Search This Blog

Monday, September 27, 2010

Random Rantings

I have a lot on my mind today.  I'm tired so I'm unfocused and I'm very contemplative.  I'm slightly crabby, pessimistic, and have no motivation to do my job today.

I need to figure out if youth ministry is really something I'm called to do.  I'm great at the relationship part... the youth love me.  I really suck at everything else--which is weird because I did stuff like this all through college.  I just never seem to do things right.  Perhaps what it is, is that, when confronted with the real word, I am forced to realize that I can't make everyone happy, and there will be people who just plain don't like me.  There are always going to be people who disagree with the way I do things, who doubt my ability, who would rather take control themselves, and who just don't like my personality.  There will always be people who are overcritical, oversensitive, overemotional, overly stupid, apathetic, and sinful.  There will always be humans.  I will always be human.  Perhaps I am cut out for this, and just need to have confidence in myself.  I dislike it here though, and I'm not happy, which probably means its time to move on.

Another thing that bugs me is the lack of commitment amongst families.  It's nearly impossible to plan an event because no one will commit to coming--so you don't know how much pizza and pop to get, can't tell what sort of games you'll need to play, how many chaperones you'll need, etc.   People don't respect deadlines and when asked if they'll they reply with a "maybe".  The fact is that they want to wait and see if something better, something more fun will come along.  Our society is so used to having instant gratification, so set in their ways, that the word commitment has come to mean "I'll do it if I feel like it when the time comes", and unfortunately, in my experience, they don't feel like Church.

Really I think, and I could just be pointing fingers, but I think the parents are mainly to blame.  The family is the foundational unit of the Church, and parents are supposed to be the primary educators of their children.  Ideally, families should be living strong, Christ centered lives.  But in reality that's not the case.  To most families school, sports, and status are the most important things.  Sports aren't bad, but when they make you so busy or shortsighted that you don't have time for God, then the parents aren't doing their job.  But that's the world we live in.

OK, enough ranting for now.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On Sleep and Sabbath

Often I ponder the concept of sleep.  We spend nearly a third of our life in a state in which we're not really living at all--we're not making decisions, we're not building relationships, we're not praising God, and we're not working.  What's the point?  Why did God create us in a way that we, in a sense, waste a significant portion of our lives?

Humans tend to have a love-hate relationship throughout their lives.  Most children hate to go to bed, probably because they realize that there really is "nothing to do".  In a way, its pretty boring.  I still sometimes feel this way, as I just want to stay up one more hour so I can read more, talk to my friends, watch that one last tv show or movie, or party just a bit longer.  Sometimes I even say, "OK God, help me fall asleep quickly so I can just wake up seemingly quickly and just get to my next day!".  This I believe is not uncommon.  However, I also love to sleep!  I have trouble getting out of bed because my blanket just feels soooo good!  After a long day of work doesn't everyone just look forward to a good night's sleep.  Most people would agree that being tired sucks the joy out of life.

And it is this fact (that we hate being tired) I think, that reveals to us an insight into what it means to sleep. Perhaps sleep is our daily mini-reminder of what it means to remember the Sabbath.  This may seem like a stretch I know, but let me explain.  I'll admit, my theology on the Sabbath is basic at best, but I know the Sabbath is primarily about remembering to worship God.  To do this we are called to refrain from any unneeded work, rest as "God did", and in a sense "re-create" ourselves to be more like God.  While not necessarily praising God while we sleep, we are acknowledging how God made us--we are finite beings, we sin, and we are all slowly dying.  Sleep allows us rejuvenate ourselves by dying to our constant need to be busy, putting our sins behind us, and rising as a new creation each and every day.  Is that not what the Sabbath is about--Resurrection?!  God wants us to know that being busy doesn't equal living the fullness of life--in fact, it often hinders it.  Whether or not you agree with me that sleep is a mini-sabbath, I challenge you to consider what it means to live out the Sabbath not only once a week (which is important), but daily.  How can we daily take time to worship God, die to our sins, and arise each day as a new creation?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Perhaps a New Direction

I am notoriously bad with executing follow through.  Motivation is not my strong point.  But perhaps that shall change, at least for the time being.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what I want out of my future.  The reason for this: I'm not happy in my current situation, at least, not as happy as I could be. Yes, I have an amazing girlfriend whom I love very much, and whom I'm in a great relationship with.  Yes, I'm living on my own, independent, and financially secure.  And yes, I'm doing meaningful work.  Unfortunately I don't think its the work I'm supposed to be doing.

I love my youth, and many of my volunteers but I think after this year, it will be time for me to move on.  I don't know if I'm meant to do youth ministry as a full time job.  I will always be involved in it in some way... it's part of who I am... but the politics, the busy work, the staring at a computer, the appeasement of parents... not for me.  I'd be much better adept at being a volunteer.

So when I think about what I want to do for the rest of my life, I think about what I am passionate about.  First of all, I know I am called to raise a family.  I want to marry a beautiful Catholic woman and raise beautiful Catholic babies... whomever that woman may be ;) .  But I also think about what God is calling me to do for a career, and the nearly overwhelming desires I've had lately.  I want to be a writer.  It's in my blood.  The reason I've started blogging again is because of my irresistible urge to release all that I have inside me onto paper (or screen).  I've continued to work more frequently on my novel, although this is still quite the feat for me as a combination of lack of confidence and experience tend to hinder the actual execution of my burning motivation.  I also know that I have a deep and intrinsic thirst to learn.  I want to go to Grad-school... it's beckoning me.  I can't put it off much longer.  Eventually, I want to teach at a University and give the knowledge I've accumulated to future generations.  There's a lot of things I want.  Right now, I don't know specifically where God is calling me, but more and more each day I'm becoming certain its not here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Please Follow Me

I have not been good at keeping this blog up to date, i'll be the first to admit that. Perhaps someday I shall return. For now, if you so desire, please join me in my offshoot blog as I journey through the writings of C.S. Lewis and aim to reflect on them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Exposition on "All of Creation" (Part II)

Having discussed the first era of Man post fall in Verse 1, we shall discuss the second era, which is presented in Verse 2. This second era is characterized by the time of the resurrection to the present day.

Captivated but no longer bound by chains

The definition of captivated is traditionally "strongly attracted, fascinated, or beguiled". This phrase contrasts the effects of sin on man before and after the crucifixion. Before the completion of the Paschal Mystery man was bound in chains by sin. We could not avoid it, we could not overcome it. This is evidenced in the repeated covenant violations of the ancient Hebrews, and the reason why we needed a "new heart". It was this binding by chains that kept us from heaven. However, now that Christ has paid our debt and conquered sin and death, we are no longer bound in sin, but merely captivated. Basically, sin lures us and tempts us, in many ways we find it attractive, and it even beguiles us into following it. But through the sacrifice of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are now able to follow Christ, who truly satisfies all our desires.

left at an empty grave

At a basic level this line merely points to the power of the resurrection for the cause of salvation and our release of bondage. However, the empty grave is something more, for as Christs body was glorified, so will ours be. When we get our bodies they will be perfect and completely free of sin and blemish.

the sinner and the sacred resolved

I thought that "resolved" was an interesting word choice for this... why not "rejoined"? The definition of "resolution", in this sense, I believe is "the solution to a problem derived from decision making". This I think is accurate in that, though God freely gives us salvation, we must make the personal decision to accept it. So, although we do not achieve salvation because of our own qaulifications, our salvation is still dependent on our choice. So now, in our current era, we can choose to resolve ourselves to Christ, for though we are not rejoined with him (we are not in complete union with him), we are still resolved in that we can make the decision to accept heaven.

Thus is the state of the second era of man, and the second verse of the song.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Exposition on "All of Creation" (Part I)

My new favorite Christian song is "All of Creation" by Mercy Me. Not only are the lyrics and musical composition beautiful technically and theoretically nearly flawless, but the theology of the words speak to the essence of the human experience.

I will present this exposition in five parts to avoid too much confusion and an epically long post. This first part focuses on Verse 1.

The progression of the song speaks of the three eras of human's post-fall existence, and when combined with the chorus and the bridge, outline the story of salvation.

Verse 1
"Separated until the veil was torn"

The first verse speaks of the time between the fall until the moment of the Crucifixion when salvation becomes possible for all. We were separated from God because of our sin and thus, salvation was not possible. However, with the crucifixion the veil was torn. This is symbolic in a few different ways. First, historically, the veil was what separated the rest of the temple from the Holy of Holies (the tabernacle), the very presence of God, which only the high priest could enter during one day of the year (Yom Kippur--the Day of Atonement). Veil, in Hebrew, literally means "to conceal". However, we know Christologically that Christ is the real presence of God, and that his sacrifice was for all people of all times. Therefore, theologically this shows that, with the crucifixion, Christ became present for all people, not just his "chosen".

