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Divine Mercy Boot Camp

As I hinted in a previous post, I went to confession this past week and I have to say that it was one of the best confessions I've ever had. Part of the reason I say this is because the padre confessing me KNEW EXACTLY what I needed. I'm talking the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Truth be told, I have been interested in praying this chaplet for some time now. However, I kept putting it off until it was forgotten. Life kept throwing clues at me and I kept brushing them off. My sister gave me a nice prayer booklet for the chaplet some time ago and it was placed on my drafting table...only to be forgotten for months on end (in an ever increasing pile of scientific papers, junk mail, and countless sheets of desktop calendar dragons). I had an inner yearning to improve my prayer life and kept seeing Divine Mercy images in my mind. I temporarily quelled this hunger for prayer life improvement by adding a small prayer at the end of each decade of the rosary:

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love You.
I implore pardon for those who do not believe,
do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You. 
Most Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -
I adore You profoundly and i offer You
the most precious Body, Blood,
Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ,
present in all the tabernacles of the world,
in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges,
and indifferences by which He Himself is offended.
And by the infinite merits
of His Most Sacred Heart
and those of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I beg You for the conversion
 of poor sinners. Amen.

As close as this prayer was to the message behind the Divine Mercy Chaplet, it was not the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It is still a beautiful prayer, but I needed more. To make a long story short, I kept putting off the Divine Mercy Chaplet because I felt that I did not have the time for it. This all changed during my confession. 
You see, this padre was somehow able to look into my soul and see what I needed to do in my personal religious life. The first thing he told me was that I needed to see Jesus more often....through the sacrament of reconciliation. He explained the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and essentially repeated everything my conscience had been telling me for months. I need to receive the Eucharist far more often than once or twice every few months. My spiritual life was becoming dusty and full of cobwebs. It needed more activity...more effort on my part. Fortunately, this padre told me everything I would need to do to give my soul the spiritual feast it was hungering for...the awakening I needed. It was almost like he smacked some sense into me from the other side of the confessional screen. He made me realize that I had been ignoring the yearnings that the Holy Spirit had instilled within me. He made me realize that even though I knew what my spirit needed, I was ignoring its needs in favor of fear, weakness, and lack of self-discipline. This padre was just that good...

For God did not give us a spirit of fear; but of power and love and discipline.- Timothy 1:7

I was afraid to pray the chaplet on top of the rosary and all of my other daily prayers because it would mean spending more time to pray. I'm strapped for time as is, so I listened to this fear because I was weak. I was under the impression that I was limited in my time and abilities to "pray without ceasing." I knew what my medicine was and as much as my spirit craved it, I refuse to take it. All of my excuses were pathetic...I know this now. However, for several months, I clung to these excuses as if they were a lifeline. I already prayed enough, right? No. If my spirit is longing for more prayer, that is a sure sign that I need more prayer in my life. Here's the kicker, I love prayer and it is the most relaxing part of my day. Why was I, therefore, avoiding it? Laziness, fear, and a lack of self-discipline. Perhaps, even temptation.

On a personal level, I am not too familiar with this priest. However, he seemed to know me and what I needed to do with my religious life. Perhaps it was the  first-class Padre Pio relic he had with him. Word on the street is that Padre Pio was quite the confessor, with the ability to look into the soul of the penitent. I believe I had such an experience this past weekend. At one point during the confession, I could not help but thank him "Telling me exactly what my soul needed to hear today." He helped me realize that I had been called to go to confession this past Saturday by a Spirit that had been calling me there for months. I had been called to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet...and I had been called to go to Confession at least once every week. I was just too stubborn, stupid, and afraid to listen.

At penance, this padre prescribed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, three times a day before each mealtime for an entire week. This turned out to be easier than I thought...and a great experience. The padre also prescribed my going to confession (with a shorter list of sins) within a week....this turned out to be tough. It was tough to avoid temptation considering just how much temptation is out there once you open your eyes. Penance aside, he also suggested that I shorten my list of sins and consider going on a pilgrimage to fan the spark within me....that will become a blazing fire if I fan it enough. He helped me realize that God has great things planned for me and that I have to work for them and start listening to the yearnings in my heart and the hunger in my soul for something greater. He helped affirm what I already suspected but was too afraid to believe...

That I am a lazy and timid visionary who needs to shake off my inner weaknesses and fears. 
That I am a part of the New Evangelization.....
That I cannot keep a blog like this one if I cannot change my own life for the better. 
That I am being drawn to something that I should love beyond all trepidation...something that deserves far more time in my day and far more effort on my part. 

My inner time management nut was appalled at the idea of how much time I would have to invest in penance this week. My inner sinner cringed at the thought of having to go to confession again within a week. Yet, my inner saint rejoiced. More prayer time with God! More effort to sin less during this week! More self-discipline! In the end, the saint won and I feel that the Divine Mercy chaplet has helped me do so much within these past 7 days. I became more aware of how impatient and judgmental I can be with other people. I have realized that I need to be more forgiving. I have also realized that God is far more merciful than He gets credit for. It's finally starting to sink in...the amount of love God has for us...the perfection of this love...and the authenticity of this love. God truly loves us regardless of how many times we mess up and how badly we mess up. He's still trying to get us to come back...because He knows us far too well and loves us far too much to ever give up on us. Jesus suffered and died for us....not because we were lost causes...but because of God believes in us and is convinced that we, though imperfect, are worth the trouble. 

