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.

Consecration Day

My life is no longer my own.  For the past 33 days, I made the commitment to consecrate my self to Jesus through Mary’s intercession.  This devotion has been adopted by many saints–St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. John Paul II, just to name a few.  There are several ways to approach this dedication, but the main purpose remains the same:  to give up one’s life and give it to Jesus Christ, with the faith that Mary will take everything you offer to Jesus and use it to provide the most good for all humanity.  It seems a bit daunting–a tall order to release total control of your life.  As I went through the consecrate, my desire to give away my life grew stronger.  My trust in Mary intensified because she gifted me with many affirmations, revealing that through this sacrifice, she would bless my life in return.
The 33 day devotion ended today.  I had great expectations for it.  For 33 days, I had been reading about the wondrous things Mary and Jesus would start to do in my life once I had made the vow to consecrate it to Jesus.  I should know by now that I should never have expected what I had been led to expect!  At a glance, my day appeared pretty horrendous, not just for me, but for everyone involved throughout the course of it.  My day began with a special mass of remembrance at my church where I sing in the choir.  Our rehearsal started late because the conductor forgot her music.  In the process of her hasty departure to go back home to get it, she ran over a choir member’s phone with her car.  His phone had fallen out of a hole in his pocket, and he hadn’t noticed till it was too late.  Needless to say, the sense of urgency and stress triggered by this incident set the tone for the rest of the day.
After Mass, I took the time to actually make my consecration.  Unfortunately, my mind was already flooded with distractions, and I found myself focusing on all kinds of subjects, but not the consecration.  I felt discouraged.  Here I was, seeking to surrender myself and my life to the Lord.  Why was it so difficult?  I should have simply retreated to my room and made the new beginning the following day.  Instead, I had to go into Manhattan; I had even actively chosen to make the trip more difficult by going later in the day when more people are out and everything around NYC is more chaotic.  I should mention it was also the coldest day of the year so far.  I did reach the city and headed off to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile.  We were going to catch up.  I was only blocks away from our meeting point when the the true struggle of the day occurred.
I was walking the streets of NYC when I heard a faint voice.  “Could you help me?”  If I hadn’t just finished the consecration, I would never have entertained this request.  I stopped and inquired, “What do you need help with?”  I assumed it would be a “normal” street request–directions to the subway, some money or some food.  Not this time.  A woman and her sister had quite an elaborate story to share.  They had traveled to the city from New Jersey and lost their cell phone on the cab ride.  They had no money because their check was declined at their bank.  All they wanted was formula for their children and enough money for the trip back to New Jersey.  This was a significant request for me, considering how expensive formula is.  My mind started to become unhinged; I wanted to tell them I could not help, it was just too much money, but there was a voice inside my head reminding me that my life was no longer my own and I might be the person Mary had chosen to help these women.  I gave in; I could not say no to Mary and Jesus.  Unfortunately, the quest to buy groceries was not easy.  The store we went into did not carry their formula.  They continued to suggest different resolutions, including walking to another baby store.  Of course, I did not have the time to accompany them.  I was struggling with the uneasiness of the situation.  I was running into roadblocks and became extremely conflicted.  Were these roadblocks from Mary keeping me from making a mistake, or from Satan causing me to question my faith in Mary and ultimately in Jesus Christ?  I did eventually give these ladies some money so they could buy the formula and hopefully return to New Jersey, but I am still in a quandary.  I do not have that sense of peace I am accustomed to after having responded to a call to help others.  It may have been the increased amount of time and money required–I have never been asked to give away so much money before.  Regardless of what caused my lack of peace, I am left still questioning my decisions.
I have no choice but to return to Mary and place all this in her hands.  Whether or not these women truly needed my help or were just out to take advantage of an innocent person on the street, my intentions were pure.  If they did take advantage of me, they will answer to Jesus Christ on the day of their final judgment.  In the meantime, I surrender those sisters and myself to Mary and her ever merciful Son, Jesus Christ.  May they take this day and all that resulted from it and use it for the greater good of everyone involved.  I must adopt this attitude and find peace.  If I truly believe in what I have vowed after undertaking this consecration, I have nothing to fear because Mary will make sure her Son will use what I have done the way He did at the marriage feast of Cana when she prompted Him to His first miracle.  “Do whatever He tells you.”  From now on, I will endeavor to follow these words.

