It’s amusing. I honestly never thought, nor did I really have any desire to write a reflection for the FRAYAM page. Nevertheless, I am finding myself called to issue yet another reflection. My first reflection was inspired by an indispensable man in my life who changed my perspective in many respects and brought me closer to Christ, my son Rhett. However, there was (and still is) a man before Rhett who transformed my heart and made me whole; a man who I don’t tend to give enough credit and a man I am immensely honored to have at my side, my husband, Brad.
I must admit I am one blessed lady, one of the “lucky ones,” you could say, to have found such a truly amazing man in Brad. Aside from being a genuinely good man and an overall human being, he compliments me in all the right ways. He is sensitive when I am rough, the voice of reason when I am obstinate, calm when I am frantic, caring when I am hurting, and he is painfully honest when I need to hear the truth. He is my rock, yet he understands that I am a fully capable woman. In short, he is the “Jim” to my “Pam.” As cliché as that may sound, it is the honest truth, and I am incredibly fortunate to have found someone who makes me whole. Someone who makes me a better version of myself. Don’t get me wrong, Brad is not perfect, but that’s not the point. Though he may not be perfect, he’s perfect for me. I can truthfully say I am a better woman, mother, friend, and overall individual because of Brad.
I find it quite funny. I can openly and genuinely express these sentiments about my husband. I can’t verify if he knows that I feel this way because I can’t recall the last time I expressed my feelings of adoration and appreciation to him directly. I tend to get caught up in my own daily struggle of cleaning the house, running errands, grocery shopping, taking Rhett to therapy, dropping Rhett off at school, picking Rhett up from school, attending doctor visits, all while working full-time. It’s a lot, so admittedly I get a little self-involved. However, through all that Brad is right there with me cleaning the house, running errands, grocery shopping, taking Rhett to therapy, dropping Rhett off at school, picking Rhett up from school, attending doctor visits also while working full-time.
As a woman and a mother, I find that I receive social praise and affirmation for being a nurturer and caregiver. Furthermore, as a working mother and wife, I often find that I am unjustly dubbed as a “wonder woman” or “supermom”. While I know there are MANY “wonder women” and “supermoms” out there, as I have the pleasure of knowing a few, I do feel that title is unjustly bestowed on me, simply because I am a mother. Now, please don’t misunderstand: mothers are absolutely amazing whether they be single mothers, working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, or a combination thereof. It’s just I rarely hear the term “superdad” referenced socially the same way. For that reason, I am not sure dads, husbands, and family men, in general, get the same amount of credit.
This social incongruity makes me think of Joseph of Nazareth; a man in my opinion, often overlooked and underappreciated in scripture. Understandably so though, right? I mean let’s face it, it’s near impossible (or simply impossible) to compete with Mary and Jesus. In light of this, Joseph didn’t stand a chance. However, in my humble opinion, Joseph exemplifies what it means to be a devoted husband, father, and believer. Think about it. Joesph navigates a perilous journey through the Judean desert and the forested valley of the Jordan River on his way to Bethlehem. With a hugely pregnant wife (can someone give this guy a gold star), Joseph demonstrates his conviction in God by courageously taking on the role of “father” to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Joseph not only willingly took on this task but did so wholeheartedly. I can only imagine the amount of pure faith it must have taken for Joseph to set aside his ego and openly accept the role of caretaker and provider for his betrothed Mary, who happened to be pregnant with the Son of Man. Talk about commitment. This is just kinda, sorta a little bit of a [HUGELY IMPORTANT] commitment, right? Yet, we rarely celebrate Joseph and his achievement. I mean, this man brought Mary safely to Bethlehem but remained by her side through labor and helped her deliver the Son of Man. Remarkable is an understatement. I highly recommend a devotion to St. Joseph and a novena prayer is included below. Now when Joseph took on the task of being a husband and father, he didn’t do it for notoriety or recognition. Instead, he did it because he was a good man, and it was the honorable thing to do. It was a selfless act of love and courage.
