Posts Tagged With: sacrifice

Drunk in church & reflecting on my fast

Sunday – 9:00am – In the back seat of the old gray missionary van on the way to communion services in the ranchos – middle of nowhere, Coahuila, Mexico

Trying to write a journal entry in this van is like trying to build a house of cards during an earthquake. Very difficult to do. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it is kinda difficult. 🙂 But as you can see from the title of today’s entry, I got some pretty interesting stuff to talk about and didn’t want it to slip my mind. It also felt really strange yesterday not writing in my journal after having written everyday for the past 40 days. I can kinda see now how writing is therapeutic and can help you make sense of things a little better.

Now just to clear things up, I was not drunk in church, at least not on alcohol. But there was a drunk guy that wandered into Mass. I’m assuming he was a by-product of the concert last night at the Presidencia. Thankfully he was a very quiet and respectful drunk. You could definitely tell he was drunk though. His breathing was loud and labored. His walk and stance were a little bit wobbly. He weaved in and out of the pews a couple of times and had a couple of different seats before he finally settled on the same one for the rest of Mass. He also stomped his foot on the kneeler a few times. Oh, and at the end of Mass he walked up to the front pew and did a little dance too. To the credit of everyone there, they didn’t seem bothered or overly curious, with the exception of some stares by a few kids. What I felt kinda bad about was my initial reaction. I was worried that he’d be a distraction and that he shouldn’t be in Church. Wasn’t it Jesus that said he came to save the lost? Isn’t that one stray sheep just as important as the other 99? So for the rest of Mass I tried to pray for him instead of keeping an eye on him. Figured he could use my prayers more than my judgment.

Now that I’m a couple days removed from my fast I can also do a little bit of looking back on the experience. At this point I’m thinkin’ mainly of two things: guarding my growth and following my heart. When I think about the fast and all the graces I got during the fast, I’m amazed. The graces of chastity, patience, and perseverance are just a few that come to mind. I’m also thinking how awesome it was to have that sacrifice (hunger) to offer up. Now I’m realizing that I have to guard those graces. I have to continue to look to develop them. I’ve got to continue to look for sacrifices to offer up so that I have ammo against my weaknesses and temptations. Maintain the momentum. Yeah, that’s a good way to sum it up.

I’m also thinkin’ about the whole clarity thing, in regards to my mission post. When I started my fast, I was under the assumption that “clarity” meant figuring out which country I wanted to go to. Never did I think  when I started my fast that it might actually mean figuring out whether or not I would even go back into the mission field. What does seem clearer is that I don’t think I’m at peace with going back out into the foreign mission field, at least not at this point in my life. Maybe later in life, once I’m married? Who knows…. My heart is ready to pursue friendship and see what develops. That’s alot easier to do if I’m stateside. Plain and simple, it’s what I want for my life. I believe it’s my calling and so not only do I want to pursue it, I HAVE to pursue it. I also don’t think it would be fair to mission partners and people that we’d be serving if I had a heart divided between missions and marriage. It seems wise to pursue the vocation of marriage with a single, undivided heart, and then whatever else is next will fall into place.

That being said, I pray for those of you who are also discerning your vocation in life, that you would be patient, persevere, and receive clarity and peace. Please pray for me too as I pursue friendship and ultimately marriage. Till next time, take care and God Bless!

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 40

Day 40 – Friday – 11/2/12

What’s that you say? It’s day 40 of my 40 day fast? THAT MEANS MY 40 DAY FAST IS OVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! aoiejhanvclknasl;kfjgv;oairejhjgf;ncv’kjao;riehfanv;lknasfdoitaonc v;lakjhgoiag;ona;lxknv;oaijgf;ja;jkgfa!!!!!!!!a;isjv;lakngfajd;fljk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ok, I think I’ve got a hold of myself now. 🙂 It’s crazy to think that this is the end of my 40 day fast. I didn’t think it would go by so quickly. Neither did I think that it would be as amazing of an experience as it was. But I guess your first time doing something like this will always be memorable. Today was a pretty good day. Had a couple of cups of coffee this morning before heading out to pick up one of our home visits to go to the local cemetery to decorate family members’ graves for All Souls Day. We also went so that we could attend Mass in the cemetery. Lemme tell you somethin’, you ain’t seen nothin’ until you see All Souls Day (Dia De Los Muertos) in Mexico. I’ve never seen more flowers (real or artificial) in my life! And the cool thing is, it’s not some sad or mopey occasion. Here, it’s a celebration. People decorate the graves. They hire mariachi bands to serenade them and their dearly departed family members at the gravesite. They bring food, usually some of the favorite food of the deceased, and have lunch at the gravesite.

