Follow by Email

A Media Vita Kind of Love

The latest Latin antiphon to catch my interest is "Media Vita." I've put a bunch of Latin chant and music onto my mp3 player lately....along with a bunch of Irish artists (been on an Ireland and UK binge lately). Surprisingly enough, this greatest hit was not by the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos. It was actually found  on  an album by Anuna (not sure which album it is off the top of  my head). Anuna does an AMAZING job with this antiphon (after throwing some drums and some really great voices) and just about every other song on the album (including a Sanctus that will make you want to drop everything you are doing and head off to the closest tabernacle for Eucharistic adoration).

St. Thomas of Aquinas
I have to say, every time this song comes up when I have my player on shuffle.....I fall in love all over again. It is so beautiful. This antiphon is said to have brought St. Thomas of Aquinas to tears, and Anuna's version makes it easy to understand why. It is simply that beautiful...and they lyrics, though haunting, are a reminder of how fleeting this life is and how much we long for God and His forgiveness.  It's also a reminder of how God looks out for us and continues to love us even after we make mistakes. Yes, we are called to be good people. Yes, we tend to fail at listening to that call. However, God is there. God is waiting. God loves you. God forgives you. It is up to us, however, to seek that forgiveness and to at least attempt living a righteous life full of love, charity, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, humility, and everything else that is good in God's eyes.
 Okay, this is not the best screenshot for this video...but it's still worth a listen as well as a watch.
 Trust me. Your inner Catholic Latin Geek will thank you for it...

For the Latin geeks out there, here are the words to this antiphon as well as the translation in English. This is the newest bit of Latin that I am trying to learn. I can't wait to add it to my Latin prayer filing cabinet (located somewhere in my hippocampus). 
Media Vita
Latin text
Media vita in morte sumus
Quem quærimus adjutorem nisi te, Domine?
Qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris
Sancte Deus, Sancte fortis, Sancte et misericors Salvator,
Amaræ morti ne tradas nos.
In Te speraverunt Patres nostri,
speraverunt et liberasti eos.
Ad Te clamaverunt Patres nostri,
clamaverunt et non sunt confusi.
Sancte Deus, Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

English text
In the middle of life we are in death
of whom can we seek aid except you, Lord?
You who for our sins are rightly angered.
O Holy God; O Holy, almighty; O Holy and merciful Savior;
may you not surrender us to bitter death.
In you our fathers have trusted;
they have trusted and you have delivered them.
To You our Father have cried out;
they have cried out, and they have not been brought to ruin.
O Holy God, Glory to the Father, and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning, now and always and for ever and ever.

Okay, I could not help it...below is Anuna's Sanctus.

Doesn't listening to this just make you want to join a holy order?!?! SO BEAUTIFUL!

Pax Vobiscum

The Church said WHAT?!?!

There always seems to be some conflict (and A LOT of misunderstanding) regarding Catholic social teaching and the rest of the world. One of the big argument points (for the past few decades at least) is the use of oral contraceptives. Naysayers usually believe that the Church's stand on contraceptives falls within a range of archaic or just plain barbaric. They often treat the Church as we would an old geezer that is unable to keep with the times or as a male-chauvinist out to trample all over women's rights.

Let me just say it now....I disagree with these folk.

I know....I know... I know exactly what you're thinking..."Oh great, here's another brainwashed Catholic woman out to defend the RCC again..."

Okay, I'm Catholic. The blog title confirms it. However, I encourage you skeptics to look a closer look at the title.
Catholic Science Geek
WHAT?!? A Catholic who's into science?!?! What has the world come to!?!? That can't be right! 

Yes, I understand. Perhaps the media, the Evangelical nuts, and the militant Dawkins nuts have convinced you that religion and science are mutually exclusive. However, something tells me these guys are either ignoring some major facts...or they're just plain silly.
Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître
Yeah, like you can just forget that it was a
Catholic priest who first suggested the Big Bang Theory.

Gregor Johann Mendel if you could simply just forget about this Catholic priest. He
pretty much provided the evidence that Darwin's theory needed to be taken seriously!

Now back to the original point of this post. 

I am a scientist by profession (if you call "Overworked and Stressed Out PhD Student" an occupation"). Therefore, I usually take anything the media tells me with a grain of salt (a HUGE grain of salt). Likewise, I also used to take the Church's teachings regarding contraceptives with a grain of salt....I was one of the people who used to consider the Church as an "old geezer" unable to keep up with  the times. That was until I really started looking into contraceptives, such as the pill. I had the opportunity to listen in on a lecture, where a list of known carcinogens was listed. (Carcinogens are cancer-causing agents.) 

It takes A LOT of tests/analyses/etc. for a drug or compound to make it onto a "KNOWN CARCINOGEN" list. They don't just throw stuff up there for the hell of it, or because a Pope in Rome told them to do so. No, when something makes it on this list, you can pretty much guarantee that it's bad news. You can pretty much guarantee that it will not end up in your kid's lunchbox. You can pretty much guarantee that there will be people protesting its use. Well, that's what I used to think. 

