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Giving up Facebook for Lent

Giving up Facebook for Lent may have cut me off from the rest of the world...but these Facebook-less days of prayer and contemplation have helped me realize that I'm never alone.



Science has come a long way during my lifetime (a short 25 years or a long 25 years depending on how you live your life). The idea that I hold more technology in my pocket on any given day than the entire world had for millions of years...is incredible. I still remember how my mother used to write extremely long letters to my relatives in France, Portugal, etc. in the days before email. I remember how excited she used to be whenever a letter came in from abroad, full of news from relatives she could not see for years at a time. Today, it seems like communication is something we take for granted. I gave up Facebook for Lent and I cannot believe how tough it was in the beginning. Though I've gotten used to it, I almost feel like I am cut off from my friends and family....and even my boyfriend.

When it comes to talking to other folk...I prefer to talk face to face...or to be a wimp and just text. If you've ever gotten a voicemail from me....you know why. I pretty much sound like a fool when I leave messages and the idea of my voice bouncing off satellites in space scares me. If there's intelligent life out there...they must think very lowly of the human race if they ever heard my asinine telephone conversations.

In the case of my dad, I have to talk to him on the phone. The closest thing he's done to getting online is asking my sisters and me to look up futbol scores or schedules for him (futbol aka football aka soccer depending on where you live). My dad lives 2 hours away and my schedule won't allow me to visit as many times as I would like. As far as my boyfriend goes, he lives an hour or so away and...again, our schedules keep us apart. However, as we refuse to live together until marriage, we make the best of the time we have and the technology at our disposal. After 5 years, I don't have a problem talking to him on the phone because he understands that I have telephone call amnesia. My dad keeps phone calls short (5 minutes tops) so he never gets a chance to experience how foolish I sound on the phone. I REALLY DO sound like a fool on the phone. I tend to stop mid-sentence and ask people what I was just talking about. I also forget things throughout a conversation and will ask him the same questions or repeat myself over and over again during a typical call. He's already all too familiar with my terrible phone voice, my deplorable use of the English language when tired, and my tendency be exceptionally scatterbrained when it comes to phone conversations.


Giving up Facebook for Lent has certainly crippled my social life. However, it certainly has given me a lot more time to re-evaluate a lot of things. I have had time to meditate upon my religious life. I have prayed more. I have talked about God more (if only through this blog at times). I have certainly read more (and not just romance novels. I am rereading "Mere Christianity" and have come to appreciate this work a lot more these past few days. I read "The Rite" and "An Exorcist Tells His Story." I will certainly have to post about these books later...not for gruesome exorcism stories but for some rather powerful messages within them. 

It certainly feels strange how lately it seems that I have been out of contact with the world. At times it feels like I have fallen off the face of the earth considering how out of the loop I am about all the minutiae that I took advantage of before Lent. I do miss some parts, such as being able to wish people a "Happy Birthday!" (because I know I can't remember most of the dates) and to wish people the best of wishes when they had a big test coming up, etc. However, I don't miss Facebook. I realize how much time I wasted on it and I am certainly going to change that once I do get back on Facebook. 

However, all things considered, I think being off Facebook has given me a much-needed break from the world. The introspections I've had since leaving Facebook have certainly helped me mature spiritually. I am thinking more and, as a result, becoming more aware of what God has planned for me and how I can best serve Him. I am beginning to pinpoint certain spiritual needs that I had but did not necessarily think about. The switch from rosary to meditative and scriptural rosary has, for example, been a huge breakthrough in terms of  life reflection. I have become increasingly aware of habitual sins that I did not notice. I have begun to search myself in a way that has shown me that I am not "in the clear" as far as calming my anger and building up my humility. I am exceptionally flawed even years after my initial attempts to change. 

I am not yet the person I want to be...regardless of what others may think. Just because I may seem like a good person, does not necessarily mean that I am a good person. However, I am okay with this since I am beginning to realize just how I can change. I can see now how much work I need. I finally have had the time to re-evaluate myself by looking at myself through Christ's eyes. Not mine. Not anyone else's. I don't have statuses to express frustration. However, I have prayer to ease frustration. I do not have a Facebook wall full of comments to support me through my exams, my health issues, my family's current tribulations...etc. However, I have prayer to ease my fears. Prayer and reflection have certainly helped me throughout these past few weeks. 

I am also beginning to truly meditate upon the fact that I can never go back. It almost feels like I have a new set of rules and regulations for myself that may not yet apply to others. I have moved beyond the idea that "well, as long as I don't do enter extremely bad sin here and only do enter seemingly less significant sin here, I can still be a good person." Believe it or not, I have higher expectations of myself than  I did a few years ago when I got Confirmed. Believe it or not, I am ashamed about the moral rationale I had just a few years ago. I am just as ashamed of the moral rationale I had a few years ago as I was once ashamed of my moral rationale as a teenager...perhaps even moreso. My current 25 year old self is more ashamed at my "moral relativist" 22 year old self than my stubborn, angry, and proud 18 year old self. Ignorance was my excuse at age 18. Ignorance is forgivable. However, full knowledge of what is wrong and the willingness to commit it (even to a "certain degree") is unacceptable. 

As strange as it sounds, I hope that my 30 year old self will one day be ashamed of my 25 year old self. I don't say this because I am a masochist. I say this because I WANT to improve myself.  I WANT I NEED to be a better person. If I can be ashamed of my current self at age 30, it means that I have come a long way. If I just settle at this point, I am considering this a sin of omission. I will consider it a voluntary failure on my part to properly live the life that Christ inspired us to live. I need to improve myself and I want to constantly improve myself so that one day I may be worthy enough to fall on my knees before him with a contrite and humble heart. I want to be able to thank Him for all He's done...everything from the creation of the universe...my wonderful family...my somewhat decent art skills...my education....everything.

As a Saint-in-training who gave up Facebook for Lent, I can't settle for anything less than constant improvement. 


Pax Vobiscum

When your body is a temple...of doom

A lot of laboratories play music throughout the day to either relieve boredom, keep people awake, drown out the noise made by squeaky lab equipment... or simply just to maintain sanity. When you start off on the bottom of the totem pole, you have absolutely no right whatsoever to play your music. The right to pick a station is a hallowed honor that is only reserved for the post docs, the PI, the person in charge of the lab, anyone with a Dr. in front of their names, you name it. I don't take issue with any of this because I know my place and there is no prestige or honor in just walking up to the computer and changing the station...unless you've spent years earning that honor. Besides, I highly doubt anyone out there listens to my music or would put up with it for more than half an hour at most. (Because my music taste is eclectic at best and just plain weird at worst).

