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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Currently Reading: The Lord of the Rings

Yes, I'm terribly behind. Yes, the movies came out like over ten years ago. Yes, I finally own it thanks to the miracle that is Kindle.

I'm enjoying it because I'm a fan of those epic journey stories. Currently, Frodo and friends are still trying to escape Black Riders and are on the fringes of the Shire. I guess I never fully appreciated that hobbits love to sing for it almost seams like every chapter (for now) has a merry song included within. When will the Lord of the Rings musical come out? Haha.

Again, I'm reading this for fun because I've read too many books for Catholic intellectual and spiritual pursuits.

Though, I'm curious what Catholic truths Tolkien has either purposely or not purposely woven through this journey. But, that's not like...a deal breaker in terms of enjoying the story. For funsies! That's all. Because I'm a nerd like that.

We'll see.

Just because.
- JD

LEGO Lord of the Rings // IGN

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I Inhale At Being Pro-Life

Before getting into the bacon and eggs (as opposed to meat and potatoes (maybe I just finished cooking myself homemade bacon and egg english muffin sandwiches)) of this blog post, I originally intended to have a really good intro. You know, to help introduce this idea that I particularly inhale (translation: suck) at being pro-life. In the first draft of this blog post, I began to talk about how f___ing cold it was at the March For Life in Washington D.C. back in January of this year.

Lo, and behold! That ended up being its own separate blog post. #BloggerProbz Read it here, for it is technically my intro to this blog post.

And I’ll awkwardly pause for you to re-read that because it is important to know. (the ellipses following all link to the intro)

Ok. Cool.

Like I said, I experienced different consolations for attending the March for Life. And again, the March for Life was actually just a particular event of a greater trip to Washington D.C., but the March itself was our primary purpose although we did get to experience other things. This year was pretty similar to my first time going back in 2013. This year I had a fantastic time, and going again really reminded me about the importance of continuing to defend the right to life of unborn human beings and behold the preciousness of life.

In recent years, I’ve grown to understand and appreciate the importance of responding to experiences. An example of that would be like my trip to Rio De Janeiro last year for World Youth Day. At the vigil the night before before the closing Mass, everyone was gathered at Copacabana Beach to hang out and pray with Pope Francis. There was a time when other members of the group that I went to Rio with and myself had to go use the facilities. The problem was, because there were a few million people squeezed into the Copacabana Beach and not really enough portable toilets, my group and I walked into a very crappy situation. You could smell the toilets from at least 50 feet away. The. worst. So at other points during that trip and whenever I returned back to the United States and attended large public events like air shows and festivals and had the need to go, I remembered that really crappy experience and respond with ecstatic joy knowing that over 9000+ other people didn’t use my chosen port-a-potty. I just need to remember to also respond with bringing hand sanitizer with me, too. x_x

Or another example would be trying a restaurant for the first time, liking it, then telling everyone about it. Because it was a good, enjoyable experience, I cannot help but tell the world that DeVivo’s is a good restaurant, even if their meatball sub received a bad review from one guy on Yelp.

I’m sure I can come up with other examples, but the basic idea is simple: experiencing different things evokes a response following such experiences. I can either respond or not respond with further action.

And that’s where I begin to inhale at being pro-life.

One does not simply experience the March for Life and not go do pro-life things afterwards. It’s a worthy, truthful cause because it does become a matter of life or death for those who cannot choose it for themselves. I mean, if you know any 10-week old human beings in the womb who can Chuck Norris their way out of getting sucked into a powerful vacuum that would suck their brains out or use knife hand blocks against scalpels attempting to cut them up during an abortion, I would love to meet them and blog about it. But otherwise, who will fight for them?

I would think that it should follow that after going to the March For Life, I should be more motivated to be more active in pro-life things. I mean, I distinctly remembered being rather motivated after going to the March. I remembered that I resolved to do more than what I was already doing. I remembered that this desire to help out in ways I could swelled all the more because of the March. I remembered that I’m not alone in this cause and it should be really easy for me to do stuff with the strength of others.

But no.

I have not done a good job with that at all this year, thus far.

Nevermind that I used to go pray in front of clinics and have actually saved a baby or two. Nevermind that I do, in fact, have some sidewalk counselor training and slight experience in the field. Nevermind that I have advocated and donated to a ministry that helps abortion clinic workers leave their clinics. Nevermind that I’ve helped make baby beds or raised money to help pregnant women in need. After the March for Life, I’ve not really continued to do any of these things. But after the March, I felt a fiery motivation to pick these up again and do more.

But I didn’t respond or follow through with resolutions after experiencing the March.

That’s why I inhale at being pro-life.

As I’m writing this, I’m trying to think of why I have so failed to respond. My only excuse is that I’ve been too busy since January. Sure, I’ve had some life transitions, and many other things going on, but that’s not a good enough of excuse (to me) to not continue what I’ve been doing for pro-life work. And then some.

