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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Life by the Lasso: Teen Competes in Brazilian Rodeos

During a particularly crisp morning, the rustic aroma of sizzling beef wafts across the grounds of the Parque de Eventos Isaqui Miranda de Bocaina do Sul. An elderly woman mixes a bowl of potato salad whilst her husband rides across the field on horseback. A freshly brewed cup of chimarrão is passed around, a gesture of welcome to recently arrived guests. The 2nd Torneio de Laço, a rodeo organized by CTG Fronteira Bocainense do Birique, has just begun, drawing participants from around the area to the rugged town of Bocaina do Sul.

Whilst the rest of his family prepares the campsite, Marcus Melo and his cousin Vinicius Silveira take turns training around a wooden calf, a practice dummy for the upcoming tournament events. Melo twirls the coiled rope and flicks his wrist, throwing the lasso around the vaca parada (“standing cow”). At only 14 years old, Melo has already participated in more than 100 rodeos and has earned two first place trophies. His passion for laçar (the act of lassoing) places him in the footsteps of a long line of gaúchos, the original settlers of the southern plains of Brazil. “My father used to lasso and I want to continue his tradition.”

A conservative sentiment permeates gaúcho culture, encouraging families to promote traditions amongst younger generations. The desire for historical authenticity inspired several clans to form the Movimento Tradicionalista Catarinense (“Traditionalist Catarinense Movement”) in 1973. According to MTG-SC, it “has the objective of uniting the Centros de Tradições Gaúchas (“Centers of Gaúcho Traditions”) … and to preserve the nucleus of formation and philosophy of the Traditionalist Movement.” The organization offers cultural events and supports literature related to ranch life in order to spread awareness about the gaúcho legacy. MTG-SC divides the state of Santa Catarina into 17 traditionalist regions under the direction of Regional Coordinators.
Santa Catarina offers a varied landscape with beaches and resort towns in the east and mountains and forests in the southwest. / Photo Credit: Darlan P. de Campos
While the title “gaúcho” is shared by several South American countries, the demonym entails a distinct cultural blend in southern Brazil. MTG-SC poetically defines the term as “not signifying only a citizen of Rio Grande do Sul, but also the countryman of the meridional Regions of South America, who takes upon himself the gaúcho fatherland, the origin of his Tradition to the land, which begins in the pampas of Argentina and extends to Uruguay, Rio Grande do Sul, and Santa Catarina.” Rodeos are popular sporting events amongst gaúchos in the towns scattered across the alpine Serrana Region of Santa Catarina. In comparison to well-known cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the communities in the Serrana Region are more rural; unpaved roads, shorter fences, and horse-drawn wagons are common sights. The waves of Portuguese, German, and Italian pioneers who established ranches in the area gave the state a decidedly Old World flavor. Many catarinenses are able to claim European heritage, preserving the customs and cuisines of their forefathers.

Many cities celebrate the European colonization of local areas with statues dedicated to the memory of early settlers. 
Having participated in rodeos herself, Simone, Melo’s mother, enjoys supporting her son’s appreciation for gaúcho culture. According to her, rodeos help young people avoid drugs and violence by keeping their minds occupied. “Rodeos are our culture,” Simone said. “There’s no explanation.”

Rodeo participants belong to piquetes, small groups affiliated with Centros de Tradições Gaúchas, non-profit governing bodies maintaining gaúcho culture and folklore. Riding for Piquete Entrevero Serrano, Melo and his family belong to CTG Rodeio de São Sebastião, which consists of local families within the city and region of Palmeira. Melo explains that his uncle Fabrício Silveira introduced him to rodeos, inspiring him to learn how to ride horses at his grandfather’s ranch. “Riding horseback is easy, but riding horseback and lassoing is difficult,” Melo said. “You need a lot of concentration and strength.” Along with three cousins, an uncle, and his grandfather, Melo follows a training schedule before weekend tournaments.

Each rodeo offers different levels of competition for various age groups. While Melo and his cousins play in the adolescent guri category, older members of the CTG compete as veterans. During the Laço Patrão de Piquete, leaders of the different piquetes are pitted against each other, matches which showcase the most skilled players. Successful riders move on to the final round of the Braço de Ouro. Rodeos also organize doubles, triples, and quadruple categories as well as matches between the seleções of neighboring cities, teams which feature the ten best riders of the municipality.

