Peace be with you!

My name is Nader Ata. I am a Conventual Franciscan Friar of the Our Lady of Angels Province, USA. I am a transitional deacon preparing for Priesthood Ordination in the fall.

Seeking to live with Franciscan Joy each and every day!

*All of photos on this blog were taken by me unless noted otherwise. Please ask permission before using them. Thank You!*

*Also I am not the greatest speller or writer in the world, so please let me know if something is misspelled. Thank you!"


Sunday, December 21, 2008

1st Day Home in NJ for Christmas...

I am finally finished with a pretty intense first semester of classes at Oblate for my second year of Master's work, wrapped up the first half of my 5th year with the friars, and I am now at my parent's house in New Jersey. It has been both a challenging yet joyful semester, one of growth and of hope for me. I survived 5 finals (by God's grace) and am prepping for next semester ahead of me. Some highlights from the past months include welcoming Ian and Mario to our house of formation, the ordination of two of our friars to the priesthood (Frs. Justin and Eric), working with the RCIA process for my ministry, practicing the Sacrament of Baptism both in Spanish and English (wearing the vestments, praying the ritual, and "baptizing" a doll), and lastly finding out that I am going to Costa Rica for the summer and my apostolic year (which is next year) as well as visiting our Mission in Jamaica. So needless to say I have learned a lot about myself and my vocation over the last couple of months.

Now onto my first full day home for Christmas break...It was busy yet blessed. I visited Tony's Hair Salon for the first time in about 5 years. I spent many Saturdays there as a child will my mom got her hair done. It was very nostalgic and a great realization that I have grown up. I was graced to eat lunch with Pokey and Noreen today as they travelled to Noreen's house for a pre-Christmas visit to her family. We ate a pretty swanky diner and simply enjoyed being together. I went to Mass with my mom and then the infamous Ata Family - aka Mom and Son - Christmas Shopping Trip #2 occurred today (yesterday we went to Target). We spent 5 hours in the mall and I loved every minute of it. I don't get bothered by the parking spot hunting, store searching, long-line waiting, or the crowd controlling. I actually enjoy shopping this time of year more than any other time of year.

Why you might wonder? It is one the few times of the year that you get to see people out and about shopping for others - whether they want to or not - or are doing it for the right reasons or not - rather they are spending so that others might have. Call me crazy, for I know that many are shopping under a consumeristic mindset yet, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt that the gift buying is to bring happiness and some type of joy to another fellow human being. It is a wonderful time to buy a person something that they will love and hopefully something that is practical. I also love going home and then wrapping those gifts, what a joy it is to put something up in a box, with wrapping paper, and a bow (if you can find one) and to imagine the excitement on a person's face as he or she opens it on Christmas day. Ahh...priceless. Even if there were no gifts at all, there is great joy of being around those you love and to know that one who is love itself is born in the flesh of our flesh.

Peace be with you and please take a moment each day amidst all of your preparation for Christmas to say "Yes Lord, I want you to come into my life!"

In case you are wondering what a friar would ask his family for Christmas - besides simply being with them and friends - I asked for books to help with preaching, CVS gift cards, and under garments - all will be fruitful for me both spiritually and physically.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Have a Dream...

On August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed his infamous speech I Have a Dream. Today January 4th, 2008 a part of that dream was fulfilled in Senator Barack Obama's election as the 44th President of the United States of America. President Obama was 2 years old when that I Have a Dream speech rocked our nation and the world. He could have never imagined that he would be the first African American President in the history of the United States of America or that he would be the dream others had hoped for.

Know I am not writing this blog because I supported or even opposed Obama (or McCain), if you must know I actually voted for an independent candidate. And respectfully I do not need to know who you voted for and perhaps you did not vote for Obama either. But, no matter what you think of his polices, voting records, values, whatever; you cannot deny the history that was made today. 54 years ago racial segregation was ruled unconstitutional in public schools by the US Supreme Court and 53 years ago, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama - and today a Black man won as president with a White man as vice president (I use those terms to make illustrate point, not to be racially offensive). This could not have been imagined 50+ years ago. People who could imagine it never thought that they would see it in their lifetime. As Martin Luther King, Jr. opens his speech "I am happy to join you today in what will go down in history..." I too am happy to see this day come.

