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Sunday, August 28, 2011

If You're Happy and Don't Know Why?

I'm (slowly) reading a book right now called Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.  It's really excellent and basically details how our emotions and relationships effect us physically and vice versa.

Did you know that by smiling you can actually make yourself happy, and not only that, but when other people see you smile, they are more primed to smile themselves.  It's the same with being crabby, sad, or angry.  Our emotions REALLY are contagious.  It's something called mirror neurons.  We're made to imitate one another to build report and intimacy.

This book is somewhat dense, but still easy to read, and I would suggest it for anyone who is interested in such things.

So my challenge to all of you is to think about how your emotions are effecting other people, and try to smile as often as possible.  And this is coming from a crabby guy ;-)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Faith Vs. Reason

Faith and Reason go hand in hand--as responsible Christians, and especially Catholics, we've been told that since Thomas Aquinas, and have recently affirmed it through the Encyclical Fides et Ratio.  However, there comes a point in time when, one side becoming unbalanced or unduly focused upon, Faith and Reason can battle each other for domination and actually HINDER the growth of the Christian.

Pope John Paul II states "Faith asks that its object be understood with the help of reason; and at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents" (Fides et Ratio, 42).  Therefore, Faith without reason is "superstition", whereas Reason without faith is nihilistic and relativism (seems to be the backbone of today's society, huh?).

So which is more important, faith or reason?  As a responsible Catholic, I must say that they are both equally important--just as Scripture and Tradition are equal.  We all have a duty to be able to "give reason" as to the hope in our hearts and why we believe what we do.  Likewise, there are mysteries of the Faith that reason cannot supply an answer to, and in those we are called to have faith.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, in this modern day society, considering the way most Americans think, Faith is the harder virtue.  And, while I won't say its "more important", I will say that its the "safeguard" or reason, and in a sense "higher" in that it is a Theological Virtue endowed by God.

There must be an academic element to all faith, and it is good to study theology, and at the very least the basic doctrines of the faith.  We must UNDERSTAND God to KNOW and LOVE God.

HOWEVER, reason, study, and academia cannot and must not be our primary source of identification with God.  We MUST have a relationship with him, and can do that only through a faith-filled WILLING of love through him.  We must pray about what we learn and ask God to speak to us himself, not only through books.

Please, brothers and sisters.  Have faith, pray, and discern what God wants for you.  We are made to know, love, and serve God, and so let us try to do all those three equally.  

Ratio ET Fides

Monday, August 8, 2011

Why I'm Catholic

I Believe in God
I Believe God wants to be known
I Believe God wants a mutual loving relationship
Therefore God must reveal himself through covenants
I Believe that God made Covenants with the Hebrews
I Believe that Jesus Christ fulfills all the Covenants and Prophecies of the Old Testament
I Believe Jesus Christ established His Church on the foundation of Peter
I Believe that Peter handed down his Authority through history to the current Pope and Bishops
I Believe that this power is to "Bind and Loose" on Earth AND Heaven
I Believe that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit
Therefore, I Believe, in good faith, that ALL the doctrines, dogmas, and teachings of the Holy Catholic Church are inspired by God and thus true.

I am Catholic because it was the Church established by Christ.

Friday, August 5, 2011

There is Hope in God's Purpose!

Today I finish my last day of Totus Tuus, in what will in all probability be my last year with this wonderful organization.  It has been a long, exhausting, and often trying summer.  It has challenged my faith in myself and in God, and has been a test of my humility and patience daily.  It is sometimes hard even to live with people you love.
All of this has led me to ask myself, “what was the point of me doing Totus Tuus this summer”? 

Through this experience I have come to reaffirm—THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE.  God has a plan for you, a plan he has had before you were conceived from the beginning of time.  Because of this, even when we suffer, ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD.  It may not seem like it at the time, but it is true.  We may not know the way to go, or what God has in store, but we should always trust God.  He never fails us and when we suffer it to make us stronger.  Please brothers and sisters, never give up hope, always be assured that God will come through for you.  We have nothing to fear except our own lack of faith.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's OK to Talk about You

People are wounded; it’s a fact of our fallen lives.  These wounds affect most everything in our lives—from our choice of work to how we communicate, much of it involves either healing or avoiding what hurts us.  One of things that it most affects is our relationships, especially how vulnerable we feel we can be.  Most of us, after being hurt by someone we love, grow up guarded and thinking we cannot trust certain groups of people.  Sometimes we feel as though we cannot trust anyone.  We feel we are all alone.  Other times we grow up believing that no one wants to hear what we think, or that to express our feelings is week, arrogant, or inconveniencing to others.  Often we just think that Jesus is the only one who we should ever take our wounds to.  Indeed, he is the Divine healer.  He alone will understand fully.


I want every person reading this to hear me and understand—it is OK (in fact many times it is NECESSARY) to go other people (human people who have the capability of hurting you further) with your problems.  It is not burdensome, it is not arrogant, and it does not diminish the merit or penance of your suffering.  It does, in fact, allow the other person to exercise love, empathy, compassion, and service.  Your suffering, if you allow it, can help make others holy as well.

Humans are relational creatures, we exemplify the Trinity in that we are made to give AND receive love.  How can you expect others to love you if you don’t 1) love them and 2) ALLOW them to love you?  Some people feel loved when you trust them with your problems.  Some people ASK you if they can help you, making it clear that it would be no burden, but an exercise of love, to just listen to your hardships.  And yet, you deny them the chance to love you.

