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Monday, February 25, 2013

What Is Love? An Example

I saw this video floating around the little slice of the Catholic blogosphere/Twitterverse that I happen to observe on a frequent basis.

What is love? Is it always about the romance and the feelings and emotions?  Maybe not.  Maybe it's more about desiring the good of the other.

And this short video sticks out to me moreso because wow--what a model of authentic masculinity!  If I allow myself to be too sold into the modern definition of masculinity, I find it really easy to be who I am not.

Lastly, one of the joys of being Catholic and single is that I get to reflect and ask myself some difficult-yet-necessary questions for marriage:  do I desire the ultimate good of my future wife? will I protect and provide for her? even if I don't feel like I love my future wife, do I still love her? am I the man God calls me to be, as He created me to be?

Who am I for my future wife?
- JD

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cemetery & March

Day 3 - Friday January 26, 2013

Somewhere in Virginia at Host Family Home

Oh man, today was a really awesome day. Like, I’m not sure that I can contain all the awesomeness in this one blog post. But, “do or do not, there is no try” sayeth the Jedi prophet Yoda.

Arlington National Cemetery

We thankfully had a change of plans for today’s events. Yay! But what that meant was that we didn’t have to wake up at some ridiculous time in the morning (like, 4AM) so that we could catch the Youth Mass for the March for Life. Instead, our little band of pilgrims visited the Arlington National Cemetery.

Now, I’ve seen pictures of it in books, movies, and the Internet. But to experience it first hand was something of an entirely different sort. Walking around the grounds, I’m literally surrounded by the men and women (some kids too) who have laid down their lives in service to our country. It’s truly humbling because it makes me wonder if I’d be willing to do the same or if I would be willing to fight for what’s right—even at the cost of my life. But, here lie the men and women who fought on our behalf so that we may live our blessed American life and freedom. As a Fightin' Texas Aggie, something just resonates within me seeing the graves (maybe due to Texas A&M's military background and history...).

We arrived about 30 minutes before the “changing of the guard” at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. So, we directly headed there. Once we arrived, I got to witness the “changing of the guard” and learn a little bit about the 3rd Infantry Regiment, who are the guard. The precision is ridiculous! I need to look them up and learn more about the guard.

The next place we visited in the Cemetery was President Kennedy’s gravesite. Unbeknownst to us, we witnessed a military funeral going on not too far away while we were visiting the Kennedy gravesite. Actually, that whole experience of watching a part of the funeral service was the most memorable and remarkable experience while at Arlington simply because it really illustrated the reality and purpose of Arlington National Cemetery.

3:53PM - February 23, 2013

Wow, it's crazy to think that it has been almost been a month since my pilgrimage.  Here's why I've been so busy and silent on my blog: A Time of Silence.

Allow me to revisit our witnessing of a live funeral ceremony not too far from JFK's gravesite.  Apart from seeing the funeral going on nearby, I distinctly remember seeing the soldier standing guard at JFK's gravesite.  His simple purpose was to make sure visitors weren't doing anything disrespectful while the funeral was going on.  But, what impacted me the most about him was seeing his face.  Watchful guard, yet deep sorrow.  A very solemn occasion in commemorating a fallen soldier, and it was evident in his face.  The only way I knew how to relate was thinking about all those times I've been to Silver Taps and Muster at Texas A&M where we honor those Aggies who have fallen.

Death is such a reality.  And it is so evident at a cemetery.  Arlington National Cemetery, at that.

March for Life 2013

After visiting the Cemetery, we headed back towards the Metro to ride our way back towards The Mall for the March For Life.

This is my first time attending any March for Life, and I remember hearing from fellow parishioners who went last year that a lot (A LOT) of people go to this March for Life in Washington, DC.  I think last year they reported something like 300,000+ or 400,000+.  But this year is different.  This year marks the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, which is the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.

We stepped off the Metro and headed topside at a station near The Mall.  When we emerged from the Smithsonian station, I could tell there were already a lot of people here for the March.  A stage was set up on the central-eastern part of The Mall, and everyone was gathering near there.  That's about where the March was going to start.

Here's a map of the route: Route for March for Life 2013.

My group reached the outer fringes of the mass of people and decided to camp in one spot while we quickly ate our sack lunches.  I was just mesmerized at seeing so many people, though I know I wasn't even in the middle of everyone.  Despite being near freezing temperatures and the threat of snow, many were gathered and gathering.

What I found interesting about the types of people that I could see gathering for the March are how young they are and how joyful everyone is!  It was cool looking around and seeing where everyone was from.  A lot of groups present had signs or banners saying where they're from and people came from all over.  My group, however, had no distinguishing signage to let people know we traversed from Texas.  Not gonna lie, there were a ton of Catholic groups present.  But I did notice in the far off distance, Seculars for Life.  Also, I also noticed this group too:

Though I didn't notice many obvious banners representing non-Catholic groups, I know that we Catholics are not alone in the pro-life movement.  The right to life is universal, and I find it encouraging to see other non-Catholic groups have fervor in the pro-life cause.

We progressively moved our group towards the starting location for the March.  This made it difficult to let guys from my group know where we were at because some of them had to stay behind in the Metro to take care of some Metro ticket issues.  And we were still eating while moving.  Really cold, but not soggy, PB&J sandwich and really cold Cheetos tasted remarkably good.  I guess I was really hungry.  In the cold.