And the day is not over. Those who voted for President Obama now must hold him to his promises that aid the flourishing of humanity and challenge him on the ones that do not. Those who voted otherwise must give the President the respect that is due to him and to be the hope President Obama strives to bring to us individually, as a nation, and as a world. This is not the end, but only the beginning...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Roses in December

Tonight Andy and I watched the film, Roses in December. This film tells the story of four US churchwomen: Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and Cleveland Maryknoll Lay Mission Team Member Jean Donovan. They were abducted, abused, sexually violated, and eventually shot in the head on December 2, 1980 in El Salvador National Guardsmen. This film focused mainly on Jean Donovan with stories from her family, friends, and mentors, yet speaks of the martyrdom that was experienced for the sake of Christ's people.

So many things touched me about the film. What struck me most was not the faces of the children they helped, not the poverty, not the violence, not that fact they there murder was sanctioned by the government, not that they were good people doing good work, not that three consecrated religious were sexually assaulted, nor that Jean was either - what struck was that Jean knew that she was going to die. On her last trip to London before her tragic death in El Salvador she knew that she would not come back alive and even knowing that she went anyway. What a powerful witness! It is like Christ who on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem he knew that he was going to die and he went anyway. Jean's drive to go to El Salvador again even with understanding the fact that she would die there makes me wonder about the amount of faith, trust, and hope she had in God.

I just finished reading Spe Salvi the Popes last encyclical letter On Christian Hope and after watching this film hope was all I could think about. I mean you would think I would be sad after remembering such a said event, yet I was driven to hope. Driven to the hope shown by our ancestors, like Jean Donovan and Sisters Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, and Dorothy Kazel. Driven to the hope present in our world today we come more and more aware that every single human being is our brother and sister, father and mother, son and daughter in Christ. And driven to the hope of a future in heaven.

I am unsure where I am going but if anything I beg you never to lose hope. For in a world so desperate to find meaning, we are not called to find hope, rather we are called particularly as Christians to be bearers of hope. In relation to Mary, the Mother of God, Pope Benedict writes "When you hastened with holy joy across the mountains of Judea to see your cousin Elizabeth, you became the image of the Church to come, which carries the hope of the world in her womb across the mountains of history (54)." Take this for what it worth but in defining hope I see it as a virtue and gift from God that gives us the grace to know that we are not alone and there is a future ahead of us, which is rooted in the past and the present, is amidst the community, and is the longing for fulfillment. Be the hope that endures not because everything is great or going well, but because of your trust in God and God's promise.....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Line in the Sand...the Premiere

So this evening was the premiere performance of The Line in the Sand, which is a CRS (Catholic Relief Services) sponsored production that we acted out. In August of 2005 CRS sent five writers and actors to the Arizona/Mexico border in investigate the immigration crisis. They meet with and spoke to people of diverse interests and perspectives - all who trying to grapple with this urgent and volatile issue. They interviewed about 60 people in total. The play takes those stories and selects 14 of those people for the play including: a border patrol agent, a volunteer at No More Deaths, a doctor in a coroner's office, an intern at the Mexican Consulate, a Arizona rancher, and of course migrants.

Our first performance was great. The lights were good and the live music was fantastic. I did forget any of my lines. And most importantly we told people's stories.

