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Sunday, August 26, 2012


Today, I decided to be adventurous because I, in fact, sometimes do have a sense of adventure.  Or perhaps what sparked my sense of adventure was something that I received in the mail (but I think that deserves a separate blog post regarding such things) and it piqued my interest.  Had to go investigate.

Without getting into details...I experienced something today that made me appreciate what I do have.

But ultimately, it made think about what my Christian faith is rooted in.  The cool thing about trees is that their roots really take hold of the ground where they stand.  The place where we can really learn more about Scripture and let our faith take hold is in church.  I like to think that my Christian faith is rooted like a tree, for was it not a tree that Jesus was crucified on?  With that said, like a tree, my Christian faith should be rooted in Christ.

I mean, that's fair to say.  I can't rightly call myself Christian unless my life and faith are rooted in Christ, right?  And perhaps out of the hardness of my heart and mind, I can't learn how to root myself in Christ...alone.  I need a place to learn more about Christ in community with others and where else would you  do that besides church?

So, a Christian church should ultimately lead the congregation to Christ.  Logically, every thing that happens at church on Sunday should lead towards Christ.  And that's fine.  But I begin to wonder and reflect on if such things that happen in church on Sunday is what I'm focused on rather than being focused solely on Christ.   In other words, does every action within the context of church on Sunday help me focus on Christ so that my faith may take root in Him?

After experiencing today and reflecting on my entire faith journey in general, I've come up with a few things that I know that my Christian faith ought not to be rooted in.

Sheep are cool animals but they're not exactly convicted enough to lead themselves to where they need to go.  They need a leader.  A shepherd, if you will.  A shepherd herds the sheep and leads them where they need to go.  Likewise, you can't have a church of "lost sheep" unless you have someone visible leading the way.  Hence, the need for a pastor.  Cool. Obviously, the pastor's job is to shepherd his flock to Christ.  But imagine if I let my Christian faith be rooted in the pastor?  Like, what if he has freakin' amazing sermons that make me think, make he laugh, make me cry, make me want to go out and do something?  Like, I love what he has to say!  And maybe perhaps though ministry, I've developed a pastoral relationship with the pastor because he's helped me through the worst of times and best of times?  Or perhaps my pastor has done great things for my church community and I'm grateful for him and I keep coming back to support him?  Okay, that's all fine.  But, what if he passes away?  What if, because he's human, falls away from his Christian faith?  Is my faith dependent on the pastor?  Do I remember Who he's supposed to lead me to?  Hmm.

I love music.  I'm a band nerd at heart.  People often ask me "Hey JD, what's your favorite music?" and to that I say to them, "...anything that sounds good to my ear!"  You know, I even played my clarinet at church! Not gonna lie, I do have my favorite songs and hymns.  And there have been times where I've gone to church and the choir sang quite phenomenally!  To the point where I feel like applauding them!  I like it a lot at church when the music is great, because it's disappointing when the music isn't that great.  >_>  And praise and worship songs are awesome.  So are normal hymns.   St. Augustine once said, "When you sing, you pray twice." and I love it when the music in church on Sunday is done so well, I feel like I'm praying seven times seventy-seven times.  All this is fine and well.  But ... what if some of the members of the band or choir is sick that day?  What if instruments break?  What if the sound system is screwing up?  Is my faith dependent on the music played in church on Sunday?  Do I remember to Who we are singing to whenever there is music at church?  Hmm.

Lastly, if I am to go to the house of the Lord, I wouldn't want there to be any doubt that this is, in fact, a house of worship for the greater glory of Christ.  I think back to the time period of Exodus whenever the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to go through an elaborate set up just so the Ark of the Covenant has somewhere holy to reside.  Every tribe in Israel knew because it was obvious to them that this place is a holy place.  Not only that, but the entire Israelite encampment focused on the place where the Ark of the Covenant for it was the center of their camp.  I think it's fair to say that our Christian churches should reflect that focus as well.  A Christian church is a house of worship!  But not just that--it is a house of the Lord!  Is Jesus present at my church on Sunday, and if so...what is my response?  Perhaps I'll donate some money to the church so that the pastor can make improvements to make worship easier.  How so?  Let's make the seats comfortable.  Let's employ modern technologies regarding sound and light to make it easier.  Slideshows to show hymn/song lyrics? Yes!  Perhaps let's just make everything about the Sunday experience as comfortable as possible or make it look cool!  But does my faith depend on how comfortable I am at church on Sunday?  Is my faith dependent on how nice the church looks?  Do I remember Who resides in this house? Hmm.

Shortly touching on this...what if the pastor is terrible?  What if the music was absolutely abhorrent or maybe no music at all?  What if the church was a shack or horribly dilapidated with nothing?  Do I remember Who all this is for? Hmm.

So, the pastor, the music, and the matter how awesome (or not awesome) those are...are they what brings me to church on Sunday?  Have I let my faith take root in the pastor, in the music, in the church (building)?

I should take a hard look at why I go to church on Sunday.  Who do I worship?  Who is the pastor talking about?  Who am I singing to?  Who does the church point towards?  Obviously, it should be Jesus Christ.  He doesn't fade away.   He's always awesome.  He should be the reason why I'm at church on Sunday--not because I'm obligated to, but because I have a genuine desire to deepen my relationship with Him.  He alone should be the reason why I'm at church on Sunday--not because church makes me feel good in any fashion.  Jesus, who was crucified on the tree, is what my Christian faith should be rooted in, for from it springs forth the fruits of eternal life.  Every time I go to church, I should always reflect on why I'm there.  I shouldn't forget Who my focus should be on.  I should take into consideration everything about my experience at church on Sunday and if that experience is focused on Jesus.

