Before I go on with tales of my pilgrimage, I should explain why this pilgrimage was needed, and such a gift.
Because of Covid, we hadn’t travelled anywhere since our September 2019 trip to Portugal, to finish off filming for our series, The Faithful Traveler in Portugal, (which you can watch here on FORMED). I don’t mean that to be a complaint–I know travel is such a privilege and a blessing. It’s just a fact.
In late April 2021, I did have to travel to San Diego, where I grew up, because my father was sick. He ended up going into hospice, and died five months later. During his hospice, I was finishing up the 19th annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, and while God was very clearly communicating His love for me during this time–I’m sure in preparation for what came next–that message eventually got lost in the shuffle of life.
Dad’s illness and death brought showers of graces. God healed me in so many unexpected ways.
A few months earlier, my spiritual director recommended I read Bob Schuchts’ book, Be Healed: A Guide to Encountering the Powerful Love of Jesus in Your Life. I remember hating it, because the whole first half of the book tells tales of all the miraculous healings that Bob witnessed and experienced. I said to my spiritual director, “This is not my experience. Reading about this makes me angry, wondering why God hasn’t healed me yet.”
“Keep reading,” my spiritual director said. I did. And a few months later, God began to miraculously heal me.
One of the most poignant was how He healed my associations with my hometown of San Diego. Don’t get me wrong–San Diego is a great place. But for me, it was the scene of my many youthful sins. Every time I went home, I wanted to jump out of my skin. The beach, the mall, even my own bedroom reminded me of the stupid and scandalous things I did in my youth, and I hated it. Being in San Diego made me hate myself all the more, and I already had issues with self-hatred.
Just a week before my dad went into the hospital in late April, I was considering going home to visit my parents, whom I hadn’t seen for a few years. I decided I would not go; it was too painful.
Then dad got sick, and I was on a plane the next day.
Later, as my older sister and I walked along the beach, I marveled at God’s creativity. And it hit me–I didn’t want to run.
I mentioned it to my sister. I was flabbergasted. I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed San Diego. From this moment on, I was able to be in San Diego without any negative associations to my past sins. I was free.
Another healing occurred right around my 50th birthday.
My father died five days before my 50th, and since I’d asked God for humility for my birthday, I figured that was an appropriate gift.
On the morning of my birthday, I was sitting at the kitchen table, planning my dad’s funeral. The phone rang, and it was a South Bend number.
Now, a little background. I went to Notre Dame Law School in the 90s, and it was just about the worst experience of my life. For the first time ever, I was surrounded by Catholics who hated being Catholic. I had my first ever crisis of faith, and I was mired deeply in sin, further away from God than I had ever been. I should have never gone–I wasn’t cut out to be a lawyer–and to make matters worse, I left crawling, wounded beyond belief, and saddled with mountains of debt.
To say that I hated Notre Dame was an understatement.
When the phone rang that morning of my 50th birthday, I was shocked. No one had called me asking for money for years. Why start now?
I answered the phone. A chipper young voice greeted me and, surprisingly, wished me a happy birthday.
“Thank you,” I said.
“When are you going to ask me for money?” I thought.
“How will you be spending your special day?” the voice asked.
“Planning my father’s funeral,” I smiled, maliciously using my father’s death to wound an innocent.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said, the brightness gone from her tone. “May I light a candle for him at the grotto?”
My heart melted.
I loved the Grotto at Notre Dame. It was the only safe place I knew there. It was where my Heavenly Mother watched out for me, and I spent many days and nights there, shedding many, many tears.
I thanked the girl, who never asked me for money, and we hung up. I sat, stunned, for a while, then went back to my task.
A few days later, I got an email with these two photos.
As soon as I saw them, I started to weep, and I knew…
“Does this mean I have to forgive Notre Dame now, Lord?”
I didn’t need an answer. The tears washed away the anger, and that huge wound in my heart was filled with that stranger’s act of selfless love.
I could go on and on about the healings, but this post is already pretty long. Suffice it to say that God was working hard on me during this time, for good reason.
Sickness and the Freemasons
Shortly after Dad died, my husband had to get his gall bladder out, so I rushed home. Then began the many trips to and from San Diego, to help my mother with the aftermath of my father’s death. I got Covid. Then I got Long Covid, which basically made me tired for almost a whole year. My husband had a series of heart issues–unstable angina–that had him in and out of the ER for weeks. I told him that I was so good at him “almost dying”, by the time he actually dies, I will be an expert.
All of this excitement had my nerves shot. I was a hot mess.
By mid-2022, I had forgotten all of the consolations God had given me during the Ignatian exercises, and I was drowning in self-hatred, negativity, and depression. Although my prayer life was regular, I just didn’t feel that God loved me, and when I looked at myself and others, all I saw was negativity.
Through a friend, I was given the opportunity to have an exorcist pray deliverance prayers over me in August 2022. Shortly before we met, I had discovered that there had been a history of Freemasonry in my family, on my mother’s father’s side. Interestingly enough, the ancestor at fault was Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Commander at the battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. (Yeah, I’m related to him! yippee!). Santa Anna, it was discovered, was a Scottish Rite Mason in Mexico, and he was apparently spared at the Battle of the Alamo because he was flashing secret Freemason signs. (see articles about this here and here)
I won’t go into the dangers of Freemasonry (watch some Father Ripperger videos for more info), but suffice it to say, that my ancestor’s involvement in this secret society has had an effect on my family. A very negative effect.
While I had prayed the renunciations suggested by the St Michael Center (find them here and pray them if you have Freemasons in your family), it was later discovered that I had a generational spirit clinging to me–I guess it has been there my whole life!!–and it needed to be removed. I had to go back at a later date for more prayer.
Originally, I was supposed to go back in November of 2022, but the priest got Covid. Then, my prayer session was reschedule, fortuitously for the weekend of May 12th and 13th, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
I was beyond thrilled.
So when I thought… “hey! I could go to Rome!” part of what was in the back of my head was, “I will surround myself with saints and bring an army with me to prayer!”
And that is just what I did.
More tomorrow. For now, here is a pic of me and dad dancing at my niece’s wedding.