“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.

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.

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.