Yes, we all need to guard our hearts in the appropriate manner, but we also must dare to be vulnerable in the appropriate manner as well.  I challenge you all, as well as myself, to not be afraid to accept love.  Yes, you will probably be hurt again; unfortunately, humans do that to each other.  But you will also likely find a love that will transform your life.  I dare you to love.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Divine Blueprint

Your life is like a building, and God’s plan for you its blueprint.  Early in life God lays the foundation through your experiences, personality, and all of life’s little formations.  Each and every day is a brick added.

What will you be: A cottage? A mansion?  A Palace?  Each has their dignity and purpose.  Will you be a refuge for many?  An emblem of Beauty?  Or maybe a house of work.  Each house has its style, is built in its own unique way, and yet there are patterns common among types of houses.  Are you a priestly house, built to love the world?  Or rather are you a marriage house, built to completely love your spouse and children?  Are you a house meant to bless the world with humble, manual labor, doing the work that no one wants to do, but everyone needs?  Or are you a house that is meant to preach, to teach, to write, or heal?  All of these houses have their own ways of being built, their own foundation, and yet, despite all the similarities in these vocations, each is still very much unique.

I suppose what this really all comes down to is discernment.  What are some things you look for?  Above you listen for the voice of God whispering in your ear and in your heart what he wants you to do.  But also we must look at our life experiences and within us to who we are.  What foundation has God laid for us, what patterns of love, prayer, etc. do we have in our lives that might point us towards a specific vocation.  Many times God does not reveal things to us until we are ready to handle them, so the pattern isn’t always clear, or the goal of the pattern, but if we think and pray about who we are and what God has revealed to us thus far, I believe that we can catch a glimpse of our future and the amazingness God has in store for us.
There’s my 2-cent analogy for the day J

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"I Praise You"

Verse 1) Why do I run so far away
When al I want is you
With open arms you wait for me
To run right back to you

2) Only you can fill my emptiness
Nothing else could e’er suffice
You gave the wholeness of yourself
With one great sacrifice

C) I give my being all to you
Heart, Body, Mind and Soul
To live and breathe that all shall see
Your glory shining through

PC) I praise you, I praise you, I praise you

3) Though darkness comes and seas shall rise
Though my body aches and pines
Though in sin I live my life
For you my heart still sighs

B) Lord what wonders you have wrought
By what mercies you have saved
And in your covenential bond
Your love I will proclaim

Monday, August 1, 2011

Reflections on Charitability

I was thinking and praying today during mass about what to do concerning a specific situation.  I thought it very important to discern correctly what to do as it concerned the well-being of another person.  I began to feel overwhelmed because how can I, as a human being with limited intelligence and obscured by sin, be sure that I am right, especially when the other person is sure that the opposite is right?

That’s part of the problem—in today’s world, everyone thinks they’re right, but there are some situations where only one person can be in accord with reality.  I see this especially in the Catholic world in the liberal vs. conservative debate.  Conservatives think liberals are heretics, removed from the essence of the Church, and just weird.  Liberals think the conservatives are uncharitable, lacking the spirit, and close-minded.  Both are wrong.  Is there only one right answer in liturgy?  Of course not, liturgy is the praise of the people, and praise takes different forms.  I agree, there is a definite area in which the liturgy must occur to be appropriate, but because something varies from the “norm” does not mean it is illicit, invalid, or heresy.  If everything were in the norm then there would be no variety.  It is the openness to variety while remaining true to the spirit of Christ and the Church that makes the Catholic Church a universal and global church.  I’ll admit, it’s a hard line to walk but it’s possible.

The human condition makes us judge and think we’re right without really first considering the alternative.  We want to feel “in” and seek the approval of our peers, so we naturally point out the flaws of the “other” instead of inherently seeing the holy, the Christ, in all things.  No matter how far a Church or a Christian is from God, there is still goodness, there is still dignity, and there is still some form of divine work there.  This is especially so with parishes and people who are seeking to do God’s will.  Sure they may err, we all do, but doesn’t the very desire to seek holiness make you, in some sense, holy?  We are too obsessed with condemning and judging the other that we fail to see the good in things that we don’t already agree with.
All this has led me to question whether or not I can ever really know if I’m right.  I know that I can, God speaks to me, reveals things to me, and I do possess natural reason that seeks Truth in accordance with the natural order of things.  There are times I am right in my actions and my beliefs.  Of course, there are many, many, times in which I discern, act, reason, or believe incorrectly.  This is what causes the doubt.  How can I be sure that what I pray and decide is actually according to the Will and revelation of God.  I guess what I end up falling back on is 1) God’s ability to correct me and show me I’m on the wrong path, 2) God’s mercy, and 3) the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

All this pondering and prayer led me to think about the gifts that God has given me.  What are they? I’m not an incredibly good-looking person.  I’m not strong, or exceptionally eloquent.  I’m intelligent but not exceptionally or in a way that other people can’t fulfill that need.  I’m musical, but not prodigious.  So what has God given me?  Basically, He has given me, as he has every human person, a unique capacity to love in a specific way and Charism.

Knowing this, it is now my job to discern HOW best to love.  In a general way, I must obviously love as God does. How is this? 1) Meeting people where they are at: God will never turn his back on us because we do not do what he says.  His love is unconditional, human love should strive to be that as well. 2) True love must respect free will:  I must point out errors, pray, and continue love, but I must never condemn or withdraw my love because someone fails to align their will with the truth. 

That’s really all I’ve come up with—in reality I haven’t answered any questions about liturgy or what is right and wrong.  The only conclusion that I have come to is that I must be charitable in all things, for that will win more hearts for the Lord than legalistic rules.  It’s a fine line to tread, and I will often err on both sides.  Pray for me Brethren, and I shall pray for you.