Posts Tagged With: Castries

Old friendships renewed

Saturday – 4/15/12 – 2:00pm – At Vigie Beach in Castries, St. Lucia

“But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all thy works.” –Psalm 73:28–

I chose this verse to begin my journal entry because I felt like it perfectly reflects the nature of my work as a missionary. It’s a good reflection of what I also try to do during my Desert Day prayer time. Alot has happened since my last entry. Me & Luis had our first full month alone as a mission team. Overall it was a good experience. Since there were difficulties, alot of which was due to the fact that we are both kinda solitary in our personalities and in our spiritual journeys too. We were also at the beginning stages of growing accustomed to each other, and developing team chemistry. Like I said, we weren’t perfect but we grew alot during that month.

Then we got a huge blessing with the addition of the Alvarez family to our mission team. I was glad to have them because it was too quiet around the house with just the two of us. Having the family there will help to pull us out of our shells too. After the Alvarezes arrived on Monday of Holy Week, we only had two days to get them settled before I headed here to St. Lucia. Got here a whole day later than expected (Holy Saturday) because of bad weather in Dallas earlier in the week. Monsignor Boni’s driver Tate picked me up from the airport and I bought some supplies before arriving at the Marian Home. Went to the Vigil Mass at Sacred Heart in Marchand, and spent Easter Day visiting with Ms. Renee Cenac and her family. 

She’s a friend of ours from when me and the Eckstines lived here last year. The group arrived on Monday and then the fun began. This trip has been really great. We’re plugging into ministries that we developed last year and on our short term trip this past January. Visiting the sick and elderly. Doing a 3 night rally @ Ti Rocher. Feeding the poor with our good friend Auntie Sabi. Getting to reconnect with our friends here has also been really great. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed being with the families that have been on this trip. They’re all from Our Lady of Prompt Succor parish in Alexandria, LA. Some of them have been on previous trips with FMC. They even brought 2 priests with them, Fr. Adam Travis & Fr. Harold Imamshah. Funny thing is that me and Fr. Harold have been facebook friends for at least a year or two before actually meeting. We have alot of mutual connections through youth ministry. 

This whole week the group has been willing to jump in head first and not hesitate to work hard or come out of their comfort zones. I think this willingness is the result of these families being part of a strong, vibrant, loving faith community. After wrap up tonight, we pack up and head out of the Vieux Fort airport tomorrow. James and Theresa head back to Big Woods, the families and priests head home, and I head to Michigan to visit my girlfriend Nina.

I’m simultaneously excited and scared. Excited because she’s awesome and she’s my girlfriend and I haven’t seen her since January 28th. It’ll be really nice to spend an extended period of time visiting with her. But I’m also scared because of the sometimes mysterious and unpredictable nature of relationships and discernment of them. I feel like the best way to discern this relationship is to be honest and open with God, myself, and Nina too. By asking ourselves about the various aspects of the relationship, by being honest about how we feel and what we want, by continually offering up the relationship through prayer, I think these things will ultimately help us to discern whether or not we are called to deepen our relationship.

It’s hard being patient and being open and honest like this. But it’s also the most freeing feeling. It takes any undue pressure off of us and helps us to have the freedom and space we need. Whatever the future holds, I know that God will bless us both and that through this relationship experience we’ll grow closer to Christ.

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St. Lucia – The Final Countdown

Saturday – September 3, 2011 – 11:00am – Benedictine Convent @ Mount of Prayer, Coubaril, Castries, St. Lucia

So, it looks like we’ve come to the end of the road here in St. Lucia. (cue the sappy Boyz 2 Men music) When I came back here on August 25th, it was with the intention to follow my original plan. I would remain here until the end of November and then return to Big Woods for Year End Review. However, right before I came back, Mark informed me that  on their family retreat, they discerned it was time for them to leave St. Lucia. They were in need of some time to rest, recuperate, and re-energize themselves. So they will be in Oregon with their family until they return to Big Woods at the end of November for Year End Review. Even when I first heard this, my initial reaction was to stick to my original plan of remaining here until it was time for Year End Review. After all, I do have a problem of sticking to my commitments. A worthy reason to remain, by anyone’s standard, in my opinion.

But as I got back a week ago and really started to think and pray about it, my mind started to change. For one thing, I realized that if I stayed here by myself, I would not have the benefit of the missionary community life. And this is something I REALLY need. As contemplative and solitary as I can be at times, I know that I need to live in community in order to be as spiritually strong as possible. It also seemed like all of the various little signs we were receiving pointed to  us leaving St. Lucia and moving on to a different mission post. Now keep in mind that I believe we were meant to be here. God called us here and allowed us to be here. We were able to accomplish many things and make many friends. But, now it is time for us to move on. It is time to go, because we believe God is calling us out of this place.  (Speaking of plans, I heard one time that if you want to make God laugh then make plans.)

So once I decided it was prudent for me to leave St. Lucia at the same time as the Eckstines, my plan (haha) was to go straight to General Cepeda and spend some time there as a missionary while waiting for Intake 2011 to arrive for their mission immersion experience in November. Well, that kinda fell through (lack of sufficient funds in my missionary account). Now it’s confirmed that I will be returning to Big Woods on Wednesday September 21st to help out with Intake and to do whatever else Frank and Genie need me to do. Then, when Intake goes to Mexico in November I’ll accompany them. So, I’ll still get to go but not for as long as I’d thought and with a large group instead of just a few full-time missionaries.

There’s still alot of blessings for me this way though. For one thing, I get to exercise the virtue of obedience by respecting Mr. Frank’s insight and wishes by returning to Big Woods from here. I also get a wonderful opportunity to get to know the new missionaries and maybe start getting a feel for who my new mission partners might be next year. Being close to home ain’t too bad either. Always good to be able to see loved ones, family, friends, etc…. I really think too that the community life at Big Woods during Intake will do much to refresh me and renew me even further. Recapture some of the zeal and passion of being a missionary. This has also been a good experience of seeing how God can change our plans and work contrary to our reasoning and logic in order to get us to a certain point where we can experience certain blessings.

Logic would have told me to stay in Lafayette so that I would not “waste” money on two plane tickets and already be at Big Woods for Intake. But then, I wouldn’t be able to say good-bye to everyone here. I wouldn’t be able to tie up loose ends. I wouldn’t be able to finish up my time at my mission post with my mission partners. Logic would also have told me that I should go straight to Mexico from here. Experience “normal” missionary life in General with other full-time missionaries and without a big group . See what day to day life is really like there as a missionary.  But as I said earlier, this would mean that I lose out on all the opportunities I have at Big Woods. Come to think of it, the theme of my whole first year in missions has been life not as I expect it, with plans changing many times. But I can tell you that because of this, and because of the many other blessings and challenges associated with this, my first year as a full-time foreign lay missionary has been a time of enormous spiritual growth and insight.

Praise God for such an awesome first year, & here’s to an even better 2nd year. God bless!

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I will refresh you with living waters

Wednesday – June 15, 2011 – 6:15am – Marian Home Chapel – Castries, St. Lucia

One of the challenges I’ve discovered in my first few months as a Catholic lay foreign missionary, is that even though you may have grown enough to the point where God can use you as his instrument, you still are not perfect. I also commented last night as our group of SSME missionaries did Night Prayer, that the Devil does not like what we are doing and will come against us however he can. (Our scripture for Night Prayer was the one that talks about being on guard because the Devil prowls like a roaring lion, seeking to devour its prey.).

Since we’ve been here, I’ve been reminded that I still struggle with a lack of patience, joy, zeal, and humility. And since a big struggle in the past has been chastity (or lack thereof), the Devil has been throwing those kinds of temptations my way. It almost seems like the more and more I strive to be chaste and holy, the more temptations are thrown my way, and the more lies the Devil tries to get me to believe. On top of that, it seems like now that I’ve achieved a certain level of victory over sins of the flesh, that “sins of the spirit” that I mentioned earlier (impatience, lack of zeal, etc.) come at me with a fury. (Disclaimer: Even though I realize I’ve achieved a certain level of victory against sins of the flesh, I realize in humility that I must always be vigilant and on-guard and humble so that I do not fall back into these sins again.)

So taking all of this into account, you can see how my beginnings as a foreign missionary, though blessed, have been challenging and frustrating at times. This morning, as I was about to take a shower before Mass, all of this was on my mind again. Even though the wheels are always turning in my mind, I was puzzled as to why God allowed this to be on my mind at THIS time of day. As I step into the shower, turn the cold water handle, and feel a blast of cold water hitting my head, I think about how good it feels after a restful but sweaty night of sleep. Then I hear the Lord tell me “I will refresh you with living waters”. A sense of peace came over me. Thank you Lord for telling me what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

(Interesting sidenote: Right before my shower, I was reading Mrs. Genie’s 2nd book, and was at the part where she relates the story of how God revealed to her what their family’s missionary newsletter should be called. Having just read that, and then having the experience I just had, I decided that my missionary newsletter will be called “Living Waters”. It just seems so right and that it’s the perfect fit. Praise the Lord!)

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June Missionary Newsletter

Easter is not just a day, it’s a way of life!

My Dearest Benefactors,

It brings me great joy to write you and let you know how the Lord has been moving in my life and in missions. The last time I wrote you, it was almost the end of Lent, which was a spiritually enriching experience for me. I hope it was for you too.

Holy Week and the Easter Triduum were a blessing as well. The opportunity to experience the life of the Church through another culture was a great blessing. I was chosen to be one of the 12 “Apostles” for the foot washing during Holy Thursday Mass & it was an experience I’ll never forget. I was also blessed by the St. Lucians’ celebration of Good Friday. The day began with Stations of the Cross at 4am with a group from our church parish. We prayed and had meditations for each station, then would sing and process down the street to our next station. At the halfway point, we joined up with another group from the Cathedral. After we joined this group and added to that all the other people who joined the procession, there were almost 2000 people! Later that morning I assisted with another Way of the Cross at a mission station on the mountain. We started at a parishioner’s house and had a 2-mile trek to the local school. As we were getting started, I saw that no one had yet volunteered to carry the wooden Cross, so I got to do that too!

