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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Week Around the World

Photo Credit: Sherlock S. Sison
Gathered in front of our residence hall, we awaited our dorm rector’s arrival for 10 pm Mass to begin. An evening drizzle was beginning to douse the faithful, a gentle spring rain showering the assorted outfits within the crowd of ties, khaki pants, and flip-flops. Palm Sunday at the University of Notre Dame is always a spectacle, from the rousing student choirs to the lively processions into the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Dorm Masses, however, provide a more intimate liturgy, a prayerful experience with your fellow residents and friends.

Cloaked in a red chasuble, Fr. Vierling stepped out of Morrissey Manor and greeted the assembled students with the opening rites. We then processed into the hall towards the chapel with our blessed palm branches in hand. Holy Week had finally begun.

Christians around the world are entering into an intense period of prayer this week as the season of Lent comes to a close soon. Holy Week is an opportunity to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s Passion and is practiced differently by various cultures and countries. Let’s take a trip around the world to see the diversity of ways individuals celebrate what the Greeks refer to as the “Holy and Great Week,” what the Germans describe as the “Week of Mourning,” and what the Eastern Churches happily proclaim as the “Week of Salvation.”

Photo Credit: Ivanov id
1. Koumichene (Bulgaria) – Palm Sunday
Our journey begins in the land of yarn martenitsa and layered banitsa pastry: Bulgaria. Commemorating Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s kingship. Palm Sunday, or Tsvetnitsa (“Flower Day” in Bulgarian), is a popular holiday for young girls who participate in the koumichene ritual. The girls gather by a river and place long pieces of bread into battledores, which float away downstream. Radio Bulgaria reports that a common belief is that the winner of the bread race will be the first to get married and that all who take part in the ceremony will avoid being kidnapped by a dragon. Individuals with flower-related names (e.g. Tsvetelina, Ralitsa, Zdravko) consider Tsvetnitsa to be their special feast day. Bulgarians tend to use willow twigs instead of palm branches to celebrate Palm Sunday, which is also known as Vrabnitsa (“Willow Day”).

Photo Credit: Федоров
2. Bridegroom Service (Orthodox Churches) – Holy Monday
Orthodox Christians observe Holy Monday with an admirable degree of liturgical complexity. On Palm Sunday evening, Vespers is prayed with stichera (hymns) followed by the chanting of a triode composed by St. Andrew of Crete at Small Compline. Matins for Holy Monday through Holy Wednesday takes the form of the Bridegroom Service, a title hearkening to the troparion’s theme of Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church. During the Bridegroom Service, an icon of Christ the Bridegroom is placed on a lectern in the church and individuals reflect on Jesus’ parable of the fig tree and remember the life of Joseph the Patriarch, son of Jacob. The structured prayer style of Holy Monday promotes the contemplation of Christ’s Resurrection and the necessity of repentance.

Photo Credit: Eric Merced
3. Seven Churches Visitation (Rome) – Holy Tuesday
Holy Tuesday brings us to the Eternal City, enjoying a tradition which is as appreciative of Roman architecture as it is of the religious fervor which built them. The practice of visiting the seven ancient basilicas of Rome (i.e. St. John Lateran, St. Peter’s, St. Mary Major, St. Paul-outside-the-walls, St. Sebastian, Santa Croce-in-Jerusalem, and St. Lawrence-outside-the-walls) during Holy Week developed from popular piety. Pope Boniface VIII promoted the pilgrimage in 1300 as a part of the Pontifical Jubilee. Today, many places around the world, from the Philippines (where the tradition is known as visita iglesia) to Pittsburgh, host visits to seven local churches. Having significant theological meaning, the number seven in regards to the visitation may refer to Christ’s last words (i.e. Luke 23:34 ; Luke 23:43 ; John 19:26–27 ;Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34 ; John 19:28 ; John 19:29-30 ; Luke 23:46) or to his bodily wounds (i.e. five nail wounds, scourging marks, and injured left shoulder). Other explanations for the number seven also exist.

Photo Credit: Tomás Cabacas García
4. Saeta (Spain) – Holy Wednesday
Meaning “arrow” or “dart,” the mournful saeta pierces the hearts of the faithful during Holy Week, inciting sorrow in our trip to Spain on Holy Wednesday. Saetas are sung a capella but can be accompanied with instruments like the Spanish guitar. Influenced by the historical practice of reciting the psalms and spiced with a flamenco musical style, these woeful songs burst out from balconies across Spain during processions featuring statues of the suffering Jesus or his sorrowful mother Mary, performed with the intense dramatic flavor of raw emotion. The saeta embodies a genuine and heartfelt religious devotion, a musical meditation on the Passion of Christ.

