Marian Pilgrimage, Part One

This journey began with a great desire in my heart to visit Garabandal, Spain

How It Began

I must first introduce our wonderful friends who faithfully took this journey with Mike and me. We have known Florencio and Sylvia for over 30 years.  Our paths crossed through a business venture, and  we have remained  friends ever since. In the late eighties they moved all six of their children to California to expand their European business. Our company distributed their product.  When they visited family in California, we would often go to dinners with them.

Florencio, Sylvia, me, Mike, Alvero, and Ernesto

Our friendship is rooted in our love for Christ and our conversations always remained with our minds focused on how much our faith has helped us through life. We recently rekindled our friendship when we visited Spain in 2019 with our friends Larry and Helen. Both Florencio and Sylvia picked us up from our hotel and took us to a wonderful dinner in Madrid. They wanted us to savor the great tastes of Madrid.

Through the conversations, Sylvia shared that one of her daughters was suffering with cancer. Since we were en route to Lourdes, France, I promised to bring her blessed water. We had to return through Madrid to fly home. Again, Florencio and Sylvia were so gracious to meet us for a brunch in Madrid and grateful for the holy water from Lourdes.


Both Sylvia and I continued to communicate via WhatsApp. Turns out that we have a lot in common; she, like myself, is very conservative and attends daily Mass. We are prayer warriors for our friends and family. I shared with her how I wanted to visit Garabandal, where the Blessed Mother appeared to four girls. Sylvia mentioned that her nephew has visited Garabandal and had a wonderful spiritual experience. Our conversation became more vivid and now Fatima, Portugal, was part of the plan.


Reina Sofia Museum Picasso

Getting Mike On Board

While Sylvia was working on planning the trip, I still had to convince Mike. I knew better than to use the word “pilgrimage”, so I started with the fact that these were places that he had never visited. My husband is connected with God and prays daily, but this was going to be a big Marian Journey. It took a while before he finally purchased the tickets, but there was no turning back!

The Planning

Our part was easy but for Sylvia it was a different story. She had to arrange for hotels in all the cities and little villages. She wanted us to experience the food like the locals. This was painstaking because we also had to consider the siestas that are taken during the day. Every restaurant shuts down at four and does not reopen until eight. How she managed to accomplish this was with the hand of God, because on several occasions we made it to the  restaurants a few minutes before closing and experienced a wonderful meal!

The Vehicle

Florencio and Sylvia own a nice sized van, but right before the trip she took it in for service. The vehicle was not ready on time, so they had to rent a Peugeot. I, like the rest of all of my travel adventures, sat in the middle. We became family in this white wagon Peugeot; we talked for hours and shared family stories while making our own.

Ernesto, Mike, me, Sylvia and Florencio




Ernesto,  Florencio and Sylvia’s nephew, was our wonderful chauffeur the entire trip. He took time off from work to drive us over 2,500 miles. He is the son of one of Florencio’s seven sisters (he also has a younger brother). This clan is huge and close-knit; Ernesto has four brothers and one sister. He, too, attends daily Mass in Madrid. Ernesto had only been to Garabandal, so this adventure was equally exciting for him as well.

Day One

Mike and I had one full day in Madrid before meeting our friends in Santander. It was a whirlwind adventure, but we made it to Museo Nacional del Prado and Arte de Reinas Sofia to see the gallery Picasso. We ate at a local cafe and were first introduced to croquettas.  This would be part of our daily meal throughout the trip. These delicious appetizers are made of potatoes, cheese, ham and vegetables rolled in corn meal and fried.

Day Two


On this part of the journey we met Alvaro, Florencio and Sylvia’s son who traveled with us on this day. Alvaro is a charming, precious young man who also attends daily Mass. Though he does not think so, he speaks perfect English. He attended Corona Del Mar High School in Newport Beach when his family lived in California for six years. Alvaro added so much to our conversations and graciously answered all the bombardment of questions I had for him. I thanked him for carefully watching over me as I made my rosary purchases, making sure all was correct. Alvaro was visiting with his parents in Santander and had a busy schedule, so he was only with us that one memorable day.

