Invoking Those Interceders

The other day my son asked me to help him with a project on saints that he was asked to do for his religion class. He had to choose three saints and write about them, and he said there were so many of them that he wanted to know if I thought the ones he had chosen were good picks. I suggested we go down the long and distinguished list of saints and see who was who.Saints, as some of you may know, are those people who were persecuted and martyred for their Christian faith, or who lived their lives generally as holy people. Those who through their extraordinary lives of virtue, upon entering Heaven, are believed to share in what is called the Beatific Vision, a face-to-face experience of the presence of God, and are thereby able to provide assistance to us mortals when we ask through prayers directed at them. My son was amazed to see how many there are and that there is a patron saint for practically every area of life you can think of — St. Jude, patron saint of desperate cases; St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, St. Mark, patron saint of lawyers (what? lawyers?) — and the list goes on.

To some people this might seem almost comical, I know. But I must tell you that I believe in them. I am a devout follower of some of them and carry their prayer cards around in my wallet. Sort of a security blanket deal. I have friends who do as well. Recently, one of them was in dire need of selling her home, and began praying to the patron saint of this cause. She prayed and prayed and prayed, but became discouraged when time went by and her prayers seemed to be to no avail. It is quite frustrating when we think our prayers are falling on deaf ears. I’ve been there. And as I told my friend on a day when she was experiencing that frustration, I am still waiting to see the results I want from some of my petitions…the results “I” want…which lack thereof could only mean they are not the results God intends. Because in the end, our beloved saints are merely interceders who, like us, have to plead our cases to a higher power. This sometimes takes a long time, and even then, they may be turned down by Him for a better result for us.

So why pray to the saints then? Well, why not? Don’t you ask friends, sometimes even strangers, for help? I for one like believing there is someone besides me, someone out there in the spiritual world, pleading my case and pulling for me. Listen, life gets rough sometimes, and if you believed there were saints out there who’d be more than willing to work for your cause, you’d pray to Santa Barbara, San Lazaro, y la Caridad del Cobre if you could.

Although we are strong in our faith in God the Creator, the omnipresent, omnipotent, all knowing, all wise and most merciful Heavenly Father, and through our prayers we intend to give our troubles to Him, some of us choose to call upon the saints as well for assistance. After all, they are mentioned in the Bible, and for the faithful, they are there for the taking. In time, my friend’s prayers were answered; allowing her to move to the next chapter of her life, but it took much faith and patience on her part. It is said that patience is a virtue. But darn, how much patience we gotta have to have patience! Especially when invoking those Interceders.
        

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” – Soren Kierkegaard

 

Book List 2

More books I recommend (most current read on top). You can click on the link to read about them. For you Spanish speaking folks, those titles marked with an asterisc are a better read in Spanish.

Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way
by Rick Carson

The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho

– A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

– The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Chronicle of a Death Foretold* by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Of Love and Other Demons* by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What Jesus Saw From the Cross by A.G. Sertillanges

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuck

The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Seeing* by Jose Saramago

Blindness* by Jose Saramago

Death With Interruptions* by Jose Saramago

When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd

– The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho

The Devil and Miss Prym* by Paulo Coelho

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept* by Paulo Coelho

– The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Book of Confidence by Father Thomas de St. Laurent

Stop Thinking This is All There Is


I read something the other day that struck a chord.  Well, much of what I read does, but this in particular goes to how I think many of us feel about our world today.  It read:  

                “Stop thinking this is all there is…

            Realize that for every ongoing war and religious outrage and environmental devastation, there are a thousand counter-
                balancing acts of staggering generosity and humanity and art and beauty happening all over the world, right now, on a
                breathtaking scale, from flower box to cathedral.

            Resist the temptation to drown in fatalism, to shake your head and sigh and just throw in the karmic towel.

            Realize that this is the perfect moment to change the energy of the world, to step right up and crank your personal volume;
                right when it all seems dark and bitter and offensive and acrimonious and conflicted and bilious…there’s your opening!

                And, finally, believe you are part of a groundswell, a resistance, a seemingly small but actually very, very large impending
                karmic overhaul, a great shift, the beginning of something important and potent and unstoppable.”  