Photo Credit: Ramon F. Velasquez
5. Senákulo (Philippines) – Holy Thursday
As the saetas of the Iberian peninsula fade away, our senses are overwhelmed by the equally emotional displays of the Filipino senákulo. Colonized by the Spanish for 300 years, the Philippines is a hearty blend of indigenous and occidental religious practices. The senákulo brings to mind the Cenacle, the Upper Room in Jerusalem where Jesus conducted the Last Supper. A Passion play, the senákulo reenacts the life and death of Jesus. We have just arrived on Holy Thursday, the fifth day of the performance, and are able to witness the painted backdrops and actors depicting Jesus’ establishment of the Eucharist. Many senákulos are performed according to centuries-old scripts or to contemporary adaptations.

Photo Credit: Wilfredor
6. Via Crucis (Global) – Good Friday
The early Christians enjoyed visiting the different holy places of Christ’s life. As Christianity spread, the feasibility of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land became too expensive and difficult for many believers and so the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) devotion was developed. The Stations of the Cross is a step-by-step meditation on Jesus’ path to Calvary. The Via Crucis helps individuals to contemplate the suffering of Christ and thereby understand the sorrow in their own lives. Most Christian churches and chapels have the Stations of the Cross depicted in some fashion on walls or outside displays. On Good Friday, we pause on our journey and gaze upon the crowds who pray at each station of the Via Crucis.

Photo Credit: Cplakidas
7. Pot Throwing (Greece) – Holy Saturday
Ever wanted to shatter pottery without getting into trouble? If so, you’ll love our next stop: Corfu, Greece. At exactly 11 am on Holy Saturday, the residents of Corfu hurl pots out of their windows, prompted by the peal of local church bells. Some assert that the custom is a symbolic stoning of the traitorous Judas Iscariot, who is believed to have lived in Corfu and whose descendants may still live in the city. Accompanied by marching bands, parades snake throughout the city, contributing to greater noise and celebration of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead.

Photo Credit: High Contrast
8. Urbi et Orbi (Vatican) – Easter Sunday
On Easter morning, we return to Italy to receive the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi (to the City and to the World) apostolic blessing which follows an address to the joyful throng which makes up the audience within St. Peter’s Square. Considered by Catholics to be the Bishop of Rome and the head of the Church, the Pope offers a reflection on the meaning of Easter and greets the crowd in different languages. The special blessing given to the faithful serves as an indulgence, a remission of temporal punishment for sins previously absolved in the sacrament of Confession. The Urbi et Orbi is broadcast on a global scale, representing how Holy Week has been transformed around the world as both a religious and cultural celebration.

(As featured on Elite Millenial)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Salad Bowls: A Reflection on Race

Photo Credit: Peng
As I was in South Dining Hall, feasting on corned beef and cabbage, garbed in green and surrounded by an emerald brigade of students and staff, I realized something. Although the U.S. celebration of the feast of St. Patrick is a commemoration of Irish culture, I think it’s only fitting that we also remember the great American immigrant experience in general, of which we are all grateful beneficiaries. Whether it has been war, famine, or just the prospect of a better life, our forefathers (and foremothers) all made the calculated decision to leave their home countries to reach these shores lined with so much promise. We are a nation of immigrants, a rich patchwork of races and cultures, and it makes sense that we eat, drink, and be merry on this particular day. So I tip my hat to all migrant families, workers, and their progeny. Today, we’re all Irish (whether ethnically or “Fighting”) and today we celebrate all those who came before so that we who walk in their footsteps might pursue the American Dream.

In a Facebook status of 176 words, I attempted to encapsulate the overwhelming sentiment of community pride I felt on St. Patrick’s Day. Today, the campus is no longer celebrating but is boiling over like a pot of the steamed cabbage on which we had just dined four weeks ago, embroiled in a controversy about a lady in red.

