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CatholicSciGeek is on Twitter!

I did away with my old Twitter account some time after Lent. It got to the point where I was Tweeting nonsense and wasting too much time one it. However, I just came crawling back to it.

Instead Tweeting about my own life's mundane details, I intend to being my Catholic Science Geek insight and observations to Twitter in a 140 character or less format this time around. Therefore, feel free to follow me at @CatholicSciGeek.This Twitter account will certainly be easier on the eyes versus my somewhat lengthy Blogspot (or, recently, Paperblog) posts. My apologies for my typically uber-lengthy blogs. It seems like no matter how much I try to cut down what I want to say, my posts always tend to be pretty long. I hope, however, that they may provide readers with something useful regardless of length. In any event, let's see where Twitter will take us.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Servant of God,
 please pray for me as I continue on my mission to spread the good word
 through all sorts of fancy media...just as you did in this life.

Hope this Twitter idea works!

Pax Vobiscum

Scratching the Surface of "Mawage and Twu Wuv" Part I

As promised, here is a marriage-related passage that I intend to break down using all that I've learned about love and marriage during my journey through life as a Catholic Christian woman. I can assure you that this passage will make any feminist cringe if taken at face value (and out of context) so I am going to do what I can to keep things within context in order to save the feminists any unnecessary heart attacks. Keep in mind, I am not married. However, I have been in a relationship with a certain young man for over 5 years and marriage is something we are considering in the future....when we are ready. Unlike a lot of people out there that get married on a whim, we are taking our time. Rather than focusing on "the dress," "the ring," and "the venue," we are considering our futures beyond the big day.
"Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam..."
 -The Impressive Clergyman from the Princess Bride

The future we want as a wedded couple and the future we want as a family will require a stable financial setting as well as a true understanding of the sacrifices that marriage will require. We know we are not ready for it yet. In my case, for example, I spend most of my time on school and the laboratory (one of the many joys of PhD candidacy). With such a huge commitment such as this, I will not be able to start a family for some time. However, in the meantime, I have researched the theology and requirements pertaining to Catholic marriage in my spare time. Until the time comes, it stinks living 45 minutes away from my boyfriend and not getting to see him as often as I would like. However, when the time comes, we will be ready for it and the wait will be worth it...if I ever get out of the laboratory long enough to plan a wedding.

Okay, so now to the passage that may lose me some readers and ignite a few bra-burning bonfires...
“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Eph. 5:21-33)
I read this and have no problem with everything it contains. The vast majority of the female universe, however, is probably fuming right now. So why am I the odd man out (err…odd woman out)? Is it because I am in a male-dominated relationship and lost my voice as a woman? No. Is it because I was raised by a domineering father and subservient mother? Heck no. Is it because the media has brainwashed me? We all know that’s not true.

So, why am I okay with this passage?

Rewind a few months. I was sitting at the dinner table with my family. My older sister was arguing with me and my younger sister saying that women need to be dominated by man. She is trying to tell us that men have to make decisions because this and that and this and that, citing examples in history and different cultures. My younger sister and I, however, are arguing against this. My younger sister (theology major and fellow Catholic) is quoting JPII like there’s no tomorrow and I am arguing that there is equality within a true, sacramental marriage.  My dad must have heard enough about all of this because he enters the argument with his own 2 cents. He looks at my older sister and tells her something similar to this, “There was not a single decision I made in this marriage without your mother’s advice and support. When I thought about (insert big decision here), I didn’t do anything about it until I talked with your mother and got her support.”

The Portuguese don’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to the machismo and having guys take over marriages. Therefore, coming from my dad, this 2 cents was the holy grail as far as winning our argument went. The important thing I got out of this argument was this idea of what “holy matrimony” in the Catholic tradition truly means. It’s not about domination. It’s about mutual love and respect.

Based on what I have read and what I have studied over the years, the Catholic Church is right on target with the roles of women and men in a marriage. I am not married yet, so I haven’t gone through the pre-Cana meetings and training. However, I have read up on it. I won’t be able to write everything I want to say on the subject because there’s so much information out there. However, I will try to stick to essentials here. Perhaps one day, I may follow up on them and add now. However for now, just bear with me and consider this as an intro. If you want details, please PLEASE check out Theology of the Body by JPII or check out C.S. Lewis’s ideas on matrimony because I am only going to scratch the surface here.

So let us begin with the basics. Ideally, when a man and woman decide to enter a marriage, they must do so with COMPLETE honesty and clarity towards their future spouse. Alcoholism, potential out-of-wedlock children, and other potential marriage-breakers must be put on the table before the Church will consider marrying these individuals. However, here’s the problem; People lie. A man or woman may lie to a future spouse or to themselves as they consider marriage. Therefore, this system isn’t fool proof for huge and obvious lies like alcoholism…because the Church assumes honesty from both the man and the woman when it comes to marriage.

Then there’s the issue of abuse. This one is particularly tricky because, in this case, an individual not only lies to their future spouse and the Church, but to themselves as well. They may convince themselves that they are not abusive or that they will not be abusive…but, in reality, they cannot stop or refuse to stop being abusive. This is why it is extremely important to TRULY know your significant other before marriage. This is why I would highly suggest waiting before getting married.  You see, a marriage is only a true marriage if it is done with free will and honesty. This goes for men as well as women. You cannot be forced to marry someone because doing this, in God’s eyes, results in deception rather than true marriage. You cannot marry someone under false pretenses because, in God’s eyes, this is not a true marriage. You may get a wedding certificate, some nice rings, and a reception afterwards, but these would not be true marriages because you can’t fool God. You can fool everyone else, including yourself, but not God.

Unfortunately, the Church can get fooled by imposters that pose as loving spouse-to-be’s and some marriages that should have never happened do end up happening. I mean, think about how  inappropriate and socially unacceptable it would be to actually get up and voice your concerns when when the presiding padre asks if there are any reasons why the couple should not be together. Even after the wedding, there are also occasions when one party bails out on a marriage even when the other party put in everything they can to make it work. This includes cases of domestic violence, estrangement, substance abuse, double lives, infidelity, you name it. Let's face it, human beings have an affinity for evil things and this can lead to all sorts of trouble for ourselves as well as our spouse. I mean, let's face it. When you marry someone, your problems become theirs and vice versa...and not all of us are capable of taking on our own problems let alone someone else's. Also, sometimes we expect the best in people that probably don't expect the best in themselves. It's a sad reality. Yes, the Church is able to grant annulments in some pretty severe cases. However, these aren’t “Get out of Jail Free” cards  regardless of what others may say.  I am sure there is a lot of heartache associated with annulments as well as divorces.

