Go To Your Inner Room

An Ash Wednesday Refection by: Fatima Perez

A month or two ago, I remember one night I was rocking my son to sleep. He was having a tough time falling asleep on his own so I took him into my arms and sat us in the rocking chair. With each rock back and forth, and as he looked out the window and up at the stars, I was telling him how much I loved astronomy as a kid. I shared how one Christmas years and years ago, my parents bought me a telescope. There were many nights when my brother and I would hang out on the backyard deck to look up at space, at the stars. All of this eventually brought me to sharing with him, as his eyes finally grew tired, how the God of the universe, who made everything including every star in the sky, created him and loves him.


This past Sunday, our sisters and friends returned home from our annual Women Youth Apostles retreat. The theme this year was centered on the reality that we are God’s beloved. This extended time of being “away” from the world was a great gift to each of us because it is in silence and prayerful reflection that we are able to more deeply dive into the depths of our heart, understand who we are by truly knowing Whose we are, and that we were created out of love for love; everything else is a result of this truth. This is so important to call to mind time and again because often we forget it as we are inundated with noise and distractions, feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness.

02.14.18 Ash Wednesday

Today, Ash Wednesday, begins the Lenten Season. When we go to Mass today we receive ashes on our forehead. The ashes remind us that we were not ultimately created for this world and the shape of the cross reminds us that we were created for Heaven, for it is in Christ’s death on the cross and rising from the grave that we are able to share in His life outside of this world—Heaven, where we were ultimately created for. This is why this liturgical season focuses on a deeper level of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving because in doing so, we position ourselves to remember that we are not of this world, and this is how we prepare ourselves for the next.

In this preparation, it doesn’t take much to note how the world is full of so much noise and distraction. This is why going on a retreat was such a gift, and I’m sure others who’ve gone on a retreat would agree. In order to enter into a state of deeper prayer, we have to leave the noise, and go in the inner room of our heart. This isn’t because we are being forced to, but because it is by going in that we are able to meet with the God who loves us and Who will guide our path to Heaven, for it is in the silence of the heart that He speaks. It is even in the silence that He shatters our feelings of unworthiness due to sin, or inadequacies in living a life as a disciple of His… for He tells us:

“You are worthy,

You are enough.

Rest in My Mercy.

I love you.”

I pray that this Lenten season will bear great fruit for each of us. When we go into the inner room of our heart, may prayer help us to more closely examine our lives through a telescope, as its very purpose is to collect light to view things far away. May we be always reminded of the lasting light of God’s immense love & abundant mercy for us and as we journey in faith in this world, that we may keep our eyes fixated on where we were ultimately created for, a place much closer to us than we think.

A Reflection on the 3rd Week of Advent

By: Kelly Power

I absolutely love Christmas music this time of year (and yes, I listen all the way from the beginning of Advent to The Epiphany!). Although as I sing the lyrics of these songs on my way to school to drop off the kids or have them as background while we play and decorate, I cannot help but feel that they are doing a disservice to my Advent preparations. Are they helping me to enter in to the REAL Christmas story and encounter the REAL Christ child? These are the lyrics I hear…

“Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm all is bright” and “All is merry and bright,”

“The baby awakes, no crying he makes” and “O Little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie,”

“Tis the season to be jolly,” and “Children laughing, people passing meeting smile after smile,”

All these carols we hear repeatedly throughout Advent are supposed to illustrate the true feelings and images of Christmas. Right? A Christmas that is quiet, jolly, still, peaceful, joyful and frankly perfect. So this is what we all strive for during the holidays.

But as I was praying recently and reflecting on the REAL Advent – Mary pregnant and unmarried, journeying by donkey to Bethlehem to ultimately give birth in a stable, and Elizabeth pregnant and though happy, was very old and I am sure facing challenges from both her age and judgments of others. It hit me as two of my babies were crying, one had a dirty diaper, and I was trying desperately to create the perfect peace and joy-filled Advent experience for them that I was probably experiencing many of the REAL feelings of the biblical Advent that of Mary and Elizabeth. The REAL Advent was full of worry, is was messy, it was smelly, it was loud and far from “all merry and bright.” As someone who just experienced pregnancy and birth and is currently caring for a newborn, Jesus probably cried when he woke up and the stables were loud and smelly, not calm and bright, and certainly not silent at night.

I have been looking a lot at miracles this and how God brought about these miracles – the root of Jesse, the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus. He makes possible from the impossible. Mary and Elizabeth experience these Christmas miracles not in the midst of perfect peace, or joy, but Jesus comes in the chaos, the worry, and the mess. “Prepare ye the way,” is a phrase we hear often in Advent, though I began to realize this Advent that as I was getting frustrated, trying to prepare a quiet and perfect Christmas like the ones I hear in the songs for my family, that I was actually missing the miracles – the joy that God was already doing in the midst of my crazy, messy, not so silent nights.

So I am embracing the chaos, the mess, the imperfection and looking for the miracles, the grace, and the joy God is already bringing despite any preparation I may do. He is already here, the REAL Christ child. He brings the Peace, as the Prince of Peace, not me, and He brings the Joy, a joy that cannot be shaken by even the biggest tantrums or my own foiled plans. What all the characters of Christmas knew, whatever their state in life – Mary full of Grace or the rough life of a Shepherd – was that whoever this baby was He was special and they needed Him in their lives just as we all do right now.