Brad is my Joseph. He is a selfless provider for myself and our son. He is our protector and consistently puts our needs above his own. I don’t tell him nearly enough that I appreciate, love, and value him as my husband and our son’s father. I tend to be careless in this way, not purposefully, but still inattentive nonetheless. As a working mother, it is easy for me to get caught up in all I, personally, do to keep the house in order and coordinate schedules, while fulfilling my work demands. However, I would not be capable of completing all those tasks if it weren’t for Brad. I can keep the house in order, coordinate schedules, and fulfill my work demands because I have a husband who compliments me in all the right ways. The only reason I appear to be a “supermom” is that I have a complimentary husband who is a super dad.
We must acknowledge and appreciate the men in our lives. I am so proud of Brad; of the man he is. He is a role model for our son and other young men who will one day be husbands and fathers. He deserves recognition, so thank you, Brad, thank you for being the man you are, a wonderful husband and father. Rhett and I appreciate and love you.
Who is Joseph in your life? Perhaps it’s your husband, father or son? When was the last time you expressed appreciation toward your Joseph?
Friar SAvio Manavalan Pastor of souls - St. Joseph University Parish
A couple of months back, I talked with one of our parishioners, and somehow our discussion ended up in this subject, “Living Disconnected in this Connected World”. Even though we have a general tendency to blame our younger generation on the issues related to this kind of “#connectedness”, the sad reality is that irrespective of age, we are all under the “#influence” in our life.
Human beings are ‘social beings’. However, the over the influence of technology is transforming us into a ‘Social-media being.’ Now the studies show that our younger generation is more comfortable with virtual reality than on an interpersonal and physical level. They feel more comfortable and prefer to talk to Alexa, Siri, or Google instead of having a real conversation with someone, even to their own parents.
Looking back to our relationships, the world has shrunk to screen time rather than inter-personal time. Social media and technology are not evil. They are a great help and are the only possible way to interact and communicate with our relatives and friends who are far away, especially amid the pandemic. But observing our own family and friends circle who are close by, how much quality time we spend with them personally not using a virtual screen? Like our youngsters, the grownups are also kind of hiding behind screen and text messaging, finding the excuse of being convenient in our busy schedule. I don’t want you to think that I am a technology or social media hater. I love it and use it a lot too. With this in mind, I will share with you a story:
When I was back in India, it has been several months since I lost my grandma, and I thought it was going to be normal to visit home because of two busy months and the grand celebration of Christmas. These past months we had Grandma’s and grandpa’s pictures and videos shared, the memories of good times we all spent together among the family through social media. But the moment I entered our home, I felt that there was a difference, felt the void, and realized that there would be an unpatchable void, one that only my grandmother could fill, forever in my life. I really understood the value of her presence in my life after I lost her.
As a result, my vacation days were spent with my mom and dad. Even though I had to travel to see my friars, extended family, and friends, I tried my best to come back home for dinner with my parents except for a few days. I was able to spend real in-person time with them both, to hear them, their life being retired, which generally does not come as a subject in our overseas phone conversations or skyping. I was able to understand their happiness and worries. Now, I know what to ask about when I call them, and I am sure it’s time I spend with my parents helped me to realize how important physical and disconnect time is for each of us. I can take it as a lesson in my life regarding all my relationships.
When I reflect on the pandemic, I can relate more to disconnectedness and the need to reconnect. This pandemic has been an opportunity to think in a serious way. How we have lost the connection with God and our brothers and sisters? Through prayer, we should ask God to ratify our healthy relationships and overcome the obstacles in the relationships that are struggling or are disconnected. The real reflection needed is to realize how far and deep we have been disconnected. Occasionally in our busy lives, we fail to recognize that we have disconnected from God and others. We are not supposed to live indifferently with God or with others.
