How Not to Pray Like a Toddler

toddlerI know Jesus said that unless we become like children, we’ll never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3). Fulton J. Sheen in The Eternal Galilean was speaking of heaven when he wrote: “No old people enter it…. There are only nurseries there!” But surely neither of them was talking about the two-year-old who is having a tantrum on the grocery store floor, nor the three-year-old who refuses to get dressed so you throw him completely naked into a snowsuit and hope it doesn’t somehow get unzipped while you’re out running errands (hypothetically speaking). Whether we call it being stubborn, strong-willed, or spirited, I doubt that’s the childlike quality Christ is looking for when he welcomes us into heaven! Continue reading

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Living the Our Father at the Regnum Christi General Assembly

Every morning at the Regnum Christi General Assembly in Rome, we had the grace of beginning the day with Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, next door to the General Directorate of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi.

It was so refreshing to be there, in Mary’s house, under her smiling gaze in the quiet morning hours. She welcomed us, smiled at us, filled us with courage morning after morning, telling us to ‘Do whatever he tells you to.’

On one of these mornings, while we prayed the Our Father in the Mass, I was reminded line by line of how very closely our Father was walking with us, and guiding us in His will.

What follows is my reflection on how Christ led us to live the prayer he taught us during this moment of history for the Regnum Christi Movement, at the General Assembly. Continue reading

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Heirs in Valor of the Champions of Old

war

L’Enfant du Regiment by Sir John Everett Millais

Struck is the heart when the realization that the young girl in the foreground lays wounded on a tomb as a war rages outside the place where she sleeps. There she is, beautiful and innocent as can be on a cold tomb of marble, a soldier’s coat the only giver of warmth. Gone are the days when children could sleep in peace on a warm bed and be cuddled by their mother’s embrace. However, it is wartime now and even the youth are liable to pay the high price of being on “the wrong side of the war.”

Her little hand wrapped in bandages makes us hope for the best while preparing for the worst. Has L’Enfant lost her hand? Has she been badly wounded? Will she recover? We might never have these questions answered for they belong to an uncertain place and an uncertain time. This painting depicts no one little girl. It is our lack of precise knowledge of the scene that makes it all the more painful as we recall that this might not represent a single child but the many pained by the atrocities of war. At best they will be scarred for life, at worst paying with their own life-blood for the sins of the nation. Continue reading

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Mary, Our Lady of Hygge

hyggeYou’ve probably seen or heard the Danish word hygge: it made the Oxford Dictionary’s shortlist for “word of the year” in 2016, and its popularity hasn’t waned since. Pictures with #hygge are still popping up on Instagram, and you can choose from a plethora of best-selling books to learn “how to hygge.” Loosely translated as “the art of cosiness,” hygge is better described as a feeling than a concept: it’s reading a book in bed on a sunlit Saturday morning, lounging in pyjamas and cozy socks in front of a fire, drinking a warm cup of coffee while watching the sunrise, relaxing on a warm summer’s night surrounded by friends and encircled by perfectly strung patio lanterns. What the world doesn’t know is that Catholics have been embracing hygge long before it started trending on social media. Continue reading

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Death? When? Today?

death

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Ps. 90:12)

Have you ever had a close-to-death experience? I’ve had a couple of them. Believe me, they are nothing pleasant. One of them happened not so long ago when I visited my family in Mexico in December 2016. At that time I had just professed my first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This was my first time home since I left for the Legion of Christ’s Novitiate near Munich, Germany, back in late 2014.  After enjoying a family evening at my grandma’s in Parras, (North West Mexico), we headed back to Saltillo, where my family lives. The drive takes little more than two hours. It was late, and it was dark outside. My parents, my three siblings and I were having a great time in the car when all of a sudden a truck coming towards us tried to pass another truck. Everyone in the car became silent as we watched the two trucks speeding at us, occupying the road’s two lanes. To make things worse, there was no shoulder on that section of the road. This means there was no way we could dodge them without getting out of the road. At 60 mph. I didn’t have time to think anything. I just waited for the crash to happen. My brother Andrés pressed the break wildly. The lights of both trucks blinded us, and our car made a sudden and harsh zig-zag movement. Inside the car, we moved back and forth and to the sides like puppets dancing all at the same time. Then it was over. My heart was beating so hard. What had happened? Somehow, my brother had managed to dodge the trucks. Up to this day, I don’t know how he did it or what happened during those few intense seconds. What I know is that, with God’s help, my brother saved us from a deathly front collision. He saved us from death. Continue reading

