Bishop Alvaro del Portillo: On the Road to Sainthood

don alvaro“To become saints in the midst of ordinary living”, this is the message carried in the hearts of all admirers and followers of Saint Josemaria Escriva. As a faithful witness to the genuineness of the apostolate of Opus Dei, another soul was raised on the road to sainthood, who is none other than St. Josemaria’s first successor, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo. More than a week ago, thousands of members of Opus Dei all over the world anxiously awaited the beatification of Bishop Alvaro in Madrid, Spain. Those who missed watching the beatification in Channel 13 or EWTN can watch it on You Tube.

I came to know Bishop Alvaro through a prayer card I received from a dear friend. Among circles, he was known to be good with finances and project implementation. He was known to be St. Josemaria’s chief executor, such that the good saint would always run to his aid when he wanted a project done. This simple anecdote started my blossoming admiration and friendship with Bishop in the recent months I’ve become acquainted with him.

A Prayer Card was All That’s Needed

When my brother was confined to the hospital this year, I gave a prayer card of Bishop Alvaro to my mother, explaining to her that “this person needs to become a saint”. My mother graciously accepted this and prayed on the card as my brother stayed in the hospital for more than a week. Through his confinement, we were advised that my brother needed an angioplasty, and to do this big money was required. Going home without the procedure was simply out of the question for me; I would have chosen life any time. But after gathering all our family savings, we were still short of the funds needed. I gave the cardiologist the thumbs up even as we were still thinking were to get the rest of the money. All that mattered to me was that my brother took the procedure, which he did so successfully in God’s mercy. I kept moments in prayer at the hospital chapel. I asked for Bishop Alvaro’s intercession.

prayerThe bills started coming after the procedure had been done. My brother was advised to stay in the ICU for observations while I was racing to get additional funding. God’s mercy truly has no end! A friend whom I religiously kept praying for learned about my brother’s convalescing after the angioplasty and offered to help me find additional funding. This person whom I had extended help in the past came to help me! What almost seemed amazing to me was that this person was also terminally sick (she is still battling cancer to this day), but she made all the effort to help me get additional funding.

But still the bills were coming in as my brother had to be detained in the hospital. As I looked at the outstanding bill, barely had a finished whispering to myself “what now?” when I heard an interior voice tell me “try again”. Immediately as I heard this, I worked on the figures again to organize the priorities. Now this was not a mean feat for me. I abhorred Math in my youth, and although I am quite comfortable with it now I still avoid it like the plague. But when I had done making a few computations, I began to have a clear picture of what I should do. One after the other, the bills were settled until we were finally discharged.

To this day, I can only attribute this help to the intercession of Blessed Bishop Alvaro. And this is my personal testimony of his guidance and attributes.

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Reliving A Personal Miracle – God TRULY Answers Prayers

Let me tell you about a miracle I’ve had a few weeks ago.  I’ve posted this story before on my Facebook page, and I am telling this again, a longer version of the story, for other interested readers who believe in everyday miracles and how it can transform your life.  To friends who might have read that story and enjoyed, well this is the full length account of that story.

Months before my brother went to the hospital, I had already scheduled myself to attend a three-day retreat.  I had taken pains to save up for this event and file the necessary vacation leave at the office.  However, because of the workload at the office in that week leading to my brother’s checkup, I had to back out the last minute.

LAST MINUTE!  A day before my scheduled retreat!  Because of all the effort I made to get in the retreat, I felt pretty bad I wasn’t going after all because of a workload that I had to prioritize.  I had to call up the coordinator to cancel my schedule and sign up for another date.  That was in the morning.  I was sad about it but I offered this disappointment to God believing that there was a reason for that. By afternoon, I got my reason.  My mother accompanied my brother to the hospital to consult his eyesight which had grown blurred the past few days.  He never got out of the hospital and was ordered to take a complete physical exam.

Rushed to the hospital

During the course of the check ups, my brother eye was diagnosed to have a ruptured or damaged retina as a result of diabetes which he never knew he had.  Further exams also showed he had hypertension and a stroke.  It was a deadly combination of all of these diseases that had my mother and brother were detained at the hospital.  The cardiologist ordered an angiogram be done the soonest to check the condition of his heart.