The American Cancer Society has this list posted on their website listing a bunch of terrible things that are KNOWN to cause cancer. It's based on lists compiled by two pretty reputable (and unbiased) agencies, International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US National Toxicology Program (NTP). I invite you to take a look at the list. I'm not one to throw the bible at atheists, as I am not one to throw my Evolutionary Biology book at Evangelicals. I am one of the people who tries to speak in a way that people understand. The cool thing about being a Catholic Science Geek is that I got a religious as well as scientific understanding about things like "the pill." I also have a level of understanding that came from experience considering that I was one of the many women out there who actually took the pill for some time. 

Below are the first 50 known human carcinogens listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. I copied and pasted it from the American Cancer Society site. I think it's very ironic that people are rushing their teenage daughters off to get HPV shots in order to prevent cancer...but not thinking twice about getting them on the pill. 

I'm not saying that taking the pill is an automatic one-way ticket to cancer. After all, as Paracelsus once said "the dose makes the poison." Yes, the pill has levels of estrogen much lower these days than they were when it was first introduce and administered to women. However, you also have to consider that there is a limit to how low these doses can go without losing their contraceptive effects. I don't know about you, but the safest bet you have regarding  carcinogens is avoiding as many of them as you can. No matter what we do, we will be exposed to some level of any number of carcinogens on this list (more extensive lists than the one below if you check out the link above). However, we can control our exposure to other carcinogens (by choosing not to smoke, by not drinking ourselves to death....etc). 

After taking a look at this list, and reading up on the whole "contraceptive issue" (from a religious, scientific, social, etc) point of view....I cannot help but think that the Church should get some credit when it comes to their stance on this issue. She's not out to get us. She's not out to oppress us women. She's out there to look out for us....because that's why Christ went through the trouble of building her. 
Known human carcinogens
International Agency for Research on Cancer
Group 1: Carcinogenic to humans
  1. Acetaldehyde (from consuming alcoholic beverages)
  2. Acid mists, strong inorganic
  3. Aflatoxins
  4. Alcoholic beverages
  5. Aluminum production
  6. 4-Aminobiphenyl
  7. Areca nut
  8. Aristolochic acid (and plants containing it)
  9. Arsenic and inorganic arsenic compounds
  10. Asbestos (all forms) and mineral substances (such as talc or vermiculite) that contain asbestos
  11. Auramine production
  12. Azathioprine
  13. Benzene
  14. Benzidine and dyes metabolized to benzidine
  15. Benzo[a]pyrene
  16. Beryllium and beryllium compounds
  17. Betel quid, with or without tobacco
  18. Bis(chloromethyl)ether and chloromethyl methyl ether (technical-grade)
  19. Busulfan
  20. 1,3-Butadiene
  21. Cadmium and cadmium compounds
  22. Chlorambucil
  23. Chlornaphazine
  24. Chromium (VI) compounds
  25. Clonorchis sinensis (infection with)
  26. Coal, indoor emissions from household combustion
  27. Coal gasification
  28. Coal-tar distillation
  29. Coal-tar pitch
  30. Coke production
  31. Cyclophosphamide
  32. Cyclosporine
  33. Diethylstilbestrol
  34. Epstein-Barr virus (infection with)
  35. Erionite
  36. Estrogen postmenopausal therapy
  37. Estrogen-progestogen postmenopausal therapy (combined)
  38. Estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives (combined) (Note: There is also convincing evidence in humans that these agents confer a protective effect against cancer in the endometrium and ovary)
  39. Ethanol in alcoholic beverages
  40. Ethylene oxide
  41. Etoposide
  42. Etoposide in combination with cisplatin and bleomycin
  43. Fission products, including strontium-90
  44. Formaldehyde
  45. Haematite mining (underground)
  46. Helicobacter pylori (infection with)
  47. Hepatitis B virus (chronic infection with)
  48. Hepatitis C virus (chronic infection with)
  49. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) (infection with)
  50. Human papilloma virus (HPV) types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 (infection with) (Note: The HPV types that have been classified as carcinogenic to humans can differ by an order of magnitude in risk for cervical cancer)
Okay, so I spoke to scientific to cater to the religion-minded as to why I stick by the Church when it comes to "the pill."

Respondens Simon Petrus dixit : Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi.17 Respondens autem Jesus, dixit ei : Beatus es Simon Bar Jona : quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus, qui in cælis est. 18 Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam.19 Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cælis : et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cælis.

Simon Peter answered and said: You are Christ, the Son of the living God.Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood has notrevealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I say to you: That you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.19 And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

See the significance here? The world may not see the things in the same way the Church sees things...much like no one else really saw Christ as Peter saw him. However, Peter saw what was it was revealed to him. When the Church says no to the "pill," she does so for a reason. Perhaps it is not as toxicology-based as my reasoning above...but it is moral-based. Not oppression-based. Not male-chauvinistic-based. She made her decision regarding oral contraceptives based on some pretty sound and relevant thinking. I wish I had the time to explain it all in the way in which it was explained to me. If you ever get the chance, I HIGHLY recommend "Love and Responsibility" by JPII. It was a life-changer for me. He pretty much broke things down for me in a way that I could never break down for you. I cannot do this work the best I can to is highly recommend it for now.

Okay, back to studying for neuroscience! 
Pax Vobiscum

One of those Saint Jude weeks....

