What do you see? Spellbinding masterpiece door that led me to Caravaggio.

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A glimpse of blue sky, a wisp of clouds, birds, cathedral and concrete buildings is what I see in painting along the hallway wall of Malta’s airport.  Looking at the mural makes me want to run outside and feel that … Continue reading

This is where it ends. This is where it begins.

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Studying in public school, our creed has no bearings. We are unified as human beings in singing daily our national anthem out in the courtyard, rain or shine before we start our regiment of learning academics. Religion is not a … Continue reading

The Journey and the Dream still continues…

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Twenty years ago, I made the first journey to Assisi on my own. I was young, healthy and carefree imitating the life of St. Francis, poor in spirit. Alone I was, I met a lot of strangers along the road. … Continue reading

Trip of a Lifetime

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 I would like to stay longer and soak up the three world’s religion: Islāmic, Judaism, and Christianity.  I want to be with the Muslims, Jews, and Christians: and have interfaith dialogue. At the hotel in Jordan, waiting to leave for Canada, I … Continue reading

Ground Zero – Part 2

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  In the Jewish tradition, Passover is a holy celebration that coincides with Christian’s Good Friday, Looking at the wall that surrounds Bethlehem, I doubt that anybody can pass over it.  As the old saying goes, this too shall pass. … Continue reading

Thunder and Lightning

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“That is my thunder, by God; the villains will play my thunder, but not my play.” – Alexander Pope

Two black-haired girls spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.  Little do they know, I can tell what they are up to even though they speak in their own dialect. It’s easy to read minds, you know since I am the queen of Mischief.

Frame by frame, a series of shots put together to capture this story of stealing their thunder by taking over their acts at lightning speed.

I had the last laugh and the best hug from Thomas.

Approaching Good Choices

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  Decision making is challenging because sometimes we have no idea the impact of what we have decided. Just thinking about what to choose to wear is a grueling daily event. Some outfit brings happiness, others blah. What made us … Continue reading

Sophie’s Choice

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Making a choice in cutting off ties in any situation is difficult when it’s a no-win situation, an unbearable option that one is forced to choose. Even thinking that it is the lesser of two evils, it can still remain … Continue reading

Weathering Heights

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It’s breathtaking to see from a distance the ice mass in the valley.  Imagine 20,000 years ago this area is covered with a glacier. So beautiful that Norway attracts thousands of tourist visiting Briksdalbreen or Briksdal Glacier. The landscape is covered with … Continue reading

Welcome to Bethlehem

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Regardless of travel advisory, people from all over the world wants to see where it happened. Regardless of personal belief, they want to visit where it all began. Regardless of culture, pilgrims and tourist mix together. Regardless where they came … Continue reading

I am a Pilgrim, not a Tourist!

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It is a challenge and a hair-raising experience to go on a pilgrimage. It’s not an ordinary travel just because we paid an enormous amount of money to travel in luxury and be catered to. I join a pilgrimage because … Continue reading

Overdose of Satisfaction

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Just can’t get away from these two gals following me like kitty cats. If they were really cats and died in the process of following me, only satisfaction will bring them back. They are very proud of making street photography … Continue reading

The Person and The Saint

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Historically, Birgitta and Saint Birgitta are not really the same person. It is difficult at times to know what parts are historically accurate and which part is the image of the saint. As a person, Birgitta was born in 1303 … Continue reading

June Brides

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It was a warm sunny June afternoon when we visited the old town of  Kaunas, Lithuania. Most old town has a plaza and a town hall for everyone to enjoy. Even a place to have a wedding celebration. First, I … Continue reading

Fill in with your imagination

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There is place for me in this historical tapestry, in the upper right corner, just above the Beatles. And so I write words, words that I have heard, a jumble of notes, these words are not mine. And so it … Continue reading

We are not made of sugar. We are the salt of the earth.

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The rain came when we visited the ruins of Cistercian Alvastra Abbey in Östergötland. We are the salt of the Earth. We are not made of sugar. We will not melt. With high winds and strong rain, we aborted the walk … Continue reading

Ecstasy at our feet.

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These feet will take us wherever they want to go. Passengers from the hydrofoil are rushing to plant their feet on the ground of Estonia after a two-hour sail from Finland, 2,000 of them more or less. As pilgrims, our feet … Continue reading

As close as you can get

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Imagine that you inherited the land below this mountain, as far as your eyes could see in the middle of the desert. Thinking of Las Vegas, this is a gold mine that could easily be transformed into a watering hole … Continue reading

In Praise of Men

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There are certain movements men do that I can see how graceful they are. More graceful than females do. It’s their feminine side that they do not want to admit.

men-on-the-beach-of-cuba

They are beautiful. Beautiful in the sense that they don’t have to prove their masculinity. The beauty that oozes with sublime humility where fellow-men can watch with quiet admiration.

