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It's on. 'Nuff said

‎"The Catholic Church defends religious liberty, including freedom of conscience, for everyone. The Amish do not carry health insurance. The government respects their principles. Christian Scientists want to heal by prayer alone, and the new health-care reform law respects that. Quakers and others object to killing even in wartime, and the government respects that principle for conscientious objectors. By its decision, the Obama administration has failed to show the same respect for the consciences of Catholics and others who object to treating pregnancy as a disease." 
- Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York

Something tells me that this may just be a frequent topic in posts to come. I have already started praying for the courage, strength, and wisdom in the struggle ahead...and have already started bothering quite a few people. I don't like bothering people...but I cannot help but stand up for something that is so essential to my faith. I cannot help but stand up for my own freedom of religion if I one day decide to run my own business. 

Yes, I understand that some out there may not understand where I am coming from. 

The Catholic Church was one of the biggest voices that spoke out against the eugenics movement when it was all the rage in the earlier part of the 1900s. This was a time when we were just beginning to find out about genetics and exploring the idea of creating a superior race by preventing certain people from having children, etc. In these days, the masses were perfectly fine with the idea that we should breed ideal human traits in order to rid ourselves of certain "unsatisfactory" traits. 

While I do agree that this mandate is not necessarily about eugenics...this mandate, like the eugenics movement, does silently suggest that not all life is sacred. It silently forces employers and institutions to follow laws that violate their conscience and forces them to take part in a movement that views pregnancy as a disease...and inconvenience...as something wrong.

As it stands, employees have a choice of where they will or will not work. The system allows for individuals to opt out of working for institutions that do cover contraception, etc....just as it allows employers to opt out of covering these items. The system allows employers to choose the healthcare policies that they wish to offer employees...policies that do not violate their beliefs. The mandate seeks to restrict what employers can and cannot offer their employees. It forces employers to provide employees with coverage that the government deems as appropriate....regardless of whether or not the coverage is in violation with that individual's/institution's belief system. Forget about religious freedom.

I know that not everyone understands why we pesky Catholics seem to treasure the unborn so much...why we pesky Catholics simply refuse to support abortion, abortifacients, sterilization, birth control, and all sorts of other things that society deems acceptable. Not everyone understands the messages in Humanae Vitae or JPII's Theology of the Body. I don't even expect everyone to understand why I strive for chastity in my own relationship even though we've been together for 6 years...even though it would be monogamous...even though we're pretty sure that we'll get married one day. 

Call me an old-fashioned prude...but moral relativism just isn't my thing...and it certainly isn't the Catholic Church's thing. I've tried it, saw it for what it was, and have tried to avoid it ever since.  I simply have come to respect life that much...to respect my body that much...because I simply don't see sex as the rest of the world sees sex. It's not just a physical act for us Catholics. It's something...dare I say it...HOLY....spiritual...and potentially life-creating. It's something that is far more than just a physical act. I understand that this isn't a belief that everyone shares and I do understand where they come from....because I used to be one of those people. Believe me, it took me quite a few years to come to the realization that there is SO MUCH MORE to sex than the physical act in and of itself. I haven't turned back since...regardless of how difficult the journey has been....or how unpopular.

I love my country and want the best for it. I understand where both sides of this issue are coming from. I really do. However, I cannot stand by and simply allow my country to deny the rights of some...for the sake of what they view as right. I cannot allow my country to ignore my conscience and force me to comply with its own ideas of what is right and wrong. 

With that said, I am joining the fight along with Defend us in Battle, Shoved to Them, Bad Catholic, Why I am Catholic, Aggie Catholics, and countless others.

May God help me.

Pax Vobiscum


A THREAT TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM


My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ in the Diocese of Trenton:

As your Bishop, I write to you concerning an alarming matter that negatively impacts the Catholic Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.  The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
As a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to violate our consciences or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). 
We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.  People of faith cannot be made second class citizens.  We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.  I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same.  Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
This is not an attempt by the Church to interfere with anyone’s politics.  It is, rather, an attempt to lift up and live our Catholic faith the way that our nation and our constitution have always guaranteed us the freedom and the right to do.  Please join me and all of those harmed by this legislation in prayer and in an all-out effort to have our freedom restored.  History cautions us repeatedly that once we walk down such a dangerous path, we will get lost in the process. For more information, please go to www.usccb.org/conscience.
Respectfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Bishop of Trenton

10 months and over 10,000 views later...

...I get the biggest comments section "Thank You" ever.  If you don't feel like clicking back to the original post, I'll save you the trouble and just post the comment here!
I think I'm actually addicted to your blog. I know this is the first post, but that's because I actually dug back to the beginning after starting at the end. Here is something I posted on my facebook page today after having read your review and interview of Genesis One Code:
"I think I'm in love with this blog! Finally! FINALLY I find more people (AND ONE A CATHOLIC NO LESS!) that believes in a compatibility between science and religion! Better yet! Someone with a BS in Biology and MS in molecular biology! I WANT TO MEET THIS PERSON! The Author of "Genesis One Code" seems to have the right idea: just because science can explain so much, doesn't mean we don't need God or that God has no place in our world, or the other way around! I may just have to read this and see for myself... 
¡Viva la religiĆ³n y la ciencia!" 
I recently took a nanotechnology course that refreshed (and finally drilled in) my love of biology and science (go AFM lecture!). For a long time I've been pondering God's constant nudging toward science/medical fields and what to do with it, as well as trying to find my own answers to Science and Religion, rather than Science vs Religion...not to mention attempting to keep a middle-ground with my Athiest (and Geology post-grad) friend. 
I know it's rather long winded, but really all of that ^^^ is just a preamble to a very BIG thank you from me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this blog, really.
Another science/religion nut! Hooray! I believe this calls for a Cool Catholic Award.

Thank you Feanturi Jedi...for pretty much making my day.

This is one of the biggest reasons why all of those hours of research and blog posting are worth it. Feanturi Jedi, you just made my day.

Also, my thanks to all the other readers out there. I certainly never expected so many followers and I definitely never imagined to have this many blog views in 10 months. Really, thank you to everyone.

And for the Latin geeks out there: Gratias maximas tibi ago!

Pax Vobiscum

The Pro-Life Day that Doesn't Exist

It's that time of the year again...the day we pro-lifers let our imagination run  free. Today is the imaginary day we protest something that's happened 50 million + times since Roe vs. Wade...something so ugly they've started calling it "family planning" in an effort to make it more appealing. It is a movement so steeped in eugenics, racism, and lies...that they've resorted to calling it "choice."

