Tag Archives: Catholicism

On Pope Francis and Mother Teresa….

Standard

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.

mother t 1

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”

pope francis 1

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?

The Latest Happenings….

Standard

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.

Daddy and Bella reading

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.

God speaks to us in the ordinary

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.

bella birthday 2

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:

 bella birthday

…gone to Princess Parties:

bella princess

…enjoyed the beach:

“I got and in my baysoo”

bella beach bandw1 bella and daniel1 bella and grace1 bella and daddy 1

….visited old stomping-grounds:

Family selfie in Philadelphia

…..had a day at the zoo:

bella zoo 1 bella waterfall zoo bella giraffe 1

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

why so serious?

….got first Dominican-salon haircuts:

bella haircut

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

…hung out with cousins:

IMG_0383

…but most of the time, goofed-off:

FullSizeRender

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?

Congreso Foto

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

Return from Honduras

Standard

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

MOC-A+C-055

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

MOC-A+C-010

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

IMG_0816

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!

IMG_0815

Our mission team

IMG_0814

Teammate Katie, contemplating God’s creation

IMG_0813

Teammate Katie with one of the joyful families from the village

IMG_0812

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

IMG_0811

Another view from the top

IMG_0810

A long-term Missioner, Vilma, sharing her testimony

IMG_0809

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

IMG_0808

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

IMG_0807

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

IMG_0805

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

IMG_0804

The kids loved singing

IMG_0803

…and praying

IMG_0802

…and climbing trees

IMG_0801

IMG_0800

IMG_0799

Some of our friends on the mission

IMG_0798

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

IMG_0797

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

IMG_0796

All of the kids from our program

IMG_0795

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

IMG_0794

a big smile

IMG_0793

making funny faces

IMG_0792

the boys trying to act cool

IMG_0791

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

IMG_0790

the kids chasing after the bubbles

IMG_0789

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

IMG_0788

IMG_0787

Ashley loved brushing her teeth without running water

IMG_0773

IMG_0772

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

IMG_0771

She loved the kids

IMG_0770

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

IMG_0769

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

IMG_0768

Bella loved the food in Honduras

IMG_0767

Me with our Godson, Juan Pablo

IMG_0766

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

IMG_0765

She loved hanging out with the Friars

IMG_0764

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

IMG_0763

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

IMG_0762

IMG_0761

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

IMG_0760

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

IMG_0759

Bella with her Tia Diana and Tio Roger

IMG_0758

Bella hanging out with our compadres’ family

IMG_0756

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

IMG_0755

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

IMG_0754

Bella with her prima, Ana Cecilia

IMG_0753

Bella wanted a kiss….

IMG_0752

More Missions in Honduras!

Standard

As the coordinator for all Young Adult missions to Honduras with the Missioners of Christ (www.missioners.org), I am blessed to be a part of such an amazing ministry that continues the transform the lives of thousands (yes, THOUSANDS!) of people from all over the world! God is good!

I wanted to take the time to pass along this blog post from a fellow Missioner, Nick Higgins, who was the lead facilitator of our New Year’s mission trip that took place from December 27th to January 5th. He has some pretty profound insight in to “the mission” and how we are called to respond! Check it out:

http://toloveandserve.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/the-sick-the-poor-and-the-blessed-winter-mission-team-arrives/

That post was about the specific mission, but check out his other posts to read more about what we do/live in Honduras and how we are called to transform (and be transformed) through serving the poorest of the poor.

Here are some pictures from their mission:

Image

This is how our teams live in the mountain village

This is how our teams eat in the mountain villages

This is a typical meal our teams eat in the mountain villages – tortillas, beans, eggs and cheese

 

This is how our teams travel in the mountain villages!

This is often how our teams travel in the mountain villages!

 

These are the relationships our teams build in the mountain villages

These are the relationships we build in the mountain villages

After years of “doing” these missions (and years of learning from our achievements AND mistakes…..and many times, the hard way!) we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about LOVE. We aren’t in Honduras to “fix” anyone or anything. We are in Honduras to LOVE and SERVE….and to let God do the rest. Our focus is on the relationships we build as we live, side-by-side, with the people of Honduras. Now, with living together comes all of the joys and sufferings that us humans carry – cultural differences, language barriers, subtle differences in the way we pray and worship, organization (and DISorganizational) issues, etc etc etc.

But, God continues transforming the lives of all those involved……and so, we continue. We try each day to remain faithful in this call to love and serve, while enjoying it along the way!

Contact me if you are interested in participating on any of our missions to Honduras at Andrew.Pocta@missioners.org

The following dates are set for 2014:

Trip

Spring Break I

Spring Break II

Come & See

Summer I

Summer II

Winter

Dates

March 8 – 15

March 22 – 29

April 21 – 26

June 12 – 23

July 3 – 14

December 30 – January 8

God bless you!

Celebrating 10 Years in Comayagua, Honduras

Standard

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.

Image

Cathedral of Comayagua (Original Capital of Honduras)

Image

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.

Image

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.

Image

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:

Some help for our friends!

Standard

Anyone who knows us knows that we’ve been open to the idea of adoption for a long time now. It’s a beautiful gift to both the family and the child being adopted. It seems that now more than ever, in 2012, it is very timely to bring up this great gift.

Some of our close friends (check out their blog here) down here in Virginia Beach have been discerning the call to adopt for a long time now. After much discernment and even some heartbreaking experiences….they are now set to adopt!

But, there’s one thing.  Yep…you guessed it. Fundraising.

Just another sign of the anti-life culture that the enemy is trying to cultivate here – make it almost impossible for a holy, loving and joyful couple to adopt because of money.

But they’re not gonna let money – this invention of man – stop them from God’s Will!

So here’s why we’re writing this.

They need to fund raise – and fund raise ALOT.

How’s about a-20,0000-lot. Yep, you heard that right. 20,000 for them to proceed and we’re gonna help them.

Now, I know that we’re not gonna be able to raise everything with this blog post, but it’s a start….and I would ask your help, too. Please go to their site and click the DONATE button….and consider giving whatever you can! Trust me, it’s safe.

Also – PLEASE share this post, share the link to their blog and share their story!

Christ created us for community…..and how else can we live in community here in the USA? Sharing of our time and talent. In this case – our financial gifts.

Imagine if we got 200 people to each give 10 dollars? that’d be a BIG start!

Also, and this is even more important than those few dollars, PLEASE PRAY FOR THEM! Pray for Matt and Kim as they prepare for their baby, and pray for the mother as she carries this beautiful child!

And please, don’t hesitate to send them a message or two….you can bet that the discouragement will come (it’s natural) and they’re gonna need all the support and prayers that they can get!

We promise to keep you posted as things develop…and we will alert you of any fundraisers that Matt and Kim put on here in Virginia Beach!

God bless you!

Andrew, Cristina and Maria Isabella

Wedding Pictures

Standard

Please check out our wedding pictures

Wedding Pictures Oct 8 2011

What a blessing this day was…..what a grace-filled experience.

Thank you to you all of those who were present and for those who weren’t able but were praying with and for us!

God bless you!

Andrew and Cristina (and Baby!)