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Divine Mercy in My Soul: A Geeky Review

I've once again disappeared, but if you could only see what the last few weeks have been would not be surprised. In a very Ocean's Eleven sort of way, the Fiancé and I have hunted down all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen and recruited them into The Fellowship. Be prepared for a year's-worth of Lord of the Rings references, because we also set a date and are currently in talks with at least 2 padres regarding pre-Cana, the ceremony, and the church where all of this will be taking place. I am already in the process of hunting down the proper paperwork (baptism certificates, etc) as I work on my qualifying exams. I'm not even going to mention how many lab hours I have been putting in recently....but trust me, it's enough to make an aspiring PhD student cry and contemplate a career change. We've also gotten the two families together for dinner and, surprisingly enough, it went extremely well. I think both of the dad's really hit it off.

Oh, and just one more thing, I am getting ready for yet another fun-filled semester of TA'ing a course....Toxicology.  (I also tried my hand at apartment searching in NYC...but that's a whole other failure-laced story I'd rather not get into.) Needless to say...I've been busy.

As you can imagine, I am not getting married any time too soon between Pre-Cana and qualifying exams (that seem to be looming around the corner, whether I want them to or not). We've settled on October 5th, 2013. It's a ways off...but I think the wait may just be worth it. I'm pretty excited that this day turned out to be Saint Faustina Kowalska's feast day (not intentional, and it was the Fiancé that first suggested it). I have been reading her diary little by little over the past few months...and the writings of this very humble pre-WWII sister are extremely inspirational. I may as well spoil it for you, but this modern-day saint was blessed enough to commune with Christ,  the Blessed Mother, her guardian angel, and other saints throughout her life. She was praised for her faith, chastised for her shortcomings, and ultimately sanctified through her sufferings and complete trust in God. 

Though she lived in a convent, she was not completely concealed from the worst characteristics of humanity. Some of her order's sisters betrayed her confidence, mocked her goodness, and made her life a living hell in any way they could. This poor saint, whose body was already being tortured for the sake of other souls, could barely make it through the typical day...but still did her best to go on in spite of the cruelty she saw...and all for the love of Christ. Ultimately, through her silent sufferings and humility, she began to truly understand Christ's Passion, His immense love, and His never-ending mercy.  

Christ, as Saint Kowalska came to know, was neither the "fire and brimstone" God to be feared by all...nor was He anything like the rainbows and unicorns sort of Christ that will love you and let you sin as you please. He was a perpetually crucified Lord who still continues to relive His Passion and suffer immensely as a result of the sins of this world. He is the God who constantly seeks to offer mercy to sinners in need of redemption...sinners who continually ignore His love as they pursue the pleasures of this world. He is a Christ that is literally wounded time and time again by our words, actions, and deeds. He suffers for us, bleeds for us, moans in agony for us, and is ultimately ignored by us. 

This book was a sobering reminder of what it truly means to follow Christ. It's not enough to call ourselves "Christian" or "Catholic" and simply go to church on Sundays. Our call to follow Christ does not mean we get to pick and choose what teachings of His we chose to follow...and which are too outdated to consider. 

To truly follow Christ, you take up a cross alongside Him. You suffer for Him. You suffer for the salvation of souls. You suffer out of love for souls. You devote your entire life to Him, dedicating whatever work you can in His name and for His ultimate purpose. You decrease as He increases, regardless of how inconvenient it may be at times or how many relationships you put on the line. On top of this, you are called to serve out of love...and called to put all of your trust in Him even if you don't appreciate His purpose for you. 

As I have read this book, I have reflected on my own spiritual life...quite a lot. One of the biggest things I have thought about is my inner conversion from a "craptastical" catholic, so a "still somewhat crummy" Catholic (aka "work-in-progress Catholic"). My conversion led to many miniature conversions that challenged many of the views I used to have.   It shames me to say, but I was once a proponent for some of the things I so vehemently oppose these days. Considering how popular some of these terrible things are, I know that my inner inspirations did not come from this world. The world sure as hell never wanted me to oppose all forms of abortion, but I do. 10 years ago, I would not have believed that I would ever be one of those people that pray whenever I pass an abortion clinic. I would have never believed that I would be so outspoken about how this practice is murder and how women deserve better than abortion. I would have never imagined myself overcoming fear of losing friends in order to make it known to them just how I feel about abortion, hormonal birth control, IVF, and a few other things. 

