Thanksgiving in Rome

Even when in Rome, our seminarians celebrate all that they are grateful for... including their homeland:

Photo cred: Deacon Paul-Michael Piega
Follow him on Instagram @deaconpiega

Jakob Hurlimann, Deacon Paul-Michael Piega and Sam Bass sang the following piece as the Thanksgiving Day Mass Offertory Hymn with the North American College Choir

Audio credit: Seth LeMaire, Diocese of Lafayete, LA.

Lyrics in Latin

Locus iste a Deo factus est,
Inaestimabile sacramentum,
Irreprehensibilis est.

English Translation

This is the Lord’s house, which He hath made,
Profoundly sacred,
It is beyond reproof

I Will Follow

In a world where it seems like nothing is enough for us, it’s easy to believe that a religious vocation couldn’t be for us. We distance ourselves from the truth by saying, “Oh, I’m not holy enough to have a vocation,” or “I don’t pray enough to have a vocation,” or worse yet, “I’m not worthy enough to have a vocation.” We have lost sigh of the truth that it’s precisely through our vocations that God wants us to become as holy as we can, to dive deep into a life of prayer and to show us how worthy we are of not just love, but His love.

"…by sending out his disciples, Jesus calls /all people/ to come together around him."
-CCC #542

God so wants us to be gathered around him for the rest of eternity, that he gifts us with our particular vocation (priesthood, consecrated life, marriage or the generous single life). God knows that through the pursuit, or rather this journey of our vocation, we will become holy. We will learn to pray, and we will know of his love.

Every journey has a first step; the moment when you cross the threshold and step into the unknown. The start of the vocational journey is marked by the bold statement “I will follow!” It acknowledges that God has walked this journey ahead of us and laid the path for us to travel. It expresses the desire to leave behind what was, in pursuit of what will be, while being present to what is. It is the manifesto of discipleship.

This year, and for many years to come, we want to walk this journey with you. Because this road is not meant to be travelled alone, we want to be there, not just for you, but with you as you face the questions, hurdles and stumbles. We will be there, saying with one voice “I will follow!”

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit."
-Romans 15:13

Each step of the journey will be marked by joy and peace. Even in the midst of hardship and suffering, God, who is our hope will be filling us with his joy and peace. We can see evidence of this in the first apostles and our Blessed Mother and for that reason, we chose them to illustrate what comes from proclaiming this three-word manifesto.

Throughout this coming year, we’ll unpack the virtues, empowerment, and joy these first pilgrims modeled for us on their vocational journeys; journeys that started in an extraordinary way, but were lived out in everyday ordinary. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Jesus giving the keys of heaven to Peter are fantastic moments in our faith that have everyday effects even now, 2,000 years after the fact. Therefore, we’ll also share with you stories from today that echo the same truths that come to be known when we follow Christ to Heaven.

"Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me."
-Matthew 5:11

God doesn’t promise us an easy journey. However, he does promise one that is blessed and graced with his love. His love is one that desires our joy and fulfillment even more than we do. We’re honored to share our journey for you and for you to share yours with us. Let us step out into this blessed and joyful journey as we cry out together “I will follow!”

Vocation Story: Sr. Maria Angélica

VT: The following testimony was originally written in Spanish. You can read the original testimony here.

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:8-9)

It is beautiful to see how each person's love story with Jesus Christ is unique and unrepeatable. The creativity with which He calls everyone is impressive. He surpasses all our thoughts.

My name is Guadalupe Salas Lira, I am 31 years old from Zacatecas, Mexico and I’m the fourth of six children. During my childhood, I lived with my parents and siblings in a joyful, lively catholic home. I remember my mother teaching us how to pray and what is pleasing in the eyes of God. In 1998 my family immigrated to the United States and so we were separated for a year until God’s providence reunited us in the city of Austin, Texas.

From adolescence, I had great aspirations: I wanted to do many things and one of my most important dreams was to help the poor. I also desired to have my own family, find a good man, get married, have children and find a good job. I knew that in order to achieve some of my dreams I had to study. So, I enrolled in Texas State University at San Marcos to study graphic design. After graduating in 2012, I worked for a while as a self-employed graphic designer. In the same year, I decided to experience religious life with the Missionaries of the Divine Revelation in Rome. Thank God, my family supported me in this decision even though they didn’t understand what I desired to do.

I believe that I have the blessing of a family that has always supported me in my decisions. Even though at that time, they did not agree completely because they did not fully understand my decision to experience religious life, they did not prevent me from doing what I wished. The only one who was completely in agreement was my mother, since she always had the desire that one of her children consecrate them self to God. My father however, was not very agreeable and said to me: "Do what your heart dictates to you.”

World Youth Day 2011 Group

On August 11th, our group arrived in Rome, accompanied by Father Jesus Ferras. During our stay in Rome, we had the privilege of participating in several Art and Faith tours to the major religious sites, accompanied by the Missionaries of the Divine Revelation. There are no words to express the beauty of the churches and the places that we visited. I was only able to contemplate them. All the majesty of these places spoke of a beginning, of a Creator, of a Father. Although I did not realize it at the time, through the dazzling beauty of these sites, the Lord had started to whisper my life’s mission in my heart.

