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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My Theme For 2015

I haven't had the time to sit down and think about New Years' resolutions. Or maybe I'm just thinking about it too much? I'm not sure. But either way, nothing I've thought about has been concrete.

As I was doing dishes this evening after cooking sopapilla cheesecake and Hamburger Helper, a thought entered my head: a general theme for 2015.

Which immediately led to a theme that I'm quite happy with.

Here it is:

Live uncomfortably. 2015.

If my 2015 resolutions and goals were to have a theme, it would be that. That will be my thesis statement. 

It's strange how the thought hit me so suddenly, but somehow it makes a lot of sense for me.

- JD

Monday, December 29, 2014

Filipino Accent Tutorial

One of the parts that stinks about growing up as a Filipino-American is that I don't have a natural tendency to speak with the iconic Filipino accent. It's very distinct. I often use the accent to validate my Filipino Radar™.

My housemate's bro apparently used this to train his missionaries:

If I start talking weird (or normal?!), it's just me attempting at getting back to my roots.
- JD

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Only in the Philippines...

Only in the Philippines would you get a Catholic church featured in a McDonald's commercial.

A translation of the Tagalog words at the end:
"This Christmas, start here each morning. Afterwards, see you later."

A brief explanation:
"Simbang Gabi" means "Night Mass", and it is a long-standing tradition for Filipino Catholics. It's a series of nine days leading up to Christmas where the faithful attend Mass before the sun comes up in anticipation and preparation for Christmas as well as to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. I guess it's similar to the Hispanics' tradition of Las Posadas, but with a different focus.

Simbang Gabi is actually becoming more and more popular stateside, even among non-Filipino Catholics. My former bishop was tweeting about it the other day:

My inner Filipino yearns for such a thing to be a thing here where I live.
- JD

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 33

John 20: 1-18

from Pope St. John Paul II:
General Audience, May 10, 2000

I've mentioned sometime before on this blog (I think, and I can't seem to find the link) that the entirety of our Christian faith is pointless unless Jesus really did rise from the dead. Continuing on with the theme of not remembering where things are exactly, I'm fairly certain that St. Paul also mentions that to the Corinthians or something.

The Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. What sticks out to me in John's account of the resurrection is the sense of urgency among Mary Magdalene and the apostles that she talked to. That sense of urgency must come from this strong desire to encounter the Lord once more because they love Him so much and miss Him.

And more strikingly, how Mary Magdalene was so deeply worried that Jesus' body got taken away and she wept outside of the tomb. The ironic thing is that Jesus and some angels show up and talk to her. But she doesn't recognize who they are.  It's not until Jesus calls her by name that she recognizes Him.

These past 33 days have been a spiritual adventure in allowing me to dive deeper in my relationship with Christ. Going forward, I can be more aware of Jesus present throughout my life, but knowing me, it'll take Jesus calling me by name for me to recognize Him. But I needn't be worried because our Blessed Mother also points the way towards her son. By drawing near to her, I grow closer to Jesus, even if I don't recognize Him immediately.

Making that act of total consecration to Jesus.

And preparing further through prayer, confession, Rosary, fasting, etc.

And keeping a habit of the spiritual fruits I've gained while preparing for this Total Consecration.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Totus tuus,
- JD

Empty tomb //

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 32

Mark 15: 25-39

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Salvifici Doloris, 23

The Cross is a difficult thing to contemplate because it tells of suffering unfathomable. But what makes being Catholic awesome is the knowledge that this suffering on the Cross was redeemed. Death overcome. Sin triumphed over. Etc.

I've been dealing with all sorts of suffering lately. Actually, even within the past hour of typing this. But what's been difficult for me to do is uniting that suffering to the Cross where it be redeemed. Where it can have meaning. Where I can not be alone in my suffering.

Whenever I unite my suffering to Christ, suddenly my burdens are not so hard to bear. I can persevere. I can gain a renewed sense of hope. It's so easy for me to lose sight of that, but in my times of suffering, I must remember the Cross.

I guess that's why, in my latest crucifix craze for the Benedictine cross, I have it in key places where I'll notice it. At home. On my neck. At work.

I need to do a better job of asking Mary, as my mother, to help me in my sufferings. I know she'll console me through her Son.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Benedictine cross // Why Am I Catholic blog

Total Consecration 2014: Day 31

Luke 22:14-20
John 6: 53-56

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11

If there was one thing I learned from high school religious education from when I was in high school, it's that the Eucharist really is Jesus. For most of us practicing Catholics, that's such a no brainer but it's so incredibly paramount to our faith. The source and summit, if you will. It makes Christ's sacrifice so real and because it is so real, I really get a sense of His saving work for us. Not just that, but really, in the most personal way too.  It's been through the Eucharist that I've been able to grow in a personal relationship to Christ. And it's because of the Eucharist that I so desire to receive that I strive for a life of holiness to worthily receive that which my soul grasps for.

Mary received Jesus Body and Blood in a very unique way. I can't help but imagine what receiving the Eucharist post-Resurrection must've been like for her.  To help me further understand and contemplate that, I'll ask for her intercession prior to receiving the Eucharist.

Totus tuus,
- JD

The Last Supper by Rizzoli // Wikipedia

Total Consecration 2014: Day 30

Luke 9: 28-36

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 9

I would imagine that the apostles initially followed Jesus because they just somehow knew that they'd be following Someone pretty glorious. I mean, they eat, drink, hang out with Jesus on a normal day-to-day basis. Learn from Him. Get to do miraculous and rebellious things.

But Jesus invites Peter, James, and John up on the mountain to see Him transfigured. They get to see Him even more glorified. Like, truly, the glorified face of Christ! Now THAT'S quite a privilege and gift!

Not only that, but even God the Father beholds His Son at the Transfiguration. Seeing Christ Transfigured, glorified, is definitely a gateway to seeing the Trinity and delighting in that knowledge and experience.

I'm drawn into that Communion expressed as the Trinity.

New resolve to live a life of holiness enlightened by Christ's Transfiguration in order to dispel any darkness that I'm dealing with.

Further contemplation on what Pope St. John Paul II says about the Transfiguration:
To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendor definitively revealed in the risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us.
Totus tuus,
- JD

The Transfiguration by Raphael // Wikipedia

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 29

Luke 9: 23-25

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Message for World Youth Day XVI, 2001

I've had this problem lately. Like, hardcore. I have issues embracing my cross. I don't know if it's my pride or desire to not suffer, but picking up my cross and embracing it has been such an incredible challenge over the past several months.

