Tag Archives: catholic

On Pope Francis and Mother Teresa….

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Below is a link to what I consider “Internet Treasure”…..something that Cristina and I stumbled upon one night after a close friend of ours gave us a chromecast device…..which one uses to beam or “cast” videos on to their television.

Alas, a midst all of the funny fluff, we found the original Mother Teresa of Calcutta documentary, in it’s entirety, on Youtube. Needless to say, although it was a week night, “let’s just watch a few minutes…..” quickly turned in to a prayerful meditation on Love.

Mother Teresa, for any of those who haven’t been with us since the inception of this blog, is one of our patrons. We didn’t choose her, she chose us. And in some of life’s most difficult moments, even when we probably tried to keep her out of things, (for fear of what she, one of our closest friends, might have asked of us) she always had a way of popping back up…..and asking us to give love to someone around us. You know, love…..the kind that hurts.

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You see, as I grew into adulthood and got onto my high horse during my time of new-found Faith “ownership”, (which for me, beyond simply defending Christ’s Bride, included a bit of my own pride) I would get really annoyed when those that sought to attack the Church’s teachings, would often use saints like Mother Teresa as a sort of justification for not sticking to Doctrine and just simply “loving everyone”. Although I had no way of articulating it at the time, I knew that so-called “love” to be exactly what Pope Francis condemned this past Saturday, at the close of the Synod. A “love that is tainted by:

“….a destructive tendency to goodness, that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.” – Pope Francis, 

Mother Teresa is not, nor ever was, all about that kind of “goodness”. The problem for most ultra-conservatives is that many, including Mother Teresa, chose not to explicitly preach and teach with theological words….but rather, to love. Truly love, with a love that suffers together…..a love that, when the timing (and one’s heart) is right, leaves the door open, ever so gently, for God to truly heal the deepest “causes and roots” of our own slavery to sin.

This is what Mother Teresa and now Pope Francis (along with MANY others in history) have been teaching us……and it’s a difficult teaching because it is UNCOMFORTABLE. We don’t “get the last word” in……and some times, that “surrender” of not getting the final word, takes everything out of us!

Sure, they can dine and carry-on with those who even appear to be “enemies” of Christ and His Church, but they know where they stand – firmly in Christ.

Pope Francis does an off-the-cuff interview and is asked a hypothetical question about someone suffering from SSA… .. and his response relates that if a person is seeking Christ and remaining chaste… (paraphrasing here) “Who is (he) to judge?”….the media goes WILD  “Pope Francis approves the gay lifestyle!” ……not quite. Shortly after the encounter, in one of his homilies at daily mass, he preaches about family and marriage only being between a man and a woman.

Mother Teresa spent hour upon hour being with the sick and dying, usually not explicitly nor deliberately teaching/converting them to the Catholic Faith, but then she spent hours in Adoration with Our Lord (every day) and countless people throughout the world convert to Catholicism through her example.

What’s my point? I’m not entirely sure…..but one thing I am sure of is that both Pope Francis and Mother Teresa know/knew WHO they live(d) for – Christ and His Bride. Although Pope Francis would never deliberately confuse anyone or desire for them to be unclear on Church Teaching, but it is as if he  is saying “I’t’s MUCH more important to me that each individual person walks away knowing that I love them and even more, that Christ loves them…..than it is for someone to be 100% educated on a doctrine or a dogma”

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It seems like every time the media interviews and confusions arise with Pope Francis, the Synod, prudential judgments made by Cardinals and Bishops (ie – St Patrick’s Day parade?), I hear a resounding “I just don’t know anymore” from my Catholic friends and family. I often have the same reaction.

Maybe, just maybe, Christ desires for me to be at an even deeper place than what I’ve been used to, than what I’m comfortable with. Maybe my response should be “I just don’t know anymore (about anything!). BUT, I trust.”

Besides, if I don’t know everything like I used to pridefully think I did, He is able to enter in and mold and guide me how He wants, not how I want Him to.

In the meantime, if you have the time, pray through this youtube treasure. No doctrine here, no mystical or fantastical miracles revealed at the end. Just pure, tough and real love. Perhaps that is what God wants us all to cling to?

