“B” is for Benny

I am currently doing my best to let go control over my life and allow the Holy Spirit to guide me.  This is not as easy as it may sound–even when I believe I have truly let go, I impose my own objectives on my actions and convince myself that what I want is God’s will and not mine.  However, the Lord knows me so well (better than I know myself) that He knows what I’m going to do before I actually do it and therefore factors in my mishaps and lapses in judgment.  What happened to me today is a perfect example of how beautifully the Holy Spirit can orchestrate life to not only ensure I am in the right place at the right time, but also in the right frame of mind to take on the task God gives me.
I was headed for New York City to meet friends before seeing a show on Broadway on the hottest day of the year so far.  The city was on high alert, due to extremely high temperatures in the forecast.  Normally when I visit New York City, I leave early so I can walk the streets the way I did while living there.  This time I chose to take a later bus because it wouldn’t have been safe to be outside in the heat as long as usual.  This seemingly minor alteration in plan led me to a different path, literally and figuratively.  The Lord led me down a side street I was unfamiliar with and, unlike most New York streets, it was almost deserted.  As I was walking, a man lying on the ground caught my attention.  At first glance he appeared to be the “typical” homeless person one sees so often on the streets, but as I came closer, something about him struck me as not typical.  He looked up and reached out his hand.  He didn’t say anything; I don’t think he was even looking directly at me.  He was no doubt dehydrated and hallucinating.  I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t pay as much attention to the homeless as I should, perhaps because I accept the lie that I’m not in a position to help them.  The Lord has been working with me to overcome this lie and putting me in this situation was another step toward that aim.  As I walked past this man, I realized there was no one else around.  No one would see him or help him; I was the only one who could.  A sense of urgency compelled me to “find some water,” as a voice inside me said.  I went into a nearby store and bought a bottle of overpriced water without hesitation.  As I brought it back to the man, I was relieved to see him up and moving around, but as I approached, he collapsed again.  “Excuse me, sir,” I began timidly, “but would you like some water?”  He nodded and took the bottle from my hand.  I asked if there was anything else I could do for him, and he said he could use some food.  Of course, I had none so I left him again.  I felt as though I needed to keep him conscious, so I found a grocery store and bought some fruit, protein bars, and a much larger bottle of water.  The urgency inside me did not ease up as I hurried back to the man, but I was comforted to notice that the street was becoming busier.  Hopefully the food and water I gave him would sustain him till someone else could do more for him, maybe even get him off the streets.  When I gave him the groceries, I asked for his name.  He said it was “B”, short for Benny, but he wanted to be called “B.”  I told him I would pray for him, and suddenly remembered I had some Miraculous Medals in my backpack.  I gave him one; I don’t think he knew what it was, but I left it with him, having faith that the Blessed Mother and her Son would protect him and do what I could not for him.  “B” told me he would be 66 in October and seemed very proud of that.  I walked away, praying he would survive until his 66th birthday.
So many insignificant factors led me to taking the road to “B” as well as putting me in the right mindset to do what I did when I found him.  I would never have remembered those medals if I hadn’t given one to a friend a few weeks ago.  More importantly, I would never have had the courage to reach out and help him if I hadn’t heard a similar story from one of my role models the previous weekend.  God is guiding me even as I continue to resist Him.  The past week was full of several failures on my part, which had created a defeated mentality in me.  I was actively asking the Lord’s forgiveness for not having more faith in Him when I met “B.”
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Witness

Today I witnessed a true and undeniable miracle. A few blogs back I wrote about my experience while waiting to enter the baths in Lourdes, France. I was on a pilgrimage and was visiting the famous Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes which is well known for its healing water that visitors can bathe in. I chose to do it the hopes of receiving some of the healing properties the water possesses but at the last minute I had a change of heart. A fellow coworker of mine has been struggling with several demons centered around addiction. Before entering the baths I was overcome with the need and desire to pray for her and to enter the baths with the hope that the graces I received would be given to her.

When I returned back to New York the actions of my coworker were unchanged or so I thought. I continued to lift her up in prayer but sometimes the rawness of her language made me uncomfortable and I was beginning to wonder if she would ever be open to the healing Mary and the Holy Spirit wanted to give her; until today. Work was slow and I found myself with a lot of free time. Suddenly, this coworker asked if I had time to talk. She had never directly asked me to talk before so of course I said yes. Evidently, she was dealing with a difficult break up and she wondered if she had been taken advantage of by this guy she was seeing. After hearing the story it was pretty clear that she had but that was not the end of the conversation. We talked off and on through out the rest of the day and she opened up about how she wanted to change her life. She was no longer smoking weed and no longer was seeking out one night stands and meaningless hook ups. She was being proactive and making the conscious effort of going to the gym everyday and cutting ties with bad influences. I was completely awe stricken. There was an obvious transformation within her.

