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Getting "In the Spirit"...Whatever That Means These Days: Part 1

I am one of those people that just doesn't feel it anymore when it comes to Christmas. I mean, I love going home and seeing my family. I love going to midnight mass. I love the story of Christ's birth, going to mass during Advent, and I love the traditional Christmas dinners my family has (which involve fish, octopus, vegetables, and more fish). Forget turkey and ham, in my house we eat boiled vegetables and codfish drizzled with olive oil. My family comes from a culture full of agriculture, fishermen, and all sorts of seafaring our holidays are a bit different than any I ever see on television.

Everything else about Christmas, however, is a disaster. I hate the red fur-trimmed Santa suits that pop up on every corner. I hate the Macy's "Believe" ads that have swamped all of Penn Station. Whenever I see these, I can't help but think, "Believe in what? Buying more crap?" I hate the overcrowded stores and lines of people with carts full of plastic ornaments, toys, etc....especially when I have only 4 things to check out. I hate the ads that keep popping up on Pandora (most of them are in Spanish for some reason...but I still hear the same annoying message). I hate the ridiculously tacky, inflatable holiday-themed football players you see on people's lawns during this time of year (maybe it's only something you see in South Jersey...but I still think it's obnoxious). I hate the commercials for toys, and a bunch of other crap they guilt you into buying for your kids. I don't have kids yet, so I'm off the hook when it comes to being considered a bad parent for refusing to buy my kid the latest DS, ipad, ipod, etc. Thank God for that.

The other week I committed a small faux pas during the lab gift exchange because of my refusal to give into tacky, over-the-top holiday riff-raff. It all started with my idea to purchase a gift card on and place it in a box. Then place this box in another box in nesting doll fashion...and then throwing this in a few more boxes for good measure.

I didn't have time to wrap it, so I ended up printing out a bow and taping it to the top of the large cardboard box that housed all those other boxes and the card. I know, very classy. This part, however, wasn't the problem. The problem was the gift card itself. I don't know what it is with their holiday card selection is pretty tacky and/or over-the-top.

Nothing says "Happy-over-the-top-and-extremely-tacky-Holidays" like Frosty the Olympic Gold Medalist Snowman.... zooming in on his flaming snowboard of doom to score his way into your heart with speed and MAJOR AIR!!! (This is a random, somewhat obscure Rocket Power reference for those of you who were raised on 1990s and early 2000s Nickelodeon and still remember it.)

Coming in second place is the cardboard box alphabet explosion! If you forget what watching Sesame Street was all about and want to relive the nostalgia of having letters thrown at you from all angles...pick this card. Side effects from buying this card include making up songs about the letter "A" and checking your garbage cans for any signs of Oscar the Grouch when you finally decide to tear off the gift card and toss this orange monstrocity. (Note- This is my default card...available year round for birthdays, anniversaries, showers, holidays, you name it. That's why it made it onto my current "holiday card" list.)
If you do happen to celebrate Christmas the way it was celebrated in the days before Martin Luther made outdoor Christmas trees a thing of the past, then this card is for you...especially if you're into isosceles triangle trees with built-in dotted help you cut around the edges.
If you prefer to tone it down a notch (or a lot of notches), this is the card for you. It features a few crooked row homes on a night as stark, dreary, and this picture to the right. The only saving grace you see (after a few double takes) is a string of shabby Christmas lights hanging from light post to light post. That tiny little set of lights and the snow falling from the cloudless sky are the only signs on this card that make is somewhat seasonable. If it didn't have the snow, it could pass off as a "My Deepest Sympathy" card. It's just so......depressing.

Ultimately, I could not bring myself to get any of the cards from above. Not only were they devoid of anything that could evoke that so-called "Holiday" spirit...but they were so monstrously tacky. Instead of bringing holiday cheer, they made succeeded in evoking a few eye rolls and a head shake or two from me. I could not buy the cards. I simply refused to. They were so ridiculously tacky. To be fair, I am sure that a lot of people are more than okay with these cards. I also DO acknowledge that I can be a tad picky and more than a tad jaded when it comes to anything that our extremely materialistic culture seems to pass off as Christmas-related (even when it has nothing to do with Christmas).

For an example of why I'm a tad jaded by all this Holiday madness....consider the following example of just how crazy we are.
Perfect example: How in the world did we go from this: this permanent holiday fixture?

....and then this two-story $350 monstrocity? 
It's almost like walking into a form of mass hysteria whenever I go out to do something mundane like buy groceries these days....because of stuff like this! To make matters worse, it seems to be starting earlier and earlier as the years go by...and lasting longer. Well, before I go to far with my ranting...let me get back to the card situation....because you are probably wondering what card I did eventually get. Well, I chose the simplest one that was most pleasing to the eye...
I know what you're' under-commercialized. How in the world could I bring such a card into a holiday gift exchange?

Well, I weighed my options. This card was the only one that, in my opinion, didn't suck or look incredibly tacky. The silhouette idea here kind of appealed to did the blending of dark blue into the light orange of early morning. Also, there were no Santa hats, no plastic ornaments, no isosceles trees, no elves (not a big fan of elves besides those in Middle Earth and Harry Potter), no shabby row homes, candy canes, no sparkles, no holly, no bells, no reindeer, no polar bears (not a big fan of these to begin with),  no Rockettes,  no stockings, no snowmen, no toy soldiers...and none of that other stuff that's been shoved down our throats ever since Thanksgiving by everyone from Macy's to Coca-Cola.

For the record, I didn't think this card was perfect. Something about Christ being born in a tiny, two-walled stable just didn't make sense. The Wise King Tango line was also a tad off. However, I suppose sacrifices must be made if you are going to go for a silhouette theme. Anatomical accuracy is one of them. As is structural stability. The donkey, however, was cute. At least I think it's a donkey.