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Lessons from Faustina

faustina

The brand-new corpus at Christ the King Church

Many years ago, a friend lent me her copy of St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul, praising the dense book with tiny print for its insight, with the promise that I’d find immeasurable graces and assured transformation of soul within the copious pages.  A year later I found myself apologetically returning the book to her unread: every time I opened it, I felt immediately lost. It seemed this Polish nun simply had nothing relevant to say to me.

Fast forward to the Year of Mercy. I decided to give Faustina another chance, and picked up her diary once more, hoping for better results. This time I had more success, finding within its pages a mentor, a spiritual guide, and even a friend I began affectionately (and hopefully not too irreverently!) referring to as “Fausty”. I rushed to meet her every morning over quiet and coffee, wondering what she’d have to say to me that day. Naturally, she taught me about mercy: Mercy is what closes the huge gap between the Creator and the creature; Mercy successfully compensates for my failure; Mercy always makes the first move. But more than anything, Faustina taught me to suffer. Continue reading

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Lessons from the Orchid

I have to start with a complex disclaimer.  I’m not a gardener, nor a flower person, and as for growing things, well, I do not have a green thumb. Orchids always have scared me.

My wife is better at growing things than I am, but that is faint praise. We have been known to kill off darn near any plant that lives in the house.

About a year ago, we decided to go to an open house at a local greenhouse: Hausermann’s. Actually, it would be more accurate to say it is a huge orchid operation that just happens to be based near us and has acres of greenhouses filled with thousands of orchids. Continue reading

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Celebrating Easter When You Failed at Lent

lent

What is the solution when three kids want to sit beside Mom during prayer time, but she only has two sides? Why this of course.

I have a bad habit of evaluating my Lenten performance. “I had a good Lent” means I faithfully stuck to my Lenten promise without forgetting or “cheating”, I kept my family on track with a concrete goal, I got them to at least one Stations of the Cross, I said my prayers consistently. If I can do these few things well, according to the Lenten rubric in my head, I get an A+. And bonus points to me if I even managed to stay calm a few times as I tried to corral five kids (including two high-schoolers) to the living room for prayer time, while the three youngest fought over who got to sit beside me/read the prayer/hold the book/blow out the candle/anything else they could think of to argue about. Continue reading

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The Hour of Br. Anthony

anthonyTake heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert — for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning — in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, Be on the alert! — Mark 13:33-37

Nothing in life is more distressing or puzzling than when someone dies expectedly, particularly when I/we don’t think they should die.

Many people are aching in their hearts today upon learning of the death of Br. Anthony Freeman, LC.  Br. Anthony was not quite 30 years old and a year away from ordination as a Legionary priest. Sometime between Easter Sunday night and Easter Monday morning he died in his room at the Legion seminary in Rome, apparently quietly and of natural causes. Continue reading

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Living the Corporal Works of Mercy During Lent (Burying the Dead)

This year, our family is wrapping up a seven-year Lenten journey through the corporal works of mercy. We’ve given food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned, which leads us to finally burying the dead! This is the seventh corporal work of mercy, and although it’s not mentioned in Matthew 35 (or on the now tattered, food-stained, and wax-speckled Lenten prayer card that originally inspired our family’s journey), I think we’d be remiss to stop at six! Continue reading

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