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PhD PhriDay Phive

Okay, I will admit, I stole this idea from a few other blogs (aka the Mom, UNiconoclast , The Ranter, and quite a few others). However, in order to not completely rip off this fantastic idea for updating everyone on my life...I decided to make it 5 updates on Fridays. In order to make it even more campy (in an effort to best reflect my cheesy geekiness), I have given the title a PhD theme. I figured the more Ph's and capitalized D's thrown in there, the better. Perhaps I may even have to give it a corresponding logo-doodle if I ever get the time to finish a doodle (let alone start a doodle). ...Or maybe I will be shamed into never doing this kind of thing again. We'll see where I end up taking this thing....well, here goes:

Phriday Phive (the Catching up with Life edition)

1. I updated my driver's license. Apparently, I allowed myself to drive around with a provisional license for the past 4 years. Well, as long as Gandalf didn't mind...I'm still in the clear.

The hair is a HUGE plus in my book...
2. I am now an organ donor. I know, I should have been one at least 3 years ago...but this is what happens when you don't update your license until you absolutely have to.

3. I am now a registered Republican. I am still coming to terms with this and would appreciate any support. However, the good news is that I have a good friend of mine who turned out to be a closet Republican all along....and they are about my age! Thank goodness. I doubt anyone who knew me up to a year ago would have ever imagined me being anything but a Democrat....but times change....

4.  I gave my first hour-long departmental seminar. I got a few laughs in and managed to overcome the temptation of putting in a picture of Hermione at the end on the "Questions?" slide.

5. I discovered the David Crowder Band. I know, I know...I will have to take back most of what I said about Christian music way back when in this post. However, listening to their version of Phos Hilaron may be worth my having to eat my words...

Pax Vobiscum and Happy Phriday!

How to Deal with Forced Secularization...

....and by "deal with," I mean "dissent against in a peaceful manner that still allows you to stay true to your faith." The title, as you can see, would have been too long.

A certain bit of news from across the pond is starting to make quite a stir in the Catholic blogosphere. While we Catholics in the US are busy fighting, or at least complaining about, the HHS rubbish...our Christian brothers and sisters in the UK are fighting for the right to wear a cross to work. My first reaction was, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! Unfortunately, however, this was not a joke.
Click here for the article....

Call me crazy...but the idea that someone can get fired over wearing a cross sounds a lot like what things were like in Nazi Germany when the Jews had to hide their faith for fear of persecution. I am all for religious freedom and respect others if they aren't Christian. Believe me, I really do not care what religion you are as long as you respect my beliefs.In my can wear your Star of David proudly around me...or your triskelion, your Ohm pendant, your long as I get to wear my cross alongside of you without fear. This may seem like a foreign concept to many, but tolerance isn't about hiding what you are for fear of's about respect. It's about allowing other people to worship as they please without forcing them to hide it. This is why I just cannot accept the fact that two UK women have to go to court over their right to wear a cross at work.

Is this where secularization going? Is this the meaning of the TOLERANCE that secularization is supposed to spread? Isn't tolerance supposed to be one of the main reasons behind secularization? Isn't secularization supposed to stamp out extremism? Isn't secularization supposed to bring about a society where people can worship as they please in private so that they can be tolerant to one another in public?

Yeah, this doesn't seem to make much sense to me either. This type of cross-banning secularization only breeds more extreme forms of the militant atheism and retaliation from the more militant religious folk. In other words, I can only see this form of public secularization as a way to fan the fires of both extremes....and it is the reasonable and tolerant people like me that end up suffering. I mean, I can't be the only one who keeps seeing this correlation between "secularization" and extremism? In my experience, discrimination begins with ignorance...and what better way to breed ignorance than to force religion (or lack thereof) into a box that is not allowed in public. Wouldn't we all be a little more tolerant of one another if we were allowed to share this essential part of our lives with everyone else (assuming, of course that we allowed others to do the same). THIS. THIS IS TOLERANCE. Forcing employees to hide symbols of their religious beliefs, however, IS NOT TOLERANCE. It is, instead, an example of the types of laws and bans that led to Kristallnacht.

I can't even tell you how dismayed I was when I read the article above...but then my brain started developing ways to challenge and/or beat the system. I've read enough history to know where this form of secularization is going. It will get really bad for a while, but in the end it will die out. History has a way of repeating itself. We had the dechristianization of France during the Revolution in the name of "reason" (because nothing says reason like countless murders) ...the mass killings of Christians during the persecutions which led to the Cristero War in Mexico...the atrocities that happened to religious folk under Stalin....etc etc etc. Were any of these atrocities ultimately successful in their eradication of Christianity in the name of "reason?" Absolutely not. Many may have died as a result of compulsory secularization and some may have even abandoned their faith in the process. However, religion made a comeback in these countries and countless others for millennia. Sure, the former USSR is still in the process of rebuilding its churches and faith (thanks, in part, to people like these grannies on a mission). However, compulsory secularization has failed time and time again...and will continue to fail. It's only a matter of time...and if you are patient enough, you ultimately see how forced secularization always fails.

We Christians, like it or not, should be used to this right now. We started off as a persecuted people who had to resort to all forms of secrecy when it came to worshiping God and practicing the religion we love so much. Therefore, if there's one thing we've gotten really good's this idea of "hiding in plain sight." Yes, we got crucifixes and the whole world knows what they represent...but does the whole world know the rest of the story? Probably not. Even if I'm ever banned from displaying a crucifix, I got a lot of Catholic tricks up my sleeve. I will share a few of them below and will try to come up with some more if I ever find the time.

Exhibit A: The Tau Cross
St. Anthony and St. Francis's cross of choice.
This here is one of the earliest versions of the Cross as we know it. I could be wrong, but it may actually be a more accurate version of the type of cross that Jesus Christ was nailed to. It certainly was a favorite of St. Francis and St. Anthony of Padua (two very badass saints). It is still quite popular among the Secular Franciscans...and not as well-recognized by the "secular" world. Its shape is even simple enough to incorporate into all sorts of things. The uses are endless and it would take quite a while for the rest of the world to catch on.

