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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Cup

A familiar test to determine whether you're an optimist or pessimist is to look at a glass containing water.

Is the glass half full? Or half empty?

Half full? Optimist.  Half empty? Pessimist.

We understand that the optimist views life from a positive perspective, whereas the pessimist views life from a negative perspective.

But I'm an the cup is neither half-full or half-empty--it is twice as big as it needs to be, haha!  I digress...

I've been reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.  He's a Catholic writer and apologist.  Very smart and learned man.  He has an essay in Orthodoxy where he reflects on the optimist and pessimist and how does the Christian fit into either or identify with either.  And he makes the case that the Christian is neither optimist or pessimist.  While I won't go into a lengthy blog post examining his arguments and literary style because I'm not in English IV AP anymore...I just wanted to share a thought that popped in my head regarding optimism, pessimism, and Christianity.

You see, the Christian doesn't view the cup as half-full or half-empty.  I think the Christian views the cup as necessitating it to be empty before it can be full.  But when the cup is full, it must be emptied again.  Just thinking back to Jesus' last hours as one example...He completely emptied Himself so that our lives may be full in Him.  When we truly love as God calls us to love, we have to completely empty ourselves in order that we may be fulfilled.

And I just realized...the cup shouldn't be stagnant.  The cup has to be completely empty before it is completely filled.  The cup has to be completely filled in order to be completely emptied.  The Christian is neither optimist nor pessimist for he or she knows that the life will have its ebb and flow of emptiness and fulfillment.

Haha, if that makes any sense whatsoever to you...

Hmm, this is worth reflecting on some more.

What do you think?

Faith. Hope. Charity. Engineering cups.
- JD

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kind of Impressive

Behold, the Ark of the Covenant!

...the cake version.

So, apparently this is a groom's cake.  Kind of impressive.  Because it looks more real than tasty.  And I always appreciate creative groom's cake at wedding receptions, and this is cool.

Now, I doubt anyone died when they touched (edit: ate) this cake because it didn't contain The probably contained The Chocolate or The Vanilla.

Because I'm Catholic, it's easy to draw the parallels between the real Old Ark of the Covenant , the real New Ark of the Covenant, and the real Cake Ark of the Covenant.  The Old Ark contained the tablets of which God inscribed His commandments and instructed Moses and his followers to erect a very holy box to hold The Law (see Exodus and onwards).  And then there's Mary, Mother of God, who is considered as the New Ark of the Covenant because she carried within her The Fulfillment of the Law--Jesus.  And Jesus' Body is consumable because we need it for life (see John 6).  And now there's this Cake Ark of the Covenant, which contains the Law That One Must At Least Have One Bite. Or something.

Haha anyway, bravo to the cake artist/baker--this is impressive.  Though personally, I'd feel bad/awkward for taking a bite into it...

Faith. Hope. Charity. Biblical cakes.
- JR

[; pictures from Gosling Photography]

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rosarium Oro

For two years now, I've led a decade of the Rosary at a Youth 2000 retreat in my motherland's native tongue: Tagalog (Filipino).

Both times were nerve racking because I don't speak it fluently, and here I am reciting it for a thousand high school students. But I take comfort knowing that the Filipinos-per-square-foot number was relatively low at both Youth 2000s so I felt a little less embarrassed, haha.

I remember a year ago, I really wanted to learn the Rosary prayers in Tagalog because I thought it would be cool, and that it would help me learn Tagalog a little more. I almost had the Hail Mary memorized!

But there was one distinct time last year where I prayed the entire Rosary in Tagalog. With my cheat sheet of course. I found myself engaged in some heated apologetics discussions on Facebook and felt compelled to pray a Rosary for courage and peace. But I decided to do it in Tagalog...

Praying the Rosary in a completely different language is cool. It really helps you focus on the meaning of what you're praying. I think whenever I pray the Rosary in English, I tend to go through it without much thought and reflection on the Our Fathers and Hail Marys because I'm so used to them in English. While still focusing in the Mysteries, of course.

Though, I think it's only fruitful to pray it after getting used to the prayers in whatever language, otherwise you become too fixated on pronunciation and whatnot and that would make it harder to focus on the Mysteries.

And the other cool thing is... it's a neat thing to know that since our faith is universal, there are Catholics around the world praying the Rosary in their native tongue, but the goal is the same no matter what: to reflect on the life of Jesus through Mary.