So let us not lose sight as we prepare for the coming of our Lord, that He might be right in front of us! He is the only REAL thing we need this season! He is the only one who can bring us the REAL Peace and Joy we desire in our lives and the lives of our families.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

The Day Kolbe Francis Met Pope Francis

This is a reflection by Kelly on a special encounter her youngest child had with Pope Francis during his recent visit to the United States. It was originally posted on Encourage & Teach, the blog of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

By: Kelly Power, Directress

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Kolbe is taken up to the Holy Father by Vatican security during the Papal parade.

On September 23, 2015, I experienced one of the most incredible days of my life as a mother and was reminded in a profound way that my child belongs to Our Lord. Witnessing my son’s encounter with the Holy Father left me speechless. But as I have had time to process and pray through this holy and beautiful moment, I have been able to find some words to describe the feelings, thoughts, and reflections that I experienced.

Funny enough, we made the decision to attend the Papal parade less than 24 hours before the event. Wow, am I glad we did. I eventually decided to go, not so much to see him, but mostly to show my love and support of him and quite simply to make sure he felt loved by us, his flock and Church.

Navigating the large crowds with a little one isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but with the help of my wonderful best friend, the day began quite smoothly. We drove in, parked and walked for a short time to our spot at the gate. That morning, two of my sisters in the Women Youth Apostles community also made a last minute decision to attend and were able to find us on the Ellipse.

WoYA Pope Visit
Three members of our community waiting just outside the White House for Pope Francis to arrive.

On the way down and while waiting for the parade to begin, we joked about Kolbe being taken to the Pope, but I do not believe any of us really believed that it would happen. That was how we came to our spot; a lovely couple motioned us over to sit next to them because we had a baby and they thought there might be a chance that the Pope would stop.

After parking our car and walking to the Ellipse, we encountered protesters who warned us of worshipping a false God, but what they do not realize is that is not the case. As a Catholic, my love and incredible respect for our Holy Father is not because I believe that he himself is a God. Rather, the way he lives points so much to Christ Himself. When the Holy Father is near, in his gentleness, his joy, his love of all people no matter their faith, age, or condition, it is the love of Christ that I am feeling.

As we stood and waited for the Holy Father to drive by there was so much joy and excitement, which continued to grow as the time went by. As the motorcycles and cars came, both my friend and I began to feel butterflies in our hearts from the excitement of simply getting a glimpse of the Holy Father. Luckily, Kolbe had time to play, eat, and nap right up until the parade began. As Pope Francis approached us you could almost tangibly touch the holiness and caring that his presence he brings. We all could not help but smile and cheer, hoping we could express to our “Papa” the love we have for him.

As he got nearer to us, a security guard (I later found out Pier is the head of the Vatican security) scooped Kolbe Francis out of my arms and brought him to Pope Francis. In that moment, watching my son be carried to the Holy Father and then seeing him smile at Kolbe, it felt almost quiet, even amist the cheering crowd. Then as he kissed and blessed him, making a small cross on his forehead it almost seemed like slow motion.

After he was back in my arms, all I could do was smile, laugh, and kiss my sweet boy who had no idea was had just happened. I thought to myself, “One day we may be telling Kolbe he was kissed by a saint.”

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Members of the crowd quickly gather around for pictures and to offer congratulations once Kolbe is back in Kelly’s arms.

In the moments to follow, I was shocked at the response of the crowd around us asking to touch Kolbe. A security guard even kissed him on the head. People asked to take pictures with him and of him. As a mom, I felt slightly protective, but also wanted to share the joy and the moment with everyone I could. I had no idea just how wide spread this photo and moment would be. As we walked home we overheard someone say, “Isn’t that the baby we just saw on CNN?” And, Facebook exploded with photos and videos of the moment, some reaching over 1 million views. I received calls about Kolbe’s moment with Pope Francis from many news stations. That day was so much to take in and manage that I barely had time to process what happened.

It was not until Mass the following morning that I begin to think of this verse:

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).

Why did this moment bring such emotion and joy to me? It is not that something has changed Kolbe or that he will all the sudden be a different baby or lead a different life – he still whines and fusses and did not sit still for Mass this morning. I think this verse, however, is exactly the answer.

The moment that Kolbe had with our Holy Father is what Jesus Christ wants for each one of us as HIS people. He wants to take hold of us, love us, and bless us with the Father’s incredible and overflowing love. This picture and moment capture Christ’s desire for each one of us as children of God. This is what brings tears to people eyes. Pope Francis is one of the greatest examples of Christ’s love I have ever witnessed, as so many of our popes are. Whenever he encounters one of us, God’s presence and tender love is felt and seen by all. That is why you cannot help but respond with gratefulness and joy to have witnessed such a powerful presence of Our Lord.

This holy moment is even more special because Kolbe Francis is actually named after Saint Maximillian Kolbe and Pope Francis. As an infant, he got off to a rough start in large part to his small size of 4 pounds, 8 ounces. So out of all my children, this affirmation of God’s care for my sweet boy was an amazing gift.

My uncle put it well when he said:

“Maybe the Pope is blessing our whole family through Kolbe Francis.”

I believe he has blessed us indeed…our family, our friends, our community, and all who are able to share this joyous moment with us. We all are humbled and grateful for the gift God has given to us through our Holy Father Pope Francis.

Kelly is the Directress of Women Youth Apostles and a mother of three children.

Kolbe was one of two babies from the Diocese of Arlington that were kissed and blessed by Pope Francis during his visit to Washington, D.C. Click here to read about the other family.