Monday, February 23, 2015

Seeing our Papa!

I had the amazing opportunity to see Pope Francis IN PERSON while visiting Manila this January. We waited on the sidewalk for four hours, and it was totally worth the wait! 

The hidden blessing behind the long wait was that we had an awesome opportunity to evangelize the policemen and "human barricade" volunteers lining the street. All of us missionaries were singing praise songs to pass the time, and soon people nearby started asking who we were and making song requests. We told them about our mission work and even invited everyone to join us for a group Rosary. (We also practiced doing "the wave" up and down both sides of the street.)

Finally, the Holy Father arrived! It was a powerful moment, witnessing him pass by and recognizing that he is indeed the successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ here on earth.

And although we didn't get a personal audience with the pope, we did happen to run into him one week later outside a Catholic bookstore in the mall. He didn't mind at all when we asked for a group photo. 

We love you, Pope Francis!!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Our God heals

One of my favorite students, a young man named Kevin, approached me after English class, clearly with something important on his mind.

"Ma'am, will you please come to my house, heal my brother?"

As he said this, he motioned with his hand to demonstrate how he has witnessed us praying over his sick classmates on numerous occasions.

"Yes, of course I will come," I replied, quickly adding, "but I cannot heal anyone. Only God can do that."

Earlier that morning, my team and I had been meditating on the Gospel story of the woman with a hemorrhage who, in great faith, reaches out to touch the hem of Christ's garment and is healed. We were struck by how Jesus can bring about miracles when we simply ask in faith, and together we prayed that the Holy Spirit would direct us toward someone in need of healing. And now, just a few short hours later, here was Kevin humbly asking me, his English teacher, to come lay my hands on Alan, his sick brother.

My teammate Joanne explaining the Scripture story to Alan.
Three of us visited Kevin's home that afternoon. Together with his mom, we reread the Gospel story, traced a cross on Alan's forehead with holy water, and prayed for a miraculous healing. It takes some amount of faith to pray in this manner, and always there are the doubts -- what if nothing happens? What if the family is disappointed and I look like a fool? But still we prayed.

A few days later, back in the school, my teammate pulled Kevin aside and questioned him about Alan. A big smile crossed over his face. "Ma'am Rebecca healed him," he said. Kevin's English isn't always perfect, but I believe he understands in his heart what happened that afternoon and knows Who it was that healed his brother.

Salamat sa Diyos! as we often say. Thanks be to God the Healer! And thanks be to God for allowing us to act as His hands and feet.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Kissing Jesus

For the past week I’ve been feeling a little empty inside, as though my heart isn’t totally engaged in what I am doing; maybe you could call it spiritual dryness.  It takes more of an effort on my part to smile sincerely, to participate fully in conversation, to feel real empathy for the suffering people who come to us seeking comfort. I attribute it mostly to fatigue. Last year, as new arrivals on Camiguin, we had ample time to rest and relax as we transitioned into our new house and lifestyle. This year, we returned to our mission house to find ministry projects already awaiting us! It felt like we hit the ground running, and, as a result, didn’t have the luxury of an adjustment period.

Yesterday I was feeling sorry for myself as I struggled to fully engage in all that was going on around me. I picked up Maggie, the three-year-old daughter of our missionary companions who are living here with us in Sagay, and we made silly faces at each other for a while. Then Maggie grabbed my cross and asked “What is this?” She held it up to my mouth so I kissed it, and then she did the same. Maggie is a repeater -- she often picks up a phrase or action and repeats it over and over again to a point of exhaustion -- so it was no surprise yesterday when she held the cross up for me to kiss a second time, and then a third, the two of us taking turns back and forth.

It was a moment of realization for me -- a moment in which Jesus Christ was inviting me to love Him even more. Sometimes we do not “feel” the love of God as tangibly as we might like. Sometimes following Him in faithfulness is purely a matter of the will, as we choose to say yes to God even though our natural tendencies draw us in other directions. St. Augustine says, “Believers are strengthened by believing.” I know this to be true because, as I make the free choice each day to believe in God and to serve Him, regardless of my human emotions or feelings, He increases my faith even more.

When Maggie, in her childlike innocence, held the cross to my mouth to kiss over and over and over again, I could feel my heart responding with a committed love - perhaps not the passionate ardor of someone who has recently fallen in love, but the stronger, deeper love of someone who has experienced the emotional highs as well the times of silence, of quiet togetherness, of simply “being” and not having to do or say anything to assure one another that love is still present.

I pray for the return of fervor and ardor into my heart, but I am not afraid of this quiet interlude, either. I know that during this time He is testing my faithfulness, the depths of my love, and so I respond in hope and with the surety pronounced by Simon Peter when the Lord Jesus questioned him:

“'Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know everything; You know that I love you.'" St. Peter, help me to love Jesus as you loved Him!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Back in His house

How good it is to be back in my mission home! This afternoon found me praying in the church, thanking Jesus for having brought me back to this place and these people who have captured my heart. After a while my silence was happily disturbed by four little girls who had come bearing flowers to offer to Mama Mary.

"Ate Rebecca!" I have a terrible memory for names, especially with so many children in town, but I recognized the girls from last year and was glad to see them again. I watched as they placed their freshly-picked flowers around the Nativity creche with such care and intention. They weren't escorted by parents -- this was no forced devotion. They had come freely, in their love for Jesus and His Mother.

They ambled around the sanctuary for a few minutes, stopping to pray beneath the crucifix and a moment later giggling as they took turns standing behind the pulpit. I marveled at how much God's house is a home to them, and how they could at once display both reverence and the total comfort and relaxed joy that you would expect of children playing in their parents' home. It reminded me of when the child Jesus is lost in the temple; He responds to the Blessed Mother's queries: "How is it that you sought Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?" (Luke 2:49)

As I finished my prayer time, kneeling and raising my hands in praise of Him Who made me, I heard the tittering of quiet laughter. The girls had settled into the pew behind me. I opened my eyes to see the sun casting shadows on the stone floor in front of me -- my own large shadow and on either side matching smaller ones. Two of the girls were imitating me with their hands raised in the air, and they evidently found it funny. I laughed a little along with them. Sometimes the job of a missionary is so simple. Do you love Jesus? Are you not ashamed to let it show to everyone around you? Then you, too, can be a missionary.