As human beings, we all have differences in ideas and difficulties in opinion with others. We all may have a problematic past where we have made absolutely bad decisions, which might have made our life and others miserable. Maybe we are struggling to get over it but again being dragged down by its impacts and memories. This is when we have to remember about God, who is ready to embrace us back as His sons and daughters not counting on our merits but His mercy. We must allow ourselves to know Him better and get immersed in his love. We need to believe He can do wonders in our lives and bring healing in our relationships. Being reconnected to God will allow our hearts to be reconnected with our brothers and sisters, which will help deliver a newness into our brokenness. In this pandemic situation, social media has helped us connect virtually, but we are still physically disconnected. This is a big difference.
Let’s pray for that grace during this world-wide pandemic by calling for a “re-connectedness” in all our relationships. We pray for God to work in our lives to bring about more profound love and connection to our fellow brothers and sisters, both now where possible, and whenever the pandemic has ended.
I was baptized Catholic but was raised in an evangelical church. I was a casual attendee, never fully committed to it. I always had a strong belief in God, and I never had any real doubts about His existence. I thought that was enough, joining a church was a secondary concern. Periodically though, I sought one out, frequently based entirely on convenience. I typically chose whatever Church was nearest to where I was living or had service times that best suited my schedule. All of them, I felt were somehow lacking. This one wasn't challenging enough, this one had too much justice, this one had too much mercy, and so on. There was always some excuse, but when the growing need to join a church was strong enough, and I took it seriously, I found my way to the Catholic Church, or instead, I realized later, God called me there. That call came three years ago, and it was made clear to me by two events that happened 13 years apart.
The first happened in the fall of 2003. It was just past midnight, as I was driving alone on a two-lane highway in open deserts of southern California when it began. I was only about 5 miles from my parent's house when my stomach felt like - however strange it sounds, this is the easiest way to describe it - it was filling with air. At first, it felt very much like butterflies in the stomach, but this was not it. Plus, what did I have to be nervous about? I was nearly home.
The feeling became more intense. It now began to feel like I was rising out of my seat. Then followed an acute tingling sensation that emanated from my stomach and spread down to my feet, and out to my hands. I became frightened, which made things worse. My hands and feet now became tense, and I watched as my fingers began to curl in on themselves. Driving became no longer possible, and I pulled off the road. I had no way of calling home, and out of desperation, I wandered onto the highway to wave down a car. A truck driver pulled over and took me and drove me the rest of the way. (When we meet in heaven, I'll finally have the opportunity to thank him.) By the time I made it to the house, things had worsened to the point where I was slurring my speech so badly my parents couldn't understand what I was saying. They immediately recognized the gravity of the situation, but I heard myself clearly say, "I need help!" they heard it as just noise.
I was having a seizure, and it lasted nearly a half-hour. After it abated, it came roaring back, and then I was taken to the hospital. An MRI revealed a large, non-cancerous (dei gratia), tumor nearly the size of a golf ball pressing in on my brain. Apparently, it had been slowly growing my entire life, but now it was large enough to cause me problems. After I had surgery to resect it, my life, it felt, was back on track. I was back to driving, back to school, back to normal as I knew it. But two years later, I had another seizure, and although less severe, it was still frightening. I had another surgery, but this time things didn't get back on track. I became afraid of driving, the school was put on hold, and the new normal was living in fear of this happening again.
This fear controlled much of what I did, or, more accurately, didn't do. My life grew stagnant. The one thing that brought me the most joy in life was my academic studies. I started out as an engineering student, but quickly pivoted to the humanities; it suited me far better. I devoted my life to Ancient Philosophy, Classics, and History with the end goal of spending the rest of my life teaching it. That reality was now lost. It was in that realization when I needed to rebuild my life, the call to find a church was strongest.
