Archive for August, 2017


August 6, 2017

Once more I am super late in posting this blog. I grew up with signs of perfectionism and it becomes a cross when I cannot finish a job on time! However, I am in training to accept all that God allows as His most wonderful will for me… Therefore, I am sure that there is a reason for it.

My human reasons for the delay are obviously due to deep pain, now not only in both knees but along both legs. Apparently, the new pain in the legs come from fibromyalgia. Again, let me review what toxicity is doing to my body… Toxics in general and in my case, petroleum chemicals affect my immune system cells, most of which live in my small intestine. They produce chemicals when they encounter (nowadays) any food… Some foods are worse than others. Yet, anything I eat will make these cells upset. The chemicals produced by the immune cells pass into my blood and the reaction causes inflammation everywhere, even in my internal organs like kidneys, liver, etc. and inflammation produces pain.

There are days that I have breakfast at 4 or 5 PM… and nothing else until the following day. In between I drink some cups of milk with some of the medications. I use electro-acupuncture to diminish the pain. Until a few days ago, I took Tramadol for pain but had to wait for 7-8 hours between doses; this is because it was ordered every 6 hours three times a day. Yet, the day has 4 different 6 hours parts… The pain would be unbelievable and this does bring my blood pressure up to numbers very dangerous for a stroke! This cross was truly horrific. At least, my primary physician helped me by ordering a dose every 6 hours, times four to cover the 24 hours of the day and still not to go over the top dose for this drug. I am 100% certain that I have no symptoms of addiction to tramadol. Even in these circumstances, I felt the call to say YES to His will for me and offer it up for those dying that day and their conversion. Of course, this was hardest before I learned about a quote from St. JP II to be mentioned later.

The need to get out of this area is necessary and ASAP. My Lord is answering this need but the move will take time. Once I get out, I can detoxify my body and it also means like showering the immune cells so that they stop reacting to any food with so many chemicals. This will take care of inflammation and of pain altogether. This is a cross for me because I have no idea how much it is affecting important internal organs. This entire scenario pleads for my soul and mind to say to the Lord, “Yes, Lord, I accept Your will.” At the bottom of this entire story, the call is for me to TRUST IN HIS MERCY. The latter is the most important gift I could receive. No doubt about it!

I am forced to make this message a little short in the details. I will try just to write about the core of the matter for each story lived in the month of July and part of August.


Our St. John Paul II said: “Prayer and sacrifice constitute the most powerful force in human history.” (WOW)

This seems to mean that when we are called to pray for the horrors going on in the world and that we have to deal with our suffering in the most holy way and unite it with much prayer. The greatest form of suffering is self denial. Our Jesus said it clearly when He spoke about being His true disciple, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Me.” Any of us that claims we have a personal relationship with Him, must be aware that we are ALSO faithful practitioners of His definition above. If we are always trying to do what we supposedly discerned we should do for the Kingdom, we must unite this conviction with our practice of surely being a true discipleship. If we try to do our will, even the best it could seem, and ask God to help us in accomplishing it, we are not truly being faithful to be a follower of Jesus and therefore, our work for the Kingdom despite asking for help from Him, may not have much success. I mean by success to be converted on a daily basis.

Another thing regarding this point: I hear many say that they called the Holy Spirit to help them discern what they should do to evangelize, and then proceed because they submitted themselves to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Sorry but they are confused…

1. In order to be super sure we are truly hearing the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we must live as a true disciple…If we are living a very good Christian life and try to pray and love our neighbor but never say a complete YES to God’s will at each moment of our lives, and if we do not accept our crosses to the point of loving them because they are part of the spiritual force needed to evangelize (St. J.P. II), well, we are a little confused in this matter. In fact, if we feel called to work for the Kingdom, our first step is to pray and embrace our crosses to the best of our abilities, even praying for His help to do so; then and for sure, the Holy Spirit will come to us with ideas, power and God’s mercy to do many wonderful things through us… A little later I will give a major example from the Old Testament of someone and well known by all of us who truly lived such life!

2. Even more, trying to become the best true disciple, it also requires that as a primary duty we keep identifying our sins and repenting for them but trying not to repeat them, even the minor ones, and that we seek regularly the blessing from Jesus through a Priest to forgive our sins at the reconciliation booth.

