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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Catholic New Year's Resolutions

As the new year approaches, I'm sure most people are thinking about and seeking ways to improve themselves with strengthened resolve.  Fresh start! Clean slate! Start anew!

And while we dream up of things like working out more, taking on a new skill, earning some other achievement, etc... How about strengthening our resolve to do something more with our Catholic faith?

Personally, I'm usually on some continuous improvement effort regarding my Catholic faith.  Due to the immensity of Catholicism, sometimes it's best to ease into doing more and learning more.

So I've put together 13 (for 2013!) fairly easy suggestions:
  1. Attend Daily Mass once a week. Because believe it or not, we're spoiled as Catholics to be able to worship on a daily basis.  Not every parish offers Mass every day or at convenient times, but surely a parish near you offers something that could work.  I know offers an easy way to search for parishes and their Mass times. For further enticing, daily Mass is often a lot shorter than Sunday Mass. 
  2. Pray one of the Liturgy of the Hours once a day.  The second highest form of prayer in the Church is the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours (the Mass is the highest).  It's a way to "pray unceasingly," as St. Paul writes, at specific times of the day. Praying the Divine Office is required for clergy and religious, but us lay people can share in this form of prayer with them.  What's cool to think about is that whenever you're praying the Liturgy of the Hours, Catholics around the world are doing the same!  Here's how to pray it, and my favorite app/webapp for it.
  3. Abstain from eating meat on all Fridays.  Did you know that as Catholics we're supposed to observe some form of penance on Fridays?  Canon law specifies abstinence from meat throughout the year, not just Lent.  However, bishops can petition the Vatican to allow other forms of penance or charity, which is the case here in the US.  Read more here.  And I personally didn't know that til recently...
  4. Read Daily Readings every day. So if you don't make it to Daily can at least read the readings for the day!  Just remember that these Daily Readings follow their own schedule apart (though sometimes similar) from Sunday's Readings.  If you see on the left menu of my blog, I link to Fr. Alfonse's Daily Meditations.  He offers his own meditation and thoughts on the Gospel reading and I'm often a fan of his insight and how he relates to the Gospel reading of the day.  Anyway, as St. Jerome once said, "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."  So don't ignore!
  5. Go to Adoration once a week.  Again, we are so spoiled as Catholics that we have opportunities to go before Jesus, truly present--body, blood, soul, and divinity... and just...adore Him.  As Christians, we not only proclaim Him as our lord and savior, but seek that intimate relationship with Him.  And like any relationship, what good does it do by ignoring the other?  What good does it do by not speaking to the other?  We can definitely 'find Jesus in the temple' #JoyfulMysteryPun and just spend time with Him, in person.  Yes, I have had staring contests with Jesus and He always wins. also gives Adoration times.  I also know of this website that gives times/places of where you can find Perpetual Adoration (in Texas, but main site links to other states)!
  6. Post a Catholic status or tweet something Catholic frequently.  Hey, if Pope Benedict XVI can tweet, so can you!  The Internet is just as important of a place to create a Catholic culture because it lets you connect easily to real people.  You never know when what you post is just what someone needs.  Just be charitable and be prepared to make a defense for the joy that's within you.  :-D
  7. Pray a Rosary once a week.  The Rosary is a great way to reflect on the life of Christ by praying with His Blessed Mother.  St. Louis Du Montfort wrote a book entitled, The Secret of the Rosary, and it offers a beautiful perspective on the Rosary.  I love how he explains how the Rosary was used against demons.  Worth a read!  You can either buy it or read it online.
  8. Go to Confession at least once a month.  A sincere confession is definitely a good thing.  It's a great way to reflect on ways you've fallen short and have the resolve to do better for next time.  A certain kind of humility transpires as a fruit of confessing one's sins, which makes it more conducive for the soul to be receptive of God's graces.  A lot of healing too, in confession.  Recently, a blog post came out regarding a priest's perspective on the sacrament of reconciliation--worth the read to gain better appreciation of it!  And fun fact:  supposedly Mother Teresa and Blessed Pope John Paul II went to confession. every. day.  Or at the very least, very very very frequently.  Lol, sometimes I need to go once a week... #havemercyonmeasinner
  9. Read the Catechism every day. Rejoice!  We are in the Year of Faith!  Pope Benedict XVI has named this year from Oct '12 to Nov '13 as the Year of Faith in his apostolic letter, Porto Fidei (The Door of Faith).  Purposely and coincidentally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church celebrates its 20th anniversary during the Year of Faith and Pope Benedict XVI has asked us Catholics to spend the time and study the Catechism (and to study the docs of Vatican II, which has its 50th anniversary this year as well).  I recommend reading the Catechism every day because a fellow Fightin' Texas Aggie Catholic has made it really easy to receive morsels of the Catechism in your email each day.  It's not too late!  We're only in the mid-500s (paragraph numbers, not years)!  You can sign up here: Read The Catechism In A Year.  I'm actually learning a lot and the Catechism is such an invaluable resource on outlining what we Catholics believe.
  10. Attend a prayerful retreat.  Our life is often a battle of the visible and invisible things.  And sometimes we need to retreat and regroup.  Praise God that there are opportunities for everyone!  I know for college kids there is Awakening, for adults there is A.C.T.S. and Cursillo.  For middle and high school there's Youth 2000.  Married couples can attend marriage-specific retreats too! I mean, the list goes on and on and on and on.  Check out your parish bulletin or diocesan website to see what's going on!
  11. Get involved with a new ministry.  One quick glance through the any parish bulletin and it's probably easy to see that a number of different ministries could use help.  Involvement in ministries is great because you can connect with (often many) members of the parish.  Some examples are the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters, various prayer groups, ministry to the homeless, ministry to the sick, parish mission councils, etc.  And then there is getting involved with Mass as Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Lector, Usher, choir, altar server, etc.  The nice thing with getting involved with Mass is that the work is highly transferable, no matter where you go ;-)
  12. Read a book about a saint or a saint's works.  What's nice about being part of something that has lasted for 2000 years is that a lot of work and thought has already been done.  We just need to dig back into history and see what's there.  And as a Christian, we need solid examples of what it means to be Christian and what better place to look than the saints?  Here, then, are the heroic and exceptional examples of men, women, and children who lived a Christ-centered life.  I've featured a few saints on this blog, but there are so many more!  Find a saint you are intrigued by and read up on them!  Bonus points if they've written a lot of works and if you read them!
  13. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at least once a week. We can begin to show mercy to others when we ask for Jesus' Divine Mercy.  He reveals His call for us to show mercy to others through St. Faustina.  And one of the devotions to Divine Mercy is praying the Chaplet.  You pray the Chaplet on Rosary beads, but it is shorter than a Rosary!  I like this prayer because it really helps me focus on Jesus' Passion. 
And yes, there are so many ways to further develop one's interior life, learn more about the faith, and putting faith into action.  But at least here's a small list to start.  :-D

And then hopefully by year's end, you can be all like...