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The Latest Happenings….

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Wow! It’s been another long period since we updated this blog……and a lot sure has happened!

It was actually in returning home from New York City this past weekend that I felt inspired to update our blog and create this post. (and hopefully, be more consistent in it!) I’ll go in to more detail about NYC later in this post.

So, since our last update in April (right after our return from Honduras), it was as if Christ was calling us to truly learn to live our normal, routine family life. Yep, I’m talking about all of the small things: working a 9-5 job while Cristina stayed at home with Bella, then coming home to have dinner and spending the last couple of hours with Bella playing, coloring, bubble-bathing and saying our nigh-night prayers before bed. As Cristina puts it, Christ was “romancing us” in the beauty of simply-living and breathing.

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A lot less dramatic/exciting than one imagined their life would be after having spent years as a missionary in Honduras! But, alas, this is EXACTLY where Christ has us.

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God speaks to us in the ordinary.                         (Bella saying Grace before dinner)

You see, there is a really profound piece of advice I’ve gotten from a Catholic blogger I’ve been following for the past few months (charliej373.wordpress.com) . A former political consultant, Charlie has dedicated himself to giving a sort of spiritual direction to his readers as the events of the world unfold around us, (ISIS, Ebola, our Govt, etc etc etc) yet he reminds his readers that our call isn’t to await some huge world-changing CATASTROPHE or for the END OF THE WORLD, nor does he spend time focused on the panic or the fear that the world news could cause us. His daily reminder is that:

“The only thing that will put flesh on the bones of our plans is to relentlessly acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around us.”

I digress.

As I was sharing, these past few months have served as a reflection on the importance of our home. Not only for Bella and her future siblings (God-willing), but for both Cristina and I as well. Cristina and I, since our youth and young-adulthood, recognize that God has molded our hearts and our calling to be outward-focused…..but over the years and through the process of spiritually maturing, (which seems to be slower than we’d like!) we see the importance of starting at home and creating a refuge there.

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This time has been full of laughter and of tears…..of days that fly by and days that seem like they will never end. In the midst of all of them is our life, for better or for worse. We’ve had 2nd birthday parties:

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…gone to Princess Parties:

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…enjoyed the beach:

“I got and in my baysoo”

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….visited old stomping-grounds:

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…..had a day at the zoo:

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…saw old friends (and future mother superior…?)

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….got first Dominican-salon haircuts:

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Don’t let the skin color fool you, this girl is half Carribean!

…hung out with cousins:

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…but most of the time, goofed-off:

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More than anything else, we’ve had days full of love. Mostly the fun, sloppy-wet-kiss-on-the-lips kind of love, but even the tough kind as well. It’s all good…..it’s all real….and in it is where we find God.

That brings us back to this past weekend in NYC….3 years after we lay prostrate before Our Lord in our wedding…..who would’ve known?

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This past weekend, Cristina and I were invited to speak at the 7th Annual Pro-Life Congress for the Spanish Office of the Archdiocese of NY. This time, we were actually invited to lead workshops, separately, regarding Masculine/Feminine Sexuality and it’s role in rebuilding a pro-life culture. It’s incredible to look back at our lives and think about the gift that is our sexuality. How many problems in our world could be traced back to that: the misuse of the sexual gift? I’d argue the vast majority. On the flip-side, how many victories have been won for God’s Glory because of a healthy and whole understanding of our sexuality? I’d say many more.

Our Corazon Puro friends at the Congress

It was a blessed time, and since the folks that put on the event are old colleagues (at the Archdiocese) and good friends (Catholic Marriage Movement from the Bronx) of ours, it was like being with family.

As you can imagine, Bella stole the show. I’m pretty sure that more people showed up for her than to participate in our workshops!

That’s all for now…..pray that I can update this more frequently – that really is my goal!

Please pray for this little family,

In Christ and Our Lady,

Andrew, Cristina and Maria Isabella Pocta

…reflections on a video project i’ve been working on

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Ever since Cristina, Bella and I returned from Honduras earlier this month, I’ve been working away on a video that attempts to reflect on the heart of what Missioners of Christ really do in Honduras. But, as I started creating it and reflecting on the life and teachings of Saint John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis, I realized that the more specific I got with things, the less I could explain it with words. It all comes down to love. Everything always has and always will. Thank you, Pope Francis for making me uncomfortably remember this.