However, it happened. Something changed. Something forced me to challenge all of my comfortable beliefs, and ultimately become the "hateful," "stupid," "brain-washed," "bigoted," and "small-minded" person in quite a few impromptu debates. The names bother me sometimes, but what troubles me most is how angry these people tend to get and how blinded they are by certain views. Even in cases where a well-reasoned response on my part leaves them speechless or quickly changing topics/arguments... I see a headstrong mentality that is fueled by bias rather than truth. That saddens me. These people are the type of people that seek to change scientific understanding because it is too inconvenient for them to look at a fetus and consider it human. Biology thinks this is stupid....and I certainly side with biology on this one, as a scientist. 

The way I see it is this, if you ever find yourself congratulating a couple on their pregnancy...and then turn around to a mother at an abortion clinic to tell her that she's not carrying a baby... you are either blinded by stupidity/stubbornness, or an incredibly evil person. The only difference between these babies is an issue of convenience and cowardice. This goes for children that are the products of rape, children that are the products of incest, children that are born to poor individuals, etc. I see no exception here. You can bring up the fact that women are sometimes put at risk health-wise if they, for example, are given a choice of chemo or carrying their child to term. However, arguing intrinsic/conditional evils doesn't change the fact that there is a human being inside of that womb. The DNA is there, the cell division is there, and the anatomical structures are there. At least that is how I see it as from a purely biological perspective. If you are up at arms about the teaching of creationism in schools...then you should be up at arms about a redefinition of basic biology such as this one

From a Catholic standpoint, I oppose abortion because of the belief that every life is given by God and every life has a purpose. Every human being out there is a temple of the Holy Spirit...regardless of the circumstances of his/her birth. With that said, you cannot imagine that you know more than God when you decide to support the killing of one of His creations. Sister Faustina Kowalska's diary emphasizes this in a very sobering passage where Christ explains the purpose behind some of the intense sufferings Saint Faustina experiences in order to offer reparation for the sins of suffer for the souls of others. 

(A very sobering excerpt from Saint Faustina's Diary)
September 16, 1937.
I wanted very much to make a Holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament today. But God’s will was otherwise. At eight o’clock I was seized with such violent pains that I had to go to bed at once. I was convulsed with pain for three hours; that is, until eleven o’clock at night. No medicine had any effect on me, and whatever I swallowed I threw up. At times, the pains caused me to lose consciousness. Jesus had me realize that in this way I took part in His Agony in the Garden, and that He Himself allowed these sufferings in order to offer reparation to God for the souls murdered in the wombs of wicked mothers. I have gone through these sufferings three times now. They always start at eight o’clock in the evening and last until eleven. No medicine can lessen these sufferings. When eleven o’clock comes, they cease by themselves, and I fall asleep at that moment. The following day, I feel very weak.

This happened to me for the first time when I was at the sanatorium. The doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of it, and no injection or medicine helped me at all or did I myself have any idea of what the sufferings were about. I told the doctor that never before in my life had I experienced such sufferings, and he declared he did not know what sort of pains they are. But now I understand the nature of these pains, because the Lord himself has made this known to me. Yet when I think that I may perhaps suffer in this way again, I tremble. But I don’t know whether I’ll ever again suffer in this way; I leave that to God. What it pleases God to send, I will accept with submission and love. If only I could save even one soul from murder by means of these sufferings! 

My apologies if this post was a bit harsh for some readers...but as inconvenient as these words may be, I just had to share them once I finished reading the book. With that said, I must stress that this book ensures us just how unfathomable God's mercy truly is and how much love He has for all of us. This includes women who have had abortions in the past...and I certainly pray for these women and their children very often and with much love in my heart. I hope you will join me in doing the same.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone out there who may need some guidance in their journey towards Christ's immense well as those who may need some reassurance regarding God's mercy. God truly loves you, all of you....all you have to do is trust in Him and let Him work through you. For a free PDF version of this wonderful book, please click here.

