our yes and God’s free will….

April 30, 2020

This morning, before our daily Rosary, one of the brothers mentioned earnestly and humbly, our walk is thanks to the Holy Spirit. But in order to have the Holy Spirit grace us with his strength, we have to allow Him into our lives. God has given us the free will to follow Him or not. He is ever-present in our lives but we need to let Him in.

St Augustine tells us God never ceases to provide us with consolations in misfortune. On our journey among the trials and dangers of the world, we receive God’s consolation as long as we accept the same. During these trying times, we are free to trust Him and follow or we have the free will to go it alone. Good luck with that!

In this morning’s Mass, our Parochial Vicar, Father Flores, spoke about a time when his parents gently forced him into the pool when he thought he was not ready. He trusted them. Even though his fear of the water did not instantly disappear, he knew they were always there for him. This reminded me of my own incident when learning how to swim. I was a fairly strong and husky 8 year old when it was time for my mom to take me to the public pool to learn how to swim. Two male instructors were trying to push me into the pool to no avail. I saw my mom leave the stands and come towards me. My initial thought was she would save me from these two guys. Instead, she made me face the water and gently pushed me in! That would not be the last time my mom would gently push me when I needed to be pushed. And all the while trusting her.

Once we accept the Lord’s calling us, we then must trust in Him as well.  The same way I was thrust into the pool when I thought I was not ready, we have been thrust into this time of social distancing and quarantine. It has to be a very difficult time for those who have not accepted the Risen Lord as their savior. For us that have accepted Him, we must trust, even though this is an uncertain journey. But a journey it is. As with every journey with the Lord, we are called to trust in Him and to journey joyfully.

In last Sunday’s homily, our Pastor Father Manny, told us of the importance of living joyfully in the Lord as an example of Christianity to others. “Un triste Cristiano es un Cristiano triste” he said. More or less, the translation of this is: a sad Christian is truly a sad sight.

The same joy the early followers felt after the resurrection, is the joy we are called to feel and share with others. These dark times call for the light of Christ. If we do not shine that joyful light then who will?

Here I am Lord! Are you with Him as well?

Jesus Christ has Risen. He has Risen Indeed!

Claro Que Si!

This song, “Here I am Lord” is my personal “Calling” anthem. I pray you enjoy it as well!

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge



examples of faith in difficult times…..

April 23, 2020

During this time of uncertainty, it is important for us to become familiar with others who traveled through similar times and how their faith in the Risen Lord got them through it.

The saints have always given us a road map to true happiness and to salvation. One of the many great saints is the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola. What many do not know is that their co-founder was named St. Francis Xavier. St. Francis Xavier was so in love with the Risen Lord he wanted to take the Good News to those who never heard of it. He chose what at that time was the farthest known land without Christianity. In 1552 St. Francis Xavier went to evangelize in Japan. It did not matter to him not knowing the language or the customs. He was taking the gift of the Risen Lord! A few years later he went to India to do the same. Only 35 years after having left Japan, in 1587, there were 200,000 converts to Catholicism.

This burgeoning Catholic community became a perceived threat to the Japanese Emperor. As many did before him and after him, he thought by making an example of these Christians by killing them, he would end Christianity. On Feb­ruary 5, 1597, twenty-six Christians were publicly crucified at Nagasaki. Their Catholic leader, St. Paul Miki, was front and center crucified on the cross.

In 1854, approximately 250 years after the mass crucifixions, Commodore Perry, from England, forced entry to Japan to explore it.  He learned the Catholic faith, after 250 years of persecution, was not dead. Missionary priests, accompanying the commodore,  found 20,000 Catholics practicing their religion in secret under the threat of death.

250 years without priests, without churches, without sacraments and in secret under the penalty of death! They met in secret, reading the gospel, praying one day they would once again experience the sacraments.  Over 20 generations kept the faith alive!

Here is another example of steadfast faith in our Risen Lord. This time in the Middle East. The young priest had just left his church, where he was the pastor, hopping into his car, turning the keys in the ignition, and pushing the accelerator as he had so many times before. Only this time, as he began the familiar journey to visit his parishioners at their homes, he immediately sensed something was different.

