009: Pilgrimage Recap – Nagasaki, Japan

Since I didn’t have a guest for this episode, I decided to recount some of my experiences going on a pilgrimage to Nagasaki, Japan. I wanted to learn more about St. Paul Miki and his Companions since they were martyred in Nagasaki.

Show highlights:

  • Re-intro to my podcast and what “En Fuego” means
  • Why Nagasaki
  • How I traveled to Nagasaki
  • What I did in Nagasaki
    • 26 Martyr’s Hill (monument, museum, and church)
    • Nakaramachi Church
    • St. Max Kolbe’s friary/Hongochi Church/Marian grotto
    • Atomic Bomb Museum
    • Memorial Peace Park
    • Urakami Cathedral
    • Inasayama
    • Oura Church
    • Glover Garden
  • Reflections on this pilgrimage

Show references:

Twitter: @jrenfuego
Instagram: jrenfuego
Facebook: facebook.com/jrenfuego


006: Our Longing for the Eternal

Perhaps you follow me on social media or on my blog and know that I occasionally ask for prayer requests whenever I go on a pilgrimage. I’ve been fortunate enough to go on multiple pilgrimages over the past several years, and I have one person to thank for introducing me to the notion of pilgrimaging.

My guest in this podcast is Jason. He led both World Youth Day pilgrimages and several of the March for Life pilgrimages that I have been a part of. We talk about what pilgrimages are, and we share various experiences from those pilgrimages to further talk about the sorts of lessons we can learn from them.


  • Catch up, no coffee, and I’m not two best friend white guys who do Catholic podcasting
  • What is a pilgrimage?
  • Beware of what pilgrimage company you use
  • God desires us to be saints
  • What is the March for Life pilgrimage?
  • Crazy story from a priest ordination pilgrimage in NYC
  • Crazy story from visiting famous staircase in New Mexico
  • What was the World Youth Day 2016 pilgrimage? and highlights?
  • Bishop stayed and a papal drive by happened
  • Holy doors
  • My recent Nagasaki pilgrimage
  • What can we learn from pilgrimages?

Jason and his wife, Becky, run the Three to Get Married podcast, which I also mentioned in Episode 001! Check ’em out!

Jason also chats it up with other youth ministers in the Catholic Youth Ministry podcast. Also check it out!

Lastly, don’t forget to subscribe and rate my podcast on iTunes!

Thanks for listening!


Flat Tire

During my stay in Japan a few months ago, I decided to book a weekend trip to Manila, Philippines to visit members of my mom’s side of the family. That was really cool to be able to visit cousins and extended family that I haven’t seen in a very long while. 10 years ago, I think, was the last time I was in the Philippines.

Part of my Philippine weekend adventures was going to the National Shrine of St. Padre Pio in Batangas. My first cousin, once removed, was driving. Unfortunately, we somehow suffered a flat tire on the way perhaps while driving through the crowded dirt roads to the shrine.

My cousin worked on that while my other cousins and I went to Mass.

After Mass, we toured around the shrine before re-airing the flat tire and heading out to find a repair shop. Or I guess in the Philippines, it’s more common to see a vulcanizing shop than a typical auto repair shop. Vulcanization is the process of converting rubber and polymers into something stronger using additives and heating it all together.

But! It was a struggle to find a vulcanizing shop despite our Google Maps powers. We had to ask the locals, but they kindly directed us towards a main road via some very muddy roads, and I feared for about 10 minutes whether we’d get stuck in the mud or something. Fortunately, that was not the case.

We finally found a vulcanizing shop on a main road, but we had to wait about 30 minutes or so for the shop owner to finish his current repair for another customer. It wasn’t too impressive looking of a place as it almost literally was a little shack or hut with a small workshop on the side of the road.

When it was our turn, I observed him repairing the tire.

And. I. Was. Impressed.

First of all, and I wish I had taken pictures, the shop owner had basically created and fashioned all the tools he needed to be able to remove the tire from the wheel. I’m talking like…welded pieces of metal and metal/wood apparatuses! He had also cut in a half a larger tire filled with water. Here, he dipped our flat tire to discover where the hole was based on bubbles. When he sealed it up, he used his own iron and clamp to heat up the sealant to vulcanize to the tire.

The whole process took about 30-35 minutes. I was hot and bugs were landing on me as I stood around.

The crazy thing is… he did all this work in tsinelas! (flip flops) even as he was stomping on the tire and dealing with heavy and hot objects.

With my middle-class American mindset, I half expect all auto repairs to be done in clean, well-lit places, and done by uniformed and safely dressed mechanics. But! Nope! Not the case. And that’s totally cool.

I was also surprised that for the amount of work that he did, it only costed something less than $5 USD. LOL WUT. A kind of repair job like that back home in the United States is easily at least $20!

Anyway…I learned and realized an two important things in this entire process of watching this man repair our flat tire. And I think he is a good example of what I realized.

Filipinos don’t have a whole lot. Most of the country lies somewhere in the third world. Granted, some parts of Manila look very western and well-developed, but you needn’t stray too far to observe how first world luxuries are sorely lacking. Our tire repair man didn’t have the best space or the tools to be most efficient at his craft.

Filipinos are very resourceful. Yet, despite not having a whole lot, Filipinos get by with what they have. And they are cleverly resourceful with what little they have. I just mentioned how the tire repair man fashioned his own tools. His particular example is inspiring for me because it shows me that one can still be successful without having much.

