Categories
Ink Slingers Michelle Motherhood Pro-Life Issues Spiritual Growth

The Miracle of Leonidas

leonidas, a true miracleIn honor of the miracle that happened in our life just one year ago, I would like to share a letter with you that I sent out to family and friends regarding the birth of our son. Many of you followed our story and kept us in prayer. Your support helped us through one of the most difficult times in our lives. We are forever thankful. As we approach Mother’s day next week I feel so blessed to still be here to be the mother my children need. I know God had a purpose for all that we went through and I feel so thankful that in a few short days we will celebrate our son’s first birthday! Today Leo is growing, playing, exploring, jabbering, and trying to get into everything! He holds my heart in the palm of tiny hand.  To think that there are people out there who thought he shouldn’t be here is just mind-boggling to me. His life, both in my womb and now outside, has provided proof that each and every baby deserves a chance at life! I pray that our story has been an encouragement to those who face difficult pregnancies or trials that just seem to be too much to handle. Thank you for helping me through this journey and for traveling this long, hard road with us.

A Miracle

On May 8th, at 39 weeks of pregnancy, we had our sweet little man via c-section. Leonidas Alexander was born weighing 8 lbs 7 oz. The doctors were amazed at how uncomplicated his birth was and how things were completely healed inside of me. The doctors scratched their heads and couldn’t provide us a reason why. I could though… faith and healing; God provided us a miracle. I know that there are some out there who would tell me that my body just healed on its own but given what we were told by the doctors at Jake’s birth I highly doubt that my body could have healed so well and so completely without God’s intervention.

DSCF7201

We know, without a doubt, that God made it possible to bring this baby into the world. There should have been no way that I could carry a baby to term. The doctors were very deliberate in repeating to us over and over again that my uterus was so damaged that it would never hold another baby again; that if I tried to carry a baby the baby would die and more than likely I would too. My uterus was in pieces… “it was like putting a jigsaw puzzle back together” they said. I know the body is an amazing creation but how can one go from never being able to carry a baby to carrying one for a full term pregnancy and finding the uterus to be completely healed if not for God’s help?

Through the years I have said that I know we are blessed far beyond what we ever deserve. Little Leo has proved to us once again that God often gives to those who don’t deserve His blessings. As I hold him in my arms I wonder what I did to find such favor with God. I am such a sinner. I have such huge flaws. I am a terrible mother at times. Why does God trust me with such amazing little people? I have yet to find the answer to this question. I pray though, every single day, that He will provide me with the patience, the love, and the understanding to raise these children for His glory… to be beacons of light in a world full of darkness.

baby leoIt’s amazing how much love you can have for something so small. It never ceases to astound me that each time we have another child my heart grows by leaps and bounds. How can that be? Shouldn’t it be that each time you have a child that you have to divide your love? No, God doesn’t work that way. Each time you have another child He multiplies the love that you have. That is a gift in itself! Love that just keeps growing and multiplying… you couldn’t ask for anything more!

I know that one day we will move past this phase in our lives. I thought we were past it when we were told we should never have more children after Jake. Shoot, I thought we were past it when I was told after Garrett (#2) was born that I had too many female problems and that I would never have any more children. I hope that I will be at peace when that day comes but right now I’m still enjoying having a newborn and being open to new life as God sees fit to bless us.

As a child I always said I hoped for 9 kids (all boys!). To be honest, I never believe that I would be granted that wish. I never thought that anyone would want to marry me let alone have babies with me, but still I hoped. I am so thankful for my life… the good times, the bad, the chaos, the rare quiet, the laughter and the tears. God knows what He’s doing and I trust Him completely.

DSCF5344
Leo today, almost one and the light of our lives! Thank you God for this beautiful gift of life… both his and mine!
Categories
Alessandra Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Novenas Testimonials

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your Mercy Saved Me


I have a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Being that this is His month, I wanted to share a little story of my childhood.

Growing up, my mom had this image of the Sacred Heart in our living room. This is the image I would look at day in and day out. This was HUGE by the way it measured about 5 feet x 3 feet, think a big poster. I experienced many sad moments in my childhood: the loss of my father, sexual abuse by my step father (I’ve shared in Broken Childhood, Healed by Christ), my mother’s alcoholism due to the first two, and much more. But this image always gave me hope, even when we didn’t go to Mass, even when my mom fell away from the Church.

One time when we were moving for what felt like the 1 billionth time, she wanted to change the frame it was in because it was heavy and she and I were moving our entire apartment alone with my little sisters (I was 12 then). She messed it up and sprayed the image itself in silver. She cried and cried so much! I told her that it didn’t matter, it was beautiful anyway. Once we moved she never put it back up on the wall. Mind you this move was to get away from the abusive man that had hurt all three little girls and in the process my poor mother. My uncle saw it in a corner and thought it was trash so he was going to throw it away but then thought to keep the frame for another picture. So he starts pulling the picture off and guess what?