Exhibit B: The Scapular
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel brown scapular...
though they do come in Passionist black and other colors/devotions
JPII before he was Pope...wearing a scapular!!!
I am a big fan of the scapular and started taking my brown (and very beat-up) scapular around with me. I've already had to resew it to ensure that the brown wool does not come off the cord. The best part about these is that faithfully wearing one counts as a prayer. You put it on so that one wool square is on the front and one is on the back. Wearing it faithfully also brings you the protection of Our Blessed Mother....even if hardly anyone outside the old school Catholic circles has ever heard of it. 
For more info, click here! Be sure to look up some of the other scapulars out there if you are interested. Some of them are more low-key than the one seen above (no embroidery) and they are usually very reasonably priced. Considering how this practice is not very much in vogue these days (at least as far as I can see), there is a very high likelihood that no one will ever catch on to your devotion. Also, as far as I know, there is no law outright prohibiting the use of wearing one (again, because it is rather far as the rest of the world knows at least...wink, wink). 

Exhibit C: The Hair Shirt
The hair shirt. Oh yeah. I went there. 
Back in the day, the hair shirt was the way to go when you wanted to perform some sort of penance or mortification...or if you wanted to offer up a bit of suffering in order to ease the suffering of a soul in purgatory or pray for a sinner's salvation. Hair shirts were typically made out of goat hair or another form of rough cloth. The hair shirt brought minor discomfort to the wearer and acted as a reminder of why this individual sought to resist temptation. There are many variations of the hair shirt. You may, for example, wear a rough cloth belt or other accessory in order to achieve some form of minor mortification/penance. You could, hypothetically wear it on top of your clothes, but I think the custom is to wear it under your clothes. If times get tough and we really start getting persecuted by particularly anti-Christian secularists, this may be the best way to go. As the hair shirt has fallen out of popularity some time ago, I can't expect too many people knowing what it is especially if you keep your shirt on at work. 

I don't know how bad things will get as the world attempts to push us farther and farther away from our own personal paths to God. I don't know how soon it will be before I am arrested for refusing to comply with some form of objectionable law. I don't know how soon it will be before I am publicly punished for refusing to adhere to a moral code set by a government intent on selling its own version of saccharine-based religion substitute. I don't even know if any of these scenarios will ever play out. However, I am prepared and if it comes to it, I will refuse to stand down if I feel my rights are being abused, ignored, or attacked. Fortunately, it seems like there is still some room within the law to appeal against unfair laws and to express my opinions against a leader if I feel that he or she is taking things a bit too far when it comes to maintaining the balance between the separation of church and state and the protection of religious freedom. There is a fine line between secularization in the name of tolerance and secularization for the sake of anti-religious bigotry disguised as tolerance. 

It seems like we have a very long ways to go before anyone starts getting rounded up and lined up in the public square for execution. We are still in that phase of persecution when there is still some law on our side and some sympathy from others who really do care about the true meaning of tolerance. As uncomfortable as this story from the UK (and this HHS mandate) may be right now, we are nowhere near the worst-case scenario just yet. If this changes, however, (and I only say this because I know that history repeats itself)....I hope they know who they're dealing with. I am quite skilled at finding and exploiting loopholes within the system. Furthermore, I do not give up on a just cause. EVER. 

Pax Vobiscum fellow dissenters....stand strong and keep praying. God's got your back...just keep trusting Him.

This has probably made its rounds....

...but I still think it's worth a share.

My sister (the older one) sent this to me...and I have to admit that I was kind of surprised to have her email something like this to me. She is one of those quiet Catholics. She may not join my younger sister and me in wearing uber-Catholic shirts or share our love of the Latin mass...but she's pretty Catholic in her own way. As different as her ways may be from my own, she's still right on target when it comes to most of the important stuff and she has certainly helped me in the formation of my own spiritual life in her own special ways (just don't tell her I said so).

Another one of Pater Eddie Dwyer's works....
Well, here's the email for your viewing pleasure. If you are as bothered by the media's bias, the misconceptions that are normally passed off as truths, and the need for quite a few out there to constantly hate on our Church....this is bound to make you feel a little better. It was written by one of our Jewish brothers...a man named Sam Miller. It turned out that one of his sources was incorrect regarding the percentage of abuse by Protestant I removed that portion of the post...but left everything else in there. If you know there's a problem with any other percentages in there, please let me know and I will correct accordingly.

Anyway, here goes:
A Jewish view on Catholics (not a joke) A must read
Jewish man named Sam Miller on Catholics
(Excerpts of an article written by non-Catholic Sam Miller - a prominent Cleveland Jewish businessman):
"Why would newspapers carry on a vendetta on one of the most important institutions that we have today in the United States, namely the Catholic Church? 
Do you know - the Catholic Church educates 2.6 million students every day at the cost to that Church of 10 billion dollars, and a savings on the other hand to the American taxpayer of 18 billion dollars. The graduates go on to graduate studies at the rate of 92%.
The Church has 230 colleges and universities in the U.S. with an enrollment of 700,000 students. 
The Catholic Church has a non-profit hospital system of 637 hospitals, which account for hospital treatment of 1 out of every 5 people - not just Catholics - in the United States today.
But the press is vindictive and trying to totally denigrate in every way the Catholic Church in this country. They have blamed the disease of pedophilia on the Catholic Church, which is as irresponsible as blaming adultery on the institution of marriage. 
Let me give you some figures that Catholics should know and remember. For example:
12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner;
38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact in a study by the United Methodist Church, 41.8% of clergy women reported unwanted sexual behavior; 17% of laywomen have been sexually harassed. 
***[There was some issue regarding the stats on abuse by Protestants I ommitted them just in I have been unable to find the real figure.] *** Meanwhile, 1.7% of the Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia. . . .This is not a Catholic Problem. 
A study of American priests showed that most are happy in the priesthood and find it even better than they had expected, and that most, if given the choice, would choose to be priests again in face of all this obnoxious PR the church has been receiving. 
The Catholic Church is bleeding from self-inflicted wounds. The agony that Catholics have felt and suffered is not necessarily the fault of the Church. You have been hurt by a small number of wayward priests that have probably been totally weeded out by now. 
Walk with your shoulders high and your head higher. Be a proud member of the most important non-governmental agency in the United States. 
Then remember what Jeremiah said: 'Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is and walk in it and find rest for your souls'. Be proud to speak up for your faith with pride and reverence and learn what your Church does for all other religions.
Be proud that you're a Catholic." 
Please pass this on to every Catholic or Christian on your e-mail list. 
Thank you,
Sam Miller 
Hope this helps anyone out there who is already sick and tired of the slanted views on Catholicism we're getting from quite  a few newspapers, disgruntled (and misguided) feminists, and all those militant atheists on personal vendettas. Our mother Church may not be perfect, but she's mine and I love her. With this said...keep standing tall fellow Catholics and do what you can to live your faith...even if the rest of the world hates you for it.

