Fátima

Had a nice 6h sleep.. all good and ready for an exciting day today! I’m the youngest in the group… like way younger (younger people should really consider joining these pilgrimages) to the point that my group treats me like I’m their child or something. They give me snacks, always tells me to stay with the group (I tend to wander off a lot), and since I’m by myself… they always invite me to sit with them. I’m practically in every photo because they invite me to also take pictures with them… not “of” them, but with them! God really is taking care of me, because that is one of my worries–being a loner in the corner.

Today, we drove around Fatima and visited the houses of the three children! It was a humbling experience… one for sure I would remember forever. I don’t know why but when I met Sr. Lucia’s niece… I felt teary-eyed and peaceful. She was so sweet! She even kissed me! I might be the next Blessed Maria… haha!

Today’s experience made me realize how blessed I am. We should always be thankful for experiences because through these experiences we are made to be better.

Thank You for helping me be a better version of myself.

Oh Lisbon!

I have been travelling for approximately 18h and counting. As I sat on the plane waiting to land in Lisbon airport, I could not help but say to myself… why is everything not going according to plan?

This is my first time to travel internationally by myself… and I’m kind of, sort of–freaking out. We had a delayed flight to Toronto so they had to reroute us to London instead. In London, I had almost missed my flight to Lisbon (got held up at security because of a yogurt I got on the plane), waited approx 1h and 30 min to get out of customs clearance in Lisbon, prayed really hard and asked for the intercession of St. Anthony, Mama Mary and St. Joseph for my luggage to appear at baggage claim. (I can handle anything but a lost baggage.) Thankfully, it was there waiting for me after an excruciating wait to get a stamp on my passport. Whew!

We got to our Fatima hotel and it’s right beside the Basilica! Oh how lovely! I fell in love with the place! As I sat and celebrated mass at the Basilica, where you can find the tomb of Jacinta and Francisco (isn’t that so cool?), I prayed and let go of all my troubles and worries and frustration. I told the Lord to help me be closer to Him during this trip no matter what happens next.

I can feel Your presence around me. Help me be more like You.

Portugal

I am going on a pilgrimage to Fatima. I am asking for your prayers. This is the first time that I will be traveling by myself (not really by myself because I am with a group of people I have not met yet). I am not a social person, used to be an anti-social, now I’m just a semi-anti-social (if that’s even a thing). I am feeling a bit worried, anxious, and excited all at the same time. Since I read the story about the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, I had since been intrigued about it. As I wait here today before I fly out, I can’t help but feel a little worried.

My flight to Toronto is delayed for another 2 hours… This means I will miss my Lisbon flight. I don’t know what to do so I’m just hoping and praying for the best. I know the Lord is with me in this trip so what could possibly go wrong right?

Here we go…

What I told the priest during my confession…

Many came to know Lent as the season of giving up something really difficult and ultimately forcing ourselves to fulfill our Lenten promise during the 40 (week)days of Lent. When we end up not living up to the 40 days of sacrifice, we always seem to just go back to our old ways and tell ourselves, “There’s always next year!” or “I’ll do better next Lent.” We always seem to just brush it off and move on with the rest of the year. Just like “No Meat Fridays” during Lent. I’ve come across people where they would forget about the fasting during Fridays then ends up saying, “I already ate it, might as well not waste it. I’ll try again next Friday”. Then there’s another idea (excuse) of “chicken” not considered being meat, because it’s in the “poultry” section in Superstore; or the idea of eating lots of really good fish dishes during Fridays (like sushi). It loses the purpose and it loses the meaning.