And maybe that's why I'm Catholic.  Because as the Bread of Life Discourse in John 6 describes, we know that Jesus is being literal when He says  He is the Bread of Life and whoever eats of this Bread will have eternal life.  And only in a Catholic Mass (or other non-Latin Catholic churches in union with Rome) will you find the Eucharist, which is Jesus truly present: body, blood, soul, and divinity.  So if a Catholic church truly houses Jesus, you would expect the decor and architecture to give you a sense of "this is, in fact, a holy place."  In a Catholic church, since Jesus is truly present, we know that He didn't magically appear in a tabernacle.  No, it's because the priest, serving in the person of Christ and given the authority to do so by Jesus Himself through the apostles and laying of hands, who gives us the Eucharist--Jesus, literally.  In a Catholic Mass, the music, when done right, doesn't draw attention to the choir, but rather, draws your attention to Jesus.  Sometimes the music is done in Latin! Or chanted! Or perhaps there's not even any music at all!

I love going to Daily Mass and Adoration when I'm able to.  See, I get the vibe that the people that show up to Sunday Mass are there because they're obligated to go.  At Daily Mass, no one is there because they're obligated to go--they are there because they want to be there.  I think having the desire to go to Daily Mass affirms what my Catholic faith is rooted in--Jesus.  In the Eucharist.  Priests don't typically have elaborate homilies for Daily Mass.  The choir may or may not be in full force, if at all, for a Daily Mass.  But, Jesus is there.  And for Adoration?  That's where I can just take the time to adore Jesus in the Eucharist.  More often than not, Adoration is spent in silence.  Just me and Him.  Here is the source and summit of my Christian faith--the Eucharist. doesn't matter how I comfortable I faith is rooted in Jesus in the Eucharist because He's truly present.  And so, flowing from that, my experience at church on Sunday and every day should lead my faith to take root in Jesus Himself.

Deep stuff, if you think about it.

I'm going to go to Daily Mass at least twice this week and hopefully Adoration after work on Thursday.  Challenge accepted.

- JD

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No Big Deal

For tickets... ...  hmmm... Ok! Done!


So, this is going to be pretty cool.  I've thumbed through some of Patrick Madrid's books before and I often hear him on Catholic Answers Live and his own show Thursday nights.  He's only nationally known in the Catholic world...

...and he's coming to my parish.

No big deal.

And yes, I do want to know why I should be Catholic when I can be not-Catholic.  I mean, I can come up with a  lot of reasons why my life is Catholic ... but I think Mr. Madrid and Mr. Molina will provide more substantial reasons why, haha.

Knowing me...I'll probably blog about this experience.

Why be Catholic?

- JD


So I'm experimenting with different layouts for my blog... Sorry if it changes every time.

The dust will settle.

Forgive me.  Our lives are Catholic.

- JD

Saturday, August 18, 2012

CFW: Taking It Home

Looking back at my week at Camp Fort Worth, I'm really grateful and blessed to have been part of it, both as a "camper" experiencing it for the first time and as a chaperone/small group leader.  New friends made, got to do things that I would not have normally done or have the opportunity to do, and to share being Catholic with others.

So, reflecting on my experiences from camp after the fact...this is what it means to me:

I mentioned already that I took a week off from work, using vacation time.  I knew a year ago that if I wanted to do Camp Fort Worth this summer, I would have to save my two weeks of earned vacation and devote one of those weeks for the opportunity to attend.  And, boom.  Earned vacation.  Saved it.  Attended Camp Fort Worth.

Throughout the week at camp, I'd joke to myself that this is a vacation for me.  Yes, a vacation of hard work, playing games with kids, spending time with elderly, and all the other awesomeness and trials inherent to the Camp Fort Worth experience.  But, it dawned on me at some point during camp that I'm not just on vacation from work... see, all summer leading up to camp, I've been dealing with stuff.  You know how sometimes you know yourself well enough that you can anticipate how you'd feel when certain things happen, and when they happen, you see that you've gone the way you expected?  Yeah, that happened with me through a series of various events this summer.  Nothing bad, but...I had to deal with much restlessness.  I got stuck in a negative cycle.  Because of my restlessness, I became more inward looking and selfish....which inevitably led me to become more restless!  And as much as I sought peace in the the Lord... I slackened my efforts and didn't try as hard keeping up with the extra little things that make my life Catholic.  More restlessness.

In the week leading up to camp, I was really busy with life at work and life at home.  The Friday and Saturday prior to the start of Camp on Sunday, I was part of my college roommate's wedding with the honor of being one of his groomsmen.  I was so busy that life was nonstop all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday prior to leaving to camp.  I wasn't mentally, emotionally, nor physically prepared to go to Camp Fort Worth because I didn't have time.  However, I was spiritually prepared because I squeezed in Daily Mass, Confession, and Adoration Saturday morning before my friend's wedding.  And then Sunday was pretty busy with Mass, errands, and packing.

With all that said...back to my point...which is... yes, I was on vacation from work being at Camp Fort Worth.  But more importantly, I realized at some point during camp that...I was on vacation, really, from my restlessness.  Because of the mission-like nature of camp, it gave me opportunities to serve others.  Really, to care and think about the needs of others before myself.  I had to set my own anxieties and restlessness aside to better serve the people we reached out to with our various service projects...and to make those personal connections with other camp attendees, whether camper or adult.  Not being worried about me was...refreshing!  I'm glad that my first work site was the Boys and Girls Club, because...I had to worry about what 6-10 year olds cared about--not what I care about.  That really opened the eyes of my heart to be more receptive to the needs of others for the rest of the week.

Truly, a vacation of a different sort.  I was restless until I rested in God, which is very Augustinian of me to say.  But much needed.  Knowing what camp means to me, I'm able to reflect further on Camp Fort Worth in that it allows me to feel more human within a community as a beautiful expression of Catholicism.

Friday, August 10, 2012

CFW: Friday

Well, today is the last day. :-(

We had a small group of people show up for Morning Prayer this morning. It was a very, very tired Morning Prayer. But, it was still pretty cool to do because waking up and praising God through praying the psalms is pretty cool. We even talked about St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, whose feast day is today.