Today is the day where the rest of the world assures us that no deaths result from abortion. Today is the day where the rest of the world assures us that we are all just a clump of cells that somehow became viable as soon as we were out of the womb. Today is the day where the rest of the world assures us that legal abortion poses no risk to a pregnant mother. Today is the day where the world tries to tell us that abortion clinics are just as clean and safe as the local hospital. Today is the day where they try to tell us that NPs, midwives, etc. have just as much schooling and training at surgical procedures as a typical med-school educated surgeon. Today is the day where the world attempts to convince us that there are no complications associated with abortion. Today is the day where the world attempts to tell us that we don't need parental consent for abortions even if we need it for other surgeries. Today is the day where the world tells us that it is okay to abort children just because we cannot be burdened by their Downs Syndrome. Today is the day where they try to tell us that some children are mere inconveniences that stand in the way of a career. Today is the day where they try to tell us that abortion is NOT an industry fueled by profit and the exploitation of minorities. Today is the day where the world tells us that PP's founder was not a fan of eugenics.

Today is the day where the media remains silent instead of facing the facts. Today is the day where inconvenient truths are swept under the rug in favor of the latest celebrity scandal.

It's the day where we pretend that there are a bunch of people in DC, marching and being a voice for the unborn in danger of abortion. It's the day where we pretend to be unsatisfied by the laws of the land, the laws that not only allow...but condone...and even encourage death.

Today is a day that is completely ignored by the media....

Well, I say, ignore the media.

Saint Gianna Berretta Molla,
 a woman who knew
what it means to sacrifice all
for the love of a child, pray for us.
Today is the day where countless people take buses and trains to DC. Today is the day where we inform the world that we are tired of the lies and the murder. Today is the day where we "like" our friends' pro-life statuses. Today is the day where we offer hope and encouragement for mothers who still regret their abortions. Today is the day where we offer our support to the growing pro-life movement. Today is the day where young women and men choose to say NO to a law that resulted in the death of a vast percentage of their generation. Today is the day where we stand up for those without a voice. Today is the day where we spread the knowledge we have acquired and defend our pro-life stance. Today is the day where we decide to ignore this idea that only some pregnancies are worthy of coming to term. Today is the day where we tell the world NO when it comes to killing children just because they are girls...just because they are boys...just because they will be born with a disability...just because they were an inconvenience. Today is the day where we offer scared young women another option besides death. Today is the day we stand together and tell our nation that we will not remain silent.

Today is the day where we piss off a bunch of our "pro-choice" friends in favor of defending the truth. Today is the day where we refuse moral relativism. Today is the day where we refuse to be ignored. Today is the day where we stand beside those that are too young to have a voice. Today is the day where we tell the world that every child, regardless of age and development stage...is FAR MORE than a bunch of cells. Today is the day where we face our fears of rejection and our fears of offending others...in order to defend the unborn.

The media may ignore us. The world may try to convince us to stop standing up for the children out there that have yet to be born. They may try to liken you to abortion clinic bombers. They may try to put you in a box labeled "fool", "misogynist," "cruel," "anti-choice," "anti-woman." They may try to put up clever responses to your pro-life statuses. They may bombard you with images of "liberation" and hangers. They may even resort to defriending you on Facebook...or getting into a fight with you.

Let them say what they will. Let them hate you. Let them be angry. Let them think as lowly of you as they wish to think.

Whenever they try to get you down...remember that you too were once the product of a "choice." Remember that you too were once a "clump of cells." Remember that you made it.

Against all odds...
You made it even with the health problems or disabilities you may now have.
You made it even though the doctors told your parents that you would never make it.
You made it even though your parents had to give up a career or an education.
You made it even though you were born out of wedlock.
You made it even though you were born into a financially unstable family.
You made it even though you once had no voice.
You made it even though your mother was a single woman leaving an abusive relationship.
You made it even though you were unintended.

Thank you Mommy, for choosing life...
...and for always putting us first.
At some point in her pregnancy, your mother found the courage to carry you to term. At some point, she loved you so much that she wanted to share a life with you. At some point, she loved you enough to put you up for adoption because she knew she did not have the means to support a child. At some point, someone thought you were more than a clump of cells. At some point, someone thought it was worth the struggle, the pain, the risk...

If it comes to nasty comments, fights, and angry reactions to your pro-life stance... remember that you are defending someone. You are defending countless children that have yet to breathe their first breath...smile their first smile...laugh their first laugh.

Being pro-life isn't the most popular thing for me to be...but, like a knight who refuses to abandon the citadel they're defending, I continue to fight for the defenseless. I continue to fight for the innocent children in peril of losing their lives. I continue to fight for the lives that can and should be saved....and I will continue to do so.

Don't just pray for life and the unborn....FIGHT FOR THEM.

LIFE: From conception to natural death. No exceptions.

Pax Vobiscum

A Woman Scientist on a Mission

I now have another goal in life. Unlike the goals of many eminent scientists out there, my goal does not involve winning a Nobel Prize.
Sorry Mr. Nobel...no hard feelings.

No, it involves something even more awesome than that. It involves getting appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.  How awesome would that be?
Nature is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose "writing" and meaning, we "read" according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself herein- Papa Bento XVI
Where do I apply? :)

Pax Vobiscum

The Genesis One Code: An interview with the author


A month or so ago, I was asked to review Daniel Friedmann’s “The Genesis One Code.” A trip to the book’s website followed by a brief look at the foreword…and I was sold…even though I was in the middle of Finals.


Foreword (brought to you by the official “The Genesis One Code” website):
Are you educated in the sciences and convinced that current scientific theories and data explain our origins? At the same time, do you have an awareness of the Bible and its seeming incompatibility with science?
Do you believe that God created the world and that all answers pertaining to our origins are clearly provided in the scriptures? At the same time, do you have a basic awareness of science and its seeming incompatibility with some of the teachings of your religion?
Are you familiar with the basics of both religion and science yet cannot reconcile the two as far as explaining our origins?
At the start of this journey I too was unsure whether or not the answers found in science books and religious scriptures could be reconciled. Now, having explored both in some depth, I can say that such reconciliation is not out of the question.
This book attempts to demonstrate the reconciliation with respect to two major areas: the timing of the formation of the universe and the emergence and development of life on earth.

As previous posts suggest, one of the missions of this blog is to find some middle ground between theology and scientific thought.  I want to bridge that gap between science and religion that seems to widen every time an author resorts to polemics when writing a book that seeks to explore the origin of the universe. Therefore, one of the first things that stood out to me when reading this book was Friedmann’s ability to explore the origin of the universe without picking one side and continually refuting the other. Rather, he explores the history and thought of both sides in a balanced manner that is easy to follow. He also draws on information from both sides to create a time line for creation that is in agreement with scientific as well as biblical sources.

