful than any Justice League, ensemble of X-Men, Superfriends, or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Amen? AMEN!

Above all, we have Jesus our Lord and Savior Himself…God Incarnate…promise to us His very presence in the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20).

So now is the time… Rise up, you superheroes of the Kingdom, and become who you were made to be!

+AMDG+

The Gift of Eternal Life

The celebration of Christmas is only three days away. Just this week, I’ve heard of four people passing from this world into the next, and I can’t help but feel overcome with sadness for the family and friends who have been left behind – especially during the holidays when most people will be reuniting with loved ones at the dinner table or in front of the Christmas tree.

But that’s only one perspective.

For young Jesse Guzman and the others who have been called home, there will be another kind of reunion at another kind of table with Jesus Himself. While we are here placing the statue of the Christ Child in the manger of our porcelain or wood-carved Nativity scenes, they will be in the presence of the Holy Family…welcomed by our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and the Savior of the World.

What better Christmas present than the gift of ETERNAL LIFE.

Of course we want our family members here with us. We miss our friends and remember the memories we shared. I know how much my mom would love to see my dad surrounded by his eight grandchildren. But this is where we are given the opportunity to love them into the arms of the One who is LOVE Himself.

When I saw Jesse lying there in the hospital with his beloved mother stroking his head, I begged God for a miracle. How amazing it would have been if he recovered, leaving the neurologists baffled at the impossible. Yet somewhere in all of this pain, there was a greater miracle to be performed in the hearts of those who loved him…those who cared for him…those who prayed for him and generously donated to his family’s expenses.

God’s providential Hand is always at work. We may not always understand what He is doing, but we know that it must be good because HE IS GOOD.

For Jesse, the outcome was GOOD. Actually, it was better than good. It was BEAUTIFUL. He was healed. Our community answered a call to love. The suffering was temporary for him, and it will be temporary for us. Just like it was temporary for Jesus and Mary.

May we approach Christmas Day with open hearts, allowing the peace and joy that our faith promises to fill us to overflowing. This is the hope of Advent as we await the coming of the Lord…

+AMDG+

*To read Jesse’s story and to donate to the Guzman family, please visit http://www.giveforward.com/jesseguzman

The Brave Little Soul

I’m going to post this email I got from my sister Emeline last night, exactly as she sent it.  I read the news article…I read the blog and it tugged at my heartstrings like nothing else ever has before.

Sometimes I think I have hard days with my kids when they are fighting, crying, or just not doing what they are supposed to do.  Now that I have read Courtney and Tripp’s story, I realize that I have no reason to complain or be frustrated.  I need to be grateful for every moment that I have…every opportunity I am blessed with…and even every challenge that I encounter.

Thank you, Emeline, for sharing this with me.  You have always been one of my guiding stars, and I’m so thankful that you are leading me closer to the heart of God.

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If you have time, read this article and check out this blog before reading the story below.

It makes you appreciate all your blessings and change your perspective on the difficulties in life, especially with children.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/tripp-roths-tears-reveal-pain-epidermolysis-bullosa-strikes/story?id=15173125

http://randycourtneytripproth.blogspot.com/

A story on suffering…
 
The Brave Little Soul
By: John Alessi

Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. He especially enjoyed the love he saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however the little soul was sad, for on this day he saw suffering in the world. He approached God and sadly asked, “Why do bad things happen; why is there suffering in the world?” 

God paused for a moment and replied, “Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people’s hearts.” The little soul was confused. “What do you mean,” he asked. God replied, “Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone.” 

The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, “The suffering soul unlocks the love in people’s hearts much like the sun and the rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this – it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer – to unlock this love – to create this miracle for the good of all humanity.”

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain himself. With his wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied. “I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people’s hearts! I want to create that miracle!” 

God smiled and said, “You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you”. God and the brave soul shared a smile, and then embraced.

In parting, God said, “Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed.” Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through his suffering and God’s strength, he unlocked the goodness and love in people’s hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love.
 Priorities became properly aligned. 
People gave from their hearts. 
Those that were always too busy found time. 
Many began new spiritual journeys, some regained lost faith – many came back to God. 
Parents hugged their children tighter. 
Friends and family grew closer.
 Old friends got together and new friendships were made. 
Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. 
Everyone prayed. 
Peace and love reigned. 
Lives changed forever.
 It was good. 
The world was a better place. 
The miracle had happened. 
God was pleased.