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Reflection on Death

Media vita in morte sumus; quem quaerimus adjutorem, nisi te Domine, qui pro peccatis nostris juste irasceris? Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors Salvator, amarae morti ne tradas nos.
The antiphon above is said to have moved St. Thomas of Aquinas to tears and it kept playing in my head during a funeral mass I attended today. The funeral mass was for the mother of a friend from school. I had never met her, but I could not help but be moved by the service. I was moved by the love that the friends and family shared for this woman. I was moved by readings. I was moved by the homily. I was moved by the very knowledge that the souls of all those who had ever departed and attained eternal life were celebrating the mass alongside us. Though invisible to our mortal eyes, all the angels and saints in heaven and even the holy souls of purgatory celebrated the mass with us. Altogether, the whole experience was beautiful. It was a reminder of what lay ahead as well as a reminder of a life that will not so easily be forgotten by those who will continue to remember and love this individual for years to come.

Every time I attend a funeral, I can see why the antiphon moved St. Thomas of Aquinas to tears. Our culture puts too much of a negative emphasis on death...treating it as something that must be hushed when children are around, etc. Our culture treats death as an unexpected and unwelcome end to something good. I can understand why death is treated in this way. The horrible shooting last week is a reminder of just how terrible death can be when children's lives are cut short, when innocent lives are taken for no reason, when parents and loved ones are left behind to grieve. There is also so much in this life to be achieved, enjoyed, and celebrated. However, as the antiphon mentions...this life also has a lot of things that aren't so fantastic. During our time on earth, we suffer, we hunger, we despair...and we find ourselves experiencing tragedy after tragedy. As a result, even in life, we experience death.

I do not speak about death out of naivete. I personally did not believe in death until I was in third grade and attended my first viewing. It's not that my parents never spoke of it. It's just that I imagined it to be a myth...very much like the boogey man myth that was created to scare children into behaving. I simply believed that people lived on forever, and maybe I had some sense in believing this considering how Catholics believe in eternal life. A very dear neighbor and friend of the family passed away when I was in third grade and my parents, for whatever reason, took their children to this viewing. I remember looking up at the still body of my neighbor and finally believing that he really was gone. Ever since this experience, I've experienced other deaths in the family. I watched my uncle fade away in the last months of his life...and watched my mother pass away before my eyes even though she'd been perfectly fine a few days before.

And yet, I think death is beautiful. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to romanticize death like one of the emo/goth people you used to sit in homeroom with during high school. I am not attempting to change my vehemently prolife position or throw away my life in any careless way....or take away any value from the lives of those that have passed away. I am merely speaking with a faith that has been tested time and time again by death...and a heart that learned to truly love after experiencing a series of tragedies. As hard as it may be to accept it whenever a young life is lost or when you wish you just had another day with a loved one who is gone...death the first step to a great unveiling of everything that lies beyond this world. It is the necessary step that leads us to a state where we are finally at peace and where our ability to love fully is finally achieved. I am convinced that after we die, we will finally experience God's love in a way that is full and complete.

It is full and complete because we are no longer weighed down by the feelings and burdens that pull us back from God during our time on earth. I don't know about you, but I am always worrying about one thing or another. Things as trivial as worrying about tomorrow's PTA meeting divert our attention and prevent us from loving completely. As a result, we may be a little crabbier to loved ones the night before cooking Christmas dinner. Sometimes we cannot help but worry. Sometimes we cannot help but complain about the things we must suffer through. Sometimes, we realize our own weaknesses...but continue to give into them. Life is hard and, as a result, we have a lot on our plates as we attempt to live day by day. As a result, as much as we try to avoid it, we lose sight of God's love and lose our ability to love as fully as God wants us to love....

When we die, I believe that we finally see God and see our loved ones more like God sees them than how we see them now. As a result, we love them more fully and may spend our time praying for them, watching over them, and interceding on their behalf. As hard as it was to lose my mom while I was still a teenager, one of the greatest comforts I had was that I had a new saint to watch over me. Knowing how much she loved me and how much she sacrificed for me during her time here on earth (something I never truly appreciated until she was gone), I was certain that the love she had for me in heaven was magnified by God's love. In better knowing His love...and experiencing His love completely unfiltered...she could better love those she left behind. In losing her physical limitations, she could also watch over more people and spend her time in heaven petitioning God on behalf of more people...just as St. Therese of Lisieux had promised long ago. Her love did not end with death, just as Christ's love for us did not end with death. The love she had for me on earth (and believe me, my mom could not have loved us any more in this life than she already did) would pale in comparison to the love she feels for us now.

I still miss my mom, but I know she is in a better place and in a better state than she was when she was with us. I also know that she is doing so much for my family based on the stories I hear about relatives who asked her to put in a good word for them...I have the feeling that she may one day become the Portuguese version of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.

My point is that I view death more as a beginning to a life, than an end to a life. I see it as a way for love to flourish more perfectly. I see it as a way to watch over more people and to help more people without having to deal with physical limitations like arthritis, aching backs, etc. Think about all of the saints you have ever asked to help you out? Think of all the Saint Anthony prayers you've recited when you needed to find something you lost? Think of all the Saint Jude prayers you've whispered at a pew whenever you needed him to put in a good word for you during your most desperate moments. Think of all of the times you asked Our Blessed Mother to intercede for you in times of illness. You never knew these saints during the time they spent on earth. They never knew you during their time on earth. Yet, these people have helped people like you and me time and time again. Why? Because even though we never shared a pizza with them or helped them with their calculus homework....they love us.
She loves us as much as she loved Saint John
for, with Christ's blessing, she became
mother to us all.

They love us even though they've never met us during our first day of high school. They love us even though we never attended any of their birthday parties. They love us and spend much of their time in heaven interceding for us because, even though we don't know them...they know us. Even though we consider them great help for us in our time of need, we normally don't share the same love for them as we do our relatives and friends. Even so...they still love us as if we we stood beside them as their son hung dying on a cross. They love us even though we never attended even one of their masses. They love us even though we never did listen to one of the sermons they once preached to the fish. They love us because they understand love as God intended for us to understand love. They love us completely. They love us because they are able to see just how related we all are as children of God. They love us because they understand how hard it is to live this life...because they understand how scared, lonely, desperate, etc. we feel in our present state.

During our time here on earth, few of us ever love as God intends for us to love. One example of this love that comes to mind is Mother Teresa. She dedicated her life to this love and suffered greatly for this love. However, not all of us are able to drop everything in our lives to serve God and fellow man as she did (and continues to do). As hard as I try to be a good saint-in-training, I will be the first to say that I will probably never be able love even half as fully as Mother Teresa did. Part of the reason why this may never happen is that I have a different path laid out before me. Another reason is because I am, to a degree, somewhat selfish.  As much as I love my neighbor, I have the tendency to be a smart mouth in instances where silence would be far more charitable. I will cut in front of you on the Turnpike if I think you are driving too slowly. These things may seem trivial...but only because we do not feel the hurt of others when we offend them. I don't think about the possibility of whether that driver on the Turnpike is having the worst day imaginable...All I care about is making it to the Hobbit on time.

As hard as I try to change my flaws and as hard as I try to be charitable, loving, and holy...it's tough to focus on others when my back pain flares up again. It is hard to spend time helping others when I have a deadline within a week. It's hard for me to think about others when I am weighed down by dozens of concerns on a daily basis. I'm not trying to make excuses for my behavior...only trying to relate to all of the people out there that go through much of the same. The truth is, it is simply hard for us to be perfect in a very imperfect world.  Hence Media Vita's appeal. As sorrowful as this song sounds at first, as it addresses the woes of the living in an imperfect (and sometimes even bleak) world, this song brought Thomas of Aquinas to tears because of the promises it contains. One of the big promises it contains is the promise of perfect love, of God's perfect love....which can only be attained with eternal life....and which can only be attained after death.

Pax Vobiscum

#CatholicWin

Had some time to spare before train. Felt urge to take a walk. Walked around Penn Station and ended up finding Church of Saint John the Baptist. IT WAS OPEN! Walked in and heard what sounded like singing. Went up steps and down hall. Upon closer inspection, found people singing the Salve Regina (IN LATIN). Walked a little farther and found myself looking in on the very end of a mass through a glass door. Noticed people get up and get in line. Though it was the very end of mass, that didn't stop me from entering and going to the back of the line to receive a blessing with Padre Pio's relic. I think Padre Pio must have led me there as he's been on my mind since mass on Friday night.

Oh,  AND I made it to the train on time. 
#CatholicWin

Perhaps it is starting to feel like spring again...