Next goal: Rosary in Latin.

And here's a good website for the Rosary in different languages.

Faith. Hope. Charity. Pater noster.
- JR

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bearded Morning

Today I'm on my way to College Station to celebrate a school tradition, which I've described in my other blog here. I'm traveling with my high school Confirmation teachers, 'Sam' and 'Becky,' who had a lot to do with my becoming an Aggie.

Anyway, 'Sam' had taken a lot (say 400+) from last weekend's Youth 2000 retreat, and someone had pointed out to 'Sam' that one of his pictures of Fr. Juan Diego, CFR happened to also include St. Juan Diego in the background from one of the Youth 2000 banners. Not only that, it was a good picture of Fr. Juan Diego on the altar. So, we decided to visit Fr. Juan Diego at the friary near downtown on our way down to College Station.

I've been a big fan of the friars since learning about them as a high schooler, and I had always heard about their friary in Ft. Worth without really knowing where it was. It's located in a poorer part of town, right next to a really small Catholic church. We got there, knocked on the door, and no one answered. 'Sam' and I looked around the parish grounds wondering if the friars were elsewhere on the grounds. After some awkward knocking and answering of other doors, I lost 'Sam,' but found him at the friary again talking to Fr. Pio.

After some hellos and salutations, Fr. Pio invited us in to the friary. No other friars were home because they are visiting a hermitage. A simple, two-story house is the friary. What I found to be really cool was their chapel. I think just the fact that they have a tabernacle in a room in their house is pretty legit, but expected.

'Sam' and Fr. Pio talked in the sacristy while 'Becky' took me on a brief tour of the kitchen and dining room. When we joined 'Sam' and Fr. Pio, he was showing 'Sam' a monstrance that had been donated by someone. Apparent there is a store in New York that is like a one-stop shop for all things Catholic, and that's where the monstrance came from. It's a typical golden monstrance I've typically seen but this one had had other jewels inlaid in it. $4000, apparently. And I got to hold it (it was empty). #unworthy, because I know Who it holds.

Then we chatted about our day trip to Texas A&M today, but Fr. Pio didn't really understand because he's not from Texas.

And here we are, still on our way to College Station. Hopefully Fr. Juan Diego will get a kick out of his picture. :-)

Faith. Hope. Charity. Ecce beard.
- JR

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Books I've Read So Far

Ever since the end of college, I've collected and started reading many Catholic books.

Here's some that I've read so far:

Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West
This book and other similar beginner resources for the Theology of the Body (TOB) was my "great discovery" at the end of college.  I didn't realize Blessed Pope John Paul II had reflected on the meaning of man and woman created in the likeness and image of God.  Obviously, a lot flows from that.  And by immersing myself in the Theology of the Body, I can see the world through a different lens.  This is worth other blog posts.

The Way Of Mary by Mary Ford-Grabowsky
This was given to me as a gift for Christmas.  I like this book because it walks you through the major events of Mary's life as revealed in Scripture and offers reflections and quotes for each event.  It offered great insight on the life of Mary in her footsteps towards God.

Unplanned by Abby Johnson
I've sort of blogged about this before in my other blog, but this book is about a former Planned Parenthood director's conversion from pro-choice to pro-life.  Abby's story touches me in a unique way because I was in college a few miles away from everything described in the book.  And I almost participated in the 40 Days for Life campaign where she left Planned Parenthood.  This book is great in that it offers a personal look on both perspectives on the abortion issue.  Though Abby's life went unplanned, she made the right choice.

Theology of His Body by Jason Evert
As a group of guys in the youth group, we went through this book together.  It's sort of like a teen version of some of the stuff I've read from Christopher West but focusing more on what true masculinity is.  This was great because it offered other insights at a basic level, and it was cool having round table discussions with the other guys about what we read.

Be A Man by Fr. Larry Richards
I went to go hear him speak at a Catholic radio event last summer, and the man is unafraid to knock Catholicism into you.  And his book is no different.  I love how Fr. Larry Richards offers stories of his personal life throughout the book as an example of what it means to be a man created in God's image and following God.  It's not quite TOB, but heavily emphasizes the spiritual aspects of being a man for God.  I felt like my butt got kicked after finishing this book.