What I mean by that is that we, as a society (all of us – subconsciously or not), have a hard time grasping things that aren’t results-based or empirically measured. It’s flat out how we’ve been bred in the 1st world….and through globalization, it’s spread everywhere. We simply struggle with the concept that Mother Teresa attempted to teach us, that “We are not called to be successful. We are called to be faithful.”

It’s tough. It’s not fun, exciting or compelling to truck along and remain faithful when all of the novelty has begun to disappear. In fact, in my reflecting, I’d venture to say that this is one of the great problems of the current and past few generations (all over the world) and it is seen in religion – we just don’t stick with things anymore. Even less do with stick with things when they aren’t fun/exciting/affirming/fulfilling anymore. This will be one of the greatest crosses that post-modern man will have to overcome to remain free, to remain alive.

Case in point – one of the most significant struggles for the average participant on one of our 1-2 week long missions in Honduras, is that we don’t build or repair structures (churches or schools) or focus on any relief work (food relief programs, shelters, orphanages, etc). I can’t even count how many conversations I’ve had with someone who struggled with the idea that we spend a week in a remote mountain village in Honduras, visiting house-to-house, praying and living with the people in the given town. “But what about some sort of project that we can leave behind? What will the people have to remember us and to remember this trip?” There is a difficulty in not seeing any results or seeing the fruit of our labor. We’ve been trained to think that unless we can bring back pictures and videos of our labor, our work is uneventful.

This is simply not true.

Don’t get me wrong, those things are all good, beautiful and necessary. Christ has called us to provide these things and to be generous with our talents and treasures…..to the point that it hurts us.

But as Missioners of Christ in Honduras, we have simply not been called to that sort of ministry as part of our permanent presence in Comayagua. Although it happens, from time to time, just by nature of being someone’s permanent neighbor. I can remember when a hurricane hit the country and flooded a number of homes in our neighborhood – we stopped working on retreat preparations and we had to literally carry people to safety. This is part of life, even here in the US. But our ministry was not focused on that.

As Missioners of Christ, we’ve been called to simply love. To love til it hurts. To love even unto death. This means truly living  amongst the people of Honduras. This means being a fellow parishioner at our local church…..it means being a neighbor when the roof collapses or when a family member dies. It means playing soccer with friends after a day of school or even attending their 16th birthday party. It means eating in another’s home, even if there house doesn’t meet our sanitation standards. It also means embracing one another when cultures collide, or when a young father of 4 loses his job. The list goes on….as it should, but our call has been clear (although the practicals are FAR from clear) : LOVE.

Please, check out the rough draft of the video:

Return from Honduras

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Thank you all for your prayers! We just returned from our visit to Honduras….and wow, it was amazing!

Please see some of the pictures we took:

Our Godson, Juan Pablo, and his family, on the day of his baptism

Mario, Dina and little Juan Pablo, on the day of his baptism

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Juan Pablo on his way to the baptismal font!

Mom, dad and Godparents praying over Juan Pablo

Bella, enjoying her bath!

Bella’s cilantro-tiara

Bella and her Godmother with her new friend, Emily

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Cristina and Emily, a young girl with Spina Bifida in Honduras

Cristina sharing with the mom’s group in Honduras

Dina with Juan Pablo, our Godson

 

Bella, exploring Casa Guadalupe

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For 4 days during our visit, I helped out on a mountain mission to a village that had yet to host missionaries. It was so high in the mountains and so cold, that the villagers wore up to 2 coats at a time!

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Our mission team

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Teammate Katie, contemplating God’s creation

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Teammate Katie with one of the joyful families from the village

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It seemed like every house was 30-45 minutes away from the next….

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Another view from the top

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A long-term Missioner, Vilma, sharing her testimony

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Katie and Ashley teaching Gladys (one of the villagers) how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

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The kids were so excited to come to our kids’ program each day!

