Category Archives: Keeping the Faith

Saint Teresa

Nina Odele

Saint Teresa of Avila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (March 28, 1515, at Gotarrendura (Avila), Old Castile, Spain – October 4, 1582, at Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain) was a prominent Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer. She was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered to be, along with John of the Cross, a founder of the Discalced Carmelites.

Forty years after her death, she was canonized, in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV, and in 1970 named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI. Her books, which include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus, and her seminal work, El Castillo Interior (The Interior Castle), are integral part of the Spanish Renaissance literature as well as Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices as she entails in her other important work Camino de Perfección (The Way of Perfection).

Had there been rock stars around in Spain in the 1500s, Saint Teresa of Avila would have been a major one.

She suffered greatly throughout her life. Her symbols were a heart, a cross, and a pen. She was a prolific writer, hence the pen, a fervent humanitarian, the heart, and one who suffered constant and agonizing physical pain, represented by the cross. She is also known as the patron saint of headache sufferers, a symbolization of outer turmoil causing inner pain.

“I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth.” She lived by these words even when she was suffering.

She wrote many books. She was spunky, indefatigable, and constantly at odds with those who considered her to be rebellious and dangerous. Teresa was a real activist as well. Many times, she’d have to sneak in and out of villages in the middle of the night, lest her presence cause a riot! One time, she and her fellow nuns were ordered to clean the floors of a nobleman on their hands and knees. Teresa refused on behalf of the sisters. The nobleman banished them out of their convent and they had to move on.

Recently a friend of mine was at a swap meet when she came upon an ancient Mexican guy who had a beat up wooden tray full of very old holy medals, crosses, and rosaries — some quite lovely. However, she was drawn to a beat-up, old medal on a blackened silver chain. The medal was so tarnished she couldn’t even tell what it said. But she had to have it! She took it home and polished it up. Lo and behold it turned out to be Saint Teresa!

Finding the beat-to-death medal at such a terminal is representative of faith and hope. For no matter how bashed in or beaten down, her little spirit is alive on this earth bringing solace to my friend and myself — not to mention the multitudes around the world who hold the same eternal love and respect for this powerhouse of love and endurance

Believing Catholics share an unseen bond of faith. To quote a famous song writer, “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom. Let it be.” In the darkest of hours, emotionally moving prayers like: Our Father, Hail Mary, or the chanting Gregorian monks’ solemn but beautiful hymns bring solace to the suffering.

A poignant coda to our story is steeped in the joy of sharing something precious. My friend, who found the blackened medal, heard of a woman Abigail Ortega of El Cajon who has been in chronic pain since childhood.  Knowing the power of faith and the power of the spirit of Saint Teresa, she gave the precious medallion to her.  The ailing woman was overwhelmed by the generosity and the level of caring from a stranger.  The awesome power of this tiny saint from 500 years ago is salubrious to all believers as displayed by this selfless and caring gesture.

Another source of relief was about to occur in Abigail’s life.  It came via the benevolence of a Catholic priest by the name of Father Brian Hayes of Holy Trinity Church in El Cajon, California.

After hearing of Abigail’s plight, the priest went to visit her.  Father Brian listened to her story of horrendous pain and her need for support and assistance. He was moved to take action immediately.

Holy Trinity Catholic Parish traces its roots to self sacrifice, hard work, and a firm faith. The church was first served by a pioneering Spanish priest, Father Anthony Urbach, who once a month road the three hours on horseback from San Diego to the parish.  For forty years, he served a 4,255 square mile area with such devotion that when he died in 1907, his funeral drew the “greatest outpouring of people San Diego has ever seen.”  Father Brian soldiers on with the same benevolence and compassion to this day.

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By A. R. Graham

Buddy does not like other dogs very much or people for that matter.  He was a one-year-old cup of sadness when he was adopted from an animal shelter and was days away from going down for the big sleep.  Buddy was no one’s buddy at all.  He rejected all contact from canine or human; either did he seek it.  He was in his own world and he was angry.  So it was futile to try to coax him or pet him because he always seemed to be saying, “Get away, you, and the horse you came in on!”

His parents often walked by our house in the evenings and I would always try to make contact with the little fellow because even though he was taciturn, he seemed to be looking for something or someone like a tracker on the hunt for a fugitive.

One day “Frankie Dog” came into our lives.  He was also a tea-cup-size Dorky with a sad little face and little beady black eyes.  He looked like a figurine more than a dog.  I was standing outside one night watching little Frankie playing on the lawn when Big Bad Buddy came by.  He took one look at Frankie and just marched right up and starting investigating, but this time, he showed no signs of anger or aggression.  He was even wagging what resembled a tail with much velocity.

Frankie liked Buddy immediately and wagged backed with Morse-code-like urgency.  They bonded instantly and Buddy never missed a chance to return.