3. Added to that, we have to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR in everything, and one of the most important ways is to ask God for His mercy for us to forgive those who trespass against us…This should be done daily if possible. Again, the mentioned Old Testament story is a witness to this gift.

4. We must always have Our Mother at our side and frequently call for her help plus we must pray the Rosary to secure her protection from the evil one.

5. Finally we are ready to receive our Master degree or doctorate to go on and evangelize the entire world and do it with power and love for God and for our brothers and sisters. This is a form of trusting in God’s mercy to give us what we need regarding our own conversion in order to truly be another Christ for others.


Monday July 3

As mentioned before in my last blog, I followed the opening of the national Convention of Catholic Leaders. My own Deacon son was present in Orlando, Fl. I heard many excellent talks, but I did not find one of them emphasizing what the personal formation of the leader needs to secure on a daily basis, so that they can be powerful CONDUITS for the Holy Spirit to convert many souls. Doing the will of God is mentioned but not openly asserted that it is the key of evangelization.

On this same day, I realized that one day (May 24th) before the teaching of last month on May 25th when I received the guidance to ask my Father in the Name of Jesus to say YES to His will from the bottom of my heart, I had re-started my devotion to Baby Jesus. I found by chance a paper where I had typed the prayer that Fr. Juan del Rizzo in the Barrio 20 de Julio (suburb of Bogota, Colombia) had composed as a novena to Baby Jesus. The paper also had a note where I wrote that I had consecrated myself to the Baby on August 2016 and had promised to pray the novena on a continuous basis… Somehow, I stopped doing it in later months. The moment I did it again on May 24 of this year and 24 hours later, I received the call to ask my Father for help to say Yes to His will in the Name of His Son. And now, I am in route to the place that el Divino Niño was brought to the United States, Birmingham AL… which means that I am in route to make Him company. God does weird things in our daily walk with Him and it takes time to realize how much detail is involved in our spiritual lives.

I must clarify that in the last blog, I related the importance of moving to Birmingham in order to have to medical protection for my maladies from my son and his wife. I did not mention EWTN because I am always with them… Every morning at 5 AM PT, I am LIVE with my adorable Priests who are celebrating the Sacrifice of the Mass. Just moving closer to them does not change anything. I do not plan to visit them since they would have no need of my personal attention. I will keep close to them for the daily LIVE Mass and pray much for them as I have done for many years.  I hope that I could visit my Lord exposed a few times a month in the Chapel but not during the celebration of any particular Mass. The same happens to  me when I hear people getting excited in visiting where Jesus lived in the Holy Land… I rather visit not where He lived but where He lives now in a Catholic church where He is PRESENT in the Tabernacle!!!

Also during this July 3rd, I woke up and had left the TV on EWTN. I found by chance a wonderful teaching which I had heard in the past from already departed Fr. Thomas Dubay.  He discussed the meaning of HEROIC VIRTUE. It is the power to be and enhance owns life but doing it surpassing all human capacity. For example, suffering does not produce any grumbling. His teaching helped me embrace my crosses in a powerful way. Again, here is the Lord moving me to turn on the television in the very early hours of the morning and listening to this great priest.

He gave a huge example never to be forgotten and also tied up with the story of the Old Testament to be presented later. He asked, “What would you do if you come home and find it ransacked, empty…?” What is your reaction to find out that you have been stripped of your belongings and find yourself happy about it!!!?” This is heroic virtue and it comes from knowing that you have much more than earthly possessions. He added that the Saints live this way, not attached to anything on earth. They live according to the Lord’s Word. AMAZING TEACHING for me!

Wednesday, July 5

By CHANCE AGAIN, and probably going on since the previous Monday, I found a miniseries in one of the Hispanic TV channels, one that is the largest channel among 4 of them that I know of. Every evening and part of the afternoon, this Channel, Univision, runs soap operas. Low and behold, I found a one hour program at 8 PM titled, “Jose de Egipto” or Joseph from Egypt…. This is the program mentioned above. It is an extraordinary miniseries (40 one hour chapters) doubled in Spanish from the Portuguese and produced in Brazil in 2013… Perhaps has been aired in EWTN/Spanish but it did not have this channel or so I thought for at least 3 years ago.  