So, for those of us who didn't get up to be ready for Morning Prayer at 7AM this morning, we didn't need to be at breakfast til an hour later than usual. When I went back to the guys' area to finish packing up my stuff, I had the privilege and honor (from Hedg) to wake up the other guys' rooms. And I love creativity when it comes to waking people up. I really wanted to pull up The Lion King's "Circle of Life" song on my iPhone and play it as loud as I could for the guys, but alas, I didn't have it on my phone. Instead, I went with the next best thing...

...turning the lights on and off followed by a dramatic reading of the chorus line from Rebecca Black's "Friday." Yes. It is true. The torture (or awesomeness?!) is enough to wake anyone up. ;-)

Following a breakfast of champion leftovers, we all went off to our work sites. Today, we went to Mission: Arlington, which is a ministry dedicated to providing material needs, basic healthcare, and basic education for the poor in Arlington right next to UTA. Our small groups split up between helping clients in the store, sorting clothes, and sorting school supplies. I decided to go sort clothes since I have lots of experience in sorting clothes at a similar ministry closer to home.

When I walked upstairs where they stored a bunch of clothing donations, it was a little difficult to find walkways to walk around the boxes and boxes of unsorted clothes. It took us a little while to decide on a game plan and then execute the game plan because it was difficult to know where to begin! x_x

We decided on separating winter and summer clothes. All the winter stuff we would bag and set aside, and all the summer stuff we would places in boxes to be sent to the store downstairs later.  Because it felt like we weren't making any progress after a while, we decided that we would at least try to stack and organize the chaos of clothes donations.  So many bins, so little time.  I'm sad that I didn't find any clothes to try on because I didn't find any skirts in my size. Oh well, but I'm glad that a guy A-Teamer was able to find something that fit him.  Didn't match, but who cares?  Haha.

Two hours later, we stopped working to head off to shower. Today was a half day because we needed to help clean up back at St. Vincent De Paul.

But, apparently home site's job today was to clean up around SVDP so there was a ton of down time after everyone showered.  What most everyone did was take pictures and sign each other's branded blocks. Or nap. Or play games.

At one point, we took a group picture of the whole camp, and I squeezed in a quick picture with my group from SEAS before the closing Mass.

Not pictured is the five minutes waiting for the camera to work

Bishop Vann came to celebrate daily Mass with us. As many times as I've been to a Mass with Bishop Vann, I've never been to a daily Mass with him and with a small gathering of people. Cool stuff. He asked questions during his homily like he does with a Confirmation Mass.  Luckily, we passed the test! :-D

After Mass, we received our CFW crosses, watched a sideshow, sang more songs, dismissed, then cleaned up.

Then after everything, there was a lot of taking pictures, hugging all around, etc.  Our SEAS youth minister had showed up at the end of everything, and so both he and I were conversing with whoever.

Well, so camp ended at like 7:30PM.  I didn't leave SVDP til close to 9:30PM because I stuck around to talk to everyone who stayed behind, it seemed.  Haha I guess I couldn't just...leave.

In conclusion, I had a pretty amazing week.  I now see why people speak so highly of Camp Fort Worth.  It was pretty awesome getting to know a bunch of different Catholics and having the opportunities to serve others.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to share this experience this week with everyone there--in a way, I felt like a camper as well, even though I was a chaperone/adult leader.

I think the one recurring theme throughout the week was taking these experiences back home.  The thing with any type of retreat/mission experience is that you have to return back to the real world.  Have I changed?  Have I grown deeper in my relationship with God?  Do I find Jesus not just in the temple, but in every person that I encounter, no matter how different my life is from theirs?

I've had all week to reflect on Camp Fort Worth.  Thus, it deserves one more blog post.

Many thanks and blessings to those who made Camp Fort Worth at St. Vincent De Paul possible!

Take it home.
- JD

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CFW: Thursday

Currently sitting here in the chapel for quiet time. They started the praise and worship music. Oh my gosh, why is it so beautiful? Everyone is singing so beautifully right now.

Woke up early again to do Morning Prayer with the seminarian. We had about 10 campers this morning, and a good chunk of them were girls from my parish. Awesome. I hope we can get more to go tomorrow and I wish we had this going earlier in the week...but oh well...

Like I mentioned in my last blog post, the plan was to go over to the nursing home today for my small group. Thankfully my small group was small enough because I was able to fit, in my car, the ones that didn't have other places to be later.

I had heard about different certain residents at the nursing home from others sharing about their experiences throughout the week. I kept those in mind walking in this morning. When we got inside, the activities coordinator was having everyone go sit outside for a while. So we got the campers to help move residents in their wheelchairs outside. A little warm, but breezy which meant that the residents could play with water guns and bubbles. I helped push a lovely old woman named Maud outside in her wheelchair. I asked her the simple questions like where did she grow up, how many kids and grand kids does she have, etc. I came to find out that her favorite colors are red and blue, but she likes pink the best. In-between conversations, I was kind of talking to a Hispanic lady next to Maud but she spoke Spanglish in such a way that was super hard to understand. Arturo came over and helped translate, but I wish he didn't because I think the Hispanic resident was being flirty and appreciative of my youthfulness.  Kind of awkward.