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Where is the beauty in them?

The beauty exists in my mind how rounded they are. Not just how nice they are to stop, pause and be photographed. It is how gracious they are in accepting a stranger in their environment.

men-working-with-a-beast-in-cuba

Emerging elegantly from the depth of an ancient tree enriches how life mysteriously unfolds my memory of Cuba ever so gracefully.

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At the end of the day, I just want to be a cat

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Oh, there were resolutions to keep a low profile to pace myself to take it easy, because nothing is so important anyway but yesterday there was an inertia that got out of hand like a rolling thunder and good people … Continue reading

What lies ahead without Fidel

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The earth expanding right hand and left hand, The picture alive, every part in its best light, The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted, The cheerful voice of the public road, the … Continue reading

Thank Goodness It’s Wednesday

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I told my sisters not to shop on their trip to Holy Land and pay more attention to the real purpose of their pilgrimage: to walk where Jesus walked. So, instead, they sent me a photo of what they could … Continue reading

Calvin and Hobbes would be perfect in Cuba

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In the mind of Calvin and Hobbes, they could easily fly anywhere they want to be. Imagine them riding this catapult and thrown into oblivion and beyond! One of the belief system in Cuba is to call on a witch … Continue reading

Faithful to Our History

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Home of the locals in Havana, Cuba, is rife with history. It’s written on the walls, it’s written on their faces, it’s written on the wind. Fieles a nuestra HISTORIA: Faithful to our history. Let it be written, let it … Continue reading

Far away from home, make it memorable.

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It’s not even a day, I miss them already; my family, friends, neighbors, cats, and the comfort of home. Leaving them behind to travel for my annual pilgrimage creates a nostalgic moment. Far away from home, I want to make … Continue reading

Countless

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Who is counting? I for one, not. It is enough for me to see the numbers of thank you notes left here. One. One is the best number. It only takes one to be touched by many filled with gratitude. … Continue reading

It is rare.

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Somewhere in the forested area of Cuba, it was a delight to see a homestead. It was a simple dwelling. Inside, the interior is spare.  My first thought, how quaint. It’s good to see someone who exists in very little … Continue reading

Unforgettable Face

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No artist can ever draw this face for her maker created her perfectly and thus became incorruptible. This is the incorruptible Face of Bernadette of Lourdes. Song of Bernadette Songwriters: COHEN, LEONARD/ELLIOTT, BILL/WARNES, JENNIFER  There was a child named Bernadette I heard the story … Continue reading

The Earth is Our Sanctuary

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Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light. Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory. Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning. Earth teach me caring ~ … Continue reading

The land that glows

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It is the land that glows and expands. There are so many possibilities what one can do here. It is one of the most beautiful lands I’ve ever seen. Cuba meaning “Land”. In its simplicity, this is a place that … Continue reading

Unmasking the illusion

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Yes, I am a smoker. When I tell people that I smoke, some of them are gracious enough to say that I don’t look and smell like a smoker. That is the kindest thing to say to a smoker. However, there … Continue reading

Way of Praying

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Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable. I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have … Continue reading

The Fisher King

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A series of photographs taken during my pilgrimage to India in 2014. Our bus was at a standstill during rush hour and I saw this man crossing the road. A barefooted man wearing a sack for clothing. He bent down to … Continue reading

The Untouchables

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In India, due to its caste system, there is a group of people called the “untouchables”. We are talking millions of them, not just a tiny group. These people received their ‘title’ by default, by birth. They are considered impure. … Continue reading

Grant me the Grace to desire it.

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Litany of Humility O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus. From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … Continue reading

As Above, So Below

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My feet carry me in different parts of the world to understand the divinity of Mother Earth.  I am grateful what Mother Earth provides beneath our feet. Along the way, we encounter a bridge and calm water that create a perfect … Continue reading

Learning to be at home

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And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at … Continue reading

Pilgrim’s Ending

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It was the end of Cesar’s pilgrimage. I know Cesar’s wife, Bennie. She organizes pilgrimages and I have joined a couple of her many pilgrimages. The Celebration of Life for Cesar seems to be a reunion all pilgrims. Such a beautiful celebration. … Continue reading

Be Careful

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As we enter the Holy Sepulcher, there lies a slab of stone where Jesus’ dead body was laid. The Orthodox priests anoint the stone with rose scented oil, walking around it as they say their prayers and holding an incense … Continue reading

Going Home – Thoughts of In between

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My thoughts are collections of other people’s ideas. There is no need for me to rewrite the story. They are good as they are. The following writings are thoughts from ordinary people who do extraordinary work that help shape my … Continue reading

Dying to oneself.