Yet our Lord says
If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Pretty cut and dry. No sugarcoating here. In order for me to be a disciple of Christ, I need to work on learning how to embrace my cross even though it sucks. I hate it. I don't like it. It's too big for me to carry.

But whenever I gaze upon a crucifix... my suffering begins to take meaning. My cross becomes easier to bear. Why? Because He bore the wounds and hung from that tree. For me. Out of love.

It's so jarring to have a modern understanding of "love" and to look at a crucifix, which is the greatest act of love man has ever known. It goes against our modern sensibilities and logic regarding love because we understand love to be about what feels good and gives us the warm fuzzies. I cannot buy into the idea that the Passion of Christ was all about feeling good. No, He endured that for us. For you. For me. Out of love.

So then, that then becomes my motivation for embracing my cross. As much as I don't like it, as much as it sucks, ...I need to learn how to embrace it as long as I call myself a Christian. Embrace. Out of love.

I'll ask Mary to help me obtain the graces necessary to embrace my cross because as it has been increasingly evident to me, I cannot handle it on my own. I need Christ to help me carry my cross for His burden is light.

And not just help me obtain the graces necessary to embrace my cross, but to carry a spirit of humility. My ego ever gets inflated so easily.

A Rosary a day keeps Satan at bay. Even if a decade or two is in Spanish.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 28

John 1: 35-41

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Message from World Youth Day XII, 1996

"Behold, the Lamb of God"

That's all it took for John to say to his accompanying disciples in order for them to be curious enough to follow Jesus with him. They were seeking Rabbi...Jesus...God. Ultimately, He was seeking them.

I was a nominal Catholic that went through the motions growing up. It wasn't until I experienced Adoration for the first few times in early high school that I started slowly figuring out that wow...I really want to seek this Jesus that everyone talks about.

As my faith has matured since then, it's become even more and more obvious that it's not me who first seeks God. He seeks me first. And I guess knowing that, whether consciously or subconsciously, my response has been to seek Him all the more. And to stay with Him at His invitation, like the disciples and John.

I'm not looking for something. I'm looking for Someone.

I should take time in prayer to reflect on what I should do to further pursue and seek God on a deeper level than my current practice of prayer, receiving the Sacraments, and service to others. And then act on the fruits of that prayer.

I'll offer up my Rosary tonight for that.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Jesus identified by John the Baptist by Vannini // Wikipedia

Total Consecration 2014: Day 27

Mark 1: 14-15
Luke 4: 16-22

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Redemptoris Missio, 13

Recently, I shared a store ad with a friend. It was a decent discount on something I thought she would need. I mean, it's still up to her whether she rejects or accepts it and purchases the items on that ad. But either way, I saw good news in discounted prices, and I couldn't help but share it.  (purse holsters for concealed handguns are perhaps practical contraptions...)

Looking to Jesus, I know that the words He said, the miracles He performed, and all the stories about Him are collectively Good News. He preaches the Good News. He does the Good News. He is the Good News. I guess I never realized that Christ, in totality, is the Good News. Pope St. John Paul II writes
Since the "Good news" is Christ, there is an identity between the message and the messenger, between saying, doing and being. His power, the secret of the effectiveness of his actions, lies in his total identification with the message he announces; he proclaims the "Good News" not just by what he says or does, but by what he is...
I identify myself as Christian, and after reading that I now wonder if my identity as such manifests itself in a total manner like His. I'm not perfect, but certainly that perfection is worth striving for.

Today's readings touch on how the hour has come and that Jesus fulfills the prophecies about Him. Now, because of that, we must repent and believe in the Good News in order for us to enter into His kingdom.

This preparation for Total Consecration is indeed helping me welcome Christ and His Good News into my life through Mary. Through my cooperation with God's grace, I can enjoy that everlasting joy in His friendship and behold His face.

Being very intentional with this last week of preparation since I am to make my act of total consecration in less than a week. This week focuses on the knowledge of Christ. No excuses, I shall read the Daily Readings.

Of course, daily Rosary.

And for us at my parish, confession is on Thursdays. I will go. No excuses.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Jesus preaching in the synagogue //

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 26

John 19: 25-30

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Redemptoris Mater, 45

Maybe like a week ago, the reflections were surrounding this idea that we're adopted sons and daughters of God. So if God's only begotten Son is Jesus, and Mary is Jesus' mother...then perhaps in this sequence of logic, we can conclude that Mary is also our mother.

But wait! I didn't even need to reason that out because Jesus entrusts to us His mother. From the cross, He says to John, the beloved disciple, "Behold, your mother!" after which John took her into his own home. Jesus gives His mother, Mary, to us. Where John literally took her into his own home, I begin to ask myself do I take her into my own home? My very own inner life? As my own mother? This notion really stresses the mother and child relationship that Mary and Jesus definitely shared, and shares with us all. She is our mother in a very concrete way as revealed by her Son.

As Mary is my mother, naturally I go to her for when I'm in need (for her to intercede for me to her Son). It's been a blessed week with quality time spent with great people or getting to know awesome people better. But there are still areas I've had struggles with in the past week. And for those, I'll bring to Mary. My mother.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 25

Uhh, I don't think she would say "Let it be"
John 2: 1-11

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Redemptoris Mater, 21

I'm a fan of The Beatles. They have catchy classic songs, what can I say? One of their popular songs is Let It Be. The first verse of that song goes something like:
When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
But as we read in the Gospels, there's some truth to these Beatle'd words. At the Wedding at Cana, I'm certain they were partyin' it up since Jewish weddings must be that intense because they ran out of wine. You cannot keep partyin' and stay festive for such a joyous occasion if there's no more liquid courage. In all seriousness, I remember reading somewhere that it is quite significant and problematic to not have enough wine for a wedding party in the Jewish tradition. I forget what that was, but certainly it is a problem. Conveniently, Mary and Jesus were in attendance of this particular wedding party that had no mo' pinot. And what happens? Mary points out that they've run out of wine, Jesus kind of curiously asks what He should do about it and then Mary tells the disciples to "Do whatever He tells you."  So Jesus tells them to fill large jars with water that He then turned into wine! Party on! Excellent!