 I really love what I saw in this video...obedience, humility, and zeal for God. I did discern for quite some time as a younger woman...and I always felt drawn to the more old school orders (full habit or bust, as far as I was concerned). While I am on the path to marriage now, I have concluded that if I ever am widowed, I would like to join an order such as this one. Kudos to you, ladies of the Dominican order of Saint Caecilia (my confirmation patron)! Keep up the good work and may you be a positive force in the renewal foreseen by JPII!


The joyful reverence is SO BEAUTIFUL!

Oh...and did you see those mantillas?!?!


Pax Vobiscum

The Lab Calendar

I'm in the eye of the hurricane now as far as qualifying exams go. I handed in the written portion today (to be picked apart completely for the next two weeks and serve as the basis for how tough my exam will be). Hopefully, it won't go as badly as I usually think everything will turn out between the impostor's syndrome and my inability to internalize any form of success. I will be disappearing for the next 2 weeks as my qualifying exam is on December 13th. Fortunately, regardless of how the exam goes, I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to. The Hobbit midnight showing takes place that night...and my dad comes back from Portugal that night too. On top of that, the next week is my birthday....AND THEN CHRISTMAS! As I study and get grilled for the next two weeks...I will try to focus on the end of the journey....and how awesome it will feel when it's all over.

I won't leave you all empty-handed before I go. I took some pictures today of the laboratory calendar that I thought would be fun to share. Before I came to the lab, the calendar was a mere wipe-away calendar where people normally posted lab meeting dates, days off, etc. One year ago, I was put in charge of filling in the calendar with dates. The lab quickly realized that my imagination could not be contained...and my first drawing was for Thanksgiving. I drew a turkey in a lab coat, pipetting stuff. It became a hit and soon I was drawing cakes, cupcakes, greyhounds, and all sorts of other tomfoolery for people's birthdays. No subject has remained untouched because within a few months, we were looking up wacky holidays that often left the calendar full of zombie mice, Bunsen and Beaker lab disasters, Tardis space travel, hermitages, punk rocking mice, My Little Pony...you name it.

This year, I drew another turkey for Thanksgiving in commemoration of the first turkey that caused all of the trouble...
Animal research that even the nuttiest Peta member could approve...maybe

Being the good Catholic that I am...*stifles snort*....I felt it my duty to take part of the New Evangelization...by commemorating Saint Nicholas Day. Okay, I know that using a laboratory calendar is a bit of a stretch when it comes to using the new media for evangelization...but I just could not pass up another opportunity to commemorate the saint who punched a heretic in the face (and then apologized for it). Forget the vision of some jolly guy in red, I gave the lab a more realistic depiction of Saint Nicholas.
I blew it up so you could see the details...and by details, I mean Birkenstocks and heretic teeth spilling into National Cotton Candy Day.
I also commemorated some birthdays this month...including my own...which happens to fall on the day that school-aged children around the country claim will be the end of the world. I know very well that all that Mayan hoopla is just that...hoopla. However, how many chances will I get to draw this ever again to celebrate my birthday:
Enlarged to show apocalyptic detail!
Finally, there's the drawing for Christmas. 
I was originally just going to put the Keurig up there, but it did not look festive at all. Throw in some candy canes, holly, snow, and a huge bow..and all of a sudden it looks like a typical Target store on the day after Halloween.
I bet you can guess what the whole lab wants for Christmas. We've been trying to get a coffee machine for the lab for quite some time. We've been throwing hints around about it...but I took it upon myself to kick the subliminal messaging up a notch. Before anyone starts judging, please remember that I am a PhD student who needs her coffee. Coffee not only keeps me productive, but sane. Sometimes, all you really need to get through the day is a good cup of coffee. I've become a barista of sorts in my own right these past 2 years. I've gotten pretty good at using the water dispenser in the conference room. Give me coffee, sugar, milk, chocolate powder, and a drop or two peppermint extract...and I can make a mint mocha that even an NYC hipster would drink (probably exaggerating here...but you get the idea). In any event, I really hope this works. It would certainly save the lab a fortune on day-to-day caffeine runs...and it would save me the trouble of carrying all those coffee-making supplies back and forth between my locker and conference room.

Your prayers will be much appreciated as I approach my qualifying exams. Please rest assured that you are in mine.

Pax Vobiscum

My Sisters the Saints: A Geeky Review

My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell was a wonderful read. Reading this book was like having a conversation with a close friend that shared many of the trials that I have faced as a young woman growing up in today's culture. Colleen, like many of us, explored the world of partying that left her empty and constantly searching for more meaning in her life. Like many of us, she came from a good home full of love and faith...but slowly drifted away from it as the delights of the world beckoned her. Like many of us, she felt a sense of longing and desperation after years of meaningless relationships and little to no responsibility. As a fellow "sister," I completely understood where Colleen came from and where she would go once she allowed the Holy Spirit to transform her longing into a new life full of love and peace...even as she watched her father succumb to dementia....even as she sought to become a mother after years of failed attempts and refusal to undergo IVF. Colleen's struggles will echo the struggles of many women out there...and many women reading this book will find themselves having quite a lot in common with Colleen.
Through Colleen's many struggles, she continually finds the inspiration, faith, and strength to continue by drawing on the words and lives of quite a few of our favorite "sister saints." I won't spoil too much about how each of the saints lead her on a path to recovery, self-discovery, and serenity...but I will say that Teresa of Avila, Therese de Lisieux, Faustina Kowalska (a personal favorite of mine), Edith Stein, Mother Theresa, Mary of Nazareth...and other notables like Dorothy Day make an appearance. As hard as it is for modern-day women to consider the messages of these saints in today's time and age, Colleen demonstrates time and time again that the examples and words of these saints are timeless. In Faustina, for example, we learn the importance (and benefits) of maintaining steadfast trust in God. We all know how hard it is to trust in God, having been brought up a culture that teaches us to trust only in ourselves. Colleen, too, was reluctant at first to heed the Saint Faustina's advice...but eventually learned this trust as she faced a major life decision.

This book is a wonderful introduction to the writings of some of these sister saints and will certainly help others explore the works of these saints in manner that is relevant to today's world. Life it tough and there are always plenty of tough decisions to make, but a little bit of good advice goes a long way....as Colleen demonstrates time and time again. All in all, it was a quick...but very fulfilling read. I found myself chuckling at some of the more humorous moments of her life...and crying at others (especially as she witnesses redemptive suffering first-hand). I did not put this book down until I had finished it (at 3 in the morning...but the lack of sleep was worth it). I would highly recommend this book to any woman out there who is just beginning to learn that there is much more to life than the present culture has to offer...as well as women who are experiencing tough issues like the loss of a loved one or infertility. I cannot stress enough just how comforting and helpful this book may be for those experiencing tough times.

The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was offered a copy of My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell for review.

After an election like this one...

...we may end up seeing more of this.
I applaud these nurses on standing up for their own moral and religious beliefs when they were forced to chose between their job and their personal beliefs. I've been fortunate enough to work with pretty reasonable people that have allowed me to not get involved in research, techniques, etc. that made me uncomfortable. As we see in the video, however, this is not always the case. There are people out there who have to make the choice and there are people that suffer because they chose to do the right thing rather than the comfortable or easy thing. The way things are going, we may end up seeing more of this...women and men forced to take part in the murder of foetuses, embryos, babies, etc. all for the sake of the agenda that is being shoved down our throats by a president so hell-bent on appeasing the pro-abortion crowd. 
The next time you are forced to make a difficult decision, I hope the courage of these ladies and others like them will help you make the right decision. Please pray for an end to filicide...especially in a world that grows increasingly hostile to those who defend life. Please pray for more people like the Alliance Defending Freedom to help continue defending our consciences from partaking in abortion and other practices in conflict with our morals and beliefs. 

Pax Vobiscum



One of the Original Catholic Science Geeks

Image credit: www.CatholicMemes.com
"Should a priest reject relativity because it contains no authoritative exposition on the doctrine of the Trinity? Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes . . . The doctrine of the Trinity is much more abstruse than anything in relativity or quantum mechanics; but, being necessary for salvation, the doctrine is stated in the Bible. If the theory of relativity had also been necessary for salvation, it would have been revealed to Saint Paul or to Moses." 
-Monsignor Georges Lemaître

Msgr. is also known as the guy who first proposed the Big Bang Theory. If you haven't heard of him, drop the rubbish "I-use-science-to-justify-anti-religious-bigotry" militant atheist book you are reading and pick up something more neutral...or go visit the Vatican's badass observatory...or check out this photo of Papa Benedict:
Using a microscope never looked so cool...and Catholic.