As a woman living in this century, I am deathly afraid of becoming one of those individuals that enters one of those marriages that will end in divorce. I don’t take divorce lightly because I understand that divorce is not just the separation of a husband and wife, but the break of a promise to God and his Church. Marriage, in the Catholic sense at least, is not just an agreement between two people. You make a promise before God when you marry in the Church, a life-long promise. I don’t see divorce as a simple solution and it should never be treated as such. Rather, I see divorce as a painful last-resort that is anything but a simple solution. Therefore, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before taking the plunge.

As far as divorces go, though they are severe and damaging, I firmly believe that they ultimately cannot separate us from God's love. God alone knows what we can handle and how many sacrifices we can take for someone else before a marriage becomes little more than a word and a pair of rings. Therefore, while I find it difficult to truly accept divorce as something "okay," I must admit that sometimes it is a better alternative. It is my belief that people who ignore God's call to love one another within a marriage (especially those who use marriage as an excuse to abuse and torment their spouse continually) are in far worse shape in God's eyes than those who divorce their spouse to avoid unimaginable abuse. You see, in my eyes, the abusive spouse break the promises they made at the altar with or without the divorce papers...unless, of course, they actively attempt to change their ways (through counseling, and other methods). I don't scorn divorced individuals who did what they could and withstood what they could before they walked out. It's what they do with their lives after the divorce that truly matters. I mean, God's love for us is so great that it is impossible to deem divorced individuals as lost souls. Don't believe me? Check out this passage.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword...But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.- Romans 8:35, 37-39
One thing I must stress is that the first  passage in this post is not designed to keep women in abusive relationships. It is designed to prepare men and women for marriage and ensure that they live in a healthy, holy marriage. If a future spouse treats an employee like crap, this should be a red flag. If a potential spouse treats their feeble grandparents with disrespect, that’s a big red flag for me. If a potential spouse has a string of abused ex-girlfriends, it’s over (in my book at least).  When you find yourself infatuated with an individual, you will make excuses up for this person. You will believe that this person will change for you. You will believe whatever you want and it will be difficult for others to dissuade you. Therefore, this is why it is important to see the red flags from the beginning and why it is important for individuals to wait before getting married.  Wait until you have stable situations (poverty and marital troubles seem to go hand-in-hand).

Believe it or not, God wants us to be happy….in spite of what those “sinners in the hands of an angry God” preachers would have you believe.  If we are called for marriage, we are called to live fulfilling lives with another individual that will ensure our happiness and well-being. Since this is the case, you can be assured that God has given us the abilities to find the right person to marry. He gave us free will to chose our partners (regardless of what shot-gun wedding or arranged marriage advocates would have you believe). He also gave us a true understanding of how to achieve happiness…through LOVE. We’re not talking Hollywood movie love. We’re talking about Christ’s love for his fellow man as well as his Church. I mean, just look at the first sentence of the passage….
“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
This sentence is particularly beautiful. In this sentence, we are all called to follow Christ’s words to love one another. This means, loving your spouse as Christ wants you to love your spouse. We are to love our spouse unconditionally, regardless of how hard it may be at times. If both parties in a marriage truly love one another in this fashion, you get a strong, stable marriage that can survive any kind of trial. Both parties here are called by Christ to put their spouse’s needs above their own. They are called by Christ to forgive. They are called by Christ to see the best in the other person and to support them. They are called to do all in their power to encourage their spouse and bring out the best in them. I was lucky enough to have parents that exemplified this love. My father stood by my mother even with her bipolar disorder and the heartbreak it caused. Likewise, my mother stood by my father through heart surgery and a number of other difficulties. Furthermore, nothing was able to separate my parents from the love they shared in this life and to this day, seven years after my mom passed away, my father refuses to find another woman. (Even though he’s had many an older lady vying for his attentions since he was widowed.) That shows you how much they loved one another. Forget what the media or statistics would have you believe these days, it is possible to be happily married to your spouse by following these words. 

My parents are a shining example of this. Unfortunately, in this day and age, one spouse may take advantage of these words. However, in these cases, it is not the fault of the Church, scripture, or the offended spouse. Rather, it is the fault of the individual who cannot fulfill Christ’s call to love their spouse unconditionally and above their own wants and needs. In this case, again, this individual can lie to themselves and their spouse…but never to God. Furthermore, they may think that they can take advantage of their spouse…but ultimately they will have to answer to God. Again, I must stress my beliefs that a true, holy marriage cannot come into existence unless both parties love the other as Christ asked them to love the other. This goes for potential husbands as well as wives. Again, this is another reason why I stress waiting before taking the big plunge. I would never walk into a marriage unless I knew, absolutely knew, that the guy waiting for me at the altar was capable of loving me as Christ had commanded people to love each other.

Before you EVER get married, don’t look at the “socially accepted” manners in which someone demonstrates their affection. Ignore the flowers, chocolates, and all that other crap people buy to profess their love.  The media tells us these things mean true love…but true love isn’t something that can be boxed or purchased. Love certainly isn’t the “kiss at the end of a romance” hoopla you see in Disney princess movies. Love, at least as I have come to find, is a form of mutual self-giving to one another. It is wanting the well-being of another above your own. It is loving selflessly and endlessly even when the first sparks of sexual love (venus) have fizzled and been replaced by a unconditional love (charity, or agape). It is caring for your loved one even if both of you come home tired from a full day of work. It is the willingness to stand by this person even if you’re tempted by another. It is the willingness to put this other person before yourself and for this other person to do the same. If neither you nor your future spouse is ready for this form of mature and selfless love, don’t get married.

True love is also seen in the way your future spouse treats themselves as well as others besides yourself. It’s how they treat their feeble grandma, the hobo in an NYC street, the lost child in a theme park, employees, and any other individual they don’t HAVE to love. If your potential spouse goes out of their way to care for their family and loved ones AS WELL AS strangers, they may be keepers. I am not talking about the potential spouse that shells out a fortune in tips to show off (that’s pride, not love). I am not talking about the individual who spends a fortune on their hair to look nice (that’s vanity, not love). I am talking about the individual that still treats their grandma with respect even though she has alzheimers. I am talking about the individual who will strike up a conversation with the maintenance crew at their work place with just as much ease as they would with a potential client. I am talking about the person who does not need to take drugs or alcohol to get through the day.

