Saturday, December 31, 2016

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

In the Catholic Church, the first of January is also a day that commemorates Mary as the Mother of God. Today's first reading is from the Book of Numbers:

May Yahweh bless you and keep you!
May Yahweh let His face shine upon you!
May Yahweh look kindly on you, and give you His peace!

So, let's start 2017 by being resolute in following Our Lady's lead.  Let our lives be a blessing to God and to others, so that we may be open to the fullness of His peace.  The following lines were penned from my morning prayer on New Year's Day a couple of years ago. Recently, the rainbow has been warped into a weapon that is wielded against God, but Biblically it represents a promise of peace to His people.

Wishing you and yours a grace filled New Year with abundant blessings!

A poem to ponder...

His Artist

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
And they pierce right through the dark
The brushstrokes don’t come from her hand
But the center of her heart

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
And you might stop and stare a while
From the palette of her laughter
Off the easel of her smile

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
Our Lady’s painting rainbows
She’s always painting rainbows
Our Lady paints His rainbows

Photo taken by Marian S.:  The Salesian Marian Shrine in Stony Point, NY
This isn't my photo, but it's quite fitting.
We stayed at this shrine while on retreat during the final week of SLM orientation.  

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
But unlike ordinary girls
The brightness of her spirit
Shames the beauty of this world

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
But they’re not prisms of the air
Formed from dew drops of the heart
Springing from the depths of prayer

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
Our Lady’s painting rainbows
She’s always painting rainbows
Our Lady paints His rainbows

My niece, Alyssa, gave me this picture right before I left for Vietnam

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
And if you close your eyes you’d know
‘cause you can’t find them with your vision
But you can sense them with your soul

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
And just as choirs of angels see
She’ll keep painting with the colors
of God’s Love eternally

Our Lady’s painting rainbows
Our Lady’s painting rainbows
She’s always painting rainbows
Through her He paints His rainbows

A Christmas gift from a group of new friends.
They are students at the University of Fine Arts in Ho Chi Minh City

Friday, December 23, 2016

Find Christ this Christmas

The Brothers were a bustle in perfect synchronization
Like elves in their workshop making last-minute preparation
There was welding and weaving and electrical wiring
The dawn to dusk effort was truly inspiring
Brother John welding
Brother Damian preparing Christmas lights
Brother Peter doing electrical work
Brother Peter making a stable
Peacocks were painted, a bull was built, they crafted a kangaroo
Heaps of handmade animals completed the holiday zoo
Of course, if you're in the United States, you may think that it's quite irrelevant
But here Christmas just isn’t Christmas without an animatronic elephant
Brother Joseph talking to a young admirer of his work.
Brother Joseph with his completed kangaroo.
Pumps and plumbing were installed for waterworks to flow
And each circuit board was balanced, so the breakers wouldn't blow
Baby Jesus was tenderly placed on a manger to lay
The real reason for the season front and center on display 
Brother Dominic and Brother John carrying the statue of Jesus.
The Brothers lost much sleep and I could see it in their eyes
But if you asked them why they did it they would give a prompt reply
In the end it’s worth the hard work, long hours and sacrifice
Because on the face of each child we're clearly seeing Christ

Monday, December 5, 2016

Year of the Family

As the sunrise was ushering in another Thanksgiving Day Stateside, we were having a feast of our own under the starry skies of Vietnam.  However, this year spring rolls served as a substitute for the traditional turkey.  The Holy Rosary Sisters had invited the local Dominican and Salesian Communities to join them for a yearly celebration.  These sisters operate a boarding home that cares for a number of the local school children.  As we entered the gates we were quickly surrounded by an excited swarm.  Questions came from all directions in rapid-fire succession. 

Kids: “What’s your name?”
Me: “My name is Brandon.”
Kids: “Bra-den…Bren-da…Brin-dan…”
[They had a look on their faces that seemed to say, Can we just call you Joe?]
Kids: “Where are you from?”
Me: “The United States.”
Kids: [blank stares behind broad smiles]
Me: “America…”
Kids: “Oh, America! America!”
Kids: “How are you?”
Me: “I’m fine.  How are you?” 
To which one little girl cheerfully replied, “I’m 10!”
Then like clockwork another group of kids came running from across the room to start round two.

“What’s your name?”…

Group shot with some of the children.  Brother Michael holding up a little boy in the back.
Enjoying the feast...

After the warm welcome, we were led into a room filled with food.  Shortly after sitting down I heard noise blaring from the room outside.  I peeked my head out of the doorway, but sadly it wasn’t the Lions-Packers game.  What I saw looked like the filming of a music video for House of Pain.  There was so much fist pumping that it put the Jersey Shore to shame.  Absolute hilarity ensued throughout the night as the children, Brothers, and Sisters displayed their best dance moves.

Brother Peter getting a kick out of the kids' dance moves.

As I surveyed the jubilant scene on the dancefloor the Gospel of Matthew immediately came to mind. "And everyone that has forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." These words rang with particular truth that night.  There is much to be thankful for.  I am especially grateful for what I hope was a slight foretaste of the future.  The day when we will sit together as one family giving thanks to God at the eternal banquet in heaven.

Brother Anthony and Brother Bao with two of the boys.