*FAITH, Down Memory Lane, The World (TRAVEL)

San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy: St. Padre Pio’s Sanctuary

September 23 is the day the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. It was also on this day in 1968 when he joined our Creator and became a more powerful intercessor. 🙂

He’s known more as Padre Pio (and personally, I prefer to call him St. Padre Pio! Hehe!). Two years ago, I had the privilege to visit his resting place in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy (which was four hours away from Rome by land travel – train-walk- and bus), where his incorruptible body also rests.

I wasn’t able to write about that experience in detail (with the exception of my photo blog – check out “Euro Trip 2018 Highlights: Italy and the Vatican”), but for some special reason, I’ve been called this year to finally recall the details.

As you read on my previous blog entry, I’m currently pregnant and I had a hard time during my first trimester due to nausea/vomiting, etc. It was an excruciating and frustrating time; I even lost around 6 lbs. then because I couldn’t eat and drink properly. During one of those days while I was in bed, I scrolled through the photos on my phone. Then, I saw this:

my “prayer letter” to St. Pio in 2018, written while inside his former tomb

I totally forgot about this “prayer letter” I left in San Giovanni Rotondo when I visited St. Pio‘s place! In 2018, two years before I got married and pregnant (my husband Ish and I weren’t even engaged then), I was already claiming and praying for our “future godly family” and my “healthy and safe future pregnancies and child birth” — like woah! It was like the Holy Spirit gave me a wake-up call and reminded me that everything was, is, and will be fine. As St. Pio used to say, “pray, hope, and don’t worry.” Of course I asked and continues to ask for his intercession, and I’m a witness to how powerful his prayers are.

In James 5:16, it is said, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” Read the last line again, and I can say it very much applies to St. Pio! No wonder he’s a favorite among fellow Catholics! 😉

If you happen to be in Italy, I highly suggest you also pay his place a visit. Here’s how to get there:

“Approximate price” is in Philippine pesos (PHP)

  1. From Rome, go to the Roma Termini train station.
  2. Buy a train ticket going to Foggia (this will be a 3-hour train ride).
  3. Once in Foggia, travel by foot to the Foggia bus station (this will take around 10 minutes).
  4. Buy a bus ticket going to San Giovanni Rotondo.
  5. When you’re on the San Giovanni Rotondo-bound bus, relax for 30 minutes because in no time, you’ll finally arrive at St. Padre Pio‘s sanctuary!

Upon stepping down the bus, you’ll be welcomed by these awesome sites:

the church-shrine of Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia, Italy

I went with my two ates! And yes, I miss traveling with them!

the church altar where St. Pio said his last Holy Mass

St. Pio’s confessional box, where he usually already knew the confessor’s sins even before they were spoken

As a bonus, there are also two other important relics inside the church-shrine:

relic of St. Teresa of Calcutta inside St. Pio’s church-shrine

relic of St. John Paul the Great inside St. Pio’s church-shrine

As a devout Filipino Roman Catholic, I remember that whenever a Saint’s relic would be toured in the Philippines, people always flock the place where it’s displayed — even queueing for hours! But in St. Pio‘s church-shrine, there were no long lines! The place was really quiet and sacred, that’s why I really suggest that if you’re already in Italy, take the opportunity to travel to San Giovanni Rotondo. Sure, it may take a whole day in your travel itinerary, but I can assure you that it’s definitely worth it!!! 🙂

St. Pio, pray for us!

St. Pio of Pietrelcina, PRAY FOR US!

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

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*FAITH, *MARRIAGE

Expecting

I’ve been M.I.A. on the blog for the past few months because as you read on the title, me and my husband are pregnant! And yes, we’re expecting a baby girl!!! ❤

It’s not exactly a “honeymoon baby.”  But when I took a home pregnancy test two months after our wedding, there they were: the most sought after “two lines” of married couples like us who already want to have a child. I was around 5 weeks then. The following week, I started to experience “morning sickness” (which actually lasted all day long!) until my 19th week!! To be honest, being on lockdown and working from home became a huge blessing in disguise for me because I couldn’t imagine going to the office during my first trimester until the early days of my second trimester. The nausea and vomiting, including some gastrointestinal issues, not to mention my allergic rhinitis that worsened during some of those weeks (I even had a swab test just to be sure! And thank God I was negative for COVID-19, and I claim in Jesus’ name that we’ll forever be negative from that virus!!), were really just excruciating and frustrating. The factors that kept me going were, of course, my faith (knowing that to suffer means to share in Jesus’ suffering, too), my husband’s unconditional love (he had to do everything in our humble abode since I had no energy whatsoever to do any chores! LOL), and the fact that they say “morning sickness” is a sign of a healthy pregnancy with surging hormones and all that.

