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Why God Invented the Internet

Pope Francis made some comments some time ago that did not make sense until relatively recently. I refer, of course, to his thoughts on the internet.

"The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity."
"This is something truly good, a gift from God."- Pope Francis

I'm old enough to remember a world before and after the internet. My first impression of the internet was not a good one. I remember learning of a neighbor whose wife had met someone in a chat room and then walked out on her family to be with that person she met online. I remember the paranoia people had regarding online purchases, sharing information, pornography, stalkers, etc. Even though I've found a lot of pros over the years (access to scientific journals, ebooks, e-libraries, up-to-date news, social media helping me stay in touch with friends), the internet can still be a scary place. If you read any given comment box (the cake comment apocalypse here is a good example), you know what I am talking about. So I will admit that I raised an eyebrow of skepticism when Pope Francis made these comments. 

Then I came across this...

....and my mind was blown. 

In this video are Carmelite nuns from all over the world, joining their voices to sing a remarkable rendition of "Nada te Turbe." This song, based on a poem by St. Teresa de Avila, was compiled to celebrate the 500 year mark since St. Teresa's birth. I cannot even imagine how much work the Virtual Musicians Group put into organizing such a beautiful montage of religious sisters coming together across time and space to create a virtual choir. This! This is a gift!

For a a few minutes, I had a clear vision of what heaven must sound like with so many beautiful voices coming together to sing a song of praise. Pope Francis was right. When the internet is used for things like can truly become a gift from God. 

They also have another song up, Salve Regina! Only this choir contains the beautiful baritones and tenors of the Carmelite Friars that took part in this endeavor. 

Such beauty! Such glorious beauty! This was so beautiful, I had it playing when I was alone in the lab last weekend or so. Okay, maybe I was blasting it...but it was definitely worth it and I would have loved to have someone walk in on me listening to this as I sorted through brains. Don't judge. 

Pax Vobiscum!

Eventide Review and Giveaway!

I got an email some time ago, asking me to check out Voces8 new album Eventide. Though I was not familiar with the British group Voces8, I was intrigued by some of the song titles and decided to look the group up. After checking out their site and learning more about them, I decided to give their album a try. I was not disappointed. 
Track list to Eventide:
1. Te lucis ante terminum
2. Hymn to the Fallen
3. Reflexionem
4. Where I sleep
5. The Seal Lullaby
6. Second Eve
7. Quanta qualia
8. Underneath the stars
9. Locus iste
10. Corpus Christi Carol
11. Benedictus
12. Os justi
13. Steal away
14. Ave Maria
15. O magnum mysterium
16. Te lucis ante terminum

I keep a pretty open mind when it comes to choirs and ecclesiastical music. Even so, I do not always like the voices or style of every choir group I hear. I can be pretty picky when it comes to classics like Ave Maria or Te Lucis. Yes, the lyrics to these songs are the same regardless of the version of the song you listen to...but these songs can be anything from unbearable to ethereal, depending on how the voices and music come together. Albums like this one can be awful, okay, or simply ethereal...lifting your spirits so that you feel that much closer to heaven. As much as I hope for the latter experience when checking out albums like this one, I know better than to have high expectations for choirs that I am not familiar with.

Well, I put the album on and proceeded to get some work done. I figured that I would try out a few songs and go from there. Well, the album played on until the end and I was well into a replay of the album before I even realized how much time had gone by. The voices were lovely, the selection of songs delightful, and it was a great listen overall. The emphasis of this album is the collection of voices and how they can work together to create beautiful renditions of the songs listed above...not so much about the instruments that can be used together with these voices. The voices of Voces8 work beautifully together and are absolutely heavenly (and very relaxing). Keep this album on as you read, as you toil away on your computer, or as you savor a nice glass of wine at the end of a long day. If there's any padres out there, a few of these songs would be a great addition to any Eucharistic Adoration events you may plan in the future.

In short, try out the will not be disappointed.

With that said, I was offered a copy of this album for a giveaway here. I think I will make this one easy. Comment here or on my Facebook page, tweet (follow me at @catholicscigeek), or email me  with the title of your favorite ecclesiastical classic and you will be entered into a random drawing for your chance to win a copy of this album. This contest is open to anyone in the United States. I will announce the winner a week or so from now. I will contact the winner and send out the album once I get an address and once I am able to get to a post office in NYC.

Best wishes and pax vobiscum!

Liturgical Cuteness!!!