That's right, regardless of what the world (and evil in general) tries to tell you, you are not a lost cause. Someone up there loves you and will always love you. This past weekend was just another example of how God loves us. He knew exactly what I needed, even though I refused to do what was best. He did not give up on me...even when I was slowly giving up on myself and the growth of my spiritual live. Instead, He gave me everything I needed to come to Him. He filled me with a yearning to be with Him, the courage I needed to follow Him, and hope. On top of this, He offered me mercy...and this is one of the best gifts I am learning to give as well as receive.

Pax Vobiscum

Veils by Lily Mantilla/Chapel Veil Giveaway

Okay, I am going to have to keep this brief because I still have so much more studying to do before  my biostatistics exam tomorrow. However, I came across this link via Crescat and had to about great timing. If anyone out there feels like they are being called to wear the Chapel Veil or Mantilla to mass (as I have been), this is a great opportunity to win a free veil. Veils by Lily is giving away a free veil to one lucky entrant (any veil worth up to $67). Please see the information below...
Mantilla Giveaway!I am pleased to announce Veils by Lily's very first mantilla giveaway! Enter for a chance to win any oneVeils by Lily mantilla of your choice (up to a $67.00 value). You may browse all mantillas here. Anyone may enter--including men wishing to gift this veil to a loved one. If you are thinking about veiling but are undecided, please do enter as well! To enter, please leave a comment below. To earn a single additional entry, post about this giveaway on Facebook or your blog, or send an email about it to family and friends (and let me know in your comment!). Comments will be open until 11:59 pm on Tuesday, August 2. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, August 3. *Please make sure I have a way of contacting you if you are the winner!* UPDATE: I thought this comment from a male visitor was just wonderful, so I'm posting it here for all to see! Would love to win this as a BDay gift for my girlfriend... who's also my wife. We debated the whole "to veil or not to veil" issue and finally said, who cares if people think we're being goody twoshoes... God knows we're imperfect and so does our confessor! Ha! Anyhow, we LOVE your veil and I am SO proud of my wife. She is young and vibrant and in love with Jesus so it's such an awesome testimony that veils aren't for old italian grannies, they are meant to accentuate the glory of womenhood and sanctity. Thanks to all you women who love God so much and Lily for the awesome veils.
I took a quick look an have to admit...they look stunning and what better way to get into a very beautiful tradition than by winning one of these beautiful veils. Therefore, if you are still thinking about it, just enter in the contest and see what happens. Who knows? You may just win and become part of an increasing number of ladies out there who are immersing themselves in a beautiful and absolutely wonderful tradition. I will post more about my own mantilla experience soon enough...but until then, a link to this giveaway! May the best saint-in-training win!!!

In case you want to revisit some of my older mantilla posts...
My first post on Mantillas with my reasons behind my choice to wear one....

My second post on Mantillas 30 minutes before I wore one to mass...

At some point following this biostatistics exam, I will post about my experience wearing a veil to mass for the first time...but until then, best of wishes on the contest!

Pax Vobiscum!


Title: Young Lady Wearing a Mantilla and Basquina
Artist: Francisco de Goya
Yesterday, I intended to leave my place to go study and do some biostatistics in the library. I never made it to the library. Instead, I found myself driving to a monastery and praying the rosary in a chapel. I prayed in silence and it was quite a peaceful experience, watching grown men and women walking into the chapel to pray and then walking out one by one. I finished around 1pm and then realized that there were confessions going on at 2. To make a long story short, I ended up doing some biostatistics homework outside on a parkbench as I waited for 2pm. At 2pm, I got in line for confession behind two sisters, 2 young adults, and an older Filipino man that would fall asleep, wake up, fan himself, and fall asleep again. Mind you, it was one of the hottest days of the year and there was no air conditioning in the tiny room where we waited. I, having nothing better to do, pulled out my rosary and prayed it again. As I waited, more people (a few sisters included) kept coming in. Some of them even prayed the rosary as they waited. My inner Catholic rejoiced at seeing so much faith in one day.

I will most likely post about my confession later because it was one of those life-changing confessions that will, most likely, result in the improvement of my prayer life and a future pilgrimage. I will, for now, just mention that my act of penance is to go to confession again next week (the padre caught on to my bad habit of going once or twice a year) and to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet 3x a day for the rest of the week. Again, I will have to write about this later considering how much I want to write about it and how little time I have now. (Mass is in less than an hour and I DO NOT want to miss this padre's next homily.)

After mass, I went to the chapel gift shop and did something I had been meaning to do, but been too afraid to do for some time now....I bought a mantilla. I bought 4 of them, actually (2 black and 2 white) because my sister had been wanting a mantilla as well. Today is the day I'M GOING IN. Considering that this mass is a Latin mass and that one or two women already wears one, it won't be too out of the it may be the best place to get used to wearing one.