The meat of the book centers on the two timelines presented by both sides of the creation-evolution debate.  In the first timeline, the creation timeline, creation of the earth and universe take place in six days. In the other timeline, the big bang timeline, creation of the universe occurs 13.7 billion years ago. Talk about a major difference in time! Interestingly enough, however, Friedmann is able to piece a timeline together that matches up the major events found in both time lines. How does he do this? Well, I’m not going to spoil it for you. However, I will say that it involved some pretty interesting theories, aged manuscripts, biblical texts, and various other sources. All of the sources used are conveniently found at the end of each chapter…making it a little easier for the readers interested in doing some independent investigation.

Regardless of where you stand when it comes to the origin of the universe, The Genesis One Code is a worthwhile read. I could not put it down once I was finally able to start reading…and it certainly did provide me with some fresh insight as to how creation from a Catholic standpoint can be in agreement with creation from a scientific standpoint.

I may have a scientific background (current PhD student with a BS in biology and MS in molecular biology), but I feel that Friedmann presented genetics, evolution, and even the Big Bang theory in a manner that was succinct and easy to understand…regardless of the reader’s background. He also does the same for the religious portions of the book. Though I have studied other religions in the past, I have to admit that I was not familiar with some of the material referenced by Friedmann et al. You may have to read up on a few things after reading this book, regardless of how familiar you are with Judaism, Kabbalah, and a few of the authors cited. Also, though the timeline Friedmann derived from biblical and Kabbalistic texts and traditions was in accordance with the timeline suggested by current science, Friedmann’s book still leaves quite a few open ended questions for the reader.  

Speaking of questions, author Daniel Friedmann was kind enough to agree to an interview! (How awesome is that?!)


Welcome to the Catholic Science Geek blog Mr. Friedmann!

Alright, we already know you’re a science geek because, according to your website, you have a master’s degree in engineering physics. In an effort to break the ice and get this interview started, I’d going to ask you to share one geeky fact about yourself.
I read cosmology books for fun!

So, is there any moment in your life where everything kind of clicked in your mind or did you always feel that science and faith could complement each other?
About a year and a half ago while working on the research for the book and the conversion factor for times, everything clicked together.  As I converted the times of more and more events and saw how well everything fit together, it was very exciting.

Deep inside, Ive always thought that science and faith had to fit together. I must admit that as I studied more and more physics I reached the point where I thought physics explained everything pertaining to the universe. However, once I reached 4th year university I realized there were so many unanswered questions (which they don’t tell you about in years 1 thru 3 of university) that we were a long way away from figuring things out. So I went back into religion for answers.

So, what made you finally decide to write this book?
Discussion with my nephews (14 to 20 years of age) where I realized they were asking the same questions I had asked at their age and not getting satisfactory answers. Furthermore, there were some prominent scientists trying to promote that they had the answers, and on top of that, that there is no need for God.  The combination of all this made me re-double my efforts. Concurrently I saw an approach to the problem developed 800 years ago, that looked like it had promise – which pointed me to the solution.

Your book seems, for the most part, to take a pretty balanced stance when it comes to addressing the origin of the universe. Why not just pick one side of the debate and leave it at that?
Almost everything I read picks a side and tries to attack the other side. But both sides are on the same side! God made the universe and science is a way to explore it and understand it. So there are no sides.  Furthermore, I want the reader to make their own decision. The intent of the book is to show that there is agreement on what happened and when it happened and some disagreement on how it happened. After the readers have explored the agreement between science and Genesis they can proceed to explore their beliefs.

How have readers responded to The Genesis One Code? I’d imagine your inbox to be flooded with responses from people who either loved the book or hated it. Care to share some of the responses you’ve been getting (good or bad)?
I wish my inbox was flooded, since I really want this message to get out!  I have received many responses and they are overwhelmingly positive.  Some people that have, it seems, a hate for religion have sent negative comments, but it does not appear that they made an effort to actually read the book.

While I enjoyed reading this book, there were quite a few Rabbis and traditions in there that weren’t so familiar to me.  Are the works of these Rabbis accepted by all Jewish scholars, or just those that follow Kabbalah?
Almost all the sources used are mainstream accepted and as you noted they help guide us through Genesis  - the book by enlarge relies on the Genesis text.  The source (from Kabbalah) that motivated the conversion of timelines is not mainstream - although for many centuries its premise (cosmic sabbatical cycles) was accepted, but fell out of mainstream acceptance in the past 150 years. 


Do you have any advice or suggested works for readers who end up enjoying The Genesis One Code?
Advice- please spread the word that science and religion are compatible especially to young adults who are been exposed to science, not as a field of study like I was, but increasingly as an alternative to religion.

By the way, all net proceeds are being donated to charity.

Suggested works- hopefully some of the references will motivate people to further study or find similar works in their religious teachings. 

There is of course my next book which I hope to get out by the end of the year. The second book covers the period of the last 30 million years vs the Genesis One Code, which covers the last 13.7 billion years. It will be titled “Adam and the Homo sapiens”.

Thank you very much for the interview as well as your time.  I hope to see more of your work in the future.
Thank you for taking time to review the book and doing such a thorough job.



Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the book to review. I was not offered any form of compensation for reading the book or reviewing the book. The thought and opinions expressed herein are my own.   

Join Me on Facebook


Okay, after some deliberation...I've just gone live on Facebook. Feel free to follow me HERE...and TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!!!

Just for fun...and in celebration of my being able to post blogger links on Facebook again...and the Catholic Science Geek going live there...below are all the "favorite quotes"  found on my own Facebook profile.

“I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend”- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I have spread my dreams under your feet;Tread softly because you tread on my dreams." W.B. Yeats
"Every perfect gift is from God." James 1:17
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13
"Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book." Cicero M Tullius
"Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal. As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time." C. S. Lewis 
"The life of the body is the soul; the life of the soul is God." St Anthony 
"We are certainly in a common class with the beasts; every action of animal life is concerned with seeking bodily pleasure and avoiding pain."Saint Augustine  
"Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." Pope John Paul II
Speaking of Tolkien...a self portrait featuring some of my favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings, The Children of Hurin, and the Silmarillion....which can also be found on my Facebook. (And yes, I did include Tom Bombadil). Not my best work to date (thought it was at the time it was drawn)...but still one of my favorites.
I miss the days where I could draw for hours on end...

Oh, and....MERLIN! For King Arthur...go here!
Feel free to follow and help me get the word out!