I think these things will be important to keep in mind the next time I face challenges in my own life. I can make the best of any challenging situation.

Thinking about all this, it’s humbling for me because I take all that I have for granted. I’m grateful to have had this unfortunate happenstance of suffering a flat tire during my weekend trip to the Philippines because the time it took to repair it gave me ample time to reflect on these things.

Pinoy and proud.


In which I will try not to use a lot of data…

I’m kind of in a predicament because I don’t have good access to wifi. And I have 1.3GB of data at my disposal, but I don’t want to spend it all doing daily blog updates with pictures.

Therefore, I’ll blog deeper thoughts with minimal pictures when I’m on wifi.

Catch me on Instagram for a pic or two here and there. But it won’t be the full story.

Instagram: @r4nd311



Day 1: Rome 2016 – Basilicas and Catacombs

Thursday July 21, 2016

This day started out with stuffed croissants. And by stuffed I mean stuffed with Nutella. Then covered with powdered sugar. Very delish. I grabbed two. (#FunFact, did you know that the creator of Nutella was a very devout Catholic and devoted the success of Nutella (and likewise Ferrer Rocher) to the Blessed Virgin Mary?)

St. Mary Major

At 7:30AM we boarded buses to go to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to begin our tours of the major basilicas around Rome. As another cool #FunFact, Pope Francis visits St. Mary Major before every trip outside of Europe to entrust his voyage to the our Blessed Mother. It was also the same place he went to immediately after being elected as pope.

We had Daily Mass in one of the major side chapels with our bishop from our diocese. I think I share the same sentiment with a good handful of other pilgrims from my parish when I say that having Mass here at St. Mary Major with our bishop (in English!) was indeed special.

After Mass, we gained our tour guides. Because of our delegation of 200+ people, doing one massive tour is not practical. We split up into groups according to our flights, and each group had their own tour guides. Mine was named Teresa, and she was quite excellent in guiding us through St. Mary Major, the other basilicas, and other sights around Rome.

We took a side trip just outside of St. Mary Major to visit the church, St. Alphonsus Ligouri. This was kind of a big deal because it hosts the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. My grandmother has a particularly strong devotion to her.

St. John Lateran

From St. Mary Major, we headed slightly across town to the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

This is technically the first church (building) of Christendom after the emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the early centuries. It’s probably most notable for the huge statues of the 11 apostles and St. Paul. This basilica is also the seat of the diocese of Rome and Rome’s bishop also happens to be the pope.

St. Peter In Chains

After St. John Lateran, we headed over to another part of the ancient city of Rome to visit St. Peter In Chains. In Acts 12, it tells how an angel helped break Peter’s chains to set him free after being imprisoned in Rome. These chains were recovered and kept as a relic that is housed in this basilica.

Another cool feature of this basilica is the statue of Moses carved by Michaelangelo.
After St. Peter in Chains, we visited the outside of the Colosseum where Teresa gave us its history in brief. Conveniently, we took a water break at a Roman water fountain (the kind you drink out of and not the really nice marble ones). They have these scattered throughout the city. The water tastes great and was a much needed way to cool down as the weather was sunny and hot like Texas.

We took a lunch break in a restaurant nearby which was located in an old Roman cellar.

St. Paul Outside the Walls

After lunch, we jetted over to our last basilica for the day, St. Paul Outside the Walls. Yes, we went outside the still-standing ancient walls of Rome to the place where St. Paul’s body (but not head) is buried. For us Christians, he’s super important as the author of many letters of the New Testament. He was beheaded and buried.

Other things of note in this basilica is a relic of the chains of St. Paul when he was imprisoned. The basilica also has portraits of all 266 popes lining the upper walls of the interior.

The Catacombs

When we finished with St. Paul Outside The Walls, we headed over to one of the catacombs. Catacombs were burial sites outside the city. Very fascinating in how the early Christians were buried in the catacombs and how they also used these places for worship when Christianity was still illegal. Many of our early martyrs were buried in the catacombs. We went through a very informative hour tour where we got to walk through a brief section of the catacombs. Apparently there are miles and miles of catacombs underneath.

I couldn’t take pictures or video inside but that’s okay since it was kind of too dark anyway.

We returned back to our hotel, had dinner, had meetings as a big diocesan group and then as parish groups.

I finished off the night with an impromptu late night gelato run with a group that was heading out to grab some. We also invited our bishop and he agreed to tag along! So yes, I can say I’ve been out and about at 10PM at night looking for gelato with my bishop.

All in all, this was a crazy jam-packed day. I really had to try and remember that I’m not visiting all these places as a tourist but rather as a pilgrim. I really had to be intentional about these sacred places and remember to pray, especially for the intentions that I’m carrying with me (from some of you!).

Several things really stood out to me from today.

  • We had Mass at St. Mary Major! With our own bishop! That’s…major! But truly a blessing to be able to worship together in a such a place.
  • I really got to appreciate the tangible things of our Christian faith. Like the chains. The images and statues. Actual things that have great historical and religious significance. Visiting the basilicas and the catacombs made the Christian faith even more real for me.
  • Kind of tied to the above point is learning my heritage as a Christian. Rome has such a deeply embedded Christian history, and it was awesome to be able to learn some of it while visiting all these places today. It makes me appreciate all the more in being Christian today.

Day 1 done. Now time to look forward to not being a sissy. In Assisi.