After Mass ended I came back home and tackled the table covering project. One of my benefactors sent me the money to buy new material to cover our tables with. Today was the first chance I had to actually get it done. Probably took me at least 3 or 4 hours. Now, I’m sure that I was slightly overboard on some of the things I did to make sure they were measured, cut, positioned, and then secured as best as possible. I was also just moving slow. There was no rush, not much going on tonight, so why hurry? Once it was done I was uber happy. The dining rooms and kitchen look alot better. To break things up a bit and to give myself a rest, I made a few trips to the grocery store. Since I can start eating 3 meals again tomorrow, I had to make sure I had some breakfast ready. One of my mission partners also gave me some pesos as his contribution towards the table coverings, even though it was all donated. So I ended up buying some absolute essentials for the house: coffee, creamer, and sugar! 🙂 After I was done with all that, I headed across the plaza to the church parish for a little bit of adoration. Did night prayer and was in the process of reading a book when they told me they were about to lock up, so I came on back, and here I be.

So at the end of my 40 day fast, I have no choice but to retrospect. First thing I think about is all the “commitments” I had for the 40 day fast. Most of them having nothing to do with fasting, but all of them having something to do with self-control or making myself better. Less computer time. More guitar practice.
Diversify prayer time. I think I just got too caught up in trying to add on all these extra commitments, thinking that they could just ride on the coattails of my main commitment, and I’d be able to get them all done. But it was kinda distracting too. Next time I do something like this, i’m just gonna have my fast and that’s it. Otherwise I’ll lose focus on the most important thing, the fast itself.

In regards to my main commitment, the fast itself, I think I did ok. Didn’t do bad, but could have done better. I learned alot about self-control and honesty. Many times I found myself trying to get around the rules by either having snacks, spreading out my meal to lessen the sacrifice of feeling hunger, or eating a ton of food for my one meal so that I was fuller (less hungry) for longer. Another thing I was blessed with is a better perspective on how hungry and poor people feel. Now that I know the anxiety of hunger on a whole new level, I think I’m gonna be more in tune to the poor and ways that I can help them. My prayer intentions for the fast were: 1.)For an increase in humility, 2.)For an increase in charity, 3.)For clarity in discerning what next year will look like for me, 4.)For our Intake missionaries, 5.)For my sister and nieces, and 6.)For our presidential election. I think time will tell how much I succeeded in numbers 1 & 2. But I do think that I was blessed in those areas. As far as #3 is concerned, I definitely think I have more clarity now. Numbers 4-6, well, only God knows how those were affected. But I know that prayer works, and that God is a mighty God. And maybe I’ll never know in my earthly life what the effects of my prayers were, but when I get to heaven, then it will all make sense.

All in all, it was a great experience. A perfect way to prepare for all of the visiting missionaries this month. And a perfect way to end the year.

p.s.- Decided at 10:45pm that at midnight, when my fast ended, i’d celebrate by eating a bowl of cereal. Had to be the longest 75 minutes of my life.

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 32

Day 32 – Thursday – 10/25/12

Accidentally overslept this morning. First of all, I forgot to reset my alarm after my nap yesterday. Also, I put it inside my nightstand instead of on top, so I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to hear it anyways. Oh well, it’s still a good morning. I think because I got a little extra sleep and am well-rested, and because God is good, and because we have beautiful clear blue skies, the sun is rising, and because there’s a nice cool refreshing breeze, I’m just happy. As I was watering the houseplants I remembered that I finished a book yesterday and get to start a new one today, and I ended up singin’ a little song and doin’ a little jig! 🙂 Dorky, I know. The book I’m about to start is published by The Pontifical Council For The Family and is entitled “The Truth And Meaning Of Human Sexuality: Guidelines For Education Within The Family.” Looks to be very interesting and hopefully will give me guidelines and tips for when I have my own kids one day. I found it on the bookshelf here at our mission house. The next one is actually a small booklet on what the Church teaches about stem-cells, and then after that it’s a book called Mexican Martyrdom.

My only small sacrifice of the morning came when I realized I had no creamer for my freshly brewed coffee. Small thing, I know. But when coffee is a vital part of your morning routine, creamer is quite important! No worries though, cuz my coffee was fresh, hot, and had a little sugar in it too. Got to do a communion service at the nursing home and at one of our home visits. After that we made our rounds to the other missionaries’ houses to let them know that Desert Day prayer time is tomorrow at 3. It’ll be our last chance to do one as a group before the other missionaries arrive in November. Gonna do lunch at Rita and Gallo’s house, and then go with Raul and Marta to one of their rancho visits. Not sure if we’ll get back in time for Mass, but no biggie if not, because I got to receive the Eucharist when we did our second home visit. 🙂

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Sid’s 40 Day Fast – Day 29

Day 29 – Monday – 10/22/12

Today marks the beginning of the fifth week of my fast. It has simultaneously taken a long time and gone by very quickly. I’ve learned alot in the first four weeks and I know there’s still so much more to learn in the last two weeks. One thing I’ve noticed about the first four weeks is that I was alot more focused on the mechanics of how to optimize the experience and all the various details. I also focused alot on the various other sacrifices that I added on to my 40 day fast. In hindsight I was too distracted by all the extras and by focusing on the mechanics of it all. These last two weeks I know that I’ll still be faithful to the food and facebook fast, but I’ll also be alot more relaxed. Hopefully I’ll focus more on the lessons I can learn from the experience.

On a random note, as I was reading through Lumen Gentium this morning, I came across this awesome quote by St. Leo the Great: “The partaking of The Body and Blood of Christ does nothing other than make us be transformed into that which we consume.”

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When one door closes, another opens

Saturday May 5th, 2012 – 1:45pm – In the guys’ trailer @ Big Woods Mission Base – Esther, LA

“The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.” –Psalm 12:6–

It’s funny how our human concept of love often leaves out pain. Pain? Really? Love is supposed to be, well, happy! But in reality, love is a decision, not always easy, and sometimes painful. But Love is still Love. It will always be worth the sacrifices we have to make. In fact, if Love was so easy to arrive at, if it didn’t require any real sacrifice, if we didn’t have to put our hearts on the line without any guarantee of success, would it really be Love? I don’t think so.

Right before I started writing this journal entry, I was re-reading over my last one. At the end, I was talking about my trip up to Michigan to see my then-girlfriend Nina. Talked alot about being honest and open. That was something I could have done better at. Not that I was dishonest. It’s just that I wasn’t open enough about how I really felt and what was really important to me. I was actually having concerns before I even left Mexico for the St. Lucia trip, but aside from not being open about it, I figured that maybe our visit would clear things up. I needed to give it a chance. And I truly believe that. I knew that in spite of my concerns, that I needed to go through with the visit to Michigan. It’s because visiting in person and getting to know someone up close and personal is way different than doing things long distance. Whether it was a make it or break it visit, there was value to be had in us being together. Needless to say, we figured out that a relationship wasn’t in the cards. Now I could take this time to go over all the potential reasons why things didn’t work out. But I won’t because that’s between me, Nina, and God. I could also look back and lament the things that went wrong, or I could wonder what the purpose of the relationship was if it ended up not working out. What I’m gonna do is hold onto the fact that in spite of the relationship ending, God let this happen for a reason. It taught me more about myself, and helped me to grow closer to God. I pray that Nina derived the same benefit as well. When I look at how plans have changed as a result of this, I can again rejoice. I now have the chance to be with my missionary community at our home base here in Louisiana. I can visit with friends and family before I head back to Mexico.

Speaking of Mexico, I’m still not sure what will happen there either. The theme of my missionary life so far has been A.) Expect the unexpected, and B.) Plans will change. After talking to Joe a couple weeks ago, we came to the conclusion that because there were no major obstacles to me returning to Mexico, that I should do that. Once I arrive in Mexico, the idea is that I’ll stay until Intake 2012 arrives in November to wrap up their training. We recognized that one of my needs is to stay and commit to this mission post for the rest of the year and really put myself into it. Really give myself to these people. I agree with that. There’s nothing illogical about that conclusion. But for some reason, I’m not totally at peace with it. Maybe it’s just the normal hesitancy one experiences when facing the unknown or something new. There are other reasons though. Part of me wonders if that not being at peace is because the mission post is not a good fit for me. Another part of me wonders if I maybe just need to live in community at Big Woods for a few months and help out with Intake. Then there’s the opportunity for travel to Asia. I REALLY want to go to Asia, and FMC has a month long trip to the Phillipines planned for June, and a 3 week trip to India in December. If I stay in Mexico until November, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make either of those trips.

