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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Many Hats and Humility (Luke 18: 9-14)

30th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
"Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
'O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity --
greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for whoever exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

For those who know me personally these days, they know that I do a lot of volunteering. A lot. Like, I wear many, many hats. I don't blog about everything that I do because ironically, I'm too busy doing stuff to blog about doing stuff.

Now, for all the "good" that I do helping out at my church and helping out in my community, it may seem like I am attempting to do a lot of good for my own sake. But, no. I am not trying to earn my way into God's good graces.

Last Sunday, I had to teach a class on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I stressed to the students that the reason why Catholics engage in social justice is because we, all of humanity, deserve dignity. And the works of mercy are ways that we can give people that dignity. We are all called to help out the "least of us" as Jesus because helping the least is helping Him. When He was hungry, did I give Him food? When He was thirsty, did I give Him drink? Etc, etc.

I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.
With great emphasis, I stressed to the students that no matter what good we do, we cannot earn our way into heaven. No hundreds of hours of community service will guarantee a cozy spot in heaven. Yes, I feel like I've earned 10 Green Cords (a cord earned for completing 100 volunteer hours at my alma mater), but I know and realize that won't necessarily get me to where I ultimately desire even though I do (what seems like) a lot.

There needs to be a level of humility whenever I engage in the volunteer work that I do. Humility helps forge our hearts to love God and others more than our selves. It increases our capacity to love because we're no longer concerned with self, but rather more concerned with the Other. Through humility, I decrease, so that others may increase, and by having others increase, God increases in my life. 

O God, be merciful to me a sinner.
It is through humility that I can recognize my imperfection. I mentioned this the other day how I had a very real moment in silence while driving home from work because I realized I had to change a certain aspect of my life that has been holding me back from being who I am created in the image and likeness of God. I think the root cause of many sins is the (rather deadly) sin of pride. I see that, quite evidently, in today's Gospel reading with the Pharisee. But yet in the end, it is not he who is held in high regard for he boasts with a sense of pride of his good doings. I often find myself like the Pharisee. "I'm such a pro chaperone!", "I prayed ALL THE MYSTERIES of the Rosary today!", "Psh, I don't use kneelers." ...and the list goes on... But I need to be humble like the tax collector.

See, the temptation of being proud in my good doings is that now the attention and focus is all on myself. This leads to selfishness. And if I am filling myself with only myself, then I have no room for others. And authentic love requires an outpouring of self rather than an inpouring (which apparently that isn't a word...but you get what I mean). O how many times have I fallen because of my selfishness! How many times have I failed to love others because I only wanted to love me!

I thank you that I am like the rest of humanity.
And so, I have to have humility. I have to arrive at the point to recognize that life isn't about me. In everything I do--humility. I do not volunteer seemingly professionally for the sake and benefit of myself, but rather, it gives me opportunities to serve others rather than serve myself. The volunteering that I do lets me encounter the rest of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ... so that I can give of myself in love for them. We're all trying to navigate this world. We're not perfect. But I, at the very least, can do what I can in order give others dignity and mercy.

I think the easiest way to gain a better understanding of humility is to just stare at a crucifix and pray. Better yet, praying at Adoration with Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. If I'm lucky, both are in my view when praying, lol.  It is here, at the foot of the cross, before the Lord, that it becomes very real and apparent to me that I'm just the created and He is the Creator, that I am just the loved and He is the Lover. I am not perfect, without Him. I am nothing without Him. 

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I decrease. Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
- JD

Man with Many Hats // The Foundry 

This type of blog post inspired by Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse.

Friday, October 25, 2013

This Week's Moments

Something that we often do in small groups at my parish is briefly talk about a high point, a low point, and a "God moment" from the past week. We do this in order to build community through sharing a little bit of ourselves.

It dawned on me that this type of format would be good blog material because it would be quicker and easier, since I don't have a lot of free time. And as much as I love 7 Quick Takes, those take time to think about and write about, and I often find that I never have time to finish them. Maybe down the road I'll hybridize the two...