We've all had of those weeks. My week started up with a game of catch-up. I volunteered to be the first person to present a project for a particular class this Monday. This involved a weekend full of project-related reading and work. However, I finished it.

Unfortunately, finishing the project involved having to push back all of my other homework. I had two assignments for one class (signed up for the class one week late and had to then do first and second week assignments). I finished these two last night. They were due today. Call me an overachiever, but I had planned to finish them this weekend. Then I had to do two readings for this class as well (more scientific papers!), which I managed to finish this afternoon (research-related number crunching this morning led to my finishing the readings during the beginning of class). I hate doing homework during class...but at least I finished it.

I somehow managed to finish the data presentation for my laboratory meeting today. It wasn't perfect, but I managed to finish it. I just finished up my Neurobiology reading and quiz (two of these babies per week)...and will get to the rest of the neuro homework after this post....

I guess you can say that the better part of my week was spent playing catch-up. Catch-up is okay when you are out sick from school at age 10...and can do homework in between 8 hours of sleep and home cooked meals. It is okay when you are and undergraduate taking a semester-worth of fluff courses that make up your general education requirements. Catch-up, however, is incredibly stressful when you are a PhD student trying to get a bunch of research done by a certain date, submit an abstract by a certain date, complete homework by a certain date, and understand all that you've learned about neuro by a certain date (test day is in less than 2 weeks....EEEK!!!). Needless to say, it's been one of those weeks. One of those seemingly hopeless Saint Jude weeks.

O most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the Church honoureth and invoketh thee universally, as the patron of hopeless cases, and of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, who am so miserable. Make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded to thee, to bring visible and speedy help where help was almost despaired of. Come to mine assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolation and succor of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity. I promise thee, O blessed Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favour, to always honour thee as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to thee. Amen.
I had just about had it with everything when I thought back to what really matters. I contacted my masters thesis advisor and let her know what was going on. Normally, I keep a stiff upper lip when it comes to dealing with so much coming at me from so many directions...but this time, doubt started rearing its ugly head. With the help of the Saint Michael prayer, the intercession of a bunch of saints, God's grace, and a full trust in God, I was able to defeat doubt around this time of year last year. However, I have come to find that I have grown careless in my own spiritual life. I have allowed doubt to creep in slowly over time, especially during my most stressful moments. Fortunately, however, I know my enemy well and I know how it tempts me into despair, hopelessness, and melancholy. I have learned its tricks and though I was careless enough to let doubt overtake me for a few days....I was smart enough to get rid of it.

What did I do?

1. I prayed and asked God to help me. There is nothing like leaving it all to God to get me out of a sticky situation. Trusting in Him is hard to start doing...but once you trust Him,  things tend to fall into place. The key here is patience.

2. I rallied the troops. I not only asked some good guys for their intercession....I brought a few to the lab with me. Therefore, if you ever visit my lab, you will see prayer cards for St. Raphael (who is always more than willing to watch over you and guide you), St. George (nothing says defeat your literal or figurative demons like a badass soldier of God slaying a dragon), and St. Jude (having the patron saint of lost causes by your side is never a bad thing). I also threw in a Papa Bene card, a miniature rosary with St. Anthony on it (to help me find my sanity when I lose it, the Cross of St. Benedict (I owe this guy a Columbia sweater if I ever make it out of here alive with a PhD), and a crucifix (a great reminder of what it truly means to suffer). I even brought in my mini saints book....just in case I need some extra help and inspiration.

3. I overcame my pride and asked for help. Pride is a very dangerous thing and sometimes it is the only thing standing in between me and true happiness. I am sure that many people could say the same. Instead of emailing my master's thesis mentor about how everything is going great...I told her the truth. I told her I was stressed. I told her what was going on and the things I was worried about. Her reply was immediate and just what I needed to hear. I have since thumb-tacked her email to my desk as well. She asked me to call her and I did. I was on the phone with her for quite some time....and I needed it. It was great talking with her and she gave me so many great pointers (she did, after all, make it through the realms of PhD land alive and reasonably unscathed). This woman is a remarkable human being with such a caring and hilarious soul. In short, she is a saint. If I could start a campaign to get her canonized right now, I probably would.

4. I took a day off from the lab tomorrow to catch up on my neuro. Let's face it, I need the extra time and as much as I want to soldier on through the research-related number crunching, I need to focus on neuro before I really get left behind. This too was an issue of pride and doubt...this idea that I could not take a day off because I had no time or because I did not want to show weakness. It's not weakness. It's common sense...and yes, I do have the time.

Most importantly, however, I got plenty of support to get me through my tougher times. We all have support, if we are willing enough to reach out for it sometimes.

Pax Vobiscum.

The Closest Thing To Politics From This Blogger

I take a deep breath and enter room with a fold up table in the corner. It has a pot of coffee brewing next to two neat piles of cups. In the middle of the room is a circle of folding chairs with people sitting on them, avoiding eye contact. I take seat next to older male with head poking out of the Wall Street Journal. Someone coughs. The clock on the wall keeps ticking until 2pm. At that point, the meeting starts. 

"Hello, my name is Barbara and I used to be a Die-hard Democrat."