Brandon Vogt's son Isaiah is at it again....and is just as adorable as ever playing mass. I can't handle the cuteness of this tiny padre-in-the-making...and the outtakes are priceless! Check it out!

All I can say is that the Vogts are definitely doing this whole Catholic parenting thing right! There is so much beauty in the mass, and it lifts my spirits knowing that there are children out there who can still see the mass with the same wonder I used to have when I was young. According to Brandon, the mass kit seen can be purchased at Our Father's House. Dare I say, a great investment for anyone with kids as excited about mass as this one.

Pax Vobiscum

I Know Iraq Will Be Okay...Eventually

A long time ago, in 2003 on the night before the US invasion of Iraq, I had a very vivid dream that I still remember now. In this dream, I was standing in the middle of Iraq. It was barren and covered in the darkness of night. From where I stood, I could see every border of the country surrounding me through the darkness. I was alone. I then saw the northern end of the country catch on fire. This fire quickly spread. Eventually, every line of this country's perimeter was on fire. The flames grew tall and I grew afraid. I considered leaping over the flames before they grew too high, but the fire spread too fast and I was soon trapped on all sides. My mind went back and forth, trying to find an escape. Could I dare try running through them as fast as possible? Could I try jumping over them? Would I suffocate or burn if I stood where I was? I was alone, so no one could help me. Yet, even as the fire grew around me, it did not touch me. Even as it threatened to cover the entire nation, I was untouched. I was so scared, but it did not engulf me as I feared it would.

At the time of this dream, I was a high school student with a mind that had just digested books like 1984Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 as well as more war histories than any teenager should ever really read. I thought I knew everything and I thought my president was an idiot for going to war over a bunch of blurry satellite pictures of "weapons of mass destruction" while ignoring the heavily armed nation of North Korea that was constantly killing its own persecuted people and sending rockets into South Korea. I got in a bit of trouble one day for wearing a backpack with a small sign attached to it saying "This war is all Bush" with the letters "l," "l," "i," and "t" artfully arranged into the sign so that it ultimately can imagine. I was asked if that's what I really thought of the whole thing. I said yes. Keep in mind, this was 2003 and the nation was still, in some ways, reeling from the September 11th attacks and demanding retribution. Now that's something you don't see in the media these days...the sentiment of the nation that allowed Bush to declare war. I don't think we would have allowed him to declare war in Iraq if September 11th had never happened and so I can never fully blame him or Cheney for the events that transpired in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years to follow. All things considered, as much as I wanted Iraq to be free from Hussein, I did not support the war that ensued...and continued to ensue in the years that followed.

This dream made little sense to me in the years that followed....but I never forgot it. It is still vividly imprinted in my mind and I keep thinking about it now because it is finally starting to make sense. I told my husband so a few weeks ago as more and more news of beheadings, crucifixions, and murder came out of Iraq. This dream was not about the US invasion...but of the consequences that would come with it. It is the Christians and other religious minorities that are currently trapped in Iraq with enemies on all sides, threatening to suffocate their faith with their destruction. Yet, even with all the violence and senseless murder, no member of ISIS can destroy faith. They will destroy until they rule a pile of ashes in the middle of the desert, but they will not triumph. Both scripture and nature tell us that much. To God goes all the victory and every Iraqi martyr is a victory for God if that person's soul is now in heaven. Ultimately, that is what is important. Salvation.

Though the blood of martyrs currently flows over Mosul and other occupied cities, this blood will bring more sanctification if history is any teacher. Remember Rome? Remember the triumph of Christ over Rome though its streets once flowed with the blood of Christian martyrs, the triumph that came after so much destruction and death? Remember the stories of countless missionaries that were killed over the history of the church? Where did each of these martyrs go and how many Christians do you see in these places now? A prime example comes from Pope Francis' recent visit to South Korea. Look at the images of millions on the street, waiting to hear his words! It's hard to imagine that this nation was once the site of martyrdom.
The same Catholic Rome we know today was once home to one of the greatest persecutions of Christians in history.
Read Quo Vadis for more on this scene. It is a wonderful historical fiction that will give you a good idea of what once occurred to countless Christians that suffered under intense persecution.
These Muslim extremists don't realize it yet, but they are on a path to self-destruction. The death they bring now is the death of their own twisted faith. Their actions blaspheme the God they claim to serve...but these actions, awful as they are, will ultimately make Iraq a Christian nation. God does not operate on our time, he is far too patient for that. We see only fire and ashes now...but he sees the results of a great forest fire. The land that was once barren will be made fertile again and from these ashes will grow a forest from the seeds of every tree that crafted into a cross. We must decrease while he must increase. We may not see the renewal that will come to this land in our lifetimes, but it is coming. Even those who don't believe should know enough about history to know that persecutions ultimately lead to great conversions. It may take tens or hundreds of years for Iraq's lands to be renewed, but it is coming.

