By: Rick Hernandez
When I was born, my family lived in New Haven, Connecticut, and at the time, my father held a job as a custodian for Yale University. It was a humble blue-collar kind of job, but one that came with a great deal of responsibility. Like Saint Peter in our Church, my father literally held the keys to that academic kingdom. While many did not even think twice about the importance of his tasks, his was most definitively a necessary job, one that certainly needed doing. He would clean, fix, protect, and maintain. He would serve the needs of the many who used the university's various facilities; most of this was done in the background, without thanks or public recognition.
You can easily imagine the invisibility that comes with this humble job. It can be effortless to just blend into the surroundings and just pass the time, but I am certain that is not how my father did it. My father is a proud man and also a God-fearing one. I have never known him to do anything halfway, be it a high-visibility endeavor or a nearly thankless task. I know that receiving praise and recognition is not what drives him, but the understanding that his duties are an offering, and he would do them to the utmost best of his abilities. He would own the effort put forth and be thankful that doing his job well would help take care of his family and loved ones. I know that through our life together, my father infused that way of thinking in me, and for that, I am ever grateful. Being in the background doing your best, offering your effort, taking care of what needs doing, and doing it with a joyful heart for the love of God and fellow man. I like to call this life approach "having a custodian's heart."
What is a custodian? The word "custodian" comes from the Latin word custodia, which means a person who has custody or care of anything; a keeper or guardian; a person entrusted with guarding or maintaining something.
A person entrusted with guarding or maintaining, a caregiver, a protector. Is not that part of what we are all called to be?
As a member of a family, we care for and protect our fellow family members. If a parent, then we care for and protect our children. If a husband or wife, then we care for and protect our spouse. If a friend, then we care for and protect our friends. If we are strong, then we are to care for and protect the weak. As a child of God, we are called to care for and protect the ones in need. We are to do this humbly but to the best of our God-given abilities. There are no half-measures here.
We are to do this "...with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30) because our Lord is asking us to love as He loves, to care as He cares. Our Lord is asking us to develop our custodial heart.
It is in this humility of surrender to His will for us, in the accepting of His call in the form that is present to us at this very moment, that we truly embrace our role as God's faithful. Our Lord's heart is a custodian's heart. He cares for us and protects us. In the Eucharist, He nurtures us. In the Eucharist, He sustains us.
What are we to do to acknowledge God's custodial heart? We care for, guard, and protect God's loved ones, to the fullest of our ability, with all that we are. Our best efforts become then a beautiful tribute we can offer to our Heavenly King. It is a sweet offering and most pleasing to Him who is love.
We take all of this and bring it to the moment of encounter. We bring this to the Eucharist, that as we receive, we also offer. We unite the humble work of our human hands to His mighty and Holy offering. The Eucharist, as always, is no idle thing. It is dynamically alive in us, His people. Our hearts, in tune with His, then also become custodian's hearts. We take care of what is needed, big and small.
Not too many years ago, my dear wife and I were involved in youth ministry. Every week we would meet at the youth house and help lead many activities. We would play and pray; we would give talks and listen to what the young ones were going through. We would offer words of advice and comfort, and we would also be comforted by the bright future these young ones had and the love we received. While this was happening, we would always keep watch. These wonderful young ones were directly under our care, and we were both friends and mentors to them. They were our responsibility, and we took that seriously. We would help build their faith up and help them maintain their self-esteem, show them that people truly cared for them. We were their custodians, and we were very diligent in all the "big tasks."
After our meetings were over, I would often sweep the floor. It had to be done, and I tried diligently to do it the best I could, for this humble task was part of my contribution to our whole effort. Every time I was told that "I" did not have to sweep the floor. Yet, my custodial heart told me firmly that I had to, for in the joy of that simple task at that precise moment, I could offer the present me that diligently worked for the Kingdom, the me that cared for our work and the ones under our charge.
I like to imagine my good 'ole father sweeping that old institution's floors, and a big smile would come to my face. What once was, is yet again. This is a reminder that nothing that needs doing is beneath us. All parts of the whole are important, all tasks have to be done, our call is not partial but complete...
We do what needs doing to the best of our abilities and with as much love and hope as we can muster. After we do that, all that is necessary is to pray that we are gifted with a little more faith. May we all find our custodial hearts.