Pax Vobiscum

Ring Around the Padre?

While clicking through "Pinterest" (my latest obsession and procrastination haven), I came across this photograph:

I don't know what it was about this photograph that struck me as awesome. My boyfriend was a film major in college, so maybe I have come to appreciate the struggle a photographer goes through to find the perfect shot. Or maybe I just loved it because I imagined the priests living the message behind Matthew 18:2:

Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.- Matthew 18:2
...Or maybe it was the idea of priests playing a game of "Ring Around the Rosy." Whatever it was, it prompted me to do a quick search and I found some more pretty awesome images by Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000). This particular photograph is part of his "Pretini" ("Little Priest") series. I am still in the process of reading up on Mario Giacomelli's life and works...but I like his work already. I am especially impressed by the fact that Giacomelli was a self-taught photographer. Check out more of his stuff here!

Pax Vobiscum

Oh, okay...just because I can't help myself...more photographs!
 I do this with my little cousins when I see them on the holidays.
They love the blanket swing game probably more than they do the DS!

Just look at that smile!!!

I'm not one for smoking, but check out the variation of hats here!

Imperfect...but Loved Anyway

I've reached that point in Lent where I begin to reevaluate my life and the steps I've taken to complete the mission ahead of me. My conclusion: I have a lot of work to do. My problem, however, is that I tend to get distracted by my school and research life. I fall into routines and when I am out of the routine, I simply don't know what to do with myself. I have to break this routine life...why? It's causing me to stagnate in my own personal spiritual life.

I pray the rosary on the train most mornings when I go to school. I save the rosary on Monday for when I get back from school since I am always doing some last minute studying for epidemiology (there's a quiz every day for this class and let's be honest...epidemiology is just no my thing so it takes a lot of effort to have things sink in). This past week I went to San Francisco for the Society of Toxicology annual meeting.

The trip was "....okay." While my family was enjoying unseasonable warm and sunny weather in New Jersey, I found myself getting rained on just about every day and having to get something with long sleeves in order to keep warm in California. I did not place in the competition, but I had a great time learning new things and meeting the people that I will one day know like the back of my hand (everyone seemed to know each other on a first name, research interest basis). I got a lot of SWAG ranging from pens, to t-shirts, to candy, to gift cards. I would be lying if I told you that this wasn't one of my favorite parts in the whole trip. The other favorite parts were lab bonding, seeing my old PI (one of the greatest women ever), dining at some phenomenal places, and...SAINT PATRICK'S (the church, not the day). I will have to revisit a few Saint Patrick's experiences later.

Though I wore my brown scapular just about every day, I had a tough time remembering to pray the rosary every day...or I would "save it for later." "Later" has the tendency to be forgotten due to my knack for getting distracted or tired. I know that the scapular is supposed to count like a prayer...but I just didn't feel like I was wearing it correctly. In a sense, I felt that I was too unworthy to wear I did not deserve such I did not deserve God's love. Let's face it, even though I have a Catholic blog and attempt to live my faith...I still fall short of the goal. I still sin even when I know that what I am doing is wrong. I still sin even when I know that it damages my relationship with God. I still sin even though I know that it offends God. Though I find it easy to forgive others, I have a very tough time forgiving myself.

You see, I cannot play the "innocence" card or the "ignorance card" even if I wanted to because I have a pretty mature conscience. I have studied sin, committed sin, sought to avoid sin, and have come to recognize sin far too well to ever be easy on myself. I know my limits, God knows my limits, and I am not fooling anyone when I try the "I couldn't help it" or "the temptation was too strong for me" excuses. I can help it. No temptation is too strong for me when I put my whole trust in God. Yet, for whatever reason, I still fall short of being the Catholic Christian that I can be.

Why? Well, I am imperfect. I am still able to give into temptation even with an informed conscience. I am still able to let my guard down. I am still able to give into the things I seek to avoid.

As much as this idea of imperfection causes me to change my life...or just seek change in my life, this idea can also be a temptation. I've seen it in my own life. I have found myself feeling too imperfect to go to a confessional because I don't feel sorry enough for my sins or because I haven't done enough reparation for my sins. Sometimes I feel like I haven't suffered enough for my sins to deserve the mere asking for absolution.

Do you see how dangerous these thoughts can be? This way of thinking has kept me away from a confessional quite a few times and, as a result, has made me unworthy of receiving the sacraments. In essence, this temptation does more damage to me in the long run than most of the other sins I commit on a day to day basis. Furthermore, this temptation brings me down and convinces me that I am unworthy of God's love and unworthy of the promise of salvation in Christ. This thinking convinces me that I have turned my back on Christ and that Christ has, in turn, abandoned me for more worthy folk.

Thoughts like this are enough to bring anyone down. They are a great temptation because they can easily turn someone into a dark, bitter individual convinced that God has abandoned the world.

Fortunately for us, however, that's not how it works. God loves us. God loved us long before we were conceived and he will love us long after we die. God sacrificed his only Son for our salvation even though it must have hurt quite a lot seeing us nail Him to the cross. The fact that He endured and continues to endure such pain and humiliation for us time and time again is a great demonstration of just how much he loves us.

Also, God knows what He's doing. He did not grant padres the power to serve as screens for Christ in the confessional, just to hear and absolve the smallest sins from near-perfect people. The priest in that confessional hears my confession and absolves my sins though the power of Christ BECAUSE I have sinned and BECAUSE I am imperfect. If we were all perfect, none of this would have been necessary. Christ's death would not have been necessary and neither would this need for confession and absolution. If God willed all of these things, it was because He knows enough about our imperfections and our nature to know that we are in dire need of his love and mercy...ESPECIALLY when we are at our worst.