We may see fewer and fewer Christians in Iraq right now...but God has plans for those that remain. He has plans for those in Iraq who may not be Christian, but happened to witness the bravery of those who died in the name of Christ. Perhaps these witnesses will feel the presence of God now whenever they pass through a site where Christian children, the Holy Innocents of today, were slaughtered. Then will they know that there was something about the faith that these children died for...something that was lacking from the faith that was twisted by these militant extremists. Maybe they will convert in secret. Maybe they will baptize their children as Christians. Maybe their neighbors will do the same. Maybe more and more people will realize that there was holiness in the Christian martyrdoms that we are witnessing today. Maybe the sites of these horrific beheadings and deaths will one day become pilgrimage sites and shrines dedicated to these martyred saints. ISIS may feel that these horrific deaths will scare us into submission. However, I feel that the gruesome nature of these murders will only make it harder for the martyrdom of these Christians to be forgotten.

The true enemy of Christianity is not death. The true enemy of Christianity is the lukewarm complacency that comes from forgetting. When we remember the people that have fallen for our own salvation and for our own freedoms as Christians, we cannot help but become better Christians. We cannot help but be more committed to our faith when we remember the heavy sacrifices that came with it.

Do Your Part to Help Iraqi and Syrian Refugees!

I may be a broke PhD student but know well enough that my situation is nowhere near as bad as that of our persecuted brothers and sisters in dire need of material help like food, water, shelter, medicine, etc. Please consider making a donation to this organization or to others that are currently on the ground, providing much-needed aid to Iraqi refugees.

Please, please, please consider giving a monetary donation as well as prayers. Any dollar amount you give is sure to be life-saving in some way. These people have little to nothing as most were forced to flee genocide with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Almsgiving is a big part of what it means to follow Christ and what you do for the least of His do for him. I've made a donation and will have to cut back on a few things in order to afford making this donation....please consider doing the same! They desperately need our help NOW! 

The US is finally helping these people 2 MONTHS after these atrocities started...and as wonderful as it is that our nation and others are finally helping...the need of these refugees is far greater and more immediate than the help currently promised to them. If you have been on Twitter lately, you know that Pope Francis is calling upon us to help these modern-day martyrs....what better way to help than helping a charity like Church in Need USA. This charity and others like Catholic Relief Services is currently on the ground, providing much-needed assistance to our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iraq. Whatever you can afford to give...please give...even if it means tightening the budget a bit! 

Pax Vobiscum

To All the Amazing Priests Out There....THANK YOU

To all of the priests in my life....THANK YOU.
Thank you for sitting through hours of ugly-cry confessions by people like yours truly.
Thank you for the countless hours of migraines and tired eyes resulting from the studying of St. Thomas of Aquinas' Summa Theologica just so you could teach us about God and faith.
Thank you for always making openings in your schedule for people in dire need of help.
Thank you for sitting though extremely awful "come as you are" choir performances.
Thank you for accepting the sacrifices that come with accepting the vocation of "He must increase; I must decrease." (John 3:30)
Thank you for comforting parishioners in time of grief.
Thank you for accepting the heavy cross that comes with "in persona Christi."
Thank you for defending the faith in a world that would rather attack a priest rather than accept uncomfortable truths.
Thank you for leaving your loved ones to become a minister to strangers in different lands.
Thank you for continually defending life.
Thank you for giving up on biological fatherhood in order to become a father to all.
Thank you for changing my life and helping me during my faith journey.
Thank you for ministering to the poor, the sick, and downtrodden.
Thank you for bringing so many souls closer to God...even if it means having to stay up late writing homilies.
Thank you for helping so many people grow in my faith.
Thank you for selflessly giving up so much time for spiritual direction.
 Thank you for continuing the work of Christ and his apostles...even in a world that hates you.
Thank you for accepting this hate with grace.
Thank you for accepting and standing up for immigrants, illegal or otherwise, who may not have a welcome home beyond the Church.
Thank you for inspiring people to find the transcendent in a greedy, self-centered world.
Thank you for learning new media in order to better engage the young and tech-savvy.
Thank you for fighting for us. I don't think many people truly appreciate the spiritual attacks you deal with as you strive for holiness.
Thank you for celebrating would literally be impossible without you and others like you.