After about five weeks of practicing for it and tonight preforming it live before an audience, I realized that God wanted to do this play since the beginning of time. Okay I not going to go all theological on you all but I really did get that sense today. First I saw one of the first productions of The Line in the Sand every done when I was a student at LaSalle University in Philly. I was away from the play for 3 years before I saw it again. And then this summer I was asked to be an actor in it. At the opening performance tonight, I saw this familiar woman at the show. Sure enough it was Gina Pisasale - one of the original cast members of the show and one of the writer (picture on the left). I could not believe that she who actually spoke with the characters in Arizona and Mexico was here at the premiere of the show. I was floored. Then after the show I met Lynette Bernot who I had only met once before in my life. She is good friend of Diane DeGroat (they grew up together) and I met her one a Friday evening in Baltimore during my novitiate year (picture on the right). Sure enough Lynette is working at St. Mary's University in San Antonio and brought some of the students to the production. A small world and God's providence?? better believe it!!

The last time I acted was in 5th grade in a murder mystery. I was terrified then as I was tonight, but there was a difference tonight fear; I was in fear because my heart was in the play and I wanted us to do it justice. We were not just talking about illegals, undocumented, migrants, or however you choose to identify them, rather we are talking about human being. And this play gives testament to that fact. I was honored, blessed, graced, and forever changed by being a part of it. Who knows how many more performances we will have, one, two, twenty, or even fifty (we are for sure preforming it again on Tuesday)! What I do know is that the stories I was a part of; I will not forget.

I thank Ray, Fr. Leo, Richard, and Louisette for having me enter into this story of these people's lives once again. I thank MACC (Mexican American Cultural Center) and CRS for supporting us in this production. And last but not least, I thank God for the grace to have been a part of tonight and what will come ahead.

On behalf of OST's Teatro Migrante I say good night and God bless!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An Ode to Brooklyn...

It has been about one month and two weeks since I left my summer assignment in Brooklyn and began my second year of theology at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. It has been a whirlwind since then. I am taking six classes and am a member of an RCIA team with one of them. Though it is a lot reading, reading, and more reading; I am learning so much about the Church (it's teaching, it's life, and those I will serve), my own personal faith, and who this God is that seek to follow. I have also been graced, honored, and blessed to be a part of The Line In the Sand: Stories from the U.S./Mexico Border. We preform a week from tomorrow and also on the Tuesday following that. So pray for us.

Below is my ode to Brooklyn through pictures. Thank for all who made that time sacred. I especially would like to thank the friars at Most Holy Trinity (frs. Santo, Timothy, and Darek) as well as all the parishioners at Most Holy Trinity - St. Mary. Enjoy!

Here is a picture from our Memorial Day party in the newly constructed backyard at Most Holy Trinity Friary with the friars from the local New York and New Jersey area.

These are pictures from the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Festival on her feast day (July 16th). The first picture is of Wellington, fr. Santo, Juan Luis, and Zenaida. Then is one of Manny trying to complete this game to win an Ipod as Wellington watched him. Unfortunately he never was able to do it.

Here are pictures from a sad yet beautiful event - The Stop the Violence Rally and Liturgy. The event was sad because it was in response to the recent increase of gang violence and the shooting on an innocent young adult. The event was beautiful because of the way seven different parishes (and their pastors), the bishop (Nicholas DiMaarzio), people of all ages and races, and people called to various vocations were present. Above you see a picture of the Bishop proclaiming the Gospel, the number of people gathered, and fr. Santo and fr. Timothy to the right and to left of the Bishop. A moving part of the day was a skit were there was a gang fight and about ten teens/young adults were killed. As the skit continued each of those killed were called by name, stood up and the story of who they wanted to be as adults was announced. In the end the message was do not let us loose another life so young.

Above are pictures from the Williamsburg bridge into Not Brooklyn (Manhattan) from Brooklyn. As you can see I am on the Brooklyn. Also there is a picture of fr. Santo with Wellington.

Here are pictures from when the friars came to visit my parent's house in New Jersey for a day of relaxation. First is a picture of me, the friars, and my friends who were there. Then there is a picture of me and my family as my dad prepares to blow out the candles from the surprise B-day cake the friars just happened to bring a week before my dad's birthday.

Above is a picture taken with Ms. Lauren Cecilia Long in her new apartment in Manhattan only blocks away from Central park. It was nice to see her again before leaving for San Antonio.