Secondly, in the anagogical (Eschatological) sense (which is more relevant to the actual song), the veil refers to the [Hebrew] cosmological and [Christian] theological separation between heaven and earth. In other words, humans from earth could not reach heaven. With the crucifixion this veil was torn and salvation was made possible for all.

The moment that hope was born

How great it was of the author to include virtue in this song dealing with salvation. Present in this first age of man (fall-->atonement) is first the virtue of faith... the only virtue that could truly be present in this era (controversial statement, I realize, but that's for another post). However, with the crucifixion hope is finally born, in the ultimate sense, in that finally salvation is made possible and God fulfills his promise. Granted, hope, in some sense was always present in that God always planned to fulfill his promises, both ultimate and specific, but finally hope is completed with ability for man to receive salvation through the cross.

and guilt was pardoned once and for all

And how was this veil torn and hope born? Through the act of atonement brought about by Christs sacrificial act. According to basic "satisfaction theory", Christ paid our debt to the Father, pardoning us from our guilt in an eternal sense and enabling salvation.

Monday, May 24, 2010

On Jazz

There's just something about Jazz Music. I hadn't really discovered it as an actual listening medium until just recent. But there's just something classy about smooth Jazz--the plinking of the piano, the strum of the bass--it all just comes together to form a relaxing whole that makes you think of just sitting back in an armchair with a glass of "Scotch on the rocks" and enjoying life. I shall enjoy more of this music... it is a refreshing part of life.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Loving Your Angel

Guardian Angels: The teaching on Guardian Angels is a beautiful teaching that exemplifies God's love for us--He loves us so much that he gives us our very own spiritual being to protect and guide us! When I was traveling my diocese for a Catechesis program, I would often find myself with a couple extra minutes at the end of a class time, or transitioning between activities. I would proceed to tell them about Guardian Angels, and inevitably their eyes would light up. Some things they always liked to know about Guardian Angels:

  • Everybody has one
  • They can protect you from danger
  • They act as your conscience
  • You can pray to them and learn their name!

It is this last point that seemed to be the most amazing to them, and when they would ask how, I would teach them this prayer:

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear
To whom God's love commits me here
Ever this day be at my side
To light and guard, rule, and guide.

I told them that if you say this prayer to your Angel every morning, that they may reveal their name to you. They always asked if I knew my Guardian Angel's name, and I would always respond, "Samuel". This was how I first developed my devotion to my Guardian Angel, and sometimes if the kids were older, I would tell them this story:

How I learned my Guardian Angels Name: It was a seemingly normal night on the road, and my second night at the host family I was staying with that week. My team member had let me take the bedroom with the bed, and he offered to take the couch, because he liked falling asleep watching the TV if he could. That night I couldn't sleep, and I found myself with a desire to pray the St. Micheal Prayer. I said it, and then continued to say a rosary. It didn't help with sleeping, and God seemed to be testing me that night with patience. As the night wore on I received various hot and cold flashes, as well as a feeling that I should pray for Faith. When I did sleep, I had dreams of people I never met before, and giving them roses as a symbol of God's forgiveness for them. One time after one of these dreams I woke up to get a glass of water, only to find my teammate had left all the lights on, along with EWTN. I shut off all the electronics, got my drink, and went to bed. Later, I got up again to go to the bathroom (something that is very rare for me to do) and I saw that again the lights were on, and the tv had been turned on, but that channel changed. I continued to pray. Sometime during the early morning hours I got the urge to pray to my Guardian Angel, which is something I had never really done before. I prayed asking for guidance, sleep and protection, and as I did, the name Samuel came into my head. I asked my Angel if that was his name, and I got an overwhelming feeling of love and peace in my heart. That is how I became pretty sure my Angel's name was Samuel. I slept in fits for the rest of the night, but I was comforted by my new found friend.

Regardless of whether or not I told my personal story, the children I taught where always filled with an immediate sense of awe and love, and many would proceed that very to pray to their angel at Mass or even during recess. This is a beautiful gift we have been given, and it is a means by which we can evangelize to the younger generation. It takes only love of a single truth to delve deeper and discover the richness of the Church. I believe that this teaching may be especially comforting to youth and children who feel as if they don't have any other friends--their Angel was created to be their special best friend. Let us spread this joy and help others to realize that they all have guiding light sent by God to hold their hands on their journey to Christ. They are not alone!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Spirit of Liturgy

Today I want to discuss something which has been on my mind for a couple days, and which is the product of comments from both protestants and Catholics, as well as my experience of a Passover Meal. Basically the question is, to what extent is the Spirit present in the Catholic Liturgy?

I have heard some protestants say that one of the problems with the Catholic Mass is that it's not open to the call of the Spirit--that is, its "always the same" and so one cannot respond what the Spirit may be calling the minister or congregation to do.

On the flip side, I know that one of the problems many Catholics have with Protestant services is that "there is no order". The beautiful thing about the Liturgy which we Catholics have come to hold dear is the Ritual.

I'm going to just lay down the basics (otherwise this will be a very lengthy post). Any in-depth reading can be done through the links embedded throughout.

First let us define our terms: Liturgy can be defined as "Public Worship of God".
Ritual can be defined as "the prescribed procedure for conducting religious ceremonies ".
While Liturgy in the general sense does not require ritual, in the Catholic Church they are nearly synonymous. Basically, Liturgy could be thought as "Ritual done in communion for the worship of God."

Ritual Liturgy is not a Catholic invention... anyone who claims that is blind and ignorant of scripture. It has been around for over 3000, since the time of Moses and God's rules for Passover, Sacrifice, Worship, etc. The Pentateuch could be considered a Crash Course on Ritual. In fact, it is safe to say that at least 75% of what Catholics do at Mass alone, is from Jewish tradition.

Are we to presume that God's Spirit wasn't at work whenever the Jews sacrificed two doves? Or during Passover? Or when they read Midrash and TaNaK in the Temple?

Of course not! Perhaps the problem arises from thinking that "being open" to the Spirit of God means being completely flexible and unplanned in concerns to worship. This, perhaps, is a true difference in protestant vs. Catholic culture. However, I believe the purpose of God's Spirit is to draw into greater worship and Unity with Him. Thus, anything that can accomplish such things must be open to the Spirit, since it only through him that we can truly praise God.

How is the Spirit Present?

The Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium (On Sacred Liturgy) states that God is present in four ways during the celebration of Mass. 1) Most importantly God is physically present in the Eucharist and through it we receive Christ into us. What better way is there to be unified to our God than this? 2) God is also present in the ordained minister, who acts "en persona Christi" or, In the Person of Christ and thus it is as though we celebrate the Mass with Jesus himself. 3) God is also present in the Word of God, especially the Gospel. This hearkens to the idea prevalent in God that the "Logos" is not only the Words spoken by God, but Christ himself as well (a rather complex theology that I have never quite fully understood). 4) Finally, in accordance with Matthew 18:20, the Spirit of God is present in the Assembly of the Faithful, especially in their song and prayer.

While there is so much more to be said, I will leave it at this for now. The Holy Spirit is abundantly present in the all Catholic Liturgy (the Mass and otherwise), because the purpose of Liturgy is the same as the purpose of the Spirit--to unite us in worship with God. This practice is millenia old and is manifest by God-given rituals!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Prom Dress Massacre: A Lesson in Holiness or Conservative Catastrophe?

Today I want to talk about this video. I have mixed feelings about this situation and so I'll outline both the positive and negative aspects, and maybe even come to a conclusion.

First, the Positive:

Modesty: I firmly applaud this Alabama community for deciding to uphold a minimum standard of modesty. Obviously this girl (who doesn't strike me as being the brightest bulb on the block) needs a lesson in modesty, and perhaps this was the situation to do it. When various parts of your body are threatening to "bust out of their cell" so to speak, and you don't think you have "cleavage" there's something not quite right... Although, with a mother like that, who could blame the girl for being ignorant?

Sufficient Warning: The school sent out three warnings to students and parents concerning proper dress code... you would hope that after three warnings that even the dullest, most ignorant, or even the most absent minded of parents and students would be able to comply. Even so, 5% of the students showed up in violation. Silly kids...

Now the negative:

The Punishment: I'm not convinced that the punishment fit the crime. First of all, three days suspension for violating the dress code at the senior prom... seems a bit severe. Why not just send them home and not let them come to the prom? That seems like a sufficient enough punishment in that it takes away something they are really excited about which pertains directly to the offense, rather than suspending them from school (which they probably dislike anyway). Even worse is the paddling. I actually agree with the girl on this one... they are too old to be paddled and, when not done by a parent, in a loving and consistent fashion, spanking can, but will not always be successful. I typically don't agree with spanking, as its detrimental effects (such as promoting violence and causing psychological dysfunction in the child) is not worth it, it shows the inneffective "authoritarian style parenting", and it is often done in anger. Spanking with anything other than hand is, in most of today's society, not appropriate. There are more effective means of behavioral reinforcement, and just because you uphold traditional values, doesn't mean you have to reinforce them in traditional ways.