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…but when they would arrive, they would try to act cool, like it was no big deal.

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Justin, a long term Missioner, would lead us in music

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The kids loved singing

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…and praying

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…and climbing trees

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Some of our friends on the mission

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The woman on the left had been through much suffering….but had an immense joy in her heart

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Tanya, one of the little girls from the village, making a commitment to follow Christ

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All of the kids from our program

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Katy, one of the little girls from the village, with teammate Ashley

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a big smile

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making funny faces

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the boys trying to act cool

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We took out a bottle of bubbles….which one of the older kids told me they had never seen before

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the kids chasing after the bubbles

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on our last night there, we had a MASSIVE (dangerously?) bonfire with the entire village

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Ashley loved brushing her teeth without running water

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On one of our last days in Honduras, we brought Bella to the Missionaries of Charity house….where the take care of the sick and dying, as well as orphans and children born with aids

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She loved the kids

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I think Bella thought that this sister was Mother Teresa….

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her only frame of reference is the image of Mother Teresa in our house

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Bella loved the food in Honduras

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Me with our Godson, Juan Pablo

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We let Bella take a SHORT spin on the back of the truck….

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She loved hanging out with the Friars

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Don’t know why she’s got her hand like that….

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Brother Gabriel scared her…..maybe it was his height…(he’s very TALL)

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The Poor Clares got special permission during lent to come out and see Bella in person….as they had been praying for her while she was still in the womb

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They might be cloistered….but they are SO JOYFUL!

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Bella with her Tia Diana and Tio Roger

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Bella hanging out with our compadres’ family

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Our compadre, Mario (Juan Pablo’s father) getting us some fresh coconuts from their front yard

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Our compadres’ grandmother (who is going to be 90 this year!) enjoying some coconut water

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Bella with her prima, Ana Cecilia

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Bella wanted a kiss….

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Looking ahead in awe

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Our Christmas picture:

Christmas 2014

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There’s not much to say in this post. We have spending a lot of time in awe of our daughter and the Grace and Strength that Our Lord has given her…..especially in the last 2-3 weeks.

For a while we were worried that Maria Isabella was a little too attached or dependent on mommy and daddy, (we’re definitely happy about her having an attachment to us, her parents, but feared that her needing to be carried around would cause additional dependency) but have seen her break out of her shell in the past few weeks.

We sat talking on the couch one afternoon last week and it hit us. During a quiet moment in the conversation, we heard…..silence. Cristina anxiously looked around and our little ‘bug’ (as we affectionately refer to her – a term coined by her cousin Daniel, who couldn’t pronounce Isabella or Bella) was nowhere to be found! She had traveled off in her wheelchair, in to the bathroom to find her toothbrush!

This was the moment we had dreamed about (and I’ll admit, cried many nights about)……something we looked around and saw in our other friends with children her age…..exploring the world around them, playing with toys and examining the furniture/toys/decorations/etc. while their parents talked to other parents like us. For so many weeks/months, Bella was unable to do any of that……but now that is all slowly changing.

There is much work to do….and Maria Isabella’s toddler-potential has yet to be seen…..so we continue praying and working and pushing her!

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Celebrating 10 Years in Comayagua, Honduras

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As Cristina and I have shared in the past, we owe a great deal of our lives and faith (not to mention having met each other!) to the time we spent serving as long-term missionaries in Comayagua, Honduras with our community, Missioners of Christ.

Missioners of Christ is a Catholic Christian Community centered in prayer and united by a Covenant that evangelizes, disciples, and sends forth youth and young adults on domestic and foreign missions to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ.

This video, although a little dated, is by far, the best short-explanation of what we do in Honduras:

As Missioners of Christ, our community provides ministry opportunities in the US from youth retreats to Catholic Underground events to intercessory prayer groups among our commited members. But, the greatest expression of this covenant is our John Paul II Center for Evangelization in Comayagua, Honduras, which houses roughly 20 long-term missionaries (both Honduran and non-Honduran) who volunteer for 2+ years at a time.

