A Sense of the Blessed Trinity

Living Near the Ocean

Many poets and writers often relate the ocean to a sense of the Blessed Trinity. The ocean is one of the largest things we see on the face of the earth and its expanse and depth lend themselves to thinking about the mystery of the Blessed Trinity.


My husband sometimes refers to me as ‘Island Girl’, because I was born and raised on a Pacific island. My birth family lived in a mountainous region that required an hour and a half drive to reach the closest beach. The expanse of water bounded by the horizon, especially punctuated during sunset, seemed contained in the panorama before my eyes.


It wasn’t until I learned Geography in the third grade that I grasped the idea that the beach was part of a sea that was part of the Pacific Ocean. On a globe, in fact, all the oceans connect as one big ocean that covers 71% of the earth! I realized then that my beach was just one point in the ocean’s global periphery. Looking out from that point, the water seemed to be an isolated body but in reality it was joined to the greater expanse of water that covered the majority of the planet.



The Blessed Trinity

Fr. Cantalamessa states, “We cannot wrap our arms around the ocean, but we can enter in it. We cannot encompass the mystery of the Blessed Trinity with our minds, but we can enter it!” This line in Fr. Cantalamessa’s book, “Contemplating the Trinity”, seizes my attention. He continues that “Christ has left us a concrete way to do that – through the Eucharist.”


This line has profound meaning to me as it brings memories of my childhood day-trips to the beach. How beautiful it is that the ocean is likened to the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and we can enter it. The metaphor is clear to me.



A Sense of the Blessed Trinity

  • The omniscience of God is simple to recognize: The water holds familiar creatures like shells and seaweed, but it also has mysterious ones like jelly fish that can sting you. Fishermen can tell you about octopuses, eels, a great variety of fish and coral. I know some of the sea creatures, but God, the Maker, knows them all.
  • It is easy to yield to the omnipotence of God: While swimming in the swelling and crashing waves, I experience my body being constantly carried in the ocean’s undulating motion. Even as a poor swimmer, the salt water surrounding me buoys me up as I accede to its force.
  • The omnipresence of God is felt inside and out: Whether on the beach or in the water, the roar of the waves is pervasive, reverberating within and without. The sound of the ocean waves breaking and receding is like being within a beating heart.

God, being three persons in one is the central mystery of our Faith; the Blessed Trinity is beyond comprehension to us, mere creatures. However, even with the smallness of our hearts and the limits of our minds, we can understand Love, because we are God’s children. God gives us faith to know Him as our Father. He provides us Jesus, His Son,  so that we can live, and move, and have our being in Him. And He pours love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, so we may love one another and become holy.



At the End of the Day

After a day at the ocean, my family would return to our home in the mountains. An island girl would go home with sand in her hair and the smell of salt water, and with much darker skin tone. The funny thing is that when I would go to bed at night, the taste of salt remained in my mouth, and the sound of the waves echoed in my ears like white noise. As I laid my head on the pillow, a rocking sensation of ocean waves washed over me with each breath. It seemed that the ocean left impressions on my senses.  It is as if we brought the ocean home with us.



Enter In

Figuratively, we live on a beach, where the water meets the land. Although the ocean appears to be a vast force of water, we can enter it. The finite can encounter the Eternal. Even as the Blessed Trinity is the greatest mystery, we as beloved children of God can partake in the inner life and the communion of love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


As Christians, the infinite love of God for us is no mystery. We respond to this love with our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength – even if only like children. In this Feast of the Holy Trinity, let us renew our gratitude and faith. When we go to Mass and receive the Eucharist, let’s put our trust once more in the all-knowing, all-present, and all-powerful Triune God whom we worship.


This post also appears in The Well entitled, “The Triune God Whom We Worship.”

Recovering the Lost Art of Visiting

The fast changing world we live in today impacts our relationships with one another, especially for women. We may not even realize that we have lost the true art of visiting one another. Recovering the lost art of visiting can begin with something simple.


One Fruit of a Novena

In the beginning of February, I started a novena for our daughter, Mary. In the last semester of her high school, she is still discerning where to go to college in the fall and her major of study. In looking for the appropriate novena to pray for her, I chose the Visitation Novena which is based on the scriptures of Mary visiting St. Elizabeth since our daughter is named Mary Elizabeth. I trust that the Lord will answer my petition for our daughter through the intercession of Mary and St. Elizabeth. One fruit of praying the novena for me was the grace of a growing desire to “visit” with people.


I am one of those women who makes a big deal of cleaning the house and preparing to host guests in our house. I take hospitality seriously and it is work. I want my guests to be comfortable in our home, enjoy good food, and be delighted to have spent time with us. And we have had many of these gatherings in our home. 


Although these events are celebrations of special days and holy days, they are not occasions for true visiting. Visiting is a natural and integral part of life or life in a community that was commonplace only a generation or two ago but seems to have disappeared from our regular life today.


The Lost Art of Visiting

Two women, both from foreign countries, reminded me of how visiting, especially among women, is a natural part of living. For many reasons and factors, women today seem to have lost the practice of connecting with other women by visiting. Reflecting on the Visitation brought to mind two isolated instances that made me think about recovering the art of visiting.