Low Point
Several nights ago, I was doing some Internet searching and didn't exactly find the results I was looking for. I was a little dismayed at this, and got pretty discouraged when the results came back rather lacking because it is information I need. And I'll leave it at that. O_o 

High Point
The other night, the young adult community at my parish launched their first ever event! It's a speaker series + restaurant format and Thursday was the first one. Our pastor was the first guest speaker, and he talked about his conversion story (Episcopalian --> Catholic) and the priesthood. I gained more appreciation of him now knowing about his story. On top of that, the restaurant this was held at is a restaurant owned by fellow parishioners and it's delicious! They make everything from scratch! And their cheesecake rivals that of some found in certain factories!

God Moment
God moments are moments when you feel God's presence or God working in His mysterious ways. I have two from the past week. First, the obvious! Our middle school youth ministry had Adoration a few nights ago, and I decided to join in and spend that time adoring Christ truly present in the Eucharist! It's a lot easier to talk face-to-face. Got to hang out with my fellow young adult volunteers and our high school students too with a scrumptious potluck afterwards!

The other God moment I had was yesterday on my drive home from work. I decided to take some time with the radio off. Earlier in the day, at work, I had listened to some podcasts that got me thinking about stuff. And yikes. Silence is a scary thing. It forces me to be alone with whatever I'm dealing with, and be free from the distracting noises of life, which sometimes comes in the form of the radio. I was just reflecting on those podcasts, and I had a very real moment with God. I think I arrived at a moment of realization of brokenness and humilty with a sincere desire to make like a Michael Jackson song lyric and "make a change".

So,  those were my low point, high point, and God moment from the past week. How about you? Comment below! You can sign into Disqus with popular social media platforms!

- JD

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fire and Division (Luke 12: 49-53)

Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time.

Today's Gospel reading is from Luke 12: 49-53 ...
49 “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; 52 for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three;53 they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”
 At first glance, these are difficult words from Jesus. Without any context or background knowledge of Jesus' other words, and a fundamental and literal understanding, these words are challenging to grasp. Whaaaa?! Jesus is going to set the world on fire like a hellish blaze and he wishes it was already on fire?! AND He doesn't come to give peace but cause division?!

Sheesh! Difficult words indeed, and if I heard all that (or read all that) without knowing much about Jesus, then yes, I might just pull a John 6: 60 ...
60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
to which He replies with a John 6: 61 ...
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?
Yes, Jesus. I do. I won't run away like the disciples (John 6: 66), but this is uncomfortable.

Because I'm not really comfortable with the idea that You want to set fire on this earth and wish it was already burning.

Because I'm not really comfortable with the idea that You wish to divide my family.

But what do You mean? How am I to understand this?

I started attempting at reading Daily Readings again the other day (which by the way, conveniently, the Catholic Church has a set 3-year cycle of Scripture readings for the entirety of the Church to divulge and learn), and this particular one stood out to me so much that I figured I should blog about it.

Fire. I'm not totally well versed in verses, but whenever I think of fire in Scripture, I think of God's presence and purification or refinement. Like, Moses and the burning bush. And that one praise and worship song, Refiner's Fire.

So maybe when Jesus says He wishes to "cast down fire", He wants to make known His presence like He did with Moses. But this time seems to imply something more dramatic. I mean, how dramatic would that be for the Lord to make known His presence with the casting down of fire? An all-consuming type of fire just to really make the point that He is, indeed, present? Scary thought.

Sometimes the earth is called the "Blue Marble" and because sin entered the world, this "Blue Marble" is not as shiny anymore, if I were to think of it as an actual ceramic marble. Perhaps, because of sin, it is caked on with dirt and grime. But Jesus' fire purifies it. Removes the dirt. Analogies are never adequate but I hope you follow it anyway.

Either way, Jesus seems to mean serious business when talking about fire. His presence. His purification love. Real stuff. Serious business.

Which leads to...this part about division.

I love my family, and I don't want to be divided from them, and it doesn't initially make sense why Jesus seemingly desires that He will be the cause of division for us. But the thing about Jesus is that He desires our hearts. Our souls. Does my heart burn for Him? If He makes Himself known (like, with fire) in order to save us from our sins, I only have two responses: 1) Follow Him or B) Turn away from Him.

I think that is what will cause division--the split between those who follow Him and those who do not.