How awesome is that?!? My pope uses a microscope (SOMEONE PLEASE TURN THAT INTO A KID'S BOOK)...

Pax Vobiscum

The Scariest Things

Whenever I hear commercials or see posters advertising the next "scariest movie ever"...I cannot help but shake my head on the inside. Why? Well, you can throw in all the chainsaws and dismembered body parts into a movie and I will not consider it to be scary. Yes, dismembered body parts and whatnot are gross, but I just don't find them to be scary. Before you dismiss me as a cold, emotionless product of a generation raised on guns and violent video games...let me just say that there are things that scare me. There are things that bother me intensely. There are things that have kept me up at night and things that have left me shaking and in tears.

One such thing was a scene in Blood Diamond that is forever engraved in my brain. I never watched the entire movie, but I never forgot what I did see. Years and years ago, I  stopped over to visit my then-boyfriend (aka the Fiance) who was already at the middle/end of the movie. I had watched enough of the movie and/or asked the Fiance enough questions to know what was going on. I really got into the movie and at one point, I found myself staring in horror at the television with shaking knees and tears threatening to stream down my face. The scene that got me so upset was a scene where a father finds and confronts a son who had been taken away and turned into a child soldier. To see the agony in the father's face and the cold expression of a son that appeared to have been transformed from innocent boy to killer was awful. It scared me. I was scared by the kind of evil that destroys a childhood in such a cruel, selfish manner. I was scared because I know this evil exists. Forget "The Ring" and all those other scary movies that threaten to make your hair stand on end... the exploitation of children is as scary as it gets for me. 

Why is it so scary? Well, that scene in "Blood Diamond" demonstrates how easy it is for evil to destroy the goodness within even the most innocent people. It demonstrates how evil will prey on the innocent for its own selfishness and how destructive this evil can be. This evil is alive in places where children are stolen from families and forced into prostitution. This evil is alive in places where children are recruited into gangs and forced to propagate the evil that destroyed them in the first place. This evil is alive in places where children are abused, neglected, and killed. I am scared by the evil that allows for child pornography to exist. I am scared by the evil that allows for child sex trade to exist. I am scared by the evil that allows people to senselessly torture and even murder children for any reason. These things scare me because I know they are real and because these evils prey upon some of the most vulnerable members of our society. 

Please pray for these children tonight...pray that they may be saved and protected from these evils.

Pax Vobiscum



I Love Fertilized Oocytes

I think I may have just stumbled  upon the prolife movement of the future. I will warn you that most of this post  may sound like a lot of crazy...but bear with me until the end and I may just revolutionize your way of thinking.
Image Credit: http://php.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php?title=BGDA_Lecture_-_Development_of_the_Embryo/Fetus_2
Please, do your inner scientist a favor and check out the site.
If they ever allow me out of the laboratory long enough, I one day intend to go to March for Life donning my science best (goggles, lab coat, etc) and holding up a sign with this amazing image and "Prolife Embryo-Loving Scientist" or "I <3 foetuses" on it. That would certainly make some pro-abortion folk shudder. They often use the argument that the foetus, embryo, etc. is not human and judge those who equate them with babies. Well, what if we reply to their argument by simply saying that we love the foetus, embryo, etc. as they are...without comparing them to babies? I mean, when you break it all down, we defend the unborn out of love....not developmental stage...so why not defend the embryo, foetus, zygote, fertilized oocyte, etc. as they are?

Imagine a pro-abortion advocate researching for weeks and weeks, trying to find enough sources to counter the religious argument that "the unborn are people too" and that "all life is precious." They will spend time looking up uber-nutty-feminist articles, etc. claiming that foetuses aren't human. They will look up all the proper classifications of human development to counter the use of the terms like "unborn babies" with uber-scientific terms like "foetus," "embryo," "zygote," etc. Now imagine the deflated ego of a pro-abortion advocate when they realize that their "a foetus is not a baby" pre-emptive strike is up in smoke. I mean, imagine their reaction when they see an "I love foetuses" poster and come in contact with someone who defense the foetus out of love for...the foetus. Not "the unborn." Not "future babies." Just the embryo. Just the zygote. Just the fertilized egg. You name it. Can you just imagine their reaction when find someone who defends the foetus out of love for the foetus?

What can they possibly argue next? They can't exactly say "you aren't allowed to defend the foetus out of love for the foetus" because then they'd have the animal rights activists to deal with (you can't defend animals out of love for animals), the civil rights activists to deal with (you can't defend people of a different race out of love for people of a different race), and every other activist that has ever defended something out of LOVE for something.

Why waste time arguing with pro-abortion folk about the human status of a foetus? I know life begins at conception...but I know better than to argue with a brick wall. Why not just force pro-abortion folk to find another argument? Why not just make it known to them that I love foetuses just as much as I do "the unborn?" They may have to just do the unthinkable and accept the fact that there are foetus-lovers out there and that these foetus-lovers don't need to try to equate foetuses with babies to love and defend them (even if they believe that to be the case). They may have to end up just dealing with the fact that I love foetuses simply because they are foetuses. I love fertilized oocytes because they are fertilized oocytes. I simply love them because I see them as members of that beautiful, amazing process that is human development. You may not think of them as human, but you cannot deny their role in human development. You cannot deny that they are awesome just as they are. You don't have to be an end-product of human development to be awesome. If I could take a look back at my own development, I would recognize my awesomeness regardless of developmental stage. JUST LOOK AT THE DIAGRAM ABOVE! Fertilized Oocyte Barbara is just as cool as postnatal day 3 Barbara!

I know I must sound crazy right now and I give a lot of credit to anyone who can make sense of the madness that is this post. However, I think I am on to something big here. I think I am on to an important sense of awareness that may just revolutionize the prolife movement...the awareness that it is okay to love a foetus as much as an embryo...and the awareness that it is okay to defend this love. How will this play out? Well, the way I look at it is this...I may not be vegan or vegetarian, but I will try to accommodate my vegan and vegetarian friends when it comes to the wedding reception menu. Why waste time and ruin friendships trying to argue with them about why to keep or remove meat from the menu? I think this may be the response to my argument. I mean, I know better than to argue with a PETA member over their beliefs that animals are to be equated with humans. I love animals of all shapes and sizes, but I don't consider them human...and I will continue eating ham sandwiches and sushi...regardless of how offensive that may be to a member of PETA. How can they argue against my defense of the foetus out of love for the foetus.

With this in mind, how can the pro-abortion crowd respond to my love of the fertilized oocyte? It is no more ridiculous than their love of ideas like "women's rights" and "choice." Choice and women's rights aren't tangible, physical entities in and of themselves. A fertilized oocyte, however, is something tangible. It may be microscopic, but it is a physical reality. That, in a sense, throws the scales in our favor.

We do not have to waste our time equating embryos with children when dealing with the selectively deaf... They won't believe us, regardless of how hoarse we get. It doesn't matter whether THEY believe an embryo is human or not, as long as WE love the embryo as much as we love all humans. With that said, feel free to steal the following few sentences and turn them into bumper stickers.


Prolife because I love the fertilized oocytes. 
Prolife because I love the zygotes.
Prolife because I love the embryos. 
Prolife because I love the foetuses. 



Cool places to visit: Physicians for Life, Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League

Pax Vobiscum

What Happens When You Slack Off


My qualifying exams are in December and I have been slacking off on my prayer life, my blog, and pretty much all-that-is-good-and-Catholic. I’ve still been praying the rosary most days and sending up a few prayers when I don’t pray the rosary. However, it appears as though I’ve asked the driver of my car (God) to take the backseat. Unfortunately for me, I am a mediocre driver with no ability whatsoever to successfully parallel park a car. These past few weeks have been full of detours, flat tires, and many instances of me just driving off course and then wondering why I didn’t reach my destination. Considering the devastation I’ve seen first-hand and heard about from friends and family following Hurricane Sandy…I have no right to complain.
Image credit:http://www.sparklesofthedivinemercy.org/wordpress/?p=105

Even so, I could not help but feel miserable when my phone was lost, when massive hurricane-related NJ transit issues doubled my commute (I’m averaging 5-6 hours right now per day), my favorite monastery was closed off by fallen trees, when my computer broke down, and when I lost my wallet. In the middle of all of this madness I was able to finish the first draft of my second qualifying exam proposal…but I dragged myself through it. I was tired. I was cranky….and I simply did not WANT to do anything school-related anymore. To top it all off…he-who-must-not-be-named won the election and all of a sudden, I am considered a homophobic, misogynist, racist who isn’t intelligent enough to vote the guy that popular culture tells me to vote for.  Yep. I was done. I was about to throw in the towel and hop on a plane to Bordeaux to realize my macaron-making dreams in a quaint French vineyard. Then I realized that I am a broke student with no funds to start up a winemaking dream in a rustic French village. I also realized that I had a duty to finish the semester that I had already been paid to finish (darn you twice-a-year paycheck scheme).

