"Not so easily was I remade as made. He spoke and all things were made. But while he made me simply and at once by a word, he has in the remaking of me said many words, and worked wonders and suffered much." (St. Bernard)

Friday, June 20, 2014

What is it you seek?

"Yet the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever." 1 John 2:17

For as long as the world has been around, even it, is passing away. How incredible is the love of our God and Creator that all we have to do, is His will, and we shall remain forever. Is it so difficult to do His will? 

As I read the book, Abandonment to Divine Providence, I am beginning to understand more the simplicity of doing His Holy will. He has a plan for us in each moment wherever we are in our state of life, from the most difficult to the most joyful to the most mundane. It is in every moment, most especially in the countless monotonous moments, where we must persevere in seeking to do His Holy will. And 'if we do our part, God will do the rest.' 

What is it we seek? Holiness! For us to become holy, to find this treasure, we don't have to go far. We just have to accept in each moment His will and renounce our own, all for His glory! This should be easy if we say we believe that God is our Father. Because, then we trust that He will take care of us as a good father would. Now, if in each moment you are doing the will of God with a grateful heart, even if you are sweeping the floor or waiting in a very long line, then holiness is yours. 'What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.'

This last part I absolutely love. I have been trying more and more to enter into each moment imagining it is the holiest moment of my life. This has brought me so much joy in many occasions, especially when I was struggling to maintain focus or enduring some difficulty. Notice from 1 John 2:17, that the world, or any pleasures, will not remain. These things only want to distract you by attempting to make you comfortable. Just reading Acts of the Apostles, and any of the New Testament letters will quickly convince you that the early Apostles and Christians did not seek comfort, but sought to do the will of God. This often led them to suffering. How else shall we be purified by our God who is a consuming fire, if not through suffering? By accepting all that happens to us, trusting in His Holy design and permitting Him to use us as He wills all for His glory, we shall remain forever.

May you be blessed by this song from Matt Maher which the group of missionaries from St. Ignatius in Mobile introduced to me:

Matt Maher - Lord, I Need You

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nuestra Señora de Buen Suceso

Let me tell you about how God gave a special gift to His faithful missionaries...

From the beginning of the Stephen F. Austin mission trip, many of the people from SFA were asking us if we were going to Nuestra Señora de Buen Suceso. We, the FMC missionaries, had never heard of this. Our Lady of Good Success is a Marian apparition deemed 'worthy of belief'. Throughout the trip, some of them would talk about it. Yet, we had no plans of going there, because, once again, we had never heard of it. When the last day of the trip came we were in Quito for our pilgrimage to visit some of the sites special to Quito. I received a phone call from a former FMC missionary, Francisco, who lives in Quito. He told me he was coming into Quito with a group of missionaries from Stuebenville Univiversity who were in Ecuador for a medical mission. He wanted to meet up. Rachel and I met with him and talked for a bit, briefly sharing the Lord's work in our missions. It then occurred to me to ask him: 'Do you know where Nuestra Señora de Buen Suceso is?' He said: 'Yes. And actually our group is going there at 3pm today, if your group of missionaries want to come?'

YES!! Rachel and I were in shock, jumping for joy, so excited for the gift the Holy Spirit was granting His faithful missionaries. We didn’t tell the SFA group where we were going, we wanted to be a surprise. At 3pm, we arrived at the church, La Inmaculada Concepción. It is not just a church, it is a convent for the Conceptionists sisters. It was then that I realized what an incredible miracle this gift was from the Holy Spirit. The chances of us getting to go was next to nothing. The Conceptionists are a cloistered order. The nuns do not leave and outsiders are not permitted to see the nuns, and access to the convent is only granted to the public 3 times per year. Jesus was giving a special treat! When we entered, Mother Superior was waiting for us. She led us through the convent ringing a bell. This was to alert the other nuns to hide themselves because outsiders were approaching. The sanctity of that place was tangible, the rich silence permeating. We learned that in 1610, our blessed Mother appeared to Madre Mariana Francisca de Jesus Torres and asked her to make a statue of her with the child Jesus. The statue is now located in a beautiful chapel which we saw. As we entered the chapel, the silence was transformed in a crescendo of delicate prayers. The hidden nuns were singing, praising the Lord!

