One of the recurrent little challenges of married life for us is finding a movie or TV show to watch together, something we would both enjoy. If you look at the streaming history for my husband’s account, you will find plenty of history themes… war documentaries, epic battles, kings, and empires. On the other hand, if you were to look at my streaming history, you would find period dramas, but those that focus more on the individual characters, their stories, their losses, and their loves. My interests have always focused more on the individual rather than the whole. But compromising and watching some of the epic stories he likes has taught me about things I did not understand before.
My husband has always been an avid student of History; myself, not so much. This is one of the reasons I have always had a harder time than him relating to Christ as our King. I didn't really have a proper idea in my mind of what a king is supposed to look like, of what it is they are supposed to do. The Kingship of Christ always seemed like a foreign concept to me. Yet, every year, the Church brings this to my attention when we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Every year, I've had to grapple with the question, what does this mean for me?
One thing that I have come to realize is that this is one devotion where our two different approaches can actually meet. The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe… that is the big picture.
All things are made subject to him.
This is the part where He speaks directly to me. I might not have a very good grasp of what might go on at the level of cosmic battle or even worldwide kingship, but I know what it is to feel a battle within my own heart. A battle of good vs. evil, of love vs. selfishness. I know what it is to want His Peace to rule my heart.
This is what the Solemnity of Christ the King means to me. Each year I am invited to spend some time assessing the areas in my life where I still have not given up my own ruling. Those are becoming easier to identify as His Peace rules more and more in my life.
A few years ago, as an extension of a devotion that had been growing in my heart since childhood, a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we decided to consecrate our family by participating in an Enthronement to the Sacred Heart.
At the time, we did not fully grasp what it meant to place Jesus as the King of Our Family, as the King of Our Hearts, but with childlike faith, we entrusted our most precious possession into His Most Loving Heart. This was a conscious decision on our part. A realization that, though we fall short often, our desire is to allow Him to fully reign in every aspect of our lives.
And you know what happens when you give Jesus permission to come in and take charge? He takes you at your word. Gently, perfectly, through happy times and sad, little by little, you find that you truly belong to His Heart. And, as beautiful and consoling as knowing that Jesus is in me, ruling more and more of my heart, His Kingdom doesn't stop there. It doesn't stop at our family either, for we are all connected, part of the same Body. We know that one person's sin affects many; we have all experienced this in our lives. If sin has effects outside the individual, imagine how much more effect GRACE has.
When our home becomes a stronghold for the Kingdom of God, it becomes a source of grace for all. Each domestic Church, even with all our failings and shortcomings, is called to be a beacon of light, a refuge for sinners, a place where Love reigns and Truth shines. Each of our homes, beginning with each of our hearts, becoming those places where the King can rest His head for a while.
And when the world asks, Who is this king of glory? Where will we point them to, but to the live-beating Eucharistic Heart? This is the One they seek, yet they don't know, just like this is the One we seek, but we forget.
Let us then open up the gates of our hearts and let the King of Glory in. Let Him take possession of every aspect of our lives… Let His Eucharistic Kingdom reign, and His Peace rule our hearts.
The Twelve Promises of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque for those who practice devotion to His Sacred Heart (*Private Revelation)
(The Twelve Promises | Sacred Heart Apostolate, Inc.)
Standing at 5’2” tall, most people would describe me as ‘short.’ This is why it is easy for me to relate to Zaccheaus, who “was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature” (Luke 19:3).
When a parent notices that a child can’t see, they often carry them up in their arms or shoulders. I remember my dad would do that often for me. When we were lined up to see a parade, I had the best seat in the house. Perched up on my dad’s shoulders, I could see the whole world from a safe place. … talk about a VIP seat! But now things are different. I’m still short, but I’m a full-grown adult. Hopping up on someone’s shoulders is not a solution anymore.
I can not count the times I have been unable to see because of the people in front of me. It is even worse now; due to my disability, I must often remain sitting while others stand. Even sitting in a reserved wheelchair area, crowds often gather in front of me and block my view. They don’t intend to block me, but they do. In their eagerness to see, they miss the full picture. Not aware of my presence and how their actions affect me, they focus only on themselves and what they came to do.
Going back to the story of Zacchaeus, he was so determined to see Jesus that he found a way.
The crowd gathered was there to see Jesus, but it was Zacchaeus who was caught in His gaze. Perched high up the sycamore tree, on his VIP seat, he did not let the unfairness of the situation get the best of him. His heart was not divided; He did not lose sight of Whom he sought.
But what about the crowd? Weren’t they focused on trying to see Jesus?