Pax vobiscum 

Moving On And Putting Away Childish Things

I've got some pretty strong ties to my family and, for this reason, I tend to go home on the weekend whenever I can even though I live half a state away and have had my own apartment for several years. I also enjoy going to mass with my family when I go to South Jersey and even though I've spent more time going to mass in other places for the past 8 years...I have never registered with a church. Technically, I guess you can say that I am registered as a member of my dad's family. I got away with not registering or really planting myself anywhere for 6 years because I just kept going to mass at school (MSU has a great Newman Center). Even though I lived up in North Jersey for 7 summers out of the 8 since I first left home for college and even though Newman didn't really do mass during the summer...I found a way around that by just going to mass at any one of the many churches around here. (I am extremely spoiled living near so many wonderful churches.)

I have gone to mass at St. Philip's, St. Cassian's, Columbia University, MSU, Immaculate Conception, the Holy Face Monastery...and others ever since I started living on my own. However, one thing I haven't done in all this call any of these churches home. A little part of me just didn't want to sever ties with St. Peter's, the church of my childhood....the church where my family went virtually ever Sunday for my entire live (I say virtually, because sometimes we did go to St. Casimir's).

During my 8 year absence, a lot has happened. St. Peter's was merged with St. Joseph's to become Jesus the Good Shepherd. Father Thomas and Deacon Joe passed away (may God grant them eternal rest). Several other priests I had grown to love were transferred or ended up retiring. They started celebrating mass in Spanish. Several acquaintances and old school friends got married there. My uncle's funeral mass was celebrated there. A new mass translation was introduced. The list goes on.

As many of these changes were occuring, I remained in North Jersey...jumping from church to church without really settling down. I loved Holy Face's latin mass. However, Holy Face closed down for repairs some time ago...and I am still unsure about when it will be reopened. I fell in love with Immaculate Conception's stained glass and pretty cool homilies, but even so I still venture off to St. Cassian's...which has simpler stained glass mosaics, but one of the most beautiful choirs I've ever heard. My goodness, it sounds like a choir of angels whenever I close my eyes and simply listen to them sing. My time as a wandering church hobo has allowed me to see, hear, and experience a wonderful assortment of all things that the Catholic Church has to offer. These eight years have certainly been a feast for the senses...and they have been some 8 of the most important years of my life in terms of faith formation.

During this time, I suppose you can say that I also started growing in faith. I got confirmed while a student in MSU. Why? Well, part of the reason was that my mom had always wanted her children to get confirmed. Another reason was this quiet guy at the end of the hall I met during my stint as the Honors Floor resident director. That quiet young man became my fiancé 6.5 years later. Though he is exploring Catholicism now, he was agnostic when we first met. I guess you can say that compared to where I am now, I was a pretty crappy "Cafeteria Catholic" bordering on "Catholic In Name Only." My saving grace was the fact that I kept going to weekly mass even if I did turn into one of those wishy-washy Catholics. I probably spent more time trying to create my own form of Catholicism based on my "worldly wisdom" and severely distorted ideas of what it meant to be a follower of Christ....than I attempted to truly live the faith. Basically, I loved Jesus...but still wanted to do and believe as I pleased.

Though agnostic at the start of our relationship, The Fiancé (whether he knew it or not), challenged me to explore my faith. I didn't know the "why" behind a lot of what I claimed to follow...and this guy made me look into things a bit more deeply. We talked a lot about faith and, over time, I started taking mine a lot more seriously. Just being in a relationship with him helped me see how selfish I was. Yes, I tended to do good for others...but I did not do the best that I could do for my neighbor. At times, I even put myself first...before neighbor, before family, and before God. Over time, The Fiancé helped me work on my pride, my stubbornness, and my need to always be right (even when I was not). Over time, I became a better Catholic. I may not be anywhere near perfect yet...but The Fiancé certainly helped me get to where I am today. In the process, he also started exploring his own faith.

Today, we found ourselves sitting in front of a padre...talking about our future wedding and the pre-Cana classes we wanted to start. One issue that came up was the fact that I wasn't really permanently registered or based in any particular church. I explained my "wandering Church hobo" ways and the priest suggested that I find a church home to base myself as I prepare for marriage. This whole idea, as trivial as it may be, seemed like a BIG step for me in terms of transitioning from child to adult. This was far more significant than paying my first apartment deposit, getting my license, or even starting a PhD program. This, to me, was like cutting the cord on one of the final (and most significant) ties I had with my childhood home, my parents, and the church I had went to for my entire childhood. I made a comment about how hard it would be for me to cut the cord and do the grown-up thing by registering in a church on my own. The priest kindly reminded me (with a laugh or two) that marriage was an even more grown-up thing for me to do.