Be Brave

Over the course of the past month, I have embarked on an intense spiritual retreat.  I have often written about how the Lord has blessed me by truly healing so many aspects of my life, I cannot begin to express how miraculous this transformation has been.  Despite all this healing, I still found myself struggling with my faith.  I would be praying and become so distracted that I would be unable to recall what I had just prayed about.  I hit my breaking point when these distractions began to consume my life.  These distractions were basically food, self image and weight.  These are the key cruxes that had taken over my life and the main weapons Satan uses to cripple my spirit.  The wisdom of St. Ignatius of Loyola suddenly filled my thoughts.  St. Ignatius was known for his pioneering contributions to spiritual exercises.  He understood that the best way to be entirely united with God was to eliminate all material elements that have priority in one’s life.  St. Ignatius himself was a military man; his self image was extremely important to him, yet he decided to go and live in a cave where he let his hair become unkempt and his fingernails grow ragged.  He did this because he recognized his unhealthy attachment to superficial practices regarding his physical appearance.  I decided to follow this saint’s example and went on what might best be described as a spiritual rampage.  I made a vow to visit the adoration chapel every day; I started a consecration to Jesus Christ through His mother Mary, and I fasted from food, exercise and looking at myself in the mirror.  During the days leading up to this consecration, I was filled with fear and uncertainty, questioning whether or not I could actually do all this.  These thoughts were from the evil one, who was trying to convince me I was too weak.  When the day came to start the 33 day consecration, the moment I woke up I could already feel the weight of all my distractions being lifted from me.  Even though it was a struggle and there were times when I faltered, I could feel the Holy Spirit supporting me.  The encouragement I received from the Holy Spirit and Mother Mary was affirmation that I was on the right track.  Going to the adoration chapel every day helped me pay attention to my prayers again.
As part of the “spiritual rampage,” I embarked on a 33 day consecration to Jesus Christ through Mary.  The basic premise of this exercise is to give your life entirely to Jesus through the intercession of Mary.  Through this consecration, I pledged to give myself to God.  I no longer want to live my own life–from this moment on, everything I do will be for God and according to His will.  This miracle has been so monumental that I was afraid to write this blog in fear of unwanted judgment from others.  However, when I made the decision not to write about it, I immediately encountered writer’s block and was unable to write anything for 2 weeks.  It was not until yesterday while I was praying in the adoration chapel that I heard Mary’s voice.  I was dozing in the chapel after a long work week when suddenly I awoke with a slight jolt and Mary’s voice ringing in my ears, “be brave.”  It took me awhile to understand what she was trying to tell me but I finally got it.  I am supposed to speak about this miracle and not let the fears of being judged by the earthly world keep me from proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
Here is my personal miracle:  only a few days after my consecration began, I woke up early before anyone else in my household was awake.  I had to go to the bathroom, which is quite normal, but the feeling I had was different.  There was blood in the toilet.  I had my period.  For most women, this is a normal occurrence that happens every month, but not for me.  Ever since I was diagnosed with diabetes almost 13 years ago, I have been unable to have a period.  I have spent countless hours praying for the restoration of a monthly cycle and had reached the point where I believed I was not meant to have a period. If I was meant to have children, the Lord would make it happen without going through a period.  On that morning, however, the Lord made the impossible a reality.  Having a period again was a most incredible experience and almost indescribable.  My body was strong enough to bear children!  God had healed so many mental and emotional difficulties in my life, but that morning He showed me that He could heal me physically as well.  There, in actual blood, was evidence that God is real and alive and working.  It was the greatest affirmation that not only do I personally want to have children and a family,  but that God wants this too, and He is physically preparing my body to take on the role of a mother.  I thank His Mother for giving me that jolt in the adoration chapel to “be brave.”  She assured me that the Lord is actively working in my life, and that He can transform anyone’s life in unimaginable ways.  Just ask Him and allow Him in yours!!

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.”

The Prodigal Daughter

There is one girl I work with that I believe Mary has a special plan for. She was born on the Holy day, the Assumption of Mary into Heaven and she shares her birthday with her grandmother. She always struck me as having a certain light about her. At first I perceived her as innocent and untainted by this sinful world. I remember her being incredibly quiet when she first started working. She got excited by the simplest of things and addressed customers in a genuine way. One day Sarah Jessica Parker came into the store and everyone was completely star struck having no idea what to do or say around her. Not her though, she went right up to her and said she loved her in “Sex and the City” and she asked for a hug. Sarah Jessica Parker just melted and gave her such a big hug if you had seen it you would have thought they were long time friends.

As I got to know her I realized that she wasn’t innocent at all. She had a child and she was addicted to marijuana, over eating, and sex. When she hit her lowest point she was seeing a guy who completely manipulated her. I believe he was the driving force that led to her darkest hours. I felt a call to pray for her while I was on pilgrimage in France specifically while in Lourdes. I believe Mary asked me to offer up my prayer intentions for her when I took the bath in the miraculous water. When I returned from France I witnessed her transformation forsaking the use of marijuana, putting her daughter first, resolving to eat better, and ultimately breaking up with this guy. At some point she began to see me as a confidant and was eager to tell me about her progress. “I am working out more, I want to loose 30 lbs.” “That guy texted me again but I didn’t respond.” I could tell when she is really proud of something that she achieved because it was always the first thing she said to me. It had gotten to the point where she sought me out.