They put Pandora on shuffle, so we kept going back and forth between Mary Poppins music to Kesha, and a bunch of other music I never listen to. I don't mind, I give all sorts of music a chance and usually come out of a laboratory with at least one more new artist to listen to....and it did give me a chance to relive the Little Mermaid. Today, however, I heard one of the most tasteless songs I have heard in a while. The lyrics were terrible and the female singing the chorus sounded like a drone that lived to please the thugs who were singing (rapping?). In the interest of preventing migraines from the terrible garbage lyrics, and in the interest of keeping my inner "rabid feminist" quiet, I've chosen a few lyrics...of this blatant misuse of soundwaves.

"Girl you got something special something special for me

****....(skip a bunch of other crappy lyrics).....****

I wanna get beside ya

In the backseat

So I can be your backseat driver"
****....(skip a bunch of other crappy lyrics).....****
Oh you a good girl its cool I play pretend too
I heard you had a baby
You want a New Boy in you"

Dear woman who got paid to sing in this song and any woman who is a fan of this song:
"Do you not realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God?"

With that said....YOU DESERVE BETTER. God took time out of his busy schedule to make you! Christ died on a cross for you! The Holy Spirit resides in you! They invested so much in you so that you could become someone worthy of respect, love, and dignity.

"Girl you got something special something special for me"
"I wanna get beside ya in the backseat"
Forget the boys who want to take you into a backseat (or the common room couch on the sixth floor of the residence hall, or the mattress on the Humanities building roof, or behind the stadium bleachers....). There are men out there who will make you better women...men out there that will bring out the best in you. There are men out there who will honor you, honor your body, and respect you. You can do better than some thug who only desires to have his way with you in the back of some car. YOU'RE BETTER THAN THIS. You were made to be more than this. You weren't made to be little more than a means to an end. If he truly cares about you, he will want to give you more than a backseat. If he does not do everything in his power to protect you, respect you, and love you above his own selfish needs and wants...then he doesn't deserve you. 

LADIES!!! There is a reason why the thugs singing this song will one day be forgotten and why someone like Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy will live in the hearts of women for years to come...because men, REAL MEN, know how to respect women and truly earn their respect. 
His appearance may have changed over the years...but he is still worth my time....

"Oh you a good girl its cool I play pretend too
I heard you had a baby
You want a New Boy in you"

I really hope that I don't have to explain why this part in particular is so incredibly vulgar. This is no way to talk to a woman, let alone a mother. I don't know what disgusts me more...
1. How he's turning her motherhood into a joke
2. How she's not caring for her child because she's giving a guy like this the time of day
3. How little respect this guy has for the creation of a human life
4. How he's turned motherhood into something that is little more than a fetish
5. How this woman is little more than an object to this guy
6. How little respect, this guy is showing the woman
7. How crude and demeaning innuendo such as this can be passed off as music
8. How this guy has turned sex into a dirty and tasteless action


People often complain that religion ruins sex, oppresses women, and interferes with healthy sexuality. Anyone who's read my man JPII's "Theology of the Body" will tell you, the world is completely wrong when it comes to "relationships," "love," and "sex." In today's world, these words have turned into labels for something else: LUST, DISRESPECT, EMPTINESS. People that sing these songs demean women and turn sex into something so tasteless and cardboard-like. There should be more to a relationship than sexual gratification just as there is more to a woman than her physical attributes. There is more to love than "give me what I want....and then maybe I can reciprocate." There is more to sex than a physical act designed set off some hormones in your brain that make you feel good about yourself for half an hour a best. Ladies, you sell yourself short settling for any of these "worldly ideals" when there is so much more that you deserve.

Therefore, TO ARMS! Ladies, it's time to DEFEND OURSELVES against men that don't deserve us. We MUST NOT settle for empty promises. We MUST NOT settle for boys who don't deserve to be called men. We MUST NOT allow ourselves to be used and broken by people who think of nothing but themselves. We DESERVE respect, honor, love, protection, equality, sacrifice...AND SOMEONE WHO CAN BRING OUT THE BEST IN US. Therefore, be patient and be aware. Acknowledge your worth and treasure your dignity. You were made for so much more than whatever songs like these tell you that you deserve. You deserve something so much greater and more beautiful than lyrics such as these can ever promise. With that said, PREPARE yourselves for those times when you're tempted to settle for less. It doesn't matter if you're single, how many "boys-disguised-as-men" you've slept with, how undeserving the world makes you feel. No matter what your past looks like and what temptations you still face,  you were made for more. 

God still loves you, the Holy Spirit still resides in you, and Christ still died for you. These three things alone make you worth more than any number of demons you face every day and deprave songs such as the one above. YOU ARE WORTH MORE. You are worth more than the leather interior of any Mercedes... You are worth more than a one night stand in a velvet-lined penthouse apartment... You are worth more than a dozen roses empty promises...If you don't believe me and deem yourself too unworthy of respect and true love for some reason... I highly suggest checking out this venerable modern woman's story.

MEN, don't get me wrong. I know there's plenty of worthy gentlemen out there. I know there's men out there who stand beside their women regardless of how many times she stumbles. I know there's men out there who will still beat the stuffing out of "boys-disguised-as-men" who mistreat women. I know there's men out there who know a woman's worth and are fully aware of how special they are. To all the real men out there, I salute you. You are the "real men" that give women like us hope. For this, I thank you.

God wants us to be in healthy, loving relationships (unless you're called for something else that is equally as awesome). He wants us to experience all the joys and pleasures of sexual intimacy that exists between a couple that TRULY loves, respects, and honors each other. It's up to us, however, to choose whether or not to live up to these expectations.

Pax Vobiscum


One of God's most annoying neighbors....




"Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him, and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. "And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."- Christ
"Hey God, got any extra loaves? I know it's 2am and I've been playing loud music all night...but I got a hankering for French toast right now."

Before you read on, please be aware of the fact that I must be one of God's most annoying neighbors considering my history of knocking at all hours of the night and how I never give up.

***FLASHBACK***


......I was so relieved at 2am Monday when I completed my exam...but not so happy about the fact that I missed mass this Sunday because of this exam. Truth be told, I could have gone to mass and sacrificed an hour or two and just stayed up a few more hours working on the exam. I mean, I am not one to miss mass when I can help it. However, I did skip it with the promise that I would find a church church on Monday (or something) and attend some 12pm mass...or at least offer up a few prayers of thanksgiving. It turns out there was no noon mass at the church I visited on Monday. Turns out the main door to the church was locked...along with all the other entrances. Not being one to give up, I waited outside an empty rectory for a little while until these two sweet women came up and let me in. One of them opened up the door to the church and left me there to pray for as long as I wished. There were no lights on, the only light source I had was the light outdoors that was filtering in through the beautiful (and dusty) stained glass. The whole place was dark and a little cold...but Christ was there in the Eucharist...somewhere behind the curtained tabernacle.

