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A Catholic By Any Other Name...Except Rita

August 27, 2011   Hurricane Irene is currently battering NJ. The drizzle that began 7 or so hours ago upgraded to torrential downpour a few hours ago. I should probably be worried about flooding from the river down the street...and maybe the tornado warning...but I am actually feeling pretty okay. I know what you're thinking....what does a hurricane have to do with the title of this post? Not much...unless you know a little bit of my own history.

You see, I have a major confession to make....my parents were originally going to name me Rita.
**CRINGE**
August 28, 2011    Okay, now that the hurricane has simmered down and we're all safe and unscathed...back to posting.

No offense to any Ritas out there...but I still thank God that my parents changed their minds about my name. I have done so ever since I was a kid. One of my favorite shows from early childhood was Power Rangers, so the name Rita Repulsa will always bring to mind a screechy alien witch hell-bent on destroying the world. Screeching witches aside, I just cannot imagine being called Rita. The name just doesn't fit me at all. It's too short...too lame. (Okay, I just looked it up...apparently Rita could be the shortened version of a bunch of names like Margaret. In Sanskrit it means true or righteous....so maybe the name Rita does deserve some credit. Consider this as a small apology to all the people out there named Rita.)

So why is my name not Rita?
Gardens of Saint Barbara in the city of Braga, Portugal.
She's kind of a patron here too. Don't let the garden
fool you, because the city IS badass.

Well, I was a December baby. Apparently, on the day I was born, there was a massive winter storm going on. It was so massive, that my parents found themselves praying that everything would be okay and asking for Saint Barbara's intercession. As determined as they had been to name me Rita, they found themselves naming me after the patron saint of storms...Saint Barbara. Saint Barbara is the patron saint of all that is badass. Don't believe me? Just check out all the stuff under her patronage in the list below.

I copied this list from http://saints.sqpn.com/. This site is a great resource for those of us with enough time on our hands to look up saints, saint biographies, and even the patron saint of each US state...in essence it's like Wikipedia for saints. My favorite part about this site, besides its content, is that it refers to saints as "your extended family in heaven." That's a pretty accurate and sweet description of what saints are.

Saint Barbara with a BADASS SWORD!
The Badass Patronage List: Saint Barbara Edition 
against death by artillery - against explosionsagainst fire- against impenitence -against lightning -against mine collapse- against storms- Amaroni, Italy- ammunition magazines-ammunition workers-architects-armourers-artillery-artillerymen-Barbara, Italy-boatmen-bomb technicians-brass workers-brewers- builders- carpenters- Colleferro, Italy- construction workers- dying people- explosives workers- fire prevention- firefighters- fireworks- fireworks manufacturers- fortifications- foundry workers- geologists- gravediggers -gunners- hatmakers- hatters- mariners- martyrs- masons- mathematicians- military engineers- milliners- miners- Montecatini Terme, Italy- ordnance workers- Paterno, Sicily- prisoners- Rieti, Italy- safety from stormssailors- saltpetre workers- Santa Barbara, California- smelters- stone masons- stonecutters- storms- sudden death- Syria- tilers- Toa Alto, Puerto Rico- warehouses- watermen

For those unfamiliar with Saint Barbara, she was one of those earlier saints with a pretty crazy story. There are several versions to this story, each more epic than the last. I'm not sure how much of this story was true or fabricated, so I will stick to the basics. Essentially, she was born to a pagan father who locked her up in a tower because she was disobedient. Unbeknownst to her father, she became a Christian and had her tower designed so that it would have three windows (in order to honor each member of the Holy Trinity). Depending on the version of the story, either her dad got angry with her over an arranged marriage she didn't want to be part of...or he simply found out about her Christianity. In any event, he denounced her and she was tortured and killed (some versions of the story will tell you that it took quite a few attempts to kill her...by fire, being dragged by her hair, you name it...). Her father ended up beheading her and was then struck by lightning. Based on various elements of the story...you can see why she's patron of so many things. Some are a tad morbid. Getting beheaded and then becoming the patron saint of hatters...tad morbid. However, some are just plain badass. Obviously armourers, fortifications, explosions, and masons bring the battle of Helm's Deep to mind.... and anyone will tell you that this battle was pretty badass.

Lord of the Rings references aside, I am pretty sure that there's plenty of people who would agree that Saint Barbara is patron saint of some pretty badass people/places/things.  She is the patron saint of so many heroes...firefighters, martyrs, and bomb technicians to name a few. I really wonder how many of these people she's interceded for over the years. I imagine Saint Barbara must have been busy asking God to watch over so many people during some of our most terrible terrorist attacks. I imagine she's still pretty busy interceding for some of our men and women currently fighting abroad...those under enemy fire, mortar attacks, bomb threats, etc.

I may not be in the military or part of any of the professions under Saint Barbara's patronage, but I feel she's been looking out for me throughout the years too...along with so many other members of my extended family in heaven. She certainly must have been asking God on my behalf when I was born because I did end up making it to the hospital 25 odd years ago (patron saint against storms). She must have also interceded on my behalf, alongside Our Lady of Fatima, after I was born when the doctors told my parents to take me home because there was nothing else they could do to save my life (patron saint of the dying). I escaped death by drowning a few times, so she must have been looking out for me then as well (patron saint of mariners, watermen).