Everyone in the lab knows I am Catholic. If the Dominican cross hanging on my desk doesn't out me as a Catholic, the picture of Pope Benedict XVI certainly does. Fortunately, as far as I know, everyone also knows that I am a pretty reasonable person when it comes to religion. Everyone knows that a good number of my friends aren't Catholic. You name a religion and I can probably name a friend that follows it. If I don't celebrate a particular holiday, I still wish people a good insert holiday here... regardless of how similar or different it is to the holidays I celebrate. That's just how I roll.

So I took the risk and got the card. The person who got the card turned out to be Muslim. There was some worry that my box-within-a-box gift would end up being something strange or Harry Potter-related...but it turned out that the gift certificate was very appreciated and everyone got a good laugh out of the box idea. The best part is, no one was offended by the card.

Between Wasting Time and Serving God

"Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." - Pope John Paul II

One of my worst habits (or possibly my best habits) is catching up on the news and my favorite blogs while I study. When I am studying my bum off or trying to type up some project, I take a few moments to give my brain a small rest every now and then. These little breaks are my only means of catching up with world events and the weather.  Recently, BadCatholic wowed me with a post on yet another “scientific” discovery that supposedly disproved God’s existence. I could not help but reply to this post with a line or two of dry humor followed by a link to this post  from a while back. In this post, I argued in favor of faith over irrelevant details and putting timelines and limits on God’s omnipotence.

I didn’t think much of it until someone commented on this post some time later. I say comment, but it was really more of a cry for help (some would even venture to say “rant”). At first, I thought it was a joke. Then, I thought, “Wow, this guy is actually serious…and attempting to demonize the post of a faithful person who simply stresses the WHY of creation rather than the HOW.” Then I felt the need to respond to this guy and sort out a few misconceptions. Alas, he beat me to the punch and posted something about me on his own blog before I even had the chance to reply (neuro final = no time).

I intended to reply to his comments and defend my good name as a Catholic and as a scientist after finishing my exam…but the more I thought about the tone of the comments and the tone of this individual’s own blog post regarding my post….the more I realized that…. 

Well said, Admiral Ackbar
Call me a creeper, but my suspicions led me to Google him. By the looks of it, I think I’m just going to save myself the time …swallow my pride….and throw in the white towel.  The comments were a trap. They were a trap designed to have me waste my time researching and clarifying…just so he can refute whatever I have to say (and whatever sources I cite)…regardless of what I have to say.  The argument was already lost even before it started. However, I am okay with this. I have already dealt with people just like him before and understand that there are people out there that just need to ruffle feathers to feel like they’ve gotten some point across. Some call them trolls. I call them "They-who-waste-my-time-for-no-reason."

 Any reply to his comments would be a waste of time in the making. Agreeing with him would probably lead to an internet high-five of some sort, followed by this guy riding off into the sunset and never visiting my blog again. The only time I’d waste here would be a three sentences-worth of typing (maximum). However, my integrity as a Catholic as well as a scientist would probably take too much of a hit. Any other reply, ranging from an outright “you’re wrong” to a lengthy and well-studied reply opposing his views would have probably wasted several days-worth of my time (at least). Time would be wasted researching everything (and citing), refuting his increasingly cranky responses…and finally I’d just ignore him and he’d eventually get tired and move on to his next victim.  As a PhD student, I’ve learned the value of triage…so I’m cutting my losses here by just opting out of the battle entirely.

Giving into challenge would be a waste of time for the sake of pride. I refuse to abandon integrity…but pride, not so much. Besides, if our conversation follows the same suit as those of others who have disagreed with him, it would certainly do more detriment to credibility (mine as well as his) than it would draw souls to God. Based on what I’ve read of this guy’s comments, his responses to comments, and how threads have quickly escalated to insults and accusations…I feel that engaging this guy in a discussion would only lead to more polarization between science and religion. One of the main purposes of this blog is to do the opposite.
One minute, SCP...
the next minute ICU. 
Call me a coward, a wimp, or any other name you can think of…but I choose my battles. There’s a difference between attempting to talk about matters of the faith and attempting to reason with obstinacy. The first may serve to enlighten and inform. The second may lead to an emergency room trip. Trust me, I made the mistake of getting into scuffle at a soccer stadium when they sat us in the middle of the wrong fan base….I know how quickly one thing can lead to the other.

The frequency and tone of the comments on my blog are very similar to the comments on other blogs before mine. Considering my schedule and refusal to resort to polemics, I will not involve myself in a debate over dinosaur fossils and conspiracy theories.  There’s no point in my scouring the internet looking for journal articles to reason with someone who refuses to listen to 99.9999% of material out there in favor of the .0001% of material that agrees with whatever he deems to be true.

I simply don’t have the time to waste and I would rather be posting about things and doing things that would help me fulfill my duties as a Catholic Christian…like spreading the good word and sharing my faith. I’d rather heal divides than create new ones. To be quite frank, this guy's previous comments and rebuttals speak for themselves….and polemics just aren’t my thing. If this guy refuses to even listen to the Pope, he definitely won’t listen to some Catholic PhD student….so I’m not going to bother.  He is entitled to his own opinions, beliefs, and conspiracy theories. I will just have to respect that and take whatever beating he’s willing to throw down on that blog of his. I’ll just chalk it up as a lesson in humility and a lesson in dealing with “one of those people.” I suppose every blog gets one or two of them.

Now, a few words of wisdom (sorry, the inner Catholic kept bugging me about sharing this):
Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called “creationism” and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance.

-Pope Benedict XVI

A Few Points to Ponder, Brought to You by the Catechism
1. Who made you? God made me.

2. Why did God make you? God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.

3. To whose image and likeness did God make you? God made me to his own image and likeness.

4. Is this likeness to God in your body, or in your soul? This likeness to God is chiefly in my soul.

5. How is your soul like to God? My soul is like to God because it is a spirit, and is immortal.

6. What do you mean when you say that your soul is immortal? When I say my soul is immortal, I mean that my soul can never die.