As good as all these celebrations were, it was a real blessing to get back to “normal”. The difference now was getting to live out our missionary calling within the graces of the Easter season. For the first time in my life, I’ve seen Easter as not just a day or a ritual we go through. It’s a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and his power in our lives, and I’m thankful that the Church celebrates it for 50 days! We’ve resumed our various ministries: nursing homes, prayer ministry, parish office hours, feeding the poor, evangelization, and work projects. We’re also making plans to start some new ministries. For the past two weeks, however, there’s been a slight change of pace. A visiting missionary group from Nebraska came to St.Lucia and is staying at our house in Castries. During this time we’ve been staying at a Franciscan convent in the south of the
island, having a team retreat, some prayer time, and doing some work projects. We were able to do some roof repairs at a blind lady’s house. We were also able to get her house primed to be painted. At the house of a young man confined to a wheelchair, we built a mold and poured the concrete for a ramp from his front door to the street.

We’ll be heading back to Castries tomorrow and then things will REALLY get hoppin! We’re welcoming 4 of our missionaries and a priest who are coming down to assist in FMC’s first ever Summer School of Missionary Evangelism.
It’s a month-long program where participants study Church documents and Scripture & take classes on mission work. During the last week they’ll be focusing entirely on going out into the community and putting what they learned into practice. I’m excited to reconnect with my missionary brothers and sisters & the participants as well. I think the fellowship during this coming month will fan the flame of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I look forward to a renewal of my call as a missionary!

At the end of the summer school (1st week of July) I will be flying back to the States for 6 weeks for a FULL summer. In July I’ll be assisting at Faith Camp. The focus is on providing an amazing experience of faith and fellowship for middle school kids that will deepen their relationship with Christ. The week after, I’ll be an adult volunteer at another Christian
summer camp that I attended as a camper and later as a counselor. The next week and a half will be spent visiting family and friends, & going to appointments and running errands. Then on August 8th I fly out to Europe for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid! It’s an amazing event where millions of youth and young adults gather to celebrate Jesus and meet the Pope. We’ll be seeing various pilgrimage sites in Spain, France, and Italy before we go to Madrid to celebrate the overnight vigil and closing Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. My favorite part of the trip will be visiting The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica! It’s the center of the Church and has been a lifelong dream of mine to be able to go there. A few months ago I
didn’t even know if I’d have the money to go, and then I got the message that an anonymous benefactor had donated the entire cost of my trip! Praise the Lord! Yet another humbling experience of God knowing my heart’s desires and providing for me in a way I never thought possible. God is good!

I would like to end my newsletter by thanking you for your constant support. Without your prayers my work would not be as fruitful as it has been. I also thank you for your financial support. It’s vital to my mission and I thank God in prayer that you have been providing for me so generously. Please continue to support me through your prayers and financial contributions. I’m still in need of a plane ticket back home to Louisiana for my summer visit and a round trip ticket from Louisiana to St. Lucia and back. I also need benefactors to continue to support me so that I can pay for my monthly expenses.

I encourage you to read my online blog, https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com. Please feel free to email me (sidsavoie@catholic.org) or look me up on facebook. I love to share my experiences and pray for my benefactors. And for anyone who wishes, I also like to write talks, reflections, articles for bulletins & diocesan newspapers, etc….

May God Be With You!
Sid Savoie

“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”
–Job 4:6–

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Vieux Fort – week 2!

Team Retreat/Mission Trip – Sisters of St. Francis Convent – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia – May 22-June 7, 2011 (week 2)

Since I will be journaling several times a week, and only posting the collections of these entries once a week as a single missionary blog post, I forewarn you that this entry is VERY long. But I do hope you take the time to read it and enjoy the pictures.

link to pictures:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150199882382874.309058.605007873&l=e549cc195e

Day 7 – Sunday, May 29, 2011 – 11:14pm – Upstairs Living Room

Oh man, right now the journaling honeymoon is over and i’m realizing that’s it’s actually work sometimes. It’s like any other ministry I guess. Takes work but in the end the effort is worth it. Well, if I didn’t say anything about Mass, then I’d have to go to confession. So, yeah, we went to Mass. 🙂 Came back, and I uploaded my journal entry from the previous week and my pictures too. Spoke briefly to mom and dad on the phone to wish them a happy anniversary. It’s their 38th, which is amazing. I’m so grateful to the witness their marriage has been to me, and to the stability and foundation it has provided for me. Ate lunch, took a nap. Woke up around 3 and helped Mark, Sister Mary, and some of the kids deliver care packages for the St. Vincent DePaul society. All of the people we brought them to were her regular stops. Took about 2 hours. My whiney little mind was thinkin’ about how exhausting it was and how sweaty I was, but i knew I  needed to help out. Die to myself. And to see the kids and this older sister doing it, I had no other choice. Of course the need of the people we visited also helped to motivate me. Once we got back, I took a shower, and it was a pretty typical remainder of the evening.

“Only on the basis of friendship does a person arrive at the fullness of an interpersonal relationship.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Today’s gift of the spirit: Fortitude

Psalms 2:7-9

Do what’s right even when it’s hard

Day 8 – Monday, May 30, 2011 – 8:14pm – Upstairs Living Room

I wanted to begin today’s entry by giving thanks and praising God for my parents. Today is their 38th wedding anniversary. Their marriage has been such a witness to me, and has provided me with stability and a strong foundation in my life. Mom and Dad, I love you! Aside from that bit of good news, today was still a really good day. There was no morning Mass so I got to sleep in a little bit, 6am instead of 4am. ha! After morning prayer, me and Mark returned to Ms. Bibi’s house to finish up our work on her roof. We covered the rest of the screws on the metal roof with the tar-backed aluminum tape and also covered some long seams as well. Came back home and got some good reading time in. Went upstairs, watched some TV and then check email. After lunch, we went to the beach, this time on the Atlantic side. Lemme tell you that it was MUCH better! No horse poop, marijuana, or treacherous walking trails. In fact, the walk was really nice because most of the route there is along the highway and there’s a wide grassy shoulder that we walk on and it puts us far from the cars. The beach itself is much nicer too because there’s much more sandy area where you can lay down or sit. The water itself, also beautiful-er. 🙂 Really nice and clear. Gorgeous blue/green. And the waves were much bigger too. On the Atlantic side you get much more wind and current. After a quick dip on the water, I laid in the sun for a half hour. Was feeling very relaxed and enjoyin it. Then I decided to get my daily exercises done at the beach since I didn’t know if I’d get a chance once we got back home. The good thing too was that as soon as I finished my exercises I jumped in the water to rinse off. Walked up and down the beach for another half hour, and then we began our trek back home. Stopped first at the lumberyard to pick up some 2×4’s that we’re using to build a ramp for Moses, a paraplegic that we met last week. So, then, imagine two grown men, carrying some 2×4’s on their shoulder, with 7 kids in tow. Strange sight, I know. Then picture 1 of the men, sitting in the grass with all but 2 of the kids and the 2×4’s waiting for the other man and the other kids to grab some things from the grocery store. Yeah, I know. Definitely a sight to see and experience only in missions. Made our way home, showered, ate a snack, did some reading, and then we headed to 6:30 Mass, which turned out to be a communion service. I was particularly proud of Sister Mary because she went to get Ms. Bibi from her house and bring her to Mass. After Mass we came home, I changed my clothes and ate some supper, and then settled down to read those chapters from Job. I also began reading a new book: Love & Responsibility, by Karol Cardinal Wojtyla (Blessed Pope John Paul II). I’m not far into the book, but judging by what I’ve already read tonight and after looking at the table of contents, I think i’m gonna REALLY like this book. It’s all about love and sexuality and the responsibilities that come with it.

“Personal prayer is dealing in a friendly way alone with the One whom we know loves us; not a matter of thinking much, but of loving much.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Singing “Come Lord Jesus” to begin our retreat sharing time, I also happen to be glancing at my Star of David tatoo. Can’t help but think how in my personal life I often feel like the Jews did as they waited for the Messiah. I feel a bit like they did as they begged and prayed for his coming, and I continue to do so.

Just finished reading the latest book I’ve been reading, “Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual” & I thorougly enjoyed it. The thrust of the book is to seek those who are natural leaders in their environments and help them to become CHRISTIAN leaders in their natural environments. It’s a great thing for me to be studying during my missionary work.

Note to self: gotta think about 10 things that I’m thankful for here in missions.

At the recommendation of Mr. Frank, I’ve started reading the book of Job. His recommendation came after a recent conversation in which I was relating to him the various difficulties of being a first year missionary. I only got to the first two chapters tonight. Get this: at the beginning of his misfortunes his 500 oxen and 500 donkeys are stolen and the servants attending them are killed. It gets better. A firestorm from the sky kills his 7000 sheep and the servants attending them. Then his 3000 camels were stolen and the servants attending them were killed. Finally, all  10 of his kids were killed when strong winds destroyed the house they were in. You know what Job’s final response was to all of this? “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Mr. Frank, point well-taken. 🙂

Day 9 – Tuesday, May 31, 2011 – 8:17pm – Upstairs Living Room

Not much to say about today. We were supposed to go to Moses (paraplegic) and Annette’s house to build a wood ramp. When we got there and started talking about what we were gonna do, she asked us to wait and see if we could do a concrete ramp instead, since it would last alot longer. At first I didn’t know if it would work, or would we have the time or the money to do it. But, alot of times, things get done when people don’t accept no for an answer. This was one of those cases. Annette just wouldn’t let go of the idea, so me and Mark said we’d talk to Sister Mary and see what could be done. Long story short, we’ve secured all the ingredients we need for teh concrete and we already have the wood to frame the pour mold. Looks like we’ll be going back tomorrow to get it done. Supposedly a guy from town is gonna come and help get us started by showing us how to mix it and in what proportions.

“Man’s capacity for love depends on his willingness consciously to seek a good together with others, and to subordinate himself to that good for the sake of others, or to others for the sake of that good.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“Sexual morality comes into being not only because persons are aware of the purpose of sexual life, but also because they are aware that they are persons. The whole problem of ‘using’ as the antithesis of love is connected with this knowledge of theirs.” –Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“Is not your fear of God your confidence, and the integrity of your ways your hope?”
–Job 4:6–

So today’s reading from Job (ch. 3 & 4) are more familiar to me. Job laments his misfortunes to the point of cursing the day of his birth. Although I’ve never arrived at cursing the day of my birth, I have much too easily lamented my misfortunes instead of trusting in God. I think I like chapter 3 because it shows me that even really holy people are human like the rest of us. It also inspires me because it also proves that “all the rest of us” have the ability to be like “them”. Chapter 4 was also encouraging because his friend Eliphaz gave him words and witness to lift him up.