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Cathedral of Comayagua (Original Capital of Honduras)

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John Paul II Center of Evangelization

By the Grace of God and under the permission of the local Bishop of Comayagua (and the support and guidance of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, CFR) we are blessed to live-out a intense life of prayer and ministry, including a rigorous prayer life of daily Mass and Eucharist Adoration within our Two-Hearts Chapel.

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Two Hearts Chapel

Our Servant Leader in Honduras - Carol Restaine

Our Servant Leader in Honduras – Carol Restaine

We frequently collaborate with the Missionaries of Charity, who happen to also live in our neighborhood in Comayagua

We frequently collaborate with the Missionaries of Charity, who happen to also live in our neighborhood in Comayagua

We also frequently collaborate with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal CFR, who happen to live next door!

We also frequently collaborate with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal CFR, who happen to live next door!

Among many many ministries (from feeding the poor, hosting various American medical brigades alongside the CFRs, gang-ministry, prison-ministry, youth ministry, scholarship and financial sponsorship, etc.) that our long-term volunteers are blessed to live-out, the Lord has slowly led us to a focus on pure evangelization. While we live and work with our neighbors in our neighborhood on the outskirts of Comayagua (a growing agricultural city infused with a metro feel) we are very committed to serving the priests of the mountain parishes or “aldeas” where the villages are so many and so spread apart that they are only able to be visited by clergy once a year or two. As you’ve heard, Latin America is still deeply rooted in Catholic culture….it’s the Catholic Faith that has been rocky. Various factors have caused a giant gap between formed Catholics and cultural (sometimes innocently superstitious) catholics…..which has only enabled the somewhat convenient mass-conversion of Latinos to different faith traditions and churches, especially those brought down through the thousands of American missions that go down each year, with good intention, to help the poor and bring many to Christ (even though they were already with Him, they just need some formation, encouragement and resource! Sigh….)

Towns and streets are named after Saints and feast days……children are named after the Holy Family and little girls carry the name of Our Lady in her various apparitions, namely “Fatima”, “Lourdes” and “Guadalupe”. I’d have to say, the most bizarre encounter was during a house-to-house visit to a newly converted protestant family in which the mother, named Fatima, tried to convince me that Our Lady was “no good” and that it was a waste of time to even think of her. Sadly, this is motivation for us who have been blessed with so much, to go and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) …. for to those who have been given much (US!) much will be required. (Luke 12:48)

Here’s an example of just how important Catholic Feast days are to Hondurans: (Yes, that is a wooden box with a bull-skull strapped to the front of it….and those are REAL roman candle fireworks strapped to the side. And yes, those Roman Candles are pointed towards the crowd!)

As I mentioned above, the communities are humble and prayerful but lacking in formation and the tools to defend their faith. Add in to the equation a healthy amount of folks that can’t read or write and you can only imagine what might happen if a foreigner from another church arrives with a different message…..claiming that the only way to salvation is through reading “the Word”. I’m not bashing or criticizing the attempt to spread the Word of God….that would be ridiculous. But, the memory of an elderly mountain villager in Honduras telling me –

“Andrew, my whole family has left the Catholic Church for another church down the road that was built by very loving missionaries….but now my son tells me that unless I learn to read and learn the Word of God in the Bible, I will not be with Jesus and go to heaven. I’ve gone to mass my whole life and I pray the Rosary and receive Jesus in His Body and Blood….but I’ve never gone to a day of school in my life and I can’t read or write. How will I get to heaven?” 

Now, that is an extreme example….and I can’t say honestly that in the last 8 years of serving on-and-off in Honduras that I’ve encountered that situation again….and I realize that the protestant missionaries didn’t teach them that perverted theology…..but the point is that through good intentions, there has grown a mass confusion about how to love God and even more profoundly, how to worship Him. So, as you can see, it impacted me….and through this man’s (and the vast majority of the Hondurans) simple approach to prayer and Christ Himself, my love for the Sacraments grew ten-fold. Which is why this mission is ESSENTIAL….to bring priests – to bring the Sacraments – to those who are without.

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A typical house in the mountains of Honduras

Fr. Ken with 3 generations, Daughter, Mother, Grandmother!