When I was a kid, I really was a die-hard Democrat. I knew just about every platform to every political party...(yes, there's more than 2). I could talk politics with my dad and anyone willing to humor a child with the ambitions of a future politician. You wouldn't believe it now if you knew me in real life (outside of facebook and all those other social network sites)...but I once wanted to run for president. That's normal....right?...A kid who wants to run for president? 

Yeah, that's me...
....blocking Howard Dean...
Like all other kids in my grade, I thought Bill Clinton was cool. I used to get Presidential awards for my grades and would show off the "president's signature" to family and friends (long before I knew of mass-produced laser-printed letters and envelope-licking interns). I met governors, senators, you name it. I unsuccessfully ran for treasurer 3-4 times in high school (not sure if I ran for treasurer or secretary my last year). I even went to NJ Girls' State...which can be described as "government politics boot camp" for high school girls. I used to draw political cartoons (even met Jim Margulies once....and got his autograph on a political cartoon). I used to follow presidential debates. I was so in love with it all...until I became disillusioned by it all.

All the politicians out there made some pretty ridiculous gaffes (a la "Dean Scream," creepy Gore beard, or Palin crib notes)....or some extremely terrible decisions (like supporting abortion). This trend has continued up until today. I know this sounds incredibly un-American...but I have not been able to vote for anyone in these past two elections. It wasn't because I had to means to make it to the voting booths....I had the means, but lacked the willingness. It wasn't because I was uninformed about the state of the world and our nation...quite the contrary. It wasn't even for lack of caring that I refused to vote...I still keep up with current events and I still care. It's just that I could not find anyone worth voting least I have not been able to find anyone worth voting for in the past two elections. 

I could not do it...regardless of how many "Vote or Die" shirts I saw two elections ago...and how pressured I was to join the "Hope" bandwagon in the last election. Yes, that's right. I did not vote in the last election. I literally could not bring myself to vote for either Obama or McCain. Both of them had their good points, I am sure...but all their bad points seemed to outweigh these good points. I just could not bring myself to choose one of my principles over another. I just refused to compromise one thing for another. However, the more I see of what is going on in this country....the more I realize that I do need to vote....even if I am just voting to cancel out someone else's vote. Even if I am simply voting against someone (by voting for their opponent) rather than voting for someone (that I actually like).

To this day, I cannot point to one individual that I can vote for with a clear conscience. However, I think that I have to vote in this upcoming presidential election. There's already plenty of shady business going on with this upcoming election. There's already an army of interest groups out there....working on putting their preferred candidate in office. There's already plenty of media coverage and scandal (as usual). Potential voters are already being targeted by political parties, commercials, lies, etc. I've already been inundated with messages from the media and self-interest groups. I already see posters up and news stories up showcasing potential front-runners plastered over images of red, white, and blue. 

As much as my younger self would hate me for it...I don't think I can vote Democrat with a good conscience in this next election. Obama has really, really let me down on some very, very essential issues. I'm not saying that the Republicans have been any better and I can already see my inner child kicking my present self in the teeth for not voting Democrat. However, I think I may be at the point where I would feel better about voting any of the other potential candidates than the current president. I am definitely going to keep discerning about this...and will certainly keep myself updated on all the important essentials...but I can say with a great deal of confidence that Obama will not be getting my vote. I mean, I can see myself in an election booth for the upcoming election...and I can see myself voting for someone. However, I cannot see myself voting for Obama. Therefore, I think I will start praying for someone worth voting for to end up on the ballot. I think this particular intention may need all the prayers it can get between now and election any prayers will be welcome.

Pax Vobiscum

Prayer Request for a Raven

When I was a kid, my mom and my sisters used to go on walks throughout the neighborhood. Sometimes we would come across little critters that needed help. Naturally, my sisters and I would beg my mom about taking the critters home with us so that we could nurse them back to health and raise them as our own. I still remember taking home baby birds and a baby bunny. For the record, we were no substitute for their critter moms or their critter habitats...but we did what we could to take care of them nonetheless.

I came across a bird in need of help today on my way to class. I was in a rush, but I could not ignore her. You see, this bird was not actually a bird. She was a young, very pregnant mother who had finally gotten the courage to leave an abusive relationship. Her name was Raven." She was sitting at the subway stop with a sign asking for food or money that ended with a "God Bless You. She had her whole life packed up behind her. Her whole life fit into a small suitcase and a box.

Artwork by Victoria Frances
As much as it breaks my heart remembering this, she also still carried the marks of her past life on her face. Her left eye still had a large bruise that was literally was the size of someone's fist. I cannot imagine who could ever do something like this to a fellow human being...let alone a very pregnant young woman...the mother of your child. I cannot believe that anyone could be so evil.

I saw her right after I got off the subway train and without thinking, the first thing I did was go to Starbucks. I don't know why I did this, but I got a pumpkin scone, a toasted bagel, and a bottle of water. The bottle of water made sense because everyone drinks water and needs a certain amount every 3 days or so to survive. The bagel and cream cheese also kind of makes sense. It's pretty filling and a lot of people eat bagels. The pumpkin scone, even as I was buying it, made no sense. I thought I had to be crazy buying a pumpkin scone...because it's not someone that everyone likes. It's also not one of the first foods that come to mind when it comes to sustenance. Besides, there was no way of telling whether or not she even liked pumpkin scones. Maybe it was because I was hungry and my subconscious mind wanted me to eat that scone eventually. I then bought a Starbucks card and put some money on it.