Ampuero, Spain
Ampuero, Spain   Alvaro, Ernesto, Florencio, me and Mike


Ampuero, Spain, is where Our Blessed Mother appeared on a stone September 15, 1605. The apparition stone is located on the side of the small church. We all took our time and prayed for our loved ones and friends. Personally, this was truly a holy experience; when I placed my head into the opening of the stone I  felt the power of God so strong! We all shared the same sacred experience with the presence of God through Mary. This was a new  level of worship for me that set the tone for the rest of the trip.


Saint Peter the Apostle Church, Limpias, Spain “Christ of the Agony”


At one time this small village of just over 1,200 people was as famous as Lourdes, France. At the 16th century parish church of Saint Peter the Apostle  in Limpias many miracles are attributed to the life-sized figure of Jesus on the Cross, who is depicted as Christ of the Agony. Before this crucifix was moved to Limpias, it  saved the village of Cadiz, Spain from a massive flood. From 1919 through 1924 many villagers  from Limpias witnessed the eyes of Christ opening and closing. Thousands of miracles have been attributed to Christ of the Agony in Limpias. We prayed for so many at this holy site.

Saint Peter the Apostle Church, Limpias


Never Doubt

The miracles of Limpias are well documented. In August of 1914, Father Antonio Lopez was installing electrical wiring to illuminate the beautiful crucifix “Christ of the Agony” when he noticed that the eyes on Jesus were closed. He was on a ladder, eye level to the crucifix, as he leaned closer to examine he made this great discovery. The eyes “Christ of the Agony” are always opened. Many of the villagers had similar experiences.

On Palm Sunday, April 13, 1919, two prominent men from Limpias attended the service but they considered these manifestations as hallucination and hysteria. As they approached the altar they were able to see the eyes and mouth move. They fell to their knees asking forgiveness and imploring mercy from God.

The “concha” on the way to Santiago de Compostela

Limpias is also where we encountered our first  “concha”; this shell on the way to the journey of Santiago de Compostela is located directly in front of Saint Peter the Apostle of Limpias. This is one of the many places you can get your stamp for  “The Way of St. James ” or as it’s referred here  “El Camino”.

My Prayer

Lord,  thank You for blessing us with good health, allowing us to make this journey. I am completely humbled to be able to venerate and to walk in the same steps where so many miracles took place. Amen.

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The Upper Room

With The Upper Room

On May 19th, Christians all over the world will be celebrating Pentecost Sunday. I have visited the  Upper Room in the Old City of Jerusalem many times on this special day

The Upper Room In Jerusalem is entered through the Zion Gate. As you walk past the Jerusalem stone walls you are met by street vendors selling goods made of sesame, honey bars, and other products indigenous to the Holy Land. When the path splits into two, the walk continues toward the left until you reach a statue of David. The Jews frown upon this statue because they believe that it is an offense; Jewish culture does not venerate idols and considers this a graven image. Of the many times that I have visited, poor David has suffered amputated toes from the hands of Jews and, on several occasions, his nose has been broken

King David’s statueThis area of the Upper Room is considered the Jewish section of the Old City. The Muslims consider this to be a mosque, but the Israelis believe the lower level of the old structure is the Tomb of David. As Christians we remain neutral; we visit both the Tomb of David but spend most of our time in the Upper Room. This is one of my five favorites sites to visit in the Holy Land.

The Upper Room

The Upper Room, also referred to as the Cenacle, is located in the southern part of the Old City of Jerusalem. In this room many historic occurrences took place that changed the course of Christianity: Jesus washed the feet of His disciples,  the Last Supper, the post-Resurrection and Resurrection of the Risen Christ, Pentecost, and the introduction of the Holy Spirit.

The Last Supper

I’m sure many of you have a picture of the Last Supper in your homes. This image is etched in our hearts. The apostles were too spiritually immature to receive the powerful message that Jesus shared about His death. Their eyes were clouded with the inability to comprehend this mystical phenomenon. These chosen few were not stand out people; they would go unnoticed to the world. Yet they were hand picked by Jesus.

