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!"


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Trip to Nicaragua...

From July 14-July 17 Friars Walter, Francisco, and I took a trip to Nicaragua with 15 other teachers from Colegio Saint Francis.  We left at four in the morning on Wednesday and arrived back in Moravia around eleven in the evening on Saturday night. This is the bus we took:
We spent our first day in Granada and that evening we ate Guapote Cocibolca which is a fresh water fish 
from Cocibolca lake in Nicaragua and took 30 minutes to cook. Here are some photos of it. It was delicious.

The next morning we took a tour of Lake Nicaragua by boat. Lake Nicaragua has hundreds of tiny tropical islands and a favorite one among the group was an island that was the home of many monkeys which joined us on our boat for a mid-morning snack of bananas.  Here are photos of one of the monkeys.

Here is a picture and a video of this little bug parasite thing that I found on my hand.

That evening we traveled to Leon and the next day enjoyed a fabulous tour of the Cathedral there. Here is photo of part of our group on the roof of the Cathedral looking out in Leon and one of the inside.

That evening we arrived in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua.  While we were there we were given a tour of the Cultural Institute of Nicaragua and had the pleasure of hearing the people of Managua celebrating 31 years of Independence from the dictatorship of Somoza. Here is one of my favorite paintings from the Cultural Institute, it is entitled Independinciz Total H2O by Josue Trinidad Garcia.
Then we went and visited the New Cathedral of Managua. Here are two photos of the Cathedral.

I have to say that it was not one of my favorite churches that we visited. That night a group of us went to a restaurant for dinner and enjoyed the music of Carlos Mejía Godoy y los de Palacagüina, he is native Nicaraguan and his music is popular throughout Central America. It was a great experience to see the musical side of Nicaragua and to hear everyone in the group singing along.  Here is a photo of Carlso and one of Fray Walter and I enjoying the music. (And just to clarify, neither one of us was drinking wine, not because drinking wine is bad, but the fact that I can't drink it)

The next day I found a butterfly on the bus, which as you will see later enjoyed chilling on my hand.
Our last stop before heading back to Costa Rica was a visit to Volcan Masaya National Park.  It was my first trip to see a volcano and though we were not able to see any lava, the trip was worth it.
Below is a photo of all of us including our tour guide and bus driver. Many of the women in the photo are women that I work with each day.

Once we got on back on the bus, the butterfly that I mentioned earlier ended up on my hand.  Here is a photo of me and the butterfly and on of the butterfly on my thumb.

Lastly here is a photo of me sleeping on the bus taken by teacher Xinia.

Oh and if you want to see more photos from the trip click on the slideshow below.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Jorge!

On Thursday, August 19, Jorge celebrated his ??? birthday! (If you look close enough on the cake you can see how old he is)  Unfortunately he was not here to celebrate.  Thus we celebrated his birthday as a community on Tuesday August 24.

Within the first month of me being here I asked the friars if they do anything special for their birthdays and they said no.  I proceeded to explain to them what we do in the friary in San Antonio: we get a cake, a card, a gift, and the birthday boy gets to pick the meal. Once I said that I was told "You're hired"!  Well I do not think the friars thought I would remember....but I did!

On Tuesday - the first night we were all home since Jorge's birthday - I made a cake, had the card ready (signed by everyone) and the gift wrapped (picked out by Walter, Lara, and I). Jorge did not request a special meal, but he did request a "Dummy Cake" which is canned fruit, cake mix, and butter that comes out of the oven like a cobbler.  Jorge wanted strawberries with yellow cake.  Below is the photo of the cake.

As you can tell from the picture, I needed to use nuts to spell out Feliz Cumpleaños. I chose pecans!  Why? In Costa Rica I have not been able to find the little tubes of icing that can be used to write "Happy Birthday" on cakes, so I used nuts.  Next time that I need to write something on a cake I will probably just take regular icing, put it in a plastic bag, cut off one of the corners, and then write whatever it is that I need to write.  Anyway, that is why yesterday I made a pecan pie, so as to use up the pecans.