With that said, I cannot help but recognize how absurd I've been acting with regards to confession. I have sinned and DESERVE to go to confession merely because I am a child of God. That's enough. That's all it takes. As long as I am truly sorry for my sins, this is all that's needed for me to go to confession and seek the sacraments. I don't need to be perfect to go to confession. I just need to trust in God. Furthermore, I can forget about this need to atone for everything before confession. What good is all this atonement if I do not learn from my mistakes and seek to repair the relationship with God that I have severed with sin? I know enough about myself to know that I am a fool when it comes to knowing my soul's needs. I am often too hard on myself and my self-prescribed atonement or penance isn't usually helpful in the long run. As much as I try to fool myself at times (out of vanity, pride, or just plain stupidity), I do not have years of theological training and study under my belt. I certainly don't have years of experience regarding sin and absolution either.

That's why I need a padre. If I truly feel sorry for my sins, I will have the humility to kneel in the confessional and listen to whatever advice, help, penance, etc. the priest offers. Oftentimes, this priest seems to know exactly what I should do. I've had moments where 5 months of doubt or confusion are solved by 5 minutes of one-on-one time with an awesome priest. Surely God must have been thinking of people like me when He  figured out this whole confession thing. Why would He go through all of this trouble of calling young men to priesthood if He didn't love imperfect people like me? He certainly didn't do this just so priests could have something to occupy their time with on a Saturday afternoon. He did it for people like me.

Time and time again, I lose sight of this great love. I tend to lose sight of the basic love that comes with being a child of God. I've read that guardian angels stick with you until the very end, going as far as the gates of hell itself in a last minute attempt to get you to turn back to God. If this is the case, it certainly demonstrates just how many chances we have to turn back to God. I have a tough time just accepting this infinite love with my whole a way where it's not something I have to think about it. I want to accept it in a way where I feel this great love at all moments of my life. I want to feel it even when that fear of imperfection creeps up on me, telling me to distance myself from God. I am convinced that simply accepting this infinite love as is (without adding any of my own conditions to it) will help me pray in a way where it doesn't have to become a routine. I know that it would certainly help me achieve some form of perfection.

"Love God then do whatever you want"

If I truly want to pray genuinely, live my faith genuinely, and even genuinely avoid sin....then I must love God genuinely. I am to love Him thoroughly and without reservation....but I cannot do this until I accept the fact that HE ALREADY LOVES ME THIS WAY. With that said, I am beginning to understand the quote above from Saint Augustine. It isn't simply about loving God and then allowing this love to govern your every thought, word, and is about allowing God to love you and ACCEPTING this love. True acceptance of this love would, I am sure, lead me to a confessional every week....spontaneous prayer every day...and so much reverence at every moment of my life that I would no longer get distracted.

Pax Vobiscum

An Open Letter to Sam the Intolerant, Antireligious Troll

What follows is a delayed red eye flight-induced response to a rather cheeky comment by an extremely misinformed (and most likely militant atheist) troll. The troll’s name is Sam…and they probably had no idea just who it was that they were messing with.

The comment:
 “Your 1st line cracked me up here. "I'm Catholic and I'm a science geek" How can you be a science geek when you pick and choose which bits of science to agree with depending on the opinion of a book that has nothing to do with science! Keep working on your standup act, its not bad but you need a few more jokes in there after the first line.”
 My snarky response (typed in an airport as I waited for flight information that seemed to change every hour or so): Sam, Thank you for stopping by my blog. Really, THANK YOU. All of the effort you made to visit my blog, read my intro, and write such an eloquent and well-informed comment are a blatant reminder of why I continue to maintain this blog. I really had no idea that one could successfully promote science by insulting the religious beliefs of another. Therefore, I am really glad that you took the time to write such a well-informed response to my introduction. You have definitely proven to me that one really must go through great lengths in order to ensure that the entire world approaches science with open mind. Blarney aside (couldn’t help the Irish reference…it’s almost St. Patrick’s day), your comment demonstrates what I am up against when it comes to dealing with ignorant fools who feel the need to discriminate against others for the sake of “reason.”

Before I continue, I must apologize in advance to my respectable atheist friends. Sam’s unsubstantiated bigotry and failed attempt at sardonic humor are one of the reasons why atheists have a tough time getting accepted for who they are by some. Christians, like myself, have to deal with having fundamentalist fools on our side of the fence. Atheists, on the other hand, have to deal with having militant atheist fools on their side of the fence. If you happen to be a reasonable atheist capable of engaging someone like myself in an intelligent and respectful discussion on religion and/or atheism…please disregard the rest of my post. The rest of this post is for the atheists out there who think they’re entitled to be prejudiced against people of faith just because they’re still getting their feet wet in the waters of atheism and feel like they know enough to prove the rest of the world wrong. Sam, get ready to take off your swimmies. People like me have a habit of forcing you to take a leap into deeper waters…whether they be atheist, Christian, etc.

Sam, your comment was more biased and redundant than it was humorous. Such a comment can only come from one whose faith (or lack thereof) is lukewarm. I am very sorry if I have to be the one to break it to you, but you are really going nowhere with lukewarm militant atheism…except perhaps a militant atheist convention where you will learn to blindly quote Dawkins instead of truly exploring atheism. You will learn how to buy the books of other prominent militant atheists just so you can throw slogans and more mindless quotes at people like me…instead of learning how to debate the hardcore apologists and theologians out there. Regardless of the argument you bring up against the existence of God…we’ve already addressed it time and time again over the centuries. Don’t believe me? Check out Augustine, Thomas of Aquinas, and a few other choice reads. I understand that their sound theology may be a bit hard to swallow at times. However, at the very least, your grammar will improve dramatically just by reading their eloquent works regarding God, religion, and yes…even science.