True humility and charity (the love kind of charity, not the alsm-giving kind of charity) go unnoticed a lot of the time in this day and age. However, they are two of the greatest indicators of potential husband material as far as I am concerned. When you marry someone with true humility and charity, the cringe-worthy “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord” line takes on a new meaning. It no longer means “You are ordered by God and all that is sacred in marriage to take whatever beating your husband dishes out.”
It means something else entirely...which I will get to in part II of this series.

To be continued....

Pax Vobiscum

Throwing down the gauntlet or, in my case, the vinyl lab glove

I got an email from Paperblog, asking me to join. I am a "N00B" to the blogging community so I really didn't know what these people were all about. Therefore, being the inquisitive science geek I am, I checked out the site. I checked out the religious section since the email told me that my blog would be of interest to the religion magazine I checked to see if it was a good fit. I mean, I don't want to be a part of a site or service that promotes any sort of bashing...the obvious kind of bashing against nationalities, color, orientation, my religion, my Church, and my well as the more subtle form of bashing (disguised as something else).

I saw a decent article about a religious/war monument in Times Square and another cool article about a new, bronze Stations of the Cross display. I thought we were off to a good start....then I saw some other articles that were a little more "feminist" than they were religious. I poked around a little further and got the impression that there were quite a few of these articles...disguised as "religious."

Oh dear. 

As much as I wanted to back away and just ignore the email...I found that it was impossible. This place's religion section truly needs me. You see, I'm a pretty old school Catholic even though I went to a liberal college and and even though I am a science geek. I will admit that the Catholic Church is not perfect. However, in the same breath I will also defend her and say that even though she's not perfect, she's  mine and I love her. You can throw the feminist label around to make your bashing seem like a well-intentioned, thoughtful observation...but I know misguided Catholic-bashing when I see it. In the words of Denethor..."You think you are wise, Mithrandir, yet for all your subleties you have not wisdom." 
Saint Michael photograph from Cathedrale Saint Michel et Sainte Gudule in Brussels, Belgium
Defending the Church, Archangel-style...with a badass lance.

With this said, Catholic-bashers should really, really read up on what the Catholic Church truly teaches before they speak or blog against her. This is important if you will otherwise base your arguments on flawed misconceptions about what you think the Church teaches. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE, I USED TO BE ONE OF THOSE FEMINISTS. It's going to be tough...some lab coats may get ripped and some wrists may get snapped by latex gloves...and a lot of time and effort will be required...but it is my duty (as well as pleasure) to defend what I believe. After all, what is faith without works? I'll just chalk this up as a spiritual work of mercy.

CCD refresher course:

Spiritual works of mercy:
1. To instruct the ignorant.
2. To counsel the doubtful.
3. To admonish sinners
4. To bear wrongs patiently.
5. To forgive offences willingly.
6. To comfort the afflicted.
7. To pray for the living and the dead.

I will get to this all as soon as I clear some things up with the bank, police, etc. I found out last night that I am a victim of fraud and have to clear up quite a few things before I can truly get into blogging mode. I had money stolen from my bank account and I am hoping it's not identity theft because that would involve EVEN MORE wasted time and stress. In any event, it's a crummy situation so I'm off to make phone calls, take care of things....and pray for whoever it was that stole the money in the first place as well as the well-intentioned but misguided souls of this world.

As soon as this is finished, however, it's game time.

Pax Vobiscum

A Mother Knows Best

I only watched The Passion of the Christ once. I may watch it again one day...but I think once was enough for the time being. When I watched this movie, I wasn't moved by the violence. I wasn't moved by some of the scenes that may have moved many of my other fellow followers of Christ. However, I was moved to tears by the sight of a mother weeping for her child. The bond between our Blessed Mother and her son Jesus Christ is, I feel, one of the most beautiful and intimate bonds within the Scripture.

On the Miraculous  Medal, you see two hearts close together, one of which is pierced by a sword. This symbolizes Mary's heart...which was in complete agony, no doubt, when her only son was nailed to a cross. Yes, he was born to die for our sins. Yes, Christ did save us. However, there is still so much pain in this story. Mary watched her son die for us and probably looked upon him with different eyes than all others present at the crucifixion. She probably saw more than a carpenter-turned preacher. She probably looked up at his bloodied, bruised, and pierced body and saw the things she had seen throughout her life...

She probably saw him as a baby...born to the song of angels and adoration of shepherds as well as wise men.
She probably saw him as a child, taking his first steps as her own hands prevented him from stumbling.
She probably remembered the panic that gripped her when he went missing...before he was found in the temple.
She probably remembered how he had impressed the temple scholars with his knowledge.
She probably saw him as a young man, in her husband's shop...learning carpentry under the care of Joseph.
She probably remembered hearing news of her son's preaching...and the fear she had felt since John the Baptist was killed.
She probably wished she had more time to spend with her son as he gasped his last breaths.
She probably felt every pain he had suffered...just as many mothers today feel for their own children.

As any mother would, she grieved for her lost child with some of the same raw human emotions that we feel today when we lose loved ones. If there is one work of art that evokes these feelings and captures a lot of what I am trying to describe right is the Pieta by Michelangelo. This statue, in my opinion, captures the emotions and story behind the beautiful relationship between Christ and his mother. In this sculpture, you see a mother mourning the loss of her son. She cradles the body of a murdered son, grieving silently with her eyes cast down. She is not looking upon her son's accusers. She is not staring up a the heavens in anguish. She is not crying out to God. She isn't questioning how fair or unfair. She isn't accusing others. She isn't covering her face as she sobs. She isn't screaming in agony, though her heart is broken and experiencing a grief that will never be understood by so many.
Pietà by Michelangelo
She has a serene countenance. She is grieving the loss of her son...but she is steadfast when it comes to trusting God. Her son is gone, but she knows that he lives on. She knows Christ better than the apostles did. Christ chose the apostles. God chose the mother. God made his works known to her before Christ brought back the dead, made the blind see, etc. Mary was 30 years ahead of the rest of the world when it came to knowing...not just hearing about it...but KNOWING that salvation was at hand.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;for nothing will be impossible for God."Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

I don't know about you, but when I read this...I see that the Annunciation is FULL of good news. There isn't a word of Crucifixion in it, but there's plenty of good news. We see God giving Christ a kingdom. We see a child that will one day be considered holy. We see a child that will rule over the house of Jacob... We see that Mary has found favor with God. We see that her son will have a never-ending kingdom. In short, we see so much good news...not just for Mary but for all those who would read this passage in millennia to come. There is no "Christ is crucified...the end" here.
 "And of his kingdom there will be no end."
This simple sentence is amazing. It demonstrates that God has everything planned in an eternal fashion. Christ's victory will not be temporal since his reign is eternal. Perhaps Mary remembered this sentence when Christ was hanging on a cross and struggling to fight the pain and the fatigue associated with his death. Perhaps this gave her strength and helped her hold on to her hope and faith. Yet, even if her son was born to rule eternal kingdoms and even if God has such great things in store for him, she cannot help but feel for him as he died on the cross. Her heart will be torn by his suffering. Her heart will be torn by his loss from her life...temporary as it was.