                -Mark Morford

Okay so not so easy to do when much of the world around us is falling apart it seems.  I know all the adversities and tragedies we witness, and those we personally face, sometimes take us to the brink of hopelessness.  They are buckets of cold water thrown on our spiritual flames.  We get down on the world, and that feeling just trickles down to our personal lives.  

There comes a time, however, when regardless of what is going on in the world we live in, and in our own homes, we have to look deep inside and we, ourselves, have to take care of keeping that flame burning.  Doing what we must to keep that light going or we will live in inner darkness.  Sure, the world may seem chaotic some days, especially if you watch any one of the news channels, where grim images are continuously shown, and yes, some of it in truth is just that grim.  But like Mortford points out above, we must resist the temptation to give up, because there are other things, wonderful things, taking place as well in the world today — most of them triggered, ironically, by these dark moments of human and environmental activity.

Thinking this is all there is can be a form of inadvertent expectation, and expectations, right off the bat, set us up to self-induced predetermined outcomes.  I’ve always been big on expectations and have felt its wraths.  At the same time though I’ve always been big on hope.  Fortunately, because we live and learn, I’ve learned to turn my expectations into hope instead, as much and as often as possible, and I have seen how looking at things through a hopeful eye can make a difference.  

At a time when “change” is what most people seem to think we need and want, maybe that change should be to start believing that the darkness of this world cannot extinguish our inner light, as long as we spend most of our time controlling the environment within us, and what time is left on the environment around us.  Let’s realize that this is not all there is…that there is more to this world than meets the eye. 

-by Connie Perez

            Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who 
            have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.  — Dale Carnegie

            Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune,
            fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good;
            that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there
            is always tomorrow.  — Dorothy Thompson

In the News: Controversial Drug

There is much concern with this drug and its possible medical side effects in later years. Aside from that, the Catholic view is one of worry in that the vaccine may give young girls the wrong message: not only is it “okay” to be sexually active, but now it is also safe! Undoubtedly, the ultimate responsibility will rest on us parents. Check out the linked article below.

The Dangers of Gardasil 7/10/08 www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=28539

Travel for the Soul: Exploring the National Parks – Colorado

Colorado is home to the Rocky Mountain National Park, where you can drive on Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the U.S.  It is also home to Black Canyon National ParkMesa Verde National Park, and Great Sand Dunes National Park.  We just returned from our trip to Colorado and totally loved it.  

Rocky Mountain National Park:

Rainbow Curve Overlook                                     Trail Ridge Road
    
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights         Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                      reserved.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the north-central region of the Colorado.  It features beautiful mountain views, lots of wildlife, and different climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra —and easy, moderate and strenuous trails.  The park is split by the Continental Divide, and it contains over 60 peaks higher than 12,000 feet.  The quaint town of Estes Park is at the eastern entrance of the park.

General information:  http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/index.htm;
                                    
http://rockymountainnationalpark.com/
                                     Estes Park – http://www.estesparkcvb.com/

Accommodations:    Solitude Cabins in Estes Park
                                    
http://www.solitudecabins.com/
                                    http://rockymountainnationalpark.com/pages/where_to_stay_estes_park.html

Black Canyon of the Gunnison:

Painted Wall shows ancient lava flow.                Black Canyon’s wild flowers.                        
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights       Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights  
reserved.                                                                                      reserved.

Black Canyon National Park is so named because of its steepness which makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate very far down the canyon, and as a result, the canyon walls are most often in shadow, so this causes the rocky walls to appear black.  The Gunnison River is primarily responsible for carving the Canyon into that extreme steepness and depth.  This Park is the least visited of all National Parks, and on any given visit, it can feel and seem like you are the only one there.  You can see a vast variety of wild flowers there, as well as wild life.  The main attraction of the park is the scenic drive along the south rim. 

General info.:   http://www.nps.gov/blca/planyourvisit/index.htm
                          http://www.americansouthwest.net/colorado/black_canyon_gunnison/national_park.html
                                 
Accommodations:   
http://blackcanyonofthegunnison.areaparks.com/hotels.html
                                   http://www.go-colorado.com/Montrose/Hotels/

Mesa Verde National Park:

Cliff Palace                                                        Mesa Verde Plateau
   
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights      Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                   reserved.
 

Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 as concern grew over the archaeological well being of its ruins.  The Park features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the ancient Pueblo people known as the Anasazi, who made these stone villages their home in A.D. 1200s. The Park is best known for several spectacular cliff dwellings, these structures built within caves
and under outcroppings in cliffs.  One of these dwellings, Cliff Palace, is thought to be the largest in North America.  

General information:   http://www.nps.gov/meve/
                                      http://www.visitmesaverde.com/
                         
Accommodations:  http://www.visitmesaverde.com/lodging-dining/index.cfm
                                 Inside the Park accommodations:                                 
                                 http://www.visitmesaverde.com/lodging-dining/far-view-lodge.cfm 
                                

Great Sand Dunes National Park:

View of the dunes from the Visitor Center      View from atop one of the dunes
  
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights    Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                 reserved.

Great Sand Dunes National Park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America.  They rise about 750 feet from the floor of the San Luis Valley, and cover about 19,000 acres.  The dunes, which are believed to be about 12,000 years old, were formed from sand deposits of the Rio Grande flowing through the San Luis Valley.  Over time, west winds picked up sand from the river and as the wind lost power before the range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues today, and the dunes are slowly growing.  The shape of the dunes change dailey because of the winds.

General info.:   http://www.nps.gov/grsa/planyourvisit/index.htm   
                          http://www.americansouthwest.net/colorado/great_sand_dunes/national_monument.html

Accommodations:  http://greatsanddunes.areaparks.com/hotels.html

Worth Watching: Our Savior

        This video was forwarded to me by a friend (thank you, thank you).  It is an awesome dramatization.  And so powerful.  It hits home because it reminds me of how often God has rescued me when I’ve turned away from Him, or have been on the verge of doing so.  We face so many forms of temptation nowadays, it’s hard to stay focused and godly.  The Lord is always fighting for our souls because He doesn’t enjoy seeing us suffer the consequences of our sin.   It is only futile to turn away from God.  Seek Him with all your heart and soul, and you will be better for it.


Video Title:  Lifehouse Everything Drama
Source: Tangle.com
URL:  http://www.tangle.com/view_video.php?viewkey=ee73e63418003b47d7d5

 

In the News: The Shroud going on display

The Shroud of Turin, which as you may know is believed by many Christians to be Jesus Christ’s burial cloth, will go on public display again in the Spring of 2010. Pope Benedict XVI made the announcement today at the Vatican. The Shroud was last on display in 2000. After many years and many scientific tests, it has not been proven that it is specifically the shroud of Jesus. However, what all that research has established is that the Shroud image cannot have been man-made using any of the techniques of art or science used throughout history, and that it does not have the makings of a phony or fake or imitation. Scientists cannot explain to date with any certainty how the images came to be.

Personally, because I believe in the resurrection of Christ, I choose to believe the Shroud of Turin is real, and that it confirms the Passion story. Imagine, this could mean that we have an actual picture of Jesus. Click on the linked article for more.

Pope announces new display of Shroud of Turin http://www.reuters.com/articlePrint?articleId=USL025228720080602 June 2, 2008
Source: Reuters    shroud-of-turin-face

 

Note-Worthy: Understanding Stem Cell Research

For a comprehensive explanation of the facts and controversies surrounding stem cell research, I recommend you look into the article linked below.

Understanding Stem Cell Research
February, 2008
http://www.kofc.org/un/eb/en/resources/cis/CIS326.pdf
Source: Knights of Columbus

Let me tell you something…


…my
friends, in the words of (and a flashback to 80’s TV is needed here) Sergeant Esterhaus, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”  Because it is a dangerous world we are living in.

        The more one reads or watches the news these days the sicker one gets.  While switching through the news channels last night, my hubby and I were talking about how incredibly bad things have gotten.  So many people, all ages, disappearing or being found dead, if they are found at all; kids, teenagers, being abused, assaulted, and so on.  No need for statistics here, it’s simply sickening.