So then Let It Be comes to mind. The very real struggle of not having any wine left is a problem. A time of trouble, if you will. And Mother Mary is there, you see. Speaking words of intercession--not "let it be", but rather, "Do whatever he tells you."

For me, this is just so indicative of how Mary loves us and loves Jesus. As Pope St. John Paul II puts it,
Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs and sufferings. 
I remember a time when I was having a really, really stressful time at work. This was several years ago before I took up any hardcore devotions to Mary apart from the occasional Rosary. For whatever reason, I had the idea in my head to ask for her help and yeah, in my mind's eye, she really did come to me. She didn't say anything, but simply offered a comforting embrace and literally pointed to Jesus. I felt better and more at peace after that. Sorry though, Our Lady of the Cubicle is currently a private revelation.

Ever since then, I've come to acknowledge that she really does intercede and pray for me. I'm not great at totally holding that notion in my own heart, but it's always comforting to know when I remind myself of that.

I'll continue to remind myself and cultivate that awareness that she is praying for me and not be afraid to ask for her intercession, especially during my times of trouble.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Harvard Valedictory Speech...In Latin!

First of all, props to Mary Anne Marks for making it into Harvard. Not just that, but she made valedictorian! Not just that, but she delivered her valedictory speech in Latin!

See for yourself:

I don't even know what she said, but I'm impressed that it's memorized and not in her native language. Latin isn't exactly easy, and I struggle with just singing/chanting it.


More props, because not only did she graduate as valedictorian at Harvard, but she's also becoming a religious sister with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, MI. 


Kathryn Jean Lopez from the National Review Online interviews her about her background and motivations as to why she decided to enter into religious life.  Interesting!
LOPEZ: I don’t know about you, but I read the New York Times. A number of the op-ed columnists there, and a number of the news stories, tell me that the Catholic Church is anti-woman. And from other stories, about the various scandals, the Catholic Church also sounds like a dying, loser organization of sinners. Why would you choose to represent it in such a public, hard-to-miss way — in a religious habit?
MARKS: I feel privileged to represent the Catholic Church in a visible way, because it is an organization of sinners and sinners-turned-saints, emphatically alive, expanding, and responsive to the needs of the time, an organization that has been enormously effective in promoting the spiritual and material well-being of women and men throughout the 2,000 years of its existence.
Read the rest here.

Pretty cool stuff. She is definitely en fuego.

- JD

I first read about this through Fr. Z's blog.

Speech // YouTube

Total Consecration 2014: Day 24

Luke 2: 41-52

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 14, 20

I remember when I was kid, I would tag along with my parents and grandparents to the mall most weekends. One of my favorite places to "hang out" would be the video game section of a store because I'm such a gamer, even from a young age. I remember being pretty good about asking permission from my parents to stay occupied at the video games counter trying to collect the next star on Super Mario 64, and they'd often leave me there while they go do their shopping. Sometimes when I'd had enough or didn't feeling like hogging the controller so the next kid could play, I'd go out and about trying to find my parents. These were the days before cell phones and pagers, mind you.  And I think one time I went off trying to find them about the same time they came to fetch me at the video games section, but didn't find me. Eventually, we ran into each other and my mom would stop freaking out and be grateful I wasn't like, lost or something.

In today's reading, I can only imagine how incredibly stressed out Mary and Joseph must've have been having traveled already for one day and realizing Jesus wasn't with them. When they returned back to Jerusalem, they searched for three days before finding Him in the temple. How joyous that occasion must've been! If only that they were reunited once more as a family. But what was He doing? He was teaching the scribes and rabbis about the faith and having intense conversations that I bet most 12-year olds don't have. He asks them that seemingly rebellious question, "did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"  This totally points to the acknowledgement that Jesus is really God's Son and Jesus is just doin' His thang teachin' and preachin'.

But, even then, He obediently went back with them to Nazareth, and Mary kept all these things in her heart. That joy, especially, in finding Him.

Hmm. The joy in finding Jesus. I think this little episode in Jesus' life, He teaches Mary and Joseph that He's really God's Son and what His mission is. There's great joy to be had in encountering or finding Jesus at a crucial time. Would they have been as joyful had He taught them via another way?

It's a wonder how God can teach us things even in the most desperate of situations. But just as Mary and Joseph were faithful in seeking Christ and the joy resulting from actually finding and encountering Him, so it must be also for my life. Even in my feelings of being lost and desperation, actively seeking Christ is the solution.

From Pope St. John Paul II, he writes
From the divine standpoint, the Spirit is the interior teacher who leads us to the full truth of Christ. But among creatures no one knows Christ better than Mary; no one can introduce us to a profound knowledge of his mystery better than his Mother. (RVM, 14)
Mary leads us to discover the secret of Christian joy, reminding us that Christianity is, first and foremost, evangelion, "good news", which has as its heart and its whole content the person of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the one Savior of the world. (RVM, 20)
A theme with Mary is that she keeps all in her heart, most especially her son. I shall seek to further contemplate with Mary and her heart the wonders and love of Christ, because she knows Him best out of all of us humans.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Monday, December 1, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 23

Luke 2: 22-40

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Redemptoris Mater, 16

Because it's Monday, I just got back from a weekly young adult event at my parish that includes a Holy Hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with Lectio Divina. Again, we looked at yesterday's Gospel, which is where Jesus was telling us to be watchful for we do not know when the master will return.

Today's reading for preparation for Total Consecration was about the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. Simeon beheld Jesus exclaiming that he has seen salvation with his own eyes. And to Mary, he said there will be misunderstanding about Jesus as well as her heart being pierced.

I shared in small group discussion following Lectio Divina earlier that I contemplated whether Mary knew or not when her heart would be pierced. Mary did you know? That your baby boy would suffer death, even death on a cross? And that your heart would be so pierced? I don't think she would have known when that would happen, but either way she was watchful. She had to be prepared at any given time for her to endure great suffering out of her love of God and her Son. She had to be vulnerable in order to love. In other words, her love and obedience to God would not be without suffering and sorrow. We see that most especially when she loses him in the temple 12 years later, and most significantly at the foot of the cross.

But, even though her heart is pierced by a sword, her heart is undoubtedly united with the heart of her Son. In this way, she shares in His suffering, motivated by her love for Him.

I love being Catholic because it doesn't guarantee an easy life unmet with challenges and suffering, but rather, a total embrace of suffering. Not in a masochistic sort of way, but with the realization that out of suffering, good can be borne.