Earlier this evening I got to listen to my pastor give his vocation story (and brief catechesis on the priesthood). He's an Episcopalian priest convert to the Catholic faith. The main driving factor of his conversion was realizing that in the Episcopal tradition, they do not have the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He realized, over time as his heart burned for Jesus present in the Eucharist, that he will follow Jesus in the Catholic faith because of the Eucharist since Jesus is truly present (fun fact: a red candle is lit near any Catholic tabernacle to let the faithful know that Jesus is present) which fire makes me think of God's presence) see above))).  When he made the decision to convert to the Catholic faith, this caused some division in his family of the Episcopal congregation that he was part of for 4 years. Granted, many were supportive, some even wanted to make the jump with him, but still others weren't too keen on the idea.

And then please pray for one of my friends. She's seriously thinking about joining a religious order because her love for Christ burns so much so that she is willing to drop everything and follow Him. I have a limited understanding of her situation, but I know, for whatever reason, things have gotten complicated with her family. A sort of division.

Not everyone is prepared for Jesus' presence and purifying love. This will cause division. But! What are things that I can do to help others and prepare them to come to a better understanding of Jesus so that we are not divided on the Last Day and for all eternity, but rather unified in the Mystical Body of Christ sharing in the beatific vision of God in heaven?
"If you are who God created you to be, you will set the world ablaze." - St. Catherine of Siena
En fuego.
- JD

PS Pardon my lack of coherent think-blogging...I need to gain more experience points on reflect-blogging on Mass readings

Fire // Thomas's Pics, Flickr

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Shouldn't Assume Things About Pope Francis... assuming that he doesn't speak English. See, when he was chosen in the conclave earlier this year, I heard that he spoke a small handful of languages that didn't include English. I mean, whatever! It doesn't matter to me because I know that there are many, many competent translators out there.

And when I was in Rio De Janeiro over the summer for World Youth Day, he spoke not a single word of English. Every time I heard him speak, it was either Spanish or Italian. Maybe even Portuguese.

But...just the other day...Pope Francis sends a video message in English (supposedly, for the first time during his pontificate) to the Philippines on their first Conference on the New Evangelization! Sure, he's reading from paper, but!

What a great, simple, heartfelt, and encouraging message he has for the Philippine Church. :-)

To make this short video even cooler...that's my dad's classmate being all cardinal-y at the beginning...and even more impressive is Pope Francis speaking in Tagalog at the end.
"Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang Asia! Pagpalain kayo ng Diyos!"
"Long live the Philippines! Long live Asia! May God bless you!"
And like any Filipino, I'm always impressed when non-Filipinos speak Tagalog. :-D

Amen, Papa Francesco. Amen.
- JD

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Reality of Death

And I can say with confidence that...

We're all going to die.

My grandparents' graves
It is inevitable.

When I was younger, I attended the funerals of distant (both in blood and literally) family members, and it never really mattered to me. Like, I had no attachment to them. Sure, it was sad, but being young and not really fully appreciating what it means to grieve and mourn, it never hit me. I knew those distant family members were gone, I understood why my parents were sad, but I didn't really, truly care. It wasn't until I was an underclassman in high school that the reality of death became real to me with the death of my grandparents on my dad's side.

I actually got to know my grandparents. Even though they lived in California and I in Texas, my parents made sure that we got to visit them and that they got to visit us frequently while I was growing up. When all my dad's siblings immigrated here from the Philippines, we held annual family reunions! So, losing them at the beginning of high school was pretty hard.

With their deaths, I began to ask myself, in sadness..."How can I cope with the loss?", "Are they in heaven?" and other usual questions.

I lost my grandfather at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. Things were going downhill for him that summer. I forget what caused him to decline, but I think it had something to do with cysts that developed internally that compromised his health. I remember visiting him in the hospital and a month later having to attend his funeral. His was the first funeral I've ever been to for a close family member.

My grandmother passed away almost exactly a year later. Her memory was declining at the time of my grandfather's death, and I remember my aunt telling me that she could hear my grandfather calling out to her from beyond the grave. Creepily romantic, yeah? Late in the summer that year, she fell down and hit her head. She survived it for a while, but eventually she passed away.