Insert your success here
Happy New Year! Keep it Catholic!
- JD

Monday, December 24, 2012


So for years and years now, my church has helped out with Beautiful Feet Ministries, a homeless outreach organization that provides for spiritual and material needs as well as basic medical attention for homeless individuals on the outskirts of downtown Ft. Worth.  Every year on Christmas Eve morning, my church helps out by sorting clothes donations, praying for and with the homeless, and serving them lunch.  And in the particular ministries I'm in at my church, a few weeks ago we put together new socks stuffed with toiletries to hand out to them whenever they finish their lunch.  Also, our Knights of Columbus council cooks up a delicious Thanksgiving-esque lunch for the homeless (like...turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, roll, etc). Pretty cool stuff.

This was my third year in a row participating in helping out with Beautiful Feet.  I had the privilege of laying out an improved game plan on the sorting process.  Because man, when you have 100+ people trying to sort a bunch of clothes, it can get really hectic and chaotic when you don't have some sort of system or game plan in place.  Yes, my engineering mind definitely kicked in when trying to improve this process.  I can honestly say that we accomplished our sorting, bagging, and storing tasks relatively efficiently (better than the last two years, haha) and had a bit of down time before we had a mini-service before serving lunch.

Actually, Beautiful Feet normally holds a service for the homeless prior to lunch time, but we had the unique opportunity in leading that service instead of Beautiful Feet personnel leading it.  And that was a really beautiful thing to be part of.

To start off the service, some of our youth led the singing of Christmas carols to just get everyone in the mood and in the Christmas spirit.  Our youth minister led an opening prayer and reflection.  The Beautiful Feet coordinator working with us asked us to find some people willing to give Christmas testimonies.  Our first testimony during the service was actually one of the homeless gentlemen.  He wanted to share a poem that he wrote about the first Christmas day.  The poem was just...beautiful!  It was beautiful because you could tell that he understood the meaning of Christmas and eloquently poem'd about it.  Better than I could.  And it turns out he loves writing poems because he shared some of his other works (like, published in a booklet he was carrying with him) with others.  Pretty neat!

We also had two other members of our group give a personal witness on what Christmas means to them.  I particularly like how one of them said that the days leading up to Christmas is a time of preparation, whether for family and friends to come over.  But ultimately, it is all preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ.  I hadn't thought about how we spend all this time decorating for Christmas, making sure our house is clean for guests, and other holiday preparations...but...for what?  Why even prepare?  And the answer is...because we celebrate the coming of Christ!  Awesome :-)  The other witness talk was about how she always travels around Christmas time and thus things are always hectic and crazy, kind of like when Mary and Joseph were traveling to Bethlehem and how crazy it must have been for them to not find a place to stay.  I like how she made that connection.

And then finally, our youth minister wrapped up with a reflection from the beginning of Luke 2 where we find the Nativity narrative.  The main message is that even in the chaos and craziness of our lives, no matter what we're going through, we should keep Christ as our center like Mary and Joseph does away in a manger and beyond.  That to begin keeping Christ as our center and letting Him in our lives, we must say "yes" to Him like Mary does when the angel Gabriel speaks to her in Luke 1.  Her yes, "May it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1: 38 NAB), lets Christ in...not just for Mary, but for the world!  Think about that and the immense "yes" her yes was.

Cool reflections and testimonies.

But, as cool as sorting out donated clothes and participating in a service are, I think my favorite part of doing it this year was right after the service and before lunch.  The main coordinator designated me as the one to hand out meal tickets so that the homeless can get their lunch.  So yes, I actually got to briefly interact with every homeless individual that was there.  Maybe my customer service skills kicked in, so I had a joyful smile in greeting them and handing them tickets.  But I found that my smile only grew bigger because...they were the ones to first give me a smile and say "Merry Christmas!" to me, and I could definitely see it in their eyes a sense of gratitude because they were going to receive a really delicious meal.  Kind of humbling really, because I wasn't the only one helping out with the day's effort yet here I am sharing a brief moment with every. single. one. of. them.  And that was really beautiful to see how gracious and thankful they all were.  I actually didn't get to help serve lunch this time because I was busy handing out tickets.

You know, I live a comfortable, middle-class, first world life.  And that's fine.  But truly, I can't bring myself to live my life without at least remembering those who don't have a roof over their head with no family to take care of them.  And in my current journey of faith, a stagnant faith gets nothing done--my response as a disciple of Jesus Christ is to put my faith into action--I'm...en fuego, if you will.  Thus, simply remembering the homeless isn't enough...what can I do to help?  How may I serve?  And that's what's great about Beautiful Feet.  It gives me an opportunity during an opportune time of year to serve the homeless.  But! I don't just serve them once year...  About once a month for the past year and a half, I've also helped with making peanut butter sandwiches that gets sent to another homeless ministry in Ft. Worth.  And yeah, since I've started helping out with Beautiful Feet, the thought of "hmm, what clothes in my closet can I donate?" is always in the back of my mind.  Psh, I don't need a tax deduction from donating my clothes to like...Goodwill.  ;-)  Actually, I totally just donated like 5 pairs of pants that no longer fit me this past time so... I hope one of the homeless men get to enjoy them since I can't anymore.

Anyway, I think that the temptation in thinking about the homeless is that they're a bunch of low-lifes who can't get their act together.  And you know what, I don't really know their story until I actually get to talk to them personally.  But regardless of how they wound up in their situation, regardless of the steps they're taking to get out of their current situation, regardless of homeless stereotypes...the least I can do is provide for their material needs and provide food for them...the least I can do is acknowledge them as human beings and give them dignity...personally.  I'm not gonna lie, I get in better touch with my humanity whenever I serve those who are less fortunate (like babies, kids, and elderly in a previous blog post).

So, I ask you, dear reader of my blog, to keep the homeless in your thoughts and prayers, especially this holiday season.  The local weather is going to be harshly cold and most likely wet if it isn't already.  Let us be  grateful for what has been given to us...and remember those who aren't as fortunate.  Hopefully, something stirs within us such that we're called into action and that we answer that call.  Living a Christ-centered life and called to do God's will, we must say "yes" like Mary.  Whatever we do for the least among us, we do for Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
- JD

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Away In A ... What?

You know what...sometimes I'm too accepting of of whatever I hear and never really stop to think more about stuff.  Praise God I'm an engineer because it helps me try to make common sense of things by seeking a better understanding of...things.

So that leads me to the Christmas carol, "Away In A Manger."

All together now:

Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
'Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live in Thee there

I don't think you can buy this in stores...
So, I don't know about you...but...I never really questioned the song.  I'm all like, "yeah, I get that."  But after thinking about the song more, it fails to explain or detail the most fundamental aspect to this song: what in heaven is a manger?

Perhaps I'm not cultured in late 18th century Europe from which the lyrics to this carol originated, but in living this modern life, perhaps knowing what a manger is has become lost to me as common knowledge.

Context clues from the rest of the song tells me that a manger involves animals and somewhere to put a baby.  Mmk, so stable?  A manger is a stable?  Errmmm.  Sure.  I'll take that!  Makes sense!  Let's move on!