I need to be watchful and to prepare my heart to be able to embrace the suffering in my life. And really, I have two most excellent models for what that looks like in Jesus and Mary. I'll strive to unite my heart to theirs. I'll do my best to respond to the grace God has given me in order to combat the shortcomings of my heart due to pride...due to sin.

And a Rosary a day keeps the devil at bay. ;-)

Totus tuus,
- JD

Is the Holy Spirit the same as the Force?

A good  radio interview from the Son Rise Morning Show with Greg Willits on the differences between the Holy Spirit and Star Wars' the Force.

And with your spirit.
- JD

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 22

Luke 2: 1-19

from Pope St. John Paul II:
General Audience, November 20, 1996

Today is the start of Advent! We all wait in eager anticipation for the arrival of the Christ child. The Word made Flesh. Incarnation. Conveniently, Day 22 is about contemplating and being grateful for Christ's birth and really entering into Mary's experience.

From today's reading, the angels let the shepherds know that the King is going to arrive. And what do they do? They heard this good news and "they went with haste" to see for themselves that the King indeed has arrived!

The part that stinks about Advent is all the preparation, anticipation, and waiting. Can't we just get to the good part where we get to see Jesus? But no, like the shepherds, they had a time of preparation before they went to go see Jesus. The angels briefed them. They were prepared so that they might be more open to see Christ for themselves.

Much in the same way, Mary went through preparation in order that she may conceive our Lord in her womb. The entire Old Testament is her Advent. And because she was so prepared, she obediently said yes in cooperation with the overabundance of graces she has from our Lord.

And that's an interesting perspective to further contemplate. As we prepare ourselves during this season of Advent, how much more interesting would it be to prayerfully put ourselves in Mary's shoes and see her perspective for the coming our Lord, Jesus Christ.

At the end of today's reading, it says
Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
What memories she must have spending all that intimate time with Jesus! No wonder it is efficacious and beneficial to properly pray the Rosary because in the Rosary I contemplate milestone moments in Jesus' life, but Mary is right there with me, showing me the way.  She always kept Jesus at the center of her innermost being--her heart.

Reflecting on significant memories in my own life, and inviting Jesus and Mary into these memories.

Taking Advent pretty seriously in terms of preparation.

Daily Rosary. No excuses.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Immaculate Heart of Mary //

A Freakin' Cool Day Job

So maybe I have a folder full of aerospace pictures I've gathered since college. And maybe recently, I've moved that folder to the cloud so I have access across all my devices, which is useful. And maybe I have Windows 8 on two computers and it lets me cycle through them on dual monitors! Spoiled, I know.

But I've never really thought about how these pictures get taken. Then I saw this article. I'm a fan of fighter jets because they're just freakin' cool. The F-35 is the newest fighter jet out there, and Liz Kaszynski gets to go up in the air and take pictures of the F-35 and other jets too! That's so awesome!

A YouTube spot on her:

That's just such a freakin' cool day job. It combines two things that really resonate with me: photography that captures a sense of beauty and aerospace (fighter jets!). 

Thanks to Liz, I'm adding even more to my collection!

- JD

Original Lockheed Martin article here.

F-22s in Hawaii // Lockheed Martin

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 21

Luke 1: 39-56

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Redemptoris Mater, 12

Full of grace. That's how the angel Gabriel described Mary at the Annunciation. I can just imagine that the grace is all the more abounding in Mary because she literally had to carry Jesus. You know, God. In her. Raise Him. No big deal. But why is she full of grace? Because she has faith. Not the wishy washy faith. But real, authentic, genuine faith., Her response to Gabriel's announcement was a resounding yes and she could say yes because she responded to that faith she has in God.

Her grace overflows, and I can share in that grace just as her cousin Elizabeth shared in it by encountering Mary at the Visitation. As I prepare to consecrate myself to Jesus once again through Mary, I'll remember her faith and her joy because of she is so full of grace.

Reflecting on the blessings God has given me, of which there are many. And I'll strive to let my faith be more like Mary's.

I'll also pray a Rosary.

Totus tuus,
- JD

The Annunciation by Da Vinci // Wikipedia

Friday, November 28, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 20

Luke 1: 26-38

from Pope St. John Paul II;
Redemptoris Mater, 39

With Day 20, this begins the week that focuses on knowledge of Mary. Her own life is consecrated to Jesus, and by drawing myself closer to her and contemplating her, she'll naturally lead me to Jesus.

She was so open to God's call for her to be the mother of His Son. What heart she must have to be able to love the Lord in the most intimate way humanly possible! She willingly accepted her call to motherhood. By her example, she offers herself as a total gift to God.

How often does God call me to do His will and I submit to it? Probably not often as I should. No, I know I find that to be challenging. But I can look to Mary as an incomparable model to what it means to follow God's will.

Opening my heart to Mary and seeking hers to better understand her nearness and love for Christ.

And praying a Rosary to further contemplate His life through hers.

Totus tuus,

Total Consecration 2014: Day 19

John 8: 31-32
Galatians 5: 1, 13

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Veritatis Splendor, 86

I think the word "freedom" is one of those words that seems to have lost its real meaning. Our modern culture treats it more like "the ability to do whatever you feel like." At face value, that seems like a satisfactory definition of freedom, but in practice, I'm not convinced. In our culture, freedom seems to open us up to choose the world, the flesh, and the devil. Not only does our culture gives us the freedom to choose these things which are harmful to our soul, but justifies those choices. And come on, it's not too difficult to see the effects. Our culture is enslaved. Is genuine freedom really the right to do have the ability to do whatever I want?

I've heard it said before that authentic freedom is the ability to choose the good that I should do. Real freedom opens us up to the true, the good, and the beautiful. Which, spoiler alert, opens us up to the love of God (which is true, good, and beautiful)! My everyday choices gives me the opportunities to be in communion with God or... not.

In past days for this preparation for Total Consecration, I've reflected on how the truth about man is for man to be in communion with God. We are His adopted children. We are called to holiness. Pope St. John Paul II writes
Freedom then is rooted in the truth about man, and it is ultimately directed toward communion.
But because we're imperfect, in a way, our freedom is inclined to betray us to be open to the true, the good, and the beautiful. He continues
...within his errors and negative decisions, man glimpses the source of a deep rebellion, which leads him to reject the Truth and the Good in order to set himself up as an absolute principle unto himself: "You will be like God" (Gn 3:5).
I need Christ to set my

As I've received graces to combat my shortcomings, there are still areas which are still challenges. These, I shall bring to Mary so she can help me thrive in true freedom just as she demonstrates genuine freedom in her fiat.