I somehow got out of that Starbucks in time to get back into the subway. Without thinking, I took a mini rosary out of my backpack (the mini rosary I keep with all my saints medals) and took out my rosary guide (with the nice pictures of the mysteries). I scribbled out a note on the back of the receipt with my email address, pretty much begging her to contact me when she got the chance...because I could put her in touch with some people to help her out.

Being my somewhat socially awkward geek self, the first thing I say when I come up to her is "Do you like pumpkin scones?"

Turns out, she actually did like pumpkin scones. Turns out, she was a very sweet person. Turns out, I had the same name as her grandmother. The bruise on her face was terrible, but her smile was wonderful and she really was incredibly nice. I asked her if she had a place to stay and she told me that she was staying at a hostel during the nights. She was stranded, but it seemed like she was trying to get to a place where her and her baby could be safe. I could not help her with a train ticket at the time, or with a house, or with a number of things...but I was able to help her out in some way. She was very thankful for what help I could give her and was even thankful for the rosary and guide ("in case you need some help spiritually too").... However, I fear that this may not be enough. Please, pray that she emails me. I already got in touch with some people that may be able to help her out....I just need for her to get in touch with me.

Please pray that she, and other women in similar situations have to courage to walk out on abusive lives and stay away from abusive individuals. I gave her what encouragement I could at the time...but please pray that God may continue to bless her with courage and hope. Please pray that mothers like her find the safety and love that all people deserve. Please pray that her baby will be born healthy and will know what it feels like to be loved. The child already has a mother willing to face the unknown for the chance to a safe, loving future. Please pray that it will work out for them.

Thank you!

Pax Vobiscum.

God Must Have Been Listening

I went to mass at St. Paul's Chapel in Columbia U. last Thursday. I was between classes and realized that I had more than enough time to make it to mass. The service was beautiful and the homily spoke to me. I loved it. I loved it so much, I kind of wish that I had recorded it. Unfortunately, the thought did not occur to me until it was too late. Then I started debating whether or not it would be appropriate to record a mass or not. After debating back and forth, my short attention span calmed down a bit and I was soon able to listen to mass again.

Today, I am on the train listening to my notes from Neuro (while cloud watching) and I skip through the notes I've recorded. At one point, I find that I made some form of white noise recording. The white noise recording turns into a rhythmic bumping noise with some shuffling. Then I hear muted voices whispering and/or murmuring. My first reaction was an OH CRAP followed by panic. I thought my handy-dandy-never-failed-me-yet recorder had failed at recording the Neuro lecture. Then the voice clears and I realize that it does not belong to any of the Neuro instructors. A little bit into the lecture, I realize that it has nothing to do with Neuro.

How do I know? Well.....Have you ever heard a Neuroscience course start like this?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"
Yep, you guessed right...for the first time in my recorder's life (had this thing for about 2 years or so) recorded something on its own. It recorded the mass that I had wanted to record....AND THE AWESOME HOMILY!

On top of that, but you also get a minute or so of what bookbag sounds like from the inside (where I keep all my pens and pencils). The swishing that came with each bumping noise was a waterfall of pens shuffling in my backpack with each step I took. So not only do we get an awesome mass on this recording, we get the soothing, rhythmic sounds of "Barbara's Backpack on a Sunny Summer Day During a Tour of Columbia." You could totally meditate to those sweet sounds!

If you've read my blog long enough, you must know by now that I am counting this as a miracle. I know some of you may consider this complete chance. Others may be getting a little tired of my counting everything as a miracle...and will humor me by reading yet another miracle post. To all you miracle naysayers out there, I got a few words from a fellow scientist/geek Al.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is."- Albert Einstein

Here's to those of us who see everything as a miracle (and live a much better life because of it)!

A much better life...that includes MEETING Gandalf!!!
My Gandalf Miracle = Other Story

Pax Vobiscum

Mary's Awesomeness

Happy Feast of the Nativity everyone! Today is Mary's Birthday! Well, maybe.

You see, the truth of the matter is, it's probably not her birthday. On the bright side, there is a 1/365 chance that today is actually Mary's birthday.You see, the Feast of the Nativity all began in the 5th Century when a basilica was built upon what was believed to be the home of Saint Anne and Saint Joachim...Mary's parents. The feast of the Immaculate Conception, as a side note, was then instituted 9 months before today's feast...once today's feast was established. You got to hand it to our early church fathers for instituting these feast days....not so much for the dates they chose...but for the people they chose to celebrate. Some sticklers out there may complain about the authenticity of this day (of all days). They may argue that there is no possible way to know that today was Mary's birthday. Some may even argue that we have no right to celebrate this feast just because we cannot be 100% certain that today was the day that the Blessed Mother was born.