I may be a little biased here, but I think Saint Barbara is awesome and I have come to love my name as I have come to love her and everything she stands for. She's a pretty sweet role model who wasn't afraid to stand up for what was right. Not too many people today are willing to do as she did. Saint Barbara went so far as to stand up against her own father. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe in...especially if you find yourself standing up against family and friends. In those days, it took even more courage than this. You see, in her time (~3rd Century), standing up to your father could mean certain death. Fathers, under pater potestas were allowed to kill their children if the children displeased them in any way. I am a firm believer in standing up for what is right...but even I could never stand up to my father like Saint Barbara did...especially if my father was willing to kill me.

As far as names go, Barbara is a mouthful and it took me most of kindergarten to figure out that my name was not spelled "Barbarbara." Yeah, I may share the same name as Barbra Streisand (not a big fan of hers), Barbara Walters (never trusted her), Barbara Bush (...well, I suppose it could be worse)....and Hurricane Barbara  (of 1953, 1989, and 1995)...but I still can't imagine myself being anything but a Barbara. Barbara has turned out to be the perfect name for me.

On a side note, Barbara is derived from the Greek barbaros, meaning foreign or strange....the same root for the word BARBARIAN!!!!  How badass is that!?!? (Okay, this post has just used up its quota for the word "badass.") See, even more proof that the name fits.

Pax Vobiscum

Pray for those affected by Hurricane Irene.

A Touch of Catholic Science Geek Humor

As can be imagined, there are quite a few med school hopefuls in the lab. Every science program has at least one student that wants to go to med school. I've gotten to know plenty of med school hopefuls in the past 7 years. I've known med school hopefuls from all walks of life....from all sorts of backgrounds. I've known some that made it to med school ,some that haven't, and some that dropped out of med school once they made it and realized that medicine wasn't their cup of tea after all. Regardless of their intentions and backgrounds, med school hopefuls have one thing in common: they have to take the MCAT (the Medical College Admission Test). This exam is pretty arduous and tests your ability to write, think, and memorize a bunch of crap information you will probably never use in medical school. Essentially, from what I gathered, it is an arduous exam-based method of torture. It takes 5 odd hours (or 8, I'm not exactly sure), involves months (or years) of studying, and pretty much determines your chances of actually getting into medical school.

When I was an undergrad, I took a practice MCAT. This was during my first year of school...when I had NO IDEA about what I wanted to do with my life. I remember sitting in a small, cramped room with a huge stack of exam questions in front of me. I took one look a the exam, and spent the next 30 minutes pretending that I knew what I was doing. All the other students in the room were sweating, and had a look on their face that is normally reserved for life or death situations. I, on the other hand, pretended that I was some med school hopeful genius. I pretended to work through the problems, writing gibberish on scrap pieces of paper and looking pensively at problems I still wouldn't know the answer to....even with a few degrees under my belt. That was the day I finalized my decision that I would rather teach science than go to medical school. I'm not one to mindlessly memorize things and regurgitate them on a piece of paper. 

I was one of the few that gave up on medical school early on in my career. As a result, I wasn't affected by that dark cloud that tends to hang over every college science department whenever MCAT scores are returned. Furthermore, I ended up avoiding the heartache and stress associated with all the MCAT practice exams, the thousands of dollars-worth of MCAT practice books and classes. In short, I saved myself a lot of sleepless nights and hair loss. I can't say that I did not poke a little bit of fun here and there at the expense of the med school hopefuls over the years...but I have come to sympathize with them. It's a tough road...one that I could never take. Over the years, I've tried to help a med school hopeful here and there. I've been a middle man to MCAT prep book transfers. At one point I had at least 50 pounds worth of MCAT prep books (from a good friend to gave up med school dreams for PhD awesomeness) in the trunk of my car...which I later transferred to the back of a med school hopeful's Jeep in an abandoned parking lot...under the cover of night. When I was an RA, I enforced "Quiet Hours" a lot more when I knew I had a student studying for their MCAT. I've also prayed for my med school hopeful friends because  I know that they need all the help they can get. The exam really is that terrible.

Now that you know my med school hopeful history, flash forward to today. I was in the elevator going downstairs for coffee with two fellow lab rats, when two more fellow lab rats come in with their bags in tow. Their MCAT is in about a week and a half. 

Me- You guys going home for the day?

Med school hopeful #1- Yeah, we're going to take a practice exam.

Me- Oh, cool. I will keep you guys on my prayer list for the exam.

Med school hopeful #2- You have a prayer list for MCAT takers? 

Me- No, just a prayer list in general.

Med school hopefuls #1 and #2- Thanks Barbara!

Med school hopeful #1- Thanks, but if I take this exam and don't do well, I'll know it's your fault. (This was said in good humor, so put the torches and pitchforks away.)

Me-(in good humor, not one to let another get the last word) Well, in that case, I'll pray to Saint Jude...(dramatic pause)...he's the patron saint of lost causes. 

I know, I know...I'm such a jerk...
Pax Vobiscum

A Geeky Challenge


If you ever see me walking down the street with a very pensive expression on my face...don't stop and say "Hi!" You see, when I am in thinking mode, I kind of go into hermit mode...shutting myself off from the world. It's not that I stop being friendly...or that I stop wanting to talk to people. It's just that I am lost in thought...and a lot of times, these thoughts are the types of thoughts that have been tackled by some of the most genius saints our Church has had to offer these past 2000 odd years. Most of these thoughts are the ones that threaten our commitment to our faith.

We've all had them...those moments where we find ourselves questioning something about our faith. I've had plenty of these moments. I think I have a filing cabinet of intense philosophical questions in my brain that I pull out whenever I have some time on my hands. I have never strayed far from the Catholic Church, regardless of what question I tackled...so don't consider this a post about "how to challenge your faith." Instead, think of it as an exercise...as a manner in which you can challenge your own faith in a way that will make it stronger. People lift weights when they want to muscle up wimpy arms. I tackle philosophical questions to strengthen my wimpy faith.