Those are most of the positive and negatives that I could think of. I'm not so sure i agree with the guy's position of "patience vs tolerance", but that's for another post and I have never bee one for "Zero Tolerance" in the first place. All in all, a very interesting and potentially controversial issue of which I can see both sides.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Particularly Applicable Song

This song has been running through my head this morning. I wrote it my junior year of High School I think.

"Help Me Figure Out"

c) What is my reason here
How do I know
What are you calling me to do
I am so very lost
Show me the way
Lord please lead me back to you
Lead me to you

V1) Lord, sometimes I think
I can do it all myself
Lord I don't know
What my purpose is in life

V2) We go through this life
Wondering why You put us here
Lord sometimes I cry
Because I don't know what to do

B) Lord I feel my life's a waste
Lord I need to taste
The goodness, of, your love
I need to know my meaning Lord
I need to hear the living Word
So, Help me figure out

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reflection on 1 Cor 10-12

What wonderful readings today! I'm going to focus mostly on how these readings can be used as an aid in Catholic Doctrine Apologetics.

A good portion of Chapter 10 and 11 focus on Christ's Sacrifice and our Eucharistic meal--THE CORE MOST CENTRAL DOGMA OF OUR FAITH! This is pretty much my reason for being Catholic, so I will enumerate on what this passage means for Catholics! In 10:16 Paul reminds us that we are indeed sharing in the "Body and Blood" of Christ. Here, sharing is from the greek "Koinonia", which literally means "to participate in". In 11:24-25 Paul again affirms, in the words of Christ, "This is my body... This is my blood... do this in remembrance of me". Here the greek for "remembrance" is "anamnesis", which literally means to "remember again". This does not mean that this is MERELY a memory, but that it should not be vainly done without remembering the sacrifice of Christ. While being support for the belief in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the ideas of Partaking and Remembering together hold support for what the Catholic Church holds the Eucharistic Celebration (the Mass) to be--an actual participation in the original crucifixion of our Lord! Whoah! By participating in the remembrance (re-presentation), and keeping in mind that God is outside of time and died for those in all times, we are actually making manifest Golgatha on the Altar. Additionally... why would Christ sacrifice himself, and then celebrate such a sacrifice if he did not want us to be there at Golgatha with him?

The second idea I want to touch on is the focus on chapter 11 and deals with "head coverings" which, for many modern day people, seems to be a point of contention with Paul. However, there is evidence that shows that, with respect to everything else the Corinthians sucked at, this was a relatively unimportant matter to Paul, and the Corinthians probably brought it up themselves. First let me say that Paul was not against women teaching in the Church, for he mentions women praying and prophesying (11:5). Rather, the point of this passage is two-fold: 1) to recognize proper authority within the Church and within relationships, and 2) to celebrate God-Given Differences in Sexuality! On point two: God created men and women different, and complimentary. Though we are equal, we are not the same. It is these very differences that make us compliment each other, and thus we have different gifts and roles (more on that in the next section). On point one: All genuine authority comes from God, therefore though in a traditional sense a man may be the head of the relationship as deemed by God, it does in no way demean the role of the woman. Both are mutually submissive (11:11-12) to each other and, though the man may be the head, the woman is definitely the heart of the relationship. A relationship cannot function without both.

Finally, let me speak on Spiritual gifts and the Body of Christ! This section of Chapter 12 has many implications for Catholic Doctrine. First, it forms the basis of Catholic Social Teaching and Solidarity--because we are all connected, we have an inherent duty to uphold the dignity, health, and well being of all our members. Secondly, I believe this aids in the support of Women not being priests. Paul reminds us that, not all are called be apostles, prophets, healers, etc. and yet it is that very difference that makes us beautiful. In reality, we don't choose our vocation, God does, and it is not our Right to be made holy by following God's will... it is our privilege. Therefore, though some women (and also some men) may have a desire to become a priest, it is not necessarily their calling. We are all called to minister in the way in which God can best use us, and even if that calling may be "lowly" we are assured that greater honor is given to the "inferior members" (12:23).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reflection on 1 Cor 7-9

How great is the Glory of God!

These are three beautiful chapters written by Paul which in return present three distinct ideas for living a Christian life.

Chapter 7 deals mostly with how to be married, but in a more general sense how to live out one's vocation. As I am yet unmarried, I will focus on the general aspect of relationship and vocation. In verse 4 Paul tells the Christian that both spouses do not have control over their own bodies, but rather a claim to the other's. What a beautiful statement that strikes at the heart of a Holy Marital Relationship--MUTUAL SUBMISSION AND SACRIFICE! When we enter into a relationship, especially one with the commitment such as marriage, we enter into a life lived exclusively for the betterment of the other person. Think of the weight of that responsibility! But in love all things are possible, for love builds up, and the Lord grants us an endless supply should we desire it! This commitment is final--under no circumstance should two married believers separate.

Chapter 8 deals with eating meat sacrificed to idols, however the deeper issue hear concerns acting out love. While those that say that other gods don't exist and thus eating such meat is OK are objectively right, they're arrogant knowledge overshadows their spirit of love. Their actions lead those who are weaker to scandal and sin, and thus it is not merely enough for the knowledgeable to profess their faith in "One God", they must ACT in a spirit of love as well.

Chapter 9 talks of the duties of those called to minister. This again focuses much on sacrifice and discipline. In v. 16 talks about the obligation that preaching the gospel gives him. This obligation means that in order to preach the Gospel, Paul must give his will to God and becomes free only in so much as he "becomes a slave to all" (v. 19). Next, in a beautiful passage, Paul describes how he has "become all things to all peoples" (v.22) in order that some might be saved. This speaks deeply to my heart as it is what i desire to be, and also what I think we all are called to be in some sense. We must use any moral means necessary to reach others, and often this includes making ourselves weak, vulnerable, and scared. I will end in the same way that Paul ends this section:

"Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it" (1 Cor 9:24).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reflection on 1 Cor 4-6

Having addressed the problems of the Corinthian Church is the past two chapters, Paul now begins to move into his teaching about how to fix said problems. In the following chapters there is heavy implications about living a virtuous life.

Trustworthiness--Paul says first (4:2) that stewards must be trustworthy. This is ever so important because people must be able to trust that the words we speak, and the actions that we do are in accordance with the Truth of Christ. Being trustworthy is also especially important in the second virtue:

Right Judgement--Paul states "do not pronounce judgment before the time", and that all judgment really comes from the Lord (4:5). However, being Christians there are times when we are called to exercise right judgment, especially when calling someone to greater holiness, or in preventing someone from hurting the Church as a whole. Paul deals with this in chapter 5 when he talks about the effects of Sexual Immorality on the Church. He states that these people MUST be judged and that such is a sin is even worse to associate with than robbers, greed, and idolaters. He states that even one speck can ruin the holiness of the whole (5:6). He even condones kicking such a person out! This seems radical and a last resort, for of course the purpose of the Church is to bring people to Christ, not keep them from Him. However, when the acts of one jeopardize the holiness of the whole, he must be let go. The Church has shown this in the past through the practice of excommunication in extreme circumstances. I recently had to ban a youth from the program for the rest of the year. I didn't want to, but I had to--and this gives biblical weight to the decision I had to make. All we can do for such people is pray for them. Finally, part of exercising right judgement is knowing when and where to do so. Like Paul says in Chapter 6--we don't bring matters between believers to be judged by unbelievers... that's just stupid.

Chastity--Obviously if sexual immorality stains the entire church, we should be chaste, living our lives according to the sexual guidelines of our current vocation.

Humility--The second half of Chapter 4 deals with the virtue of Humility, arguably the most important Christian and Contrary Virtue. Paul blatantly points out that all things we have are gifts, so why would we boast? Silly Corinthians. Verses 10-13 are beautiful as Paul outlines the dichometric qualities of the Apostles with those of "normal believers" in that all the Apostles do would seemingly be negative to most of society (foolish, weakness, disrepute, hunger, thirst, etc.) but because all are done in Christ, they are made righteous by them.