One was something a woman from Western Europe observed. In the course of a conversation on people having coffee, she said, “You Americans are so funny! When you say, “Let’s have coffee,” it is an event. You take out your schedules and look for a common free time, agree to meet, and write it into your schedule. At the appointed time, you drop everything and sit down with the person you are having coffee, talk for a while and then leave. In my country, having coffee is part of life. We go to a neighbor’s or friend’s house or they come over, have coffee and the hostess continues to do her work or chores while her visitor moves along with her as naturally as she were in her own home.” Her words stayed with me because her observation of how we do coffee was accurate.


The other woman, from the Middle East, however, let us experience it. She invited my daughter and me to have tea with her one Friday afternoon. We did not really know what to expect, so we were surprised when we got to her apartment. She had her table set like a tea party – no frills, simple, and I got the feeling that it was commonplace at one time in history or in a foreign land. My daughter got really excited because it felt like the tea parties she used to have with her sister using miniature tea sets. 


Time is of the Essence

This one was no pretend. There was a ceramic tea set with a teapot placed on top of a holder that held a burner to keep the tea hot, three matching cups on saucers, matching sugar bowl and creamer. As we sat around the table, our hostess took out an apple strudel that she had baked for us; its aroma filled the room. The combination of all the elements: a beautifully set table, fresh pastry, smells from a warm kitchen, curling steam from our tea and gracious talk, somehow drew us in feminine affinity and we all enjoyed the visit tremendously.


I am a one-cup-of-tea sipper, so after the first cup, I was ready to go home. Our hostess poured me a second cup and gave us another sliver of apple strudel. I felt like we were over-staying and started to feel pressed. Sipping the second cup of tea, I forgot about time. After being there for most of the afternoon, which included my daughter looking over our hostess’ collection of nail polish in a shoe box, meeting her high school son and her cat, watching a streamed show from her home country, and looking at a photo album of her parents, we were ready to say good-bye.


It surprised us that she actually expected us to stay for supper. She already started the dish in the oven and she cut vegetables while we visited. All the while, I thought she was preparing for her family’s supper. My daughter and I begged off because we had dinner plans at home. She insisted on packing part of the dish for us to bring home and its warm aroma pervaded the car – like the lingering scent of someone’s perfume after they have left the room.


Neighbors with One Another

This experience helped me understand even more that visiting is not just an event but part of common living. I was grateful that my daughter experienced her first real tea party and for me, a deeper understanding of what we have lost as women today. Maybe we can recover the simple art of visiting each other, taking time to share our lives in domestic and unelaborate ways, learning to enjoy each other’s company.


After this nine-day novena, I felt inspired to be more open to visiting and asked God to lead me. Grace is needed in recovering the lost art of visiting. Although we hear much about “girl-time” which falls under the category of being an event; i.e. dropping all else to gather with other women and do enjoyable things together, the Visitation demonstrates a different way. Filial, feminine, and spiritual describe the time of Mary and St. Elizabeth in the hill country of Judah.


A Trimester

The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the power of the Most High overshadowed her. Her womb carried God becoming man. In haste, she went to the hill country to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was in her sixth month (Luke 1:39-56). Scripture tells us that Mary stayed with her for three months – the last trimester of Elizabeth’s pregnancy while Mary’s first trimester. Two women filled with the Holy Spirit and two infants in their wombs, both miracles – for Elizabeth was barren and Mary was a virgin – since nothing is impossible with God.


Three months – in the fullness of time. The older mother, in her final preparation for the birth of John, prepares the young mother, who, when the time would come, will be away in Bethlehem birthing in a manger. The younger mother, in beginning the wait for the birth of Jesus, waits on the older mother, who, at a time the Lord saw fit, took away her barrenness. As cousins, their love for each other not only ran through their blood, but also, in their long Jewish heritage.


As pregnant women, they shared intimately the joyful maternity of their first born, actualizing in their femininity of bearing new life. Filled with the Holy Spirit, their bond with each other, with their sons in the wombs, with the promised Messiah – was a union no humans have experienced before them.


In that blessed three months, the mystery of the Incarnation began to radiate salvation to the intimate small first community of believers in Jesus Christ. In that early dawn of the fulfillment of the prophecy still hidden from the world, two women shared domestic tasks rejoicing: Elizabeth thanking God for taking away her disgrace and Mary singing her canticle of praises to God – two women but one in the Spirit, having one heart raised to God, linking the old and the new into one family of God. The quietness of those months spent together was like the mysterious work of leaven for the new bread offered to humanity.


On Recovery

So Ash Wednesday arrived and in thinking about the three practices of lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, I felt called to an unusual lent of visiting women with whom we have said to each other, “Let’s get together sometime,” when we happen to meet somewhere, but never have taken the time nor followed up with concrete plans. For the first week of lent, I decided to invite the woman who lives by herself next door. We have been neighbors for the last 25 years but we have never invited her over. The excuses were many, like having babies, homeschooling, and the incessant full plate.