August 8th, 2008 - 67 years to the date of my dad's birth. The friars said I could go surprise my dad after Mass on Sunday. It was nice to be with the family one last time before going to SA.

After many phone tags, I finally got to see Mr. Brendan Riordan. I had not seen Brendan in about two and a half years. It was a grace to catch up with him (at a 24hr diner by the way - gotta love the East Coast) and it was awesome to see where he volunteers as an EMT through the fire department. Plus I got to visit is home, met Mrs. Riordan, and their cat whose name escapes me.

Last but certainly not least, I was able to see Mr. Ross Nodurft in his new Resident Director apartment at Fordham University. After about two weeks of playing phone tag, we finally met up, had some ice cream, and caught up on life.

Happy Feast Day of St. Therese (the Little Flower) to you!
Thank you for indulging in my Ode to Brooklyn!
Many blessings and much peace to you!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Richard Michael Craine, Jr

On this post, I am going to let the Craine Family speak.....

"On Friday, September 19th, 2008 at 8:45pm, Richard Michael was born into this world, after 2 hard days of labor for Erin. After 2 days, the doctors believed the baby was just too large to be delivered naturally, even though we ( Erin) tried with every ounce of energy and will power to deliver the baby naturally. We believed we were making the best decision for mommy and baby. God definitely guided that decision, as the doctors announced the baby's sex in the delivery room, I believe the exact words were "It's a boy! It's a GREAT BIG BOY!". Great big boy does little Ricky no justice. He was 21 inches long, 10 lbs. 14 oz. with a head circumference of 15 inches. Those are typical measurements for an 8 week old baby. I like to claim that he is really from my family (the Craine's) because his head is already too big for himself! (Ok stop laughing so hard at my jokes at my own expense.) The baby was healthy and mom was healthy after 2 long days of hard work, some small scares, and a lot of prayers. We thank everyone for their help, support, prayers, best wishes and text messages (20 cents each - I expect payment!) (Erin just yelled at me). We've attached some pictures of the little guy.

Mommy is still recovering and doing great. She has a few weeks where she needs to take it easy and just relax. Baby just has to keep eating ,sleeping and pooping. I really wish he would sleep more than the other 2, but sleep doesn't seem to be a favorite thing of his (so far....) Erin's mom is going to visit for this coming week to help us both out. Nothing like a little experience to help things.

We thank you all for all the prayers again, we believe you helped make everything as successful as it was through your support. After mommy and baby have time to recover and enjoy each other, we're looking forward to introducing little Ricky to everyone!

Rick, Erin, and Ricky"

I am a proud pseudo-uncle. Congratulations Rick and Erin! Welcome to the world Ricky!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Great Friends with Good News

After 9 months of not seeing Erin pregnant and showing, I finally was graced to see her and I was blessed to be in Rick and Erin's home for a rainy Saturday 2 weeks ago. Above is a picture of Rick and Erin the soon to be Mom and Dad (Sorry for the bad picture of them, I forget to check to see if they were looking at my camera). Below is a picture of Erin and I, we took this picture to give the visual of how pregnant Erin actually is. The baby was over 8lbs the last time I talked to Erin and Rick. Please pray that the baby is born safely and that Erin's health continues to be blessed. Oh an of course pray for Rick too!

Mr. Ed Rogers and Ms. Elizabeth Fette are engaged and will me married at the end of May. What a powerhouse duo of bright orange and lime green! May their adventure filled, singing, and funny face posing engagement time be blessed.

About a two weeks later I was blessed to hear that Mr. Jimmy Kane and Ms. Tara Rutledge are engaged as well. I know that for sure Tara was surprised because I talked to her the night before the engagement and she had no clue. May the love and the joy they share be inspiring to all they come in contact with.

On that same of my visit to see Erin and Rick I was blessed to also see Lauren and Jake Patterson now the Patterson family because they and the world were graced with the birth of their first child Nathanael (pictured above). He was born on Monday August 11th - the feast of St. Clare - and his name is inspired from John 1:45-51. Lauren is doing well, Jake seems great, and the baby is healthy - what more can a family ask for.