“Although the sexual urge is there for man to use, it must never be used in the absence of, or worse still, in a way which contradicts, love for the person.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

10 things I’m thankful for in St. Lucia
1.) beach days
2.) rainy weather
3.) the breeze
4.) constant access to Jesus’ Eucharistic presence
5. )the opportunity to more fully discern my vocation to marriage by living with and learning from a large  family
6.) visits with the elderly
7.) numerous opportunities each day for prayer and reading
8.) our friends from church and the surrounding neighborhood
9.) having manual labor to keep our hands occupied and as a way to bless others
10.) learning to appreciate all the small blessings of life

Today’s gift of the spirit: Knowledge
-Divine knowledge is revealed to us by God
-helps us to differentiate between what is and isn’t consistent with the faith
-only one truth
-prevents us from being mislead in the faith

“The established order of human existence, as of existence in general, is the work of the Creator, and not a work completed once and for all at some moment in the dim past of the universe, but a work continually in progress.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

Day 10 – Wednesday, June 1, 2011 – 8:48pm – Upstairs Living Room

Today got off to a pretty good start. As I was waiting here for Mark to walk Lora to the resale shop (run by Vieux Fort Children’s Society), one of Sister Mary’s friends called and said she was coming by. Homegirl dropped off a bag full of the little love apples. They’re small apples that are shaped like pears. Quite humbling to see how the people around here, who have only known us for a week treat us like we’ve lived here our whole lives. They’re very friendly and they’re generous too, even though they don’t have a whole lot extra. When Mark got back around 9:30ish, we walked over to Moses’ house and began working on the ramp. We didn’t actually pour the concrete today, but Mark built the wooden mold-form into which we’ll pour the concrete. A little bit before lunch time, Ms. Annette (Moses’ mom) said she would fix lunch for us. Knowing that they don’t have much money to spare because of Moses’ medical expenses, we were VERY hesitant to accept. But then we remember that part of being a missionary was to gratefully accept all the ways that our poor brothers and sisters want to bless us. We have to allow people the blessing of being able to bless us. They’re like the poor lady in the Bible who gave her last two coins. She didn’t give much, but because she was poor and because it was all she had, that is precisely why it was such a blessing. Lunch was actually quite good. She made some rice and cooked up some tuna and onions with some yellow tomato slices on the side.

About an hour after lunch we finished our work for the day. Yet another example of God not calling me to be super productive or successful. I didn’t really DO a whole lot. Yeah, I cut a few pieces of wood. But Mark did most of the work. My time was not for naught though. Just being out there, sacrificing my own desires to serve someone else was a blessing to me. Helped me to learn more how to try and put others before myself. The other thing I noticed today was that I continue to struggle with adjusting to life with all these kids. God-willing, I might even have this many one day. So yeah, this is a wonderful learning experience. But i’m still adjusting. It wasn’t that they did anything out of the ordinary. I think it was just that for some reason I really noticed the tension between the kids learning how to behave towards someone who is an outsider and learning how to respect that person and his space, while on the other hand that outsider (me) learning patience in dealing with and raising children as well as the need to compromise on things that are not of dire importance. It’s not easy for them to learn how to behave towards me and me towards them, but it’ll come. Only a matter of time. And in the end, we’ll all be better off because of it.

Seems like I’ve also been having alot of opportunities this week to share with friends and family back home about my mission work.  I never realized how much someone taking an interest in my work would be a blessing to me.

“The Creator’s will is not only the preservation of the species by way of sexual intercourse but also its preservation on the basis of a love worthy of human persons.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“There exists a joy which is consonant both with the nature of the sexual urge and with the dignity of humans persons, a joy which results from collaboration, from mutual understanding and the harmonious realization of jointly chosen aims, in the broad field of action which is love between man and woman. This joy […] may be bestowed either by the great variety of pleasures connected with differences of sex, or by the sexual enjoyment which conjugal relations can bring. The Creator designed this joy, and linked it with love between man and woman in so far as that love develops on the basis of the sexual urge in a normal manner, in other words in a manner worthy of human persons.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“Sexual morality and therefore conjugal morality consists of a stable and mature synthesis of nature’s purpose with the personalistic norm.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“If there is intimate cooperation between the man and the woman in a marriage, and if they are able to educate and compliment each other, their love matures to the point of which it is the proper basis for a family.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

Day 11 – Thursday, June 2, 2011 – 10:08pm – Upstairs Living Room

When you rely on an alarm clock, you should probably make sure it’s on before you go to sleep. It’s a lesson I re-learned today. Usually when I wake up early, i’m rested well enough but still feel a little bit tired. Oh, and it’s dark outside. Well today, I thought it odd when I woke up and before I opened my eyes I thought “I feel REALLY well rested. I wonder why?”. And then I open my eyes and see the light (literally), and then have that “oh crap” moment, and look over at my clock to see that it’s 5:48. I hear people outside my door, and I throw on some shorts, peek out the door, and tell them that I must have slept through my alarm. So, instead of going to 6am morning Mass, I took a shower, and had some personal prayer time in the chapel. Even when I go to bed really late I usually am able to wake up early anyways. But, I know that with some better time management and getting to bed a little earlier I can avoid mornings like this morning altogether. The only other notable thing was the laid back day I had today. Now, if you’ve been following my blog the past two weeks, then you know the whole time here has been laid back. More of a retreat atmosphere. But, we did a little more work project stuff this week compared to last week. And I fully expected today to be working on something. But Mark said that he was gonna have some of the kids help him paint Ms. Bibi’s house. I knew that there were only so many rollers and paintbrushes to go around. I also knew that Mark was looking for more ways to get the kids involved with our mission work. So, I jumped at the chance and decided to stay home and get some good reading and journaling time in. Checked my email, and then had some more reading time. Speaking of, it’s funny how when you’re reading a really good book it’s not hard at all to find time to read. Such is the case with me right now.

“To be attracted does not mean just thinking about some person as a good, it means a commitment to think of that person as a certain good, and such a commitment can in the last resort be effected only by the will.” –Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

(The above quote reminds me of the saying “Love is a choice not an emotion”)

Today’s gift of the Spirit: Piety
-makes us more sensitive to God’s guidance
-fills us with eagerness to do works of mercy
-Ruth 1:16-17
-a virtue that governs our behavior at all times

“Unrequited love is condemned first to stagnation in the person who feels it, then to gradual extinction. Sometimes, indeed, as it dies it causes the very capacity for love to die together with it.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“The structure of Love is that of an interpersonal communion.”
–Love & Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

I’ve noticed that as an American, I’m used to having a full belly when I eat. Today at lunch, I knew what I ate was enough even though I didn’t feel full. But taking for granted the luxury and feeling of a full belly, I found myself trying to graze and stuff myself a little further. Eventually I got a hold of myself and realized that I’m a missionary and part of being a missionary is solidarity with the poor. And if that means not having the full belly and having to experience a little of what it’s like not to have an abundance of food, then so be it. Fasting is also a good way to be able to pray and offer up your discomfort for others. (sidenote: While I didn’t gorge myself or engage in the sin of gluttony at supper, I definitely stuffed myself a little fuller than at lunch time. Seems like this might be my next area of growth to focus on.)

Day 12 – Friday, June 3, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

The busier you are, the faster time goes by. That’s today’s theme. Left with Sister Mary at 8:30 to go to an elementary school in Micoud to assist her with Religious Knowledge testing. It’s an apostolate she’s developed and administered in her time here, and it gives the teachers, schools, and the archdiocese an idea of what kids know and what they need to learn in regards to the Catholic faith. Sister put me upstairs with 2nd grade (i think) and she had all the kids downstairs. After I finished collecting the written tests upstairs, I went downstairs to help her finish up. I sat down at a table and one-by-one a kid would come to me with his/her test, and I would ask them to make the sign of the cross and then say the hail mary. Even if they only got some of the answer correct, they still got half credit. Then we walked down to the bus stop and went back to the convent in Vieux Fort to catch a quick lunch. Hopped on the 12:30 bus to Castries for the Vocations Committee meeting. Got there with about 20 minutes to spare. At the meeting we had a post-mortem review of the Vocations Rally in May. Talked about what worked, what didn’t, what more we can do, and what we can change. Got a chance to talk to Sav (archbishop’s secretary) after our meeting and she said they’re still “processing” our visas. Told me to call her in 2-3 weeks to either have her tell me that they’re ready, or to get some kind of documentation from her saying that my visa application is being processed. If my visa isn’t ready, I need to have this documentation available in case the airport asks for it. That way I don’t have to pay any extra taxes or fees. Chances are, with the way I’ve noticed God working in my life as a missionary, the visa won’t be ready until RIGHT before I go back to the States in July. For whoever reads this, please please please say a quick prayer that our visas would get approved soon. So then we hopped on a bus back to Vieux Fort (about an hour, hour 15 to get back). Got home, took a quick shower, changed clothes, and then we went to First Friday Mass at 6:30. I really enjoyed the day. I know God allows me to have slow days for a reason, but I feel so much more productive and less lazy when the days are busy. Speakin’ of being busy, I think me and Mark are going back to Moses and Annette’s house to pour the concrete for his wheelchair ramp. Oh, and I just realized for the first time this week that I have no quotes or wise sayings to offer! 🙂

Day 13 – Saturday, June 4, 2011 – 9:54pm – Upstairs Living Room

Day started off pretty well. Slept in a bit because there’s no morning Mass on Saturdays here. Didn’t take a shower, cuz i knew that I’d be gettin all sweaty doin laundry and other possible work activities. After breakfast I decided to handwash my laundry again. Not that I’d wanna do it every week since we have a washer at our house in Castries, but I do kinda like it. It’s one of those voluntary sacrifices that I don’t mind. Gives me something to do. Helps me get back to the basics of life without technology. Helps me to get a feel for what it’s like for most people in this country when they do their laundry. About 2/3 of the way through doing my laundry, right when my hands were sopping wet, is when Mark decides to call. He said he’d call when he and the local guy he hired started pouring the concrete. So, after I finished my laundry, I went over to Moses and Annette’s to check it out and take a few pictures. It was another instance of me not needing to be there, in a utilitarian sense, but still wanting to be there. The very fact that I was there meant I was sacrificing a little bit of ease and convenience. It was also a good chance to take some pictures of the work Mark was doing and see the final product of his/our hard work during the week. While Mark and Ed were working on the ramp. These two really slick-dressed guys come in the house and briefly talk to Moses, and then leave. Nice guys, and very polite. But, as they’re about to walk in, Mark casually asks them what church they are with, and they reply “Seventh Day Adventists”. Not what we wanted to hear.