I dared to go a little deeper and learned her mother is Catholic. Unfortunately, she had negative ties with the Catholic faith because of her mother’s influence. I know there are quite a few crosses that she is carrying and there is much healing that needs to be done. I asked her if she knew anything about Saint Therese of Lisieux, she didn’t. When I came back from France I brought back a keychain of a rose with Saint Therese on it and gave it to my coworker in hopes that it might help in the healing I had prayed for while in the baths at Lourdes. I asked her if she still had the keychain and she said she did. I gave her a little overview of who Saint Therese was and why Saint Therese might be able to help my her in her pursuit of a better life. I saw genuine hope spark in her eyes. It was a spark that I had never seen before mainly because before she was severely under the influence of marijuana. She had been in the grips of Satan and was allowing her addictions to rule over her but now there was clarity and it was beautiful. Mary had found a way to touch my coworker’s spirit and transform it. I felt so honored to have the privilege of witnessing it. My coworker is proof of the healing power of Our Lady of Lourdes and that our faith and our prayers can inspire miracles in other’s lives. Bring your prayers and intentions to Mary and Jesus and be persistent for their mercy will not be out done.

A Marian Encounter

When I came back to New York from Lourdes, France I had a new admiration for Saint Bernadette. It was wonderful learning about the different Apparitions she encountered with Mary, Our Lady. The Apparition which struck me the most was the time Saint Bernadette attempted to pray the Rosary with a Rosary that was not hers. The first thing Mary always asked Saint Bernadette to do when in Our Lady’s presence is to pray the Rosary. During this Apparition though Saint Bernadette tried to use a Rosary from a seamstress from the village of Lourdes, Pauline Sans. Madame Sans had asked Bernadette if she would take her Rosary just once so that she could have it as a memento of the Apparition. Saint Bernadette agreed and that very morning she brought Madame San’s Rosary to the Grotto however when she tried to pray the Rosary she found that she couldn’t. Mary asked her where Bernadette’s own Rosary was, Bernadette realized that she was using Madame San’s and reached into her pocket and brought out her own. When she did that Mary allowed her to carry on with the Rosary and told her to “use those.”

This Apparition was so important because it showed how attentive Mary is to every unique detail of our lives. Mary notices everything even the difference in Rosaries we use when we pray. I believe I had a Marian encounter similar to this in Mass this weekend. It was during the time of the offertory, I always feel rushed during this time. I can never seem to find my wallet in time to place my contribution in the collection basket. When I am fortunate enough to find my wallet I always hastily grab the change from the bottom to make sure I have something to contribute. This time I was actually successful in finding my wallet and was readily prepared for when the basket came to me. I saw the woman making her way down the isle of the church offering the collection basket to each person row by row. As she got to me she made direct eye contact and smiled. I smiled back and started to make the notion to reach out and place my money in the basket but the woman skipped me. I was sitting with a friend of mine and we both looked at each other with the same quizzical look. Did she not want our money?

It wasn’t until I was putting my money back in my purse that some of the coins felt a little weird. I looked at what I was actually holding and I realized the the coins were not coins at all, they were my saint medals. I have four saint medals that I wear around my neck everyday, Saint Michael, Saint Francis, Saint Benedict, and the Miraculous Medal. Recently I had to stop wearing them because I had an allergic reaction to chain they were on. I feel naked without those medals so had put them in my wallet for “safe keeping.” I thought that even if I can’t wear them I could at least have them on my person. I occurred to me that if the woman would have offered that collection basket to me I would have given my medals away. These medals that have come to be almost apart of me. I was reminded of the story of Saint Bernadette and suddenly recognized Mary’s presence in that situation. I have never experienced anything like what I experienced in the that church. I have never been completely surpassed during the offertory, as if I wasn’t there at all. I was so grateful for Mary’s intervention though. I would have been heartbroken if I had lost those medals. Just like Mary knew Saint Bernadette was not using her own Rosary she knew what I could have done with my medals and she made sure I did not get the opportunity to give them away. Needless to say I will be finding a new place to keep my medals until I can get a better chain for them.