Saint George, on the other hand, tackles dragons....
...because he's badass.

My younger sister, aka the Fool, has often suggested that I get in touch with a padre for some spiritual direction. It has done wonders for her. However, it's not really my thing. Sometimes, when I am really grappling with some extra complex material, I do bring it up during confession...or send an emergency text to a padre. However, most of the times, I end up solving a spiritual question or struggle before I get the chance to follow up on it with a padre. After doing this enough times, I have come to the conclusion that I need to do these things on my own.  It may take me a lot more time and a lot more headaches...but I have the brain of a scientist. You can't just tell me the answers. I have to find them myself and think them through so that I understand them...and don't just know them like I know a bunch of Lord of the Rings trivia. 

Fortunately, it seems like my method works...as the Fool has come to see. You see, the Fool is currently working on her masters in theology. She's probably read more Church Father texts in the past year than I will ever read in my entire life. Our bookshelves are lined with all sorts of Catholic text goods. She's read at least part of every single book on the shelves, and talking with her will reveal that she is a font of knowledge in all things good and Catholic. Sometimes, on long car rides from North to South Jersey and vice versa, we start talking about God and all matters religious. Certain questions and topics have come up and I have seen that she clearly knows her stuff. Sometimes when I start talking about some conclusion or observation I have made, she ends up referencing some Doctor of the Church, or some other big Catholic figure...and telling me that I have made the same conclusions as this other person...even though I never once picked up any of their books. I have never taken a theology class...but I understand some of the tougher, hardcore Catholic topics she has learned in her classes. It's great for her because I can help her proofread her papers. It's great for me because even though it may be too late for me to choose theology as a field...I am living proof that the Holy Spirit can work wonders when it comes to understanding and strengthening my faith.

I will admit, my method is not for everyone. You can easily pose a question that you are incapable of answering. When this happens, it become increasingly easier for you to fall away from your faith. You can also over think things to the point where you give up and, as a result, abandon your faith. Some of the more seasoned Catholics out there can also attest to how difficult it may become to distinguish good and  evil ideas the further you dig into questions of faith. I have had some intense struggles in the past, trying to find the answers to some of the questions that plagued my mind...and have resorted to sending an emergency text here and there (God bless the padres I pester during these theological crises).During these struggles, it is easy to fall into any number of temptations. You can start giving into pride more easily when you think you've made a huge theological breakthrough. You can start giving into doubt more easily when you find yourself unable to find a particular answer. Heck, you can have a theological breakthrough that is not a breakthrough at all...but simply some idea that originated from an evil source (posing to be good in nature). It's tough. It really is tough and risky to delve too deeply. If you dig too deep and are unable to handle a few Balrogs, you can easily endanger your faith (and all of Moria).
Not all of us can defeat Balrogs. Just ask Gandalf.
To make a long story short, I have thought through quite a few difficult topics in my day and have usually come to the same conclusion as the Catholic Church. As a result, I have come to find that the Church is usually right on everything. I have opposed certain Church teachings in the past because I did not understand these teachings or the reasons for these teachings. Regardless of what great arguments I had to refute these teachings, I often found myself putting my foot in my mouth and realizing how wrong I had been. Don't get me wrong, there are still somethings I am thinking through and I will not post about them until I figure them out. However, there are some topics out there that I would love to post about if anyone is interested in picking my brain. 

With that said, I propose a challenge to you, the reader. I challenge you to give me a question that you have about some element of our faith.  I am willing to answer up 3 worthy questions (keep in mind...I do have a busy schedule). I would prefer if you message me your question in private...but will probably answer questions posted in the comments section. I don't always check my comments here, so an email may be your best bet. Please feel free to email any pressing question and I will do my best to answer it. If I am unable to find and answer, I will let you know and do what I can to point you in the right direction. I will not answer every question sent to me (the fall semester is quickly approaching)...so please make sure it's a good question to increase the likelihood that I will answer it! I also reserve the right to not answer a question  or even delete a question  if I find it to be inappropriate or offensive.

If you are a fellow blogger, feel free to share this challenge with your readers. 

Pax Vobiscum

“Stupidity is also a gift of God, but one mustn't misuse it” ~JPII

One of the things I like about Blogger is that I can check out the traffic sources to my posts. I know that makes me a creepy stalker...but I tend to check out what exactly it is that leads people to my posts. One part of my reasoning for this is to try and cater to my audience...and the other part is to be a creepy stalker. One of the most recent "search key words" really caught my attention. It was "i hate stupid pro-life people." One of my first reactions was to attempt to figure out if this individual hates all pro-life people in general and thinks every one of them is stupid...or if this person just hated the stupid pro-life people (and not the smart ones). Regardless of the intention, I don't think this was a nice thing to say...or feel for that matter. I can see no reason to hate someone for being pro-life or just plain stupid. As pro-life as I am, I know there are some pretty stupid "pro-life" people out there. I use the quotations here because not everyone who calls themselves pro-life is actually pro-life. You see, pro-life means all life...not just the lives of unborn babies.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion by bombing an abortion clinic....you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion but are okay with euthanasia.....you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion but support the death penalty....you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion but scorn/judge a pregnant, unwed mother....you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion for the most part, but agree with abortion in cases of rape/incest/birth defects/etc...you are not pro-life.
  • If you want to save babies from abortion but only after a certain trimester....you are not pro-life.
  • If you believe that a child is, at any point following conception, just a clump of cells...you are not pro-life.
  • If you support embryonic stem cell research, you are not pro-life.
  • If you believe abortion, capital punishment, etc is okay in insert situation here...you are not pro-life.