7. Of which must you take more care, of your body or of your soul? I must take more care of my soul; for Christ has said, 'What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and suffers the loss of his own soul?' (Matt. 16:26)

8. What must you do to save your soul? To save my soul I must worship God by Faith, Hope and Charity; that is, I must believe in him, I must hope in him, and I must love him with my whole heart.

9. What is faith? Faith is a supernatural gift of God, which enables us to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed.

10. Why must you believe whatever God has revealed? I must believe whatever God has revealed because God is the very truth, and can neither deceive nor be deceived.

11. How are you to know what God has revealed? I am to know what God has revealed by the testimony, teaching, and authority of the Catholic Church.

12. Who gave the Catholic Church divine authority to teach? Jesus Christ gave the Catholic Church divine authority to teach, when he said, 'Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations'. (Matt. 28:19)

Does it really matter how old the earth is? Does it really matter when dinosaurs roamed the earth? Does it really matter if the earth revolves around the sun?


God has a better idea of where we should focus our time and energy. To put it simply, we have far many more important things to worry about besides winning arguments, defending time lines, and arguing carbon14 analyses. If you don’t believe me, reread the Catechism excerpt above until it makes sense.

Pax Vobiscum

And the first 21 Nun Salute Award Goes To...The Fool

Congrats Fool! You made it on the paper and actually made us
Catholics look good...which is quite a feat these days when it
comes to the media... 
The Fool! younger sister.

Why? Because she "still messes up" when it comes to the new mass translation.

The funny thing is, the reporter messed up too (it should be "and also with you" not "and always with you"). However, as my sister (kind soul that she is) pointed out, the reporter wasn't they're off the hook here.

In all seriousness, my sister is getting the award for making it on the paper with her review of the New Mass Translation. I'm so proud!

"I think it's a beautiful change because that was originally there," Soares said after Mass concluded. A student of moral theology at Seton Hall University, Soares, 24, said she felt the language changes brought the congregation closer to Jesus Christ. "These words have a deeper meaning than what we've been saying before."

HUZZAH TO THE  FOOL for her profound wisdom!

Check out the rest of the article HERE!

I completely forgot to mention that I only messed up once during mass this past Sunday! On the other hand, I messed up quite a lot this past Thursday during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception mass.

Pax Vobiscum!

And with your spirit!

Kathleen Sebelius Covering For Planned Parenthood in Alleged Child Rape Cover-up

I was overjoyed to hear that Sebelius had enough sense to overrule the FDA's recommendation on making the morning after pill available over the counter. Considering the stuff she's voted for in the past...this came as a great surprise. Still, she remains one of my least favorite politicians of all time?


Check out ALL's latest "He Said, She Shred" video on youtube. You will have to click on the link because I was unable to embed the video here. For some reason Blogger kept trying to have me post some completely unrelated Russian videos.

Well...I am still horrified. I cannot believe that anyone would ever willingly cover up for Planned Parenthood in such as despicable manner...especially when it involves something as terrible as child rape. The fact that she's the current Secretary of Human and Health Services makes this story all the more horrifying. 

Kathleen Sebelius
...I can't believe you're still in office...
Though I doubt that the current administration really cares about her track record...ALL has a petition for her resignation.

Pax Vobiscum 

As prolife as.... Irish folk music.

We are well into Finals season at Columbia University. I am currently working on my penultimate final for this semester. It is a take home exam. It is due tomorrow.....

....and I am only a quarter finished.

I'm not too worried I got enough faith to see me through this final, the next final...and a bunch of finals after that.

Given my deadline, I will get straight to the point. While typing up the answers to my exam, one of my favorite songs came up. It is Susan Mckeown's version of "Bonny Greenwoodside." I love this woman's voice and she's got a great collection of music if you're into folk music. Though I was unable to find the exact lyrics to her version of this song...I have found a similar one. Don't worry, the original meaning is still there.

The Greenwood Side
(lyrics from Joan Baez version)

There was a fair maiden lived in the north
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
She fell in love with her father's clerk
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

He courted her a year and a day
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
Till her, the young man did betray
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

She leaned her back against the thorn
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
And there, two bonny boys, she's born
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

She's taken out her little knife
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
And she's robbed them of their life
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

There, she walked by her father's wall
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
She saw her two bonny boys playing ball
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

Oh, bonny boys, if you were mine,
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
I'd dress you up in silk so fine
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

Oh, mother dear, when we were dying,
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
You did not treat us then so fine
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

Now, bonny boys, come tell to me
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
What sort of life I'll have after dying?
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

Seven years of visions of blood
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
And seven years of hurt in the womb
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

Seven years down in the mourning bell
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
And seven years in the flames of hell
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

Welcome, welcome, visions of blood
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
And welcome, welcome, hurt in the womb
Down by the Greenwood side, oh

Welcome down to the mourning bell
Oh, the rose and the linsey, oh
But, God, save me from the flames of hell
Down by the Greenwood side, oh
Down by the Greenwood side

As gruesome and scary as some of the lyrics sound (ie. killing babies, going to hell), I think this song is pretty great. In a sense, this song is about abortion. The difference between the mother in this song and the mother that gets an abortion, however, is that the mother in this story "chooses" to "abort" these children after they are born. I am sure she had her reasons...but they weren't any less justified than the reasons of a mother who commits an abortion before the child is born.

Talk about a double standard. People are outraged when they hear about women killing their own children...but only after these children are born.We may squirm when we hear about mothers killing their children on the news...but what about all the children that are lost every day to abortion? What about the children who didn't live long enough to pose for the adorable pictures news stations tend to post whenever some poor child is killed? We don't often hear about these children on the news. Whenever the issue of abortion is brought up, what we do hear is words like "choice" thrown around...but we are almost forbidden from considering the unborn as human beings. We are shunned when we refer to them as children by those who prefer to dehumanize them with words such as "foetus," "it," "embryo," least favorite terms of "some clump of cells" or "parasite."