Contrary to what your lukewarm and extremely misguided line of atheism may tell you, I think it's safe to say that I agree with more science than you will probably ever agree with or even understand in your entire life. Why? I have an open mind that is just as curious as it is insatiable....and so I have sought to learn from various fields whether they be evolutionary biology, genetics, plant science, or even astrobiology. Contrary to what you assume, I don’t need to “pick and choose” because my religion embraces scientific exploration. If I were to approach science or even my own life with the same narrow-minded and offensive attitude you expressed in your comment…I would have never chosen to major in biology as a freshman. I would have never chosen molecular biology as a masters student and I certainly would have never made it to the toxicology-laden PhD. Instead, I would have dropped out of school, subscribed to every militant atheist group out there, and spent the rest of my life trolling people on the internet, in the New York Times, and in discriminatory billboard ads. Furthermore, I would have avoided any attempts to understand where the other side is coming from…because God forbid I try to understand my fellow human being before I start assaulting their beliefs.

Yes, you may think that the Bible prohibits science. This form of thinking, however, only demonstrates to me just how ignorant you are of my faith. Furthermore, your outright refusal to even attempt to understand my Catholic faith only demonstrates that you are even MORE narrow-minded than those Christians you must dislike so much. Contrary to what your favorite militant atheist may tell you, religious folk like me simply cannot see religion and science as two mutually exclusive entities. Call me crazy, but I see God in all I’ve ever learned about molecular biology, organic chemistry, and especially neurobiology. Call me crazy, but I feel that science and Catholicism work well together. The Bible lays a foundation. Science explains how this foundation works…and so I explore as many fields and ideas as I can.

However, science has yet to discover the “why” behind everything. I can never be satisfied with just a “how.” I’ve studied enough about our solar system to know how the earth revolves around the sun. However, I have yet to find the “why” in the countless textbooks I’ve ever been forced to study. Religion gives me the “why.” The Bible gives me the “why.” Countless Catholic Science Geeks before me have also used both religion and science to explore the “why.” Though a lot of science seeks to explore the “how” behind every structure, force, and function behind everything we see and experience…I doubt that this “how” is the only reason behind each scientific exploration. Let us take human origin as an example. How did we come about? Evolution. How did evolution work? A countless series of advantageous and heritable mutations. How did mutations come about? Mistakes in the transcription of DNA that then altered the structure and function of a particular protein, which somehow gave an organism some advantage over its neighbors. I cannot help but surmise that our exploration of the universe is fueled by the “why.”

We’ve already discovered so much about the universe and have some pretty sound theories regarding our origins….but we are still driven to know more. Why is it that we constantly push the limits of our knowledge in order to determine what’s out there? My theory is that we want to finally determine whether or not God created it all. Atheists like you demand people like me to prove that there is a God. Catholics like me would believe in God regardless of any “proof” you can procure and any insults you care to share. Catholics like me look you right in the eye and say “prove it” whenever the militant atheist states that God is not real. You can quantify all of the matter and antimatter of the universe, you can bring up evolution, you can bring up as many studies from as many fields as you would like in order to disprove God’s existence. People who are like me, however, will merely shake our heads at your blatant misuse of science.

Even the militant atheist who treasures science above all will find themselves blaspheming against her by misusing her for the sake of a personal vendetta against people of faith. I know how science works and know the thrill I’ve felt when I’ve had an experiment work. I know the type of questions scientists ask when they pursue a field or a particular project. We don’t slave over lab benches just so people like you can use our findings as hostages in your war against religion…your war against tolerance…your war against something you simply do not and may never even attempt to understand. I just don’t understand how militant atheists claim to love science, but then proceed to use it as a weapon to justify their own personal beliefs and attitudes towards people of faith. To make matters worse, these individuals then have the gall to take the Bible out of context in order to tell me how to read it. Therefore, not only am I bothered by your misuse of science…but also by your misuse of any of the teachings, people, ideas, etc. that I respect as a Catholic. To make matters worse, you also attempt to sell me your own particular interpretation of a Bible passage. You do so in order to corner me into admitting that the Bible prohibits this or allows for that scientific tidbit.

Do you see the hypocrisy and foolishness you are using here?

You mock my beliefs. You then twist my beliefs around to make your own cause seem more appealing. Lastly, you proceed to pass off these flawed beliefs as if they were my own to begin with.

There are two fatal flaws to the approach you used when writing your comment…..

First, you assume that I use the Bible alone as a guide in my religious life. WRONG. Yes, the Bible is important. However, I also have the Church, countless hours talking theology with priests and other religious folk, countless books, millennia of tradition, and centuries of theologians and saints that have explored both the Bible and the natural world. I use as many, if not all, of these as guides in my own religious life. Who are you to deem yourself superior in thought and Biblical studies to any of these other sources? YOU HAVE NO IDEA what the Bible truly says or doesn’t say regarding science. As short as your comment may have been, the ignorance and prejudice within it are all the indication I need to know that you haven’t bothered studying much of my faith to any great length. If you had, you’d have known that Roman Catholicism TEACHES THAT THE BIBLE IS NOT THE ONLY SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. If you plan on cornering me in an argument regarding my religion and attempt to make it sound like you know more about my religion than I do, BE SURE TO USE DOCTRINE FROM MY RELIGION IN YOUR ARGUMENT. You can’t debate Catholicism with me if you’re using material from other religions in your debate. If you want to debate Catholicism with me, be sure to know as much about this religion (or more about it) than I do. Mistaking a CATHOLIC for a FUNDAMENTAL CHRISTIAN only succeeds in making YOU look FOOLISH.

Second, you completely ignored or have refused to acknowledge the contributions of many Catholics and other religious folk to the scientific field. Where would evolution be without Friar Mendel’s pea plant experiments and data? Where would the Big Bang Theory be without Father Lemaitre? These are two of the hot topic issues between the militant atheist and fundamentalist nuts out there….but I take no issue with them…and neither does the Catholic faith. Don’t believe me? Try doing a little more reading. I really don’t want to join you in this game of “Jumping to Conclusions,” but I cannot help but assume that you really have a poor understanding of what it means to be a science geek….just as you have a poor understanding of what is actually written in the Bible…and of just how many religious science geeks have contributed to science as we know today (even the most Militant Atheist Science Geek nut out there will have to begrudgingly admit that is was a Catholic priest who first proposed the Big Bang Theory and another Catholic who provided the “science” behind Darwin’s observations). Then there’s Pasteur, Descartes, Coulomb, Ampere, and quite a few others. And I’ve only just named Catholic Science Geeks like myself. I am sure, however, that there are plenty of Jewish Science Geeks, Protestant Science Geeks, etc. Why do you feel the need to ignore these geeks?