Now, I have to say first that at least they were Christian. And just the fact that they were out and about was a witness to us about the lengths we should go to evangelize. However (there’s always a however when Sidney tells a story about slickly dressed Seventh Day Adventists), I still wasn’t happy that they came. First of all, they didn’t go to any other house, and I know this because I saw them come straight to the house, and then saw them after they left. I felt like they purposefully went to the house of the guy who is paraplegic and cannot choose to not receive them. He can’t “get away” from them because he is basically bed-ridden. They knew they had a captive audience, whether he wanted to be or not. Another reason I wasn’t happy is because Seventh Day Adventists do NOT like Catholics. Among many other issues they have with us, they think having Sunday as the Sabbath is sinful. And regardless of what denomination you are, if you worship on a Sunday as your weekly Sabbath, it means they’re not very fond of you. But, when I was telling Sister Mary that story, I told her “if you look at what they did and then you look at what Mark as doing for him, I think he knew who really cared for him and was taking care of him.” Only other highlight of the day was finally getting a fan for my bedroom! 🙂 Sister Francis had basically set aside a fan to be thrown away because she thought it overheated when using it one time and that it was broken. Bottom line, worked fine and nothing was wrong with it. So, I had the first “sopping-wet-with-sweat-free” nap since I left Castries. Funny thing though, is that I’ve become so accustomed to the heat and sweat while sleeping in my bedroom here, that I think I can sleep without a fan on if I have to. Small milestone that helps me to feel more legit as a missionary.

“….sentimental love is very often a cause of disillusionment. Disillusionment where the woman is concerned may come with the discovery as time goes by that the man’s sentiment is only a sort of screen for concupiscence or for the will to use another. Man and woman alike may be disillusioned to find that the values ascribed to the beloved person are fictitious.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“The process of integrating love (making love whole) relies on the primary elements of the human spirit–freedom and truth.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“The experience of freedom goes hand in hand with the experience of truth.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“Freedom exists for the sake of love.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

“….man longs for love more than for freedom — freedom is the means and love the end.”
–Love and Responsibility, by Blessed Pope John Paul II–

Day 14 – Sunday, June 5, 2011 – 11:21am – Upstairs Living Room

So I dunno if I’ll journal anymore after today, but I wanted to write down some great advice I received from a missionary priest that I met this morning after 9am Mass. 1.) Stay connected to your mission partners and the people you serve. You are not in a 9-5 job. Do not isolate yourself. 2.) Pray and you will be saved. Pray in order to stay connected and have a relationship with the Lord. 3.)Let go of the small things and don’t let them bother you or get on your nerves. 4.) Love the people. They are wounded and hurt. The way they will be lead to God is not by finger wagging or the finer points and minutiae of doctrine, but by a good LOVING life and example you set. Jesus loves you so you LOVE them. 5.) Be joyful. Smile. Come out of yourself. 6.) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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Vieux Fort Retreat – Week 1

Team Retreat/Mission Trip – Sisters of St. Francis Convent – Vieux Fort, St. Lucia – May 22-June 7, 2011

Since I will be journaling several times a week, and only posting the collections of these entries once a week as a single missionary blog post, I forewarn you that this entry is VERY long. But I do hope you take the time to read it and enjoy the pictures.

here’s the link to my picture album on facebook, you might need to copy and paste it into your broswer.

Day 1 – Monday, May 23, 2011 – 9:00pm – Upstairs Living Room

I’m sitting here, writing this at the end of our first full day here. We arrived here yesterday around mid-afternoon and spent the afternoon getting settled in, cooking supper, and discussing with the sisters some of the things we would be involved with while we are here. Supper was delicious, and I think God multiplied our pasta, because there’s no way I’d have thought one pan of pasta would be enough to feed 5 adults and 10 kids, but somehow it did. I also really enjoyed chatting with Sr. Francis. We chatted yesterday and today about all kinds of things: ministry, culture, missionary work, etc… It’s nice to have somebody that I can talk to and discuss things. After night prayer, me, Sister Francis and some of the kids played Rummikub, a board game based off of the card game rummy. It’s an opportunity we had because of not having as much access to the internet here. Back at the Marian Home, we basically have unlimited internet because of the wireless signal we get from the sisters upstairs. And although we try and limit ourselves in our usage of it, inevitably you devote a little more time to that instead of devoting a little more time to ministry and fellowship. So, that was a nice change of pace. I think it will also help me to appreciate the contact I do have with family and friends. Since I won’t have it as much, I’ll appreciate it more. I’ll also be better able to enter into the “retreat” aspect of our time here. Ended up getting to bed around 10 o’clock (early for me). That was also due to not having as much internet access, thus not putting off getting the rest that I need. And believe me I need it since I wake up at 4am. (4:30 back at the Marian Home). I have to wake up that early so that I can get in my personal prayer time and Scripture reading before I take a shower, get dressed, and then go to morning Mass.

Today was a really nice day too. Woke up refreshed, enjoyed my personal prayer and Scripture reading time in the chapel downstairs (which has a tabernacle with Jesus Body and Blood! 🙂 ), and then joined the sisters in their morning prayer before we went to 6am Mass. (It was actually a communion service and will be the same tomorrow, since the priest is out until Wed. morning). After breakfast and morning prayer, me and Mark walked with Sister Francis on her way to a lab appt. and then headed off to the Super J (grocery store chain) to get a few things. Saw alot of locals and their streetside “market” where they sold all kinds of diff. fruits, veggies, and other things they grow. Passed by the local independence monument, and kicked myself for leaving behind my camera, although it’s such a small town and easy to navigate that I’m pretty sure I’ll pass by it again. After we walked home, we decided on a whim to go to the beach for a short while, about an hour. Besides wanting to go to the beach, we wanted to investigate our beach options. Since Vieux Fort is literally at the southern tip of the island, when you look out the west side of the house, you see the Carribean, and when you look at the east side, you see the Atlantic. Today, we checked out the beaches on the Carribean side. First off, I gotta say that we enjoyed our time at the beach. The kids were able to swim and play in the sand. I was able to take a dip in the water a few times and got to lay down and catch some sun. However, it was definitely a missionary beach experience, not a ritzy touristy one. Our trek that led us to our spot on the beach led us past rocks, pieces of junk and trash (litter is a big problem in St. Lucia), and some less than ideal walking spaces for such a large group. One of the guys that gave Mark directions on how to get to our beach spot had the world’s largest joint in his hand. At one point on the path, we walked past a free roaming horse and her baby (forget what horse babies are called). And I’m pretty sure I caught the scent of horse poo several times while we were at the beach. Like I said, it was both enjoyable AND interesting.

Made our way back to the convent, did my daily workout and took a shower, and had a pretty normal remainder of the day. Aside from our normal routine, one of the things Sister Mary did was to introduce us to some young girls nearby. She’s going to have some of the older kids help the girls with tutoring and I think she also wants these local girls to have someone to visit with, as I’m sure they dont’ get that very often. Me, and 3 of the Eckstines also accompanied Sister Mary to a planning meeting for a fundraiser for the Vieux Fort Children’s Society. It’s a non profit that has been formed with the hopes of starting a children’s home. Currently, the only children’s home on the island is in Castries (in the north), so the kids down here that are homeless, abandoned, come from abusive homes, etc… have nowheres to turn to. The meeting was a perfect example of Mother Theresa’s saying “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.” Of course there were some minor details discussed that pertained to us, but 99% of our time there was spent watching and listening and doing nothing at all. I wanted to go because I had nothing else to do and wanted to spend my time as a missionary doing something constructive instead of being lazy. Another reason I was called there was to test my patience. I think too that aside from learning that and some other things from the people that were there, that hopefully they too were able to learn from our witness and presence. Came home after that, ate supper, and then did night prayer as well as some more retreat reflections and discussions.

The two themes that seemed to stand out today were Joy and God’s Guidance. Our scripture for God’s Guidance was 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, & the passage that related to Joy came from our morning prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. The summary of my thoughts on God’s Guidance was “God will send us brothers and sisters in Christ who can strengthen our faith and He will direct our hearts to his love and Christ’s steadfastness.” In regards to Joy I wrote “If we welcome the Word of God into our hearts and seek after the right values, we will have abiding & eternal joy.” Then during our night prayer tonight 7 of us were a assigned a gift of the Spirit to read, pray, and reflect upon. I chose the gift of Wisdom, which is something I yearn for and which fascinates me. I found some great references (Wisdom 6:12-16 & CCC #474) and my nugget of wisdom was that “true wisdom comes from God & helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding.” To demonstrate it, I came up with the following analogy: Knowledge is the certainty that the sun is bright and hot. Understanding is realizing it is that way because it is a gigantic ball of burning gas that emits heat and radiation. Wisdom is the ability to use that Knowledge and Understanding to warm ourselves, see where we’re going, or get a tan.

Day 2 – Tuesday, May 24, 2011 – 9:12pm – Upstairs Living Room

Really enjoyed the day today. The rain stopped us from taking a walk around town this morning. We were also gonna take a walk by the lumberyard to see what materials were available for the work we need to do on the blind lady’s house. Ended up staying home all morning and doing alot of journalling and some reading. Ate lunch and took a nap. Woke up, prayed the chaplet and then we walked around town just to explore and familiarize ourselves. Got to see the Indepence memorial monument. Then did my workout and took a shower before supper. Had two different times today that we did our “retreat” portion of the day. So far, I’m really diggin’ this retreat aspect of our time here.

The gift of the spirit that I had to report on was Wisdom. True wisdom comes from God (CCC #474) and helps us to make good use of knowledge and understanding. Reference Wisdom 6:12-16, Sirach 39, 2 Peter 1:4, Galatians 5:2-23, and Proverbs 2:1-15. Wisdom is being a good steward of God’s gifts in your life. Wisdom is know what to do with what you got. We need to be docile to the Spirit (malleable, flexible too).

Ministry reflection questions: 1.) What are my primary ministries? 2.)How are they going? 3.) Is what you’re doing what you thought you’d be doing?

1.) My ministries are primariliy visiting with the elderly at 4 different nursing homes, as well as having a ministry of prayer.