I imagine that Mary loved Christ for far longer than the majority of people present at his crucifixion. She knew him for his entire life....from baby to man. The apostles only knew him for a couple of years and loved him. Mary, on the other hand, must have loved him even more. Think about it. She saw him as a mother, a follower, and one whose innocence was complete. She didn't have our sinful nature and could, therefore, see Christ through a clearer light. As a result, her love of Christ had to have been so much greater. 

Michelangelo must have had quite a few things in mind when he sculpted this gorgeous masterpiece. I mean, you see the pain, the complete trust in God, a deep serenity surrounded by the weight of sin's expense.....the loss of a life...and the ultimate triumph of Christ over sin. Yes Christ has died...but his mother still holds onto him with trust, hope, and all the faith necessary to accept God's will....regardless of how painful it may be.

Pax Vobiscum


Everyone seems to have some sort of miracle story, whether it's something secular like the Red Sox winning the World Series in recent years or something uber-Catholic like the miracles attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes' intercession...everyone has a story.

I had a bit of a mini-miracle this weekend on the day of my uncle's funeral. The service was beautiful, but I wasn't convinced that the sunny day outside was a miracle even though it was overcast at all other points of the day. The miracle wasn't something involving the "rapture." The miracle had nothing to do with an impossible cure or a HUGE, public sign of some sort. The miracle didn't even have anything to do with my learning how to change a tail light on Gandalf the White (my car).

My uncle, as I will always remember...was a simple, loving man who loved playing games, having a good time, and spending time with family. Since he passed away, I have prayed for some sort of sign that he was okay. I didn't ask for a sign so I could stop praying for his soul. Far from it. I just asked for a sign just so I knew he'd made I could find some comfort in knowing that he was okay. Well, I got my sign. I was playing Scrabble with my boyfriend and the first time reached into the bag, I ended up pulling out three tiles. I put them on the little wooden rack and next thing I know, I realized that the letters spelled out J-O-E. Joe. That was my uncle's nickname to all the non-Portuguese friends and family.
My boyfriend is not Portuguese in case you're had my uncle still been alive and well today....he would have been among those who called Tio Ze by the name "Joe." I am counting this as a mini-miracle because it seemed to have happened in a way that my uncle would have approved.On top of that, it was simple (my uncle was not very showy) and kind of funny/cute (my uncle had a sense of humor and loved games). All these things, and all the circumstances in which this occurred, is enough for me to give it my "Miracle Stamp of Approval." I mean, what are the chances that I would pick out THESE 3 TILES on the first shot?!? Not too high, I would imagine....especially when you factor in the fact that I usually pull more tiles at one go and the fact that I don't play this game too often.

Call it what you will, but as far as I'm concerned, this has mini-miracle written all over it. Between this and my dreams about prayers were answered and I am certain my uncle is okay. I know the mini-miracle is probably not huge enough or significant enough to ever get the Vatican to recognize my uncle as  a saint....but it's good enough for me.

Pax Vobiscum

A Eulogy for my Tio Ze

When I was a child, everyone used to say that my little sister took after my dad's mother in appearance and countenance. My older sister took after my dad when it came to being badass and she looked like my dad's side of the family. I was the spitting image of my mom, inheriting even her vivid green I didn't inherit much from my dad's side as far as appearances come. Well, technically, I did inherit half of my genes from my dad's side, so I did inherit something...maybe something recessive. Okay, enough genetics. The point is, my sisters seemed to take after my dad's side of the family a lot more than I did.

However, everyone use to say that I was like my Tio Ze when it came to my personality. You see, moody preteen years aside, I had a jovial personality (I was a little bit of a jokester in my day). I was also extremely calm and patient...just like my uncle. As my father would say, I was like my uncle in the sense that a house could be falling around me and I would not be bothered by it. Truth be told, I kind of proud to hear this. You see, I LOVED my uncle. He was SO cool and SO awesome. Out of all of my uncles (12 total), he was one of my favorites and one that I could relate to. He got a lot of things that I the importance of family, gardening, good times, good drinks, and plenty of good laughs.

My uncle passed away this morning and I can assure you all that this man is being missed by people all over the world...from Brazil, to the US, to Portugal, etc. He was a beautiful man and he had a beautiful heart. A few years ago, he had a stroke and was never able to walk again, even with the physical therapy and determination. I still remember the last time I saw him standing on his own. I stayed over my cousin's place for a weekend and my aunt and uncle were there too. My dad and sister's were abroad for the summer...and I stayed behind guessed it...research work with my organic chemistry professor. My uncle was a great person to be around. He had us cracking up the whole weekend. He had a great sense of humor and knew how to appreciate a good joke as he knew how to make one. He drove me to the train station with my aunt and the car ride was a perfect ending to a great weekend. I remember him standing by the car waving at me. That memory never left me.

He moved to Portugal with my aunt soon live out the perfect retirement in the dream house he and my aunt had built. This house was beautiful, not because of the fancy interior decorating (my aunt has great taste in furnishings and could make Martha Stewart blush with how she keeps a house)...but because it was a home. My aunt took care of the place indoors...but outdoors was my uncle's domain. This man was an avid gardener who could make anything grow and took pleasure in the entire process. There wasn't a thing that this guy couldn't grow. He and my dad would walk through his garden as he proudly pointed out the latest fig tree clipping he had somehow grown into a tree in spite of the drought/hail/frost/you-name-it-natural-disaster. He would point out the "couves" (Brassica oleracea for us plant geeks) and remark that he would have more than enough to pass around when it came to the holidays. (In case you're wondering, the Portuguese eat A LOT of couves during the holidays.) His crops were, needless to say, pretty legendary even in a place like Jersey where everyone and their mom has some type of garden.