Judging by your incredulity regarding my love of both science and my Catholic faith as well as your substantial arguments (or lack thereof) against my love of both science and the Catholic faith, I can only assume that you haven’t really studied my Catholic beliefs in much depth. Furthermore, I may even venture to say that you have either ignored or refused to believe much of the history behind the science we know today. There are so many religious folk out there that have embraced religion as I do…I am only one person in a long line of such people.

Therefore, based on all of this, my best guess is that your understanding of Catholicism (and religion in general) is based on one or more of the following:

  1.  An article by some prominent militant atheist (at worst, because it only demonstrates that you possess that sheep mentality militant atheists enjoy throwing at people like me) 
  2. A lack of thorough religious education (not your fault here, though your refusal to learn more about the religious beliefs you attack definitely would be your fault) 
  3. A jaded and extremely misguided interpretation of the long-since abandoned religious studies of your childhood (if this is the case, shame on you for giving up at such a basic understanding) 
  4.  A mix all of the above (most likely the case, which will require you to do a lot more reading if you plan on debating religion with people like me in the future) I don’t blame you to some degree. It is very hard to read the Bible and/or the works of those who spent most of their lives studying and interpreting the Bible. 
However, if you really want Catholics like me to take you seriously, you really have to do a lot more reading and you really have to provide stronger arguments for your own beliefs (or lack thereof). Had you approached the Bible or even Atheism with Thomas of Aquinas’s thirst for knowledge, St. Augustine’s determination, or even C.S. Lewis’s courageous skepticism… I doubt you would have left such a “wimpy” comment on my blog.

You must really be a lukewarm atheist in dire need of a good theological thrashing, an open mind, or even a simple history lesson in the very least. You're probably drunk on this new wave of militant atheism after reading some militant atheist's work and probably think you're so much smarter than a Catholic like myself.  I am sorry to say, but you are going to need a lot more than a touch of sardonic humor if you plan on getting far in the world of the religion and science debate. Personally, I see no reason for this debate considering my experience of how well religion and science complement each other. However, if you are really adamant about taking part of this argument and really adamant of practicing discrimination in the name of “reason,” please develop a stronger basis for your accusations. If you are confused about some things, read. If you are questioning some elements about your own atheism, read theological books that aren’t written by militant atheists. Perhaps this will provide you with the material you need to build more substantial arguments. Perhaps it will bring you some answers to the questions you’ve been asking yourself. Perhaps it may lead you down a path to inner peace that you never dreamed of taking before.

I sincerely hope that the latter happens...

Sam, do your best to enjoy the rest of your spiritual journey. I am pretty sure that you’re in for some bumpy roads ahead…but a little more effort on your part may just make it worth it in the end. If not, at least be sure to provide better arguments in favor of your position the next time you decide to go out for an afternoon troll.
Just be sure to watch out for these guys if you venture near Moria.

Pax Vobiscum

My apologies for the harshness...between the red eye flight, weather delays, torn up luggage, and stopovers from California, to Georgia, and then New Jersey...I had a rough day or so. My posts are usually a lot less severe.

Lord Faramir of Gondor is no more...but not all hope is lost

My Kindle, Lord Faramir of Gondor, has a broken screen. I first realized it was broken when I took it out during class today for a quick read. I, for whatever reason, simply cannot pay attention during epidemiology. It's too noisy, I am too distracted by 100+ students talking, shuffling, clicking away on their computers, etc. I simply am not able to digest anything in a room with 100+ other people. Therefore, I go to class mainly to record the lecture so that I can listen to it at home when I have no distractions.  Fortunately, the instructor (God bless her soul) posts everything from videos of the lecture to audio feeds of the lecture online so we can review it later.  I was, to put it lightly, quite crestfallen when I realized that I would be sans Neil Gaiman for 2 hours today.

As upset as I was about the Kindle, I was feeling okay....except when I got to the subway. I was, for the first time in quite a while, without a good read. As sad as it sounds, I almost did not know what to do with myself and I started wishing that I had brought my latest paperback read, Monsignor Leon Cristiani's "Evidence of Satan in the Modern World." I know the title sounds morbid, but it's actually a good read. Thus far, I read a pretty great few stories about the Cure de Ars and a few others that were tormented by evil only to rise up against it with sanctity and grace. It also provides a few lessons in spiritual warfare...something that is much needed in a world where we are attacked and easily persuaded by evil that is not necessarily always demonic in origin. In any event, I tend to read books of this nature to better stack the odds in my favor when it comes to fighting evil....whether that evil be daleks, zombies, potentially haunted laboratories or the really serious evils out there like despair, gluttony, jealousy, fear, anger, pride, lust, etc.

The subway ride was pretty boring since I had not packed anything to read and since I did not feel like listening to music. Yeah, I know...first world problems. In an effort to get over my boredom and avoid eye contact, I just stared out the window.

Lo and behold, my eyes caught a few anti-religious propaganda under the guise of humanism. There's a difference between promoting atheism and promoting anti-religious sentiment. These posters, promoted more of the latter. I don't know about the rest of you out there, but I get the impression that these posters are getting more and more brazen and...dare I say it...offensive. I'd the country would be in an uproar if you were to switch the word "religion" with another group, gender, a company name, a city, a sports team, etc. You get the idea. However, it's perfectly fine when you promote religion as something unreasonable, dangerous, etc. Well, I'm religious. I am reasonable. I am pretty harmless. I also feel like taking a huge permanent marker and writing the names of a few choice apologetics and respectable religious figures on these posters the next time I get the chance (C.S. Lewis, the Dalai Lama, G.K. Chesterton, and Martin Luther King Jr. to name a few).

I really don't mind atheism. If you don't believe in God, that's your own personal journey. If you want to promote your own religion, or lack thereof...go ahead. I don't mind that either. What I do mind, however, is when you promote your own religion or lack thereof by attacking another one. Also, if you're going to start attacking religion in the name of your hostile flavor of sure to remember the examples of Mao Zedong, Hitler, and Stalin when it came to spreading certain certain belief systems (or lack thereof) in favor of other less "reasonable" religions and religious practices. When you people get away with posting things like this on the subway, it really comes as no surprise to me that instances of religious bias and anti-semitism are on the rise.

