The Second week of Advent

 Tamales

Enjoying a sample of the Queen of Tamales, Helen

This is the time of year when my life starts to unravel; first it’s The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the eighth, then Mike’s birthday on the twelfth. (He shares his feast day with Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe). Then there’s our annual Tamale Party. We’ve made three batches of tamales so far; the first batch was burnt. The meat had that charred taste that overpowered, changing the flavor integrity of the sauce.  It was heartbreaking, but we had to start all over again. The second batch was great, and we had plenty of help too. I was so preoccupied with getting the ingredients ready that I did not really pay close attention to setting aside tamales for the contest. I had my friend Adele pick the ones that looked good from the outside. By the time we finished the production, we had only four dozen pork, and about six dozen chicken. I went to bed thinking that I should have looked for the old lady that was selling tamales at Mike’s workplace during the summer. Everyone raved about them. I wasn’t planning to cheat; I was just going to ask her for a few pointers. Fortunately Helen, the winner for the last four years, was willing to give me a tutorial. I took photographs, made notes, and mentally tried to remember every single step. When it was time to purchase the ingredients  for the tamales, I was  at work, so poor Mike was on his own. He’d text me with questions but, due to the strict orders of my boss (my daughter), I had wait until my break to respond.

Hard working crew, Mike, Mikos, Sonja Maddie, Mick, and me
Me, Sonja, Maddie, Mick, Adele, and Emily

The tamales turned out great! Even our son Mikos loved them. Last year he was quite the critic, and put a damper on my confidence of making tamales. Well it didn’t help that the tamales turned out soupy either. Our neighbors were so kind to show up for the production. Emily, Adele’s soon -to- be daughter-in-law, was a  great help. Mikos, Mick, (Mikos’ father-in-law), Maddie, Sonja, and Adele crowded over our kitchen table to produce some really good tamales.

I still was not feeling it, something was missing; so on Sunday after Mass Mike and I went to Northgate Market. This grocery chain is like a Mexican Whole Foods. For assurance I wanted to try their masa. Mike had already cooked the meat, so I made six dozen more pork tamales, and it was through the grace of God that I was able to complete this task on my own. The spirit of Superwoman overtook me, so I also made three dozen sweet tamales.

Saturday will be the the big day. I’ve asked our parish pastor to be one of the judges. Maybe, just maybe, he will have pity on my plight and show my tamales favor (or not!)

Honoring Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

Mary’s Role in Advent

I was part of a lay ministry that always performed Christmas plays. These plays were executed with great heart. Everyone who participated had different work schedules, and traveled from several neighboring communities.  We rarely had time to practice for our Christmas productions. One play that I will never forget was about the Virgin of Guadalupe. My role was that of the Spanish maid of Fray Juan de Zumarraga, the Bishop of Mexico. My friend Robert played the part of Juan Diego. It was through this production that I learned the history of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. December 12th  is her feast day. I love the Blessed Virgin Mary, not only because she is the Mother of God, but because she is the perfect role model for all women. I know that those of you who are not Catholic believe that we pray to her. We do not pray to her, but we do venerate her. History tells of how God used His mother’s intervention to convert Mexico, a polytheistic nation that sacrificed as many as 50,000 people a year, including their children. According to Monsignor  Eduardo Chavez Sanchez, an expert on the history of “Santa Maria de Guadalupe,” Guadalupe’s Arabic name means “the river bed,” “the one who carries the water.” Msgr. Chavez said that it can also be translated as “river of light.” In just eight years after the apparition, with the help of the Spanish Franciscan missionaries, almost 9 million Indians had converted to Catholicism. Mexico was changed forever. On December 12th, if you live in a highly Hispanic populated area, you can attend Mass and really appreciate how we in the South West venerate Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. I know on this day our Lord will smile down on us as we honor His beautiful Mother.