And share he did, whatever it was that he had to share. Whether it was a bumper crop of insert fruit or veggie here or pot upon pot of crabs, he would always call up his family and loved ones to make and share memories. He would always have us over and there was always plenty of stories, drinks, and soccer games. He was an avid soccer fan, a die-hard F.C.Porto fan. This was, of course, his only flaw considering how much my family prefers S.C. Braga...or, in my case, Sporting Clube de Portugal. Yet, this was never an issue with any of us. There would always be some good-natured gloating whenever someone's team lost...and the fact that we all liked opposing teams kind of made following soccer all the more fun. My cousin, another Porto fan, still has fond memories of staying up at crazy hours of the night with his dad watching games and championships.

He was so proud of his family. He was a great father-in-law who quickly welcomed more people into his family when his sons got married. Not just the women my cousins married...but their entire families. I'm talking  families of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" proportions...but in spite of how large his family got or how different their backgrounds were, my Tio Ze became their "Joe" with ease. He was just as generous with even the most extended of family and acquaintances as he was with his immediate family. He was the life of any party, regardless of how formal or informal. He was always ready with a joke or a story and everyone found themselves falling in love with him.

I was lucky. I knew him all my life. He was one of the "cool" uncles. He and my aunt knew exactly what to get us for Christmas and they always came over...or we went over their house. Though my sisters and I were born in a later crop of cousins (10 year gap between my sisters and I and most of my cousins on my dad's side), my cousins will still tell stories about the Tio Ze Santa Claus. All of my cousins counted him among their favorite my sisters and I did. He always had a huge hug and kiss for us whenever he saw us and was always there for us. He also had a way with kids...almost like he could see the world as they did. In my earlier preteen years, I was moody and quiet. It's normal for American children to be like this these days, but this is strange among the Portuguese...who are a loud and happy people. 

My parents were concerned with this, but had no idea what to do. I'm sure my uncle must have noticed something was up because I found myself alone one time looking over a balcony by myself, brooding before all these new vampire movies made it cool to brood. He came up to me and spoke with me as if I was an equal. I wasn't a kid anymore and he wasn't an adult. He was simply there for me, and talked with me as opposed to me. I don't know how long we were alone there for, but it had quite an impression on me. Perhaps it even served as a catalyst to get me out of my moody slump. He always seemed to know what to say, even if he wasn't always the most serious person. I mean, as jovial as he was, he gave my younger sister the advice she needed after my mom passed away and she was left alone at home with a grieving father (my older sister and I had gone off to college).

He just always knew what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. Perhaps his having grown sons was helpful. Perhaps he just understood. Perhaps it was his need to take care of the people around him. He knew what to say when my mother passed away. He knew what to do whenever my dad was in the hospital or someone he knew was in trouble or in need of help. He was simply one of those people who did what they could to take care of you, regardless of how much effort it took. 

My uncle's only flaw (besides the Porto fanship) was that he seldom looked over his health. He felt he was healthy like a horse, so he never really followed up on his cholesterol (family thing, trust me) or other issues. He smoked as well. The stroke came unexpectedly and I remember worrying about him when the call came from Portugal. He had a tough time with it in the beginning, who wouldn't when you lose your ability to walk and can no longer do a lot of the things you love. He was somewhat paralyzed, could no longer walk, could no longer garden, had to take a bunch of medication, and was on a restricted diet. Anyone would have a tough time with all these changes. Yet, within enough time, he was back to himself. He was back to the quick-witted jokes whenever the opportunity came up. He was also still very loving. His nurses loved him and his caretakers never really had any complaints. My aunt had a tough time taking care of him not because he became a sore, sour man...but simply because it was hard to take him around places or lift him onto his chair, etc. without help. They both suffered immensely these past few years, but they remained the loving couple I always remembered. 

When my uncle had the heartattack recently and was in hospice care, one of his biggest fears was leaving my aunt. He didn't want to die because he didn't want to leave her. Even when things got really bad, you could tell that he fought the inevitable. He wasn't afraid of death. He didn't fight to avoid death. He simply could not leave the people he loved behind. Several family members travelled from Europe, Brazil, you name it to see him before he passed. Every time a new face called to say they were coming, he somehow was able to regain some of his energy and what good health he had left. We could tell he was at peace. He received communion and was visited by the padre while he was in hospice and my aunt said that was one of the things he looked forward to. 

In recent weeks, my aunt has been telling us that he kept mentioning that he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary. I believe that he did. As far as redemptive suffering goes, my uncle had more than his share. He was lucky in the sense that he had plenty of time to prepare himself for what was to come and I believe that he was ready to come home. You see, ever since he lost the ability to walk, I have always dreamed of him walking. I would always tell him that he would walk again if he believed in it and worked hard enough at it. I was convinced that he faith in this was strong because I am a firm believer in miracles. He would often nod and tell me that yes, he would walk again.

Before his heart attack, I had a dream that started off as the others did. Only this time, he could not stand let alone walk. My whole family tried to get him to stand again and he just couldn't. Soon after, my uncle was placed in hospice care. This was a blow, but I prayed for him and even asked all of you guys to pray for him. Well, I even prayed the rosary for him and one night I dreamed that I was with the Blessed Virgin Mary. I was asking her for intercession on behalf of my uncle. She looked at me and her hands, which had been folded in prayer, opened. In her hands stood my uncle. I think it was his soul because he was bathed in radiant, golden light. What struck me the most was that he was standing. He was standing tall and proud, completely fine. After this dream, I stopped worrying. I knew he would be okay in one sense or another. My uncle was in good hands regardless of what happened.

Today, my uncle is walking again. God called him home because he was ready for an end to his suffering. His life, his eternal life, has just begun. I am sure that my mom is with him, baking the same bread he used to enjoy when he was over our house. They're talking about how proud they are of their children and looking out for us. He has all of heaven roaring with laughter and has probably already tried to put in a good word for F.C. Porto. He has his own little place in heaven and this place has a garden for his grape vines, his fig trees, his couves, and all the other wonderful things he enjoys growing. Most of all, he is watching over his family. His grandsons, thankfully, are old enough to remember him. If not, you can bet that they will have plenty of people who will paint vivid pictures of the great man their grandfather was and is. I will be one of these people. 

I'll miss you Tio Ze, but I know you are no longer hurting and in a far better place. I am sorry I never got a chance to make you aletria this weekend and wish I could have seen you one more time. I'm still shedding tears for you, but I know you're okay and I am glad that you don't have to suffer any more. I know you are in a good place and am only sad because I already miss you. 

My family coat of arms and a statue of Our Lady of Fatima from my uncle and aunt's home.

Anima eius et animae omnium fidelium defunctorum per Dei misericordiam requiescant in pace.