And lastly here are photos of Jorge with the cake.  The first one is of him laughing after blowing out the candles.  The second one is of him still, he looks frustrated in the photo because in the other 5 photos I took he was blurry and in this photo he was sick of smiling. All he wanted to do was eat the cake, but I couldn't blame him for wanting to do that!

Until tomorrow....have a great Friday!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Day....

Peace be with you everyone! I promised Teacher Ileana that I would write on my blog so I am, but this is not a real post with pictures and stuff.  I promise to post more stuff tomorrow.  After a full day of classes, baking a pecan pie, and making bread; I am going to study and then go to bed.  Until tomorrow....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Comida divina....Heavenly food...

As many of you know, I love peanut and bananas separately and when combined they are great.  Today I finally got the chance to make a Fried Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich.  It was heavenly to cook and to eat!  To be honest I was speechless when I was eating it because no words could describe the deliciousness of the moment except...mmmmm. Below is a photo of the sandwich, it is not mine because I ate it way too fast before I could take a photo.

Link to the Photo

A Fried Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich was one of Elvis Presley's favorite sandwich.  I have known this for some time and all this week I had a great craving for it.  First I had to bake some Gluten Free Bread using Now Healthy Foods: Gluten-Free Baking Mix, which worked out well.  And then I used my  Fifty 50: Low Glycemic Creamy Peanut Butter without added Sugar with bananas from the house.  

The only thing I can say now is....GO MAKE ONE FOR YOURSELF!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A day that I did not expect to come so soon...

Today I experienced something that I did not expect to come so soon, the funeral of a child. Yesterday a member of the fourth grade died of a heart attack. The name of the student who died is +Andres. +Andres has had heart problems before, but it was a shock to his family and the school that he died so young and so quickly. +Andres is the second child in the primary school to pass away in one year. Early this year a student by the name of +Gustavo died of cancer.

Today was the funeral of +Andres; it is customary for the funeral to be the next day in Costa Rica. I have never been to a funeral for someone so young nor have I ever served a funeral for someone so young. The prayers that were prayed were so beautiful, but it is sad to know that they needed to be written in the first place and yet I am glad that they have been written at the same.

Yesterday, when I heard about +Andres’ death I knew it intellectually and in my brain. I went over to the Primary School with Friars Jorge and Walter and spent some time with Director Rosario and the secretaries. I also took the time to e-mail the homeroom teacher of +Andres. However, it was not until the funeral that I knew +Andres’ death emotionally and in my heart. Seeing all of the flower arrangements in the chapel, seeing students and teachers crying, and seeing +Andres' parents pushing the casket of there only son made the situation real for me.

I knew that in my time being active in the Church and being with the friars I would expect to be a part of a funeral for a child; I did not expect it to be during formation, on my Apostolic Year, in Costa Rica, and during my third week at the school. I have reflected on so much today. I reflected on what it would be like to have lost a child. I reflected on what it must be like for +Andres in heaven. I have reflected about how I have taken for granted my time with the children at the school. In addition, I reflected about my own mortality.

Before going back to teaching, I decided to witness a ritual present here in Costa Rica. At the end of the funeral people where given balloons and everyone let them go into the sky. As I released mine, I said, "Goodbye Andres, please watch over us." Then to my surprise the parents opened the coffin of +Andres. I was unsure if was going to pay my respects to +Andres in the coffin or not. But I did.  It was powerful to see him dressed in a t-shirt and jeans; after all he is a child. The coffin had a glass cover between the lid and +Andres' body, I touched the lid near his face and said "Goodbye Andres."  I was unable to go up to +Andres' parents in person, but I did in spirit.

Today is a day that I will not forget. As I went to my room in the friary to get stuff for teaching, I walked through the chapel and took some Calla Lilies that fell from the flower arrangements which was placed on +Andres' coffin during the Funeral Liturgy - in total there were three. I have placed them in a glass with other flowers and hope to keep them for the year as a reminder that my life is in God's hand and not mine.

