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.



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!