Second Sunday of Advent Message

The Gospel reading was from Matthew 3:1-12, the preaching of John the Baptist. John always spoke what God put in his heart; he never feared or wavered in his message. He always operated under the supernatural anointing of God. He did not care about the things of the world; he ate locusts. The camel hair coat he wore was turned inside out, to remind us of repentance. The great prophet Elijah wore similar clothing (2 Kings 1:8).  These garments were meant to set them apart. They came into the world solely to do God’s work. I wish John the Baptist were around today. He would most certainly put Nancy Pelosi in her place. I believe he would say something in the lines of: “Stop hiding behind the Catholic Church and confess all your wrong doings! Do not take communion unless you are in a state of grace.” Yes, that’s pretty much what he would say.

My Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for allowing us another year to celebrate Your Son’s birth. We humbly stand before Your holy throne.  Send Your mother’s intervention to help us repent of all of our sins. Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, you know your Son better than anyone else. Ask Him on our behalf to bring peace and conversions to our hurting nation. Blessed Mary, just as you directed the servants at the first miracle at the wedding in Cana to “Do what ever He tell you,” ask your precious Son to restore faith in our nation. Amen

Eli, Norma, me, and Freddie Years ago I had a prophetic
Will, Mikos, Maddie, and Jenny Hebrews 3:4 New American Bible (Revised
The Nativity scene at my parish St. Norbert My Christmas Employment
Continue Reading

Preparing for Christmas

The Christmas Job

As if I were not busy enough, our daughter Sonja asked if I wanted to work with her as a seasonal hire. With a little trepidation I agreed. My first day was “Black Friday,” the busiest shopping day of the year. My job description was simple: stand near the entrance of the store and greet the customers. About an hour into the job my ankle socks were creeping half way down my foot; first the left, then the right. Even though it was uncomfortable, I kept it to myself; no complaints on the first day. As the day progressed I got to meet several of my co-workers. These dedicated people are required to park off the premises to allow shoppers to have first dibs on parking. It’s a distance from where they normally park, so they must allow another half-hour in order to make it to work on time. Sonja’s team is kind, courteous, and always willing to help facilitate customer satisfaction with every sale. I watched as each one of them shared their special gifts on the sales floor, so different from one another but working  beautifully in sync.

Surviving the first day of work

Since I was closest to the door, I had the advantage of  watching the shoppers passing our store. I saw a couple who were wearing matching necklaces of outdoor lights around their necks. My only conclusion was that they were hanging the outdoor lights when they realized it was Black Friday, so they just wrapped the Christmas lights around their necks as a reminder to put the lights up once they got home. Then there was a lady who stepped into the store pushing a baby stroller without a kid in it. I kept my mouth shut, but I wanted to ask her, “Excuse me ma’am, but did you lose your child?” I remained on the square carpet that was my designated section and made certain to stay in my area, to keep peace with my boss. I thought for sure that my legs would kill me but, much to my surprise, I was hanging in there like the rest of the much younger group. All my complaints were in private, and only for Sonja’s ears; she kept reminding me that I could get fired (that would not be the first time). When I got home that night I ate dinner and, though I was not physically tired, I fell asleep on the couch. My body was feeling exactly as after feeding the homeless on Skid Roll; I was mentally exhausted.

Getting Fired on The First Day of Work

Me, Rocky with his nieces and nephews, and Myra

This is not my first rodeo working for my daughter. A few years back when she was in charge of opening a chain boutique with high-end jeans, she hired her cousin Rocky and me. Rocky was visiting from New Orleans, and was only in town for a few weeks, so this was the perfect gig for him. On the first day we all car-pooled to the store in Ontario. It was mid-July when the store was opening a new branch at Ontario Mills. This is the location of one of the biggest outlet malls in Southern California. Our job was to fold the jeans a certain way and display then on the shelves. How challenging could that be?