Though it was Monday and I had already prayed the joyful mysteries, I decided to pray the sorrowful mysteries. As I prayed, I could not help but feel lonely and far away from everything. Therefore, I moved from the pews in the center, to one of the smaller pews right in front of the tabernacle. I prayed and, for the first time in quite a while, started feeling the desperate loneliness/doubt that plagues us religious folk every once in a while (like a watered down "dark night of the soul"). I could not explain it, but something was off. I did what I could to keep praying and focused on the rosary. However, I just could not shake off whatever it was that was off. Eventually, I finished and then walked to class. I got home and still couldn't shake off the feeling. I got up this morning...still had that feeling. When I prayed the rosary this morning, I felt a little better...but I was still feeling like something was off. I had picked up "Mere Christianity" (by my main man C.S. Lewis)  from the bookshelf this morning and read it on and off through the day...and it helped but it wasn't the remedy I was looking for. Something was wrong and I needed to fix it...and I had some idea as to how I could fix it.

I had my chance after I left the lab early (when you don't show up for a week and a half due to exams and such, it takes a while to get back in the swing of things). As I walked from the station to my house I felt the urge to stop by a church I've been frequenting since I moved to my new apartment. I figured I would walk in and pray...or at least read a little. Guess what? More locked doors. A sign on the door told me that the church would be locked for another hour. I hope you're starting to see the pattern here...However, you know that parable about that annoying neighbor that knocks on your door at midnight....well that annoying neighbor is me....and I don't give up easily when it comes to faith.


To make a long story short I waited outside for about an hour...reading my book and thinking about how easy it was for me to slip sometimes when it comes to matters of the faith. I kept hearing that nagging voice that told me to give up, that I was a fool for waiting in the cold...that I was a fool for wasting my time...that I could always just go the next day....you know, that voice that tries to get you to stop praying, to stop going to mass, to stop going to confession, to give up on the Eucharist...to give up on Christ. Fortunately, however, that voice was no match for a conscience that has been working overtime for a few years now trying to make me a better person. It helped me ignore the temptation and weakness and focus on the fact that I had totally let God down and even let my Church down this Sunday...

I started feeling like a fool sitting on the stone steps, but I swallowed my pride. The wind started blowing and I got cold, but I offered it up as penance for the souls of Purgatory. I read on through my doubt, my pride, my frustration, my loneliness, my anger...you name it. I got about halfway through the book by the time they unlocked that door, but I felt a lot better by the time I got inside. Don't get me wrong, I still could not feel my bum and my hands were still numb...but I had put everything that was weakness aside in order to truly feel better. IT WAS WORTH IT. The mysterious desperation/doubt was over. The light coming in through the stained glass and the light that radiated from the Eucharist broke through the darkness that was trying so desperately to strangle my faith. The mass touched my soul, its silence and prayer taking me back 2000 years ago to the Last Supper and every Christian mass that followed across millennia. I felt connected to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the saints, the angels, and every Catholic that has ever lived and every Catholic that has yet to be born. I felt like I was home. I felt at peace as I prayed alongside my fellow Catholics....and it was a great feeling. It was the best I had felt since the last mass I had attended. I felt that I was taking part in something much greater and much more beautiful than I could ever imagine let alone appreciate.

As I sat through mass, all of those doubts I had been experiencing seemed to melt away. They were replaced by the feeling that I was a part of something much bigger and greater then myself...as well as these guys. I knew what had happened....I had missed mass on Sunday out of laziness and lied to myself about it. I had convinced myself that I had done it because of the exam...and with this lie...evil began to take root and had begun to feed me lies. (Darn you temptation and your insidious nature!)  

In spite of all the lies I was being fed, a certain and longing hunger persisted through the darkness and the doubt. Prayer had kept me from starving...but it had not satiated me...especially when my spiritual life had suddenly had turned into an all out battle between good and evil. I had to go to mass. I simply felt the need to take part in it. Everything I was doing on my own was nice, but it just wasn't enough. I needed more....I needed to go to mass. I don't know how some people can go months or years without going to mass. I can completely understand the laziness, pride, doubt, etc. that compels someone to NOT got to mass...because I have felt it over my own life. However, I cannot understand how some people can feel fine about it. I barely lasted two days this week before I broke down and found myself begging God to open the door.

Truth be told, I still feel a longing. However, going to mass enabled me to spend some one on one time with Christ as well as my Church...and gave me some time in an otherwise hectic schedule to really examine my conscience. Needless to say, I've slacked off big time these last few months as far as the Sacrament of Reconciliation goes....and considering how much I longed to receive today, I think it's time to knock on God's door again with humility was well as repentance (it is Lent after all). Thankfully, He's always there to listen and help me out when I need Him most....even if I can no longer remember how many months it has been since my last confession. 

Pax Vobiscum


As Prolife as Gandalf the White

Nazgul killing spree!?!....Not on my watch!

I got my license at age 22 more out of necessity than desire. I guess it all started when I was 16. I took drivers ed in high school and passed the written exam by the skin of my teeth. One more answer wrong and I would have been the only person who failed that test. I was excited about it, I even put the certificate in the fancy china cabinet when I got home. Then, for some reason, I just forgot about it...and then stopped caring. Two years passed by, the certificate expired, and the excitement wore off. In time, I had no desire to retake the exam and I kind of just started avoiding the whole license thing like the plague. 

I went to college and took the bus whenever I needed to go somewhere. I took the train into NYC and, if I needed something, I would just walk into town. It was only 3.4 miles to and forth, and I could totally handle it. Well, except for that one time I walked into A&P during a Snapple sale in the middle of one of the hottest days of the semester. I used to LOVE Snapple and still do, so I totally stocked up on Snapple (2 for the price of 1!!!). I know what you're thinking...One girl with no upper body strength at all, a hot day, and 24 bottles of Snapple....I must have been crazy. Well, yeah, I was...but that's besides the point because in the end, I made it back with Snapple to spare. I didn't have the strength, but I certainly had the will...and sometimes that is all you need. 

As far as my license goes, I found myself in a situation where I needed to get my license. I was going to start teaching in another town in September and there was no way I could get there by bus. After slacking off on the license to the point where I developed an irrational fear of driving, I put my mind to it. 3 written tests, a small fortune in driving school fees, and 3 on road exams later....I got my license. Soon after, I got my first car...a white Saturn named Evelyn. I loved this car until it gave up on me in the middle of Maryland, in the dead of winter, and made me get towed all the way back to Jersey. I got a lot of great memories of this car and I cannot even tell you how much I loved my bumper stickers. I had a sweet collection between my "Got Monks?" sticker...Celtic Thunder...and this baby...the prize of my collection:

FREE STICKER compliments of these guys....

One of the first things I did when I got my new white Saturn (named "Gandalf the White"), was get another copy of this bumper sticker. I mean, it's a great message for all those people who think us pro-lifers are nothing but "a few hypocrites" who are only pro-life when it comes to abortion. Guess what? I'm not one of those people. In fact, I support life all the way....and that's one of the reasons why I love being Catholic: CONSISTENCY. Our Church teaches us to respect life, all forms of life regardless of age, health, race, etc. Truth be told, I wasn't always "pro-life" in the sense that I respected all life. Fortunately, my conscience makes my brain put in a lot of overtime until I have the right idea about something. 

