Here, Mario talks about how living in suffering and brokenness is a tool to be closer to the Lord. Offering up our challenges and trusting the Lord will keep us closer to Him. He also discusses how having the right friends is very important in our life, as having a strong group of people in our lives will give us the right guidance, strength and a life closer to Jesus.
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Text: Letting God Make the Most of a Broken Past, Part V
I’m Mario St. Francis, welcome back to our online retreat. Thank you for joining us as we continue. Let us begin in prayer.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord, we all have trials and struggles, and I offer all of the struggles of all of those listening, all of those participating in this retreat, at whatever time and space that they are listening, whatever day, week, month, or year, that You take our crosses, reunite them with Your cross, oh Lord. Help us to carry the burdens. Help make them lighter, but yet give us the grace and the strength to do what it is that You have for us to do. For You know what we’re capable of, and even though that may be beyond what we think we can handle, give us the grace from the Holy Spirit, from the Eucharist, from confession, from the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Give us the advice of good holy men and women here in our journey on this pilgrimage of life. I ask this in the name of You, Oh Lord, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and the Son of God. Amen. Father, Son, the Holy Spirit. Amen. Please listen to us Father
Stay in the Barque
Okay, so I want to get through some of these last parts of our retreat. So, despite feeling crazy and going through that yo-yo experience in our trials and tribulations, I want to encourage you to stay in the barque, in the boat – you know, the barque is B-A-R-Q-U-E, I think that’s how they spell it, the barco in Spanish, right – and the church, with the sacraments and the liturgy, stay within the church. And we have, you know, we see the 3 aspects of the human person being body, mind, and soul. What I use with my retreats and kind of my camp and outings and adventure retreats are a body and soul 180, to transform our lives, to take a 180, to take a shift in body and soul. And in that soul we have the mind as well.
We are called… you know, there is a comedian that says “Here’s your sign.” And he just… it’s kind of popular, people know, like “Here’s your sign.” There’s… if you’ve got a scarlet letter, you’ve got something that, in a sense, you’re embarrassed about it. Whether it’s addictions, whether it’s, you know, canonical changes, you know, you’ve married, separated, annulled, or you haven’t put yourself through the annulment possible process to see if… if you weren’t actually in a marriage. This can be a very difficult and painful trial in life. But whether it’s depression, whether it’s low self-esteem, there is a part of our lives that is, you know, yes we pray, yes we go to confession, the Eucharist is huge, the rosary, adoration is tremendous. But having some good counselling, having some good conversation, some spiritual direction. There are some great resources that can help us in the mind.
You know, there’s something that I really used to freak out about, which if anybody ever mentioned anything about meditation I would flip. If I would hear somebody talking about listening to music, or visualization, I was like “No, no, no, no. It’s all about the prayers and the books and the liturgy.” And then I started to understand how prayer is a visualization in a sense. When… I hope it is, you know. You’re not just saying the words, but in meditations on the rosary, and I’ve shared on some online videos about meditations on the rosary, but we’re meditating in the way of reflecting visually even in our heart and mind about what Jesus went through.
We are All Imperfect
Sometimes we see it through the eyes of Mary, and it allows us to experience and even to feel, both heart, mind, body and soul to kind of align ourselves. To not just do the physical, not just do the verbal but to, you know, you don’t want to say the Hail Mary and be thinking about your exam, or your promotion, or your significant other, but to align your whole person, your wholeness – I like to talk about pursuing holiness, heart, mind, body and soul. But there are areas of our lives to nurture, to help us to deal with living through difficulties, and living in brokenness. “Here’s your sign,” when I talk about the comedian, living out loud imperfectly, to be imperfect, to be okay with that.
We’re all imperfect. You now join the ranks of kind of the sinner, right. The failure, being a statistic, being flawed, broken. These are words that can sound so isolating, and “Oh, I don’t want to be like that.” Hey, trust me, as a model I wanted everything from the outside deep inside to be amazingly perfect, but that’s kind of the contradiction of the cross, is that we’re perfect in our sufferings and with our flaws.
