Oswaldo Paya, RIP. Cuban, Catholic and Corageous….

July 24, 2012

I’ve admired Cuban dissident and practicing Catholic Oswaldo Paya for a number of reasons.  Not the least of which is that he decided to fight the good fight from within the iron shackled island instead of from the comfy land of exile. Paya was apparently silenced by being run off the road while driving in a remote section of Cuba.

Paya founded the Varela Project; named after now venerated Cuban priest Felix Varela.  Varela lived through the Spanish occupation and was credited for teaching Cubans how to think for themselves; independently of the Spanish Crown. 

The Varela Project collected signatures across the island in order to show the communist government a desire from the people for a new democratic and socially responsible constitution.  The petition was turned into the government never to be heard of again……

I spoke to a recent arrival and was told the vast majority of Cubans never heard of Paya and even less of the Varela Project.  Fewer still have heard of the Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez; whose blog is read by millions around the free world.   It is sad to think that in 2012 an entire society, only 90 miles away from the Southernmost point of the United States, lives in total darkness.  There is only one official radio station and television station and one newspaper. 

The Arab Spring had one major denominator that had a direct causal effect on their victory over a totalitarian government:  a vibrant internet community.  Twitter and Facebook played a dominant part in allowing the dissident movement to communicate their plan amongst each other.  Yoanni Sanchez hides in touristy internet bars in Havana while transmitting her most inner thoughts.  The ten million or so Cubans left in Cuba are forced to fend by themselves while the marxist government controls every aspect of their lives. 

Let’s pray that the heroic Cubans fighting from within find a small crevice to hold on to as they climb the wall of inevitability; a democratically elected government where freedom of speech and religion are in the forefront.  Paya’s dream will be fulfilled and Yoanni will be able to sit on the malecon in the open and blog to her heart’s content!

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Message 1 from our sea traveler……..

June 14, 2012

Day 1:  

We finally left yesterday at 9:00pm for Key West, which is approximately 150 miles from Miami. We navigated all night at a speed of 6 knots, taking turns at the helm.  I was able to sleep about 4 hours total.   I am a bit anxious but know God presented me with this opportunity!

We plan to spend the day at Key West stocking provisions before continuing the second leg of our journey to Cancun.  The weather so far has been good, seas 2 feet or less with a slight wind out of the south.

                              Please continue to pray for us!

                             Sunrise from Key West, Florida

 

 

Next leg:  Through the Gulf of Mexico to Cancun…..


Your status will be changed to “Dismissed” on July 17, 2012……

June 3, 2012

On July 17, 2006, I was admitted to a doctoral program at Nova Southeastern University.  At that point in my life I was winding down my lobbying business and was a finalist for a “C” level role at a prominent local health care facility.  I remember telling my wife the shelf life for these type senior roles was 3 – 5 years and I wanted to be prepared to transition to life in academia as an exit strategy. I already had a MBA/MHA and was hoping a DBA would cement my future allowing me to teach or consult as I walked off into the sunset of my career. 

                                  During the 6 years while I was studying for the DBA:

  • I wasn’t offered the “C” level job I thought was a slam dunk
  • My finances went into a tailspin since most of my clients were affected by the sinking economy
  • I lost my home of 15 years since the “equity” I thought I had disappeared like sand through my fingers
  • Sent my daughter off to college to Los Angeles without the financial resources to support her
  • Moved my wife and youngest daughter into a 1,000 square foot apartment – 3,500 feet smaller than what they were used to
  • Spent 18 months underemployed – teaching college classes when available
  • Was on unemployment – something I thought I would never have to do
  • Started a new career – reinventing oneself is easier said than done
  • My marriage survived.  Thanks to the omnipresent Grace of my Lord and my God and the wonderful support of my brothers and sisters of our Emmaus Group
  • And kept a 3.75 GPA throughout the entire DBA program leading up to the last course required

And that’s when the wheels fell off this armored truck I had been driving for the past 6 years…. The last course was offered by an instructor that exemplifies the frustrated academician – without a life outside of the ivory tower.  I’ve tried not to sound like my 12 year old daughter whining about teachers she dislikes.  The difference is I have a classmate that could not believe the obvious discrimination and badgering this instructor showed towards me.  After all was said and done, she gave me a failing grade based on capricious and subjective grading.  After 6 years of doctorate level statistics, operations theory, logistical planning and qualitative and quantitative analysis – she flunks me on the simplest course on organizational theories…

The Nova program has a 6 year window – concluding on July 17, 2012. The failing grade, my first since kindergarten – puts me in academic probation.  Typically you have one year to retake the class and get out of probation.  But since the program window ends this July 17th,  I cannot retake, so….. I received a letter stating:

                             Your status will be changed to “Dismissed” on July 17,  2012……

I’ve blogged about God’s Perfect Plan.  And how difficult it is to discern what he wants from us.  But this is a really difficult pill to swallow.  I’m trying not to let my ego show its ugly face – On one side I’m pissed and defiant, on anther I’m embarrassed, on another I’m depressed and yet on another side I am very, very confused.  

I know God want us all to be successful and joyful and for our lives to be bountiful.  I also know a Catholic life does not call for us to be patsies in the face of adversity or obstacles. I will pursue all administrative and legal options left to me.  But what a body blow to my plans. I hate the fact that I will have to spend positive energy and very limited financial resources on litigation.

                                                                 But what else to do……?


God’s Plan is perfect…. Why is it so difficult for us to trust in Him?

May 31, 2012

          Discernment:  The ability to be able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure….

So the story goes a man was on top of a house escaping the local river overflowing to epic proportions…. He prayed to God to be rescued….Shortly thereafter a fireman in a row-boat drifted by and offered to take him in…The pious man replied:  no thanks!  The Lord promised to save me…. Then a helicopter swung by with an army reservist and pleaded for the prayerful man to jump on board…but he replied again:  leave me alone!  My Lord promised to save me….. Well, as the faithful man reached the pearly gates he complained to the Lord and said:  you promised to save me!  And the Lord admonished him by saying:  Why are you complaining!  I sent you a row-boat and a helicopter! 

We men are trained to be hunters since the caveman days.  We are sent out to the world to chase the dinosaur, kill it and bring it back home.  So it’s tough to balance the need to provide for one’s family, while relying on God’s plan….Yet there lies the perfect Catholic life.  That balance is what brings harmony and repose to our lives.   As we get closer to our Lord and lay our concerns, worries, plans and dreams on the foot of His cross; our worries melt away because we know He has a perfect plan. 

For the past year I’ve been praying to St. Joseph for his intercession to bring more financial stability to my life.  I’ve placed my financial concerns at the foot of  our Lord’s cross and have been at peace with my current employment situation.  Then out of nowhere I receive another employment opportunity for more money.  What to do?  Was this the rowboat and helicopter from the Lord answering my prayers?  Or was the Evil One confusing me and dangling financial temptations my way? I interviewed with the other employer as my life depended on it …I went to hit a grand slam and shortly thereafter received a job offer….

             Discernment:  The ability to be able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure….

Well, a pay increase in certainly not obscure!  But the intangibles sometimes are………  Because I try to be in the spirit by attending daily Mass, stay in community with my Emmaus brothers and trust in His plan, I was able to discern what He wanted me to do….The other job would have kept me in an office 12 hours a day for more money. While at my current employer I am traveling within the community and have ample room for professional growth….I can also spend more time with my younger daughter, after having squandered that opportunity with my oldest….all important intangibles that after all…. are not that obscure! 

I met with my boss and explained I had another offer  – but that it was my choice to commit to his vision for his company.   He certainly appreciated the loyalty; loyalty that he had shown me before and I know he will show again in the future…

The Lord wants his children to live happy and prosperous lives as long as the daily focus is on serving Him. I am convinced discernment involves feeling good inside about the decisions we make.  If the decision made is to serve Him and not our own desires, it will feel good and you will feel at peace!  Right now I feel good and am at peace and will continue to trust in His Perfect Plan for my life!                                                           

                                                                 in Deo confido


Men and the Rosary….What a powerful combination!

May 26, 2012

I know children’s prayers hold special favor with our Lord….But I have to think hearing a room full of grown men praying a Rosary must also command His attention!

Our parish men’s group is named Emmaus. The name is based on the biblical passage showing our resurrected Lord walking with two men on the way to a town named Emmaus. I dedicated this blog to my walk with the Lord and the many obstacles and challenges I face along the way.  When the men’s Emmaus group meets, we always begin by praying the Rosary. 

It never ceases to amaze me when I sit back and listen to the powerful male voices praying in unison to our Blessed Mother.  I sense a feeling of raw power when we pray as a group one of our faith’s most traditional methods of prayer. We take turns offering each of the five decades to a personal petition.  It’s awe inspiring to hear a man dedicate a decade of the Rosary to his wife, or to his family or for a sick child or friend…. I hear offerings for vocations, addictions and healing. 

We Catholics have many forms of prayer, including the traditional rote, contemplative and thanksgiving ….to name a few.   But the Rosary to Our Lady is a powerful, yet relaxing tool.  Our non-Catholic brothers miss the point when they say they pray directly to our Lord….  We Catholics do that as well – but also pray to our Blessed Mother to intercede on our behalf with her son.  What more powerful intercession than that of a mother to a son? 

I look forward to these Emmaus group meetings in order to feed off of the exuberant faith displayed by my brothers.  We are all challenged with day to day crosses we bear, however, when we focus on praying the Rosary we are strengthened in our desire to continue serving our Lord.  

It serves our society well for men to take leadership roles in evangelizing to others.  In a world of unhinged sexual desires and topsy turvy morals, we men of faith must show others the importance of walking with our Lord….

May we realize the wonderful gift we have in praying the Rosary…….And may we continue to be a light in this ever darkening world.

                                                                               Maria, Ora Pro Nobis


Off to the circus…. we love you… we will pray and worry, and pray and worry some more…but will be proud of you every step of the way….

May 19, 2012

Yes, I know, prayer and worrying shouldn’t go hand in hand….But for those whose children are flying off on their own fully understand this paradox. ….I always had a feeling my oldest daughter was like a round peg in a square hole while studying at one of the best all girl prep schools in Florida….  I felt the same while she went to a top 50 US university in LA then to a master’s program rated one of the top 3 in the world…. 

My daughter has a split personality that amazes me. She is an academic on one hand; performing complicated research and landing at the top of her class….while at the same time seeking to perform and display her creative side in the most interesting and unusual art forms…. During her prep high school years she excelled at musical theater. The classic triple threat:  singing, dancing and acting. We sent her to London, Salamanca and New York to train in the top venues in her field.  In New York she fell in love with circus performing.  She graduated from prep school, went to LA to one of the best film schools in the world and proceeded to graduate with a bachelor degree in archeology…  Yes, it’s a wonder her mom and I don’t have whiplash from her ongoing career changes!  She found a local circus group and performed as a contortionist while going to school.  Those were the longest 4 years of our life – but she got through it, as did we. 

Back in Miami, I got her into one of the most prestigious marine archaeologist masters programs in the world.  She achieved 5 different degrees of high level diving certifications and completed her course work.  Now I realize she excelled in prep school, college and a master’s program probably because of my pressure and my selfish reasons…. All along she dreamt of being a circus performer.   So right after passing her final masters class, she announced to her mother and me that she was heading back to LA in less than a month to join a circus troupe fulltime.   

Her mom is convinced she won’t be back soon.  I tell her if that is the case it’s because she is successful in what she chose to do. If her artistic dreams do not meet her expectations, she will always have a great education to fall back on.   However, that won’t do much to alleviate the helplessness and fears her mom and I will feel while she tries her hand at something that is so foreign to us. 

We are people of faith and know the Lord has her in His Hands.  But as we lie awake at night wondering how she is doing so far away, I will always remember my little girl hugging me and telling me as I fail to hold off my tears……it will be OK papa, I will always love you both….you and mami taught me well…  

And off she goes to the circus….as I pray and worry and worry and pray some more…but always proud of my baby girl…..I love you too….


You’re the worse dad in the history of the world!…No really…you are!

May 15, 2012

We have a new policy set in stone in the Alvarez family beginning the next school year. Boy do I wish I had implemented it this past year!  Our youngest daughter, evolving from a tween to a teen, will begin the school year grounded until we get the grades we feel she is capable of attaining….  As a seventh grader, we have struggled with the huge emphasis from her peers on guys and parties….Geez, I could have sworn our 23 year old didn’t start the drop off boy-girl parties until her sophomore year in high school….Then again our soon to be teen says her older sister was a nerd!

Parents, we need help, we need to work as a team of Catholic parents focused on living the faith we proclaim to be ours. It’s easier to turn a deaf ear to the constant wailing and whining when our soon to be teens do not get their way.  My 12 year old daughter, otherwise a wonderful human being, seems to thrive on skating on thin academic ice.  She expects us to jump for joy when her friends get summer school and she doesn’t. She expects us to applaud mediocrity.  She also expects us to reward her with party after party on the weekends…. 

We put our foot down this week and limited her to one party this past weekend.  Each and every day the week before the parties brought exaggerated levels of whininess, including the old standby: I hate you! She tried using her mother against me and vice versa. She actually waited until her mom was asleep, then cajoled an OK from her while she slept to go to the second party! When I held my own the next morning, she raged and sulked…something only a tween can do at the same time!

The morning after the grounding for the first party, the storm passed.  I can’t believe  my wife and me held our own and held to our new rule.  I’m sure our daughter now understands that rules will not be bent from now on.  But unfortunately, some of our peer parents don’t do the same.  We as parents, need to set the standard. We must set the bar at a level that will make them successful young ladies, both academically and morally.  Next year she goes into 8th grade. A pivotal year academically that will determine what high school she goes too. 

Sending our children to a Catholic high school does not absolve us from our responsibility to prepare their souls for eternity. I had the incredible blessing to go to confession with our beloved Bishop Augustine Roman only a few days before his passing.  I mentioned my concern as a Catholic parent that I wasn’t doing enough to guide my daughter through these tumultuous years as a Catholic young girl.  He told me in no uncertain terms that a Catholic education is only as good as the morals and lifestyle taught at home and shown by the parents. That Catholic High schools in and of themselves are not an adequate replacement for the examples of parents.

I wasn’t on a committed walk with our Lord while we were raising our eldest daughter.  Even though she is a wonderful young woman and gifted academically and artistically, I beat myself up for not giving her the example I should have as a Catholic father….  I am determined not to the same with my evolving tween….  I pray that the Lord give my wife and I the strength to hold our own and be an example as Catholic parents; not only to our daughter – but to our peer parents as well.