Though there are some things that I am still thinking over, I have finished debating about the sanctity of life. I have come to the realization that the Catholic Church is 100% right when it comes to life. Life is sacred, not to be destroyed through violence, hate, greed, etc. Life is sacred from conception to natural death. Life is sacred regardless of what medical advances we come up with. Life is sacred no matter how "inconvenient." Life is sacred no matter how painful, hard, tiresome, bleak, or substandard the world considers it to be. Life means a lot to me and that's the reason why there are so many pro-life stickers on Gandalf the White. 

I'm sure I must get a lot of funny looks when people see someone like me walking to a car like mine, full of pro-life bumper stickers, rosary on rear view mirror, a few scapulars, and a holy card stuck onto the visor by a clip with the Blessed Virgin Mary on it. I am sure they expect the car to belong to some aged and crotchety Republican woman (I do drive a girl car after all) who will sooner take a swipe at you with her carpet bag than listen to why you voted Democrat. For the record, I am neither...can't vote for either party with a good conscience. People certainly don't expect a college student who wears a bunch of badass band tees, lab coats, and combat boots to ever drive a car with so many of those kinds of stickers. Truth be told, considering the town I live in, I am quite surprised that someone hasn't attempted to rip off these stickers. Perhaps the Dropkick Murphys sticker that scares away any would-be sticker rippers...or perhaps it is all the CDs littered all over the front (because nothing says intimidating like Enya, U2, and the occasional Muse CD). Or maybe someone up there is looking after my car for me... 

Weird stares or no, I'm proud of my car and one time, someone even complimented me on them. I remember parking my car at A&P one day (probably to get more Snapple now that I don't have to carry it for over a mile and a half)...and a woman stops in her tracks and starts staring at my car. I thought she was going to say something along the lines of "How dare you?!?" However, she takes one look at me and says, "Wow. I agree with it. All of it. This is great. This is really great." 

With that said, it should probably come as no surprise that I am extremely proud of owning one of the most pro-life cars out there. Go Gandalf the White!

Pax Vobiscum

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST

I have one very wonderful uncle who had a stroke a few years back and has been partially paralyzed ever since and riddled with many health complications. Though he has not been able to do some things that we all take for granted...like walking, gardening, etc. ever since....he's still quick with a joke and great company. He's really a great guy.

Last week he had a heart attack and was in the hospital for a few days and my aunt today called my sister to tell her that my uncle has had another heart attack. A few other complications have come up as well and the doctors have told my aunt that my uncle has to go into surgery.  I cannot tell you how much I love this guy even though I cannot be with him right now....and we've all been asked by my aunt to pray for him. I know I don't know many of you...but I am asking you to say a prayer for my uncle, my aunt, and the rest of the family as my uncle goes in for surgery. I've been told that my uncle may not survive this procedure...but it's looking like there may not be another option.

If you can spare a prayer or two....please say one for my Tio Jose....
If not, any good thoughts and well wishes are appreciated as well.


Thank you.

Pax Vobiscum

Just got my biochem exam....

Okay, I just received my biochemistry exam and can honestly say that it's going to be INSANELY difficult and time-consuming.  With that said, I will not be posting until after 5pm this upcoming Monday...or going to class, or showering, or sleeping, etc. Any prayers are welcome....


Pax Vobiscum

"Quo Vadis?"

I finished my molecular toxicology final...all 9 single-spaced pages of it. As much as I dreaded starting it and as much as I doubted my abilities to finish it, this thing is completed (and currently being saved in every place possible....email backup, flashdrive backup, hard drive back up...you name it). I still have to add some of the works I cited, but my eyes are tired of looking at "crocidolite," "genotoxicity," "melanogenesis," and the rest of the alphabet soup that makes even geeks like me go cross-eyed after spending an entire week reading about them, researching them and finally writing about them. However, I'M DONE...atleast for a few hours. You see, at 3:30pm today....ROUND 2 of midterms begins with the dreaded biochemistry exam. Please forgive me if I don't post often this week....I will be back once this exam is over.

Even though I've gotten a boat-load of A's in my life, the B+ I got last semester in biochemistry is the grade that means the most to me...because I NEVER worked so hard in my life for any class like I did for that one. I mean, I put a lot of paper-cut induced blood, sweat, and nervous breakdown-induced tears into that B. I camped out in the grad room, didn't shower for days, pulled several all-nighters in a row, ate a Gristede's sandwich (big mistake, especially for someone who is used to NJ grocery stores), slept on the floor, and pretty much lived in the grad room 5 days straight for that B. This B+ was a B+ of triumph. It was a B+ that made me feel like I had just defeated Voldemort single handedly defeated Sauron, saved the besieged white halls of Minas Tirith, AND reclaimed my rightful place as king of Gondor.

Now that I have demonstrated (rather shamelessly) just how much of a geek I can be, let's get a little more serious. The biggest triumphs of my life tend to be the moments where I somehow defeat self-doubt. Anyone who knows me will tell you just how I can sometimes be my own worst enemy. I cannot tell you how many opportunities I've passed up because I was afraid that I would not be good enough or worthy enough. Self-doubt, in some ways, is a sneaky form of temptation. It can easily lead you down some pretty dark places just as well as any drug or bad influence.

The same goes for my life as a Catholic, especially during my luke-warm "just listen to whatever the world says" "Catholic in name only" days that plagued my teenage years. I mean, it was certainly a lot easier to remain silent whenever any of my friends started making fun of organized religion. Oh, I'm insert religion here so I can make fun of insert religion here....trust me. I was a lot easier to support institutions like Planned Parenthood along with the feminists..."You should totally support this place because all they do is look out for us women....trust me. (Riiiiight ... Even the biggest feminist couldn't possibly agree with all the numbers here....). It was a lot easier to wallow in complacency while the media attempted to tear apart some of my family's traditions and values..."Why should you listen to your parents, you're practically an adult....trust me...."

 Half of the reason why I didn't say or do anything to protect things I stood for was because of doubt. What did I know about these things? Everyone else seemed to know so much more. In fact, how could those Catholic teachings be right about these things if everyone else seemed to be so much more adamant, modern, and "cooler." If you listened to these people, you would think that religion was nothing but rules designed to prevent us from doing everything we wanted. Being the angsty teenager I was, I decided to listen to the world for a while. As great and liberating as this life appeared to be...it disgusted me. Even when I got away with things, I would find myself praying every night that I would become a better person. I began to waste my life away, concerned only with myself and my own well-being. Screw everyone else. I had myself to worry about.  Self-doubt soon turned into false pride. I thought I knew so much because the world flattered me when I started to accept its teachings as my own.

At some point during high school I started to wake up and I started to grow up. I began reading books that didn't glorify nihilism (Forget you and your empty words Nietzsche! Your name was too hard to spell anyway!). Little by little, I became more aware of the type of life I was living. Little by little, I was finding my way out of it.