Each time they met it was a gleeful wag-fest and much information was transmitted in dog talk.  It was a prolonged pulchritude.

When Frankie dog left us, our hearts were broken and we were riddled with inconsolable sadness.  The little soul we adored so much was gone forever and just when we thought it could not have been so sad, Buddy came by and was very upset that Frankie was not there to greet him.  For a second, the old anger in him stirred as if something precious to him was missing.  A great weary and gloomy state fell upon us all.  Both families were now grieving for Frankie and Buddy was very disturbed by the absence of his one and only friend.

Buddy still comes by every day looking for his best friend.  The very first thing he does is search all around for the lost soul dog.  He stands there as if talking to the spirit of his lost companion.  His parents indulge him in that sweet little ritual because he seems to come away from it refreshed.

I saw Buddy today.  He was taking his parents for a walk, and as usual, he was bouncing along as if on a quest or a campaign to locate something.  His little body quivers and his sawed-off tail whirls like a propeller.  He is happy to see me and I him.  He checks me out; then seems to say, “Okay!  We are done here. NEXT!!” and off he trots to the next clue.

Frankie Dog lives on even though he has left us, but you would have a hard time convincing Buddy that Frankie’s spirit is not still ever present.

Long Live Frankie Dog and Buddy Dog!

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The Two-Pound Coin

By John Foskett

Norma Veronica Malins was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early sixties.  Terrified by the thoughts that she would not live very long, she set out on a quest to save enough money to go visit her brother and his family in California.  She bought a giant money tin can with a coin slot in the top which could only be opened with a can opener.  Things were going slowly for she had very little to save from her meager pension.

She saw an ad in the local paper:

“Five Hundred Pounds Cash! To anyone who can last 10 rounds with the ‘Notorious Kemo Rage’.”

Norma entered the contest which was held at the Liverpool Stadium.

Norma fought hard.  She went ten rounds with the dirty fighting prize fighter, Kemo Rage, who is renowned for hitting below the belt. He decreed that he would finish her in the fourth round by holding up his glove whilst inciting the crowd to chant, ‘ONE! TWO! THREE! FOUR!’  Then pointing to his bloodied opponent yelled, ‘Out the Door in Number Four!’”

By the end of the sixth, the tired woman was almost beaten, but mercifully the referee stepped in to break them apart.  She sat on her stool while Kemo pranced around the stage exhorting the crowd to boo and mock his tired opponent.  As she sat there beaten and afraid, she thought that this would be her last round, and further, that she would never get out of that arena of death.

Norma fought the entire fight alone — no seconds, no stool, no water, not even a towel to mop her brow.

Kemo Rage had handlers who fanned him to keep him cool.  He had lots of ringside supporters and plenty of nice, cool, clear water.

All victims of cancer know this scene very well, and even though, this writer uses a boxing metaphor in an attempt to even come close to imagining the real agony they all suffer, the story is best told by them, not us.

Notes from a diary kept by Norma Veronica Malins:
“September 28th Finally pain free, no more surgery, infection free, and I feel positive about chemo.  Can’t wait to see my grandchildren, Leon and Lolo.
Sept. 29t h Reflex at the Royal Hospital today.Sept. 30th Off to London town, longing to see the grandkids.
October 1st My daughter, Sharon is in HER 8th day of chemo, but she looks fantastic.
Oct. 2nd Lovely day today.  I still can’t believe Sharon looks so good.
Oct. 3rd Another lovely day.