Pish posh! As far as I'm concerned, the nay-sayers can write another garbage book about a follow-up to their "Christianity stinks just because these crazy fools think Jesus was born in December" series. On another side note, I can't help but note how many nay-sayer and anti-insert religion here books are currently festering besides a pile of insert disgruntled politician here books at my local Borders even with the 80-90% clearance sales.

You see, I could care less about what feast day falls on what date. Yes, I observe what days I can (if I remember them)...but I am more concerned about the reason for the observance and not so much the date. In case you aren't learned in the lore of all that is good and Catholic, the Blessed Virgin Mary is awesome. She is awesome for so many reasons. I could probably write an entire book on how many times she's interceded for my family. I could probably write another book on apparitions, miracles, and all sorts of other things she's been a part of these past two millennia. If I had enough time on my hands to thoroughly research Mary from a historical perspective (historical as in the days of the New Testament)...well, I'd finish my trilogy.

So why is Mary awesome?

I just finished reading "Interview with an Exorcist" by Jose Antonio Fortea. I know it sounds like a strange segue...but bear with me. There is a section in this book where the author addresses the question "Is God's greatest creation Lucifer or the Blessed Virgin Mary?" I though the answer to this question was a "Mary, duh." However, the author brought up a really interesting answer that blew me out of the water. It wasn't anything completely radical or shocking. It was a summation of things I already knew...but summed up in  a way that struck me as AWESOME. Fr. Fortea writes about "an inverted parallel" between Mary and Lucifer.

To sum it all up (while attempting to avoid copyright infringement):

Lucifer was created great, but Mary became great. God created Lucifer as the greatest of all of His angels. When the angels were put to the test, Lucifer rebelled and lost it all. Lucifer was created great and started off as such...but was corrupted by pride...and became anything but great. Mary was also created by God. She was not created as an angel, but as a humble woman...a being lower than angels. Yet, she became great. She did it though complete obedience to God, sacrifices, works, with grace. She wasn't born great.. she became great. Her greatness, unlike that of Lucifer, came about through sanctification rather than creation. Though Lucifer started off as greatest creation by nature, Mary became the greatest creation by grace. Though a humble and human woman, she obeyed God selflessly. She did not question Him, but responded "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word." Lucifer, on the other hand...responded to God with complete disobedience.

Lucifer wanted to be the one in charge and did not obey God. As a result, he fell from heaven and became nothing. Mary, on the other hand, never wished for greatness. She wanted only to be a faithful servant to God. She loved God above all and expressed this love with her obedience. She did all that was asked of her  and was crowned the Queen of heaven.

Lucifer once stood as the "Star of the Morning," but ultimately ruined all the greatness that was given to him. Mary, on the other hand, was raised from her lowly state to become the "Star of the Morning of Redemption" and the Queen of Heaven.

Mary became the greatest creation because she allowed God to work through her and accepted God completely. She raised Christ, and became a mother to us all at the foot of the cross. "When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son." This is particularly awesome, in my book, because it sets the premise for more. Mary did not stop at Christ. She did not stop the  protecting, the praying, and the teaching when Jesus grew up!

She never stopped being a mother!
She is still a mother to this day...only her attention is not just fixed on her son Christ...but on all her other children as well. She became our mother and, as such, she continues to pray for us, watch over us, protect us, and teach us.

She never stopped faithfully serving God!
She still serves God! Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, and all those other apparitions serve as evidence of this. She continues to deliver messages to us from God...just as she continues to intercede on our behalf. She continues to serve God's selflessly..and even goes out of her way to intercede for us. Why? Because she loves God and she loves us. It's so simple, but so extremely powerfully beautiful.

Mary, regardless of what some nay-sayers out there may say, is a perfect example of what it means to be a faithful servant of God....and that's why she's awesome.

Pax Vobiscum

A Very Covert Operation

I finally got a chance to watch the Divine Mercy video that the padre suggested I watch the last time I went to confession. I have to say that this video has taught me quite a lot regarding Divine Mercy, the Shroud of Turin, and the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. When the priest first described this video to me, I could not understand how Divine Mercy, the Shroud, and Our Lady of Guadalupe could all be connected. After watching this video, I am starting to understand it. The padre suggested that I post about it on my blog....and I will eventually do so...once I have the words...and once I get a few other things finished. 

I just have to point out that God knows exactly what He's doing when it comes to me. Over the past few weeks (perhaps even months), he's been dropping hints. I'm pretty slow when it comes to taking Divine hints, so I kept ignoring the hints. The first hint was "Hey Barbara, maybe you should start looking into the Divine Mercy chaplet." The second hint was "Hey Barbara, forget about studying for that midterm, go to confession." After going to confession, God inspired my confessor to avoid all subtleties and basically school me in all things Divine Mercy-related. Ever since, I've been praying the chaplet. Some days are better than others when it comes to this prayer. Sometimes, my attention is elsewhere....and sometimes it is right on target. Sometimes I get a HUGE revelation...and sometimes nothing happens. In any event, it's been a powerful addition to my everyday prayer life. 