But see, that's not exactly what a manger is.  I was finally enlightened after like...20 years of understanding a manger to be some sort of stable that somehow held baby Jesus.  In actuality, a manger is simply a type of food trough for animals.

A food trough for animals.

How can this be, that the God of the Universe, our Creator, our Father in Heaven, begot His only Son, the King of kings, incarnate of the Virgin Mary...and because Mary and Joseph could not find a place to stay...Mary had to give birth in a stable.  With nowhere else to place the baby, Jesus, he was placed in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2: 1-7).

Perhaps it's my modern mind that thinks that someone of great importance deserves the best, and yet here is Jesus, Son of God, placed in a food trough for animals.  How incredibly humbling, if you think about it.  And it's practical too.  I mean, it's not like He could fall out.

Being the Son of God, Jesus probably had this radiant glow about Himself in the manger.  A glow that speaks adorableness, beauty, cuteness, and all the synonyms.  You know how sometimes babies are just sooooooooooo cute, you just want to eat them up?  Or at least stick their foot or hand in your mouth?  I'm not a father, but I've been around enough babies and their parents to see this happen.  Actually, one of my fav bloggers blogged about it once, Bad Catholic: On Wanting To Eat Your Baby.  Marc Barnes eloquently ties Beauty to the desire of wanting to eat your baby--I cannot match his expression on this matter.  Worth reading.

But back to the manger.  I can't help but think that by Mary placing Jesus in a manger (like she had a choice...) kind of says, "hey, eat Me!"  And again, Jesus must've been divinely adorable as a newborn--Mary and Joseph probably eyed his arms hungrily (in the sense mentioned in the above paragraph, I should stress).

And fun fact, Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea.  In old Hebrew, "Bethlehem" means "house of bread."  Somehow, I'm seeing a theme of food here.

Reflecting on all this, perhaps Jesus wasn't parable-ing or being symbolic in John 6: 22-59 in His Bread of Life discourse.

Anyway, cool stuff.  A manger is a food trough.  How wrong I was to think it meant the stable, but now knowing that Jesus was away in a [food trough] with no crib for a bed, He had a place to lay down His sweet head (yes, it was probably pretty sweet... ;-) ).  Which lends towards a more beautiful understanding of what took place that first Christmas day.

Now pardon me--I'm hungry. #multimeanings
- JD

Sunday, December 16, 2012


And there was much rejoicing and praise upon hearing that Texas A&M's quarterback for the 2012 football season, Johnny Manziel, was named as the Heisman winner on the evening of Saturday December 8, 2012.  Well, for the Aggies anyway.  Non-Aggies weren't as excited or enthusiastic, haha.

It was cool taking a break from my wedding reception-ing that evening and being on Facebook.  I had to scroll longer than usual in order to read a Facebook post that had nothing to do with Johnny!  And I'm convinced that Twitter stopped working for a little bit because the Aggies BTHO'd tweeting about Johnny, I'm sure (or maybe my hotel's wi-fi wasn't that great...I'm not sure...).

I'm not gonna lie (#HonorCode)... I nearly forgot what Johnny's real last name is because everyone called him Johnny Football or now Johnny Heisman.

I'm like...those are two awkward last names.  -facepalm-  Oh yeahhhhhhh, then I remember that his last name is Manziel!

But that isn't his last name...from
I find it interesting that Johnny's last name changes based on what he's doing.  Oh, so he's playing football and being awesome at it?  Let's make his last name Football!  OH EM GEE! HE WON THE HEISMAN!  Let's call him Johnny Heisman now!!!  COZ DAT WHAT HE DO!

lol, anyway...I'm cool with Johnny having a "this is what I do/I am" last name's always the quirky little things we Aggies like to do that make me appreciate being an Aggie.  Traditions, or something...

Awkward pause though.

My life is Aggie.  And Catholic.  But we Aggies can't play the "we're hipster" card in calling someone's last by their identity.

You see, there lived a great Christian philosopher and apologist who lived around the turn of the first century.  I've heard his name before, but I recently heard someone talking about him on the radio and I made the farfetched connection to Johnny Heisman.

We Catholics call him, St. Justin Martyr.  He was... martyred.

From Wikipedia
I haven't had the time to read up on him properly, but for someone who lived around 100AD, his historic record seems to have been preserved nicely through the centuries.  He was martyred for disagreeing with another philosopher, condemned by Roman prefect Ruficus, and executed along with several companions.

He's an intriguing character to me because he was defending the Christian faith among pagans right after the time of the apostles.  I think further study and inquiry on his works and life would provide great insight on what it meant to be Christian back in those days.

While I'm not writing this to compare and contrast Johnny and Justin...I just find this practice of last naming based on what you're famous for interesting and fun.  Lol, if you know me via Facebook and Twitter...I'm a fan of hashtags.  Goodness...maybe one day I can be known as "JD Hashtag."

Maybe next year.

Soooo....shout out to Johnny Heisman! I'm grateful that the Aggies finally has someone recognized for his skills on the field since we haven't had a Heisman winner since 1957.  x_x

And shout out to St. Justin Martyr!  I wish I knew more about him!

The Catholic Church celebrates St. Justin Martyr's feast day on June 1.

Thanks and gig'em,
- JD

Thursday, December 13, 2012


With the midnight release of The Hobbit later this evening, I feel compelled to share something that I've learned fairly recently. 

I watched The Lord of the Rings when I was in high school and read The Hobbit when I was in college.  I never really connected these works with my Catholic faith because my appreciation of faith wasn't mature enough during those times to make that connection.  It was more, "Ooh ahh, adventure! Epic battles!"

Yet a year or two ago, I learned that J.R.R. Tolkien, author of these works and others, was actually quite the Catholic and bff's with C.S. Lewis (who isn't Catholic, but in the end a Catholic-wannabe).


I hope to relive The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit through a Catholic lens sometime very soon.  I'm sure my appreciation for those tales and how they connect to my Catholic faith would be much greater after reliving those books/movies.  Perhaps that's the magic of Tolkien--that even without considering the Catholic undertones of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, they stand on their own as tales with an epic sense of adventure and involving a difficult journey with allies against the forces of evil.

Found a cool quote from an article on, quoting Tolkien in one of his letters:
"The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work," he wrote, "unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like "religion", to cults or practices, in the Imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism" (Letter 142). 
Lastly, someone I know maintains a website that offers lessons on making Catholic connections.  Their Lord of the Rings series can be found here: Link To Liturgy - Lord of the Rings Series.

Worth blogging more about, I'm sure.
- JD

Bold = updated Sunday 12/16/12

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

¡Víva Juan Diego!

For those of you who happen to be my friend on Facebook, you'll probably notice that my middle name   seems too Hispanic for this Filipino.  Honestly, "Juan Diego" is not my real middle name--my middle name is my mother's maiden name ;-) (Yes, like Hispanics, Filipinos do this as well)

Or maybe you actually clicked the About Me section of my blog and noticed that I briefly explain why I sign my blog posts as "JD."  But...who exactly is this Juan Diego and why am I taking on his name?