I imagine that climbing the tree was not Zacchaeus’ first action plan. I can see him pleading with his fellow men, saying, “Excuse me, may I please move in front of you? I just want to see.” And like an echo from the night Our Savior was born, their voices answered saying, “Sorry, there is no room for you here.” (cf. Luke 2:7).
We cannot be blind to the needs of those around us. Not wishing them harm is not enough. We will be judged on what we failed to do. We will be judged on when we failed to love. Will we be one more in the crowd blocking the way to Jesus, or will we lift others on our shoulders so they can see?
I recently came upon a video on social media that really moved me. It showed a group of girls and boys at a school performing a dance. As the number begins, we notice one of the little girls has no one dancing with her. As soon as he realizes what is happening, her dad jumps in from the audience and starts dancing with her. The audience claps and the little girl beams with joy as she performs the dance with no one other than her dad.
Once the dad starts dancing with her, you cannot pay attention to any other couple. It is all about them. It is all about how the love of this dad for his daughter transformed reality.
If we had stopped the video early, we would not see the happy ending. We would instead focus on why God would allow this little girl to be so disappointed. Imagine all the hours of practice, the effort of making the costume, the friends and family in the audience… and then her partner doesn’t show up. Perhaps she felt embarrassed, maybe she felt ashamed… thought she had done nothing wrong, something was missing, and things were not the way she hoped. But this was not the whole story.
But you know what else I noticed? The dad knew every move. He had obviously been helping her learn and practice the dance, or at least he was watching closely, for he knew every move and turn and made his daughter truly shine. I could not stop thinking... this is how God is with us… watching, waiting, ready to swoop in and lead us in the dance.
I must have watched the video about twenty times… there was just something about this temporary emptiness, sadness, and disappointment, being replaced by something greater that spoke to a very deep place in my heart. This little girl, who initially seemed to be the unfortunate one, turned out to be the most blessed. The emptiness, though temporary, was necessary, for it was meant to be filled with something greater.
Sometimes though, it feels impossible to give thanks. When the pain is unbearable, and the mind is clouded, when the heart can’t see or understand… this is when we need to run to the Blessed Sacrament and, through Him, give thanks.
Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, in Christ, we have EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavens… whatever grace we need at any precise moment, we can find it in Christ. Whether we need more faith, more hope, more love… EVERY blessing is available to us. In the Eucharist, we unite our broken hearts to the perfect thanksgiving prayer of Jesus to the Father.
We all have parts of our hearts that are empty, where something is missing. These are the very places where God wants to come in and give us something greater than what we thought we should have. Whatever difficult circumstances we go through, let us remember that this is not the end of the story. We have a Father in Heaven who will come running and leave the ninety-nine (cf. Luke 15:4).
For this… and for every blessing… forever and ever, we give thanks.
The respectfully hushed sound of shuffling feet was only briefly interrupted by the signal for the change of guard. Sitting with my laptop on my bed, I watched as thousands waited in line for their turn to say goodbye to the queen. Some held back tears, others allowed them to flow; some were quite stoic in their manner, yet all were there in one accord.
Each with their own story, they come, united in their grief as a nation, to mourn their queen's death. Yet, Queen Elizabeth II's death reverberates worldwide, surprising many with unexpected pangs of grief. Death has a way of tugging at hidden places, at deep memories, and perhaps even finding some unresolved grief.
I remember very clearly the day we buried my paternal grandmother. Watching my uncles dressed in black suits as they stood by their mother's graveside is a memory that remains forever etched in my heart. There was something comforting about seeing the family's elders conduct themselves through the rituals and ceremonies surrounding my grandmother’s death. I did not realize it at the time, but as I held my young sons close to me, my heart and mind were learning something about how to say goodbye. Family coming together to remember, mingling laughter and hugs with prayers and tears. The sorrow of the one leaving us tempered by the experience of shared grief. We were all together, old and young, a family in mourning, blessed by rituals shared with love.
As I have gotten older, I have attended fewer funerals than I would have expected. Even within Catholic families, many choose not to have a funeral Mass or even a service. Some, rather than a funeral, tell their loved ones they want a "celebration of life." They don't want people to wear black; they don't want people to be sad. Whatever the reasons behind these choices, I have always had the sense that we are missing something important when we disconnect our lives from the reality of death. For those of us who are Catholic, the richness of the funeral rites speaks truth amid confusion, turning darkness into light.
Our Holy Mother Church wants to accompany us in our times of sorrow and comfort us in our grief. As we allow our families and communities to be present for one another in their time of need, the burden is shared, and the heart is healed. These things can’t be hurried, and they can’t be ignored. It is a heavy burden to walk through life carrying grief unmourned.