Pax Vobiscum

New Title: One of the BEST Movies EVER



EDIT: Original title of post
"IF YOU'RE CATHOLIC WATCH THIS MOVIE!! IF NOT, WATCH ANYWAY!"
Update: It appears that my title to this post may have been flagged as spam or offensive material by Facebook. I tend to post links to my posts on my Facebook updates so friends and family can read my posts. Therefore, I decided to change the title with hopes that the new link may be more Facebook friendly. Stupid facebook.
Update 2: It seems that Facebook hates blogger. Sorry to anyone who can no longer link to my posts directly from Facebook. Grrr!  Why are people allowed to post about celebrity babies...when I am not allowed to post about my blog?!?! UBER LAME! Well, it may just be a lesson in patience. 
Firstly, I do intend for the title of this post to sound as imperative as possible. Your life may not depend on whether or not you listen to what I am about to tell you, but I know that listening to me on this matter may just make your life...perhaps even change your life. 

Okay, before I continue to convince you to watch a movie whose title I haven't even mentioned yet....

I just finished watching one of the best movies I have ever seen in my entire life. No, I am not talking about Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.


Even the poster for this movie is awesome and...dare I say it...BADASS!

Well, there you have it. I am talking about There Be Dragons. If you recall, it is the first movie I had mentioned in my Catholic Science Geek To Watch List way back in May. I never got a chance to see it in theaters (along with the other two movies I mentioned...and many more on my not-so-Catholic To Watch List)...because...well, let's face it...I'm a PhD student. 
Have I ever told you about the time I was in the lab during an earthquake? True Story. I'm serious.
PhD Comic by Jorge Cham

I did, however, manage to do something right. I went on Amazon, signed up for updates as to when this movie would be made available...and then pre-ordered it once it did become available. Well, it arrived in the mail on Tuesday. I had tickets to Godspell on Tuesday night and did not come back until late (review on this show to come...eventually)....so I decided to treat myself on Wednesday evening. It was worth the wait. 

This movie is about the life of Josemaria Escriva and that of a friend. I meant to watch it and get a few things done as I watched it, but I was sucked in. The story was beautiful The dialogue was some of the best I have heard in quite a while. The imagery was the type of imagery that you hold onto. I am a big proponent of mini-miracles and this film had plenty of them to show. The mini-miracles experienced by Josemaria Escriva in this movie...are so much like the mini-miracles that can either change a life or go unnoticed. In this movie, Josemaria Escriva is portrayed as one who achieved sanctity by taking the mini-miracles that happened to him...and turning them into a life of holiness and charity (true charity...not simply the alms giving type). 

The story was so touching, that I found myself crying at various moments in this movie. Yes, I get choked up in movies as powerful as this one. If you think the Notebook is a tearjerker...just wait until you see this movie. Not all of us experience the life of Josemaria Escriva or the other main characters in this movie...but we certainly have felt every one of the powerful emotions experienced in this movie. Whether it is a major repentance, unconditional love between mother and child, anger, fear, courage, and love...you will relate to this movie. You will find yourself sharing in the faith of  Saint Josemaria Escriva (yes, *spoiler alert* he becomes a saint). You will find yourself feeling the anger of Manolo. You will find yourself feeling the fear of those Spaniards who went into hiding to escape the murder and the bloodshed. You will feel the same indignation felt by Josemaria's brothers in faith when you witness the cold-blooded murder of a beloved priest. 

Most haunting, however, was how accurately this film portrayed the mob mentality. You will see the same confusion, anger, resentment, and potential for violence in this movie as we've seen in recent news regarding civil unrest and all this "Occupy" rubbish. It's striking just how so many things in the lives we live now are paralleled in this movie. You see the not-so-wonderful products of revolutions...the deaths, the betrayals, the sadness, the senseless waste of life. You see the not-so-great products of the feelings we may harbor on a day to day basis....jealousy, ire, the need for revenge, greed, etc. This movie was incredible...just incredible.

Also, it was quite an inspirational movie. I will certainly have to model my life after that of St. Josemaria and take a few lessons of his with me in my everyday life. Furthermore, I will certainly have to add St. Josemaria to the long list of saints whose intercession I ask for on a day to day basis. Based on what I've gathered from this movie and a few things I have read, something tells me that this guy really understands the struggle that people go through to avoid sin and seek God. He understands God's love for His many (and very diverse) children...and he also understands that it may take a lifetime for a sinner to confront his "dragons" and ultimately defeat them in order seek holiness and glorify God. I highly recommend this movie to everyone....and I do mean everyone. 



Pax Vobiscum

Adoption, Politics, Funding, Oh My! My Response to Rob T


(For the comment thread that led to this post, please refer to this previous post.)

My response to both questions remains the same. Again, I must stress that I am no expert on adoption. 

There are a wide variety of adoption agencies. Jewish adoption agencies cater to Jewish families and operate in a manner that respects their own particular belief system (that of the biological as well as adoptive family). Based on the conditions posed in your question, we can assume that all adoption agencies are funded by all taxpayers (regardless of religion, ethnicity, etc). With that said, regardless of the taxpayers' religion, ethnicity, etc. some portion of money will go to an agency that does not operate in a manner that is 100% in agreement with that individual's particular belief system. This goes for Jewish taxpayers, Christian taxpayers, etc.  

If an individual is not particularly happy with the manner in which an agency works, the current model (with various forms of adoption agencies catering to various belief systems, etc) allows for an individual to simply choose another agency that best suits their belief system. The individual is free to adopt from a non-Christian adoption agency that is also supported by taxpayer money. 

As it stands, regardless of the system used by an adoption agency…ANY adoption agency is doing the country a service by finding families for children who cannot be supported by their biological family. Closing an adoption agency by freezing funds or by forced closure, in my opinion, does more evil to a society as a whole.  It is far easier to support a system that allows an individual to choose between adoption agencies than it is to (directly or indirectly) close many adoption agencies and redistribute the children brought to these agencies. My feelings are that, if you don’t like a particular adoption agency…use another one. If there are plenty of other families that have no problem using this adoption agency…why close it? There are enough children out there in need of a good home and a family…why would we want to add more strain to an already strained system? 

If you’re looking at it solely from a financial standpoint, removing Christian adoption agencies (or Jewish, Muslim, etc agencies) due to their particular belief system ultimately costs the taxpayer more money. Closing it would only put more strain on 100% state-run adoption agencies or other agencies that are deemed appropriate by a particular group. As I mentioned before, adopting the “do what we want or we close you down” system only creates more mess and red tape  when it comes to redistributing children in need of adoption.