What Can I say!?! I am a proud and graced friend. I share these things with you not out of boasting but out of honor. It is a gift to know such great people and to have our lives intertwine of this journey of life. We see sorrows much of the time on the news and in newspapers, so may this be a testament and a celebration of the joys! If there are any joys or prayer requests that you would like me to post, just e-mail me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Prayers for Pete and Nancy and many Others

As some of you may or may not know my sister Nancy and my brother in law were displace with 375 other people after a devastating for to an apartment complex in Conshohocken, PA. The fire occurred on Wednesday August 13th, a little over a month ago.

The cause of the fire has been linked back to a construction worker removing steel frames with an acetylene torch which accidentally began the fire. That fire destroyed 180 units and many residents were displaced. Luckily my parents live close by so that is where Nancy and Pete went after the fire. They lost practically everything, my sister left her apartment before it caught on fire with only her car keys and the clothes on her back. I had come to find out that even her wedding ring and band were in the apartment besides everything else and that her car was damaged by the fire too.

But....there is always a hopeful side to every story. First they are both alive, no one was killed in the fire, and only 11 fire fighters were injured. On Thursday after the fire they went back to their apartment complex and received an insurance check that day as well as filed for jewelry insurance too. Pete and Nancy remembered that they had some clothes at the dry cleaner. "It felt like Christmas" Pete told me, he had a full suit and Nancy had a dress and some pants there. Also the President of Villanova University -where my sister works - offered Pete and Nancy a house use, which is usually used for professors and their families to stay it. It is close to Nancy's job and a path was made for her to go to and from work, they will probably stay there until the end of September. The President also offered to help others who were displaced too.

And by the grace of God, your prayers, and the intercession of St. Anthony, firefighters found Nancy's wedding ring and band in the their apartment!! Praise God!! Their section of the apartment building did not actually collapse so the firefighters took a chance and went up to a noted unsafe area and found the rings. They also found four frames with pictures from their wedding, a bowl from the kitchen, and some pieces of jewelry too! I originally planned to go into detail of the miraculous story that my sister told, but I have since then decided not too.

After talking to Nancy and Pete recently, it seems that the finding of the rings is more than a symbol of their love but a sign from God that everything will be okay. As closure begins so does new life and new hope for them. I ask you to offer up some prayers of thanksgiving to God and for continued acts of mercy in our at times confused and troubled world. (If you are up to watching what happened here is a link to the ABC News of Philadelphia Website: Conshohocken Fire.)

I also take this moment to ask for prayers for victims of hurricanes Gustav, Hanna, and most recently Ike. Pray for those evacuated their homes to find them not there when they returned. Pray for those were homeless and had not were to evacuate from or a place to go. Pray for the volunteer workers: firemen, policemen, shelters, medical personnel, and others who who help in anyway. Pray in thanksgiving for those who were safe and for the lives of those people who were not safe. It is interesting how much water can bring forth life and joy yet also death and sorrow. I ask God to grace peace in the hearts of all touched in anyway through disasters.

God Bless and Good Night!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Last Post of the Trip to Indonesia....Singapore 2

So after about 10 days of going to a mall or shopping of some sort, I was in need of going to a church. I guess that is the friar in me, but the first chance we had to explore Singapore I hunted for the Catholic Churches in the city. To the right is a picture of the first church I found, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd for the Archdiocese of Singapore. To my surprise all of the services are done in English. While I was there I went into the cathedral's office and spoke with the secretaries there. I was trying to see if there were any Conventual Franciscans in Singapore, but there were only OFM friars there and their place was a bus ride and a train too far away.