We tried to be neighborly. Every time I cook beef stew, which always is a big batch, I fill a recycled cottage cheese tub and send one of my kids to deliver it to her. In the fall, she bakes zucchini bread and our children gobble it up. Every time we meet in the grocery store or somewhere else, she always tells me how she loves the gravy of the beef stew I make. I tell her how her zucchini bread disappears in one sitting with the kids. And we usually say, “We should get together sometime.” That has been the extent of our neighborly interactions, in addition to the annual Christmas-caroling at her door on Christmas eve as part of our family holiday tradition of caroling our neighbors. 


Last summer, she had a big sign at her window facing the street that said, “Happy 90th Birthday!” We did not know we lived next door to a woman who has lived 9 decades already. To the children, that is like a hundred years.


Afternoon Tea

I called Kay and invited her for tea on the first week of lent. She said, “That would be lovely.” I decided to unearth the tea set buried in bubble wrap that came with the china set in storage in the basement. “We don’t ever use these pretty things,” I thought. Paper plates and paper cups make for less work for hostesses of events. I set the end of our table with the tea set and placed freshly baked muffins on a rarely used crystal platter that we got as a wedding present. 


When the time came, I watched Kay from the window as she walked slowly from her house to ours. It amused me that she brought along her purse that swung from her shoulder as she made her careful trek.

Life-giving Tea

There is something ceremonious about pouring tea from a teapot. Grasping the handle with one hand and keeping the lid in place with the other, the tea-infused water is poured with focused precision. Little girls and grown women pause long enough to watch the stream of amber liquid fill up a cup before conversing again. Kay and I were no exception. She resumed to tell me that she has lived in the house next door for the last 65 years and narrated the development of the neighborhood within that time.


We talked about children, education, books and her water-aerobics class three mornings a week. Not one word was mentioned about beef stew nor zucchini bread. After one hour, she put both of her palms on the table and said, “I have taken enough of your time.” I pointed out to her that she still had half a teacup of tea and that she had not had a muffin yet. She said to me, “Our talking was food enough,” as she determinedly stood up. As I watched her slowly walk home with her purse swinging from her shoulder, I too felt content that a deeper hunger was fed.


(This also appears in The Well.)


The Sanctuary Lamp: 8 Ways to Teach Children Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist

Do you know what is the greatest treasure on earth?  It is the Holy Eucharist.  It is Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist that makes it sacred, accessible, and  efficacious for our salvation.


A Church Visit

Edith Stein, a Jewish German scholar and philosopher, observed a woman carrying a shopping basket enter into the Frankfurt Cathedral and kneel for a brief prayer.  Edith wrote, “This was something totally new to me. In the synagogues and Protestant churches I had visited, people simply went to the services. Here, however, I saw someone coming straight from the busy marketplace into this empty church, to have an intimate conversation. It was something I never forgot.”


This was a beginning step for Edith Stein on her journey to become a Catholic, and later a Carmelite nun with the name of Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.  Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross was arrested, transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and martyred.  Canonized in 1998, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is a co-patron saint of Europe.



Real Presence in the Eucharist

The woman carrying the shopping basket knew of course that the Frankfurt Cathedral was not empty.  She believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Jesus in His fullness was present in the consecrated Bread stored inside the tabernacle.  To come into His presence meant to be positioned to experience an intimate heart-to-heart conversation with Jesus.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us,” is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church’s prayer, “where two or three are gathered in my name,” in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But “he is present most especially in the Eucharistic species.”  CCC #1374 states that Jesus’ presence is in the “fullest sense.”


8 Ways to Teach Children about the Real Presence in the Eucharist


Many Catholics today do not comprehend fully the beauty and depth of the Blessed Sacrament.  A Pew study in 2019 reported that only 31% of Catholics believed in Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, and 69% did not believe that it was Jesus but only symbolic of His Body.  What can we do to reverse the erosion of belief in this central teaching of the Church?  Parents have the most influence on the spiritual and religious development of their children. 


Here are a few suggestions to parents on how to pass on to children knowledge and faith on our Lord Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist:


  1. Receive the Eucharist with reverence.  Modeling a loving attitude that honors the Eucharist will speak volumes to your children.
  2. Bring attention to the tabernacle when entering a Catholic Church.  Teach children to genuflect to show reverence in the presence of Jesus.
  3. Prepare your child for his or her First Holy Communion.  Children have the capacity to understand the love of Jesus for them.
  4. Take your children to Eucharistic Adoration.  The regular experience of prayerful silence prepares them to hear the voice of Jesus.
  5. Form their minds and hearts by reading to them from the Youth Catechism about the Eucharist.  It is Jesus Himself who invites each of them to an intimate relationship.
  6.  Observe the hour fast before receiving Holy Communion.
  7. Teach them to receive the Eucharist worthily.  Teach your children to regularly participate in the Sacrament of Confession, and to avail of it before receiving Holy Communion if they have committed a mortal sin.
  8. Make the Sign of the Cross when driving by a Catholic Church.

Red Lamp

I am grateful for the nuns that taught at the Catholic school I attended.  Those holy women instilled in me the faith of Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist housed in the tabernacle of every Catholic church, and a sanctuary lamp is always burning (except on Good Friday).  I used to stop in a church before and after school to ‘visit’ Jesus.  This awareness of Jesus’ real  presence in the Eucharist is one of those things that has been stamped in my mind since my youth. 


Even in my young adult years when I was away from the Church, I always knew that a red lamp burned next to the tabernacle inside each Catholic Church I passed.  One time in a big city, I noticed a man genuflecting and making the Sign of the Cross at a street corner, and when I looked to see what he faced, it was a Catholic Church.  I knew exactly to whom he was reverently acknowledging amid the bustle.


Thankfully, the grace of God led me back to the Faith.  Today, whenever I enter a church, I look for the flickering red sanctuary lamp.  Although it is only a tiny flame that gently burns, it acts similar to a great beacon in a lighthouse to guide me safely and directly to Jesus who is truly present there. 




This blog post also appears in The Well.


The Unrepentant Thief: 5 Ways We Enter Repentance in Lent

A special liturgical season rolls in once more and we have the opportunity to receive mercy through repentance in lent.



Three Crosses

Although the door to repentance is wide open, it is a very tiny door.  We have to be very small to find it, and even smaller to enter it.  Repentance can only begin with humility. Canadian author Michael O’Brien in his epic fiction novel, The Father’s Tale, writes this conversation between a priest and the protagonist that clearly reflects our human experience:



“You see, Aleksandr, in each heart three trees grow. Life cuts them down, trims them, crafts them into crosses. Then they are lifted high on a hill – a hill like a skull. One is the cross of Jesus, the second the cross of the repentant thief, and third the cross of the unrepentant thief.  . . .


We like to think that in times of trial, we will suffer like Jesus. If we are a little bit realistic, we will say to ourselves, “No, I am not much like Him. Therefore I will be like the repentant thief, and go straight to Paradise.” But so often, when the trial arrives, we find to our dismay that in fact we are the unrepentant thief. . .”



“Yes, Alex said morosely, nodding.  “That is true.”


“This is not a cause for sadness,” the priest said with a smile and outstretched arms.  “This is a great victory. To see ourselves as we are is the precondition for repentance.  When we understand that we are the unrepentant thief, then and only then are the wellsprings of conversion opened to us.  We can turn to Jesus hanging in agony on his cross and beg forgiveness from him.  And on that day, we enter Paradise.”


Seeing Ourselves


“To see ourselves as we are is the precondition for repentance.”  It requires humility to recognize that we have failed to love God and neighbor with our thoughts, words and actions. To offer no excuses, justifications, and explanations for our lack of charity requires dismantling the bulky armor that defends our pride. Arrogance and self-righteousness obscure our objectivity.


When was the last time a loved one acknowledged that they wronged you?  When was the last time you approached someone to admit blame?  Challenging as it may be, repentance should be a solid thread in our lives as followers of Jesus.  Our lifelong transformation in love does not happen without it.  The Church gives us the season of Lent as a chance to see ourselves as we are, repent of sin, and return to the Father. 



5 Ways to Enter Repentance in Lent


Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.  Repentance in lent allows us to experience the tender mercy of God for us, His children. Let us humble ourselves before God and enter into this penitential season as the chance to turn from sin and turn to God.  The following are 5 ways to enter repentance in lent:



  1. Ask God for the grace to recognize our own sins – what we have done and failed to do.
  2. Acknowledge our sins – Name the wrongful acts/thoughts and accept responsibility for them. When we are in a personal relationship with God, our sorrow for sin is motivated by faith and love of God.   
  3. Repent – Turn from the darkness of sin and turn to God for forgiveness and healing.  Only God forgives sins. Our merciful Father does not delay in embracing a repentant son or daughter. He is ready to make us new again.
  4. Confession, Penance, and Reconciliation – “Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. (CCC 1440)”  Encountering Jesus in this Sacrament provides us not only absolution for our sins, but we also begin to receive healing from the effects of sin in our hearts.
  5. Receive grace – This return to God with all our heart effects interior conversion.  It will inflame us with the desire and resolution to change our lives with hope in God.  We start anew, reorienting our sight and trusting in Him.

The Gift of Lent

When Lent comes around, a little anecdote always helps me to take this penitential season seriously.  As I get older, I take it even more earnestly.  



Upon death, a person faces Jesus and says, “Lord, I did not have enough time to reform my life.” To which, Jesus replies, “I gave you Lent every year.”


We may be like the unrepentant thief: 5 ways to enter repentance in lent will turn Jesus’ mercy upon us. Let us humble ourselves before the Lord. Find that tiny door of repentance and enter through it. There, we will encounter Jesus, our God who emptied Himself on the cross for our sake.


(This blog post also appears in The Well.)


Virtue of Perseverance

Going Deeper

Instead of setting new externally-focused goals this year, I have decided to delve more deeply into my personal calling from God. Inspired by Simeon and Anna the Prophetess (Luke 2:22-38), who both persevered in their lifetime of waiting for the promised Messiah, I want to recommit to staying the course set by God’s call in my life. Perseverance commonly connotes effort and hard work to complete a goal despite barriers and obstacles.  In the Christian sense, however, perseverance is a virtue. Perseverance involves fortitude (which is both a cardinal virtue and a gift of the Holy Spirit) and patience (which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit).