I sought out an evangelical church, someplace familiar where I would feel comfortable. I found one, and I listened to a sermon on anxiety. For reasons too many to go into here, it was not good; but there was something spoken about halfway through that looked and sounded like a complete through-away comment. He recalled a story from his youth when he succumbed to peer pressure and said as an aside, "I gave power to them over me, who didn't deserve it." (Someone later explained to me, "Don't you understand, that unthinking comment was the Holy Spirit speaking to you." True.) This should have been the sermon: "Who deserves to have power over you?" The answer is simple: Christ, and only Christ. Something was lacking in that Church, and it wasn't another bogus excuse. I knew Christ was here with us, but he wasn't before us. The Catholic Church offered that, and so I went and found myself at St. Joseph's on Holy Saturday, 2017.
It was just past midnight when I witnessed the Eucharist, and the congregation was called to the altar. I knew I couldn't receive the host, but I went for a blessing. There was a genuine nervousness within me - like butterflies in the stomach - when I left the pew and began walking toward the altar. As I got closer and closer I began to fixate on the sensation in my stomach as it started to feel like it was filling with air, and it was growing stronger and stronger. This seemed a little too familiar. The nervousness I understood, but everything else was worrying. I continued on and stood before the priest, crossed my arms over my heart, closed my eyes and bowed. I cannot remember the words correctly as they were spoken, but I knew exactly what I felt: someone touching my forehead with the back of their index and middle fingers. At that instant a tingling sensation surged through my body, down to my feet, out to my hands. This was now far too familiar, and becoming frightening. This had to be a seizure, but this couldn't be a coincidence, right?
I turned up the aisle to return to the pew with my eyes fixed on the door the whole way. I passed the column on my right and had a decision to make - now! Either I leave the Church and seek help, or trust God and return to the pew; either I'm having a seizure, or the Holy Spirit was tearing through me like an electrical storm. I returned to the pew and sat down, then kneeled and said simply, "I need help!" This time I was heard clearly because the response was just as clear: "Welcome home."
Home, indeed. It took two months for me to piece together what had really happened. I was someone who has always been led by their mind. The reason, I'm sure, that I was so attracted to the humanities is because philosophers get to live in their head. That's where I felt most comfortable, but it was also harmful to be there. There is also the heart, and my mind was always too much ahead of it. Too often, I felt like I was one truth away from understanding it all. If I had just studied a little more, I would finally get it, but that kept my heart trailing behind the whole time. In that Church that night, Christ touched me on the forehead and (finally!) put my mind at rest, and for the first time, my heart was able to catch up.
Piecing together all of my life, there were plenty of opportunities to join the Church, but God knew I wasn't ready. When I was, He made that call abundantly clear. After I processed what happened that evening in 2017 I rushed to join RCIA, and on Holy Saturday 2018 I came into full communion with the Catholic Church. God meets you where you're at. Let Him do so in His own time, in His own way, so that we may serve His will. He allowed the seizures and surgeries to happen, and He allowed fear and anxiety to control me. That was all done to lead me to the right Church, at the right time, in the right way. God gave me this gift in the most awesome way possible: He took what I feared the most and turned it into a blessing.
OScar Henriquez Professor of engineering and student of Christ
God has been very gracious towards me. I recognize that I would be lost without Him. It is because of Him that I have what I have. I am not talking about material things, although I am thankful that I have a home, food, and all my basic needs met, but I know I am truly blessed because of the people that surround me, my friends, and my family. They are all a blessing in my life, and although we are all on our separate journeys, together, we all help each other come closer to God. My parents and I immigrated to the United States in 1999. It now seems like a lifetime away, I remember, at the age of six, the day I when my father and I left to meet my mother in Chicago. My mother had left three months before us and was anxiously waiting for our arrival. My grandparents had accompanied us to the airport, and as we sat waiting to board the plane, I curled up with my grandma not knowing when the next time I was going to be able to see her. I had(and still have) an exceptional relationship with my grandparents, leaving them, and the life I knew behind was not only scary but just something I could not comprehend, it seemed like my world was ending. The thought of not being able to sit at the dinner table with them and enjoy their love was devastating. The move was difficult for us, and we were isolated away from what we knew, the land that we were familiar with, the language that we spoke, the culture that we practiced. We were living in a strange land; however, the one thing that remained constant was our Faith.