Right away, an explosion ripped through the car, violently shaking the vehicle and—at the same time—engulfing it in flames.

He was totally confused, and he could not see anymore and felt intense heat. The young pastor’s name is Father Josef. Though disoriented and in shock, he could hear a woman’s hysterical voice piercing his ears. This man is dying! She screamed.

This is it. Pastor Josef resolved. I am dying. Except miraculously, he did not. Instead, against all odds, Father Josef was able to exit the rapidly burning vehicle. His sight returned in time for him to see the wreckage engulfed in flames.

Every part of his car was destroyed and damaged, except for his seat. He had no scratches. The car was in flames, but he was not burnedHe found pieces of glass in his hair. Nothing else touched him, he did not even shed a drop of blood.

The young pastor was dumbfounded by how his life had been spared. He immediately credited his survival to the hand of the Lord. He stated God gave him additional time. He put his stamp on his ministry, God told him, now we continue together. God saved him that day for a reason, but he could not figure it out.

You see for the next 7 years he, and most Catholic pastors in that area, lost most of their parishioners to war and displacement from their homes. He had very few parishioners left to minister to.

Seven years later, as the Isis Caliphate began falling apart, Muslims in his area began coming to Christ in surprising numbers. It was then that Pastor Josef understood why God wanted him to stay in Baghdad. When someone asks him why he remained in Baghdad, he explains, he wanted to be with his flock and suffer where they suffer and be there if they ever came back. And come back they did.

Pastor Josef’s brush with death convinced him of one thing. He knew, looking back, God was with him each moment, even though he could not understand why he was going through that perceived darkness without parishioners to lead. God never left his side.

We need to also realize that God has not left our side.

We are very blessed to live where we live. When we look back one day we will better understand why we went through what we are going through today. And will realize our Risen Lord never left our side.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the many lessons of this pandemic is that we nay have been leading very routine lives without being thankful for all our blessings. Our routines have been suddenly taken away and that may be a good thing.

During this time let us look at the rays of sunshine and not the clouds. Let us focus on the positives and not the negatives. Let us be more contemplative in our prayers, enjoying the quiet time. Read more, pray more, when we get back to some type of normal let us always be thankful for our many blessings.

In the Walk to Emmaus reading in Luke, when it was getting dark and the two men were walking in fear, the Lord was walking with them. The Lord never left their side and they asked each other was not our heart burning with love?

The Lord is with us during these difficult times. When we close our eyes in prayer, trusting in Him, will we too say our heart is burning with His love?

Jesus, I trust in you.


A depiction of St. Paul Miki and his companions crucified

Iraq Church

Father Josef’s church, 7 years after the bombing

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge

the quiet heroes…nuns in Cuba

April 14, 2020

I mentioned the very emotional trip I experienced to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in one of my previous posts. One of the many surprises I had while at the Basilica, was experiencing first hand the unassuming, but important work, done by Catholic nuns throughout the island.  In Santiago, living on the grounds of the Basilica, is a small group of nuns from Saint Mother Theresa’s order, The Missionaries of Charity. There are over 4,500 nuns in that order operating 517 missions in 100 countries. And where more appropriate for the Missionaries of Charity to work than at the Basilica of Our lady of Charity!

There are groups of nuns in the poorest sections all over Cuba. In Camaguey, the central part of the island, you find the Sisters of the Merciful Jesus, founded in Poland by Saint Faustina. In Havana, you have the Discalced Carmelites in contemplative prayer. Their order has been in Havana since 1702. All of these nuns are living in marginalized areas rampant with hunger and disease. This Coronavirus pandemic is nothing new to any of these groups since in Cuba they are used to dealing with cholera, malaria, and dengue, just to name a few.

When at the Basilica, these nuns of Charity spend their days in the most rural areas in the mountains serving people living in boxes, or under trees or in caves, if they are lucky. Materially they live with very meager means and totally on donations, on a day to day basis. But each one of them has a sense of joy for being able to serve the poorest of the poor; just like Saint Mother Theresa did in the slums of Calcutta.

Through Emmaus retreats, now being held all over the island of Cuba, men and women are flocking to their area parishes to find ways to help. These nuns are no longer alone in serving the poorest of the poor. Now you routinely see men and women in their white Cristo en Cuba Emmaus polos, proudly wearing them and proudly serving along with the sisters.

Cristo En Cuba is a Miami based, not-for-profit foundation created to evangelize and serve in Christs’ name in Cuba through Emmaus retreats. To date, over 1,000 men and women in Cuba have experienced the Cristo En Cuba Emmaus retreats. Another 1,000 would have experienced the retreats this year before this pandemic. Nevertheless, the foundation is poised to do great things by bringing the Good News to people starving for the Good News!

In transparency, I am a board member of the Cristo En Cuba Foundation and was a team member at their first Emmaus retreat in Camaguey, Cuba.  I then had the blessing of serving with my wife as retreat leaders for the first Cristo En Cuba Emmaus retreat in Havana.

If anyone is interested in helping this remarkable cause email me at: chefjorge@thestuffedcuban.com or call the Cristo En Cuba Foundation at: 305-587-1743.

Every Sunday night at 11pm, the Pastor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity, Father Rogelio Puerta, hosts a Zoom prayer meeting. Please join us at:


Here are pictures of these amazing nuns serving in Santiago, Camaguey, and Havana. I also included pictures of the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity.

And please, follow my blog in order to be notified of future posts!

Sisters of CharitiesNuns in HavanaDivine Mercy in CamagueyCaridad del Cobre 3

Caridad del Cobre 1Caridad del Cobre Inside

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge

you will not always have me….

April 6, 2020

In today’s gospel, our Lord rebukes Judas and tells him to stop complaining and be joyful of His presence because you will not always have me…..How appropriate is that statement for what we are going through today.  For now, we do not have our Lord through the miracle of the Eucharist.

As a daily communicant, I miss being able to partake in the Lord through the Eucharist. Last Sunday, for the first time in 15 days, I was blessed to be able to serve at Mass and consumed the Eucharist. As I held Him in my hand, I promised our Lord I would never take the Eucharist for granted. It was a very emotional moment to hold Him in my hands again and I prayed for those that do not have that opportunity.

A few years back there was a popular song titled “I can only imagine” by Mercy Me. The song asks what would we do if we had the Risen Lord standing in front of us. Would we dance, would we cry, would we kneel or yell hallelujah! It is a very emotional song and really makes us think what would we do.  Except…..we have the opportunity to not only see the Lord but to partake in the Lord every time with the Eucharist!

Our Lord left us the miracle of the Eucharist. He did not say, do this if you want, or maybe this is my body or make-believe it is my body or sometimes it is my body….

He said this is My Body. No if, or, but, maybe. This is My Body.

The priest, in Persona Cristi, takes the bread and wine, and through the miracle of transubstantiation, the substance of the bread and wine is converted into the body and blood at the consecration.

Wow! We do not have to imagine what would we do if Jesus Christ appeared to us. We can experience it in person, every day.  How can we not be transformed into a new life in Him knowing we are taking in His Body?

This pandemic has temporarily taken away from us partaking in the miracle of the Eucharist. The song “I can only imagine” now takes on a new meaning.  Because now we can only imagine what we would do next time we partake in the miracle of the Eucharist. Will we dance, will we cry, will we say hallelujah, or will do all these!

My brothers and sisters in Christ, we will again, praying sooner rather than later, have the gift of the Eucharist. I invite all of you to meditate on what you will do next time you have Him in your hands. Will we dance, will we cry, will we say hallelujah, or will we do all these!

Video, music, and Lyrics to “I can only imagine”:

The Holy Eucharist: Central Sacrament Pre-figured in the First ...

Deacon Cross

Visiting Our Lady of Charity

April 2, 2020

The Shrine to Our Lady of Charity in Miami, next to Mercy Hospital, is a must-visit for local Cubans and for those that love Our Lady.  It was built by the late Auxiliary Bishop Agustin Roman from 1967 to 1973. At a time when the vast majority of local Cubans were recently exiled, and with little financial means. Bishop Roman was able to raise the needed funds, sometimes pennies, nickels, and dimes at a time.  It is a beautiful memorial to Cuba’s Patroness and one of great solace for local devotees.

Imagine the emotion felt when I was told my wife and I were to be part of an Emmaus team for a retreat being held in Santiago, Cuba, where the original Basilica of Our Lady of Charity is located!  A group of 10 Emmaus brothers and sisters from Miami, after having served in the second Emmaus retreat in Havana, boarded a bus for the 15-hour adventure from Havana to El Cobre. The distance is only 760 kilometers or approximately 470 miles.  Anywhere else in the modern world that is a 6-7 hour trip.

A fairly modern Greyhound type bus, made in China,  picked up our group and we had it to ourselves. At first, it was a very comfortable ride until we left the outskirts of Havana and the main road running from West to East became unpaved. The bus tour guide blamed the government before the revolution for misusing the funds as to why the road was not completed.  Excuse me but that was over 60 years ago! It still is not completed!

The views of the Cuban countryside were spectacular, the valleys and mountains with the lush green foliage and palm trees, seemed like a three-dimensional painting. The poor quality of the road continuously brought us back to reality. Potholes were huge and numerous. While the modern bus traveled at over 60 miles per hour, horse-drawn wagons would pop up in its way. Not a good combination!  At times it seemed like a video game where the aim was for the bus driver to miss as many wagons as possible without running them over! Same for the potholes! It was very stressful and dangerous for all involved.  At one point I made the mistake of going to the front of the bus were the cooler was with water bottles. A horse jumped in front of the bus causing the driver to slam the brakes and throw me against the driver’s window. From there I toppled over into the stairwell and was not thrown from the bus because my Guardian Angel was there to save me! Geez and the driver continued as if nothing while cursing the horse and me!

One of our fellow travelers had asked to stop at the outskirts of Camaguey, about halfway to Santiago, to visit a dying uncle in a hospital. He asked me to accompany him to give the patient a blessing. Wow. There are no words to explain, but I will try.  Horror, filth, darkness, inhospitable, unhygienic, disgusting, embarrassing and ultimately very, very sad. The “hospital” was like nothing I had ever seen. Full of insects, no lights, dirty, no bedsheets, patients in beds outdoors and in hallways, no privacy and no soap or hot water. Nurses with unsterilized equipment. Doctors without scrubs or masks. The person we visited was in an unairconditioned room, in a bed with no linens or pillow and full of flies. And that was before the coronavirus crisis! Third world slums have better facilities than this.

Oh but wait, the healthcare is free!

As we pulled away to continue our odyssey, we were dismayed and saddened by the day-to-day burdens the Cuban people suffer. We were quickly refocused when we started again to see how close you can get to pedestrians, horses, and wagons without killing them!  Soon the sun began to set and you know what means…. Darkness, going at 60 miles per hour, with no street lights and people, wagons, and horses still on the streets!  But this time we were entering the mountainous areas.

By then we were on our 9th or 10th rosary, praying to survive this trip. Going up a dark mountain at those speeds with potholes was unnerving, to say the least. But then it all became worth it, because out of the darkness and fog of the mountains the most beautiful sight you will ever see, the Basilica was lit up and standing alone on top of the mountain. What a surreal and majestic site!

Since 1687, Cubans have had a special devotion to Our Lady of Charity. In 1916, Pope Benedict the XV declared her the Patroness of Cuba.  She is displayed in the Basilica, behind the altar, two floors up. There is a private chapel on the second floor behind her statue. Once in the chapel, she is turned around and those in the chapel can see her directly and right in front of you! It was one of the most special moments in my life. The pictures here are from that moment.

The Pastor of the parish is our Emmaus coordinator in Cuba. It is such a privilege and blessing to have him involved with our evangelization efforts on the island.  Because of the coronavirus, we may not be back in Cuba until later in the year. In the meantime, we pray for those brothers and sisters enduring greater hardship than us, with a disastrous healthcare system and lack of the most basic food items.  Jesus, we trust in you!


Deacon Cross

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