Freedom--Finally Paul talks a bit of freedom, which is again in conjunction with right judgment. The phrase "all things are lawful for me" at first threw me for a loop, for how can all things be lawful? However, after doing some research with some Biblical Commentaries, I realized that this statement is said by the Corinthians. In other words, it highlights the Corinthians' distorted view of freedom as being "able to do what one wants" rather than "able to do the good". Therefore, while freedom of will allows us to do what we will, the freedom allotted to us by Christ does not. Because our bodies are a temple and made to glorify God, we should actively engage that which glorifies God, and actively flee from that which does not. It sometimes takes right judgment to decide which is which.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reflection on 1 Cor 1-3

Corinthians is one of my favorite books and, being recently called to read it more in depth, I have decided this would be a wonderful way to process some of what I read.

In 1:10 Paul tells us that there should be "no division" among us and that we should be "united in the same mind and purpose". Paul today is probably sobbing up in heaven (not really) about how divisive our Church has become... not only do we have Catholics and Protestants, but we have over 5,000 denominations of Protestantism, various forms of Catholicism, and even in the Catholic Church we have "Liberal and Conservative, Orthodox and Progressive". Of course, this isn't all bad, varying opinions lead to the rich diversity of the Church. However, the problem arises when these different opinions turn into to divisions. We are not of the same mind... we may all claim to be centered on Christ, but our actions speak otherwise. I am positive that God does not think in terms of denominations... he doesn't want them, but does it really matter if there are differences as long as the center is the same?

The next section kind of threw me for a loop. In 1:17, Paul states that Christ did not send him to Baptize but to proclaim the Gospel. Isn't this contradictory to the great commission in Matthew? However, maybe Paul is responding to the problems he sees with people saying "I was baptized by N." In 18, Paul quotes Isaiah saying that God thwarts the discernment of the discerning. I still don't know what that means... why would God thwart something he wants us to actively engage in?

Next Paul talks about wisdom in relationship to proclaiming Christ Crucified. In 2:4-5 he talks about how he does not speak with words of wisdom but with demonstration of the Spirit. Beautiful! While wisdom is great, we sometimes forget that we are experiential beings, and thus much of our evangelization should be based on helping others EXPERIENCE God!

There is so much more in these first three chapters that I could talk about. But these are the main ideas, and I'm sick of writing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Book Submission

A month or so back I submitted a page to "webook", an online rating system for potential authors. In the first stage, you submit one page, it's voted on, and if it reaches a certain point, it moves on to the next stage where you submit the first chapter. My submission is getting closer to moving on. This is what I wrote.

"The Eternal Flame"
Fiction: Sci Fi/Fantasy, Religious/Inspirational
In a world wrought with Human individualism and selfishness, the world has died and entered an ice age. A a small group of survivors hangs on to what they could salvage from the past, but death is closing in. Their one hope is the eternal flame, can they work together to find their only salvation?

Bill Foster looked lovingly into his wife Edith's eyes--the journey this far had been tough, wrought with death, and it had hardly yet started. At least he had her. He would never take her for granted. Their group of twelve travelers searching for salvation had been cut down to seven. One had frozen to death that first night, two had been lost in a white out, one killed by a polar bear, and then there was Sam. Sam's fate was what they all feared.

Without warning, the world shook beneath the small group of travelers. Panicking, they all dived into the snow, not able to keep their footing. A rift in the giant glacier opened up between them and snow started cascading down the seemingly endless crevice. It was swallowing Edith. What accursed fate was it that was taking his only purpose in life from him as he looked in her eyes?

He must save her--he must save himself. Without thinking he scrambled through the snow, frantically trying to get up enough speed to jump the gorge. He could make it, he knew he could. It was just like the old days. Someone had has waist, was holding him still. They pinned him down, but Bill fought back, punching him in the nose. Now there were two men on him, now three.

"You can't save her Bill, it's too wide, she's moving too fast."

Still struggling despite his exhaustion Bill looked up in time to see his beloved slip over the edge into oblivion. Frozen tears rolled down his cheeks as he wept. They were down to six...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Further Distinctions on Culture

My continued reading of Ron Luce's book about youth ministry again brings me to consider even more deeply the essential differences between Catholic and Protestant culture. I have reflected on this for some time, and some of the things that have been coming to me have slightly concerned me. Therefore, more than wanting to know what the OBJECTIVE and essential differences are in culture, I'm beginning to be more concerned about the cause of the SUBJECTIVE essential differences are in the two cultures. For two of these I will be presenting as something in which I see as a problem in the Catholic Church. For a few it will be things I see as advantages.

Hierarchy and Role

One of the things that has bugged me about this book is that Ron Luce keeps talking about Youth Pastors preparing weekly/monthly "sermons". Sermons in my mind are reserved for Sacramentally ordained ministers during the celebration of liturgy. While there are other (sacramental) issues here, the first thing that this brings to mind is the Catholic focus on hierarchy. I love this about the Church... there are defined boundaries and roles that, while at first may seem limiting, are really just expressions of varied divine-given authority.

God gives us different roles in the Church, and while some may be called to teach, not all those who are called to teach are to do so in the same capacity or with the same authority. I am a DRE, I teach youth and to some extent parents as family, as well as evangelize to my friends (which is not done in a formal and public manner). I am not called to to shepherd a parish, a diocese, or an entire Church... that is for people who have been ordained by God. I give talks and lead discussions, I do not give sermons, letters, or encyclicals.

I feel as though this is a difference from protestants, both in the obvious differences in dependency on hierarchy (one of the major schism points in history), but also on the adherence to implicit boundaries. In a Catholic Church, not just anyone can give a formal and public exposition on faith (sure... privately is fine), but must be found to have some qualification of doing so. Perhaps my perception that protestants don't adhere to such rules is incorrect, but this is the first difference I perceive.

Sacramental Economy

One of the other things that defines Catholic Culture, and which I truly love, is the Sacramental Economy of the Church. The CCC (1076) defines the Sacramental Economy as "the communication of the fruits of Christ’s death and Resurrection through the sacraments". Basically its our participation in certain rituals that directly impart grace to us. The Sacraments are the life-blood of the Church and, all seven together, provide the necessary basis for living an authentic Christian life if practiced correctly. This is one area where my heart aches for protestants who don't have these, or don't recognize the depth and beauty inherent in every one of these. Sacraments are the primary way in which Catholics encounter God on earth, and thus formidably shape our culture by giving us an appreciation for ritual, liturgy, mediation, "mysticism", tradition, and the literal infusing of the Holy Spirit.

Depth of Emotion

This brings me to the first concern I have for my beloved Church. I'll begin with a Caveat though--this may just be a personal struggle that I am dealing with. It may not be characteristic of the Church as a whole, but it seems to be something I have noticed.

There seems to be a lack of depth in the Emotion of the Church. For some reason we are afraid to talk about how God makes us "feel", or how Jesus Christ is "moving in our lives", or how we have "received Jesus into our hearts". Many people would say we don't talk about it because they are "overly protestant terms". I disagree--I think there is a reason they are overly protestant. It seems to me that, in many cases, especially in certain populations in the Church, we become "surface Catholics"--focused on the intellectual and theoretical aspect of God, and not so much the Spiritual-relational aspect of Him. It's not that we don't have deep feelings of love for Christ, it's not that Spirit doesn't move us, it's that, for some reason, we seem to be afraid of talking about it (which will bring me to my next point).

This is one thing I think we need to learn from the protestants. They don't seem to fear expressing themselves... they can stand up and yell, "Amen". They talk about the intimate relationships they have with God... why don't we? I'm not saying we all need to be charismatic, I for one get a little uncomfortable with that and while a beautiful thing, is not for everyone... we just need to be open to expressing the Spirit more than we are.


This issue follows closely with the last one. We as a Church (in my perception) are afraid to be vulnerable. Sure, we talk about it, we preach it, we right about it, but when it comes down to the individual practice of it, most lay people (and probably many ordained as well) are scared to be vulnerable. This is a part of the human condition unfortunately, but not only are we afraid to be vulnerable to each other, but to God. Many people are afraid to let the Spirit move in them. This is probably just a way of looking at the Emotional depth in a different way, so I won't go into too much depth about it.


I love my Church and my God with the depths of my heart. I am convinced that it is the fullest truth available to humans, and the fastest way to union with him. The Church is alive, we are the largest single denomination in the world, we serve, we evangelize, we worship, we teach, and we love. I feel we need to go deeper, we always need to, as Christ said, "put out into the deep". We need to challenge society's notion of privatism, individualism, and ego-centrism. Catholicism at its core is communal, and while we do a good job at worshiping in public, of praying in public, and engaging in community--if we want our numbers to grow and if we want to truly change hearts, we must not be afraid to be vulnerable and to show emotions.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lord, that I May Live

I started this song in September and was missing the bridge. I finally finished it today with a bolt of inspiration. I'll include the [basic] chord progression in case you want some idea of how it sounds.