One day last week, I had a bit of a first-world-problems version of a dark night of the soul. I have no right to complain considering how many people lost everything following Sandy, but I hit a breaking point on Wednesday. My computer had broken down the night before, my new commuting schedule was awful, and I had not met my deadline (I had wanted to finish the proposal the week before). After going over how much it would cost to MAYBE fix my computer, I found myself driving around aimlessly…worrying about money, my broken computer, qualifying exams, my lost phone, the oncoming Nor’Easter, and everything else you can imagine (my worries usually grow exponentially once they get started). A little voice told me stop by and see a padre even though I didn’t have a parking permit for that area (and a ticket was the last thing I wanted) and I was convinced that I was crazy for even stopping by unannounced.

Fortunately for me, the padre was in and willing to spare a moment for a half-crazed PhD student to vent. Fortunately for me, another wonderful individual was there and willing to talk. I got everything I needed to get off my chest and I got some good advice in return. Basically, a lot of what I got out of both conversations was that I needed to trust God. I needed to do more for God. I needed to let God get back in the driver seat. I needed to stop trying to be a driver…and I needed to stop being a back seat driver too. I can’t tell God what to do and how to do it. I simply have to trust in Him without question and without fear.

I also got some advice on spiritual warfare…as it is quickly (whether I like it or not) becoming a fixture in my life. As a result of putting school before all, I had (slowly but surely) started to suffer physically and mentally due to the stress. Now I was beginning to suffer spiritually as well. I was too miserable to have time for hope. I was too stressed to have time for faith. I was too occupied to have time for love.
I may have been praying, but I had slacked off on the sacrament of reconciliation. I had slacked off on my blog because I was too busy poring over papers and obsessing over my qualifying exam proposal. I had slacked off on the new evangelization because I was too busy to do anything but school-related things. I had slacked off on my prolife mission because I grew too tired to even try informing others. Slowly, but surely, I became too busy to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I became too busy for God…and, as a result, I became too busy for grace. We need God’s grace to flourish. We need God’s grace to truly LIVE. Without it, we merely EXIST. I don’t know about you, but I cannot survive on mere existence.

I was fired up after meeting with everyone that Wednesday and I came back with new prayers and an urge to pray. I prayed and did fantastic for a few days…but then I let life get in the way. God was still driving me, but I had started to morph into a backseat driver (often the first step to taking control of the wheel). I started letting other things take a central role in my life. I started feeling sorry for myself. I started getting upset about how things were turning out. I started despairing about my future and the future of the country (I don’t know about you guys…my oncoming persecution senses are tingling).
Monday morning, I tried taking the bus to Newark to get a train to New York. The first bus I took would only get me to Broad St. Station and I wanted to get to Penn Station. 

To make a long story short, that little voice from a few days before suggested that I should get off and switch at one of the bus stops before Broad St. I listened to this feeling and got off. The bus stop was right across from a church building that advertised Divine Mercy worship every Friday. Right in front of the church was a white stone statue of Christ, with two beams radiating from his heart. I’m pretty sure this was a wake-up call, reminding me about my backseat driver tendencies…and my need to simply TRUST. I had prayed the rosary that morning on the bus and felt that it had been sufficient. However, after seeing this reminder, I pulled out the rosary again and prayed the chaplet as well. After I was finished catching up on a few other forgotten prayers, I hopped onto another bus and started the next leg of my commute. The next two days (once Broad St. station started back up again and allowed me to simply ride the first bus all the way to Newark), I randomly looked out the window just in time to see Christ's Divine Mercy statue (having forgotten where it was exactly) and the next day I randomly woke up to see the statue again. I think these may have been mini-miracles...small reminders for the lesson in trust that I was still learning. 

I think this experience is God’s way of telling me to trust in Him as a driver. Things will get busy in the future, they always will…but this should never be an excuse to remove God from the center of my life. Things will always get stressful and even seem hopeless at times, but we should continue to trust in God regardless of how dark the road ahead may be. I think that our society tends to ignore God when it comes to making decisions or running things. There are days when I want to quit everything and do what I WANT to do as opposed to what I should do. However, I owe it to God to continue fighting the good fight…even if that fight requires me to be uncomfortable, bored, angry, tired, etc. He does not want me to move to France when the country goes to shambles because I have to play a part in fixing it. He wants me to TRUST in Him and to TRUST in his plans for me…regardless of how tough things get.

Pax Vobiscum

A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness in the Next America- A Geeky Review

Anyone concerned with the way America seems to be heading should read Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s “A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America.” Though brief, it is a brilliant call to arms for all Catholics (and others) that are beginning to notice an erosion of principle in the modern world where reason gives way to relativism and complacency gives way to a loss of rights and freedoms. As often as we try to sweep anti-religious sentiment under the rug whenever we face a biased media or laws designed to undermine religious freedom, Archbishop Chaput argues that this is no longer an option.

Drawing on history and the words of quite a few historic figures, Archbishop Chaput makes quite few valid points as to why Christians today need to LIVE their faith and not just defend it. As our culture grows increasingly hostile towards faith and those who practice a faith, Archbishop Chaput warns us to stand up for our beliefs. He warns us about the consequences that our complacency and challenges us to not only preserve, but promote the Christian faith. “Freedom of belief and religious practice used to be a concern that Americans had about other countries. Now it’s a concern of ours.” Archbishop Chaput’s words certainly strike a chord with so many individuals who are currently concerned with the direction our country may take following the elections and the ongoing legal battle concerning the HHS Mandate.

While he defends the faith, he does so in a balanced and respectful manner. He recognizes the weaknesses of today’s Christian community and points out where we have been going wrong. However, he does so without conceding to the popularized notion that the loss of religion in America is inevitable. There is hope and Archbishop Chaput offers plenty of advice for Christian communities in America. We have an uphill battle before us, but Archbishop Chaput reminds us why we must fight and what we have to look forward to once this battle is over.

 Archbishop Chaput’s writing style is likely to appeal to a wide audience regardless of background. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and only wish it had not ended so abruptly. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who needs encouragement and guidance for the days we have ahead of us now that the election is over and our religious freedoms are on the line.

Pax Vobiscum

Angels All Around Us: A Geeky Review


I just finished reading Angels All Around Us: A Sightseeing Guide to the Invisible World by Anthony DeStefano and have learned my lesson about judging a book by its cover. While I enjoyed reading the book, I must say that this book is certainly not what it is advertised to be. Yes, the topic of angels was discussed and I was quite impressed by DeStefano’s ability to condense Saint Thomas of Aquinas’s works on angels into a book that was easy to follow. However, this book was more of a bare bones introduction to a lot of fundamental Christian beliefs regarding charity, the existence of pain, the Holy Trinity, demons, souls, and quite a few other topics.

On an introductory level, this book is great for readers out there who have not yet read the works of some of the more contemporary Christian thinkers of our time (like G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis). It is also great for young Christians, or even new Christians, who are not yet ready to tackle the beautiful, but extremely difficult, theological works of St. Augustine and St. Thomas of Aquinas. In this book, DeStefano demonstrates a great talent for breaking down some pretty dense Christian works into pieces that can be easily digested by a wide audience of readers. With that said, I must point out that this book is probably not suitable for Christians with doctorates in theology.

This book was a quick read and pretty easy to follow. I liked how DeStefano broke down all of the subjects covered into concise paragraphs. I would recommend this book as an introduction to angels, grace, spiritual warfare, God, the role of suffering, the soul, Christian beliefs regarding the afterlife, and quite a few other subjects. It is not necessarily a book about angels and the invisible world. However, it is a great introduction to angels and the many elements of the invisible world. It is also a great summary of much of what you would expect to learn within the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

As a Catholic, I would consider it a form of Cliffs Notes that may be very helpful for individuals out there who may not have a lot of time to invest in digging through the Summa Theologica. One thing I really liked about this book was its bibliography. DeStefano includes a pretty extensive list of books and authors that will be a great help to anyone who wants to continue learning once this book is finished. Among the many books included in this bibliography are JPII’s On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, Saint Therese of Lisieux’s The Story of a Soul, and quite a few other well-known and well-loved Christian works.