I have started to see her wavering though. She is using language like, “I want to be bad today.” She says this when she wants a treat from the pastry department, the treats she had given up for her diet. A few days ago she told me that she had gone back to that guy. I was immediately struck by fear for her. I wanted to talk with her about it and went into “fix it” mode but it was a busy day at work and we kept in getting interrupted. I was overcome with doubt and my mind was filled with conflicting thoughts. “Had I failed Mary?” “Has all this energy that Mary had placed in her been in vain?” “What should I do?”

I know Mary has special purpose for her. When I heard that she was born on the feast of the Assumption I found myself saying, “you know Mary has touched you.” I don’t even know where that came from, it definitely wasn’t the words I would normally use. She has also been drawn to my Miraculous Medal which I bought in France. She once pointed to it and said “is the medal that is shining Mary?” She didn’t say shiny but shining, it is a subtle but important difference.

When she made the commitment to better herself I felt as though I was witnessing the prodigal son make his way back home and then welcomed with great joy by the Father. Of course we never hear the rest of the story. Were there times when the son questioned his decision to come back? Did the Father ever worry that his son would leave again? It was so beautiful getting to see my coworkers journey back to the Lord I don’t want her to stray again not when she has made such great progress. I have such faith in this girl and in Mary’s role in her life. I just have to pray that Mary’s presence continues to grow in her life.

Powerful Pieta

I have been actively trying to pray more during my breaks at work. The break room is in the basement where no WiFi service can be found. The majority of my break normally was spent with me playing around with my phone waiting for it to pick up some form of service so I could at least check email. Realistically I could just take my phone upstairs and where there is better reception but my job is very physically demanding once I get down to the break room I just don’t have the energy to make my way back upstairs. Not to mention I am on my feet all day and all I have in my mind is sitting down. After one too many frustrating breaks waiting to get access to my email I decided to be more productive and pray. Luckily, prayer is the best kind of WiFi you can get, direct connection to Jesus Christ every time.

There is a very popular prayer booklet known in the Catholic community called the Pieta Prayer Book. The main purpose stated in the booklet is to “serve as a spiritual tool for those who wish to increase their daily prayer life.” I like it because it is small and easy to use, it fits into my backpack so I can carry it wherever I go. It is also unassuming, I can read it in the break room without drawing too much attention to myself. The power of Mary is strong though and the evidence of her using this booklet to call her children back to her son was quite obvious a few days ago. I was all alone in the break room reading from the Pieta and this, somewhat new, employee came in to get ready to start his shift. I don’t know him all that well and I have to admit I had allowed my perception of him to be tainted by other coworkers and rumors that have been floating around about him. These rumors basically hinted that this guy had a questionable past. One coworker went as far as to get upset with management because they should have done a more thorough background check on the guy. I never got specifics on what he had done and I am sure it was by divine design that I didn’t. I was not supposed to know, if I had I would have never been able to have this encounter with him that Mary was orchestrating all along.

When he came in he said a quick “hi” of acknowledgement, I reciprocated and went back to my reading. I was reading with the Pieta booklet in my lap, in order for someone to notice it he would have had to be looking really hard or have been directed by some external force. I have no doubt this coworker was being guided because the strong motivation and eagerness that came from him was undeniable. “What are you reading?” He asked completely out of the blue. I was slightly terrified to answer the question taking into consideration what I had heard about him and being all alone in the break room made me a little nervous. I was prompted to be honest with him and trust in God (and Mary) that they were guiding the conversation. I told him that it was a prayer book. “Can I see it?” He quickly said. He was clearly being drawn to this booklet. When I showed him it and he started to read it he really read it, he didn’t just graze over it like some people might do in similar situations. “What do you think?” I asked when he finally handed it back to me. There was a long pause, I could tell that he was having a dialogue in his head and I was beginning to wonder if the question might have been too heavy for him at that time. He did answer saying it was really deep and it was evidence of the power of forgiveness. I didn’t know how to respond to that mostly because the prayer booklet wasn’t necessarily dedicated completely towards forgiveness which gave greater confirmation that he was being guided. I just went with it, nodding along. He added that he wished it was Sunday again so that he could go to back to church, he then confessed that he just recently had returned to the faith. I could see he really wanted the booklet. I would have given him mine but mine was extremely worn, it had been through many New York rain storms and was actually still a bit soggy from them. I knew of certain Catholic stores in the area that probably would carry them though. I offered to get one for him and he brushed it aside claiming that he didn’t want me to go out of my way. I assured him that it wouldn’t be. He gave me a truly beautiful smile, one of possible hope which came after a little sigh of relief. I think he truly needs this booklet and I believe Mary used it to call him back to her son, Jesus.

Mary is never to be out done. I witnessed a true encounter between Mary and one of her children that day in the break room. The Pieta Booklet is dedicated to the Dear Lady of Ephesus to honor her Assumption. I have no doubt that Mary is at work in this young man’s life and maybe he does have a questionable past but that just makes this encounter all the more powerful. I thank Mary and Jesus for allowing me to play a small part in this young man’s journey back to the faith.