On August 13th, our group visited Tre Fontane (Three Fountains) where St. Paul was martyred. Here I met Mother Rebecca, Superior of the Missionaries of the Divine Revelation, for the first time. As we walked towards the place where St. Paul had been beheaded, my friends and I started a conversation with the sisters. During this conversation, Mother Rebecca invited us to experience the religious life for as long as we liked, without any commitment. I immediately dismissed this invitation because I thought that it was so far away from the plans I had made for my life.

Following our pilgrimage to Rome, our group travelled to Madrid to participate in World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI. Here, other great blessings awaited us. Everything that I experienced during the journey was very significant, but in particular two events touched my life. The first was a presentation on the life of Saint Teresa of Calcutta in a museum. I was very impressed about her mission but, at that time, I did not understand how a person could donate her life so completely to God and others.

The second event occurred on August 20th, the day of the Prayer Vigil. During Eucharistic Adoration, I began to pray and to thank the Lord for the things I had done in my life. I remember that I felt so much peace and joy, I cried so much and something changed in me during that vigil. I believe that from that moment, without realizing it, my heart began to open to God’s will.

Sr. Maria Angélica visiting the sisters in Rome.

After the World Youth Day, we returned to Austin and I began to reflect on my life and I realized that I had always done what I had planned, but I had never asked myself what the Lord wanted me to do. I cannot say that after this experience I thought about consecrating myself to the Lord, but I can say that the desire to truly know Him, love Him, serve Him and know my Catholic faith was born from this experience. Therefore, I contacted the Missionaries of the Divine Revelation to know more about the faith. Slowly, I started to seriously consider the prospect of a few months experience of the religious life with the community. I started a period of discernment with Mother Rebecca. Each week, for a year, we would talk on skype to prepare for the experience. I remember that on one occasion she told me: "Look, Lupita, if you do not take this experience seriously, you will not discover what the Lord wants from your life." Her advice made me reflect on the fact that I should not waste my time, but take the opportunity to discover God’s will for my life more seriously.

Sr. Maria Angélica with her parents on January 23, 2015

After a year of discernment, on February 11th, 2013 the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I entered the community of the Missionaries of the Divine Revelation. I would be lying if I say that these four years that I have lived in the community have been easy: difficulties and problems have arisen at every stage of this journey. At the same time, the Lord has given me His grace and the help of the community to overcome every trial. If you were to ask me if I regret having accepted the invitation to consecrated life, I would answer no; I would still choose Jesus Christ over and over again.

On January 23th, 2015, the Lord gave me the grace to begin my first year as a novice. During the celebration, I received the religious habit, the white veil, the Holy Rosary for the first time. In addition, I was also given a new name: Sister Maria Angelica. After two years as a novice, on June 24th 2017, the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist and also the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I had the grace to make my first vows. Before God, the community, my family and my loved ones, I freely professed my desire to live in poverty, chastity and obedience. I trust that God’s goodness will grant me grace and perseverance.

Sr. Maria Angélica with her sisters in the Sistine Chapel

Today, many people think that religious sisters have renounced love! However, this is impossible because loving is the inner vocation of every human being. We have been created for love and therefore it is natural to search for it. Often, we refer to this as happiness. The fulfillment of every person lies in following the vocation chosen for them by the Lord from eternity. Therefore, it is possible to see the importance of discerning a vocation because it opens the doors to happiness and fulfillment. The religious life represents the exclusive donation of one’s self in a relationship of deep intimacy with God. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:7) and as sisters we are called to unite all that we are to “love made man,” Jesus Christ. There is no greater s mission in life than this.

Nothing of what I left is comparable with what I have found. I have discovered the precious pearl, the hidden treasure and the spring of water welling up to eternal life. I have come to understand more profoundly St Paul’s words: “[But] whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, […] It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]." (Phil 3: 7-12)

Looking back on my life’s journey with the Lord, I have experienced the fact that God alone is enough to fulfill our hearts!

God bless us and the Virgin protects us,

- Sister María Angélica
Missionaries of the Divine Revelation

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You can learn more about the Missionaries of Divine Revelation on their website.
You can follow the Missionaries of Divine Revelation on Facebook.

A Prayer During Darkness

This is a poem that I wrote one day when I felt as though I was in darkness.  It has helped me to pray with it when my prayer feels dry.

Darkness!

The light of the flame that brought me here now begins to dull and I feel lost

My prayer was once as sweet as honey, now it feels like a tart of pure sourness

How God am I to continue with you if I am but a lazy man

I struggle now more than ever because it seems as though you are now silent and not speaking!

What happened to our loving conversations where you would tell me how much you loved me!

Have we now become so apart that you can’t stand me?

No, I refuse to believe that you no longer wish to see me.  

I am your child, your son!

Help me Father!

Hear me as I yell to you for help!

My light has dimmed but yet I continue.

My struggles have increased yet I will go on!

My cross gets heavier, yet I will carry on!

My words are scarce yet I will pray!

Father, my Father!

Do with me what you must yet give me the ability to always pray and fight temptation and the strength to withstand!