This realization was sobering, in a sense, because he was right. Marriage is a BIG THING. In my mind, however, I also think registering in my first church is also a big thing (even if it isn't as BIG as marriage). The thing is, registering myself is one of the first big breaks between me and my church days at home...the days where my entire family filed into one pew together to pray and worship together. This is a big transition from childhood to adulthood because even if I go to St. Pete's won't be as my registered dad's kid. It will be as a visitor that is registered to another church upstate. This is a tough thing for me to embrace.

The road goes ever on...
Marriage, on the other hand, doesn't come across as least in my book. You see marriage involves having someone else there with me...just as going to church in South Jersey involved having my entire family there with me. Marriage is a continuation of the family I am currently a part will be the creation of another generation within my family. I wasn't alone when I went to mass as a kid...and I won't be alone when I get married. I will, however, have to register for a church on my least while The Fiancé gets his own RCIA class and mass attendance thing figured out. We live an hour and a half away from each other and even though both of us work or go to school in NYC...we are at least a 30 minute subway ride from each other. Our crazy schedules may not allow us to go to mass together every week...or allow me to join him in his RCIA classes. Therefore, we can assume that it may not be possible for him to join me as I register for and settle myself into one particular church.

Perhaps I may take some comfort in accepting the fact that regardless of where I go to mass and who accompanies me to mass...I am still a part of a bigger family of sorts. I am part of a 2000 year-old family created by Christ to bring glory to God from generation to generation. I do find some comfort in this I guess I AM starting to accept the fact that is is time for me to pull a Corinthians 13:11 and "put away childish things."

In any event, it looks like my wandering church hobo days are coming to an end...


Attention all followers, you have to check out the Catholic Memes Facebook page. It is hysterical! I was tempted to post a bunch of the memes shared by this page...but I finally decided on just posting the one that made me laugh hardest (and the one that caused my inner geek to laugh so hard, milk started streaming from her nose). If you haven't already "liked" these guys...I suggest you do so VERY SOON. You will not regret it.

A huge thanks to Crescat for sharing this.

Pax Vobiscum

Finding Science in the Bible

I nearly jumped for joy when I saw this posted by Father Piotr Wisniowski this morning. Why?

Well, the big message here is that God's love is never ending. This promise in and of itself is quite profound and potentially life-changing for those of us who tend to think that everything is against us at times. I know plenty of people who think that they, somehow, got on God's bad side for *insert sin or lifestyle here.* A promise like this one is a promise that can renew someone who has lost hope. A promise like this helps assure us, in the most troubled times, that someone up there is looking after us...that someone up there TRULY loves us...more than we can comprehend or even deserve at times.

This message, coupled with the beautiful mountain range behind BEAUTIFUL and ABSOLUTELY AWESOME because it ensures us that God really does love us...THAT MUCH. However, this message is also all sorts of PHENOMENAL because it also implies something else...something that perhaps even the most learned scholar of the Renaissance never picked up on.

I just really love how sometimes, if you read carefully enough...the Bible gets some pretty complicated scientific things right on target. In this case, plate tectonics. I am sure that people were aware of earth quakes, etc. at the time this verse was first written. However, assuming the Bible was not Divinely in the world would they have described a process that takes millennia? I may not be a biblical scholar, but this line right here implies that mountains do actively vanish over time....and THEY DO. Any modern earth scientist will tell you that mountains do vanish over time through processes like erosion...or the shifting of tectonic plates over the course of millennia (if not billions of years).

The book of Isaiah (as far as Wikipedia has informed me) was written centuries before Christ was born. It was written long before science as we now know it even began. Sure, the people alive at the time when this passage was first written must have had some idea that erosion occurred...but I doubt that most people back then ever really could imagine that an entire mountain could vanish over time. I am sure they experienced earthquakes, but I doubt they understood that the ground beneath them was actively moving in very small increments over time. The very land they tended and the very land their flocks grazed upon was slowly shaping itself in a constant (but very slow) cycle. I can't imagine too many of them staring at a mountain before them and knowing that it would one day become molten rock again. I can hardly imagine anyone having even the smallest inkling that the world was alive in its own way...constantly recycling itself regardless of how many empires rose and collapsed over time.