Jet Lag

Here it is 3:44 AM in New York City and I am wide awake because it is 9:44 AM in France. I have been back from my pilgrimage to France for a few days now and I thought that I had been adapting to the time change pretty well… evidently not. My inconsistent work schedule most likely has some part to play. I am either getting up really early to open the store or getting up really late to close the store. I am severely lacking consistency. In addition to my unstable work schedule I do have quite a few things on my mind. Coming back from my has been a true emotional rollercoaster to say the least especially going back to work.

Work has become almost unbearable. France allowed me to see my work life with refreshed eyes and it helped me realize how much chaos my work creates. I truly dreaded the first day because I was scared of what I would walk into. I have said this many times that the people I work with are wonderful but can be unpredictable. I never know what I am going to get with them. The pilgrimage ignited a deeper relationship with God and Mary and they definitely had my back as I walked back into my work and ensured that I had a joyful return. There was a select group of people I was very excited to see and it was reassuring when I realized that they were just as excited to see me.

I had brought back assorted gifts for different my coworkers. There was one coworker in particular who wanted a magnet. I must confess getting her this magnet was actually more out of guilt. I had brought back some Colorado magnets the last time I went home and gave them to a few people. She saw them and asked if she could have one. I was not planning on giving her one then simply because I did not think that we had that close of a relationship. She later revealed to me that she collects magnets and if I could bring her back a Colorado magnet the next time I go home she would appreciate it, she even offered to pay for it. The old Catholic guilt seeped in and I was bound and determined to get her a magnet from this trip. I ended up buying her a magnet highlighting the city of Lourdes. I tried to make it as non religious as possible just because I didn’t know what her back ground was. Her reaction to the magnet was something I would have never expected in a million years. I gave the magnet to her Monday and I told my reason for going to France was for a pilgrimage. She smiled and nodded her head, this was the typical reaction I was getting from my coworkers. I assumed she wasn’t sure of what a pilgrimage was. The next day she came up to me and inquired more. She started asking me specific questions about Lourdes and pilgrimages there. I was impressed, she was the first person at my work who actually knew why Lourdes is so important to my faith. She even talked about Saint Bernadette and how she grew up watching the movie “The Song of Saint Bernadette.” It was one of her favorite movies. Through out the day she continued to ask me questions about my religion. It started very general basically just telling her why I went but evolved into discussing her faith and how she had fallen away over the years. She told me that she was baptized but never received any other sacraments. She has a daughter who does not practice any religion and her granddaughter is a self proclaimed atheist. I could hear the regret in her voice and tears even welled up in her eyes. I said that I have had my struggles with my faith and had my moments of questioning. She asked me how I found my way back to my religion. I told her that I first had to reconcile my relationship with the Lord and I did that through prayer. She added that she never has gotten a good answer from her granddaughter as to why she refuses to go to church. At the end of the conversation she seemed to be more determined to readdress the conversation with her granddaughter, she is older now and may be able to articulate her feelings better. My coworker was still in tears and I could tell something was still bothering her. She brushed it off saying she was just going through a lot of things lately. I didn’t want to pry plus we really needed to get back to work. I ended up just giving her a hug and said that no matter what she was going through she was a beautiful person and I was always there if she ever wanted to talk more. The rest is in the Lord’s hands. I will pray for her of course along with her daughter and granddaughter.

God and Mary truly surprised me with this one. This coworker was one of the last people I would have guessed would understand what I encountered in Lourdes. The conversation we had blessed me just as much as it blessed her. It allowed me to relive my experiences I had in France and I was able to give a more honest account of my trip instead of the general, ” oh I had a great time.” I pray that my affirmation of my faith will encourage her to revisit hers and maybe bring her back to the Lord.

The Little Flower

My Pilgrimage in France continues. I find it funny that most people come to France primarily for the Paris attractions. Not for my group though, being in Paris were just added benefits. Our main purpose is to visit Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette had apparitions of Mary in a small grotto next to a river in 1858. Such humble beginnings have transformed the site into a grand shrine devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes. This shrine has been a place a numerous miracles over many years especially of healing. The water has become famous for its healing properties. Every single day people flock to this site with the hope of being healed by bathing in the water.

We started the day early to catch a flight from Paris to Lourdes. Anticipation filled the air with each one of us holding special intentions in our hearts, secret hopes that we desire Mary to answer. I confess my deepest desires were rather selfish. I intended to bring the desires I have had since I was a child. The find a loving husband and to start a family. Simple in nature but it is something I have felt is my true vocation. This is also a desire I have feared might never come into volition. However, as sat in the line awaiting my time to enter into the water drew closer my mind, heart and soul began to shift. It felt wrong to place my prayer intentions only on myself. To be honest I already had the faith that Jesus would fulfill my deep desires with or without receiving the bath and there might be more urgent prayer intentions to focus on.