Now my mother doesn’t have a lot of finances, ditto my brother who didn’t have a job.  They relied on me to help pay for the angiogram.  With the money I had from my paycheck, I paid for the angiogram.  The cardiologist gave us three possible scenarios: one was that the blockage wasn’t so bad that it could be remedied by medication; two, an angioplasty; three (the worst case), a bypass.  We were given a ball park figure how much it would cost.  I was praying for the first case scenario. I had given my mother a prayer card of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, St. Josemaria Escriva’s successor in Opus Dei who was about to be beatified soon.  I asked my mother to help me pray to him for help on the finances.  She said she would.

The results of the angiogram gave dismal news: a major vein was blocked which was why my brother had difficulty breathing normally (he thought the difficulty was because of his cough!).  But because he was young, an angioplasty was the way to go.  I said ok and the procedure was done after an hour.

And now came the hard part….

After the three day observation period, my brother would be free to go.  But then came the hard blow: the enormous bill!  I was completely stupified to see how much we had to pay, and because my mother and brother did not have any, my husband and I were expected to foot the bill.  How will we get that big amount money?

Now, my father-in-law had a friend who was very ill and whom we had extended some help in the past.  Despite her illness (she has cancer and a heart condition too), she helped me find a way to get financial support from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.  She, despite her illness, never left my side until I got the check.  It wasn’t that much, but if you get stuck with a bill that will keep you buried up to your neck, you’d be thankful with any amount.  Look at how a random act of kindness will go!

Still, we were considerably short.  Negotiations with the hospital had keep the amount controllable, but the fact is we couldn’t get my brother out without satisfying the bill.  Where else do we get the money?  I was getting depressed about it.

A Bible verse that seemed to “talk” to me

Now I’ve always had the habit of praying and choosing at random a Bible verse, leafing through the pages with my eyes closed and reading the verse where my finger points to. That particular day, April 10, was a verse in which Jesus asked a blind man: “What do you want me to do for you?”  The message was so clear!  Jesus was talking to ME and asking me what I wanted HIM to do for ME!

Down but not depressed, I wrote in my diary: “Lord, help me get my brother discharged already.”  This happened in the morning.  The picture you see below is the exact entry I wrote down in my diary.

The entry I had in my diary

The entry I had in my diary

I had forgotten it altogether when I received good news from hubby: “Your brother will be disharged today.”   The news came close to three o’clock, the hour of mercy!  God answered my prayer!

Truly, when you look with eyes of faith, you can never go wrong.  To our Blessed Mother, sweet Jesus, Bishop Alvaro, St. Pio and St. Michael (to whom my brother was a devotee), I praise and thank You all for helping us!

 

 

 

Going Up The Mountain – A Reflection

The prophets of the Old Testament did it, with Abraham sacrificing Isaac on Mount Moriah, Moses receiving the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai and later retired on Mount Nebo, and Elijah on Mt. Carmel….  Even Jesus did it when He took His forty-day fast.  And St. Francis received the stigmata while on a mountain retreat in the mountains of Italy.

Mt. Sinai as it is today (Source: Wikimedia)

Mt. Sinai as it is today       (Source: Wikimedia)

The Beauty of the Mountains

Why did the prophets go up the mountain?  The sheer height of the mountains–the feeling of “touching the heavens”–makes one feel close to the divine.  As one climbs up, there is the feeling of isolation as one separates himself from the rest of the world to come in close contact with God.  “The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth” (Psalm 97:5).  Coupled with a long and difficult hike that can be likened to our constant struggles in life, reaching the top is the pinnacle of one’s search to find God.

So I reckoned:  why not do my own journey, LITERALLY?  And what better day to do it than on my birthday?  And do I did, with the purpose of thanking God for the wonderful life and blessings He has given me in my forty years existence on earth.  But rather than search God, I decided that my purpose was to THANK God.  With the full support of my husband and son, sister-in-law and uncle, we headed off to Taal Volcano exactly a week ago.  More on this experience in my  Musings of A Village Rat blog.

Tossed by Rough Waves

We were met with a few challenges before we even began the trek.  We were met with a slight drizzle that early morning before we left Bacoor and was met again by a light rain shower in Tagaytay.  When we boarded the banca, the lake was pretty calm, but halfway in the trip the lake was tossing us.  Full of excitement, the 2 kids (my son and nephew) were squealing in excitement, but the adults weren’t too gung-ho about it.  The bumpy ride was over in about 15-20 minutes.  It seemed longer than 20 minutes though.

calm

Note the waters getting rough

Note the waters getting rough

Praying While Scaling Up

Horse rides were available, but we decided that only the kids would get a ride while we got up the crater on foot.  I had intended to pray at the start of the ascent but was met with difficulty as the volcanic sand (and later rocky terrain) had made it difficult for me to concentrate on my prayer.  I wasn’t an experienced mountain climber after all as my sister-in-law was, so I had to catch my breath a few times.  Everytime I started on a Hail Mary, I would be interrupted by a difficult step, a pause or funny chats with my companions.  No matter however.  As St. Therese of Lisieux had mentioned in her book, Story of A Soul, disturbances or interruptions are part of prayer and should not deter one from prayer incessantly.

The long way up

Nevertheless, by the time we reached the top I had already finished a few prayers in silence.  Nobody knew I was even praying!  The view at the top was breathtakingly beautiful.  Without shouting at the top of my lungs, I could only mutter to myself: “THANK YOU LORD! HOW GREAT ART THOU!”

A  view of the crater

A view of the crater

I had my sister-in-law to take a photo of me in an oblation pose.  It was my big hug to our Lord in the vastness of the sky.

IMG_3786

A Bird That Comforted Me

We stayed at the crater for about an hour to sink in the beauty before we made our descent.  Going down was just as difficult as going up, but I managed to say a few aspirations before we reached the shoreline.  By the time we crossed the waters back to Talisay, the lake had become very rough.  The banca’s bow would do a small nosedive everytime we were met by strong waves.  We had water splashed over us repeatedly.  Everybody was a little panicky and for a short time, I was too.  I made a small prayer to St. Raphael, the patron saint of travellers, and asked for protection.  Up in the sky that caught my attention was a swallow that was riding in the wind.  Then and there I remembered my uncle who was a captain who told me this: “If you see a bird ride up the sky, you are quite safe. If the bird was able to fly, then there is no reason why you cannot be ride the boat safely”.

Remembering this, I knew we were going to be just fine.  This bird did not leave our side until we crossed the other side, and when we unboarded it had already gone.  All I can say was “thank you”.

It was truly a special day for me.

Random (and Overwhelming) Acts of Kindness – A Postscript to Typhoon Yolanda

A house collapses during the Typhoon Yolanda storm surge.

A house collapses during the Typhoon Yolanda storm surge.

It’s been one week later after super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) ravaged the Visayas Region. Everybody has seen the devastation it has to this region, especially Tacloban City.  Relief efforts are painfully slow as the victims slowly begin to pick up the pieces and move on.  Some move on to greener pastures like Manila in the hope of starting a new life, but there are those who stay despite seeing a complete wasteland.  And those who do stay, either by choice or by force, are homeless, hungry, weary and thirsty.

Manila residents are fortunate to have come out of it unscathed.  Just a few months ago, we’ve been hit by heavy monsoon rains (“habagat”, as we call it), which, although nothing compared to Yolanda, nevertheless caused widespread damage.  Then last month, a strong earthquake hit Bohol.  But the damages from these areas are nothing compared to the destruction caused by Yolanda.

It’s all over now and everybody is back doing their day to day chores.  But in the midst of it all, everyone is all eyes on areas affected by the storm–young and old, local or foreigner.  Everybody wants to HELP–and help is sorely needed.

I admit I’m not in the frontline helping out in the distribution, although I want to be.  My limitations force me to stay at home with my family and at the workplace.  But it doesn’t mean I can’t help at all, and that is how most of us are in the workforce.  We help in our own little way.

Rescuers save a baby from the storm (Source:  Yahoo News)

Rescuers save a baby from the storm (Source: Yahoo News)

The Burning Desire to Help

You can’t really watch the news and not feel your heart simply wrenched by the pleas of families begging for food.  Finger-pointing’s no use in this period of urgency.  Families surviving the storm are now in one of the greatest battle of their lives, i.e. to simply live and pick up the pieces. As Christians, we are called to help and serve whatever way we can, be it volunteering for mercy missions or donating what we can shell out. Compassion compels us to offer what we can to alleviate the suffering of the other.

And these past few days I tell you, I’ve been overwhelmed by the acts of kindness I’ve received from the workplace.  These acts of kindness isn’t just among Filipinos but other nationalities as well.  You just have to watch the tv to see how foreign missions are flocking to Tacloban and nearby areas to pitch in and help in the aid distribution.

Unexpected People

There are some people I never expected to help out. Known as a terrible person, this was the sort of personality you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.  But out of the blue, this person was the biggest donor in our department, which to my mind was amazing considering the character!  Two other people unexpectedly gave huge amounts, much to my amazement.  More than that, they offered words of sympathy for the whole of us.  Truly overwhelming!

Seeing Christ in Every Person

God is truly wonderful.  In any human defects, He always manages to shine through in every individual. When we see Jesus in the heart of every human being, it changes our perception dramatically and makes the burden of serving easier.  It changes you and it changes the person you’re serving completely.  This is the effect of radiating Christ in our spirit.

Embracing the Silence

December passed like a breeze.  After all the noise and festivities, everybody is back in his own busy world.

The days went so fast that I hardly realized that it has been almost a month since my little secret–a secret that nobody else knew except my immediate family.

I am partially losing my hearing.

A ride at an amusement park did it.  It was a ride that had the whole circumference spinning as a big crank pushed the steel where the seats are from side to side.  The wind pressure caused by the spinning and tossing caused my left ear to give out a loud pop.  Since I didn’t feel any pain I didn’t make a big fuss of it.

When I woke up the next day my left ear was completely bereft of any hearing.  Thinking that it was my occassional swimmer’s ear or impacted cerumen, I cleaned my ears a few times, but nothing came out of it.  I could not hear anything, but what was worse was that I had a faint ringing inside my ears that was mildly annoying.

Taking decongestants and antibiotics have made little improvements in my ear.  I was recommended to check with an ENT doctor to see what was wrong with me.  An auditory test reading explained it:  I had otitis media and moderate hearing loss.  On the assumption that I had some blockage in my inner ear, I was instructed to take another set of antibiotics and return to after a week.  I am now in this stage of taking the medications. Am I going to get better? I hope so. Will my hearing loss progress? Too early to say.

How to describe what I am feeling right now? I feel as though my left side is in a cave and the sounds are all but faint murmurs. When I occasionally blow my nose or let out a yawn, I feel a flap opening my left ear a little and so I can hear a little better albeit still muddled. After a while it goes back to its cave-like sensation and I am back to silence. I can hear my own breathing through my left ear.

Far from taking the news as a death sentence, I have embraced the possibility that my hearing would gradually be gone. I have always considered sacrifices as opportunities to reap heavenly merits, and so I didn’t mind at all if I will be carrying it longer.  Don’t get me wrong: losing my hearing has me worried that I will be completely deaf in the long run,but hey, I still have one good ear!!!  God was so good to spare me one good ear, so what I have now I am completely grateful for it.  Rather than wasting this opportunity to reap spiritual merit, I have accepted it and offer it to the souls in Purgatory.  I know that I will be repaid three-fold when my time comes.

Like St. John of the Cross who embraced the darkness, so do I also openly embrace the silence.  In this silence, momentarily or not, I hope to discover the sweet voice of Jesus whispering to me, “I love you, my daughter, for you have shared in my sufferings and have done good.”

St Gemma Galgani: The heavenly help of Saint Gemma

I am sharing with you an extraordinary experience my family and I had last year.  For those who know me and my family personally, my son was hospitalized for almost a week due to dengue-like symptoms.  I attribute his healing through the intercession of this saint.  I’ve shared this story with just a few souls and only with believers, but it is only now that I am sharing this again to a wider audience.

I wrote this email to Mr. Glenn Dallaire, who has a website devoted solely to St. Gemma Galgani.  She is an Italian saint who happened to share my son’s birthday (March 12) when she was still on earth.  But there is another character in the story you ought to know about.  She is Veronica Leuken, an American seer at Bayside, New York to whom the Blessed Mother appeared to in the 1970s until she passed on in 1995.  You can google all about her in the Internet.  Anyways, Mr. Dallaire is so kind enough to share my experience in his website.  Now, I would like to share this with all of you.

St Gemma Galgani: The heavenly help of Saint Gemma: A recent grace through the intercession of St Gemma A few weeks ago, I published a couple of very recent stories concerning the heavenly …