Stories With a Purpose

Stories with a Purpose

"Stories With a Purpose" is a regular feature of the St. Patrick Catholic Church Web site. It is edited by Ronnie Muro, the St. Patrick Family Life Coordinator and the co-author of the book "Stories with a Purpose: Lessons for the Spirit, Lessons for the Heart" that was published by St. Mary's Press in 2006. If you have any inspirational stories that you would like to submit for consideration, click here to send an e-mail to Ronnie. 

If you would like to order a copy of this book from St. Mary's Press, click here.

Periodically, new stories will be published here on this page. Visit often to receive a blessing through the reflections contributed by our parishioners and friends.

Searching for Jesus in the Gulf of Mexico

Editor's Note:  While in the midst of God’s wonder in the Gulf of Mexico, author Ronnie Muro reflects on embracing the presence of Jesus in our lives and in the lives of others.

A group of church friends and family recently returned from a cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. This cruise has been organized for quite a few years by Larry and Ellen Cannon and is always a good time. We travel by bus to New Orleans and then board a cruise ship to seek out various destinations in the Caribbean. This year’s cruise (the first since Covid) had two stops, both in Mexico.

Those port stops give the opportunity to explore the local culture, or just relax, do a little shopping, and grab a bite to eat. Then it’s back on board to enjoy all the cruise ship has to offer. This ranges from live music and stage shows to a wide array of food and beverage options. If you are so inclined, you can also wager in the onboard casino.


All of those are lots of fun and there are many choices. But it is quite a different activity that often stands out on our cruises. It is a unique opportunity to attend the celebration of the Holy Mass onboard the ship. Started by Father Vernon Huguley on a cruise years ago, this has become a tradition. This year we gathered with our pastor, Father Anthony Weis, to celebrate Mass twice while on the cruise.

This is not as easy as one might think. First, the cruise ship has to give permission and schedule a place to gather. Second, you have to hope the sacramental wine is not confiscated when boarding the ship! Yes, this happened but was fortunately returned.

As for the location and timing, it is entirely up to the cruise line to help us find a place and time to celebrate Mass. While cruise ships are huge, there are not a lot of empty meeting spaces available. We have to take what we can get. As a result, we have celebrated Mass in some unusual places that at night become nightclubs, theaters, or comedy clubs. This year we were assigned to the Lindy Hop Piano Bar. In a few hours, this would be the scene of live music and singing. For now, it was our chapel.  

With the ocean and its beauty as our backdrop, it can be a very moving experience to celebrate Mass in that setting. Celebrating Mass should always be special. But having the wonder and beauty of God’s creation just outside the windows surely adds to the occasion. Pondering that sight while listening to the word of God is a special pleasure. Occasionally the ship rocks from side to side as a gentle reminder that we are out in the middle of the ocean. But the Mass continues, whether on the ocean or in a cathedral.

When we arrived at the piano bar, Father Weis had set up a makeshift altar on the bar. Those attending gathered in the seats around the bar/altar. I took a seat that had my back to the windows so I was not able to see the ocean. That put me facing the glass walls that bordered the hallway. As is usually the case on a cruise ship, people were milling back and forth, hurrying on to their next activity – drinks on the Lido deck, the latest trivia contest, or maybe grabbing a snack before dinner.

I tried to ignore the distraction, but it was difficult. As people wandered by, I noticed their reactions. Father Weis, resplendent in his white vestments trimmed in gold, occasionally caught their eye. For some, a look of puzzlement came over their face. They glanced at the group and back at Father, but then just kept moving along, not sure what they had seen. One gentleman had a look of recognition and appeared to wonder why he did not know about Mass being celebrated. Perhaps he would have joined us if he had known. Indeed, in the one year they did publish our Mass in the daily activities list, we had nearly a hundred people show up. But today it was just our small group.  

Others passed by, barely giving it a thought as they rushed along the way to their next fun activity. It was one lady’s reaction that really struck me. She slowed down as some others had done. Then, noticing Father Weis, she stopped and fixed her gaze upon him during the Eucharistic Prayer. Unlike the others, she showed no signs of confusion. Instead, I saw something different. There was a longing on her face. She lingered for a moment, then a few minutes more. Finally, almost reluctantly, she slowly walked away.

Who was she? Of course, I had no idea. But from the look on her face, I imagined that she might be a fallen-away Catholic. As she spotted the priest and the celebration of the Mass, it seemed she knew what was going on. I thought maybe it touched her as she realized it was something she missed from her life – something she once had, but now could only long for.

Was I right? We will never know. But that incident made me think of all those who once were close to Jesus and now have some sort of separation that keeps them from Him. These barriers are not always physical, but often emotional or spiritual. Something keeps them from returning and rebuilding that relationship with the Lord.

On the ship, there were glass walls, easy to see through. But to actually come in and participate, she would have had to locate the door just to her left. There, a sign noted “Private Function”. Of course, she would have been welcomed with open arms. But the walls, the sign, and her own lack of desire kept her from even trying.

What sort of walls do we put up for those seeking the Lord? Are we welcoming? Do we show them to the door or are we putting up the “private function” sign by our aloofness and our actions?

Like the woman, haven’t we all felt this way at one time or another? We know Jesus is there, but maybe we just can’t see him or feel his presence. That can happen even at church during Mass. At other times, we can see Him at work in our daily lives, but it is not something we embrace. There is distance between us and Him. Time has passed. Life has happened. Perhaps there are just too many walls, too much difficulty to try and repair that relationship. We just walk on, hoping to try again someday.


I’m reminded of an old saying. If you don’t feel close to God like you used to, guess which one of you has moved? Easy to say, but how do you get closer? Maybe it’s not that difficult. After all the Lord is there, waiting for you. Just open the door to your heart and let Him in. He’s there, waiting with open arms. He’s always there - even in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

More Stories with a Purpose by Ronnie Muro

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