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.

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.

Reflections

This past Tuesday, we had a retreat day here at school. Fr. Martin came from Miles Christe, and gave us a few talks and led some meditations. The day was just what I needed! Because of the retreat, classes were moved around; Daniel’s class began at 8am (it is usually 9am), so I got to the school early. I spent an hour in the Blessed Sacrament chapel before my theology class, which was from 9-12. The retreat started with a nice lunch, followed with talks, a group discussion, and meditation. There was adoration and confession for about 2 hours…I couldn’t be there for Exposition because I can’t breathe around incense, but spent the time praying. Then we had Mass and dinner. Father stayed over the scheduled time so that  everyone who wanted to go to confession could go–the retreat was scheduled to finish at 7pm, but there was still a line for confessions until about 8:30pm! I had one of the best confessions that I remember, and then finished off the day with a few more minutes in the chapel while waiting for Daniel to finish his evening class. Although I still have a lot of work to do and many things hanging overhead, the bit of rest and reflection was spiritually refreshing and I am confident that I will get through it all. May God bless and Mary keep you all.

Culture

I have a class on global cultures, specifically focusing on Ireland. We have to write a page a week, and I decided to post some of this weeks thoughts. Enjoy!

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            The more that I learn about any culture, the more I realize and am fascinated by the fact that each culture is just made up of ordinary people. People that together make up the human race; all having the same desires and fears, and yet the environment that they live in changes how they pursue what they desire and turn away from what they fear. The change in culture is really that change of path of one way that they seek to satisfy the basic desires of happiness and fulfillment to something another way; in this case, a way that others in the world have already sought. This desire is to create in us a thirst for God and His life, but because of our sinful nature, we are distracted and think that pleasures are equal to happiness.

            In my understanding of what I’ll call “the old Irish way”, the Catholic faith was the single most deciding factor in the way a person acted. The family was important, because it was the place that you could show and practice the love that brought happiness. Communities came together, worshiped together, and therefore lived and learned to love together. However, somewhere along the line the understanding of what it really meant to be Catholic got lost, and so no longer gave the sense of fulfillment and happiness that a healthy relationship with God gives. Instead, well meaning souls rejected the effort of learning to know God, and therefore had a more difficult time in loving and serving Him. While serving Him was still a priority, without knowledge and love to give them energy, the service became empty and repressive.

            Therefore, the Irish people began to become dissatisfied with the way they were—and while still valuing the effects of the Faith, they saw the alluring effects of modern consumerism. The shift changed from valuing their Faith most highly to valuing the economy most highly. While it was not completely noticeable at first, it continued slipping in and now each person is a slave to their wants under the guise of moving up in globalization and modernity.

            This rejection of the core of the Catholic Faith has and will continue to impact Irish culture. In the video, they mentioned that there is a shortage of organ donors, so they want to pass legislation that states that a persons organs will be donated unless they have explicitly made their intentions know otherwise. This is a horrible thing; it degrades the human person by not recognizing the dignity that each one has. In organ donation, it is necessary to take the organs while the person still has the potentiality of life. It is impossible to take a vital organ that is no longer working, place it in a person that is alive, and expect it to work; the organ must have the potential to work in order to do any good in the body of the person who receives it. Therefore, with organ donation the life of a person is shortened; by passing such legislation, they will be denying the dignity of each person that has not taken a firm stance, and submitting them to the wants of another person. This also gives less incentive to keep those who are seriously ill (on life support) alive any longer, because their bodies can be of use to others. This just creates a very slippery slope, desensitizing society to the value of any persons life.

            Ireland is in the same struggle as the rest of the civilized world to be the same and different; yet as all countries need to discover, constantly striving after individualism and consumerism does not bring unity or diversity in a good way. Desiring happiness and fulfillment can not be fully achieved in this world, but by ordering our lives instead of becoming animals whose rationality serves passing pleasures we can better achieve true happiness and fulfillment in the dignity of every person.