I was totally fascinated. How can they have the guts to place a story of the Bible right at 8 PM. Soon after, I found out that every Sunday at 8 PM they were presenting “The Miracles of Jesus…” Even more, as soon as Jose de Egipto is finished on August 7 with two hours, it will be followed by one new miniseries to start at 10 PM, The Promised Land!!!!! I know that The Ten Commandments were aired in another channel that belongs to Univision and it is called Unimás. However, Unimás is a secondary channel and not the one which airs the latest in news.

This was extraordinary news for me… especially because Joseph is well depicted according to the Bible as a super religious young man who is almost killed by 10 of his 11 brothers and saved in order to be sold as a slave to be taken to Egypt. God had prepared Joseph with the gift of interpreting dreams and he was able, despite of being a slave of Egypt’s Pharaoh, to foretell for him that there would be 7 years of great prosperity followed by 7 years of a drought. He advised the King to collect enough grain in the first 7 years and use it during the bad 7 years that followed.

We all know this story but I HAD NEVER SEEN IT portrayed in the screen. It taught me important lessons and left me images that I will never forget… José de Egipto will be in my mind like never before. This is what I found interesting in this story:

1. God had a plan for Israel to protect them from the consequences of the drought and this made his brothers extremely envious of Joseph whose father Jacob also known as Israel favored José and mentioned him to be the best son, even that he was rather young, versus Ruben who was supposed to be considered the father’s favorite for being the eldest. Their envy sent Joseph to Egypt and to endure much suffering when Joseph was accused (as a slave) of trying to seduce the wife of Putiphar, the captain of the palace guard, for which Joseph endured years in prison, all of this prior to the interpretation of the dreams.

2. God gave Joseph not only the way to become very accepted by Pharaoh for interpreting his dreams and save Egypt from starvation, but God also made possible for Joseph to treat well the jailers and they became friends with him, even after they had treated him poorly as a Hebrew slave who had committed a terrible act. JOSEPH NEVER COMPLAINED (heroic virtue).

 3. Joseph became the governor of all Egypt. In time, his brothers came from Cana to buy grain after a very long trip on foot crossing the desert … His brothers did not recognize him and Joseph gave grain to them but kept one in jail so that they would bring to Egypt his younger brother Benjamin, who had the same mother as Joseph, in order for him to meet him. Eventually, Joseph told them who he was and PADORNED all of them… Again, this is a case of heroic virtue. His brothers did not believe that Joseph was not seeking revenge… They could not believe the sanctity of Joseph but eventually asked for his pardon.

4. At all times, Joseph explained to his Egyptian wife and others that his God had permitted all his trials in order to come to Egypt and in time provide the sustenance for his family. Egypt had many gods and even Pharaoh realized the power of the God of Israel. He was proud of Joseph for not even wanting to bow in front of any of their god statues because his own God would not allow it… So, Joseph was a phenomenal evangelizer. His faith and hope and love for all were well known in Egypt.

THIS miniseries gave me so much hope… Our God, even before Jesus came to save us, always showed His mercy… and chose Joseph to be His representative. The example of Joseph of not wanting to take revenge is an exquisite reminder that we have to PARDON everybody and immediately after we feel any form of resentment. Joseph prefigures Jesus actions and this comes from my mind… The Lord did not say it to me… I could be wrong but from now on until I die, the name of Joseph is going to remind me not only of the foster father of Jesus but of a saintly young man who never felt the desire of taking revenge for the horrors suffered through the actions of his brothers… And to see this Biblical story in prime time… with others to follow, gives me so much hope and a little pride on my Hispanic background in the U.S., now that we Hispanics need to LOVE instead of RESENTING some of the actions on immigration. God knows what He is doing… I keep praying Rosaries for our Government officials and for all who keep distracting us with hatred against the President who keeps adding ways to get rid of our culture. Joseph from Egypt has given me a wonderful month of prayer for all democrats that constantly attack the President, rather than resent them…

Friday, July 7

After asking my Father in the Name of His Son to give me the grace to do His will, I received this message:

“Every morning review what could be the will of God for you for that day. For example, today make a resolution NOT TO THINK at all what is needed to be done for the move to Alabama and resolve to say yes to whatever God wants, YET TOTALLY CONVINCED that God will lead you to solve those problems proper to a big move but in the easiest and most perfect way. The move is God’s with you following Him and everything will be perfect. No worries should be present or any questions as to how to proceed with planning the move. Trust in His love that He will see to it and all will be done perfectly. Keep your prayer life active and stop all evil with the Rosary. However, keep alert as to how you can save souls with your suffering for the day.”

