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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Working Out In Silence

About two months ago, I posted on my blog how I was MIA due to being super busy with other things, and how I grew in appreciation for spending time in silence.  I also mentioned how I was invited and encouraged to go on a silent retreat by a consecrated woman in Regnum Christi, which is an apostolic movement at the service of mankind and the Church.


Well...a few weeks after that invitation, I actually did end up signing up for this silent retreat she mentioned.  Specifically, it was a silent retreat for young men to do spiritual exercises according to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who was the founder of the Society of Jesus (or more commonly known as the Jesuits).  This retreat was led by a priest from the Legionaries of Christ (which is another movement in the Church, but who also shares the same founder as Regnum Christi...but the Legionaries specifically refer to the priests).

Actually, I signed up in a fleeting manner. One night, I thought to myself, "Self, if I don't sign up now, I'll never sign up."  Procrastination is a dish best served later, but ends with a gourmet of total ignorance.  So, I signed up with hesitation of potential hesitation.

Now, I've never been on a silent retreat before, much less going to one with any sort of disciplined spiritual exercises.  I didn't really know what to expect or how to prepare.  The retreat was about a month ago, and it was held at a retreat center owned by the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (these sisters specialize in helping out families) in Grand Prairie, TX.  Apparently their convent also features this surprisingly nice retreat center.  So yes! I have stayed at a convent. Or rather...a convent's retreat center ;-).

The week prior to the retreat, I had a really terrible week at work.  I made an unintentional mistake that caused a lot of drama, and I felt really horrible about it.  Like, Wednesday and Thursday of that week were bad enough that I just wanted to be in isolation and not do my usual Wednesday and Thursday things.  The Friday of the retreat, I had opportunities to recover from my mistake and that translated to staying at work way longer than I intended.  My work is like...~60 miles from home and home is about ~20 miles from the retreat center.  That's almost 2 hours of driving with traffic!  The retreat started at 6:30PM. I typically prefer not to show up late to things despite my Filipino background (Filipino Time is a lot like Latino Time), and I left work at 4:30PM.  So you can see why on my way home I was freaking out because I left work late.  I was dealing with all my burdens from the terrible work week, and I was super worried about running into heavy traffic because it was Friday.  Long dramatic story short, I actually made it on time even though I had to stop by home to pack.


This was a silent retreat.  I thought it meant "no one make a sound evarrrrrr" the whole weekend.  But no, it actually meant "no talking to others" with the motivation that all the talking will be with God only.  This is necessary to bring about the focus of mind and heart to be open and receptive to anything that God wants to say.  However, there were times we had to speak because in Catholic prayers, oftentimes a priest or leader will say a line of the prayer, and the rest of us respond vocally with the rest of the words.  I was also asked to lead a reading during our praying of the Way of the Cross (also called the Stations of the Cross, which is a prayerful way of walking through Jesus' Passion and death).  I also volunteered to proclaim God's Word during our celebration of Mass on Saturday.  So as you see, there were times when I could speak.  But when was I silent?

Our retreat master (fancy name for the one in charge, leading the retreat) led us through guided meditations through the weekend as prescribed by St. Ignatius in his spiritual exercises.  In these meditations, we focused in on different themes like God's immensity and existence, on Jesus' Passion, the purpose of man, the reality of sin, etc.  After guiding us through these meditations, we then spent some time contemplating these meditations.  This is where the silence was beneficial.

Now, I found out at some point during the retreat that St. Ignatius actually intended spiritual exercises to be done over the course of 30 days.  Most people who go through it follow an 8-day version.  We had to squeeze the highlights in a weekend.  o_O  So indeed, we did not cover every meditation, but at the very least we covered the highlights.

Reflecting on these themes we highlighted, I needed to ask God what is it He wanted me to know or understand.  But was I really listening?  Was I distracted?  Being in silence removed those external noises so that I could better hear God.  He often speaks in the silence of our hearts, and it's hard to pay attention when everything external ...and internal... are noisy.