Developing the virtue of perseverance requires both grace and personal effort, much like operating a sailboat and harnessing the power of wind to propel the craft. Simeon was not only a “righteous man awaiting the consolation of Israel,” but also “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Anna worshipped God night and day with fasting and prayer. The combination of grace and effort is also reflected in the Catholic Dictionary, perseverance – “remaining in the state of grace until the end of life.” This year, I hope to persevere (and remain in the state of grace) in prayer, in my vocation, and in loving others.


Perseverance in Prayer

“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” Romans 12:12


Prayer is encountering Jesus like the woman at the well—receiving from Him life-giving water. Jesus was already there waiting for her. Whatever my feelings or circumstances may be, I must continue to choose to come to the well to listen and talk to Him, because He provides the water I require to live a good life. Besides faithfully praying at set times, different experiences throughout my day will prompt me to pray spontaneously. Jesus tells His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)


Fortitude in My Vocation

“Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” Hebrews 12:1


My vocation to marriage and family is a calling from God as the normative path of my transformation and sanctification. This is the race in which I run and hope to finish. To persevere in my vocation is to make choices every day to love my spouse and children for their highest good in spite of difficulties. The terrain is demanding (endurance becomes imperative), and the road long (requiring stamina), but the panorama is breathtaking (I would rather be here than anywhere else).


Like all vocations, I cannot genuinely live out its privileges and responsibilities without the grace of God who called me into it. Marriage and family life are messy. Ample opportunities for self-donation present themselves daily. If I begin to run out of steam in living my vocation, I can look to Jesus. He transforms my heart so I can find joy in staying true to my vocation. I press on. “For the sake of the joy that lay before him Jesus endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2) for the sake of His Bride, the Church.


Patience in Love

“Patience is the queen who reigns over all virtues because she is the heart of love. She conquers and is never conquered. Her companions are courage and perseverance, and she returns home victorious.” – St Catherine of Siena in her “Dialogue.”


How is my capacity to hang-in-there with others? When someone voices an opposing opinion, do I cancel them and walk away? When a loved one complains, do I start looking for greener grass? When a neighbor shares her troubles, do I seek an escape?


To persevere in loving others and walking beside them through their challenges takes time and long-suffering on my part. I am called to help lighten others’ burdens just as Jesus invites me to yoke myself to Him to lighten my burdens. I cannot instantaneously drum up patience by my own will power. Patience is an actual fruit of the Holy Spirit, resulting only from an ongoing relationship with Him.


Growing in Virtue

I must admit that many challenges in 2020 made me weary, and at times even tempted to lose heart. On the other hand, those challenges revealed the faithfulness of God to care for us. They tested and strengthened the commitment of spouse and family members to each other, and garnered the sincere support of neighbors and friends. In 2021, I pray to God for the grace to grow in the virtue of perseverance: in prayer, in my vocation, and in loving others. The wind in my life constantly changes in strength and direction and I hope to grow in my ability to sail the course set for me by God. I lean on Him who remains constant with a love that endures forever.



(This blog also appears in The Well.)


The Lord Heard My Cry

In a split second, my life was about to change drastically and within that brief time, the Lord heard our cry.



In John’s Gospel – when the accusers of the woman caught in adultery left one by one, she might have been relieved to be spared a death by stoning, but still, she had to face Jesus.  


“So He was left alone with the woman before Him” (John 8:9).  


Imagine how she felt at that moment, all alone before Jesus knowing that she was guilty of mortal sin?


In death, I will stand alone before Jesus, before the Light that will shine on my soul – revealing all its interior facets.  There will be no shadows.  Before Him, my being will be unmasked, stripped of the walls I’ve erected, and the webs I’ve spun around myself unraveled.  Who can bear it?  The truth of my heart will face the Truth.  Will He find faith?  Will He find hope?  Will He find love?



At the Brink

In a split second my vehicle went airborne, bounced on its top on the highway median, and crash-landed on four wheels on the southbound parallel freeway. In that moment a singular clarity urgently rose within me, “I’m not ready to die!”  This instant lucid realization expressed a wordless, desperate plea to God for my life.  A prayer. I had not prayed in well over a decade.  When the vehicle stopped, the world around me stood still and silent as I struggled to breathe.  I sat strapped and gasping inside the crumpled metal for what seemed like an eternity – alone and aware.



Lost Years

“Will I survive this crash?  What shape will I be in if I do survive?”  Fear and uncertainty flooded my mind stranded there on the highway.  A song came from somewhere in my remote memory, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor, blessed be the Lord.”  This gentle melody cut through the daze and confusion until help arrived. 


Looking back I’m struck that in that moment, beyond the fear that gripped me, I felt a deep sense of loss – that I had misspent my life.  I had squandered the chance to live the life for which I was created.  Grasping at the irretrievable opportunities of the life I was meant to live was like that sinking feeling when a balloon slips out of my grasp, and I watch it rise higher every second with no hope of getting it back. 