Learning to Trust God, One Biochemistry Exam at a Time

It finally happened. The semester is over. The first year is over. Summer has begun. I finished the second semester of my first year at Columbia. I got to say, it was tough.

The first semester of biochemistry was enough to make any tough, grown man cry. I thought it was bad, but it was nothing compared to biochemistry this semester. The long and short of it is that Biochemistry difficult. You lose sleep over it, you worry incessantly over it, and-in my case at least- you lose hair over it. I'm not lying. Right before the biochemistry exam is handed out, I spend a good week stressing out over it and watching as clumps of hair fall off whenever I brush. I have regions on my head where most of my hair is about 3 inches long (a good 9 inches shorter than the rest of my hair). I can almost map out my biochemistry difficulty level based on the surface area of the patches of short hair on my head. I can even roughly estimate, based on length, which exam led to that particular hair loss episode.

How can anyone freak out so much? To the point where they lose hair? Well, imagine that you are in a class and your ENTIRE GRADE depends on two exams. Also, imagine this class being worth more credits than any other class you're taking. There's a lot of weight to each exam. These in turn, depend on over a dozen professors who each have different specifications of good versus bad scientific thinking. Hence the worry, the panic, and the hair loss.

Before I go into details, let me describe the setup  of the course. I sit in a class full of America's finest and brightest Chemistry, Biochemistry, Biophysics, you-name-it-fancy-science-program PhD students. In other words, uber-genius students (and fellow science geeks). This class is taught by expert-in-the-field professors that have gotten their research published in prestigious scientific journals such as "Cell." They lecture for 1-3 days on any subject material they're experts at and then submit a section for the exam at the end of 7 weeks. It's pretty incredible just how many great minds I've had the chance to listen to in these past few months. I mean, I've read papers of theirs before I had a face to the name...when I was working on a paper for class, working on my master's thesis, you name it. I mean, you can Google these people and see the sorts of stuff their laboratories have discovered. It's pretty cool...and I'm not just saying it because I am a science geek. It's also cool listening to everything from the insider's point of view...the stories of squabbles between one of the professors and another prominent scientist were particularly funny.

This final was particularly heinous. There were 9 sections to this exam (it had been 3-7 sections per exam until now). The topics and requirements of each professor covered a lot of stuff spanning several months and I was already almost burned out from all of the other finals and presentations I had to finish up. Even so, I had built up my confidence and prepared all that I could in the preceding week by getting my notes together looking over stuff beforehand. I felt like I could handle it when I walked into the final class that Friday. I was pumped. I figured we would get 7 sections like we got the last finding out about the 9 sections was the first blow. However, I did not let this get to me. I printed the exam out and didn't take a look at it until I got on the subway back. I looked over the exam and everything in my mind went blank and panic overcame me. The worst part about getting this exam was the doubt. It just looked impossible. It looked like too much. Yeah, I could get a few sections complete...but 9 in one week?! IMPOSSIBLE. I was thoroughly convinced that I could not do it. It typically took me one day per section...there was no way I could get this many done in one week.

I didn't waste time crying. I didn't waste time complaining. I just read things or researched them until they made sense (or at least I hope they made sense, only the final grade will tell). I took it one section at a time...or at least I tried to do so. I pretty much did the same things I did when I worked on my last exam. However, I changed up a few things about my prayer life since last time. Tempted as I was to maximize time and efficiency, I prayed the rosary every morning. I took time to pray for God to help a friend of mine score a sweet job. (Congrats again to my friend, blogger, website designer, neighbor, and newest Computer Science Department Administrator!) I took time to pray for my uncle, who is still in hospice care but doing a lot better than he was during Easter. I took time to pray for my more private but still extremely important intentions.

I also prayed for myself. I still suck at praying for myself, but I found comfort in it. The certainty that I could finish this exam grew with each day, fueled by the idea that I had a bunch of people up there rooting for me. I had even purchased a few more saint cards to add to my prayer arsenal...Saint Thomas More and Saint Aloysius.  I could not find Saint Joseph Cupertino's card to save my life. I mean, I had heard of Saint Joseph Cupertino and was hoping to find a card for him...but all the "college student" holy cards were gone by the time I got to the Holy Face Monastery gift shop (go figure, it's Finals). Yet, I kept getting drawn to Saint Aloysius. I had never heard of Saint Aloysius before...but hey, I'm not one to ignore Divine Providence when it comes knocking. Divine Providence seemed to be guiding me that day because it turns out that Saint Aloysius is the patron saint of young students (can I still be considered young at 25?). 

I even made sure that I took the time to go to mass on Sunday. I had gotten 3 sections finished Friday and Saturday and was "on time" as far as my grueling self-imposed exam schedule went. However, I had stayed up pretty late working on the third section and had to get up early to go to mass. I kept remembering the last time I did this, my resolve to start putting God first,  and I actually managed to kick some major temptation tuckus. Don't get me wrong, I still give into temptation...but it's been getting easier for me to say no to this particular temptation these days. Okay, small confession, I did take some biochemistry notes to read on my walk to mass and back. However, I did not even think about even sneaking a peek during mass. This was my time with God and, needless to say, it was the best time I had last weekend. Tired as I was, I was somewhat refreshed by the time mass was over and I even made the time to kneel before Christ after mass and pray for the strength to go on for that week and the courage to face my doubt. It must have worked because by Sunday night, I had 5 sections finished...more than I did the weekend I skipped mass. After Sunday, I worked on one section per day until Thursday night.

During all of this time, I kept praying. As corny as it was, I even helped get myself  ready for each section by watching this video before each section. Huge thanks to Defend Us In Battle for posting it....I bet you never realized how much I needed it when you shared it. 
Praying certainly helped my doubts disappear. As crazy as it sounds, even the idea of failure wasn't too bad. I figured that if this happened, I would simply take the summer off and walk the Camino de Santiago to figure out my next path in life. That's still my plan if I bomb the final and fail out of school. Initially, failure felt imminent due to my inability to complete the exam...and my fear of failure. I conquered these fears. Though failure due to bombing the exam is still a potential reality, I conquered the fear associated with this reality. If I do fail, I leave it up to God and am certain that He will take care of me in some way. If my 20 year old self could hear me now, she'd think that I was crazy. However, though life is certainly more difficult than it was when I was 20...I've been better able to handle everything with this type of thinking.

Yet, praying through this exam certainly became an opportunity for me to test my commitment to God's plan and my trust in God. In fact, at the end of my exam....before I returned to Facebook, before I started painting, and before I put on some Doctor Who...I prayed again. This time, it was a prayer of Thanksgiving. I prayed the "Divine Mercy" chaplet and contemplated what it meant to truly trust in Jesus Christ. You know what? I think it worked this time. My inner "doubt demon" has been conquered (at least as far as biochemistry and school is concerned) and I am having an easier time leaving everything up to God. 