Witnessing the ceremony around Queen Elizabeth II's passing, we have the opportunity to learn about making space and taking time to say goodbye. Let us allow ourselves to experience this moment in our shared humanity. And if some memories of unresolved grief come up, perhaps we can take this opportunity to bring them to the light of Christ; perhaps we need the time to properly say goodbye.
St. Ambrose spoke these words to a mother begging him to help guide her wayward son. The bishop, realizing the young man was not ready to receive instruction, denied her request but encouraged the woman, whom we now know as St. Monica, to keep praying for her son.
St. Monica is the patron Saint of alcoholics, conversions, mothers, and wives. Her steadfastness in faith is not only an example for us but a great source of grace.
Monica was no stranger to suffering. Before the seventeen years she spent praying for her son, she had already endured years of praying for the conversion of her husband and her mother-in-law. I wish we had her diary, but we don’t. We know parts of her story from what we read in her son’s diary.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine of Hippo writes:
From his point of view, he owes his conversion to her prayers. We would not have a Saint Augustine without Saint Monica. But I wonder, would we have a Saint Monica without Augustine? Would we have a Saint Monica without the waywardness of the son?
As a mother, I often find comfort in the story of Monica and Augustine. When my heart is riven by worry for my children, I hear God speak to me through the words of St. Ambrose, reminding me that my tears, though hidden to most, are always seen by God. These tears not only water the ground my children walk on, but they also soften my heart for the work God is doing in my own soul. For the suffering God allows to come our way will always be for good; it will be for the greater glory of God.
First, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude for each prayer said for our family this week. My husband, Rick, had major surgery this past Monday, and your prayers have carried us through. His surgery was much more complicated than anticipated, but he did well and is home recovering. Looking back at everything that has transpired during these past few days, I can honestly say it is all grace. Emmanuel… God is with us… a truth, sometimes hidden, yet often felt. This is what your prayers did for me… they helped me remain aware. Aware of His Presence, of His Providence, of His Love, of His Care.
The last thing I said to him was, “I love you,” as they wheeled him off to the OR. I found a chair away from people in the waiting room, grabbed my coffee and my rosary, and settled in to wait for a while. After an hour and a half, I moved to a chair closer to the preop area door. Looking up each time the door opened, hoping it was the surgeon saying they were all done. A surgery that was supposed to take one hour turned into two, then three, then a call from the nurse saying, “There are some complications; try not to worry, we are still working on him.”
A lot goes through one’s mind and heart in those moments. A prayer of begging and surrender…
It was precisely at this moment that I felt the prayers calling down graces to live the present moment. A grace of courage to have a difficult conversation with God. A grace of trust to know that His Will is perfect and good; that no matter what happened, He was, and would always be, with us. He was with Rick in the OR, He was with our kids at home, and He was with me in the waiting room. And, always, a grace of hope.
Shortly after that call from the nurse, a friend texted and asked if I wanted her to bring me Communion to the waiting room. I said, yes, of course! Jesus wanted to be physically present in the waiting room with me. My friend stopped by, gave me Communion, and prayed with me. She was there representing all of you, and I felt your prayers strengthening me. There were moments when I felt afraid, yet I never lost my peace. I didn’t try to escape the moment either; I was able to remain present, in prayer, in the grace of the moment.
Five hours went by when, finally, the surgeon stepped out looking for me. She said he was in recovery and doing well. There had been some complications during surgery, so she still needed to run some blood work and keep him for observation, but she hoped everything would be ok. It would still be a while before I could see him, but I was so grateful. My friend, who was still with me, left, and I sat in a little corner, ate the sandwich I had packed, and just breathed. I breathed in the Holy Spirit and let Him wash over me. I asked for strength for what was just ahead, helping him through recovery, fully aware of my limitations due to my own disability. Once again, I felt the grace of your prayers, carrying the cross like Simon of Cyrene (cf. Matthew 27:32).
I got to bring Rick home the next day, and he is recovering beautifully at home. We are both resting, taking care of each other, and the kids are doing their part to help things run along. Yes, my friends, this is what your prayers have done for us. A highly complex surgery went well, and we are being carried by grace each moment. Like Rick said last week, let us always continue to pray for each other. Prayer works. We have experienced it over and over again. Let us not tire of asking… of offering sacrifices… of calling down grace for each other. Let us bring light to the places in darkness.
When I saw the little pyx containing Jesus in the waiting room, sitting next to me, I wondered who else He was visiting there. I got to be the one to receive Him, but I know He was not there just for me.
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We are Ivonne J. Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.
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