By meditating and contemplating, I really spent some quality time with our Lord.  I mean, not just in silence but quite literally since the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth has a humble little chapel in their retreat center with the Eucharist in its tabernacle.  This is where I often went after a meditation to further contemplate.  And what I mean by contemplation is really chewing on (not literally) the theme of the meditation(s) and seeing if there's something God wants me to know about that particular theme.  I kept notes in a journal during the meditations and wrote down anything that made me go, "ah hah! that makes sense! thank you God for letting me see it this way!"

During meal times, we still weren't allowed to talk.  Our retreat master played either sacred music or a talk by Vr. Archbishop Fulton Sheen for further contemplation while we consumed our meals, which were all rather delicious and...
One does not simply go on a non-fasting Catholic retreat and go hungry--physically and spiritually.
Saturday night of the silent retreat, we had Eucharistic Adoration.  Our retreat master's original intention was for everyone to do a Holy Hour (which is pretty much a standard Catholic practice to spend an hour in Adoration whenever Adoration is done), but he was challenged.  You see, a few weeks prior to this retreat, Regnum Christi and the Legionaries held a similar silent retreat for young women, and apparently they were all like..."like o. m. gosh...we should totally Adore alllllllll night! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!"  And they did.  And then they challenged us guys to do the same sort of thing.  And we're all like, "WE ARE MEN! CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!"

To make it easier, our retreat master assigned us partners and hours to go to Adoration throughout the night. I was assigned from 5AM to 6AM.  I "retired to my room" after the beginning parts of Adoration and was up for a while "real-life blogging" in my room.  On paper. With a pen.  And that's where I wrote the majority of this blog post. On paper. With a pen.

I got up to do my Holy Hour from 5AM to 6AM.  The night before, our retreat master had suggested we look at the reflection at the back of the book, A Doctor At Calvary by Pierre Barbet.  This was to further our meditations and contemplation on the Passion.  For me, I had asked Jesus if He could let me feel the darkness He felt in the garden of Gethsemane.  Such a profound stress bearing the weight of sin that He sweated blood.  Dr. Barbet, a surgeon, examines Jesus' Passion from a medical perspective.  I was engrossed in it because the medical perspective is fascinating and adds an even more terrifying dimension to everything He had to endure.  There was a point where I ...couldn't stand to read further because the medical descriptions were too graphic.  But I kept going. The fruit of me reading this reflection led to my blog post, Ecce Homo!, where I describe this meditation on the Passion and Adoration experience a little more.

As far as any other "revelations" or "lights" that I had during the retreat... Really, I mostly saw this time as a time of peace and rest because the week leading up to the retreat, I had a terrible week at work.  This time also helped me build confidence in my ability to shut out the world to spend quality time with God. But one thing did stand out to me rather clearly, which I won't blog about now because it requires further prayer.

During my time during the retreat, I didn't really get to know the guys also in attendance apart from interacting with them before the silence went in effect on Friday night and after Mass on Sunday.  They all had their various reasons for attending this retreat, and they all enjoyed their own fruits from it as well.  I didn't recognize anyone in attendance so I really went on my own for this retreat, which is unusual for me.  Met a fellow Aggie! But that's not important.

So I mentioned how that we were basically covering a normally lengthy retreat with spiritual exercises into one weekend.  And so, it was pretty much constant meditation, contemplation, reading, thinking, praying, sitting, kneeling, standing, walking...with meal breaks.  And all of that was surprisingly exhausting!  Even though I didn't really do much physically...

These meditations and subsequent contemplation in addition to all the prayer is the core of spiritual exercises.  Hence, working out. Spiritually.  But since this was a silent retreat...this was working out, spiritually, in silence.  How often do I consider working out my interior?  If I'm willing to get up at 4AM on a Saturday morning to go running and I willing to take the time to meditate? Contemplate? Pray?  And yes, spiritual reps do require spiritual resting time in-between.  And do I hold in higher regard my exterior than my interior? Do I spend as much time working out externally as I do working out internally? As a guy, what good does looking good externally if my interior doesn't look good?  These are questions I ask of myself for further reflection.