Call me crazy...but I see no difference between the murder of a 5 year old and the murder of an unborn child. In my book, pro-life means from womb to tomb. In my book, each life is just as precious as the other.

Don't speak to me of exceptions.

I know that some "pro-life" politicians and people get a lot of well-deserved smack for making exceptions to this "pro-life" rule. Some may defend the life of the unborn but support assisted suicide or the death penalty. If this is the case, they have no right to call themselves "pro-life," just as abortion clinic bombers have no right to call themselves "pro-life." The difference between being "anti-abortion" and "pro-life" is a HUGE one. Those that are truly pro-life don't just respect the life of the innocent. They acknowledge the dignity of every human being and, as a result, defend it. I can't say that I am particularly fond of every life I defend with my stance (convicted killers, etc)...but I do respect their right to life.

Pax Vobiscum

(UPDATE: I have completed and submitted the penultimate final)

Disclaimer: There's probably all sorts of type-o's contained in this post...but I tend to lose my ability to type and speak coherently when it comes to Finals season.

Geeky but Profound

It's a stretch...but it may just be appropriate for this blog...kind of. 

Well, firstly because I cracked up when I saw it. Secondly, because it's all about our calling to "Love one another." Thirdly, Tolkien was Catholic and that's as good a reason as any to share this. As far as I'm concerned, if it's Tolkien then it's Catholic and geeky enough for this blog. I got it from my sister, who got it from a friend, who got it from...some unknown internet source.

One of the coolest Catholics of all time....
Here we go...the best  Facebook status of all time:

That Hobbit you just called fat? He's skipping 2nd breakfast. The dwarf woman you called ugly? She spends hours braiding her hair so you can differentiate her from a dwarf man. That Uruk-Hai you just killed? He's been abused by Saruman. See that Gollum creature with gangly limbs & large eyes? For 500 years, the Ring has poisoned his mind. That elf you just made fun of for crying? He just lost his wizard friend to a Balrog. Repost this if you're against bullying in Middle-Earth.

In all seriousness, I do not tolerate bullying at all. I was bullied for most of my childhood and know what it's like to be insecure about everything from my culture to my weight. I was the fat kid. Looking at old childhood photos...I can't believe I was considered fat! I wasn't completely thin...but I still can't believe how my 11 year old self believed those mean little mouths! I was also the geek (well, they were right on the money with that one...but their attitude about it wasn't). I was the kid with the glasses (still am). I was the Portuguese kid (Pork and Cheese is not too bad a racial slur when you think about it, but it still hurt those days). I was the hairy kid (how times have changed...can't tell you how much hair I lose around finals). I was the kid with the weird clothes. I was even the kid that people called "gay." I wasn't gay...I was just too young to actually like boys (we'll get into the over sexualization of our youth in a later post).

Bullying is really truly one of the worst epidemics this nation has ever encountered. I get the impression that things haven't improved since when I was a kid. I'd even venture to say that things got much worse. I really hope that the kids out there learn a few lessons in empathy and true charity. They may not be getting those lessons from television, music, and the world in general...but that's where we come in. As people who made it through those awkward, terrible years...we should do what we can to help the kids of today get over this terrible epidemic. 

Pax Vobiscum

Happy "Punch a Heretic in the Face" Day

Okay, I am taking a break from reading about capsaicin receptors, because today's feast day cannot be ignored. Today is the feast day of Saint Nicholas.

I know what you're thinking...
One coke-induced sugar rush later, and he's ready for his scheduled world domination...
For most people, today is just any other day. I mean, we've seen that jolly man in red since Thanksgiving when everyone from Coca-Cola to your local mall has been plastering images of this guy everywhere. Considering how this guy is commercialized enough as is, there is no need to put this guy in the spotlight any more than he already is...that heinous, sweatshop-running, representation of over-commercialization.
He doesn't make toys because he's too busy joining forces
with one of the most badass Catholics of all time...
the REAL Saint Nicholas

For some, more traditional is the day where kids leave out wooden shoes (or not-so-wooden) in hopes that they will contain toys or fruit after this saint makes a visit. Tradition holds that his saint was extremely generous and gave all he could to the poor.
I will take the pair to the Right, thank you very much...
Image borrowed from here
For those who really love a good Medieval tale, it is said that he once resurrected three children through prayer. This is quite a feat, considering that these children had been murdered by an evil butcher, cut up, and sold as ham.
For those who, like me, appreciate an even more badass Catholic commemorates the man who punched a heretic in the face in the name of proper Christological orthodoxy. It all started one day either during or following the Council of Nicaea when the Arian heresy was in the process of getting shot down. This heresy stated that Christ was created and had not existed from all eternity. Believe it or not, this heresy had quite a following in these days. One of these followers, some guy by the name of Arius, refused to back down and went on arguing in its favor. The argument went back and forth as tempers flared. Saint Nicholas, true to his faith and inner badass Catholic, battled on with Arius...trying to put an end to the debate. As Emperor Constantine and all sorts of awesome early Catholics looked on, Saint Nicholas put an end to the debate by knocking out Arius.
Take that you heretic!
Talk about knocking some sense into someone! Needless to say, the matter was put to an end and now we got a pretty good reason to celebrate a day like this one.

Pax Vobiscum

***DISCLAIMER*** I am totally joking about punching people in the face. I DO NOT ENDORSE ANY FORM OF PUNCHING...HERETICS OR OTHERWISE.


So it's almost the end of the semester. As you can imagine, I am kind of busy preparing for finals and other exams. With that said, as much as I would LOVE to blog about all that is good and Catholic...I have to focus on all things brain-related for Neuroscience...all things global warming-related for Journal Club, all things genetics-related for Environmental Genetics (at least that's what I think that class is brain is fried so I can't really remember right now). 
Be hold the brain! So much Latin here,
but none of it is as awesome as a Latin mass....
Any spare time between now and the end of the semester will also be spent in the lab slicing/analyzing brains...and not blogging. I'm serious.