Living in Brokenness and Suffering
Living in brokenness offers us a unique opportunity, the unique experience of union with the suffering Christ. To be misunderstood, to be talked about, to be shunned. He was perfect, yet, in the garden, there was this mysterious weeping that He went through. Now, what happened in Saint Faustina’s diary helps to shed some light on that – again, another talk. But it’s Jesus, in the communicating of His words through Saint Faustyna in Poland, talked about how He was weeping, because He saw people in the future losing their faith basically, people that were very ardent and passionate becoming lukewarm, and that brought intense suffering upon Him. But we go through a suffering not of seeing into the future how people would love us and then leave us, but this is part of union with Christ. And how can we bear it? Mother Teresa says suffering is a sign that you’ve come so close to Him that He can kiss you.
Saint Gemma Galgani says that if you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love. Yes, we’ve got to do our best and let God do the rest. There’s never been a better time to make the most of our life and our past than now, in this retreat. To revamp, to re-amp our efforts into daily mass. It’s praying the rosary, going to mass one day during the week aside from Sunday. Or if you haven’t been getting to Sunday, to go into mass on Sundays. Or if you’ve been going but you’re not paying attention, to pay attention. To show up 5 minutes early, to leave 5 minutes after everyone else has run out the doors. There’s no better time than now.
Winston Churchill says if you are going through hell, keep on going. Keep on running. If you’re going through it, keep on going. You don’t want to stay there and live there. And if you’re living there and if you’re staying there now, if you’re reveling in that bitterness and that frustration, and that anger and that resentment, try to catch yourself and to do more. Now go and surround yourselves.
Pray For Friends
You know, in Sirach 6 it says “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one has found a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are like life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them.” Pray for friends, pray for those that will encourage you. My dad used to say to me “Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres.” – “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
In personal development they say you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. You’ll become like them, that you are the average of their income, of their marital health and success, their, you know, physical fitness, their nutritional health, their corporate success, their mental health, your spiritual health. I’d say the same thing. You are, you know, be mindful about who you’re spending time with. What are you listening to? What’s the music? What are you reading? What are you watching on television? These things go into sort of the blender, and the average of those things are what we’re going to basically put out. What comes in comes out of us.
Other things, from Proverbs: Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with the foolish and you’ll get into trouble. Be careful about the environment you choose, for it will shape you. Be careful of the friends you choose, for you will become like them. You want to surround yourself with people who are hungry for life, who touch your heart and nourish your soul. Yes, there is spiritual work to be done. Amp it up on the sacraments, praying, reading, fasting. But also that, you know, I love quotes of motivation and inspiration, saints’ quotes, catechism quotes, bible quotes, listening to great thinkers. That can help me mentally, but also nurture my soul, and also physically: watching sleep habits, nutritional habits, hydration habits.
Holiness Inside and Out
There is this whole aspect inside and out, it’s the whole person. Holiness involves both inner work, but we can’t do everything, you know, just waiting for us to… If we just focus on the inner work, on the emotional, the mental, and the psychological, but we don’t serve, even in our brokenness. There is a book, I think, from Henri Nouwen called The Wounded Healer. When I heard that title it blew me away, and I thought “I could be a healer even though I’m wounded?” Absolutely. Even in our woundedness, and that’s especially, I think, when we need to minister, instead of waiting until we’re healthy.
That’s why I start off telling you I’m not your guru, I’m not an expert, I’m not here to tell you I’m on the top of the mountain and “Hey, listen,” to follow me. I’m a pilgrim on the journey of life with you, and I am one of… I’m one of us. And I can just share with you where I’ve gotten some good, some bad, and some ugly, and if that helps you to make some wise choices, it would fulfill my dream that because of me having shared, spoken and written, preached, witnessed, that somebody would say “Because of you, I didn’t quit.”