On similar note, like a child that just got a new pair of shoes and wants to try them out before the first day of school....I tried out my mantilla. I have to tell you, the mantilla almost makes me look like a saint. Considering that I'm a saint-in-training, I have to say that looking the part may just help me act the part a little better. I'm really glad I followed my heart yesterday, even it it means a little extra biostatistics today.

Now I'm off to mass.

Pax Vobiscum

Pray for China, Pray for Norway, Pray for Peace

Why Should You Go To Mass? Reason III: A Great Homily > A Bad Sola Scriptura Session

Some may argue that the Bible has all of the answers they need. I believe that it does, depending on whether or not it's used correctly. However, I do not believe that everyone is capable of using the Bible correctly....and I know that I am one of those people. I've read passages in the Bible and even have a sweet copy of the Biblia Sacra in Latin/English translation that would be the envy of any Pre-Vatican II Catholic. However, I do not open it to search for answers whenever I am desperate for answers. I do not trust my own judgment to correctly interpret a passage on my own...without referencing something, looking up some history, asking someone like my dad, or consulting the friendly, neighborhood padre (padre is my term for priest if you're new here).

Also, regardless of how well I know a particular passage or individual in the Bible...I always find myself updating my understanding every time I hear a homily or read someone else's take on the same passage. Regardless of how well we know the Bible, I don't think the Bible is something that the vast majority of us can do on our own. I know what you're thinking now... "HERESY!" Before you cast any stones...let me share a true sola scriptura story...just so you understand where I am coming from.

I was a resident assistant throughout most of my undergraduate life. I had a few uber-Christian kids on the floor (as well as every other religion you can imagine). They used to hold bible studies in the hallway of my floor. It was kind of cool, to some degree, seeing all these college kids reading the Bible and living their faith (denominational or non-denominational). A good number of these kids could probably quote the Bible in their sleep....that's how learned they were in terms of reading scripture. In terms of interpreting was hit or miss. One example of this occurred when I was outside of my room one night, working on a painting (the lighting in the hallway was GREAT for painting). I overhear an argument and next thing I know, I'm listening in. At first it was just to make sure everything was okay...but then I could not help but keep listening. You see, it was one of the uber-Christian boys getting dumped by one of the uber-Christian girls. He was, as you can imagine, heart-broken and wanted to know why she had broken up with him. She replied that she had opened up the Bible and seen his name in the passage.

I don't know how she did it, but she somehow quoted the passage and manipulated its meaning in a way that made it sound like this chance Bible reading was a message from God....that she should break up with the guy. Mind you, these two kids weren't just some Bible-illiterate shmucks. They probably read the holy book more often than I've cracked open my Molecular Ecology book (which has more Post-its and hand-written notes in it than printed this is saying a lot). However, I feel that this whole situation was a Catholic-facepalm-inducing-mother-of-all-epic-failure case of how Sola Scriptura is not for everyone because not even a few weeks went by before this girl was with another guy...much to the chagrin of the other fellow (and my lack of surprise).

If you have a theology degree, thoroughly researched the history behind each book of the bible, are fluent in Aramaic (as well as ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew), graduated top of your class from a seminary, and have spent your entire life in a library researching the meaning of every word and passage in the Bible...then Sola Scriptura may work for you. However, you are an exception in a growing population of people who simply do not know how to read the Bible. Let's face it, not all of us are born to be philosophers or theologians. Not all of us really have the time (or the guts) to pull a Saint Benedict and escape our worldly lives in pursuit of a contemplative life as a hermit. Some of us, myself included, fall into all of these categories. We may not have the mind to find all the answers we need. We may also lack all of the time needed to figure out all of the questions we have. We may have a variety of other reasons that would ultimately lead to Sola Scriptura failure.

Fortunately, however, we have a few options. As you may have guessed, one of these options is mass.

Before I continue about mass, I will briefly talk about the other option...which I like to view as the "Cliff's Notes" to better understanding everything from the Bible to the Holy Trinity. Consider this...there are people out there whose profession is centered on the Bible and all sorts of other theological goodies. There are people out there that HAVE spent most of their lives in contemplative prayer. There are people out there that HAVE a better understanding than we do about what it means to live a holy life. More importantly, there are other people out there that have sought the  answers to the same questions we have today...and published their findings. There are Theological Cliff's Notes written by countless people over the course of the past 2000 years (and beyond). These religious folk devoted a great deal of their lives and genius to figuring out some of the passages of the Bible that are too difficult for the common lay man to understand. It's almost unbelievable just how much theological gold you can find out there if you are willing to read the works of a few saints or saints-in-training.

