A conversation with Liz Lantigua

I’m over at CatholicMom.com today with a review and interview with author Liz Lantigua and her new book, Mission Libertad.

Check it out, the review, and the book! It’s a great adventure that takes us on a wild mid-night escape from Cuba, and the adventure doesn’t stop there.

See what Liz has to say:

Imagine the risk a family like Luisito’s takes even before they decide to get on a raft and cross the Florida straights. They must find scraps to build their homemade raft in a country that lacks basic needs. They need a place to hide the raft. They need to be extremely secretive so they won’t end up in prison. They have to make sure they are not caught trying to reach the beach by the vigilant comite de barrio, the neighborhood watch committee, who informs the government on the neighbor’s whereabouts. Then the most difficult part, saying good bye to the relatives they are leaving behind if they trust them enough to divulge their secret.

Read the rest here.

7 Quick Takes living color!

Check out the collection of other 7 Quick Takes Friday posts, hosted at Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog, Conversion Diary




Had my Sunday morning coffee interrupted by this little ole hawk hanging around our yard. Color me surprised.


Last Saturday, September 8, commemorated the 400th anniversary of the Blessed Mother’s appearance to some young men off the coast of Cuba. I write about this story of Our Lady of Charity and why it’s meaningful to me at Patheos. And then, another personal story related to it, here. I guess I’m just a writing machine this week 🙂



I got up early today, hopeful that I would have this post done before 9:00 AM, a kind of snapshot of my morning.



But I’m old (see the bran?)




And got distracted, I mean, inspired (see the journal? I got an idea for a scene in a story I’m working on)




So I went for a long walk to clear my mind.



And ended up here. That’s always a good thing.

Charity Unites Us

On September 8th Cubans everywhere celebrated the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba and, in a special way, advocate for all who feel displaced, far from home, or living in exile.

Caridad, as she is affectionately known, wants nothing more than to gather her children together and bring them to her son, Jesus. It seems such a simple desire—corrupted now in popular culture with the ironic “Can’t we all just get along.”

But Charity’s message is clear. It is first a message of Love. She holds the Child Jesus in her arms, close to her heart, and we are reminded that she is mother to us all because she is mother to the One.

read more at Patheos

Hey there! I’m over at Patheos today! How fun is that? I hope you follow the link to read the rest, and then stick around to see the other insightful, interesting, and yes, even funny stuff that’s over there. There’s a little something for everyone.

Happy Birthday Momma Mary

On September 8th Cubans everywhere will celebrate the 400th anniversary of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba and, in a special way, advocate for all who feel displaced, far from home, or living in exile.

Caridad, as she is affectionately known, wants nothing more than to gather her children together and bring them to her son, Jesus. It seems such a simple desire – corrupted now in popular culture with the ironic “Can’t we all just get along?”

But Charity’s message is clear. It is first a message of Love. She holds the Child Jesus in her arms, close to her heart, and we are reminded that she is mother to us all because she is mother to the One.

Her appearance 400 years ago to three young men adrift in a stormy sea by the Bay of Nipe, off the coast of Cuba, inspires hope. Charity’s presence in our lives today is just as relevant as we navigate the stormy seas of the 21st century.

With the infant Jesus in one hand, and the cross in the other, we are reminded, literally, of the message she carries. Our salvation is present and accessible through her, always – every time we turn to her for guidance or succor, as those young men did centuries before us.

She is, for me, a symbol of the faith for which my parents sacrificed so much. As a Cuban-born American, much of my cultural identity connects with Our Lady of Charity. She is iconic, a symbol for the Cuban people, but she is so much more.

As a child, my mom often whispered into my ear as she hugged and kissed me goodbye, “Que la virgen te acompañe.”  No matter how old I get, and how far away I live, I can count on my mom’s blessing before I travel. Instead of a whispered caress, today I get a text message, “May Our Lady accompany you .”

This gentle reminder that Our Lady would accompany me on my journey, to my child’s mind, was just one of those things moms said. To my adult heart, the knowledge that Mary does indeed accompany me buoys me when I feel adrift in my own Bay of Nipe. Consoling and calm, Caridad stands as a beacon…always calling me to safety, showing me the way home to her Son.

The little icon of Our Lady of Charity has been traveling throughout the island nation of Cuba these past three years in a beautiful pilgrimage awakening a dormant faith, inspiring hope, and spreading love to a nation thirsty for Christ’s message.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2012 address at the Shrine of Our Lady Of Charity of El Cobre, called on the Cuban people to look upon the Blessed Mother as a model.

Following the example of the Most Holy Virgin, I encourage all the sons and daughters of this dear country to continue to build their lives on the firm rock which is Jesus Christ, to work for justice, to be servants of charity and to persevere in the midst of trials. 

The theme of this pilgrimage, indeed, the theme for the 400th anniversary celebration is “Charity Unites Us/Caridad nos une”. This lovely play on words, in both English and Spanish, speaks a great Truth, that Love unites us in the Body of Christ. All of us.

Que la virgen te acompañe.

what a week for 7 takes!

Check out the collection of other 7 Quick Takes Friday posts, hosted at Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog, Conversion Diary


How about our Holy Father? He’s definitely the headliner this week! I imagine y’all watched his journey through Mexico and Cuba.

I love this Pope! There’s something so sweetly vulnerable in his age and demeanor, and yet, he packs a powerful punch! I love the report that Fidel Castro told him they were both old men, and Pope Benedict responded, “Yes, but I’m still working.”

I hope it’s true 🙂


Pope Benedict XVI during general audition
Pope Benedict XVI during general audition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Speaking of the Pope, Pat Gohn invited me to be a guest-poster at her Patheos column, A Word in Season, with my reflections on the Pope’s visit to Cuba. I hope you read the whole article, and pass it along to your friends.

Here’s a little snippet…

Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba, the country of my birth and the country my parents and I fled in 1966, both delights and pulls on the heartstrings of many Cubans and Cuban-Americans like myself; we watched his pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre from afar, yearning to be present with the Holy Father in this Jubilee Year.


In the when it rains it pours category, I’m also featured over on Sarah Reinhard’s blog, Snoring Scholar, as part of her on-going series on the Hail Mary. If you haven’t seen this, she’s deconstructing every word in the prayer with a delightful collection of talented folks stepping in to contribute. Somehow, I got blessed with the word BLESSED! I hope you pop over there and read that little piece, too.

I treat myself to a burrito at a local fast food joint about once a week. I can’t exactly call it a highlight of my week, but the burrito gets the job done.

The early afternoon lunch run through the drive-thru is efficient. Quick. Impersonal. Just the way I like it.

Enter Gloria, the super-fast, super-accurate cashier. She always tells me to “have a blessed day” when she hands me my order. Every single time. I’ve probably heard that about 200 times since I started eating there, and I never gave it a thought until now.


And, as if it wasn’t enough that my two dear friends, Pat and Sarah, have me playing in their sandboxes, I have a new poem over at Catholic Lane! It’s a pretty little ditty about spring called Light of Day.

You’d think I was busy writing or something 🙂


A pollen update is probably due although it kinda falls into the whining category, but for those of you who care, it continues to be annoying. So much so, that we’re really not enjoying the wonderful weather in our work-in-progress backyard haven because of it. Attempted to entertain on the porch earlier this week, but I think we need to wait just a little bit more and get a good pressure wash in first.


I talked about working through a consecration to Jesus through Mary this lent, and I finished this weekend. Thanks for your prayers, friends, it’s been a wonderful experience!


And finally, had a delightful meet-up with this special person…


Today I am sitting in the comfort of my air-conditioned office sipping on an over-priced latte and pushing papers on my desk, not stopping to think how my world could be turned upside down in mere moments.

Seven years ago today, the country and the world was rocked by the savage destruction of three buildings, numerous aircraft, and countless lives as innocent people were killed and their families and friends had their lives irrevocably altered.

I watched along with the rest of the world, mesmerized by the sheer immensity of the tragedy, but galvanized by the insuperable power of individuals, not governments, who rallied and joined in to offer assistance, whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or economic.

It is the one redeeming aspect of tragedy, that it allows us to put a face on the anonymity of the human condition. We too easily shy away from the day to day tragedy that surrounds us, often out of a sense of powerlessness, yet the epic nature of the immensely tragic creates heroes.

Not even seven days ago, the imposing forces of nature swept through a Caribbean already pummeled by Gustav, and finished off the job of destruction with Ike.  The nameless faces of the victims are played and replayed over and over again on the news, alternating the human destruction with the topographical.

Seven hours from now, the Texas coast will be added to the tapestry of destruction.

I encourage my readers to give to the multitude of social services that transcend lipstick jokes and political barbs and rise to the occasion of the real human condition: Charity. Love. Brotherhood.

Catholic Relief Services would welcome your contributions. If you want to send a more direct form of help, the kind that is more personalized, you can send aid directly to my uncle, pictured here on the left, for immediate relief to his community in Holguin, Cuba. 

The good Marist brothers and alumni of the Marist run school in Santa Clara, Cuba have made a call for donations that will go directly to aid that community. I encourage you to support their cause:

MARISTANET Santa Clara Foundation

c/o Carlos Villanueva11281 NW 59th Terrace

Miami, Fl 33178

I haven’t had a Cuba rant on the new blog: I think it’s about time

This morning on my way to a staff meeting I tuned into the local news station hoping to catch a traffic report. Instead, I was treated to a rather animated reading of this article, which both frightened me and made me laugh out loud. I’ve often believed that one can say a great deal of powerful stuff through comedy because it both heals and delivers. This article does just that. It paints a picture of Obama that is too frighteningingly true.

For some time, Mark Shea, a well-known Catholic blogger and all-around funny guy has been tagging his Obama posts with The Son of God because the public falls over him like he is a god–really, I’m just too lazy to find the references about “enlightenment” and other spiritual consequences of coming into contact with him, but I will later, if only to lend myself some credibility here. But I digress.

As I was saying, I tuned into the local station to find Neal Boortz, bombastic and sarcastic fellow, reading this article from TimesOnline. A brilliant piece! Take your happy little mouse clicker over there now and read it. The rest of my post can wait.

What’d you think? Brilliant, I know! Imagine my surprise when I found the link to the article at Shea’s blog.  Here’s the bigger surprise, though — as I was reading the combox, I ran across this EVEN BETTER COMMENT. With apologies, of course, to Mark for hijacking it, I am posting the comment here until somebody tells me to take it off because I’ve already sent my gentle readers all over the place with links. Still, you should follow the link and read the entire mess for yourself.

Dear Editor, Times-Dispatch:

‘Each year I get to celebrate Independence Day twice. On June 30 I celebrate my Independence Day, and on July 4 I celebrate America’s. This year is special, because it marks the 40Th anniversary of my independence.

‘On June 30, 1968, I escaped Communist Cuba, and a few months later, I was in the United States to stay. That I happened to arrive in Richmond on Thanksgiving Day is just part of the story, but I digress.

‘I’ve thought a lot about the anniversary this year. The election-year rhetoric has made me think a lot about Cuba and what transpired there. In the late 1950s, most Cubans thought Cuba needed a change, and they were right. So when a young leader came along, every Cuban was at least receptive.

‘When the young leader spoke eloquently and passionately and denounced the old system, the press fell in love with him. They never questioned who his friends were or what he really believed in. When he said he would help the farmers and the poor and bring free medical care and education to all, everyone followed. When he said he would bring justice and equality to all, everyone said, ‘Praise the Lord.’ And when the young leader said, ‘I will be for change and I’ll bring you change,’ everyone yelled, ‘Viva Fidel!’

‘But nobody asked about the change, so by the time the executioner’s guns went silent, the people’s guns had been taken away. By the time everyone was equal, they were equally poor, hungry, and oppressed. By the time everyone received their free education, it was worth nothing. By the time the press noticed, it was too late, because they were now working for him. By the time the change was finally implemented, Cuba had been knocked down a couple of notches to Third-World status. By the time the change was over, more than a million people had taken to boats, rafts, and inner tubes. You can call those who made it ashore anywhere else in the world the most fortunate Cubans. And now I’m back to the beginning of my story.

‘Luckily, we would never fall in America for a young leader who promised change without asking, what change? How will you carry it out? What will it cost America?

‘Would we?’

Manuel Alvarez, Jr.