Day 5 – More Amazing Stories

A Homily to Remember

No one told me that the weekends start 30 minutes later and the schedule is slightly different, so I had to clarify things a bit to make sure I didn’t miss anything after I was woken up at 6:00 instead of 5:30. Because we were out so late Friday night, I had to start writing the Day 4 blog Saturday morning. I also decided to get some extra sleep Saturday night instead of staying up late to write the Day 5 blog. Padre and the brothers are in the small Oratory upstairs praying right now instead of in the Chapel where they would normally be, so once again I really don’t know what the schedule will be. In any case, I know I have to write the blog now while the events of yesterday are fresh.

I’ll get right to the point. Padre Martín’s homily was just amazing. I could write the entire blog about it, but I’ll share some important points that will hopefully give you something to think about. The gospel today was from Matthew where Jesus says you do not put new wine into old wineskins. Padre said for a long time he didn’t understand what Jesus meant about the wineskins. It didn’t make sense. Now he understands it is not really about wineskins and wine, it has to do with having a new heart. The new wine is the grace of God that can only be poured into a new heart. If your heart is not newly changed, the grace of God cannot stay in it. It will burst out. Many people go to healing masses, retreats, or pilgrimages but their lives don’t change because they’re not willing to accept the change God wants them to make. They do not let their hearts become new. The new wineskin means a new heart of humility, generosity, and mercy.

Another point he made was that God doesn’t have to learn how to be merciful. We have to learn how to be merciful. This is a common mistake people make, and it has to do with their pride. Conversion is only possible when human nature cooperates with the grace of God. It is not automatic. I can be in front of the Blessed Sacrament, but if I have a heart of stone, the grace of God means nothing. To underscore a point he often makes (God cannot be outdone in generosity), he told us how he said to Jesus in the morning, “I send you a thousand kisses.” Jesus responded, “And I send you a million.”

There was an interesting moment at the end of the homily when Padre suddenly stopped Mass and called Br. Juan Diego to the Sacristy to talk with him. The two of them stayed in there for about five minutes, then they came out and Mass resumed. I asked Padre later what it was about, and he said he had to ask Br. Juan Diego to forgive him for an incident on Friday he thought he had handled poorly. That’s Padre Martín. Forgiveness is so important, and our consciences must be clean before receiving the Eucharist.

More Amazing Stories

I spent much of the day trying to finish interviews for the Biographies. Saturday is a work day with cleaning and laundry and other chores, so it was a bit of catch as catch can. First I spoke with Br. Benito. He is from the Piura province in Peru, which is about an 18 hour drive from Lima. He felt the calling to the priesthood when he was 17, but he says in the years before that it was curiosity which then turned into a decision. It turns out a friend of his attended a retreat led by Padre Martín in Piura and told him about Padre and his new community. Through his friend he made contact and entered the community in February of 2004. It was funny because when I asked him when he entered the community, he actually said “2 February 2004 at 7:00 a.m.” As for his religious name, he had a devotion to St. Benedict because of his contemplative nature, but he considered a few others. As he was discerning this, Benito became stronger in his heart. He sort of laughed because now he prefers to be more active (i.e. out doing good works) rather than contemplative.

Brother Juan Diego has had one of the most interesting journeys to the priesthood I’ve heard. He started the interview by telling me it was the fault of the Holy Virgin that he is here. He felt the calling to the priesthood at age 19. He’s now 47. His life went through many twists and turns from entering a Diocesan seminary when he was young (and he says he let his anger and the devil stop him there) to being in a different community in his mid-thirties. In his mid-twenties his father died and he was very angry with God about that. With the help of the Blessed Mother, whom he has a great devotion to, he was led to this community and joined in December of 2010. In the days I’ve been here I’ve noticed he has a great enjoyment of cooking, and he is very good at flower arrangements. He does all the flower arrangements for the community. Our interview got cut short for the afternoon prayers, so there is more work to do there.

Brother Miguel Ángel is a Postulant from Bogota, Colombia. He entered the community in October 2013 at the age of 19. He felt the calling to the priesthood at age 15 and would make jokes with his friends about being a priest. They only thought he was joking, but he felt he had to joke because he didn’t want them to make fun of him. He spent three months in discernment with a Colombian priest who had a Lay community. A close friend of Padre Martín’s in Colombia met him and remarked to her friend, “This boy has a vocation.” He was introduced to Padre Martín when Padre was visiting Colombia in July 2013. His friends told him that Padre would ask The Lord as they were talking, and he could say no. Within five minutes Padre Martín told him The Lord was waiting with open arms for him in Peru. Their first conversation occurred right after a Mass while Padre was dressed in vestments. Afterward when Miguel saw him in his habit (the first priest he had ever seen in a habit), he thought to himself, “I want to be like him.” Miguel says he has a gift of joy (which I can heartily confirm) and he wants to share that joy with the world. He is convinced many people who are sad can feel joy through him, and he realizes that this joy is a tremendous gift from God.

One last thing about Miguel has to do with Colombia’s compulsory military service, and how Padre Martín had to write a letter explaining that Miguel was joining his community so he would be excused. Padre sent the letter to his friend Patricia. Miguel did not have the $5 for the bus ride to pick up the letter, so he rode his bicycle three hours each way (in the rain) to meet with Patricia and pick up the letter. He did this in one day. His father asked him why he would do this. He simply told him, “I need the letter.” I think this story is worth remembering when we feel the need to complain about nuisances or small things we have to do in our lives. There are people in the world (like Miguel) who face much greater challenges, and rather than give up their situation as hopeless they persevere because they know it must be done.