After going to the Cathedral I walked two blocks to Sts. Peter and Paul. To the left is a picture of the inside of that church. I thought it was cool two big year of St. Paul banners in honor of Pope Benedict declaring this year the year of St. Paul (one on each side of the main sanctuary). Sts. Peter and Paul in addition to their main church had a pretty interesting Adoration Chapel. It is open from 8am to 9pm daily, no shoes or sandals are allowed, and there is only one pew in the room with a bunch of pillows. What made encouraged me to stop there is the fact that all these shoes were outside this building in the middle of Singapore. From what my sister told this is not an uncommon custom in Asia, to remove your shoes at a sacred place. The one pew that I mentioned is against the back wall directly across from the monstrance. Below is a picture of the chapel as well as a close up of the monstrance. It was a wonderful quite place in the middle of a pretty big city.

Next I walked another block and a half to St. Joseph's Church. The church had some interesting architecture to it. So that is why I picked a picture of the outside of it (to the left). The church felt as though you were entering a castle when I walked into to. And if you are wondering about that sky blue around the edges of everything, that is the same on the inside. Traditionally Catholics tend associate blue with Mary, but at this church blue is the color of St. Joseph. I was amazed at how many Franciscan statues and stain glass window this church had, five in total but four of them were of St. Anthony. There were three prominent statues of him scattered around the church. The last picture from my sightseeing is from Sacred Heart Church (to the right). I was blessed to make it on time for their 5:30pm Mass. The mass was in English so nothing really was really different about the liturgical worship there. I did notice that after the Memorial Acclamation (Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again) half of the people stood and the other half remained kneeling.

The last three pictures are from our flight from Singapore to Los Angeles. Thankful the trip coming back to the states was shorter than going to Indonesia. To the left is a picture of Pete, Nancy, and Mike on the plane. They had the worst luck with their TV screens, every time they tried to use it the thing did not work and when they changed seats the TV screens there did not work either. If I remember correctly they $75-100 each to purchase something from the duty free shop on the plane. The sunset you see is of our arrival in Los Angeles. Though we left Singapore the evening of Friday July 11th and we arrived in Los Angeles on the evening of Friday July 11th. Going to Indonesia we lost Saturday all together, but on the trip home we were blessed to celebrate Friday twice. Well not really blessed but I am trying to positive about that Friday that never seemed to end. Here is a picture of me with my hoody on! I know it is summer but on planes it is cold so a bundle up in my hoody to stay warm no matter what season it is.

Thank you! Terima Kasih! Why? For reading about my adventures to Indonesia and Singapore, hopefully next time my adventure will include you!

A New School Year

Hello Everyone!! I am sorry that it has taken me over a month to put up another post. I am back in the house of formation in San Antonio. We have 14 of us: 3 formators, 4 student friars, 3 postulants, and 3 not formation related friars with 1 one on the way. Also the school year at Oblate has begun again. For those of you who are interested, I am taking Synoptic Gospels, Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism and Confirmation, Foundations of Moral Theology, Pastoral Catechesis, History of U.S. Hispanic/Latina Christianity, and Theological Field Education (with being a member of an RCIA team as my ministry. So my plate is fuller than usually, that is part of the reason I have not written you. Well I must get back to my homework now, but I wanted to drop a little note on my blog.

PS: I hope to post something at least once week...starting now...but this one is just a precursor to the one to come tonight or tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Man I met in the Bus Terminal...

Today, my cousin Mareena and my brother Alex came into the city to hang out and to watch the movie Hancock. It was an interesting movie, but not one I would miss if I never saw it again. Anyway, I went with them to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan as they caught the 9:3pm bus back to Jersey. After I said goodbye to them, I was on my to the subway and saw this man would seemed out of place - even in New York - I just sensed something was up. He was mumbling something when we walked by "Spring fudjei." I asked him to repeat himself and he said "Spring Valley, Spring Valley, New Jersey." He looked Hispanic - but I did not want to assume anything.