"Quo Vadis" by Henryk Sienkiewicz became a turning point for me. I, for some reason, kept gravitating towards this book for months...but never picked it up and read it. In fact, I didn't even know what it was about. I was far more obsessed with IMing people than Googling mysterious books (...good old, almost defunct AOL instant messaging....). One day, a very old, worn book caught my eye amid a collection of other extremely old books. These books were stacked together in a very old, dust-covered bookcase in a classroom that (in a few months) would no longer exist due to renovations. Had I searched for the book amid all these other books...I would have probably never found it. Yet, it caught my eye and I pulled it out.

I can't explain why I took it...I simply just took it and started reading. I had "borrowed" books in a similar fashion before and I always ended up returning them in the end. However, I never ended up returning this one because I finished it long after the school year was over. I can normally finish a book within a few days....but this one turned into a book that I ended up savoring, reading it slowly whenever I got the chance....and meditating upon what I read. Though the classroom, shelf, and neighboring books are now long gone, I still have this book in my possession...and am not sure if I can ever return it (because of the funny looks I'd get and the fear that it would ultimately get tossed in the garbage since it isn't exactly anywhere near mint condition...).

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating here about how old it really is...but you get the idea. 

I remember sneaking a chapter or two whenever I had some free time. I remember vividly one day after going to mass with my family, I found myself in my room reading about the terrible persecution of the Christians by Nero. I was so moved by both their suffering and their faith...and I thought to myself...."Wow, God gave me a pretty great life. Look at all these terrible things happening to all of these these people and look at my life. How can I have lived a life like this where I have experienced neither a death nor an immense pain like this..." I started counting my blessings that very morning and truly trusting in God.

Somehow I think God led me to that book and that revelation because that same afternoon my mother was admitted into the hospital. She had experienced sudden arrhythmic death syndrome while my sister and I were next door at a party for a girl we used to babysit. I had felt and ignored a nagging urge to go home...and truth be told, never imagined something serious like this would ever happen to me or my family. Yet, by the time my mom made it to the hospital she was already brain dead. She was pulled off life support a few days later. Not a day goes by, even seven years later and with my busy schedule, that I don't think about her.

I was a momma's girl so a death like this would have certainly torn my life apart had it not been for my trust in God. Yes it had taken me years to get to the point where I finally started trusting Him, but I know I'd been hearing Him saying "Trust Me" for years. He had asked me to trust Him throughout my angsty teenage years...asked me to stop trusting the world and my self-doubt. Thankfully, He gave me that last-minute reprieve (with the help of Quo Vadis) right before my mother's death. It was my trust in Him that ultimately allowed me to accept my mother's passing. It was my trust in His plan that eased my pain. It is because of my trust in Him that I still, to this day, KNOW that I will see my mother again one day and that death is never the end. Forget what the world tells me about living in the present....I'm sticking with God.

Truth be told....I have grown so disillusioned with the world. I'm disgusted with what I see on TV (a former favorite past-time of mine). I've grown tired of the things that used to bring me instant, empty gratification as a teenager. I've grown weary of listening to the empty promises of all those people that will one day look back and realize that they wasted their lives pursuing all the empty joys and vanities that Nero once sought....and we all know what happened to him.

What I want now is something that can sustain me and improve me in a way where I can offer prayers of thanksgiving and not just empty apologies every time I cross myself and kneel before God at Church. What I want is to trust God completely and forget the things of this world. I want to follow Christ just as Peter did in "Quo Vadis" when all of Rome (his followers included) were telling him to do otherwise.

"The pilgrim's staff fell from Peter's hands to the earth; his eyes were looking forward, motionless; his mouth was open; on his face were depicted astonishment, delight, rapture. Then he threw himself on his knees, his arms stretched forward; and this cry left his lips,
 --"O Christ! O Christ!"
He fell with his face to the earth, as if kissing some one's feet. The silence continued long; then were heard the words of the aged man, broken by sobs,
 -- "Quo vadis, Domine?"
Nazarius did not hear the answer; but to Peter's ears came a sad and sweet voice, which said, 
-- "If thou desert my people, I am going to Rome to be crucified a second time."
The Apostle lay on the ground, his face in the dust, without motion or speech. It seemed to Nazarius that he had fainted or was dead; but he rose at last, seized the staff with trembling hands, and turned without a word toward the seven hills of the city.
The boy, seeing this, repeated as an echo,  
-- "Quo vadis, Domine?"
"To Rome," said the Apostle, in a low voice.
And he returned."


Pax Vobiscum

The Pagan Science Geek?! Really?!

I went out to lunch with one of my best friends today and we had a good time. I'm Catholic, she's atheist...and she's one of my best friends. Besides our beliefs, her genius computer skills, and her height (and my lack thereof), we have a lot in common. We're both teachers. We're both students. We both appreciate the humor of even the worst situations. We both worked our bums off through college, we both helped each other move, we both have interesting family stories, and we're both incredibly reasonable people. And, even though our lives keep us so busy we barely get a chance to see each other, we both live in the same apartment complex.

Contrary to popular belief, we prove that our people can get along just fine... and can carry a decent conversation without my condemning her to hell and without her throwing anti-religion quotes in my face. I truly appreciate this, because I ended up having some pretty great conversations with her over the 6 odd years that I've known her. Yes, we've talked religion, atheism, and just about every other controversial topic (including Mac vs. PC) without receiving death threats or hate mail from each other. Truth be told, I can't remember ever flipping out on her or vice versa. In short, I'm the Catholic Tolkien to her atheist C.S.Lewis....and it works out (especially if it means I get to be Tolkien...my favorite author ever).

On a side note:
In case you're wondering about the change in blog design template, I changed it because my friend helped me confirm my own suspicions that purple text on purple background was a bad idea. Therefore, I swallowed my pride and went with one of the "standard" design templates with all the colors and such picked out for me. Everything should be easier to read now...My apologies for the hideous purple. I would try to excuse myself by saying that I had added the purple theme in the spirit of Lent...but then I would be lying.

At one point we started talking several levels of atheism (please refer to previous post for my breakdown). In case you're wondering, she's one of the reasonable atheists. In fact, she's one of the most reasonable people I know and has given me a lot of great advice in the time that I've known her. I bring up a fence analogy about how we're both on two sides of a fence. The fence is reason and regardless of what side you are on, you can be closer or farther away from reason. She tells me about how she loves Christmas trees even though some atheists are vehemently against such blatant displays of-well, you get the idea. We talked about our feelings about hiding religious and even not-so-religious symbols/ornaments. For the record, I am against the hiding of any religious/etc. signs. I would rather have my child in a classroom where they are comfortable enough to talk about Ramadan, Passover, Lent, and even atheism than a classroom where every form of religious expression is forced into a closed box. I feel you best teach tolerance through exposure rather than mandating that all things different be hidden.