Totus tuus,

Photo courtesy of National Education Policy Center

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 18

John 15: 9-17

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Redemptor Hominis, 10

I've heard it said before (somewhere) that the two most fundamental human desires are the desire to love and the desire to be loved. Love is so necessary to being human. Love is what separates us from the animals. We can choose to love. We can choose the greater good of the other, the beloved.

I was helping out my housemate at his youth group not too long ago, and we were discussing hell through what the Catechism teaches about it. However, the conversation got sidetracked to the meaning of love and its necessity. We are made for love. Pope St. John Paul II said
Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.
How can I choose to love if I don't know what it is?

And that's why it's important for me to draw close to our Lord because He is love. Loving our Lord fulfills those fundamental human desires to love and to be loved. And by loving our Lord, I can gain a better understanding of myself because it is He who created me. I am weak. I am restless. I am uncertain. But even in all my weakness and sinfulness, I should always strive to draw near to Christ. For Christ loves me just His Father loves Him.

Taking some time to deeply examine my relationships to family, friends, and strangers as well as seeing how I love them all. Through this, also seeing how Jesus has loved me.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Crucifix // Busted Halo

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 17

John 15: 1-8

from Pope St. John Paul II:
Christifidelis Laici, 18
Novo Millennio Ineunte, 43

I'm the type of guy who tends to fall into the idea that I can be self-efficient enough to be able to take care of myself on my own without requiring the help of others. In other words, I attempt at thriving apart from others. This also translates to attempting to do things apart from God's help and guidance. But the Lord has definitely shown me over the years, even especially in recent times, that apart from Him, I miserably fail. I fail because I am not truly in communion with Him and His will.

It was through my novice study of Pope St. John Paul II's Theology of the Body that I began to understand the Holy Trinity as a communion of love. You know, the Father loves the Son in a profound exchange of love, the Son loves the Father in a profound exchange of love, and that love between them is so strong and profound it results in a third, the Holy Spirit.

From yesterday's reflection, I know I am made in His image. I was created to be in communion with God. Likewise, I'm created to be in communion with others as well because we're part of the Mystical Body of Christ. He is the vine, and we are the branches. He is the head, we are His body.

I can easily remove myself from being part of the vine, His body, through rebelling against Him.  In today's reading, He explains that only those that abide in him bear much fruit. If I rebel against Him, I'm effectively cutting my own self off. In sin, I become my own branch apart from the vine and will wither and die.

But if I'm in communion with Him, then I will bear much fruit. I will thrive because I'm being who I'm created to be and that is to abide in Him out of love for Him. And only good things can come from abiding in Him and bearing much fruit. It's like following that chain combo in Candy Crush or something where your score gets super multiplied.

So by being in communion with Him, I am a branch attached to Him as the vine. But I'm not the only branch. My brothers and sisters are also branches. And because they are branches to the same vine, I need to have the ability to see them as such. They are a part of me too. They are children of God, too. They deserved to be loved too. And I'm grateful for them as gifts for me, too.

Striving for communion with Jesus. But also Mary as well, because she had a very profound sense of communion with Jesus when she carried Him in her very womb.

At work tomorrow, I'll strive to see each person as a "gift" for me because they too are part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

Pope St. John Paul II said
A living and life-giving communion which Christians no longer belong to themselves but are the Lord's very own, as the branches are with the vine. (Christifidelis Laici, 18).

Totus tuus,
- JD

Mystical Body of Christ // Copiosa

Monday, November 24, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 16

Genesis 1: 27
Genesis 2: 18-25

from Pope St. John Paul II:
General Audience (Theology of the Body), November 14, 1979
General Audience (Theology of the Body), January 16, 1980

I just got back from a Holy Hour at my parish that also involved some time for Lectio Divina on yesterday's Gospel, which is where Jesus was talking about separating the sheep and goats in Matthew 25. He says that the sheep, or the righteous, will inherit eternal life because they took care of the least of their brothers and in doing so, they took care of Jesus.

In our sharing of what stood out to us from spending time before the Blessed Sacrament and encountering Him in the Word, we talked about recognizing the dignity of others when we show mercy towards them.

Which leads me to today's readings for preparation.

I am made in God's image. My human dignity comes from the very fact that I am made in His image. And I know that's important in the way that we view others because my fellow brothers and sisters in humanity also are made in His image. And as such, I owe them respect. Love. Not just any love, but love as a gift of self in a self-sacrificial way. Feeding the hungry. Sheltering the homeless. Visiting the imprisoned. Healing the sick. And so on.

Being both body and  soul, my body has,  in Pope St. John Paul II's words, the "power to express love." I can use my body to offer my self in love for others by serving and taking care of them. By doing so, I, in a sense, am taking care of Jesus.

Yesterday, I visited my nursing home residents again. Even though I serve in the role of Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and offer them the Eucharist, Jesus Himself, I can't help but behold their own faces. I behold their faces because as I see them consume the Eucharist, it becomes incredibly real to me that I'm no longer looking at Annette, Vicky, Joe, Carlton, and Diane's faces. Rather, truly I'm looking at the face of Jesus! Through their reception of the Eucharist, they become one flesh with our Lord so for me to look at their face is really me looking at Jesus. Kind of blows my mind away, now that I think about it.

And what blessed opportunity that is! I want to blog more on this, but I oftentimes don't feel like going to visit my residents to bring the Eucharist to them. It takes a lot of effort, sacrifice, and dying of self for me to go. But! O the consolations I receive for actually choosing to go! What a gift it is to see their brightened faces when I visit them!

And they're grateful because I've offered my self as a gift to spend that time with them. To bring them Jesus. To pray with them. Whenever I'm done visiting with them, I'm often filled with a better sense of who I am as a person and how I'm called to love and serve others. Which brings to mind the words of Pope St. John Paul II when he says
Man cannot "fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self." (Gen. Aud., January 16, 1980)
Looking to Mary as a prime example of the gift of self, I shall turn my thoughts, desires, needs, preferences, pleasures towards the gift of self rather than towards myself. This is an area I very much struggle with.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Mother Teresa feeding child // Whole World Women

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 15

Readings - Matthew 5: 48; Mark 10: 17-22

from Pope St. John Paul II - Christifideles Laici, 16; Veritatis Splendor, 19, 22

I'm grateful that I don't have this existential crisis of not knowing my purpose in life. Seriously, living a Catholic life has its perks, and one of those perks is the understanding of one's purpose. Mission. Calling. Or should I say... vocation. 