I immediately understood that I should have no plans or waste one second wondering about anything regarding the move.

Saturday, July 8

I had thought much as to how drive my car to Birmingham. Was I able to do it since my vision is not the best? Then my son and I realized that I needed a driver for the car. Another problem besides not been able to read the name of roads or streets, is that we would have to stop many times for me to empty my bladder due to the mistake done with recent surgery. This would make the trip long and difficult. On this day and after praying the Rosary, I clearly realized that I should fly first class and sit next to the bathroom… If I needed the bathroom, at least I could squeeze in fast and possible with the stewardesses understanding my bladder problems.

On this day, the realtor in Birmingham had come back from vacation and would start getting information for my son on homes he had given to him to check up. I started praying for this man so that Satan would not interfere with the plans of God for the home that He had already chosen for us!

Friday, July 14

I felt asleep on my chair and woke up while the late show of Stephen Colvert was going on. He was making a joke as to how we should make hosts without gluten to consecrate them and help those we are allergic to it. He said that he was Catholic and apparently it is his practice to go to confession with the audience and asks the audience to give him absolution, of course all as a joke. I felt desperate and nauseous but remembered José de Egipto and said a prayer for Mr. Colvert and included his name in my community Rosary!

Monday, July 17

This was the anniversary of my Baptism in the Church of Our Lady of Mercy in San Jose, Costa Rica. I have mentioned before how San Jose has 5 major churches forming a cross and all dedicated to our Lady. The center of the Cross has the Cathedral dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. On the same street and east (some 20 blocks away) one finds Our Lady of Solitude; west of the Cathedral and on the same street one finds Our Lady of Mercy where I was baptized. North of the Cathedral and on the same street, one finds the church of Mount Carmel; south of the Cathedral on the same street we find Our Lady of Dolor’s church or Dolores in Spanish. There is no question that we are very Marian. On August 2, we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Angels but one who appeared 2 centuries ago in the city of Cartago, 45 minutes drive from San Jose. It is now a Shrine.  She appeared in the form of a small wooden woman with a child to an Indian girl and asked for a church to be built. Every August 1, thousands of people walk from everywhere to see her in Cartago. I was named after her!!! (Maria Antonieta de los Angeles)

Thursday, July 20

I remembered that the Divino Niño devotion started in the Barrio 20 de Julio, and this was the first time that I was able to remember the name of this town exactly on a July 20 and where He spoke to Mother Angelica

Friday, July 21 to Monday, July 24

My son flew to Birmingham to see the homes south of it and in suburbs that are closer to my other son and wife’s home. Most of the homes were in the city of Hoover but one of them a little west of Hoover, turned out to be our final choice. It is going to be built and be ready by the end of November. It does not have stairs (for my own good), with 4 bedrooms and 21/2 baths. We also chose it because it is located further away from the only petro-refinery in Birmingham plus it will have the latest technology to economize energy… It is located very close to a brand new store soon to open…, Whole Food, where we buy here all the organic food… This was a major attraction as well. There is one other Whole Food but very far from this area of new homes. My son attended Mass in a large parish in Hoover but there is a closer parish to this home, Prince of Peace. I hope that it will be a nice place for me.

All in all, I am still super fascinated with the way our change of address and State came to be, an event that only God could have put together. There is no doubt that my younger son had to reside there and my health requirement to find good doctors. He did his specialization in nephrology at Massachusetts General Hospital, a part of Harvard. He then did another specialization in research in nephrology. He was offered to do it at Harvard but he chose a university in Miami, FL. Once he finished, he was offered to return to Harvard as a researcher and nephrologist. However, he decided to choose the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It was there that he found his wife, a PhD in Optometry…And now we are in route to Alabama because I need the protection of someone who can lead me to a good doctor, and not end up with medical errors suffered my entire life (9 of them), including when he was born in Ann Arbor, MI…His wife can direct me to find the best ophthalmologist in the area… This story points to the same theme of how God has a plan for each one of us, and as in the case of Joseph from Egypt, the plan is always perfect for our good and that of others.

