*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, 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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*FAITH, *MARRIAGE, Down Memory Lane, Relationships

MIKAtolika: What’s in a Name?

Let me start by saying that this blog (which I started a little over a decade ago) isn’t new when it comes to “change.” It has experienced several theme changes, rebranding, etc. in the past years. But what makes this “new” different from past changes is that personally, I also experienced a major change in my life.

A new chapter. A transition. A change in life season — I GOT MARRIED! 😉

Photo by Creative Juices Photography

And with it comes a mix of different preferences and priorities compared to when I was still single — including the topics I want to write about. A few months into my engagement, I already thought about the word play for the topic closest to my heart: my (Roman) Catholic faith.
[I’m particular with the “Roman” part because the Catholic Church has other members who belong to other “rites.” The Philippines, though, predominantly practices the “Roman rite” that’s why we’re called “Roman Catholics” — but there are also Byzantine Catholics, Greek Catholics, Maronite Catholics, etc. who are all in communion with Rome — and that’s for another blog post altogether!]

Anyway, I prayed about it and true enough, I was able to incorporate my nickname into it with the help of the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

“Mika” is my nickname and “Katolika” is the Filipino term (I’m from the Philippines!) for “Catholic” —

Hence, MIKAtolika! ❤

YOUR NAME IS PART OF YOUR ANOINTING

I’m maintaining this blog so I can learn more and go deeper when it comes to my own faith. I don’t claim to be an expert nor a perfect person because just like YOU, I’m an unworthy and perfectly imperfect person who is loved by a perfect God! I’m a work in progress. What I do know is I’m a cradle Catholic who used to have weak faith — “weak” in the sense that I didn’t really have a personal relationship with Jesus back then. It was only a few years back when I was “re-converted” to the true essence of my Catholic faith (thanks to my different Catholic charismatic communities — more about them in another post, too!), and I will be honest with you, it has been a daily (spiritual) battle ever since.

Even as of this writing.

But I’m always grateful for the Lord’s grace and mercy that empower me every. single. day. Part of that is His daily reminders of what my life’s mission really is, which is already present in my given names.

In one of the Jesuit-inspired silent retreats I attended, there was one passage we were required to read and I’m convinced that God revealed to me who I am through my name because my fellow retreatants read the same passage but received different messages. The passage I’m talking about is entitled “Recover the Stars” by Fr. Jojo Magadia, SJ.

There’s a line in that passage that talked about the “tiller of the soil.” Fr. Magadia wrote that tillers of the soil learn to wait on nature, which teaches them that her cycles cannot be hurried, that she ripens the harvest in her own good time, if she decides to ripen it at all. The tiller still tills the soil, nevertheless, but with “great patience and great placidity,” willing “to watch the grinding mills of God.” They have this almost “blind belief” that in the end, nature, “lush, inscrutable, irresistible—shall work her will in the end,” guided by a God who ceaselessly labors in creation.

Tillers of the soil also labor tirelessly, who plant and water and weed, but in the end can only wait on God who alone can bring new life from the earth and make it bear fruit.

Since that retreat was Jesuit-inspired, I was also made aware of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercises and prayers, such as the Suscipe. I’ve always known that my first name, “Mikhaela,” is the female counterpart of the Archangel Michael’s name, which means “who is like God. On the other hand, I researched my second name, “Georgette,” before and I’ve always known it means “farmer. But when I Googled it again on the same day I read the passage, I was blown away to read its other meaning: “tiller of the soil. When I found that Google search, I couldn’t help but receive God’s meaning for my life through my two combined names, “Mikhaela Georgette.” I realized that I’m a “farmer” or “tiller of the soil” “who is like God” (as in holy or made in His image). Add to that the season I was in then, and having complete trust or surrender to God (the meaning of Suscipe) made perfect sense to me.

It’s like the nature in the passage means God in my life, the cycles as my seasons (pruning, waiting, etc.)—and I’m a tiller who surrenders all to Him!

Except surrendering to God isn’t easy. You and I know that.

And surrendering to God? That’s a whole new and wide topic to write about.

Well, I’m starting with THIS. 🙂

❤ ❤ ❤

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!


Do you know your name’s meaning?
What’s your reaction to God’s call for your life through your name?

P.S.: “Mika” means “beautiful fragrance”
when used on its own. Mine’s just a nickname,
but it’s still wonderful to know the meaning behind it.

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