When she passed away, yes, I was indeed really sad about it. But having gone through the process of grieving and mourning for my grandfather the year prior, I was more prepared this time around. But even more so, in that time between my grandfather's and grandmother's passing, I grew in my Catholic faith.

I started attending religious education classes at the start of high school as part of my learning and education in preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation. My grandfather passed away at the beginning of my freshman year, and I didn't really know how to cope. Thankfully, through those classes, I began to pay more attention to and learn more about the faith that my family has passed on to me. While I may not have understood the Catholic understanding of suffering and death at the time (maybe I still don't, or not that well), I knew that in dealing with my losses that the Catholic faith was something I could turn to. And yes, with both of their passings, I'm pretty sure I leveled up in my praying.

How can I cope? I don't know, but perhaps asking God to give my grandparents a nice little plot of heaven would be great. At least I know they'll be taken care of.

How can I deal with this sense of loss? I don't know, but maybe by asking God for a sense of peace and calm for my own sake would help me move on.

I'm pretty sure that in going through the process of the deaths of my grandparents helped solidify, in a real way, for me about being Catholic. I first realized I had to have humility. My grandparents don't belong to me nor to my dad and his many siblings. They belong to God. I had to acknowledge that there really is a God and that whenever we pass away, we hopefully return to His loving embrace in heaven. I also had to realize that the Church has given me ways to pray. When my grandmother was in the hospital, I took up a devotion to the Rosary because I didn't know how else to pray for her. Or myself. Or my family.

With praying and beginning to dive deeper into my Catholic faith, I could begin to make sense of death and how to deal with it.

So, with the passing of my grandparents, it became so, so, so real to me that...

Death is a reality. 

But there was this jerk who lived 2000 years ago who Death could not hold (that's why He's a Death). He rose from the dead in all glory and power like He said He would. He showed us that death is not the end, and He invites us to be with Him and the Father who sent Him. Because of Him, the gates of heaven burst open! And heaven is where we can enjoy a sense of eternal joy and peace!

O Death, where is thy sting?!

...well maybe if Death had a stinger... o_O #joke

Knowing about Jesus, His Death, and His Resurrection...and His Church, I can arrive at a sense of peace when dealing with a loss.

And perhaps that's the attraction of Catholicism--that it provides a way of peace and sense in dealing with the reality of death and the teachings of Jesus on the reality of what comes after death. Catholicism doesn't have a cheap or cheesy understanding of the matter, but rather a beautifully rich and full sense of death and resurrection. And the "last things": heaven and hell.

So yeah. Looking back since then, I think coping with death always helps me turn towards my Catholic faith because through it, at least I know there is meaning and purpose. My understanding of the Church's mind on these matters is still a process of learning, understanding, and appreciating even as I deal with the deaths of others that are or are not close to me.

Please pray for my grandparents and for the repose of their souls! That they may enjoy the beatific vision of God in heaven!
- JD

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I feel like a bad citizen...

...because I had no idea who was the elderly man just in front of me.

It's been long while since I've gone to my own church for this very specific purpose. I decided to get in my usual line and was walking down the aisle of pews and caught glimpse of the end of the line.

So I got at the end of the line in that pew, not really paying too much attention to everyone else around simply because Jesus was out of His box, exposed in the monstrance.

There were like...6 people ahead of me. And one by one, they entered into the confessional until it got to be my turn.

I confess my sins, receive absolution, and leave the confessional. I make my way around the perimeter on the outside pews, and caught glimpse of the elderly man who went to confession right before me.

And I noticed, unmistakably, the polo shirt with the logo that I know only city council members wear.

As I passed by him, it dawned on me that he wasn't any ordinary council member but rather... the mayor.

I keep forgetting that he goes to my church! But after my awkward realization, I thought it was cool that I got to spend time in prayer with the mayor of my city in the pew before we went in for our confessions.

Admittedly, I feel like a bad citizen simply because I didn't acknowledge him (I used to work for the city, but I've never officially met him), but you know what, in that setting, I think it was definitely more appropriate to keep the focus on Christ rather than detract and distract by formally saying hello and awkwardly introducing myself.

But despite that, I thought it beautiful and awesome that I encountered someone in public office who professes the faith and is humble enough to admit that he's not perfect before God Himself, seeking forgiveness and absolution because the joy and peace of Christ are the remedy to the restlessness we experience as a result of sin. He's not perfect. Neither am I.

When I passed by him after confession, he had that sometimes stereotypical glow that Catholics have after having gone to confession, and it was cool to see him walk out of the church holding hands with his wife with a big smile on his face (she went to confession too!).

Let's pray for our public servants, especially those in public office--no matter what level of government! That they seek what is truly good for everyone and that they answer their call to serve the public!

- JD

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Not A Review On Gravity

In this edition of "Oh hey, I noticed something  Catholic about this movie-that-isn't-intended-to-be-Catholic", I want to talk about Gravity.

I had the opportunity to go watch Gravity the other day, and I liked it! I was intrigued by the trailer with Sandra Bullock's and George Clooney's characters seemingly drifting in space hopelessly trying to grab a hold of something. Something about space made my aerospace engineering senses tingle. Had to go see it!

It was kind of a frightening movie only because I couldn't help but think about what I would do in the same situations that those characters faced in the movie. But, without giving anything totally away, I appreciated the Catholic themes present throughout the movie.

This is important to know--you can't hear sounds in space. Or rather, you need atmosphere (or not a vacuum) in order to have a small change in pressure that we can refer to as "sound."

But, as important as it is to know that for the beginning of the movie, it's also important as the movie progresses.

Sometimes silence is the only way we can truly be face-to-face with our interior. By interior I mean our deepest thoughts, desires, emotions, etc. In her loneliness in the silence of space, it becomes conducive for Sandra Bullock's character to pray.

In Catholic understanding, we know that God speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. It is easier to listen to His stirring of our hearts in silence rather than the noise of everything we're dealing with.

Immediately, it is beautiful to admire the cinematography of the earth below from the characters' perspective. I can't even fathom how amazingly beautiful the earth must look in real life from above, but I'm guessing this movie gives a close approximation.

Even the characters acknowledge how great and beautiful are the various views of the earth as they orbit around it.

Beauty is one the the three transcendentals (the other two being Truth and Goodness).  It gives us a sense of awe and wonder of something infinite and divine that is greater than us. And seeing the earth from the heavens (by that I mean ... really, really, really, really high in the sky) really allows one to see the beauty of God's creation on planet Earth.

Intercessory Prayer
One of the things about being Christian is that we pray for each other. The Catholic faith even teaches that the saints pray for us in heaven.

Like I indicate above, Sandra Bullock's character prays in the movie. She asks for help on how to pray and wonders about if there would be anyone to pray for her. Just that monologue alone exemplifies her prayer for help as she realized that.

There's also that brief cameo of a St. Christopher icon (prayer card?). I didn't really know St. Christopher already from previous knowledge so I had to go look him up. Apparently he may or may not be real, and he lived in the early first centuries after the death of Christ. I think what's significant is that He's often portrayed carrying the Child Jesus who is said to be extremely heavy because He carries the weight of the world. Perhaps ironically in the movie, you can see the whole world in the backdrop of most shots!  And most fittingly, St. Christopher is a patron saint of travelers, especially when they encounter disasters. Hmm.

And those would be the three things that stood out to me in a Catholic way.

I think Fr. Robert Barron gives a more in-depth reflection on what stood out to him. Great video (WATCH OUT! SPOILER ALERTS!!!):

And Marcel points out some other aspects over at his blog at Aggie Catholics: Fr. Barron Gives Us A Great Reflection On The Movie Gravity.

And a movie critic review by Stephen Greydanus: SDG Reviews 'Gravity'

- JD

Info St. Christopher //
St. Christopher Icon // St. Joseph School For Boys Bookstore - Orthodox Gift Shop
Gravity //

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Health Centers

I saw a seemingly pretty harsh information article regarding Planned Parenthood. I've put it below, emphasis mine.

Deciding what to do about an unplanned pregnancy can be very difficult. It may be made even more difficult by so-called "women's health centers." These are fake clinics run by people who are anti-abortion. They have a history of giving women wrong, biased information to scare them into not having abortions.
These health centers
  • may not give you complete and correct information about all your options  abortion, adoption, and parenting
  • may try to frighten you with misleading films and pictures to keep you from choosing abortion
  • may lie to you about the medical and emotional effects of abortion
  • may tell you that you are not pregnant even if you are. This may fool you into continuing your pregnancy without knowing it. If your decision is delayed, it could make abortion more risky. It could also keep you from getting early prenatal care.
  • may discourage you from using certain methods of birth control that are very safe and effective
Planned Parenthood health centers often pretend to be real health care providers but many are not. These fake clinics often trick women with false advertising. They may make women think they will be offered unbiased information and a full range of health services.
Planned Parenthood health centers also sometimes try to trick women by using names that are similar to the names of real reproductive health centers in the neighborhood. Many times, the crisis pregnancy centers are located very close to real reproductive health centers. This makes it easy for women to go to the Planned Parenthood health center by mistake.

How do you avoid a Planned Parenthood health center?

  • Don't schedule an appointment unless you are sure it's a legitimate place.
  • Ask friends, other health care providers, counselors, or other people you trust for the name of a real health center.
  • If you are considering abortion, you can find a list of abortion providers on the National Abortion Federation website.
No health care provider should pressure you into a decision about your pregnancy. All real family planning clinics will give you information about all your options.
Staff at your local crisis pregnancy center can help. They can give you information on all of your options  abortion, adoption, and parenting. And they can talk through your options with you so that you can make the decision that is best for you.

Those darn crisis pregnancy centers! Talking about Planned parenthood this way! Don't they know how much women need Planned Parenthood?!


Because...Planned Parenthood doesn't play nice with crisis pregnancy centers. But it's really good about talking about itself. The real article here: Crisis Pregnancy Centers according to Planned Parenthood.

Support your local crisis pregnancy center-that-actually-helps-women-by-tending-to-their-pregnancy-needs-rather-than-force-abortion-because-they-aren't-in-it-to-make-money!
- JD

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Gift of a Special Needs Child

Perhaps one of the big temptations in our modern world is that if you don't like it, get rid of it.

But that shouldn't apply to our kids...and's always touching to hear a miraculous story of hope, perseverance, trust,  and humility when the chosen choice is not to get rid of a child because they have special needs.

I heard this podcast on Catholic Answers featuring Chad Judice, whose second son was born with spinal bifida. He gives a brief recap on their story and answers listeners' questions regarding his story and similar situations.

Sure, Chad and his wife could have aborted their son knowing the prenatal diagnosis ...but...they did not! And listening to the struggles and trials they had to endure in making that life-affirming decision has become inspirational for many, including myself.

Not gonna lie, I nearly wept at work while listening to this. Now I really want to read Chad's books on his son!

Listen here:
The Gift of a Special Needs Child | Catholic Answers

- JD

Eli's Reach // Barnes and Noble

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Associate's Day

I'm a big fan of the Franciscan Friars (and sisters, but this is about the friars) of the Renewal. Always have been. They're an awesome group of friars and it's cool that my parish has a close relationship with them (maybe in recent history, two of our own are or have been Franciscans of the Renewal), and it's nice that they have a local friary!

Once a month, usually at the beginning, they host an "associate's day" for us lay people. I've been hearing my some of parish friends talk about attending and how great it is. A lay associate is simply a lay person who desires to share in the spirituality and work of a particular religious community.

Looking at my really busy calendar, I saw that yesterday was a free-enough of a day for me to attend!

Under ordinary circumstances, an associate's day consists of several things. It starts out with Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, a few hours spent with the homeless at a local park, lunch, catechesis, and a Holy Hour.

I arrived at the friary a few minutes past 8AM. I thought I would be late because my dog escaped my residential premises this morning, and it took a little while to coax her back close enough for me to catch her... >_>

No one was really there when I arrived. A few other guys and I walked into the friary and got to chit-chat with the friars while we waited for everyone to show up. I met Br. Isaiah, who I have never met or seen before. I also met Fr. Leo, who apparently is just visiting since he's assigned to some town in England (I forget the name). He apparently is a home grown local and a Tech Red Raider. He is visiting because he needs to receive some surgery.

This was my second time inside their humble abode. After a while, I want to say like 40 people showed up? A good chunk were familiar faces from my parish! 

Because yesterday was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the friars did a renewal of lay associate promises. Lay associates can commit themselves for a full year of dedication to the spirituality and mission of the Friars of Renewal. I got to partially take part in that even though this was my first time. By partially, I mean that everyone present participated in reciting the prayer, but only the candidates who wanted to be official lay associates stated their name during the prayer. The friars keep a list ;-). Haha I didn't put myself on that list...this time.

After that brief ceremony, if you will, we went into catchesis to learn more about an aspect of the faith. In the past few associate's days, Fr. Pio had been explaining the Mass and its different parts. Apparently last month, he had wrapped up talking about Eucharistic Prayer I, and yesterday he explained Eucharistic Prayers II through IV and the end of the Mass.

Wow! I learned a lot! I didn't realize there was a lot of theological, Scriptural, symbolic richness to the Mass! I mean...I knew, but not the details! And even then, I only got part of the Mass since I wasn't there when Fr. Pio explained the beginning parts of the Mass!

Fr. Pio finished his talk, took some questions, then jetted out of there to catch a flight to Chicago to talk more about his experiences in a visit to China where it's really tough to be Catholic. While trying to digest all he had said and all that I learned, we all went into brunch mode.

As I found out at some point, the friars weren't going to take us to the park where, under ordinary circumstances, we we would hang out and help the homeless. And then I also found out that they wouldn't be doing a Holy Hour of Adoration. Instead, there would be brunch and then we would be joining our diocese's Respect Life committee for a Mass in memorial of babies lost before baptism celebrated by our diocesan administrator (since we don't have a bishop...yet).

So, brunch mode. That explained why I saw many other associates bring food through the friary door earlier in the morning. It was a scrumptious spread of dessert and breakfast-type foods! Speaking of food coming through the friary door, one of my parish friends works at Panera Bread, and on Friday night he was able to obtain the leftover breads. He sincerely wanted to donate the bread to the poor and homeless somewhere, and knowing that some of us from my parish were going to the friary, he decided to join along but arriving later. I saw him walk through the door with his bags and bags of breads. What a good way to make use of that bread since I know the friars will definitely distribute it amongst the poor and homeless that they work with!

After much mingling with others, we all left the friary to go to the Mass at another nearby Catholic church.

Haha, it was funny on our way out. I carpooled with two of my parish buddies, and as we pulled out of the parking lot of the friary, Fr. Leo flags us down. Apparently he needed to catch a ride to the church because he was going to concelebrate the Mass.

We arrived at the church and walked in. I had never been in this particular church before, but I could have had an opportunity for Wedding #3B but it conflicted with Wedding #3A. Oh if only I had the gift of bi-location to be at both weddings at the same time!

Beautiful church though! The stain glass windows were recently cleaned and fixed up and you can tell! They had an adult My Size Mary Statue outside that was pretty cool. Oh if only I took a picture ....

Like I said, the Mass was for unborn babies lost before baptism. This includes those babies lost due to abortion, also miscarriages and illnesses as well. And while I could go into writing about why Catholics baptize babies and how important that is, that would make this post too lengthy.

It was cool because I saw some of my brother Knights of Columbus, of the 4th degree, were dressed in their full ceremonial regalia (feathered hat, cape, saber, sash, etc). If I ever see them, that means its a special occasion for sure! There was a part during the Mass (between Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist) where people processed down the aisle to place a rose at the feet of Mary (ie. place the roses at the feet of a Mary statue at the side of the sanctuary). I don't quite know the significance of this other than A) it was Saturday AKA Mary's day B) the Mass was dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary and C) each rose placed is in memoriam of a baby lost before baptism. Solemn stuff.

After Mass, there was a reception. I made the comment to my parish friends that you could never go hungry at Catholic events because you'll always be fed--spiritually and physically. I mean, we just had brunch not too long ago... Haha. At the reception, I got to do more mingling. Then...went home.

So there you have it! While I fully intended to experience a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal lay associate's day, it didn't end up being that way. But that's okay! I still had a very good experience praying with, hanging out with, and Mass-ing with my fellow brothers and sisters! While I think next month might be a challenge for me to go to associate's day, I'm for sure wanting to come back for December!

- JD

The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal //