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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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.

Religious Relics Spared from the Bohol Earthquake

These are compilations of religious images that were spared from the 7.2 earthquake that hit Bohol last October 16, 2013 taken from various sources in the internet.  Despite the widespread devastation of the disaster that claimed more than 100 lives so far, Catholics in this part of Visayas remain unshaken and hopeful.

Let us continue to offer prayers to the individuals who died and for the families affected by the tragedy.

Philippines Earthquake

An image of the Blessed Mother, still encased in glass in a church in Bohol

A cross atop St. Michael Church in Loon, Bohol

A cross atop St. Michael Church in Loon, Bohol

A statue of Jesus at a church tower in Bohol, albeit dangling from its perch

A statue of Jesus at a church tower in Bohol, albeit dangling from its perch

Another old church reduced to rubble, with the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus unscathed

Another old church reduced to rubble, with the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus unscathed

Another statue saved from destruction

Another statue saved from destruction, this time in front of the famous Baclayon Church

The famous statue we've seen in the news so far--a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes--perfectly preserved from destruction

The famous statue we’ve seen in the news so far–a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes–perfectly preserved from destruction