Think about it, a rich history of religious folk that have already figured out a lot of the hard stuff for us already...whether its difficult Bible passages or any one of countless complicated doctrines...Talk about a sweet deal! Call me crazy or just plain lazy, but the thoughts and research of other people who share my faith has certainly worked wonders when it came to improving my faith. A few of my favorites (finished and unfinished) are JPII's "Theology of the Body," C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity," and Gabriele Amorth's works. For some extremely uplifting, uber-Catholic, and very lightweight reading, I also recommend "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living Catholic Faith." Based on some of the paper's my sister's written about Papa Benedict's work...I would also highly recommend his stuff as well. I highly recommend Theological Cliff's Notes to anyone out there that is willing to improve their faith. 

Okay, back to mass. Don't get me wrong, the Bible has plenty of answers. However, I tend to use it more as a supplement than the sole teacher for my faith. Truth be told, I get more out of going to mass than I do cracking open the Good Book. I do read the Good Book when I get the chance and the idea to do so. However, I get much more out of it with mass....and some GREAT homilies. There are some homilies I have listened to that I will never forget...they were that good. I've had so many AHA!!! moments during mass after a padre or a deacon commented on one of the passages we had read during mass.

Don't worry, regardless of how awesome a homily may be, it never ends there. I often find myself looking up a saint that was referenced, a particular passage, or a historical, factual tidbits that I had previously not known. I also end up going back guessed it...the Bible. However, I usually go to the Bible more informed and better able to read and interpret it...almost like the padre has highlighted what needs to be highlighted, written some comments in the margins, and bookmarked where I need to go. Do I end up viewing everything in an identical fashion as the priest? No. However, I usually do come to appreciate everything I read a lot more...and understand everything a lot better

One of the reasons I like going to mass is the homilies because every time I think I understand a particular passage, some padre gets me thinking about it in a new way. He may may introduce me to something that I had overlooked or deemed too insignificant to consider. Sometimes the padre introduces a particular passage in a new light. Sometimes he gives a completely different or more detailed version of the passage than my drained PhD brain could ever come up with. In my opinion, these are typically the best homilies because tend to give me something new for my Catholic brain to chew on.

I have come across so many great priests in my lifetime and each one has had an effect on my religious life. In my experience (and I have listened to A LOT of priests), priests tend to know what they're talking about when it comes to the Bible...and they should know what they are talking about considering how much schooling they get and their life commitment to Christ. They know what they're talking about because they have to know...and because they were called for it. Not everyone is called to be a priest...and those that are, well, they're pretty special individuals. God called them because they had the capacity for it. God called them because He WANTED THEM to speak for HIM. He wanted them to spread the good word and to understand  the "why" and "how" behind every word they preach. Talk about responsibility. Yet, there are so many great men who are more than willing to devote THEIR ENTIRE LIVES to God and to His words.

Believe it or not, priests have to go through A LOT of schooling before they get to stand up there, in front of the church, and deliver a homily. They've studied for Bible-centered exams like I have studied for a biochemistry exam. They've spent countless hours eating, living, and breathing scripture as they sought to become priests. Considering how little they make and how much crap they get from the media (and the world in general) due to a few crooked padres over they years, they certainly don't do this for themselves. They do it for people like me and you. They dedicate so much of their own time, brain power, and other talents to us...the people who sit in the pews. They also do it for the people who don't sit in the pews.

"From the moment in which you proved yourselves to be unworthy of the Word of the Lord, look, I turn to the fish, to further confound your disbelief".

'Nuff said. 
I can only imagine how many times a priest has come to visit a hospitalized/home bound individual who didn't care for mass, priests, or even God until they became sick. In each case I've known, the padre came along with the same love and forgiveness as they would to a daily communicant. Same thing when it comes to weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Regardless of how many times you come to mass, my experience has taught me that all you have to do is knock before some padre comes to your spiritual rescue. I understand that my experience with clergy has been pretty great, so my views may be a little biased. However, regardless of how many crummy priests you have encountered, don't let those bad apples spoil the bunch. Search for another parish, a church in some other town, etc. until you find one of those fantastic padres with the AWESOME homilies. I assure you that your search will be worth it if you come across any priests that are half as awesome as the ones I have known through the years.

Who knows, you may even come across a padre whose homilies could rival those of Saint Anthony. Now here's a guy who knew what it was like to preach to a crowd that refused to listen. Thankfully, everyone eventually saw the error of their ways...after seeing how awesome a homily Saint Anthony could give a school of fish. Don't miss out on a homily that could change your life!!! ESPECIALLY if you, like me, know you pretty much stink at Sola Scriptura.

If you do know some good priests....what better way for you to thank them for all of their hard work and dedication...than attending mass? What better way to thank them for their commitment than paying attention to all the theological gold they wish to share?

If you don't know some good priests, keep searching and feel free to email me if you are willing to move to Jersey and listen to some very great homilies. If you can't move to Jersey, but still want a few great homilies...well, I do know a great padre who gives a great homily and tends to post them on his blog.

Pax Vobiscum

Pray for Norway.