Then, we were led into a small room where we could see the body of Madre Mariana Francisca de Jesus Torres. She died in 1635, and her body is incorruptible! Our Lord permits this as a reminder of our hope in eternal life, sometimes preserving the ones who persevered in faith here on earth. In total, there are nine incorruptible sisters. What an incredible gift... I have never experienced such a holy place!

I felt that our Blessed Mother was with us, guiding us and providing us with affirmations for a job well-done preaching the Gospel in the jungles of Ecuador. All of the missionaries were transformed by that holy place. Please keep them, the sisters, in your prayers, as they are continuously attacked by the government who wants to take their convent away from them. But, as our Blessed Mother said in her prophecies, that shall never come to pass. Such is the power of God that ‘the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against’ (Mt. 16:18) the Church.

Altar in the chapel of the convent

The statue that Madre Mariana was instructed to have made by our Blessed Mother

A painting of the apparition of Mary to Madre Mariana

Imagine some nuns in their habits slam dunking

Praying over a little with cancer

'Speak a lot with God and little with creatures and you will have a lot of peace.'

Confessional booths

The courtyard of the convent

Padre Lucas Maria... My short encounter with him has me convinced that his love for Jesus is so intimate

A plaque indicating the place where the president Gabriel Moreno was martyred by masons. This was prophesied by our Blessed Mother.

For an interesting read on the history of Mary's appearance to Madre Mariana Francisca de Jesus Torres and the fulfillment of certain prophecies see the website: http://www.olrl.org/prophecy/goodsuccess.shtml

Monday, March 24, 2014

So That In All Things God May Be Glorified Through Jesus Christ

One week ago, our two teams in Ecuador hosted a mission trip for a group of college students from SFA University in Texas. These 15 students chose to preach the Gospel, to pray with God's little ones, and to help the poor of Ecuador instead of going on a 'normal' college spring break. I was so impressed with this group's preparation for the Lord's mission in Ecuador. They prepared with holy hours, sacrifices, novenas, speaking at churches to raise money and awareness and giving testimonies about how Jesus has worked in their life. When they arrived in Ecuador they were ready to 'go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature' (Mk. 16:15).

Their missionary hearts beamed forth, as they immediately began to love the people of Misahualli, Ecuador. They entered into the culture and life of the people here, eating and drinking what was offered to them (See Lk. 10:1-12). Of course, that often includes the things that are unas pocas extrañas, such as chicha. They truly enjoyed it! Praise Jesus! The Lord called each one by name, having for them a personal mission, to freely give from themselves what they have freely received (See Mt. 10:8). He called them to hike great distances through mud and swamp, becoming filthy from head to toe, falling too many times to count, and rising up again to persevere so that His scripture would be fulfilled: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news (Rom: 10:15)!' They gave glory to God serving the people with an intense love manifested, for example, when they gave their own food to the children of a village. Everything they did, whether preaching the gospel in word or deed, they did without complaining (See 1 Pet. 4:7-11). Their 'YES!' to serve Jesus here in Ecuador resounded in my heart, sending pulses of courage and the light of the Spirit to strengthen my entire being.

Thank you, all of you, who came on mission to Ecuador for saying YES!

Going to our first communities... the HIKE!

If there are a shortage of cute Kichwa children in Misahualli,
it is because the missionaries couldn't resist taking them home with them.

Nick giving his testimony in a community.

Candice 'Graciela' giving the Jesus talk to the people in Misahualli.

There is a never a dull moment with Rachel. So much Joy!

How blessed are we to help build a place of worship for the people!

Some Kichwa kids with the missionaries!