2.) They are going well. Both of them seem to fit well with my personality and gifts that God has given me. The necessity of both is evident. The elderly need someone to pray and visit with them. They need to know that they are cared for and not forgotten. My own life and spiritual journey, as well as the needs we encounter show me that my ministry of prayer is also important. I’m able to visit the Marian Home, St. Lucy Home, Adelaide Home, and Missionaries of Charity Home each week. Some of them I’m able to visit multiple times per week. On a typical day, my prayer ministry includes personal prayer in the morning (meditation, scripture, and intercessory prayer), Mass, grace at meals, morning prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, the Angelus, Noonday prayer, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and Night Prayer.  At first I thought that I prayed alot because I wasn’t yet busy with what God really wanted me to do. But then it occurred tome that I’m supposed to pray because without prayer, which is my connection to God, which is how I receive God’s grace, there will not be much fruit that’s born in my life and in the lives of all for whom I pray and with whom I am connected.

3.) What I’m doing is NOT what I thought I’d be doing. I thought I would be teaching in a school and leading a youth group at a church. However, i’m not disappointed that this has happened. I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy the ministries I do, and how much I’m motivated to do them.

Random Reflection:

I’ll spare you the details, but I’m in need of the sacrament of confession. It looks like that won’t happen until tomorrow since the priest is out ’till then. I’m so used to having this sacrament readily available as soon as I need/want it. That has been a huge blessing for me. On the other hand, being in a situation where it’s not as readily available really makes the priest shortage so much more real to me. It also gives me an increased appreciation for the priests we do have, as well as helping me to appreciate all those who support and promote vocations. And since this time of retreat and prayer cannot be put on hold until I’m able to receive absolution, I have to deal with it the best that I can. I’m forced to live with and reflect on the tension created in my life and soul that results from choosing sin over God. I have to live with not having the peace of heart and soul that I could have. It also increases my desire to restore right relationship with God. Another thing I’ve realized is that it has almost forced me to confide in the protection and intercession of the angels, saints, and Mother Mary to protect me and guide me until I can receive the sacrament of confession and not be at risk of dying in a state of mortal sin.

The whole experience has also humbled me. It seems like my thoughts, reflections, and journaling is the best it’s been in quite awhile. My first guess as to why this is happening is because whenever I’m not in a state of mortal sin, a subtle form of pride creeps in. I allow myself to rest easy. “It’s ok. I’m in God’s grace. No danger for me. I feel at peace. I like not having to worry.” Yes, God wants us to have peace, but the Bible also tells us that we have to always be vigilant on our spiritual journey. The moment we relax too much, lose focus, and think that we have “arrived”, that marks the beginning of our downfall. So in a paradoxical and ironic sort of way, I realize my need for God and his mercy while I’m in this state of mortal sin. And I think this has allowed me to receive the humility that has allowed my thoughts, reflections, and journaling to be what they have been thus far. And while I’m discussing sin, it also occurred to me how many of our battles with sin occur because of giving ourselves excuses to do so. Under the guise of false concern, a defeatist attitude, or some other weak reason, we give ourselves permission to indulge in sin by not fighting against it.

One of these excuses, which is itself a sin, is the sin of presumption. It’s the sin whereby we presume that God will forgive us for what we are about to do. In other words with this sin we say “God forgive me for what I’m about to do, because I’ve already sinned and I might as well do this too since I have to go to confession later anyways.” Besides selfishly distorting God’s grace and mercy for our purposes, this also means we’ve fallen victim to the lie that when we’ve fallen into sin, all hope is lost & there’s nothing good we can possibly do. True, we have separated ourselves from God by our own choice to sin. But, we are still his child and we also still have angels & saints as well as our own brothers & sisters here on earth to put us on the right track again and assist us in doing good works. This is one area where for the first time, I feel like I was able to make some progress. In spite of my intial choice to commit mortal sin, I feel like I’ve been able to choose not to add sin to sin. It feels really good. I have a hunch that if God’s grace has allowed me to advance to this stage, then I’m really close to conquering this particular sin permanently.

Day 3 – Wednesday, May 25, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

Today started off differently than I had hoped it would. Sister told us Sunday that we’d have communion services Monday and Tuesday since the priest was out, but Mass would resume today. Well, I get to “Mass” and out walks the same layman that officiated the communion service the previous two mornings. He begins by telling us that the priest missed his plane. I hope the priest is ok, and my second thought was I sure hope he comes back tomorrow. The rest of the morning was low key. Mark and Lora went to the resale shop run by the Vieux Fort Children’s Society and did some other errands. I stayed home and watched the kids. About 10:00, the little kids were being too noisy and woke up the baby. So, of course he’s cranky and not happy with the world. Ellie tried holding him, I tried. And when he was trying to throw a tantrum, I tried quieting him, even spanked him a couple times. He finally calmed down a bit, but I could tell he just needed to get back to bed. So, after imposing threat of “getting in trouble with mommy and daddy” to get the littles to be quiet, I began my odyssey of getting the baby to sleep. I don’t have much experience with kids, but this one sure does fight the sleep. I sang the chaplet. He calmed way down, and his eyes even got a little droopy. But, now and then, he’d get a little whiney. So I finally decided to lay him down in his bed. Had to keep a hand on him, not so much to hold him down but moreso to reassure him that someone was there. He’s one of those babies that always has to have some kind of contact in order to not be whiney or fussy when trying to put him down for a nap. So, after at least 30 minutes of tahtah-ing him and reading a book to pass the time, he FINALLY zonked out. Praise The Lord! The only other thing really notable about the day we me and Mark walking to the lumberyard/hardware store. Yeah, I know, that’s how you can tell i’m a missionary on retreat. When the highlight of my day is walking to the lumberyard! 🙂 We needed to check out their materials and prices so we could get an idea of what we were lookin’ at to be able to fix up that blind lady’s roof so it didn’t leak. Mark figured $200EC (approx. $70US), which is not bad at all.

My first spiritual nugget of the day was a quote from the book “Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual”. It states “….it is not likely that a person will love God unless he prays to him, unless he spends some time with Him as a person. It is the same with any personal relationship. Two people have to spend some time together or they will not develop a friendship and a love. The friendship will be broader than just the time they spend together. It will begin to penetrate all of their lives the deeper it becomes. But it is the time together that is indispensable for the forming of the bond.” I was drawn to this quote for 2 reason. First of all, it opened my eyes on how to approach my relationship with God. Do I really talk with God and spend time with Him everyday? Or do I just mentally acknowledge his presence, rattle off a few prayers, and call that a relationship? Second of all, it brought a whole new meaning to my discernment of marriage, and the process of friendship and dating that precedes engagement and marriage. It speaks to me of the importance of forming a friendship, a truly loving friendship that brings joy and happiness, and is centered on God. I also see in it the importance of devoting time to that special person. Of course, as a missionary, any friendships that I begin to form now will be long distance. But I feel like I can devote the time necessary to nurture these friendships, both in prayer and in conversation. Online chatting and video chat programs make it much easier to have some good face time. And in God’s time, I’ll have some actual face-to-face encounters as well.

Today’s gift of the Spirit was Understanding. During Ellie’s presentation of this gift, I came away with some good tidbits. I discovered that it is an intimate knowledge of God. Not just knowledge, but INTIMATE knowledge. (ref. Proverbs 2:3-13). Understanding will guard you. Understanding helps us to see what God is not; helps us to have a deep and abiding peace; helps us to be at peace with the mystery in life and to savor the mystery. I especially like the part about “deep and abiding peace”.

Well, I gotta go. Need to get MagicJack running on my computer so Sister Mary can make some phone calls home to the states. Then, gotta get back online and do some more researching of plane ticket prices.

Day 4 – Thursday, May 26, 2011 – 8:27pm – Upstairs Living Room

So, I’ve discovered that there are two reasons to not worry too much about what you’re going to do on any given day as a missionary. For one thing, it helps you to trust God and just be at peace with whatever he brings to you. It also saves you the trouble of saying that you’re gonna do something and then having to explain later why you didn’t do it! 🙂 Today was one of those days where I shoulda done that. It started off VERY well. I had been needing to go to confession since Monday, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, i was expecting Father to be back for Mass on Wed. morning. Well, since he missed his plane, I had to wait until this morning. He was very accomodating and agreed to hear my confession after Mass, and then even came over and met the rest of the mission team. We were also blessed to visit with Peter Fevrier this morning. He works for the Family & Life Secretariat here in the Archdiocese and was instrumental in getting us set up here with the sisters in Vieux Fort. Since the first day we arrived we were expecting him to come and visit with us. Today he finally made it here (he’s been VERY busy). I was thinking the whole purpose of him coming was purely practical. Maybe he was going to help us purchase supplies to work on Ms. Bibi’s leaking roof, or bring us food, or something like that. And while we did take a minute or two to briefly discuss practical matters, most of his visit was exactly that, just visiting. We must have spent almost an hour just talking about different aspects of pro-life ministry and things that are coming up soon. It was good just to sit there and visit with him, not have an agenda, and be blessed by his witness and enthusiasm. Later in the morning Mark mentioned that he and Lora would go by Ms. Bibi’s house sometime after lunch with the ladder to make some last minute assesments and then me and him would go to the lumberyard to get the materials we needed. Well, the rain changed those plans. Mark went to Ms. Bibi’s, by himself, without the ladder. And by the time he got back, the lumberyard was about to close, so we didn’t go. An unexpected blessing that I did receive came later in the evening. Sister Mary took me and Mark to visit a quadriplegic guy named Moses. He was probably close to my age. We briefly talked with his mom about building a ramp from their front steps out to the street, so getting him in and out would not be as difficult. Got to talk to him a little bit too. Understandably he wasn’t extremely talkative, but he wasn’t shy either. Sister even said that she was surprised at how talkative he actually was. I’m guessing he’s normally very quiet. Maybe having some guys there kinda made him feel at home and loosened him up a bit. I know Mark is the brains of the construction type of work, but i’m hoping to get a chance to just go and visit with him before we leave.