As prolife as...the Hippocratic Oath

"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." 
-Mother Teresa

I walk by an abortion clinic whenever I walk to the train station on my way to school. Usually, in the morning, there is a small group of people silently praying, handing out pamphlets, or providing encouragement to desperate mothers as well as passersby. One day, as I was walking by, one of them tried to hand me a pamphlet. I stopped and looked the elderly woman in the eye, held up my own rosary, and said "No thank you, I already know." The woman smiled along with the gentleman beside her. "Just making sure. God bless you." I responded  with a "thank you" as well as a "God bless you," and continued on my way. Regardless of whether or not there are people outside of this clinic, I pray whenever I walk by. I usually say a prayer for the mothers that go in there, the children that are lost there or in danger of being lost there, and the practitioners that work there. I ask God to watch over the children and mothers. I also ask God to forgive the mothers and the practitioners as Christ once did "for they know not what they do."

The Hippocratic Oath is a code of ethics handed down from generation to generation of doctors since way before any of us were born. It is a code that physicians have lived by for millennia. It is a code that, crazy as it sounds considering the time it first came about, is pretty pro-life. I'm not a doctor, but I go to school with a lot of future physicians and take class with some people in medicine programs. Near the entrance to one of the buildings where I have class is a large plaque with the Hippocratic Oath. Sometimes it's tough to be prolife in a world that views euthanasia and abortion as beneficial to health and society. Therefore, whenever I pass by this plaque, I skim through the entire thing and look to make sure that the essentials aren't missing or taped over with fliers for Planned Parenthood or Dr. Kevorkian quotes. By "essentials," I mean the words that an alarming amount of healthcare providers tend to ignore as they practice medicine.

These words, however, are some of the most important parts of the oaths they took when they donned their white coats and promised to work for greater good...for the good of those in need of medical attention. Not the good of those who need to satisfy a certain voting demographic in order to win an election. Not the good of those who target minorities, the poor, the disabled, the elderly, and the unborn.

I've read enough books to know that certain words or messages will disappear over time if they are deemed to controversial, dangerous, or challenging. One of the first things to go in a dictatorial regime is the freedom of speech and the freedom to distribute words that question a dictator's authority or their practices. Sometimes I feel that the Hippocratic Oath will one day be edited so that it is no longer an oath designed to protect life...but an oath to protect the self-interests of those who view life as a commodity or inconvenience. Those seduced by the idea that some people don't have the right to live...that their life is somehow worth less than ours. To date, the words that have been there for generations are still there on the plaque...even though the oath is heavily edited when it comes graduation time. Our attitudes may have changed in the millennia since the oath was established...but the original message will always be evidenced by the plaque. It is my hope that our society will one day restore the "pro-life" message present in the original Hippocratic oath and treasure life.

If you aren't familiar with the Hippocratic Oath, feel free to read it over. If you think I've been talking crazy for the first few paragraphs of this post...and don't believe a word of it, please focus on the bolded, underlined words.
"I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement: 
To consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; To look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art.
I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyoneI will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman  pessary to cause an abortion. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.
I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners, specialists in this art. In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves.
All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal.
If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot."

Pax Vobiscum.

Why believe? Why be Catholic?

I bet you've all figured out by now that I'm Catholic.

I enjoy going to mass. I pay attention during homilies. I never leave for school without my rosary, several holy cards in my wallet album, and my growing collection of 17 medals/crosses. I have more holy cards than I have Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter merchandise combined. Considering that I sleep on a Legolas pillow, snuggle in a Harry Potter comforter, have a wall showcasing 15 of  my favorite Lord of the Rings Characters, and placed a large Legolas cutout at the foot of my bed (elves never sleep, making him the best guard against would-be intruders)...that's saying a lot.

Yes, I know that holy cards, rosaries, pendants, and crosses are not good luck charms. THEY'RE MUCH BETTER THAN THAT. They are protection. They are reminders. They are signs of hope. They are pieces of of a faith I don't completely understand and they keep the faithful close to me...Not just any faithful, but the faithful that have made it. These are the faithful that walked on the same dirt we walk on now...and breathed the same air we still breathe. Though they lived as we live, they housed the Holy Spirit and they made it to heaven. Though they were made of flesh and blood, they achieved a holiness that we can only strive for in this life. They intercede for us, they watch over us, and they cheer us on as we continue to stumble and struggle to get back up. I carry these cards and medals with faith and the knowledge that I got a whole army up there watching over me...rooting for me whenever the world throws me a curve ball. 

When I pray, I pray knowing that someone is listening to me. I get goosebumps during communion because I feel 2000 years-worth of saints joining us when everyone goes up to receive the Eucharist. I feel Christ's presence during Eucharistic adoration. Sometimes, when I close my eyes I feel him in the room with me and see him seated before me and inviting me to sit with him. He never demands and he never ignores me regardless of how many people may be in the room adoring him alongside me. He simply invites me to stay with him and simply love him. There's no complicated formulas here, no qualifying exams...not even any biostatistics exams. The whole world continues to exist, but I no longer feel like I am a passenger on some planet rotating on its axis and revolving around the sun. I feel like I am part of something much grander than the universe as we know it...more complex, but still simple and far more just than physics and natural selection would have us believe.