When I walked out from the emergency room later that evening, shaken but whole except for minor scrapes and bruises, I knew God had heard my plea.  I was given a second chance at life.  I prayed, “Lord, you have a plan for my life, I want to live that life.”  That was the decision that changed the trajectory of my life.



Life Choices

Three other important decisions that opened a path before me, which set me in a definite direction. God sent Christians to provide opportunities for me to make these choices.   


  1. The decision to follow Jesus: At a weekend retreat where I experienced a real encounter with Jesus, I committed my life to Him.  
  2. The decision to open myself to the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit: After the weekend retreat, a friend invited me to attend a weekly prayer group meeting.  While attending that prayer group meeting, I re-engaged in the Faith.  They offered a six-week teaching series on the Holy Spirit, and at the end of the series, I asked Jesus to fill me with the Holy Spirit.  I experienced a personal pentecost.
  3. The decision to be a Catholic: I had been away from the Catholic Church for over a dozen years. Experiencing a renewed faith which was very personal, I was attracted to the worship style in evangelical churches.  Meanwhile, I found myself in a moral dilemma in which I knew what the Catholic Church taught, but I did not want to follow the teaching.  God’s grace helped me to prevail, and I chose to listen to the moral teaching of the Church concerning my situation. I made up my mind to commit to be a Catholic and to follow the teachings of the Church in living my life. 


These three decisions vitally impacted my life because they opened the sources of grace that led me into a new life in the Spirit.  



Face to Face

I need grace to persevere in the spiritual life.  To obey the Father, to follow Jesus, to be led by the Holy Spirit, and to practice the Catholic Faith continue to be daily decisions in my life (imperfectly and many times poorly executed).  


We are all made to share in the divine life of the Blessed Trinity.  We are created to know, love, and serve God – to live in relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  This is God’s generous invitation to us.  This life with God frees us to grow in using our gifts and directing our energies to love and serve others day by day.  We live in His presence and meet Him face to face in prayer.


In prayer, each of us stands before Jesus, who is the Light that illuminates our soul – to drive away darkness from all its hidden corners.  Nothing is shaded.  Before Him, our heart draws curtains open, lifts veils, and exposes our deepest wounds, especially the noxious ones.  We bare the truth of our heart to Jesus, who is the Truth.  Listen to Him.  With Him, we walk by faith.  In Him is our hope.  Through Him, we can truly love.


“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). 

Is one lifetime enough to requite and reciprocate Infinite Love?

This post also appears in The Well.


7 Fruits of Holy Communion

(Written on June 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown)


Corpus Christi

By Chinese standards, the city was small, and we found its one and only Catholic Church tucked away on the second floor of a simple three-story building in an obscure residential area.  The Chinese priest knew right away that we were foreigners as we took out our Missals and followed along with the Chinese-language Mass that he was celebrating.  


When our family presented ourselves to receive Holy Communion, he declared, “Corpus Christi” as he held up the consecrated Host to each of us.  We responded, “Amen.” 


I was surprised to hear the Latin words for “Body of Christ.”  If the priest would have said it in the Mandarin language, as he did to the other communicants, we would have understood his meaning even if the words would have sounded alien to our ears.   Although his spoken Latin sounded alien to our ears, it was familiar to us in an odd kind of way.  


I realized later that it was the priest’s way to be hospitable to us by closing the language gap between Chinese and English.  No matter the language, Catholics know that when the priest utters, “The Body of Christ” and puts the consecrated Host on the tongue or the hand, we receive Jesus Christ Himself.



Sacramental Communion

As parishes are beginning to offer Mass publicly again, Catholics look forward to returning to the table of the Lord and receiving Jesus sacramentally.  In the Eucharist is the full and real presence of Jesus, and in Him, we receive every spiritual blessing.


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.”  (Ephesians 1:3)


What a gift is the Eucharist!    The sacrifice of the Lamb of God made once and for all is made present at Mass – Jesus’ Body and Blood given up for the forgiveness of our sins.  In agape love (self-giving love), Christ totally gives Himself to be consumed by us, that we may be filled with His Spirit and His life. 


“The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.’ For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch” (CCC 1324).  In the small white Host we receive on our tongue or hand is everything we need to live a life of love and holiness.


Source and Summit

We believe that Jesus truly comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament, but are we aware of the effects that Holy Communion has in us when we receive worthily?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1391-1398 lists these fruits of Holy Communion:


  1. Holy Communion augments our union with Christ. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus.
  2. What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism.
  3. Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is “given up for us,” and the blood we drink “shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins.
  4. As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins.
  5. By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin.
  6. The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens the incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism.
  7. The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To receive in truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren.


Sacrament of Love

All of the saints loved Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament.


St. John Vianney said, “There is nothing so great as the Eucharist.  If God had something more precious, He would have given it to us.”


St. Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church wrote, “Therefore you could not be given the body without being given the blood as well; nor either the body or the blood without the soul of this Word; not the soul or body without the divinity of [Jesus], God eternal.” 


Mother Teresa often talked about the tenderness, humility, and love of Jesus in the Eucharist.  She said, “When you look at Christ on the cross, you see how much He loved you then. When you look at Christ in the Eucharist, you see how much He loves you now.”