After spending time outside, I met Gloria and helped her back inside. She carried a water gun with her for a long while and was shooting at everyone. Yes, even other residents!  Which was awkward because I was never sure how they'd react.   I talked to Gloria for a good while. I asked her the same sort of questions that I asked Maud, Gloria was a bit quicker in her speech and thinking. After Gloria, I spent a little time with two gentlemen. One elderly man just wasn't really speaking or reacting to anything I said to him. I felt sorry for him because he wasn't able (?) to express much of anything but I looked hard into his eyes even though he wasn't looking at me and I got a real sense of humanity and dignity from that.  The other gentleman I talked to was Mr. Warren. We talked about his farm for a while and that was cool. After him, I wandered around for a bit. I came across a resident who was trying to get back to her room. Her name is Patricia. We actually ended up back in the dining room for lunch. To make the long interactions with her short, I concluded that she probably has Alzheimer's or other short term memory loss. We talked about the same sort of things over and over again. Then it got awkward in regards to girlfriends and babies. But, she said one thing to me that really stuck out to me. Given how my current life is, it was comforting. I think God used her to tell me to keep doing what I'm doing right now and to figure out what I want to do. I mean, that's a separate blog post but those words couldn't be more applicable.

Regarding the Filipino resident...I did find her! But her family was visiting at the same time we were there because they stuck around for lunch. After lunch, her family left. I noticed that Corazon was trying to get back to her room so I helped push her in her wheelchair back to her room. I didn't get to converse with her but I'm glad to have helped her out by getting her back to her room.  Sometimes you just gotta do what ought to be done, even if you don't get anything out of it.

After all this, our small groups had our lunch. After a little bit of downtime and watching Rhythmic Gymnastics on TV, one of my A-Teamers busted out his guitar. And then we started singing praise and worship songs! We attracted a small crowd of residents who were just coming from lunch or were out and about. What was really awesome was seeing the joy in their faces (for those who could express it) and their clapping. I'm pretty sure that was my high point of the day, even though I was really tired at the time.  One elderly gentleman was on his cell phone talking to a family member, and I overheard him say that "some kids are here at the home...they're singing songs and's really nice" with a smile on his face.  :-D

So after leaving and taking a shower, the afternoon got really hectic for me.  I was more or less coordinating my parish campers to cook dinner for everyone. Thankfully we had help from some of their parents who drove out to SVDP to help with dinner.  We had to resort to Plan C in heating up the meatballs for our meatball subs and perhaps there were a few casualties...But! The best part was tossing the salad in a trash bag!  Yes, a trash bag! #culinarysecrets

Our youth minister came by late because he left work late. The meatballs were a hassle but we pulled it off in time for dinner. In the end, a glorious dinner of meatball subs, southwest salad, brownies, and tres leches cake was served...

Oh, and...since our lives are Catholic, we should celebrate feast days.  Preferably with tres leches cake.

Judging by the leftovers from what we made for dinner, I'd say it was a hit ;-).

After dinner, we had our usual praise and worship and Share Chair time. Then quiet time.

I would say that tonight's experience is something that I won't mention here in my blog.  But, it just affirmed all the good and awesome things that are happening at camp this week. Not just the good works that we do, but how we've changed internally thanks to camp this week.  Again, from my perspective as an adult chaperone for my parish youth, it was really cool to hear them share what camp has done for them so far.

I'll share what I shared with all of camp in another blog post because I think it deserves its own wall of words.

So much hugging afterwards between A-Team and campers and during praise and worship.  I'm starting to be pro at all the hand motions and other gestures.  Fear not.

Tomorrow is the last day, and I get to go to Mission: Arlington. Should be fun sorting and distributing clothes for the needy!

Nursing home.  Trash bag salad.  Nuuu, almost over! >_>
- JD

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

CFW: Wednesday

Woke up early this morning to join our camp seminarian to do Morning Prayer.  It was just me, the seminarian, and an A-Teamer from my parish.  After we finished, we decided that we want to include more people and we've been asking around all day and there seems to be a high interest in doing Morning Prayer.  So hopefully more people show up tomorrow!  While waiting around prior to the start of Morning Prayer, the seminarian introduced me to Matisyahu, which is apparently a good band for reggae.  Cool!

Daily Mass was particularly awesome today. Just, something in the way everyone was singing the songs for processional (Prince of Peace), Communion (How He Loves Us), and recessional (Hold Us Together) was awesome.  Some feedback from the campers mentioned that it was really awesome.  I didn't catch any more weeping from the normal parishioners, but it was cool to see them sing along and clap too!

Today, my small group stayed at SVDP to help out around the parish. Apparently they're putting in a new statue of St. Vincent De Paul in the front, and the area where the statue will go had to have a lot of dirt removed.  Yesterday, the small groups put in a new retaining wall, and all the dirt that was displaced was place elsewhere on the grounds. So, our task was to spread out the dirt in an open area.  And replace some of the dirt back at the statue site.

Somehow I like manual labor and moving dirt around is quite labor intensive.  There were several times where I had to haul a wheelbarrow of dirt from our work site to the other side where the retaining wall was located.   Bit of a walk. Each time got more and more difficult because I was tired from shoveling. I remember thinking, "Man, I'm not strong enough to endure this since I have little upper body strength." Then I remembered Philippians 4:13, which says that it's possible to do anything in Christ who empowers me. So I kept that in mind and it helped keep me going. I'm pretty sure I'll be sore tomorrow.  Quite possibly the next day, as well.

Whereas the retaining wall homesite groups yesterday had full on sun and no breeze, we did not.  I'm grateful it was cloudy and breezy today because that helped make the work bearable outside.  The sprinklers even came on around our mound of dirt as we were shoveling and raking!  And I'm grateful that my nice pair of TOMS shoes didn't get ruined. Just dirty and sandy.  So, non-sacramental confession time:  I forgot to pack a pair of tennis shoes for CFW (shh, don't tell Hedg...forgive my trespass against the established law on bringing shoes), but happened to have brought my TOMS which are still closed-toe.  And they survived stomping around the dirt and mud.  Win.

I didn't get a chance to have SEAS time today because I had to go grocery shopping with our SEAS youth minister since SEAS is cooking dinner tomorrow night.  Meatball subs and trash bag salad. Brownies. Tres leches cake.  All we did was buy everything and I'm already stoked.  Mmm. I did delegate two of my SEAS youth to lead the group time. Apparently they took the entire time between me leaving and coming back (like, an hour) for discussion.  They even kept talking into dinner time, a little bit.  We've normally done like...20 mins... So that's awesome! I haven't had a chance to receive a full report on how that went, yet.

