Antonio had many activities with his Dad this year, starting with New Year’s mass at St Michael in Olympia and March for Life, the Asian Festival in Tacoma, attending Gus‘ talk, some dinners out, and funerals. In the course of 14 months, 16 people he knows well had died, only one of COVID-19.

In the spring, his Mom had a pontine hemorrhagic stroke that affected her motor skills, speech, and subconscious movements. She was in acute care, then rehabilitation in acute, skilled nursing, and then long-term care. She is now living with daughter Maria Victoria.

During the rehabilitation, his Dad was admitted to the same hospital due to dialysis complications. After many tests, he was diagnosed with heart failure and was stable enough to be discharged to home. He enjoyed his final days with his favorite foods and breathed his last breath surrounded by family at home.

All these events were complicated by COVID-19 – hospital visits, notarizing documents, funeral arrangements, etc. In the past, the technology had been there, but now, it was mandatory to learn the virtual world.

Gus‘ and Jordan’s wedding date was the first day that limited size gatherings were allowed. It was streamed online, and the family was able to attend virtually. Antonio’s Dad was able to see glimpses of the wedding whenever he opened his eyes, and two days later he expired. So, Antonio wasn’t even able to attend the wedding in person.

Antonio celebrated the vigil for the deceased and the funeral rite outside of mass in live stream. Just a few weeks later, he was due in Avila, Spain, but was denied boarding at the airport because of then recently mandated travel restrictions.

Antonio started the Carmelite-focused Spiritual Direction Certification Program at the Mystic University in Avila. With its very interactive nature, it hasn’t been offered online. Many international students were unable to travel, so they offered the academic part online. Antonio and the dog Colby were on Central European Time CET while living in Pacific Daylight Time PDT.

To make up for his absence at the wedding, Antonio visited Jordan’s family, meeting her family and friends, attending mass at their parish, seeing the sights, and riding in their boat. It was a very memorable visit, and he is glad to have made the trip, as not long afterwards, the second wave of the pandemic hit and there were more travel restrictions.

In spite of all this, Antonio managed some photography projects – a special wedding, Valentine’s day pictorial, Craters of the Moon National Monument, moon photography, and Lake Tahoe, all with his specialized black and white only camera producing superlative image quality.

Black and White is the new color. Removing the chromatic emotional element makes one a much better photographer, elevates the image to greater abstraction, and demands stronger composition. A great example of this was Johann Sebastian Bach, who composed with limited means of thematic material, yet produced florid musical works from them.

The pandemic removes the emotional element of in-person interaction, demanding more refined collaboration in a virtual setting. Yes, the pandemic limited us in many ways, but it also brought out the best in us. In our isolation and solitude, we have become more attuned to our inner being and our relationship to the cosmos and the Divine. Such is the mystical life that a Carmelite like Antonio leads. As such, the pandemic gave everyone a taste of mysticism.

Antonio at 40 was in the words of his uncle Bishop Julio Xavier, the age of his wisdom, earning international recognition in his fields of music, fine art, and information architecture. Turning 50 was a return to his roots in simplicity, composing music for the guitar, black and white photography, seeking ancestral family and language, and developing his mystical dimension. Now at 60 he intensifies his focus on his unique God-given talents to leave a legacy to humanity and divinity, a process of eliminating anything not unique to him.

For the new year, may you awaken the mystic in you and realize your unique God-given talents that make you so very special.

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