FIrst, a little bit of background.  Some Catholics have the custom of choosing a "Christian" name, often that of a saint, at Baptism or Confirmation.  Catholics practice this custom so that young Catholics can gain a better appreciation for the saints.

As for me, when I was going through preparation for Confirmation, I had to choose a Confirmation saint.  Ideally, confirmandi (a candidate prepping for Confirmation) should choose a saint that they can relate to in order to have that better connection and appreciation for the saints in general.  These Confirmation saints are also our intercessors and our patrons praying to God on our behalf.

Man, in this important choosing process, even though I was in high school, my Catholic decision-making was definitely still elementary or junior high at best.

The following was my only requirement for a Confirmation saint:
  1. Cool sounding name
And being the lacking-in-knowledge Catholic that I was in early high school, I didn't know too many saints.  I spent some time researching, but I didn't find any particular saint that stood out to me.

But then I recalled my childhood.  PBS was really cool back then.

And I remembered one particular Wishbone episode:

¡Víva, Wishbone!

And that's why I chose St. Juan Diego to be my Confirmation saint!

Done and done.

lol jk

Now if you didn't watch the Wishbone episode and/or would like more of an explanation, allow me to summarize St. Juan Diego's story and further explain why I chose him to be my Confirmation saint.

Our Lady and Juan Diego
St. Juan Diego's original name was Cuauhtlatoatzin (other variations too), which translates to "Talking Eagle" in the Nahuatl language.  He was an older man of native Mexican descent.  He lived through Hernán Cortés' conquest of Mexico in the early 1500's.  Upon the arrival of Franciscan missionaries, he and his wife were baptized and Cuauhtlatoatzin took on the Christian name, Juan Diego (oh hey... ;-) ).

Not gonna lie, this guy was hardcore.  He walked miles and miles to go to Mass.  I'm talkin' like, greater than 10 miles, one way.  One particular December day, he was walking along his usual path to Mass when he heard music and the voice of a young maiden calling out to him.  He stops and talks to her.  The young maiden reveals herself to be the Virgin Mary and asks St. Juan Diego to go to the bishop and have him build her a shrine/church on the hill where she appeared to St. Juan Diego.

So he goes to visit the bishop.  After waiting for hours, he finally sees him.  St. Juan Diego explains the Virgin Mary's appearance to the bishop and skeptical, he asks Juan Diego to bring him a sign.

Returning back to the place where the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, he explains to her that the bishop is doubtful and that he, himself, is not worthy to carry out this task of convincing the bishop to build her church.  Mary insisted that Juan Diego-a-go back to the bishop and ask again.  Like before, the bishop had his doubts and wanted to see a sign.

Discouraged, Juan Diego returned to Mary.  She told Juan Diego that he will find his sign tomorrow.  After returning home, Juan Diego found his uncle deathly ill.  So the next day, instead of going to visit Mary, he tries to find a Catholic priest to give his dying uncle last rites.  But!  Mama knows best--she intercepts Juan Diego when he tried evading the spot where she normally appears.  She assures Juan Diego that his uncle will not die and instructs him to go on top of the hill for the sign that she promised.

Now, recall that it is December.  When Juan Diego went up that hill (not to fetch a pail of water), he saw Castilian roses that only come from Spain.  Growing.  In December.  #FunFact, Castille, Spain is the hometown of the bishop.  Mary also appeared atop the hill (but not to come tumbling down after) and helped Juan Diego arrange the flowers in his tilma (a cloak that you wear) and told him not to open it before showing the sign to the bishop.

Juan Diego treks back to see the bishop.  As he unrolls his tilma to show him, the roses fall to the ground and brilliantly appearing on the tilma is the miraculous image below:

Bishop, moved by this image, then agrees to build the shrine/church for Mary.  St. Juan Diego took care of this church until the day he died.

Mary's title in appearing to St. Juan Diego is Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Why I Chose St. Juan Diego As My Confirmation Saint
Really, two reasons:

  1. Cool sounding name
  2. Initially learned about him through that Wishbone episode
Yes, these are simple reasons, but truly the reasons why I chose St. Juan Diego.  Nothing profound here.  However, as I've grown in my faith and in age, I see St. Juan Diego's influence on me.  True story:  I started going to Daily Mass for the first time after I chose him to be my Confirmation saint and getting Confirmed since I read about him going to Mass err'day and walking miles and miles just to go.  I live five minutes away from my church so ... I can't complain.   And then, probably what I find most inspiring about St. Juan Diego is his devotion and obedience to our Blessed Mother.  Yeah, I probably listen to my mom more than I do my dad...and there was a time in college where I extremely disappointed my mom and it was torturous for me to endure--yet, even in disappointment, she still loves me.  And we kind of see that in St. Juan Diego when he wasn't able to get bishop's approval to build the church for Our Lady, initially.  

Depending on who you ask, some Catholics can relate really, really well to their chosen Confirmation saint.  As for me, I think St. Juan Diego's role in my life will be increasingly more apparent as time goes on.  This is how it's worked out between us so far, haha.  Also, I have a great appreciation for Hispanic and Latino culture.  Perhaps that is a consequence of my being Filipino...which definitely has Spanish influence as well.  With that said, Our Lady of Guadalupe is so integral to Mexican culture, and none of this would have been possible were it not for St. Juan Diego's help.

Other Fun Things

  • This all went down in the early 1500's in Mexico.  Millions and millions of native Mexicans converted to Catholicism in the years following the bishop building the church for Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Interesting enough, on the other side of the world...Europe was losing millions of Catholics due to the Reformation around this time period.
  • St. Juan Diego's tilma survives today, nearly 500 years later.  You can see it at the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.  The tilma has been the subject of scientific inquiry because it shouldn't have lasted this long.  I definitely want to blog about this further separately.
  • Mary has a habit of appearing to people in different places and different time periods, and whenever she does...she usually takes on the race of the individual(s) she's appearing to.  In this case, she appeared in the form of a young mestiza.  
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of the Americas

Anyway, yeah St. Juan Diego is pretty cool.  I know that by sticking close to him, I'll stick close to our Blessed Mother.  And by sticking close to our Blessed Mother, I can grow closer to Christ because everything about Mary points towards her Son.  And to remind myself of my connection with St. Juan Diego, I sign off my blog posts as "JD" and my displayed middle name on Facebook is his name.

St. Juan Diego's feast day is December 9, to commemorate the day when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to him.

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12, the day when Our Lady gave him the flowers and the miraculous image appeared when St. Juan Diego unraveled his tilma.

¡Nuestra seńora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros!
- JD

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Conception Misconception

Ahhh, Christmas is approaching!  I guess with Christmas coming up, engaging in Christian conversations is not all out of the ordinary considering that ultimately...Christmas is about Christ, right?  Particularly, His birth!