Chorus (F Bb, Gm C)
Lord give me eyes
That I might see like you
Lord give me a heart
That I might love like you
Lord give me hands
That I might serve like you
All these things I ask
That I might be as you

V1 (F C, Gm C)
Lord set me along your paths
That I might walk in your light
Have your Spirit move in me
So I may be upright

v2 (Same)
Lord help love
Despite what I receive
Help me love like Jesus did
Oh Lord that I may bleed (not sure I like this line yet)

Bridge x2
Oh Lord that I may live (Bb C)
A life worthy of You (F C Dm)
Help me in my unbelief (Bb C)
To live a life that's true (E Gm C)

Exposition on the Litany of Humility

The Litany of Humility, composed by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), is one of my most favorite prayers, and one which I try to pray everyday (although fail miserably at). Nevertheless, to achieve what this prayer asks for is one of the deepest desires of my heart. The prayer begins:

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart
, Hear me! Here we are praying to the one who embodies the virtues that we desire most by praying this prayer--not only humility but meekness (a beautiful but often overlooked virtue). Meekness is the combination of the virtues patience (bearing burdens joyfully) and gentility (right mediation of anger) and is equivalent to mercy. By praying this litany we are not only asking for humility, but also the patience to bear, and the gentility to deal with those who/that which make us humble.

The next three sections deal with the three aspects of humility--overcoming the desire to be loved, overcoming the fear of being rejected, and desiring the good of others in all things.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me Jesus!

Lord, help me not to seek fame or esteem, but to accept it when it comes, and let it glorify you.

From the desire of being loved...

Lord, help me not to seek love in unhealthy or unneeded ways. Help me be complete satisfied with your love. Help me to love purely in all things.

From the desire of being extolled...
From the desire of being honored...
From the desire of being praised...

Lord, help me do all things for the love of you alone. Help me to give all praise and honor to you and keep nothing for myself. Help me to lead hearts to you, and not to myself.

From the desire of preferred...
From the desire of being consulted...
From the desire of being approved...

Lord, help me to use my gifts for only those things you deem holy. Help me not to seek approval or to flaunt gifts you have given me. Help me to accept it when my friends go to other people for advice.

From the fear of being humiliated…

Lord, banish all fear from my heart. Help me to not be afraid of anything you have planned for me. Help me not to fear my cross or the purifying fires of your love. Help me live with reckless abandon, running towards the unknown things you have planned for me.

From the fear of being despised...

Lord, help me to care only about what you think. Let me not fear the the despisement of others, which is often based on fear and misunderstanding itself.

From the fear of being rebuked...

Lord, help me accept humbly the consequences for what I have done wrong. Help me Lord to even accept responsibility for that which I did not do wrong, in order to atone for that which I have gotten away with.

From the fear of being calumniated...
From the fear of being forgotten...
From the fear of being ridiculed...
From the fear of being wronged...
From the fear of being suspected...

Lord help me to live only with joy, without fear in my heart. Help to accept all things that lead me closer to your heart.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus grant me the grace to desire it
That others may be esteemed more than I...
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease...
That others may be chosen and I set aside...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided I become as holy as I should...

Lord, help me desire that which is most difficult for me, the good of others over myself. Grant me the ability to accept the greatness of others. Lord, let me be satisfied for the life you have for me.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

No One's Home

I'm having trouble focusing on hardly anything today. My mind is in another place. I think I'm probably going through a burnt out stage. I'll get through it in a couple of days most likely. I feel apathetic about most things. It's beautiful out, nearly 50 degrees. I will go for a walk tonight.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Goals and Mission in Evangelism

Those who know me or read this blog regularly enough know that I value succinctness, thesis statements, and purpose and meaning. These constitute my paradigm for the world--It is my elucidation. I believe that principles close to these, mission, vision, and goals, are necessary parts of an organized catechesis and evangelization. For it is these very things that get my fired up and passionate for souls of youth.

In the book I'm reading Ron Luce strongly stresses the importance of focusing everything around a mission, vision, and goals. I completely agree with this, which is why one of the first things I did when I got here was to come with a mission statement:

We aim to provide a safe place for youth to come together in fellowship, to empower youth to live authentic lives of the Gospel, and to challenge them to become Saints according to their call to Holiness through the Sacraments of Initiation.

It's a little long for a mission statement, so perhaps it could be shortened to "Empowering youth to live like Christ". I haven't done a great job of focusing everything on this--I'll admit, I do some pointless programs, but it is a vision that fuels my desire to see a better future for our youth.

It bothers me when people stagnate because they are afraid of the hard work it takes to change. Why would I waste my time going to meetings where nothing is accomplished? Why do we allow ourselves to settle for mediocrity--no successful business would take such an attitude! We are in the most important business of all--the business of souls! And our competitor is the the most schrewd and unscrupulous CEO in the entire world... and by failing to have a battle plan to win the hearts of our "customers" we are LOSING! Get off your butts and fight for the change that you profess to believe in.

OK... maybe that was a little harsh. But we cannot be afraid to sacrifice for the good of the Church. We must have movement, change, and a our hearts set towards heaven. We must know where we're headed if we want to know how to get there.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Emerging Problems in the Church

Two of the main things running through my mind today have to do with problems in the Church that I've encountered over the last couple days--one old and one new.

Christian (Dis)Unity: A week ago our RCIA candidates went through the "Rite of Election", the beginning of the last phase before being fully accepted into the Church. Their names were printed in the bulletin. A couple days later they all received letters in the mail from an anonymous writer. The strongly anti-catholic hate material (from a website) was preceeded with a hand written comment saying "I give this to you because I care". The website (linked here) detailed how obviously corrupt the Catholic Church and displayed a grotesquely ignorant view of a misunderstood Church. Highlighted in the "letter" were lines such as "The Catholic religion is the unrepentant sinners religion", "Catholicism eliminates faith", and "The PROBLEM is that most of the teachings of the Catholic religion are merely traditions, doctrines of devils, NOT found anywhere in the Bible." If you know any truth about Catholicism, you know none of these represent the Truth.

I encourage to read the website to see some of the filth that our Brothers and Sister in Christ publish about the Catholic Church... but only if you can think for yourself and keep a heart of love. There are so many things that break my heart in this website... refuting them would make this post too long.

The sad part is that, at a time when Christians need to stand together, many of us (Catholics included) only tear each other apart and damn each other to Hell...which any informed Christian would realize only GOD can do! This truly breaks my heart, and I can't help but feeling sorry for people so lead astray that they must resort to such methods.

The Growing Diversity of Catholicism in America

This week in our parish we've had a few families ripped apart by the Governments need to deport people. Children who are legal citizens are ripped from their parents and held in cells until they can be sent back to Mexico, where their parents have been sent to because, though they are productive members of society, they aren't "legal".

The problem is that the Church in America as a whole (at least from what I've experienced) has yet to realize how to properly integrate and minister to/with this culture. The Hispanic and Latino culture, being significantly more collective than the Anglo culture, is hard for many of us to understand. Should they be forced to learn our language, or should we learn theirs? Yes, in a few years they will be the majority, but the Catholic Church is basing the new liturgy off the prominence of the English language in the world. Should we have separate Spanish Masses, or should we encourage full integration into "our Church".

Obviously the key lies in balance, helping them to assimilate into the unique culture of the American Catholic Church while allowing them to keep their own Identity and make "our culture" even more beautiful. I obviously don't have all the answers, but I believe our current and future priests and ministers need to be taught how to live in this changing and diversifying culture.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Humility and Contrition

First Wednesday of Lent

Jon 3:1-10
51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
Lk 11:29-32

"A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn."

In all that you do be humble and contrite
Let all that you fail to do be likewise
For this is the way of the Lord

The Subway Personality Profile

You can tell a lot about person by what and how they order at Subway. I'll use my experience today as an example.

I ordered my usual: a single toasted 12" black forest ham on Italian bread, with cheese, lettuce, and mayo with a combo (sun chips and a drink). I'll admit, I did switch it up a bit... I usually get white bread, non-toasted, and cheddar cheese (instead of the white American I did today). I ordered with "please and thank you" and with clear and decisive instructions, anticipating what they were going to ask. I payed with a check card.

Here's what my order tells about me:

The fact that I got my usual, but switched it up just bit shows that while I value consistency, tradition, and precedence, I also don't mind a little variety within the proper boundaries.

My choice of common sandwich with simple and traditional toppings points not only to the above values, but also to my need for simplicity and non-extravagance. It also shows that I'm slightly picky.

The fact that I got only a single 12" shows that I most likely eat/live alone, but that either I eat a lot, or that I save for later meals. It also shows that I can be frugal in that I made sure to get the cheap 12" and I'm eating for two meals. However, the fact that I got a combo shows that while I can be frugal, I don't mind spending a little more for the finer points in life. The sun chips and Gatorade also show that, at some level, I value eating healthy (I could have gotten a cookie and mountain dew after all!)