We don't often thank the padres in our lives for the sacrifices they made and the hard work they put into saving I am taking the opportunity here to thank them and to encourage young men out there to take the plunge with regards to priesthood. I was very fortunate to have known so many wonderful priests throughout my faith formation. I have truly been blessed with some very great role models growing up and hope that I can one day pay it forward to all the great priests I've known.

My sister had the opportunity to sit beside a bunch of great seminarians during her time as a student of theology...and the stories she'd come back with were great. There were a lot of fine men in her theology classes and some of these fine men will one day be fine priests. It is hard for any young man to accept a call to priesthood and the world makes this journey even harder. It takes a lot of sacrifice, A LOT of studying, and A LOT OF COURAGE. Even if your family isn't behind you, seek God when He calls you. Pray, discern, visit the seminaries, seek answers to your questions, and "be not afraid."

I am of the belief that God knows what He's doing when it comes to increasing or decreasing vocations over the years. Better a few good priests than a plethora of false prophets leading sheep astray. With this said, I do believe St. JPII was right in announcing that this is "a new springtime in the Church." God is awakening hearts out there in this spiritually starved world...and He is calling for men to consider priesthood. He is calling for vocations. He is calling for more priests.

Father Barron (an AMAZING priest that has shaped my faith even though I've never had the opportunity to meet him) has created a powerful documentary "Heroic Priests" that I encourage all priests (and all potential priests) to check out. Please take a look!

Priesthood is an amazing vocation that gives you the ability to use your talents (whatever they may be) to bring souls to heaven. What better way to serve God than by helping Him with his plentiful harvest.

Pax vobiscum

ن (Nūn) Shirt Giveaway

My heart is breaking for the Christians and other religious minorities that are being brutally murdered or forced to leave their homes, monasteries, churches, etc under penalty of death. People are literally being crucified in the Middle East right now all for the sake of some militants who have more hatred and stupidity in their hearts than they do the love of God. I cannot even imagine how twisted their minds must be to ever think that they can one day stand before God and explain to Him why they blasphemed His name and slaugtered his children for the sake of greed, ignorance, a "caliphate," and other false idols. As angry and helpless as I feel seeing these atrocities and how little is being done to end them, I cannot sit by and spend too much time condemning.

I will, instead, use my time and energy to help those who are helping the Christians that are under attack, the refugees in dire need of humanitarian aid. uCatholic  is currently selling t-shirts and stickers with the  symbol on them to raise money for relief services for Christians that are currently under attack in the Middle East. I've been praying for these Christians and know that my prayers and the prayers of others will not go unheard. STILL, I want to help them in other more immediately tangible ways (food, shelter, water, medical aid, etc). I know I cannot simply send myself or a box full of supplies to the Christians out there...but I can do my part to support relief services that are already on the ground and in dire need of all the help they can get as more and more refugees flee their homes for fear of death. Each shirt sold will benefit these Christians in two big ways. First, it will provide relief services with some much-needed supplies and services. Second, it will allow you to raise awareness. Let's face it, the news is doing as good a job as ever of avoiding inconvenient truths...and the slaughtering of people for their faith is not as newsworthy to some networks as it should be.

This symbol has become a symbol associated with modern-day genocide. It is the symbol spray painted on the homes of Christians to single them out for death. 
According to uCatholic,"OVER $3,000 RAISED SO FAR for those being persecuted by Islamic Militant Groups who are being identified publicly by this letter written on houses of Christians. Proceeds from your purchase go to relief services for Christians in the Middle East region. Please pray for our brothers and sisters, and wear this shirt as a reminder for others to join us in supporting them."

If we continue to raise awareness to these atrocities, we increase the likelihood that the persecuted Christians receive some kind of aid and that the Islamic militant groups will be brought to justice. I am hoping that more nations step up to the plate by condemning these atrocities and doing more to stop those committing them.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
In an effort to do my own part in raising awareness and funds for those helping the persecuted Christians, I am sponsoring a giveaway for one uCatholic Nun shirt. A winner will be selected at random after a week. I will announce the winner in a week and they will have their choice of shirt size and the shirt will be mailed at no cost to the winner. This is my first real giveaway and I have no idea how to run a decent giveaway on my own so I am employing Rafflecopter to facilitate it. Good luck and please keep praying for peace!!!

Disclaimer: This giveaway is not sponsored by uCatholic. I requested permission from uCatholic to hold this giveaway and was given permission to do so.