Fr. Ken with 3 generations, Daughter, Mother, Grandmother! They lived in one of the most remote villages we have ever visited….and said that it was the first time they had ever seen “white Catholic missionaries” They fed us the little and last of what they had….as if we were kings.

I could spend hours upon hours explaining what God has asked us to do in Honduras…..but you truly have to see it to believe it. We’ve learned that it’s really ALL about the relationships….that we can’t arrive to Honduras as “intelligent” and “well-formed” foreigners ready to “make a change” or “do good for the poor”…..but rather do as Mother Teresa felt called to do in Calcutta – to live and pray as the people did, walking together as brothers and sisters.

This is exactly what we aim to do (although we fail, often) – to raise up leaders in Honduras. The funny thing is that while we spend all of our energy in forming, “discipling” and evangelizing in Honduras, we always end up receiving and learning MUCH more from them than what we give them. This is the beauty and blessing that is, what us Missioners of Christ call, “The Mission”. Coming face to face with Christ Himself and learning to love Him while He strips away our selfish, materialistic, superficial “1st-world” selves so that we can allow Him to love us.

One of the remote villages in the mountains where a priest is only able to visit once a year

One of the remote villages in the mountains where a priest is only able to visit once a year

Hiking from house to house in the mountains of Honduras

Hiking from house to house in the mountains of Honduras

Currently, I’m blessed to serve as the Coordinator for all of our Missioners of Christ adult missions to Honduras throughout the year. Currently, we are preparing to send down a group of 25 adults on December 27th for a 10-day evangelization mission in the mountains.

Our preparation incorporates an intense 7-week formation program based on “Redemptoris Missio” or “MIssion of the Redeemer” by the late Pope John Paul II as well as various cultural and logistical lessons that we’ve learned in the over 10 years that we’ve lived in Comayagua.

Please contact me at Andrew.Pocta@missioners.org if you are interested in knowing more about our missions throughout the year, or if you’d like to just know more about our community and how you could get involved by sponsoring one of the many children in our neighborhood in Honduras.

Check out a video we put together in celebration of 10 years of having lived in our neighborhood. You’ll see clips of each “class” of long-term missionaries that lived and worked with us throughout the years:

All Saints

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I’ve decided that since a whole year has passed….it’s time to get things back together for this blog!

What a year….since last October…..what a year! For those of you who have been following – it’s been quite the eventful 12 months! Last we checked in, we were making the move from New York City (then NJ/PA for a few months) down to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Due to financial difficulties after the In-Utero surgery that Cristina and Maria Isabella underwent for Spina Bifida repair, followed by Maria Isabella’s “2nd birth” via C-Section……we decided it was best to spend a year living with my parents, in a small room over-the-garage. Heck of a way to spend the 1st year of marriage! Don’t get me wrong….we were/are grateful for the opportunity….but it’s worth adding that God truly has a sense of humor. Sometimes Cristina and I jokingly regret doing this during our wedding mass!

Still, there is so much to tell since we’ve been in Virginia Beach…..from multiple ER visits, brace fittings, Spina-Bifida clinics, a birthday party (interrupted by an ER visit in the middle of the cake-cutting!) to wheel-chair fittings and even us purchasing a house!

Throughout all of it, however, God’s presence and Grace have guided us. That, is for sure. Even in our darkest moments, when we’ve been unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel…..He has been there….and He has sent us the right people and opened all of the doors for us to go through. (and closed the doors that would have sent us on the wrong path)

Please see our pictures below!

We continue to beg for your prayers and now that things seemed to have settled down (and us settled in to our new home!) to update our blog more often!

May God bless you and may Our Lady continue to intercede for you!

In Christ,

Andrew, Cristina and Maria Isabella Pocta

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With our realtor, Bob Smith, closing on our new home!

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A 1 year reunion of our Ronald McDonald House roommates – all mothers and children who underwent In-Utero surgery for Spina Bifida Repair at CHOP!

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Our little munchkin…..mooching off of mommy’s dinner! Who said babies don’t know how to manipulate?!

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Trying on Aunt Carol’s glasses!

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Did we mention that Mother Teresa is CONSTANTLY following us around?!

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Mother’s group celebrating All Saint’s Day!