I will be back as soon as I get the time.

In the meantime, if anyone out there would like to share their thoughts on PRAYING THE ROSARY, please email me. I would love to share your writings/musings/pictures/experiences!  PLEASE SHARE!

Pax Vobiscum

(and with your spirit....)  

Speaking of peace be with you (and with your spirit), I messed up the New Translation 4 times this past Sunday during mass. I can already see the "and also with you" becoming the new habit to break (next to nail-biting of course...).

Eureka! A Patron Saint for this Blog!

Albertus Magnus, where have you been my whole life?!?!
After much searching and many default prayers to St. Benedict regarding incubator contamination (among other things that went awry in the lab)...I have finally found the patron saint of scientists! His name, St. Albert the Great aka ALBERTUS MAGNUS! 

According to Wikipedia, his interests included logic, theology, botany,  geography, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry, zoology, physiology, etc. Less reputable sources (*cough* *cough) even claimed that Albertus Magnus discovered the Philosopher's Stone. How do you like them apples, Nicholas Flamel!?! (Sorry, I had to throw that in there...being the Harry Potter nut that I am.)

Apparently, Albertus Magnus did dabble in all sorts of science and alchemy...on top of being an advisor to the Pope...eventually becoming on of 34 Doctors of the Church! However, that is not all! Word on the street is that he even mentored Thomas of Aquinas! Talk about awesome....and considering how tough St. Thomas of Aquinas's works are to tough to digest, Albertus Magnus must have been a genius!

On a more religious note, it was Our Lady who instructed him to join the Dominican Order. Even though he had such a great mind for science, he listened to her! One of the things that really spoke volumes to me (besides the dozens of books he wrote in his life time) was that Albertus Magnus (this name is really just too awesome to use only once) advocated a peaceful coexistence of science and religion! 

Peaceful coexistence of science and religion!!! This is what I advocate in my own daily life! 

Considering how this blog blends science geekery as well as all that is good and Catholic, The Catholic Science Geek now has a patron saint! I will have to make Albertus Magnus a permanent fixture here once my finals are complete! 

"The aim of natural science is not simply to accept the statements of others, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature."
 ~Albertus Magnus

Can you say "intellectual crush?" I feel like a teenage girl gushing over insert celebrity heart throb here's latest haircut. Albertus Magnus had me at "not simply accept the statements of others." My geeky heart is all aflutter. I have to hunt down a medal for this guy to add to my collection (I think I have ~17 that I carry with me on a daily basis and a few more lying around in my room). I really hope this saint is ready for all the neuro-related prayers heading his way! I need all the intercession I can get these days!

Pax Vobiscum

New Translation Review

On this last day of Thanksgiving break, I attended mass at Saint Pete's with my family. There were three major changes since I last visited home...and I liked them.

First Change: 
There was a new statue of La Santissima Virgen del cisne (Blessed Lady of the Swan). Saint Pete's church has been home to a long line of immigrants, and each one seems to bring their own traditions. We had a wave of Germans, followed by Italians, followed by Portuguese, followed by Brazilian, followed by all sorts of South American and Eastern Europeans. I've been around since the Portuguese wave and remember when all we had was the one statue of Our Lady of Fatima. With the Brazilian influx to Saint Pete's came a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Aparecida. Now, we have the Lady of the Swan. I'm all for cultural diversity and Our Lady, so I welcome this change wholeheartedly. 

Second Change:
With all the Thanksgiving hubbub, I completely forgot about what time of year it was until I walked into the church and saw all the purple. At first, I wondered where all the green went...then it hit me. IT'S ADVENT. You know what this means (no, it doesn't mean shopping season). It means that we, as Catholics, are in "Anticipation mode." It means that we are awaiting and preparing for the coming of the Christ Child. Forget Black Friday specials and all the crappy holiday music (I will probably have to start a petition to have "Christmas Shoes" banned this year)...this season is about something far more great than we can ever imagine. All that purple in all these churches is here to remind us about what this season is all about, before we're tempted to pepper spray or shoot fellow bargain-hunting shoppers

Third Change:
Okay, I admit it. I messed up the words 4 times. The first time caught me by surprise. The second time was because I wasn't paying attention as I should have been. I caught myself midway through the third time (which I had recited out of habit even with the translation sheet in front of me). However, it was too late to correct myself, so I kept going anyway. The fourth time, I managed to correct myself as soon as I started. I was tempted to make it not count towards my final score, but ultimately decided to keep it. Even with all of this said, I liked this change the most. Why?
Well, I learned all of my prayers in Portuguese. My parents were Portuguese, my CCD classes were in Portuguese, and my catechism was in Portuguese. Our family even went to Portuguese mass for most of my childhood. As a result, I ended up forming most of my religious life around this language. I find that this new translation is a lot closer to the prayers and responses present in Portuguese masses and masses all over the world. it is more similar to all of the masses I have ever attended outside of the United States. This, in turn, leads me to believe that this new translation brings more unity to our Church. 

Call me crazy, but I think that these translations also explain and describe things a lot better. Truth be told, I never understood "begotten not made, one in being with the Father" part of the English Creed (please see my previous post on this). What does "one in being with the Father mean?" Does it mean that God and Christ dwell in the same place? Does it mean that they're the same person? Does it mean that they share the same way of thinking? Is it a place that they occupy together, a way of thinking that they share, or is it a state of being that Christ somehow achieved? Do you see how this translation could lead to all sorts of heresy (for  people like me at least). Okay, so let's toss this part out and replace it with the new translation "consubstantial with the Father."

Consubstantial means "being of the same substance', meaning that Christ is of the same substance as the father. This, in turn, reiterates the "true God and true man" part of the divine praises (see below) well as some of the most important theological teachings of the Church. The beauty of it is that it uses one word....only ONE WORD (consubstantial) to summarize something that even a CCD teacher could stumble through if some kid went up to them in the middle of class and asked them to explain what "one in being with the father" meant. Call me paranoid, but can you see how something so seemingly innocuous as the older translation could easily become a breeding ground for heresy?