Let us pray: Lord, you care for us so much that You left yourself behind in the Eucharist to nurture and nourish us while on this earth. We ask Lord that You help transform our hearts. Help us to love as You love and to care as You care. Help us be diligent in all our responsibilities, that we may show Your love in all that we do, and that every one of our actions may become an acceptable offering to You. Grant us Your custodial heart. Amen.
By: Laura Catherine Worhacz
In a Letter from St. Peter Julian Eymard to Mr. Emmanuel De Leudeville, Paris July 24th, 1863:
Dearest Eucharist Family,
In the Eucharist is the only, one and only, way to live in the grace of the present moment. When we receive Communion and consent to the presence of God, then the life of Jesus Christ resides in us. We pray to be conformed to Christ, to become Christlike, and to find love in all things.
Recently a few of my sisters in Christ asked how I handle all the prayer requests that come to me. The Mothers of the Blessed Sacrament Prayer Cenacle, of which I am director, is flooded with families that have COVID. A couple of our sisters in Christ are hospitalized, husbands and family members violently ill with nausea and pain.
How do all of us endure this pain?
Saint Paul reminds us,
Love is the path. In the above reflection, Saint Peter Julian writes of being bathed in external distractions, to let them be our loving thought of God. Truly a marvelous image of our baptism. We promise to die to this life to be united to Heaven now through the Eucharist. The joy of the Gospel comes to us amid the endurance of pain. It is a joy that dwells in the interior of our existence that rises in hope as we take part in the Eucharistic banquet. Our hearts can be pierced with sadness, yet our soul somehow understands God’s mystery. The reception of Holy Communion should be our life mission. To receive Jesus every day, if not sacramentally, a sincere, reverent spiritual communion should be at the center of our days. It is by this living hope that we are in union with the entire Body of Christ. The martyrs, the saints, and the Kingdom of Heaven are with us now through the Eucharist.
We are in the rays of eternity with Jesus, Our Blessed Mother, and St. Joseph, in union with the Holy Spirit this side of Heaven. Let us strive to live there. How do we, you and me, endure the pains of this life? Only with Jesus. We enter a living hope of our resurrected lives by our love for God and neighbor. We are assured of transformation. Grace will change the disappointments and pains of this life.
Submission to God’s will, “the situation is the path.” Let us embrace all we encounter in our days with the hope, peace, and blessings of God. May we behold the living God, be a living monstrance every day to shine forth the brilliance of God through simple smiles, acts of kindness, charity, and most of all, by recognizing the needs of others.
As we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, let us follow our Mother in the pattern of prayer she has set before us. She lived on earth in the zeal, hope, and joy of Christ’s love, in God our Father’s will, and the great power of the Holy Spirit.
I was recently thinking about my grandparents, how I had a close relationship with only two of them, my paternal grandmother and my maternal grandfather.
My dad’s dad died before I was born, so I never met him, but I loved spending time with my dad’s mom. Her name was Isabel. We will never know for sure, but I think she is the one I inherited my neuromuscular disease from. She had a lot of pain and limited mobility, which might be the reason why I have so many memories of sitting with her and having the best conversations. She would tell me all kinds of stories of how life was back in Cuba and when my dad was a little boy. She taught me how to cook and how to crochet. I just loved spending time with her.
I also enjoyed spending time with my mom’s dad…my Abuelo Joe. He was a significant presence in my life. After my father died when I was only nine, my grandfather stepped in; he even walked me down the aisle when I got married. We had a very close relationship. I remember calling him from college when I was having a particularly challenging week. He was always there to listen and to give me words of wisdom. To this day, the love my grandfather gave me is the image I have in my head for how God the Father loves me.
And then there is my maternal grandmother, Virginia. I am sad to say that I really did not have a close relationship with her. My memories of her are seeing her cooking and cleaning and scolding us grandchildren as we ran through her house, tracking in dirt from the yard. I don’t blame her; she had a tough job, and she did it well. She took care of the grandkids; she fed us and kept us safe until our parents would come and pick us up at the end of the day. I have great memories of playing at her house with my cousins, just no memories of really getting to know her. She died when I was seventeen.
One day, many months after she had passed away, I was looking through my closet and came upon a purse I had never used. It was a white purse with rainbow-colored handles. Abuela Virginia had given it to me as a gift when I turned fifteen, but I really didn’t like it, so after a polite thank you and a hug, I tucked it away in my closet and forgot about it. Now it was there, right in front of me.
I remember holding the purse and feeling bad about it. The fact that grandma wasn’t with us anymore made me look at the gift differently. I opened the purse for the first time, pulled out the filler paper they had stuffed in it to keep its shape and found two things inside; a small box and an envelope. The box had a set of eyeshadow makeup. And the envelope had a note from her and folded inside it, a hundred-dollar bill.