Oct. 4th Even better today.
Oct. 5th A crazy day with the family.
Oct. 6th Back home, a terrible trip.
Oct. 7th Reflexology  today.
Oct. 8th Trying to be positive about Chemo.
Oct. 9th First Chemo. Terribly scared.
Oct. 10th Crippling insomnia.
Oct. 11th Insomnia but no sickness.
Oct. 12th Bowel pains and insomnia.
Oct. 13th.  Saw doctor today.  I look good and feel fantastic.
Oct. 14th Reflexology.  ( foot massage)
Oct. 15th Went to see my friend, Molly, and her husband, Christo.
They prepared a lovely meal.
Oct 16th Me with the District Nurse, sweet lady, I feel blessed.
Oct.  17th “Pump Up the Volume” my little grim humor joke for the temporary implant that had to be filled with refilled fluid periodically during Chemo.
Oct. 18th Spent the day with my favorite grandniece Amber.  I am feeling OK.
Oct. 19th Lazy day , sore throat is doing my head in.
Oct. 20th Went to the Linda McCartney Center for reflexology treatment, absolutely brilliant.
Oct. 21st The freezer broke down.  I did not get stressed out about it and I went out to look at wigs.
Oct.  22rd  Throat still bloody sore bet feel good.
Oct. 23 My hair starting to fall, soonest gone, sooner to return.
Oct 27th. Just found out that my daughter and her family are coming to visit me. I am over the moon.
Oct 28th Got spoiled rotten today, had a lovely meal at the royal Albert Dock in Liverpool.
Oct 29th The second dreaded Chemo, at least my daughter will be there with me.
Oct 31st My daughter came to visit, but was not able to bring herself to be with me for the treatment.  She has been through it herself and did not want to see it again.  It broke my heart and I cried all day.  I did not speak to her for three weeks.
November 1st Amber is here today and I am still tearful.
Nov. 2nd I am so broken hearted.  Thank God for Michelle, Phil, and Simon.
Nov. 3rd Counseling at the Sunflower Center, heavy stuff.
Nov. 4th Head strong, met Glynnis, counselor, Maria.
Nov. 5th Riverside, 10 a.m., cancelled, head massage.
Nov. 6th District Nurse, Sunflower Center, came home early, not too well.
Nov. 7th “Pump Up the Volume”—don’t feel up to it, but I will go to choir at Sunflower’s.
Nov. 8th Denize is coming, D & G, woke up at 3 a.m., insomnia awful.
Nov. 10th Ann Mockford, 10 a.m., Sunflower’s.
Nov. 11th Ria, 12-15, very important!
Nov. 12th Ladies’ Night at Sunflower’s – I can’t wait!  Facial, 2:00.
Nov. 17th Feet reflexology.
Nov. 18th Pay Day!
Nov. 19th Dentist ring up.
Nov. 20th Chemo Day – Here we go again.  I’m going alone.”

Kemo Rage has now punched himself out.  Even though Norma is beaten up, she has a determined look on her face.  Kemo tries his best to strike her again but cannot lift his arms.  The crowd boos him relentlessly and cheers wildly as Norma stands up and slowly raises her arms in triumph.

The prize was paid to number in British two-pound coins.  She counted each one carefully in front of the crowd, but mostly for the benefit of Kemo Rage, who was now incapacitated and powerless.

Norma bought a ticket on the first flight out and was soon basking in the warm glow of her family in the “Magical Kingdom by the Sea”.

All too soon she returned to Liverpool.  A great bittersweet blanket has fallen on us all.  We miss her so very much.

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Keeping the Faith

By Lynne Harpst Koen

When our lives are on track, all is right in our personal universe.  Good health, gatherings with friends and family, the unconditional love of our pets, et cetera.  Good times!  However, everyone gets derailed from time to time.  It’s part of life. We must learn to “man-up” — often hard to do under our own steam.  Sometimes we tend to panic and go straight to God for help — praying constantly for things to get better.  A priest once told me God answers ALL prayers, only perhaps not in the exact way we’d like Him to.  I didn’t really understand his meaning then, but now that I’ve done quite a lot of living, I get it now, loud and clear!

Personally, I’ve always felt a bit selfish praying for myself.  I have so many blessings already!  I pray for strength for everyone and everything (animals) that may be in need.  The power of prayer is limitless!  Most importantly, I offer up prayers of THANKS each and every day.  No joke.  God needs his prospers too!  I give Him a shout out whenever I can — very much a constant in my world.  When life gives me challenges, I find comfort in staying grounded — looking to the simple things rather than getting overwhelmed.  Things we tend to take for granted. I go to ground zero.  Just being alive is a biggie! Living in my own hometown, the love of my wonderful husband, tending my little garden, watching the sunset, and so on, very humbling.  It really helps put things in perspective, folks.  The trick to prayer is consistency. The rest will follow along naturally, rest assured.

The worst thing possible is to succumb to life’s low points and start feeling sorry for ourselves.  God never gives us more than we can handle.  We must trust in our faith!  He WILL give us the strength to make it through even the darkest times, but only if we truly let Him into our hearts as Lord & Savior.  It’s not as easy as it sounds to keep that faith sometimes.  I’ve had more than one crisis of faith, but with His help & our trust in Him, things always seem to work themselves out eventually.  Most people have a “higher power” they look to. Whoever it may be, it’s all good! Being Catholic, the Holy Trinity is my home team in the big ballgame that is life as we know it.  For those who are lost without a higher power, well, I pray for them too!

Miracles are abundant on a daily basis.  We simply need to choose to be open to them.  No matter how steep our hills or how low our valleys, there are always those who have it much worse than we do.  Just watch the evening news — guaranteed to cure what ails us.  OKAY, maybe not cure us completely, but it does help us feel better about your own problems!  Whatever you believe in, plan to make it work for you, not just when you’re in need, but always and forever.  Feel the positive energy surround you!  It’s all about how we live our DASH.

Lynne Harpst Koen


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Ishy, Moshy, and God

By George KoenGeorge Koen Fishing

I’m a’going salmon fishing with my friend up north.  I left about 4:30 in the morning from San Diego.  My plane landed in Los Angeles about an hour and a half later.  After a short layover, we headed to Arcata – actually, it was McKinleyville Airport in Northern California.