Dinner was fantastic.  I forget what parish took care of dinner...but they bought El Arroyo fajitas for everyone.  ¡Muy delicioso!  As usual, after dinner we did some praise and worship songs, broke up into small groups, and Share Chair time.

Tonight's spiritual experience was pretty awesome. We had confession available with like 5 or 6 priests.  I love that "squeaky clean soul" feeling. I think the moment that warmed my heart the most was seeing one of my SEAS youth come out from her confession and tried not to cry in her pew, but I saw that her brother notices her and he walks across the church just to sit next to her.  Aww!  How cool is that?

Another cool thing that happened was that one of my SEAS youth wanted to pray with me for a little bit and pray for his vocation.  Awesome stuff. Totally did it.

I wasn't in any rush trying to get in line for confession since I had just gone last Saturday.  I noticed Fr. Isaac come in after a long while and decided to go for him for my confession. Without the details, I'll say that he helped me realize that I wasn't really confessing and that I was really after some spiritual direction, which I briefly received.  It was what I needed to hear, but I wasn't comfortable in hearing it.

When confession was over, we went into some more praise and worship. During that time, the visitors arrived. Wednesday of Camp Fort Worth is alumni night.  Anyone who's been to Camp Fort Worth can come visit during this time.  It was really cool to see some of the other SEAS youth and other youth that I happen to know.

The last thing was a talent show, and it was really great to see some awesomely talented individuals. Mostly singers, there was a beatboxer, and even a magician. Crazy cool. I was pretty blown away by two of the singers. Like, chills--they were so good.  And the magician apparently took home this freakin' awesome jacket from Mission: Arlington that really went well with his magic trick.  Legittttt.

After the talent show, I had to grab a quick picture of everyone from SEAS who were there...
Anyway, I'm super tired and it's almost 1:00AM. Tomorrow we get to go to the nursing home. I hear there's a Filipino woman there, and I hope to seek her out and talk to her.

Haulin' dirt.  Squeaky clean souls. Visitors.
- JD

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

CFW: Tuesday

I have to mention that I'm really digging getting six hours of sleep. Which would mean that I normally don't get six hours of sleep. Like, I wake up naturally before my 6:45AM alarm after going to bed at midnight. Lol...  Hey, I'm getting sleep now. #CatchingUp

After breakfast, we got to hear a vocation talk given by (let's call him...) Ronny.  He leaves this Sunday to go be with a Franciscan community that he discerned that he should take part in.  He's an old-school camper, having attended the very first CFW in '98.  Cool story, bro.  Err should I say....(future) Brother?!  lol

Daily Mass was pretty cool this morning.  During the recessional hymn, all the campers linked arms and sang pretty awesomely.  I could see the normal parishioners across the chapel lookin' pretty touched at how close we've grown in a short amount of time.  I think some of them were even weeping!  Wow...  I found out later that a few of the parishioners thought it was absolutely beautiful how we've grown close and that our love of God was clearly shining through our lips and hands/feet this morning.  Opened lips and proclaiming God's praise...  Legit.  ..Not gonna lie, we sounded pretty good.

After Mass, we all broke off to go to our different work sites.  Today we stayed at SVDP to work sanding, priming, and painting baby cribs that the other CFW sessions this summer have already built.  Kind of mindless work.  Due to its mindlessness, it made for good opportunities for singing today's hottest hits like Carly Rae Jepson, T-Swift, Biebs, One Direction, etc. Karaoke and sanding down wood does go together!

But as we were doing all this work, I couldn't help remember for what purpose these cribs were for.  Just the thought of helping out a family and baby in need warms my heart.  Today's camp Scripture is "Give us this day our Daily Bread."  To me, this means that God provides for all that we need to live, and I can't help but think that we, campers, are the hands and feet of God providing for the needs of those who really need it. Awesome.

I should also say...this was good bonding time with others because there's not much to do if you're just there sanding and painting. And the iPod cut out multiple times.  What better way to break the awkward silence than by talking to the other people right there with you, eh?  And of course, we had another brainstorming session of cheesy pick-up lines, thanks to Arturo.

But other than that, pretty cool day. And by that I mean, cool afternoon because we stayed inside priming and painting the cribs because it was super hot outside.

After dinner, we spent time in the chapel to be in silence while writing in our journals. I pondered more on my "vacation" this week and realized that wow, I really need this time to be more directed at others rather than myself like I have been lately.  And I acknowledged the peace in my heart that stems from knowing that I'm not focused on me. Refreshing!  Then I started thinking about my ministry at my parish and how the example of the A-Team has inspired me to innovate for my ministry.  And after thinking about that, I looked at the other SEAS kids that I could see...and then I felt blessed that each and every single one of them (even those I couldn't see in the chapel from where I was sitting) are here at CFW because I know it'll ignite a fire in their hearts that I have to somehow figure out how to capture for our stuff back at home.  "Take it home!" ...that is our take-away from Camp Fort Worth.

After we had silent journal time, we gathered back up in our main meeting area to pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  I loved the A-Team Coordinator's reflection on the every time we pray a Rosary, it's like giving Mary a bouquet of roses.  It's like...for every Hail, is like presenting her with a rose.  Cool stuff.  It reminded me of St. Louis Du Montfort's book, Secrets of the Rosary.

Then we had free time.  And I got into some intense games of Big Booty.  Yes, with some of the same people I was playing Pterodactyl with the night before.  I didn't climb high enough to become the Big Booty, but it was pretty intense.