        When it comes to the issue of safety, typically, with us, it has been the practice to keep our children at arm’s length at all times, and consequently why we usually travel in a pack.  Aside from the fact that we have always enjoyed our kids’ company, we feel a bit more relaxed when they are with us, under our blanket, if you will.  I realize this borders paranoia sometimes, but we can’t help it, we seemingly haven’t been able to “let go,” much to the criticism of some, but we like it that way.  So we’ve always thought ourselves as cautious parents, aware of our children’s surroundings and what have you.

        Then, last night while talking about some of the horrific cases we had watched while channel surfing, we flashed back to some of our hotel stays during our travels when we have sometimes let the kids go down the hall to fill up the ice buckets, and other times, although seldom, go up to the room by themselves to get something while we wait inthe lobby.  All of a sudden, panic set in upon the realization that what has seemed in the past like such a harmless and safe thing to do, can be so life-threatening nowadays. Let me tell you something:  we are NOT doing that anymore.  We can’t.  Particularly since during our long trips we often travel through many small and peculiar towns where we make stops.  Just thinking about that last night made the hair in back of my neck stand up.  I came out of the TV room and called them both to the hall and stood them there and said to them with the utmost level of urgency:  “Listen up kids, new rule in effect:  from now on neither one of you is to…… specifically when you go out or travel with someone other than us.”  I mean, when things are meant to happen, undoubtedly they will happen, but I don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we would facilitate these occurrences for the evil doers out there.  Not on our watch if we can help it, you know what I mean?

        It is unfortunate that we have to live so afraid for our children, for their safety and wellbeing.  But that’s the reality.  Some of you reading this have teenagers, who, as it turns out, are the hardest ones to educate and/or convince about this safety issue, as well as other issues, particularly the dangers they are exposed to through technology, i.e. the internet.  That, in and of itself, is a nightmare and something we must stay on top of constantly.  Don’t ever think that danger can’t reach out of a computer screen and grab your kids.  It most certainly can, just watch the news, namely last night’s segment regarding 8 teens accused of kidnapping and assaulting another teen, resulting from comments posted on MySpace.

       Often our kids don’t want to understand the restrictions we impose on them, be it social or intellectual.  They think they know everything and believe themselves invincible and immune to any of the dangers lurking about.  Be that as it may, we must educate them and open their eyes to what’s out there and help them stay safe.  Even when our children don’t live with us anymore, are away at college, or whatever the case may be, as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, we must not think twice about staying involved and drilling our kids on these issues.  No matter how repetitive they say we sound, it is critical that we remain relentless.

        Of course we pray, of course we trust God and put ourselves and mostly our children in His hands.  But at the end of the day, it is our responsibility to keep our children’s safety and wellbeing on the front burner, all the time. “Train a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

        Let’s be conscious of this privilege, and duty, given to us by our Lord, and teach and train them well.  And most of all people, let’s be careful out there.


-by Connie Perez

Children miss nothing in sizing up their parents.  If you are only half convinced of your beliefs, they will quickly discern that fact.  Any ethical weak spot-any indecision on your part-will be incorporated and then magnified in your sons and daughters.  Their faith or faithlessness will be a reflection of our own.
Dr. James Dobson

          P  Please consider the environment before printing this article.

Travel for the Soul: A Different Kind of Farm

        We recently returned from a week-long stay in Peachtree City, Georgia, where we spent spring break with my brother and his family.  While there, we took a day trip to Conyers to visit, for the first time, the site where the Blessed Mother appeared 49 times on the 13th of each month from 1990 to 1998.  On our way to Conyers, I thought about what the place would be like.  For years, I read a lot of articles regarding the events occurring there, and so I had an idea of what to expect, but to be honest, it turns out I had imagined a place very different from the one I saw.

        We arrived at the site, which is on a farm, early that morning.  Initially, we thought we could be at the wrong place, because there was no one else there.  And I mean no one, as in deserted.  It wasn’t until a few minutes after our arrival that we spotted, making their exit, the only other people we saw there that day — a couple and their dog.  Typically, the Farm, as it is called, is visited the most on the 13th of each month, and during certain religious feast days.  Given that the day of our visit was neither, I figured we weren’t going to see a large crowd, but I didn’t think we would find ourselves there in total solitude.  This just added a level of eeriness to our experience, as later confirmed by my husband and kids when they said the place was spooky and freaky.  It was you know, but it turns out, in a special kind of way.