I may not understand death and especially the death of a child, but I do understand the God is love and the whole world is in God's hands. I have to believe in the Resurrection promised by Jesus! I say this not because I am a Christian, nor because I am a Catholic, and not because I am a friar. I say this not because I am supposed to believe in it either, rather I say this because I DO believe in the Resurrection. The Resurrection is something that I believe in my gut. It is difficult to explain. Looking at the faith present in the eyes of the parents and family of +Andres, in the voice of the friars during Mass, in the tears of the students, and in very sacrifice of the Eucharist, I know that the Resurrection is real. Some people may think that I am crazy, but one explanation of faith is trusting when all else tells you not to. Granted I do not have all the answers, nor do I claim to have them, yet part of life's wonder is its mystery. It takes faith to not only accept this mystery, but to embrace and to love it too (I read that somewhere).

On this Feast of St. Clare may she greet +Andre in Heaven and together may we all praise the Lord!

Teatro Nacional - My two visits...

I arrived to Costa Rica on Friday, June 25 and the next day I got the chance to visit the Teatro Nacional aka the National Theatre.  Below are photos of the Teatro Nacional:
The Outside of the Building
The Stage

The different types of seating
A close-up of the ceiling
This photo is obviously not in the Teatro Nacional, but it is outside of it. As some of you may know there is a great homemade ice cream shop in Old Town Alexandria, VA (USA); which I loved to go to, so this photo is in honor of Pops in VA. There is a Pops Ice Cream shop located very close to the National Theatre and it is a chain of Ice Cream in Costa Rica.

My First Visit: For my first visit to the Teatro Nacional I was invited by Fray Walter along with Fray David to see two concerts.
The first concert was entitled Camerata Preparatoria and was directed by Lorna Costillo
The second concert was entitled Orquesta Sinfonica Infantil and was directed by Miguel Peña. This concert featured one of Fray Walter's students playing the flute, he is the person that gave us the tickets to the concert.

My Second Visit: My second visit to the Teatro Nacional took place this past Sunday, August 8th (which was my father's 69th birthday).  Friars Maury, Francisco, Walter and I along with Yamilet (The Administrative Secretary of St. Francis College), Isabelle (Primary School Secretary of St. Francis College - Yamilet and her are sisters), and Marta (Physical Education Coordinator of St. Francis College) We went to see La Italiana en Argelia. Here is a link to the story in Spanish and English. The show was great.
The view from our seats

Friars Francis, Francisco, Maury and I. (We took two group photos, in one Maury has his eyes closed and in the other Francis has his eyes closed.  The photo above has Francisco's eyes closed, so below is a photo of him with his eyes open) *This photo was taken by Yamilet*
After the show we went to a great restaurant called Tin Jo.  It was fabulous! I cheated on my fructose intolerance that night hardcore.  Besides eating onions in my fried rice (which was huge), I had two desserts. One was Banana's Tempura and Vanilla Ice Cream and the other was a Tres Leches Cake that Francisco, Maury, and I split. Thank goodness I was very vigilant the week before because my body handled the food pretty well.

Finally Costa Rica: Welcome to my new home!

Hello Everyone!  Peace be with you! I am so glad to be finally up to my time in Costa Rica.  This post attempts to give you a tour of the friary through photos. Please note that I have removed some of the photos from the below slideshow that were here before out of respect for the privacy of the friars. Thank you for understanding.  I say "attempts" because this is my first time embedding a slideshow with photos.  So sit back relax and enjoy the show!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two New Foods: Liver and Rabbit

Living in Costa Rica I expected to eat different foods particularly when it came to fruits, but to my surprise I have come to eat different meats as well. During my first week here I ate liver (higado in Spanish) for the first time (of recent memory at least).  I ate one piece along with a lot of rice and beans with eat bite.  I have to say that I was not thrilled by it and have not craved it since then.  Today we had liver on the menu for lunch and I avoided it, the smell of the meat got to me, and I could not eat any of it.  Interestingly it is not a favorite of the friars here either.  When it came for dinner time, Fray Victor chose to make something new to eat instead of the liver.