Silent "squats" and profound "pushups"
- JD

Friday, April 26, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 1)

--- 1 ---
I realized I'm not social among other (Catholic) bloggers, and I see how much I'm missing out.  Hence, I recently joined the Catholic Bloggers Network. and followed suit with "7 Quick Takes" hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler, who is a popular blogger for the National Catholic Register and runs her own blog at  She's an atheist-to-Catholic convert who basically...blogged her way to Catholicism.  She's also an Aggie! WHOOP! (but didn't graduate).  I'm not...biased or anything... O:-)

In all honesty, I need to work on my Short Blog Post skills since I tend to write long ones. Like here. Or here. Here. Oh yes, even here.

--- 2 ---
So, I had no idea salt could be used as a sacramental!  It wasn't until my coworker ninja-blessed my cubiclemate's desk with holy water and salt that I learned this was possible.  Apparently, she was worried that my cubiclemate would have a terrible, angry day.  And by spraying holy water (yes, spray bottle) and sprinkling blessed salt, she hoped that it would bless the space around his desk so that he, too, would be blessed.  My desire for the truth motivates me to find out more about salt used as a sacramental.

--- 3 ---

This has been a great past week having opportunities to hang out with my goddaughter!  I got to see her multiple times since the weekend.  It seemed like only yesterday that she was only an infant but now she's owning the world as a 1-yr old.  She has the prettiest eyes and that stereotypical baby smile that turns any man into a cooing, sensitive...well, ahem.  Ya know.

You can follow my goddaughter's adventures through her mom's blog at Bernie's Banter.

--- 4 ---
Tomorrow is looking like a really busy day.  My bro is performing with his university jazz lab band at a jazz festival in the afternoon.  And in the evening, I'm going to Adoration and partying it up with priests, brothers, sisters, nuns, etc. at The Shepherd's Café for their 6th anniversary.  I've been attending The Shepherd's Café for a few years now.

Usually on their anniversary, they invite religious and clergy to come speak and give their vocation stories.  Typically, they have musical guests perform while everyone chills with refreshments.  But! My main reason for going to The Shepherd's Café is for the opportunity to adore our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and to go to Confession.  And then have fun afterwards!

You can check 'em out here at

--- 5 ---
Catholic Answers is hosting their second conference ever this September and I am...discerning if I should go.  I've got one vacation day left to spend before I get a refill in October.  I mean, it's not like I will spend 9 out of my 10 vacation days in Rio De Janeiro or anything... O:-)

Now, the reason why I'm even tempted to go to this conference is because...well, I really like the Catholic Answers radio show (podcasts can be found on my sidebar).  I've learned a lot through listening to their show, and perhaps deep down I want to be competent at explaining and defending the Catholic faith.  A useful skill since I'm a teacher of the faith.

And oh yeah, I do have family in San Diego, which is where the conference is located.  Excuses, excuses...I know...

--- 6 ---
A while ago (say, a month), I openly declared to the saints in heaven that they have permission to stalk me.  I think I did this when I went on a silent retreat, which I haven't blogged about yet.  Why?  Why would I do that?  I dunno...I thought it would be fun and interesting to see if they really do or not.

So how do I know that they are, in fact, stalking me?  Maybe I don't really know because I'm basing my evidence on apparent, coincidental occurrences with seeing an image of them or an associated object...or maybe just hearing about them in some random way.  These moments stick out to me moreso than before, and perhaps that's how I know that they are stalking me.

This past week?  Our Lady of Guadalupe seems to have graced the back of a lot of pickup trucks in my daily commute this past week.  Maybe I live in Texas.  But whatever.  And...I went to Confession the other day and while I was praying in my pew, the sun was just at the right angle that it shone through the stain glass window my parish that has of St. Therese of Lisieux.  Like, right on me. Like, no other window. Like, it was blinding. And oh, she's also known as "The Little Flower"...and my rose bushes at home are blooming ... a lot.  A sample:

--- 7 ---
It's been a crazy past week or two and bad things are happening in the world.  That's why I blogged about Divine Mercy.  It begs the question...what's wrong with the world?  Easy answer.

...I am.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wow that was quick.
- JD

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Divine Mercy

Click here to scroll down to instructions on how to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Before explaining what Divine Mercy is, I should define what is "private revelation." If you already have an understanding, then don't click the following link.