The Institution of the Eucharist

This also took place during the Last Supper. This is our true communion with God. The Eucharist is what brought me back to the Catholic Church. In the 15 years of wandering from one Protestant  church to another, nothing was more evident than the lack of Holy Communion. I had completed my religious journey by finding Christ in the Eucharist once again.

When I visit the Upper Room, I imagine Jesus holding up the bread and wine and consecrating it with His Holy Hands, I imagine the stillness in the room while our Lord spoke these words:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.
This is the reason a Catholic priest consecrates the bread and wine; they are Jesus personified. This is the true body and blood of Christ. This is not ordinary bread with grape juice, it’s the TRUE body and blood of Christ! It’s appalling to me that many Catholics do not understand the holiness of this part of the Mass.

Our Upper Room

Our Upper Room is a time spent in communion with God. We seek to draw closer to Him from the same place where Jesus poured out His spirit.  Jesus chose this room. He wants us to go up and visit, to stay and experience what His disciples felt, to be in complete union with Him. As I make my way up the spiritual steps to the Upper Room, sometimes I feel like Thomas, doubting  yet  desiring this emotion for growth to rise up within me. I want this encounter that the  disciples experienced, the pure love of Christ. Jesus knows we are all human and fall short. He knew that Judas would betray Him. He knew that Peter would deny Him not once, but three times. Our Lord also knew that Thomas would doubt His Resurrection. We all suffer conflicting guilt for not serving the Lord as we should. Even though I’m in constant prayer throughout the day,  I always feel that I should go deeper into prayer. The distractions of the world bring me out of the Upper Room, so this makes the climbing more laborious as I make my way up again. My desire is to reach the Upper Room void of all my daily burdens.  I aspire to be in the presence of our Lord and receive what He has in store for me through contemplative prayer.

Contemplative Prayer

Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the quiet. You become one with God through emptying yourself so that the Holy Spirit can fill you. You rest in His holy presence by relaxing and breathing out all distractions. Your breathing must come naturally, not too slow, not too fast. Many times when I attempted to practice contemplative prayer in my home, my cat Prudie jumped on my belly. I can’t tell if she wants affection or if she wants to share this holy experience with me. It takes a lot of discipline to get into this spiritual zone. Believe me, many times I have attempted to reach this zenith but I failed miserably. I will not surrender to my shortcomings and will continue to attempt mastering this type of prayer.

Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. “I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars used to say to his holy cure about his prayer before the tabernacle…[Jesus’ gaze] …teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men [and women]  (Catechism of the Catholic Church No 2715)

The Holy Spirit

I mentioned earlier about the apostles not fully understanding Jesus’ powerful message in the Upper Room. Only after Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on them were their eyes fully opened. This is considered the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This all took place after the Resurrection, in the Upper Room. After Jesus’ Ascension, the fire of the Holy Spirit fell upon them. From that day on, the apostles went forth  sharing the Good News with boldness. When we are filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit, we, too, can change the world by witnessing the love of Christ.

My Prayer

May we all encounter You, Lord, in the Upper Room. Close all distractions, especially those of social media. Allow us in Your Holy Presence. Meet us on the way up, so that we can see Your beautiful, nail-scarred hands extended toward us. Jesus, touch our hearts to become more like You. Amen.

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Second Prison Visit

My sister Norma and her son Mario

I decided to visit my nephew Mario this past Friday.

Norco Rehabilitation Center is a little less than a half-hour from my home so I decided to make an unplanned visit.  I arrived at 10:15 a.m. for a 12:00 noon visit. You do not have to make an appointment, just show up voila’ you’re in. I was greatly mistaken! There were already about 20 people ahead of me and, for the most part, they had appointments.

Since I consider myself  an expert small-talker, I struck up a conversation with two women ahead of me. One tall black lady with the most beautiful smile was sharing how she learned the hard way about the strict dress code for visitors. “No way, I wasn’t taking any chances this time.” She wore a long, gray dress with the words “Black and Smart” written over her chest area. Another lady arrived; she had flown in from Idaho to visit with her son. She was nervous because she forgot to wear her sports bra. Not me, I made a special effort to invest in a wireless bra.