Another thing that’s been on my mind is learning to play the guitar and learning to speak Spanish. At this point I’m having to try and teach myself. Spanish has come to a dead stop. I’m not even trying to study in any way. Guitar is almost at a standstill but I am trying to resurrect it. Practiced last night for the first time in weeks. It’s just that I have such a hard time teaching myself. Having a teacher who pushes me makes it alot easier. Don’t see that happening anytime soon though. Both speaking Spanish and playing guitar will come in handy for missions and other ministries as well. Guitar will be easier for me to stick with. I feel like it’s more useful and I have more of a desire. And even if Spanish is as useful as playing the guitar, it’s just hard for me to stick with it. My heart and my passion is with the french language. The fact that I have to neglect the language that is such a part of me and my culture, in order to learn another, is hard. Maybe one day God will bless me with mission trips to french speaking areas.

Here’s to having faith in God and trusting in his guidance during my missionary journey………………….

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My latest FMC newsletter article

Missions Is The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Loved…………..

There’s a common misconception in our world today that Love is synonymous with good feelings and easy times. And while good feelings and easy times can sometimes be indicators of a season of God’s grace in our lives, they are not the be all and end all of the Christian life. When we look in the Bible, from Adam to Moses to Jesus to the Early Church, we see lives of sacrifice. Whether God tests us as he did with Job, or whether we are persecuted for our beliefs as were Jesus and the early Christians, we know that the path to salvation is not an easy one. The first half of Isaiah 49:4 says “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity” I do not mention these things to discourage you. I mention them to encourage you. I don’t want you to lose heart as soon as things get tough. I don’t want you to think all is lost when tough times reappear.

As I sit here in our mission house in St. Lucia, reflecting on my first three and a half months as a foreign missionary, this is what comes to me. As a matter of fact, the title of this very article is a phrase that popped into my mind when reflecting on how to describe life as a missionary. What is so hard about being a missionary? The first thing that comes to mind is family and friends. As good as they are, and as much as they are a blessing in my life, God has called me to the sacrifice of being far, far away from them for the next 2-3 years of my life. Then there are all the small luxuries of life in America. I can’t go down the road to Meche’s donuts. There’s no boiled crawfish readily (or ever) available. Sometimes we don’t have hot water. It’s never cold, which on the flipside, means it’s always hot. On a more serious note, we face a nation that struggles mightily with promiscuity and a breakdown in the family unit. We face churches that are dwindling in numbers. Many of the youth are surrounded by poverty and affected by gang violence and other types of crime.

On a personal level, missions is hard because I actually have to look at myself for who I really am. In this sense, missions is kind of like a cross between a mirror and a microscope. God is stripping away the layers, helping me to get to know the true me, for better or for worse. In a nutshell, I’ve come to discover that I can be a grumpy recluse who is selfish and can’t be bothered.

However, lest you think missions is too hard, I must also mention the amazing things about life as a missionary. The first thing is that God provides. The second half of Isaiah 49:4 says “yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.” I experienced this truth in bits and pieces over the years on the many mission trips and pilgrimages that I participated in. Never did I lack for funds or any other necessity. And now, as a full-time missionary I get to experience that all the time. Even if it’s at the 11th hour, God ALWAYS supplies me with the money I need to travel or buy supplies. Many times his providence is not only sufficient but also abundant! Whether it’s through my benefactors back home or the generous people of St. Lucia, I am never lacking anything I need. Never.

Another tremendous blessing of being in missions is seeing how God raises up servants to be our co-workers in the vineyard. With all the difficulties of getting adjusted to being a foreign missionary, living in a foreign country, and coming face to face with all the problems here, I was beginning to get discouraged. I just couldn’t see how there could possibly be anyone who would carry the torch whenever our time here is done. However, God has slowly revealed that there are amazing servants here who are willing and ready to work right along side with us. There’s the lady who feeds the poor and fosters orphans, Our pastor and his driver give us rides since we don’t have a car. Our friends in the community (who oftentimes are poor and in need) bring us food and cook for us. Young adults from the community have become regular visitors at our mission house and are beginning to help us plan bible studies and other ministries. Our Archbishop, Robert Rivas will often take time to serve guests their meals at various diocesan events. If I had more space, I could give you many more examples.