Response to Love

When we experience the privilege of receiving Holy Communion, we receive Jesus and His offer of love to each one of us.  This infinite love requires a personal response on our part.  What is agape love – Jesus’ total gift of Himself to us – if no one receives it? 


Our first response is one of receptivity.  As we open our mouth or palms to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we must also choose to open the door of our heart, so it can be filled with Jesus Himself.  Our hearts are made for Him, because our hearts are made for love.  We come to love Jesus because He first loved us. 


Therese of Lisieux writes, “Keeping myself open to the rays of the Divine Host, in this furnace of love, I shall be consumed, and Lord, I shall love You.”    


When our hearts surrender to this Love, they are inevitably filled with gratitude.  In loving Jesus back, we are changed by the reception of this one Holy Communion.  Our openness and response to reciprocate Jesus’ love provides the needed grace to love our families, co-workers, and neighbors with the same self-giving love we accept from Christ.

This post also appears in The Well.


7 Ways of Giving Time to Our Children

(Written on May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown)


Extra Time 

My high school daughter and I have recently completed four TikTok dance videos. She says I look grumpy in them. My robotic movements and serious face come from my lack of dancing talent and from concentrating on the upcoming body motions. I am sure that her enjoyment comes in part from watching Mom being so awkward in these videos, and in part from teaching me the sequences of hand and feet movements.


Before the quarantine, she never thought to invite me to get in on the dance-videos as she made them with her friends, nor would I have wanted to waste my time learning dance moves for a social media video.



Inside the Box

With a virus on the loose, the fragility of our lives flies in our faces, and the primary place we want to be is at home with our loved ones. Remaining at one location simplifies our life in some ways. Before the quarantine, we juggled time and space to actualize our daily plans, but now we only shuffle time to manage a schedule. For parents staying at home with our children, life became more hectic with meals, school, work, and entertainment, not to mention relational issues that demand our immediate attention – sometimes, all at once. At the end of each day, many of us are exhausted.



Wasting Time

“Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (Psalm 90:12)

Many families have taken a proactive approach to intentionally take advantage of unstructured time at home. Cindy initiated a family morning prayer. Shelly reads books out loud to her children after some pseudo schoolwork. Kim taught her daughter how to use a sewing machine.


Because we are home all day with family, there are plentiful opportunities to waste time on loved ones. By flipping our mind and heart switches, we can embrace opportunities to squander time together. This is time spent with each other where there is no agenda besides being present to one another. It is time that is not considered productive in any measurable way. Do you know how to waste time with a loved one? Here are a few simple ways:


1. Be flexible with your schedule for the day.

2. Lavish others with your full attention and push aside tasks in order to listen actively.

3. Relax. Do not rush yourself or your loved one, even with trivial matters.

4. Stop and smell the pancakes or listen to a robin or to the rain.

5. Savor the daily small (or big) moments. Empathize, respond, and engage in interactions.

6. Be calm and be yourself.

7. Remember that the experience of God’s love and mercy, to a great extent, comes from the love shared among family members.


Our life consists of a series of moments. We cannot add nor subtract the time allotted to us, but we can choose how to use it. There is a quote that goes, “Love is spelled t-i-m-e.”



On the Ground

Our first venture out of home quarantine was to a neighborhood playground on a sunny and windy day. While the children played on the swings and slides, I lay on the cool green grass and closed my eyes. My mind focused on upcoming tasks, “I should have put the load of laundry into the dryer and put the next batch into the washer before we left,” and “What shall I make with the ground beef thawing in the refrigerator?”


The children excitedly chattered as they plopped on the ground beside me. With them came that outdoor sun-exposure smell,  freshly acquired. For a long moment we silently watched clouds move swiftly across the blue sky. Their shapes drifted from one nebulous form into another. Looking over, I saw my children’s eyes bright with calm inspiration, like clear pools reflecting the passing clouds and sky above.


“It’s like I can feel the earth rotate,” one remarked. “But it is really just the clouds moving!” another piped in.  If moments could be saved in a bottle, this would be one of them.

“Let’s take the long way home,” I said eventually. In the next instant, they were up and running in front of me on the sidewalk. I watched them flee toward home, swifter than the clouds.

This post also appears in The Well entitled, “Watching cloud Go By.”


An Act of Spiritual Communion

(Written on May 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown)


Eucharistic Fast

No Mass, no Eucharist. While we do have Mass and we do have the Eucharist, being in quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic prevents many Catholics from receiving Holy Communion. For several weeks now, Catholics have been worshiping virtually from their living rooms with the Body of Christ.


Most of us simulate being ‘at church’ on Sunday by getting out of our pajamas, standing, sitting, and kneeling at different parts of the Mass. We sing the hymns and engage in the prayers and responses. Then we make an act of spiritual communion. For us, it is reading from the screen a prayer composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori:


My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.


Spiritual Communion is more than a prayer; it is an act. An act means to move, to do something, to take action. An act of faith is involved – believing that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. It also involves an act of love – asking Jesus to unite Himself to us. On our part, the action we take is to open our hearts.