They way in which I ordered shows that 1) I have been to subway before, showing that I probably eat out relatively frequently, 2) I value politeness and can empathize with what it's like working behind a counter, and 3) I know what I want, I plan ahead, and know how to communicate that need. The way in which I payed shows that I value efficiency, am more "modern", and I don't feel carry cash (meaning I'm not involved in anything "shady" ;) ).

The lady ahead of me was probably in her 80's, ordered two "$5 foot longs" with all the toppings, was slow in making her decision, and didn't use please or thank you. She talked about what they "advertised" and didn't really know what she was doing. This tells me that she is frugal, is ordering for someone else (probably a younger person because she doesn't eat out much and doesn't go to "newer places" like subway), she may value politeness, but perhaps sees a distinction between those in front of the counter and those behind (and is kind of bossy), and she is not picky at all and believes that eating her vegetables is probably what got her to her ripe old age.

The most awkward part of this however, was post-order--she went to pay and was surprised that the total for two "$5 foot-longs" was $10.69 because, "They are advertise at exactly $5!". The cashier tried to explain tax... but the woman couldn't understand. After paying in cash... for which the woman scrounged around her purse for a couple minutes, she took her meal and a glass. I thought she was going to get water... but instead she took a full glass of Coke (which she hadn't paid for). The cashier purposely looked away and didn't say anything, so neither did I.

There's a lot of stuff you could infer from this, but this post is getting long and I'm sure you get the idea. I realize that judgements made in this method are just that--judgements--and are often unfounded and sometimes incorrect. However, in my experience (I eat subway frequently) there are general behaviors that people exhibit that I feel comfortable inferring certain personality traits from.

Feel free to leave an opinion!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Power of Words

First Tuesday of Lent

Is 55:10-11
34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19
Mt 6:7-15

I actually wrote about this for the Lenten reflection last year. So I will just copy and paste.

In today's reading we find a two-fold meaning--that all things have purpose under God, and that words have power when used correctly. Just as God sends the rain and snow with a purpose, so does he send his Word. This word is both Christ and the words that He speaks. Jesus gives us a formula for prayer, and warns us against useless and futile "babble" meant only for show and with no love towards God.

How do these two ideas fit together? The image in Isaiah gives us a picture of words as fulfilling. The water and snow give life and allow the budding of plants, giving food and rich soil. Jesus likewise gives us fulfillment--He gives us new life through his death and resurrection, and sustains us with his body and blood. When praying we hear that God "gives us our daily bread", "forgives us our trespasses", and "delivers us from evil". We thus see that it is not words in general that have power, but words that come from the authority of God. One way in which this power can be manifested is in forgiveness. God gives us the power to say to one another, "I forgive you". These words are fulfilling to us, and their purpose is to recreate a bond of love.

In this time of Lent forgiveness is imperative. How can we not forgive a transgressor when Christ forgave through His most painful death and in spite of innocence? We are the biggest transgressors. In the act of forgiving we are released from the chains that keep us from our brothers an sisters and we bring ourselves closer in unity with Christ on the cross. It is in dying this way, free from those that hurt us, that we are able to rise again with Christ at Easter.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shepherding God's People

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

1 Pt 5:1-4
23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6
Mt 16:13-19

Because today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, we get a special opportunity to talk about being a shepherd. It may seem that being a shepherd is not essential to the meaning of Lent (and perhaps it isn't), but it is never a bad time to learn how to live how something that is essential to our call to discipleship.

It is in the first reading that we get an initial glimpse of what it means to be a shepherd, or in this case a "presbyter" as Peter is calling it. Though we are not all called to hold the office of presbyter, all of us, in some way, is called to be a shepherd, as we are all to do our to guide others to Christ. This after all, is not only our universal vocation to holiness, but also our specific vocation to bring others to Christ.

Peter says in this reading that one who leads should do so willingly, eagerly, and by example. Basically, if God is calling you to be a shepherd in some way... embrace it! This also has some resemblance to being a "servant leader" (leading by example), of which Christ was the primary example.

The Psalm is not only a Psalm of comfort, but one that shows us who the "chief shepherd" is. It is because Christ is the perfect shepherd that we do not fear evil, that our souls are refreshed, and why only goodness and kindness will follow us in the absolute sense. A good shepherd should provide their flock some of the same benefits. They should protect us from evil, help us receive spiritual nourishment, and lead us to do what is good and kind in all cases. Jesus is the true example of this.

Finally, in the Gospel we are told where such authority to become a shepherd is received--from Christ of course. It is by our realization that Jesus is God, and the confession of such, that we are given the authority to be disciples for Christ. Those who do not do such, do not have that authority--for you cannot give what you have not received.

Let us come to accept the call to shepherd God's people and live out our vocation to discipleship.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lenten Reflection--"Choosing Life"

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Dt 30:15-20
Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
Lk 9:22-25

"Choose Life... that your descendants might live..."

This is the "sound-bite" of the readings that so succinctly captures the essence of what I want to talk about today, "choosing life", specifically life in the LORD. Lent is all about choosing live a life rooted in God so that not only we, but all of our progeny, have a chance at choosing eternal life. In other words, when we choose life in God, we help others to as well, especially our children, whom we possess so much influence over.

So how do you "choose life"? I believe the readings outline this perfectly, but the most beautifully simple statement comes in the first reading right after our "topic sentence"-- "by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him." Basically, it all comes down to the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love!

Everyone's Favorite Virtues

The Theological Virtues are basically good habits that come directly from God, so why wouldn't they be our favorites?

Faith is the first Theological Virtue, that from which the other two sprout. It is simply the ability to believe, specifically in God and His. Without belief in God we cannot have life in Him. While this virtue is not explicitly stated in the readings today, it permeates the entire idea, as hope and love are not possible without this virtue. How do we believe? It can come in many facets, but is primarily as assent of the Intellect, the Will, and the Spirit. In some capacity we reason to believe, we choose to believe, and we desire to believe.

Hope-- Hope is the second Theological Virtue, stemming from our belief in God and leading towards love of Him. It is the virtue by which we trust in the promises which God has made to us. True Hope is certain, for the promises God made he will surely not break. The first reading states that we should "hold fast" to the Lord, which is a beautiful characterization of what hope should be... an anchor of sorts. The Psalm however is where this virtue is mostly discussed within the readings. Psalm 1 states "Blessed are those who hope in the Lord"--how perfectly this shows the result of Hope!

Love-- Love is the third Theological Virtue, blooming from the fruit of Faith and Hope. It is the Virtue by which we will the good of others, and when applied to God, encompasses obedience and worship. This is what the third reading deals with--how to love. Love deals primarily with Sacrifice, for to will the good of others, we sometimes must put aside our own needs. This is what Jesus meant when he told us to "Deny yourself and take up your cross", and that we must be willing to lose our life in order to save it--in other words, we must give it to God. Without sacrifice, we cannot love, and we cannot choose life... for it is our very faith and hope in God and His promises that allows us to endure such suffering.

The Challenge

This lent, let us Choose life--let us strive to live our the Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love as we sacrifice and do penance. For it is only through such virtue that Eternal Life is chosen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lenten Reflection--Ash Wednesday

This year I am going to attempt to post a daily reflection during Lent based on the readings of Mass that day.

Ash Wednesday:
Jl 2:12-18
Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17
2 Cor 5:20—6:2
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

When reading and reflecting on the above readings, the primary theme that comes to mind is having proper relationship with God and the effect of such in our lives. This is a wonderful theme to start off the season of Lent because it is supposed to be a time of repentance, re-turning towards God, and cultivating a better relationship with Him through various actions. Let us examine a few of the ways in which we can build proper relationship with God during this season of Lent.

The Heart
In the first reading the LORD says "return to me with your whole heart". While rather obvious, this seems to be something that many Christians take for granted--we are supposed to give God our WHOLE Heart! Not just half, not only the parts we are proud of--the whole thing. How do we do such a thing? Through "Fasting, Weeping, and Mourning". Wait... so we're supposed to deny ourselves and in a sense suffer, in order to return to God? Yes, what a concept... why would God want us to suffer? Because He loves us(how antithetical)! We are human, and often we return to God only when we suffer. Even if we rejoice in God with our joys, suffering still unites us to the Sacrifice of Christ and brings us closer to Him in meditation of His Passion. This is one concepts behind the idea of "Penance". So now that we know how to give our hearts to God in during Lent, what is the effect? He will "relent and give blessing". Basically, God rewards pure actions and a contrite heart... it's called Heaven. The Psalm also points to the necessity of "creating a clean heart" in receiving the Mercy of God. Finally, the Gospel speaks of going to your "inner room", which in one interpretation, means entering into your heart to speak to God. After all, if you've given it to him completely, He is sure to be there!

