Among the stray cats in the old neighborhood, a black cat made my block its territory. A few times, I spotted it in the backyard. My sister Liza recounted this story: Once, our dog Teddy had found the cat under my mom’s car. The cat made a short, quick move forward. Teddy ran away. Great, my family has a fraidy dog. Ted could destroy mail, but he couldn’t scare a cat.
Inside, the perennial fight against bugs continue. This year, a mouse has also taken up residence. I saw it a few times, but I wasn’t fast enough to kill it. Teddy couldn’t chase it down. My family put out traps, but the mouse avoided them.
Did the cat arrive because it knew we had a mouse inside? Or did the mouse run inside because it knew there was a cat outside?
The misadventures with the cat and mouse symbolized my summer vacation.
Sometimes, I was the cat struggling to tackle elusive tasks.
When my father moved out of the house a few years back, he left some of his stuff behind. Some relatives came and pack four boxes of stuff for the Philippines. But plenty still remained. My sister Liza asked me to persuade Dad to retrieve his stuff. I called him once and other times left a voice message. He said a few times he would come on a certain day but didn’t. My frustration mounted when I received some instructions that I should’ve received sooner: Dad must get his stuff by a certain date and someone must be with him when he comes.
Fed up, I prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Eventually, Dad came. I helped packed some clothes and other items. We had lunch at Red Lobster. I accompanied him to rent a storage unit near his place. The deadline came and went. When Dad learned that the junkers hadn’t come yet, he asked me to stow away a few more things for pickup. OK, fine. I packed those things away.
Other times, I was the mouse trying to avoid things and forces bigger than me.
A long, stressful spring semester had left me wanting to kick back and relax. I had served at Masses for two consecutive weeks before coming to New York. Wouldn’t it be nice to serve only on Sunday Masses and sit with the congregation on weekday Masses? But God had other ideas.
Halfway through my vacation, the parochial vicar, Father Jean, learned from my mother that I the seminarian was her son. After ribbing at me for not revealing that fact, he offered to allow me to serve at his weekday Masses. I was reluctant. But my mother stressed my availability to volunteer as a server or a lector. Since then, I had to jump in as lector in a few weekday Masses.
Father Jean was generous in how I could serve. I helped by setting up the altar, ringing the bells during the epiclesis and consecration, retrieving the Eucharist from the tabernacle, distributing the Precious Blood, and purifying the vessels. He remembered a priest in Haiti allowing him to put into practice what he learned in the seminary.
I learned my lesson: To break out of this cat-and-mouse game, I had turned these things over to Virgin Mary. “Aren’t you consecrated to me? Didn’t you give me everything?” she reminded me during a meditation. She can rely on her Son to resolve all matters. When I did surrender my problems to Jesus through Mary, they disappeared.
Once, my mother had some difficulty getting into the car before I drove her to a destination. Finally settled in, she turned to me and said, “You must be patience with this old woman.”
Sometimes, I marvel at the infinite patience of God, who waits, guides and helps us where we’re at. I have been putting too much pressure on myself. Things were out of my control. But they are in someone else’s control — God’s. What made me think that I could do all this by myself? Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.