One thing I never realized about missions was that my relationships with my family would actually improve. Kinda seems silly when you think about it. Lemme move thousands of miles away, and not see my family for months and months at a time. Yeah, that’ll work. But it’s so true. In the absence felt both by me and  my family members, God is filling our hearts with a special grace. That grace is to be able to endure the sacrifices so that we can receive the blessings. Never before have I had such a good relationship with my parents.

The last thing I’d like to say is directed towards those out there unsure or discontent. Like some of you, I used to wake up every morning discontent. I would either think “Do I really have to go to class today? or I wish I didn’t have to go to work.” Even when school was good or work was not causing me stress, I always had that thought in the back of my mind that “there’s gotta be more than this”. Though you may think I’m crazy, I want to advise you to hold onto this, Pray about it, meditate upon it, and think about it. Take this discontent, and instead of letting it make you bitter or hopeless, let it motivate you to seek out what God wants for your life. Allow God to use the tragedies in your life, the moments where you are shaken to your very core to draw you closer to him. God’s has given me the grace to be able to do these things, and I do not regret it at all. Since my very first day of missionary training, and every day that I’m in the mission field, never have I woken up with dread or discontent in my heart. I know that I’m where God wants me to be, and that brings a joy and surety to my soul that is almost indescribable.

Brothers and sisters, please keep me in your prayers and be assured of mine.

“The Lord called me from the womb and he said to me ‘I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ ” (take from Isaiah 49:1-6)

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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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April 2011 Newsletter

For every Good Friday there’s an Easter Sunday!

“The Word of God will be fulfilled in our lives to the extent that we embrace it” -Fr. Jason Biscette-

To my Friends and Family,

Greetings from St. Lucia! It brings me great pleasure to be able to write you again. Can you believe it? As I write this letter I realize that I have been here for two and a half months already. Where did the time go?!? It seems like we were just getting here the other day and trying to get ourselves settled in. It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been here this long. But praise God that we’ve got lots of time left here and that there’s lots he has for us to do. So let’s get right to it. As the beginning of April drew closer, I started debating with myself about what to write to y’all. I said to myself “What is it that my benefactors need to hear? What is going to help them realize that what they do for me is vital to my mission work? How will they know that their sacrifices of prayer and financial support are indeed going to a worthy cause?” Finally I realized that I needed to put some faces to the stories from the mission field. So instead of this letter being a laundry list of things that God is giving us to do (and believe me, he’s giving us A LOT), I’m going to tell you stories of people that are part of our lives and ministry here in St. Lucia.

My first story is about one of the nurses here at the Marian Home for the Elderly. Her name is Patricia Monero. She is in her late 30’s, is a single mother, has two teenage sons, and works full-time. When we first got here and started our ministry at the Marian Home, she told us that she had two teenage sons. Being that we have lots of kids here (10 to be exact) we told her to bring them by sometime to meet the family. Little did we know how much we would get to know her story and be involved in their lives. The boys come over daily for fellowship and supper when they finish school. As a single mother who struggles to get by every month, not having to pay for after school care or worry about her boys’ safety is a huge help to her. We’re also able to assist them with school work and bring them with us when we go to church or do youth group activities. The opportunity to witness to Patricia and her boys through our simple, humble missionary way of life is a blessing for them and us as well. Her boys’ father is absentee at best, and at times has been a physically abusive alcoholic. Due to the breakup of her relationship with the father, she is having to vacate the piece of property that their house is on. At present, we have already assisted her with paperwork to obtain a piece of land in the countryside from the government. Mainly due to my mission partner’s construction skills, we also stand ready to assist in the construction of a new house, or in the relocation/renovation of her current house. Please pray for Patricia and her sons Dylan and Marlin in this tough time they face.