While Melo and his piquete where two points shy of qualifying for the next round of matches, he still believes the rodeo was worth the drive from Palmeira. “Some of my friends live in other cities and so I can see them only at rodeos,” Melo said. “I made new friends and we lassoed well.”

Gaúcho Vocabulary

cavalgar = to ride a horse
um açude = a man-made fishing hole
uma taipa = a low rock wall lining many southern ranches
alfafa = hay
um rancho = a woodshed
um guri = a boy ; used in southern Brazil as “dude”
tchê = “dude”
Sã senhora ãmê do céu = “Our Lady in heaven, man!” ; exclamation used to express surprise

As featured on Elite Millennial, 31 July 2014
*Top Photo Credit: Marcus Melo

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gaúcho Tea: The Popularity of Chimarrão in Brazil

At first glance, the rural community of Palmeira is reminiscent of a small Midwestern town complete with dusty roads and gardens. Lazy mornings are spent on the front porch, where passersby are greeted by name and with a smile. Set against the backdrop of a setting sun, the rising smoke from neighboring homes and the braying of horses in the distance bring to mind a simpler time, an idyllic setting for ranchers and cowboys alike.

Palmeira, like many small cities in the mountainous region of Santa Catarina, demonstrates the cultural and geographic diversity which has made Brazil unforgettable. Yet the only image of surf, sand, and samba one can see in Palmeira are the characteristic palm trees which give the city its name. The cold climate offers a rather frigid awakening for those who believe that the country is home to only tropical temperatures. The sturdy palmeirenses, however, have three weapons against the wintry weather: multiple sweaters, wood stoves, and the legendary cups of chimarrão, which have warmed generations of gaúchos, the settlers who established ranches and rodeos in the southernmost stretches of the Brazilian landscape.

Huddled around a wood stove, Matheus Melo boils a kettle of water and prepares the chimarrão. Melo is a second-year medical student at the University of Planalto Catarinense and has earned a reputation for being an enthusiast of the brewed beverage. He chuckles at the difficult notion of recalling his first sip of chimarrão, ingrained as it is in gaúcho culture. “Do you remember when you drank water for the first time?”

Chimarrão is made by pouring hot water onto erva-mate, the plant which gives the tea its distinctive flavor. Unlike most teas, however, chimarrão is served using a bomba and a cuia. Made from silver or stainless steel, bombas are straws fitted with filters that prevent the brewed liquid and herbs from mixing. The cuia is a hollow calabash gourd often featuring traditional carvings and designs.
Brazilian writer and politician Luiz Antonio de Assis Brasil demonstrates how to brew chimarrão.
Photo Credit: Rita Escobar
The tradition of drinking chimarrão has become an art form for the residents of southern Brazil. Coupled with an alternating blend of cool and hot water, the proper placement of the herbs in the cuia ensures that the resulting tea is flavorful and goes down smoothly.

Recognized as “mate” or “cimarrón” depending on the region, chimarrão is enjoyed in various South American countries like Argentina and Uruguay. The traditional erva-mate used in the drink was first gathered by the Guaraní and Tupí tribes in southern Brazil and Paraguay. Spanish and Portuguese settlers popularized the indigenous tea as a refreshing infusion of caffeine. With a legacy for being large consumers of chimarrão, Brazil and Argentina cultivate the most erva-mate whilst Syria imports the most erva-mate per year.

The Brazilian love affair with chimarrão manifests itself in the Parque Histórico do Mate, a branch of the Museu Paranaense funded by the state of Paraná. Visitors to the state park learn about the history of the production and transportation of erva-mate, which at one point represented 85 percent of the local economy.
Erva-mate is derived from the holly family and is technically not "tea" in the strictest sense.
Photo Credit: Lucash
Being a rich source of vitamins A, C, and E, chimarrão provides a variety of health benefits commonly associated with teas containing significant levels of antioxidants. Green tea may be losing the battle of beverages when it comes to producing the most medicinal effects. “Polyphenolic compounds found in Mate tea differ significantly from green tea because Mate tea contains [a] high concentration of chlorogenic acid and no catechins,” Dr. Elvira de Mejia, a food science expert from the University of Illinois, said in a comparative study conducted with chimarrão. Chlorogenic acid is an anti-carcinogen that promotes cardiovascular health.

“Chimarrão is popular because it is a hot and energetic drink and is traditional here in the south,” Lissandra Momm, a junior chemical engineer at the Federal University of Santa Maria, said. “We continue to drink chimarrão because it is a good beverage in the winter or summer and because it is also a group activity.”

The importance of chimarrão to the gaúcho culture in Brazil, however, certainly outweighs its purported health properties. “Generally a group of people join together in a roda de chimarrão to converse and to share the drink which is placed in a cuia shared by everyone” Momm said. The communal nature of the drink encourages a sense of unity and inclusion since the cuia is offered to both family members and strangers.

Expecting to study abroad in France next year, Melo has already made plans to purchase several bags of erva-mate in order to brew chimarrão in Europe. “Chimarrão makes me feel like I’m from the South and not from another region of Brazil,” Melo said. “It gives me a southern identity.”

As featured on Elite Millennial, 29 July 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Religious Groups ‘Play in Favor of Life’ at World Cup

While the buzz of city life continued around them, a solemn procession of individuals strode across the streets of downtown Brasília. The “Play in Favor of Life – Denounce Human Trafficking” March took place on the eve of the opening game of the World Cup to raise awareness about the risk of exploitation during mega-events. Bathed in the patriotic glow of yellow and green colored lights, the Esplanada dos Ministérios, the political promenade running through the heart of Brazil’s capital, provided a sharp contrast to the white flags of the demonstration, which consisted of many local youth, priests, and consecrated religious.

In conjunction with the Conference of Brazilian Religious and Rede Um Grito Pela Vida, the Archdiocese of Brasília has sponsored a series of events to provide information about and opportunities to combat sexual slavery and forced labor. A delegation of Germans, including actress Eva Habermann, from Bischöfliche Aktion Adveniat, an organization aiming to support Catholic initiatives in Latin America, also participated in the march.

Participants received informational materials regarding human trafficking statistics in Brazil and around the world. Many carried flowers and banners in support of victims of exploitation.

The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that the Brazilian government is spending $2.9 million to implement a national anti-trafficking plan, which creates 10 new offices staffed by 400 officials. Identifying migrant workers and indigenous people as vulnerable groups, the International Labour Organization estimates that 4.5 million people are victims of sexual exploitation and 21 million people engage in forced labor.

While the World Cup promises to benefit local economies due to the influx of tourists, the games also involve an increase in the risk of human trafficking, a phenomenon observed by Rede Um Grito Pela Vida in the last two host countries, Germany and South Africa.

In its widely-distributed pamphlet, “Copa do Mundo: Dignidade e Paz,” the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil criticized the national government’s removal of families and communities from their homes and its allocation of public funds to stadium construction, monies which could have been used for health, education, and basic sanitation. The 2014 World Cup has been ranked as the most expensive to date, with Brazil spending $14-16 billion on costs associated with the global competition.

According to the Bishops, the success of the World Cup “will be in the guarantee of security for all without the use of violence, in respect to the right to peaceful protests in the streets, the creation of mechanisms which prevent slave labor, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation, above all, of socially vulnerable persons and efficiently combat racism and violence.”

The march concluded with a prayer service on the lawn of the Congresso Nacional. Sr. Rosa Maria Martins, MSCS, a coordinator of the march and a journalist for the Conference of Brazilian Religious, praised in a press release the grassroots efforts of local religious in condemning human trafficking. “CRB National welcomes all Brazilians, partner institutions, Christian denominations, Aktion Adveniat, and all those who play in favor of life and denounce all forms of the violation of the rights and dignity of the human being, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.”

For more information:

Photo Credit: Karin Miranda

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Habit of Service: A Sister volunteers at the World Cup

Sr. Melanie has prepared herself to welcome tourists to Brasília.
With an estimated 3 million people expected to attend the World Cup games in Brazil, FIFA and major cities have recruited hundreds of local volunteers to assist international fans in the upcoming weeks. Sr. Melanie Grace D. Illana, a Missionary Sister of St. Charles Borromeo, will be among the multitude of individuals prepared to welcome the world to Brasília. Brazil’s capital city is set to be the site of seven matches at its new Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha, a stadium which has taken three years to construct.