Our retreat time was good today, but we didn’t do quite as much as I thought we would. Can’t really explain why, except that it’s how rhythm of the day unfolded. In his homily this morning, father mentioned that “a wounded animal is the most dangerous. it’s desperate and has nothing to lose”. During our retreat time, Mark recalled this and posed the question to us: “how have we hurt or wounded each other?” Then as the discussion veered towards summer plans and what we would need for them to happen, Mark reminded us of Mr. Frank saying that we have to keep in touch with our donors, that way they can donate to us and so they can be blessed by our sharing and testimony. As Mark talked to the kids about whether or not they would be able to go to faith camp, he mentioned that if the Lord says no, then it’s a good thing. I echoed that by telling the kids how when God has said no to my heart’s desire (a loving relationship with a girl) he has blessed me with the incredible experiences of seminary and living life as a foreign missionary. Then I kinda reflected on all the wonderful things going on in my life right now, and realized that I am in a season of blessing. 🙂

Day 5 – Friday, May 27, 2011 – 9:34pm- Upstairs Living Room

Today was quite the day. Our team retreat this morning was really really good. The catalyst for the conversation was a question about how can things be improved. And that basically launched me and Mark on some really good reflections about what is so challenging about missions specifically for each one of us, and some of the things we hope to see happen in the next few months. It was very much a blessing to see Mark open up like he did, and Lora had some really good input too. I think it was the first time since we’ve been here that the three adults have really just laid it all out on the table. It’s not that we don’t like each other, but we’re at diff. stages in life and still learning how to interact with each other. None of us is particularly outspoken, so it’s hard for us to just come out and say stuff. We also finally got over to Ms. Bibi’s house to start fixing her leaky roof. She’s the blind lady I mentioned earlier in the week. After Mark assessed the situation, and even went there yesterday when it was raining, he couldn’t tell exactly where it was supposedly leaking from. So we bought some tar-backed aluminum tape, and covered the holes and seams that we could. We’ll probably go back in the next few days with another roll or two to see how much more we can do. Got some really good action pics and got a pic of me and Mark with Ms. Bibi too. Me and Mark also got the chance to visit Moses again. I hung out with Moses and chatted while Mark made some measurements for the ramp out front and went around the house while the mother showed Mark a few other things. It was really good to chat with Moses. I felt like just being there as a Christian and as a friend was helpful. Not sure how many visitors he gets each day, but i know i wouldn’t mind having visitors myself.

Had some good reflections today too. So, you know during Mass, the penitential rite where we confess our sins to God and community? (“I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, etc….”) As we were saying that during Mass earlier this morning, it struck me that I was just SAYING it but not PRAYING it. Then I got to thinkin’ about 2 things: 1.) How often do I say instead of pray? & 2.) Do I claim God’s forgiveness? What I mean by #2 is that this morning I noticed I was just saying the penitential rite instead of praying it. I wasn’t trying to claim God’s forgiveness and mercy. Naturally I then started reflecting on how many other times I’ve failed to claim his forgiveness. How much different would my spiritual  journey be if I did claim that forgiveness?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

“….loneliness is the greatest fear of humanity. In isolation people cannot be fully human. Our experiences of life confirm this. People inevitably form into groups, associations, communities, organizations. Some are temporary, some long-lived. They have a variety of purposes, but all prove man’s need for sharing and living his life with others.” –Cursillos in Christianity: Leader’s Manual–

Day 6 – Saturday, May 28, 2011 – 10:00pm- Upstairs Living Room

So the first thing in my notes said “My prediction for today is that either we have a cleaning/work day or a beach day. We’ll see what happens 🙂 It definitely wasn’t a beach day. The morning started out with me accompanying Sister Mary on a few errands to prepare for the St. Vincent DePaul Society meeting later in the morning. Had to pick up some snacks and a few things from the store. Came back just in time for the start of morning prayer. Afterwards I decided to hand wash my laundry. I wanted to handwash for a few reasons. First of all, when I saw the clothes that Mark washed in the washer the other day, some of the shirts had a ridiculous amount of what i’m guessing was lint all over them. Not a fan of lint, so that had me sold on handwashing. Second of all, I had some little packets of Tide laundry detergent that was specifically formulated for handwashing of clothes. I bought them back in 2008 when I went to Australia/New Zealand for World Youth Day and I figured I should use up some more of it. Third reason was that I needed something to do. There wasn’t really any other work for me to do, and I didn’t wanna be a complete slacker either. Also felt like handwashing would be a way to toughen myself up a bit and sacrifice the ease and comfort I was used to. So after filling buckets (2), suds-ing, agitating, wringing out, rinsing, re-wringing out, and hanging up to dry, I was done. Took me about an hour or so. Did alot of reading the rest of the morning. After lunch, I checked email and then took a nap. Woke up, prayed a chaplet of divine love for priests, took a shower, and then went back into the house. After supper we had evening prayer and our retreat time for the day. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my day.

(from earlier today) As I sit here, sippin’ on some coffee, doin’ my morning spiritual and scripture reading, a nice rain is falling. The doors and windows are open. A nice breeze is blowing. Several of the kids are sitting in the room, next to me, quietly reading. It’s one of those heaven moments 🙂

Oh yeah, one more thing. So as I’m sitting here, I’m wearing my Pope Benedict XVI shirt from World Youth Day 2008, and Isaac keeps pokin’ the Pope’s face and makin garbled goo-goo sounds. Methinks he likes the Pope! 🙂

Judging by the amount of good reflections I seem to be having and how having a small journal nearby makes it easy  to record them, I think I’m going to try and have some kind of little notebook on me at all times. Try to be more vigilant about rewriting these thoughts…

I was also doing some reflecting on friendships and relationships recently. I’m at that stage where my year-long singles commitment is almost up (Sept. 15th). And regardless of singles commitment or no singles commitment, I’m at that stage in life where it’s what I notice and think about quite a bit. My past relationships, my faith, and other life experiences have taught me alot about the opposite sex and how I interact with them and what to look for. One thing I’ve realized is that everytime I’ve acted unchastely or improperly towards or with a girl, it was simply a very misguided way of seeking true fulfillment. (If you’ve studied Theology of the Body then you’re familiar with this concept). It occurred to me that these actions represented my want and need to be able to open up to someone, for them to be able to see me as I am, and for them to open up to me too so that I can truly see them. I’ve also reflected on things I can use as a measuring stick for determining if I have a good connection with a girl or not. One of those is “Do I act chase with her, and do I also DESIRE to act chaste with her?” Chances are that if I don’t have unchaste desires or actions with her, then it means that she brings out the best in me, and that she’s a possible match. If however, I struggle with chastity in some way with a girl, then there’s a good chance that a good connection might not exist and that I need to be cautious.

I should be thanking God for my struggles because they show me what I need to work on. If these struggle were never made evident, then how would I know to correct them?

Romans 8:14-18

The gift of counsel makes us responsive to the enlightenment of God. It’s a good gift to pray for while at Mass, considering all the ways God enlightens us through the Mass.

When my mind wandered during our sharing, I used my ink pen to draw squares around all the freckles on my right leg.

You know, I kinda wish that one of the struggles I have right now, grumpiness, would disappear soon. No, I’m not one of those people that’s grumpy with the world. It’s just that being a missionary, even in a paradise like St. Lucia, is difficult. And i’m still working on trying to adjust to living with a family that has 10 kids. Sometimes adjusting to that plus dealing with my own shortcomings and struggles plus the normal stresses of mission life, it all makes me a little grumpy sometimes. I’m lucky that these kids being as good as they are, just kinda brush it off. But, they do notice it, and that’s what has me feelin bad. Whoever the patron saint of grumpy missionaries is, please pray for me! :-p

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How do you really know the Holy Spirit talked to you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011 – 9pm – Marian Home Mission House – Castries, St. Lucia

So, earlier today, we had our annual vocations rally for the diocese and I was on the discussion panel. At the very end, someone asked me the question “How do you really know the Holy Spirit talked to you?”, in regards to the call of missionary life. So I made a few notes and figured I’d expand a little on them and turn it into a blog entry.

#1 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because my decision to become a lay foreign missionary was something I arrived at through prayer, ALOT of prayer. My simple definition of prayer is that it’s conversation with God. So, because I had been talking with God this whole time, that’s how I knew it was him that was talking back to me.

#2 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because the call to lay foreign missions was a deep desire of my heart that never left me. God kept putting it on my heart and kept pursuing me.

#3 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because people in my life confirmed my decision.

#4 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because I am willing to accept the sacrifices and hardships of this calling in order to receive it’s blessings.

#5 – I know the Holy Spirit spoke to me because when I looked back on all the experiences I’ve had, and the pattern my life up to that point, it directed me towards life as a lay foreign missionary.

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First Overseas Lent/Easter

(warning: LONG entry. But, it all ties together and I didn’t wanna break it into multiple sections)

Monday, April 25, 2011 – 11:18am – School Room @ Marian Home Mission House in Castries, St. Lucia

For the first time in my life, I spent Easter away from family. To the best of my recollection, I’ve never spent it overseas or away from family. There’s a first time for everything, right? I think a good recap of Holy Week and the week before is in order. (sidenote: I just realized it’s been over a month since I’ve had a regular journal entry. that’s flippin’ crazy. Usually i do it at least once a month. But that illustrates a point that I’m learning quite well: once you get into the mission field and get settled in, time begins to pass by quickly.)

The week before Holy Week was a really good week. We had our parish Lenten retreat. It was led by Brother Jeffers Paul, a layman from Dominica who works for his home diocese. I don’t really remember the theme of the retreat. As is usual with anytime i’m in church, I daydream even when I try not to, and have a hard time paying attention. But what I do remember is that he was a very passionate preacher. Not that passion and performance is everything, but being able to get excited about something you’ve devoted your life’s work to, says alot in my book. I could also tell that his life reflected what he preaches, which is what I think drew so many people to the retreat. It was the perfect blend of charism and orthodoxy. Besides the actual talks, which helped me to grow in my journey with Jesus, the sacrifice of my own will and plans to go to the talks and the closing Mass at the end of the retreat were also good for me. This is how the week basically went: Sid realized he’d have to get out of his comfort zone, sacrifice his own desires and plans, and not be able to sit at home to relax and veg out. Sid got mad. Sid went to the retreat anyways. Sid’s eyes were opened and he was blessed. Sid was then glad that he went and participated.

Me and Brother Jeffers Paul, the speaker for our Lenten retreat

Palm Sunday was not much different from the 29 previous Palm Sundays I’ve experienced. What I did notice however was the lively faith of the parishioners at our church. Well, I’ve noticed it in bits and pieces before, in fleeting moments. But there was something about Palm Sunday where I really noticed it. The best way to sum it up is that for the recessional hymn, I was waving my palm around like there was no tomorrow, dancing to the music and being joyful in the Lord. Genuinely joyful in the Lord. Not just faking it. Playing around with the kids as we started to walk out of church.