The hair I didn't lose throughout this exam can attest to this.
Pax Vobiscum

The Catholic Science Geek's To Watch List

My boyfriend is a film he probably has a better idea of what makes a "good movie." My idea of a good movie, however, should be taken with a grain of salt. I have a few movie formulas I use when determining what movies I will make an effort to go see. Not too many movies make the final I usually just wait for it go on TV or DVD until I see it. My few exceptions are: any movie with hobbits, Harry Potter, any movie that's playing in a foreign country I happen to be visiting, and whatever movie I get dragged off to see whether I want to or not. If a movie is good, I will watch it twice (or more) once it's out...and even fewer movies ever make this cut (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes, and 300). I think the last movie I saw in theaters was either the Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter...and before was Romeo and Juliet (which I was dragged to while vacationing in Portugal).

Normally, I don't get excited about movies...but this year there appears to be quite a few movies that I cannot wait to see. Consider this well-deserved, free, and not-so-random advertising because...well...they seem to be Catholicish and are, therefore, appropriate to post about (in my opinion at least).

There Be Dragons seems to be a pretty cool comes out TOMORROW (MAY 6th), but I won't be allowing myself to watch it until my biochem exam is over (I get it tomorrow....)

Cristiada seems to be too awesome for words...nothing like fighting a good fight. It's currently in post production and should be coming out sometime this year (not sure when...). I will certainly make an effort to see this one considering that one of the themes here is "Viva Cristo Rey!"

And then there's The Way. My sister got to see a preview screening of it during this year's FOCUS conference and she came back raving about it. On a side note she also got the chance to meet Martin Sheen and Emilio Estivez at this conference, but she chose Eucharistic adoration instead. That's how awesome she is...choosing Christ over rubbing elbows and taking pictures with celebrities. (I think she deserves an honorable mention for the Cool Catholic award just for this especially since she doesn't brag about it). I looked it up and it seemed worthwhile. We want to take this journey one day (El Camino de Santiago) so this movie seems pretty awesome. It comes out September 30, 2011 according to IMDB....(May 13th in Ireland and the UK...already released in Spain)

All I can say is THANK GOD there's religious themed movies coming out that don't suck and don't have anything to do with Dan Brown and all that "Angels and Demons" nonsense. In case you're wondering, my problem with Angels and Demons is that fact that it's a watered down version of "Holy Blood Holy Grail." Holy Blood Holy Grail is an okay book if you like reading all sorts of heresy, conspiracy theories, mystery, occult knowledge, secret societies, and all that other hoopla for fun. However, I really don't like it when people who don't know any better start treating this stuff like the truth...and acting like they're somehow "in the know" because they read these books without researching any of the material themselves or really understanding Catholicism to begin with.....
 *Catholic Facepalm*

I mean, let's face it...I'm Catholic and even I don't know 100% of everything my religion encompasses. 

In any event, these movies look great and I cannot wait to check them soon as my biochem final is over. In case you're wondering, I get it tomorrow and will be working on it nonstop until next Friday.

Pax Vobiscum

The Rosary: Way More Than Just 50 Hail Marys

Today I realized that it worked. Praying the rosary worked. Contemplating those mysteries every morning worked. I didn't necessarily "get" something (new pony, or whatever else kids these days pray for). I didn't exactly get a huge questions answered. However, I realized today that I had changed. It was all so gradual. In fact it was too gradual for me to even notice. Yet it happened: Our Blessed Mother brought me closer to God through prayer.

Our Blessed Mother definitely knew how much we needed it.

As far as prayer goes, it's been a rocky road. As a kid, I had a touch of OCD (by a touch, I mean a lot of it) and I would dread praying every night because it meant repeating prayers over and over again until I got them completely right. As I grew older, this need for perfection ceased and was replaced by staying up until the late hours of the night reading as opposed to prayer. I would often forget to pray at night or I would lazily tell myself that I would do it later. As I got older, prayer seemed to lose a lot of its relevance. I even remember becoming an nihilist for a good minute or so upon reading some of  Nietzsche's work. This belief system didn't last long because that minute or so was the darkest and most terrible minute I had ever experienced until that point. (Perhaps one day I will share my "dark night of the soul," but until then, let's just assume that this was the worst.) Now imagine what it would be like to suddenly have everything around you become meaningless and empty...that's how I felt and it wasn't a good feeling, so I never strayed from Catholicism ever since even during my rebellious years.

By the time I was in high school, I prayed irregularly (sometimes every other day, sometimes after several days, etc). Sometimes I convinced myself that it would bee too much wasted time. Sometimes I only prayed more out of a sense of obligation than an act of faith. Sometimes,I prayed mechanically and almost like a robot. Sometimes, I prayed because I felt guilty for ignoring God for so long (regardless of the length of time it had been between prayers). My conscience was tearing me apart the whole time, trying to knock some sense into me, but I kept telling it that I would one day focus on my prayer life, once I got everything else out of the way (school, studying, and any other excuse you can think of). I kept listening to the excuses and praying infrequently all the way through college. It didn't help that I lived with two other people and was never comfortable praying in front of other I turned into a prayer ninja that prayed when no one was watching. Needless to say, prayer was not frequent. Looking back, I am sure neither of the roommates would have minded having such a Catholic roommate praying the room...but I was so self-conscious. Well, as a grad student, I started making more of an effort to pray. However, I still ended up skipping here and there and then ending up weeks without really praying. 

A year ago, I would have outwardly scoffed at this crazy idea that praying the rosary on a daily basis was possible....but inwardly I would have wondered about it. How in the world would I ever have time to pray 50 hail Marys, contemplate scripture, and throw in all those  intentions at the end every morning? This was something that only nuns had time for! Yet, once I started, I found myself getting more and more serious about my prayer life...and praying a lot more. I mean, ever since I was a child, I would say 10 prayers at most when praying on my own and then call it quits. That's it. I'm done. My duty is finished. 

However, as I've been praying the rosary on a daily basis...things have changed. I pray a lot more without worrying about how much time it's taking or how many other things I could be working on. When I pray now, I try to avoid thinking about daily things in order to focus on the mysteries. For about half an hour of each day, my time becomes God's time, Christ's time, the Holy Spirit's time, and the time of all the saints and angels that I ask intercessions from. I have even started trusting in God through prayer to the point where I put prayer in front of the project I have due in half an hour that I have to practice for. Just last Thursday, I was tempted to put a project before prayer. I was tempted to sleep on the train (since I had stayed up working on the project) or go over some slides on the train in order to turn my ride to school into an official one. Yet, a voice within me told me to put prayer first. For one of the first times in my life, that's exactly what I did. 