Regardless of your particular belief set, there is a difference between being anti-abortion and just plain pro-life. I'm on the pro-life vote and this is one of the toughest stances to take in a world that becomes increasingly particular about what we consider "life."

In some cases, my science-heavy background makes it easier to be pro-life. I mean, there is so much about ourselves that we take for granted. Even when the child is comprised of just a few cells, the DNA for that child is already there. The child's eye color, hair color, ability to taste PTC paper is already figured out. The way the child clasps their hands is already figured out. Don't believe me? Clasp your hands. If your right thumb comes out on top, you've inherited the recessive form of this trait...if the left thumb comes out on top, you've inherited the dominant form of this trait. I bet you didn't even notice this ever before...or thought that genetics was involved. Yet, from a purely scientific perspective, something as simple as this is already figured out way before a child even has fingers formed. I appreciate all of this because of my science background. I appreciate life at the molecular level because I've learned enough to understand how things work on a molecular level. I've learned enough to appreciate just how many things have to occur in order for a child to be born...how many things can go wrong...and how much effort a woman's body puts into a child. Because of all of this, I could never support a thing like abortion. I'm not prolife because I am stupid. I am prolife because I understand.
JPII and Mother Teresa...
two of the most awesome members
of the prolife crew
Something like abortion just doesn't make sense to someone like me, who is fascinated by every form of life from a single-celled amoeba to complex organisms such as us. As a result, as you can imagine, there are times when being pro-life conflicts with the science life. When I started applying to PhD programs, I had a lot of the same goals that other PhD hopefuls had. I had a list of great schools and programs that I wanted to apply to. I was fortunate enough to get into most of the programs that I applied to…at some of this nation’s most prestigious schools. After the acceptance letters rolled in, I entered the wine and dine portion of my PhD application process. It’s a lot like dating if you aren’t too familiar with the PhD application process. During this wine and dine phase, universities invite you to their cities and towns and pay for everything as they try to outdo their competition. They fly you to the campus, set you up in a nice hotel, and proceed to take you out to dinner at some extremely nice places. They have you meet with professors and discuss the program in detail.

I applied to a variety of programs, some more molecular than others. I got accepted to a lot of them and ended up going on all sorts of luncheons and dinners with individuals from each program. I literally felt like I was some sort of prom queen trying to choose from among a room full of eligible bachelors. As I had my pick of schools, I could be more selective than a lot of other students applying for a PhD. As a result, I ended up being able to weed out programs based on my own values…not necessarily because of prestige, stipend size, and all sorts of other important things on PhD hopefuls’ lists. One of the topics that continually came up was embryonic stem cells. Some of the labs showing interest in me were big on embryonic stem cells and assumed that I was big on them too. Though I was too polite and afraid to speak up, I knew that I did not want to work with these stem cells. Every fiber in my being was opposed to it. High tech and cutting edge as it was, it just didn’t sit well with me. I was willing to give up a shot at some pretty great programs (and the associated full ride) because of my pro-life beliefs. I ended up saying no to quite a few programs because of my beliefs and still ended up getting into a very nice program.  I guess you can say that God looks out for people when their intentions are true.

Some PhD hopefuls out there would probably question my intelligence if they knew which programs I ended up turning down…especially if they knew how some of these programs were weeded out solely because of the embryonic stem cell research. I’m sure that a lot of people, in general, would think of me as stupid for something like this. However, it was not stupidity that made my decisions. My decisions were made with prudence, an understanding of what I do or do not feel comfortable with, courage (not every student would be willing to jeopardize they PhD futures), and my refusal to sell out to the world. This next sentence will probably lose me a lot of readers, but I have worked with embryo cells before. I kind of just slipped into this type of research without ever thinking about it. I just joined a lab and that was that. Our research goal was noble and I loved the lab.

My first impression of the cells was that they were just that…cells.  Crazy as it sounds, I never really thought about it in the way that I should have thought about it. I did not think about the origin too much because I just figured that they had been extracted from some source (like a hospital patient’s organ). However, one day I looked up the source of these cells and found that they had been extracted from an aborted embryo. I put it all together and found myself realizing, little by little, that I had violated my respect for life. Here I was, considering myself prolife and I was working with something that had originated with death. In essence, here I was…a great example of what it means to be a stupid prolife person. Oy. Vey.

 I brought up my concerns to quite a few people over the years and everyone said something similar…that I was overthinking things. A priest (yes, a priest) even told me once, during confession, that I was splitting hairs over this. Yet, my conscience kept nagging at me and that’s part of the reason why I resolved to avoid embryonic stem cell research at all costs once I went off into the PhD world. Had I been stupid, I would have just kept on doing what I was doing…without really thinking about the facts. I would have just ignored my conscience and remained in blissful ignorance.

Had I been stupid, I would have blindly listened to others and never researched the matter for myself. I mean, if even a priest says it is okay…it should be okay….right? WRONG. God gave me the ability to think and I have used this ability very often (sometimes, too often). This ability was extremely useful to me in this case.  Due to this gift, I ended up casting aside what other people had told me (priest included) and finding the right conclusion….the conclusion that would allow my conscience to be at peace…the conclusion truest to God’s call for us to respect life’s sanctity. I was aided by knowledge during my quest for truth…not by fear…and certainly not by stupidity.