While this is the only part of the mass that was tough for me to really interpret, an analysis of the "new missal changes" cards given to us at the beginning of mass seemed to ground my feelings regarding the new translation. As much as I am used to the old sayings, phrases, and greetings I've used in mass for 20 odd years, we needed these new translations. They clarify some of the more old school theology and do away with some of the wishy-washy terminology we've been using since Vatican II. I am not saying that the old translation was terrible. It was more like a temporary alternative that was never meant to last as long as it did following a translation of our mass from Latin to England. Following Vatican II, mass had to be translated from Latin to insert language here. It was a lot easier for our European counterparts to come up with suitable translations because their own romance languages were very similar to Latin. However, considering how only about 60% of English is derived from Latin, we did lose some things in the transition...and I'm glad we're finally retrieving them several decades later. Better late than never.

Pax Vobiscum

Let me now end this post with a quick (and calorie-free) Latin treat for anyone still trying to recover from all the times they messed up the new translation in mass this weekend:

The Divine Praises                                                Laudes Divinae

English version:Latin Version:
Blessed be God. Blessed be His Holy Name.Benedictus Deus. Benedictum Nomen Sanctum eius.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.Benedictus Iesus Christus, verus Deus et verus homo.
Blessed be the Name of Jesus.Benedictum Nomen Iesu.
Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart.Benedictum Cor eius sacratissimum.
Blessed be His Most Precious Blood.Benedictus Sanguis eius pretiosissimus.
Blessed be Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.Benedictus Iesus in sanctissimo altaris Sacramento.
Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.Benedictus Sanctus Spiritus, Paraclitus.
Blessed be the great Mother of God, Mary most Holy.Benedicta excelsa Mater Dei, Maria sanctissima.
Blessed be her Holy and Immaculate Conception.Benedicta sancta eius et immaculata Conceptio.
Blessed be her Glorious Assumption.Benedicta eius gloriosa Assumptio.
Blessed be the Name of Mary, Virgin and Mother.Benedictum nomen Mariae, Virginis et Matris.
Blessed be St. Joseph, her most chaste spouse.Benedictus sanctus Ioseph, eius castissimus Sponsus.
Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.   Benedictus Deus in Angelis suis, et in Sanctis suis. Amen.

First World Problems

In this day and age, we tend to feel sorry for ourselves over the smallest things....and complain about extremely trivial matters aka "first world problems." We tend to freak out over these things in our lives, even when these problems are NOTHING compared to what other people are suffering across the world. We have no right to complain about half of the stuff that causes us to use our 4-letter word vocabulary list.

My own first world problems of the day:

  • I lost my all-time favorite hat today. I lost it somewhere between a velvety kneeler at the front of St. Paul's Chapel (behind the organ) and my front row seat in Neurobiology. It's either in one of those buildings or outside on  a handicap access ramp, lost forever in a waterlogged and extremely uneven brick walkway,  or even stolen away by some squirrel (unlikely but still somewhat plausible). I may never find out. However, I am kind of upset by this. My sisters won it for me in some sort of raffle and it is a hat that suits me well. It screams "Rutgers Pride." Yes, it's one of those hats... red with black, flannel-lined ear flaps that I can tie around my chin, a tiny little puff at the top, and a monstrously huge "R" right above the forehead. I'm going to miss that hat...because it suited my own eccentricity so well.
  • My 4GB mp3 player died on me. I have all of the music saved on my computer, but there is a slight chance that I have one or two lectures saved on it...that weren't saved on my computer. I haven't had the courage to do a full inventory of the damage. I use it for my music and lecture-recording backup in case my 8GB gets full or runs out of batteries before I can get to my computer. 
  • The banana I packed for lunch was a bruised, soggy mess by lunchtime.
  • Rain + extremely uneven brick walkway + cloth shoes = ICY COLD FEET
  • Pandora started playing Christmas music before advent.  For the record, I am one of those people who hold off on Christmas music until at least mid-December. Usually, I only start playing Christmas music so late that I almost miss the Christmas music season altogether. This is great for those of us who can't stand that awful "Christmas Shoes" song...but terrible for those of us who happen to love my future husband's rendition of "Oh Holy Night."

Sorry, I could not resist Josh Groban in all of his beautiful, singing glory...

Yeah, I know. First world problems...which is why I have no right to complain. Fortunately, I have learned to be thankful.

  • Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow. As much as I love the food, it's not the most important thing for me during this day. The important thing about this holiday, for me at least, is that I get to see my family for the first time in weeks...and I even get to see some extended family for the first time since this summer. Being a PhD student, I don't get to see my family as often as I would like even though we live in the same state. Therefore, the mere fact that Thanksgiving brings us all together is enough to make me excited for this day. 
  • I got to go to Saint Paul's chapel today and got a good 10 minutes of peace in an otherwise hectic day. 
  • I made a great cup of tea during lunch.
  • I had a few laughs in the lab today. 
  • God has given me a pretty sweet life. There are so many people out there so much worse off than I am. A look at Penn Station on a typical morning or night will show you just how many people out there have nothing. There were so many homeless people at Penn Station tonight and it was very sad. It was especially sad because so many of them were just there trying to get some sleep and shelter from the rain. 
  • My 8 gig mp3 player is still alive and kicking (along with all of the lectures I have stored on it).
The list could go on and on...and fortunately, I am able to acknowledge a lot of the positives in my life. Even if there aren't too many positives to go around...God's given me a pretty good sense of humor. I can, and usually do appreciate the humor of pretty much any situation...

...and I do mean ANY situation. A good example of this was the first New Year's Eve after my mom passed away. So many terrible things had happened that year that my family just wanted that year to end. Well, the Portuguese eat a lot of fish during the holidays and we had an octopus in a pressure cooker. At some point, my dad had lost the heavy little knob you place on top of the pressure cooker lid to allow the air to escape while keeping the contents pressurized.  He replaced it with a tiny stick. I guess the stick must have expanded due to the humidity of the steam being released and this, in turn,  must have prevented the release of the rapidly expanding air within the pressure cooker. Needless to say, the pressure built up and next thing you know BOOM!!! ....Octopus on the walls. Octopus on the floor. Octopus on the ceiling. Octopus on every appliance. Octopus on the windows. Octopus on every kitchen surface imaginable...including the blown up pressure cooker. 

It would be an understatement to say that the idea of cleaning the now-pink kitchen was pretty depressing. However, in the middle of this...I start laughing. I imagine telling my grandchildren about this event and their reactions...and laugh until my sides hurt. My entire family still laughs about this story now...but it really was depressing at the time that it happened...and even then, I was laughing. 

Attitude is everything when it comes to living your life. No matter how many things go wrong in our daily lives, we will never have a bad day if we make the most of it. A teacher told me this in middle school and I have tried to make the best out of each day ever since...and it's worked. Forget buying "Eat, Pray, Love" and forget all those books by Joel don't need any of them. You will also save a fortune at the local bookstore. 
Ignore the nice smile...and gorgeous hair...
Just stick to what this teacher told me in middle school. Or, if you prefer something a little more official: 
"In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all. Extinguish not the spirit. Despise not prophecies. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good. From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves. And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things; that your whole spirit, and soul, and body, may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is faithful who hath called you, who also will do it."
~Thessalonians 5:18-24

Be thankful for what you have at all times and appreciate it all. If you are able to read this blog right now, I assure you that God's got you covered...

Pax Vobiscum

Oh, and since I share a confirmation name with this saint, I can't end the post without saying happy feast of Saint Cecelia!
Saint Cecilia
John William Waterhouse

Would this be offensive?

As much as I love awarding the "Catholic Facepalm" to things that are otherwise classified as "epic fails" and the "Cool Catholic" award to cool Catholics,  I have come to the conclusion that my award system is incomplete. My award system needs some form of positive reinforcement that can be awarded to people, places, ideas, things, etc. that may or may not be Catholic. They must, of course, be awesome in some way. While searching for nun pictures yesterday, I came across a picture that I thought was pretty awesome and would like to make an award out of it called the "21 Nun Salute." It would, of course, be an award of honor similar to the military's "21 Gun Salute." With this award, I will finally be able to award all sorts of awesome people, places, things, and ideas!

My only problem is while I think this idea would be awesome, I don't want to offend anyone out there. Any thoughts?

Pax Vobiscum

Saint George to the Next Level

I just had to share the doodle I started yesterday...because it may just be the most badass Catholic thing I have ever started doodling. You've seen St. George slay a dragon...but have you ever seen him defeating a dragon several times his size by driving a shield into it's mouth and then delivering a mortal blow with a two-handed sword? Exactly...which is why I had to share. Perhaps I may have to show the finished product (which may take anywhere between a day to a year or so...depending on how much time I have on my hands).

In case you are interested, King Arthur is the runner up for most badass Catholic doodle (King Arthur would have been Catholic if he ever existed).

And in third place, is my quasi-Catholic work is this triptych depicting Beren and Luthien. My defense for adding this work to the list? Well, Tolkien was Catholic and Beren was badass. That's close enough for me to add Silmarillion-based art to this list. 

What do you call a sleepwalking nun?


Get it!?!? This was the best Laffy Taffy joke I have ever and will ever find.

While looking for a suitable picture for this Laffy Taffy joke post, I came across this pretty awesome article. It's almost two years old, but I enjoyed it. While I am not the biggest fan of Oprah and though this is the only time I have ever read anything on the site, or even visited the site for that matter, I got to's pretty good. It features what life is like with the Dominican Sisters of Mary in Detroit. Apparently, this particular order is doing pretty well. Some of the stories these women had are pretty incredible.

One stood out in particular...
Sister Francis Mary...
One of the most awesome people on the internet.
Sister Francis Mary, now 26, says she received the calling when she was 22. Though she was baptized Catholic, Sister Francis Mary says she wasn't particularly religious. In fact, she thought she was meant to marry her serious boyfriend, who was also Catholic.
All of that changed when her boyfriend invited Sister Francis Mary to see his own sister take her vows to become a nun. "Something within me changed," she says. "All of a sudden, I knew that Christ wanted me for himself. And it was mind-boggling. I was afraid."
Eventually, she had to tell her boyfriend of her new life plan. "We both cried," she says. "He was really shocked at first, but then again he was extremely supportive and I am so grateful to him."
As it turns out, God had plans for her boyfriend as well. "God takes care of everything," she says. "He's going to be ordained a priest the same year I make my final vows."
Talk about awesome story! I highly suggest reading this article. It pretty much made my fruitless search for a relevant sleepwalking nun photograph worth it. Word to the wise: Be sure to turn on some sort of content filter when Google image searching anything nun-related. There are some pretty gross people out there with pretty disgusting imaginations...which can only mean there are more people out there in serious need of prayer.

Is it really that big of a deal?

I came across this "making mountains out of mole hills" article today and could not help but shake my head.

I've never been an altar server and I couldn't care less whether the altar servers are boys are girls. Most of the time, I don't even pay attention to them. If I was forced under pain of death to tell you whether the altar servers at mass today were male or female...I'd be a dead woman. Why? BECAUSE I WAS THERE FOR CHRIST. I wasn't there as part of a feminist movement. I wasn't there for my own personal agenda. I wasn't there to stir a ruckus. I was there to witness the miracle of transubstantiation, and worship God along with my fellow Catholic Christians.

This is exactly the type of insignificant garbage that really makes me wonder why some people go to mass. Do they go there for Christ? Do they go there for social hour? Do they go there to show off their newest ensemble? Do they go there out of habit? Do they go there more for appearances than they do out of good faith?

