Thank You

To the Lord, my God, who has given me everything that I have and possess I offer my thanks.

Thank you for my diabetes, for without it I would have fallen into a life of sin and would have never learned who Jesus Christ really is.

Thank you for taking away my health insurance, for if I had it I would have never learned what it means to have complete trust in you and know that you are the great physician and will protect me in the best way possible. 

Thank you for my poverty, for without it I would have never been able to experience the charity, kindness and generosity of others and the immense giving spirit you wish to share with your people. 

Thank you for my tears, my anger and my fear, for without these things I would have never learned to listen to your voice. 

Thank you for not giving me a husband in the times I thought I really needed one, for with one I would have never fallen in love with you and been able to realize you are my one and only soul mate. You are the answer not only in this life but in the next.

Thank you for my family, friends, job, health, food, water, the air I breathe, church, community, place of residence, hope for the future, memories of the past, knowledge, wisdom, blind faith, pets, unconditional love, grace, peace, silence, excitement, movies, books, truth, cable TV, vacation, nature, exercise, cellphone, internet, Starbucks, iced coffee, insulin, the kindness of strangers, and everything I have forgotten…

Thank you for everything you have made me to be. I have nothing and truly am nothing without you and your grace. You are love and  even though I am not worthy of it I am so grateful for knowing and experiencing your love every day.

Titanic (revisited)

Yesterday I was browsing through channels on my TV, searching for something to watch when divine intervention led me to the movie “Titanic.”  I hadn’t seen or thought about this movie for a long time.  I remember the movie first came out when I was in fourth grade and truly determined the reality in which I lived for years after seeing it.  “Titanic” was ground-breaking in several ways and redefined the way people in the industry made epic movies.  Since I was only in fourth grade, it was a battle to get my parents’ permission to see the movie because there was so much “adult” content that might not have been suitable for an impressionable 9 year old such as myself.  After ceaselessly nagging my parents about letting me go, they finally gave in and I’m very grateful they did.  The relationship between the two main characters, Jack and Rose, was monumental as well as unusual, and it left a lasting impact on me.
Up until yesterday I had regarded their love story as a tragedy.  At the end of the movie my heart broke, thinking of Rose having to leave Jack behind when the ship sank, and to continue her life alone.  I had convinced myself that Jack was Rose’s true soulmate, and she had to settle for someone else.  The story seemed sad to my 9 year old self.  It didn’t end the way it was supposed to, just as Romeo and Juliet didn’t end the way it should have.  Watching the movie again was a completely new experience for me as an adult because I could see Rose and Jack’s relationship with new eyes, through God’s eyes.  When I watched the movie in the past, I had seen the story unfold through flawed human eyes.  I believed it had a tragic ending because it did not end the way I wanted it to.  I was not open to the beauty and providence of God’s plan for the characters.  Rose and Jack were supposed to meet and be a part of each other’s lives at that exact moment in time.  Jack opened Rose up to allow her to see and become the woman she was meant to be, and in turn, Rose helped Jack fulfill his purpose in life so when he died, God would welcome him into His kingdom in heaven.  I still believe Jack and Rose were soulmates, but not in the constricted way I used to consider such relationships.  They were intended to be together, but only for the time God wanted them to be.  Life continues despite change; nothing stays the same.  Only the Lord’s love for all His created beings remains constant.  The Lord entered Rose’s life through Jack’s intercession and influence on her.  When she boarded the Titanic, she was a prisoner to all the entrapments of an earthly world, but when she reached America, a new world, she was a new person.  She was free–free to be the daughter of God as He created her to be.  She moved forward, not alone, but with Him, and He took care of her.
The movie ended exactly the way it should have.  Rose and Jack’s relationship was precisely orchestrated by the divine Composer.  The whole story of “Titanic” is a beautiful and profound example of God’s will at work.  Although “Titanic” has always been regarded as tragedy because so many innocent people lost their lives, it is also a story of triumph and victory.  Survivors living to tell the grand tale, like Rose, were forever changed and were brought closer to the Lord.  They realized they needed to rely on Him instead of the material world, which could be taken away in an instant.