Having been inspired by her community service in the United States, Sr. Melanie decided to become a World Cup volunteer, a position enabling her to greet travelers with her warm smile and the characteristic cadence of her Filipino accent. In an interview with Elite Millenial, Sr. Melanie provided some insights into the World Cup and the formation process of becoming a volunteer.

1. What influenced you to serve as a volunteer at the World Cup?

It is the voluntary work experience with people regardless of races, cultures, and religions that influenced me to serve as a volunteer at the World Cup.

2. What sort of preparation do you have to undertake as a World Cup volunteer?

First, the Virtual Training Course for five weeks to test my knowledge about the History of Football in Brazil, the Environment of the 12 states of Brazil, Hospitality & Tourism, especially in Brasília, and the First Aid and Security. Second, the Presence Training with speakers and facilitators and with volunteers done in the Convention Center and in the University of Brasília, where we actualized all the modules we learned from our virtual training course.

3. Do you feel Brazil is economically, linguistically, and socially prepared to host the World Cup?

Yes. I feel that Brazil is economically prepared to host the World Cup through the help of FIFA. The Brazilian governments are not the ones funding the World Cup but FIFA itself. I believe that it is linguistically prepared considering that most of the World Cup volunteers, who will do the best to assist the tourists, and the Media, speak English, or Spanish, or French. In fact, there are selected public transportation drivers in 12 states who took English and Spanish courses this year to prepare themselves to assist the tourists during [the] World Cup. As what I observed, Brazil is always socially prepared to host any mega events like [the] World Cup and is open to [welcoming] the foreigners.

4. What can international fans expect to see and do once they arrive in Brasília? Are there any special events and accommodations being organized for them?

Aside from seeing the football games at the World Cup, the international fans [can] expect to see the tourist spots of the 12 states; it depends on which states they prefer to stay. Some organizations or group networks linked to the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Culture, and some Universities are organizing special events for the international fans.

5. As a Scalabrinian Missionary Sister, how do you live out your religious vocation in light of your World Cup volunteer work?

I live out my religious vocation through the charism of our Congregation, which is “evangelical service to the migrants and refugees.” My constant desire to actualize the Scalabrinian charism through voluntary services, especially for the people of different colors, languages, and religions, is a form of selfless love. This is what I am hoping for my World Cup voluntary work.

6. You recently attended a Workshop hosted by the Secretaria de Justiça regarding human trafficking. What programs or initiatives has FIFA put into practice to combat exploitation?

There are no programs that FIFA made to combat exploitation. However, they encouraged FIFA and Brasil Voluntário volunteers and all the Teams working with FIFA to be attentive to any signs of human trafficking and sexual exploitation and to contact the respective numbers of the Federal Police and local government sectors responsible for confronting the delicate issues. Thus, combating human trafficking and sexual exploitation is part of our Hospitality and Tourism Module in the Virtual Training Course.

7. What has been the most difficult part about preparing for volunteer work?

The allotted time for the Virtual Training was the most difficult. I needed to organize my time in the evening between 8 and 10 p.m. or between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. to do the course. A volunteer needs to spend 2 or 5 hours a day to read the long texts in four modules with knowledge tests and thematic forums. We were given only 5 weeks to complete all the four modules, including English and Spanish communications skills tests, the 80 second video presentation in English, and the seven long questionnaires to answer. The hours that a volunteer spent in the Virtual Training Course is recorded each day or night online.

8. Have you learned anything interesting/funny/shocking about the World Cup during training sessions?

I learned to be patient in accepting the reality that lack of communication from the coordinators of Brasil Voluntário during our presence training courses gave confusions [sic] to most of the volunteers especially in my group. I also learned to let go of my first voluntary working area which [was supposed to] be in the airport. Above all, I learned to be open [to] other possibilities in my voluntary services.

9. There is already talk of protests scheduled during the World Cup games. Are there any safety measures that FIFA is putting into place?

Yes. FIFA is collaborating with the Federal Police to provide safety measures to the players, fans, tourists, and the volunteers.

10. What has been the most enjoyable part of preparing to be a World Cup volunteer?

Meeting new faces and making new friends during our integration training course at the University of Brasilia was the most enjoyable part of my preparation as a World Cup volunteer.