In this article, some mother allegedly just started attending a particular church in Virginia. This church apparently does not allow female altar servers. Why? Well, they want to reserve this role for males. I'm a woman, and I couldn't care less about this. I'm sure they have their reasons, but I honestly don't care about whether altar servers are men or women.

The mother, apparently, did care. She cared so much that she burst into tears and ran to the bathroom because her two daughters could not be altar servers. I'm sure she had her reasons, but I honestly don't care about them either. You see, it's tiny and ridiculously insignificant things like this that take away from the grand scheme of things when it comes to mass.

Mass isn't about doing what we want. It's not about upstaging Christ. It's about Christ being the center of our lives. It's about coming together as a community to serve and adore Christ for his sacrifice and love...not about flower arrangements, music selections, and whether or not you like guitar mass. It's about partaking in the mystery of the Eucharist and being part of a living, breathing community of people who wish to do the same...a community of people who believe as you believe.

How in the world this makes national news is beyond me. Papa Benedict is finishing up his historic tour of Africa, but none of his messages of peace and hope are being broadcast in the media. Thousands of Catholics are out there serving their brothers and sisters in some of the poorest places on earth, but none of this makes it to the media. We got miracles happening all over the world as we speak, but none of this makes it onto the news. All we see on the news is another article of Evil Church vs. Woman, sex abuse scandal, Evil Church vs. Abortion, sex abuse scandal, Evil Church vs. Contraceptions, sex abuse scandal, Evil Church vs. Other Evil Religions, sex abuse scandal, Evil Church vs. insert new group here.

It really never ends and considering my own experiences with the Catholic Church, I know that quite a few of these are taken out of context and out of proportion. Don't get me wrong, there are members of the Church that have messed up big time and did deserve the bad press about it. However, do we all (collectively) really need to get lumped together into the "bad guy" group to be dragged through the coals over and over again for everything these days? Needless to say, this women altar servers article got ugly pretty fast. It quickly went from a simple matter into an article about sexism, the Church's "need" for women padres and modernization, etc. and that's without even going into the comments section.

My advice to the mother of two daughters: FIND ANOTHER PARISH. If being in the presence of Christ isn't enough to stop you from storming out of mass over the tiniest things, RE-EVALUATE YOUR RELIGIOUS LIFE. Instead of rushing off to do interviews with the local paper and pose for "victimized family" photos, consider going to the priest in charge first and address your grievances. If this doesn't work, just try that other Catholic Church around the corner. I can easily think of 4 alternative churches around my house that I can attend if I was bothered by something or other about the church I went to this morning. Therefore, I don't see you having to drive through state lines to attend a parish that suites your palate.

The Catholic Science Geek
This award goes to the media this time...
for making a mountain out of a molehill....again

*shakes head*

Anyone want to join me and this young whippersnapper to pray for unity within the Church?

Pax Vobiscum

As Prolife As....Our Lady of Guadalupe

‎"He is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.” (Luke 20:38) none of this is necessary...EVER.
A long time ago in South America, human sacrifice was the norm. In those days, it was okay to sacrifice people. It was perfectly acceptable act and no one really questioned it. I'm sure if I was to go back in time and tell them that sacrificing people was an insane thing to do, they'd probably look at me like I had two heads. They would probably tell me that I had no business in interfering with their personal choice to take part in such a "normal" activity. They would tell me that it was for the greater good. They would tell me that it was a necessary action that would ultimately improve the quality of life for others. Human sacrifice was their way of appeasing the sun god and ensuring that there was enough to go around.
Though humans were being killed of by the dozens, hundreds, and even thousands...there were many that stayed silent. They probably did not really agree with human sacrifice and probably did not directly take part of it. They did not hold the sharp tool used to cut someone else's heart out. They probably did not get sacrificed themselves or even known anyone within their own circle that was sacrificed. Instead, they went on and lived their lives without ever raising a voice for their fellow human being. Some may have even supported the sacrifices.

Then something happened.

...a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars...
Describing herself as Coatlalopeuh in Aztec ("She Who Has Dominion over Serpents" in the common tongue), she stood before the sun. The importance of her own message triumphed over the image of the sun god. She came not to demand sacrifice, but to bring a gift. Her hands appear to be held in prayer. Yet, to the indigenous, her hands are held in a manner similar to their own when they give gifts (note how her pinkies are placed). A dark sash, similar to those worn by pregnant women, is tied around her waist. She brings the gift of salvation...a gift requiring no sacrifice because the ultimate sacrifice has already been paid. This God did not require His people to kill each other in His name. He came to  earth, was born of this woman, became man, and sacrificed Himself for us. Why? He loves us too much to demand that any of us be sacrificed for Him in the manner that had dominated the Aztec culture.

The world had no place for human sacrifice and so it was brought to an end.

The Same Story Retold (at some point in the future)

A long time ago in America, abortion was the norm. In those days, it was okay to sacrifice the unborn. It was perfectly acceptable act and no one really questioned it. I'm sure if I was to go back in time and tell them that killing the unborn was an insane thing to do, they'd probably look at me like I had two heads. They would probably tell me that I had no business in interfering with their personal choice to take part in such a "normal" activity. They would tell me that it was for the greater good. They would tell me that it was a necessary action that would ultimately improve the quality of life for others. Abortion was their way of appeasing the misguided abortion lobbyists, misguided feminist groups, misguided politicians, misguided overpopulation awareness groups...and their way of ensuring that there was enough to go around.

Though human children were being killed of by the dozens, hundreds, and even thousands...there were many that stayed silent. They probably did not really agree with abortion and probably did not directly take part of it. They did not hold the sharp tool used to cut someone else's child out. They probably did not get abortions or even known anyone within their own circle that had an abortion. Instead, they went on and lived their lives without ever raising a voice for their fellow human being. Some may have even supported abortion.

Then something happened....

And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod: and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne.  And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days. And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven
This world has no place for abortion and I am praying for its end. 

Care to join?

Pax Vobiscum