Preparation

Just a few ramblings…

Lent is coming! Last week I began thinking about how to prepare for the season, and began reflecting about how life is preparation. Each stage of life prepares us for something more, with our goal as Catholics being unity with God at the end of our lives. The “status quo” will not be so for very long.

There is a story that a man came to St. Philip Neri and was telling him about all his plans; St. Philip replied to each of his statements with, “Then what?” Eventually, the man realized that if he took the intermediate goals of his life as the end goal, he would never be satisfied.

My goals fit into brackets–currently they are comprised of mainly school, wedding/marriage, and work. All of them break down into much smaller ones and all include my faith and people…yet it is easy to lose sight of the end goal. I am always busy, often distracted, and constantly concerned on how I am going to get everything done. I am a perfectionist, and “good enough” is never good enough. Although I have learned to temper it to an extent, I must constantly be on guard against these tendencies. If I can internalize the fact that life is preparation, it is more likely than not that my disposition to anxiety would be lessened. My life is preparation, and requires lots of work; but it is only preparation, and will not be judged in isolated acts.

This will be a good lent; definitely a difficult one, but hopefully increasing maturity and love of God. Please pray for me, and you will be in my prayers.

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Trust and prayer

In the past few years, I have encountered many difficulties–one of them being the struggle with God’s Will. I want to do His Will…but sometimes I fail, sometimes I forget, and sometimes that I doubt my ability to tell what His Will is. When I am thinking about it, I know that I can trust Him to bring about greater good even if I don’t understand the first time, as well as recognizing that the way to become more certain is by spending more time in prayer. But prayer takes time, and it is a struggle to trust that He will give me enough time to fulfill my duties (aka homework in most cases). Prayer requires dying to myself, and yet if I pray more I will be happier. I have come to realize my weaknesses and pride to a greater extent in the past year; every time I fail, I recognize how far I am from perfection–but know that I have no power to achieve sanctity by myself.

Today after going to confession, I was reading my Bible. After reading some Psalms, I turned to my favorite chapter to meditate on: Philippians 4. It reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.” (Vs. 4-9)

Yes, I must rejoice in the Lord; even when things don’t go my way. I must think about whatever is good, and rejoice in the reflection of God that we receive through all things. If only I will trust in the Lord and continue trying again and again–not losing hope, even when I fail–I will be at peace and will be more effective in participating in the Divine plan of salvation. And what a joy that will be.

Fall quarter / Prayer request

This quarter has been exceedingly busy. Our professors have not been shy in giving us homework, and as it increases in amount and intensity it is easy to get overwhelmed. I think that in the past four weeks I have broken my own record for how many times I finished my homework a few minutes before class. On Mondays, I meet with our business group for three hours–it is going really well. We have a team of two media students, Daniel & I, and an advisor that has taken particular interest in our business. By the end of the quarter we will have a business plan and presentation as well as a promotional video and a website. Tuesday is full, with six hours of class: three hours on risk management (a general business class), and three hours in our global cultures class. Global cultures is pretty interesting, because we are striving to understand people from other cultures by reading their writings and news and watching films. The past two weeks we have even been corresponding with English students from China! On Wednesday afternoons I have a class on the philosophy of nature, which goes through how we understand the world around us; it is based on Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas’ writings, and is both interesting and difficult. On Thursdays I have my last class, which is on Public Relations. I am enjoying this class as well, as but it is also difficult and work intensive. By the end of the quarter I will have a press kit, portfolio, and another presentation for our business.

Our school is really experiencing growing pains right now. Our student body went from about 80 students to 120 students this fall. There is another class of freshmen, as well as the start of a MBA program and a Masters in Biblical Theology program. The rearranged class times have made it more difficult to both go to Mass and eat between classes, but we are (very) slowly adjusting. The school halls are always busy, and it is often hard to find quiet places to work in on campus anymore…hopefully it will get a little better after the seniors graduate in December. Student activities are about the same as usual. About the only difference is that I have been spending more time in the common rooms again, trying to get to know some of the freshmen.

At the beginning of the quarter, I moved apartments. I went from a 3-bedroom apartment with 7 girls into a 2-bedroom apartment with 4 girls. It is really nice–I have enough room in the refrigerator and freezer to go grocery shopping, I can do laundry when I need to, and it is almost always quiet enough to study up here! I am thoroughly enjoying it, and hoping that I don’t have to move in January after the seniors are gone. If I can stay, I will likely not move again until I graduate in September.

A little while ago, my theology professor asked if I would be willing to help catechize a blind lady (Desiree) who is in the RCIA program with our local parish. His wife has been working with her before, but is having a baby very soon and will need someone to take over. This past week was the first time that I actually talked, and it went well. Desiree is a sweet lady, and I think it will be a good experience for both of us.

