65 days

I was watching EWTN about a week ago and a priest on the Journey Home segment mentioned that there is a National Shrine of the Little Flower IN TEXAS. Believe it or not there is a Basilica and Shrine in San Antonio, TX dedicated to her! How did I not know about this sooner?

Here’s the website: http://www.littleflowerbasilica.org

I have been praying/talking to her a lot lately and just calculated that if you count from today (July 28th) all the way to her feast day (October 1st), there is a grand total of 65 days. This is a great (and perhaps supernatural) reminder that I need to do a better job of offering up all of the extra things I have to do every day regarding my CF. I need to make a daily devotion to her, and she will take my CF and give me sixty-five roses in return.

From late June until this past Thursday, I had my ninth PICC line. It was annoying that I even needed one, because it shows that my daily nebulizers, vest therapy, pills, and diet aren’t enough. But that’s just the progressive and aggressive nature of the CF beast.

The past month has been up and down health-wise but I have definitely spent too much time complaining to God and sulking, mainly for two reasons: because of my state of health I couldn’t go on vacation in Angel Fire, New Mexico with my family, and I probably won’t be returning to UD next semester.

I have to remind myself that my daily medical regimen as well as infusing antibiotics directly into my bloodstream to fight E. coli and other nasty bacteria is not “normal” – it is extra-ordinary and I should unite it all to the Cross.

I am going to make a prayer intentions list—something that will take the attention off of myself and onto the many, many people who could use my prayers. I’ll say these prayers every day for the next 65 days (and I’ll try and say them at Mass right after Communion—the closest to heaven that a person can get). If possible I also want to make a trip to the Little Flower Basilica and Shrine in San Antonio on her feast day.

If anyone would like for me to pray for anything in particular, please let me know!

St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, please pick me a rose from the heavenly garden and send it to me with a message of love; ask God to grant me the favor I thee implore and tell Him I will love Him each day more and more. Amen.

St. Thérèse, beloved friend, we come before you in our need. We believe that you listen to us and approach God for and with us. Please accept these petitions, hopes, needs, and dreams I list below. Please present them to our Loving Father so that God may do what is best for us, for our loved ones, and for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. We ask you, dear friend, with the bold confidence and loving surrender you taught us. We make this prayerful petition in the name of Jesus and through the power of His Spirit. Amen.

Stars and stripes

american flag

In the spirit of the 4th of July, this post is my Catholic perspective on our military and the American flag as a symbol of sacrifice. Both of my grandfathers served in the Navy, and my older brother John is a doctor in the Navy and is stationed in San Diego right now on active duty. He has already served one deployment to the Middle East aboard the USS Kearsarge, so I have more reason than in the past to pay attention to everything military.

This time of year always comes as a stark reminder that our freedom is not free. We are faced with the sobering fact that most of us have never seen the cost of freedom up close. The closest to being in a war zone that most Americans (myself included) will ever get is probably from watching movies like The Hurt Locker or Lone Survivor. We owe our soldiers and their families a debt that we can’t possibly repay. They take on the hellish brutality of war so that we don’t have to, and in many cases, upon coming home their lives are never the same. For a real and emotional look at how fallen soldiers are brought back to the United States for burial, I suggest watching a movie called Taking Chance. It’s based on a true story and it won a Golden Globe and 6 other awards.

Memorial Day and Independence Day should feel familiar to any Mass-going Catholic—we are honoring people who sacrificed their lives to win freedom for others, and in doing so provided hope for a more peaceful future. At Mass we honor the perpetual Holy Sacrifice of Jesus as we kneel before the altar and the priest says at the consecration,  “Do this in memory of me.”

As Catholics we are highly aware that the most important war is already won: “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.” (Revelation 12:7-8). Behind every Adolf Hitler or Osama bin Laden there are demonic forces who want to malign and destroy as much of God’s creation as they can—demonic spirits that have already been defeated by Christ once and for all on the Cross.

In our secular culture today it is easy to lose our perspective on this spiritual battle that is going on behind the scenes.

Each of our brave fallen heroes has an eternal soul and is a martyr for our freedom. So, we should treat the American flag with utmost respect at all times. It is a symbol of their sacrifice, just as the crucifix is a symbol of Jesus’ ultimate Sacrifice. Only Jesus can take the symbol of the crucifix and make what is represents fully present at Mass—His own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist. But on days like the Fourth of July, we can make present our soldier’s sacrifices by giving thanks for our freedom and honoring the flag.

Everyone knows that the stars and stripes stand for the 50 states and 13 original colonies, but in thinking about what the star-spangled banner means for our soldiers spiritually, two Bible passages came to mind.

First, in looking at the red and white stripes, Isaiah 53:5 struck me: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” The stripes of the flag, with a small stretch of the imagination, could represent Jesus’ scourging at the pillar and the blood and water that flowed from His side in His bloody martyrdom.

In looking at the stars, Revelation 12:1 came to mind: “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The woman is obviously the Virgin Mary, the crowned Queen of heaven and Queen of martyrs.

I know this may be a loose association, but the flag when put in this Biblical context becomes a symbol of the joy and sorrow, the glory and humiliation of Jesus and Mary’s martyrdom. In dying for peace and liberty, our soldiers share in the redeeming martyrdom of the King and Queen of heaven. I think that no matter what they believed, this selfless act of laying down their lives predisposes their souls to accept Jesus upon seeing Him face to face. This act of perfect love is no different than what St. Thérèse of Lisieux did—she made her entire life a series of little martyrdoms, as she wrote in her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love:

“In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I offer myself as a victim of holocaust to your merciful Love, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!

May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love.”

We all know where St. Thérèse went after she died, and we can only pray that we have the same courage to offer up our lives as all of the men and women in uniform who have gone before us have done, and in doing so bring glory to God and merit eternal life with them.