We got up there and it was fogged in.  We couldn’t land at the airport.  They told us that we were going to the next airport.  That was in Redding, California.  So we flew there and landed.  When we got off the plane, they told us that the only way we could get back to the Arcata area was to rent a car and drive.  No one was happy about that.  There were about 40 of us.  I decided that I would rent a car if I could get some other people to help drive and pay for the gas.

The first guy next to me was a rabbi, probably around 28 years old.  His name was Ishy and his partner, who was another rabbi, was named Moshy.  They said they would drive, and I looked around to see if anybody else needed a ride because we had room for one more.  A Catholic school teacher said he would go and pay for the gas.  So, now we had a full car.  I found out it was $435 to rent the car for one way and we weren’t coming back, so I had to do it.

When we got in the car, Ishy tells me that he was an ex-race car and motorcycle driver and that he likes to go fast.  Well, let me tell you, that was an understatement.  We took off!  Ishy drove like a bat out of hell the whole time.  He would run stop signs unless we were in a town, then he would behave.  Bringing meaning to multi-tasking, Ishy and Mushy were texting and making phone calls the whole way while Ishy was driving at huge speeds.  It was quite a thrill, just kidding.  It was three hours through winding mountain roads all the way.

As we were on the road for a bit, I asked Ishy why he became a rabbi.  He told me that one day he was riding on his motorcycle doing wheelies down the road.  He had an accident and he went through a window of a bus killing the bus driver – not on purpose, but just being stupid.  He had an epiphany and found religion, but it didn’t slow him down a bit.

During the few hours drive, I talked to all of them about religion and asked them all several questions.  Nobody could answer any of my questions or they wouldn’t.  I told them I talk to God everyday and I ask him to reveal himself to me, but he never has.  So, I keep asking God to reveal himself on a daily basis — I tell him, even if it takes me to be in an accident and being resuscitated so I know God’s out there waiting, I’ll do it.  I told my race car holy companions that today could be just that day especially with your driving, Ishy.

I tried talking to all of them the whole time.  They were all kind of ignoring me except for the Catholic school teacher.  He was somewhat talking to me.  He told me what he did.  He had a bunch of Asian students from China that he was teaching in Eureka at the Catholic school there.

This was a-fishin’ trip that I will never forget thanks to Ishy.  I almost got to meet God.  Ishy drove like a mental patient even after he killed someone.  I thought that was strange, but he loves to race.  He was racing the whole time.  We were going way over the speed limit, probably 65 easily on these mountain roads, twisty mountain roads, with a river right down below it and a cliff.  We passed any and all traffic.  If it was in front of us, we passed it.  It was about 100 feet down to the river, at least, and we would have been dead if we went over.  Thank goodness, it was a nice day until we hit the coast.  That was to our advantage.  The roads weren’t slick.  That was also good.

Not one of these religious men was praying out loud; so, I wasn’t really afraid.  We were all hanging in there.  No one was freaked.  But we were going really fast.  We did have some of the “gods” represented; and fortunately, we all got back in one piece.  I just trusted Ishy and put my faith in him.

When we did make it to Arcata safely, Ishy and Moshy ditched me at a gas station.  I didn’t even know Ishy and Moshy were leaving.  They said, “So long.  Our partners are meeting us here.”  So, I said, “Okay.”  Me and the Catholic teacher — I think his name was Kent – I could be wrong on that.  We drove to the airport where his friends met him.  We all called in advance to have our people meet us.  My buddy, Jerry, met me when we pulled up.  So we put the car back and took off to his house.

Afterwards, I told my friends what happened and they all laughed hysterically.  If anything was going to happen, it would happen so I wasn’t afraid.  I left it all in Ishy’s hands.

The next morning, Jerry and I went fishing on the Klamath River for two days in a row.  It’s about 55 miles north of Arcata.  We caught five salmon on the first day — one was 24 pounds — I think we have some pictures here that you can see.  That was the biggest.  It was a male and that was the biggest fish I’ve ever caught.  Then we caught several in the 14-16 pounds and some a little bit smaller than that.

When we returned from our trip, Jerry’s wife, Melody, my sister-in-law, cooked the fish.  She wrapped it in foil with salt, pepper, and butter which was served with vegetables all cooked on the barbecue.  It was delicious!

Unfortunately, I didn’t bring any salmon home because I had to fly back and who knew where I would end up flying back to.  But we managed to smoke some, and I guess it was good, because I don’t have any with me.  We had some fresh for one night and cut it up into steaks.  We probably had 40 steaks of salmon.  We filleted a little bit of it and smoked ten pounds of it. Eventually, we’ll get some because my friends are coming down in about two weeks, and they said they would bring me some smoked salmon.

Well, that is the story of my trip through the mountains with Ishy, Moshy, and God; and I’m sticking to it.

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