Select Page

Another Mother’s Day, and we’re together through the miracle of the Eucharist once again

by | May 2, 2022

1st Lt. Jonathan Coronel, USMC, at Mass on the beach in Thailand. Boxes of military rations comprise the makeshift altar.

The Soulful Catholic has been silent for a while now. There’s a reason for that and some of it is because of joy. The deep kind. The kind that swells your heart and fills your brain and carries you over the days and nights.

Our son, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, is serving at Okinawa and was finally home for a brief visit after two and a half years.

We did at least a month worth of living during those halcyon 10 days of leave. Hiking, bowling, poker, barbecues, belly laughs and heart-to-heart talks. It felt like a dream having him beside us at Mass two Sunday mornings in a row.

Okinawa is sixteen hours ahead of us here in the Arizona desert, so while we attend Saturday evening Mass here, Johnny and his wife are attending Mass on Sunday morning on the other side of the world. Adoring the Eucharistic Lord as we gather to worship, we are together again, if only briefly, through the miracle of the Real Presence.

When we said farewell back in November of 2019, we never could have guessed that a long separation, a pandemic, and an economic meltdown were just ahead. Birthdays, Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easters and all the other holidays went by without our son. 

Surely, he’d be back home in time for Christmas 2020, I thought to myself. He’d have leave.

But it wasn’t to be. Not only that, visitors were not permitted to travel to his base.

Then came the wonderful news: Johnny would be travelling stateside for six weeks of training on the East Coast and would have a 10-day break afterward to visit us.

Hiking at Papago Park, before the farewell in 2019.

We celebrated every single moment. Even the mundane things seemed to take on extra significance. After that happy interlude, there was the heartache to be overcome. The blog beckoned, but feelings were so raw, blogging seemed insurmountable. The Soulful Catholic has always dreaded goodbyes. 

After his seabag was packed and his aunties and cousins left, our family gathered in a huddle in the garage for the farewell. It cut me to the core to see our five big, strong sons choke back tears as they embraced. They whispered in each other’s ears, some brotherly counsel, some last words, some final bit of wisdom. Then it was time to leave.

Three weeks later, I still get a lump in my throat envisioning the scene.

That sharp contrast of joy and pain will be something I’ll need time to digest. Certainly, there were insights gained during this chapter of life.

I think of all the mamas (like my brave older sister) who have sent sons off to war, fearing for their safety. My son was not headed into a conflict zone, but with world war threatening, there are tiny alarm bells in the back of my brain that I try to ignore. We pray for peace and trust in God.

Then there was the huge realization that landed in the midst of all the family fun: My mother-in-law and father-in-law’s incredibly selfless gift. Little did they know that when they sent their beloved son to the U.S. for studies back in 1983 that he would never again call Venezuela his home. They saw him only a handful of times after our marriage in 1986; years later, as I miss my own son, I can appreciate the intense pain that must have caused. They had eight other children, a non-parent might say. Yet every child is precious, and when one is missing, there’s an ache in your heart that simply cannot be soothed. I see that now and I am awed by their generous spirits, by their sacrifice without complaint.

I thought, too, of my ancestors who left Ireland in the mid-19th century and who never again laid eyes on their parents or their homeland. How difficult that parting must have been, and what courageous hearts they had to flee across the ocean for a better life. No FaceTime calls. No text messages. No connecting other than through the shared longing of hearts.

People don’t leave hearth and home on a whim. They do it for love: to marry the love of their life, to save their children from starvation, to make a home where there’s freedom and opportunity and safety. To serve their country, though it pains them to be apart from loved ones.

So as my mother’s heart feels the wound of separation from a beloved son of my own, it also fills with gratitude for the mother who gave me her son to have and to hold, for better or worse. The times together are always the better. The times of goodbye seem the worst, and yet I know in the depth of my soul that come Sunday, we’ll be together again at the heavenly banquet, sharing the Bread of Life. My long-since-passed in-laws and parents will be there, too, in spirit.

Another Mother’s Day will come and go. This year, one fifth of my heart will be in Okinawa again. I pray for God’s grace to bridge the distance as we adore the One who gave His life to save us all.

Recent Blog Posts

Sharing the love of God with basketball fans: You’re being recruited for an unbeatable team

Sharing the love of God with basketball fans: You’re being recruited for an unbeatable team

The Christmas lights have barely been packed away but the countdown to Lent has begun (Ash Wednesday is an unusually early Feb. 14 this year.) Which can only mean one thing: You’ll need to come up with your Lenten plan stat AND March Madness is right around the corner.

Now, why would The Soulful Catholic give a lick about the National Collegiate Athletic Association annual basketball tournament? And what, pray tell, does this have to do with Lent anyway?

Bringing them home: Reaching out to Catholics to welcome them back to the Church

Bringing them home: Reaching out to Catholics to welcome them back to the Church

You might not be surprised to learn that church attendance is down here and around the U.S.
Outside of Christmas and Easter, it’s not very often that you have a standing-room only crowd at church on Sunday. There’s a startling graph published by Pew Research that shows a steep decline in church attendance starting in 2007 when 54 percent of Americans said they attended religious services monthly or more.
By 2019, that number dropped to 45 percent. Pew also reported that during most of the Covid 19 pandemic, about 6 in 10 Americans did not take part in religious services in any way, including roughly 7 in 10 adults under age 30. Seventy percent of our young people are not going to church!

Saying yes to God in the ICU: Unexpected journey leads to deeper faith, trust in the Lord

Saying yes to God in the ICU: Unexpected journey leads to deeper faith, trust in the Lord

As they wheeled me into the ICU, I noticed the crucifix on the wall among all the other life-saving equipment. I was in a Catholic hospital, after all, and its catholicity was something that struck me again and again during my four-night stay.

What can only be described as one of the most terrible and yet somehow wonderful experiences of my life unfolded just a few weeks ago when I was sitting in the chapel at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in downtown Phoenix. Staff at the DPC are blessed to be able to attend Mass in the chapel most workdays.

Shortly after the Gospel was proclaimed and we settled into our pews, I felt as though someone punched me in the forehead.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This