Sometimes when I see things like this, I cannot help but think that there are more sinister forces at play. Call me crazy, bit I do think that evil is very much alive in today's world...and this includes evil from a demonic origin. However, even when the most offensive of posters are allowed to be posted in the name of "religious freedom" while this same religious freedom is allowed to be attacked by the HHS mandate...I cannot help but keep my head up. You see, there is still so much in this world that is worth fighting for and worth defending. There is so much beauty in this world that is worth preserving and so many people out there that make this fight worth it.

Today as I was pondering all of this, I looked up at the sky and saw a meteorite falling. It streaked down within a split second, but saw it. It had a long, striking white tail and it was massive. I've never seen one of these before in my entire life, though I had seen more than my own fair share of falling stars in Portugal. Needless to say, it is something I will hold onto for the rest of my life. This thing must have landed around here somewhere because it certainly looked like it was relatively close to the ground (compared to other celestial bodies up there at least). It was simply that huge, rare, and beautiful. Right after it flashed out of view, Luke 10:18 came to mind...

"And he said to them: I saw Satan falling from heaven."

As much as these subway ads upset me (and I really feel for my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters that are getting targeted by this more recent slew of ads), this meteorite reminded me of just what I am fighting against and why I must continue fighting the good fight. Saint Michael, defend us in battle....

On another positive note, is replacing my Kindle and I should get a new one by this Wednesday. I fully expected having to get a new one as I did not remember getting any form of warranty for Faramir. Fortunately, it looks like my Kindle came with a 1 year warranty. How awesome is that? 
FARAMIR LIVES! Well, kind of...unless I rename my new Kindle after another Lord of the Rings Character.... Prince Imrahil of Dol Amorth...
....or Eomer of Rohan.
Oh, and on one more positive note...I was able to hunt down a copy of Father Jose Antonio Fortea's "Summa Daemoniaca." For any of you interested in reading about exorcism, possession, and demons, this book has yet to be published in English. The Spanish edition is currently going for about $300 on Amazon and there are few other places where you can buy an authentic copy of this book. Not one to give up hope on finding a copy of this book for a reasonable price, I was finally able to find one on Amazon for around $24. The only catch is that the book is in Italian. Well, it looks like this will be a great opportunity to brush up on my Italian! 

Pax Vobiscum

If all else fails, be the ONE good Catholic in your life....

I went to Immaculate Conception for mass again today. My sister and I have been craving the Latin Mass, so we first stopped by Holy Face in hopes that the renovations were completed. Alas! No one was parked there, so we quickly headed back over to Immaculate Conception. We were a tad late, but we still made it in time to see the young ones off to their children's liturgy. It was difficult hearing the priest from where we sat this morning, but the homily was a good one (at least the pieces I heard in between the baby crying in the back). It turns out the priest had lost his nephew and the nephew's family back in the tsunami of 2004. The priest then talked about what this loss had done to his own spiritual life. He talked about the small  crisis of faith he had, and this made me feel a lot better about my own spiritual life hardships.

I have been working on a "Why does God let bad things happen?" post series on and off for some time, so this homily was a great kick in the bum for me to get this post finished. I will get to it eventually, once I have a lot more time on my hands. It's one of those posts that are better when they aren't rushed. This post deals with a topic that quite a lot of people have explored or despaired I'd rather take my time on it and post it when it is ready to post. Perhaps I will get to it after my conference this week and a few other school  and research-related things. 

After the priest's homily, the priest called off all of the confirmation candidates by their chosen names and asked the parishioners present to stand along with the children if they shared a confirmation name. The experience was a remarkable one as one by one, all of the names were called. Someone had picked the name Caecilia, and so I stood up once I had an idea of what was going on. My sister stood up for the Teresa...quite a few Josephs stood up when one of the boys was called...and before you knew it...the church was full of standing people. 

As I stood, and even as I sat, I prayed for these 8th grade students. I prayed for their faithful lives and I prayed for their salvation. I prayed that they would be able to resist the many temptations this world had to offer and I prayed that they would remain close to God. I prayed and asked for the intercession of quite a few saints. I prayed especially for my fellow Caecilia (whoever she may be). Perhaps these children will never now that I prayed for them...or they may find out one day when we meet up at heaven's gate. However, one thing I do know is that this experience was a powerful one for me and for quite a few other people in the church.

Picture from Pater Eddie Dwyer
I saved a bunch of these from his Facebook before Lent Started...
...I knew they'd come in handy!
This experience was beautiful because it provided parishioners with a tangible proof of how we, as Catholic Christians, are linked together. We are asked to support each other in our spiritual lives and to be strength for others when their own strength fails. We are to encourage those in need of consolation and to be faithful representatives for God and for Christ during our time here on Earth. Whenever there is another person in need, we are to help them. Whenever someone else is being tempted, we are to support them and be strength for them so that they may overcome temptation. We are to model our lives after that of Christ rather than to give into the same temptations that have become social norms. 

"Love one another as I have loved you."

Yes, we are to love one another. However, this love does not mean "love your neighbor as they do whatever they please and endanger their own salvation in the process." Loving your neighbor is a lot harder than that. Loving your neighbor means looking out for their salvation too. This may be hard for some of us to accept, but loving your neighbor means that you do have some level of responsibility for them. Therefore, you must not only live your own life by the laws that encourage your own salvation...but encourage your neighbor to do so as well. This may make you unpopular at parties when everyone else is getting wasted....but at least your neighbor will have a sober driver to take them home even if they don't follow your sober example. This may make create some tension in a relationship if you choose to live chastely when everyone else is cohabiting, but at least your friends and family may see that it IS possible to adhere to Catholic sexual teaching in a world that encourages the other alternatives. 
Believe it or not, Christ is loving his neighbor here.... teaching them a lesson they needed to learn...
Another from Pater Eddie Dwyer
I know I am far from perfect, but I do try to live my life in a way that leaves a good impression on the faith that I love so much. As terrible as the media makes us Catholics look at times and as unpopular as our teachings may be in a world that prefers abortion on demand to motherhood...I do what I can to make sure that everyone in my life knows at least ONE good Catholic. Everyone in my life knows at least ONE Catholic who does not take the Lord's name in vain even when things go downhill in an experiment. Everyone in my life knows at least ONE good Catholic who is faithful to the Magisterium even when so many others love to bash the pope....and some Catholics (*cough* Pelosi*cough* Sebelius*cough*) seem to go out of their way to bash basic Catholic teachings. Everyone in my life knows at least ONE good Catholic who observes Lent and takes this season seriously...even if it means missing out on alcohol, Facebook, and a few other things during this season.