Fasting, Prayer, and Alms Giving
While its good to know that the heart is arguably the most important personal concern during Lent developmentally, how manage your heart is even more important to understand. Typically, the Catholic Church holds that the three primary practices of Lent are Fasting, Prayer, and Alms-giving.

Fasting--Also known as "abstaining" this is the practice of giving something up. While it typically applies to meat (which there are rather simple rules about), the Church encourages the faithful to give up something in addition (Pop, Facebook, Chocolate, etc.). The idea is that, by stripping away those things that ordinarily distract us from God, as well as causing us a bit of discomfort, we are more able to focus on God. Therefore, fasting in and of itself is useless unless paired with its goal--prayer and a change of behavior. This principle is blatantly supported in the first reading.

Prayer--The value of prayer is obvious--it's conversation with God and a necessity in fostering a love of Him. If done correctly, fasting should bring us into deeper prayer than we are used to. Especially appropriate for lent is the meditation on the various trials of Jesus (the Temptation, Crucifixion, Death of Lazarus, etc.), as these things are especially relevant to the Spirit of Lent. Again, the Gospel reading gives us some ideas about how we should pray.

Alms-giving--The least known practice of Lent, alms-giving should be the effect of fasting and prayer, as they aim to turn our heart towards God, ultimately resulting in "changed behavior". Typically, the practice is giving money to the poor. In reality however, I think Alms could apply to any of the Spiritual or Corporal works of Mercy. The concept of Alms is stated briefly in the Gospel (which also tells us how to give alms), but I believe it is also alluded to in the 2 Cor. reading when Paul calls us "brothers and sisters in Christ" and implores us to "work together to be reconciled to God".

Knowing now the Spirit of lent, let us cultivates our hearts, minds, and spirits through the sacred practices of Lent. In doing such practices we return to God, the effects of which are obviously enumerated not only in scripture, but in the very desires of our soul.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Religious Culture

I'm contemplating today about culture--specifically the difference in culture between Protestants and Catholics.

Side note: wouldn't you think that the term "protestant" would be a derogatory term... seeing as the whole basis of the name is that they "protested" which I guess I isn't an inherently bad thing... but still?

Anyway, I'm reading this book called "The Complete Guide to High Impact Youth Ministry" By Ron Luce, the guy who founded Teen Mania Ministries (most well known for their "Acquire the Fire" event). Anyway, this guy has a ton of huge ideas and encourages people to dream big, yada yada yada. He says there is really no excuse for a youth group to encompass an entire town or region, having up to 1,000 kids. Basically his goals and assertion that we should all have the same goals, makes me feel like crap.

I mean really... is this guy part of reality? He seems to think it's easy to get teens to Church. I wish I knew the kids he did... or maybe I just am not good at recruiting people. If that's the case, then, according to him, I'm not doing my job well.

And then I think, "well maybe he just doesn't know Catholic Culture". For all I know, protestant youth groups are busting at the seams just like he says... but I know very few Catholic Youth Groups with over 100 kids regularly participating.

Part of the problem is, I'm not sure how to define Catholic/Protestant Culture. I have some Ideas of course: Protestant culture seems almost more charismatic, more of a focus on the Holy Spirit, and in some way more "grassroots". I have more problems defining my own Catholic culture... but maybe that's usually the case with a culture that one is engrained in.

Either way, if you can enlighten me as to the nature of either culture, the reality of such a large following, or how to better get youth involved, please feel free to post. This may be a topic I will visit more once I have though more about it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Alas, Fair Princess

Alas, fair princess to where hast thou fallen
To where have thou hidden thy gown
Where once there were dolls and ponies and princes
Now lies thy rusty old crown

And Alas, brave knight, to where hast thou ridden
Thy steed no place to be found
Shining armor once shown in the glorious sun
Now lies cast aside on the ground

Alas, dear dreams to where hast thou faded
Like a tide slips away from the shore
The dreams that didst once give life to thy hope
Are allowed no longer to soar

Alas, fair youth to where have thou flown
A bird taken flight barely seen
For success in the eyes of the world thou’st abated
What the purpose of youth truly means

Alas, innocence where hast thou been laid
What grave now houses thy grace
The victim of pain and all that is vain
Has caused you to flee from this place

Now in flies the darkness with crashing of waves
Lightning streaking the sky
And the gnashing and wailing of those long forgotten
The world fails to hear all their cries

The men on whose shoulders once we were standing
Have now been cut at the knees
The Id and the “I” now all that matters
Reality no longer believed

So come fair princess, brave knight, and my dreams
Once again with the virtues of youth
Cast out the darkness, this sign of our times
Show us the way to the truth

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On the Busyness of a Generation

One thing I've noticed in my ministry and time with teens is how busy they are. One girl I know is in Show Choir, Speech, and the "One Act" this semester. All of her weekends are booked solid, she has practice for one thing or another every day after school until at least 5, does homework for her 3 AP courses until dinner, eats, and goes to bed.

When does a teen like this have time to practice their faith... almost as important, when does a teen like this have time to be teen, to foster good relationships, and take time for themselves?

But this is not just an isolated case--most of my youth suffer from the "overdrive syndrome". They do marching band, track, speech, basketball, play, show choir, dance, hockey... all of which take up at least three days a week after school, as well as most weekends.

Granted, I am a little biased; I would rather have them spend all their time at Church. But even so, I would not want them spending ALL they're time here... a kid needs time to be a kid.

What are the side effects of this? Well, people have trouble prioritizing and committing. Deadlines to my youth and parents seem to be relative. They never want to commit to anything unless they know what else will be going on at the time. They are always waiting for something better to come along. Also, because parents tend to put more of a focus on Athletic and Artistic achievement rather than spiritual achievement, our kids are not getting spiritually fed.

So who's to blame? Well, everyone. The parents are to blame for letting they're kids do so much (they should limit activities) and for instilling an extreme "need to succeed" attitude. The kids are at fault for not being able to prioritize, commit, and realize what they need in life. The Church is to blame to for not making Faith marketable to youth.

How do we fix this? We need to let our children know that they're worth is not based on how much they do, but on who they are in God. They need to know that silence, simplicity, and spirituality are the keys to a healthy and happy life. Finally, they need to be forced to make decisions and to ask themselves "what is most important in my life, and why?"

So concludes my rant for the day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow is Evil

I woke up this morning with an abject indifference to life in its current state. I feel like I've fallen into the daily grind, the proverbial rut, and my life has seemingly become devoid of meaning. I know this is only perception though... at least I pray it is. It means I will snap out of it soon.

I blame winter. Winter is lifeless.

I think I have mild Seasonal Affect Disorder. I really need winter to be over. It's so cold, and I'm really sensitive to it--my hand goes numb after a couple minutes outside. Every morning my car is covered with snow... it just won't stop snowing. Pound by pound, inch by inch, the sky just keeps dumping this cold, life stealing, crystal on me. Its suffocating me and closing me in. Snow can be beautiful... but I need to see some green, I need to see some life.

I got a new book idea at least... that's something.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Random Facts

I feel like I have so much going through my head and yet nothing to really say or write. So i'm just going to see where this post takes me. Perhaps I'll just start with listing some facts i've noticed about myself.

I'm a jealous person. I don't like it, but I find its really part of who I am.

I hate pity. Sometimes when people say "i'll pray for you", or "I'm so sorry", or some other attempt at consoling me I sometimes get angry. I sometimes wonder why that is.

I haven't gone to confession in months. I really need to go. I've been distant from God lately and I desire so strong to try, but without regular confession I find it very hard to stay strong in my faith.

That being said, I hate going to confession with my boss.

I really love cooking, but seldom have the motivation to do so.

I hate cleaning up after I cook.

I've been working more on my book, but I find it really hard to stay motivated.

I really want to go back to school.

I feel like I'm one massive contradiction--I'm organized yet spacey, a loner yet desire companionship, love to do nothing yet hate being lazy, a night owl but I go to bed early... is this normal?

I really wish I played piano and guitar more.

This has probably been enough of a post, and my mind is somewhat clearer.

Friday, February 5, 2010

On the Origin of Crabbykins

I think I am crabby today... it's not always easy for me to tell whether I am or not. I don't wake up in the morning and consciously say "I'm going to be crabby today". Rather, it's more as though I start noticing how little patience I have with people or situations, which in turn, makes me even more consciously crabby.

What's even more, sometimes I'm just content to allow myself to wallow in my crabbyness.

