by Nicole Maile Santos
After a full day of traveling, all I wanted was to draw close to Jesus during our daily holy hour. Walking into the Adoration chapel, I was struck by the beauty of the life-sized golden monstrance of Our Lady. As our Poland pilgrimage group entered reverently into our pews, Sr. Maris Stella asked us a question to reflect on. “Who is Mary to you?”
Sitting before the Blessed Sacrament 7,000 miles from home, I was deeply convicted by the harsh reality that I could not provide a true answer to that question. Who really was Mary to me? In many ways I could talk about Mary, but I was unable to picture who she was in relation to me. The best way to describe my heart in that hour was one scrambling to find a way to affirm a person you do not know personally. I felt restless and empty, just drawing a blank.
Growing up I felt some sort of disconnect with Mary. She seemed so perfect, so calm, so put together – qualities I found that I lacked in myself. It almost felt as though I would be too much for Our Lady to handle.
Then I just put my preconceived notions of her aside and let myself gaze upon the beauty of the Blessed Sacrament and how Mary was the monstrance. There were rays of light surrounding her and lilies adorned at her feet. But the most beautiful part was that Jesus was exposed in the very location of where her heart would be.
Then it all clicked – it is Jesus!
Mary is the key to drawing closer to Jesus. Her life was devoted to loving her Son. Her entire heart is for Jesus. She desires nothing more than for us to be the same way, to love Jesus with our whole heart. She is the perfect model for us, as she was the one who birthed Him into life, raised Him as a child, and walked with Him through his death. Who better to show us how to wholeheartedly love Jesus than His mother?
I sunk deep into my pew and recognized the mother shaped hole in my heart. I longed to be close to Mary. It was that moment where I felt as though Jesus entrusted me to His mom as he did to his beloved disciple as He hung upon the cross (John 19:26-27). I could hear Him say “Nicole, behold your mother.” For years I’ve prayed decades upon decades of rosaries, sang Marian hymns, and in fact – my own Parish is named in honor of Mary herself. Yet somehow I failed to see her as my own mother.
That hour my heart cried out a prayer I’ve never said before, “Mary be a mother to me.” I wrote in my journal:
“Now I realize. Mary is incredibly essential. To love Jesus is to love and embrace His mother, the one who embraced Jesus first. The way she loves Jesus is the same way she loves us. May I, too, embrace her totally with the heart of Jesus.”
As Catholics, we honor Mary everyday, but especially during the month of May. I humbly ask that you look deep within your heart and ask yourself, “Who is Mary to me?” For those of us who may feel far away from her, ask her to be a mother to you. Let Mary be your mother and allow her to draw you every closer to her Son.
Nicole Maile Santos is the current leader of Strive, a young adult ministry based at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Pearl City. OLGC Strive and EPIC Ministry have collaborated for events such as community service, social gatherings and most recently a 24-hour Adoration at Paewalani and a Holy Thursday Pilgrimage. Nicole works full-time as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst for Invo Healthcare. She is also recently engaged to her fiancé, Ian Leyco, and they are planning to get married in 2024.