 Friday, July 21

While my son was flying to Birmingham, I prayed much and after the 12:30 PM Rosary in Spanish… I wrote what I had understood during my prayer.

“The Rosary works as much as I am in the state of acceptance of God’s will for that moment with a sense of perfect trust that whatever is going on (my son in route to look at homes) and going to be is perfect and necessary in the plan of my salvation and for others, plus with my heart forever thankful for such a plan, including my repentance for each time that I did not do His will!

“I must always remember that at no time of my hour by hour “yes” to God’s will, should I wonder about what is coming. This is not only a waste of time but an attempt to be in charge of my future. Also, at no time should I remember what I prefer and wish to happen! On the contrary, I should be thankful for the most perfect future for me, as I live saying “yes” to my Father’s will. It is full of a 100% wisdom as to what I should be doing as a daughter of my Dad, a disciple of Jesus and totally dedicated to be guided by Their Love, that is the Holy Spirit.

“In this state of conscious obedience to God, dressed in repentance whenever I failed to do so and full of thanksgiving for being able to submit to His plan as perfectly as possible, the Rosary becomes a formidable protection from Satan and a powerful help for me to keep obeying at all times.”

Monday, July 31

I had an appointment with my lady doctor since I needed a hand written prescription for the pain medication Tramadol. The time was to be for 10:25 AM. I left at 9:30 AM. Her office is in the middle of a major geographic difficulty since some streets leading to her office are one way and two way in different parts of the same street called Bonifacio. So, I need to end up in the street called Pacheco in order to bypass the one way part that would take me away from her office. I cannot read the names of streets until I am very close to them, so that if I need to make a left turn and I am not in the right place of the street to do so, I have to continue on and try to come back.

Somehow I missed the street that would take me to these streets of Bonifacio and Pacheco. I tried to get back and find the right streets BUT got totally lost. I recognized that I was behind a Macy’s store, a place totally away from those two streets. Worse of all is that I could not read well the name of the streets that I kept passing through. I called my Father and asked Him in the name of Jesus to help me. At one point, I turned right in a small street to go back and try to recognize the area… It turned out to be Pacheco but on the other side. So, I simply waited for the traffic light to take Pacheco towards Bonifacio… The clock was advancing and I was getting delayed for the 10:15 time. Yet, from Pacheco, I took the two way section of Bonifacio and arrived at her office and wrote my name and time of arrival in their record sheet… at 10:10!

When I was done and left, I could not stop thanking my Lord for His love for me. He said, “If I re-routed you when lost, couldn’t I do the same for your move?” Wow!

Tuesday, August 1

This was the anniversary of my Confirmation at age 5…at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception!!!

Different dates in the last 5 weeks – In many occasions I always seek the Lord’s guidance to do my shopping since He knows where I may be needed for the good of the Kingdom or my own good. It amazes me how He directs me and always, always I know that He is the one behind these moves since people around run to help me in every possible way…

But Satan is all over. I suspect that Satan is around me and big time. Twice I have encountered a woman in the women bathroom who does weird things from telling me the very first time the following, “I bow to your beauty.” Later, while I was trying to empty my bladder during the Mass after the homily and before the Consecration, she appeared coming out of a stall in the bathroom and tried to detain me with conversations of all kinds so that I would miss the most important part of the Mass… I may have mentioned my first encounter with her but the second one was horrible as well. All that Satan wanted or so I figured out was for me to resent her just before receiving Him… Again, the case of Joseph from Egypt… Both times I refused to resent her and the grace of God came and I was able to receive the Eucharist in peace…

Satan now uses the famous I-phone to distract everyone, from babies 2 years old and older to teens, adults and old people. It has been established that this generation suffers from a chronic addiction to get information and to know the latest that is going on. Sports have become a form of wasting time but the fun of seeing balls move from one place to another and all producing millions of dollars, is another industry that Satan manages and quite well. In the other hand, this technology is extraordinary and at times I wonder how it became to be. Only geniuses could have led us to live so informed about moment to moment world activities.