As you can see by my story, I used to be a stupid prolife person. Perhaps I still am a stupid prolife person.  However, God has given me the knowledge I needed to become a smart prolife person. On top of that, He has given me the freedom I need to seek the truth…even when it goes against everything that everyone else (even a priest or two) tells me. God also gave me the courage I need to stand my ground….and that is exactly what I did when it came to settling on a PhD program and choosing what was right over what was easy. As JPII once said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
May God keep guiding me in the years to come and helping me become a smart prolife person in order to avoid becoming a stupid prolife person….and being hated by some stranger on the internet who hates the stupid prolife people. May I continue striving to be the best prolife person that I can be.

 Pax Vobiscum

Pray for the unborn.



As a daily Rosary Prayer, I just HAD to share this

"If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory. Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practise black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if-- and mark well what I say-- if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins."
- St. Louis De Montfort

Ever since I started praying the rosary daily, my life has changed for the better. I have found myself adopting better habits without trying. I have found myself better able to avoid temptation. I have found myself becoming more empathetic. I have found myself actually feeling for other people. I find myself sharing in the triumphs of others (without faking it). I find myself more willing to reach out to others in need (without trying). I find myself more willing to leave doubt and fear behind me as I continue to take part in God's plans for me. It has been described to me before that the rosary is like a lasso that Mary uses to bring people closer to her son. Since I've been praying the rosary, I can attest to this.

I'm not at my own computer, so I can't post a guide to the rosary right now....or an awesome picture. However, I will most likely post one soon enough (assuming I don't fall off the face of the earth or disappear to the lab).

Pax Vobiscum.



She's not perfect, but she's mine and I love her....

Let's face it, Catholicism isn't necessarily the most "do what you want" religion out there. She doesn't teach us to do what we want. Instead, she teaches us to do what is right. She teaches us to do what God wants us to do, so that we may be more like God, and one day deserve to be in His presence. The media has been remarkably quiet regarding the uglier side of the protests going on in Spain. Besides the "Pope greeted by protests" and the "Pope's visit to Spain generates protests," the only thing that really generated headlines was one pilgrim's threat to retaliate against World Youth Day protesters. Forget about the protesters hurling insults at the world's youth. Forget the protesters giving nuns the finger. While you're at it, you can even forget the vulgar signs they are waving. When people watch the news, they don't want to see a mass of pilgrims praying the rosary. They don't want to see a bunch of kids excited to see their Papa. They don't want to see faith. They don't care about faith. What they really want to see is controversy and any ugliness (exaggerated or not) that can be found in the world of Catholicism.

JPII was the man..and though I'll admit that I wasn't Papa Bento's biggest fan a few years ago....
I got to say that I'm a big fan of his these days....especially since he supports Latin.
And there appears to be plenty of that at WYD. Only, it's not coming from the Catholics as much as it is coming from the protesters. Spain is hurting (who isn't?)...and there's all sorts of tempers rising. Believe it or not, and a good amount of that anger and frustration is currently being directed at our kids off at WYD.You see, no matter what happens...whenever something goes wrong...inevitably, some fingers always find themselves pointing towards Catholicism.

We're the perfect scapegoat because:
1. We get high on sharing in our Lord's suffering (offer it up as penance).
2. Praying for enemies is always a plus (if Jesus did it...it must be good)
3.We're taught to be humble (getting blamed for everything is a great lesson in humility...ask any middle child)
4. Faith tends to get stronger when you have to fight for it
5. You will better learn your faith if you find yourself constantly having to defend it

So, in essence, these protesters are doing Catholicism a favor. Well, not just the protesters...but the media in general. You see, they barely ever report the good stuff and good people associated with the Catholic faith. Forget the Catholic charities who are currently aiding places like Somalia. Forget that group of monks from Iowa that donated a handmade casket to the young girl killed in Arizona. Just because our Pope happens to be German, forget those priests that laid down their lives for their Jewish brothers and sisters in Nazi Germany. Seems to me like the media is never very friendly when it comes to us Catholics. I guess being Catholic has made me a little sensitive to how the Church is portrayed by the media...but I sometimes cannot believe how far the media will go sometimes when it comes to blaming the Catholic Church...

Regardless of what we do for the world...it seems like the world never tires of blaming us for stuff and accusing us of stuff. One example of this that really bugs me is how people out there (like some current protesters in Madrid) are convinced that Africa's AIDS problem is the Church's fault. This particular accusation irks me, especially considering what the Church teaches about sex, love for one another, and responsibility. The world seems to think that throwing condoms at everyone will solve the AIDS crisis. I beg to differ. I say that respect and self control will do a lot more for the AIDS crisis. In my opinion, the AIDS crisis would have never gotten to this point if everyone had read "Theology of the Body" and taken its words to heart.

Yet, the protesters (and the media in general) say it's the Church's fault when Africa suffers from AIDS...because we all know that the people will listen to the Church when it comes to condoms....even when they don't listen to the Church's teachings on premarital sex, extramarital sex, drug use, respecting your partner, etc. I'm going to just put it all on the table right now and say that I actually support the Church's teachings on condoms, sex, and all the other stuff JPII discussed in "Theology of the Body" (a book that none of the WYD protesters read...I'm sure). I will also venture to say that if the world doesn't listen to the Church's teachings on these matters...then it certainly doesn't listen to the Church's teachings on condom use. Let's face it, some people will just never understand that the Church is here to serve God and administer to the world's spiritual needs...not our physical desires and weaknesses in self-discipline. The Church sets her sights on heaven, not the world...and maybe that's why the world and the Church are often at odds.