How To Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason & Crystalina Evert
While this book is written for women, I decided to read it anyway just to get a better idea of things to consider, lol.  Though I wasn't able to relate to most of the book, it was still beneficial.  I think, after reading it, I have better idea of what type of guy I'm not supposed to be and to be more considerate of how the female mind/heart/body/soul works.

The Good News About Sex & Marriage by Christopher West
The idea of "chastity within marriage" is probably a foreign idea for most, but after learning more about TOB, it makes more sense.  Christopher West explains TOB as it relates to marriage and defends Catholic teaching on issues such regarding sex like contraception and sterilization.  It's useful in that it is in question/answer format, so it's a great to have as a reference.  A recommended read for anyone pursuing TOB and wanting to know more about what the Catholic Church teaches regarding sex and marriage.

The Secret of the Rosary by St. Louis du Montfort
After hearing excerpts through some of the guys in the youth group, I finally sat down and read it after obtaining a copy.  St. Louis du Montfort beautifully explains the Rosary and the awesome power of Our Lady's intercession.  This book is a great way to appreciate the Rosary more.

Anyway, I'm in the middle of a few others, but that's another blog post.

Faith. Hope. Charity. Bookin' it.
- JR

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Youth 2000...2012

Today wrapped up another amazing Youth 2000 retreat.  Clearly from the picture above, the gym was packed with youth from all over the diocese and from places as far away as The Woodlands (near Houston)!  

This is my fifth time going on a Youth 2000 retreat.  I went thrice (SCORE! I can use the word "thrice" legitimately in a sentence) during high school: once junior year, twice senior year where one was local and another one in San Angelo, TX.  My fourth time, I went as a chaperone a year ago and ...I chaperoned again this time too!

Gosh, I think my parish brought mmmmmmm....100+ youth?  Pretty big group.  Relatively speaking.  

What I love about this retreat is Jesus is there.  Like, the whole time.  They're not joking when they say it is a Eucharistic-centered retreat.  Not only that, but the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal MC the retreat and give talks as well, and they are just a fun bunch of hardcore Catholic religious men who offer fantastic insight.    And let's not forget the two Franciscan sisters as well!  They're so cool.  I love how a good chunk of my parish's youth have befriended many of them.

When I went Youth 2000 in high school, it was more...for me, personally.  And now that I'm going as a chaperone, I have a different perspective.  It can kind of be represented in the picture above.  I can see from an outside perspective on how the retreat and Jesus Christ Himself is affecting the youth, and it reminds me a lot of the times I went during high school.  

I love seeing the healing that this retreat can bring because sometimes the life of a high schooler is really, really tough and just knowing that Jesus can bring forgiveness and healing does miraculous wonders for them who are open to it and need it.  

And not only that, but it's really cool to see how this retreat inspires high school students to consider religious vocations.  Really cool stuff.  The Church needs people to answer the call.

Some cool things I witnessed:
  • I led a small group during breakout sessions, and in getting to know some of the guys in my group, I was moved by listening to how their Catholic faith is a part of their lives. Some of my guys are from rough neighborhoods or have broken family situations but it was just cool for me to hear them talk about their Catholic faith in a way that helps strengthen them and overcome whatever they're dealing with.  Legit.  Not only that, a few also offered deep insight which I wasn't expecting!
  • Oh man.  It was really awesome to see some of my parish's youth serve at retreat whether as part of the Mass or as an altar server.  We were well-represented at Youth 2000 happenings.  Even myself...I led a decade of the Rosary in Tagalog (Filipino) during the International Rosary.
  • Seeing the smiles on the faces of youth after they had gone to Confession
  • Saturday night at our before-we-get-on-the-bus meeting, we sang the Salve Regina and it was really beautiful
  • Fr. Agostino, CFR, gave a really awesome talk!  As a Filipino, I can appreciate the integration of cultural jokes...even Hispanic ones.  Haha.
  • Sitting with one of my students on the bus ride home Saturday night, I could tell that Adoration and Jesus' Procession was very impactful...and I'll leave it at that
  • GOD MOMENT:  When Fr. Luke referenced a passage from Revelation and then there was a huge boom of thunder...and...there was a verse regarding thunder.  Can't make this stuff up!
  • It was pretty cool awesome to see a good handful of our youth stand up acknowledging that they're open to the idea of pursuing a religious life
  • Right now, our youth ministry's Facebook page is exploding with such awesome feedback regarding the retreat.  :-D
Anyway, personally...I needed this retreat too.  I had some things that I needed to pray about.  And it was awesome sharing this experience with my fellow chaperones and our youth.  Cool stuff.  The Holy Spirit is definitely on fire in the hearts of many youth after this weekend.  Can't wait til next time!