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Bartolomé Murillo, Fine Art America
I think it's fairly common to hear that Jesus was "immaculately conceived," and we all nod our heads in agreement.  I hear it every now and then through second-hand conversations, the radio, and wherever.  But what does this even mean?  Yet, the terms get thrown around as if asserting something that is commonly understood.  Can I even explain what it is?

You see, if you were to ask me what Jesus being immaculately conceived is...I'd probably say that it would refer to Jesus being born without a biological father.  And I'd leave it at that.  And oh yeah, I can throw in that Jesus is sinless so there's something truly exceptional and ...immaculate about that.

And how wrong I would be... x_x   Truly, I totes used to think that the Immaculate Conception referred to Jesus' conception without a bio dad.

The cool thing about diving deeper into my Catholic faith is learning vocab, doctrines, dogmas, and sometimes finding out that my initial notion of something the Catholic Church teaches is way off the mark.

You see...the Immaculate Conception doesn't refer to Jesus--it actually refers to Mary, His Mom.

I had one of those "whoa, mind blown" moments when I learned what the Immaculate Conception really is...

So, what is the Immaculate Conception?
The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's conception brought about through the normal marital union between her parents, Anne and Joachim.  What makes Mary's conception immaculate is that she was conceived without the stain of original sin, which is something that all of us humans are born into thanks to the Fall of our First Parents, Adam and Eve.  The word "immaculate" means free from stain or flaw.  So why is original sin an important consideration?  Because, as we know, original sin deprives us from God's sanctifying grace leaving us with a corrupt nature, and hence our need to wash that away through Baptism so we can remove the stain of original sin.

But Mary was preserved from that stain.  We see an indication of that with the angel Gabriel in Luke 1: 28 (RSV), "And he came to her and said, 'Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!' "  Different English translations will render "full of grace" to "highly favoured" or similar wording.  But to really get to what St. Luke is talking about, you must consider his original writing in Greek.  He uses kecharitomene which "is a perfect passive participle of charitoo, meaning 'to fill or endow with grace.' "  This suggests that Mary was filled with grace in the past but her being filled with grace continues in the present.  Pretty cool.  How often do I consider Greek tenses when reading Scripture? #ItsAllGreekToMe

If you're filled with God's grace, there's no room for sin!

But wait! Mary Needs A Savior!
Now that's all fine and dandy about what exactly the Immaculate Conception is, but how does that reconcile with what Mary said during her song of praise when she was visiting her cousin Elizabeth after she found out she would bear God's Son?  She says, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior" (Luke 1:46-47 RSV, emphasis mine), thus indicating that she needed to be saved.

Now, only sinners need saviors, right?

And you know what?  Mary was, indeed, saved!  She was saved from the effects of original sin preventatively, whereas us normal people have to be saved curatively.  In other words, it's like God grabbed Mary before she fell into a deep pit, whereas someone else does fall into the pit and God has to lend a helping hand (ie. the rest of us).  And the nice thing for Mary is that she didn't get her garments dirty from the mud!

If you think about it...and consider Sacred Scripture...we see confession of sins and repentance and having faith.  These are ways to get clean and receive God's grace for salvation.  And God do what He do!  As powerful as we assert that He is and as powerful as He has revealed Himself to's not surprising that He would preventatively save the one who would bear His only begotten Son, who also saves her.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
492 The "splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched fromt he first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son" (Lumen Gentium 53, 56).  The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love" (cf Eph 1:3-4).
Hey, but "all have sinned" so Mary can't be immaculate (Romans 3:23)
So, according to St. Paul and considering the rest of the passage (Romans 3:21-31), all have sinned and their righteousness can only be justified through Jesus Christ with faith.  Putting this against what we know from Luke 1, it would seem contradictory that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" yet here Mary is without sin.

Is it possible that all have sinned?  What about kids below the age of reason, say, a 1-year old?  Have they sinned?  Sinning requires the ability to reason and intent to sin, which the 1-year old would have neither.  How about a little later in Romans when St. Paul talked about Jacob and Esau, "...though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad..." (Romans 9:6-13 RSV).  Does "all have sinned" fit with them, when they're babies?  It's not til they grow up when Jacob cunningly convinces Esau to sell his inheritance to him (Genesis 25:19-34).

So what about Jesus?  Did He sin?  Gosh, I hope not because that would complicate things as a Christian.  x_x  Anyway, so we know that there can be exceptions to "all have sinned."

Perhaps St. Paul was exaggerating because his life is Hebrew and exaggeration is a literary form of emphasis for them.  He likes using "all" when in reality, whatever he's talking about isn't really applicable to "all" (see Romans 11:26, Romans 15:14, 1 Corinthians 15:22 for a few examples).

Is it reasonable to think that Mary was immaculately conceived?
Yes, yes it is.  Think about it.  God becomes the Word made flesh by sending his only begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary!  Kind of a big deal.  Consider the Ark of the Covenant back in Exodus 25.  It contained the Ten Commandments, or the Law (Deuteronomy 10:2).  We know that Jesus is fulfillment of that law (Matthew 5:17).  So in a way, Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant because she had within her womb the Law.  In fact, that's one of her titles! :-)

My family lacks one of these, but I know people who keep their nice dinnerware in a china cabinet.  You keep your precious dinnerware in a china cabinet so that they are kept safe and clean.  But you wouldn't want to place your dinnerware in a dilapidated or dirty cabinet because that would mess up the dinnerware.  Yeah, at my house we use a simple, stock kitchen cabinet but dust collects in there a little bit.  In a way, Mary is like a china cabinet for Jesus.  She's pristine so that Jesus is "without stain or blemish" Himself while chillin' in Mary's womb, and He would have to be squeaky clean because He's God (again, it would be problematic if Jesus was sinful).

The other day I read an interesting blog post regarding an article that reports how scientific research has shown how fetal cells can be restorative for the mother during pregnancy.  Regardless of the scientific validity of the information, it did made me think about how mother and child are mutually connected.  Through the umbilical cord, the exchange of blood occurs.  How cool is that to think (a little more reflectively) how Mary had to share her human blood, her body with the God of the Universe within her womb!  She needs to be immaculate because otherwise she would have transferred her tainted self to Jesus, and again, that would be problematic.

From WebMD
Lastly, another Catechism of the Catholic Church reference:
491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception.  That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. (Pope Pius IX Ineffabillis Deus)
This understanding has been with the Church through her history and her understanding grows clearer.  My understanding of the Church's understanding of the Immaculate Conception has been with me for just over a year now.  And writing this blog post allowed me to look at it more closely and hopefully clear up the misconception (even my own) that the Immaculate Conception isn't about Jesus' lack of a bio father.

So there you have it--Mary is the Immaculate Conception.  Not Jesus (we call His conception the Incarnation).  But!!!! Don't get me wrong, she was immaculately conceived not for her sake, but for her Son.  And that's the cool thing about Mary--everything about her ultimately points towards Jesus.  

The Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.