As I sat in front of the priest to confess my sins, I truly desired to be forgiven, because I was carrying a rather heavy burden of doubt and denial. Don’t get me wrong, I have not neglected my beliefs, but rather I became stagnant–full of self and less of Him. I became a conscious mirror of criticism, because I kept treating the bruises of confusion instead of relieving the pleasure of peace. I wanted to be forgiven, because I wanted to feel worthy to be with the Lord during these 40 days of Lent. I told the priest how I was lacking peace, and that from this lack of peace I knew it was because of the lack of prayer I’ve been doing. It is true that even if you are doing the work of the Lord, you will still lose sight of actually being with the Lord. Maybe I’m the Martha in the Bible, and maybe to some extent, it wouldn’t hurt to be Mary, because after all Jesus even said, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (cf. Lk 10:42)

As we begin the season of Lent, remember how Jesus spent His forty days: fasting and praying.

What’s so difficult about being Catholic?

According to George Weigel, “half of the world’s two billion Christians are Catholics” and yet you can never tell them apart from anyone else. Why is it that if you are in a secular place full of people, you would never be able to distinguish Catholics from non-Catholics (unless of course you have already seen them at church)?

There are 3 things (based solely on my own opinion and observation, and of course there will be more, but these are the top 3) I have experienced and still sometimes struggle in when practicing my faith.

1. People know it when Catholics pray.

Catholics do the sign of the cross when they start and end their prayers. Don’t you find it so difficult to start a prayer in public, because you’re afraid that someone might be looking? I rarely find Catholics in public who pray before meals at work, at school, at the food court. I rarely see the sign of the cross anywhere. I see it at church, yes. At home, yes. So why is it when we are in public, we are so ashamed of the cross? The sign of the cross signifies our faith. It’s like when you try to call a person, you would first have to dial their number. Someone told me that the sign of the cross is like God’s number–we have to dial first. We have to do the sign of the cross, because we show our faith. We show that we believe that our prayers will be heard. The sign of the cross is a sign of respect. Honor it. Do it. Don’t be ashamed.

Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.” || Matthew 10:32-33

2. Catholics pray the Rosary.

Before, praying the Rosary seemed forever to pray. Fifteen long minutes of repeated Our Father’s, Hail Mary’s, and Glory Be’s, it would drive me insane. I was born and raised Catholic and at home we would have our own family time before we sleep where we all get together to pray the rosary. We, as a family, have always believed in the saying, “A family that prays together stays together.” I remember a time when those 15 minutes of family prayer time were the most unbearable. My siblings and I would always find things funny during those 15 minutes, or would just repeatedly mumble the prayers as fast as we could so we could end it quickly. (Of course, our parents would always scold us for doing this.) I recently read in the book “Rome Sweet Home” by the Hahn’s couple where Kimberly stated, “Mary’s a warrior maiden who does battle through her motherhood.” Mary is our intercessor and praying the Rosary is a humble way of acknowledging Mary as our mother and having faith that Mary will provide to the Father whatever we ask of her according to His will. Just think about asking for permission to your dad and using your mom to convince him. Pray the Rosary because it is a powerful tool, tested and proven.

Woman,why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” || John 2:4-5

3. Catholics need to confess their sins to a priest.

Being sorry for our sins is one thing, but being able to confess it is another. When you’ve done something so serious, of course the natural reaction is to hide it. Hide it until you no longer can hide it. So asking for forgiveness to God in prayer is faith, faith that He will forgive us of our sins. Asking for forgiveness to God through a priest is humility, being humble enough to admit where you have gone wrong. Why do we need to confess our sins to priests when God alone can give us forgiveness, you ask? As Pope Francis noted, “someone can say, ‘I confess my sins only to God.’ Yes, you can say to God, ‘forgive me,’ and say your sins. But our sins are also against our brothers, against the Church. This is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness of the Church and of our brothers, in the person of the priest.” (I could not have explained it better.)

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. || James 5:16

Now I tell you these things, not because I find glory in claiming the struggles of Catholicism, but for you to become aware of the blessings we neglect to share to other people through our Church. Catholicism is beautiful in its own tradition and practices and sometimes we forget to practice those things that make us Catholic. Going to church is one thing, but practicing it is courage and a way of evangelization. “We need more contagious Catholics,” as the Hahn’s would say.

If we don’t share the faith, who will? I am Catholic, and I am proud of it.