“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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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.

Thank You

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,

for the Kingdom of God is yours.

Blessed are you who are now hungry,

for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who are now weeping,

for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when people hate you,

and when they exclude and insult you,

and denounce your name as evil

on account of the Son of Man. ~ Luke 6: 20-26

When I was first diagnosed with type one diabetes this passage really resonated with me. The three months I lived with diabetes and didn’t know it were the most difficult times of my life or so I thought. Upon reflection of those times I felt blessed and honored that the Lord knew that I could handle such hardship. My body, soul and spirit were abused and battered. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than the turmoil I went through… until now.

Getting diagnosed with diabetes was only the tip of the iceberg, enduring the reality of living with a chronic illness was nothing compared to what I have gone through in New York. Yesterday marked my one year anniversary of living in New York. It is hard to believe I made it a year, it does not feel like a year but at the same time it feels like a lifetime. I am not the person who I was when I boarded that plane to New York a year ago. The person I was a year ago was truly a hollow shell surviving life without any idea of who she was with no purpose and had no passion for anything and most importantly no hope.

Throughout this year I became poor, hungry, and I wept almost everyday but through these pains the Lord blessed me and restored my life. “Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven”(Luke 6: 20-26). I have found new meaning in the beatitudes. When I read them while struggling with diabetes I read them without hope or joy and believed in them as a promise of happiness after death in Heaven. Today, I read them with new eyes and I can see that the Lord has blessed me with His Kingdom already. I was stripped of everything, all the comforts of home and what did I have left? I had Jesus Christ. All I have and all I want is Him. I can see the Kingdom of Heaven through the sorrows of this world. With a renewed spirit I praise God for giving me diabetes because that pain prepared me for the pure agony I would have to go through in New York. I can see the mastery of the Lord’s divine plan for without lessons I learned managing diabetes I would have not ever survived in New York.

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.