7 Quick Takes living color!

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

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

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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 🙂

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

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But I’m old (see the bran?)

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

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

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

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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.

this love unites us

Yesterday, my grandmother, Emilia, would have been 100 years old. I remember when she passed away. The news came from Cuba to the eldest child, my Tia Libe, who couldn’t get a hold of my mother and called me to deliver the news.It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

This morning my dad forwarded an email from my Tio Emilio, a bishop in the diocese where the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity is situated. No doubt he has been very busy this past week in preparation for the celebrations surrounding this Jubilee year, the 400th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance to the Cuban people.

No doubt he has been reflecting on the story of our Blessed Mother. No doubt the memory of his own beloved mother, my grandmother, was tugging at his heartstrings.

He sent a message to his sisters, my mother and aunts in the U.S., and by extension to his nieces and nephews — a message I’ll relate here, in abbreviated form because of its intimacy and beauty.

Tio Emi celebrated a private Mass last night for all of us on the centenary celebration of Emilia’s birth, noting that this makes it a jubilee year for the family as well. He noted some similarities in our family history to Mary’s experience, a story of two mothers, our spiritual mother and our family matriarch…

They both came across the ocean with a child in arms, and established a home to stay with us on our journeys.

One was from Nazareth, the other from Mutiloa.

One with Joseph, the other with Daniel.

One in exile because of Herod, the other in exile because of Franco.

Because of that, they called one Child the Nazarene, and the others they called Gallegos.

Then he lit two candles for Daniel and Emilia, because through them, love also unites us as a family, a beautiful allusion to the theme of this year’s Jubilee, Charity unites us. I was moved by the gesture and his relating of that story… this piece of my story… a story to pass on to my children, because it speaks to the greatest gift within our family, not in a literal comparison to the story of salvation, but to the human condition of it.

  • That we learn love and sacrifice within the family.  
  • That we are first loved by God, and we love because we know love.

It’s kind of a conundrum, this cycle of love, but our family story seems to be wrapped around this mantle of love, even as generations have moved from exile to exile. We are never alone, have never been alone, even in our deepest loneliness and separation. And we can look forward to the glorious happy day when we are all reunited before the Author of this story.

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

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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)

 

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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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!

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

Our Lady of Charity, Pray for Us

Hey! There’s a lovely article about Our Lady of Charity by my friend, Pat Gohn, from Among Women Podcast. We’re working on making her an honorary Cuban, but first she’ll have to show me her dance moves.

Still, she’s well on her way with her love of our virgencita. See what she has to say:

She is a woman with maybe a million titles—some majestic, some courtly, some theological, some regional, and some lovingly familial.

From Our Lady of Fatima, to Our Lady of Guadalupe, to Our Lady of Czestochowa, to Our Lady of Akita, to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, to Our Lady of Grace, to Our Lady Star of the Sea, to Mother of Mercy, to Seat of Wisdom, to Gate of Heaven, to Cause of our Joy . . .

Depending on where in the world you live or visit, you probably know one that engenders devotion too. Every version of her name blesses both her and the people who prayerfully call upon her unceasing maternal intercession and protection. No worries, the Blessed Virgin Mary answers to them all!

Today, the Roman Catholic Church honors Mary—who mothers us all—on her birthday, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Meanwhile, important anniversary celebrations in Florida, Cuba, and perhaps elsewhere, honor her today as the Patroness of Cuba, Our Lady of Charity. Her full title in Spanish is La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre.

I have long held a devotion to Mary. Thanks to my friendship with a few Cuban-American families, I have recently adopted this title, Our Lady of Charity, into my prayer…read the rest here.

It’s a beautiful piece that recognizes not just a nation’s devotion, but the universality of Mary’s appeal. She is our mother, and draws us close to her heart, where she reveals to us her son, Jesus Christ.

Oh, and get this! Somebody around here just might have done a little translation of it 🙂 You can read that here.

Our Lady of Charity finds a home in Atlanta

I used to think that all the driving around I did was because I was always hauling children — mine, and other peoples’ kids — all over the place for the multitude of activities in which they participated (and by default, I ended up as team mom, concession director, stage mom, booster minion, ticket master, chaperone, chief cook, and bottle washer).

No.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I just like to drive. And I like adventures.

Which brings me to today’s mission: I drove into the city of Atlanta to visit a tiny statue squirreled away in a side altar. You know there has to be a story here because even I have my limits.

Well, not really, but there is a story. It started last month when I was in Miami for my birthday and took a little trip to the Ermita de la Caridad, the national shrine of Our Lady of Charity, patroness of Cuba. A dear friend accompanied me, and asked more questions than I could answer, which led to some more things, and suddenly I found myself exchanging emails with some very interesting people.

In one of the exchanges was a request to find anywhere in the world where there is a statue of Our Lady of Charity. Well, I knew there was one in the Archdiocese of Atlanta because of the annual celebration, but I didn’t know where. A friend of mine, a newly ordained deacon who happens to be Cuban, told me she was on one of the altars at the Cathedral.

Impossible, I think. I grew up going to that church. The altars are gold mosaics with bas relief images. No virgencita there, my friend.

So I went to the Cathedral of Christ the King to find out for myself. I walked into the beautiful cathedral and was suddenly transported back to my childhood when I was a student there. I stood in the back, taking it all in and letting that wonderful feeling of being home wash over me.

I realized that Mass was going to begin soon and I didn’t want to be a distraction (and I wanted to stay, too) but I also wanted to find the statue. Was she really at an altar? Was she in the hall behind the sacristy? I panicked a little, thinking I was going to have to get permission to wander around.

Suddenly, she revealed herself to me. It was so strange. I happened to be standing in just the right place, at just the right angle to look between the columns towards the altar on the right, and there she was, beckoning me. If it’s possible to make eye contact with a statue, I accomplished it. That’s quite a feat, too, cuz boy am I near-sighted.

Do you see her? On the right?

Better? No? Here you go, then…

Isn’t she just like our moms, patiently waiting in a corner watching for when we get home?

This particular statue has a fascinating history. The Archdiocese of Atlanta has celebrated September 8th, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary — also celebrated as the feast of Our Lady of Charity  by Cubans– since the 60’s when Cubans began arriving in Atlanta in large numbers. It was a beautiful way for these exiled Cubans, alone — very alone in this new country, to connect with each other, and connect with the community and the Church under the welcoming and comforting mantle of their beloved virgencita.

Many years ago, a woman, a young wife and mother, came to Atlanta with her small children to visit her husband who was incarcerated at the federal prison here. She had traveled with the statue, and upon learning that the Archdiocese was using only a painting of the Blessed Virgin, offered the good people from the office of Hispanic services the use of her statue for the annual event. Grateful, some representatives from Catholic Social Services went to her home to pick up the statue. After the celebration, they returned to her home with the statue and discovered that there was no sign of the woman. Further investigation revealed that there was no person by her husband’s name incarcerated in the area.

Her appearance…and subsequent disappearance have remained a mystery for decades, but thanks to that miraculous appearance, Our Lady of Charity has found a permanent home in the cathedral.