I have been continuously blessed throughout my life. I may not have recognized it but God the Father, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, My Holy Mother, and/or Pepe, my guardian angel, has always been there. Probably laughing hysterically, most of the time, because of inappropriate actions and reactions by me, most of the time. I am a cradle Catholic, reared “down yonder in Tessus.” I was an altar boy, learning to serve Mass at the age of 5. This was the Latin Mass where you had to change the sacramentory from the Epistle side of the altar to the Gospel side; for the first year or so, because I was small, every trip was an exciting adventure. I liked First Fridays – I was excused from class so that I could assist Father in distributing Holy Communion to those institutionalized or bed-ridden. Once, Fr. Chris Polanski said a complete Mass (not sure how spiritual, but including all necessary elements), including 6 communicants, in 9 minutes; it took us longer to dress the altar and ourselves than it did to celebrate Mass.
My parents struggled to put my two older sisters and me through the Catholic school system. My experiences in an all-boys Catholic high school could probably fill a book or two. With that type of background you would think that I would have stayed on the straight and narrow path. Just think, I could have turned out like the 8th grader that taught me to serve Mass; he is the Bishop of Austin, TX. Nope, not me, I have to make life a challenge and an eternal inquest in the confessional.
I joined the Air Force, got out of the Air Force, and got recalled into the Air Force. During that period I also married LaNell, a sweet, young, “Texas thang” that just set my heart to palpitating and my boots to just a ”jumpin.” She wasn’t Catholic, but completed the pre-Vatican II instructions and she, her (our) five-year-old son, Steve, and our baby daughter, Nita, were baptized on 25 December 1963. What a joyful and glorious day!
After my Vietnam tour, I began to fly quite heavily. I was gone over half the time. God just didn’t fit into either of our schedules; I was always in the air; LaNell, was swamped with the kids, their illnesses, and my absenteeism. Mass, maybe, every six weeks or so. Confession, what’s that? Sin - didn’t have time to consider what was right or wrong, we reacted to the situation. The only time I thought of God was when I was being shot at or in a near-death situation. Strange how I always managed to pray during those periods.
In 1977, we were transferred for the umpteenth time; my flying schedule subsided a great deal. We bought a house and I felt drawn to the local parish. I didn’t know much about post Vatican II differences. I got involved with RCIA by sponsoring a parish member’s husband. I felt a need to help people through the Charismatic movement and the Healing Ministry. I picked up a booklet and a divine tug of some sort brought the 15 Prayers of St. Bridget to my attention. Since I had an Aunt Bridget, I decided to see what these prayers were all about. I said those prayers everyday and received Communion everyday for over a year. Mary’s Tree of Life had been planted in my heart.
In 1980, my daughter was diagnosed with a mental illness. This blessing brought me back to the Church – I couldn’t handle it alone. I stumbled and fell a bunch of times, but Jesus always picked me up. One night while praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, I was really meditating on Jesus’ suffering. I asked Him how great was the weight of all our sins – for about 1/50th of a second, I felt the weight - I bottomed out in my chair without twitching a muscle. I’ve wanted to take some of His load ever since, but I think I just keep adding to the weight.
In 1985, my wife had a heart attack. Because of her heart, her asthma, and assorted other ailments LaNell’s life began deteriorating. The last four or five years she rarely left the house. Praise God, LaNell had an excellent relationship with a couple of the parish priests. They would visit with her every week to ten days, as their schedules would permit. As an Eucharistic Minister, I was able to bring the Blessed Sacrament home. LaNell loved receiving the Eucharist. She was in and out of the hospital many times. LaNell had four angioplasty procedures performed. Twice, while in the operating room, Our Lady appeared to LaNell to give her warmth, comfort, and peace.
In 1997, I had an opportunity to move to Washington State. We were just so excited about the move. We were doing all the pre-move stuff and having a blast. LaNell was having a minor problem with continuous angina. Her doctor wanted her to get another catheterzation procedure so he could see what was going on. Also, we decided to have it done before the move because she had confidence in her doctor. The routine procedure turned into a quintuple by-pass. She survived the by-pass but because of her weakened condition, LaNell, on 5 Oct 97 succumbed to renal failure. She had received the last rites and now resides with the Father.
Nita and I decided that we should accept the company’s offer to move to Washington. We moved in April 1998. I think this is another blessing because I have been called to ministries that intertwine: RCIA, Stephen Ministry, Eucharistic Minister, SacraMentors, firstname.lastname@example.org, and the IIPG Queen of Peace. All of these ministries help me, through the Holy Spirit and the Gospa, keep my eyes focused on Jesus. What I learn in one ministry, I’m able to transfer or share in another ministry. My faith continues to be strengthened and grow.
I have not made the pilgrimage to Medjugorje. However, once again, I’m feeling a tug. My daughter, Nita, and I are planning on making the June 2000 pilgrimage. I’m hoping the Gospa will let my daughter know Her peace and happiness. I also hope, She will pry open my hard heart and fill it with Her love and give me a soft heart. I also want to get a glimpse of and feel a little peace of heaven on earth. Also, I think this would be a perfect time for me to meet My Queen of Peace Family – “I shur do have a mess of brothers and sisters I’m hankering to hug, smooch, and praise the Lord with. We’re gonna pray so hard we’ll wear holes in them there knees in our pants. See ya’ll there! Don’t miss it now, ya heah? That there Mary and Jesus won’t never be the same once’n us’ins get fru wit ‘em.”
Love, peace and joy! Joe