Ave Maria, gratia plena
- JD

"We must except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord; for from Him we know that abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear Him who undoubtedly had no sin." - St. Augustine

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Still Believe In Santa Claus

Ah, Jolly Old St. Nicholas!  Lend your ear this way!  ...I still believe in you!

Well, that's awkward because for someone in his mid-20's to still believe in Santa Claus is an absurd idea, especially after learning the truth of Santa Claus' reality when I was younger.  But see, being in my mid-20's, I've had opportunities to grow in knowledge, in faith, and in waist sizes (but that's not relevant).  With that said, perhaps Santa Claus is more reality than myth or legend.  Maybe years of commercialization has turned St. Nicholas into some jolly good old fellow whose generosity and reindeer has made him the hot topic of post-Thanksgiving conversations with parents and mall outings.

But see...we associate Santa Claus simply as that guy who shows up to your chimney one night a year and gives you what you deserve.  We never really focus on his history and where he comes from (I'm not talking about the North Pole).  Are we okay with letting some big red dude that we don't really know into our homes one night a year?!

Ummm. Debatable.
So as long as we're accepting of Santa Claus and assuming mommy doesn't kiss him too much or his reindeer doesn't run over grandma...perhaps we should take a little bit of time to know who Santa Claus is.  Now, it's fair to say that the Santa Claus we all know and love today is probably based on several characters in history.  But most (?) seem to point towards the original St. Nicholas.

Santa Claus --> St. Nicholas

Just who was the original St. Nicholas?  Was he fat? Jolly? Resident of the North Pole? Was there a Mrs. St. Nicholas? Did he have reindeer and/or elves? Did he have his own sled? Did he always say "ho" three times in a row?

Umm. Maybe not.

St. Nicholas was...actually...a Catholic bishop of Myra, an area now known as part of Turkey, back in the third century.

Jesus and Mary approve
Not much is certain historically about him because he lived a long time ago, but he seems to have consistent legends about him.  As popular as Jolly Old St. Nicholas is today, St. Nicholas of Myra was pretty popular to early Christians and the Church back in the day too, though for non-commercial reasons, haha.

Some popular legends (or historical facts taken with a grain of salt) include...
How St. Nicholas gave up his inheritance to ensure three sisters received their dowries
How St. Nicholas saved three kids from an evil butcher
How St. Nicholas saved the people of Myra from famine
...and many more here: Traditional Stories & Miracles

For a more complete biography,you can go here.  But again...we don't know much about him historically apart from popular legends and miracles attributed to him through the ages.  But he certainly was a Catholic bishop back in the day.

What sparked my blogging about St. Nicholas was reading about another one of his famous legends.  I can illustrate it as such:
Throughout Church history, the bishops hold councils to discuss matters of the faith.  One such council, the Council of Nicea, was held to discuss the issue of a rising heresy at the time known as Arianism, which basically denied the divinity of Jesus Christ.  There's a popular legend (again, not historically certain) of St. Nicholas freakin' punchin' the daylights out of Arius, the originator of Arianism at the Council of Nicea.  I mean, talk about defending the faith and knocking some sense into people!

Ok. Pause.  Think about this.  Santa Claus making a total baddonkey move and putting Christ back in Christmas with a fist punch.  Makes you want to rethink about the dude in the big red suit at the mall, eh?  You don't see Mr. I-Look-Like-Santa-Claus-But-I'm-Only-His-Helper defending the identity of Christ and punching heretics (oh that would be awkward to have to explain to children waiting in line..."Mommy, why did Santa punch that heathen?").

Anyway, I first read about that punch here: Bad Catholic Blog - On the St. Nick Punch.  And I was immediately wow'd and desired to blog about it too, but it was nearly Valentine's Day earlier this year when I first read Marc's blog post, and I felt like that would have been too late (early?).

Regardless...yes...St. Nick's one punch was sole enough of a reason for me to believe in Santa Claus once again.  But not so much that "Santa Claus" did that...but because...St. Nicholas, taking the average of his historical legends and life, is someone of heroic and holy character, which, in my opinion, is what constitutes a great saint.  We admire his generosity and compassion for the less fortunate which seems to be things that are hard to grasp today.  And yes, though the Santa Claus we know today is a caricature or commercialized representation of the real St. Nicholas, I'm Catholic--and as Catholics we appreciate how visible signs point towards greater realities.  Then yes, Santa Claus is a visible sign that points toward the reality of a man who once walked this earth (and you can find his relics primarily in Bari, Italy and scattered throughout the world) and whose life of legendary generosity is an important and relevant model for us all.

Fun fact!  St. Nicholas' feast day is December 6 or otherwise known as St. Nicholas Day in other parts of the world.  A tradition associated with St. Nicholas Day is for you to leave your shoes out on that day and hopefully you'll find it filled with goodies and/or monies (similar to the usage of stockings for Christmas).

So, I suppose all this talk about the real Santa Claus makes it awkward to talk to kids about it.  And I read a good blog post on how it can be handled.  You can read that here at the Aggie Catholics blog.

I'm lovin' the fact that I'm Catholic because I often find that some of the things we enjoy in society today has some sort of Catholic origin to it.  And man, saints' lives can be so cool to dig deeper into as we see with St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas, pray for us!  May you remind us of what it means to be jolly and generous!
- JD

One more time...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Apostolic Secession?

Huh? Apostolic secession? Is that like...where the the apostles seceded from their communion with Christ? Sure, but that would be terrible because the deposit of faith given by Christ to His apostles would have scattered and there would be no union. There would be no Church and no Christian faith.

Man, I'm so grateful that the apostles didn't secede from Christ (well, there was that one...)

Judas Seceded From The Communion
Haha and it's a weird way of associating political vocab with theological truth. Or maybe I just wanted to use that play on words: apostolic succession (#Catholicvocab) vs. apostolic secession (#notCatholicvocab).  And maybe I just wanted to draw a picture...

But hmm, it seems that secession is a popular topic these days. We're a few weeks past the presidential election, and it seems more than half of the United States have petitions to secede from the Union (, accessed Nov. 18, 2012). Kind of crazy, because that wasn't a consequence I was expecting immediately following the election. Didn't we Americans get what we wanted? We voted and now here we are again. How can we go from elections to secessions so quickly? Perhaps we don't know what we want other than wanting what we think we want. Or something. But either way, it seems that there is unrest and disapproval with the way things are going right now and secession seems to be the solution!

I started thinking about this, and it was hard not to think about it because both my Facebook and Twitter timelines showed expressed thoughts on seceding from the United States, whether "yeah we should!" or "this is such a dumb idea!"...or the "I'm indifferent but it's interesting that there are states petitioning for secession!"

For whatever reason, a Gospel passage came to mind as I thought about the idea of seceding from the United States. And because my life is Catholic, I started thinking about it more but through a Catholic mind. I know for us hardcore Catholics, the results of this election are disappointing. Careful examination of the status of our country and where we're headed is enough cause for worry, and so it is easy to buy into the idea of secession. But is seceding really what's best for us? Would that be a sort of band-aid solution? Would we be just running away from the issues that we are concerned with regarding the federal government? Aren't we called as Catholics to not be afraid?