Pope St. John Paul II writes
the prime and fundamental vocation that the Father assigns to each of them in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit: the vocation to holiness, that is, the perfection of charity. Holiness is the greatest testimony of the dignity conferred on a disciple of Christ. (CL, 16)
I am called to live a life of holiness. In the deepest sense. And what is that? A perfection in charity. It's not enough to follow commandments, but rather live out a call to a rooted life of holiness abounding in charity. To the rich man, who was an ardent follower of the commandments, Jesus said
You lack one thing; go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.
The one thing he lacked was charity. He had many possessions. He didn't share that. He thought it was only good enough to follow the law.

It is a daily reflection as to how God wants me to grow in charity. I'm not always good at responding to every opportunity. Oftentimes, I'm like this rich man who left sorrowful because he had great possessions.  I become sorrowful when I lack the interior disposition to live a life of charity because of my pride, selfishness, and ego. I lack the one thing.

I shall strive to imitate Mary's example of holiness by living a life of virtue. And allow my love for Jesus and Mary to grow all the more.

Asking for St. Therese of Lisieux's intercession, I'll strive to see the little ways and opportunities to grow in holiness in my day to day life.

Totus tuus,

I'm using Fr. Brian McMaster's Totus Tuus to prepare for Total Consecration. Get yours here on Amazon!

Vote for your favorite #100PicsOfBeauty!

At last! I have finally taken #100PicsOfBeauty through Instagram! It only took me something like a year and a half, but that's okay!

I'm surprised no one has asked me about why I did it...but...before I do, I figure I could have some fun with it.

From now til the end of the year, sign on to Instagram and follow me: @r4nd311, and Like your favorite pictures from my #100PicsOfBeauty. Conveniently, they are the most recent 100 pictures that I have on Instagram!

For my Facebook friends and Twitter followers, while my Instagram photos do get posted on those as well, I'll only count Likes via Instagram only.

After the new year, I'll post the top 5 most Liked #100PicsOfBeauty and then... explain why I did it!

Get excited! Click here to go to my Instagram profile, follow me, and Like your favorites! You can also use the sidebar to get to my Instagram profile.
- JD

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 14

Readings - Matthew 3: 13-17; 1 John 3: 1-2

from Pope St. John Paul II - Christifideles Laici, 10-11

The way I know that I'm part of the family of God is because I have been baptized. Baptism begins the process of Christian initiation whereby I become an adopted son of God. After Jesus was baptized by John (the Baptist!...go figure), God descended and with a booming voice expressing His delight when Jesus was baptized.

Certainly, I would imagine God being well pleased even at our own Baptisms.

But what does it mean to live out my Baptism in such a way that recognizes that I'm, in fact,  an adopted son of God? Baptism is the first threshold in living a Christian life. Through it, I can begin to grow in my faith and be equipped with the graces necessary to live out a truly Christian life. To live out my call to holiness.

Pope St. John Paul II said
It is no exaggeration to say that the entire existence of the lay faithful has as its purpose to lead a person to a knowledge of the radical newness of the Christian life that comes from baptism, the sacrament of faith, so that this knowledge can help that person live the responsibilities which arise from that vocation received from God...
Which makes me think of my ministerial roles that I've been active in. I'm in the business of teaching others the Catholic faith. How do I begin to share with them that they are adopted sons and daughters of God and loved as such? I think it begins with me recognizing this very fact. For me. By virtue of my Baptism, I'm an adopted son of God.

Reaffirming what I believe in by reflectively praying the Apostle's Creed before I go to bed tonight.

Totus tuus,
- JD

Theophany of the Lord // Icon Reader @ Wordpress

Friday, November 21, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 13

Readings - Matthew 11: 25-30; Ephesians 1: 3-8

from Pope St. John Paul II - Redemptor Hominis, par. 8

What makes Jesus so unique compared to the next god-like man, prophet, teacher, is that He is God, but incarnate. Word became flesh. God became human by sending his beloved Son to dwell among us. God became man. And it is through Him that
...we have redemption through his forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.
He came to save us. And more strikingly, He does so by being like us.

I would imagine that Jesus being fully God and fully man, I would expect that He knows everything about what it means to be human. He knows my desires, my fears, my joys, my sorrows, my clarinet skills, my not-so-newb tech and gadgetry skills. And the list goes on. Bottom line--He knows me.

In my faith life, especially lately, I've been experiencing this effect of learning more about myself if I pursue getting to know Jesus better.  I can't think a better way to get to know myself better than by spending quality time with the one who created me.

My identity is in Christ. No, really. 

I will ask for Mary's continued intercession and presence throughout my day.

I will not be afraid to live out Marian consecration to better find my identity in Christ.

- JD

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 12

Reading - Matthew 5: 13-16

from Pope St. John Paul II - World Youth Day Message, 2001, Toronto

I've heard it said before that sin makes you boring. I guess that makes sense because of our fallen human nature and our tendency to sin. Sure, sin seems really shiny at first and feels good at first, but how easy it is for sin to entrap me into a consistent pattern? That's boring.

No, I'm made for better. I have been set apart through my Baptism. I'm not called to a life that is boring, but rather the adventure of life that is striving towards communion with God. My life can be transformed through answering that call to holiness--to be the best version of myself. But if my life were filled with sin, I would fade away into boring-ness.

It's funny how mainstream media covers things that are going wrong. And they constantly inform me of the same cycles of "This is the worst thing ever".  No one ever talks about the good that people do, yet these are the most intriguing of stories.

I'm different. I'm Baptized. I'm called to a life in Christ, which is most certainly not boring. I have this growing tiredness of this same, bland world.

Jesus says
You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world... Let your light so shine before men, that they  may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
 I have to add flavor. I have to be different than what the world, the flesh, and the devil want me to do and be. I don't want to settle for mediocrity.

Pope St. John Paul II addresses the youth for World Youth Day in Toronto
Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! Dot not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life, and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart. You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life. If you have an ardent desire for the Lord, you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.
I need to stay salty, my friends.