To my surprise Fray Victor made rabbit (conejo in Spanish).  It was DELICIOUS!  The meat was juicy, tasted good, and felt light to the stomach.  I liked it so much that I went for seconds.  Fray Victor jokingly asked "How does Bugs Bunny taste?" I said, "Good, but I prefer to think that I am eating Thumper from Bambi."  He and the other friars laughed.  

Well as you can tell from the last two posts, I am FINALLY caught up to my time in Costa Rica. I hope that you enjoy it...Pura Vida!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

375 Years

On August 2, 1635 - 375 years ago - the Apparition of Our Lady of the Angels (Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles) occurred in Cartago, Costa Rica, she is the Patron of the country. Each year on August 2 and the days surrounding it, people from all over the country walk to the Basilica that was build in Mary's honor based on her request. The walk is called "la romerá"! On Sunday, August 1 of this year I had planned to make "la romerá" but I was sick on Friday and Saturday with a virus and was too weak to make the 3-4 hour trip from Moravia to Cartago. Instead, I made the cake you see below for the friars in honor of that Patronal Feast of the Costa Rica. For those who would like to know it is a confetti cake with vanilla icing and M&Ms.
The next photo is of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in the Basilica. Though I was not able to make "la romerá" to see her near her feast day, I did get to see her the weekend prior. The actual image of Our Lady of Angels is very small. Here are the dimensions: height: 148.55 mm or 5.8 inches, width: 73.17mm or 2.9 inches, and weight: 1085.12grams or 2.4 pounds. It is to be noted that it was only last year (September 18, 2009) that La Negrita was scientifically examined closely. It is perhaps the smallest of the famous images of the Virgin Mary. Mary and the child Jesus in her arms are surrounded by an ornate dress and mantle made of gold, silver, and jewels.
Before I go any further, here is the story of the apparition of Our Lady of Angels adapted from a book called Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles Patrona de Costa Rica by Franco Fernández Esquivel.
-On August 2, 1635 a young wood-gatherer, a mulatto (Mixed Race) named Juana Pereira, went out for firewood for her home. With great joy she found, on a very big stone, a little image, about eight inches high of a dark color cut in stone, representing the Most Holy Virgin Mary with her child in her arms. The girl joyfully took the image home and placed it in a small basket.
-Next day she went again to gather firewood and found, on the same stone, an image as on the preceding day.
-Thinking it was another one, she went home joyfully imagining she had two images, but on looking into the small basket, she found, to her great astonishment, that the one she brought home the preceding day was not there. She then decided to keep the image under lock and key, thinking that perhaps someone had taken it back to the woods.
-On the third day, going again to the woods, she found once more the little dark image, on the same stone. This time, upset and afraid, she hurried home with the image, opened her case, and saw to her great surprise that the “other one” was not there.
-She then ran to the curate’s (priest’s or pastor’s) house, told him what had happened to her and game him the image. The curate, not giving much importance to the matter, kept the image, but when he looked for it the next morning, to examine it more carefully, he discovered that it had disappeared. He went to the woods, and found the image on the stone, whereupon he brought it back to the Church with him and this time placed it in the Tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament.
-The day passed. The next morning during the celebration of Mass, the presiding priest, at the time of giving Holy Communion to the people, noticed the unusual thing: the image had fled!
-After Mass, in the company of the other priests, he went to the stone; there was the Lady: She wanted them to erect a Church on that spot. The “dark lady” (“Negrita” as she is affectionately called by Costa Ricans) wanted all to be children of one God and therefore brothers and sisters. She wanted to be the guiding star of the “Very Noble and Very Loyal City” of Cartago: she wanted to the “Queen of the Angels,” the “Queen”, also of the “dark skinned”, and the Queen of the “ticos”
Here is the home of La Negrita.
Here is the inside of her home. As you can see the center part of the church is open and without pews. This center aisle is always open for people to kneel and make their way to pray for the intercession of La Negrita. It is a powerful thing to watch and to see the faith present in the hearts and minds of the Costa Ricans.
This photo above is from the a display case that is located below the Basilica. What you are looking at are called Exvotos. Exvotos are offerings or promises that show our faith in God. Regularly they give expression to a grace or a petition that has been fulfilled through the intercession of La Negrita. For example if an arm was healed an arm is hung or if someone's body was cured of cancer a body is hung. There must be hundreds if not a thousand of these Exvotes displayed there.
Here is a photo of the Scripture quote that leads one into a circle walk way to flowing faucets of water. The translation of this passage from Psalm 42 in English is "As the deer looks/seeks/longs for streams of water, so my soul looks/seeks/longs for you, O God."
Here is a photo of people and the water. A person can drink the water, wash parts of their body with the water, or take some of water back to their home. The water scene here was present at this location before the apparition of Our Lady of Angels occurred, but now the flowing water has taken on a religious, spiritual, and healing meaning for people.
Here is a banner which was made in honor of the 375th Anniversary of Our Lady of Angels
Lastly this is a photo of Our Lady of the Angels in the Chapel next to the friary. Since I was not able to visit the Basilica I made a mini romerá in our Chapel.