The United States has been described as a “melting pot” of peoples, a cultural chowder, a populist potage, a brotherly broth. The “melting pot” is a metaphor describing the Americanization of immigrants, obliging them to lose whatever makes them different for the sake of assimilating with the rest of the country. The national identity, our collective “Americanness,” had to be preserved and so that is why newcomers had to speak English to the detriment of their native tongues, why many had to adopt Westernized dress, and why my grandmother, who became a U.S. citizen a few years ago was asked whether she wanted to change her name (“Divina Gracia Corpuz Llanes”) to something a bit more homogenized (which she, thanks be to God, refused, replying in her characteristic proud manner that her name reflects her Catholic faith and means “Divine Grace” and “Body of Christ.”)

While I do contend that “melting pot” imagery does indeed have its benefits, I prefer the more contemporary idea that the United States is a “salad bowl,” which refers not to a nutritional vegan utopia but to a society wherein diversity is celebrated and not merely tolerated. “Salad bowl” symbolism recognizes that ethnic groups will be tossed around yet never subsumed into a particular one, slicing and dicing stereotypes and garnishing them with the flavorful croutons of coexistence. “Americanness” should not be measured by how similar we all are to each other but by the diversity which renders our great nation unique. Ours is a common patrimony of frontier folklore and patriotic practices, a national heritage made more complex and beautiful by the rich diversity of its citizens. I certainly agree that we should do our very best to promote the traditions which distinguish the United States but to do so in a manner which does not actively eradicate our differences or ignores their existence altogether.

As a member of the Diversity Council of Notre Dame, I actively choose to celebrate all forms of diversity. It would be foolish for us to consider “diversity” as applying only to non-whites, as many individuals do on campus, an attitude that ignores the distinctive differences between Germans and Spaniards, between the French and the Polish, between Russians and Italians. The Diversity Council welcomes all perspectives to our meetings and events, as do the so-called “racially exclusive special interest clubs” which compose the board. Yes, it is true that with names like “National Society of Black Engineers” or “Latino Student Alliance,” the cultural clubs may appear to dissuade those who do not fit their categories from joining. The cultural clubs should not, however, be reduced to mere gatherings of people who look the same. All are welcome to participate in such student organizations and experience the sense of belonging which they offer to those who may feel different. As a campus community, we should attempt to better understand this nebulous notion of “being different” which affects one half of the University and seems to be irrelevant for the other half.

I write as a registered Republican and Filipino-American wanting to express the importance of conducting a frank dialogue about diversity and inclusion. I write as a Californian who grew up in one of the poorest cities in America, in the Central Valley heartland cultivated by generations of Filipino and Mexican migrants. I write as a concerned Notre Dame student who recognizes that the fruit of the ongoing debate about Ann Coulter is that people are now willing to talk about race relations. It is true that we no longer live in an age of rampant racism but we should not remain stagnant in the opposite extreme and pretend that we have already established a society free of cultural stigmas and prejudices, a post-race utopia. So go on: cry wolf and awaken others from their slumber of indifference. Be bold and let your opinions, your prejudices, and your ideas out. Risk being correct and risk being corrected. A dialogue can only be mutually transformative if we engage each other through an honest exchange of experiences.

(Edited version appeared in The Observer, Volume 47, Issue 122, 11 April 2014)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Run so as to win: A Grotto Reflection

In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul attempts to inspire the early Christians by saying “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win (1 Corinthians 9:24).”

Running around the lakes is a favorite past time for many Notre Dame students. After completing a few laps around St. Joe’s and St. Mary’s, I usually like to stop at the Grotto to marvel at the stillness of this little pocket of peace. The Grotto remains one of the spiritual centers of campus, a beacon of Marian devotion which has welcomed countless Domers to Our Lady’s University. It’s nice to know that after every run, I can always pause and kneel in front of the candles here, reminding me of the prayers and struggles of other people within the Notre Dame community.

Just like a jog around the lakes, life can sometimes leave us tired, weak, and gasping for breath. The upcoming year will  be filled with papers, exams, club meetings, and other activities vying for our time. Yet, I know it serves as a consolation to me that no matter what I’m going through, I can always come here to the Grotto. Sometimes I come here to pray. Sometimes I come here to think. Sometimes I just come here to appreciate the beauty of this particular landmark. But each time I visit the Grotto, I always feel part of a larger community, from the body of believers that is the Church to the family which is Notre Dame. Many students recognize that the Grotto can be a place for them to collect themselves after a stressful week.