Around noon, the March for Life started.  It was around that time that it started to snow a little.  We moved rather slowly because a massive group of people moving through streets in Washington, DC is...well...slow, lol.

As we were marching (but not in the marching band sense, though I would be the type of guy to make that joke), I kept looking around seeing who was also there and kept noticing how the snow progressively got worse.  Yes, lateral slides were necessary at times.

I remember passing by some people on the street blasting a sung version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet which was cool.  How can we show mercy to others (women and their babies) if we don't know of God's mercy, right?  And my group also joined in on reciting parts of the chaplet.  We even busted out in singing the Salve Regina and got some other groups around us to kind of join in.

Continuing on the march, I also saw cool things like bands playing, people singing, guys dressed up as the Avengers (?!), and EWTN stationed in one place since they were broadcasting the March for Life live.

But at the same time, I saw some weird things like a video display that showed graphic images of aborted babies.  :-/   I know the reality of different abortion methods and have seen such images in the past, but I thought it was inappropriate in this context.  Well-intentioned to spread the pro-life message, I'm sure, but probably not the best way to communicate our love of life in public and in front of lots of children.

Another weird thing I saw was another video display spreading pro-life messages but at the same time slamming the Catholic Church.  As if we, the Catholic Church, were to blame for the inactions and injustices towards unborn and women... which perhaps, may be true in isolated cases, but not reflective of the actual actions of many in the Catholic pro-life movement.

Oddly, I didn't see any counter-protestors or pro-choicers letting their voices be heard along the march route.  If they were there (which I'm sure some were), I didn't see them.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Time of Silence

In case you were wondering...I seemed to have abruptly stopped blogging even though I was in the middle of blogging about my recent pilgrimage to Washington DC.  I had a change of priorities because of an upcoming retreat I helped plan and run.

Retreat preparation takes a lot of work up front in order to ensure a successful retreat.  This required lots of late nights at my parish in the time after my pilgrimage to the retreat itself.

On top of that, my work schedule got super ridiculous due to deadlines.  

Then I got sick.

So, working hard at work, working hard after work for the retreat, and then being sick for the past two weeks...and I don't really know how I managed all that.

And now, this week following the retreat has been insane with work due to a hard deadline that we have for our project.

So, that explains my blogular silence.

But, I also wanted to mention a few things.  During the retreat, I was talking to one of my fellow young adults.  From a conversation, I was inspired to perhaps not listen to the radio on my commute home from work for this week...maybe even for the rest of Lent.

This morning, I actually grew weary of my favorite morning radio show because I had tuned in during their gossip segment.  I could really care less about Chris Brown and Rihanna's relationship and how it turned into a love square (not triangle).  And, I don't watch The Bachelor so I could really care less how much drama there is between the last few women and the bachelor.

I had really rough day at work today.  Not that it was particularly challenging, but I think the right combination of events and non-happenings, state of mind, state of emotions, hungry and tired state, led me to just feel terrible when I left for work earlier.

See, the temptation is to distract myself from my feeling terrible by listening to music or Catholic radio, as is my usual routine when driving home from work.  But, in keeping with my exploration of driving home in silence...I drove an hour home.  In silence.  Okay, 'cept for the one part where I prayed a Rosary (also part of my usual routine when driving home from work).

Silence is scary when I'm in a terrible mood.  Because in silence, I'm forced to deal with me, as I am, and everything I'm feeling terrible about.  Nothing to get my mind off dealing with my mind.  Yet, as scary as it was dealing with me in my terrible was almost...refreshing.  I didn't have the extra noise of radio or music to add to the noise of my interior self.  And then yeah, I was able to confront today's sufferings and burdens.  Clarity through silence, it seemed like.  I could

I kept thinking back to a blog I read a while ago over at Bad Catholic--Why No One Shuts Up

Silence is a good thing sometimes.

And referring back to the retreat last of the consecrated women from Regnum Christi told me towards the end of the weekend about a silent retreat coming up for young Catholic men.  I'm thinking about it and discerning about it.  We'll see what happens.

Silence breaks the noise.
- JD

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Monastery & Mass

Day 2 - Thursday January 24, 2013
1:16AM (Fri)
Somewhere In Virginia at Host Family Home

I didn’t really expect to wake up last night at 4AM in the morning to the feeling of sheer cold.  I was sleeping in a room in the basement of our host family's home.  Apparently the heater got turned off at some point and t-shirt and shorts were a terrible idea, even with my supposedly "cold weather" sleeping bag.  I toughed it out though, and even went ahead and put on my Under Armour thermals because…well…I have them.  Builds character and preparation.

6:30AM rolls around, and being up and about was refreshing because it got my body moving to warm up a little.  The cool thing about waking up this morning despite overcoming the lack of heat was to see the aftermath of the previous nights’ snow fall.  I looked out the window, and it was beautiful to see a healthy blanket of snow cover the ground.
Our host family's backyard!
After a quick breakfast, my group at that particular host family's home headed out to the Metro station.  I spent nearly an hour and a half outside of the Metro station because we waited for the rest of our group to arrive from their respective host families’ houses. I definitely appreciated the functioning use of the main zipper on my jacket.  And gloves.  And scarf.  And UA thermals. And beanie. And second jacket. And hoodie.  It was cold.