Disclosure:
The opinions and thoughts expressed herein are my own. I was not paid for my review. I was given a free copy of “The Duty of Delight” by Blogging for Books  for review. 

The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day - A Geeky Review


As a Catholic saint-in-training, I often wonder about the lives of the many saints that have walked the earth, proclaiming God’s glory and doing works in His name. As much as I love the Saint Augustines and Saint Pauls of the times past, however, I cannot often relate to them. I cannot, in a way, bring down such people to my level. Though tradition teaches us that many of these people lived ordinary lives, I find it hard to relate to doctors of the Church like Saint Thomas of Aquinas or the most austere hermits like Saint Benedict. Their path to holiness almost seems too perfect for me to ever be able to follow…because I am a product of different times. On top of all of this, we don’t often read about their failures, their doubts, and their struggles. Too often, we see their triumphs over evil without seeing the struggles that led to the triumphs. As a result, we just assume that they did not struggle as we do today.

This is why could not put Dorothy Day’s “The Duty of Delight” down. Though I have had to read the book a few pages at a time and though I’ve literally had to MAKE time to read the book due to my hectic schedule…it was well worth the effort.

Though we now consider Dorothy Day to be well on her way to being recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church, Dorothy’s diaries continually remind us that Dorothy was nowhere near as perfect as many saints are perceived to be. Though there is holiness in her works and an profound understanding of God within some of her most internal thoughts, Dorothy does not necessarily fit the stereotypical ideals we tend to perceive as necessary for canonization. We may, for example, read about saints that were quick to forgive the trespasses of their neighbor. However, Dorothy doesn’t necessarily fit this mold. Like many other saints, Dorothy also forgives the sins and faults of others. However, she does forgives while acknowledging that she, too, is a sinner with a past that many women today can relate to. She was not perfect  by any sense, but she certainly demonstrates that a conversion of heart is possible with God’s grace.

Dorothy’s diary is anything but forgiving when it comes to Dorothy’s own shortcomings. It is a raw and personal account that does not attempt to hide any of her imperfections. The reader is often reminded of just how lowly and desperate she considered her own works and how often she had to turn her trust to God to achieve these works because she simply could not accomplish everything on her own. I may not run the Catholic Worker as she did, but I could relate to the difficulties in her path towards holiness. Like Dorothy, I struggle with the day-to-day temptations of doubt, insecurity, and fear. Like many other individuals, I fall into the trap of believing myself too inferior and flawed to ever become a saint.

As I read this book, however, this attitude started to change. I began to see a pattern in “The Duty of Delight,” and began to realize that Dorothy understood an element of her faith that I am still beginning to explore. Even in her most hopeless situations, Dorothy cried out to God for help and placed her complete trust in Him. As hopeless as her situation may have seemed at the time, Dorothy never lost hope and God never failed to deliver. I do not mean to say that Dorothy ever got a break. No, the trials kept coming and she always seemed to have more and more people depending on her regardless of how tired she felt or how little she had left to give. She never stopped fighting to serve God. Yet, with each impediment came her recognition of God’s grace. She came to see God in every struggle and, as a result, never lost hope.

I highly recommend this book to anyone out there who feels that they have a mission to serve God through works of charity. If you are anything like me, you know how easy it is to lose sight of our potential for holiness by focusing on our own imperfections. However, “The Duty of Delight” provides us a detailed and passionate reminder of how God chooses even the lowliest of His children for holiness. We may not live in the same world and time as some of the great saints of the Catholic Church, but we live in Dorothy’s time. She, like us, lived through wars, demonstrations, assassinations, scandals, violence, and a myriad of other events that would cause even the most faithful to lose hope.

Disclosure:
The opinions and thoughts expressed herein are my own. I was not paid for my review. I was given a free copy of “The Duty of Delight” by Blogging for Books  for review. 

As ProLife as The Annunciation

The Annunciation as well as the Visitation are two mysteries of the rosary that reinforce my pro-life beliefs. These two mysteries demonstrate the importance of a child before the child is born. They also demonstrate the immense love God has for these children, before they are born...the significance of these children, the purpose of these children, and the potential for these children.. They also demonstrate the immense love that these women have for their children.  In the Annunciation, the mother-to-be is Mary and in the Visitation, the mother-to-be is Elizabeth. In the annunciation, Mary is greeted by an angel of God, Gabriel...and accepts the role that God had intended for her long before she was ever born. She accepts the role of MOTHER. Mother of God and mother of all sinners that ever were and will be. She accepts the child long before the child is born as an act of trust, love, humility...and yes, even obedience.

I can only imagine if this moment in the history of salvation took place today. As a single, pregnant mother, she would be expected to get an abortion. As a single pregnant mother, she would be told that Christ was not a child, but a choice. She would be expected to consider herself more important than the life of her child...and to put herself first. It would not be for health reasons. It would not be out of compassion for the child who would have to one day be born in a manger. It would be out of convenience...the reason for most (if not all) abortions committed today. Had Mary been alive today, I still know she would have still chosen her unknown, future child over the easier alternative. She would have still faced uncertainty and fear for the sake of her child and the salvation of countless other children she adopted the moment she said "Thy will be done." She would have still put God's will before her own, and she would have still done so out of love, obedience, humility, and COMPLETE TRUST in God. 

For all you rosary praying folk out there prepping for tomorrow's Joyful mysteries, I give you my latest work of art... The Annunciation. 

The Annunciation
Sharpie marker and colored pencil on paper
Pax Vobiscum

Who is Like God?, Strength of God, God has Healed

Guess what day it is?
(The title of this post should be a clue.)

Today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Alas, I have yet to draw or paint anything that is worthy of celebrating these three angels that sit before the throne of God and serve as His messengers. Maybe one day, I will have the time to get to it. In the meantime, I should probably use whatever few minutes I have in between incubation times to memorize the Angelus. As I am still in the lab on this somewhat gray and cloudy Saturday with no lights on (as I am using fluorescent compounds...not because I am feeling like Smeagol the recluse), I may just have to try it. Traditionally, it is prayed at 6am and 12pm, so I still have some time. A partial indulgence is granted for devout recitation of this prayer daily and according to protocol (sorry, in a lab and this is the only word that fits at the moment). For more information on this prayer (and much more), please visit Catholic Culture.org. In the meantime, the Angelus:


The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. 
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen. 

The Angelus by Jean-François Millet (1857–59)
For a more in depth description of this Feast Day and the patronages of Sts. Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel...please check out this pretty informative post by Catholic Culture.


It was so informative, I learned that Saint Gabriel is the patron Saint of Portugal. I always figured it was Saint Michael...but I guess that may only be for the village my mom was from.

I've already commemorated this day by praying through each angel, placing one of my three biggest intentions under each angel's care.


Prayer Guide
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

*********************************************************************
O Blessed Archangel Gabriel,
we beseech thee,
do thou intercede for us at the throne of divine Mercy in our present necessities,
that as thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation,
so through thy prayers and patronage in heaven we may obtain the benefits of the same,
and sing the praise of Godforever in the land of the living.
Amen

***********************************************************************
Blessed Saint Raphael, Archangel,
We beseech thee to help us in all our needs and trials of this life,
as thou, through the power of God, didst restore sight and give guidance to young Tobit.
We humbly seek thine aid and intercession,
that our souls may be healed,
our bodies protected from all ills,
and that through divine grace we may be made fit
to dwell in the eternal Glory of God in heaven. 
Amen.

Pax Vobiscum

One of those days

I still find it hard to believe the morning I had today. Everything started okay. The Fool (aka much loved sibling) had gotten the brand new coffee pot going this morning as she got started for work. She has to leave crazy early these days, as she is now a theology teacher at a Catholic school in one of the surrounding towns. My first sensation this morning was dreamily breathing in the ethereal aroma of coffee percolating. I was half-asleep when the Fool left and nodded back to sleep after mumbling a goodbye.

I was rudely awakened by someone calling me soon after...a strange number I had never seen before. Contrary to my usual habit, I actually picked up. It was The Fool. My car had broken down and she was stranded at a gas station sans phone (she had left it at home by accident). She was on the phone with me for a few moments as I scrambled to look up a taxi service for her...but she had to go right after I gave her a number...that turned out to not be a taxi place. I panicked for a good 10 minutes and found myself praying for The Fool, thoroughly convinced that I would never hear from her again and that she would be stranded at some unknown parking lot for the rest of her life. I tried calling her back at the strange number, only to have a cranky individual refuse to help me and asking that I not call their business phone again. As charitable as I want to be, I cannot help but consider this guy a jerk for dissing a maiden in distress...WHO DOES THAT?!? My worry was relieved a few minutes later when another number called me. It was The Fool...and she had been able to find a phone at a CVS across the street.