What is private revelation...?

With all that said (if you read it), that leads me to Divine Mercy.  Essentially, Jesus gave us a clearer understanding of His infinite and divine mercy through private revelations given to a Polish religious sister named St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

Who is St. Maria Faustina Kowalska?

Her original name is Helena, and she was born into a poor, peasant family in Glogowiec, Poland.  She was the third oldest of ten children, and "from childhood she distinguished herself by her piety, love of prayer, industriousness and obedience as well as by her great sensitivity to human misery" (Diary, xv).  At the age of seven, she started feeling the call to religious life.  Her parents were not keen on letting her join a convent, and she tried repressing her desire to join a convent.  But from a vision of the suffering Jesus, she strengthened her resolve to join a convent.  She ended up in the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw.  There, she received the name Sister Maria Faustina.  She completed her novitiate (basically, the novitiate is the newb stage to religious life) and professed her perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience after five years of being in the convent.  She worked in various houses for the Congregation in different locations in Poland, especially as cook, gardener, and doorkeeper.

Sr. M. Elizbaeth Siepak writes in the Introduction of St. Faustina's diary:
To all external appearances nothing betrayed her extraordinarily rich mystical life. She zealously went about her duties, she faithfully observed all the religious rules, she was recollected and kept silent, all the while being natural, cheerful, full of kindness and of unselfish love of neighbor.  
Her entire life was concentrated on constant striving for even fuller union with God and on self-sacrificing cooperation with Jesus in the work of saving souls. (Diary, xvi) 
The Lord also endowed her with many graces and gifts.  These include the gift of contemplation with deep knowledge of the mystery of God's mercy, visions, revelations, the hidden stigmata, the gift of prophecy and reading into human souls, and also the rare gift of mystical espousals.  However, she wrote:
Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God.  ...My sanctity and perfection is based upon the close union of my will with the will of God (Diary, par. 1107)
I'm a fan of that last sentence.  She willed to align her will to that of God's will.

As she grew older, she started having health problems.  And sometimes she experienced a profound spiritual suffering known as the "dark night" where a soul doesn't receive any consolation from God as if He has abandoned the soul.  She grew very sick and eventually died in 1938 at the age of 33.

Because of the life she led, her personal piety and obedience to God's will, and passionately serving as a conduit to God's message of mercy, she was canonized as a saint by Blessed Pope John Paul II in April 2000.

How was Divine Mercy revealed?

She kept a diary, which is out in publication.  Apparently Jesus revealed to her that she should keep one.  I started reading it a while ago, but haven't yet finished it.  In it, she shares her daily struggles with religious life and life in general, but most intriguingly she wrote down what Jesus said to her whenever He appeared. It's almost conversational, as if St. Faustina was really talking to and listening to someone.  Or rather...Someone.

Through these private revelations, it is clear that Jesus was with her throughout her life, especially during her times of suffering.  Though He spoke to her a lot, I want to focus on His message of Divine Mercy.

Again, from the Intro, Sr. M. Elizabeth Siepak summarizes Jesus' mission for St. Faustina:
"Today, I am sending you with My mercy to the people of the whole world. I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful Heart" (Diary, par. 1588)
"You are the secretary of My mercy; I have chosen you for that office in this and the next life" (Diary, par. 1605) ... "to make known to souls the great mercy that I have for them, and to exhort them to trust in the bottomless depth of My mercy" (Diary, par. 1567) 
Her mission is to remind us about the truths of God's merciful love for us as well as providing us with new ways to have a devotion to The Divine Mercy.  There are several ways to have a devotion to Divine Mercy as revealed to St. Faustina by Jesus. They are as follows:
  • The Divine Mercy Image (seen at the top of this post), which is a painting of a vision St. Faustina had of Jesus.  The elements of the image has special meanings.
  • The Feast of Divine Mercy, which is the day that Jesus specified to focus on the shelter of His Mercy. He specifically said that the second Sunday of the Easter season (ie. the Sunday after Easter) is to be the Feast of Divine Mercy.  Blessed Pope John Paul II declared in his homily at the canonization of St. Faustina that the second Sunday of Easter will be known as "Divine Mercy Sunday"
  • The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is a prayer of atonement and appeasement of God's wrath dictated to St. Faustina by Jesus
  • The Novena to Divine Mercy, which is a 9-day recitation of the Chaplet in preparation for the Feast of Divine Mercy or for whatever petitions by the faithful
  • The Hour of Mercy, which Jesus specified as the third hour whereby the faithful should focus and immerse themselves in his Mercy
More info about each can be found in the intro of her diary by Sr. M Elizabeth Siepak or at