Last Visit to the MD Area before Costa Rica

On Friday, June 19, I made a surprise visit to see my best friend Michael Tenney and his band (The Understudies) in honor of them finishing - okay almost finishing - their first album. The album will be out this Fall so look out! It was a great surprise, I planned it with Laura Van Duzer, his other bandmate. As I was getting out of the car when Pokey said, "Your Friar Lair!" He said this because earlier in the day I told him that I was not coming. It was a great time included being recorded for the album (trust me, I am not singing), a bonfire, brats, friends, and an ice cream cake. Not to brag, but I brought the ice cream cake below and put the band's logo on it. God bless the young women at Cold Stone who put it on the cake for me!
The Ice Cream Cake - I think it would have been a disaster if Cold Stone tried to make black icing - so red had to work...see the real logo colors below
Here is a photo of Michael and Laura
The Original Logo

*The photos about the Understudies were not take by me. The three photos that follow were.*

The following day I was blessed to see Nancy, Pete, and the Baby as well as Pete's Family at their house in MD. Here are some photos from the visit. Sophia doing some tummy time as Nancy and Pete watch
Opa playing with Sophia
Sophia in a mid-dance pose!

The Nature of Lake Louise

My previous post was on my cousin Andre's wedding to Meghan at Lake Louise, but I failed to show any photos of the lake. Well here they are as well as other nature centered photos. I hope that you enjoy them. Thanks to the Poor Clare Sister of Bordentown, NJ I have learned how to attach photos from Picasa site to my blog; therefore the last image in this post is a slideshow of all of the nature photos I took.
The Chateau and Lake Louise
Horseback riding Adventure Number One: Me on Horse with the Chateau and the Lake behind me. I have to say that riding a horse has been on my Bucket List for the past 2-3 years and I got to fulfill that dream at Lake Louise. We had some free time so I went! *This photo was taken by Matt the riding instructor.*
A map of the Mountains
A real photo of the Mountains
The boats you can take out for a row or two
Me on a boat
Boat view of the Chateau
Boat view of the Mountains
A close up of the water. *This photo was not taken by me, but by Pete*
Horseback riding Adventure Number Two: When some of my cousins arrived to Lake Louise I told them how I went horseback riding and they decided to do it too. Interestingly they only wanted to do the hour and a half ride and I said, "You are going to want to do the three hour ride when you see that horses!" and they said "No", but after all we went on the three hours course. So below are more nature pics. This photo above is probably when of my favorite photos that I have every taken and it was done on a horse!
Mirror Lake - If I remember correctly it is called "mirror" lake because when looked at from above it gives a reflection like a mirror.
Lake Agnes
A waterfall being supplied by Lake Agnes
Me and Lake Agnes
The view of the Chateau from Lake Agnes
Me and the view from Lake Agnes behind me
A Moose Sighting!
At a closer look it is Sophia...isn't she and the outfit precious? *This photo was taken by either Peter or Nancy not me*

A photo of Moraine Lake with a rainbow.

Please click on the image if you would like it enlarged: