He had the most profound respect and love for the Eucharist…..

September 20, 2016

I haven’t blogged in a while – but was inspired to do so by a blog written by a real blogger and my Brother In Christ, Carlos Espinosa. Visit him at “Living My Faith On A High Wire”. He wrote about the passing of our mutual friend Pepe Merino. What follows is my take on Pepe’s passing.

“My BIC, the biggest favor you can do for me is to find a way I can take the Eucharist; I will be eternally grateful.” On September 12th at approximately 1:00am, my Brother In Christ, Jose Pepe Joe Merino, passed to God’s eternal Glory. Almost exactly two months to the day he was diagnosed with cancer.

There are so many heart warming stories I could share about my BIC. Even though I am blessed with many Brothers In Christ, he is the only one that called me BIC and I always reciprocated. In the hospital he made the request I quoted above. I became a man on a mission. You see, Pepe had not partaken in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and consequently hadn’t received Holy Communion in 40 years!  He had an impediment from a prior marriage and respected the Eucharist so much he refrained from accepting; no matter how desperate he was to do so.

We are blessed with many wonderful priests at our parish, the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables. I went to see Father Phillip Tran, ordained barely two years ago. With our Pastor Father Michael Davis’ blessing he agreed to visit Pepe at the hospital. Once there he determined Pepe’s terminal disease, along with other factors, made Pepe an acceptable candidate for both Reconciliation and Holy Communion.

After Pepe’s confession with Father Tran, I stepped into the hospital room with the Eucharist. What a momentous and overwhelming moment! With his wife Miriam by his side, along with his two oldest daughters and friends, I gave him the Eucharist for the first time in 40 years!

His facial expression was a mix of elation, awe and gratitude. He wept with happiness. It was such a humbling moment for me and one that deepened my love and respect for the Eucharist more than I could ever imagine. Pepe considered it such an honor and had so much respect for the Eucharist. It was truly a real treasure for him.

I am in the third year of a five year diaconate formation program.  I know I will have other happy moments and some sad ones in my future ministry; if God allows me to complete the training. But I don’t think I will have another moment like the one my BIC and I shared!

I am blessed with being able to go to Mass most mornings. I don’t think I will ever feel the same about accepting Holy Communion ever again. My BIC showed me how awesome it is to accept our Lord in the form of the Eucharist. I will never forget Pepe’s expression of love.

Our pastor authorized a team of BICs to take the Eucharist to Pepe to his house on a daily basis.  I was also blessed in being the last one he was able to take Communion from; since towards the end he no longer was able to swallow.  Before his passing I heard the same priest gave his wife Miriam absolution and she also accepted Holy Communion for the first time since she married Pepe.

From a seemingly disastrous human experience, a wonderful spiritual gift emerged. Both Miriam and Pepe reconciled with our Lord and partook in Holy Communion.  I will be for ever grateful to the Lord for allowing me to be a part of this beautiful pastoral experience. It is a lesson for us all.

Thank you my BIC. I will think of you every time I take Holy Communion to the sick or home-bound.  And I will never take it for granted.

my-bic

My BIC!

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Diaconate formation….2 years and counting….

April 11, 2016

The diaconate formation experience has exceeded my expectations. I was told time would fly but could never have imagined how fast.  My last blog was posted after completing my first semester of the first year.  Now I am completing the second semester of the second year!

We are blessed to have a wonderful group of God loving men going through this journey together.  This group includes the 4th year “seniors” moving into their final year in preparation of ordination. These five men have been a great example of holiness and reverence for our group.

Our group, soon to enter the third year of the five year program, numbers 12. Godincidence? We come from all walks of life and have established a camaraderie that will last a lifetime.

When the diaconate was re-established, after the Second Vatican Council, it was designed as a three year program. Later it was changed to a four year program and recently moved to five years. A Masters in Theology was added in addition to more pastoral/practical education.  We will be truly prepared and educated to serve our assigned flock if we are given the blessing of ordination!

Our school year includes classes every Wednesday evening and one Saturday a month at the St. John Vianney Seminary in Miami. In addition we have one full weekend a month at the St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach. There we are joined with Palm Beach candidates. During our weekends we start and end the days with prayers, with classes sandwiched in between.  What a beautiful and moving experience to hear 40 men praying and singing acapela in a small chapel!

As a teen I felt the calling to the priesthood and actively explored it.  I remember telling my father I was considering the calling and remember when I told him I didn’t think it was for me.  About 20 years ago I explored a calling to the diaconate but was told at the time I was too young.  That thinking has changed allowing men with young children to take part in diaconate formation. I tried again a few years ago and was told the program was being updated from four years to five and no enrollments were being accepted at the time.

So as we hear many times, it is all up to God’s timing and plan and not up to ours! I am blessed to have the support of my wife and my two daughters. Without their support this program would be impossible to complete. My pastor, along with my Emmaus and Knight brothers have also been prayerfully and financially supportive.

I pray every day that other men in my parish join me in this wonderful journey. Work in the ministries was important and rewarding – but this is an awesome experience. The professors are out of this world qualified and inspiring. Our prayer consciences have achieved levels we never thought possible. And we are learning so much more about our faith.

If you know of someone that you feel in your heart will make a good candidate for diaconate formation, have them contact their pastor.  A new class enters this Fall and that only happens once every two years!

2nd year group!Left to right:  Ismar, Luis, Steve, Victor, JC, Dr. Brian, Sister, Jorge, Mesmin, Me, Ernie, Dr. Jose and Enrique.

This is our group along with Sister Margarita.  She has taught at the seminary for 28 years and just announced her retirement.  What a blessing for us to have had her as a professor!

Please pray for us and our families as we continue the discernment process. We will do the same for you!

 

 


One semester done….

December 30, 2014

Like in all good things in life…they go by fast when you are enjoying them! When I was first told the diaconate formation program would take five years, I thought I would never get done. A brother Deacon gave me a major moment of clarity.  This “program” is a life long walk. The first five years are only part of that walk, not an ends to a mean.

I always admired my brother deacons. I do so even more now.  My closest friends tell me that because of my many faults, my five year program will actually take me ten years to complete! Actually, the first year is one of discernment.  Its called the year of aspirancy. After the first two semesters the aspirant applies for formal candidacy.  If approved, the candidacy takes the next three years.  After that, the archbishop has to accept the candidate as an ordinant; this final year gets you prepared for ordination.

My wife has been and will continue to be a partner in this walk.  Throughout this process the archbishop stays in constant contact with my life partner.  We were told from the first step that she is my closest and best advisor.  I have also been blessed by a wonderful spiritual advisor: Father Damian Flanagan.  We also chose a deacon couple to mentor us throughout this process: Deacon and Mrs. Raul Flores.  Deacon Roberto Fleitas and his wife Nancy, continue to be  an inspiration to Maxine and I throughout this process….

I know the Lord will rain blessings on us throughout this process.  I also understand the Evil one will do all possible to keep me from getting closer to my Lord.  Even though there are and will continue to be trials, at the end of the process, the Lord will always prevail.

One of my major goals, that my prayer is focused on, is on bringing some of my Emmaus and Knight brothers to this walk as future deacons.  There are many willing and few are called.  But I am confidant those few called will be part of my wonderful Emmaus and Knight community. I hope my calling can be an inspiration to my brothers and their families to step up their service to the Lord.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me….I once was lost, but now am found; was blind,  but now can see…..Keep my family and me in your prayers….

Your Brother in Christ; Vivat Jesus!

 


So my wife asks me to run home because my daughter may have hurt her foot…..

August 8, 2014

They played an April fools joke but in August! When I arrived they had opened the letter from the archdiocese and read me aloud my acceptance to the diaconate program!  Once I got over my daughter not being hurt, I was ecstatic about the acceptance! As I explained in my most recent blog, this is a calling I have felt for most of my adult life.  My wife Maxine also decided to make a big commitment to her faith by agreeing to join the Archdiocese Adult Lay Ministry Program.  This will help us both continue to grow in our faith and as a couple.  Both my daughters, Cami and Isa are very happy for me as well.

I know this new path will be challenging – but also know the many blessings that will flow.  I have been blessed with a wonderful prayer community.  My Emmaus brothers, fellow Knights and the couples of the marriage encounters have all been a source of inspiration for me. Their prayers have strengthened me and will continue to do so.   I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of my mentors Deacon Flores and Deacon Fleitas.  They too have been inspirational examples of Catholic men.  My pastor, Father Michael Davis, wrote a beautiful recommendation letter for me and I hope to make him proud as well…..

I start on Saturday, September 13th.  Stay tuned as I update my blog while I go through this wonderful new challenge!


The Diaconate chooses you……

July 27, 2014

In order to put into perspective my walk towards the diaconate calling, it’s important to let you know a bit of the background leading to this decision…. I want to share my walk during the  5 years the diaconate program takes with you and promise future postings will be shorter!

In my late teens I experienced what I thought to be a strong calling to the priesthood.  While growing up I had been blessed with great  examples of Catholic priests.  At church, at school and even at home, I interacted with men that gave their life to Christ.  I was guided in my discernment to the priesthood by a wonderful priest with a deep spirituality.  I announced my decision to the world, including my parents.  After a few months of discernment I realized the priestly life wasn’t for me.   I remember like it was yesterday telling my father I had changed my mind.  He took it stoically but am sure at some level it must have been a disappointment.  I found out later in life my father and uncle had anointed my future as a priest when I was first-born!

I was fortunate to find a life partner that had a similarly strong yearning to walk in the Lord’s path.  Yes we struggled and had our valley’s and very dry desserts, but our faith always gave us the fuel to keep on trying to figure out how to grow old together with the Lord.  After our first daughter was born, Cami, I felt another tug towards a deeper calling.  I applied for the diaconate to become an ordained Catholic deacon.  The powers to be at the time were much wiser than I and realized I was too young, 35 years old, and my daughter was too young for the demands of this calling.

Throughout the years I was blessed because of my involvement in the Emmaus men’s ministry, the marriage teams in our parish, the Knight of Columbus and the Retrovaille marriage experience.  Retrovaille gave us the tools necessary to avoid a difficult patch  in our marriage that could have led to divorce.  We now have another beautiful daughter named Isa.  The girls are now 15 and 25 respectively.  A few years ago I again felt the calling to a more devoted life in my faith.  With a lot of enthusiasm and sure that the third time is the charm, I called the archdiocese office to apply for the diaconate program once again.  It turned out to be an anti-climatic effort. The archdiocese was in the middle of a top down review of the entire diaconate program!

As I mentioned earlier, I am blessed to be involved with a great group of ministries.  I threw myself into serving the best way I knew how.  This past May, speaking to one of the deacons at our parish, he mentioned the program was back on and that the director of the program had asked the deacon to contact me because he had misplaced my information! This time I really felt it was going to happen.  I prayed al lot and asked my wife to be part of the decision-making process during my discernment.  The archdiocese, to their credit, makes sure the spouse is a big part of the decision-making process.  In fact, one cannot even begin the program without her written approval.  Her approval is required after the first year of the aspirancy program, then again throughout the 5 years.  Before the ordination, my wife has to sit down with the archbishop and give another written permission for me to go ahead with the final step.

The discernment process brought a lot of second guessing because the program is so time intensive that I would have to stop participating in all the ministries I am involved in.  My wife and I are in the best place we have ever been in our marriage and that is because of our working together in the marriage parish teams and in Retrovaille.  I would now have to give those up somewhat, as well as giving up my service to my beloved Emmaus and Knights.  You see the diaconate program is 5 years long.  The first year is called aspirancy.  During that year, all involved,  my wife, my pastor, the archbishop and myself have time to evaluate fi this is really for me.  Then you start 4 years of continued education and training leading to your ordination.  The 5 years involves:  one weekend a month at the major seminary in Boynton Beach, every Wednesday evening and 3 Saturdays a month at the minor seminary at St. John’s Vianney in Miami.  Intense research and projects are involved during the time one is not in class.  As you can see, this leaves little tine for family, let alone other ministries.

My wife and I spent an entire day at the beach with a deacon and his wife talking about the challenges of the program.   Nothing was whitewashed.  It is a very intense commitment and it will take me away from family life.  But the blessings bestowed are far superior to any of the negatives that may be involved!  After we left the beach that day we were convinced we would embrace this calling together and enthusiastically!  The application process involved a recommendation letter from my pastor.  I was told that was the determining factor as to whether you were accepted or not into the program.  I was very blessed to have received a strong and heartfelt letter from my pastor to the archbishop.  I had the entire packet into the archdiocese by June 1st for a July 1st deadline. And then the waiting began!

By July 20th I hadn’t heard a word and the Devil was having a field day with my psyche.  I began to fill my mind with second guessing and self-doubt. I couldn’t believe how much the uncertainty of not knowing if I was selected controlled my brain.  Thoughts about not hearing anything from the archdiocese filled me 24/7!  I started thinking who was I kidding wanting to become a deacon, maybe there are better candidates and I was especially bothered that I told so many people! What if they said no, I wasn’t prepared?  What a  man of great faith! As God usually does with my life, the moment I put the entire process in His hands and trusted….I was called by the deacon in charge of the program to tell me I was an excellent candidate and that the archbishop would have the final say on August 1…!

So…. I will continue to pray and be thankful that the Lord may want me to serve in a deeper capacity as a deacon and if He doesn’t it is because there is so much more work for me to do in my current ministries….Stay tuned!

The first martyr of the Catholic Church is believed to be Saint Stephen; the first ordained Deacon of the Church!

St Stephen the Martyr First Deacon of the Church