I realized I had been ungrateful, and I wept bitterly. I wept then, and I weep now. I weep for a missed opportunity. I thought I knew what the gift I was given was, but it was really just the wrapper. I didn’t even open it; I did not receive it. And when I remained closed to the gift, I remained closed to the giver of the gift. How many times have we done the same thing with the gifts God gives us? Gifts wrapped in a veil of suffering, roses hidden within the thorns.
The true gift hidden inside that white purse was not the hundred-dollar bill but the opportunity to connect with my grandmother, to have a relationship with her. Maybe she felt the same remorse I did, of all the time we’d lost, of all that could have been. Perhaps she tried to connect with a teenager the only way she thought could grab my attention long enough to see her.
My grandmother never said a thing. She never asked me if I liked the gift or what I chose to do with the money she gave me. I probably broke her heart a little bit that day. But in the bittersweetness of this memory, I now choose to give thanks. Thanks for the lessons, thanks for the growth, thanks for the mercy, thanks for the hope. The hope that God in His mercy will let my grandma see that her broken heart bore fruit. The hope that we will one day be reunited in Heaven, when God will make all things new.
By: Rick Hernandez
I was spending time with my youngest son, and I asked him what he thought would make a good king. If we assume competence as a given, my son’s answer was three things: kindness, wisdom, and charisma. These are three excellent Catholic words. I specifically like that all three are obtainable via our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Charism is defined as a spiritual gift, a special grace given by the Holy Spirit that benefits the Church. Amongst the “kingly charisms” are administration, governance, and leadership. For a king, these charisms benefit his kingdom. For us, domestic kings, heads of our households, these charisms benefit our families.
Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit and is sometimes defined as “the perfection of Faith.” It makes the soul responsive to God in the contemplation of divine things. Wisdom is the jurisdiction of the wise; it provides direction, helps with all discernment. For a king, wisdom aligns all actions with the will of God, allowing him to govern the kingdom rightly and justly. As heads of our household, wisdom enables us to guide our charges towards the will of God.
The word kindness is different from the other two. Charism and wisdom are not actions but capabilities. You may have wisdom, and you may have many charisms; however, you cannot have kindness. Kindness is defined by choice and action.
The word kindness comes from the old English word kyndnes, which means “to nurture or increase a nation.” It was related to the words kin (family) and kin-der (children). In this context, kindness means “all the noble actions required to help raise a young inner-circle or blood-related person.”
Therefore, for a king, to be kind is to help nurture the members of his kin, help raise them correctly and point them towards truth, for they are to help strengthen and continue the kingdom. For the head of the household, the domestic king, kindness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit that helps nurture our charges, strengthen the family.
To be a nurturing king requires effort. The king has to work diligently and humbly towards obtaining the capabilities to rule well because the kingdom depends upon the king. We must acknowledge that this can be hard upon us, domestic kings.
We may believe that our kingship is difficult and even lonely, a responsibility that separates us from the ones under our charge. We may even think for a bit that we are meant to do all this just by ourselves, but the Lord is there to remind us that we are all subjects of His Kingdom. He is our High King, the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16); he nourishes and provides for us; we just have to keep depending on him. That humility in our part, that poverty of spirit, is part of our acknowledgment that He is our rock, our support, our Lord, the one whom we love, and the One who loves us.
So, how do we become nurturing kings, the kind of kings that are kind, wise, and charismatic?
We follow the examples set before us by the life of Christ Jesus and his many saints. We immerse ourselves in His Word and participate in His Eucharist. We read of the lives of the saints. We accept His love for us and live His love for others. We start looking at our responsibilities as a gift and take them seriously. We offer our suffering and our iniquities to our Lord. We ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all that we do. But most of all, we offer Him who we are that He may help us become the kings we are called to be in His stead.
If we are to follow in our Heavenly King’s example, we must work towards wisdom, hone our charisms, and practice kindness. All of these are parts of our kingly call. It is work that requires constant effort, but with God’s help, are we willing?
Let us pray: Dear Lord, you are the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. You have given us your most precious people to love and nurture. Help us then to show our charges the way to You, that they may grow to love You and cherish You the same way that You love and cherish us. Help us to grow in virtue and grow in capability, that we may do this kingly job well, that it may glorify You and Your Kingdom forever. Amen.
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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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