As I have grown older, I have come to understand that although there were some hardships along the way, in reality, we had it more comfortable when compared to others. We were taken in by family, my parents found jobs, I started school, we found a community that invited us in, and we were together, ultimately, we were always under God's gracious care. I tell you my story because although unique, I am not alone. Millions of people all over the world immigrate for different reasons, and as Catholics, we have a duty to understand and respond to the social teachings of the Church about immigration.
Pope Pius XII wrote the Exsul Familia (The Émigré Family) after World War II in which His Holiness addressed the need for the dioceses to take in the millions of refugees who were estranged from their home. The Pontiff views the émigré Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing into Egypt, as the archetype of every refugee family. Therefore, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are the models and protectors of every migrant, alien, and refugee (Mathew 2:13-16) . Every person has an equal right to receive from the earth what is necessary for life—food, clothing, shelter. Moreover, every person has the right to education, medical care, religion, and the expression of one's culture. In many places, people live in fear, danger, or dehumanizing poverty. Clearly, it is not God's will that some of his children live in luxury while others have nothing. In Luke's Gospel, the rich man was condemned for living well while the poor man starved at his doorstep (Lk 16:19-31). Before God, all are equal; the earth was given by God to all. When a person cannot achieve a meaningful life in his or her own land, that person has the right to move. Catholic social teaching states that the decisions we make should be, not out of shortsighted self-interest, but with regard for the common good. That means that a moral person cannot consider only what is suitable for his or her own self and family, but must act with the good of all people as his or her guiding principle. While individuals have the right to move in search of a safe and humane life, no country is bound to accept all those who wish to resettle there. Ordinarily, people do not leave the security of their own land and culture just to seek adventure in a new place. Instead, they migrate because they are desperate, and the opportunity for a safe and secure life does not exist in their own land. Immigrants and refugees endure many hardships and often long for the homes they left behind.
The war against poverty and misery seems to have no end, and therefore developed nations will continue to be pressured by those who desire to resettle in their land, at least until our Lord comes again. While people have the right to move, no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized. As Catholics, we should not view the work of the federal government and its immigration control as negative or evil. Those who work to enforce our nation's immigration laws often do so out of a sense of loyalty to the common good and compassion for poor people seeking a better life. In an ideal world, there would be no need for immigration control; however, that perfect world has not yet been achieved.
A country's regulation of borders and control of immigration must be governed by concern for all people and by mercy and justice. A nation may not simply decide that it wants to provide for its own people and no others. A sincere commitment to the needs of all must prevail. A developed nation's right to limit immigration must be based on justice, mercy, and the common good, not on self-interest. Moreover, immigration policy ought to take into account other important values, such as the right of families to live together. Merciful immigration policy will not force married couples or children to live separated from their families for long periods. As Catholics, we have to speak up for those who are not able to speak for themselves, help the ones that are most vulnerable, and our actions should be to promote the common good of each person. We have to remember that the US, as a whole, is made up of immigrants, some more recent than others and that together we are all children of God. We are on this earth to help each other become stronger in mind, body, and spirit by bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth through acts of love and service. After all, each of us are not native to this earthly land. We are on a life-long journey to our heavenly homeland.
We pray that "goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives, and that each of us will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23:6).
Student, Lover of Christ, and transplanted tree
In the last year, I decided to change my path of faith. I had been brought up in a non-denominational household; we went to Church nearly every Sunday and were taught to pray before my meals and bed. We believed what the Bible told us about Christ and the Trinity and were to do our best while working toward Heaven.
It wasn't until my summer after my freshman year of college did I consider Catholicism as something of serious interest. My current boyfriend invited me to Church with him during my second semester. Let me tell you, I was shaking in my boots to be there. My parents weren't necessarily jazzed that I was going, but I needed to know what he believed. I then started going more often, and during the summer, I would even attend Church twice each weekend; Saturday evening with him and his family and Sunday morning with my family.