        As we made our way through the Farm, we stopped at various points of interest.  There’s the Statue of Our Loving Mother, a nine-foot marble statue which is visible as you first drive up to the Farm; there’s Rosary Hill, where meditation of the Mystery of the Rosary takes place; the Spirituality Center, where retreats and seminars are held; the Sacred Heart Grotto; the Blessed Well and Water, depicting the Biblical passage of the Samaritan woman at the well with Jesus; the Mother of God Catholic Church Sanctuary, a beautiful little church established in 1998, where visitors can confess, hear mass, and receive Communion; and there’s the Welcoming Center.  But out of all of the interesting spots found at the Farm, the one that really made an impact on us, and I suspect does on most people as well, was the Shrine of Our Loving Mother, where the “Apparition Room” and the “Divine Mercy Room” are housed.  In these rooms, housewife and mother, Nancy Fowler, experienced the apparitions of the Blessed Mother and of Jesus Christ between 1990 and 1998.

        When we entered the Shrine, I immediately felt an incredible sense of peace.  So did my family, they later told me.  And no, it wasn’t because we were the only ones in the room that day, it just felt different.  This room contains various holy statues, it is filled with flowers, informational pamphlets, and there are blessed medals and rosaries which one can take home.  But the most telling objects in that room are the baskets filled with the many written prayers and petitions of those who had visited before us.  We walked around both rooms observing, reading the literature, and commenting on some of the items in them.  Then at one point my son said, “What if she appears now?” and we all looked at each other with…..ah…..yeah that kinda frozen expression, and with nothing to say.  My daughter too, while we were in the Divine Mercy Room sitting in front of the crucifix where Jesus appeared, said, “If He pops up now I’ll die.”  Their comments may have sounded a bit childish to me initially, but in retrospect, I must say I was highly impressed by the way both of them behaved and how seriously and faithfully they took this experience.  The simplicity of their comments implied that they acknowledged the possibility of that actually occurring, and showed how much faith there was in them.  Besides, I’ll be honest, I was sorta having the same “what if” thoughts.  You couldn’t help it.  The setting was conducive to that.  What would you have thought?  

        Eventually, after some time, the four of us sat down to write our prayers and petitions and dropped them in the baskets along with all the other ones.  I felt such a strong and open connection with Jesus and Mary as I sat there writing, that it was just amazing.  Even more amazing was the feeling I got when I realized, as I looked around the room, not just where I was, but who was with me there sharing that moment.  When I glanced at my husband and children sitting there, engulfed in faith, writing in their little pieces of paper their own thoughts, I couldn’t help but feeling blessed.

        We made our way through the rest of the Farm that day and ended our visit at the church.  I felt a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  Not unlike what I feel after visiting a new place when we travel, but this time with the added feeling of gratitude.  I couldn’t believe that the place I had seen in pictures always crowded with people, was on that day, all ours.  I was so taken by how quiet it was there and how alone we were, in the physical sense that is, not in the spiritual sense.  Because as my husband said after we left, “There was definitely a presence in that farm.”  Now, that was freaky my friends, and definitely special.  

        In that humble farm, a woman had visions of Mary and Jesus, and made public their messages.  Messages containing warnings, reassurances and hope for all of us, skeptics and believers alike.  Which are you?  In her last apparition, our Blessed Mother assured her faithful followers that blessings would continue to be given to all those who visited the Farm and prayed to her.  It is because of that, that I share my story with you; in the hopes that, if you haven’t already, you make some time to visit this holy site, so you too may experience this different kind of farm.

-by Connie Perez

The Farm                    &nbs
p;                                      Statute of Our Loving Mother
     
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights       Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights
reserved.                                                                                    reserved.

Rosary Hill                                            Apparition Room
     
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights        Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights
reserved.                                                                                     reserved.

Divine Mercy Room                                            Blessed Well and Water
    
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights          Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights
reserved.                                                                                       reserved.

Mother of God Catholic Church

Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights
reserved.

You may read all about the history and the apparitions at the Farm in Conyers by
going to http://www.conyers.org/1/e_history.aspx.