Yesterday, we visited the Sanctuary of Lisieux were we spent our time devoted to learning about the life of Saint Therese and here family. It was also Consecration day for the Pilgrims who went through 33 Days to Morning Glory by Father Gaitley. For those who don’t know, Marian Consecration is a way to give yourself entirely to Jesus through Mary. Through this Consecration you surrender all your entire self to Mary for her to use in whatever way she wishes to further glorify the kingdom of God. This can be difficult to do especially for me who naturally wants to maintain control. Nevertheless, I sincerely felt called to France to do this. After my Consecration I ended up in the gift shop filled with Saint Therese souvenirs. I was drawn to a simple key chain. A small pink rose (a symbol for Saint Therese), I heard a quiet voice tell me to buy it. I struggled with this at first. I knew it would be hard to give this key chain to the person it was meant for, she is a coworker. She is a sweet and in someways very innocent girl but she a victim of this fallen world. While she appears as a girl herself yet she has a daughter and is addicted to marijuana. Before leaving on this trip she asked me to bring her back a French husband. She was serious about it too, listing off all the attributes this husband should have. I promised I would bring her back something even if it was not a husband. I have been working with her for sometime but Mary was definitely working to strengthen our relationship during the weeks leading to this trip. Through out this trip Mary continues to place her on my heart. In that gift shop and after my Consecration I saw why.

Sitting waiting to go into the bath I released my selfish intentions and placed all my time and devotion on this girl. I truly believe that Mary will be able transform her and her life for good. When the time came to enter the bath I was asked to say my prayer intentions. I prayed for her and went down into the water. There are no coincidences and I believe that my graces I have received Mary wishes to use to reach this girl with the help of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Oh and by the way this girl’s name is also Therese.

The World Cup

I find myself on yet another Pilgrimage. This will mark my fifth Pilgrimage I have had the privilege to take. This time my destination is France, the with the main focus to visit many of the places where people have encountered Mary. This is only the second day and I have already experienced Mary’s strong presence here. However, the Lord has shown His presence as well, especially today.

Seeing that this is Sunday, the Lord’s day, our day started with mass at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. Our group was given the honor to sit in the front rows of the church to celebrate mass. Of course the entire mass was in French so I probably did not get as much out of it as I could have. Nevertheless, it was truly a sacred time and little did I know of significant the Gospel reading would have for the events that occurred later in the day.

The itinerary for the day was originally supposed to include a cruise on the river and a visit to the Eiffel Tower, both events had to be canceled because of the World Cup Final. Since France’s team was in the final the entire city practically shut down to watch the game. When the match started there was no one in the city who was not watching the game, people were piling into bars and restaurants. The square in front of the Eiffel Tower was blocked off by military because there were so many people in the square watching the game. Our group of pilgrims ended up splitting into a few different groups depending how each one of us wanted to experience the game. I went with the group who wanted to watch it on the square. Our plan was quickly dashed when we were met by a wall of French Military holding machine guns blocking off all entrances into the square. It was a true miracle that we were able to find a bar with seats right in front of a television. Unfortunately, there were two different televisions playing the game in the bar and our television lagged which meant that every time someone score we knew before we were actually able to see it. By half time the group had had enough and we left and went back to the hotel. I honestly don’t know what was more exciting watching the game or watching people watching the game. As the game ended the action in the streets grew wilder and wilder. People were chanting the national anthem, jumping on moving vehicles, setting off fireworks and tear gas. In a sense it was beautiful chaos. When France officially won everyone flooded into the streets and began to march. No one knew where we were going but we marched on anyway. Eventually, my group had to stop and head back to our hotel for dinner but even as we were walking back we continue to see people coming all chanting their anthem.

When we reached the hotel and gathered for dinner we all engaged in intense conversation retelling all the crazy stories. One group saw a gang fight break out while another saw a parked car be completely destroyed because of all the people climbing and jumping on it to see the game. All law and rule to keep order was forgotten, to be apart of the World Cup aftermath was to be apart of something that has never happened before and will never happen again. France winning set Paris on fire. Witnessing it made me think of the Gospel for the day. Mark 6: 7:13 is all about Jesus setting the disciples out to preach the Word of God. The disciples now had their mission which was to set the World of Fire by His Word. If winning a sports game can set Paris a blaze in such a spectacular way can you imagine what the world could be like if we all accepted our mission and set the World on fire?