My favorite sight and smell of spring is the lilac bush in the front yard of our family home in Pueblo. The purple hue and delightful aroma fills my senses with wonder at the beauty of the season. Easter, like spring, is about new life.
I was baptized at nine days old. Though I do not remember the event, my faith grew through the grace of God and the example of my parents and other family. My brother Dominick, Cousin Cathy and I received our First Holy Communion, the Eucharist, together with scores of other children. Our family feted us with a special luncheon in which then Deacon Ed Nunez and the late Sr. Johnette Sawyer, OSB attended. Our Confirmation candidates from St. Leander were among the first generation of teens strengthened in the Holy Spirit by the newly ordained and installed Bishop Arthur N. Tafoya. Twenty years later, he ordained me a priest to serve in the Diocese of Pueblo. Every one of the four sacraments were celebrated in the spring, new life for my spirit, soul, and body.
As the colors pop all around us and the days lengthen, we may want to consider how the gifts of grace in us are renewed or grow. St. Thomas Aquinas said that grace presupposes and builds upon nature. While we witness the new life around us, could God be calling us to a deeper life in God? St. Francis of Assisi called the aurora above him brother sun and the land beneath his feet sister earth. Perhaps our recent observance of Earth Day reminded us to be good stewards of the earth but also evoked us to a greater spiritual communion with the God who entrusted us with responsible dominion of creation.
"Every one of the four sacraments were celebrated in the spring, new life for my spirit, soul, and body."
A parishioner shared with me that I needed at least ten minutes of sunshine every day for the benefit of Vitamin D. I have challenged the faithful whom I have served to tithe their time in prayer to God. If we are awake 16 hours per day, tithing our waking hours would be 96 minutes per day of prayer. Most of us are not there yet, but we can build it up incrementally just as our days stretch as we approach the Vernal Solstice, the anniversary of my Baptism. Our bodies need sunlight daily, pretty easily done in Colorado. Our spirits and souls need prayer daily, we have to let other forms of recreation go in favor of time with the eternal God. Grace flows as we die to ourselves and rise in Jesus.
Mother's Day will be celebrated soon. My mom, Anna Marie, died on March 2. I look back on her life of love and service knowing its source and summit was in the Eucharist rooted in a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. My late grandma Sofia had a similar spiritual profile reciting the Most Holy Rosary three times a day and attending daily Eucharist for most of her life. The Blessed Virgin Mary always leads us to her Son, Jesus. Fr. Nathaniel Fosage, OSB wrote in a sympathy card to me that our mother's love and teachings are our greatest gifts.
"The Blessed Virgin Mary always leads us to her Son, Jesus."
As a boy growing up in Mexico, my dad prayed the rosary daily with many other children in the local church throughout May. Then they would present flowers to the Blessed Mother. I do not know if lilacs grew in Cuidad Juarez but if they were presented to Our Lady of Guadalupe, may they spring up in the life of grace for us today as then.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Very Reverend Carlos Alvarez, V.F., pastor at Sacred Heart--Alamosa