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Competitive, Joyful Nunnery

I just recently found out that Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist are competing in this round (season?) of The American Bible Challenge on Game Show Network.

A few things:
  1. I didn't know there was such a show on TV!
  2. Even moreso, it's hosted by Jeff Foxworthy!
  3. I just really like nuns
Haha, I think this is really cool because sometimes we Catholics are stereotypically not well versed in book-chapter-verse Biblical knowledge and here we have nuns on a game show that tests Biblical knowledge with occasional quasi-Minute To Win It challenges. 

...and so far, they're doing pretty well!

This past Thursday was the semi-finals.  A sneak peak:

lol the Christian Wrestlers, Righteous Rubies, and the Sisters of Mary...and I don't know about you, but that seems rather intense stacking books alternating horizontal and vertical and having to worry about what order they're supposed to be in.  It's intense for me because I would miserably fail. -__-  I need to work on that...I mean, my OT skillz.  Not so much on book stacking. ;-)

You know what's cool about seeing them compete like this?  Their joy shines through.  Sister Maria Suso was interviewed by Brandon Vogt, Catholic writer and speaker, and she talks more about their community, her experience on the show as well as what joy is:

I wish I had known about this sooner...and I wish I had caught the semi-finals episode...but alas, this past Thursday I was in the middle of a meeting with a Knight of Columbus regarding insurance.

Anyway...maybe I can catch the next episode because THEY WON THE SEMI-FINALS!  They posted on their Facebook page... (yes, they have a Facebook page)

Awesome.  I do have a DVR...

Hey, joyful sista.
- JD

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Medal of Honor

I was riding in my carpool on the way home from work yesterday when we noticed that an upcoming overpass had firetrucks with lights flashing and a giant American flag waving from its slightly extended ladder.  Ehhh???  And subsequent overpasses had some sort of public servant representation and/or American flag waving.

Now, I remember seeing such a thing last year.  Every. Single. Overpass. Filled with firetrucks or police.  And I-35 was lined with spectators.  This time around...not as much...perhaps because everyone was still gathering.

Last year, I concluded that the Patriot Guard were roused due to a military funeral.  And that explained the ginormous motorcade that we passed by last year.  This year, when I got dropped off at my car in Denton, I noticed in my rearview mirror the same ginormous motorcade.  Such a loud roar of the motorcycles!

After getting home last night, my carpool's driver wrote on my Wall that this gathering of public servants and motorcade was for the Medal of Honor recipients for this year.

The city of Gainesville, TX is the only city in the nation that hosts Medal of Honor recipients in a special way.  You can visit this program here. Lots of honor, fanfare, and patriotism.  And it's crazy to me that the little town I work in ... is kind of a big deal.

Anyway, I bring this up because today President Obama awarded, posthumously, Chaplain and Captain Emil J. Kapaun of the U.S. Army the Congressional Medal of Honor:

I've been hearing about Fr. Kapaun on Catholic radio over the past few weeks in anticipation of him receiving this honor.  And wow.  I don't know that I could give proper credit to his acts of valor, courage, bravery, humility, service, etc...But President Obama summarizes some of his efforts, and some articles I've linked below also highlight who the type of man Fr. Kapaun is:

"For God and Country" - National Catholic Register

"Emil Kapaun, who ministered to Korean War POWs, to receive posthumous medal" - The Washington Post

"Medal of Honor: Chaplain Kapaun’s Heroism Feted Today" - Time

Fr. Kapaun, in addition to receiving this honor, also has an open case for beatification, a part of the process in being recognized as a Catholic saint.