The past twelve days in preparation for the next phases of Total Consecration preparation have been filled with grace, though I'm still struggling with some things. I will ask our Blessed Mother to intercede for me in these areas and rededicate myself with renewed generosity towards others. To be a light for them. And to add a little flava.

Totus tuus,
- JD

I'm using Fr. Brian McMaster's Totus Tuus to prepare for Total Consecration. Get yours here on Amazon!

Salt // Dominicans Interactive

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 11

Reading - Matthew 7: 21-23

from Pope St. John Paul II - General Audience, September 11, 1996

A long-standing personal prayer of mine has been simply this: "Whatever Your will is, Lord, it shall be mine as well." I remember starting to pray that prayer when I was in high school as I was beginning to learn more about my faith.

Of course, the greatest interior struggles and personal battles I have been through since forever has been the times when I thought my will was greater than God's. Even recently, that's kind of resurfaced again as I think about my future. Upon closer examination (of conscience?!), it seems that if I pursue my will over God's, I lose focus on heaven.

And even as I pursue doing good things, sometimes I do good for the sake of doing good and not keeping in mind if it's really God's will or not. It kind of goes back to focusing on self rather than on heaven.

Jesus teaches that
Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Hmm. "He who does the will of my Father."  Not JD's will. The Father's will.

That's what makes Mary so awesome. She was totally obedient to God's will. "May it be done to me according to thy word." She's a great model to follow God's will with docility and trust. And as Simeon told her at the Presentation--her heart will be pierced. Following God's will doesn't guarantee happy and warm feels.

That's a good summary of my faith journey so far. Following God's will is difficult because of its ups and downs. And in the downs, it is so tempting to not trust God's will. I need to be ready like Mary.

When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, she had a new resolve to do God's will. I need to carefully reflect on my upcoming life transitions and really begin to pray for God's will to be done.

And I offer my thoughts, works, and desires to Mary so that she may purify, embellish, and present these to Jesus through her Immaculate Heart.

Totus tuus,
- JD

I'm using Fr. Brian McMaster's Totus Tuus to prepare for Total Consecration. Get yours here on Amazon!

Annunciation by Da Vinci // Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 10

Reading - Luke 15: 11-32

from Pope St. John Paul II - Dives in Misericordia, par. 6

Reading the parable of the Prodigal Son again reminded me of God's forgiveness and mercy.  He's always willing to love us, and He is overjoyed at our return back to Him. But, I think that in order for me to receive His forgiveness and mercy requires action on my part. As I've known before, the lost son squandered his father's money and spent it on life's pleasures. In the midst of that, he came to a moment of realization when feeding the swine while he himself is hungry that his father's servants were better taken care of than he himself in his present, poor situation. Realizing this, he resolves
I will arise and go to my father and say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven an before you; I am no longer worth to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."
He takes action with an openness  to receive his father's forgiveness through acknowledging that he's done wrong.

And how was the prodigal one rewarded? Like overabundantly! His father said to the other son, who complained that his bro should receive such merriment and fanfare upon returning
It was fitting and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.
I know when I've gone astray, it usually feels good and fleeting if only for a moment. But then the burden of sin weighs down, and I feel lost. It's only when I recognize, in humility, that I've done wrong and make a conscious effort to return back to God do I feel His love and mercy. I cherish it more when I truly repent.

A son never ceases to be his father's son. No matter how much he screws up, he's still his father's son. And what great love the father in this parable must have for his son upon his return. What joy! Now that I'm thinking about it more, I wonder how overjoyed God must be whenever I turn back to Him.

I definitely have my areas of weakness, misery, and doubt. I'll ask for Mary's intercession in these areas to better receive God's love and mercy and to truly see Him as a loving father.

Totus tuus,
- JD  

I'm using Fr. Brian McMaster's Totus Tuus to prepare for Total Consecration. Get yours here on Amazon!

The Prodigal Son by Rembrandt // Wikipedia

Monday, November 17, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 9

Reading - 1 John 1: 5-10

from Pope St. John Paul II - Reconciliation and Penance, par. 13

One time during college, I went to grab dinner with a classmate at our dining hall. I think we started talking about times when to get together to do homework and studying that week, and I mentioned that I would be going to Confession on a certain day and that I would be available afterwards.

I knew my buddy is Catholic so I figured he would at least appreciate the fact that I'd be going to Confession. I encouraged him to go with me so we could go do our study session afterwards.

And I'll never forget what he said.

"Psh, I don't need to go to Confession. I'm perfect."  Ok, maybe not exact quote but close.

I mean, knowing the guy, I was thinking inside of my head that just even from my own observations of his actions and words through interacting with him that perhaps a little soul scrub in Confession would do him some good.

But I felt sad for him because he was too prideful to admit that he's not perfect. I felt sad for him because he maybe didn't recognize areas in his life where he could improve for God's sake (and not just his own sake).

For today's Total Consecration preparation, I read that in 1 John 1
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us... If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
To be a sinner and to not admit to sinning would be living a lie. It's not the truth. There's no sorrow in living a lie. Continuing in that lie continually brings me further away from God. I know He reaches out, but do I humbly reach out to return back to Him?

And that's why it's important to have penance. To repent. Pope St. John Paul II says that this is "the essential first step in returning to God." In doing penance, we need to do so in the "fullest sense of the term: repenting, showing this repentance, adopting a real attitude of repentance."

Confession isn't efficacious unless I approach it with a truly repentant heart. And there have definitely have been times where I've gone to Confession and not really felt completely sorry for the times I've fallen short.

Through Marian consecration, it'll help me form a more perfected desire for holiness and a truly sorrowful heart for the times I've rebelled against God.

I think my resolution is to humbly ask God for the grace to feel a real sense of sorry whenever I screw up. As my ego and pride seem to be off the charts lately, it's easy for me to screw up and think too highly of myself to feel that true sorrow.

Totus tuus,
- JD

I'm using Fr. Brian McMaster's Totus Tuus to prepare for Total Consecration. Get yours here on Amazon!

Confession with Pope Francis //

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Total Consecration 2014: Day 8

Reading - Luke 12: 22-34

from Pope St. John Paul II - Message for World Youth Day XVI, 2001, par. 4

Lately, I've been dealing with a lot of anxiety because I have either lost a sense of trusting in God or have forgotten what that trusting in God feels like. I have this tendency to establish a plan for my life, and whenever  these plans are not accomplished, it causes me to be anxious.  To further compound the anxiety is my pride and inward-looking self.

Trusting in God. That's difficult. Especially in trusting Him enough that He will, in fact, take care of me.  Jesus tells the disciples
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have a neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!
A big part of trusting in God is to let His will be done. Whatever His will is...infinitely better than anything I can come up with. In fact, I need to deny myself and be open to His plan. As St. John Paul II says
To deny oneself is to give up one's own plans that are often small and petty in order to accept God's plan.
Jesus does not ask us to give up living, but to accept a newness and a fullness of life that only He can give. The human being has a deep-rooted tendency to 'think only of self,' to regard one's own person as the center of interest and to see oneself as the standard against which to gauge everything.
I'm not the standard. Who cares what I desire to happen? What matters is that His will be done and not mine. There is peace in that because by living out His will, I am being who He created me to be.

I cannot think of anyone more trusting of God than Mary. She went through a lot in raising Jesus and being present during His Passion and death.

Because I know she is so trusting, I entrust to her my anxieties.

Totus tuus,
- JD

I'm using Fr. Brian McMaster's Totus Tuus to prepare for Total Consecration. Get yours here on Amazon!

Walking Across America...For Life!

Back in May, I further blogged about my experiences at this year's March for Life in Washington, D.C. I basically said how I inhale at being pro-life because I've not really responded to the different pro-life rally experiences that I attended at the beginning of the year.

October is National Respect Life Month, and I realize it is now November. I totally meant to post this in October because it would be more fitting, but like Aggie football, I simply ran out of time.

As I'm still marinating on different ways to be further involved in the pro-life movement, I thought it would be cool to feature how others are involved. Honestly, with over 500,000 people attending the March for Life on a yearly basis, surely there's someone doing something cool, interesting, clever, impactful, etc. to spread the pro-life message.

And that leads me to Crossroads.

I heard about Crossroads for the first time from a good friend in ministry who did it about 10 years ago. Oddly enough, he's the same good friend who inspired Lauren to do Crossroads. She is one of my relatively new friends.

Lauren is a student at St. Gregory's University. I met her at a diocesan service camp reunion last Christmas break, and she later helped me with a Confirmation retreat. You can view her Crossroads profile here: Lauren.

I had some questions for her regarding Crossroads:
What is Crossroads?
Crossroads started 20 years ago when a group of Franciscan University students, inspired by a talk St. John Paul II had given at World Youth Day in Denver, decided that they needed to do something to address the problem of America's culture of death.  That "something" ended up being hitchhiking to the west coast and walking from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. wearing t-shirts that had the words "Pro-Life" spelled out in duct tape.  Today, Crossroads is a nonprofit organization that sponsors and oversees groups of young adults who walk in three routes across the United States as well as routes across Canada, Australia, Spain, and Ireland every year.  
Why did you want to do Crossroads?
The pro-life movement is a movement that's happening in every field, all the time.  Every kind of professional, from doctors and lawyers to parents and pastors to journalists and celebrities can help people to understand the sanctity and dignity of human life.  I'm a teenager and a student: I can't write laws, raise children, or affect people through my work.  But I can spend twelve weeks walking across the country, and maybe that's crazy enough to get people thinking.  
What was the most rewarding aspect of doing Crossroads?
When we were walking, we were really trying to inspire people to get involved by praying, offering sacrifices, and participate in ministry and activism in their communities.  Because we were literally passing through every place we went to, we never really saw the results of our actions.  With that in mind, I think the most rewarding aspect of Crossroads was just accomplishing the task we set out to do.  At the end of the walk, my team got bumper stickers that looked like the ones people get at marathons, except ours said "2,438" instead of "26.2."  Being able to say that we walked across the country was amazing.  
What was the greatest challenge?
I suppose the obvious answer here would be "walking," but I enjoyed that.  My walk's RV engine blew up after three weeks, just before we crossed the Rocky Mountains.  It was supposed to be fixed within a few days, but due to the inevitable comedy of errors, we didn't get it back until two days before we reached D.C.  While that led to plenty of adventures living out of a suburban, a minivan, and a host of shady motels, it was pretty difficult.  We joked about being homeless a lot, and even wrote a ballad about it (which can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace or the Gilligan's Island theme, depending on how bored you are of walking through Missouri).  
Walking across America, did you encounter more people who were pro-life or pro-abortion?
The vast majority of the people who interacted with us (meaning that they honked, yelled at us from their cars, talked to us in grocery stores and gas stations, or came up to us after Mass) were pro-life.  That was one of the most hopeful things I encountered over the summer.  One of the most disappointing things, however, was how few of those people were involved in the pro-life movement in any way.  I hope that maybe by seeing what us walkers were doing and how important life is to us some of them were inspired to do something in their own lives.  
After doing this, what was your response?  What did you do going forward and/or how did this experience change your approach to being pro-life?
I loved it, and I'd really like to walk again because I think that it's a phenomenal opportunity for sacrifice for any young person.  I think that sacrifice is what I really learned about this summer: small things that would have irritated me or made me angry in the comfort of my college campus simply had to be accepted on the road.  Every aspect of our lives for those 12 weeks was about the other, not about us. 
I recently went on a 20 mile walk to visit a Benedictine monastery, and that is nothing compared to the nearly 2500 miles that people walk for Crossroads. I have much respect for those who participate in Crossroads because I've had but a small taste of what they've accomplished.

I like what Lauren said how it really taught her about sacrifice. Any young person can better spend their summer doing other things and not face the challenges of walking across America. As any properly formed practicing Catholic would understand, we can suffer to bring about a greater good. They had purpose in their mission by spreading the pro-life message everywhere they walked. The unborn are worth fighting for, even in this way.

I also find it interesting to note that on the ground level, the everyday American people encountered along the road, are pro-life. But not necessarily engaged. I wonder how I can personally inspire others to actively respect and defend the dignity of human life.

While I do find Lauren's experiences to be inspiring, it's not practical for me to take that many months of work to do Crossroads. I mean, it's not like I'm saving vacation days to go to Poland in 2016 or anything. I'll definitely be praying for Crossroads and their apostolate for next year, though!

You can read stories from the road at their blog (with pictures!): Crossroads Pro-Life Walks

To read up more on what they're about, who the walkers were this past year, and look into possibly participating in the future, check out their website:


"At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of life has been put into your hands." Pope St. John Paul II

All pictures from Crossroads