With all that said, I would say that we are citizens of the kingdom of God first before we are citizens of whatever government rules over us.

Here's that Gospel passage...

From John 15: 18-27, The World's Hatred (NAB)
"If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.  Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.'  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word,, they will also keep yours.  And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin.  Whoever hates me also hates my Father.  If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father.  But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, 'They hated me without cause.'  "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.  And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
The parts that stick out to me are...

If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.
In other words, we are in the world rather than of the world.  I always have to remember that I'm made for heaven. This world is temporal. My life on earth is temporary. I'm simply in the world, but I know this is not my final place. I'm made in the image and likeness of God, and God desires His children to be in union with Him in heaven. Humankind seceded from God in the Garden (Genesis 3), but God desires that we restore that friendship and union with Him because He loves us and sent His only Son to redeem the world by His cross.

If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first
No wonder! I mean, if the world hates Jesus, then surely the world hates His followers too. Makes sense. And if the world hates Him, I would imagine that the world would try to make it difficult for His followers to follow. Hey, let's photoshop out crosses, let's force Catholic adoption agencies to let homosexual couples adopt, let's force everyone to pay for contraception/abortion/sterilization despite your religious beliefs, and the list goes on and on.

Tying this all together, the idea of seceding from the United States does seem like a good idea because we have lost confidence in the future of our country and the idea that we're better off doing our own thing. But, we have to remember that doing our own thing means nothing unless we maintain our union with Christ.  Perhaps our country is falling apart because we're too busy trying to do our own thing instead of keeping Christ as our center and source of unity.  It doesn't matter which Caesar we serve, but we must still render unto God what is God's (Matthew 22)...and what is God's?  We are.

We are in the world, not of it. And even as the world tries to make it difficult for us to live out our Christian faith because the world hates God and thus hates us, we cannot be afraid. We are disciples of Christ and as such, our commUNION (#Catholicpuns) with Him gives us the strength to endure our trials and tribulations in this world.  We should strive not to break that union from Him through sin.  We should carefully reflect on what it is we ultimately desire...and what God ultimately desires for us.

O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, at this most critical time, we entrust the United States of America to your loving care.

Most Holy Mother, we beg you to reclaim this land for the glory of your Son. Overwhelmed with the burden of the sins of our nation, we cry to you from the depths of our hearts and seek refuge in your motherly protection.

Look down with mercy upon us and touch the hearts of our people.  Open our minds to the great worth of human life and to the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.

Free us from the falsehoods that lead to the evil of abortion and threaten the sanctity of family life.  Grant our country the wisdom to proclaim that God's law is the foundation on which this nation was founded, and that He alone is the True Source of our cherished rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

O Merciful Mother, give us the courage to reject the culture of death and the strength to build a new Culture of Life.


Faith. Hope. Charity.
- JD

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Voter's Guides

I've been silent on this blog about this election. Not because I don't want to talk about it, but because the issues and importance of this year's presidential election are too great for me to spend time blogging about it at length, and I never seem to have a lot of free time as of late.  But...that needs to change.  Soon.

But that's okay since I've been putting real effort into talking about the major issues surrounding this election in real life, away from keyboard, to younger generations with the hope of empowering them to maintain their Catholic identity by the life they live and in their right to vote whenever they are old enough.  And praise God that resources are available online!  For free!

I voted on the Monday before the election (yay early voting!) and while I am motivated to vote the way I did for more than simply Catholic reasons, I did focus on learning what it means to vote like a Catholic, especially lately. And it's nice to know that my Catholic and non-Catholic motivations on who to vote for resulted in the same candidate.

I want to offer this blog post as a sort of summary of resources. Therefore, let's begin:

What does the Catholic Church teach on involvement in political matters?
Catechism of the Catholic Church #2234-#2246

CCC 2246...hmm...considering the status of our country right is clear that something must be done.  We cannot idly stand by and let things happen.

We are Catholic first before we are Republican, Democrat, or (insert your non-mainstream political party here). In communion with the Church, our consciences must be formed and carried out genuinely with the mind of the Church, regardless of which political party we associate ourselves with.

Another resource on Catholic voting from the Aggie Catholics blog:
How to Vote As a Catholic

Speaking of forming consciences, there are some hot topic issues to consider when voting for candidates. These issues are abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, and so-called same sex "marriage." Collectively, these are non-negotiable issues that are intrinsically evil--they are not morally justifiable in any case. Here's a video summarizing the issues and see the following links for further reading:

Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics (PDF version)
...and what I like about this outlines principles as opposed to aligning with a particular political party based on their platform.  Because platforms can change, but Catholic teaching and Catholic morality do not.

Certainly, the heart of the five non-negotiables mentioned in that Voter's Guide have to do with attacks on human life and dignity.

If we can't get the right to life right, the other rights we hold dear mean nothing.

However, for those of us who enjoy our right to life, some other important rights guaranteed by our government are being infringed upon. This year marks a historic time for the United States. No other time in US history has the government walked all over our religious freedom, especially for us Catholics. To read more about it, read this:
Why Should I Care: The HHS Mandate and Religious Freedom
a list of entities suing the Department of Health and Human Services (growing list) through The Becket Fund.

You should also watch For Greater Glory, because it tells the story of what Catholics in Mexico had to deal with during the 1920's when the Mexican government persecuted and killed Catholics.  Or Google the Cristiada or Cristero War.  While I don't think the US government will resort to direct killing of individuals outside of the womb, at the very least...we should reflect on the possibility of martyrdom which I think is awesomely portrayed by certain saints in this movie.

And then, on top of all this ... I've been listening to a lot of Catholic radio, particularly Catholic Answers which finds its home at  Thanks to them, I've been informed and educated about the issues.

And even if you didn't vote in this presidential election, there are local and state elections in the near future that require the same responsibility and informed conscience from us.

I challenge you, dear Catholic brothers and sisters--get informed. Take ownership of your faith, live it out, and vote accordingly in future elections at all levels.

And oh...don't be fooled by such things as this kind of voter's guide:
Planned Parenthood Action Fund's Voter's Guide
...because simple check marks that highlight people who are in agreement with Planned Parenthood's ideals isn't enough.  Seriously!  You won't find in-depth information about the issues that Planned Parenthood cares about in their voter's guide.  But I suppose it's harder to talk about justifying intrinsic evils than it is to speak the truth.  And hey, at the very least...this voter's guide helps us know names of individuals who are for Planned Parenthood in our government.  It's up to us to dig deeper and find out why it is they support Planned Parenthood.

Bottom line...there will always be those entities that try to sway your mind away from Catholic truth.  Stand firm.  And know where you stand. Matthew 7:15-29 (NAB).

I hope this all helps!

- JD

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fact Check

First, watch this.

Second, check out Planned Parenthood's own website.
(accessed November 12, 2012)


See, not even Planned Parenthood's own website asserts that they do mammograms in-house.  But they will gladly give you a referral elsewhere.