On my 19th week (the last week of my nausea/vomiting), though, I started to feel my baby move in my tummy and that’s the silver lining of all that I’ve been through in the weeks before that! 😀 The rest of my second trimester is all about tests here and there, including the ultrasound that made us find out the gender. But overall, it’s my favorite so far even though I also started gaining weight already — no biggie since I know it’s what’s best for the baby and I’m trying to gain at a normal rate. I also try to still get some prenatal exercise, mostly low impact cardio which I can comfortably do at home. My favorite so far is “Body Fit by Amy” on YouTube — check out her channel, fellow preggy women! Haha! Just make sure you have your OB-GYN’s go signal, okay? 😉

Now that I’m about to enter my third trimester, of course, the best is yet to come! I’m due in December (yes, a “Christmas” baby!) and I’m really contemplating on requesting to play Jose Mari Chan‘s famous Christmas album while I’m in labor to somehow ease the impending pain! Wahahahaha! Seriously. I’m not joking. 😛 We’ll see, though, because as any woman who has given birth would tell you, no “birth plan” really goes according to, well, the exact plan! That’s why I’m already trying to set my mind to be open as long as me and my baby will be safe and healthy. That’s what matters most, anyway. 🙂

By the way, we decided to name her after the Archangel Raphael even before we found out the gender. These days, his intercession is often asked to help heal the world from this pandemic we’re going through. But to be honest, even before I met my husband, I already decided to name my first baby after St. Raphael because of the big role he played in my life when I was still single (my close ministry friends know this!). Thank God my husband agreed! Hehe!

our baby’s name is Raphaela Faith a.k.a. “Rafa”

And that’s my pregnancy journey so far. My husband and I still have a few months to go before we enter a new season in life: parenthood. We ask that you pray for us, our baby Rafa, and all my fellow pregnant women in the world during these trying times.

I, thank you!!!

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

“Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a real blessing.”
-Psalm 127:3

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*FAITH, *MARRIAGE, Down Memory Lane, Gathered Thoughts, Marked on the Calendar

#MikaIshTheOne: Some Wedding Traditions Done with a Twist!

First off, my heart goes to all those in the middle of wedding preparations during these very trying times. Experiencing a pandemic in this lifetime is really hard. Planning a wedding is stressful enough — then add a pandemic to that equation? I don’t even want to think about it. For some, this may sound trivial, but married couples who went through the same ordeal AND engaged couples going through THIS ordeal would understand. My prayers are with you! May this strengthen your relationship with each other and with God. 🙂

Anyway, it has been almost a quarter since me and my husband got married. Nobody said marriage is easy, but I’m blessed to have a partner in life who makes it easier somehow. (Shout-out to my husband, Ish! I LOVE YOU!). I decided to create this post to also give engaged couples some ideas not just about their upcoming weddings, but also about the more important aspect of their entire preps: marriage.

Those Godless and Silly Myths

I’d like to mention that I don’t believe in superstitions (including feng shui, zodiac signs, etc.). Let me just put this out there. Sure, there was a time when I believed in those and I realized that instead of being progressive, superstitions just instilled fear — I believe it’s aim was to control a person using exactly that: FEAR! And where does “fear” come from? Definitely NOT from God (1 John 4:18). Besides, if you think of it, superstitions make no sense. Most people say that there’s nothing to lose (“wala namang mawawala” in Filipino) when they follow superstitions. But based from personal experience, it shows lack of TRUST — especially, TRUST IN GOD! Yes, I realized that when I believed and followed superstitions, I was subconsciously losing trust in God: trust in His provisions (Matthew 6:25-34), trust in His plans for my life (Jeremiah 29:11), trust in His perfect love (John 3:16). And truth be told, losing trust in God is a BIG DEAL! That’s why I don’t subscribe to superstitions. As a practicing Catholic, I follow traditions approved only by the magisterium of the Catholic Church.

“Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths. Train yourself in godliness.” –1 Timothy 4:7

Our wedding day was one perfect example of how I wanted to glorify and honor God, and I did my best not to restrict myself from that — there are many superstitions connected to weddings, and they are actually limiting and restrictive! To be honest, aside from God, the most important ones for a wedding to take place are only the bride, the groom, the priest presider (for a Catholic wedding), and the two witnesses. Others are just extra. But since God has been really faithful in our lives, Ish and I made sure that the “celebration” of our union would be some sort of thanksgiving to Him and to the people who’ve been part of our individual lives and journey as a couple. From my bridal march song (“Thank You Jesus” by Hillsong Worship – instrumental version) to our wedding reception, we made sure that our guests knew how Jesus played a very big role in our relationship.

What else? Well, we added a twist to some of the known wedding traditions! 😀

Some Wedding Traditions Done with a Twist

  • Additional bearer for our Papal Blessing (instead of just the usual: Bible, Coin, and Ring bearers)

Usually, a wedding entourage has only three bearers for the Bible, arrhae/coins, and wedding rings. Since we had an intimate wedding with an equally intimate entourage (mostly family members), we decided to also include the Papal Blessing parchment we received from the Vatican. By donating to the Papal Charities Office, you can receive an official blessing from the Pope across the miles. More information can be found here.

  • Bible verse engraving in our wedding rings (instead of wedding date)

Aside from engraving our names inside our rings, we decided to also include a Bible verse — Romans 1:12.

“…or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” –Romans 1:12

Ish and I decided to make this our “marriage verse” — so that anytime, especially in difficult times, we can be reminded that we couldn’t do this whole marriage thing without Christ at the center of it.

  • Coins from travels in our arrhae (instead of the usual modern arrhae coins)

When I was searching for wedding suppliers, I came upon a store that was selling 13 arrhae coins with engraved symbols for almost Php2,000. I was like, NO! That was too expensive! So I researched the history of the arrhae and found out that originally, real coins were used for it — and since I love traveling and collected coins while at it, I decided to use my leftover coins. What’s important is the priest’s blessing, anyway.

According to Wikipedia (haha), “the thirteen coins today have the alternative meaning of Jesus and the twelve apostles. The exchange of the coins represents the groom’s promise to provide for his family and the bride’s trust in his ability to do so.”

At present, the arrhae with coins is located at our home altar (as well as our Papal Blessing).

  • Washing of the feet by the groom (instead of the garter toss)

Holy Week just passed; the tradition of washing one’s feet is traditionally done on Good Friday to commemorate Christ’s humble act of “servant leadership” to His apostles. Ish and I decided to do this at our reception to signify what true love really means — it’s not a feeling, it’s not just a decision, but it’s about dying to one’s self for the good of the other. Did you get that? Authentic loving means dying — selfless, not selfish.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” –Ephesians 5:25

As for me, well I also have my own commandment to follow as a wife: submit to my husband as I submit to Christ, trusting that he only wants what’s best for me (Ephesians 2:22-24). Will definitely write more about this topic in another post! 😉

  • Flowers for single ladies from the bride (instead of the bouquet toss)

When I was single, one of the awkward things I did when attending weddings was join the bride’s bouquet toss (no choice, they usually call pre-selected names!). I would go in front with other single female participants and would “fight” over the elusive bouquet! Haha!

When it was my turn to be a bride, I decided to give an artificial single-stem rose (bonus souvenir!) with an attached vocation prayer to each of my single ladies so they wouldn’t feel the same way I did when I was still single and in a wedding. I pray that they also heed God’s call in whatever vocation they’re called to. ❤

Don’t get me wrong. I know that each wedding is unique, and there may be times that some couples wouldn’t be able to let go of following certain traditions out of respect for their elders, culture, etc. I’m just sharing what worked for me and my husband. Also, always check your heart for your intent. If you’re doing a tradition with some uncertainty in your heart (meaning, you don’t really know or understand it), you might want to reconsider. But if your heart’s at peace, then that’s a good sign.

What matters most is getting married to the love of your life in front of Love Himself:
Jesus Christ.
(Revelation 19:6-9)

❤ ❤ ❤

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!


What are your favorite wedding traditions?
What are your not-so-favorite wedding traditions?
Do you know why you feel that way toward these traditions?

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