I can imagine that God wanted to share a little bit of these majestic and landscape-changing rock cycling events (a topic that earth scientists now take for granted) with His people...through the mouths of his prophets. I know I will one day be sharing something as epic as plate tectonics with my I can easily imagine God doing the same with His own children. It's passages like this that make me take a step back from everyday life and really pause to consider just how awesome God is and how excited He must be to share the workings of the universe with us. Why else would we ever have the curiosity to explore the stars and find new frontiers.

It blows me away how people today just read the Bible and don't pick up on stuff like this (including bible-reading scientists). I also can't believe how people tend to dismiss the Bible because it isn't true/factual/scientific enough. The science is RIGHT THERE in front of your eyes if you know how to look and keep an open mind! Call me crazy, but I just can't see some guy in the middle of a desert just dreaming something like this passage on his own. I can imagine some guy staring at a mountain centuries before Christ was born...and simply coming to the conclusion that the mountain would be there until the end of time. However, a passage like the one above...this one MUST have been DIVINELY inspired by someone who knew how the earth continually shapes itself....and who would know more about this than the Creator of the universe.

This is definitely one of my "Whoa, God is a genius!" moments.

Pax Vobiscum

Bad Catholic on the Radio!


Blogtalk's "The Warrior Catholic" show is interviewing "Bad Catholic" Marc Barnes. 

I called in and already made a fool of myself on air (as usual) be sure to call in and make a fool of yourself too!
Smoking nuns + G.K. Chesterton = Bad Catholic

Pax Vobiscum!

*** Update: It turns out that "The Warrior Catholic Show" can be followed on Facebook. Here's the link. Apparently, I was the first official caller on the show!!! How awesome is that!?!?!?***

All in all, it was a great show and I hope to hear more shows in the future!

A Little Laugh Before Mass

Man, I love starting off the day with a good chuckle. I saw this on my Facebook feed this morning as I was getting ready to leave for mass. I had to share it! (As far as I know, it was originally posted on Catholic Summer Reading's Facebook page. They've got some other pretty great stuff over check them out!)

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday and Pax Vobiscum

Good news!

I was going to write about this last evening...but figured this much awesomeness merited its own post. Remember that fundraiser I posted about a few weeks ago?

Well, they did it!

Congratulations to Stanton Project and all those who contributed (with money, prayer, advertising, etc.)! We have helped Stanton get the health grant they needed to run their center debt-free. This is what the pro-life movement is all about...making options available to women who just need a little more encouragement (and financial help) to give their children the precious gift of life. Stanton offers women FREE ultrasounds, STD testing, and a variety of other services (some of which PP CHARGES for).

Some lovely (and VERY HELPFUL) ladies!
This is very good news indeed....but not for the PP clinic next door. But they can go cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it...because babies are AWESOME.

For more information regarding the fundraiser...and the journey to its success....please click here. Though they got the grant necessary to run's never a bad idea to keep supporting their mission. Please check out the site if you would like to make a donation to help a future mother in need...and to make sure they beat out their next-door competition.

Pax Vobiscum

PhriDay Phive: Homophobic Kool-Aid Drinking Bigot Edition

Well, this week has certainly been say the least.

1. Well, I finally went to see someone about my back...after my former mentor and very good friend of mine referred me to her chiropractor. Holy moly, I had no idea that my back was in such bad shape. I went in for my upper back as it has been bothering me for years (this is what happens when you combine bookbags and  monstrously huge science textbooks!!!). I have had good and bad days with my back through the years and just figured that it was a common age-related issue that was aggravated by my wearing a bag all of the time. Boy, was I wrong. The x-rays revealed that my spine is starting to curve (or straighten in some locations) and looks like the spine you would expect to see in a 40-50 year old's body. (I had always said I was a 40 year old trapped in a 20 year old's body!) On top of that, the lower back is probably in the worst shape. Up until my chiropractor's appointments, I could not get up from lying on my back without feeling some intense lower back pain. I thought this was normal because I've felt it for so long, I just figured that I had a body type, etc. that did not allow me to lay straight down. I've always slept on my stomach, so this was never really an issue for me. Turns out it only hurts like hell when I get up (and when it's poked) because I have all sorts of inflammation going on there due to two spinous processes rubbing up against each other. Unfortunately, I have a $500 deductible with my current I am well on my way to being all sorts of college kid broke until my next paycheck. 