The time is here when we have to grow in alertness and the following are points to consider:

1. Not to spend too much time assessing the horrific times that we are living, which only tempts us to resent.

2. Not to try to learn how to tackle all the problems in our lives as couples, as fathers/mothers, as evangelizers. We all know what the problems are but the worse problem is for us to use our human understanding in order to make things better. God has the plan. We simply have to secure our understanding of His plan and do it!

3. Reflecting on the do’s and don’ts for each situation possible in our spiritual life, or giving opinions as to how to evangelize according to human wisdom, psychological pros and cons, etc. can be helpful BUT IT IS NOT ESSENTIAL…

4. Our problems in our Church are huge… I heard a Monsignor say in EWTN that IN EUROPE only 5% of Catholics go to Sunday Mass on a regular basis. In the US, we have a higher percentage of attendance but in general, we are very busy as Martha was, trying to come up with all kinds of programs of evangelization. Our prayer life is fair yet does not take over as first in our daily duties as priests, deacons, parents, religious, etc. IN GENERAL, I see how we call the Holy Spirit to help us… We do not have to call Him. HE IS ALREADY WITHIN US Catholics. We simply have to be present to Him asking for His guidance and obeying the will of God second by second, so that WE CAN HEAR AND UNDERSTAND HIS GUIDANCE for us to be 100% faithful to obeying the Holy Trinity.

5. All our sufferings should be handled as Jesus, Our Mother and all the Saints did… Joseph from Egypt should be a very good example… as to how we most love all people, simply because it is the will of God and Jesus was very clear about it.

6. We must be attentive to the ways Satan will try to make us rebels against God’s will as he did.

7. A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR MOTHER the Virgin Mary is essential to keep the devil at bay. She has been sent through the centuries to offer us her help… In the Rosary, not only we quote Bible verses but ask her to help us… I have found out that when in trouble, let’s say while driving in a very slow expressway, the recitation of the Hail Mary over and over will solve all problems… In fact, I learned to do it just about one year ago… Just calling our Mother is powerful… She cannot change anything but as in the wedding at Canaan, she can ask her Son for help and He will listen if it is agreeable to the will of the Father.

8. WE ARE POWERFUL sons and daughters of our Father. We can bring peace to this world, and lately even within the U.S. that is much needed, if we simply act as God’s kids. If we do not do it, and even if we get TOO involved in all kind of programs at the parish level or through radio or TV, WE DO NOT KNOW THE WAY… I do not want to sound arrogant that I am doing most of what I have preached in this last section of this blog. I cannot do anything. I simply was given special blessings to know my Lord Jesus as a child and the result is that I could never rebel against God’s will on a regular basis. I found out that the more I obey and STOP all worries about what is, will be, etc, I receive many blessings for me and my family… Also, I try very hard not to seek my Lord just to get my ways… The purity of my heart in our relationship is constantly sought.

I want to emphasize that we have the power to change the world for the good if we simply work on ourselves and our way to become true disciples for two reasons: to show God how much we love Him and therefore giving Him glory, and for the good of our brothers and sisters. We are losing many souls to reside in hell.

9. Our program to raise our kids depends on how much we are the best kids of the Holy Trinity. Moving to another State and trying to help my son in the many things we have to give away, throw away or take with us, seems a horrible future with my pain being so brutal… However, it is a great opportunity for me to show my Dad who is in charge… and to offer my sufferings for those who are in route to hell. Now my oldest son who lives in Los Angeles is seriously considering moving to Omaha, NE to live with my Deacon son. He already visited Omaha to try to find out how to get a job since his work is with computer graphics. As I get close to finish my days on earth and I seriously believe that I WILL NOT DIE SOON at all, even that I would love to go, I can see my family of 4 sons getting together… They get along; they love each other; they are good men. They are covered by the mercy of my Lord…!!!

I love you! Have very blessed moments on the great feast days of our Mother of August 15 and 22! She appears in this screen and in my I-phone under the name of Our Lady Queen of the Universe (Aug. 22) who has given me great miracles for friends (1990’s).

P. S. – As always, I thank you for your prayers…. With my body under great suffering, trying to write blogs when my eyes are not in the best shape and ready to move to Alabama in late November, I can only affirm to you that we all are a family and that your prayers for me are super important. I pray daily for all who come to read this blog on a regular basis, and not because I want you to read it, but because God tells me all these things and most likely does it for some of you to read it and change your lives from great spiritual lives to extraordinary ones