The voice told me that my praying the rosary every morning was not just what I needed to do, but just what other people needed to see. And, guess what? As soon as I finished praying, something happened for the first time in all the months I had been taking the train. An older gentleman leans over his worn, dog-eared Bible (which he reads every time I see him on the train) and kindly asked me if it was the rosary that I prayed daily. I was able to honestly answer him with a moderately enthusiastic yes. Turns out the voice was right about my prayers not going unnoticed (by God as well as other people). 

 Praying really started turning into a gift, a comfort, and a means of communication. It's a lot more than just 50 Hail Marys...and it certainly doesn't feel like 50 Hail Mary's anymore. It's much more than that now. It's no longer a form of "sucking up" to God. It's no longer an obligation, nor was it a form of penance for whatever sins I committed in the meantime. Prayer has turned into quiet time with God. I can take the time to tell him about everything that's on my mind, and He takes the time to listen. I can also thank and praise him during this time. In time, I have discovered that I feel peace through prayer and have found myself at peace a lot more these days than I have been since I was a child. On top of this, I find it harder and harder to slip into temptation. I am now better able to stop myself from thinking half of the grumpy thoughts I think when I get cut off on the Turnpike. I am more patient. I am more empathetic. I understand the importance of God's word and God's will more than I ever have in my entire life. I have gotten better and letting things go, letting grudges fizzle into nothingness, avoiding some sins altogether, and even loving unconditionally.  Also, I am beginning to understand what it takes to truly be a saint-in-training. 

It's a tough road ahead, but it looks like I know how to get there now. I know what it takes and, for the first time in my life, I am ready for it. I am ready for the troubles ahead...because I got a pretty great crowd cheering me on from the sidelines. The scary part is, I am beginning to understand Catholic teachings a lot more these days and am taking things a lot more seriously in terms of religion and faith. With that said, I have hit a "point of no return" so to speak in the sense that I now know better than to do half the things I used to do  as a foolish teenager or person in their early 20s. I have also hit that point where I have found myself yearning to know more and actively pursuing more knowledge about my faith and everything it involves. Forget saving God for later, I am living for Him now and finding peace these days because of it. I have come to the conclusion that I am closer to God now than I have ever been in my older life. In fact,  I no longer need anyone to wish me good luck on my spiritual journey...because I now know where I am going and I know just how to get there...or who to ask for directions at least. It's going to be tough and there will be parts of it that I won't like, but I know it will be worth it. Also, I know that it is making me a better person along the way  by strengthening my faith and improving my relationship with God. This, I am beginning to see, is what truly matters.

I truly thank God for the rosary and for all the revelations I have been gifted with during my months of prayer. With this said, I am truly grateful for the rosary as well as that nagging conscience that told me to pray the rosary more often. I truly hope that everyone out there gives the rosary a chance. Trust me, only good things can come out of praying the rosary....I know because I am living it. 

Pax Vobiscum

Divine Mercy...even for the bad guys

I just read that  Bin Laden has been captured and killed. I expect it will be all over the news tomorrow. Truth be told, one of my first reactions was "They just killed him....? 10 tears later, and that's it?" Call me crazy, but I took pity on him...a small, tiny, almost imperceptible bit of pity...but pity nonetheless. You can call me crazy, anti-American, communist, etc. etc. etc....but the fact remains that I felt bad for him (a tiny, tiny bit bad for him). Don't get me wrong...I certainly feel A LOT more pity for those I know...the good guys who have died at the hands of the cruel, terrible people out there. However, the fact remains that I do not wish death on anyone anymore. I would have preferred to see Bin Laden spending the rest of his days in prison doing some sort of menial labor and, hopefully, changing his heart for the better and seeking forgiveness for his atrocities.

I am not one to judge you for hating these guys if you do. You have every right to do so. These men are responsible for so many innocent deaths, so many atrocities, so much cruelty. I don't blame you if you ever wanted to see terrible, terrible people like these guys tortured mercilessly until they died in slow, agony. I don't blame you if you wish these people would rot in hell for all eternity. I understand where you are all coming from because I have been there. I have been that person who called for the death penalty when it came to Timothy McVeigh...even though I was a kid at the time. I have been that person who stared at the television, wondering when a child-killing sex offender would be caught so that he could be killed for the greater good of mankind. I have been that person who would have gladly wished for the deaths of every terrible person there ever was...just so the world could be a better, safer place. Then it all changed over time.

One of the hardest things for me to swallow when it came to changing myself for the better, was this need for forgive. I used to scoff at people who could forgive their sister's murderer and wonder how many years of therapy it would take for these people to come to their senses. I used to think these people were crazy. How in the world could they ever forgive the people who had taken someone they loved away from them?

I don't know when my mind changed because it was extremely gradual. It started with a passing thought and grew over time. What is forgiveness? Can people truly change if given the chance? Are killers born or are they a product of the world that raises them? What if I was the one born on the other side of the tracks? What if I had been raised by someone like that? Would I have become this  terrible person? Could I ever bring myself to commit such terrible acts? If so, could I ever find forgiveness? Could I bring myself to the point where I would seek forgiveness? Would I truly change for the best once I found this forgiveness. I'm pretty sure that God takes all of these questions and so many more into account when it comes to our final judgment.

People don't realize this too often, but one of the toughest things to accept about our faith is "Divine Mercy." This idea that anyone who asks for God's mercy will not be turned away. While Divine Mercy may make us a little more comfortable about our own may make us uncomfortable when it comes to the salvation of those we deem too cruel or terrible to ever be forgiven. It makes us wonder what we would do if we ever come across these terrible people in heaven. Terrible people who, at the last minute, sought God's mercy at the time of their death. People who found the same salvation we found after we lived our entire lives striving to follow Christ's example. How could they possibly deserve heaven when we worked so much harder at it?

Yet, the truth remains. We could never deserve heaven ourselves if we refused to accept these terrible people in heaven. You see, if God was able to accept these people then we had better be able to accept them as well. God knows our hearts and the hearts of others and if He forgives these people...then we should forgive them as well. This idea is a tough pill to swallow....The idea that terrible, terrible people may also find the salvation that we seek.

Pax Vobiscum