While there’s no escaping the struggles we will no doubt encounter in these next couple of years, always remember that you’ll always be welcome at the Grotto. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned here at the Grotto is that true victory, the one spoken of by St. Paul, doesn’t exist in good grades or successful networking. Whenever you come here to light a candle for your sick grandmother, whenever  you come here to pray with a friend who has just lost a relative, or whenever you come here for some guidance on how to make a relationship more fruitful, such instances illustrate how we can run so as to win. Just gaze at these candles burning with the hopes and intentions of the men and women of the Notre Dame family and know that you are and will never be alone. These candles may just be made of wax but they’re fueled by something more, by a divine charity, by a love and trust which binds the University community together.

So whenever life get’s too tough, just take a deep breath and keep running the race. And true to the Notre Dame tradition, run so as to win.

(Text from a Grotto Reflection I gave for the Fall 2013 Transfer Orientation)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Oi, Brasil!: Portuñol

The green areas depict where Portuñol  occurs.
     Having been raised in the United States by Filipino immigrants, I grew up bilingual, speaking both English and Tagalog. As a result of my American upbringing, I regularly intermix English words into my Tagalog speech and even have a desire sometimes to use Spanish expressions to achieve my message. Code-switching, or the act of blending languages in conversation, is a common occurrence amongst speakers of multiple languages. My Portuguese tutor drew my attention in one of our first classes to the prominent local variant of this linguistic phenomenon: Portuñol, a particularly pleasant portmanteau of "português" and "español."
     She informed me that many Brazilians as well as hispanohablantes from the surrounding Hispanic countries believe they can communicate effectively with their linguistic neighbors without having to study. While Portuguese and Spanish do share many similarities (grammar, the appearance of sentences, etc.), they both have their fair share of false cognates, special rules, and unique expressions to cause confusing (and somewhat humorous) misunderstandings between Lusophones and Hispanophones. I chuckled at her stories of several headstrong Brazilians who felt confident that they could speak Spanish by virtue of knowledge of Portuguese and wound up being embarrassed in the end due to some vocabulary quirk or incorrect pronunciation. I laughed at these anecdotes because I myself had never unknowingly code-switched before. Each time I'd inject an English word or a Spanish conjunctive adverb into my dialogue with family, I had always done so freely and intentionally.
     Little did I know that I was already experiencing the first stages of Portuñol by the time I arrived in Brazil. Last semester, I started noticing how I would sometimes confuse my Portuguese and Spanish. Granted that I still use the odd Spanish verb in my Portuguese conversations, my mishaps were never too great. Until of course, last Thursday.
     I had been called into the Campus Ministry office at the Colégio to help interpret for the American World Youth Day pilgrims from the University of Portland. Going back and forth between English and Portuguese was a breeze and afterwards I spoke animatedly to my Portuguese tutor in the hallway about the successful interaction. I remained at the office, however, awaiting the call from the Chilean pilgrims from Colegio San Jorge. Although I had not had any practice lately with my Spanish, I felt certain I could communicate effectively with the leader from San Jorge. But I was dead wrong.
     As soon as I answered the phone, I fumbled and stumbled with mi castellano, pronouncing sentences with a Brazilian accent and conjugating incorrectly. My mind was blank, having suffered a sort of Spanish amnesia whereby all of my Portuguese knowledge had been misfiled as español. I survived the encounter and helped the Chilean to the best of my ability. Luckily for me, my Spanish comprehension was still okay. What freaked me out the most, however, was the fact that I was speaking Portuguese subconsciously, having no apparent control of my conjugations and pronunciations.
     I guess my recent Portuñol incident is rather bittersweet. Before, I had merely thought that one could mechanically switch between languages without any significant problems. I now recognize the obvious fruits of learning Portuguese in an immersive environment and understand that I have to brush up on Spanish when I get back to the States.
     As a French major, however, I'm hoping I won't be saying "au revoir" to my French by the end of summer.

     Até mais!

