Do you feel distant from God? Do you want a closer relationship with him? God is with us always, sometimes in ways we don't even realize. Deacon Steve Lumbert and his daughter Karina Fabian share their stories of how God led them from casual belief to deep devotion, and offer tips and exercises to help you see God's hand--and take it.
Far too often, we expect God to show Himself in grand ways yet ignore when He makes His presence known in the day to day. Neither Deacon Steve nor Karina had dramatic conversions. Rather, God led them into deeper faith through the seemingly minor details of life: pot of rice, a habit of prayer, a frustrating flight home, or a barefooted stranger. This father-daughter team have written a delightful, quick book about finding God in the day-to-day. With thought-provoking quotes, heartwarming stories, Bible verses, passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and simple exercises the reader can fit into his or her daily routine, they help others recognize God's presence. Great for the casual or converting Catholic longing for something more in their relationship with God, or the "advanced" Catholic wanting light spiritual exercise.
The Reluctant Convert
Our modern era has it only half right. We rightly affirm that religion is a personal thing, but this does not mean that it’s not a public thing.
–Curtis A. Martin, president of Catholics United for the Faith, Inc.
When my future wife invited me to join her for Mass, I warned her I wasn’t Catholic. In fact, I wasn’t much of anything. I’d bought into the idea that I didn’t need the hang-ups of an organized religion. However, the beauty of the Mass struck me and started me on a decades-long journey toward the Catholic faith.
I know Socorro longed for me to convert, but she never pushed me. I’d agreed to raise our children Catholic, but personally, I felt it didn’t matter what church we attended, as long as we believed in God. My spiritual growth was slow and full of right turns. As she patiently prayed for my conversion, I considered other faiths. A Mormon friend tried to convert me, but the Book of Mormon did not resonate in me the way the Catholic Mass did. There, I realized my heart’s hunger for God was being satisfied. Nonetheless, I still refused to commit.
Then, my little brother died of a heart attack the day before his fortieth birthday. I’d already buried my father and my two older brothers, but this death hit me harder. I was going to be forty-two soon—what was the state of my soul? My hunger became pain, and I realized that the “hang-ups” of faith were not barriers, but supports. I needed that support. I needed to belong.
To Socorro’s joy and answered prayers, I began attending RCIA. On Easter vigil, 1988, she stood by me with tears in her eyes as I professed my faith and was welcomed into the Catholic Church. Now, I, too, was part of the beauty of the Mass.
It’s not enough to observe our faith. God must be an active part of our lives. When we practice our faith and persevere in prayer, he will respond and fill our hearts.
Love in a Pot of Rice
You know well enough that our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them
–St. Therese of Lisieux
One meal that always connects me to my heritage is arroz con pollo—chicken and rice. For me, this meal doesn’t so much represent an ethnic identity, it symbolizes the love and generosity of my family.
My mother is the seventh child of ten, born to a very poor family in Puerto Rico. They bought shoes only for the winter, shared two toys at Christmas (a game and a ball), and meat for dinner was a rare treat. Yet my grandfather, a schoolteacher, regularly brought home the students who lived too far away to walk home from school during the week, and they shared the family meal. My grandmother would say, “If I can feed ten, I can feed twelve.” When I cook arroz con pollo, I imagine her adding a cup of rice to stretch their meal, giving of their need rather than their wealth.
Many of my grandparents’ children escaped poverty, becoming doctors and social workers, businesspeople and spouses. However, they never lost their legacy of charity. When one is in need, the others are there. I remember when a hurricane took the roof off my grandparent’s house, where several grown children still lived. In Colorado, my mother combed the garage sales for linens and clothes to replace those ruined by the storm, and all contributed what funds they could to repair the roof. Years later, my grandmother died in that home, cared for by her children and grandchildren.
My own parents carried on that legacy, which, like my grandparents’, spread beyond family. Our friends were welcome in our homes, sometimes more than in their own homes. My parents called them their “love daughters” and supported them in their extra-curriculars, and on occasion, took them into our home. Several still call them “Mom and Dad.” When we did not have treasure, my parents gave of their time and talent. My dad made costumes for the school play; my mother was always crafting for someone. Mostly, though, they gave of their love.
When I’d given birth to my daughter, my mom came to visit for several weeks, and she met a pregnant friend who said she had only one craving: arroz con pollo. The next time we saw her, Mom had it ready.
As a mother myself, I must now carry on this legacy by setting an example for my children. Far wealthier than my parents or grandparents ever were, we do our best to give to the Church and to charities—and we involve our children in that. We also do our best to be available to their friends as well as to them. This year, I pack an extra lunch each day for Amber’s best friend. It’s a little thing, yet it connects me to my grandmother somehow.
Last night, I made arroz con pollo. It’s a different recipe, because I’m not the cook my mother is, yet it brought me back to my past, and my mother’s past, and to roots deeply embedded in charitable love.