Faith. Hope. Charity.  Beards pointing to Jesus.
- JR

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Vigil

Now I'm not sure if I've ever gone to an Easter Vigil Mass before...maybe I did once during high school? I can't remember.  To make it easier, let's just assume I've never been.

And I went tonight, "for the first time."  And all I can say is that it was pretty legit.  And beautiful too!

I love how they shut off the lights in the sanctuary before Mass and processed in with the Easter candle lighting the way.  Then slowly the room filled with candlelight because everyone was given a candle to hold.  Cool effect for the blessing of the fire.

I didn't realize there were seven readings for this Mass with seven responsorial psalms and prayers.  But, what I liked about it all is that there is no skimping out.  Each reading progressed towards the Resurrection in a such a way that deserves a good Bible study to connect the dots.

And then there were the catechumens.  I'm normally used to babies getting baptized (hey, I'm Catholic), but to see a long line of adults, young adults, and kids get baptized was pretty cool.  There was a certain joy arising within me seeing all this knowing that these people are being initiated into God's family.

As if the line for being baptized wasn't enough, the number of those catechumens receiving the sacrament of Confirmation seemed like double (though it includes those who were baptized earlier).  Again, that certain joy welled up within me seeing all this because now they have this mission and responsibility to fulfill as a Confirmed Catholic.  And to make it that much more exciting, I was sitting next to my own Confirmandee, and he was pretty excited about it too seeing what will happen for him in over a month.

Then lastly, the Eucharist.  The usual stuff, but now those who were just baptized and confirmed can partake in communion.  And that's pretty legit.  Their lives are very, very Catholic now.

Anyway, I think back to the discussions I had with some fellow Catholic friends about Easter Vigil and how awesome they think it is.  And I totes agree.  The triple-whammy of sacraments all in one Mass makes it pretty cool.

On my way out after Mass, I could just see the joy in the new Catholics' faces as they took pictures in the sanctuary and the narthex was buzzing with more people taking pictures and excited chatter.  Cool stuff.

And I should keep this short...only because I have to return for the 9AM Mass so that I can attend with my own family.  But anyway...

Easter Vigil is legit and a really cool Mass to experience.  A really exciting time for the greater Catholic Church as we welcome new members in our family.  I see why people recommend going to it...and I do the same: you should go if you've never been! :-)

Faith. Hope. Charity. Vigils.
- JR

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Young Catholic Questions

I'm an avid listener of Catholic Answers, a radio show and website that aims to answer any and all questions regarding the Catholic faith.

Since I don't often listen to full shows while it is on the air, I hit up the podcasts.

And ... interesting... it seems that pre-teen and younger Catholics ask the zinger questions, especially for the shows at the end of March.  They don't come up often on the show, but mannnn when they do...I'm often amazed at the theological insight some of these youth have.  Makes me go "hmm, I've never thought about that before..."  Not only that, they're not afraid to ask...on NATIONAL. CATHOLIC. RADIO.  Mad props.  Better than me.

Cool stuff.  If I could Like their questions, I totally would.

"Be not afraid." - Blessed Pope John Paul II

Faith. Hope. Charity. Catholic kids are cool.
- JR

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nature and Lent

Well, today is Good Friday and the season of Lent is over. Now we're in the holy season of Triduum which started last night at the beginning of Holy Thursday Mass.

For me, Lent went by pretty quickly. Way more quickly than what last year felt like. I guess I've been really busy this past Lent? I know I was preparing for Confirmation retreats for nearly half of Lent and that used a lot of my time and mental/physical/spiritual effort... And then those were over but I was still busy helping out with religious education... Essentially, just busy...

Kind of hard to stop and smell the roses, you know what I mean?

But let me tell you, once I finally just let myself slow down and take in the wonders of life around me...I made an interesting observation.

One day, a few weeks ago, I was driving home from work. I took a different way home (a path that involves stopping by a Chick-Fil-A, haha) and I couldn't help but notice some of the trees in bloom growing outside of some of the subdivisions. Most bloomed white, but the most striking ones bloomed majestic purple.