I want to read the book, The Miracle of Father Kapaun, to get to know more about him.  Wartime seems to bring about Catholic saints (though he is not recognized as one yet...) because it is a grave time of adversity and even in all that hell, a little bit of heaven can be found (thought I heard Obama say something like that...).  I was intrigued by St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross from World War II and their stories.  Both died in Nazi concentration camps.  And here we have Fr. Kapaun who died in a POW camp during the Korean War.  Hmm...

Anyway, I think it's cool and awesome that a Catholic priest received this Medal of Honor.  But at the same time, I want to thank all men and women who served in our military and I'm really grateful for their service.  And as I've been reading and listening to veterans who have had personal interactions with Fr. Kapaun...they are really grateful for his service to them.

Kapaun swag.
- JD

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

3 Happenings Regarding Abortion

Apparently this past week has been pretty active in terms of important things going on pertaining to abortion. Or maybe it just comes up a lot on Catholic radio...and blogs...which I listen to and follow...

First, the horrific.

Kermit The Abortionist
"Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder as well as multiple counts of conspiracy, criminal solicitation and violation of a state law that forbids abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy." (NY Times).  He recently came under fire because a pregnant woman died from a medicinal drug overdose administered by him.  Worst of all, these seven counts of first-degree murder is for allegedly "snipping" the necks and spinal cords of viable fetuses (ie. babies).

It doesn't take much Googling or Binging to come up with news's not getting much mass media coverage, if at all.  I find this interesting because we're American--we immediately react and passionately spread word about the injustices happening in our country, especially if it's about rape and/or marriage.

Unless of has anything to do with abortion.

Let's pray for the conversion of his soul and for all involved.

Here are some articles:
Abortion Doctor's Murder Trial Opens - NY Times
Abortion doctor on trial, but media not interested; pro-lifers see bias in Philadelphia case - WA Times

Planned Parenthood Lobbyist
There's a video floating around (viral, maybe?) of Florida legislators asking questions of a Planned Parenthood lobbyist.  Essentially, she speaks on behalf of Planned Parenthood stating that a baby born alive from a botched abortion ...well, it's still the mother's choice whether that baby gets medical attention or not.

See for yourself:

She seemed to be thrown off guard...lacking full confidence...

But still...are you kidding me? It's cool to just leave that baby there on the table left to die? :-(

Ms. Alisa Lapolt Snow apparently served on a board for Catholic Charities before Planned Parenthood.  Umm...clearly she is out of communion with the Catholic Church if she is publicly not-really-defending life and advocating for abortion through her actions.

I think she needs a green scapular.  And let us offer our prayers for her conversion as well.


And Then There Were None
Abby Johnson, author of Unplanned and fellow Aggie, started a ministry last year to help abortion clinic workers get out of the abortion industry.  In the past year, her ministry has helped 45 workers leave.

This past Monday was their Day of Exodus for 2013, a designated day whereby abortion clinic workers desiring to leave were encouraged to do so.  In the weeks prior, ATTWN hit up a bunch of abortion clinics in the country to spread word about Day of Exodus.

This is an intriguing concept to me...helping abortion clinic workers get out of the industry by providing the spiritual and material help and support they need to get out.  It is no surprise, because that is exactly how the Coalition of Life helped out Abby.

Let us also pray for Abby and her ministry...especially for abortion clinic workers and their conversion of heart towards a culture of life. 

- JD

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Source

This past weekend I helped out with a retreat for young Catholics. It's called Youth 2000, and it's a Eucharist-centered retreat with the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal. I won't provide a detailed recounting of my experience like I usually do when going to various events. Rather, I want to highlight something that stuck out to me.

First, allow me to reiterate that the Catholic faith teaches and upholds that Jesus wasn't being symbolic at The Last Supper. And so, lengthy theological discourses aside (for such a thing deserves its own fair treatment and study), the Eucharist is Jesus' Body under the appearance of bread. He is truly present: body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist.

So yes, this retreat was a Jesus-centered retreat. Quite literally, as Jesus, in the Eucharist, was placed in the center of the room the whole weekend as we had our retreat.

He's not actually in the middle yet in this picture, but He will be placed on that pyramid-shaped thing (explained below)
There was a point on Saturday when the retreaters were dismissed to go to workshops to dive deeper into discussions following a talk given by one of the friar priests. Since I had unique roles for this retreat, I didn't have to go to a workshop and thus had some time to kill while everyone else was off doin' their thang.

Because of my unique roles, I didn't have time to just focus on Christ because I was always thinking about other stuff or worried about others. Since the gym space used for this retreat was cleared out by most everyone, I decided to seize this opportunity to behold and adore Jesus.  I had been sitting afar because the crowd, now no longer there, had left.  So, I went up closer to a spot that wasn't all up in Jesus' grill with respect to the faithful who were already up front with Him.  I positioned myself so I was decently perpendicular to the Eucharist.  As I was there kneeling with my head bowed down for a while, I decided to look up and stare at Jesus directly.

This is what I was looking at:

Cool shot, huh?  Let me explain.  For the retreat (and unique mostly to this retreat only), we had this structure of candles known as the "Burning Bush" to signify the original of Exodus fame where God talks to Moses.  That gold thingy with rays atop the pyramid structure is a monstrance, a vessel used to show (think Spanish, "mostrar"..."to show") Jesus in the Eucharist, especially when adoring Him.  It makes sense, right?  That in a Eucharist-centered retreat, we're there to listen to what God has to say, much like how Moses was there before the Burning Bush to listen what God had to say to him back then?

Awesome.  Before continuing, I must remind you that I'm Filipino.  Here's the flag:

Yep. The Filipino flag is on the back of my iPhone. In LEGO. (missing a white piece...)
Back to what I was blogging about...

I'll admit, it was cool having that direct view of Jesus in prayerful adoration.  But when I looked attention was definitely on Jesus, but at the same time, something caught my eye.

Particularly, this:

Apparently it was 2:37
Notice how Jesus in the monstrance replaces the sun on the Philippine flag.  Ok, I confess that I got up to get my camera and returned to my spot to capture a more perfect perspective, but truly I say to you that when I looked up at Jesus for a little bit, I noticed how the monstrance was directly in front of the Philippine flag.  And I was at a good enough of an angle to see how the monstrance covers  up the rays of the sun on the flag.

I reflected on this because it just seemed so...purposeful. I wasn't really actively praying...but rather...staring and listening. Adoring.  And that's probably how I noticed my perspective revealed this monstrance to seem as if it is the sun of the flag.

Reflecting on this, I realized that being Filipino is definitely a part of who I am. Born and raised. I've embraced my culture and greatly appreciate it, and I am not afraid to share and promote Filipino culture, especially since that was a good chunk of my college experience.  I mean, it's not like I choreographed, taught, and performed Filipino cultural dances at Texas A&M or anything...

And here Jesus is radiating like the sun at the center of the Philippine flag!  Now, I know Catholicism is very central to western Filipino culture.  Catholicism is central to Filipino identity (at least in my experience).  Looking at this and reflecting on it more...if being Filipino is central to my identity as Jesus the center of my identity?

Again, is Jesus the very center of who I am?

Then it dawned on me... (#pun #dawn #sun #Son)

As a Christian, Jesus needs to be the center of my identity.  So as long as I call myself Catholic and Christian...Jesus must be at the center of my identity.  My life. And from there, Jesus should radiate through the other things I identify with.  For me, that is being Filipino. Being an Aggie. Being a band nerd. Being an engineer. Being a quasi-professional volunteer in extra-curriculars. Being (insert here). Being who I am in whatever I do.

And the crazy thing is...I didn't kneel before Jesus during this time trying to seek this realization.  It just...came to me in such a real, tangible way by apparent coincidence.

You see my current tagline for my blog? St. Catherine of Siena once said:
If you are who God calls you to be, then you will set the world ablaze.
...and that ties in so wonderfully with seeing Jesus radiate through the Philippine flag.  He didn't have to speak to me in any way.  He just had to show me.

Is Jesus the very center of who I am? That shall be my litany of prayerful reflection in response to that question this week.

This guy is on fire.
- JD

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