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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 18

Reading: Luke 18: 9-14

from St. Louis du Montfort: The Secret of Mary, #36

One of my constant temptations is to compare myself to others (but really, what human doesn't do this?) and thinking I'm better than they are.  Perhaps it's my interior competitive spirit that drives me to think this way.  Whatever the case, placing myself above others is an expression of pride.  Pride is one of the seven deadly sins because it lacks the recognition of God's gift and grace.

So ... it tends to work out (as I have a good handful of substantial examples) where God purposely humbles me.  And while I deal with these situations kicking and screaming with anger and frustration and despair, I usually forget that I must approach this with humility by recognizing that God has a hand on anything I do or think.

It's like in today's reading regarding one of Jesus' parables.  The Pharisee compares himself to other men, and he's grateful that he is not the others and that he deserves God's gratitude because he follows the law. On the other hand, the tax collector recognizes that he's a sinner and is imperfect and cries out to God for His help.

St. Louis du Montfort reflects that we're not worthy to approach God directly because of our imperfection. Thus, we must approach with humility. He also explains that our approach to Jesus requires  going through Mary as a way of humility.  To me, it's kind of like really wanting to hang out with my best friend, but I have to ask my friend's mom for permission or for her to show me the way to my friend.  A certain level of humility is required to have the guts and courage to ask my friend's mom. Haha.

Humility.  I think it's the only way to approach the Lord.  Simply because nothing about me matters were it not for God who has allowed me to have the gift of life and all the blessings and graces He wills to bestow upon me.  To have a sense of pride in myself for these blessings and graces is not the way to approach the Lord because I would only be approaching...myself.

In a real world example. just today, I went out to visit nursing homes as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion so that I can offer the Eucharist to elderly residents who cannot make it to Mass.  Before leaving, I obtained enough Eucharist for the number of residents I planned on visiting.

I'm driving in my car with the radio off and ...I thought to myself how incredibly unworthy I am to be carrying the God of the Universe in my pocket (in a freshly blessed pyx, mind you).  And not only that...driving Him around town in my Honda Civic.  Part of me wished I had something better to offer in terms of transportation accommodation. I felt truly humbled by His very close proximate presence to me and what a blessing it is for me to be able to bring Him literally out in the world to elderly people who need Him.

I don't ask for Mary's intercession as much as I should.  And perhaps out of that recognition, I should humbly go before our Blessed Mother and ask her to lead me to her Son.

"Do whatever he tells you."

Ad Jesum per Mariam.
- JD

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 17

Reading: Romans 7: 21-25

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #87

Sometimes it seems like the closer that I get to God, Satan follows me even closer.  Satan badly wants me to stay away from God as much as he possibly can.  Perhaps that's why whenever I'm feeling particularly successful in doing as I ought to in order to pursue holiness, the more dramatic or greater magnitude temptations are to me. The higher I am, the harder I fall.

Acknowledging my human weakness, I realize how frail I am in treasuring God's graces for me.  How EASY it is to succumb to sin due to my corruptible body. I am weak, but I must be strong and defend God's grace within me.  I've had many moments of weakness throughout my life despite the graceful blessings that God has given me.

I've reflected on the volume of liquid found in a cup before, and now I imagine it as my cup filled with God's grace.  Because if it's not filled with God's grace, it's filled with something that is not of God.  I have to let go of those things in order to make room for God's grace, so that I may be able to pour that out and share with others.

I went to Confession to today, and I was reminded of how refreshing it is to empty myself of the ugliness of sin.  And through Confession, my cup is filled once more with God's grace and Satan flees, if only momentarily (for he's a persistent little worm).

Frequenting the sacraments.  That's how I can strengthen myself and fill myself up with God's grace through the visible signs of inward realities of the flow of grace.

I should go to Adoration this upcoming week because it's been a while.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Would you like me to pray for you?

I've mentioned before that I'm going to be attending and participating in World Youth Day 2013 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month.

The group I'm going with is approaching it as a pilgrimage to experience Rio with millions of others in the Church.  We'll be praying, going to Mass, visiting churches, learning more about our faith, spending time with Jesus in the Eucharist, Pope Francis will be around, and all in all a very Christian and spiritual experience. Many opportunities for us to pray!

If you would like, please allow me to pray for you while I'm on this pilgrimage!  World Youth Day is a visible sign of unity for us youthful ones in the Church united as the Body of Christ.

Please use this Google Form I have set up below to submit your prayer request or intention, and I will print them out to keep with me and pray for while I'm in Rio.

Peace be with you!
- JD

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 10)

--- 1 ---
What a crazy week in the political realm!  Perhaps our government decided through an act of congress to make this week a crazy week. Whatever the case, the movements of the government on the big issues are indicative of times when everyone's Internet/social life is filled with exchanges of slogan statusing and passionate opinionating.  Surely some glorious meme-ing as well.

I usually stay out of it.

It's not that I don't have my own opinions to express... But, I just rather not get caught up in the excitement and passion.  People get too emotionally invested or too sensitive about certain issues, and that's fine, but sometimes keeping charity and recognizing the dignity of the person behind the physical or on-screen keyboard is lost, and that's not cool. And also... I'd prefer to take the time to get informed about the issues before expressing something about it.

So, the unfortunate (fortunate?!) consequence of dealing with all this stuff by taking the time to get informed about the issues is that by the time I have a good grasp of what the real issues are, it's usually after the emotions stop running high regarding those issues. In other words, the fad is over on the social medias.  I guess that's why I'm left with dealing with these issues ...offline.  I guess I like it better that way anyway.  I'd rather do something about these issues face-to-face with people.

With that said...

--- 2 ---
...I'm a total jerk to today's culture. In the real life. Simply because I'm leading a group through learning about Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. This.  This is going to help provide the foundation at which to deal with the big issues like abortion and so-called "same sex marriages." Well, at the very a Catholic context.  And things in a Catholic context tend to have a universally applicable vibe once I dig deep enough.

While I'm not going to provide a treatise on the Theology of the Body, other people have.  And that's how we're learning. Because other people have made the Theology of the Body more digestible for the rest of us.  And now I have to lead group discussions on it through the digestible portions offered by others like Christopher West, the Everts, and countless others.

So yes, we need Catholics to teach Catholics how to be Catholic using Catholic things that are Catholic.

Yo dawg, I hear you like teaching Catholics.
--- 3 ---
And speaking about Catholic things...  My parish is currently refreshing all of our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion through mandatory trainings.
I don't always minister Holy Communion, but when I's EXTRAORDINARY
I'm grateful for this because as an EMHC, it's important that we're all on the same page regarding how we approach our ministry.  Some things aren't liturgically or canonically correct to do such as laity seemingly communicating that they are giving a blessing (with the Eucharist!!!) when this action is only  reserved for ordained priests and deacons.

Not that we had widespread issues as a whole ministry, but we've had enough discrepancies or lack of uniformity to merit this.

By being on the same, correct page, we communicate the proper spirit of our ministry.  And this is a good thing.

Heaven forbid we do our stuff without being properly taught...

--- 4 ---

While on the topic about not being properly taught your own ministry... A group (let me stress that specific collective noun) from one of my beloved organizations on campus at Texas A&M did something rather dumb.

A group of Fish Camp counselors took some pictures at the Bonfire Memorial.  It's a tradition to take counselor pictures on campus. These pictures depicted them taking group and partner pictures at the memorial, standing on the memorial, suggestive poses at the memorial, and other types of pictures.

More on the story here: KBTX - Reported Fish Camp Counselor Pictures.

It's really, really disrespectful to the 12 Aggies that passed away in the Bonfire collapse back in 1999.  Really, really poor judgment on the part of the counselors.

As a former Fish Camp counselor and someone who has really strong, indirect ties to one of the 12, this is definitely appalling.

But! I'm not going to blame the rest of Fish Camp for the poor decisions of a select few.  I know Fish Camp will handle this as best as they can.  Well, they need to because Fish Camp's ministry (or purpose) is to help transition incoming freshmen to the Aggie life, including getting them on the same page because some certain things are not okay to do.  (see, there's a connection to #3).  Counselors, in order that they may communicate the proper ways to be an Aggie, need to exemplify the Aggie Spirit...even when having photographic evidence of fun. Freshmen will see that.

So thank goodness I'm an Aggie Catholic because I'm able to forgive them. But, justice needs to be served.  This short-sighted decision does have consequences.

--- 5 ---
In superficial news, I upgraded to a Keurig. My last coffee maker involved many parts to clean up after brewing, which became a hassle for me and my family.  The convenience of its maintenance is the attractive part of owning a Keurig.  It saves a ton of water during brewing and cleaning.

But! I don't see myself buying a lot of K-Cups.  While really, really convenient, they're also more expensive.  I don't want to raise my daily coffee expenditure more than I have to.

Thus, I'm on a quest for a reusable filter...

--- 6 ---
Summer seems to be a popular time for weddings.  And out the small handful of weddings I've been invited to this year, this weekend's wedding is one that I cannot make.  For one, it's in Canada. Two, I have too much stuff going on back home for me to spend the weekend in Canada.  My aunt is finally getting married and my mom's side of the family is mass gathering in Sasketchewan for it.

In the meantime, I'm holding the fort. With my vicious beast of a Chihuahua.

--- 7 ---
I am a Christian and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat'- though it contains ... some samples or glimpses of final victory.
Something to reflect on.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

- JD

Philippine & Canadian Flag / Philippine Embassy Ottawa

Total Consecration: Day 16

Reading: Luke 6: 43-45

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #58

I've been playing a new game for the Nintendo 3DS called Animal Crossing: New Leaf.  It's a simplified life simulator where you play as the mayor of the town.  Oh, and different things happen in-game depending on real time.  Each town has fruit trees that you start off with, and you can pick that fruit in order to start new fruit trees, trade or sell the fruit in the game.  As you progress, other fruits become available.

The thing is, no matter what type of fruit...the tree looks the same!  The only way for me to distinguish fruit trees is by what fruit it bears!  Well okay, I have an orchard system so that my fruits are grouped together...but any visitors to my town wouldn't be able to tell the difference unless the tree has fruit.  I suppose, for game mechanics sake, good fruit always grow! And they never go bad! Sometimes even perfect fruits grow!

God has created me to be good, for any of His creations are inherently good.  I am to be a tree that bears good fruit (not literally! =P). But because I still have concupiscence, my sins taint the goodness of what fruit I'll bear.  I'm not an Animal Crossing fruit tree.

Do my good deeds and upright behavior mean much if I harbor any evil within my heart?  I think back to the difficult times I had in dealing with a particular classmate of mine.  He epitomized most of things (on the inside) that I didn't want to be...and it frustrated me to the point of anger and condemnation, nearly.  Yet, though I felt this way...I was still nice and friendly with him.  But looking back, because I wasn't charitable on the inside towards him, I didn't make a sincere effort to be Christ-like for him.  So, our friendship just ended up being rather superficial out of convenience and necessity.

Tainted fruit, in that case.

In times of frustration and anger and despair and the list goes on... I must rid my self of these feelings and emotions that hold me back from being who God calls me to be.  The seed has been planted.  The growing is happening.  The fruits...must be good fruits. Not tainted.

I need to focus on redeeming the negativity found in my heart so that I can bear good fruit.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Friday, June 28, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 15

Reading: 1 John 1: 8-10

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #99-100

After reading today's reading, I can't help but remember that one time when I was talking to one of my classmates about going to Mass and Confession.  Yeah, he considers himself "Catholic" insofar as he attends Mass on Sundays. Sometimes. And that's about it. What's really sticking out to me from my memory is our conversation about Confession.  I remember him saying, "(psh) I don't need to go to Confession. I'm perfect!", to which I didn't really know how to properly respond in a convincing matter.  But, I knew that he could probably work on some certain things which would probably merit Confession if he were to ever arrive at the point of a repentant heart.  It took quality time spent with him to know that ... he wasn't perfect at all.  I don't mean that in a condemning, judgmental way.  But, he basically said he didn't sin even though I'm for certain that he engaged in actions and behaviors that are undoubtedly sinful, from my own observations.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us
...says St. Paul to the Romans.  What does that look like for my interior life? It's like...I wouldn't be acknowledging my imperfections which is a reality because of our fallen human nature.  Thus, I would be deceiving myself by dismissing that reality.

Gosh! I just thought of how relevant that is to this past week.  Abortion? That's not a sin. (it's a woman's right to choose!!! if you're against abortion, you're sexist!!!) ... So-called "same sex marriage"? That's not sinful at all. (it's about marriage equality! and everyone who is against gay marriage is bigot!!!).

Underneath the smoke and mirrors of the political agenda and emotionally charged opinions regarding these matters are objective truths and realities about the dignity of the human person that are violated by these intrinsically immoral things.  By saying these things are not sinful, we are deceiving ourselves. If we deceive ourselves, we aren't going to be communicating truth. And if we're not communicating truth, then we're making Jesus to be nothing but a liar.  That's why it gets confusing for the rest of the world when Christians support these things (but it's not sinful, right?).

For me, I might not openly say that my sinful ways aren't sinful.  But in the way that I handle temptations and choosing to sin, I communicate that sinning isn't sinful.  And that's how I easily trap myself in a sinful cycle of ...sin-that-is-actually-sinful.

So, I like St. Louis du Montfort's advice in pursuing holiness through devotion to Our Lady. It is necessary ... be genuinely determined to avoid at least all mortal sin, which outrages the Mother as well as the son (wow I have never thought of it that way...) practice great self-restraint in order to avoid sin (sometimes that is difficult, but I know this is true) join her confraternities, say the rosary or other prayers, fast on Saturdays and so on. (mebbe I'm kind of a Carmelite, and a Rosary is often a part of my commute home)
 It'll take a lot of work. A lot of grace. A lot of intercession from Our Lady.  But...these are necessary steps.

I do have some bad habits...but I won't focus on those here on my blog.  I will make the firm decision to overcome one of my bad habits.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 14

Reading: Romans 7: 4-6

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #68

I suppose today's reading is timely because it reminds me that Christ's fulfillment of the old law, we are now united in Him through His Body. And then most of all, this sticks out to me:
While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
It's timely because of the current events, both local and national.  Does the law, which in my case the state and federal, arouse a sense of "living in the flesh" that St. Paul warns against multiple times in his letters?  These sinful passions...they don't ultimately unite me to Christ and hence cannot bear the fruit of eternal life.  I desire freedom from these things that keep me away from Christ so that I can be united to Him more perfectly.

Sure, the world will always provide temptations for me to compromise my union with Christ.  And it may come in seductive forms that ultimately cloud the path towards Christ.  But I must stay on the narrow path in not becoming a slave for the world, but a slave for Christ.

I need to take a careful examination of my sins.  I've already been doing so...and I even realized how I am attached to a particular one that I didn't realize before.  But that shouldn't detract me from the other sins I struggle with.  These, too, must be set aside.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Total Consecration: Day 13

Reading: Romans 6: 3-11

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #127

I guess one thing I don't often think about, if at all, is that to be baptized in Christ Jesus is to also be baptized in His death.  This, in a mysterious way, is the visible sign that signifies our unity with our Lord.  So just as He died, was buried, and rose again from the dead, we do too.  

Haha, it's so simple really.  To be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ because He has invited us to be like Him. Yes, sometimes in seemingly literal ways.

By virtue of our baptism in our Lord, we are invited into God's family.  But being in His family carries with it responsibilities and promises. In baptism, I vow to reject Satan and all that he's about. Also in baptism, I affirm the basic essentials of my faith and vow to not stray from those.  

This vow in baptism is important to keep because of how it unites us in Christ.

I don't think I have trouble keeping up with commitments but there's always room for improvement.  A permanent commitment in the Lord is frightening because it is a narrow path.  But if it's worth doing, it is worth beings permanent...

What I like about entering Catholic Churches is the small font of Holy Water to remind myself of my baptism.  Maybe it's a good idea that I get some to keep around with me at home and work.  Tough I might not use it much, at the very least the visual reminder is there. Spray bottle of holy water could work too.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Monday, June 24, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 12

Reading: John 17: 14-19

from St. Louis Du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #59

Sometimes I get too caught up in this world that I forget that I'm not meant for it.  It's easy to forget that I'm simply in the world, but not of it.  For Jesus Himself says that we are not of this world, just as He isn't of this world.  Yet, I still have to live in this world before moving onto where I ought to be...and that is in heaven.

The thing about this world is that the "evil one" prowls about the world seeking the ruin of souls.  He's constantly looking for someone to devour (as some of my favorite words from the psalms/Liturgy of the Hours regard that says). How then must I equip myself in order to repel this "evil one" who seeks to enslave us all?

And I love what St. Louis du Montfort says in True Devotion, #59:
...we know they will be true disciples of Jesus Christ, imitating his poverty, his humility, his contempt of the world and his love...
... They will have the two-edged sword of the Word of God in their mouths and the blood-stained standard of the Cross on their shoulders. They will carry the crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, and the holy names of Jesu and Mary in their heart. The simplicity and self-sacrifice of Jesus will be reflected in their whole behavior.
Like whoa. Serious business.

I am not living in this world unarmed or ill-equipped to face its challenges.  I have been given what I need in order to reflect the light of Christ in this world.

I can be a more effective light for others in this world by simply being more like Christ. Just today, I found myself in a conversation with a coworker.  He was doing most of the talking and I was listening.  He talked about several of our other coworkers, and it felt like the conversation was going to turn into negative gossip. I did try to keep in mind the dignity and respect of those he spoke about so that, if need be, I would have to turn the conversation around.  Luckily, I didn't have to do much.

I can be more Christ-like by not condemning people for their lackings and being the example or proactive participant on how to lift people up instead of taking them down.  On a daily basis, with pressure and stress running high on my engineering team, the temptation to blame others or speak ill of others is ever present. But, I can put a stop to that if the situation arises.  Not out of a "holier-than-thou" motivation...but...out of love.  A Christ-like love.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 11

Reading: James 1:21-27

from St. Louis Du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #101

I think today's reading and words from St. Louis Du Montfort speak well to me.  Since my involvement in volunteering for my parish, I've really taken to heart this idea of "putting my faith into action." And so I wear many hats and do many things regarding my faith.  I'm becoming more and more than just a simple pew-warmer who listens and nods.  Words speak loud, but actions speak louder.

But where St. Louis du Montfort is kicking my butt is him stressing the necessity to be constant.  This is where I need work.  According to him, devotion to Our Lady demands constancy even in times of difficulty and challenge.  Am I able to maintain that level constancy if I can't seem to be constant in my non-Marian devotions?

I tend to have cycles in whether I feel up to praying a Rosary during my commute home from work.  I'm a Knight of Columbus and we need to pray the Rosary on a daily basis, but I've grown lax in doing so over the past several months.

I've also grown lax in praying Night Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours every day.  How embarrassing since I've invested in a print Christian Prayer book...

My resolution is to have renewed effort in doing a daily Rosary and Night Prayer.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Why I Am Going to Rio De Janeiro

I've been hinting at a trip to Rio since like...a year ago, albeit largely infrequently.  But I never really explained why.

Back in the mid 1980's, Blessed Pope John Paul II invited young Catholics to Rome for a jubilee celebration on Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square.  Over 300,000 showed up, and he was impressed.  The following year, coinciding with the United Nation's International Year of the Youth, he invited youth to come to Rome again. After that one, Pope John Paul II instituted World Youth Day as like...a normal thing.  Since then, World Youth Days are held every few years internationally.
WYD 2011 in Madrid, Spain. (DICI)
WYD 2008 in Sydney, Australia. (Fr. Chris Ryan, Wordpress)
WYD 2005 in Cologne, Germany. (NBC News)
Back in high school, even though others from my parish made plans and effort to go, I never thought of actually going from a practical standpoint, but I always thought it would be cool. Simply put, time and money were things I didn't really have back then. In college, same thing. But, I was able to vicariously experience World Youth Days in Madrid, Sydney, Cologne, and Toronto through the pictures and stories of friends who went. Maybe someday, I thought.

Two years ago in 2011, I had some friends who ended up going to World Youth Day in Madrid, España. An opportunity came up in my diocese where one of the parishes invited us and a few other parishes to come watch a concert and have a lock-in to watch the closing Mass of World Youth Day Madrid streamed live.  Being the budding and aspiring pro chaperone at the time, I decided to tag along thinking it would be cool to see with my own eyes what a Mass gathering for World Youth Day looks like. Via streaming. ;-)

Can you find my friends? >_> White = altar, dots = people
Since Madrid is several hours ahead of my time, the Mass started at some awkward part in the early morning for us.  And it was a lonnnnnnnng Mass simply because millions were gathered. At an airport tarmac. O_o

Fast forwarding to the came time for Pope Benedict XVI to announce the when and where of the next World Youth Day.  I remember being like...super tired because it was like...4AM or so, and I had been up all night and watching the Mass.  But the anticipation of hearing the announcement for the next World Youth Day was enough to wake me.

So Pope Benedict XVI announced that the next World Youth Day would be in 2013 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.  I remember thinking how cool that would be and somewhat wishful thinking as well because I had the desire to go, but I wasn't sure of the means of how I'll go.

I guess I kept that wishful thinking in the back of my mind for about a year because I didn't actively pursue any avenues to make a trip to Rio happen. In the summer of 2012, I learned that a group was being organized by the folks over at The Shepherd's Café. Their ministry leader invited me, actually. Really, this was the only local organized group planning to go that I had heard about at the time, and it was mighty tempting for me to be part of their group. Their trip seemed pretty interesting because it involves a mission trip aspect to other southern American countries before going to Brazil.  I really wanted to go to World Youth Day, and I nearly made an executive decision to go with them. My concern was cost because their trip would be more expensive due to their travels to other countries. But I figured that...I'll pay up because it's a very unique opportunity, and I really wanted to World Youth Day.

I told some people at my parish that I was thinking about going with this group and kind of left it at that as I waited for the next informational.
...And I never ended up going to that informational.

Because, unbeknownst to me, there were some plans being made to send some youth from my parish to World Youth Day in Río! Annnnnddddd! We would be combining with another parish in the diocese!

Since I had expressed my desire to go, I was asked if I would chaperone. No hesitation in saying "yes!" and I made the executive decision to go!

Without spoiling details...this combined trip wouldn't be the same as the other one that I was thinking about joining. Our trip would be more pilgrimage-style experiencing the full week of events at World Youth Day with some free time spent in Río visiting iconic places and churches.

So we had initial meetings last summer to discuss basic info, the documentation required, cost, and all that jazz. That's when I made (and blogged about) an executive decision to join my (combined) parish group.  I'm pretty stoked!

I just recently found out that the hostel that my group is staying sharing the hostel with only one other group: the Shepherd's Cafe group! Totally unintentional on our parts! Haha.

And fun fact! The other parish that I'm combining with is the same parish that we went with to the March For Life in Washington, D.C. back in January! Really, this pilgrimage was a sort of warm up to our trip to Rio!

Now, on a surface level, World Youth Day seems like a time for young Catholics to come together from all over the world to see the pope. As initially cool as that seems, that is not my primary reason to go. Yeah, maybe in high school and college that would have been my reason, but knowing what I know now and where I'm at in my faith, that seems a little too surface-level for me.

I think what draws me to go is to experience the Church in its universal glory united in Jesus Christ. In addition, to learn more about the faith and to have an authentic encounter with Him with (millions gathered of) like-minded young people. Most of the time it is too easy to confine my experience of the Church to the grounds of my own parish and chunk of land that is my diocese. But, truly, at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus rose from the dead and revealed His glorified self to His apostles, He commissioned them to "make disciples of all nations...teaching them all [He had] taught them." Was this even remotely accomplished or has progress even been made? I think the answer is a resounding yes. And going to World Youth Day, I'll be able to experience the universal Church through the joyful and cultural expressions of those millions gathered for this event from all. over. the. world. And I think that's really cool!

Psh, the Catholic Church is not merely our buildings or simply an institution. The Church is a living organism, and it will be awesome to see the Body of Christ in a way that I've never seen before in person.  The hundreds of thousands gathered for the March for Life in Washington, D.C. earlier this year pale in comparison to the millions of people who gather for World Youth Day.

But don't get me wrong!!! The secondary motivations of going are still pretty exciting!  I mean, come on!
  1. RIO DE JANEIRO! I've never been south of Cancun, Mexico, much less anything Southern American, and to visit Rio would definitely be an awesome experience to see with my own eyes.  Experiencing the culture, seeing the Sugar Loaf Mountains, the Christ the Redeemer Statue, and Copacabana Beach! And other places!
  2. COPACABANA BEACH! This is where Pope Francis will welcome us all at the beginning!
  3. THOSE GUYS! One of my favorite priests and one of my favorite Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are going with us! Basically, we can have Mass and Confession anytime! And the friar is really good at singing and guitar-playing!
  4. MEETING NEW PEOPLE! We're going to interact with a lot of people from all over the world.  A thing to do is to exchange swag, so I'm stocking up on some small Texas things!
  5. POPE FRANCIS! Yes, seeing the Pope would be really cool! World Youth Day 2013 is his only scheduled trip outside of Italy this year!
  6. TO LEARN! Heaven forbid that Catholics don't learn how to be Catholic! Part of WYD is they provide catechetical sessions so that everyone can learn something more about their faith!
  7. TO GROW DEEPER IN MY PRAYER LIFE! Knowing the group I'll be going with, there will be lots of Liturgy of the Hours, Mass everyday if possible, Divine Mercy chaplets, chants in Latin, and other things.  We're also all doing the preparation for the Total Consecration to Mary!  Just in my own preparation, I'm learning more about myself.
  8. TO FLY! As an aerospace engineer...I love any opportunities to fly on airplanes!  To make it extra nerdy for me...I'm also curious about the airline seats since airline seating is my job!
  9. AND MORE! Many more to list, I'm sure!
I'm grateful for the engineering career that I have for it has enabled me to have the vacation time and monetary means to make this trip possible for me to go on. Seeing how all this has that "everything just worked out" vibe with relative ease...I think that I was definitely not meant to go to the previous World Youth Days.  I'm meant to go to this one, for whatever ultimate reason.

We'll find out.
Vamos para o Rio de Janeiro!
- JD

Christ the Redeemer Statue /
Aerial View of WYD Madrid / PontoEletronicDD @ Flickr

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 10

Reading: Luke 12: 16-21

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #97-#98

I've seen enough trailers for Hoarders (well maybe parts of episodes too) to know that some people are rather crazy whenever they collect things. Clearly, the massive hoarding of things doesn't lead to anything good, otherwise the TV show wouldn't exist to entertain (educate?) the rest of us.  Yeah, the show tries to help these people because the obsession with collecting things has reached a "zomg this person needs help" level.

Things, and the collection of things are not necessarily a bad thing.  But when the focus and purpose of collecting things has been lost, it only leads to collecting things for the sake of collecting things.

In the spiritual life, do I hoard my blessings?  I attempt to write a grateful status and tweet every day.  Most days, it is really easy to be grateful for something...sometimes it is not.  And sometimes I feel like I'm just grateful for everything.  But do I remember for what purpose is my gratitude for?  Why do I feel blessed? Why be grateful? Am I grateful for gratitude's sake, only?

As much as I want to control my life in every respect, I must always remember that it is God who allows me to act on my will, and God who allows gifts and blessings in my life that allow me to be grateful.

I think up until now...I've been hoarding my gratitude...  I've been grateful for many things but have neglected to remember God in my gratitude.  I've been grateful for gratitude's sake rather than for God.  Maybe somewhere in my subconscious, I thought seeking a definitive moment of gratitude each day was enough to be pleasing to God, but no.  He is allowed to call me a fool for not making a sincere effort to be truly grateful in my innermost being by acknowledging Him.

The other day I mentioned I struggle with envy and resolved to work on that.  But it's become really evident to me in the past few days since then that envy is actually quite a struggle for me. Like, whoa.  And as much as I thought that posting something that I'm grateful for each day would help with really doesn't.  My biggest envies never seem to go away.  And it's because I stop my gratitude at gratitude...when really my gratitude needs to be focused or redirected back at God and really addressing my biggest envies.  I need to make my faith lively and resolve to not be at ease regarding my soul in dealing with envy.

So, my resolution then is to start thinking about God in my grateful posts/tweets.  Whether I mention Him or not doesn't necessarily matter...but it should be evident that I did, in fact, keep Him in mind.  And I need a renewed focus on being grateful for the things surrounding my biggest struggles with envy.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

2013: Wedding #2

(Maybe I haven't specifically blogged about 2013's Wedding #1...but don't worry about that...but I do hint at it here: Quick Takes (Vol. 6))

This was the wedding that makes me feel really old.  You see, the bride and I go way back. The bride's father and I go wayyyy back since he was my Sunday school teacher (aka...CCD...or religious education teacher) back in 9th grade.

But fo realz, I feel old. I taught the bride how to march when she was a freshman when I was clarinet section leader.  That was like ... 9 years ago x_x. Perhaps I can take credit for her not tripping in her wedding dress down the aisle due to a glorious roll-step. 

I had the honor and privilege of being asked to Lector for the wedding Mass.  Simply because I'm a Lector normally for my parish and apparently I do decent job. If you don't know, during a Catholic Mass, Lectors proclaim the Word of God by reading aloud the readings of the day from Scripture for the Mass and congregation.

The Mass was beautiful! But I mean, what wedding Mass isn't beautiful because man and woman publicly declare to witnesses and God truly present of their love and commitment to each other? 

What makes this wedding experience unique for me is that the rehearsal, Mass, and reception were live-streamed over the Internet for friends and family who couldn't make it to the wedding. How cool is that?! One of the bride's uncles is tech-savvy (and the other Lector) and made it possible with a laptop, camcorder, and Samsung smartphone tether setup.  Same guy was also the other Lector.  It was fun and intriguing to me seeing him run those electronics to make it all work.  And apparently it was quite the success since I heard grandpa (the bride's) saying how he keeps getting texted by family members regarding their comments during the various segments of this whole wedding process. Kudos to that uncle!

Which, tangenting off that... Today was another big day for the bride's family because that same tech-savvy uncle got his papers signed officially ending (amicably) his involvement with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal as he pursues seminary to be a diocesan priest. 

So, as of today...he's officially a seminarian for my diocese!  He just needs to get accepted to the Catholic university/seminary that he wants to go to in order to take the next step.  Please pray for him! (and I hinted at him in this blog post: One of the Realities of Being Catholic)

At the reception, I got to hang out with my goddaughter! She's getting big and can walk so confidently now! Her dad was the youth minister of the bride, good friend of her family, and is the youth minister I volunteer for.  I'm thoroughly impressed with her skills at manipulating a fork. And dancing skills.  It's the little things in life.
Totes adorbz
Also, due to the miracle and magic that is smartphone tech...there's really no need for disposable cameras to use and capture memories.  The bridge and groom decided to use the app, WedPics...and I totally made use of it!  Perhaps you saw some other pictures floating around on Facebook/Twitter. ;-)

Anyway, Wedding #2...complete! Congrats to Jessica and Shea! Please pray for them in their journey together as husband and wife and that their marriage is a visible sign of love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.  

- JD

Friday, June 21, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 9

Reading: Romans 13:11-14

St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #108

Putting on the armor of light.  With an armor of light, it makes it difficult for darkness to penetrate through.  And constantly wearing light, I must act accordingly.  So if Jesus is my armor of light, the I shouldn't give into the temptations from darkness.

How do I practice that? I can look to Mary and see the virtuous life she lived in order to keep my armor nice and shiny and light-y.

Tomorrow, I will try to have a lively faith. Faith that is in action.

- JD

7 Quick Takes (Vol.9)

--- 1 ---
Something practical I learned from the YouTube is the Japanese art of efficient t-shirt folding.  I somehow came across it the summer before my first semester of college, and it definitely helped in folding my laundry.  I thought this was common knowledge since the video has millions and millions of views, but apparently I was wrong.

Here's the video:

And I say that because volunteering in ministry inevitably results in a myriad of t-shirts.  And perhaps this one time I obtained a t-shirt but couldn't wear it at the time so I folded it.  That inevitably resulted in others noticing how quickly the t-shirt ended up being folded.

Well then, I put my t-shirt folding sensei hat on...and passed on this wisdom.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.  Because volunteering in ministry, I should reiterate, inevitably results in a lot of t-shirts.  And the crowd is never the same.

It inspired this time attack run on folding a t-shirt (from Facebook):

Grasshoppers learn well.

--- 2 ---
I mentioned in my last Quick Takes about running a retreat.  Again, this retreat was focused on the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  These are the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist.  We went through each of the Mysteries from Scripture using Lectio Divina to prayerfully reflect and contemplate what God wants us to know regarding each passage.  What's great about Lectio Divina is being able to really chew on the Word and let it marinate through reflection, response, and rest.  This spiritual exercise is also a good medium for journaling, and I issued our retreaters notebooks to respond to Scripture.

All in all...I'm quite pleased with the retreat.  Actually, I was kind of freaking out because I didn't give myself adequate preparation time and hammering down of concrete details.  Basically, the entire retreat was planned in like...a week's worth of time.  Sure, I had a template to follow from last time I ran one of these, and it was just a matter of plugging in the new elements.

But! Every time I make plans, God laughs.  The retreat didn't really go according to my outlined I just gave up using my schedule.  Haha.

Although I must was a great retreat.  I think the retreaters definitely got something good out of it.  Surprisingly, two of my young adult chaperones really got something out of it.  But, hey! I'm all for second-hand benefits/fruits when chaperoning a retreat.

Oh, and one thing I love about Catholic retreats?  You will never go hungry! We feed physically...and spiritually!  Friday night was pizza.  Breakfast Saturday morning was an array of regular, strawberry, blueberry, strawberry/blueberry pancakes with sausage. Lunch was make-your-own sandwich with legit deli meat.  Dinner was food from a local Italian restaurant. Mmm.

And oh, Mass had the Eucharist ;-)

--- 3 ---
Because I'm a busy Catholic, my next focus will be for an event next month.  My diocese holds an annual conference for youth in the summer, and last year I had the privilege of helping run a workshop on masculinity and authentic manhood.

I think I'm slated to help out with that same workshop again for this year, but I want to change it up.  I have an idea already...I just need to hash it out (with...#hashtags?!).

Even if I don't end up doing the very least, it'll make for a good blog post. :-)


--- 4 ---
This week's theme regarding work is: "Don't touch the restroom door handles."  On Wednesday, I happened to notice (more than usual) of other guys NOT washing their hands after using the facilities. Like, straight up from porcelain to door with no lay over at the sink.

Perhaps I'm a little more attentive now who does or does not wash their hands because of Kidd Kraddick's latest cause in promoting hand washing awareness. 

Gross to think about the lacking of washing...but my only consolation is a buildup of immunity. -___-

--- 5 ---
I thought that devoting some time for Total Consecration preparation would be more burdensome than I thought, but it really hasn't. I guess I've somewhat learned to cut out some unnecessary time spent on things, and this leaves enough room to sit down and reflect each night. 

It's going well.  So far I'm in the first twelve days, where the goal is to detoxify oneself from the ways of the world. I'm starting to be more attentive about the things that hold me back.

If you follow my blog directly or me on Twitter, you can immediately see when I post a daily reflection for each day of the Total Consecration preparation.

--- 6 ---
Google Reader is about to die in a few days. When I first heard about this months ago, I'm not gonna lie, I did in fact freak out.

Simply because Google Reader was my primary aggregation method of my growing list of Catholic blogs to follow. So I did spend some time seeking an alternative.  I think the read-a-holics of the Internet also freaked out and I found some useful lists of alternatives.

I tried one and liked it. It's called Feedly. What's nice is...they've made it easy for users to migrate their feeds from Google Reader to Feedly. For a long while, they were just echoing the content found on Google Reader's servers, but in the past week, they've actually migrated over to their own servers.

Annnndddd, now Feedly is web-accessible! No longer just an extension in browser and app!

I like it because it presents feeds in a nice manner and the app is pretty slick.  OH! And my favorite part, now that it has been implemented--it integrates with If This Then That!

Now, I am unstoppable. MWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA.

Not really.

--- 7 ---
And for this weekend, I'm also busy.  Not a retreat this time.  I've been asked to lector at a friend's wedding at my parish.  I am honored! I guess my reading of the Word at Mass is good enough to do so at weddings!

But this wedding is kind of a big deal.  Simply because I know like...a big chunk of the family.  No there will not be 6 concelebrants this time...but the biggest deal of that I'll feel old.  Really old.  I taught the bride how to march with her clarinet like 10 years ago. And here we are. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

- JD

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 8

Reading: John 3: 19-21

St. Louis du Montfort: The Love of Eternal Wisdom, #82

Ironically, I am sitting here in the dark because my lamp has burnt out, and I'm too lazy to get out of my bed to turn on my room's main light.  It's ironic because today's reading is about mankind liking darkness and evil deeds even though light has come into the world (ie. Jesus).

As I'm blogging about this, the darkness is uncomfortable because it is hard for me to see this book I'm using to help prepare for the Total Consecration.  I could go and turn on the switch to bring forth light but lol, I'm being lazy right now.

Maybe that's a simple (but not equal) illustration of today's Scripture reading.

So do I cling onto this darkness? Do I like it more than the light?

And what of my evil ways? Such things plunge me into the darkness and keeps me there.  And it's uncomfortable.

I should bring these to light.

One of the benefits of praying Night Prayer is taking the opportunity to do a brief examination of the day to reflect on where I could have done better and make an act of contrition.

But, since I've hung onto this for a while without actually doing it...I'll see about starting to do this Daily Examen from St. Ignatius.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 7

Reading: Galatians 5: 16-21

St. Louis Du Montfort: The Love of Eternal Wisdom, #81

Even before reading this passage in Scripture or the words of St. Louis du Montfort, I've figured out the desires of the soul are much greater than the desires of the flesh. Why is it important to acknowledge the difference between the two desires? Because fulfilling the desires of one means that I'm not fulfilling the desires of the other.  Why soul over flesh? The flesh will pass away, the soul will not.

The Holy Spirit leads us by our soul towards the kingdom of God.  In the inner most depths of my being, I know that He leads me because of my desire for Heaven. But sometimes the desires of the flesh distract me from that destination, and I am led astray from the narrow path.  

If I'm open and receptive to the path that the Spirit is leading me on, then I can say with confidence that this is true way.  Do I trust enough? Do I desire Heaven enough to not let myself be led astray by the shiny distractions manifested in the desires of the flesh?

For tomorrow, as a resolution from today's reflection and preparation, I must give up my being envious of others.  Somehow, I lead myself to feeling really lacking when I compare myself to others. And this leads me to a more grievous path of sin.  I think my envy stems from my making of plans for me rather than my making of plans that are in God's will.

I must remember my gratitude in the gifts and blessings that God has given me and offer that gratitude back to Him.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 6

Reading: Matthew 23: 25-28

St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #102-103

The image of myself that I present to the world is someone who is generally happy most of the time, someone who is easy to talk to and someone who cares to name a few.  Do these reflect my inner realities? Mostly, yes.

I've always thought about the externals should be consistent manifestations of the internal.  While working on the development of the external, it is equally important to work on the internal. That's why Jesus was righteously indignant of the Pharisees because they were avid followers of the law to make it seem like they were good Jews, even though their motivations weren't for the sake of real righteousness.  

I always need to carefully examine how I present myself in expressing a desire for holiness.  Are my motivations for the sake of gaining attention or is it for genuinely holy purposes? Humility is necessary.

Before today's preparation, I had thought that I should share these blog posts each day on Facebook. But, this reflection from Scripture and St. Louis Du Montfort is timely so I have elected not to share these other than those who happen upon this blog or see this automatically get tweeted, as the past days have been.

How can I be generous in seeking holiness in a hidden way?  How can I work on my interior so that my exterior reflects it?

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Monday, June 17, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 5

Reading: Matthew 7: 13-14

St. Louis Du Montfort: Letter to the Friends of the Cross, #5

My first inclination is to take the easier path when presented with a challenge.  The path of least resistance.  It's comfortable.  But do I go on living my life seeking what is easy?  Would the reward of going down easy street simply be comfort?

But what of my soul?  I desire heaven.  Yet the path to heaven is definitely not an easy one to traverse.  Yet the reward is much, much greater.

Being a Catholic desiring heaven doesn't make for an easy path to heaven.  The way is narrow, but true.  Oh sure, I can take the easier route but that is the lie and not the reality for that road quickly leads to eternal death rather than eternal life.

The question I should ask myself is which path am I on?  There are times when I'm on the narrow and true path...and times when I'm on the wide path.  When I'm presented with both paths, do I choose the narrow? Being Catholic assumes upholding the truths of the faith and the exercise and witness of those truths.  But in my imperfection and fallen nature, I tend to compromise.  Why didn't I stop talking about others behind their backs in an uncharitable manner?  It's easier to carry on that conversation than to stop it.  Why didn't I acknowledge the dignity of others when around them? Because it's easier to objectify them or think myself better than them.

The way of the Catholic is to choose the narrower path, despite the cost.  I need to work on this.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 4

Reading: Luke 14: 16-24

St. Louis Du Montfort: The Love of Eternal Wisdom, #76

God invites many to the eternal banquet in heaven, but do I make excuses to skip the party? Catholic parties don't stop, even in heaven, but do I find reasons not to go?

It seems to me that the more materially well-to-do I am, the more likely I am to make excuses for not attempting to attend the eternal party in heaven.  What type of person is more likely to go? Those who have nothing else and those who are poor in health...basically, those who are less fortunate but who are rich in spirit knowing that the master (from the reading) has invited even the lowest of lows to his banquet.  And they'll attend because it is a gift, and it would be an opportunity to experience a taste of something better.  They don't make excuses because their suffering motivates them to seek something better than their afflictions.

Must I be poor, maimed, blind, and lame in order to free myself of excuses to seek the eternal banquet? Yes. Perhaps not literally...but I must be poor in spirit knowing that God is all I have; I must be maimed for I need to cut off the things that leads me to sin; I must be blind to worldly ways so that I always keep God and heaven in my sight; I must be lame so that every move I make is purposeful and deliberate in the right direction, even if it hurts or causes suffering.

I must remember why I have all the blessings that I have.  Every gift, every blessing is an invitation by God to say yes to His eternal banquet.  I must seek His wisdom in my blessings so that I may better seek heaven and not make excuses.

I commit myself to have a life of prayer, but I frequently make excuses to skip. "I'm too tired to pray Night Prayer” or "I'd rather listen to Catholic radio than pray the Rosary on my way home from work." 

"Wha? Total Consecration takes 33 days!? I don't think I can be consistent so I won't even try."

Hmm, what are the other excuses I make that point me away from the banquet?

Ad Jesum per Mariam
- JD

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 3

Reading: Mark 10:24-30

St. Louis Du Montfort: The Love of Eternal Wisdom, #134

Entering heaven will be a difficult thing.  How is it that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter heaven?  I think it's because the camel lives out its calling by being what it is created to be.  That the camel, whether it knows or not, lives out its purpose as a camel as a camel was meant to be.  It can't be anything more than a camel.

I would almost say...that the camel is inherently humble as a creature of God.  It is easy for the camel to pass through because the camel's interior disposition is humble.  But the difference between a camel and man is that a rich man's ego and desire for worldly treasure causes him to be so bloated with self gain ...that it becomes really difficult to enter heaven when desiring or possessing worldly things because the body desires so.

Do I seek being rich?

Christ's crucified body shows us the total opposite of what it means to be comfortable.  I must learn how to crucify my own body (not literally)  by practicing self-denial and humility.  This is so that my ego and passions and desires do not bloat my interior.

To offer up a daily sacrifice to remind me of carrying my cross...I will give up looking at tech/life blogs that tend to be a waste of time for me at work and home.  Such blogs encourage me to inflate my desire to be rich in knowledge, money, and fame.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Total Consecration: Day 2

Reading: Luke 14: 28-30

St. Louis Du Montfort: The Secret of Mary, #4

I am set out to do something pretty substantial in doing this Total Consecration to Mary.  But have I made note of its cost? Yes, it will take time.  Yes, it will take effort.  I'm not going to feel motivated to do the daily preparations each and every single day leading up to the day of consecration, but in all humility and obedience...I must deny my self in moments of desiring comfort and weakness.

For had a long and tired day at work and after work, I had a retreat to run.  By the time I dismissed the retreat for the night and had time to go through Day 2, it was already near midnight and I am exhausted.  But, luckily I am not alone in preparing for the Total Consecration.

So probably the biggest struggle for me in where I am in my life right now is simply finding the time to go through these daily preparations.  I have decided that I shall do these before going to bed each night, simply because most of the rest of the day is not practical for me.  Yes, I will be tired and unmotivated most of the time, but that's part of the challenge to overcome.  Yes, it will probably not be at the same time each night.  But this will be the condition for me to go to bed.

If I am to do this...I must take it seriously and finish it.  Therefore, I must be convicted in my commitment.  I cannot be like the type of disciple that Jesus spoke of in today's reading who tries to build a tower but doesn't consider its costs and thus cannot complete it.

Time. My cost is time.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Friday, June 14, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 8)

--- 1 ---
A test of my Filipino skills! ...when it comes to packing.  I have to somehow pack for 1.5 weeks during my trip to Rio De Janeiro in one carry-on or hiking backpack.

The temptation, as a Filipino, is something like this:

Challenge accepted.  Thank goodness I'm a guy.


--- 2 ---
One of the beautiful things about being Catholic is the ability to really dive deep into Christian spirituality.  I need to further talk about this in a separate blog post since I'm grossly undertalking about it, but I'll be doing the Total Consecration as prescribed by St. Louis Du Montfort for my trip to Rio.  Along with some friends at my parish, I started this past week!

--- 3 ---
This past week we finally set up a pet gate for my dog to be contained in the kitchen. We actually had a ghetto lattice-fence looking thing from my previous dog current Chihuahua seems to have kangaroo powers and easily climbed/jumped over the old pet gate.  This one seems to work a little better, but ...she's tiny enough to pass through 4" spacings...

--- 4 ---
So there was this one time where I got super bored.  Maybe I had a lot of downtime while traveling across the country.  Maybe I had just started my (older) blog.

Maybe I was being a really nerdy Catholic.

Maybe Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night" was the popular song of the day.

Maybe I put the two together.

And the result was this: "Last Sunday Night".

Maybe some people I know are actually filming a music video with my Catholicized lyrics. o_O

--- 5 ---
I'm running a retreat this weekend.  It's focused on reflecting on the life of Christ...particularly His Baptism, the Wedding at Cana, Proclaiming the Kingdom, the Transfiguration, and the Institution of the Eucharist.  AKA, the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  We're going through these scenes from the Gospels and prayerfully meditating through those passages to come to a deeper understanding of the Word and to see if there's something that God wants us to know through these particular pieces of Scripture.

Cool stuff yo.

--- 6 ---
Visas. Obtained!

-samba dancing-

--- 7 ---
For what it's worth...the mandatory 10-hour overtime per week is still a mental block to get over.  But! As consolation, my Catholic nerdiness is able to grow because that's more Catholic podcasting time!  I usually catch up on Catholic Answers podcasts (see sidebar)...and this priest, Fr. John Riccardo.  I highly recommend 'em if you're interested!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

- JD

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 1

Reading: Romans 12:1-2

St. Louis du Montfort: The Secret of Mary (#3)

God desires my holiness so that I may be holy like Him in this life.  Everything I say, everything I do, everything I think, everything that I do and suffer through must lead me to that holiness.  I'm reminded of one of Pope Francis' homilies when he first became pope where he said that if you are not praying to God...then you're praying to Satan!  Or rather, if not to God...then to who? If my entire being is not directed towards God, who am I directed towards?

I am called to live a life a holiness, to offer myself as a living sacrifice  that is holy and acceptable to God by going through a process of transformation. Like gold refined to remove its imperfections.  

THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE EASY.  It is a daily struggle to allow myself to be transformed to holiness.  My worldly thinking tends to get in the way.  Getting too caught up in the world distracts me from focusing on God.  Because of my imperfection, I cannot make this transformation on my own. I need God's help in His abundant gift of grace to help me.

And that's why it is absolutely amazing to be human.  To be called to perfection in holiness as our Creator...and it is simply marvelous and amazing thing that such a transformation from sinner to saint can even happen.

It'll take effort.  A lot of effort.

One day at a time. It begins.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Total Consecration

Some blog posts ago, I reflected on who the First Christian seems to be.  I would say that this first Christian is none other than the human being who knew Jesus first and most intimately--His mom.

As Catholics, we do not worship Mary but definitely hold her in high regard, just as God Himself holds her in high regard. Just as getting to know Jesus helps us better understand God the Father, getting to know Mary better helps us understand Jesus.

I think as Christians, we really miss out on a lot if we disregard Mary and her role in bringing Jesus, quite literally, to us. 

Exploring that role shows how devoted Mary was to her son.  Getting to know some her shows that she wants nothing more than for us to get to know her son more.  And she will help us...intercede for us...bring us closer to Him.

So, as Christians, we are devoted to Christ--as we should be!  From a Catholic perspective, we give Mary honor because she is the greatest creation by God, and she brings us to Christ.  Therefore, it is not surprising that Catholics can have a devotion to Mary with the ultimate purpose of being devoted to Jesus.  To Jesus through Mary.

Pope Paul VI once said:
We are convinced without any doubt that devotion to Our Lady is essentially joined with devotion to Christ, that it assures a firmness of conviction to faith in Him and in His Church, a vital adherence to Him and to His Church which, without devotion to Mary, would be impoverished and compromised.
And in the Vatican II apostolic constitution, Lumen Gentium (60, 67), it says:
The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique meditation  of Christ, but rather shows its powers.  All her saving influence on men originates not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure.  It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His meditation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it.
...the practices and exercises of devotion to her recommended by the Church in the course of the centuries [are to] be treasured...
Devotion to Mary, then, ultimately bears fruit in knowing Jesus that much more.  And as a Christian, why wouldn't I desire that?

Most people are familiar with the Rosary since it is probably the most recognizable tool in having a devotion to Mary.  But most people are probably not aware of its purpose and use in devotion.  Long story short, praying the Rosary is asking Mary for her help in meditating through the life of Christ by reflecting on the major milestones of His life recorded in the Gospels.  It's like...prayerfully going through the Gospel without necessarily using a Bible.

Yes, Rosary is a big one.  But then there's St. Louis Du Montfort.  He was a French priest who lived in the late 1600's.  He went around spreading devotion to the Virgin Mary throughout Europe.  This guy absolutely loved Mary and developed spiritual exercises in order to consecrate oneself to Mary as a form of devotion.

But his True Devotion to Mary is an intense exercise in spiritual life involving much reflection, emptying oneself of the worldly spirit in order make room to gain knowledge of self, then knowledge of Mary, and thus ultimately knowledge of Christ.  He prescribes 33 days at which to devote daily prayer and meditation to consecrate oneself to Mary.  You begin by choosing a Marian feast day then counting back 33 days to start the consecration.

Why do I even care about this?  Well, I think over the past few years, I've really developed my Catholic knowledge through religious education, teaching that, and learning apologetics.  I've always felt lacking in spiritual development, and this is a great opportunity.  That's why it was quite refreshing when I went to on a silent retreat a few months ago.

And then I'm mostly motivated to do this consecration since my pilgrimage group for next month's trip to Rio De Janeiro will all be doing this as well.  Actually, I'm starting a little earlier with a friend or two than the rest of my pilgrimage group so that whenever I finish up, it will actually be a feast day (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel) since there are no Marian feast days during our pilgrimage.

I'm excited and at the same time nervous...simply because I tend to lack discipline in maintaining a new habit. And then things are crazy right now with work, pilgrimage prep, and everything else I've got going on at my parish.

But, I think the fruits of going through this devotion will be much needed.

Challenge accepted.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Sunday, June 9, 2013

50 Pages of Aquinas

I recently started following Dr. Taylor Marshall's blog, Canterbury Tales.  He's a former Episcopalian priest but now a happily and fruitfully married layman in the Catholic Church with a beautiful family of 7 kids, including their newest.  He's also the Chancellor of Fisher More College nearby.  Oh, and he's an Aggie, class of 2002. WHOOP!

He recently announced that he would be releasing a 50-page book on St. Thomas Aquinas for free, but only for people who signs up for his email newsletter.  I couldn't resist in the offer for simple reasons... A) free B) I don't know much about St. Thomas Aquinas C) ebook, because my physical Catholic bookshelf is overflowing and D) free.

It took me a week to read it because I'm terrible at finding time to read (nevermind that it's taken me a year and a half to be 75% through Inheritance, the last book about Eragon...(but hey! I've read like 5 Catholic books in that time...)).  But thank goodness it was 50 pages because my first mistake in trying to learn St. Thomas Aquinas was purchasing his Summa Theologica for my Kindle app and feeling rather intimidated by it.

Dr. Marshall provides a brief bio on Aquinas and succinctly illustrates his mindset and way of thinking.    He also makes a distinction between philosophy and theology through the mind of Aquinas. I think the most useful thing I learned were the "4 Causes": formal, material, efficient, and final.  An example would be a blog post.  The formal cause of a blog post is the idea of what to write about.  The material cause would be an Internet connection and a keyboard. The efficient cause of a blog post would be me writing the blog post. And the final cause of a blog post is for me to share something about me and Catholicness.

After learning about Aquinas and the way he thinks, Dr. Marshall then presents Thomistic proofs and thoughts about God, angels, humans, virtues, and natural law.

All in all, I think this was a great way to begin learning about one of our Angelic Doctors and great saints.  Now, with a little more background and getting a feel for how he thinks, I think his Summa will be a little easier to understand.

Check out Dr. Taylor Marshall's blog and sign up for your own copy of Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages! Missing out would just be...unreasonable! (unless you're already a Thomistic expert...)

Leveling up in Thomism,
- JD

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The First Christian

I was thinking on my way home from work the other week while praying the Rosary...

...who was the first Christian?

...and I couldn't help but think about Mary.

Honestly, she would be the first human on earth to be His follower.  She was the first one to have a personal encounter with Christ even as He was just an embryo. She not only proclaims the greatness of the Lord and rejoices in God her savior with her words, but also by her very body. She shared her very life with Him in the most intimate way that only a mother and child can.  What wondrous love that Mary must have in order to carry the Word Made Flesh...the Word Incarnate...the Lamb of God...the Light of the World...the Son of her very womb.

And what loving mother would not continue following her child after birth? We see Mary at every milestone moment of Jesus' earthly life from conception to death on a cross.

Saying "yes!" to God is absolutely a Christian thing.  And the most important "yes!" in all of human history is Mary's "yes!" to conceive the Son of God as announced to her by the archangel, Gabriel.  How full of grace she must be so as to bear the Son of God in her very womb!

And what expression of Christian joy whenever Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth! So much so that the womb cannot contain John the Baptist's excitement!  And then Mary sings how her soul magnifies the Lord! the most Christian thing she can do... she literally brought Jesus out into the world! The real nativity! ...not just a yard fixture or a song about a manger!  Angels sing, magi arrive, precious gifts given, and ...behold! The King of Kings! The Word Made Flesh! a food trough for animals!

And like any good Christian, she obediently followed the law for her purification after giving birth(though the older, Mosaic one...which her Son now fulfills) by presenting Jesus to the temple when He was an infant.  It was there that she learned that her heart will be pierced and that her Son will redeem the world as prophesied by Simeon.

And like any good Christian, she found Jesus (as if He needed to be found!).  ...which is just a lame play on words Christians like. Mary and Joseph kind of left the temple without realizing Jesus wasn't with them...then they realized it...then they spent a few days looking for him back in Jerusalem.  But they ended up finding Him in the temple, talking amongst the older men.  He reminds her of His purpose, but obediently follows her back to Nazareth.

Like any good Christian, she points others to Jesus. I'm reminded of the scene at the Wedding at Cana when they ran out of booze and Mary pointed to her son.  "Do whatever He tells you." she said.  What did Jesus say? He asked the others to go fetch water, which He turned to wine--anditsallbecauseMarypointedthemtowardsJesus.

And like any good Christian, she endured the worst knowing that redemption can be had through great suffering. She witnessed Jesus' Passion until the end at the foot of the cross, with her Son's blood flowing. Dripping.  And Jesus gives His mother to John, the beloved disciple.  He gives His mother to us.

Sure, these scenes are but a few that Scripture offers in the life of Jesus.  And that's what is great about praying the Rosary--praying with Mary to help me better understand Jesus through her.

I cannot think of any human in all of human existence that knows Jesus better than His own mother.   As a Christian living ~2000 years later, I can make every attempt at getting to know Jesus as His follower, but nothing I do will come close to Mary.  So, I ask for her help.

Now, and at the hour of my death.
- JD