If you feel that I have not answered your question with my reply, I am afraid you will need to rephrase your original question.

As it stands, I feel that your question is not so much about public policy as it is about the term “discrimination”  and your views as to what discrimination means and whether you feel it is being practiced by a particular group (in this case, Christian adoption agencies).  Both of your questions, as phrased, ask me for my opinion as to whether or not I think the manner in which a Christian adoption agency operates is discriminating against a particular group (in this case, Jewish people).

I think I answered this question as well. As the current model stands, biological parents are given the freedom to choose an adoption agency that respects their own belief system and will allow for their children to be adopted into a family that shares a belief system. This, believe it or not, may make it easier on a parent that is struggling with the idea of adoption. Adoption is, by no means, an easy decision. The current model, however, allows biological parents some choice when it comes to passing down something to their children that is not biological. It allows parents to give their children a part of the childhood that they experienced. A Jewish mother may find some solace in knowing that her son will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah when he reaches a certain age. A Christian mother may find solace in knowing that her child was baptized. A Muslim mother may find solace in knowing that her child will one day read the same passages in the Quran that she reads. Faith is something that people feel really strongly about. I may be Catholic, but I understand how different religions are important to different people. Why deny these biological parents the chance to ensure that their child is, at least, exposed to the same faith as they were?

This brings me to another point, religion is not something that is simply “passed down.” Regardless of an adoption agency’s practices and regardless of the adoptive family’s faith…the child will ultimately come to a point where faith becomes something that comes from within (or from above)…and not so much environmental. As a cradle Catholic, my faith was shaped by far more than my parents’ faith and a few years of CCD/RCIA. It was shaped by my thought, the books I sought, the experiences I had, etc. I know at least one person who even went to Catholic school and turned out to be an atheist. I know of another person who was a very faithful Buddhist that never once believed they would be a Christian...and ended up converting to Christianity. What we are born into does not always define who we become. If that was the case, I'd be a lot better at sewing and playing cards.

With all this said, I do see where Gingrich is coming from. I am of the opinion that adoption agencies (regardless of faith) are not acting in a discriminatory fashion...but simply adhering to a belief system that respects those of the biological parent and adoptive parents that choose to use the service. Likewise, considering how many different types of private, taxpayer-funded, etc. adoption agencies there are out there…I cannot help but stress that the system (as a whole) is not operated in a discriminatory fashion. I, for one, know my tax dollars are funding some things that I wholeheartedly oppose (such as abortion)...but I am also fund things that I support 100% (conservation efforts and education). I have no choice but to pay my dues and hope that my money ends up doing more good than harm....

I am still hoping for the day where I get a government-issued
scantron in the mail  that  allows me to pick and choose
what things my tax dollars will  fund... wishful thinking....
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the argument from the other end as well…but I cannot help but feel that closing down certain agencies or turning all agencies into public-run institutions (with the same regulations and ideologies across the board) will do far more harm than good.  We saw something similar in Francisco Franco’s regime in Spain some decades ago. During this period of time, the state decided what ideologies were acceptable and which ones were not acceptable when it came to raising children and/or adopting children. What resulted from the state’s idea of “right and wrong” resulted in the theft and relocation of babies from parents with “unacceptable” beliefs or ideas to parents that were deemed “acceptable” by the state. I would never want to see something like this in the United States or elsewhere. We may think we are doing a great good by ensuring that ALL institutions (adoption agencies or otherwise) uphold one set of ideals that are “correct.” However, I feel that doing so would remove far more freedoms than it would create….and be a lot more unfair (and expensive) to tax-payers and adoption system as a whole.

I hope that answers your question.

Pax Vobiscum

I WANT THIS!

My cell phone keys kept sticking to the point where I had to type a series of keys before I was able to get an "h" let alone a "g." On top of that, I kept hearing complaints that my calls were imperceptible due to the lack of volume...even as I yelled into the phone. I blamed it on the reception as much as I could until I could no longer lie to myself. Yet, I held onto this phone because I liked it so much. It's been with me for over 2 years and I have had no complaints about it for about 2 years. My sister got me a replacement phone (same model), but it has decided that it will not take photographs...and it has also decided to go crazy every time I try to text someone. It either refreshes, or just ignores my wishes entirely. 

With that said, I have spent the past hour or so looking for a replacement phone. The search has been impossible. I don't want a smart phone. I want a QWERTY keypad. I don't want a locked phone. I don't want any "virtual keypad" phones...and I don't want it to be a hideous monstrocity. 

I know...I know...I'm a cell phone diva. *shudders at realization* 

One good thing to come out of my huge failure of an ongoing search is that I ended up clicking the Amazon "recommendations" part at the top of the webpage. LO AND BEHOLD, I discovered the newest item on my "I MUST HAVE THIS" list. 


Oh, for the love of all that is good and Catholic! I want this sooo bad!
 It was love at first sight. I had heard about it in the Catholic blogosphere...and after checking out some more on Amazon...I have realized that I must have this. Perhaps this will be my next badass purchase. I don't get cable (because I am never at home and because most of my shows are either cancelled or on the BBC)...so I missed it on PBS. I never got a chance to watch all-sorts-of-epic series, but based on what I've read and heard about it...this series is all kinds of awesome just waiting to be watched. 

If you've already seen it, feel free to share your thoughts with me.

With that said, time to save up some cash and buy it...maybe after I get over this cell phone madness...and maybe after I get paid. 

Pax Vobiscum

Not his biggest fan...but WHOAH.

I may have to start watching more of these GOP debates...even if they are like watching a circus....


"I just want to raise -- since we spent this much time on these issues, I just want to raise the point about the news media bias. You don't hear the opposite question asked. Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won't accept gay couples which is exactly what the state has done. Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won't give in to bigotry? Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration on key delivering of service because of the bias of the administration? The bigotry question goes both ways. There's a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concerning the other side. None of it gets covered by the news media." 
- Newt Gingrich


What the Kindle has Taught Me About Kid's Books...

I finally caved and got a Kindle. This came as a surprise to quite a few people because I have always been one of those bookworms who would defend the smell of a newly opened book to the death. I used to be the book snob who scorned Kindle, Kindle users, and any form of electronic book.

I loved the feel and smell of books too much. Ah, the memories of sneaking books up to my room as a kid so I could read all night, into the early hours of the morning. Even as a tired and uber-busy college student, I never left home without at least one non-science "brain candy" book or two. Sure my back took a hit over the years with all the books I tended to keep in my backpack, but that never stopped me from doing what I did best...reading. I left so many books at home every time I moved in college that my dad was forced to buy a bookcase. This baby filled up fast, and before we knew it...my dad was off to buy another bookcase.