I got an address from her, called a taxi and had the taxi drive me to the parking deck where the car she'd been using was parked. In case you are wondering, she had been driving to school in another car until the end of last week when she had gotten her second parking ticket within a few days. She had gone to our town's parking authority to get a pass for street parking and they had given her a pass that was good until the end of March. The problem was, it's no good until September 30. Rather than get another ticket, we decided it would be best to put that car in a parking garage for a week and let her borrow my car (Gandalf the White).

So I only have laundry money with me because I had gone to the bank to get laundry money this weekend. I tend to charge, so I never carry cash...especially since I go into the city every day. The taxi driver drops me off and the fare turned out to be $20. All I had was $20 in quarters, so I gave him that with many apologies. Fortunately, he took it well. He had a good sense of humor...thank God. I get the car and realize that The Fool had taken the parking deck ticket with her...so I have to go to the ticket office and tell them that I was ticketless. They always make it seem like it's the end of the world whenever you lose a ticket, so I fully expected to pay a hefty fine. Fortunately, it turned out to be $6 and the attendant was also very kind...as was the woman at the intersection that gave me right of way as I desperately tried to get to The Fool ASAP.

I make it to the parking lot and call my roadside assistance company after sending the Fool off to school so she would not be late. This is after removing all the crap I had in Gandalf's trunk. We always buy bulk when there's a good deal going on, so you can only imagine what it looked like when we piled on huge box after huge box of toilet paper, milk cartons, etc. The tow truck comes and hour later and I tell them where to take me. The guy driving the tow truck turns out to be riot. I was laughing the whole way to the mechanic...even if I secretly didn't approve of him smoking in the truck. However, I was not going to bother him about anything AT ALL. I don't mess with anyone with a bunch of skull tattoos on their arms, especially if they swear like a sailor.

I am dropped off at the mechanic...and they also turn out to have a good sense of humor...as well as a picture of JPII hanging up in the office (anyone with JPII on their walls are okay by me). After settling everything with them, I call up the taxi company again. Only this time, I realize that I had lost my sister's phone in the first cab. The guy driving me this time turns out to be a gentleman and ends up calling the company for me about the phone as he drives. He tells me about how devastated he was when he lost his phone years ago. It had had pictures of his daughter's kindergarted graduation. I start telling him about my day and he tells me about his. I turns out his day is not going too well either...He had gotten to work late and one of the other cab drivers had taken his car, leaving him a car that was not running too well. When he drops me off, I realize that all I have is $20 bills on me (that The Fool had passed off to me right before she left...just in case).

I didn't get a chance to tip the other cab driver well, so I gave the guy an extra $20 for tip. He was reluctant to take it, reminding me that I am having such a terrible monday morning...but I made him take it. I figured it would cheer up his day and maybe, somehow, make up for the two rolls of quarters (and no tip) earlier.  I told him that somehow everything would even out for today. And you know what? It did. I put my trust in God and let Him take control of the situation as He saw fit. I may have made it to work late, but I got everything prepared for the class I needed to TA. Also, He sent all the nicest people that could have been sent to me when I needed them most.

God will figure out a way for us to handle any situation we're given, as long as we trust in Him. He always does. And you know what? I think He more than listened to the silent prayers I sent to him as I worried about my sister between the first and second call this morning. He listened to me and He did all he could to keep The Fool safe...and to keep me sane. I dealt with quite a few people today and they all ended up being more than friendly and helpful. He sent me two kind taxi drivers, one kind parking deck attendant, two nice mechanics, and a nice truck driver who had me doubled over with laughter. Also, Gandalf's repairs were nowhere near as expensive as I expected them to be. We had $200-odd worth of work that needed to be done on Gandalf and I fully expected this, a new battery, and at least $400 more worth in repairs before the end of the day (or whenever else the car would get looked at).

The repairs are going to come to $85 and even though that mechanic is usually backed up with work, they had time to look at Gandalf right away (this never happens). Furthermore, the repairs were finished by the end of the day and The Fool was able to pick up Gandalf and put the other car back in the garage. Her card didn't go through, but the mechanics were kind enough to let her take the car anyway and let her pay the bill tomorrow (this, too,  never happens these days). According to The Fool, the mechanic was surprised she was even able to drive the car and make it into a parking lot, considering what had needed to be fixed. All in all, it looks like everything good that could have happened, did end up happening. This whole mess of a situation could have certainly been a lot worse...but it wasn't. The car is fine, I never burst into tears today, everyone is safe and okay, the repairs were more than affordable, the penalty for losing the ticket was nowhere near as high as it could have been...and (according to The Fool) Gandalf is running a lot better than he had been before the whole situation. Needless to say, I have a lot to be thankful for it.

Image Credit Louie's Corner


Deo Gratias!

Salt of the Earth

G.K. Chesterton...the wittiest of apologetics..and
certainly one of the most well-reasoned
I thought I was hooked on G.K. Chesterton back when I read his work on Saint Francis. Little did I know that this appreciation of G.K. Chesterton would end up paling in comparison to my appreciation of G.K. Chesterton upon listening to the Father Brown series. These audiobooks have been a joy to listen to on the train to/from school. I've liked them so much that I have started replacing music with them as I work in the lab. He writes intelligently, has a sense of humor, and is probably as witty (or even more so) than Mark Twain. For the record, I LOVE Mark Twain's works...so for me to compare Chesterton to Twain is a sign of the greatest honor. I have grown to love Chesterton so much, that I follow the American Chesterton Society on Twitter, shared his quotes on Facebook (before I quit), Twitter, and maybe even on this blog (though I am too pressed for time to sift through my posts for Chesterton at the moment...mass is in less than half an hour).

The American Chesterton Society tweeted a link to a Chesterton excerpt this morning from his Saint Thomas Aquinas and I was hooked. I will now have to get the book and read it...because the following excerpt was LITERARY GOLD that may have earned Chesterton a round of drinks with Saint Thomas of Aquinas himself...because I assume there's pubs in heaven.

For your enjoyment (and to get you hooked on my new friend Chesterton)...the excerpt!
“THE Saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the…world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what the people want, but rather what the people need. This is surely the very much mistaken meaning of those words to the first saints, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” which caused the Ex-Kaiser to remark with all solemnity that his beefy Germans were the salt of the earth; meaning thereby merely that they were the earth’s beefiest and therefore best. But salt seasons and preserves beef, not because it is like beef; but because it is very unlike it. Christ did not tell his apostles that they were only the excellent people, or the only excellent people, but that they were the exceptional people; the permanently incongruous and incompatible people; and the text about the salt of the earth is really as sharp and shrewd and tart as the taste of salt. It is because they were the exceptional people, that they must not lose their exceptional quality. “If salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?” is a much more pointed question than any mere lament over the price of the best beef. If the world grows too worldly, it can be rebuked by the Church; but if the Church grows too worldly, it cannot be adequately rebuked for worldliness by the world.”
G.K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas
 HOW AWESOME IS THIS EXCERPT?!?! A good number of his works are free in pdf. versions online and even Kindle-friendly formats on Amazon.com...so you have no excuse to NOT check out his stuff.

Pax Vobiscum

Things I would rather be doing...

I really don't feel like working on my quals right now and feel like I've wasted an entire day. I have the bad habit of setting very high goals for myself when it comes to planning work out for the weekend. My Wednesday self was thoroughly convinced that I would have finished writing one of my qualifying exam grant applications by this evening. Yeah, that never happened. What I did do was go grocery shopping, run errands, procrastinate, go window shopping, procrastinate, eat at my favorite French place (now that I finally got paid!!), procrastinate, drop someone off at the train station, procrastinate...well, you get the idea. I then spent some time looking up the perfect Father/Daughter dance song...because it seemed like a good idea at the time. This is such a bad habit for me... Every time I want to get started on work, a million distractions pop out of nowhere. Next thing you know, I'm wondering where all the time went.