Mary, Mother of Christ

The Angelus gives us a simple model of how spiritual communion leads us to receive Jesus.


The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.


The Holy Spirit, in overshadowing Mary, initiated the spiritual communion within her.


Behold the handmaid of the Lord:
Be it done unto me according to Your Word.


Mary was interiorly disposed to receive – her faith and love of God provided an opening by which God is granted accessibility to her.


And the Word was made Flesh:
And dwelt among us.


Jesus was incarnated in her womb, and she gave birth to Him nine months later.

Mary, fully disposed and open to the will of God, is filled with the Holy Spirit. She receives Jesus in the flesh into her body.


To follow this model: I open my entire self to God, and the Holy Spirit comes and acts within me in spiritual communion. When I am privileged to receive the Eucharist, Jesus comes to me in sacramental communion.



Come at Least Spiritually into My Heart

It is Easter, but we feel like we are still fasting because we are not able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. These past months, our desire for Holy Communion has increased with every passing Sunday. We have come to a greater appreciation and deeper gratitude for the Blessed Sacrament: the gift of Jesus Himself. We have also learned and practiced the act of spiritual communion.


The beauty of the act of spiritual communion is that it is not confined to specific times or places. We can make this act whenever our hearts turn to Jesus, anytime, anywhere, and as often as we want to be with Him. When we ask Jesus to come spiritually into our hearts, He comes. Each act of spiritual communion increases our desire to receive sacramental Communion. We yearn to receive Jesus Himself – His real presence in the flesh – into our bodies.


We all wait in anticipation for the moment that we can return to Mass in our parishes and again receive Jesus in the Eucharist. It will remind us of our First Holy Communion. Jesus waits in the Blessed Sacrament. He too waits in anticipation to spread the table for us and satisfy our hunger.


Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

This post also appears in The Well.


For Such a Time as This

(Written on March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown)


There are exercises for value-clarification that ask, “What three things would you take if you were to be stranded on an island?” A similar question is, “What would you save if you had only two minutes to get out of your burning house?” These exercises are meant for us to identify what we consider essential in our lives when choices are severely restricted.


The coronavirus pandemic that has gripped our collective life has thrown us and our families into a situation where our choices have been limited and our usual freedom of movement impeded. We all have had to make decisions regarding what are and what are not important in the face of quarantine, social distancing, and staying at home.


Lean Times

The initial trend showed that toilet paper was of utmost importance. Soon after, people bought a supply of food with long shelf-life as directives to stay home were enforced. Most activities which are the staple of family life such as church, work, school, sports, and extracurricular activities have been cancelled, and individuals find themselves at home with family members.


We have seen online and in social media an explosion of creative ideas and ways to make the time at home with each other livable and even enjoyable. Husbands, wives, parents and children, all have had to adjust to what seems like an indefinite weekend together at home.


Being in closed quarters with our family for an extended time reveals patterns of our relationships with each other that usually operate by default. The stresses we experience at this time may exacerbate unhealthy patterns, while the challenges may reinforce loving ways.

In the face of instability and changing conditions, keeping our hearts on what is essential will help us let go of micro-management and rid ourselves of the burden of over-responsibility.


Critical Role

Without over-simplifying or minimizing the challenges of caring for loved ones at home, women, i.e., wives and mothers have a critical role to play. For a time such as this, the feminine genius* rises to the challenge. The feminine genius is a term by Pope St. John Paul II to describe the special capabilities of women such as kindness, sensitivity, gentleness, and receptivity.


The feminine genius, the Saint says, gives “women an influence, an effect and a power in the world.”** He adds that “women who are imbued with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.” What is the practical implication of this in our homes?  


The immediate needs of our families right now at home are pragmatic, like meals, snacks, wholesome activities, and entertainment. These can easily occupy all our energies. Let us take a moment to shift our focus on the relationships with our loved ones and take the relational-approach. This approach entails mindfulness in voice, tone, body language that communicate hospitality and welcome. It sends a message of value and affirmation to our loved ones to communicate their significance to us.


How can I be an understanding wife to my husband in this situation? How can I be a loving mother to my son or daughter in this interaction? The influence, effect, and power women have are evident in many areas of our society. Realistically, the most influence, effect, and power we have are felt in our homes.  


Essential Relationship

Lest we forget, as Christian women, our most significant relationship is with God. Our identity as a beloved daughter of the Father underpins the feminine genius. Jesus shows us how to approach God as “Abba” and the Holy Spirit sanctifies us with spiritual gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1831). 


We need these spiritual gifts if we are to operate with feminine genius. There is no other way but grace, because our relationship with the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control within us (Galatians 5:22-23). This fruit, when nurtured in a feminine soul, produces the feminine genius.


Women, who are the heart of the home, strive for a culture of life and love in our families not only during these challenging times but always. Let us call on our Father for help and strength every day. May our influence be that of order, our effect be that of peace, and our power be that of love. Our families can flourish as we receive grace to become the essential instruments of God’s love for our spouses and children.


*Feminine genius taken from “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women” by St. Pope John Paul II

**Quotes from closing message of the Second Vatican Council

This post also appears in The Well.