Please see my next post Nuestra Señora de Buen Suceso about a special blessing, a miracle from the Lord, given as a gift to us during this mission trip.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Paradise of Blessings

Since the beginning of the Lord’s mission here in Ecuador 2014 we have been moving, sometimes sprinting, to do all that the Lord is asking of us. There are and have been tremendous blessings, often blessings in disguise. For, ‘the fear of God is a paradise of blessings; its canopy, all that is glorious (Sir. 40:27)’. This particular passage came to me when we were praying at the waterfalls during our desert day. I looked around and realized that we are truly in a paradise, and we had found, or had been led to, this incredible hidden treasure. The wealth of God’s love and His mercy overflows and never ceases. Furthermore, it seems that if we desire to encounter something great, something that truly endures, real beauty, we must work hard and persevere through every trial, weakness and struggle that we surely will face as we make that journey. For instance, it was not easy task to get to the waterfall. We tracked through mud, uphill, sometimes slipping and falling. There were times when our hands were pierced as we caught ourselves on a tree with spines. How similar is the spiritual life!

Certainly, I have come to discover that in mission life those trials, weaknesses and struggles do not lack. Everything, whether hidden or in the open, good or bad, is under God’s canopy. Many little treasures await us, and many difficulties. Are we going to accept all that comes to us? Including those moments of great silence from Him, and when we ‘feel’ nothing… are we going to accept those too? They will make us holy. They are preparing us, sanctifying us. By accepting ALL from Him, we fear the Lord, trusting in His goodness and His Fatherly love. Everything is glorious with God, He who made all things. If we rightly acclaim that this paradise is glorious, then we rightly give credit to Him who is Glory!

This is real life. And it is incredible! Don’t let the world lie to you. You are not in chains; you are not incarcerated. You are free in Him! He who is life, the eternal fountain, provides water that will never cease to flow and if we come to drink we shall never thirst again. Yes… everything is a blessing, a gift from our Almighty Father. From shoving our way onto an overcrowded bus to the 8-year old kid selling candy and cigarettes in a dangerous city at night. This is real life. From the 10-year old girl telling me she is afraid of her father to the homeless lady and her daughter praising and thanking the Lord and kissing our hands because we prayed with her and gave her food. This is certainly real life. From the half-crazed man spitting obscenities at us to the powerful testimony of a father and husband who worked to change his life and leave alcohol behind. And how can I forget about the man with the knife. These may not all seem like blessings at first, but don’t forget about our true destination as Christians. It is our destination which we long for, towards which our eyes should be fixed, which transforms even the most tragic of evils into blessings. Praise God, He is so powerful! Through these difficulties (blessings) we must travel, for we are pilgrims. We have always been pilgrims since the beginning, traveling and wandering, knowing that this is not our permanent resting place. We should never permit this world to be permanent in our hearts. For, our true resting place is in His Sacred Heart. For it was His heart that was pierced, not ours, nor the world’s. The veil was ripped, the heart was torn, permitting us access to the One True and Living God, the fountain of eternal life. And we enter through Jesus Christ.

Sirach 40:27,  Hebrews 4:1,  John 4:14,  James 1:2-3

Monday, November 18, 2013

Salvador and the Kingdom of God

Through Salvador, I encountered the Kingdom of God.

Today, being our ‘free day’, I went to Tena, the closest big city, to get some personal things done. I had breakfast at this café to get some food that reminds me of home.

While I was there, I began reading this book about Matthew’s gospel. It is in Spanish, which, praise God, I am understanding better. Immediately, the book began speaking about why Jesus came to us. “To fulfill all righteousness” (Mt.3:15), which in this context in Matthew means: doing the will of God, submitting to the plan of God for the salvation of all. We are considered just and practice ourselves this righteousness when we allow and participate with God to realize His plan in us.

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Mt.5:6)

After finishing my breakfast, I saw an older man I know from Ahuano walking by the restaurant. He is 75 years old and his name is Salvador… awesome name! I had to go talk with him. After some time talking outside, I asked him if he had eaten breakfast. He said: “No.” I invited him to eat a late breakfast, and I would pay. He accepted. We talked for another hour.

Salvador does not have a lot of money. Usually, he has none at all. His grand-daughter Josselyn, who is about 9 years old, lives with him. Both her parents died a few years ago. They receive no help from Salvador’s other children. They typically have no food in the house. With his age, and bad legs, he cannot work for money. He cannot work in the field to farm the products they need to eat. I asked: “What do you do for food?” He said: “When there is food, we eat. When there is none, we don’t. If there is no food, we drink a cup of chicha, and that is enough.”