I go on Twitter for a moment and see on of Bad Catholic's tweets... and next thing you know, I am led to one of the most hysterical (and Catholic) tumblrs of all time. (I apologize in advance to all of my fellow procrastinators...) Well, here it is...I give you "What Should Catholicism Call Me?" Thankfully, it seems like it's a relatively new tumblr...so you only have to go back 10 pages to see all of the hysterical gifs. Below is a screenshot of one of my favorite ones thus far...just so you get an idea of what you're in for. 
I think it goes without saying that all you Harry Potter (and Doctor Who, Merlin, Sherlock, Lord of the Rings, Downton Abbey, etc.) geeks out there are really going to appreciate most of the gifs. 

Okay, here's one more: 


Happy procrastinating!

Pax Vobiscum



********UPDATE!**********

I bring you another great way to procrastinate: CHECK OUT THE TRAILERS FOR THE HOBBIT!!!
Thank you to to my Wandering Friend for sharing!

There's always time for a quick prayer...and Lord of the Rings

In the case of Gollum, it proves to be quite fruitful. Another soon-to-be-classic from  Catholic memes.


I am not on Facebook right now ...but Catholic Memes also has a pretty awesome Facebook page. I may return to the Facebook post-election once the "tolerant-as-long-as-you-agree-with-me" fools start settling down...or I may return once my qualifying exams are over...or I may never return at all. Time will tell. However, whether you ever feel like pulling a St. Anthony with some "hammer of the heretics" responses to anti-Catholic trolls...or if you just want to laugh with every new meme...Catholic Memes is a pretty good Facebook page for you follow.

Catholic Lord of the Rings memes aside, I got some pretty great news to share. It's official, as in written-in-the-church's-wedding-calendar official. The Fiancé and I are going to get married at 10am on October 5th, 2013. He picked the date as well as time, and I am super-excited that this date falls on the Feast Day of Saint Faustina Kowalska. As you all may know, I have a devotion to the Divine Mercy chaplet and I have read Saint Faustina's diaries...which were very inspirational....so this is a pretty great date as far as I am concerned.

For all of you Tolkien nuts out there, October 5th also happens to be a not-so-awesome date in Lord of the Rings history. It marks the day that Isildur is slain by orcs after having lost the ONE RING. With that said, I may have to get 8 more companions for the ring-bearer at my wedding....just in case. Or I may just leave it to Saint Anthony's intercession if the rings have a tough time making it to the altar.

In any event, I will keep you posted.

Pax Vobiscum

Iona

Thanks to Pandora, that addictive online radio, I have discovered yet ANOTHER Christian group that has made me eat my words. One day while listening to music as I was typing along, an ethereal tune caught my attention. It was a simple but extremely powerful song and even though I was unable to catch the lyrics right away...the voice was hauntingly beautiful. I may have closed out of Pandora before I had the chance to "thumbs up" the song...so I was unable to get the information right away. Without any leads in sight, I stopped trying to find the song and simply told myself that I would catch it the next time. I kept listening to the station I had heard it on (Mediaeval Baebes, for the record...they're stuff is awesome too if you ever want to check out some pretty good female voices singing in Old English).

The illuminated manuscript design should have been a clue...
 Fast forward to a few days ago. I was doing things around the house with my jams playing...when all of a sudden, there it was....THE SONG. I stopped what I was doing, clicked the "thumbs up" and made a station out of this "IONA" group. I figured I would check out their music for the rest of the day, and so I left it on the Iona station. My sister comes in hours later and asks me why I am listening to one of her contemporary Christian bands (the song was by some band called Starfield)...and I tell her that I have no idea what she's talking about. It turns out that Iona is a Christian progressive rock band. Scrolling back through the songs I had listened to, I realized that I had been listening to deceptively subtle Christian music all day. 

The original song that got me hooked on Iona was no exception. Upon further inspection, the song turned out to be "Kells Opening theme" from their album "Book of Kells" (this album name should have been a clue). Closer inspection of the lyrics revealed some pretty Christian themes as well. The video....even more Christian imagery. If you want to hear how good the song is, click on the video below and simply listen as you type away at something or get some errands done around the house. If you are anything like me, you will not immediately hear how Christian it is. Once you finish hearing, scroll down to the beautiful lyrics below.



I stand on ground I've walked before,
To seek the way

And watch the moon rise into night,
Illuminating with its light

My thoughts they turn in time and place,
Illuminated Word of grace
Where I will find the way divine

A throne in sight that blazes like eternal dawn
The mystery of Father, Spirit and the Son,
The Three in One

And precious stones of colours bright
Eagle and calf, lion and man,
Do meet around the throne of light

In colours rich that last through time
In patterns of the Spirit's mind
Illuminated Word divine

I stand on ground I've walked before,
To seek the way

Don't these lyrics just make you want to quit what you're doing now and join a monastery/convent? I know I am tempted to do so. That, or I may have to just keep listening to their music.... 


Pax Vobiscum

A Call to Arms

As I was washing one of the mugs that have been lying around the apartment lately (I have a bad habit of just forgetting about them), a thought came to me. Now, I don't know about you all...but it seems to me that this present day and age is not the best. One example of how much we've come to really suck as a society was something that happened a few weeks ago. I was simply walking onto the subway when I was assaulted by a group of loud, raucous ruffians with bright signs reminiscent of the same radical, BS thinking as the Westboro Baptist Church. I think, to a degree, I would have preferred dealing with the WBC versus the sheer stupidity and "empty barrels make the loudest noise" personalities of these ruffians. The ruffians were none other than a group of pro-abortion feminazis (not my favorite term, but it is probably the most appropriate to describe these ruffians) advocating access to pornography, abortion, and masturbation as being the pinnacle of women's advancement in society. I am sure Susan B. Anthony would be turning in her grave if she saw half of what I saw plastered on these girls' clothing and signs. One of them even had the audacity to shove some filthy propaganda in my face as I tried to hurry by. I took one look at her, pointed to myself, emphatically stated "PRO LIFE," and continued on my way to the subway. As I stood on the platform waiting for the train, I noticed a middle-aged woman reading one of the neon-colored flyers in her hand. She wasn't all of a sudden liberated as the feminazis hoped, but shaking her head in disgust before crumpling up the flyer and tossing it. So much for women's liberation (/sarcasm*).
Guilty? Yes. No matter what the motive, love of ease, or a desire to save from suffering the unborn innocent, the woman is awfully guilty who commits the deed. It will burden her conscience in life, it will burden her soul in death; But oh, thrice guilty is he who drove her to the desperation which impelled her to the crime! -Susan B. Anthony...a true revolutionary and pro-woman feminist

As I walked onto the subway, I had seen a large banner that they had laid out on the sidewalk that blamed a bunch of people, organizations, etc. for women's oppression and every problem imaginable in the world...and among the things they mentioned I saw the word "church." Unfortunately, and no thanks to an arrogant president and an extremely biased media, this seems to be one of the popular thoughts these days....especially among left-wing (and even some right-wing) extremists. I have a pretty good idea of what these feminazi folk think of people like me...that I am a sheep incapable of independent thought. They think that I am oppressed even if I don't feel like I am oppressed. However, I have a crazy idea. Perhaps it is these extremists that are the oppressed. Perhaps they are the slaves of the ideals they treasure so much.

Perhaps they see abortion as a solution to the problem when, in reality, it has the efficacy of putting a band-aid on a cancerous growth. Perhaps instead of focusing on abortion, they should turn their attention to the issues that often lead women to abortion. They should focus their attention on education, job creation, and charities that aid pregnant women...instead of defending abortions committed for economic reasons. They should focus their attention on the things that are directly or even indirectly behind the attitudes that ultimately lead to rape. Rapists, to some degree, carry some level of disrespect towards the people they violate. This disrespect could stem from mass availability of pornography that depicts women as objects versus fellow human beings. This disrespect could stem from the viewing of women as mere sexual objects...an attitude that runs rampant in today's media where sexual appeal is used to sell merchandise and movies that have little in terms of plot or actual beauty.

This disrespect could originate from a broken family structure where parents and children lack respect for themselves and each other. It could originate from the existence of strip clubs where sexuality is bought rather than respected. Perhaps instead of focusing on abortions resulting from poor choices, they could focus their money and attention on empowering women with a sense of respect for themselves and their own bodies so they no longer find themselves depending on dead-beats or manipulative men...or abusive men. Abortion, to me, is not a solution to...but a consequence of all of these things. It solves nothing, but only serves to make these women the mothers of dead children...an idea that is far too painful and inherently evil for me to ever consider a mercy.