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Walking down from Mount Olives is Palm Sunday road, a road that Jesus took riding a donkey. It’s downhill and I saw this man and his donkey. They must be exhausted doing business with pilgrims like me to experience where Jesus … Continue reading

What Lies Behind the Wall

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Here I stood at Mount Olive, I could see the structure behind the wall with an onion-shaped golden dome. It’s calling me, and I wanted to visit the place, but it’s not part of our itinerary. Long after I came … Continue reading

An Open Wall

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  This is more than a crack on the wall, it’s one of the gates of Jerusalem called St. Stephen’s Gate or Lion’s Gate. I spent more time on the walls of the gate, soaking up the atmosphere, listening to … Continue reading

Leave all your blues in your shoes at the door.

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In India, we have to leave our footwear before entering a temple. I prefer to keep my beat-up shoes rather than moving it outside for fear of losing them and have to continue the pilgrimage barefooted. I never understand the … Continue reading

Rewarding moments of small creatures

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All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small

While I was drinking a cup of coffee, a couple of birds were reluctant to go closer to a pool of water because of my presence. I stood still and kept quite in order not to disturb them since I want their company. Slowly they took the courage to dip their feet on the water while peering at me. When they realized that I will remain motionless, they took the plunge.

depth (19)-MOTION

This is my reward, a memory of my stay at Kochi, Kerala, India. In addition, I am learning how to use the power of computer photography. My very first GIF, perseverance has its own rewards.

The Catch of the Day

It was interesting to see contraptions along the coastline of Kochi. These are called Chinese fishing nets that are permanent fixture that is unique and an unusual way to catch a fish. It’s a great tourist attraction.

Kochin chinese fishing nets

Curiously, my two nephews and their sister wanted to know how it works and paid the fisherman for show and tell.

The net is lowered into the water, left for at least five minutes and raised back up by pulling the ropes. This is the hard part. The kids have to partake on this experience and pulled the ropes. They were so excited that they did catch something: a tiger fish, a wee one that has to go back to the sea to grow sharper fangs.

kochin tiger fish

Did the kids dare to hold the fish? Nope, too scared to be bitten. Such scared cats.

Kochin fish market

Besides just a few steps away, one can find all kinds of fishes and have your pick.

There are contradicting history how the Chinese fishing nets arrived in Kochi, Kerala, India. Some says Chinese explorer introduced it, others by Portuguese that came from Macau. Who knows. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that this is the biggest bait for tourist.

Walking the Royal Steps

Raj Ghat means Royal Steps and is a place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated on 1948.

Gandhi (1)

In New Delhi, we visited Raj Ghat. To reach the memorial site, we walked a long corridor surrounded by beautiful green lawn, well-kept garden and a peaceful place.  The vastness of this place is impressive.

Gandhi (2)

Gandhi’s memorial site is made of black marble slab adorned with orange marigolds. The flowers are changed daily. A perpetual flame burns at one end.  Inscribed on the stone is “He Ram” (Oh God).

It is mandatory that we must remove our shoes before entering the enclosure to keep the area free of dirt from our footwear.

The place was busy with visitors including school children on a field trip paying homage to him.

Gandhi

My life is my message ~ Mahatma Gandhi

The design of  a simple memorial site reflects Gandhi’s modest life. Simplicity at its best.

Veni, Vidi, Vici.

He came, he saw, he conquer is the meaning of Veni, Vidi, Vici. This is the beginning of a love story about Taj Mahal.

Taj Mahal

It started when a prince, son of a Mughal emperor of India, Shah Jahan, the grandson of Akbar the Great went to a bazaar, saw a girl named Mumtaz Mahal and conquered her. It was love at first sight.  She became his third wife and favorite. In return, she gave him fourteen children; however, she died giving birth. In her deathbed, he promised her that he will build the most impressive mausoleum over her grave and will never marry again.

Shah Jahan was heartbroken and devastated. The country was in mourning for two years. Subsequently, he undertook building a monument that took over 22 years, thousands of men and elephants to build this bigger than life structure to fulfill his promise to his beloved.

In every dynasty, there’s always a villain that is the Shah’s third son with Mahal named Aurangzeb.