(Tangent: isn't it interesting that "wallow" is really just "allow" with a "w"--so we can't wallow unless we allow ourselves to. Also, the technical definition of wallow is "to take great joy in", but its almost always used in a negative connotation... interesting)

Anyway, what causes us to be crabby? Sure.. it can be tiredness, stress, emotional duress... but what is the actual cause? Is there something biological going on? What causes humans to have less patience? Maybe the question I'm really asking is what is the origin of patience/

Anyway, no answers today--i'm not much in a thinking mood.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Beds and Dream Land

I consistently have problems getting out of bed. Last night was the first time in months that I slept completely through the night without waking up at all. It was glorious, and thus I awoke without feeling tired. Nevertheless, I stayed in my bed and slept another hour... waking up frequently, tossing and turning, and not really getting anything out of it anyway. I actually ended up MORE tired than if I had just gotten up when my body told me to.

The thought has crossed my mind that i'm depressed. But I don't think not wanting to get out of bed should be the sole criteria for that--Overall I'm happy with my life and am still staying interested in things I love, etc. Rather, I really think I just like the physical comfort of my bed--the warm blanket rapped around my body, pillow under my head--it's like a warm, pleasing shelter on a cold, dead morning. How could I not blame myself for sleeping in that extra hour every morning and being "late" for work. Thankfully I have a flexible work schedule. Needless to say, I am in NO way a morning person.

I usually remember most of the dreams I have because I typically wake up after each of them. However, since I didn't wake up until I "woke up", I only remember my last dream. It was a dream I was married. Lame, right? It was only one of the most beautiful dreams I have ever had, and just reflecting on it still puts me in a good mood.

The joy of it was that it was a completely simple dream. I obviously loved the woman I was with, and she loved me. The joy was doing all the little romantic things for her--coming home and giving her a kiss, doing the dishes with her, having a nice romantic meal, sneaking up behind her, hugging her from behind, and giving her a kiss, cuddling in the backseat of a pick-up truck and looking at the stars. All things I look forward to with my future wife. What a way to start off the day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Candle and the Flame

A man searching for God lived in a world of darkness. When he looked around the world he lived in, all he saw was sadness and the bad choices of humanity. But the man loved God, and truly wanted to find his presence in the world. The man looked all over but even he himself was dark, and though he loved God, he acted badly himself, adding to the darkness. But still the man was determined to find the light of God in the world.
One day while the man was out walking he saw a candle in the window of the home he was passing. Just like every other home on the street, it was dark. The man thought it was just an ordinary candle, nothing special, and though it gave just a bit of light to the world, the man didn’t think it anything special. So the man walked on, continuing his search for God’s presence.
On his walk the next day, the man decided to walk by the candle again. He spent a little more time looking at it, and realized that it was a rather beautiful candle, prettier than most, but to him still just a candle. He walked away for a second time, but the candle held a place in the back of his mind.
The man started to frequent the candle each and every day, and as he began to know the candle better and see it for what it really was, he began to fall in love with the candle. The candle was the most beautiful candle he had ever seen. Once he really began to look at it, he realized that it gave off more light than any candle he had ever seen. It seemed to brighten everything around it. He also noticed that the candle gave off more heat than he had ever felt come from a candle, it warmed his heart and everything around it, and made him happy once again. It made him see God’s presence in the darkness, and because of this, the man became more like God. Even more, the candle lit up and warmed the heart of the man, who took the spirit of the candle with him wherever he went. This helped him brighten the day of others he saw, because they started seeing God’s presence in the man.
Every day the man grew more and more in love with the candle, and every day he longed to take it home with him so he could be in its presence. However, the man soon realized that the candle was not meant to be his. Although the candle showed him the light of God more than any other candle he had seen, the candle was made to be somebody else’s. This greatly saddened the man, for all he wanted in life was to love the candle who so helped him love God.
Every day it got harder and harder for the man to come and look at the candle. The candle seemed to grow more beautiful and shined brighter every day, and the man only felt pain when he looked at it. Because of this, the man’s world soon turned to darkness yet again. He blamed God for putting in the world a candle that he so loved, and then not allowing him to be with it. Finally, one night, the man yelled at God and cried out with all the pain and tears that he kept inside.
God spoke to him. God told him that His presence in the world was not shown in just one candle, but in everybody who loved. He said that the man who loved the candle was now a sign of God for everyone in the world, because he finally realized what it was like to love like God. “I love you unconditionally”, he told the man, “and yet you don’t always love me back”. God told him that this made him sad, but he continues to love us all the same, even though the love may cause him pain. After listening to God, the man realized his pain was worth it because he could offer it up to God to make the candle burn even brighter for the next person to see.
The man realized that God let him love the candle so that he could learn to love everybody, even with the darkness. He realized that it was ok to love the candle even if the candle couldn’t love him back, because it was his very love for the candle that helped the candle burn so bright, and it was that same love that would make him burn bright as well.
The man then looked at his own heart, and saw a flame burning inside it. He realized then that beauty came from God burning deep within you. The reason the candle had been so beautiful was not only that it was a stunningly gorgeous candle, but because the candle had shown him God’s love like no one else in the world had.
Realizing this, the man set out into the darkness to help other people find God’s presence in the world. He would be God’s flame of love for anyone who needed it.

Being a Phlegmatic-Melancholic (PhMl)

This post begins my in-depth analysis of my personality using both the frequent personality test I have taken, and my own experience and introspection. The first paradigm I will use is the "Keirsey-Temperament Test". This is an ancient way of looking at personality based of the "Four Greek Temperaments" as is a function that primarily measures Behavior. The results I will be analyzing for my personality type are from this website ( which I have found to be the most concise, while still present quality and substantial information.

"Phlegmatic melancholics live for predictable results."

Heck yeah! PhMl's are a behavioral psychologists dream. We thrive on consistency and if something works once to our benefit, we will do it again and again to achieve the same results. I find this at work in my daily life by my daily routine--I get up, get ready, go to work, come home, eat supper, relax, read, go to bed. If that is altered in someway, I exhibit a certain level of anxiety--no matter how excited I am for the change.

"They focus on key processes, proven relationships, and reliable procedures" "They have a methodical, thorough, and dependable approach to what they do"

The key process statement is the crux of this section--PhMl's have a distinct canny at seeing the essential and most necessary part of any process. Because we are predominantly practical, we have the ability to strip away all the unnecessary crap and find the most practical and obvious solution to a problem. Our means of execution are mostly methodical (and sometimes slow), consisting of step-by-step processes that we are positive will work do to past experience, extensive research, or credible authority.

They don't mind change, but they like to be sure that the change is attainable and that the change will result in a desired improvement before they commit to anything.

Though sometimes resistant to it, we do not mind change--for we are practical and realize that change is often necessary. However, we do not like committing to something we are not sure will work (that's our melancholic need for perfection), and if we don't believe the change is necessary, likely to succeed, or not worth the work, we will not advocate for it.

Other Important things to note:
"They prefer being in charge of process controls".

This is one aspect that highlights the complexity and contradiction of the PhMl. We don't usually like to be in leadership positions (more on that later), but we do like to be in control. We typically think that, because we see the essence and necessity of most things, we know best how to go about it. We also sometimes have the mentality of "if you want something done right, do it yourself".

They pay attention to every detail.
This is pretty self-explanatory. We may not let you know we know... or may not realize ourselves, but we typically (if we are not cognitively strained at the moment) see everything, and store it for later in our mind.

* They dislike opposition, hostility, and adversity. This is probably one of the two main reasons we dislike leadership--we are inherent peacemakers and will typically fight tooth and nail to avoid conflicts. We often don't say everything that we think or want(especially to strangers and acquaintances) in fear that we might offend, anger, or inconvenience the other person. This can also prove a challenge in marriage and parenting, as we don't always tell our spouse what we want/need, and sometimes are the parent that is a little more lax on discipline in order to "spare their child's feelings".

They crave stability and clarity.
We've already covered the stability part. The clarity is important too. When given a task, the PhMl needs to have exact, detailed, and complete instructions in order to do the task. Because we fear failure and need to please those we serve, any ambivalence about what we are to do can cripple us from doing a job.

They are always tactful and measured.
A PhMl is nothing if not polite and tactful. This comes from our desire to please. However, because of our practicality and "essentiality" we also have a knack for being blunt when we need to. It's a fine line to tread. We seldom speak unless we have something to say, and we typically plan our actions and words before they are executed.

* They become reserved and indifferent when under pressure, both because they want to avoid hostility and because they want to avoid mistakes.
The second most important PhMl principle (only to that of consistency and predictability) is that we absolutely fear and abhor failure and mistakes. This is also the second reason we dislike leadership. If we fear that we cannot do something perfectly, we will procrastinate or not do. NEVER nag a phlegmatic, they will only sink deeper into indifference, and you will never get what you want.

For more information on personality profiles, check out my hub