Carving from Notre Dame Cathedral. I am no art expert, but I think this scene explains itself.
The people standing beneath Jesus (on the left beside the angel with the scales are the ones that made it.
They're the ones praying for us now. The other guys to the right, by the looks of it, are not so fortunate.
With faith, I no longer feel like I am a mere collection of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and all those other atoms my physical body is comprised of. I feel like a work-in-progress (aka Saint-In-Training) with the potential to be something much greater. I feel like someone who may one day get the opportunity to stand before God and give an account of what I did with my life. This thought may scare some, and it scares me to some degree. However, it is one of those thoughts that brings me the most comfort and it is one of those thoughts that challenges me to do the most that I can in this life. It challenges me to love unconditionally and find the courage to stand up for what is right regardless of whether or not there's something in it for me. I am part of a faith that calls for social justice in a world where putting our own needs ahead of others is not only accepted but encouraged. I am part of a faith that challenges me to be a voice for those who cannot speak, let alone defend themselves. I am part of a faith that challenges me to ignore my physical wants in order to attain self-discipline, patience, empathy, selflessness, and charity. I am part of a faith that calls me to put others before me and a faith where a trait like humility has more worth to it than all of the riches of the world.

I cry during mass sometimes because he loves me. He loves me even though I'm a terrible, imperfect human being who makes more mistakes than I should be allowed to make. And I love him, not only because he forgives me, but because he will not settle for anything less than my best. He will never give up on me until I achieve that best...and because of this, I got a shot. I honestly have a shot at being the best person I can be. I may even have a shot at responding to Christ's call for me to join him in everlasting life...

...and this is all only a very small part of the reason why I believe and why I am Catholic.

Pax Vobiscum

The Slacker's Guide to Prayer

Words cannot express how much I've given up on my computer right now. I had a beautiful post...that disappeared as I was fixing it. Thankfully I was able to take screenshots of the post (had it up in the "preview" window) before Blogger's automatic saving led to a mass delete of for a link. As unorthodox as it may seem, I cannot bring myself to retype everything right now and will give you the screenshots instead. I hope it works out...and if it doesn' apologies for all of the screenshots. As you may very well guess, it has been one of those weeks. I will probably retype everything at a future point, when this computer decides to cooperate. Until then, I hope you can bear with me.

Not Quite What I Expected...

You can say that I spent this 4th of July in a very not-so-American fashion. I did not eat apple pie. Instead, I drank tea. I did not watch fireworks today. Instead, I spent the entire day watching BBC's Merlin (a British programme...oh dear, I even spelled program like Brit). Instead of listening to Bruce Springsteen or any other uber-American musicians....I listened to "U2 Live at Slane Castle." Our forefathers would be ashamed of my Anglophilia and my love of all things Ireland.

Besides watching television, I also caught up on some painting. Normally, I don't have too much time on my hands. This often leads to my having quite a few unfinished paintings on my hands. This past Friday, I tackled a 2x4 foot painting that I intended to finish by Saturday for the feast of the Immaculate Heart. My painting was of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Immaculate Heart. The painting, still remains nowhere near finished. This is due to laziness on my end, my new Bed Bath and Beyond addiction, my latest interior decorating obsession, and a barbecue invite (okay...maybe this is a tad Fourth of July-ish even if it took place on the wrong day).

Last night, I finished up a triptych that I had been working on (well, off and on) for several months. I painted until 2am this morning and I finished it. I call it "Beren and Luthien" after one of my favorite couples in the Tolkien universe (another blatant example of my Anglophilia). I added the varnish after I got up, ate breakfast, and prayed the rosary this afternoon (I woke up at 12...).

Since I already had my supplies out, I started on another nowhere-near-finished painting I had lying depicting St. Raphael defeating a demon (from the book of of my favorites). One thing led to another, and I soon realized that I was painting something completely different...something completely unexpected. Next thing I know, it was completed....and here it is.
"Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe" 
Acrylic on Canvas
Turns out I was not so unpatriotic today after all...

You see, Our Lady of Guadalupe (as I have since found out) is the Patroness of the Americas. Quite an unexpected...but still welcome surprise....and very appropriate. I guess this is proof that God draws straight with crooked lines...and maybe that I have redeemed myself for my slacking off this past Saturday. In any event, I may have even been a tad patriotic today after all.

With that said, happy Fourth of July America...may you prosper under the protection of Our Lady.

Pax Vobiscum

Marc: One of the Cool (Bad)Catholics

We sometimes like to call ourselves "good Catholics.” However, there comes a time in every Catholic's life where someone comes along and puts your Catholicness to shame. This other Catholic may be more pious or more learned in scripture, you name it. Whatever it is that they do, they're better at it than you are and they put your inner Catholic to shame. This Catholic may be an older woman, donning a mantilla and fingering her worn rosary beads each weekday during 7am mass (when the rest of the world is sleeping). This Catholic may even be a tattooed trucker who crosses himself and offers a prayer of thanksgiving before tucking in the "get a free t-shirt if you eat this within an hour" 72 ounce steak. 