My second story is about a local pro-life warrior, Sabina. She lives about ten minutes walking distance from our residence, and occasionally attends Daily Mass at the Marian Home chapel. We first became acquainted with her when she invited us to help her prayer group to feed the poor in Castries. On the first Friday in March she escorted us to her house where we assisted in preparing food to feed roughly 400 people. The next morning we met her prayer group downtown and assisted in passing out food and drink, as well as using the opportunity to evangelize. We participate again in April and it looks like we’ll be able to help out on a monthly basis. She herself has had it rough, with lots of family members passing away. But in spite of the adversity she’s faced, her commitment to the poor and less fortunate is an inspiration. She also distributes clothing to the poor and homeless around town. In her house she is currently housing two young unwed mothers, and is fostering a child. While a lot remains to be done here to establish a widespread pro-life ministry network, she is certainly laying the groundwork. She is an answer to our prayers for pro-life ministry here in St. Lucia, and we will continue to assist her in whatever way we can.

It would be remiss of me to leave out our Saturday workday accomplishments as well. To this point we have cleaned up a large portion of yard waste and downed tree limbs, and have also succeeded in doubling the size of the vegetable and fruit garden. From donations received, a basketball backboard and hoop have been purchased and installed in the back yard.We’ve also organized a schoolroom full of books for distribution to area schools and the local library. Our future plans include reinforcing the rear perimeter fencing, renovating the basketball playing surface, and making a prayer garden. As I draw this letter to a close, I continue to ask for your prayers. Please pray for the success of our ministries, funding to attend various ministry events this summer, and for our spiritual and physical health. Remember to email me if you need anything (sidsavoie@catholic.org ) or visit my missionary blog at https://cajunmissionary.wordpress.com.

God Bless,

Sid Savoie

“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” –Lamentations 3:25-26–

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DESERT DAY – PART 3

At the very moment I got to the front door, Maddie Dold was right outside and told me about a girl they had met at one of the ranchos who happened to be in town. Turns out, Maddie and Mandy had prayed with this girl and connected deeply with her at the rancho a few nights back. So last night, Maddie & Mandy, at just the right time, encountered this girl outside and got to talk with her, as well as give her some food and clothes. As Maddie is telling me this, she asks me to come and pray with them. I said yes, but told her that I felt like my prayer would be better if I went up to the chapel and prayed in front of the Tabernacle while they prayed with her.

So as I was doing that, they were praying with this girl and her family. As I was praying, I remembered Maddie telling me earlier that they were homeless and slept outside alot. Realizing that I didn’t need my sleeping bag as much as they did, I ran outside and had Mandy tell them to wait. I ran back inside and rolled up my sleeping bag and brought it out to them. I know it wasn’t much of a sacrifice on my part, but it really felt like I did a good thing. Then, to top it all off, this girl and her family thanked me and gave me a hug. The fact that in spite of their horrible situation they still were able to share love with others was amazing to me. These people, especially the young girl (her name is Alicia Guadalupe) were so beautiful and I was immensely blessed by them. Later that night, during prayer time, Maddie and Mandy shared the story with everyone. Towards the end of her sharing, Maddie confided in us that she was having a rough time in her spiritual life and got quite emotional. She asked us to pray over her.

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JOYFUL JOYFUL WE ADORE THEE!

Tuesday 3/9/10

Chapel @ Casa De Misiones in General Cepeda, Mexico

Earlier today i wrote myself a note to make today’s journal entry about the joys of missions. The first thing that came to mind was how I tend to focus so much on the intensity, or the sacrifice, or whatever, that I forget that missions is a joyful thing! Then I thought about how much joy that fellowship with other people on this trip is bringing to me. We laugh, we talk, we joke, we play…. I smile just thinking about it. It’s also impossible not to think of the joy of the people we are serving here. All of the kids who smile at us, and laugh and play… All of the adults who wave to us as we exchange greetings of “Adios”…

Besides the obvious, there’s also the deeply rooted joy that God gives me while on missions. Because it’s a sacrifice I love to make, it brings me joy. I don’t wake up in the mornings and roll my eyes or lament the fact that I have to go do the same thing again. Honestly, I wake up and I’m excited at what the new day will bring. The anticipation of fellowship with other missionaries, of working hard and sweating to build a roof, of ministering in the ranchos, it all brings me joy!

Yes, I realize there will be sacrifice. Yes, I realize things will be hard sometimes. But even the Bible says everything has it’s season, which means that we WILL experience joy in serving the Lord. The more I think about it, the more I think about how the joy I get from being on missions is what will help me through these next few months until the start of Intake 2010. Praise You Lord Jesus for all you’ve blessed me with, especially the privilege of serving you in missions. God Bless!

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