Taj Red Fort

Aurangzeb killed some of his families, took over the throne and banished his father to a tower in Red Fort at Agra. From the fort, Shah Jahan can only view from the distance where the love of his life lays. He died at the tower in Agra and was buried next to Mumtaz in Taj Mahal.

I can only imagine how hard it was for the Shah to be separated from his beloved.

What I find beautiful about Taj Mahal is the love story between the Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.

Unhappily Married: An Indian Humour

These photos were taken from a shopping bag “Unhappily Married” and should explain the title.

Cows, boat and huge family

Cows, boat and huge family: Only in India!

Black sheep and Kama Sutra

Black sheep and Kama Sūtra

Drinking beer is cheaper than being married

Drinking beer is cheaper than being married

Check out their Facebook, it’s hilarious. Go ahead, it’s pure and clean.

 

Let me get this off my system.

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Indian CoffeeLet me get this off my system.

If you are looking for Starbucks in India, good luck! You can only find the coffee shop in the Airport, departure area.

And if you are looking for a freshly brewed coffee, there is no such thing! Everything is instant coffee in India. The famous one is Nescafe or Folgers. Kate Crimmins  are you rolling your eyes yet?

It was a problem, a very big problem for me. But hey, I am a pilgrim, this is not Club Med.

So, what is Indian Coffee? Pretty basic:

  • Instant Coffee – two packets if you want it strong
  • Hot Water – very small amount to dissolve the coffee
  • Warm Milk –lots to combine it with the dissolved coffee
  • Sugar – if you want it sweet.

Oh, some make it frothy to give it an espresso look. There’s hardly any coffee in this cup but bubbles.

I was kicking myself to get a “caffeine kick” to it. There’s hardly any caffeine in an instant coffee. Drinking two or three cups of this first thing in the morning is my form of “flagellation” for seventeen days to wake me up. I survived.

The minute we arrived in Canada, we stopped over at my sister’s place and I asked for a real good brewed coffee, mug size.

Aaahhhh…. good to the last drop followed by a refill.

I am so glad to be home.

Melting Pot

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There is no escaping the traffic. One has to learn to be an aggressive and defensive driver. It seems to be the louder and longer you blow your horn, drivers will allow you to  converge.

Traffic in New  Delhi, India

Traffic in New Delhi, India

As I look out from the comfort of the bus, I asked Padre what is this area? “Is this the flea market.” The short response was that this is the slum area.

Slum area in New Delhi, India

Slum area in New Delhi, India

On the other side of the coin, this is what most people prefer to see, an illusion of history past. This area did not bring any emotional sensation from me in comparison to the traffic and the slum area.

Taj Mahal, India

Taj Mahal, India

At the end of the day, our group, all 20 of us from Canada, Philippines and Austria gather for a meal to give thanks to India for opening their doors and converge with them.

Meal time prepared at a Catholic diocese

Meal time prepared at a Catholic diocese

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Converge.”

Seeking a life of meaning and service

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” ~  St Francis of Assisi

It was one of the dark moments of my life when I decided to follow the Footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi. The very first pilgrimage I did, alone. Of course, it took planning and reaching out to strangers. Sending out e-mails mostly to the Franciscans and Sisters in Rome.  They are very helpful.

Hello, my name is Maria Siglos. I am writing to seek your help if you could provide me with contact e-mail in Assisi, Italy for any retreat centres or catholic homes who would like to accommodate me during my visit in September. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Waiting and patience is very important when embarking on a pilgrimage. They say everything is in God’s time. These qualities did not exist in me at the time. For one, I want to run away, throw in the towel and enough of the so-called career and professional life. I quit my job of 14 years.

But I have no choice but to wait and see. I prayed to all the Gods: Shiva, Ganesha, Buddha, St. Francis, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Finally, I received a response.

Hello

Fr. Gregory forwarded your letter but I am just back from vacation and tomorrow I am on my way to Assisi… if you are online now, please answer immediately and I might be able to help you by getting the info tomorrow. I would appreciate knowing what you are looking for… there are guesthouses and there are probably retreat houses.

How long do you plan to be in Assisi? Are you looking for private time? For a directed retreat? Are you looking for 4 star? Are you looking for modest places = shared bathrooms? Retreat places are likely to be basic. Do you have an idea of your dates? Please furnish any other info you might think is helpful.

Oh?  Too many questions! I thought it’s just as simple as booking a hotel and I am on my own. St. Francis didn’t have to answer to these questions. All he did was divest himself in front of the church and left Assisi. What I need is private room with spiritual direction.

Being not in the right frame of mind, I really do not know what to do. I simple replied whatever that they can provide, I will be grateful.