I was so surprised with his lack of worry about not having food. Not once did he complain. Not once did he curse or murmur against God. Every Sunday, I see him at mass with his grand-daughter. He is faithful to our Lord, and is devoted to our Blessed Mother. When you talk with him, you encounter peace because he is joyful and content.

I must admit I have never experienced this kind of poverty. I have never been in this type of situation where I must depend totally on God to provide for me the ‘daily bread’. Unfortunately, I often find myself thinking about food. For instance, I will be talking to someone and my attention will stray from them and to the food I plan to have for dinner. Why is it that when we have things, we just want more of them? We are seeking to fill a hole, in a vain attempt to satisfy ourselves, and all the while, the hole is getting bigger. Why do I worry about not having the things which I already have? Do we realize that we can become enslaved by the things which we own? St. Teresa of Avila said in The Way of Perfection: “It is when I possess least that I have the fewest worries and the Lord knows… I am more afflicted when there is excess of anything than when there is lack of it… I have noticed that He provides for us immediately.”

Often, we seek what the world offers to alleviate merely the symptoms of our disease. This is our disease: a desire for the things that we do not want and that do not provide. Jesus offers more than just alleviating the symptoms. He cures the disease: destroying its very source. He gives us the way to be cured:

“…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Mt. 6:33)

For me, I have so much more to learn. I am seeking the wisdom of God, the righteousness of God. I desire to be filled only by Him, not by the world. God blessed me with this encounter with Salvador, to understand His love for us, that it goes deeper than a mere morsel of food can satisfy. And all things of this world give only an instant of satisfaction before we are back yearning for more. Everything God has blessed us with here on earth are signs pointing to the One who truly and completely satisfies.

So, if we are hungry, or thirsty, or in need of clothing, first seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and ‘these things will be given you’ and you ‘will be satisfied’. Therefore, why worry. If we truly believe he is our Father, and seek first His kingdom and His will, He will give us the greatest gift of all: everlasting life and eternal satisfaction. Salvador is cured! Despite his infirmities and age, and the lack of food, and the lack of support from his family, he is healed. And the things that have been given to him, are not an abundance of food and riches. But, what he has received is exactly what he needs, for He is already living in the Kingdom of God.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Restless for Missions

“I will follow you wherever you go.” (Lk. 9:57)

Ask yourself this question: Would I follow Jesus wherever he goes? Can you give up the luxuries of a comfortable life, set aside your ambitions and follow Jesus? If you are a Christian, the answer should always be “Yes!”

About six months before joining FMC, I started getting this anxious feeling. I felt as though my heart was desiring this massive change in my life. It took me some time to understand why, but one day while I was reading scripture and upon seeing how the disciples of Jesus put their lives in danger for the spread of the Gospel, I couldn’t seem to match the Christianity I was living with theirs. I then realized that as long as I was living a comfortable life, shying away from any kind of adversity in proclaiming the Gospel, and ‘playing it safe’, then I was not following Christ! My faith had never been tested. I must find out where Jesus is going, and follow Him.

So, I ask you: “Where does Jesus go today?”

Jesus goes wherever you go.

This is His challenge to us. He needs each one of us to ‘go and proclaim the kingdom of God’. He has ‘nowhere to rest his head’, maybe, because He is constantly at work in us proclaiming the Gospel message of salvation. This, of course, is His desire. As long as we are proclaiming, He is proclaiming.

We must be stirred up, shaken, and uncomfortable for the Gospel. For many, this will require you to go to a foreign land to proclaim His name, offer His healing, and to make known to others, who have never heard His name, salvation. “The number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church are constantly on the increase… When we consider this immense portion of humanity which is loved by the Father and for whom he sent his Son, the urgency of the Church’s mission is obvious.” (Mission of the Redeemer)

The task is urgent; the message salvific. Stir up your heart, and truly ask yourself: “Am I going where Jesus needs me to go?” Then, go out to the harvest and get to work. Really, if you are a Christian, it is not a choice. Missions is the life of the Church. If you are a believer in Christ, a member of His Body, the Church, then missions is essential to your own life. Consider that you, yourself, might be called to foreign missions. It is truly the best life, because it is who you were made to be. So, be stirred up, restless, until each heart rests in His.