The Bra

“As long as the bra is wireless, you should be fine,” I counseled her. She replied that she was wearing a wireless bra but with metal hooks. Again, I assured her that she was fine.  After all, this was not my first rodeo.

When the officers started to check in the visitors, two women with heavy Indian accents did not pass the magic wand test (metal detectors). They were  instructed to go to the infamous shed to purchase sports bras. Believe it or not, the prison provides sports bra dispensers! I kept a watchful eye on them and felt their pain for being delayed in their visit. Thank God I was in a better prepared state of mind.

The two women came back to announce that the dispenser was not taking their money. Turns out that these sports bras are bartered with one-dollar bills. They turned to the officers and said, “Now what! We came all the way from Poway, what are we to do?” The officer smugly looked at them and  told them to go to Target. I was quickly checked in, but because I had forgotten Mario’s booking number, I had to wait for all the other people who had appointments to go ahead of me.

Then I did the most stupid thing ever! I went to the officer and asked her if my wireless bra was permitted. “Not if it has metal hooks,” she answered. By this time 25 more people  needed to be cleared for their visits, so I decided to take a run to Target to avoid the red tape of the bra bureaucracy. The two Indian women offered me a ride to Target, but I was not about to get in a car with two strangers with whom I had only one thing in common: stupid bras!


I have been boycotting Target for over a year, but in this case I made an exception. I ran in and picked out a sky blue sports bra, used the self-checkout, then ran back to the dressing room to change. When I put it on, it had some type of coffee stain spatters! In the meantime Mario called me because I was so delayed. I reassured him that I was on my way. By the time I arrived back at the prison, I was the only one left to be processed.


White shirt and black pants and still got it wrong

Two Young Men

Maybe it’s not my business, but I noticed two young men who arrived in a Tesla. I, too, was driving my husband’s Tesla, so perhaps that was why I was all up in their business. More on them later.

The Visit

Mario was already sitting at bench 34 when I arrived. An inmate wearing an orange mess vest came up to me and said, “I’m Mario’s friend Turkey, let me help you.” I was flustered because there was only one fried chicken left and the machine was not taking my one-dollar bills; the chicken cost $20. This is one of the reasons I came back – for the chicken! It’s delicious!

Mario introduced his friend “Turkey”; he is from Istanbul. I have visited Turkey four times, so we had a wonderful chat about his homeland. Turkey had already reserved a Catholic Bible for us, so we immediately got into the Word of God. Mario shared that he attends three weekly Christian services. Of course that made my heart glad.

The Wisdom of Ben Sira  (New American Bible)

We read from the Wisdom of Ben Sira. This is one of the “wisdom” books that Martin Luther decided to removed from the Protestant Bible! This is one of my favorite books, also referred to as Sirach (in other Catholic bibles).  I was pleasantly surprised when I read this verse:

Turkey seemed to be knowledgeable about many of the inmates.  When I got up to purchase water. Remember the two young men? I noticed that they were visiting their father, who was about my age! The man was wearing a yarmulke, which meant that he was Jewish. I asked Turkey, “What crime did that man commit?” Turkey looked back at me and laughed, “I’m not sure.” “Okay, when I come back you need to find out,”I answered. Turkey assured me that he would find out. Mario, on the other hand, was aghast that I was such a busybody. “Tia, we don’t go around asking inmates why they’re here.” We laughed and, by the end of the day, I became Turkey’s Tia.
The Good-bye

We read five full chapters of this rich book on wisdom. We would apply the advice to our lives, especially the chapter on gossiping.

Praying For A Transfer
Mario mentioned that he wanted to be transferred to another area because of the violent behavior of the younger inmates. He said that the tension between the Blacks and Latinos was out of control, with vicious fights breaking out on a regular basis. These young inmates all have a common background: gangs, drugs and are adopted sons of Satan.
My Prayer
Dear Lord, thank You for allowing me to visit Mario and for the beautiful Bible study we shared. I pray for him to get into the last few classes to earn his AA. Lord, let Mario’s mind stay on You and fill the loneliness of the days. Amen.
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