- JD

PS But ... seriously ... President Obama needs some better advisors or something to tell him correct facts.  Or Obama needs to actually peruse Planned Parenthood's website since he loves them so much.

40 Days for Life 2012: Week 5

I'm two weeks late in posting this...but...that's okay.  Better late than never, right?

Two weekend's ago was the closing rally for this fall's 40 Days for Life campaign.  I wasn't able to attend the actual rally due to other Sunday obligations and responsibilities or maybe I was out of town, but I'm sure it was great.

But see, the funny thing is...I didn't know 40 Days for Life ended two Sunday's ago.  And I still went during my scheduled hour to pray at Planned Parenthood during the week.  I'm such a bragger and overachiever, I know, lol.

I totally went!  I totally drove there! I totally parked! I totally...waited in my car and saw no one standing on the sidewalk.  I noticed that the parking lot still had clinic workers' cars parked (I guess they hadn't gone home yet).  It was then I decided to go look up the schedule for 40 Days for Life and ... I totally missed the memo on it ending the Sunday previous.  D'oh!

I thought about sticking around and perhaps still praying on the sidewalk for an hour.  But...after seeing the parking lot still full and seeing random people walking around on other sidewalks nearby...and knowing that I would have no backup, I decided not to stay and pray because I felt the situation would be too dangerous for me.  I felt like a cop out, and I maintained that feeling of cop-outedness as I drove home...

BUT!  For whatever reason, I thought it would be cool to check out the new Planned Parenthood facility and decided this right before the highway split (between going home and going towards that new location).

15 or so minutes later, I found the new location of the new facility.  It's still under construction.  And it's definitely bigger than my favorite clinic we have been praying at.  :-/   I didn't stick around for too long because ... well...I didn't feel like being shady today.

And after finding it, I drove back home.

Having one week to reflect on my overachievement and two weeks since I last prayed at the clinic for 40 Days for Life, I ask myself...have we accomplished anything?

I'm happy to report that over 600 babies have been saved from this effort!  While that may seem low to me, I must remember that each save is worth it!  Truly a blessing!

But something keeps sticking out in my mind...

Several weekends ago, I attended a training session to be a sidewalk counselor.  And the thing that sticks out to me from that session is what the instructor said regarding 40 Days for Life.  He almost...criticized it.  He said that it's a good effort but it's dumb in that it's only 40 days (though sometimes twice a year, depending on the campaign/location).  And he stressed to us sidewalk counselor hopefuls to know that abortions happen everyday, year-round.  And I totally understood that.

Yes, 40 Days for Life is over for now, but the purpose and mission continues!

Last week we had the election.  And we all know that the result of that election isn't going to play in our favor.  And that's okay.  I welcome the challenge.  To be honest, no amount of law in the land should prevent us from doing what is amount of law in the land should inhibit us to do what we ought.  Human life and dignity are at stake.

Again, I welcome the challenge.  With the way things are right now, I think it's important ever so much that I stick to what is truly Catholic and not some pale shadow of that identity.  The light of Christ is within me.  Soy en fuego con el Espiritu Santo.  If I am who God created me to out world--I'm a pyro.

-raises glass-  Here's to being pro-life!  And I mean that in the Catholic sense--defending all human life and human dignity from conception to natural death.

Challenge accepted.
- JD

My blog post from last year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

40 Days for Life 2012: Week 4

So this past time that I was at the abortion clinic...I ended up...being all by my lonesome.  For whatever reason, the other usual faces during my hour weren't there.  Umm.  Yeah, a little awkward.  A little bit concerned, I was.  And I prayed my Rosary like a paranoid Catholic looking around at least once every decade.  But I finally got through with praying a Rosary.

I finished praying my Rosary when I decided to sit down on the sidewalk and contemplate what I should blog about for this week.  I even got out my phone and pulled up my blogging app and stared at the blank screen thinking about what to blog about.  I think I sat there for a good solid 5-10 minutes.  Couldn't think of anything.  I just kind of figured that I wouldn't worry about it and blog about it later in the week...

...then I heard him.  Something incoherent, but definitely a voice coming up behind me in the lawn-that-must-not-be-trespassed (there's a private property next to the sidewalk across from the abortion clinic).  I look behind me.  I see an African-American man dressed normal, carrying a plastic bag, and asking me something.

Not gonna lie, I was thrown off for a sec or two because I wasn't expecting someone else to be around because I've been paranoid about looking around and saw no one.  He came up closer to me and he kept asking me how much longer this 40 days thing lasted.  So I answered him.  We have two more weeks.

Then he started going on a spiel about how he doesn't think that praying to end abortion is effective.  He says he's Christian and that he reads the Bible.  Then he quoted some Bible verses, which may or may not be relevant.  He kept going on about "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" ...which I didn't quite make the connection on how that relates to abortion and prayer.

Then he went on about how abortion is bad...but it's okay in the cases of rape or before the baby in the womb looks like a baby.  Then he talked about how he knows two methods of abortion:  pick and pull (I apologize for that not sounding scientific), and the pill.  I didn't bother with trying to enlighten him with the truth about how abortion is morally wrong in all cases since he kept on talking without really allowing me to reply with anything.  And besides that, the last thing I wanted to do was to get into any sort of argument with a complete stranger when I'm all by myself.

After talking about abortion, he tangented off with some other spiel about how he always gets stopped by the cops.  This was probably instigated because as we were standing there, a cop truck did pass by within a few minutes of him coming up to talk to me.  The policemen in the truck had their flashlights on.  And I haven't mentioned this yet, but there was a helicopter circling around the general area for a while.  I guess they were looking for someone.

Anyway, he gave some sort of back story that I couldn't quite follow since he was talking kind of fast and slightly incoherently.  I think, if I understood him correctly, he was a truck driver for a while and lived in Florida before coming to Texas, where he talked about some specific examples of why he was stopped by police.  He went on about that for a while.

Maybe like...10-15 minutes of listening to him, another 40 Days for Life person showed up (praise God!).  That's when the homeless man left.  It was at that point that I asked him what his name was--Frank.

So, he went walking off after the other 40 Days for Life guy showed up.  He did come back before I left but didn't stop to talk to any of us.

Not gonna lie, when he first showed up I was a little freaked out because I didn't know what he would do or say.  But after listening to him for a bit, I decided he was not going to hurt me.  I figured he just wanted someone to listen to him, and lending my ear was no problem at all.  He didn't ask for anything.  He just...talked.  A lot.  Animatedly, too.

I just think it's cool that...I was just sitting there wondering what to blog about for this week's blog post and BAM!  ...he shows up.  I guess I asked and then received, haha.

But I ask that you please pray for Frank!  For whatever reason, he has no home.  Pray that the very least that anyone he encounters can do is to give him his dignity and help him.  And also pray for him in regards to his views on the sanctity of life.  The fullness of truth demands that human life is precious no matter the method of conception.

Here's to two more weeks of 40 Days for Life!
- JD

Last year, I wrote an open letter to my spiritually adopted baby.  Click here to read.