There was a second intact image underneath it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For us it was a miracle and gave us the strength we needed to move forward and away from the life we had lived for so long that was so far from God. I knelt before this image begging God to help my mom and her alcoholism MANY MANY times. I screamed at Him many times too, in those moment where I felt so alone and helpless. He pulled me/us through though. Many years later, when I was 25, my mom stopped drinking completely, not even socially. She had dry moments but that wasn’t enough. She went through a retreat and at the end of it there was a Mass and then followed testimonies of Faith. She stood up and told this story and then publicly apologized to me and thanked me for my Faith in Him, which is what helped her she said.

I have an incredible devotion to the Sacred Heart, can you see why?

But God’s amazing mercy didn’t stop there. When I met my husband, Peter, (on what used to be SaintRaphael.org and now CatholicMatch.com) he had this image as his profile picture for some time. It was a photo of the one that hung in his living room! The same exact one! It was what made me curious about him and got us chatting. His screen name was “SacredHeart1220”! In our bedroom we have a smaller but exact same image. My screen name was “LittleFlower1220”. Notice the 1220 that are similar? We have the same birthday, Dec. 20th. For me, there is no such thing as coincidence! Maybe God-incidences? See, I had just prayed a 30 Day Novena to the Holy Ghost and in it I wrote 30 things that I wanted my future husband to be like. I am not lying when I tell you he had all 30 things. It was just amazing, I giggle each time I remember…I met him on day 30!

Sometimes, it is hard to realize this but

God is always with us, even when men and the world, and the Devil want to hurt us. Cling to Him through the storm and in the end He will reward you!

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

 

Categories
Adrienne Faith Formation Feast Days Ink Slingers Mary Saints

Our Lady of Guadalupe: More than an oversized truck decal

Disclaimer: The reference to the truck decal is not an admonishment of the use of the truck decal.  It is by my own personal experience that I knew of the image for many, many years because how prevalently displayed she is, like specifically on vehicles in my area.  However, I never knew the story behind the decal, so when I learned about it a couple of years ago I was simply astounded.  The title reflects my own experience in learning the great significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

In Texas, a good portion of our culture is directly influenced by the vibrant culture to our South, that of Mexico*.  We gorge on their food, love a good margarita, and find no child’s birthday party complete without a Sponge Bob pinata.  Among all those things we find iconic of the Mexican culture, we also find that funny image of Mary in the blue blanket with yellow squiggly lines behind her.  Why are there statues of Her in random front yards, and why is the image riding around on pickup trucks?

Our Lady appears to us on our highways! Photo By Debra de la Cruz.

To a large portion of Christians today, the Protestant Reformation of the 1500’s was the most defining time of Christianity since the Crucifixion.  In 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous Ninety-five Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg.  In the 1530’s, Luther was drafting the first doctrinal statement of the Lutheran church, Ulrich Zwingli was killed and John Calvin was shepherding Christians in his church in Geneva.  Interestingly, many students of the Reformation may not be aware that the 1500’s were equally monumental in Christian history for the people of Central America.  In 1531, God sent the Blessed Virgin to a little village outside of Mexico City to introduce Himself to the Aztec people and to show them the path to Himself and His Son.  “In only eight years, nine million people converted to the Catholic Church!  That’s an average of three thousand baptisms a day.  It stands as one of history’s most radical, monumental and rapid social transformations ever.” (Ron Tesoriero, Reason to Believe, pg 156).

Please check out Reason to Believe by Ron Tesoriero for more about the Virgin!

Allow me to give a very brief summary of God’s Guadalupe miracle.  Missionaries had been in the area for a while trying to convert the Aztec peoples to the ways of Christianity, yet, saw little success.  The Aztec beliefs were particularly troubling because they practiced human sacrifice (estimates are of thousands to hundreds of thousands per year).  However, God worked with what He’d accomplished through the missionaries, choosing (in His usual fashion) to call upon a very humble man already faithful to the Lord, Juan Diego.

In early December 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to Catechism class when he heard a woman call out to him from a little barren hill named Tepeyac.  Upon investigation, Diego found a beautiful lady who appeared as an Aztec woman and spoke to him in his native tongue.  Despite her ethnicity, Diego recognized the woman as Mary, the Mother of God.  She confirmed Her identity and instructed Diego to make an appeal to the local Bishop to build a church on Tepeyac.  Juan Diego had absolutely no stature to make such a request, but did what he could.  Surprisingly, the Bishop was somewhat receptive, but asked for proof of Diego’s encounter with the Blessed Virgin.

Diego did his best to avoid running into the Lady again as he did not feel fit for the job, but she appeared to him a few days later, on December 12th.  It was then She instructed him to go to the top of Tepeyac, gather the flowers growing there and bring them back.  No flowers would be growing in December, much less on Tepeyac, which was known to be barren.  Nevertheless,  there Diego found countless Castillian roses growing.  He bundled them up in his tilma (a sort of cloak made of cactus fiber) and he hurried to the church.  Once in an audience with the bishop, Diego opened his tilma for the beautiful flowers to cascade down, and was puzzled when the Bishop was more captivated by the tilma than the amazing flowers.  On the tilma, was painted the image of Our Lady cloaked in a blue starry mantle with sun rays bursting behind her.  To a people who communicated pictographically, a clear message of salvation was spelled out in the masterpiece’s details.

In the days to come, plans to build the church were made and many, many miracles happened at the site of Tepeyac.   When a few weeks later, on December 25th, a dead man brought before the tilma regained life, news and conversions spread like wildfire.

 

The tilma hangs in Mexico at La Basilica de la Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Photography by Bill Bell.

Now-a-days, this incredible story can be easily dismissed as fanciful folklore.  Stories like these only happen in the Bible, or in fairytale books, not in modern day real life.  However, God didn’t just use the image to convert the people of the 1500’s, He made sure that the tilma would be a source of evangelization for generations to come.

The 500 year old tilma is made of cactus fiber that has a longevity of about 20 years (meaning, it should have perished 480 years ago).  Despite the degradability of the fabric, the tilma hung freely for over 100 years without any protection from the environment, visitors, or candles before it was finally placed behind a thin protective glass casing.  The colors have never faded, and the fabric shows no signs of decay.  For reference, the American Declaration of Independence too was exposed to the elements for over 100 years before preservation measures were thought of.  However, by then it had already suffered damage from water, sun exposure and decay.  This 200 year old man-made document resides in a bulletproof, titanium case filled with inert argon gas.  Man needs titanium to protect his treasures, meanwhile God continues to astonish us with His protection.  In 1921, a large bomb was placed in a vase of flowers below the tilma.  The dynamite destroyed the church, blew out the windows, reduced the marble altar to rubble and mangled the large iron crucifix.  The target of the blast, the tilma, survived.  Its primitive glass casing wasn’t so much as even cracked.

Over the last 100 years, experts in many fields have investigated the miraculous tilma (including NASA researchers and a Nobel prize winner).  Researchers have been unable to identify the pigment used on the canvas, as the colors do not show to be made of any coloring agent, natural or synthetic, known to man.  The image has never faded, and has never been retouched.  Furthermore, upon close inspection, the pigment of the image does not actually reside in the cactus fibers of the tilma, instead the image hovers about 0.3 mm away from it (Reason to Believe pg 162).

Visitors say that the most memorable aspect of the Virgin is Her eyes, that they are genuinely lifelike.  This type of detail should be impossible to capture on crude cactus fiber.  The ability for such precision isn’t capable by the material.  Yet, in the 1950’s, photographic enlargements of the eyes showed the reflection of people, later learned to be Juan Diego, the Bishop and his interpreter, the three men who were gathered at the presentation of the tilma in 1531.  Lastly, in the mid 90’s, examination of the Virgin’s eyes by an ophthalmologist revealed that all of the proper parts of human eyes were present, “The eyes have all the characteristics of a human eye.  It has all the parts.  Around the pupil are contraction furrows which operate to contract the pupil in front of light.  These furrows were only detected by opthalmologic science in the twentieth century.  You can see the vascular supply in the upper eyelid of the right eye” says Dr. Jorge Escalante in Reason to Believe (pg 165).  If the image on the tilma holds secrets that could only be detected by technology 400 years later, imagine what other secrets She may be harboring for the unbelievers armed with even more advanced technology in the future?

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a conversion weapon of God’s that has proven effective over many, many generations.  While the Church struggled with sin and schism in the 1500s, God brought millions of new followers to Him through the Virgin.  Today, while the Church struggles to protect an ancient faith in the midst of man’s prideful technological advancement, we find that God is still showing us who’s Boss through the same evangelization tool.

So, next time you see the image of the Woman in the starry mantle with the sun glowing behind Her, remember why our Latin American friends are so fond of Her.  Just like at the Nativity 2,000 years ago, where God used His Mother to bring forth the Word Made Flesh,  Our Lord also used His mother to bring the Word of God to millions of people (and their children for generations to come) in the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th, 1531.

“My belief in miracles cannot be considered a mystical belief: it is founded on human evidence, as is my belief in the discovery of America.  It is, indeed, a simple logical fact that hardly needs to be recognized or interpreted.  The extraordinary idea going around is that those who deny the miracle know how to consider the facts coolly and directly, while those who accept the miracle always relate the facts with the dogma previously accepted.  In fact, the opposite is the case: the believers accept the miracle (with or without reason) because the evidence compels them to do so.  The unbelievers deny it (with or without reason) because the doctrine they profess compels them to do so.” – G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy.

In addition to Reason to Believe, see also http://www.maryourmother.net/Guadalupe.html.

* Originally published with “Central America” instead of “Mexico”, which is incorrect as Mexico is in North America.