Even though my laboratory isn't Catholic, they know when I am fasting and have been extremely considerate. I really appreciate it. I also appreciate the questions I've been getting regarding my faith and how I live by it. They may not be Catholic and may never be Catholic, but at least they are more familiar to my faith...and as a result, they understand it a little better than they would have understood it just by turning on the TV or reading the latest biased New York Times article. 

Hopefully, you are surrounded by good Catholics and don't have to be the ONE good Catholic in your own life. If this isn't the case, take it up on yourself to "love your neighbor as I have loved you." Don't turn it into an opportunity to become a Catholic hypocrite. Turn it into the opportunity to improve your own life and bring yourself closer to God as you lead others on the same path. 

We may not have a real-life Saint Francis walking barefoot through every corner of Manhattan feeding pigeons....

We may not hear Saint John crying out in the wilderness whenever we go hiking in the forest...

We may not have a Saint Thomas More giving the current administration a verbal thrashing over their recent treatment of religious rights...

Defending your faith under penalty of death is a lot more badass
 than adjusting beliefs so that they are in accordance with those of the ruling folk.
We may not have a real-life Bl. Mother Teresa feeding the hungry in Penn Station ever morning....

....but we have plenty of people that have chosen these names for their Confirmation. Therefore, we have plenty of people that should be using these saints as models for their own lives. As a result, we should have plenty of Catholics out there to teach by example. We should have Catholics out there that are willing to teach us with their own example. We have Catholics out there to support us in our time of need. We have Catholics out there that encourage us to live our lives in a way that will lead to salvation. 

My experience at today's mass was beautiful. I may not have been a Confirmation candidate, but I could feel the support. These candidates are only beginning to embark on their own adult spiritual lives and I cannot help but wish that I had their optimism for the life ahead. As much as I am told not to worry, I am truly afraid for these kids because I have a feeling that things will be a lot worse for them when the time comes to stand true to their faith. I have a tough enough time defending my stance against abortion, why I stand against the HHS mandate alongside our bishops, etc. I have already lost one friendship because I stood by my faith rather than allow them to continually spread their anti-Catholic messages on Facebook. I do not feel that a new persecution against Catholics is coming, because the persecution already here. It's been here for about 2000 years and it will remain here long after I am gone. 

This is why I prayed for the Confirmation candidates today. I know how hard it will be for them in the years to come and they will need all the help, prayers, and intercessions they can get. Fortunately, there's hope. I felt a sense of peace today as I prayed for them and I know that my prayers were heard. I could feel the presence of God during mass today and I know that God will be with those candidates, the standing parishioners that shared confirmation names with these candidates, and all the other people in that church today. God is with us...and that, in and of itself, is a comfort. Why? 

"If God be for us, who can be against us?"

We Catholics, confirmation candidates included, have a tough ride ahead of us...but fortunately for us, we have a great designated driver. All we have to do is trust Him. 

Pax Vobiscum.

10 Strange Things People Do At Night aka CATHOLIC FTW

The BBC recently came out with a pretty interesting article "The Myth of the Eight-Hour Sleep." It explained a practice called segmented sleep.

Segmented sleep breakdown:
1. Go to bed early (in my opinion anything before 12am is early).
2. Wake up in the middle of the night.
3. Stay awake for a few hours.
4. Go back to sleep.
5. Wake up refreshed and ready to go!

Naturally, considering my own bizarre sleep schedule, I found this article to be fascinating. We hear a lot about how 8 straight hours of sleep is normal and necessary for health...but this article suggested that 8 hours of sleep was unnatural and not something that was very common throughout human history.

"Roger Ekirch says this 1595 engraving by Jan Saenredam is evidence of activity at night "-BBC
Apparently our ancestors had the habit of getting up in the middle of the night to go visit neighbors, pray, and attend to all sorts of other matters. To read the rest of this really cool article, click here!

It came as no surprise to me that this article became one of the most read and shared pieces on the website. As I type this post, it remains one of the BBC News top reads. Naturally, people sent in stories about their own bizarre sleep schedules, which led to a post featuring "Ten Strange Things People Do At Night." Call me a cynic, but I half-expected at least one of them to inappropriate. However, all of them turned out to be pretty cool. One person remembered the times he had spent as a kid staying awake in the middle of the night with his Yali tribe friends in Indonesia.  Another person talked about how they spent some hours painting the  images that pop into their mind when they wake up at 3am. Another reader, a Muslim individual, mentioned getting up to pray the Tahajjud (night prayer). Another reader talked about the Korean soaps they got hooked on and how the characters were much more moral than the standard soap opera rubbish you tend to see in the US.

Call me a little biased, but my favorite was from a woman in Canada named Theresa (though I must say that the Yali tribe story came in close second):
I haven't been able to sleep through the night since I was pregnant with my first child, 24 years ago. Also, my husband snores like a Harley Davidson motorcycle, so I used to go sleep on the sofa in the living room.
 Recently he has been having trouble sleeping and wakes in the night too. We have decided to go to bed early on a Saturday night and get up around 02:30 to go meditate at our church.
It is a Catholic church where they have a chapel that is open all night for special prayers called 24-hour adoration. According to these prayers, someone has to be there 24 hours a day so we relieve the person who lets us in and we stay until someone else shows up. 
That hour usually flies by. We come home relaxed, go back to bed and sleep again until the morning.
HOW AWESOME IS THIS?!?! I so want to take a part of this one night! Perhaps once my schedule gets a little hectic, I may have to try this out if there's a 24 hour adoration around here.

Happy March everyone!

Pax Vobiscum