Just think about it for a second so you know where I'm coming from.... If you selfishly decide to cheat on your spouse and put yourself (as well as your partner) at risk for HIV...then I highly doubt you will listen to what Catholicism has to say about condoms. Yet, the world will continue to blame, harass, and degrade my mother over what's going on in Africa and elsewhere. Fortunately, however, the my mother is stubborn and holds her head up high with dignity. You see, my Church was built upon a rock that is not easily swayed by public opinion...regardless of how "outdated" it is to adhere to God's word. Yet, as hated as we can be at times, those true to Catholic teaching will keep doing what we do best...turning the other cheek and putting God before our own pride and our own wants. As much as I wanted to punch some protesters at Il Papa's visit to NYC 3 years ago...I held it back. As much as I wanted to shove soap in their mouths after hearing some of the things these protesters said about my Church...I held it back. People may continually try to bring us Catholics down by shouting obscenities at us, but we are continually called to help and love those that abuse us...those that hate us.

We are called to pray for them....to love them and to show patience. Regardless of what people have done and continue to do to my religion's good name, there are also still plenty of Catholics who are more than willing to donate time, money, and effort to Africa....or anyone else in need (regardless of whether they are gracious for the help or continue to spit in our faces). That's just how we roll.

Can every protester at WYD say the same? They may complain about what the Church does to Africa...or refuses to do for Africa. However, what have they done for Africa....or they're fellow man? You can wave as many banners as you want in front of a procession of children on their way to mass. You can even shout obscenities at elderly padres and sisters...but none of this helps the people you claim to be a voice for. In fact, it just demonstrates that you are the monsters that you claim to be protesting against. You are the power that oppresses others from worshiping as they please. You are the entity that refuses to acknowledge equality. You are the institution that squanders time and money to sell hopelessness and hate. You are the organization that refuses to respect the rights of others. You're the ones that are hating your fellow man and jeering at them.

You may shout "God, yes. Church, no" at kids going to mass or at kids kneeling before you all in prayer.  However, I doubt that these words of yours were inspired by God. You may think you are fighting for a just cause (by abusing pilgrims and hating on your neighbor)...but I am pretty sure that you're in the wrong here. Furthermore, I feel that you are the pot calling the kettle black. You probably spent more of your time, money, and effort just getting to Madrid to protest...than you ever spent (or will spend) on Africa. If you really wanted to help Africa, the GLBTQ community, the poor, etc....you would not be in Madrid hurling hateful slogans. You would, instead, leave those kids alone and volunteer your time in doing something that would benefit the people you are "defending." Judging by their lack of respect for their fellow man as well as their lack of understanding...I highly doubt that the protesters ever did much to help their fellow man. This goes for the starving, those ravaged by AIDS, the oppressed, and any other suffering individual.

Regardless of what the media would have you believe...the Church teaches us to love our fellow man without fear and without limitations. We are taught to respect our fellow man. We are taught to respect God. We are taught to put our spiritual needs above our physical desires. We are taught to respect and love one another because ALL of us were made in the image and likeness of God. The world doesn't understand this. The world tells us that we are simply animals that must cave into impulse rather than fight it off. It tells us that we ought to strike back at those that threaten or attack us...rather than pray for the attackers as some of the kids have been doing. To all you at World Youth Day, my prayers are with you...and God is with you.

Pax Vobiscum

The Slacker's Guide to Praying in Latin

It shames me to admit that I have slacked off on this blog quite a bit. I have a final on Monday and wanted to post something.... 

In an effort to ensure you all that I am:

  1. alive
  2. keeping this blog running
  3. still Catholic and loving it
  4. not abandoning you
I've decided to introduce you to the mysterious and beautiful world of praying in Latin. However, before I begin, let's take a look back at one of my all time favorite scenes from one of my all time favorite movies....Braveheart. 
Argyle Wallace (William Wallace's uncle)- Did the priest give a poetic benediction? "The Lord bless thee and keep thee...?
William Wallace (as a tiny kid)- It was in Latin.
Argyle Wallace- You don't speak Latin? Well that's something we shall have to remedy, isn't it?
This scene is a classic and demonstrates just how awesome it is to pray and understand Latin Prayers. No, I am not having you memorize the declensions. I have had "hic haec hoc" and all that other good stuff burned into my brain and I remember enough of the experience to not want to put you all through that torture. Instead, I'm just going to give you some basic prayers in Latin. You already the words to these prayers in your own respective language...so you really don't have to memorize every verb tense, etc. in the Latin language. You already have enough on your plate (considering how many of you are off to World Youth Day and how many of you have jobs, families, etc. that you need to take care of). Therefore, consider this the slacker's guide to praying in Latin. 
Slacker's Guide to Praying in Latin
1. Look at prayer in English
2. Look at prayer in Latin
3. Compare both (you may be able to recognizea few Latin words just by doing this)
4. Try to memorize one prayer in Latin by reading it and saying it out loud
5. Practice, practice, practice
6. Impress family, friends, and Uncle Argyle by reciting prayer in Latin
7. Go crazy and learn a lot more prayers in Latin
8. Go to Latin mass and impress everyone there with your awesomeness
9. Impress friends by translating Gregorian Chant in CD you bought
10. Marvel at how much life has improved since learning Latin prayers
Feel free to add the following prayers to your prayer life, if you feel like speaking to God in Latin. If you find that you love the way it sounds, try memorizing a few and chanting them  softly next time you decide to wear a scapular, go barefoot into the woods, and go all out when it comes to praising God (a la Saint Francis). If you memorize a few, you will be the life of any party should you choose to teach a few friends how to pray in Latin. Who knows...you may even be tempted to go to a Latin mass. However, before you do that....start off with a few small steps. Pray as the saints have prayed for centuries! Pray as people prayed back when Latin was the norm! Pray as they prayed in ancient Rome! Or at least understand the Latin part of the burial mass in the beginning of Braveheart....