by Rhea Quemado
As I was in the midst of typing this out at the EPIC Community House this song “Things of Heaven” by Red Rocks Worship started playing (I started bawling lol). Here’s the lyrics that just spoke to me:
Something is coming, I feel the wind blowing
With mystery, things unseen
The tides are now changing, I see the dawn breaking
It's happening, the awakening
So come, Holy Spirit come
And hover over us, Holy Spirit come
And open the Heavens, fling wide the gates
Unleash Your presence, pour out Your grace
Show me Your glory, the power of Your love
'Cause even a glimpse is more than enough for me
These lines stuck out to me so clearly “So come, Holy Spirit come, and hover over us, Holy Spirit come…. Unleash Your presence, pour out Your grace, Show me Your glory, the power of Your love 'Cause even a glimpse is more than enough for me”
So the Pope declared that these next three years in the Church we are focusing on the Eucharistic Revival. One of the ways that I can do that is a revival and sharing of my devotion to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We had just started our first ever 24-hour Adoration at the chapel in the EPIC Community House, so in the early hours of the morning of April 1 while a part of the world was sleeping, I was sitting in the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and it gave me a lot to reflect on. I was reminded when I was first introduced to this practice of Adoration long ago by Aunty Liz. She'd have us go to adoration for a few minutes in the beginning of every confirmation class, so it became routine for me. Back then I never really and fully understood it like I do now, but I am so thankful she did that, because it made me realize how much I was drawn to it. There were so many moments that I could really feel the presence of Christ, it eventually became this place of solace for me that I’ve been drawn to numerous times throughout my life. So April is the month of the Holy Spirit, and during the last supper which we will celebrate in this coming Holy Thursday, Jesus speaks of his departure from this world and his return to the Father, he also tells them about the Advocate, the Holy Spirit (or helper), that will be sent among them after he is gone. Jesus assures the disciples and all of us that this is not the end of the story. Jesus speaks these final words to the Apostles before his Ascension in Acts, he says “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus has put into place a means by which he could truly remain with all of us, at all times, in all places, until he comes again. I've been to so many different churches all over and sat in many Blessed Sacrament chapels, and all of them had the same presence of Christ. In Adoration I was able to have a safe and quiet space, a place where even though the thoughts in my head were so loud and messy, I could at least find a moment, even a second of peace, to escape the busy and overwhelming world and quiet my heart and mind, to just be still, a place to rejuvenate my soul and cultivate my spirit, a place where I was able to pour my heart out during some of the most difficult times of my life, a place where I could heal and surrender my pain, a place where I discerned some of my biggest life decisions, a place where I could process and reflect on my actions, words, thoughts, and feelings, a place that I could intentionally pray for others, and ultimately a place where I could deepen my relationship with Christ. The line in the song, “Unleash Your presence, pour out Your grace, Show me Your glory, the power of Your love 'Cause even a glimpse is more than enough for me.” Adoration is just that for me. Christ is always there in the presence of the Eucharist, he said "This is my Body" and I truly believe that. So many times I could not help but feel overwhelmed by the presence of Christ in my life, and that especially happened when I opened myself up to the Holy Spirit during mass or in Adoration. When I take time to be in his presence it allows me to take time to understand the movements of the Holy Spirit in my life, and when I receive him in the Eucharist at mass it reminds me of Christ’s presence within me so that I can go out and bring his presence to the world in all that I do and to all I meet.
The Holy Spirit is usually spoken of as a “force,” or as “power” emanating from God, rather than as God himself, but we know that the Holy Spirit is more than just a force, he is God. Because of the infinite nature of God, we can’t fully understand or fully comprehend the teaching of the Holy Spirit, (or even the Trinity) and like so many things in the Catholic faith, there’s this element of mystery to it, but that's part of the beauty of it all. Christ gave us this gift of the Holy Spirit as well as the gift of the Eucharist so that we could receive him, and in those gifts he comes to dwell in us, so that we can become temples of the divine life, instruments of peace, and ambassadors of Christ’s presence in the world.
To be honest it’s okay, to not fully understand the teaching of the Holy Spirit or the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Maybe we don’t need to fully know, so that God can reveal his beauty, and plan for us personally. When something is mysterious, don’t you desire or are curious to try to figure it out? Try to know more? That’s the beauty of this journey, you and I are a part of God’s wonderful plan, and by our acceptance of the gospel and trust in him, not only are we filled with divine life and enabled to live in newness of life, we have the opportunity and privilege of carrying the presence of Christ and his love into the world, that desperately needs him. Just trust in him, because when you trust in the Holy Spirit, you will see how the Lord leads you to become the best version of yourself, so that you can know, love, and serve him in the way he created you to be. So let the Holy Spirit guide you during this Easter Season!
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us Your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray. Oh God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, instructs the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rhea is currently the Vice-Director of Programs for EPIC Ministry Hawaii, as well as the co-coordinator for the Central Oahu Chapter. Rhea is also a first year Theology Teacher at Damien Memorial, where she teaches Theology of the Body and Creating a Christian Lifestyle to seniors. She has her Masters Degree in Pastoral Theology from Chaminade University of Honolulu, and a BS in International Business and Marketing from HPU.