As far as masturbation, sex on demand, pornography, etc. go, well I'd sooner not be a slave to these. In a sense, I have too much respect for myself to ever find myself allowing these to be the center of my life. These, to me at least, are not the pinnacle of womanhood. Animals in the wild have sex...and I think if we turn sexual liberation into the center of our lives...well, that makes us no better than animals. Therefore, when I walked past these crazy pro-abortion females (who were probably too young to ever know real responsibility)...it was like walking past a zoo. They had debased themselves to promoting and living lives that emulated the same urges that are felt by wild animals. I saw chaos where they advertised organization. I saw lies and bias where they advertised truth. I saw slavery where they advertised freedom.

Call me crazy, but I think there is far more to life than sex. There is far more to human beings than the pursuit of sex and physical pleasure. It is for these reasons, therefore, that I am considered an oppressor, a bigot, a fool, an elitist, anti-woman, and quite a few other derogatory terms.In short, my views aren't very popular among these pitiable fools....and they certainly aren't popular in a world where these pitiable fools are put on pedestals and considered the epitome of womanhood. If pro-abortion lunatics is the epitome of true womanhood, we are in a world of trouble.

With that said, I don't want to be a part of this world and its negative attitudes towards life, dignity, and freedom. If you have been following the campaigns, the conventions, and the partisan screaming matches that have taken place...you probably are in the same boat as I am. I, for one, have grown tired of being labelled as a *insert unpleasant adjective here* Republican for refusing to support a certain incompetent clown. Please  pardon my name-calling. I am sure I am doing a terrible job of loving my neighbor whenever I call my neighbor names...but I am trying my hardest to keep the name-calling civil. I will try to keep it as PG here as possible, but it will be hard considering that I have lost all respect for this guy and his "change." To put it simply, I have no tolerance for those who center on eugenics, supporting self-interest group, blaming everything on their predecessor, attacks on basic freedoms, dreaming up scare tactics to divide the country in order to win elections, and campaigning when they should be running a country that's falling apart at the seams. I don't like the other alternatives very much...but I'd sooner join their cause than a cause that violates many of the beliefs that I refuse to compromise in the name of free stuff, big government, and self-interests.

And so I quit Facebook for the time being. Some of the statuses I've been seeing are making me question the intelligence of quite a few acquaintances...and other statuses have been outright offensive. In order to stay sane and maintain friendships, I have simply given up on reading rubbish that is advertised as truth and truth that is advertised as rubbish. There is no sense even trying to talk reason with some people who are so blinded by their own confusion, bias, and twisted ideas of "tolerance" and "understanding." I've simply gotten tired of being attacked for supporting a candidate (if you can even call it support...as I am mostly voting against someone than I am voting FOR someone). I've gotten tired of spending time on replies and reasons that fall on deaf ears...as I try to clarify why I simply cannot support their candidate or their causes. Instead of wasting my time getting offended by Facebook statuses, I will focus on other things until the election is over. If I do decide to respond to something propagated by one candidate or another, I will do so here. Who knows, maybe I may have more success here than I will being interrupted every other second by someone who simply refuses to listen to something that may inconvenience them...even if it is true.

I will also stop posting statuses that remind acquaintances why there are people out there that refuse to vote for their particular candidate. I have become an unpleasant reminder of just how many people outside of certain cultural circles absolutely refuse to vote for the fool in office now. Unfortunately for these "open-minded" campaigner-in-chief supporters, I also break a few stereotypes regarding members of the opposition...minus the churchgoing and bible-loving (thank you to UNiconoclast for sharing the vid and examples of Facebook status hypocrisy I've seen far too much of recently)


I have become a reminder about how that "other party" actually has reasons behind their votes. Contrary to what has been implied on Facebook, I am far too aware of what's going on to vote out of ignorance. Contrary to what is typically portrayed on the news, I simply love my freedoms too much to vote out of blind party adherence. I will vote to protect freedoms even if it means becoming a Republican after years of identifying myself as a Democrat. My conscience simply prevents me from voting for a popular candidate that threatens to endanger my freedoms even if this candidate promises freee unicorns and rainbows for all. I don't care about what they can give me. What I want is personal freedom to live a life that is in accordance with my views about the dignity of life. You mess with this freedom, you lose a vote...even if it makes me look like the Antichrist among my friends and family. Even if it leads to offensive posts directed at me or people like me.

I was thinking about the reasons why I've quit Facebook this morning as I was washing my mug...and I had a moment of clarity. As hated as I may be for my refusal to vote for a certain campaigner in chief, and as hated as I may be for my backwards/intolerant/anti-woman/anti-whatever views...I have a mission. As unpopular as my views are now, God made sure I was born during this time and not in a time where my views would have been popular. God, for whatever reason, felt that I was capable of fighting today's status quo. As much as I would have loved to be Joan of Arc, I wasn't meant to be a warrior in a time where people defended their faith with swords. Even though my baptismal and confirmation names are those of martyrs, perhaps I wasn't meant to be one of the early Christians that died for the faith (or even the modern martyrs that are still dying for their faith). Perhaps there is a reason why I did not live in Mexico during the Cristero war...or in anti-Catholic Spain during the time of Josemaria Escriva. God had other plans. I must have been born in this country and in this age for a reason....and I am starting to come to terms with this.

Perhaps God knew that I was best suited for the time of the New Evangelization....where the internet and new medias of communication would be my sword. Perhaps he placed me in such as liberal state, school, culture, etc. because He trusted in my abilities to spread His word in a fashion that could be heard by those so blinded by their own sense of right and wrong versus true RIGHT and true WRONG. Over and over, I keep hearing "speak to them in words they understand" playing in my head and echoing in my works through the years.  I may not have the eloquence or profound understanding of St. Thomas of Aquinas, but I have (in quite a few occasions) managed to at least explain why I hold such unpopular views. I have at least presented the other side in a somewhat understandable fashion even if I have not managed to get others to see everything through my eyes...even if I am unable to get them to see the error in their own thinking. I have also been born with the ability to make sense of science and faith in a way where one always seems to compliment the other...and this has served me well. It has trained me to question and then seek answers to many questions that people often have, but often refuse to explore. Even if some of them do end up exploring, they arrive at answers fed to them by the vox populi...a flawed and biased culture that breeds animal-like people (like the women mentioned above) more focused on temporal goods than virtues or dignity. Perhaps I am unable to get people to see reason at times, but at least they cannot say that I feel as I do just because I am Catholic or just because I am a scientist.

Time and time again, in my conversations with others, I have been deemed unreasonable even when I was able to articulate a stronger argument...simply because it was not a popular argument or because my arguments may have been too uncomfortable or hard to accept. It would, after all, be a lot easier for me to just sleep with my fiancé versus attempt a life of chastity. Yet, as hard as it is, I chose to follow chastity than become a slave to my physical desires. As a result of this, I have come to better appreciate sex as it is meant to be...and I have come to respect my body and that of the person I love. Sex, as pleasurable as it can be, can imprison us if we center our lives on it. It can become something purely animal-like in nature...something that is purely impulse and not centered on true mutual respect between two individuals that truly love and care about one another. Though the feminazis mentioned above are unable to see this, it is something that I have experienced and something that I will pursue even if it does mean going against cultural norms....even if it means taking a harder route.

 I have, time and time again, invested time and effort into responding to the questions of those who refuse to accept any answer I give them...simply because this answer does not agree with their own sentiment. As someone who used to listen to comfort and convenience over raw and uncomfortable realities of reason...I know how hard it is to have a change of heart. I know how often words can fall on deaf ears. Still, I am sure that I have planted seeds. God gave us all free will and because of this, I simply cannot force people to see reason. They must arrive at reason on their own even if it takes years before any of the seeds I planted actually start growing. If another 4 years of error, murdered children, stolen freedoms, overreaching government policies, debt, and lies is what it takes for these people to realize that they've been duped...then so be it.

The best we can do, in the meantime, is keep trying to serve God with whatever means we have at our disposal. If you can captivate an audience, use words. If you are musically inclined, use song. If you're an artist, use art. If you can articulate strong arguments,  use respectful debates. Whatever your skill and whatever your method of choice in spreading truth...be sure to arm yourself. The world, as you can see, has started favoring lie instead of truth and comfort instead of sacrifice. The best that we can do is arm ourselves and prepare ourselves for adversity. I don't suggest arming yourself with physical weapons...but weapons that strengthen your spirit. Put on your trust in God and ride into battle with your armor of truth, faith, charity, humility, prayer, and grace. As long as you are good with God and put all of your trust in Him...nothing can stop you and nothing can hinder you...regardless of how much the world will to hate you.
"For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places."
                                                                                                                     Ephesians 6:12
Pax Vobiscum and Saint Michael defend us!