The Glory Be is quite short...but still a great prayer to start off with...if you want to memorize at least one prayer.

The Hail Mary...this one isn't too unfamiliar considering how many albums out there include this song...

AVE Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.HAIL Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and in the hour of our death. Amen.



The Lord's Prayer took me a little longer to memorize correctly....but it wasn't too difficult once you get over the "dimmitte nobis debita nostra." It is quite a mouthful....or at least it was for me.


Oratio Dominica
PATER noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.
The Lord's Prayer
OUR Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.




The Creed....an essential for every Catholic. (Maybe start working on this one after you get a few shorter prayers down first.)


CREDO in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae. Et in Iesum Christum, Filium eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis, ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis, inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem, vitam aeternam. Amen.I BELIEVE in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Credit needs to be given where credit is due. These prayers and translations were borrowed from the thesacredheart.com....who had the great foresight of putting prayers side by side in a format what turned out to be blogger.com-friendly. Please check out this site for some very great translations...it's very helpful...especially if you want to learn how to pray the rosary in Latin (still working on it...).
NOW GO OFF AND PRAY IN LATIN!!! 

Okay, if you insist....here's one of the dreaded tables that Latin students have had to learn over the years...It looks innocuous...but I assure you it was torture (especially with all the other tables we had to memorize).
*shudder*
Pax Vobiscum

Pray for those on their way to World Youth Day.

Why Should You Go to Mass? Reason 4: Jesus is There and He's Awesome

I was such a great Catholic for 2 out of the 3 of the last weeks. I went to confession and received the Eucharist 2 weeks in a row. This is was a record for me and I was so excited that I was finally putting my relationship with Christ in front of everything else. This past week, everything changed.  Due to a series of events linked to my lab work,  my lack of time due to an intense biostats course, and a touch of laziness on my end, I did not go to confession this week. I also just realized today that I have not posted anything here since July. All of these things indicate one thing: I've been a Slacker Catholic. You've probably never heard of this expression, but you can probably think of a number of people that fit this description.  Slacker Catholics are those of us that go to mass once or twice a year, those of us that can't remember the last time we went to Confession, those of us who don't try to improve our spiritual lives, and those of us who have put God on the bottom of our list of priorities. We're the people that do not always try to make the right decision when confronted with a choice between God and enter distraction here.

Truth be told, I can justify my having to shelf my blog for a week or so due to my hectic schedule lately (as well as a looming biostats final). However, I cannot justify how I stopped trying to live up to Christ's expectations. I could have, hypothetically, been able to receive the Eucharist this Sunday without going to confession this week...if I had tried harder to live according to Christ's word. However, the truth remains that I slacked off. I did not try as hard as I could have to resist sin  this past week, and I did not try as hard to be patient this week. I did come out on top when it came to a few instances. I was successful in resisting quite a few temptations this past week and I am happy that I was able to do so...but I could not (with good conscience) deem myself worthy enough to receive Christ this week.

My soul yearns for the Lord, who is
present in every mass I have ever attended.
What's holding you back?
Today when I went to mass, I looked up toward the Tabernacle and I felt it...I felt that intense longing and that pull toward that line of people ready to receive Christ. The responsorial psalm today echoed my own sentiments as I sat, stood, and knelt in the pews... "My soul waits for the Lord." (Psalm 130, in case you're wondering.) I wanted to receive and, to some degree, I felt that I needed to receive...but I could not. I had slacked off on my spiritual life all week and did not deserve to join everyone else as they went up to receive Communion. This longing was the longing of my soul for Christ...who is present in the Eucharist. 


We Catholics believe that the Eucharist is Christ. I believe that the Eucharist is Christ. I certainly would not have longed for the Eucharist today if that wasn't the case. I would not have felt that yearning in my heart for the Eucharist if it was just a piece of bread or even just a piece of bread "representing" Christ. You see, we actually believe that bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ through a process called transubstantiation. And guess what, we get to witness this transubstantiation whenever we go to mass. Every time you go to mass, you get to witness a miracle. You get to witness this transformation of the ordinary (bread and wine) into the extraordinary (body and blood of Christ). 


This is the reason why people like me kneel and cross themselves, while facing the tabernacle every time we enter or leave a Church. This is the reason why Eucharistic Adoration exists...so you get some one on one time with Christ. You can pray all you want at home, and I am sure that Christ listens to your prayers. You can love Christ all you want throughout the day, and I am sure that he feels your love for him. You can listen to Christ's words whenever you read the Bible, and I am sure that he knows you're listening. However, when you attend mass, you not only listen, love, and pray...YOU PARTICIPATE in an ongoing miracle that Christ started millennia ago. You participate in Christ's sacrifice for us. You participate in his resurrection. You take part in all this, and so much more, just by attending mass...even if you don't receive.  