No matter how comfortable we are in our faith, there's always that one person that comes along and makes us realize that we are not so awesome at being Catholic after all. This other person doesn't necessarily scare us into being better Catholics with "Sinners in the hands of an angry God" sermons. They have a more ingenious way of mortifying our pride and showing us that we pretty much can't hold a vigil mass candle to them when it comes to matters of faith. This other person teaches us by example. They are probably more vocal at defending the faith. They probably have a faith that is more steadfast than ours. They are better at taking care of the poor, sick, and needy than we are. They are probably better at resisting temptation. They are probably more charitable, humble, or kind than we are. They have probably experienced many of those moving religious experiences, conversions, etc. that we've only been able to read about. 

We know that there are plenty of Catholics that pretty much stink at being Catholic a lot more than we do...but these guys don't bother us as much as the "better" Catholics. You see, this "better" Catholic makes us take a good look at our lives and reevaluate a few things. This Catholic makes us realize that we still need a lot of improvement. This person makes us ask, "What can I do to make myself a better Catholic? What can I do to better live my faith?"  This person makes us realize that we're doing something wrong...that we're letting something like pride or fear hold us back from realizing our own potential. This "better" Catholic makes us leave our comfort zones...makes us becomes better. As much as we sometimes envy this other person and wish that we were as good at Catholicism as they are, we must grudgingly admit that people like this are the people that truly help up us strengthen our faith and live it more authentically. Darn these people. 

It is with great honor, that I present the Catholic Science Geek Cool Catholic award to Marc over at BadCatholic. Don’t let his humble “about me” description fool you.
The "better" Catholic that started it all...
(well, as far as this blog goes at least)
“Well, I'm 18, I like Modest Mouse, I wash a lot of dishes and get paid very little an hour for it. I'd like to write a column, perhaps for a newspaper, perhaps for a magazine. Anyone interested?
There’s a lot more to him than this. Trust me, I’ve been following his blog for some time now (first as a lurker, then as an “Awful Catholic,” and finally as a fellow blogger. He is wise beyond his 18 years and can school a heretic with the skills of Saint Anthony and the wit of Saint Lawrence. I don’t remember when I first started lurking on his blog, as I was getting acquainted to the Catholic blogger universe. However, I remember how his blog stood out and how it quickly became one of my favorites.  His blog also got me thinking about my own blog, or lack thereof. I had had plenty of ideas and experiences that I wanted to share with the world.

I wanted to be a witness to a faith so beautiful and misunderstood, but I was afraid to get a blog rolling. What if my humor was inappropriate? What if I unintentionally posted something heretical? What if I didn’t know enough about faith and religion to blog about it?  What would everyone else think about me as a blogging Catholic?  I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think anyone would want to read anything I wrote…and I had the sneaking suspicion that my writing was garbage. I certainly was nowhere near as holy as some of the blogging religious out there. I was also afraid. There aren’t too many scientists out there that willingly and publicly associate themselves with a particular religion. On top of that, religion normally doesn’t come across as one of the most entertaining or enjoyable blog topics. Yet, I was being called to it. I was being called to reach out to others and spread the good word.

The Bad Catholic blog helped ease a lot of my fears. The things Marc blogged about, were the things I thought about…things that were relevant to the younger Catholic crowd out there. After I had spent enough time stalking the Bad Catholic blog, I caught some of his enthusiasm…some of his courage, and just took a dive. I just went for it. I forgot my fears and just started typing, and I’ve been typing ever since (whenever they let me out of the lab). This blog has become a sort of therapy for me over these past few months and I am thankful for Marc and the other blogging Catholics who helped me ease into this rewarding experience. Between this blog and the rosary, I have gotten out of the “I think I’m a good Catholic” slump and have made quite a few steps in improving myself.

Marc, you made me feel like a crummy Catholic a few months ago when I first stumbled across your blog and realized just how little I was doing to spread the good word. Imagine how humbling an experience it was for me, a 25 year old PhD student so confident about my get shown up by a young whippersnapper who had done more for Catholicism in one blog post than I had done during my brief stint as a CCD teacher. Yet, I cannot help but feel thankful for that wake up call. Thanks in part to the faith you've shown and your extremely amazing writing skills (and accompanying wit), I started this blog. It's been a very rewarding experience and it has had a huge impact in my day to day life.  You're probably one of the coolest (and youngest) Catholic bloggers out there and you've proven yourself to be a true defender of the faith. Between your posts and your clever comment responses, you have proven yourself more than worthy of this Cool Catholic award…even if you are a “Bad Catholic.”

Behold! The glorious Microsoft Paint creation that is ...
The Cool Catholic Award
Bravo Marc, may you and others continue to show me up in all things that I may, in turn, become a better Catholic.

Pax Vobiscum

Why should you go to mass? Reason II: You already RSVP'ed

Flashback to my Sweet 16 party. Once upon a time, my parents decided to throw me a birthday party. Up until this point, I just celebrated my birthday with my family, cake, and champagne. Well, I celebrated my birthday with my family whenever my birthday was remembered. Between Christmas shopping and Christmas prep (or Hannukah prep), we December babies are normally forgotten . I'm not going to complain too much about this because, let's face it, my birthday is nowhere as significant as the celebration of Christ's birthday.