When I moved into my first unfurnished apartment, I bought two bookcases (a large one and a smaller one) to make space for even more books that I had not yet brought home to my dad's. These bookcase purchases were AFTER I had banned myself from buying any more books. Yet, for every book I ended up borrowing at the library, I would end up buying more books from the racks in the front. How could I not purchase Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at the library when they were selling to for a measly $.75?!? Books are, and will probably always be, one of my biggest weaknesses.

At the end of the semester, I decided to treat myself in an effort to make myself feel a little bit better about the neverending PhD blues. I narrowed down my possibilities to two things (after axing a previous idea to buy all the Sandman series books): violin or Kindle.
Sorry, Neil.
(You gorgeous, gorgeous man....and, for the record, one of my favorite contemporary authors.)
I gave up on the piano as a child and never took up any other instrument. As far as chorus went, I was a decent enough singer...but just couldn't remember the notes to save my life. I've literally played it by ear for years when it came to music. Therefore, getting a violin would have not only cost a small fortune for the instrument and maintenance alone...but I would have also had to learn notes. That would mean countless hours of music note memorization. Forget that. 

I leaned towards Kindle because I had been sent some pdf versions of books from two authors (stay tuned for reviews). I cannot read books on the computer without a gallon of Visine and a bottle-full of Excedrin at hand...and I did not feel like killing a bunch of trees to print out several hundred pages of a book that I would end up tossing. I already have enough scientific paper print-outs and powerpoint slide print-outs cluttering my room...there was no use adding more. 

In the end, the Kindle won. As soon as I got it, I discovered just how many free books there are on amazon.com. I also discovered all of the free books and pdf's I could obtain from the Gutenberg project, and a few other sources. Most of the books are extremely old, but they are classics. Nothing like a good Mark Twain novel to get you through the doldrums of the subway. Among the many (and I do mean MANY) books I ended up downloading, one of my favorites is a children's book of Saints from the 1800s. 

This book is written well and it brings so many obscure saints to life in a way that reminds me of how Tolkien brought the elves and hobbits to life in his works. To make things even more awesome, there's no sugar-coating the harsh realities of life in these stories. The language the author employed is SAT-quality, and the characters are real. There's no "everything about life is great" sentimentality, and there's no Hannah Montana-esque "every kid can be a rock star if you just believe in yourself" mentality here. Let's face it, not everyone is cut out to be a rock star.

These stories in this Saints book are realistic because the people in them aren't perfect. They are just like you and me. They have the same imperfections, the same struggles, the same attitudes, you name it. One of the best parts of this book is that there isn't a touch of moral relativism in them. What's wrong is wrong and what's right is right. Doing the wrong thing has consequences and doing the right thing does not always bring immediate rewards. Forget wishy-washy stories about unicorns and selfish dreams of rockstardom...this book features selfless people who live humble lives and care for their fellow man. 

This book, needless to say, has been a breath of fresh air for someone tired of reading contemporary literature. Besides a few rare gems here and there, our current top-seller lists have pretty much stagnated in recent times. At least, they have done so in my book (pun unintended). A brief glance in the young adult section of any bookstore will have nothing but vampires, sex, people wanting to be famous, sex, vampires, werewolves, sex, supernatural powers of some sort, unrealistic dreams coming true, sex, and more vampires. There's more to life than sex...regardless of what Cosmopolitan and half of the chick-lit out there will tell you. There's more to life than being famous (just ask all those unhappy celebrities). As for the vampires...well, they've been a little overplayed in the past 5 years or so...so please just get rid of them once and for all. As for those rockstar dreams books....well....I'm all for working hard to make your dreams come true, but if I see another book or TV show that is based on some kid becoming an overnight singing sensation....I'm going to start writing my own books for kids. 

The saints book I am reading is truly a thing from a past where religion was practiced freely without reprisal from the PC department. It was written in a time where children were raised to be polite members of society and not animals. Yes, I said it. We seem to be raising animals these days. A trip to FYE today confirmed this much. A kid, for no reason, starts screaming because she didn't get a toy or something. I didn't hear what caused the issue, because the first thing I heard was this kid start screaming at the top of her lungs. I then see a dad with kid in tow, trying to get out of the aisle...only to return with the kid whose fit was miraculously cured with her dad's "fine, but you can only have one Angry Bird toy...only ONE." I didn't even bother to look back. 

I can only imagine what my parents would have done in that situation. Unlike the kids these day, I was taught better than to always expect to get what I wanted. I remember having only one major crying fit in a store...but I never did it again because I KNEW that I had disappointed my parents. Their disappointment in me during that one brat attack was enough to set me straight for the rest of my life. Kids, these days, other story. There are too many parents these days that cave far too many times...and they are raising monsters as a consequence. The Occupy Wall Street rubbish is evidence enough of this sense of "entitlement."

Which brings me back to that saints book. I keep getting off topic here, I know. This book is not something you see in a typical book store...let alone a library. Yet, books such as this one should be readily accessible to children....even if these books aren't about saints. Even the original Grimm fairy tales should be given to kids. Yes, Cinderella's stepsisters cut up their feet and die at the end of the story...and yes the Little Mermaid feels intense pain whenever she walks on land...but stories such as these teach us about suffering and sacrifice. The stories are bittersweet reminders of what real life is like. Not everything works out. Yet, there are still plenty of reasons out there for you to keep trying.  This book I am reading may do wonders in instilling a sense of work ethic, humility, charity, and even self-reliance in children that are otherwise taught to rely on parents for material goods. Books such as these may help children avoid the empty promises offered to them by shows advocating sex, a certain weight range, monetary wealth, and love for celebrities that any self-respecting parent would NEVER allow under their roof. There are SO many people on TV that I would never allow in my house....which is why I refuse to watch them on TV, listen to their music, and/or read about. 

I may be strapped for time, but I would love to one day rewrite a book such as the one I am reading now. If I ever quite the PhD madness, I think I may have to work on illustrating some more badass saint pictures and compile them in a book very similar to the one I am reading now. Perhaps the expired copyright may make it possible for me to just take all the stories in it and modernize the vocabulary a bit so the stories become a tad more reader-friendly. I won't change any of the original messages and lessons in these stories. They're awesome and do not need any form of reworking. However, some of the language is a tad outdated. This book was, after all, written well over a century ago...along with some other great classics.