It turns out that he was Hispanic and spoke very little English, so I said a prayer and then hoped that I could help the man. He was looking for a bus to Spring Valley, NJ and was walking around the bus terminal trying to get there. He walked over to the NJ Transit automatic ticket machines becuase he saw a bus on. I figured he had done it before, just to be on the safe I began to look at the destinations on the machine and Spring Valley was not one of them. I explained to him that this company was not the right one for him and I offered to help him find the bus company that would. Interestingly he shrugged his shoulders and said ok and he began to follow me.

I tried to ask him questions "De donde Vive?" I got "Spring Valley" and "Where is your family?" again I got "Spring Valley." So I we found an open information booth, was directed to the right bus company, and a ticket was bought. It was a little tricky to explain that the gate his bus was leaving from is 420 and it was leaving at 10:40 and that his ticket had other numbers that had no relation to the first. So we began to walk back to the same gate area where Mareena and Alex left from. In route to the gate, I realized that I formally introduced myself to this man or did I ask him is name. I said, "Me llamo Nader, Como te llama?" He had trouble prouncing my name, but eventually he got close and I said "Si!" The man informed that his name was "Francisco" I proceeded to tell him "Estoy hermano, seminarista, Franciscano." A big smile came upon his face and a sense of relive seemed to go through his body. After that any questioned I asked he responded. Essentially he is a wonderful man from Guatemala who seems to have family in Spring Valley, NJ and in Brooklyn, NY.

Upon arriving at the gate, Francisco did not believe that the bus listed at Gate 420 was going to Spring Valley becuase it had East Brunswick as a final destination. After 2 attempts to explain that he should take that bus, I called Fr. Timothy (who I live with) to help me out. He was like my life-line one-time call for help person. He was able to explain to Francisco to go in this bus. Thankfully there was a kind woman who was also going to Spring Valley who offered to make sure that Francisco got off at her stop. I also explained to Francisco to get off the bus when she does.

I took the time to share this story with you becuase I was very moved by that moment. I did not have to take my cousin and my brother to the Bus Terminal, they have done it before, but something told me I should. I could have decided not to help Francisco becuase he was a strager. I really believe that I was placed there at that exact moment from all eternity as part of God's plan. Francisco was so moved that I helped him - I was so moved that I helped him. To be able to give him comfort using my broken Spanish was an honor and a blessing. Before our goodbye I gave him some extra money, said "Adios", gave him a hug and said "Dios bendiga!"

(Forgive me for any misspellings it is almost midnight)

Adios! Dios bendiga!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Feast Day of Holy Mother St. Clare!!!

"I belong to my lover, and my lover who browses among the lilies belongs to me. Set me as a seal on your arm; For stern as death is love; its flames are a blazing fire. Deep waters cannot quench love." Song of Songs 6:2; 8:6-7 - The Reading from Evening Prayer II on the Feast of St. Clare

You maybe be wondering why there is a picture of Ss. Clare and Francis on the Feast of St. Clare. This pictured is posted because it is the same image that greets you as you enter the Monastery of the St. Clare in Chesterfield, NJ - which is where Friar Santo and I went to celebrate this Franciscan Feast. Interestingly the Poor Clares we visited are dear friends of the friars and live literally 30 minutes from my parent's house in NJ and I never knew it! But now I do and I will be in big trouble with Sr. Miriam, Sr. Clare Andre and Sr. Pat if I do not visit.

Anyway today is a special day for the Poor Clares and all who are Franciscan. It is more than just another time to celebrate the gifts of the saints, but St. Clare is a follower of Francis and a model we Franciscans should also seek to imitate along with St. Francis. May she continue to be a light for the Franciscan movement and we pray that more daughters of St. Clare may enter religious life!