Recently, I've found myself wanting to give away my Divine Mercy holy card to people I see on the subway. I feel compelled to help these people out by sharing the same hope that was shared with me. I am deathly afraid of even looking people in the eye when I'm on the I started getting this idea to simply tape up holy cards for the rosary as well as the Divine Mercy chaplet all over cars and subway stops. That way the message could be shared, and I would not have to face my fear of socializing with strangers on the subway. For those who have never ridden on NYC subways, it is quite an experience. You get all sorts of people riding these trains and not all of them react normally to things like empathy. Just the other week, I sat next to a woman who turned out to be crying. I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help...only for her to yell at me and move away from me as if I were a member of the KGB.

I am pretty sure there are people out there that would even run away from Christ himself
if he were to appear to them as he did to Sister Faustina....
After this occurred, as I was discerning the right course of action...I had two things happen to me. First, I kept getting the feeling that I should hand out the cards and face my fears of people on the subway. I discerned the right course of action. In case you're wondering what discernment is like, it's basically like telling God about what's going on and asking him to point out the right course of action. I did exactly that. After praying one morning, I stopped the worrying and the questioning. I simply relaxed and remained quiet until God said something. He did. He told me to hand out the cards. I guess I can't take the easy way out. No matter, because this realization brought another realization....God's got my back. He'll watch over me when it comes to handling subway people and lead me to the people that need these cards. All I have to do is trust him.

Let me take the moment to point out that the Divine Mercy image has the words "Jesus, I trust in You!" Coincidence? I think not.

The second thing happened when I went to a barbecue recently, wearing a shirt that pretty much screamed "Here comes the Catholic kid." (On a side note, I felt compelled to wear this shirt that day...and didn't realize why until now.) I was talking with a few attendees and noted that one of them was wearing a few necklaces with medals on them. I asked this person about the medals, thinking that one of them was a Saint Anthony or a Saint Christopher...even a Saint Michael. These are probably the three most common medals I see these days. I was wrong. No Saint Christopher, Anthony, or Michael medals. Turns out, both of them were Divine Mercy chaplet medals. I mentioned my devotion, much to this person's delight. She proceeded to tell me that not too many people seemed to know about the Divine Mercy...let alone prayed the chaplet. She was also excited to somewhat randomly meet someone who talked and lived the faith. This experience taught me something: As familiar as I am with this chaplet...Divine Mercy is still relatively unknown.

There should be no reason why the Divine Mercy is so unknown. It's not like this chaplet is written in some undecipherable code (if it was, Dan Brown would have written a completely ridiculous book about it that would have certainly become a best seller). It's not condemned by the Church. Then again, if it was condemned by the Church, I can imagine it becoming the "cool thing to do" considering how this world thinks. Considering how many great people championed this devotion (like JPII and Saint Faustina), I cannot understand why this devotion to mercy is so obscure. It's a prayer for MERCY...not a prayer for a disastrous plague...not a prayer of condemnation...not a prayer of hate. It's a prayer that seeks mercy for family and friend as well as enemy. So why is it so obscure?

Fear. (There's nothing more scary these days than talking faith with out friends and family.)

Indifference. (The idea that if I'm good with God, screw everyone else...because their salvation is irrelevant.)

The idea that "someone else" will spread it. (That's what missionaries are for...right?)

At this point, I know what Christ wants me to do for him. He knows that I finally got the huge message and has started helping me with the part II of his plan. I am starting to get the ball rolling and have discerned how I should go about doing everything. I've resolved to buy bunch of holy cards (in English and Spanish) with the Divine Mercy prayer and picture on them. I am going to get the ball rolling as soon as I get some things settled...and when my paycheck comes in (sometime in October...if memory serves me). In the meantime, I have set up a Paypal link toward the bottom of my blog page. Feel free to help offset the costs in the memory of a loved one or out of the goodness of your hearts (because I will probably always be another one of those broke college kid sob stories). I will pray for any intentions sent my specify them if you do decide to donate! If you can't donate (I know I'm not the only broke college kid out there), please pray for me to overcome my fear of handing out these cards and pray that I will remain safe during my subway mission. Also feel free to send some encouragement in the comment section!

If you want to read more of my posts about the Divine Mercy, check these out:

Divine Mercy...Even for the Bad Guys
Divine Mercy Boot Camp

Well, I got Neuroscience I am afraid I got to go!

Pax Vobiscum

Why I Hate Being Angry and Deserve a Catholic Facepalm Award

I'm a pretty cheerful person. If I believed in horoscopes, I'd say that I was a typical Sagittarius...optimistic and jovial. For the most part, I don't get angry that much...and if I do, it's quick. It typically comes and goes. I'm only human, so I do get angry every once in a while. However, I'm typically pretty calm and reasonable even if I'm not in a cheerful mood. I've been like this since I was a kid. My mom used to remark how I was a little saint when I was a kid (teenager years are another story). As a kid, I would never cry or complain. The worst I did was tell everyone to leave me alone if they bothered me. There are a few relatives and friends that will still recount how I used to be like a porcelain adorable little girl who could have given Mary Ingalls a run for her money. (That's a Little House on the Prairie reference....I hope I am not showing my age here...)

For the first time in a long time, I got angry on Tuesday.