2. I FINALLY went to confession this past Saturday and felt all kinds of awesome after FINALLY going up for communion for the first time in months. I am not very good of staying on target when it comes to confession and receiving the previous posts will tell you. I also FINALLY remembered to bring little bottles to church with me on Sunday so I could get a little bit of holy water for my apartment. As soon as I got home, I poured some of it into a tiny glass vial with a cork top...because...well, a plastic bottle just doesn't seem good enough for something as awesome as holy water.

3. I got involved in the whole Chickengate debate. It seemed like there was no way out of it once I expressed my support for Chick-fil-a as soon as I read about some mayors trying to ban it. It's one thing for celebrities to impose their ideology on others...but it's another thing entirely to have government folk attempt the same thing. I really don't care what one side or the other cares about. What I do care about is that these different individuals are allowed to express and have an opinion that is not immediately attacked by government officials. However, this line of thinking appears to have turned me into a "homophobic kool-aid drinking bigot." Talk about "tolerance"(...and I do mean that sarcastically). This instant reaction to my stance did not sit well with me because it appeared as though no one really cared about my reasoning once I said that I would go to Chick-fil-a if I could (you'll see why I couldn't go soon enough). For this reason...I posted the following status on my facebook: 

Contrary to what the media and extremist groups (from both sides) would have you believe, what followed was an honest and very lengthy discussion between a few people who cared enough about my position to actually comment. As far as I know, nobody has defriended me yet. If they have, they aren't missed. I'm sorry, but if friends don't allow you to have a different opinion about something...then they aren't worth having. Call me argumentative, but I refuse to give into this "I'm right because you're wrong and a bigot" mentality. If you think I am wrong, at least be willing to explain why....and be willing to allow me to speak my own piece as well. I am proud to say that even though the comments on my post ranged from extremely conservative to all kinds of was a very intelligent discussion (sans name-calling) and respect was shown by all. I haven't had that much fun talking about a particular topic since a friend and I had a debate over "free will" in a Philosophy course years ago.

4. I started the South Beach diet (another one of my old mentor's ideas) and have to say that it has been working very well for me. I may not have been able to indulge myself with Chick-fil-a's waffle fries this week...but  I have lost some weight and have started implementing all sorts of healthy foods and vegetables into my diet that I normally don't eat. I never would have imagined how easy it's been to NOT have a bowl of cereal every morning. However, I must confess that I have been DYING to eat a doughnut for weeks now. I've had the craving for about a month...but have been good about it. However, I really just want to go to the local Quick Check, buy a box of glazed Pop'ems....and have my way with them. I know very well from finals time that I can tuck in a whole box at one sitting if I am not I am staying away from them...*bites nails and envisions self running to the nearest Dunkin Donuts for a coffee and a glazed doughnut*

5. I have been reading "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord," which is allegedly based on visions by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. I've been taken what I've been reading with a grain of salt...but the detail of the events leading up to the crucifixion seem pretty believable even if they don't exactly have the 100% "nihil obstat seal of approval." I do, however, know enough about human weakness, cruelty, and mob behavior to believe that  all of the cruelty Christ faced described in this book COULD HAVE (and I stress the COULD) happened. He could have been tortured as cruelly as this book mentions well before he was scourged at the pillar and he could have faced a lot of the physical and verbal abuse detailed in this book. Regardless of where you stand on this "is it true" debate, I have to say that it is well worth a read. I haven't come across anything that is too contrary to the Passion as it has been taught by the church...but there could very well be some things there that aren't 100% in agreement with what you've come to understand about the passion of Christ. Speaking of which, I have read that Mel Gibson based a lot of the scenes in his "Passion of the Christ" on events described in this book. I'd say give it a try...there are free pdf versions of the book online if you are interested. If you pray the rosary, you will certainly find yourself meditating more deeply on the sorrowful passions after reading this book...that much I CAN confirm.

Pax Vobiscum