Happy Feast Day to all the Poor Clares and Franciscans throughout the world!
Pray for us, holy mother Clare....Help us become worthy of the promises of Christ.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Singapore 1

From Wednesday July 9 to Friday July 11 we spent basically 2 full days and 2 nights in Singapore. During that time we did more sightseeing in Singapore than we did in the 11 days we spent in Jakarta and Bali, Indonesia. Before I get into the sightseeing fun we had I want to share with you my great love and admiration for Singapore Airlines and the Changi Airport (Singapore). To the left you can see us eating dinner on the flight from Jakarta to Singapore. The food on Singapore Airlines is great, it takes good, and it is free. Another reason why I like Singapore Airlines is because before take off you are given a warm cloth to clean your hands and wash your face. It such a great thing to do and I think it speaks a lot about that Airline. When was the last time you received a warm cloth from an Airline? I have not. Especially on my first flight on Singapore Airlines at the beginning of our trip it receiving the cloth makes you feel as though you are entering the flight attendants' home not an airline. Right from the get go you are shown hospitality and that continues throughout the flight. With the pillow, the blanket, head phones, the foot covers, the individual TVs, the food, the free drinks (both non-alcoholic and alcoholic), and the joyful attendants. Not only was the flight great, but so is the Changi Airport. From the moment you walk in the airport (above picture right) you do not feel as though you are in an airport but rather a mall or a hotel. In this picture you can see the wall is covered in plants. In the next picture (left) you can see that there is a waterfall feature in the airport too. As if the beauty present in the airport was not enough to have me admire it, the many - many - amenities at the Changi Airport. From this one directory along you can see a transit hotel, shower, hairdressing, gym, lounge, and free movie sections present in the airport. This does not include the many free internet stations, sleeping areas (with beds), duty free shops, restaurants, TVs, or smaller movie sections also present in the hotel. It seems like it would be fun to purposely plan a 10 hour layover at the Changi Airport just for the chance to experience all that is offered there.

The next two picture are ones that interest my stomach more than anything else. I am unsure how familiar many of you are with Goober, but it was something that I was pretty much obsessed with in college. It is a product of Smucker's and peanut butter alternately placed in a jar with jelly. In the states I have only seen this done with grape and strawberry jelly. While in Singapore I was amazed to find a jar of Goober with peanut butter and chocolate. What a perfect match, like a Reese's peanut butter cup in a jar! Anyway the other picture is of satay in the making. Satay is what I call Indonesian shish kebab. Chunks of meat (chicken, pork, beef, lamb) - in this picture chicken - are placed on skewers and grilled. Satay originated in Indonesia, but is popular in many Southwest Asian countries. It is often served with a spicy peanut sauce. This machine was amazing to watch and let me tell you - the satay from it was delicious to eat.

Now onto the sightseeing pictures. Another reason to like Singapore Airlines is that you boarding pass can be used to get you on a bus that will take you around Singapore for only 6 bucks. The first picture here is of the Swissotel, it is the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia and from its 72 floor you get a great view of the city. The second picture is one of the pictures that I took from the top of the hotel.
Next is a picture of the Singapore Flyer, a very impressive Ferris wheel similar to the London Eye. It is 42 stories tall, with 28 air-conditioned capsules, holding up to 35 passengers, and takes 37 minutes for a complete rotation. We never went on Singapore Flyer, but I took a bunch of pictures of it and here are two of them.
Lastly from our sightseeing adventures is the Merlion: a hybrid of a lion and a fish. The lion head alludes to the fable beast that once roamed Singapore and the fish body symbolizes Singapore's origin as a flourishing seaport. This Merlion is a popular tourist attraction and is located at the mouth of the Singapore River. Below is a picture of it during the day and also one at night.
The last two pictures are ones that have a short story. In the middle of Singapore right near the above Merlion statue under a bridge was this Starbucks (left). I am convinced Starbucks is everywhere and is taking over the world. At one of the malls in Indonesia you could be at one Starbucks on the 1st floor and look down by the escalator going to the basement floor and see another Starbucks, personally I thought it was ridiculous. The other picture is of Nancy enjoying her iced coffee from Starbucks waiting in the shade at the cross walk of a traffic. She was enjoying so much until we ran to hop on the Singapore Airlines bus. Upon us about to enter the bus we realized that we could not bring our drinks on the bus and Nancy ended up throwing 3/4 of it away. What a disappoint, yet somewhat funny!