11. Last question: who do you think will win the World Cup?

I think Brazil will win.

As featured on Elite Millenial, 17 June 2014

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Santo António e Dia dos Namorados

In addition to the opening game of the World Cup, Brasil celebrates today Dia dos Namorados (“Lover’s Day”). Like it’s North American cousin, Valentine’s Day, Dia dos Namorados is a time for boxes of chocolates, flowers, and cheesy cards. In Brasil, however, the day falls on the eve of St. Anthony of Padua’s feast day and has preserved a bit more of its religious folklore.

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, St. Anthony of Padua originally entered the Canons Regular of the Augustinian Abbey of Saint Vincent and later joined the young community of Franciscans in Coimbra. He engaged congregations with brilliant homilies and pioneered the academic legacy of St. Francis’ order.

The Catedral Metropolitana de Campinas, which is under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception
While St. Anthony is commonly associated with the retrieval of lost items, he is particularly invoked by Brazilian women seeking potential spouses as the Santo Casamenteiro (“Holy Matchmaker” or “Matchmaking Saint”). Last summer in Campinas, I spent time in the museum located inside the Catedral Metropolitana. I noticed that the cathedral had a collection of statues of St. Anthony which were missing the familiar Infant Jesus cradled in his arms. The tour guide regailed us with tales about the absence of the Holy Child. In the past, young women would apparently pray to St. Anthony for suitors and some would go as far as taking the little statue of the Infant Jesus, promising to bring him back if the Portuguese saint interceded for them.  Judging from the lack of baby Jesus statues at the Cathedral, not a lot of prayers were answered…

Sr. Leocadia’s version of the story is a tad different. She claims that after a series of fruitless prayers a disgruntled woman threw her statue of St. Anthony out the window. In a characteristically legendary fashion, the statue hits a man passing by, who brings the image back and complains about the lady’s unceremonious disregard for religious items. The young lad  happens to be a bachelor and the woman finally gets her suitor, inspiring other individuals to seek St. Anthony’s intercession in manners of love.

Sign in Campinas
While it’s important to separate superstition from genuine faith, people should adopt the habit of praying for their future spouses. Marriage should be the destination of a profound period of discernment and not merely done on a whim at Las Vegas. The priesthood and religious life has animated the concept of holy matrimony into a sincere vocation, one that needs to be actively sought after and chosen.

St. Anthony’s love for God is admirable, manifesting itself in his spiritual scholarship. Pope Benedict XVI suggests that “the richness of spiritual teaching contained in the Sermons was so great that in 1946 Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed Anthony a Doctor of the Church, attributing to him the title Doctor Evangelicus [“Evangelical Doctor”], since the freshness and beauty of the Gospel emerge from these writings.” St. Anthony is a model for students and teaches us to integrate our prayer lives with our academic pursuits.

On this Dia dos Namorados, let's pray for all of our loved ones and for the grace to follow our respective vocations. Also, vai Brasil! Croatia is going down!

Prayer to St. Anthony
Glorious St. Anthony of Padua, you renounced every earthly ambition when yet very young. You gave yourself wholly and perpetually to God's service. Hence, I beg of you to secure for me the means to respond readily to God's purpose for me. Grant me the favor I now seek if it is God's will. Amen.
(Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Heart of Jesus: Son of the Eternal Father

In honor of the month of June, I’ve decided to offer a reflection on each invocation of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart developed from the Church’s veneration of the Holy Wounds and Christ’s sacred humanity and was pioneered by a myriad of men and women amongst whom are St. Bernard, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and St. Jean Eudes.

We begin the prayer with the following invocations:
Lord, have mercy on us. / Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.  / Christ, hear us. / Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart has a strong element of reparation. The plea “have mercy on us” recognizes God’s role as the divine Judge and reminds us of our tendency to sin caused by our fallen nature. Indeed, while it may seem as though the image of God as a benevolent Father is absent in the Litany, we must not forget the central image of the devotion: the Sacred Heart. What better way to approach God than through his Most Sacred Heart? The Litany empowers us to appeal to the Lord’s mercy embodied in his Sacred Heart, reminding Him of our filial intimacy. If we truly believe that God is love, the heart is an apt symbol to represent the totality of His divine charity.