There are good kids out there that probably will make it out of childhood with some level of humanity...but the amount of bratty kids and indulgent parents I see out on a typical shopping trip these days is pretty worrisome. I dread to think how these kids will one day become functioning members of society if they (even as teenagers) resort to whining whenever they want something. I've stopped watching most of the garbage on TV these day...but I have a feeling that this garbage TV is doing more parenting than some of the parents out there. This is particularly worrisome when you see just how much TV, internet, magazines, and garbage literature out there emulate the trashy people and lifestyles.

Oh, the Kindle...

XKCD comics
I'm going to swallow my pride here and just say it. I do like the Kindle I got and my back is still thanking me for getting the e-book version of the Latin-English Douay-Rheims. It weighs so much less than just the new testament I'd been lugging around for the past few months. 
"But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. She had won the victory over herself. She loved her Kindle. I am a traitor to my beloved stacks of books."
 - December 23, 2011 Facebook Status


Pax Vobiscum


The Ultimate Fantasy Church Game

I've never really done the whole "fantasy football" thing. As far as I know, it is a game where a bunch of people get together and pretend to draft, trade, add, and drop real-life football players in an effort to create a fantasy football team that beats out everyone else's team according to some predetermined point system. I'm not too familiar with it, to be honest, but I think I get the big idea here. You can refer to Wikipedia for the point system breakdown and all that other good stuff.

Now one thing I would like to get started is some sort of Ultimate Fantasy Football Churchball Church game (still working out the perfect name for this). As you may already know, I tend to migrate from church to church on Sundays. I don't do it out of a blatant dislike for a particular priest or parish...or anything like that. My problem is that I have a mass schedule that depends on whether or not I go home (South Jersey) for the weekend, how long I stay up on Saturday working on school or research-related projects, and a variety of other factors (like renovations at one Church or accessibility when my sister goes on retreats and takes the car).

During my time as a Church Hobo, I have seen some pretty great Cathedrals (such as those seen while I was in France. I have seen some very humble (and beautiful) churches in my dad's village in Portugal. I have seen parishes of all shapes, sizes, and ages. I have even sat a few pews back from Stephen Colbert (quite possibly one of the biggest distractions ever encountered in the world of Catholic Mass). To make a long story short, I have decided to start building the Ultimate Fantasy Church based on the best things I've encountered in my days as a churchgoing hobo.

Right now, I am working on the Ultimate Church based on some places around where I live now.

Choir: Saint Cassian Parish in Upper Montclair
Holy cow! This choir is amazing and features people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Whenever they start singing, you can just hear and picture the choirs of angels singing before God in heaven. It is just that beautiful. No wonder they get some singing time at the end of mass before the closing announcements.

Latin Mass: Holy Face Monastery in Clifton
It almost feels like yesterday when the Fool and I went to our first Latin Mass. I can still smell the incense, feel the wooden pews, and hear the beautiful Latin prayers. The cozy and dark atmosphere of the church certainly added to the whole experience, transporting us to days long since passed....when the language of the land was Latin and times were simpler (memorization of Latin conjugations aside). To this day, I still believe I was born 500 years or so ahead of my time. Who needs penicillin and all that other good stuff when you got Latin mass....and badass (and extremely gorgeous) knights in shining armor.

Let the gratuitous John William Waterhouse knight in shining armor painting mini-picspam begin....


Yes PLEASE!
I'll take this one too!!!




*girlish squee*


Awe-inspiring Church Interior: Church of the Immaculate Conception in Montclair
If I hadn't already heard that Tolkien's white city of Gondor was based on the Holy See (don't care if this is 100% true or not...I'm taking it)...I would have believed it's white halls to be based on the marble interior of this church. The architecture is stunning and the stained glass alone is worth the trip to see this church. The best part about this place is that it was all constructed in a tasteful manner. It is simply stunning...and a church like this is probably what Christ was walking about in Luke 19:40. 
Luke 19:40 Refresher
"To whom he said: I say to you, that if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out."
These stones much, surely, echo the prayers whispered in that church, the masses said, and the songs sung in that church...even when no one is around. They simply must...They are so beautiful to behold that it is simply impossible for me to imagine that they aren't alive and crying out to the Lord that dwells within that beautiful tabernacle.

Media Savviness: Newman Catholic Center in Montclair, Little Falls, and a Corner of Clifton
When it comes to getting the word out, be it on Facebook, Twitter, or Lino Rulli's Catholic Guy Show...hands down, this place wins. Father Jim Chern has to be one of the most prolific homily bloggers out there...and certainly one of the people most likely to be updating his Facebook status at 1am in the morning. With that said, this place certainly gets the word out. This is no small feat considering the fact that they are based in one of the most liberal and not-always-so-Catholic-friendly schools out there. I guess I am a little biased here because this place was, in most ways, my spiritual home for a good 6 years during my tenure at MSU.

Homilies: Columbia Catholic Ministry in NYC
Father Dan O'Reilly's homilies are some of the best, if not THE best, homilies I have ever heard in my entire life. He not only manages to back up his words with historical facts, anecdotes, and faith...but he does so without a single sheet of paper in front of him. That's right, he doesn't read off a single word. Yet, it all flows from his mouth with a fluidity that would be the envy of all American Legion Oratorical Contest participants. I don't have the time to attend mass downtown...but the days I did make it to mass were the days where my Catholic brain and soul were given a spiritual and intellectual feast of epic proportions. I cannot express just how amazing it was to sit in those wooden pews in Saint Paul's chapel and listen to this padre speak. It was like witnessing the Holy Spirit in action...and we all know that there are no words to describe that!

That's all I have so far for my Ultimate Fantasy Church....so that means I have an amazing choir, a beautiful church and a media-savvy padre who does Latin mass and gives great homilies. I know I don't have too many categories figured out yet...but man, a church like this one could potentially make everyone in the world go Catholic.

Pax Vobiscum

"AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH!?!?!"

I am Facebook friends with a lovely lady that I went to school with back in the day. She was a year ahead of me, but one of those all-around great people with a dynamic personality. A few weeks back, she posted something that caught my eye and made my inner Catholic scream "AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH!?!?!"

In case you're wondering, my inner Catholic has terrible grammar skills. She's all spirit and not really an English major....hence the word "Ain't." Please kids, don't ever use this word when writing a college admission assay.

It was a picture. It wasn't a photograph of some celebrity they had just met on the street. It wasn't a picture or them posing with a "You've just won a million dollars from insert place or contest here" check.  It was a picture of something so incredibly simple that it could probably be overlooked by the average person on any given day. Yet, it was something so out of the ordinary that it could inspire the average person on a day where inspiration is needed. I, for one, saw it as one of those mini-miracles that will touch a person's life if that person pauses long enough to notice them. I saw it as one of the many examples of how God can touch our lives in His mysterious and, sometimes, almost imperceptible ways...especially once I found out the story!

Again, my inner Catholic says
"AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH?!?!"
She posted this picture with the "Ok now this is just getting scary" in the caption beneath it.

My inner geek's curiosity could not be contained and I just had to know the story behind it. Instead of letting my inner Catholic abuse the English language any further, I am just going to post a slightly doctored screenshot of the conversation that followed. Names and photographs have been altered for privacy. I kept the photograph of myself reading the Hobbit (I CAN'T WAIT FOR THE MOVIE!!!). I've labelled myself as "CatholicSciGeek" and the owner of the fortune cookies (and the incredible story) has been labelled as "Geek's Friend." All other people, known and unknown are labelled as "Person 1," etc. and given a different background color. Note my awesome Microsoft Paint Skills or lack thereof.


How awesome is that!?!?

Pax Vobiscum

Getting "In the Spirit"...Whatever that Means: Part II

The "Science Geek" part of Catholic Science Geek
I had to go to the lab right up until December 23rd because of a few 5 week-long autorads I had to start running before New Years. It's pretty crazy how I started thinking so far ahead into my future when it comes to experiments. You see, I had to do these last minute autorads on the 23rd because this way, I have 2 sets of autorads I can analyze the last week of January. This week of analysis can then be directly followed by the analysis of two more autorads I will start up the day after tomorrow. That's two autorads I will analyze the first week of February, followed by several weeks of presentation writing and tweaking and then a Society of Toxicology meeting in March. As I wait for these to develop, I get to work on another presentation and start slicing some more brains for a later analysis. If this paragraph didn't make sense, just consider it a very busy breakdown of just how much I have to finish and plan for between now and March.
"Believe" in what, exactly?

Science aside, it was a pretty "meh" week. Everywhere I went, I was assaulted by "holiday-themed" Macy's ads, and more tinsel and more shiny baubles than I ever want to see again. Penn Station turned into a large contradiction. On one hand, the eye was assaulted by large, gaudy "holiday" decorations. On the other hand, it was assaulted by the many homeless shadows that lurk in the corners and away from the attention of the many home-bound travellers with piles of luggage and wrapped presents.

At every corner, there were parents taking pictures of kids in front of these displays. There were images of women appearing to have fits of ecstasy as they clung to their large strands of pearls and glittery clutches. I normally don't mind ridiculous adverts such as these, but they become depressing when you tack them on to a holiday such as Christmas. Why? Well, it takes all the meaning out of it. There is no story of salvation in walls plastered with advertisements. There is no humility in 30ft Christmas trees towering over the center of a train station, where the homeless gather to catch some sleep in the waiting area...only to be rudely woken up and thrown out so some people can place bag upon bag of presents on those seats. I know those security officers are only doing their jobs and I know that these seats are meant for paying customers...but these sights are depressing and disgusting.

I find myself sitting on the subway one of these days and, at some stop, a self-proclaimed Virginian comes on and sits behind me. She's wearing a red Santa hat and saying happy holidays to everyone. No one really talks to each other on the subway...so it came to no surprise to me that no one replied to her holiday greetings. She gets into a huff about this, complaining about how no one is "in the spirit." She complains about how everyone gets "in the spirit" in Virginia. She then proceeds to say that, in America, people should celebrate Christmas. One rant leads to another, and she is then complaining about how no one celebrates Christmas anymore because of the immigrants from other places coming to the US with other religions. She then starts singing "Jingle Bells" loudly and complaining about everyone's lack of spirit.

If just wearing a Santa hat means you're
 in the true spirit of Christmas....then these
thumbs-up humanists are in
for a rude awakening....once their faces stop
hurting from the cheesy over-the-top smiles.
At some point during the ride, she notices that a young Latina in the back of the train is wearing a light-up Santa hat monstrocity. She gets her attention, after loudly shouting "FELIZ NAVIDAD" off the top of her lungs as she tries to get this girl's attention. Lack of PC aside,  I must note that this Virginian is badass for being able to speak her mind on a train without fear. That is something I could never do. However, I did have half the mind to tell this woman that she was getting it all wrong as far as "the spirit" went. I wanted to tell her that Santa hats and "Jingle Bells" were probably farther from the true meaning of Christmas than immigrants she kept yelling about and their respective religions. However, I didn't have the guts to do so. I also didn't have the guts to tell her that her ideas of the "holiday spirit" had  nothing to do with bells, decorated pine trees, piles of wrapped gifts, candy canes, etc.

 I don't talk on the subway train unless I feel comfortable enough to do so. Thus far, I've only been comfortable enough to talk to a homeless angel-in-disguise and the cutest Jewish kids ever. Based on how uncomfortable I felt around this woman, I was not talking to her at all...not even to return her "holiday" greetings.

If Christmas was only about wearing Santa hats and singing Jingle Bells...then I probably would not have a problem with all of the tinsel and talking reindeer movies. All these decorated trees, stockings, presents, etc. are merely empty symbols these days. They are symbols that probably had some link to Christmas, the solstice, Channukah, etc. at some point in history long before they became some money-making venture. They are symbols that probably meant something before people turned them into the central part of this holiday season.

We may want to forget about Christ in order to make a holiday party more politically correct. We may not put up a creche in order to prevent offending someone's sensibilities. However, when we turn all of the materialistic crap into the center of Christmas...it loses its meaning. It is no longer the celebration of salvation...but a day of giving, getting, buying, and attempting to fill up that big void that's been growing in our hearts since childhood.

I don't know about everyone else out there, but this "season" has become more and more bleak for me as the years go on. As I've gotten older, I have started feeling that "holiday" spirit less and less over the years. It may sound terrible for me to say this...but I felt nothing this year until I got home and saw my family for the first time in several weeks. I felt something when I got to see the excitement of my little cousins when we went to see them for the first time in months. I felt something while walking to Christmas mass (more on this to come). I felt something when I joined my family in the making of our traditional foods and sweets for the consoada. Yet, all of these moments were fleeting. Even the traditional consoada meal, in and of itself meaningless without the big story behind it.

Perhaps this is why there are people out there that are fighting to keep the "Christ" in Christmas." Yet, I cannot help but feel that even these people are missing the point. There are probably more people out there complaining about a mayor calling something a "holiday tree" instead of "Christmas tree" than there are people actually sitting in that town's churches on a typical Sunday. There are probably more people at Penn Station with presents in tow than there were people at Penn Station that even bothered to acknowledge the dignity of all the sleeping homeless lining the corners of the train station. How can I see all of this and still be expected to get "in the spirit?"

Pax Vobiscum