Palm Sunday Procession

The next three days were fairly non-descript. We had our normal daily routine of prayer, Mass, meals, ministry, fellowship, etc……. The routine took a backseat once Wednesday evening rolled around and we attended the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. For those unfamiliar with it, the primary things occurring at that Mass, besides the miracle of the Eucharist are 1.)Priests renewing their vows, and 2.) Bishop consecrating the holy oils to be used by the priests for the year. It was my first Chrism Mass ever. Even in the age of priest shortages, it was truly amazing to see all the priests from the whole diocese together on the same altar. Makes the priest shortage not seem as bad. I was also really blessed by the loving words spoken by the archbishop. The other thing I remember most about this Mass was the blessing of the oils. Part of this blessing involves the bishop breathing on the oils, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and is also a reflection of Scripture, where the Spirit hovered over the waters during Creation, and when God breathed into Adam to give him life.

Opening Procession of Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in Castries

Thursday night was the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It’s when we focus on The Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. For this Mass, me and Mark, my mission partner, were chosen as two of the twelve men selected to represent the apostles for the foot washing ceremony during the Mass. Again, the Scriptural symbolism of this is a real and powerful way of internalizing the virtue of humility. It was humbling for me to have my feet washed, cuz i’m definitely not worthy. And it was also humbling for me to have to lower myself to the seemingly mundane task of washing someone else’s feet. It was the first time in my life I have experienced being part of the foot washing ceremony.

Foot washing at Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper

Good Friday had a very sacrificial feel to it, as it should. Our church parish has the tradition of doing the Way of the Cross starting at 4am. If you thought you knew early and tired, you don’t know early and tired until you’ve done Way of the Cross at 4am! 🙂 It was a beautiful thing though. We started at the doorstep of our church with the first station, did the meditation, and then following the person who was carrying a wooden cross, walked through the streets stopping along the way to do each of the stations. We had a truck with a loud speaker on top so that everyone could hear the choir leader singing the hymns and the people leading the prayers. About halfway through the stations, we paused on the road we were on and prayed a chaplet while we waited for the other church parishes to meet up with us. By the time the other group met up with us, we were 4 church parishes total. And, I kid you not, by the time we reached the end of the Way of the Cross, the crowd was easily 2000 people. It was quite a sight to see, this massive crowd of people walking through town, praying and meditating on Jesus’ own Good Friday journey. We too had people along the way that were, as I shall attempt to diplomatically put it, not reverent towards what we were doing. We also experienced a little bit of physical discomfort. That’s what I love so much about the Catholic faith, it makes the experience of God real in a very physical and present way.

Way of the Cross winding through the city streets

After we were done with that Way of the Cross, we headed back to the mission house to have a cup of coffee, and try to regain a little bit of strength. Then, me and Mark went with our pastor and his driver to a little mountainside community that is within the boundaries of our parish, and did another Way of the Cross. Although it was not as long, it was also a walking Way of the Cross. We started at a parishioner’s house about a mile or two down the road from the chapel. As we got ready to do the Way of the Cross, and everyone else assumed their duties, no one had take up the cross yet (literally). So by chance, but perhaps by Divine Providence, I became bearer of the Cross. I had not set out to assist at this Way of the Cross with that intention, but I was happy to be able to do so. In the same way as the first Way of the Cross earlier that morning, it had some lifelike similarities and characteristics to Jesus’ Way of the Cross. We had those who were less than thrilled with what we were doing, though thankfully not many. At one point during the walk, the car with the loudspeaker we were using was parked on the side of another car that was on the side of the road, while we stopped to do one of the stations outside the house of a blind lady who was a parishioner. As we were about halfway through the station, a bus was coming up the road in the opposite direction. Seemingly unable to wait three or four more minutes, a man got off the bus and complained and said we needed to get out of the way. That in itself, while it may have manifested some impatience was not really out of place or unjustified. It was when the guy, maybe after seeing the wooden cross we were carrying, or seeing the plaster relief of the Station we were meditating on that was being held by Mark, made a comment in frustration about “Catholics worshipping statues”. Like I said, small thing overall, but it was a small “persecution” of sorts, that made the Way of the Cross seem that much more authentic and real. There was also the physical discomfort associated with such a journey. In St. Lucia, the weather is summer year round, literally. Lows are never below the 70’s with daily highs in the mid to upper 80’s. Even earlier in the morning, it still gets hot and sweaty. Add to that the exhaustion and tiredness I was already feeling, plus the headache and neckache, and it made for a very poignant and real experience. In the end, I was thankful for such an experience, and that God revealed to me things that I could improve upon.

Carryin' the Cross

After a break for a few hours, we headed back to our church parish at 2 for a meditation on the seven last words (phrases/utterances) of Jesus. Again, I had a hard time focusing, and didn’t remember much of what was said. But what I do remember was good stuff, and the opportunity to further try and sacrifice myself to be more available to God was good for me to experience. Then at 3 we had the Veneration of the Cross. It’s basically a liturgy, but it’s not a Mass, because there’s no liturgy of the Eucharist. The liturgy of the Eucharist is left out on Good Friday, because that’s something that first occurred on the first Holy Thursday at the first ever Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday, we remember Jesus’ death and that he’s in the tomb, and one of the ways we do that is by not celebrating the liturgy of the Eucharist and the consecration of the bread and wine into Jesus’ actual body and blood. The precious body and blood of Jesus that is consumed on Good Friday was already consecrated the day before and held in the tabernacle. We were told on Good Thursday that the “apostles” who did the foot washing ceremony would have to bring their robes on Friday because we might be asked to represent them again. Because of this, I wore a small white t-shirt and a pair of shorts to church so that I would not be too hot underneath my robe. Normally I don’t wear this kind of wardrobe to church. But when we got there, we found out that we wouldn’t have to wear the robes. Not thinking far enough in my preparations, I had failed to bring a pair of pants that I could slip on so as to be more presentable in my dress at the service. So, as to not be too much of a distraction, I sat almost all the way in the back. For the part of the service where everyone walks up to kiss the Cross, I stayed in my pew. There was only one line, and the Cross was all the way in the front. I know Jesus loves me anyways, but i did not want to distract or cause scandal by my casual dress. However, I was blessed to still be able to receive Jesus precious body and blood. When it came time for that, the area I was sitting had a Eucharistic minister at the halfway point of the pews, instead of all the way up in front. Plus, it was a side aisle. So, I felt like the combination of not having to walk past many people (and thus not being a distraction), plus feeling called by Jesus to receive his precious body and blood, justified my decision. After the Veneration of the Cross, we were quite happy to return home. We had been so busy the previous 2 days that it was nice not having anything scheduled.

Saturday morning was a normal workday. Shoveled some compost that quite literally smelled like crap. Smell didn’t leave my hands for a full day, no matter how many times I washed  them, or how many times i used hand sanitizer or poured rubbing alcohol on them. It still hasn’t completely left my workboots and work gloves. Finished off the workday by cleaning my room, doing laundry, eating lunch, and taking a nap. Woke up, played games with the kids and hung out, and then had supper. After supper, had some more downtime and then I showered, dressed, and got ready for the vigil, which was to start at 10pm. Right before we left, I downed a cup of coffee, which coupled with my later than usual in the afternoon nap, proved to aid me in staying awake at the Easter Vigil Mass. Atypical of St. Lucia/the Carribean, the Mass was really close to starting on time (things here are rarely on time). Only about ten minutes late. Had the lighting and blessing of the fire outside, we all lit our candles, and processed inside. Had the Liturgy of the Word, complete with it’s 9 scripture readings, the Homily, the baptisms and confirmations, and of course, the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we got to receive the precious body and blood of Jesus. The thing that I was expecting but was not prepared for, was the length of the Vigil Mass. Over here, a normal weekday Mass is 30-45 minutes, and a Sunday Mass is about 2 hours. All in all, Mass here, in whatever form or time of year, is twice the length of what it is in the States. So, I knew that the Vigil Mass was going to be long. Monsignor told us that it was going to end at 3. However, it “only” lasted until about 2:30. But, it wasn’t hard like I thought it would be. The reason the Masses here last so long is that there’s ALOT of singing. So while it makes Mass longer, it also helps things to pass by quickly. After we left church, we arrived home and happily acquainted ourselves with our beds. 🙂 Easter Sunday (yesterday) was a good day. Had a lazy and relaxed morning, ate Easter candy and chocolate, played games, and got to talk to my family on the phone. It really was a blessing to be able to talk to my nieces and parents. Then yesterday evening, we went to the Chancery to participate in the Knights of Columbus Easter Family Gathering. Several of the Knights and their family members (including the Eckstines) did various musical performances and then we enjoyed fellowship and dinner together. Among the various people I got ot visit with, I met a young woman from Canada, who is in St. Lucia for 3 months, living at the orphanage run by some Dominican sisters. It’s part of her Master’s degree program, and she’s helping to come up with a strategic plan for the future of the home. It was a blessing to meet at talk with her, because one of the things I lack here are people close to my age that I can visit and establish community with. The more fellowship and community we have, the more fulfilled we are, and the less likely we are to go looking for love in all the wrong places. What’s interesting is that she’s not Catholic. She’s Indian, though she talks and acts like a “normal/typical” Canadian or American because she’s lived in Canada her whole life. She didn’t say what religion she was either. I hope that I can receive some extra graces from God to represent my Catholic faith in a way that is loving and inspiring, and at the very least, does not turn her off to Christianity and Catholicism. And my real hope is that somehow I can plant a seed that leads her to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

pretty flower i stumbled upon during workday

our humble and beautifully decorated church during the Easter Vigil Mass

Christ our Light

Now I sit here, enjoying my day. It’s a national holiday today (Easter Monday), so we’ve been taking it easy. Did some reading and prayer earlier today. After I finish this entry, I’m going with the Eckstine to a local friend’s house to visit for a few hours. PTL for all of these blessings. Until next time, I leave you with a bible passage I stumbled upon recently……..

Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. Yahweh called me when I was in the womb, before my birth he had pronounced my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘Israel, you are my servant, through whom I shall manifest my glory.’ But I said, ‘My toil has been futile, I have exhausted myself for nothing, to no purpose.’ Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh and my reward with my God. And now Yahweh has spoken, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and to re-unite Israel to him;-I shall be honoured in Yahweh’s eyes, and my God has been my strength. He said, ‘It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of earth.’ ”  –Isaiah 49:1-6–

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Old Folks, dominoes, and visiting nature preserves……..

(follow this link for pics – http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=279206&id=605007873&l=fd7e8d37df)

Monday, March 14, 2011 – School Room @ Marian Home Mission House in Castries, St. Lucia

Normally I’m not big on frequent journaling. I’ve never been one of those people who can journal everyday.  Just can’t do it. The urge has to come to me. The moon has to strike me right. I just have to be in the right mood, u know? For me journaling is less about writing down the daily details and more about relating experiences and lessons learned. Sometimes I go weeks even a month or two between journal entries. Sometimes it’s as frequent as one or twice a week. Just checked, and my last entry was written five days ago. But as you can tell by the title of this entry, got to experience some pretty cool stuff since last Wednesday.