Advent wreath, Eucharist Adoration, and Advent color Purple

The complaining started early with Rocky, holding the small of  his back. “Aunt Lynda, my back is killing me!” My reply was, “I’m older than you and my back hurts more.” Every time we folded the pants, Sonja would walk by and violently undo them, making a startling snapping sound. “You are not folding them right!” When Rocky and I made eye contact, we weren’t sure whether to laugh or cry. This was a continual recital on Sonja’s part. All the hard work was certainly not paying off, and Rocky was hearing the same criticism; we just could not fold the stupid pants to Sonja’s satisfaction. Finally when the day was almost over, it all clicked and we redeemed our work with perfectly folded jeans. We were both scheduled to work the following day; we had breakfast and waited for our car pool to arrive, but it never came. I called Sonja and she said, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you!”

Advent

Advent is often referred to “Little Lent” because it is a time of penance, preparation and sacrifices. For this reason the  priests’ vestments are purple. During Advent our thoughts should be on the coming of Christ and preparing our spirits to welcome Him into our hearts. On the third week of Advent the priests’ vestments will change. They will likely wear a rose color to remind us of the penitential color purple, but this also comes with  luminance and joy. This is a reminder that Christmas is soon approaching. Just like Lent, we are to be in a prayerful state of mind, fasting, and almsgiving. This is the season of giving joyfully to others in the spirit of Christmas love. It’s wonderful to give and receive gifts, but its purpose is to understand the true meaning of this joyous season as we celebrate the greatest of all gifts: the birth of our Savior.

Catholic Traditions

St. Francis of Assisi contributed so much to Christmas. He is credited with introducing the first Nativity scene. According to St. Bonaventure’s biography, St. Francis received permission from Pope Honorius III to set up a manger with two live animals. St. Francis used this scene to preach the birth of Christ but, according to Bonaventure, St. Francis was so overcome with emotion that he could not say “Jesus.” It is also said that the hay used in the first manger had miraculous power to cure local cattle of diseases and pestilence. St. Francis was a great patron of the arts as well; he was the first to introduce Christmas Carols into the Mass.

Silent Night

In 1818 Josef Mohr, a young Austrian priest, wrote Silent Night. The church organ had broken down and could not be repaired before Christmas. He wrote the three stanzas to the song to be sung by the choir accompanied by guitar music. Silent Night was first heard at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at St Nicolas Church in Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.

My job is  a small seasonal part of my life. But the celebration of Christmas will go on forever. Our moods are filled with joy, we are more apt to share kindness with strangers, and, once again, we can say, “Merry Christmas” to the customers we encounter. The Spirit of God is alive and well in the hearts of many! Spread the Joy! Rejoice in His Birth!

Eli, Norma, me, and Freddie Years ago I had a prophetic
Will, Mikos, Maddie, and Jenny Hebrews 3:4 New American Bible (Revised
The Nativity scene at my parish St. Norbert My Christmas Employment
Continue Reading

A Thanksgiving Story by a Native Californian

I am part American Indian. Actually a large part of my heritage is Indigenous Americas-Mexico. My father was born in Phoenix, Arizona, so some where in the back roads of history my ancestors were part of Thanksgiving. I am also part Spanish, which links me to the Conquistadores who first came to Florida.

The First Thanksgiving

When I was in elementary school I learned about the indigenous people and the Pilgrims getting together to celebrate the first Thanksgiving. The historic images were always the same an Indian chief presenting a feast to the Pilgrims, and the Puritan women serving the meal. They all sat down and enjoyed a wonderful bounty. But is this what really  happened? Or is this where fake news originated? Yes, back in 1621 the Puritans, who were English Protestants/Separatists, wanted to break away from the stronghold of  King James I and the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, so they came to a New World seeking religious freedom. They came across on the Mayflower and landed on the cold shores of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Little did they know that the Wampanoag Natives had inhabited the land thousands of years before their arrival. Fifty -six years before the Pilgrims’ arrival, the Spaniards  landed in Florida. It was the feast day of St. Augustine; they named the colony after the saint and built an altar to give thanks to God for their safe journey. The Timucuan Indians watched as the Spaniards celebrated Mass. The Native Americans were invited to feast with the new settlers. The Timucuan tribe may have brought wild game, squash and seafood, while the Spaniards may have cooked up some cocido, a Spanish soup made with pork and vegetables. This should have been considered the first Thanksgiving celebration. St. Augustine was also where the first Mass was held in the U.S. The first mission to American Indians originated in St. Augustine. And since I’m more than 1/4 Spanish, my ancestors were part of the first Thanksgiving.

Abraham Lincoln

Can you imagine the stress level of this wonderful President? Abraham Lincoln was doing everything in his power to heal a broken nation. The Civil War was raging, and all the fighting was taking its toll. In the meantime Sarah Josepha Hale was on a letter-writing campaign; she was petitioning for Thanksgiving to be made a national holiday. Through her urging, in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day, making it a national holiday. President Lincoln was distraught about the division in our nation and wanted to bring back unity in the country. It was not until 1941 that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved the date to the fourth Thursday in November. This was done to boost the economy and to kick off Christmas shopping.  I thank God for Abraham Lincoln and for all of our presidents of this great country because I believe that their positions are God-ordained.

Ben Sira 10:4 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Sovereignty over the earth is in the hand of God, who appoints the right person for the right time.

Abraham Lincoln was the also the first president to pardon a turkey. His son Tad adopted a turkey as a pet, but when it was time to eat the big bird, the boy begged his father not to kill it. The turkey was spared and the rest is history.

Sonja’s first Friendsgiving
Using wedding china for the first time

Thanksgiving Red Flags

For as long as I can recall my wonderful husband has prepared our Thanksgiving meals. This year our daughter Sonja and her husband Russ hosted a “Friendsgiving.” Sonja asked Mike if she could help prepare the meal. She said that she wants to learn the recipes so that soon she can take over making the meal. If you were to ask our son Mikos, he would say that his sister just wanted Dad to cook for her friends. either way Sunday was our first Friendsgiving.

Sonja’s homemade turtle cheese cake

Mike was putting the finishing touches on the Friendsgiving meal, Sonja and I were folding her laundry when she received a disturbing phone call. The call was from her old district manager, informing her that another colleague had passed away. This man was a dear friend and mentor to Sonja. She was in shock. The holidays may bring joy to many, but to others it’s a time of sadness. Satan hates joyful family gatherings and uses these opportunities to take advantage of those most vulnerable. Not an hour had passed before another friend called Sonja to inform her that his sister-in-law tried to commit suicide. Thank God she was not alone.

Ben Sira 30:21-22 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

21 Do not give in to sadness, or torment yourself deliberately.  Gladness of heart is the very life of a person, and cheerfulness prolongs his days.

With the help of her husband, Sonja was able to put on a brave face for her guests, but we knew how much she was hurting for her friends.

Thanksgiving is a time to not only be thankful for our  loved ones, but to reach out to our friends who have no family around, and to make sure that they have a special place to sit at our tables. God knows, your kind act could be saving a life.

My Thanksgiving Prayer:

Dear Lord, I ask that You bless all families getting together for Thanksgiving.  Let us keep all our differences to ourselves. May we be gracious to our guests, and show the love of Christ in our homes. Let us truly give thanks for this wonderful country we live in. Both the Pilgrims and the Spaniards had You in mind when they landed in the New World. Allow us to heal our differences and to accept Your will to be done in our country. May our speech be seasoned with love, and may You pour out special blessings on our nation. We lift up all who are hurting from the loss of loved ones. And for those who are lonely, bless them and let them know You have a clear purpose for their lives. Amen

Happy Thanksgiving, and we give thanks to God for all of our blessings!

Eli, Norma, me, and Freddie Years ago I had a prophetic
Will, Mikos, Maddie, and Jenny Hebrews 3:4 New American Bible (Revised
The Nativity scene at my parish St. Norbert My Christmas Employment
Continue Reading