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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Change of Plans

We actually left Copacabana Beach. There were some health and safety concerns so we decided to head back to the hostel. Nothing alarming. We're all good :-)
Further updates later.
- JD

Limited Updates

I'm out here on Copacabana Beach with countless others waiting for Adoration to begin in a few hours. The original plan was for all the pilgrims to be at a place designated as Campus Fidei, a large field outside of Río. But due to the rains this past week, Campus Fidei was deemed too muddy. Instead, JMJ decided to have the Vigil and Closing Mass here at Copacabana Beach. It's insane! So many people, tents, tarps! This works out for us because the beach is only a mile away from our hostel, but we're staying here at the beach tonight. It's funny because you can't tell it's winter in Brazil and people are swimming and stuff. So, I won't be near any way for me to charge my iPhone, so updates will be limited. I also won't be able to update the other blog like I have been. Follow the happenings live on EWTN or

- JD


As I'm going through these days in Rio, I see so many different people from all over the world. It's so cool to see Brazilians, Germans, Italians, Argentinians, USA-icans, Canadians, Mexicans, Japanese, Koreans, South Africans, Jamaicans, Vietnamese, British, Spaniards, French, Chileans, and many, many more. But one country I've been expecting to find is the Philippines! But I haven't been able to see them until today (Friday)!

Ok, so there was that time the other day where we saw a group of Filipinos, but it was a small group, and they were from Libya (Libya-pinos). Did that count? Meh. Got a picture but it didn't seem satisfactory to me to meet a group not originally from the Philippines.

Today, we were on our way from the hostel to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (our church where we have been having catechesis and Adoration) when I saw Filipino flags waving in a group ahead of us.


I awkwardly stalked the caboose of their group and started talking to him in Tagalog. Small talk and the obvious questions. Turns out they were headed to the Basilica as well in order to go to Mass, which is the same reason why we were headed there. When we arrived, my group took our pews.

Turns out that the Philippines was hosting a Holy Hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which is Jesus truly present: body, blood, soul. and divinity! We caught the tail end of that hour so we made it in time for Benediction. I was just absolutely thrilled to hear songs and prayers in Tagalog and was even able to follow along with the usual responses thanks to memory and humble knowledge of Tagalog. And the church was filled with groups of Filipinos! Made me want to go, "psst! hoy!" and point with my lips or something.

In this moment, I realized how this experience further emphasized the global, universal reach of the Catholic Church. No, no, no...not as a means for controlling the a way to really living out her mission to make disciples of all nations by teaching what Jesus taught. To hear and pray in different languages helps drive that point home, and to see this with the Filipino groups there in Adoration resonates with me.

After Benediction, marking the end of Adoration, we stuck around for Mass. We knew going in that the Mass would be in Vietnamese, but language doesn't matter because the Mass is fundamentally the same no matter what language it is in. But when Vietnamese groups from all over the world started gathering in the church and started doing praise and worship songs, and their bishops didn't put on their vestments, we realized that this was actually not Mass. We realized that this was their catechetical session which followed the same format for our catechetical sessions, which include songs and a lesson from a bishop followed by Mass. Yeah, we didn't stay for Mass because it wouldn't be for another hour or two.

After leaving the church, we saw the Filipinos in the front courtyard/parking lot. I awkwardly stalked a different group to kindly ask them for a combined group photo. Which ended up being awkward because as soon as I got near them, they initiated their own group photo. 

But...after some exchanging of Tagalog and English... I managed to get this to happen:

:-D !!!

- JD

Friday, July 26, 2013

Celebrating Vocations

So a tradition we started during our pilgrimage is to cheer and applaud every clergy, religious sister and brother that we encounter while walking around. It's really cool because oftentimes they have a moment of confusion, embarrassment, and then gratitude. As Catholics, we hold in high regard those who choose this calling in life because without priests, we do not have the sacraments, without religious we don't have some of the committed spiritual and material outreaches of the Church, and many other reasons as well.

The clerical and religious lifestyles are visible signs of living a totally radical life in the modern world, and future ages to come. So we thank those who choose this life because we know with a particular degree of certainty that they are being who God calls them to be.

- JD

Monday, July 22, 2013

First Sighting: Pope Francis

So this is how we saw Pope Francis.

Long story short, our trip back to the city from the Christ the Redeemer statue involved splitting our group into two different groups for riding the train down. This involved a lot of time waiting for the second group. Insert lots and lots of singing and dancing for the first group with Brazilians and other instant-friends.

Then insert another tremendous amount of time waiting for a city bus to take us back near to our hostel.

When we left the bus stop, we made it halfway before seeing our fellow hostel-mates, the Dallas Shepherd's Cafe group, just singing on the sidewalk. We decided to join in and meanwhile, we heard sirens off in this distance on the opposite side of the avenue that was by where we were.

Minutes later, the sirens could be heard again. We could tell there was a motorcade of security and several vehicles being escorted. Some of us run over to the street and I wasn't totally paying attention but later figured out that this could possibly be Pope Francis because who else would be enough of a dignitary to merit this sort of escort at 9PM at night?

Well, as soon as I get over to the street, my group was already yelling that they saw Pope Francis waving out the window of his car wearing his papal white. I didn't get there in time to catch it on video but I did catch the tail end of his motorcade. Oh well...

But! How cool is that!? We were the only pilgrims on that street at that time and for him to pass by at that moment was a very unique experience. Besides, it must have been nice for him to see us because while we were watching the news during dinner, it seemed like the last thing he did was escape protestors standing outside of whatever federal building he was at when meeting with Brazil's president.

Either way, even though I missed seeing him with my own eyes, I know I'll get to see him very soon!

Like...on Copacabana Beach later today (Tues).

- JD

Saturday July 20

The day started out with bacon. Despite going to bed at 2AM, I had a harsh wake up call at 7AM with the ordinary, intended wake up call by our group leader. But that was immediately followed by the fire alarm going off, which was immediately followed by the fire alarm being turned off. I thought to myself how this was a really effective way to wake us all up since the guys slept downstairs and the girls upstairs. But it turned out that the reason why the fire alarm went off was because the breakfast crew was attempting to cook bacon and created a lot of smoke in the kitchen. There was so much smoke that we made the obligatory Catholic joke that this was incensing the kitchen. After all that, I got up and started taking pictures and helping our friar cook bacon (that's a pun).

Breakfast was ready at about 7:45AM and was a feast of plain and blueberry pancakes with the bacon, some sausage, and eggs as well. 

Just before 9AM, we headed over to the church proper in order to have Mass.  A few of the other guys and myself were called over to the parish hall in order to help out the Schoenstatt's couple's retreat get set up for their own breakfast. That was cool, for me anyway, because I got to talk to some of my favorite families and talk about our trip to Rio. Mass was celebrated by their Schoenstatt priest (which by the way, Schoenstatt is a lay movement in the church with a great devotion to Mary that originated in Germany). It was cool during Mass because the priest acknowledged us pilgrims and gave us a special blessing for our trip.

After Mass, we returned to our meeting place in the other building. We prayed Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, and then the silent portion of our retreat ended. After some discussion on logistics, we broke off to different houses for showering. This would be our last time to shower before Rio. It was here that I found out a #FunFact about my parish and how there is only one shower facility on the entire grounds located in an old rectory. I stuck around for a while talking to a few others who didn't go off to go shower immediately.  I actually went back home to go shower, which worked out nicely because I got to see my dad before he left for work, my bro having just returned from rehearsal, and my mom. After showering, I headed back up to the church.

By the time I got back, a good chunk of the others had made it back and were setting up for lunch. For lunch, we had deli sandwiches and a lot of leftover bacon. Turkey bacon lettuce tomato sandwich was delicious. It was here during lunch that I lost a game of "What Are The Odds?" (It's like a variation of the dares of Truth or Dare with probability) and had to drink lemonade mixed with maple syrup. It was lemony sweet.

After lunch, we did several activities. One of these was prayerfully reading the end of the Gospel according to Matthew where Jesus commissions His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. We did this via Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading), which is a really, really old way of prayerfully reading Scripture not to form our own interpretations of Scripture, but rather, to be open to what God wants to say to us in a particular passage. We shared as a group, and most of us focused on the part where it says that the disciples doubted as well as the last verse where Jesus says that He will be with us until the end of the age. It was good discussion to help us enter more deeply into the theme of World Youth Day which is to go and make disciples of all nations.

At some point after lunch, Fr. Patricio who celebrated this morning's Mass graciously came by to hear confessions for an hour for everyone. 

After Lectio Divina, we broke into our small groups for the trip. This makes managing a group of about 30 easier by having smaller groups of people. My partner ended up being the woman who is from Brazil, so I'm grateful for that in case of situations where that would be useful. My group includes 2 from STA, and 2 from SEAS (which includes my unofficially adopted bro-minarian!)

With all those activities completed, we had some time go have brief lessons in Portuguese! My small group partner graciously gave us some brief conversational phrases to help us out whenever we're down in Rio. It throws me off because Portuguese looks and sounds like Spanish but it isn't.

At some point, Fr. Patricio finished up with hearing confessions and gave us all another blessing for our trip before leaving.  That was neat! Feeling blessed, indeed!

We all went to the 5:30PM vigil Mass. After Mass, I got to talk to other friends who happened to be at the Mass, and we got to talk about our upcoming trip to Rio.

Then after all that we cooked bacon cheeseburgers for dinner then had free time after that.

However, I did duck out for a while in order to stop by a fellow brother Knight's 50th birthday at our Knights Hall. Of course, one does not simply attend such an affair without eating and socializing with others. Unfortunately, I ended up staying there longer than intended. On top of that, I had to make a Wal-Mart run aft that so I didn't make it back to meet up with everyone until 10:30pm. Bad idea.

I stayed up longer to blog and to do last-minute packing so that the morning wouldn't be as rushed.


- JD

Starting to Hit Me

10:32PM Sunday July 21, 2013
Somewhere over Caribbean from Miami to Rio

This whole time that we've gathered together as a pilgrimage group and spent that time in retreat together, it didn't hit me. As we were flying from DFW to Houston and then Houston to Miami, it didn't hit me. It's been a constant feeling of some sort of indifference regarding that ... we're going to Rio!

In the moments leading up to boarding for the flight to Rio, it started getting more surreal for me. I think what helped contribute to that feeling was seeing other groups of pilgrims starting to gather at the gate. And my pilgrimage group seems to be a magnet for clergy and other religious, we were able to quickly befriend other seminarians and Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. What was really cool was inviting them to come pray Night Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours with us. And I even invited a group that we had met back in Houston because they were conveniently near us as well.

After we finished Night Prayer, that's when it started getting more real to me. That's when I realized other pilgrimage groups had gathered at the terminal. When it came time to board, some random guy from Grassroots Films took my group's picture and interviewed two of us. I bet that I'll show up on YouTube at some point, but because of him and his call for expressing our excitement for his video, that caused the other groups to be really excited as well. Lots of cheering at the gate!

That's when it started becoming more real for me. 

And now, here I am in a 767 sitting on my product on my way to Rio for World Youth Day!

I've been saying that it probably won't truly hit me until we're actually in Rio. Like, me seeing the Christ the Redeemer statue with my own eyes.

And I must remember that this is not a vacation, that I'm not going to Rio for the sake of Rio itself, but rather to experience the Church with my fellow sinners in order to grow in faith. I do not know what to expect, but I'm open to whatever experiences that are in store for me this week.

- JD

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Not A Vacay

In all my brief discussions with other people about how I'm going to Rio, whenever I tell them...sometimes they immediately jump to some idea that it's going to be a vacation of sorts. Or, coming from some guys, the allure of Rio De Janeiro and attractive Brazilian women suddenly becomes the focus.

Then it gets awkward whenever I have to mention my reasons for going. I mean, maybe not to the extent that I talked about in a previous blog post ("Why I'm Going to Rio"), but rather just the quick, face-value reason of why I'm going: chaperoning a pilgrimage to Rio.

But I wanted to focus on how this is not a vacation. Yes, beaches and beautiful souls will be present, but those are not the focus of World Youth Day. This will be an encounter with the God and His universal Church! I mean, sooooo many people will be there from all over the world! And we will all have the opportunity to worship and encounter God together, especially through the Bishop of Rome, our supreme pastor, and his brother bishops as they teach the faith...through the Masses...through many other experiences that I have yet to find out about!

And this is a pilgrimage! We are coming from afar to have those encounters with God and His Church. We will welcome the sufferings, inconveniences, and causes of doubt and unite those with the sufferings of Christ so that we can find the strength to endure the trip itself, and whatever bodily, emotional and spiritual baggage we carry.

I don't know about other groups to WYD...but I know we are taking the opportunities to deepen our prayer life by making prayer a constant thing everyday. That is through praying the Liturgy of the Hours, intercessory prayer, the Mass, devotions like the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet, praise and worship (led by a friar!), and other ways as well.

And so, I mustn't fall into the idea that this is a vacation, because it won't be. Yes, there will be times for fun and relaxation, but that is not the ultimate purpose in going to World Youth Day. It is much deeper than that.

So...-raises glass-... we are going Rio de Janeiro! We leave for the airport in a few hours!!!

St. Sebastian, pray for us! Because-apparently-the-city-of-Rio-is-technically-named-after-him!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Start

FRIDAY JULY 19, 2013

And I'm grateful that I took off work the day that our parish groups were coming together. 1) I didn't have to go to work, 2) I actually ended up needing practically the whole day. 

1) ? So I attended a drum corps competition Thursday night and I stuck around afterwards to meet up with people I know who are in it.  Got to my car after all that and discovered that it wouldn't start.  Long story short, I waited a very long time for AAA to show up. And I was 30 minutes from home. That's how I didn't make it bed until like 2AM.

For 2), I tried waking up early to get packing started. 7AMish. And the whole day involved actual packing, making sure all the electronics and Internet stuff were prepared for this trip, a very delayed lunch with the family at a local Filipino restaurant, a Wal-Mart run, and more actual packing.  By the time I tightened the last strap on my hiking backpack, it was less than 30 minutes to the start of Daily Mass.

So, Daily Mass is a good way to start our pre-WYD retreat.  Nevermind that I was halfway to the church when I decided to turn around and go back home because I forgot something.  When I finally made it to the church, I accidentally became part of the actual procession (but on the side of the nave away from the priest and servers, ;-) ). I noticed that the other parish group was there, sitting up at the front, and one of my favorite CFRs was with them (!!!!!!!). 

After Mass, you know how most Catholics who don't leave Mass early tend to be really social as soon as the recessional hymn is over? Cool, so that's what we did.  Caught one of my unofficially adopted bros (because he's a really good friend of my own blood brother, and he has refrigerator privileges in my house) on his way to the servers' vesting room,

After some socializing, we gathered with the group from St. Thomas Aquinas (STA) to do a variation on Evening Prayer from the Magnificat before heading to one of our other buildings to eat dinner.

Pizza and getting to know each other tend to go hand in hand on a Friday night because the combination of crust, sauce, and toppings is enough to rejoice and share that joy with others.  I got to know some of the guys from STA as we started our own inside jokes.

The rest of the evening involved going over some handouts, the presentation of t-shirts that we'll be wearing, rules, making sure we had the essentials packed, receiving other little things, and Night Prayer.

Br. Timothy, CFR led us in Night Prayer.  I miss his voice because it is quite suited for the way he leads the Liturgy of the Hours in song. Maybe at some point in the past year, I was really convinced he should release a CD...

After Night Prayer, we started the silence. We'll be silent (unless absolutely necessary) until mid-morning tomorrow. And this is really awkward, since there are new people to get to know, but I can't really do anything about that for now. But that's okay, silence forces me to focus on other things. And reflect.

I didn't go to bed until 1:30AM because I was working on transferring prayer intentions that I received from work onto strips of cloth attached to a carabiner for easy carrying. That took a long time because my grandmotherly, Catholic coworker gathered a lot of them from all over the office on my behalf. Then I attempted at blogging but decided to save it for today (Saturday morning).

What adventures await us today? Mass TWICE, showering, prayers, and getting to know each other. 


- JD

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Nerdy Perspective

The consequence of World Youth Day being far away in a land that is not north Texas is the necessity of aerial transportation.

Looks like we'll be flying from DFW to Houston. Then Houston to Miami. Then finally Miami to Río de Janeiro. That's a lot of flight time!

We'll be flying American Airlines, and I'm excited for this! I'm an AA kid since my dad works for them. So with my combined previous flying experiences (which there are many), my aerospace engineering education through college, and my work experience as an engineer for an airline seat manufacturer, there will be ample amounts of time for me to nerd out while flying from place to place.  In other words, I might know a thing or two about airplanes and the seats that go into them.

Lo unto the ones who have to sit next to me as I seemingly analyze the seats with scrutiny, care and knowledge!

- JD

"American Airlines Approach" // Irargerich on Flickr


Behold: an incoherent and incomplete pile of things that collectively will be useful things for me on our trip to Brazil here in a few days.

No, I don't plan on bringing my Wii Fit board
And so it remains there as a pile until I find some decent time to pack and gather everything else.
This has been a hard week so far! Work schedule has been crazy and other post-work obligations have been demanding as well.  And thus, I'll probably get to this, oh ya know....Friday. the day where we finally gather everyone together to start our pre-WYD retreat.  Thank goodness I took off work on Friday so I can concentrate on...packing! Haha.

But!  This is not to say that I haven't done any sort of preparation whatsoever!

A few weekends ago, I helped collect prayer intentions from fellow parishioners so that we can take those intentions to pray for while we're at World Youth Day.  We were out there in the heat after Masses for two weekends and collected quite the handful, which is fantastic! What sticks out to me the most is the absolute gratitude that some parishioners expressed in us collecting these intentions, and I can't wait to start praying for those!  On my own Facebook/Twitter, I also asked for intentions. I let it slip to one of my coworkers that I'm going to World Youth Day and offered to take any of her prayer intentions, but she came back around and personally talked to a bunch of people in the office and asked for their intentions. How cool!

On the spiritual side of things, I made my Act of Total Consecration to Mary yesterday on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel at a Carmelite monastery of Carmelite discalced nuns. No big deal. I know that making the Act of Total Consecration is something all of us St. Thomas Aquinas/SEAS pilgrims are doing so that the Act can be made during the trip, but a few of us decided to start early so that our Consecration could be made on a feast day (since no Marian feast days occur during World Youth Day).  I kept a near-daily "journal" of my spiritual journey and preparation for the Total Consecration via my blog.

So yeah, I've been doing work.  But...maybe not immediately practical, tangible work. Spiritual work, yes. But I can't pray my backpack into packing itself.

I'll keep this short because [I originally wrote this at 11PM], and I still [had] a full workday tomorrow. More updates to come!

- JD

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 33

Reading: Philippians 2: 5-11

from St. Louis du Montfort: The Secret of the Rosary, #65

Reflection and Response:
Whenever I was a freshman in college, I attended an Awakening retreat through St. Mary's in College Station.  Commonly called "Aggie Awakening".  And there was some group discussion that involved drawing on the table (we're college kids, ya know) on what does it look like to be Christ. Or something like that. was a long time ago...

The image that came up in my head was a mirror.  Me looking into the mirror. And in the reflection in the mirror, I do not see myself, but rather Christ.  Not saying that I am Christ, but that I should be a reflection of Christ for the Son is the perfect living image of the Father.  And so, whenever I need reminding of how my life should be, I should remember the mirror. In order for me to be a reflection of Christ, I must be a practicing disciple of Him...that I shouldn't see myself in the mirror but Christ!

And so, in order to help seeing myself as a reflection of Christ, I surrender myself to the hands of Mary who can help mold me to be a better reflection of her Son.

It has a been a great spiritual journey preparing to make the Act of Total Consecration.  It has allowed me to reflect on myself, on Mary, and on Jesus in a deeper way that I couldn't have done so in my typical spiritual life.  33 days of prep and now it is time!

Before I make the Act of Total Consecration to the Blessed Mother, I will say a full Rosary and make the Act on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Total Consecration: Day 32

Reading: 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26

from St. Louis du Montfort: The Love of Eternal Wisdom, #71

Reflection & Response:
The principal reason why I am Catholic is because of the Eucharist.  For this is Jesus Christ truly present: body, blood, soul, and divinity!  And such a gift and blessing that we unworthily receive in the holy sacrifice of the Mass that Jesus should come to us in the humble form of bread! It is unfathomable and utterly mysterious that my Lord and my God presents Himself in this way so that I may be in communion with Him.

The famous saying goes that
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
 And maybe God knew this all along.  O_o  Well...I mean, He did create us...

And so, He doesn't appear to us sitting on thrones or hidden under diamonds or out of the blue.  Rather, He instituted the Eucharist so that He becomes the very nourishment of body and soul in an effort to reach out to our hearts, our very core being.  And there, He rejoices in unifying Himself with us.

Over the recent years, I've spent more time in Adoration and have gained better appreciation of Mass because of the Eucharist.  I dunno, I suppose I've had some great consolations regarding the Eucharist since high school (none of which I've talked about here so far) and my love for the Eucharist only grows and grows. So much so that I now only receive the Eucharist on my tongue for I am too much of a worm to receive Him on my hand...and better yet, I kneel to receive as well because I'm so unworthy and cannot think of a better way to lower myself before the Lord (and it's legit to do so).

My busy work schedule has kept me from attending Daily Masses and typical parish Adoration times...but I should make a more concerted effort in restoring my attendance to such things so that I can spend more time with Jesus. In the Eucharist.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 31

Reading: Isaiah 53: 3-12

from St. Louis du Montfort: Letter to the Friends of the Cross, #57

Reflection & Response:
The account of the suffering servant in Isaiah really points to Jesus.  And I see Jesus becoming that suffering servant in His last hours.  Maybe I've mentioned this before, but I recall reflecting on the Sorrowful Mysteries through praying the Rosary on the way home from work not too long ago, and I came to realize one of the ongoing themes throughout the Mysteries is the flow of Jesus' blood.  He is wounded and broken and bleeding.  And to top it all, the Romans, at the urging of the mob, crucified Him.

The Crucified Jesus is a beacon of hope for all who suffer in some way.  In His Passion, He shows us what it looks like to endure suffering, and in His Resurrection, He shows us redemption from that suffering.

Every sin I commit is another cause of suffering for Christ.  An extra hammer blow, an extra millimeter of thorns, an extra crack of the whip, an extra yard carrying the already heavy wood.  And the more I think about that, the more appalling it is for me to choose sin.

In order that I may more perfectly detest my sins and its consequences, I shall go to Confession.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Total Consecration: Day 30

Reading: Mark 8: 31-33

from St. Louis du Montfort: The Love of Eternal Wisdom, #169

Reflection & Response:
I've watched The Passion several times, and the most recent time that I watched it (I think sometime during Lent last year), I remember the line spoken by one of the other thieves on the Via Dolorosa.  He said, "why do you embrace your cross?" and like, makes fun of Jesus for embracing his cross!

Jesus, in his Infinite and Incarnate Wisdom, must have known that He would have to carry the burdens of His Passion.  He probably knew all along, even as an infant.  St. Louis du Montfort reflects that He embraced His cross and held it deep in His heart even as an infant.

And thus He had the rest of His earthly life to prepare for time when His hour would come.

And in that time, He arrived at a point of embracing His Cross.

Do I embrace Jesus' Cross? Am I afraid? Do I shy away from it because I know how much suffering it brings? Yet Jesus shows the way.  He embraces the cross even unto death.

I ask for Mary's help in helping me have a genuine love for Jesus' cross.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 29

Reading: Luke 2: 51-52

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #139

Reflection and Response:
That whole scene from Luke regarding Jesus talking amongst the elders at the temple, and Mary and Joseph freaked out realizing that He wasn't with them, resolves in a very profound way.  After Mary and Joseph meet up with Jesus and they converse about what He was doing there, it ends with them going back to Nazareth with this:
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and he was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in faor with God and man.
Sure, like any rebellious pre-teen, Jesus could have stayed in the temple and decided not to go back home with His (earthly) parents. But what great love does Jesus show for His own (earthly) parents, especially His mother, by being obedient to them? ...I think that's a commandment!

So if Jesus was obedient to Mary, perhaps as a follower and imitator of Christ, I should do the same.  Mary is the epitome of surrendering one's will to the will of God because she gave birth to Jesus, His only Son. And if Jesus was totally willing to be obedient to Mary, I should do the same!

I suppose one of the blessings I enjoy is my ability to be obedient to my parents.  I've not acted out majorly rebellious ways against them, nor do I desire to.  As awkward (but common?) it is for a mid-20's fully-employed guy to be living with his parents, I'm still obedient to them out of love for them.

Can I submit my will to the will of God?  That's always a challenge, but I know I can seek Mary's help and guidance, but that would require me being obedient to her as well because she fulfills God's will in a perfectly human way.

I'm reminded of my patron saint's story.  No big deal, but Our Lady appeared to him and asked a favor of him which he ultimately fulfilled out of obedience to the Blessed Mother.  And because he listened and was obedient, by the grace of God through Mary he was blessed and Mexico thrived in spreading the Good News with a great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

St. Juan Diego, pray for us!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 28

Reading: 1 John 1: 1-4

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #248

The Word Made Flesh.  This is a huge deal! That the Word given by God was made manifest in flesh and bone upon Mary's great "Yes!" Because of the Incarnation, it became possible to encounter God in a very real way. I can't imagine what it must have been like to see and interact with Jesus in real life.  Surely it must have been a great joy to encounter God ... in the flesh.  Can I even imagine Mary's joy to have the Word Made Flesh dwell within her womb? Can I even fathom the meaning and importance of this, for its immensity  is truly great and significant?

And so God allowed us to begin to have a real, personal encounter with Him in the Incarnation of His Son but now that He has died and is risen, I can still have a very real and personal encounter with Him in the flesh.

I'm grateful that one of the few major things that I was able to be truly convinced about regarding the Catholic faith is that the Eucharist is truly Jesus present in the flesh.  What great consolations I've received from devotion and faith to Jesus in the Eucharist!  Worthy of separate, proper treatment blog posts, for sure. But one thing is for certain: since the Eucharist is Jesus, every time I go to Mass or adore Christ in the Eucharist, it is a personal encounter with the Incarnated One.

And as a metaphor for my faith journey, the availability of encountering Jesus in this way is a constant reminder of Jesus' presence in my life.  I should keep conscious of this fact throughout these days, everyday.

In the words of Simeon, own eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of every people.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Total Consecration: Day 27

Reading: John 15: 1-5

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #61

One week away from making my Act of Total Consecration.  This last week will be focused on the knowledge of Jesus.

Jesus is the ultimate end to any of our devotions in the Catholic faith.  It only makes sense to "save the best for last" in this journey through preparing for the Total Consecration.  He is the vine, I am one of the branches.  If I bear bad fruit, then I will be let go.  But if I were to grow good fruit, I will be pruned and trimmed as to be more abundant.

Jesus is everything that I need in this life.  It is through Him that I have life.

Therefore, I must unite myself to Christ.  On a daily basis, I often forget to unite all my words, thoughts, and actions to Christ.  I've often been distracted or place other things higher priority than Jesus. And I sin too.

And I should't do that anymore. I must be open to and actively pursue to be united to Christ. So that I can bear good fruit.

Ad Jesum per Mariam
- JD

Monday, July 8, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 26

Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:18

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #219-221

In recent years, I've begun to think of Mary as the perfect or most exemplary Christian.  I like St. Louis du Montfort's analogy of Mary as a mold.  Molds make things easier to image, and I can vouch for this through my engineering background.  It is easier to form plastic from a mold that is in the shape desired than it is to start with a chunk of plastic and whittle it down to a LEGO piece.  Mary is the mold through which Jesus came from.  He took on His human likeness because of her.  She had to be the perfect mold to mold perfection.

So then, in the pursuit of being more Christ-like, I would say that I need to mold myself to be more Mary-mold-ish in order to be transformed in Christ.

Am I willing to? Am I scared? Is this attractive?

I am willing.  But I'm not sure how it will play out and that is not reassuring.  But, I know that this is way to go because the way to Christ is a difficult path, but it is only this path that will bring joy and peace.

Ad Jesum per Mariam
- JD

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 25

Reading: 2 Peter 1: 5-8

from St. Louis du Montfort: The Secret of Mary, #57

St. Louis du Montfort would say that Mary is the epitome of how a soul should serve Jesus Christ.  Her pure faith, her humility, her charity, her purity, and her parental care as a mother are the virtues that make Mary's spirit really conducive to be a servant of Christ.

Today's reading outlines a sort of logical progression of a soul's characteristics in order to be a fruitful servant of Christ.  Mary has achieved this progression in a perfect way.

How am I most like Mary? Perhaps my faith though it is not as pure as Mary's.  I've somehow been able to maintain a steadfast faith without questioning it or finding myself questioning it.  I should clarify that this is not the type of questioning that seeks to understand in knowledge, but the type of questioning due to doubts.  I know this type of questioning is a struggle for some people, but it seems like I've been given enough grace to overcome that hurdle.

On the other hand, I think my humility is the most opposed to or unlike Mary.  Oftentimes I develop a sense of pride of self and praise my personal achievements when Mary, I think, would bring back the focus to magnifying the Lord.

I should offer up my pride and ask for Mary's intercession and inspiration in what humility should be.

- JD

A North American Example of Losing Religious Freedom

No. This isn't about the HHS Mandate. Actually, this isn't directly even about any of the religious liberty issues we face here in our nation today.

Ah, al contrario. This is about México.

Whenever the movie, For Greater Glory, came out a year ago, I found out about the Cristero War. Up until the movie was about to be released, I had never ever heard about it.  Thanks to all the talk on Catholic radio, I was able to learn more about the War.

Basically, in the early 1920's, the Mexican government made it illegal to be Catholic and to do anything Catholic. It got to the point where the Mexican government and army hunted and killed Catholics. This sparked a rebellion known as the Cristero War.

Sure, that was nearly 100 years ago in a country that isn't the United States, and times are different. But the question is...what kind of parallels can we draw from the Cristero War with some of the things that are happening in our world today? our nation, today?

Patrick Madrid, prominent Catholic speaker/writer/radio host, gives a 45 minute talk on the topic, entitled "Attack on Religious Liberty."  He had family members who were killed during the Cristero War.  In his talk, he provides the historical context which led to the Cristero War.  He also details a lot of examples of how the Mexican government took away religious liberty (besides dealing death).

Here's the link to a message Patrick Madrid sent out if you'd like to download it yourself:

Or you can watch a longer version of his talk here:

Why do I even care about this?  
I think it's important to learn history, even as difficult as it is sometimes, so that the same mistakes aren't made.  People will always cite the Inquisition, the Crusades, and other examples to paint the Catholic Church as a violent force in history, but it works the other way around too where other entities violently oppose Catholics and the Church.  From what I've been hearing and reading about in recent news, it is a great challenge to live a peaceful Catholic life in the Middle East because some of those in power have a great love for persecuting Christians to the point of killing them. And not just in the Middle East, but other governments and entities have made it super hard to do anything Catholic.

But what about here in the United States?  While I don't expect us to get to the level of killing people of Catholic faith like in Mexico (at least, not in my lifetime...I hope...)... are we getting comfortable with allowing our liberties to be limited or taken away? Are we getting comfortable with being forced to do un-Christian things because the government said so? Are we getting used to the idea that our  faith is being forced to stay within the confines of our church walls and the Sabbath? Hmm.

Well, I will not make this a full commentary on everything regarding the attacks on religious liberty here in the United States.  But I'll just say that it is important to know about the Cristero War so that we can take action (hopefully peacefully) in the defense of religious liberty if necessary.  After all, it is a First Amendment right that we're able to enjoy here in the United States. As long as the U.S. doesn't begin impinge on our other First Amendment rights, we'll be able to publicly and peaceably address issues of religious liberty.

And then! To be Catholic means that our faith goes beyond the doors of our churches ("Mass" in Latin is "missa" which means "dismissal" or understood to be "mission"....or simply put, we "are sent out").   We are Catholic in everything that we do, 7 days a week, no matter where we are.  And there are those who have issues with this idea that Catholics are to be Catholics outside of Catholic churches.  Awkwardly, we do have hospitals, universities, humanitarian efforts, religious communities, businesses, etc. that identify as Catholic and they are fully expected to be in line with Church teaching because if they aren't...then they cease acting in an authentically Catholic way.  Or more gravely, they cease being Catholic. And there are those who want this!  President Calles of Mexico wanted to erase Catholicism out of his country so that his grand ol' scheme wouldn't have the Catholic Church standing in his way. So he took away Mass. He destroyed churches. He killed priests. He killed anyone associated with the Catholic faith.

It seems to me that anytime that the Church finds herself being persecuted heavily, she all the more grows and grows in a profound way.  And saints arise.  In fact, here's a Wikipedia list of saints (some waiting canonization) from the Cristero War. What saints will arise out of today's forms of Christian persecution? Who will make a stand by the life they live and the actions they take? Who will be martyred?

But anyway...

...because it's a good movie to get a feel for what happened during the Cristero War! :-D

...oh and yes, preparation for the greater glory of rising above persecution in all of its subtle and blatant forms. We must prepare for that too.

So let us all learn about the Cristero War and hope/pray/fast that this country never reaches that point.  Besides, I selfishly think it would be a shame if things started going downhill for the American Catholic Church when my knowledge and appreciation for it is steadily growing.  But, what can I do to help? That's what I should reflect and take action on. :-)

- JD

Fr. Francisco at the moment of being shot / TouchStone's Jests

Total Consecration: Day 24

Reading: Matthew 6: 19-21

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #178

Everything in this worldly life has a finite end.  That's why treasures shouldn't be kept here on earth, but rather in heaven.  Because...heaven is eternal. Not only that, but things treasured in heaven are free from decay and wrongdoing.  Nothing rusts, nothing can be stolen...according to Matthew's Gospel.

Mary is the gate of heaven.  Through her, God's perfection dwelled and through Him, heaven opened up.  As St. Louis du Montfort put it, Mary is a "spiritual vessel" to where we can submit our treasures.

What are some "treasures" that I have? I'm blessed with a good family, good friends, the gift of being easy-going with joyful optimism even in stressful times, the graces to be able to grow deeper in my faith when it is so easy for me not to, and many other things.  The thing I treasure the most is my life.  It is truly a gift and even though I haven't lived it out the way I originally planned...(well, that's the plans) life seems to be working the way it should.

And so I entrust all these treasures to Mary, who is the gate of heaven and a resident herself.  She can help store my treasures in heaven where they will be free from decay and wrongdoing for all eternity.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Friday, July 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 11)

--- 1 ---
So last weekend, my parents and bro were in Canada for my mom's sister's wedding.  That pretty much left me at home to fend for myself, which is no biggie. It was just me and my dog.  I took off work last Friday so that I could go to the doctor for a checkup and for my dog to go see the vet for her checkup and annual shots.  I spent most of the weekend away from home because of errands and prior obligations.

--- 2 ---
One of those prior obligations was sitting/standing outside in the Texas heat.  After all our (English) Masses this past weekend, I was outside collecting prayer requests from our parishioners so that my pilgrimage group for World Youth Day can take them and pray for those intentions while we're on our trip in a few weeks.

Despite the heat, it was worth it.  It was really cool to see how grateful most of the people who decided to leave us an intention were.  It's going to be great because there will be plenty of opportunities for us to go pray while we're in Rio.

If you would like to submit a prayer request that you would like me to pray for while I'm there, please feel free to check out my online form that I set up:

--- 3 ---
In addition to my after-Mass heat endurance exercises, I visited nursing homes on Sunday morning for my parish's Ministry to the Sick.  It was a really weird day because a good chunk of the residents I visited were asleep! One of my residents kept falling in and out of sleep which made consuming the Eucharist a little awkward as me and my helper stood their awkwardly. A little bit of water really helped.

But, this is an important ministry even though it can be awkward at times, and I'm gratefully unworthy to be doing it!

--- 4 ---
My dad and bro got back from Canada on Monday.  My brother then moved out of the house into an apartment on Monday.

Haha, so my bro will not be returning to the dorm life for his second year of college.  I got to visit his apartment after work on Monday.  It's pretty decent in a not-so-shady part of town and it's about 10 minutes away from his campus.  I'm not worried.

Despite him moving out, I feel like I've seen him everyday the past few days because there are things he had forgotten.  Yesterday, on the 4th of July, we spent a good chunk of the day with him to buy him some necessary things like food, a bed, and other practicalities.

This is sad.  My grandmother and brother have moved out of the house before me...

--- 5 ---
And my mom returned from Canada on Thursday.  She spent a few extra days spending time with her family and seeing other awesome places in Alberta.  Le gasp, she even crossed the border on a boat! But! Ya know, Montana. Canada.

Please pray for her health's return though! Her feet absolutely do not react well to bug bites of any sort, and she endured several mosquito bites on her right foot.  Right now it is swollen and painful so it makes it difficult for her to walk.  Much appreciated!

--- 6 ---
Someone from my pilgrimage group had asked if there was going to be a blog that we would keep to chronicle our trip.  I decided to look into it and have gotten something together.  For me and this blog, I was definitely planning on posting about my trip here.  But! I may pull double-duty or do some crazy cross-blogging!

More details later.

--- 7 ---
Things got crazy this past week at the Capitol. But you can find other commentary on that elsewhere.  I was browsing through my Twitter feed the other day and saw an interesting tweeted picture...which I decided to comment on while chowing down on a Carl's Jr. salad (not burger...blasphemy, I know) on the 4th of July.

"Supporting women's health is patriotic." Love, PP. No matter what.

Sure, but ... coming from everyone's favorite name brand in all things "women's health"? And seeing the actions of their supporters? I suppose it is patriotic.  o_O Blog post here.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

- JD

Total Consecration: Day 23

Reading: Luke 2: 6-7

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #178

Mary, indeed, is truly special.  God Himself willed that He shall come into the world through Mary.  No other human has this great honor.  She is the way that Jesus came into the world.  God did not will His son to be born from His forehead. Jesus did not magically appear out of nowhere. The almighty and ever living God was made flesh, incarnate of the Virgin Mary.  She's kind of a big deal! 

I've mentioned before how Mary needs to be perfect and special because one does not simply allow God to dwell within one's own self in a very literal way.  She provided the perfect means at which to bring Jesus into the world.  She had to be immaculate and free from sin because a dirty vessel is not fitting for the Perfect One.  She has perfect union with Christ in a way that is comprehensible because we know what a mother and child relationship is.

Because of her perfect union with Christ, I must strive to have perfected union with Mary. Therefore, I ask for Jesus' help in having great confidence and submission to His Mother.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 22

Reading: Romans 8: 28-30

from St. Louis du Montfort: The Secret of Mary, #11-12

St. Louis du Montfort brings up a good point that I hadn't reflected too much on...
As in the natural life a child must have a father and a mother, so in the supernatural life of grace a true child of the Church must have God for his Father and Mary for his mother.
I mean, it makes sense! Being Catholic, we're always making visible, natural signs of supernatural realities.  If I have a mom and dad in the natural life, that must be mean I should have a mom and dad in the supernatural life.  With God as my Father and Mary as my mother, and mom and dad...I really get that filial feeling.  And that sense of belonging to a family.

Since this week is focused on the knowledge of Mary...what does it mean for her to be my mother? I think she helps bridges the gap between me and Jesus in terms of how intimate of a relationship she shares with Him.  With Mary as our Mother...Jesus and I share this intimate relationship with her and through that relationship, unity.

She's also the perfect mother.  She has to be the perfect mother because she is the Mother of God! Maybe the Beetles weren't joking when they let it be that
When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
because she really has been there for me in recent history during troubled times.  She has the most comforting embrace as a mother, the most caring kiss on the forehead as a mother, and the most understanding gaze as a mother.

Thank you Jesus for giving us your mother!

Whenever I get discouraged and dejected (and it happens a lot), I will seek the help of Our Blessed Mother.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Being Patriotic

From everyone's favorite brand-name in all things women's health:

from @PPAct
Yes, because the proper care of our citizens is totally American! And patriotic! :-)

Oh oh wait! Supporting women's health is patriotic.

Perhaps patriotism, according to PP, is wide-access to women's health so that its clinics can make lots and lots of money off of women's need for birth control and abortion and use that money to promote more and more birth control and abortion because women need even more birth control and abortion to pay PP to give them those services. Because those things are healthy for women.  And let's not forget that PP offers a wide variety of other women's health services (but not mammograms) And these things must be supported by everyone lest they be chastised for being totally un-American! Because anti-women's health is NOT patriotic!

If supporting women's health is patriotic, what does actual women's health fall under? Is that patriotic? What does actual women's health even look like?

Women's health ought to be the services necessary to make women truly healthy via medical professionals or properly self-informed women bringing about their total well-being and dignity without compromising other aspects of their health. Right? I mean, it's not entirely far-fetched that this is what actual women's health should be?  This might get awkward because I think this gets more into a Catholic definition and understanding of what women's health is.  And heaven forbid...Catholicness is NOT patriotic. In the meantime, let poor Catholic women do totally unpatriotic things because they're Catholic.

Anyway, supporting women's health is patriotic.  Actual women's health is probably not patriotic. Because it tends towards Catholicism.

It is more patriotic to support women's health through delaying pro-life legislation via filibuster even though such legislation would make clinics who offer abortion services and doctors safer for women so as not to have a repeat Gosnell.
It is more patriotic to support women's health by making signs...especially signs that place more priority on women now than future women (who, by some miracle of science...start out as embryos and grow into fetuses...but they aren't really women, so it's okay to kill them, apparently).
It is more patriotic to support women's health by yelling and screaming at others...and yes, even utter "Hail Satan!" at the camera.

To be truly patriotic is to express one's undying love and devotion to one's country with vigor.  So much so that we should almost be willing to die for our country. But this is America! Since we like convenience and the pursuit of only happiness, we must give up the lives of future generations (and future women) so that we can live as we wish because future generations are too burdensome and sometimes unwanted.  All in the name of women's health! Because supporting women's health is patriotic!


So, it's been an interesting week in Texas.  I think PP is quite on the defensive because things aren't working out in their favor.  I see that they've been tweeting about other pro-life legislation going on around the country and their opposition to it (or least you can infer). They have to resort to calling the support of women's health as patriotic in order to garner support while patriotic emotions are running high this 4th of July.  As they celebrate having hundreds of PP supporters at various capitols, I can't help but remember the half million of pro-life supporters that no one talks about.

Don't get me wrong...patriotism is a good thing! Women's health is a good thing! But...striving for these two very good things doesn't mean that we compromise the dignity of our country and woman.  This past week got ugly.

-raises glass-  But! Despite all her faults and blemishes, she still has beautiful spacious skies from sea to shining sea! I'm still proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free enough.  To the United States! Happy birthday!

Faith. Hope. Love.
Life. Liberty. Pursuit of happiness.
- JD

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 21

Reading: Genesis 3: 14-15

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #52

I suppose one could say that God is God and the opposite of God is Satan.  As in, God's equal and opposite.


No, Satan is one of God's creation since Lucifer was an angel.  But in his rebellion against God, he is a fallen angel.  And that doesn't make him God's equal opposite.  Actually, I'm sure he would love more than anything to be God's equal, but the truth is...he is not!  Out of his rebellion, Satan will do anything to lead others to turn away from God through his seductive lies.

And so...if Satan were to have an equal opposite (if at all) would probably be this woman that is spoken of in Genesis 3 whom God will place enmity between her and the serpent.  This woman ends up being Mary.  She's the thorn in Satan's side because how could a human creature be so endowed with God's grace?  And the Evil One is a jealous type.

I learned in high school that a cool way to think about the Rosary is that every time someone prays it, Mary sticks a dagger into Satan's face.  Whoa.

I learned a year ago from St. Louis du Montfort that every Hail Mary prayed on the Rosary is like offering Mary a rose.  So maybe these roses are the swords and daggers which Mary uses to oppose Satan.

From Genesis 3: 15, this woman will crush the head of the serpent.  When I visited the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land back in January, someone pointed out to me that one of the Marian altars had a unique feature.  I didn't talk about it in my blog...but...the marble/stone used for the floor surrounding a particular Marian altar at the Monastery were brought in from somewhere.  And when they were placing these stones, it was later noticed that in one of the stones, a very distinct imprint of a snake is visible. Beneath. A. Statue. Of. Mary. (not literally, but the imprint is definitely "at the foot" of where Mary stands)

So basically, Our Blessed Mother can oppose Satan in a very powerful and profound way.  God basically said Himself that there would exist a hatred between the two, and obviously Satan doesn't win in the end.  That doesn't mean that Satan won't give up without a fight.

And so, knowing that I've fallen for Satan's lies many, many times...I must ask for Our Lady's help and offer her my temptations so that she can help me in my fight against sin.  Really, against the devil.  She cannot redeem me, but she can certainly help my fight against the devil for she is full of grace and desires nothing but to point me towards her Son, who does redeem me.

I offer Our Lady my inclination to sin.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 20

Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 4-8

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #44

God gives me sufficient grace to turn to Him. No more, no less. It just becomes a matter of whether I respond to His grace and how I respond to His grace.

The most exemplary person who has ever lived and who responded to God's grace in a very profound way is none other than Mary. The angel Gabriel acknowledged her as being "full of grace."  She was so full of grace that the stain of original sin and concupiscence were unknown to her.  What a statement God makes to  fill a human being with so much grace! But it makes sense though, because Mary is the God-bearer when the Word Made Flesh is conceived in her womb.

Someone so full of grace and so loving would probably desire to share it.  So these next few days in the preparation are meant to grow closer to Mary in order to share in the graces that she has received and for her to direct me closer to her Son, like she always does.

Thinking about all the aspects of my life that need the grace of God, I realize that I have quite a few.  But, I think I need the most in being able to trust Him.  Trust in a surrendering sort of way.  I'm sure there's a proper Catholic word for that...

I'll ask Mary to help me obtain the grace needed to be more trusting in God.  This is a constant struggle, and from today I realized that I need her help, now and at the hour of my death.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD

Monday, July 1, 2013

Total Consecration: Day 19

Reading: Mark 8: 34-37

from St. Louis du Montfort: True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, #81

Many times does Jesus ask His disciples to follow Him.  But not just follow Him...but to give up everything to follow Him.  I mean, everything! Worldliness in the material things, and worldliness in the interior things of the heart.  Jesus invites us to love as He loves...which is totally and completely and we can't do that unless we devote ourselves totally and completely.

The whole idea the past few days has been the knowledge of self and ridding myself of being inward-looking.  That my focus and direction should be on heaven to share in God's love perfectly, even if it costs me my comfort, luxuries, and yes...even my life.

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted this grateful post:
Grateful Status Day 259: for the blood of the martyrs, especially in our modern era and for joyful hope despite it all
St. Teresa Benedicta (aka Edith Stein, Catholic woman feminine genius) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (priest who offered to take Jewish man's place) were executed by the Nazis by gas chamber. Blessed Miguel Pro (execution by firing squad photographed and popular image) and Blessed Jose Luiz (child tortured then stabbed) were executed by the Mexican government. Fr. Francois Murad beheaded by Syrian rebels.
And countless others. Fascinating.
Fr. Francois' beheading prompted me to think about others in recent history who have given up their lives at the hands of the world yet remained steadfast in their faith towards God.  It's truly fascinating because they provide real witness to what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Do I cling to my wants and desires without keeping God's will in mind?  Do I daily take up my cross?

And a daily temptation is to make it easier on myself regarding carrying my cross(es).  I need to just man up and die to self and embrace my cross(es).

For every time I think/feel stressed at work, I must remember gratitude.

For every time that I despair in my future, I must be patient and open to God's will.

For every time that I really don't feel like doing something I ought to do, I must do it anyway.

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
- JD