I have been told that there are a few events in life when you are allowed a free wish.
When blowing out your birthday candle
On a wishbone
On dandelions
When you see a rainbow
When you visit a church for the first time
On a fountain
When you chance upon seeing a shooting star…
Why am I listing these things, you ask. 

Just in the past few weeks, as I went on  a trip halfway across the world, I was given way too many chances to make a wish. 
Rome, Assisi, Orvieto, Florence, Siena, Padova, Venice. I have lost count of how many new churches I entered. From cathedrals to chapels. Knocking on the doors of heaven each time. Lighting candles at altars. Asking my saints for all their intercession. 

Then, I stumbled upon fountains. Spewing and spraying their water at the height of noon, as dusk came, brilliant lights through the night. I even threw a coin in one of them. And a video to show for it. My five second shot at fame, I gamely and jokingly chide my mom who also was my camera crew.
You would think that I have these many things I may be wishing for. Or one thing I want fulfilled so fervently. Many or one that pushes all the silent whispers of my soul in those many moments.

And, as we left for home at the crack of dawn on our last day in Italy, there it was, just out of the blue, a shooting star.
And to be honest, each time I had my chance to make a wish, I thought of him. The memory of summer days spent also halfway across the world.
I just didn’t know what exactly to wish for or how to.
So, I just asked that wherever he may be, he is well.
And wherever I may be now or in the future, I will be well too.
Did I waste my wishes?
Well, each time I got bashful as I made my wishes, I get one audacious moment and mutter under my breath…
Who am I kidding, Lord? You know what is in this heart. This is why you keep granting me all these chances to make a wish. Make them come true, in their rightful time.
And with that, I stand up from the pew, throw the coin into the water, or follow the meteorite’s trail with my eye. And smile.
My Promise Keeper is at work.

Lesson from Michelangelo: Expanding Territories (ROMA: Europe Day 3 of 12)

"Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving." – Goethe

I’ve seen the Sistine Chapel.  I sat on one of its benches, and while there I couldn’t exactly say I appreciated it. Throngs of people, noise, scorching sun outside, endless walking to get to this place.  I am only human, and I almost underappreciated the marvelous pieces before me.  Yes, I almost missed out.

But as I stared at each fresco, I began to appreciate and be awed, not by its beauty but the love it took to complete them all.   It must not have been easy to have created all these.   5000 square feet worth of frescoes, 300+ scenes from the Bible, years lying on a scaffold, risking eyesight and everything else.  All because one man dared to expand his territory.  Before accepting this project, Michelangelo knew that he was not cut for the job.  At first he said “No.” He was a sculptor after all, not a painter.  Yet, it came as a challenge, from what he thought then as enemies. But with the intricate detail he devoted to each fresco, I assume he then took it as a challenge from above.  Not just one fresco of a single Bible scene, that was the compromise, but as many scenes as he could conceive and want to create.   And that’s how he came up with the 300.  That’s why he spent years  in that weird posture with paint dripping down his hair and face. That’s why he risked a lifetime of brilliance as a sculptor to chart waters he had never trod on as a painter.

Artists, unfortunately, are secularized by religious groups, theologians, and the like.  Not much have been said about their faith.  Not much research was done about the ways they loved God.  They have always been pinned as  rebels, outcasts, sinners. But to me, Michelangelo, even with his radical ideas and secularized works, was inspired by a higher force. He was obedient to that higher force. There is no one who could contest to why he said “Yes”, not much is written about that.  I didn’t think the political reason of being allowed to liberally do as he liked was much to say “Yes” to.  If one knows his weaknesses like Michelangelo did, one will be steadfast with the “No”.  Because quite simply, sculptors have their chisels, artists have their brushes. It is difficult, nearly impossible, to have to switch tools by which they could release angels in the marble or on the paper.  Yes, maybe Michelangelo wasn’t as free to do as he wanted, since he may have received advice from a theologian on the details.  But as a creative myself, I know from experience that masterpieces don’t come from mere talk or ideas, the effort one goes through to realize these ideas is a whole different story.

As to how he came to the epiphany to say “Yes” to this grand project, I will never learn.  But looking at the 300+ images on a ceiling, I see the highlights of a divine story, testaments to the grace and love of the Great Artist Himself to another artist.  All because one man said “Yes”, and with it that man dared to expand his territory.  With it, mysteries have been revealed to him and then to us in full color.  Maybe so that one day, when one of us sits in front of this, Michelangelo’s lifetime achievement and sacrifice, we may also be inspired to build the Sistine Chapels of our lives.  Like Michelangelo, without taking on what looks to be an impossible task, we can never know what we are capable of achieving.



Photo taken from Flickr.  Taking photos inside the Chapel were forbidden, and I respected that during my visit.

Palm Sunday Reflections

This Lenten season, I made a decision to take a break from ministry. I will choose to keep the reasons private just to respect the public nature of my blog. For most Sundays in the next quarter, I have deliberately made myself unavailable to ministry due to other life appointments. It’s a Sabbatical in a sense as I seek both my purpose, mission and connection.
On this particular Palm Sunday, I end up attending Mass away from my home parish. I went with 2 of my best girl friends. But that is not the whole point. Rather the gist is that it was the first time in so many years when I literally felt goosebumps throughout the entire service and was close to tears. I felt His Spirit moving in me so much that I thought I just had to write about it. It even came close to making me think of moving in to this community for good too as I just felt the warmth and connection I’ve been searching for here.
Anyway, the Gospel today centers on Jesus and his Passion. Luke’s account makes it both human and divine in a sense since he focused on narrating it with Jesus in His most forgiving, tender, and loving self. God’s personal message for me today is that he is assuring me blessedly that no matter how insignificant I feel my life to be or how hard I perceive my trials are, He will always carry my cross with me. He feels the pain, yet, He comes to the Father on my behalf that I may be saved. He saved me and continues saving me until now, so, I can make the most of the rest of this ordained life. He touches my soul so I may look at my life’s Good Fridays as necessary preludes to Easter Sundays.

Ramblings on my iPhone #2

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (+AMDG)

All things for the greater glory of God.

This was a notes entry as a pastor’s homily from this Sunday. But looking at it again, I am taken back to the time I add it up atop my exam papers back in high school. Back then, it was my simple prayer before each quiz, each test that I am surrendering the outcome – pass or fail to God.
Now, that I am all grown up I realize that I need to adopt the AMDG attitude again. In lieu of exams and quizzes, I now am faced by life’s challenges, heartbreaks, and successes. And AMDG applies just the same and even more importantly if I may say.
Because each time I remind myself that I press forward through life knowing I do it all
for His greater glory and hopefully conforming my will to His, I feel lighter, braver, safer and more inspired.
It gives me a higher reason to believe that I am where He wants me to be. And that it will work out for the better no matter how long it takes to get there. Why?
Because my Abba doesn’t take any less, so if I offer up all things (and I mean ALL things) for His greater glory then surely He will only make it work for the best.