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

     Before serving as Notre Dame's third president, Rev. William Corby, C.S.C., was the chaplain for Gen. George Meade's 88th New York Volunteer Infantry (aka the Irish Brigade) during the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863). Fr. Corby is famous for giving general absolution to the Irish Brigade before many of its soldiers perished during the fighting.
"That general absolution was intended for all — in quantum possum — not only for our brigade, but for all, North or South, who were susceptible of it and who were about to appear before their Judge. Let us hope that many thousands of souls, purified by hardships, fasting, prayer, and blood, met a favorable sentence on the ever memorable battlefield of Gettysburg." - Fr. Corby

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Oi, Brasil!: Santos Brasileiros

     Two Sundays ago, I had the opportunity to visit the weekly downtown Feira de Artesanato (Artisan Fair). Armed with souvenir money and a mean streak of impulse shopping, I was no match for the wacky wares of the different vendors. Of course, I wasn't looking for tacky t-shirts or novelty goods. I was looking for religious figurines.
     The Feira de Artesanato is a weekly flea market boasting merchants selling clothing, toys, jewelry, and for the more adventurous, marijuana pipes. The shops are located at the Centro de Convivência, a spacious plaza featuring a central arena. The arena has been shutdown due to structural problems and I'm told that it's been used by drug dealers in the past. That's a shame since it looks amazing and would be a great place for outdoor concerts.
     While the rest of the group dispersed into the various booths, I paced myself at first, spotting several vendors who sold saint statues. One tent manned by a husband-and-wife duo caught my attention with their handcrafted creations. For a seminarian abroad with reais in his pocket, I was enjoying every minute of my careful examination of each figurine, asking about St. So-and-So and whether they had St. Such-and-Such. Eyeing a potential customer, the wife recommended five Brazilian statues.
Feast Day: October 12
Patronage: Brazil, expectant mothers, newborn children, rivers and the sea, gold, honey, and beauty
     She first drew my attention to a figurine of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida (Our Lady of the Appeared Conception). Nossa Senhora Aparecida is the most popular Marian image in Brazil. The original statue of Our Lady of Aparecida is housed in the Basílica do Santuário Nacional de Nossa Senhora Aparecida. The story of the image begins in 1717 on the October visit of Dom Pedro de Almeida, Count of Assumar and governor of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, to the vicinity of the small city of Guaratinguetá. The local community decided to organize a feast for the visiting politician and so three fishermen were assigned to go fish at the Rio Paraíba. Having not had a successful catch in a while, Domingos Garcia, João Alves, and Filipe Pedroso prayed for the intercession of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. After lifting their nets from the water, the three men found a clay statue of the Virgin Mary tangled in the ropes and proceeded to catch many fish afterwards.
     The interesting aspect of the image of Nossa Senhora Aparecida is that it is a black version of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The mixture of indigenous cultures and European ethnic groups has maintained the popularity of Nossa Senhora Aparecida for veneration since it depicts the oft-portrayed fair-skinned Mary with a natural look common to the area. Devotion to Nossa Senhora Aparecida grew over the centuries, prompting the Church to construct a grand basilica in honor of Mary. Today, pilgrims visit the city of Aparecida to honor the Blessed Virgin and hopefully receive a miracle. In 1930, Pope Pius XI declared Nossa Senhora Aparecida as the "Queen and Principal Patroness of Brazil." The Feast of Nossa Senhora Aparecida is celebrated as a national holiday.
Feast Day: May 11
Patronage: Jornada Mundial da Juventude 2013 (World Youth Day)
     The saleswoman then brought me the statue of Santo Antônio de Sant'Anna Galvão, more commonly referred to as Frei Galvão. Frei Galvão was a Franciscan friar canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007, making the humble religious the first recognized Brazilian-born saint. Frei Galvão abandoned his family's wealth and social status to join the St. Bonaventure Friary in Rio de Janeiro. He served as a novice master and established a Recollect foundation for young girls.Through the grace of God, Frei Galvão is reported to have performed miracles such as healing and bilocation. As one story goes, a woman went to the friar to ask for help with a medical condition. Frei Galvão gave her a piece of paper rolled into a pill on which he wrote a phrase from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin: "After childbirth thou didst remain a Virgin: O Mother of God, intercede for us." The woman consumed the pill and was healed. Today, the Recollect sisters continue to give out the miraculous pills to those in need.
Feast Day: July 9
Patronage: Diabetics
     The third saint I learned about was the Italian-born St. Paulina. Madre Paulina helped found the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and served the the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.
     The fourth and fifth figurines were the rotund and somewhat comical statue of Frei Damião de Bozzano and the prim and grim image of Padre Cícero. Both men served in the Northeast of Brazil and are widely revered in that region. Frei Damião was a zealous missionary who gave powerful homilies and brought the sacraments to the poor. He is venerated by the Church as a Servant of God.
     Padre Cícero also worked with the poor and considered it his life mission to help advance the lives of the families in his care. His story, however, is a tad bit more colorful than the others. I was surprised to find that Padre Cícero is not officially recognized as a saint by the Church; he has actually only been "canonized" by a dissident denomination. In reality, Padim Ciço, as he is lovingly invoked by Northeasterners, was excommunicated by the Church in 1917 for, as I understand, disobedience and other offenses. Facing the controversy of a supposed Eucharistic miracle, the bishop of the diocese suspended Padre Cícero's public ministry after a commission filed a report doubting the veracity of the latter's miracle. The stubborn priest, however, continued to celebrate the sacraments and even ran for political office. To his credit, Padre Cícero never stopped trying to reverse his excommunication and there seems to be a debate as to whether it was properly imposed. Fortunately, in 2001, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger paved the way for the ongoing rehabilitation of Padre Cícero headed by Dom Fernando Panico, bishop of Crato.
     Needless to say, I purchased all of the Brazilian figurines, in addition to seven others. Yes, it was a bit of a spiritual shopping spree but I feel it was worth it (and I even made off with a seminarian discount). Each particular saint (or as in the case of Padre Cícero, maybe-saints) has his own unique story and displayed heroic virtues which should inspire us to serve God. By getting to know some santos brasileiros, I'm continuing to explore the religious dimension of Brazil. When I told my Portuguese tutor about my recent acquisitions, she taught me that I should not refer to them as "estátuas religiosas" but as "imagens religiosas," since "statue" has a connotation of idolatry about it. "Images" are representations of the external and so one can think of saints as reflections of divine love.
     Tchau, gente!

