Morning meditation

20180405_105215“Morning has broken like the first morning…”

During Lent, I had a goal of getting back into praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  I had not done so in about a year until Good Friday. I finally prayed morning prayer. I prayed it every morning for years. Most of the time, it was therapeutic. Sometimes it was sustaining. A few times reciting the prayers kept me afloat. I cherish what it did in my life. Because it is an old friend, I can resume as if I had never stopped. But because time has passed, I see it with new eyes and a deeper understanding.

The morning prayer is set up the same way every day I follow the shorter Christian prayer which consists of morning prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. It opens with the invitatory psalm, usually Psalm 22 but there are others.You recite an antiphon that changes depending on the day. This is followed by two psalms and a canticle from an Old Testament prophet, again with antiphons that are fitting to the season or the feast. There is a short reading, sometimes from one of the prophets or a letter of Paul. Then you recite the Canticle of Zechariah with an antiphon, prayers of intercession, the Our Father, and a concluding prayer and a blessing . Some of these prayers I knew by heart; I’m sure with more recitation I could I could do it by memory

The Canticle of Zechariah has always been one of my favorites. It comes from the Gospel of Luke which is my favorite gospel. It is a song of joy following the birth of John the Baptist and recalling the history of salvation. The lines that consistently strike are the ones that say, “ he promised that he would save us from our enemies  from the hands of all who hate us.” Sometimes those words make me cry. That is what happened in my life. I have been burdened by people full of self-loathing and hatred of others. I have had to fight back against their toxic poison. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for their conversion. But mostly I prayed for God to prevail and to keep me safe. He did. He always has. I am forever grateful.

Morning prayer may only take about 15 minutes but it is a wonderful time of serenity and silence. When I recite these prayers, I enjoy peace and stillness. I definitely need more of that in my life instead of the usual piles of folded laundry or checked work emails that I tackle weekday mornings.  So far during the Easter season, I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours daily. Those moments of quiet reflection are much needed and appreciated.

Marching with saints


We celebrate All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic holiday. In the past, it rivaled and even overshadowed Halloween with parades of children dressed as patron saints or their saintly namesakes. When I was a little girl, my parish celebrated the saints’ parade. I only remember taking part once. I was St. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. My mom made my costume.  I felt a connection to St. Elizabeth for years so much that I chose her as my confirmation saint and alluded to her story in my fiction writing in later years.  When I became a mother, I reflected on this holiday and how I might celebrate it with my daughter.

Our neighborhood parish still celebrates a saints’ parade. The nuns at my parish organize the parade every year and often commission seamstresses to make various costumes.  You can, however, create your own costumes and that is what we have done. I had always wanted M to participate when she got older. We talked about it for a few years and did not follow through. Then we finally decided she would do it. The first year she participated, she paid tribute to our heritage. M was St Rose of Lima. She dressed as a Dominican nun wearing a crown of roses instead of the traditional (and gorier) crown of thorns.

12027202_10153862934977784_2746629336698459820_oLast year, she asked to be the Virgen of Guadalupe, again paying homage to our culture and her Mexican roots.

20161106_085010This year, we wanted to continue honoring our culture.  We chose St. Kateri.


In creating her saints’ costumes, I do have to make time to research and also set aside money for expenses. I have spent between $50 and $60 for a few years. The first year, I purchased the nun’s habit. She already had the floral headband. Last year, I ordered a royal blue cape and ironed on the stars. It was difficult to find a plain pink nightgown.  I also purchased some black ribbon for the maternity sash.  This year, I wanted to keep the costume simple. We chose a soft brown shift dress with black leggings, gold sandals, and a bead necklace, all from M’s closet. Grandma did her braids. I already have a beautiful tree branch crucifix that hangs in our living room. The one thing we purchased was the silk tiger lily. This year, I only spent $10 since she had everything else.

All Saints has become a special holiday in our home. It’s a beautiful tradition celebrating our faith. It allows us to take joy in who we are.

4 Challenges in 40 Days

“Long have I waited

For your coming home to me

And living deeply our new lives…” “Hosea” by John Michael Talbot.


This Lent, I am taking on a 40 blogs for 40 days as part of the 4 Lenten challenges I will be completing.

One challenge is joining the now-viral  #40bagsin40days challenge to clear up clutter. This has been an ongoing challenge.  I have read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which had an impact on my wardrobe. I have also read numerous blogs and articles on thrift shopping and capsule closets which changed how I purchase and keep clothing and shoes. However it is a work in progress as clutter continues to consistently affect our home and my office at work. Purging daily, whether it is paper clutter or material items I don’t need, will clear space.  I don’t need much. What I need is love, family, discipline, and positive outlets. I have those blessings in place. It’s a matter of clearing space, energy, and time to truly enjoy them.

Rather than completely fasting from Facebook, I will be reducing my presence on social media. If I’m doing a 40 day writing challenge, social media is the best way to share my work. I will use social media purposefully.  I will post images and links related to my Lenten challenges and reflections. Another reason to revisit this traditional practice of reducing my time online is my actual enjoyment of this fast. Fasting from social media has gotten easier.  I don’t want my Lenten challenges to feel as if they are not sacrifices such as “Oh I’m giving up chocolate.” I moved away from that type of material sacrifice years ago because it doesn’t change me from within. Giving up Facebook and not posting status updates or sharing memes does not make me any less petty. Usually I get back online Easter Sunday and I’m posting a blog about how fulano de tal ruined my Lent. It’s not pure pettiness; there is some reflection involved.  Being off line is no easy fix.  I will move past venting through my writing over the course of these 40 days.

A challenge I began in therapy and within my immediate family is my commitment to stop being a mean mommy.(Can-do attitude)M  has always been articulate in expressing her opinions and feelings. While she is outwardly not thin-skinned, she’s much more sensitive than when she was 7. When I  hear her say, “you’re mad at me”, “you’re mean to me”  or use negative self-talk like “it’s my fault that…”, I cringe.  I am responsible for prompting my child to second-guess herself. In these 40 days, I will make a conscious effort to hold my tongue, monitor my body language and facial expressions, and modulate my tone of voice. I will be firm and tough but do it in a way that is nurturing, not demoralizing. Given our family’s histories, M is prone to anxiety. I will not be an additional stressor in her life. I want M to look at our relationship as one that strengthens her.

Finally, I will pray more in these 40 days. M and I will be praying the rosary during our commutes again. Instead of listening to New Edition during my morning drive to work(I’m not swearing off NE for 40 days! That blog is forthcoming), I will listen to gospel music.I will do some spiritual reading. I will participate in Best Lent Ever through Dynamic Catholic. This program has changed the way I experience Lent. Lent has become a beloved season  which I anticipate yearly.  I love what Lent offers my family, my prayer life, what it does for my relationship with myself and ultimately my relationship with God. God bless.


To learn more about the #40bagsin40days, visit 40 bags in 40 days

To join Dynamic Catholic for the next 40 days, sign up at Best Lent Ever



“In the sweet territory of silence we touch the mystery. It’s the place of reflection and contemplation, and it’s the place where we can connect with the deep knowing, to the deep wisdom way.” Angeles Arrien
“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.” Antoine Saint-Exupery
I am nearing the end of my 40 days in the desert of my own making. While I have felt isolated at times, the positive changes I have experienced have made up for the occasional duda.
For 40 days, I have renewed my commitment to contemplation. I began my mornings with Dynamic Catholic’s “Best Lent Ever”, a collection of videos featuring author Matthew Kelly, quotes, and questions meant to prompt reflection on readings and themes. I now write in my Mass journal during every Mass I attend. I have committed to spiritual reading as a daily practice.
In 40 days, my professional life underwent a significant transformation. I went from being fearful, complacent, and exhausted to feeling empowered, focused, and re-energized. All it took was heart-to-heart chats with my credential coach and my longtime mentor and most importantly, prayer. I prayed for clarity and strength. Reading Father Greg Boyle’s Tattoos on the Heart helped me revisit my commitment to young people. I needed to revisit “vocation” and “mission” over “job” and “career.”  
In 40 days, I have realized that disconnection can lead to reconnection. I am still seeing friends, taking my daughter on adventures, and communicating with folks who make me laugh. I haven’t missed the noise and information overload that often makes me want to give up social networking altogether.
For 40 days, I have read and listened to more books than I have in years. I read M her first chapter book, Charlotte’s Web.  M has declared “books are magic.” 
Caral Peru.
Photo by Julie Ann Calderon. 

Every year, I cherish my Lenten experience. Then, on Easter Sunday night, I promptly return to my old habits. But, now, with another surgery expected in summer, I need to do what nurtures my family, my health, and my faith. I resolve to stay in the desert every day.  

The newest name in the family Litany

M and I have said nightly prayers since her infancy. This past year, we began reciting the Rosary daiily on commutes and long drives.  We also pray various versions of litanies, some short and some long, but also a daily or nightly practice.
In light of my recent illness, I have discovered Saint Agatha, a Sicilian martyr tortured to death by a vengeful man she rejected. Due to her most infamous punishments, she is now the patron saint of breast cancer and breast disease.

The two paintings depict the wounds that are often associated, sometimes implicitly, in art featuring St. Agatha. One of the most famous is “Saint Peter Healing Saint Agatha,” a 1614 painting by Giovanni LanFranco that shows a traditional St. Peter tending to Saint Agatha’s wound, a gash over her right breast. The modern painting depicts Agatha’s wound as tradition has often indicated, a complete mastectomy on the right.

While some may argue that these images are distasteful and grim(and I won’t deny that many of the stories of martyrs are violent and dark), our tradition holds that we can seek solace in knowing that other people of our faith endured trials and tribulations.  I personally sought out a patron saint with whom to connect during this experience with breast disease. It was one of my many ways I have faced this challenge with strength and faith. 

Saint Agatha, pray for us.

My Christmas List

Seven.  That is how many gifts I will be purchasing, not the thousands of dollars to be spent or the number of miles of lights to be strung up around my house.  As usual, my holiday is being “downsized” in the eyes of consumerism but upgraded and reinvigorated in my opinion.  I would like to continue to move away from the practice of spending money to the tradition of spending time sharing faith with my family.
In my house, the crèche is the centerpiece.  Inspired by the crèches I saw in Peru and in Italy, I began to see the Nativity manger differently.  It is and continues to the best decoration for the season. 

We put up a Jesse Tree for the first time. Inspired by years of catechism, I had always fondly remembered this tradition and began to incorporate into our own celebration.   I hope to revisit this tradition more purposefully. M is attending parochial school so she has a better sense of Bible stories and how they connect to our own family.   I want to make the Jesse Tree feel like less of an “extra” activity. 
Last year, I also began keeping an Advent calendar for M.  True, each day featured some little trinket: a sticker, a toy ring, a small candy.  But it was more about anticipation and excitement, about looking forward to daily surprises.  This year, I’ll be revisiting the daily treats. How might I make them more meaningful, less “little” in terms of substance?
So I will likely be cleaning or writing or exercising on Black Friday morning.  After all, my family is here at home, not in a mall or a parking lot.  

Inventory on Good Friday

No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world which Jesus holds. Other gods have been as devoutly worshipped; no other man has been so devoutly loved. –John Knox

At Congress this year, I once again heard from one of my favorite speakers, Father Richard Leonard. One of his talks, “Screening the Sacred,” focused on movie depictions of Jesus but also included reflection on the Gospels and discussion of the power of images in our lives.  Father Richard asked us to “do an inventory” since what we see, hear, and sing about Jesus can be retained for a lifetime.  Now that I’m shaping two other lives in my home, that of my daughter and, even if he doesn’t realize it, Blues, I thought it a good opportunity to take stock. 

You could argue that my outfit today is irreverent. Conceived by Kerusso.Com, an online Christian store, its nod to Coca-Cola means to make us rethink corporate branding and revisit who Jesus is in our lives.  The tagline, “Eternally Refreshing” is followed by a quote from John, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.”  Tongue in cheek or not, the logo argues that drinking Coke products won’t ever give spiritual rejuvenation or satisfaction.   I specifically wanted to wear this shirt today because it helps to remind me of what I so often forget. 
This painting of the Good Shepherd belonged to my father. You can see it in old photos from the early 70s when my dad married my mom after his draft stint in the US Army.  Throughout my childhood, this painting hung in my brother’s room. I always found it comforting and tender. When my dad said he was getting rid of it, I protested and brought it to my house where it sits above my makeshift altar.  These days, my daughter looks at it and names Jesus aloud. This is an image I would love for her to retain for the rest of her life. 
The central piece of art in my living room is a reprint of an album cover for Santana’s “Hymns for Peace” by Oakland artist Michael V. Rios.  When I first moved into my house, I wanted a piece of Chicano/Latino art but I was honestly tired of seeing Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Carmen Lomas Garza, and Simon Silva. As much as I loved the work of those iconic painters, I wanted something different. I love the scope of this painting, Christ the Redeemer amidst a pantheon of African, Aztec, and Mayan iconography, against the backdrop of a baby in vitro. It may be small in size but powerful. 

My mom’s neighbor and my former piano teacher brought back this crucifix from Mexico. Made from a tree branch and carved from wood,  it offers a stark, simple depiction of the crucified Christ. Father Richard reminded us that our Good Friday question is not why did Jesus die but why Jesus was killed. This angular image reminds me that sentiment and sadness are elements of Christ’s passion but not the ultimate meaning.  I see a man who suffered capital punishment. A once revered community activist,  he is alone in death.  But his loss calls authority and power into question. 
In my house, Jesus is nourishment, comfort, harmony, and sacrifice.  He is commercial, traditional, ethnic,  and multicultural.   May these varied images continue to challenge us to seek him.