So, whenever I write these blog's most likely I'm sitting here, on this air mattress, and it's probably past lights the time of the writing of this sentence, 11:37PM, a bunch of guy campers are playing guitar and singing in a circle and dancing to a bunch of praise and worship songs next door. Right now, "Hold Us Together" by Matt Maher. That's freaking awesome . I'm glad that it's only Tuesday and the guys are already such bros.  I was trying to converse with the other adults in the room and blog at the same time when I heard music coming from next door.  I decided to take a peek and see what's going on.  And I peek my head in.  And lo and behold, a bunch of campers and A-Team guys are surrounding my small group's A-Teamer with his guitar...and they're all dancing/swaying/singing in a circle.  Totes bro moment.  I let them be and went back to my bed to blog some more.

So earlier today during #SEAStalk, I had everyone share their typical high, low, and God moments.  Once again, Arturo joined our circle, but he had really awesome stuff to say and the feedback I've been getting from everyone has been pretty great so far.  Not only that, another camper from another parish joined us and she had pretty cool moments as well.  Again, I think it's great that everyone is so open and willing to share.

In general, as if the above examples don't already reflect it, but you can definitely tell that friendships are forging and deepening here at CFW and it's only Tuesday.  I was talking to one of my SEAS youth earlier and we agreed, it's going to be really sad on the last day when we all leave. We'll get there when we get there. Just got to enjoy every moment.

Tomorrow we help out around here at SVDP.

Painting babies.  Silence.  Bro moments.
- JD

Monday, August 6, 2012

CFW: Monday

Despite sleeping on an air mattress with some guys who like to snore, I surprisingly slept decently last night.  An air mattress helps. Perhaps I even got more sleep than I normally would during the work week, which is crazy (so I should sleep more maybe?).

Had breakfast, chilled for a bit, then had Mass. There was a call for someone to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and I volunteered, rather excitedly. But, Mass got super awkward for me because I went up at the wrong time and apparently the priest wasn't used to people kneeling to receive the Eucharist. Oh well.  Turns out he doesn't want people kneeling because of the small confines of the chapel we have for Daily Mass.  Understandable.  Also, I promise I'm a pro EMHC...just...I'm not used to serving at other parishes because there's always a slight tweak in logistics.  Also, there was a group of usual parishioners at Mass too.  I couldn't help but think about what they could possibly be thinking about, seeing a 100-person camp invade the chapel.  They seemed to enjoy our singing.

After Mass and grabbing water bottles, we all separated out to go to our different work sites.  Today, my small group and another small group headed over to one of the local Boys and Girls Clubs.  I've never been to one before.  I expected having to deal with a bunch of rambunctious kids who are hard to deal with, no respect, etc. But to my surprise, the kids were very playful and showed a decent amount of respect. Whew.

So, we had about 15 CFWers (adults/bdults, campers, and A-Team) help out, and we spread ourselves out between the gym, the game room, and the art room and library. The way it works is that a group kids of similar age go from station to station throughout the day.  For me, I started out with the 8-10 year old boys because they were playing pool in the game room.  I was impressed at how good these guys were! Now even though I tried to purposely not brag by being too good at pool, I felt like some of the boys that I played pool with could still school me.  And some of them did.  I learned that there are only two main games that they play: white ball or black ball.  White ball is similar to the normal 8-ball game, but black ball is a free-for-all-just-hit-everything-in type of game.  And then, depending on who you're playing against, there are extra tweaks to the rules, haha.

After hanging out in the game room, I went into the gym for a while where I played a few games appropriate for a gym setting. You know, one of those "I-Call-Out-Something-And-You-Run-Here" sort of games. I promptly got out because the kids are fast. Then I watched for a while.  But what was weird was the awkward down time before finally getting started.  Apparently, the Boys and Girls Club staff can easily put the entirety of the group of kids in time out if they don't be quiet or listen to directions.  So, it took a while for the kids to be quiet and thus it took a while to get the games started.  Lots of awkward standing around.  Then at the end, it was free play with a volleyball, some basketballs, and a football.  Absolutely insane.  I'm surprised no one got hurt.  Kids everywhere! x_x

During these fun times in the game room and the gym, I made a few friends! Haha. Kids are awesome.  So, I like how it was kind of awkward for us at the beginning and we didn't know what to do, but for most of us, we were immediately invited by the kids to come play. That made it easier. The campers' willingness to jump into games was pretty cool to see. But I think what was really cool was how well everyone dealt with the kids. We had a few sad kids, and some of the campers provided a shoulder to cry on and tried to make things better. Shout out to girl campers in my small group for spending the time necessary to make two sad little girls all better!  One particular girl was sad because she felt like no one wants to be her friend and she felt like that she was being made fun of by another girl.  Not only that, but her mom took something away from her earlier in the morning.  I mean, totally #kiddrama but ...still my heart goes out to her, and I'm really glad that one of my campers hung out with her to make her feel better.

While all this was fun and games, I kept forgetting that most of these kids aren't in the best of situations at home.  I heard a few campers' comments how they'd be asked by the kids about stuff and how the kids would be surprised/amazed about how someone isn't in jail or how the camper's parents aren't divorced, etc. Some of the kids opened up to our campers and told their whole life story and it's really sad what some of these kids have to deal with. And most of them aren't even over the age of 12!  It makes me feel extremely grateful for my childhood and growing up in a good situation, and my heart goes out to these kids because I think they deserve better.  But thank God there are places like the Boys and Girls Club to let kids be kids and not deal with some of the crazy stuff at home. To be honest, I was also blown away how joyful most of them were. You probably wouldn't have been able to guess that they're dealing with stuff.  And, I'm glad my first Camp Fort Worth started off with the Boys and Girls Club.  We brought a little bit of heaven on earth for these kids just by getting to know them and hanging out with them.

So, funny story! The high point of my day was talking to this 6-year-old girl who was very chatty and outgoing.  Oh my gosh!--she could totally recite the alphabet backwards and dance while doing so as well! Really fast too!