When I go to mass, the first thing I do when I enter the church is kneel (or bow) and cross myself as I face the tabernacle. You see, Christ is there. His body, blood, soul, and divinity are present right there in the front of the church. He's right there. I know he's there because I feel him there....and the yearning in my heart for Christ intensifies whenever I sit before the Eucharist. I don't yearn for a piece of bread. I yearn for Christ. Today's experience was not the result of hunger in the normal sense. I never eat before mass regardless of whether or not I will be receiving that day. Call it an act of solidarity for those that must fast 1 hour before mass....those who, unlike me, are actually worthy to receive Christ. I'm so used to fasting before mass, that I am never really hungry at mass.  My yearning for the Eucharist, therefore, was not hunger. I wasn't hungry at mass today and even if I was, I've never been brought to tears by hunger. I have, however, been driven to tears by Christ's presence in the Eucharist.


I've been Catholic my entire life, but I have not always believed that Christ is up there waiting for me whenever I receive. I have not always believed that Christ was present in the Eucharist. As ashamed as I am to admit this, it wasn't even three years ago that I was at confession...telling a priest that I just could not believe that Christ was present in the Eucharist. It all seemed too crazy...too impossible to be true. My parents treated the Eucharist with reverence and my dad used to tell us stories about miracles associated with the Eucharist. There was one, old Portuguese story about a donkey that had somehow entered a church and stomped on the Eucharist. The Eucharist turned into blood before the very eyes of the parishioners present. I never really took these stories too seriously. I thought I understood the importance of the Eucharist...but I never grasped the fact that the Eucharist is Christ.


As I've grown in my spiritual life, I have found myself believing more and more that Christ is present in the Eucharist. I can't remember when it happened, but one day I found myself kneeling before a Eucharist...KNOWING that Christ was there. I can't tell you if this realization was the result of a sudden enlightenment (similar to Saint Paul's conversion) or if it was more gradual and subtle (like Saint Augustine's conversion). The long and short of it is that I found myself kneeling before the Eucharist without one doubt in my mind that I was in Christ's presence. I broke down, cried, and prayed. In my mind, I saw Christ sitting up there by the monstrance, listening to me and watching me as if I were the only person in the entire room full of college-aged Catholics. This experience never left me and, to this day, Christ's presence in the Eucharist is a reality that I am unable to deny.

In truth, I do not know a lot about the Eucharist. From what I have begun to learn, I get the impression that you could write an entire library about it. This post is, therefore, extremely limited in its scope of something that is so essential, mysterious, and amazing to the Catholic faith. However, I do know that the Eucharist is Christ and that the Eucharist is present in every mass. You may be able to pray at home. You may be able to speak to God from the comfort of your own couch. However, unless a HUGE Fatima-like miracle occurs in your house...you will never come so close to the physical presence of Christ as you will by going to mass. The Eucharist is, by far, currently one of the biggest reasons why I am Catholic and now one of the biggest reasons why I intend to take more time out of my Saturday and Sunday schedule in order to go to Confession and receive this beautiful sacrament.

As far as miracles go, there are quite a few associated with the Eucharist. There have been books written about these miracles. The miracle of Lanciano is one of the most famous. This miracle involves a priest who, like me, once had his doubts about Christ's presence in the Eucharist. As he consecrates the bread, it transforms before his very eyes into cardiac tissue. There have been other miracles...but I could begin  writing about all of them and ever expect to finish my biostatistics homework.

For those of you who are still skeptical or convinced that you are close enough to Christ without going to mass...consider the following prayer. This prayer was said by an angel that appeared before the shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. It is a prayer that I have adopted to my every day prayer life and it is a prayer that came from the mouth of a celestial being....not a human. Therefore, pay close attention to the words.

"Oh Most Holy Trinity,Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,I adore Thee profoundly.
I offer Thee 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 andindifferences by which He is offended.
By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I beg the conversion of poor sinners.

Amen."


This was a prayer that was spoken by an angel of God before the appearance of Our Lady in Fatima. This angel, I am sure, knows all about Christ's presence. I mean, this angel did come from heaven to deliver a message from God. This prayer does not say anything about Christ being present in our living rooms. I am sure he is always with us...but not in the same sense as is suggested by this prayer. As the angel suggests, the body of Christ is present in the Tabernacle. His physical presence can be found within the tabernacle of a church. This is a HUGE revelation that we normally take advantage of or have cast aside when it comes to mass. However, the angel does not stop there. The angel proceeds to say that the Blood of Christ is present there too...anyone who has ever taken the chaplet of Divine Mercy seriously will tell you that the blood of Christ is a lifeline for us. It sustains our souls in a way that even the tastiest breakfast in bed could never sustain. I'm talking to you...that's right you...the person who skipped mass this past Sunday in order to have breakfast in your comfy bed...you know who you are. 

As essential as the body and blood of Christ are, the angel did not stop there. The SOUL and DIVINITY of Jesus are also present in the Tabernacle. Therefore, you don't just stand before the body and blood comprising Christ  the man. When you go to mass...you stand before his immortal soul....as well as the power and glory  of his divinity. That's right. You stand before Christ the God...one person in the Holy Trinity comprised of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How awesome is that?!?! You don't experience this in everyday life, regardless of how great a prayer life you have. We may have religious experiences now and then in our spiritual lives, but we rarely get the chance to stand before Christ true God and true Man. Yet, Christ is present before us all in body, blood, soul, and divinity whenever we attend mass. He is present during mass much as he was present before his apostles 2000-odd years ago. Therefore, get off your bums, set your alarm clock this upcoming Sunday....and join me for mass. I will be the geeky-looking chick in the mantilla, praying the Credo in Latin.

Pax Vobiscum.

(In case you're wondering about the date, I started writing this on Sunday...and got to finish it Monday night. Now if you'll excuse me, I got some homework I have to finish....)


Pray for London.