I thought to myself, "Huh, that's pretty cool. The trees are blooming purple! Even the trees know it's Lent!" Then I laughed awkwardly to myself because I'm the only one in my car... Of course, because my life is Catholic, I had to post about the trees blooming purple to my favorite Catholic Like page (see top right corner link) as soon as I got home. Had to share it. Not gonna lie.

Anyway, since then, we've had a few severe thunderstorms roll through here in north Texas. The first one involved a ridiculous amount of rain for like a straight day. The most recent one, earlier this week, involved some rain and tornadoes! :-O

In either case, the aftermath of both storms resulted in nature going crazy. (now I'm exaggerating) ... Grass grew like two feet high! Weeds everywhere! Bugs everywhere! Flowers in bloom, moreso! The smell in the air was fresher than some TV princes I know!

Awesome. Even Nature knows it is Lent with the Easter season fastly approaching.

You see, I think in a way, through Nature, God was trying to remind us of the Resurrection. Seeing the purple blossoms in the trees before both storm events reminded me of Lent because the color purple is used during Mass during seasons of preparation (Advent and Lent). The initial purple blossoming of these trees were preparing for the turbulent times we would face in the coming storms.

With that said, I would say that the storms we went through here are kind of like the Passion of Jesus. Violent and destructive, especially with the tornados we saw this past week. And the torrential rains in the first storm offered their own wave of destruction.

But! It is all not wasted! Though Nature brings us these crazy storms, the aftermath results in a renewal of life! Hence the greening plants and their blossoming; the teeming of bug life; the people out and about enjoying the outdoors and weather...and the list goes on.

Yeah, so all of this is kind of like Lent, the Passion, and the Resurrection. Sometimes you just got to take a moment and stop and realize that God speaks to us in different ways to make known and remind us of His existence and what He did for us. He's pretty much preaching the Gospel at all times, if necessary...through Nature. Haha.

Anyway, have a blessed Triduum!

Faith. Hope. Charity. Plants are Catholic too.
- JR

Monday, April 2, 2012

Seven Years

On this day, seven years ago, Blessed Pope John Paul II went home.

I was a senior in high school back then. Thanks to being involved in my youth group and learning more about Pope John Paul II, I started gaining more and more appreciation for the man and the office of the papacy. But to be honest, while I did know some things and learned a little more about him in high school, I didn't know enough to fully grasp him and his life and ministry. But that didn't matter. I still wept. The idea of being without a fearless leader who I knew to be very awesome was...kind of frightening, and hearing about his passing even though I didn't know a lot about him still made me quite sad.

And I wept because it makes me sad to see other people sad and crying too in addition to my own feelings. And I was in a Catholic school gym at the time with hundreds of other Catholic youth, mostly from the diocese, were also in that saddened state.

Blessed Pope John Paul II passed away while I was on a Youth 2000 retreat. All week prior to the retreat, we heard stories of the Pope's declining health, and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal running the retreat made sure for us to offer up prayers for the Pope. I remember at the beginning of the retreat, we all had that uncertainty.

I remember distinctly when we received word of his passing. It was Saturday afternoon of the retreat. Father I-Forget-His-Name paused the retreat in order to break the news. And I wouldn't say there was wailing and emptying of tissue boxes but the general vibe was definitely a sort of profound sadness.

But I know our sadness was not in vain. How can it, when Jesus was right there exposed in the monstrance?
We took a little while to just pause and pray for the repose of his soul and for the Church. Then we resumed the retreat.

Anyway, looking back and I can't think of a better place or time to receive the news of Blessed Pope John Paul II's passing. Right there with Jesus and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Beautiful.

Even though he longer walks upon this earth, the fruits of his labor continue today. I feel like there's this renewed sense of enthusiasm and desire of orthodoxy within the Church that wouldn't have been there had he not shepherded his flock in the right direction while he was Pope.

Truly, his work and leadership will continue to benefit the Church for generations to come. And his intercessions in our prayers will be fruitful as well.

Now, I hope to learn more about him and his work as Pope, and it's almost difficult to know where to start. Praise God I learned about his Theology of the Body at the end of college, but that's another blog post...or ten...

Anyway, Blessed Pope John Paul II...PRAY FOR US!

Faith. Hope. Charity. Pope is dope.
- JR