Old folks and dominoes is my first subject of journalistificationessnicityalityment. In case you were wondering, that was an overcomplification of a word to make myself sound smart and to give some variety to my entry. Sometimes the struggle when presenting factualities is that you feel like you repeat a lot of words and sound boring. As you know from previous entries, my visits to the old folks in the Marian Home is an almost daily occurrence. I feel like I have a responsibility towards them, and because it’s one of the only constants in my missionary life here, it’s high on my priority list. At first I didn’t need to think much about what to do when I’d visit. We just sit down and visit with each other and talk. And to tell you the truth, that’s all these people really need. They need someone to give them the time of day. They need someone to show them that they’re not forgotten and that somebody cares for them enough to sit down and talk. You’d be amazed at how grateful and easily pleased these folks are.

That being said, even if it’s only on my part, it does get a little difficult when visiting multiple times a week to hold up my interest level. That’s the struggle of missions: maintaining your charted course, the course you know is right and needed, even when the romance level of it all has gone down. So, taking a clue from my mission partner whom I saw playing dominoes with one of the residents a few days ago, I brought the domino set with me. I was still able to visit and talk and pray with some of them. But, I was also able to extend my time there with the dominoes. Simple games like that provide an icebreaker. It’s often easier for strangers to open up over a fun and simple game than it is talking face to face. The game also gives you something to do during moments of silence. When these old folks find out they can also school me, take me to town Charlie brown for a good ole’ domino beat-down, it perks them up even more!:) Maybe if I can get over my fear of losing, I’ll bring the checker-board one day.

The other really great thing was that we got to visit Lushan Nature Preserve today. The proprietor/owner, Arthur, is a parishioner at our church parish, Sacred Heart in Marchand. He has repeatedly invited us to visit and we were just waiting until the right time. Well, when he told us that he’s busy when cruise ships come in, we figured that today was a good day to visit since no ships were scheduled. He came and picked us up in the company van. Huge blessing because we didn’t have to secure a ride or pay for it. Brought us over there and gave us a wonderful tour. It consisted of walking around and seeing the different trees, fruits, flowers, other plants, and wildlife as well. The only true “wildlife” we saw were various species, but at the animal cages we also saw some guinea pigs, dogs, and rabbits. There were also various stops during the tour where we got to sample some of the food. At the “produce hut” we got to sample a few different things that grow here: Grapefruit, Starfruit (also called 5-finger fruit), sugar cane, & bananas. While sampling the homegrown goodies, he also talked a lot about uses and growing seasons, etc…. Later on we stopped at another hut where some employees talked about some of the creole foods they bake and what they’re made with. Of course, some sampling was needed, and lemme tell you, it was GOOD!

To finish off our tour, we passed by a miniature grotto he created with a statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace. We prayed together and then he brought us back home. I think though, that the truly amazing part of the tour was Arthur himself. Yes, the natural beauty was nice. The fruit was nice. The food was nice. Getting out of the city and relaxing and unwinding was great. But, Arthur’s witness to the Catholic faith and having a relationship with Jesus were the absolute highlight. Everything he talked about including stories of his blessed childhood and family life, as well as the trials he faced when trying to make a living in the years prior to opening a nature preserve on his family’s land, it all exuded his spirituality. This man’s connection to God was evident. He’s worked really hard at being a witness to Christian family life. He’s worked equally as hard at getting involved in ministries and bringing other closer to Jesus through the Catholic faith. He and his family make it a top priority to share the profits of the family business with many worth causes. Speakin’ of, it was very humbling too when he mentioned that he is going to make a donation to our missionary work. Also mentioned that he will bring us fruit and other local produce when it’s in season. Even invited us to have dinner with his family sometime. He’s also a very hard worker. All in all, he’s a great witness and sets a great example for the rest of us. Till next time, peace and God’s blessings!

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Gregory Peck knows karate & I’m goin’ see the Pope this summer!

Ash Wednesday, March 9, 2011 – 4:15pm – School room in Marian Home Mission House – Castries, St. Lucia

Yes yes yes, the title of this post is definitely meant to raise eyebrows and cause you to come and read my blog. Indeed I have stooped to the level of chintzy news writers. But, all for the sake of my blog and God’s kingdom, right? 🙂 The Gregory Peck reference has to do with a homily, yes, a homily given by our pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Marchand. Msgr. Bonifacio was talking about turning the other cheek, and mentioned something about Gregory Peck knowing karate and would get back at the bad guys, and that it wasn’t the best example. He really is a joy to have as a pastor. While he is not of the same culture as us missionaries, we have in common the fact that we’re not from St. Lucia. This helps us to gain insight from him on how the people are and the way they interact and operate. Slowly but surely we’re  using this information to more solidly establish relationships and get more active in our ministries.

It’s ironic that I’m talking about this right now, because I feel like this journal entry mirrors what our ministry has been like in our time here. I’ve known for awhile that I needed to do it and get active. But that’s all I’ve had, the desire to do it. A few times I’ve tried to do it, or got close, or thought really hard, but nothin’ goin’, u know? Had some thoughts cross my mind as to what I wanted to say/do, and gathered some really good ideas. It seems though that I needed to get to a point where I let go and it would just happen. I wasn’t planning to do my journal right now, but it just kinda came together as a culmination of the previous events of the day. A big motivation for me doing it is that I had this really strong feeling that it was time. Even if I didn’t know yet what I was going to say, I knew I needed to say SOMETHING. Anyhoo………….

The other part of my journal title is somewhat self-explanatory. Indeed, I am going to see the Pope this summer. World Youth Day 2011 is being held in Madrid. I had the most amazing experience of my journey with Jesus when I attended World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia. It was the most tangible glimpse I’ve ever had of the Catholic Church as Universal. As soon as I got home from Australia, I knew that I’d love to go to Madrid in 2011 but I just never realized that I’d get the chance. So, once I officially joined FMC as a missionary, I knew that I might get my chance. John-Paul Summers, the youth minister for FMC decided to organize a group to go. I kinda thought about it, but never seriously. To be blunt, I didn’t know what my summer plans were, and what my mission post would be or what the work would entail. However, in the past few weeks, I firmed up plans to come back to Louisiana in July. From the 11th to the 15th of July, I will be volunteering at Faith Camp. It’s a huge part of FMC’s family and their ministry, and I really wanted to experience it especially now that I’m a full-time missionary. After that was confirmed, I began thinking about Camp Hardtner, a Christian summer camp that I attended as a camper, counselor, and adult volunteer. It had been three years since I’ve been able to go (summer 2008). You know, that thing called life kinda happens. So, I contacted a few people after I realized the last camp session of the summer was right after Faith Camp, and voila, I’m back! I’m really excited to be going back, even if only for a week. The chance to be at a place that I really love is priceless. Life has shown me that I need to enjoy the blessings God gives me because you never know where life will take you or if you’ll ever have another chance to see that person or visit that place.

While we’re on that subject, I should mention to that right after my week at Camp Hardtner, I’ll be doing another three day silent retreat at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA. It’s a retreat house run by Jesuits, and they model their 3-day silent retreats off of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. Me and Dad have done several of these, but it’s been 2 or 3 years since we’ve been able to make one together. I’m pretty sure I could make one by myself or with some friends, but it’s something that I’ve only done with my dad. And guys being guys, you take whatever chance like this that you can get, if it means you’ll get some good male-bonding time.  So, my timeframe for the months of July and August look something like this: July 11th-15th – Faith Camp @ Camp Woodmen in Abbeville, LA. July 18th-26th – Camp Staff for Middle High @ Camp Hardtner in Pollock, LA. July 28th-31st – Silent Retreat @ Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, LA. August 8th – 22nd – World Youth Day Pilgrimage, visiting London, Paris, Cordoba, Rome, Assissi, and Madrid. I would assume that I’ll be flying back into Lafayette 3 or 4 days before Faith Camp, and just spending time with my family and friends. Same with the time in between each trip/event I’ll be involved with. Hopefully I’ll get some chances to pass on some stories and knowledge and wisdom that I’ve gained from being in foreign missions.

The other big thing on my mind is Ash Wednesday. Lent is one of my favorite times of the year. The whole penitential aspect of it really excites me. Something about freshly committing myself, and by God’s grace becoming holier and more loving, captivates me. My Lenten strategy has varied from year to year. What do I give up? What extra thing do I do? This year, I felt like as a foreign missionary I had a decent handle on having already given up lots of stuff. Was there something extra I could do? I hadn’t really thought about my Lent this year, and what I was going to do. Now, Ash Wednesday rolls around and I still didn’t know. During my morning prayer and my morning routine, I committed myself not to worry too much or to force myself into something. Eventually, I’d figure out what God wanted me to focus on for Lent. Little did I know how soon my answer would come. During morning prayer, as I was tempted to daydream and lose focus, it dawned on me. I need to focus. It comes as a way to address the larger problem of not being present. So easily I get caught up in the past or future, that I forget to live in and be dedicated to the present, which is the only moment we have. Ergo, I have decided that I will ask God to give me the grace to notice every single time during prayer, meals, fellowship, ANYTHING, that I’m tempted to lose focus. Then, I can re-focus and re-dedicate myself to the task at hand. PTL.

As I finish my journal entry, I think of a few things that need some prayer:

-For Patricia, Dylan, & Marlin Monero. Patricia is a nurse at the Marian Home. Her relationship with the father of her children is bad. These boys need guidance. By God’s grace, we’re able to help fill some of that need. She also needs to relocate to a different house/piece of property. Long story, but big headache. Please pray pray pray.

-For Sabina. She’s a local resident who attends daily Mass at our chapel. In her home she is helping care for unwed mothers and is also fostering children. Every month she also does a lot of work to supply food and other needs of the local poor. We’ve been blessed with her bringing us into this ministry, but there is so much need.

-For all of the FMC missionaries. This is a season of getting established at various mission posts and finalizing plans. Pray that God’s will be done.

-For me and those on my mission team that will be travelling back to the States this summer. You already know my travel plans. Some of the Eckstine kids (along with Mark) are also going to be attending Faith Camp, and they may have other travel plans as well. Pray that our time away from our mission would renew us, and that we would have lots of opportunities to share about missions and to evangelize. Please also pray for safe travel and for the funds we need to do all of this.

God Bless!

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