Okay, enough December Baby Syndrome, let's go back to my 16th birthday. We all decided to celebrate my birthday at this all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffet place. I know how classy that must sound, but it was a very nice and well-decorated place. Trust me on this one. It has since closed down (along with every other place in this complex. However, the food was phenomenal and the atmosphere was great. I got the perfect birthday invites (featuring a group of donkeys playing pin the bum on the human). I got the invites out relatively early so everyone could schedule accordingly and even picked a day that would not conflict with Christmas stuff. I even handed each invite out personally. I invited about 20 people and almost all of them RSVP'ed.

However, when the time came for my party...only 4-5  people came. Imagine sitting at the head of a huge table set for 20 odd people and  seeing only seeing a fraction of that table filled up. You can say I was a little hurt at first...but then made the best of it. Everyone had a great time and when I look back I remember more of the laughs than I do the disappointment.

"For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." -Matthew 18:20

The way I felt at my Sweet 16 party is probably an imperfect human version of what Christ (true God and true man) must feel every time he invites us all to mass and we don't show up. It must break his heart to see an empty pew instead of a family he knows and loves. Yet, Christ most likely rejoices when all the people attending mass read scripture, pray as a HUGE Catholic family, greet their neighbor, are forever changed by a great homily, go up to receive,  or kneel in contemplative prayer if they are not yet ready to receive (I’m normally guilty of this…).
The church where my mom used to go to mass as a child in Sobral de Sao Miguel, Portugal.
 Photograph taken after most of the people had filed out after mass.
I certainly felt a connection to her and many other saints here during mass.
Whenever we go to mass, we are united with everyone else that showed up as well (for that particular mass or a mass generations ago)….like one HUGE family that transcends time and space. Together, we not only pray for our own needs…but for the needs of those seated next to us or those sitting behind us. We don’t know exactly what they need…we just know that they have needs just like we do. Imagine what we must look like in the eyes of Christ. He does not see us as strangers, but as brothers and sisters who share the same Father…a community comprising only a small fraction of an even larger, universal community comprised of 2000 years-worth of saints and sinners. This, in the eyes of Christ, is a pretty big deal considering what he went through to make this community happen…what he continues to do to make this community thrive even for people that are too poor to build a church or too persecuted to be able to call a priest “Father ____."

 I know some of the skeptics out there are probably asking "Well, if you're so smart, when did I get the invite and when did I RSVP?" Consider baptism your invite. Christ invited you into his Church, your parents brought you over, and you were received into his Church. I know most of us were babies when we got the invite, and had no idea what was going on...but it's still the first step in a lifelong commitment to Christ. How can we RSVP as babies? Well, you really can't do much as a baby, which is why we get a chance to RSVP once we're older. Consider your first Holy Communion as an RSVP. 

You don't go through CCD just so you can wear a suit (or white, puffy dress) and then get blinded by flash photography as you receive the Eucharist for the first time. You don't go through CCD just because your parents made you. I know this is a dangerous lesson for kids to learn at too young an age, but your parents really can't force you to do anything. You can disappoint them and absolutely refuse to go through your first Communion. You can, hypothetically use any number of the tactics you used to get out of going to school.  If you kick and scream enough, I am sure that you could (hypothetically) get out of going through with it. Yet, I am sure, there's a need for all of us...even as kids, to go through with this. I remember wanting to be a part of the whole Catholic mystery that my parents seemed to know so much about. I remember wanting to go up and receive as a child, even before I was old enough or prepared enough to receive. I remember wanting to get involved. I remember a bit of a calling. I’m sure that a lot of Catholics out there remember a calling when it came to their first communion…a calling to greater things that we may still not completely understand.

We all like to think of ourselves as individuals, but we really are part of something much more infinite and wonderful than we could ever imagine. Whenever we got to mass, we get to experience something universal. You see, going to mass is a way for us to experience the Church in action. The Church isn’t just some huge white building in Rome, full of old men in robes. It is much greater than that. It is a living, breathing community comprised of every saint as well as saint-in-training led by God to something much greater than we can imagine. God send his son to Earth 2000 years ago so that he could invite us to become a part of His infinite, glorious plan for us. He wants to share this plan with us. He wants us to join Him in heaven. He wants to share His love with us. Christ has already invited us to be a part of this and we have already RSVP’ed. Yet, it’s up to us to make good on our word.
When you receive your first Eucharist, the priest invites you to receive the body of Christ. What do we say when we receive? AMEN. This “amen” demonstrates your knowledge and agreement that the Eucharist is the body of Christ. It also serves as an RSVP. By saying “amen,” you acknowledge that you are in Christ’s presence and that you have decided to welcome this presence in your everyday life. Coming to mass, you will see in my next post in this series, is absolutely necessary if you truly wish to be in Christ’s presence. Why? Two word preview: The Eucharist.

Pax Vobiscum