Join the ranks of us who walk in humility. Forgive over and over again. Let go again and again, rinse and repeat. Pay it forward. Somebody, you know, gives you good advice, share it… if you receive good advice, share some advice with others. There’s something I call Jacob’s Ladder, inspired by the Old Testament. But you know those monkeys that you maybe had, the monkeys in a barrel, right – one holds on to another one that is up, and it goes interlinked like that. I say, you know, “Here I am.” And I’ve got to hold on to somebody who’s stronger than me. I’ve got to friends or some inspiration that’s better, stronger, or further along than me, or else I’ll fall, right. They need to be strong enough to hold themselves and to hold me. But then I have to reach down and hold somebody who’s below me.
And it can be very tempting to want to save and help those that are 3 monkeys below, or 10 people below, or 15 below, but there is an intimate circle of friends, and our families, and our work, and our association with our neighbors that we have a greater ability to influence their lives. We need to have people that are stronger than us, holier than us, more advanced than we are, and we need to hang on to them and listen to them, and then reach down to those that are just a little bit behind where we are to share the pilgrimage with them. And pain and suffering gives us a new appreciation for those going through pain.
Feed the Body and the Soul
Our daily bread. While we pray for, you know, in the Our Father, our daily bread, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Feed the body and the soul. Nurture it, educate it, inspire it, share what you’re learning, challenge it, and push it. You know, something that I heard once that was like an ouch for me, is it doesn’t matter if you say you love Jesus, if you wear a “What Would Jesus Do” bracelet, if you have a tattoo, or if you can, you know, rap out the scriptures. But if you don’t love, respect, and honor somebody that is in a different position than you, even completely different than you, then what is, you know, the worth of that message?
1 Corinthians says: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but I don’t have love, I’m just a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge if I have a faith that can move mountains, but if I do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all that I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but I don’t have love, I’ve gained nothing. If we don’t have love, and that’s why I think suffering comes into our lives, that we can learn to love deeper.
Ah, it’s such a profound mystery, that we should be given suffering. And I pray the prayer of Saint Francis, my patron, I have his name, Mario St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where this is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be loved as to love; to be understood as to understand; For it is in giving that we receive; and it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
There’s a serenity to prayer, there’s, you know, so many simple things that we can do, but it almost seems complicated because there’s so much advice that can be given. But ask, seek, and knock. If you don’t go after what you want, you’re never going to have it. If you don’t ask for what you want, the answer will always be no. And if you don’t step forward, you’ll always be in the same place. Be not afraid, as John Paul the Second reminds us. Be not afraid, as the scripture says over 365 times. Be not afraid to carry your cross. You’re not alone. Let me close in prayer before I know that our time will end. God bless you in this retreat.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. Almighty God, Holy Trinity, I ask that You receive all of our prayers and all of our time together. Strengthen us to be great saints. In the sacraments of the church, in all of the intercession of the saints, and in Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, I ask. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thanks for spending this time with us, and may God bless you.
About Mario St. Francis Herrera
Mario St. Francis Herrera B.A., M.T.P.T. is a husband, father, speaker, model, actor, producer and is currently becoming a certified personal development facilitator and trainer, and he’s based out of the Washington DC area. Since experiencing a radical call to conversion at the age of 24, Mario has been a highly sought-after Catholic Speaker around the world most known for his conversion story from a “Hollywood to Holy-wood”. A young man without faith turned overnight into a passionate Eucharist-loving daily Mass-attending proud Roman Catholic Christian. After experiencing his first World Youth Day in Toronto, 2002, he attended Franciscan University of Steubenville studying Catechetics, Philosophy, Theology and TV/Film. While there he was offered the opportunity to work for the manager of the most notable Catholic actor in Hollywood Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ). Leaving Steubenville, he spent a decade working as a producer of Catholic media projects and speaking as a missionary on every continent, mostly to youth and young adults.
In 2012 he left his final long term Mission in India and settled back in the US. He finished his undergraduate in Texas, graduating Magna Cum Laude from the Mexican American Catholic College with a degree in Pastoral Ministry. While in Texas, he met his wife and they have two beautiful young children and look forward to growing that family.