Please pray for the Cabral family; one of the girls, Alena, is in my class here at school, and her brothers have been in wheelchairs their whole life. Yesterday two of her brothers were rushed to the hospital, and one brother died last evening; as of this point, two of her other brothers are in the ICU but in stable condition. They need as many prayers as they can get in this difficult time…thank you.

What’s been keeping me busy lately

* Daniel! I am very happy to announce that we are engaged, and are planning on getting married after I graduate.
* Summer quarter of school–I am less than three weeks away from finishing. Which means I have a little over a year until I graduate!
* I am on a team that is building video catechetics company–check out our blog for more info: Katholikos
* Choir–we sing for our all-school Mass every Wednesday.
* Cooking, cleaning, and other everyday fun.
* Searching around for available jobs.
* Beginning plans for the wedding.

God is so good! …This quarter has proved to be much less stressful than the past two; it is a breath of fresh air. It is hard to believe how fast time flies, but I am coming to appreciate every day as it comes. I am realizing my brokenness and need for dependence on God, and praying that I may do His will in all things. It is a struggle, and I keep thinking that I am going to come out on top one of these days. Then I realize that I have the rest of my life…and just pray that I can continuously grow closer to Christ and bring others closer to Him.

May God bless and Mary keep you all.

Media is the Medium…The Efficient Gospel

(This was written as a class assignment. We listened to two podcasts and had to comment/summarize them; they were talking about how media changes us not only by the content, but by the means that we receive the content.)

Both the podcast that we listened to in class as well as the one that we listened to on The Efficient Gospel talked about how the media that we use changes us, regardless of whether the content is good or bad. I have seen this time and again in my experience; it could be said that I am living with one foot in a simplistic way of life and one foot in the new media world. I grew up in the country, with no friends that played video games, had their own phone, or watched much if any television.

For about ten years while I was growing up, we did not have a television; even now, I can easily go for an entire quarter without watching a movie. However, we did have computers all the while growing up (my Dad was and electrical engineer), and we had internet from the time that I was about 12 or 13. Although I was not allowed to go on the internet a lot, I did pick it up more quickly and began doing things first for my parents and then as they allowed me to do more, connecting with other Catholic youth over the internet. As I grew up and began making these friends outside of our home school groups and connecting with them through letters, the internet, and my job (at a fast food restaurant), I noticed that there were many differences. Most of the differences that Shane Hipps talks about I still notice on occasion.

One of the frustrations that I have found with people who are immersed in the pop culture and media world is that they have such a utilitarian, entertainment mindset. They have little use for the Faith, and it is more often thought of as a way to avoid hell rather than a relationship with Christ that will bring us true freedom. This seemed to be the same point that was addressed in The Efficient Gospel. As our culture has evolved around entertainment—first with radio, then with movies, television, telephones, computers, the internet, cell phones, and so on—we have become more desensitized to the people around us. As we have had the ability to build a quantity of relationships, the quality has gone down…which takes away the natural experience of love and service that is the basis of what we are supposed to emulate as Christians.

Although I have had the experience of people sending text and instant messages without pleasantries, I have always found it rude and utilitarian—it may be efficient, but to me it still gives the message that they do not even care enough to say hello. The medium does change us to an extent; for example, because I have the huge resource of the internet, anytime I want to know something about anything I can find out quickly. Things that I would not have much knowledge of if I did not have the convenience, I can look at briefly and move on. The temptation to be available to anyone at anytime is always present; but there are some things that are not inherently in the medium (such as not using pleasantries) yet are used in that way in our culture. I think that, especially as Christians, it is important to practice detachment from technology as with other things; if we allow it to have too much of an impact on our life, it will take its toll on our relationships and we will be just another person in the crowd going in the wrong direction.

Authentically Christian Culture

What does Christ teach us in the Gospels that the ideal culture would look like? In my perception, it would be based around “the greatest commandments”: first, to love God with our entire heart, mind and soul…and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). However, this must not be thought of in terms of feelings; this would be to complicate things beyond measure. There are as many feelings in the world as there are people, and so to feel as though we love God and love our neighbor could just turn into seeking a good feeling for ourselves.
First of all, what is love? The most basic explanation that I know of is a gift of self—the kind of gift that was exemplified on the Cross (John 15:13). At the end of his life, Christ gave us the example of what it meant to love God with our entire being, and placed the salvation of all people above the good of his own human life. In this, we see an orientation to a greater culture than simply that of our humanity. There were countless cures in the Gospels, but many sicknesses were the result of being possessed by demons (Luke 8:36) or needing the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 9:6). The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us how to love our neighbor; we give of ourselves without expecting anything in return.
If there is more to humanity than our current state, an ideal culture would recognize the goal that we are striving to. As mentioned in a previous paragraph, our first goal is to love God above all things. This entails having a personal relationship with the Father, as taught by Christ (best seen in meditating on the Our Father, found in Matthew 6). We must be entirely detached from sin, personal gain, wealth, power, and pleasure. It is our joy to live in relationship with him and so follow his laws, because they will only bring us greater happiness. The many parables in the Gospels reiterate the need to follow his laws with our hearts, and not just in our outward actions. The Ten Commandments and Eight Beatitudes are the greatest guidelines that, if we follow with our heart, will lead us directly to Christ. In order to serve others, we must have a great prayer life (Mark 9:29).
In a perfect culture, people would work for the glory of his kingdom, and give of what they have, freely. They would be detached from things, but be so attached to Christ that they consult him for every decision. We would not worry about our needs, the poor would be supplied for, and everything we would love God and others for their own sake.
To love our neighbor as ourselves, we must be willing to die to our own desires each day. A culture focused on these commandments would not be saturated with ulterior motives; there would be the simplicity found in the life of Christ, with many people having the strong character that will stand for what is right but remaining humble and realizing that everything that we have is a gift from our Father.

What does Christ teach us in the Gospels that the ideal culture would look like? In my perception, it would be based around “the greatest commandments”: first, to love God with our entire heart, mind and soul…and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27). However, this must not be thought of in terms of feelings; this would be to complicate things beyond measure. There are as many feelings in the world as there are people, and so to feel as though we love God and love our neighbor could just turn into seeking a good feeling for ourselves.

First of all, what is love? The most basic explanation that I know of is a gift of self—the kind of gift that was exemplified on the Cross (John 15:13). At the end of his life, Christ gave us the example of what it meant to love God with our entire being, and placed the salvation of all people above the good of his own human life. In this, we see an orientation to a greater culture than simply that of our humanity. There were countless cures in the Gospels, but many sicknesses were the result of being possessed by demons (Luke 8:36) or needing the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 9:6). The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us how to love our neighbor; we give of ourselves without expecting anything in return.

If there is more to humanity than our current state, an ideal culture would recognize the goal that we are striving to. As mentioned in a previous paragraph, our first goal is to love God above all things. This entails having a personal relationship with the Father, as taught by Christ (best seen in meditating on the Our Father, found in Matthew 6). We must be entirely detached from sin, personal gain, wealth, power, and pleasure. It is our joy to live in relationship with him and so follow his laws, because they will only bring us greater happiness. The many parables in the Gospels reiterate the need to follow his laws with our hearts, and not just in our outward actions. The Ten Commandments and Eight Beatitudes are the greatest guidelines that, if we follow with our heart, will lead us directly to Christ. In order to serve others, we must have a great prayer life (Mark 9:29).

In a perfect culture, people would work for the glory of his kingdom, and give of what they have, freely. They would be detached from things, but be so attached to Christ that they consult him for every decision. We would not worry about our needs, the poor would be supplied for, and everything we would love God and others for their own sake.

To love our neighbor as ourselves, we must be willing to die to our own desires each day. A culture focused on these commandments would not be saturated with ulterior motives; there would be the simplicity found in the life of Christ, with many people having the strong character that will stand for what is right but remaining humble and realizing that everything that we have is a gift from our Father.

Busy and happy

On June 10th, I finished the first quarter (of three) of my junior year of college. I am more than half done with my degree, and as we go the time seems to speed by even faster. I was really stressed for most of the quarter because of all the work that we had—even more than the senior class!—but lived through it and am looking forward to getting my grades. I think that I did well…much better than I expected.

It seems like no matter where I go or what time of year it is, I am always a carrier of busyness. When I found out that I would only be working about 10-12 hours each week for the three weeks I was home, I figured that I would have a restful break in which to get a lot done. I guess I did get a lot done, and it has been fairly restful, but the organized plan that I had in my mind was entirely thrown off.

Even amongst some difficulties, there are many things to be happy about right now. Daniel was able to come home with me for more than a week—we had some good times, including helping my family rearrange some of the bedrooms and fixing and painting the walls in the boy’s room. We helped chauffer my siblings to their activities (the two youngest to Vacation Bible School, one of the middle ones to his tractor safety class), went to a few of their baseball games, and visited my grandparents.

Since he went home on Tuesday, I have been getting a lot of things done that I have been procrastinating on for awhile due to a lack of time; hopefully now I can get some of the reading done that I was planning on before I leave this coming Wednesday. Then we start our new quarter on the following Monday. There is never a lack of things to do or people to see.

I feel strangely confident about school right now; it could be just because I am not there right now, but I am looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. I am even more looking forward to finishing my schooling and moving on to the next stage of my life. Although I am not so optimistic to think that everything will be peachy keen all the time, I am looking forward to continuing to grow and mature, as well as have a family to raise children to be saints for the Kingdom.

I have many plans for this coming quarter, and will be trying to break habits that I have had at school. Please pray for me, as I know that it is going to be very difficult; however, I really want to do it. It will help me live my current vocation to the fullest. May God bless and Mary keep you…until I write again!