The first invocation I’ll reflect upon is “Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, Have mercy on us,” which affirms Christ as being in union with his Father’s love for the world. There are numerous examples within the Bible establishing the divine sonship of Jesus.

  • The angel Gabriel announced to Our Lady that her child “shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). 
  • In addition to the charge of breaking the Sabbath, the Jews were angered by Jesus’ claim that “God was his Father, making himself equal to God” (John 5:18). 
  • After Jesus calms the wind which had battered their boat, the apostles exclaim: “Indeed thou art the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).
  • At Jesus’ baptism, “the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him [and] a voice from heaven, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).

The Litany reflects Christ’s role as the mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). The consubstantial bond between the Father and the Son is one founded upon mutual affection, the ideal relationship between a parent and child. It is fitting to seek God’s mercy through his beloved Son, who redeemed the world through his Passion and Resurrection. Jesus opened his heart to the world as he lay on the cross, proclaiming the victory of loving sacrifice. The Litany enables us to remind the Father of His love for the Son by our veneration of Christ’s Sacred Heart, in which we seek refuge.

The invocation “Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, Have mercy on us” provides us an opportunity to contemplate the divine filiation of Christ. Many countries celebrate Father’s Day in June, a reality which I believe adds to the loving symbolism of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

May we pray in thanksgiving for our own fathers during the month of June.

Photo Credit: Nheyob

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Spiritual Drowning and the Sacred Heart

A stained-glass window at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart
The Church sets aside the month of June to reflect upon the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. After learning more about the Litany of the Sacred Heart and the historical background of the devotion, I have come to see the immersive element of divine charity. Jesus invites us to seek refuge in his Most Sacred Heart and to share his love with others.

Whenever I enter a church or a chapel, I like to say the prayer below, one inspired by a retreat I made with the Community of St. John during my sophomore year. The Community of St. John maintains the novitiates for its Brothers, Contemplative Sisters, and Apostolic Sisters in Princeville, IL. During the retreat, I met with Fr. John Luke to discuss a particular issue in my prayer life: spiritual drowning.

I phrased the problem as “spiritual drowning” because I sometimes felt overwhelmed by prayer to the point that it felt as though I was emotionally gasping for breath. I kept a rigid mental account of numerous petitions and made sure to pray for so-and-so and for such-and-such cause. The problem was rendering prayer a heavy burden for me and so I realized I needed to seek advice.

Chapel at Princeville
Fr. John Luke began by explaining that my issue was common for college students due to our inability to switch from a classroom mindset when we enter into prayer. Notre Dame is blessed with many spiritual places: the Grotto, dorm chapels, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Yet like at any university, stress about grades, social life, and the future is never far away. The mechanical mentality of academic thought is not conducive to the fluidity of prayer. Prayer is a conversation and not a grocery list of petitions.

Fr. John Luke emphasized the image of the heart during our meeting. He explained how the Virgin Mary remembered events and people by keeping them in her heart (Luke 2:19). Fr. John Luke said that in lieu of listing everything I wanted to pray about I should just offer my heart to God. After all, we too keep things in our hearts, whether they be cherished moments or emotional wounds. By offering our hearts to the Lord in prayer, we are essentially bringing him all our intentions in one spiritually swift motion.

The last piece of his advice took the form of an important reminder: I’m not the Savior; Jesus is. When we encounter struggles in our lives, we are often tempted to believe that everything depends on us. If I don’t pray for so-and-so, she won’t be consoled. If I don’t pray for vocations for the priesthood and religious life, there won’t be any! Such thoughts are of course trivial but ultimately prideful. Having suffered and risen, Jesus has already redeemed the world. God already knows our deepest desires and needs. While prayer enables us to bring our problems before God, it doesn’t mean that He hasn’t already been helping us beforehand.

Inspired by my retreat with the Community of St. John, I no longer fell into the phenomenon of spiritual drowning. Instead, I simply began to offer my heart to God through the following prayer I came up with during Adoration:
Lord Jesus, I offer you my heart today with all its wounds, intentions, sufferings, joys, and miseries. I offer you my heart through the immaculate hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I pray that she might make it presentable and satisfactory in your eyes.Lord Jesus, I beg you to consume my heart with the flames of your divine charity so that I might burn with zeal for you and so that I might come to love as you do.
May we spend the rest of the month offering our hearts to God through prayer.
O, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!