St. Josemaría: Love in Action

"When you approach the tabernacle remember that he has been waiting for you for twenty centuries."   San Josemaría Escrivá
St. Joseph's Oratory Pilgrimage 2011 
     It's a beautiful image. To think that God has been waiting for you, specifically and patiently. Centuries passed and yet He continued to wait. You're not just some insignificant cog in the collective social machinery. Instead, you were created in His image and likeness, blessed with a unique dignity. You were and are meant for so much more. And so He continues to wait for you, for everyone, from prodigal sons to saints-in-the-making. Such a quiet determination can only be a fruit of divine love, a love so personal and intimate and yet so public and universal.
     Sometime last week, I saw the above quotation on my Facebook newsfeed and pondered its succinct sweetness. I smiled because it was a St. Josemaría original, sporting his characteristically concise confidence and paternal care. Three years ago, I chose St. Josemaría to be my Confirmation saint and gladly took him as an example for how to live the Christian life.To me, he is the patron saint of ordinary life, inviting people to sanctify their daily lives with work infused with love for the Lord. Possibly his greatest contribution to the Church is Opus Dei, a personal prelature serving Catholics around the world as they seek holiness.
     I began developing my faith in high school after having experienced an upbringing devoid of spiritual substance. I was baptized Catholic but my family was rather lax in practicing. I underwent sacrament preparation for my First Communion and First Confession and began studying for Confirmation as well. After two years of youth group activities with my Confirmation class, it came time to select a saint whose name we'd take when we received the sacrament. There were so many to choose from. St. Francis. St. Benedict. St. Paul the Apostle. After watching some clips of St. Josemaría on YouTube, however, I remember thinking that it was so cool to see a saint in action, living and preaching amongst the people. I connected with his message of seeking holiness regardless of one's state in life and of using love to sanctify the world.

     In the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart, St. Josemaría's call for love is a complementary teaching. The love he preached originates principally from the Eucharist. St. Josemaría's reminder that God waits for each of us at the tabernacle should give us pause whenever we genuflect to acknowledge the Real Presence. Ultimately, our prayers and actions would be for nothing if they weren't animated with love.
     Happy Feast of St. Josemaría!

     O God, through the mediation of Mary our Mother, you granted your priest St. Josemaría countless graces, choosing him as a most faithful instrument to found Opus Dei, a way of sanctification in daily work and in the fulfillment of the Christian's ordinary duties. Grant that I too may learn to turn all the circumstances and events of my life into occasions of loving You and serving the Church, the Pope and all souls with joy and simplicity, lighting up the pathways of this earth with faith and love. Deign to grant me, through the intercession of St. Josemaría, the favor of ... (make your request). Amen.

     Our Father. Hail Mary. Glory be to the Father.