As time went on, I began to feel so comfortable during mass and enjoyed everything it represented. I always joke that it's because I love rules and repetitiveness. But it is more than that for me. I felt like God and I were reconnecting. And that feeling continued into the new school year and only grew stronger. This fall, I marched myself to St. Joseph's and into the parish office. It was more of a clammy meander… but I needed to do it. I went in and asked to talk to a priest (something that I thought was bananas, having a pastor present at any time). I spoke with Father about how I didn't know what I needed to do, but I wanted to learn more about being a part of the Church. He shared some great advice and sent me on my way to RCIA.
The RCIA process was amazing for me. After my first RCIA meeting, I made my way out to the parking lot, raced to my car, and immediately started crying. I knew that I was making the right decision for me and that I simply needed to follow where God was leading me. Through my conversion, I have been able to learn so much and ask all of my crazy questions. I asked every stereotypical question that you could think of and am always making sure that the answers have Biblical support. After all, you can take the girl out of the hometown, non-denominational pew, but you can't take the passion for the Bible out of her. I was often relieved that there was support from the Bible for the Church's intricate and enlightening theology, especially when I found biblical support for many of the parts of the Church that I was raised to question.
While my journey may seem super great, it did have its hardships. I did not have much of a support system. My choice to join the Church was one that was not taken lightly by family and friends, and it still isn't. It was very difficult at times and continues to be. However, I wouldn't change it for the world. If it were easy, it wouldn't have been my journey. I found support in other relationships and made great new friends and mentors.
One of my mentors that I am most grateful and gained through this process instilled in me a passion for trees. It may seem very silly at first, but the Bible shares some significant passages regarding trees:
"For a tree, there is hope; if it is cut down, it will sprout again, its tender shoots will not cease." - Job 14:7
"But I, like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God, I trust in God's mercy forever and ever." - Psalm 52:10
"Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." - Matthew 3:10
And after some analysis, we see that we are the trees. So, here is my journey as a tree.
I was brought up with my roots strong in faith, with love for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I grew tall, but there were years of drought, insects, and disease. Eventually, it was time to transplant the tree, and the Creator saw fit that this tree would be healthier and stronger in a different forest.
Now, transplanting a mature tree is possible, but the process is not as simple as planting a new tree. Many steps are required for a successful transplant. The soil in the new location must be prepared and ready to welcome the new tree. The tree's branches must be protected because they are the most vulnerable. When moving the tree, one must be very gentle as not to damage the tree, but some necessary cuts and trims must be made. The process is a long one and it doesn't end once the tree is in the ground. Most critical to the survival of the tree is the aftercare. A transplant shouldn't even be considered if you are not able to provide water for the plant for at least the first year after transplanting. Now I could explain how all of this relates to my journey, or I could call this the parable of Elizabeth and encourage you to analyze it yourself.
I think a more beneficial use of my time would be to encourage you to consider how you have grown as a tree in God's forest. Are you a sapling that hasn't received enough light? Or perhaps you are one of the oaks towering over that sapling, taking in all the light and never sharing. Maybe, you have been cut and are working to grow again. You might be like me and have been recently transplanted? Or you may have been transplanted years ago and never found the necessary aftercare. Regardless, just think about it. Even do some Googling of trees and read some gardening tips. You'd be surprised how much they relate to your faith!
Most of this was written BC, (Before Covid), and I had anticipated that when this was published that I would officially be a member of the Church. It would be straightforward for me to be sad that I am not (and I have been sometimes). But what I come to understand is that when I walked to St. Joseph's, when I joined RCIA, and when I decided that this was my path, God knew. This was His plan for me, and I will continue to follow it and be a diligent servant. I may fail, but I will try again for Him.
P.S. I'm sure I could find a tree analogy for this, but I have finals. So if you do, please let me know.