Amazing! Haha, and when I was talking and joking with her, she screamed at me, "WHY DO YOU SMILE SO MUCH?!" Great, she figured me out...

And one of the campers can do this really rapid eye wiggle thing (really creepy), and he showed her and she screamed at him, "ARE YOU A CHIHUAHUA?!" Lulz. I laughed so hard.
And so 2PM fastly approached, and it came time to leave.  It was hard leaving the Boys and Girls Club because a good handful of the kids got attached.  But my hope is that the arrival of the Tooth Fairy (to talk about the importance of good oral hygiene) distracted them from being too sad at us leaving.

So we left the Club, then showered at a local Y(MCA).  Did I mention we'll be showering in different places each day? Lol.  Offering it up.

When we got back to SVDP and had some free time to do whatever, I played a few turns of Loaded Questions, a game I used to play with my high school friends throughout our college years.  Essentially, if it's your turn, you roll to move spaces, then draw a card.  On the card are color-coded questions where you'll ask the question that corresponds to the color on the space you landed.  Everyone else will write down their answer to the question, and then it becomes your goal to guess whose answer belongs to what person.  For every correct guess, you move that many more spaces.  Fun game!  You can quickly learn about people by playing it.

After some free time, I gathered my SEAS youth so we could talk about how each of our days went since not all of us went to same work sites.  Not only that, by meeting up like this, we can spend some time getting to know each other so whenever we leave Camp Fort Worth, we'll still have that sense of community.  I asked each and every single one of them what their high point of the day was, their low point, and a God moment, which is a moment in the day where they really felt God present.  I was pretty impressed at how open and how much each of them had to share.  It was cool to share  this time together and see how we each of us brought a little bit of heaven on earth at our various work sites.

Also, I thought it was pretty cool to see one of the guys in my small group (let's call him Arturo)  join our group for #SEAStalk, even though he's from another parish.  I let Arturo join in--I couldn't like...tell him to go away.  That would be such a jerk move.

Dinner time was a riot today!  I was sitting at a table with some of my youth and their new friends.  After everyone was done eating, someone had the bright idea of playing Pterodactyl.  After somewhat going around the circle, a large crowd gathered at my table, and now a bunch of people were playing.  I was laughing pretty hard, so, again, I didn't last very long in the game.  And again! One of my youth gets super-hardcore-way into the game.  Like, theater skills come in handy--it was that intense.  I laughed. So. Hard.  Hahahahaha...oh my gosh....

Anyway, it's only Monday but I'm starting to see everyone starting to get comfortable with each other.  People are opening up and coming out of their shells...and suddenly hardcore games of Pterodactyl break out.  Awesome.

After dinner, we had some praise and worship time, some small group time...and then we were introduced to the Share Chair.  Just, a chance for people to share their high point of the day with everyone else.  I think one or two girls from SEAS shared their high points, and Arturo did as well.

After Share Chair time, we got back into our small groups to work on skits based on the Ten Commandments as if the setting was here on earth, and on heaven.  My small group got Thou Shall Not Steal.  So, we went with an Olympic type of setting.  Basically, as one of the girls in my small group was being awarded a gold medal, Arturo would use a cheesy pick-up line to make her swoon and drop the gold medal.  Then my guy A-Teamer would steal the fallen gold medal.  That's on earth.  In heaven, same thing...different pick-up line from Arturo, but my guy A-Teamer returned the gold medal.  Then Arturo concluded with another pick-up line.  And I didn't mention that my small group spent about 10 minutes on listening to Arturo's repertoire of cheesy pick-up lines while preparing for our skits.  Anyway, the other skits by the other small groups were fantastic!  Haha, it's amazing how much creativity you can have when given a short amount of time to prepare for two skits...

So, cool thing happened at Night Prayer tonight.  Apparently there was a directive from Hedg that we won't be reciting the Hail, Holy Queen at the end of Night Prayer anymore.  Instead, we'll just sing the Salve Regina.  I mean, last night was redundant in that we did the Salve Regina after just makes sense.   Remember how I said yesterday that they did the Salve Regina after the July camp?  And that, prior to leaving for CFW, SEAS had a powwow with the youth minister?  Well, part of that powwow was so that I could be assigned the mission of passing out copies of the Salve Regina in Latin for everyone.  So, for this Monday night's Night Prayer, I helped the seminarian (he would)  stuff those copies into our Night Prayer booklets.  And then, me and my SEAS A-Teamer led it when it came time to sing it.  I was pretty blown away at how awesomely beautiful it sounded having everyone on the same page (pun intended) with the words in front of them.  Awesome.

Pretty excellent first day of Camp Fort Worth.  I can't wait to see what the rest of the week has in store for us!

And tomorrow I have no idea where we're going because I forgot to check...

Check the worksite board.  Chihuahuas.  Pterodactyls.  Cheesy pick-up lines.
- JD

Sunday, August 5, 2012

CFW: Sunday

Whew. What a hectic day!  I've been busy since Friday with a friend's wedding, and today I lectored at my parish's 11AM Mass.  Then I scrambled to get errands done and finish packing for Camp Fort Worth.

I should preface these CFW blog posts in saying that this is my first time going to a Camp Fort Worth.  Ever since I got involved with high school youth ministry two years ago, it seemed that all the youth who went to CFW were just absolutely on fire and spoke so, so highly of it.  I wanted to find out for myself, but me being the young professional engineer that I am, didn't quite have vacation time earned just yet until this year.  So, yes, I'm using a week's worth of vacation time just to go see what CFW is all about!  Thankfully, the opportunity has come and today's the first day! And not only that, I'm chaperoning our youth from our parish  for the week as well.  W00t!

Met up 5PM at our parish since our youth minister wanted to gather us all and have a little powwow before heading out to Arlington for Camp Fort Worth.  This camp, we're taking 9 from our parish.

Our home site for the first-ever August Camp Fort Worth is St. Vincent De Paul, a Catholic church in south Arlington.  From the looks of it, it seems like a pretty good venue.