My friend and I agreed that the first classroom would promote tolerance a lot better than the second classroom...regardless of what some of these atheist pressure groups try to say. However, my friend also brought up a good point about there being two sides to the extremist problem. She's completely right. The religious side, as you are all aware, is full of just as many nuts as there are "militant atheist fools." You got people who would easily oppose having their child in a classroom where a Muslim child can talk about their own beliefs because they're "anti-Christian" or even have the Catholics children wearing Saint Christopher medals because they're too "pagan." Needless to say, it was a very great, intelligent, and extremely respectful conversation....and I thoroughly enjoyed having lunch with my friend.

As far as the title of this post goes, I can't even tell you how many times I've had someone come up to me and tell me that, for whatever reason, Catholics aren't Christians and that we're on a one-way popemobile ride to hell. Of course, I always respond by asking them why Catholics aren't Christian. Here are my top answers.

1. You guys worship Mary....you pagans you!
You'd think they'd know by now that we worship God alone and respect Mary as an example of what it means to be a true and faithful servant of God. If any of these "crazy Christians" is truly more worthy of my respect than Mary is ....then you may as well throw me into the middle of a forest with a wizard's staff and call me a pagan.

Yep, this wizard I drew has Catholic written all over him....

Crazy Christian- (noun) person who claims to follow Christ...but picks and choses how they do so. This person will pull out bible to justify their own selfish wants,  hatred they have towards enter religion/ethnicity/etc individual here, as well as any crazy idea that pops into their head.  These individuals pretty much will ignore Christ's commandment to "Love one another" and can often be seen picketing at the funerals of our country's fallen heroes. Individuals claim to speak on God's behalf, but are probably in much need of a good, old-fashioned exorcism...Rituale Romanum-style...as only a Catholic priest can perform.

2. You guys worship statues...*pulls out a bible to reference golden calf in Exodus*
You'd think they'd know by now that we wrote the bible they just referenced...with the help of our Hebrew friends from back in the ante Christum days. Also, we pray "THROUGH" saints not "TO" saints. When we pray through a saint, it's kind of like asking your friend to put in a good word for you at Starbucks if you're an aspiring barista and she's already got a job there. If you don't believe us, don't bother asking your friends to pray for you....I mean, if Catholics asking saints for prayers makes us pagan, then asking your friends for prayers also makes you a pagan. Also, don't bother praying for your friends when they're in trouble in this life or the next because that would be so...pagan.

3. Candles, wreathes, and all forms of other pagan decorations.
Would flower arrangements in a glass vase make your house a pagan house? Would pink flamingos on your lawn make your lawn a pagan lawn? Would sweet rims on your car make it pagan. Does frosting on a cake makes it pagan?  Well, then I suppose you should avoid pagan things like "arts and crafts" time at the community center, planting flowers in your garden, and dressing up for special events....because any form of decorations/art/etc. are pagan. Oh, and don't bother lighting candles the next time the lights go out, because that too is a slippery slope to full-blown paganism.

4. You guys have a Pope...who insert offensive series of rants here


"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

 I guess you didn't get this memo...and if you did...well, I strongly discourage you from filing your complaint against Christ and the methods he used when it came to founding his Church.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here...but Catholics ARE Christians. If any Christians say otherwise, feel free to pray for them because they may not be allowed to pray for themselves.

Pax Vobiscum

Tough, but Fair....just like this Molecular Toxicology midterm

In case you're wondering, I am in the middle of a molecular toxicology take home midterm. I've typed 4 single-spaced pages to answer 6 questions about a scientific paper that is 8 pages long (7 not including works cited). I have one more paper and 9 more questions to answer. This thing is due Tuesday and any form of procrastination is welcome at this point...so when my sister brought this joke to my attention...I felt I had to share it. Because, well, you know...I'm a scientist who believes in God.

Enjoy. 

(If you have already heard of it, just ignore and check out the latest at Bad Catholic. If you aren't Catholic, do it anyway...trust me....)


One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."

God listened very patiently and kindly to the man and after the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this, let's say we have a man making contest." 

To which the scientist replied, "OK, great!"

But God added, "Now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."

The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.

God just looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!"




Okay, enough procrastination. Back to work and pulling my hair out.

Pax Vobiscum




ON ANOTHER NOTE:


Great news  for those of us who aren't offended by crucifixes, the star of David, om signs, and other religious symbols. I'm all for religious freedom and feel that displaying religious symbols are a good idea....I say good idea because it promotes dialog and understanding between different faiths and, in my opinion, promotes tolerance more effectively than hiding our beliefs and forcing others to hide their beliefs as well.


My apologies to any Contemporary Christian music (esp. Matt Maher) fans...

My catch-phrase as a child was "deixa-me em paz" which literally translates to "leave me in peace;” It certainly sounds a lot better than the American equivalent of  “leave me alone.” The fact of the matter was, as a child...and even today...I do enjoy being alone sometimes. Don't get me wrong. I love people. I love good company. I love talking with people. You name it. However, when it comes to prayer, everyday spiritual life and such, I prefer to do it alone. 

Praying the rosary on my own, for example, is one of the best parts of a typical day for me. I can take all the time I want to meditate upon a particular mystery ("The Agony in  the Garden" is the one that calls to me most), change things up when it comes to intentions, and throw in a few Latin prayers at the end (my favorites are "De Profundis" and "Anima Christi"). I don’t think I would feel as comfortable adding prayers and intentions when I pray the rosary with my family. Firstly, a lot of people think funerals when they hear the “De Profundis.” I, however, find that it explains my longing for God quite beautifully… “my soul hath hoped for the Lord…From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord…Because with the Lord is mercy: and with him plenteous redemption….” I feel at peace when I pray on my own and it's something I have come to look forward to every morning as I make my daily commute from Jersey to NYC. (Oh great, now everyone knows I'm from Jersey...)

Today, my sister mentioned a Catholic group based in NYC that she thought I would enjoy. I looked up this group and saw picture upon picture of happy people hiking together, going on trips together, praying together in a community-type setting, etc...and as great as it sounded, this group was not exactly my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, I love hiking and have even combined prayer with hiking. However, I prefer to do this on my own….like a modern-day Saint Benedict, sometimes I like getting away from it all to seek solace and enjoy God’s company.

 This took me back to a retreat I attended a few years ago. I went because my sister thought it would be cool and she wanted me to check it out. For the record, she's one of the people retreats were invented for. She has no problem at retreats...in fact...she has a blast at them and keeps going back for more. I, on the other hand, found myself kicking and screaming on the inside. I just wanted to worship God in peaceful, quiet, solitude. These people, however, kept unintentionally interrupting my silent prayers and meditations. And then....the music started....the "loud music." 

By "loud music" I mean Christian music that:
1. Does not include Gregorian chanting
2. Is not sung by a boy's choir from some country in Europe
3. Isn't composed by Paul Schwartz
4. Isn't organ-based
5. Wasn't composed during the Renaissance...or Victorian times at the latest.

I know what you're thinking and you're right...I'm a Traditionalist Christian music snob who prefers a group of anonymous monks over Matt Maher and any other modern Christian music star. However, truth be told, I’m the type of person whose emotions are overcome by a soprano singing a “Lacrymosa” even though I feel nothing when listening to one of the many Christian band songs my sister listens to. The two exceptions are “Mother India” and “The Dalit Hymn” by Caedmon’s Call.

This sounds so terrible, but it got to the point where I was going to strangle someone if they played "Shine Like the Sun" by Matt Maher one more time. Well, to be fair, everyone else got to that point eventually considering how many times they played this "theme song" ....but I was the first one who got to that point.

To make a long story short, (once the volume was turned down and my migraine subsided....) I did come to appreciate some of the talks we had as well as some of the guest speakers. One of the activities did help me better understand Christ's suffering and another activity helped me see how cruel and unforgiving I had become after years of complacency. After my stubborn pride reached a breaking point, I started the healing process as well as a major inner change. I had one of the best confessions of my life (will certainly share about it later) and I started to feel better about life. By Day 2, I had started to appreciate having other people present with me as I prayed and worshiped. 

At one point, however, I had the option to partake in a retreat tradition (the Montclair vs. Ramapo football game) or keep myself occupied with something else during this time. Guess what I ended up doing? 

Yep, old habits die hard...and I still felt like I needed some alone time to pray.

Therefore, I used up my free time to go for a walk. I walked alone, in silence...attempting to talk to Christ in my own quiet way….undisturbed. I marveled at the simple beauty of the woods around me. I contemplated my place in God's ultimate plan...and since I wasn't familiar with the place, I just put my trust in God and followed a small path that led to a beautiful grotto.

I felt like I was in some form of outdoor church whose domed ceiling was the sky above me and whose floors were comprised of rocks, dirt, and leaves. It was beautiful. As I stood there, I thought about where my life had led me and a wave of shame and disgust overtook me. I got on my knees and apologized for being so selfish. I apologized for all the anger I felt. I apologized for all the things I had done since my last confession before the retreat. I apologized for not being the best person that I could be. I apologized for ignoring Christ’s command to love. I prayed for my family. I prayed that I would escape my pride and my stubborness. I prayed that I would be freed from the sins that governed my life. I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for humility. I prayed for compassion. As I prayed, talked with Christ, and simply enjoyed my quiet time with him. I noted that there was a pile of candles, holy cards, rosaries, etc. that had been placed there by many pilgrims before me. The small, makeshift altar of offerings looked like a mess considering how nature has a way with things. Leaves covered photographs of lost loved ones. Candles had tumbled over and broken. It looked like a mess. 


 
I felt the need to clean it up and began to do so as I enjoyed my alone time with Christ. I read the holy cards that were placed there and sent up a few prayers for these people and any other individuals who had stopped by to be with Christ. When I talked, I could feel that he listened and when he talked, my heart listened. This experience touched me and by the time I walked out of that grotto, I was already on my way to becoming a better person…





Pax Vobiscum



Happy Saint Patrick's Day/Anniversary

"The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and and my soul was roused, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain." - Saint Patrick








Happy Saint Patrick's day everyone. Coincidentally, this is the 1 week anniversary of this blog. Thus far, I've gotten over 250 views and a few followers...WAY MORE than I could have every imagined considering my lack of experience in the Catholic Media scene and lack of experience publicly blogging.

So why did I start now? Well, I had given up social media (Facebook, Twitter, Livejournal) and online games for Lent. I have done this for the past few years because I feel that these tools are something that I tend to take advantage of...and use far too often. Though Facebook and Twitter enabled me to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world, keeping in touch quickly turned into 1 or two sentences of needless status updates or however many characters on Twitter. Though I am pretty strong in my faith (could be stronger and am actively working on it), I wasn't necessarily doing anything about it besides partake in the occasional theological discussion with my sister...who happens to study theology.

As any other Catholic, I have had my struggles with different aspects of my own religious life throughout the years. However, instead of simply giving up on religion whenever I came across a problem of some sort (as many do, unfortunately)....I did what comes naturally to me, I sought answers. Yet, the more I came to know,  the more I realized that I know so little. There is so much to God, Catholicism, etc. than one person can ever understand on their own. Fortunately, there's help....a map of sorts.....as C.S. Lewis put so eloquently:

"In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turn­ing from some­thing real to some­thing less real: turn­ing from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point. The map is admit­tedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remem­ber about it. In the first place, it is based on what hun­dreds and thou­sands of peo­ple have found out by sail­ing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of expe­ri­ence just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a sin­gle glimpse, the map fits all those dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences together. In the sec­ond place, if you want to go any­where, the map is absolutely nec­es­sary. As long as you are con­tent with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than look­ing at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.
Now, The­ol­ogy is like the map. Merely learn­ing and think­ing about the Chris­t­ian doc­trines, if you stop there, is less real and less excit­ing than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doc­trines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the expe­ri­ence of hun­dreds of peo­ple who really were in touch with God-experiences com­pared with which any thrills or pious feel­ings you and I are likely to get on our own are very ele­men­tary and very con­fused. And sec­ondly, if you want to get any fur­ther, you must use the map. You see, what hap­pened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was cer­tainly excit­ing, but noth­ing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is noth­ing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion–all about feel­ing God in nature, and so on-is so attrac­tive. It is all thrills and no work; like watch­ing the waves from the beach. But you will not get to New­found­land by study­ing the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eter­nal life by sim­ply feel­ing the pres­ence of God in flow­ers or music. Nei­ther will you get any­where by look­ing at maps with­out going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea with­out a map."
"Merely thinking" was my problem. Where was my contribution to this map? I had thought up a bunch of maps....but none of them were on paper. None of them were accessible by those who needed them most! I was merely thinking about God and not sharing anything. As far as Facebook and Twitter go, I was sharing very little about the things that truly drive me. Everything had turned into some form of attention-getting activity. Twitter became the microphone I used to tell people "Hey, I'm alive! I've made a funny/ironic observation!" Facebook had become the mirror I used to flatter myself with statuses or pictures that I felt flattered me in some way or showed me in a positive light. These sites had turned into the "Barbara Parade...." places where I could dress up like a Mummer and show the world just how highly I thought about myself. Whoah...talk about a waste of time, especially when I am trying to be more humble in my day-to-day life.
This blog, however, isn't flattering or perfect...but it's as true as I can make it. What you get here is a flawed individual sharing some of the things that make her the most vulnerable....personal experiences, unflattering reflections of who I can be, and the strengths/weaknesses in my faith. In a sense, you get the whole package here as I attempt to share just how God has touched my life and what it's like to be a Catholic Christian when you're a science geek who is doing what she can to survive her first year as a PhD student and become a better person. In this blog you see some of my prayers here. You see some of my reflections. You see some of my thoughts. In short, you see everything I don't show on Facebook or Twitter.

Pax Vobiscum

If man can't live on bread alone, a salad won't help...unless he's Tolkien

I got back home rather early from the lab today, having finished my work and cleaned up rather quickly. A young couple (older than me, but still pretty young) got on the train at one of the first stops. They seemed pretty unhappy. I couldn't help but overhear them flipping out. At first, they started getting angry at the mere fact that they got on the wrong train. Then they started getting angry at the conductor before the poor guy even had a chance to help them out. Soon after directing their anger at the conductor, they moved onto the next eligible scape goats: EACH OTHER.

I am assuming that they were a couple considering some of their mannerisms and the fact that my people-watching senses are quite accurate these days (when you have nothing to read on the train and you take a train to and from school each day, you tend to start people-watching...oh the joys of PhD student life). To make a long story short, instead of simply letting things go...or blaming the situation on a simple mistake...or just simply trying to think things through, they started blaming everything on each other. They started getting angry with each other, as each blamed the other for this incident and everything leading up to this incident. By the time they got off the train, some very insincere words had been tossed back and forth. I would have tried helping them or at least helped talk things through with them...but chances are, they would have made me the new scapegoat. I think, in a sense, that's all they were really looking for when they started arguing. They had stopped caring about finding a solution or simply accepting a mistake...instead, they had merely sought instant gratification by bringing someone else down.

It wasn't my fault. The other person had made the mistake. I always have to fix things because that other person never knows that they're doing. Screw it, I'm done with this because not matter what I do, this other person always ruins things. Obviously, I'm not the problem. The problem is insert name here. Clearly, they're the ones that keep messing things up.

After watching this argument unfold, I got off on my stop and did what any reasonable person in my place would do. I went for a walk. Hey, there's a reason why the Fellowship of the Ring walked to Mordor when they could have easily just asked a bunch of oversized eagles to give them a ride from Elrond's place. Walking is great exercise and it does wonders for your mental as well as physical health (just ask any hobbit, elf, dwarf, wizard, or man of Gondor). Geeky Lord of the Rings references aside, my place is 1.5 miles from the train station and on a nice day like this, there is nothing like a walk to clear my mind or just help me stay healthy. The street I live on is full of life (shops, cafes, restaurants, etc) which adds a lot of nice sights to my walk from the station to my place...so I simply started walking.

I remembered that I had found an extra $6.00 on my old Starbucks card that I then transferred to my Gold Card that morning...so I debated back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to get some coffee. My grumbling stomach won and I found myself at Starbucks reading a book and sipping at my coffee (I am so ashamed of my Starbucks addiction....).

In walks a rather uniquely-dressed individual (in a good sense...as I'm all for creativity). She meets up with a woman (who looked like a combination between a census taker and the woman who's in charge of all charity events at the local church) who is already sitting there. They start talking and, before I know it, I find myself sitting next to what either seems to be a therapy session for a starving soul. This woman starts railing on her church (for the record, not Catholic) and its inability to reach her. She goes on and on about how the congregation is mostly (insert nationality/color/etc here) and how it doesn't cater to her spiritual needs.

At this point, I am feigning all interest in my book and I am eavesdropping like Samwise Gamgee when he's "trimming the verge" and listening on Gandalf and Frodo (sorry, another Lord of the Rings reference I had to get out of my system). She complains about how she's had to make salads with her congregation every Sunday (Salads, really? Maybe she has a point here...) even though that's something that she could have done at home. She complains about how her minister wasted a few sermons talking about the job market, etc...when that's something she could have discussed with friends at a Starbucks. She describes a yearning for something that she is not getting at her church. Yet, I kept getting the impression that she wanted things to be done "her way." The church choir had to clap and sing loudly because that was "her way" of singing spiritual music. The minister had to talk about certain topics because that was "her way" of understanding God's plan. The congregation had to set up "her type" of committees to address "her problems."

All of the things she complained about seemed to go back to her and her need to change everything so that it could confirm to her own spiritual needs. It kind of reminds me of the whole train incident earlier where that couple kept arguing about who was to blame. Everyone else seemed to be to the blame for her spritual needs and problems....simply because she refused to either accept things, maintain some level of patience, or simply move on.

I was tempted to just give her a "40 days of Lent" spiritual guide that I happened to be carrying with me....or just give her my rosary to help her sort things out. Then I had second thoughts. Chances are, she would complain about my attempt to help her (much as she had complained about previous "therapists"). Chances are, she would not find the comfort that I find in these things because she seemed like the type that would not be happy unless everyone did things her way.

As Saint Augustine once said,"You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.


When you decide to follow God, you don't follow Him for the sake of finding a congregation-full of scapegoats or complaining about the manner in which things are done. You follow God to love Him, adore Him, and serve Him. I think the woman at Starbucks was missing the whole point about some of the events she had participated on (salads aside, because I cannot take this salad thing seriously) and the sermons she had listened to. She failed to think about the needs of her congregation as a whole. Perhaps the sermons about the job market were needed because most of the congregation was out of a job and desperate. Maybe the rest of the congregation found it easier to listen to Christ in silent prayer rather than loud singing and clapping. Etc. etc. etc. By the sounds of it, this poor, confused, and spiritually-starved woman spent more time complaining about her situation than she did truly loving God, adoring Him, or serving Him. Perhaps this is why her soul was so restless.

She had yet to find spiritual rest because she was letting her complaints drown out any words of comfort or love that God was trying to say to her. God listens to every need we have in our hearts and He has been calling for us since before we were even born. He has beckoned us throughout all history by placing this unquenchable yearning in our hearts. We want to find peace to quell this restlessness, but we need to find God first. Yet, we cannot do so unless we place God before our own wants. It's kind of like skipping to step 3 of the recipe every time we cook and then complaining why our cooking tastes like garbage. Well, duh...of course you're going to keep breaking your teeth eating banana-nut bread if you don't remove the shells first.

My point is, it is often necessary to humble ourselves before God to a point where nothing else matters but Him. If you do this, it won't matter if your church has pews since you will gladly kneel on cold, stone floors in order to prostate yourself before the Lord. If your church's electricity goes out, you will gladly worship in darkness since His light will more than suffice. No matter where you go, what church you attend, or what percentage of your congregation you dislike.... you should always find joy...even if God is the only source of that joy.

Icon by Brother Robert Lentz, Catholic Franciscan
Note: As far as I know, Tolkien is not officially canonized...but I'm sure there's people out there working on it

Now J.R.R. Tolkien, he understood this. Writings aside, he was extremely disappointed by the changes in the Catholic Church that occurred in his time. He hated the switch from Latin to English and he wanted desperately for things to return to what they were before. Did he stop attending mass because of this? No. Did he be become a lapsed Catholic? No. Did he tell off the Church and her leaders? No.

Tolkien loved God so much that he overlooked his own wants and simply kept attending mass....even if he did continue to loudly pray in Latin...much to the chagrin of his embarrassed grandchildren.

Pax Vobiscum