Year 2000 was Jubilee Year in Rome, I found out.  A very special year when one of the sealed doors of Vatican Church will open and will shut again for another 25 years. Imagine Rome and Assisi are buzzing with pilgrims and tourist alike. Good luck finding a place to rest.

Dear Maria,

It has taken a while but I have now obtained the necessary information. One of the friars in Assisi did a bit of telephoning and searching. I need to say that in Assisi they are very full as far as accommodations are concerned. I believe this myself because some friars here in Rome have been looking for places for friends coming to Rome and they are pulling out their hair… everything seems to be packed here in Rome and by extension in Assisi.

Maybe prayer is not the answer. Maybe I will challenge God. Maybe I will give St. Francis of Assisi a threat. NOW HERE THIS! I said in my mind. Instead I said, whatever St. Francis. If you want me to come, I will come.

Surrender. When I completely surrender myself to God, it works. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Dear Maria,

I have found a single room in a guesthouse run by the friars at Porziuncola. There are two guesthouses. This is the simpler of the two, prepared to make things within the reach of simple, working class pilgrims.

The dilemma of travel arrangement is over and a new fear surfaced. I have no job to come home to. Back to prayer again begging St. Francis to help me find a job. Not a career but a job that is a means to an end to continue being of service to humanity while I live on earth.

A week before I departed for Assisi, I received a job offer, an answer to my prayer. The people who hired me were willing to wait for my return even though they needed a person immediately. Another sigh of relief.

With everything in placed I went with peace of mind, walked the plains of Porziuncola, climbed the mountain to reach his hermitage and scrambled my way up to the hills of Assisi to visit San Damiano where he heard the Cross spoke to him to build a church.

St. Francis of Assisi is real. A person who lived in life of luxury, partying and drinking. He joined the war, captured and imprisoned. During his imprisonment he was dangerously sick, body mind and soul.  After his release from imprisonment, in the forest he met a leper. Leper is the lowest of the lowest, the untouchables. But Francis touched, embraced and kissed him. From then on, a new Francis rose and started a new movement.

That was lifetime ago, another 14 years. Currently, I am still working for the same employer. A job that I like, love the people I work with and doing service in between.

The teaching of St. Francis touches and helps me. It’s plain, simple and ordinary; yet, it provides a great lesson and instruction for living.
St. Francis Peace Prayer

Sitting, Waiting, Listening

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Prayer is largely just being silent: holding the tension instead of even talking it through, offering the moment instead of fixing it by words and ideas, loving reality as it is instead of understanding it fully. Prayer is commonly a … Continue reading

Humanity’s Greatest Desire

Coming from a big family, in part, I would think that I can get away from people during  a pilgrimage.  Wrong. What I experience is a sea of humanity. We all have this desire to belong and to connect.

After pouring our heart and soul to our devotion, we also have something in common that is totally different. Guess what?  SHOPPING!

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar – Turkey

and this is my family, in part.

Family Reunion

Family Reunion

After all of these events, I spend  a great deal of “me” time.

This causes me to tremble

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Was I there? At the crack of dawn, when everybody is still asleep, before the narrow streets of Old Jerusalem turn into a market place and become crowded with people, we were there to do the Via Dolorosa and reflect what … Continue reading

This is really how it is

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I was looking what to post yesterday that is more palatable to readers when it comes to spirituality for Sunday Snippet.  I am very much aware when it comes to the topic of religion, it’s hardly entertained.  Using Parabola is … Continue reading

Possibility of amusing juxtaposition

Charles Dickens uses the technique of juxtaposition in the opening line of his novel “A Tales of Two Cities”:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

Unlike Charles, I will be using mostly humans to compare them with something and this brain will see the far side of life.

The Egyptians had grandiose idea of building spectacular pyramids.  I envisioned that they are gigantic in order to create such monumental edifice.
Pyramid Stone

Have bag will travel the Camino Way.  This lady definitely will fit into this bag.
camino back pack

There was the bear necessities exposition in France below the Eiffel Tower.  These are Canadian Bears.  Can you tell which the live one is?
the bears

Blue Moon and the Rising Sun.  Partial eclipse.
sun and moon

Dying, dying, dead trees at the Dead Sea.  I get it, nothing grows here.
Dead sea

Just for fun, I am throwing in the jester position.
jester

Glimpse of Santiago de Compostela

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Entering the narrow pathways considered as a street in Santiago de Compostela, we could see the steeple of the cathedral.  The pilgrims’ steps quickened as they are getting excited to reach their destination. In front of the towering old steeple, dating as … Continue reading