Eternity

Life seems to be speeding up.  I especially noticed this acceleration during the past year when I moved to New Jersey from New York City,  Looking back, I cannot believe I have already lived here 6 months!  In many ways, this relatively short span of time feels like an entire lifetime.  The Lord has given me so many new and beautiful blessings and provided them all in only six months.  However, now I have been confronted with that common question “what did you do this summer?” on several occasions, and each time I always draw a blank, because I feel as though I just celebrated Memorial Day and it is now almost October!  The kids are back in school; the new seasons of prime time are premiering on television–two clear signs that summer is over.  I find myself growing anxious and wondering whether I am doing everything I should.  Despite all the miracles I have experienced recently, I crave more and fear I am getting too comfortable–sitting on the sidelines while life passes me by.  My deep desire to marry and have children, accompanied by the concern that this will never happen, begins to rear its ugly head.
As if on cue, while I am drowning in my personal misery, the Lord’s voice intervenes.  I was sitting in Mass this morning and the gospel reading was from Luke 16, regarding the story of the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus.  The rich man enjoyed his reward in this world, but was doomed to suffer after he died for the rest of eternity, while Lazarus suffered his entire life on earth, but was then rewarded in heaven.  This gospel allowed me to view life from a better perspective.  I am spending so much time worrying about making my life significant here, but I should be focused on what comes after my life on this planet is over.  However long my life on earth might be, it is only a single moment in comparison to the eternity that awaits after my death.  I often fall into the trap of convincing myself that I need to be married with children to make my existence meaningful.  The fact is I don’t!  My whole life will be as God wants it to be, and if I never get married, I have faith He has a greater plan for me that cannot involve marriage for some reason.  After all, I can spend eternity with the best bridegroom ever, Jesus Christ.  As for having children, I could always adopt, which might be a very valuable way to serve the Lord as well as my “neighbors” in this world.
I must learn to turn my gaze away from myself and my personal desires.  As evident from the rich man’s story in Luke’s gospel, that focus will only lead to suffering.  I need to trust that God holds my life in the palm of His hands, and He will make sure I find happiness, even if it ultimately comes after death.  I need to think more about my neighbors and love them in the precious time I have on earth.  Yes, time is moving faster, but instead of becoming caught up in the worry of losing time, I will now consider each day as one day closer to eternity.

Invisible

What I consider weakness, the Lord uses as strength.  What I see as a hindrance, the Lord turns into an asset.  All my life I have felt invisible and unimportant.  I had a desire to accomplish great things that would make an impact on the world, so I had to connect with the “right people.”  This was an ongoing struggle–whenever I attempted to make those crucial connections, I was overlooked.  Each time I went to an event I believed could lead to a life-changing moment, I was left feeling empty and a failure.  I would always blame God and question Him.  I was doing everything in my power to use the life He had given me as an opportunity to change the world for the better, but I ended up with doors being shut in my face.  What was I doing wrong?  Maybe I was not looking in the right places and not placing my trust in God, although I believed I was.
This past Thursday was the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, and at the Mass I attended, the priest spoke of Mary’s many gifts.  He mentioned subtlety, which I had never heard described before.  The priest used the example of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.  A young pregnant woman taking on a long journey through treacherous landscapes all by herself without WiFi, cell phones or cars–the priest emphasized the lack of modern technology that would have helped when the roads were difficult and thieves were everywhere.  How could Mary possibly have survived that journey on her own?  The answer lay in her subtlety–by the grace of the Holy Spirit, He allowed her presence to be felt but not intrusive so she reached her cousin’s home in safety.
I thought of my days living in New York City, walking the streets late at night after work.  The streets of New York are easily as dangerous as the roads Mary traveled.  More than a few times, my path was crossed by rather aggressive individuals hassling other walkers for money or food.  They would approach everyone ahead of me, but when I finally passed by, it seemed as though they didn’t see me.
I used to feel my invisibility was a curse; I wasn’t significant enough to be acknowledged, but now I realize it was a gift.  I resolved to place my faith in the Lord and trust that He will put the correct people in my path who will see me.  I was back in New York City this weekend and stopped in a church with a chapel open to all for prayer.  I had endured a long and strenuous morning and while I was in the chapel, a man approached me and asked for $20 for food.  I was somewhat taken aback–I am used to people asking for money, but $20 seemed a bit excessive.  Nevertheless, there was an aura of kindness about him.  I truly believe in the influence of the Holy Spirit and the importance of listening to His subtle promptings.  There was a peace about this man unusual for a person living in New York City.  He asked me if I was an actress and when I told him I wasn’t, he said I should be because I looked like one.  He continued to say he was a comedian, trying to be discovered by NBC.  The question about being an actress was most likely a line designed to get money, but I felt there was some sincerity behind it.  I have no desire to be an actress, but it was a career I once considered, and it was affirming to hear that someone, albeit a total stranger, thought I could be one.  Nothing happens by coincidence, and I am sure this man was placed in my path to see me, and that I might see him.  I gave him $5 and hope he used it for food.  The short interaction we had was uplifting and provided me with strength to get through the rest of my day.  Perhaps it helped him in the same way.  Our meeting was also a reminder that the Lord is in charge and only allows the “right people” to enter our lives at certain times–when they do, we need to pay attention.  We are all called to be in community with one another for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  When we are open to recognizing our fellow brothers and sisters as such, we can change each others’ lives for the better, even if only in small matters.
Thanks to the Lord’s blessings, I understand that I am not invisible.  I am fully seen by my Creator and Father, who is the only person that counts.  By placing my life completely in His hands, He has the ability to use me and make me visible to the people He chooses.  If I put Him first, ahead of my own desire to be seen, I can walk in confidence (and subtlety), knowing that everything I do will be done for the glory of God

“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.”

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.