First, some definitions:
  • A-Team = Alumni Team, a group of high schoolers or just graduated individuals who have come back to help out at Camp Fort Worth
  • A-dult = an adult who is 21+
  • B-dult = an adult who is 18-20
  • Camper = high schooler attending Camp Fort Worth
  • SVDP = St. Vincent De Paul
  • SEAS = St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, my home parish
  • Hedg = CFW director
After our powwow at SEAS, I left a little later than my youth and thus got to St. Vincent De Paul later than they did. And when I arrived, it was a lot of awkward getting things set and in place to fulfill my chaperone responsibilities.  It took me a little while to get all my stuff from my car to the classroom where I would be sleeping for the rest of the week.  But after all that, I finally met up with all the other campers.

I guess I wasn't prepared to handle the A-Team.  They were so helpful and enthusiasm.  The enthusiasm gushing from the A-Team reminded me a lot of my Aggie Fish Camp counselor days. A lot of energy. A lot of awkward.  But so helpful and nice!

I sat down with the other SEAS youth in the gym, our main room, and started working on my name button.  A few A-Teamers sat with us to play a few games and to just get to know us.

We spent a long while socializing, playing games, and eating dinner. I'm pretty sure that my youth have already absorbed one or two youth from other parishes. That's just how we roll.  Also, I learned how to play Pterodactyl. Wow.  So, to play Pterodactyl, you cover your teeth with your lips and say the word, "pterodactyl," to the person next to you.  You go around in the circle.  You can either say "pterodactyl" or squawk to reverse the direction.  You lose if you laugh or show teeth.  THIS GAME IS RIDICULOUSLY HILARIOUS.  I didn't last long.  One of my youth gets really into it.  I have a feeling that this'll be a common thing at camp this week.

After dinner, we played ice breakers for a while.  Learned that there are quite a few Aggies here thanks to Do You Love Your Neighbor. +2 in my Aggie Network.  I find that always tends to be the case...where there are a lot of Catholics...there's a decent group of Aggie Catholics...

Also, I met two people here in real life that I met on Twitter.  One of my youth, who was an A-Teamer at an earlier camp this summer, introduced us all on Twitter, lol.  In addition, I quickly made a new friend with another adult guy who goes to the church close to my work, St. Peter's in Lindsay, TX.

During the a-dult and b-dult meeting, I got excited when Hedg described the different sites: Mission Arlington, Boys & Girls Club, SVDP, and Arborbrook nursing home.  It's been a while since I've done any service work outside of youth ministry and since college, so I'm really looking forward to going to these different sites throughout the week to help out.

Later in the evening, we broke up into small groups. I have one of the smaller groups with 4 campers and two A-team members to help me. Apparently one of the guys who got absorbed by my youth ended up being in my small group. Cool.  Thankfully, my four campers aren't shy. They're willing to share and be open. Which is awesome. Makes it easier!  One of the other campers in my small group was an MC at DCYC a month ago!  We came up with our group name--Prayola. Inspired by the box of markers used to make our poster.  Spent quality time together making our poster and getting to know each other.

To conclude the night, Hedg said there was optional Night Prayer.  Granted, it's the normal Night Prayer using readings more related to service.  I loved the title of the booklet: Even Shorter Book of Christian Prayer.  I had heard from my youth minister that at the July CFW, they started singing the Salve Regina after Night Prayer.  So this was something that he and I wanted to implement for this week's camp.  And after we finished Night Prayer, I and a small group of others from SEAS started singing the Salve Regina.  I was impressed by the participation of people in the song because I thought people wouldn't know it. Glad SEAS led the way!

Looking back at the day, I liked what Hedg said earlier. What does God want to say to me this week? Am I open and receptive enough to listen to what He has to say as He speaks through the various experiences that I'll go through this week?  I'll have be like a watchman at daybreak to find out.

Lastly, I did take vacation off of work just to be here. And I realized that lately I've been mostly thinking about myself and only myself. Perhaps then, this is a week vacation from me looking inwards. Awesome. Refreshing.  Now, there are opportunities for me to look and act outwards.  Can't wait!

So I should mention experiences this week would be similar to what anyone doing Camp Fort Worth would do, but a future camper can still have a very unique and awesome experience.  As I'm blogging throughout the week, I'll try not to ruin some of the cool experiences that are part of CFW.

Also, I've given up Twitter and Facebook for the week.  Lately, I've been so absorbed in Catholic news and  the interwebs isn't a friendly Catholic place to be...I need a vacation from Facebook and Twitter too, haha.

And for small group is going to help out at the Boys & Girls Club.  I'm stoked! Let's get this going!

Offering it up.  Excitement.  Do work.


Tonight begins a week-long service/missionary/retreat experience called Camp Fort Worth.

I've been pretty excited about going since hearing about it last year.  It seemed that every high school youth at my parish that went to CFW at any point in the past thinks it's pretty amazi-tacular-ful.  Like, life-changing for some of them.  Whoa.  I want to know why.  And I hear you get to serve people, which is something that I like doing.

But I wasn't able to go last year since I have #youngadultproblems and haven't earned vacation time at my place of employment just yet.

This year, however...

Let's do this!  More blog posts to come, I'm sure.
- JD

A Realization

Lol I just realized that I was physically at places associated with the three things that have been on my mind for a long while now. Today. Work, marriage, and Catholic things.

Translation. Drove 250 miles today hitting up Daily Mass/Confession/Adoration at a parish halfway across the Metroplex because they offered the earliest Confession that I could find, to my work which was about 60 miles from that church, and to a wedding in Dallas.

I have been very restless lately and needed the grace from the sacraments. I'm beginning to start considering moving jobs a little more seriously. And my most recent college roommate just got married today and I've been thinking about my own vocation.

Full circle. God is good. Short blog posts.
- JD