"Angry" as in "Throw-the-tantrum-of-a-5-year-old Angry"
The worst part about this Tuesday, was that my anger got the best of me and that I started looking at everyone and everything around me through my anger. I somehow stopped looking at them as I usually attempt to look at them...through God's eyes. The jokester on the train that would have made me laugh any other day, suddenly became an annoying jerk. The woman with the cute baby in the stroller, suddenly turned into just another annoyance blocking my path. Everyone turned into an impediment during my commute home. Everyone became too stupid, too slow, too hurried, too annoying, too insert problem here. In my angry mind, everyone had turned against me to ensure that my commute would be the longest commute of all time. In truth, however, I was the one who had turned against everyone else. I was the one who ended up ruining the commute.

Though I was too angry at the time to actively acknowledge it or do anything about it, I knew that I was the problem with the entire picture. However, I was too angry to accept that my attitude needed to change...and I had to try really hard to soften my hardened heart and calm anger. You see, when I get angry, I simply refuse to stop being angry even though I hate every ounce of my anger. In truth, I had no right to be angry to begin with. It really all started with a series of small, seemingly insignificant events that piled up into one of the worst commute days I've had to date. I did not have a particular person that I was angry at because there were more than a few people that had bothered me in some way throughout the commute. Yet, by the time my sister picked me up from the train station, I was tired, annoyed, hungry (probably a big factor here), and cross...and there was nothing she could do to cheer me up.

I don't like anger. I don't like being angry, even if I have a good reason to be angry. You see, anger is a very sneaky emotion. It leads to bad decisions and, in my case, an unreasonably cruel outlook on life and other people in general. In my case, anger leads to more self-pity than it does empathy. It makes me want to push people out of the way instead of help them. Anger makes me ignore God's call to be a better person and listen to temptation a lot more often than I should. Anger makes me feel sorry for myself and temporarily severs my relationship with God. When I am angry, I am unable to listen to God. I am unable to follow His words...I am unable to love as I am called to love. As a result, I find myself better able to ignore or defy God...and better able to listen to temptation.

When I get as angry as I did this Tuesday, I really have to push myself to stop being angry. I am normally able to do this by finding some sort of distraction...but there is only so much you can do to distract yourself when you're waiting on a street corner for someone to pick you up. Believe me when I say that I had NOTHING to keep me I had to find other means to calm down. This past Tuesday, I did something that I never really did in my younger years...that I am trying to do more frequently...I turned to God. However, this past Tuesday I did it wrong.

Turning to God in a moment of anger has, in the past year or so, prevented me from hurting others with my words as well as my fists (which is great because I couldn't fight my way out of a paper bag). I have held my tongue quite a few times in the past few months...and it has prevented me from saying things that would hurt others...things I would eventually regret. It has worked wonders for me in the past year or so and has taught me to be more patient, more loving, and more merciful. This past year, I have sought to overcome my anger for the sake of others rather than my own sake...and, as a result, I have become become a better person. I am not the best person I can be quite yet...but I am better than what I have been.

This Tuesday, however, I turned to God...with the wrong intentions in my heart. I asked God to help me with my anger for selfish reasons...not because I wanted to love my neighbor. Essentially, I made myself out to be a victim in order to make myself out to be some sort of martyr. I wanted pity that I did not deserve. Even worse, I angrily offered my "suffering" at the hands of these "stupid people" to God. Yes, my angry self had the audacity to tell God that these people were stupid...that's how angry I was. I tried to talk it all out with God by explaining my situation from a very selfish, biased viewpoint. My conversation with God was all "ME, ME, ME." Not once did I try to listen to God. Not once did I try to see past my own wants. Not once did I sincerely ask Him for forgiveness. Not once did I sympathize with all those other people I was sore about.

Instead, I found myself simply complaining to God...accusing these other people and blaming all of my problems on them. God understood my heart and He had the wisdom to make me see that I was in the wrong. As a result, my anger did not resolve itself until I saw that I was not the victim  I wanted to be. My anger only dissipated after I made the terrible realization that I had been the source of it all...the anger, the crankiness, the unwarranted accusations. The experience was humbling and showed me just how much I have to work on my patience, my humility, my love for my fellow man... my ability to forgive my fellow man...and my ability to forgive myself. I realized this Tuesday, that I can absolutely stink at being the person that God wants me to be.
Congratulations "Angry Tuesday Barbara" on winning the Catholic Facepalm Award....
By the end of this experience, I realized that I had been the cause of my own "suffering" and that this "suffering" was nothing more than my being a brat. God knew that I had hardened my heart that day...and He did not let me off easily. I cannot help but be thankful for this, as much as it bruised my ego and bothered my pride. It was certainly a well-deserved blow to my pride because it helped me see just how much work I need, how easy it is to slip into temptation, and how dangerous anger can be....regardless of how much I have grown in my faith. It helped show me that I am still susceptible to the same flaws that I see in other people. I may not be as hot-headed as some other people out there...but I have the potential for it if I don't check myself.  I may think I am calm and optimistic....but I am still capable of the same intense and unnecessary anger that I see in other people at times. This Tuesday helped show me how I cannot let my guard down and how I should not allow myself to be swayed by such an ugly emotion. I should, instead, try harder to show my fellow man the same love and mercy that God has for His children...the love and mercy that I hope to deserve one day.

Pax Vobiscum