To make it worse, the weekend after the March for Life in Washington D.C., I went to the Texas Rally for Life in Austin! I responded to the March with another march, AND I STILL DIDN’T RESPOND…

But just because I haven’t responded with doing actual stuff doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about what I can and should do. Ok, maybe once I did go do my usual pray in front an abortion clinic but Everyone’s Favorite Name Brand Women’s “Health” Clinic was closed for the day because no abortionist was available. Still prayed though. Even then, I didn’t resolve to keep up with my usual frequency of praying in front of abortion clinics. I’ve only gone once since coming back from both of those marches.

However, one idea kept haunting me since January. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. My idea, which I’ve been hanging on to since January, never came to any sort of fruition. I never responded fully to this idea. My idea was this: I should help out the local pro-life pregnancy center that’s within my city’s limits! They’re close by, maybe they could use volunteers for help, and maybe I can donate my time, money, or supplies. I like this idea because it’s something I haven’t done before. I mean, if this guy can bring pro-life women’s health to the front steps of abortion clinics, then maybe I can not do anything as intense as that but perhaps bring myself to the front steps of a pregnancy center and help out with whatever I can.

Cool idea!

Never did anything with it. Inhale. Inhale. Inhale.


Now. May, as in…month of.

One of my unofficial bros is a middle school youth minister for my parish. Nine months ago, he had a night teaching his middle schoolers about the importance of pro-life and why we are pro-life. Middle schoolers. That's awesome! And as a way to make the importance real, he had them all spiritually adopt babies and name them. I’ve done that before. My first one’s name is Melody and my second one is RJ, but that was a year or two ago. Well, fast forward 9 months, and we are here in the month of May. They decided to have an end of the year party to celebrate not just the end of the year, but to celebrate the birthdays of their spiritually adopted babies because it’s been 9 months. How fitting! There were Coke floats, pizza and cake.

An aspect to this end of the year party was for the middle schoolers to bring baby supplies. Oh and get this! These supplies are going to be donated to the pregnancy center that I’ve been constantly thinking about since January! So when I heard that my Middle School Youth Minister Bro was doing this for that pregnancy center, I simply couldn’t resist. I was like…”chyessss!!!! FINALLY! An easy, achievable way for me to contribute!” And contribute, I did. Yes, because I’m single-but-hopeful-for-kids-one-day-but-striving-to-not-be-jealous, I still find it awkward to be in the baby supply aisles at Super Target. What do I get? What brand should I get? Would they need more diapers or wipes? Shampoo? Heck, I’ll get all three…

Mission success, awkwardness not-withstanding. I threw in my stuff along with the other baby supplies, and between the other adult volunteers and students, we have a nice pile of supplies to donate to that pregnancy center.

No, I don’t feel totally satisfied with this simple act of buying some stuff. I feel called to do more. Or maybe re-called to do the stuff that I used to do on a more consistent basis. I don’t know, but I need it to make sense for where I’m at right now in life. That doesn't mean I'm compromising my position in any way regarding abortion. I'm just trying to figure out the best way for me to help out in a productive way. Maybe that means continuing to make awkward trips to Super Duper Awesome Target or Wal-Mart SuperDuperAwesomeCenter to pick up more supplies to donate.  Maybe that means praying in front of abortion clinics again with more added emphasis on me sidewalk counseling because that’s totally uncomfortable for me. Maybe that means that I try to reach out to abortion clinic workers and literally try to help them find other jobs in case they harbor a conflicted heart because of the way they are applying their profession. Maybe that means actually, physically volunteering at that pregnancy center. The options are many. How can I still respond to my experiencing the March for Life (and the Rally for Life)? It’s not good enough for me to just experience these rallying moments for the movement without responding in kind.

I don’t want to inhale at being pro-life. As a man, I want to be heroic at it because it’s so totally worth fighting for saving lives. Maybe not necessarily in the biggest ways, but at least in the trivial ways. It's not easy. It's going to inhale. Not everyone is necessarily a friend of pro-life work. It makes me uncomfortable. It's not going to be convenient. I'm already hated for doing this or even desiring to do this. And I'm okay with that. Challenge accepted.

Ponder this more, I will. Then action, will I do. I just need to…


So F(reez)ing Cold

It was so f____ing cold!!! A day or two before, Washington D.C. got something like six to eight inches of snow. We were effectively snowed in because A) public transportation was closed, and B) it would be strongly lacking common sense to walk around in that kind of snow in an unsafe neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

PS We stayed in a dangerous ‘hood of D.C--Anacostia 4 life!

Anyway, when it snowed, that’s when the wrath of Canada hit us like a cold-nami. The weather service said that the temperature would be in the single digits with negative wind chill. So f____ing cold! #NativeTexanProblems  The verbiage in the weather report pretty much said to...

…because of frostbite potential. Ew.

I remember looking up the weather on the day of the March. It was in the low 20’s and wind chill in the single digits or something. I had to go full on winter ninja.

On the day of the march, we set out to go to a rally and Mass at the D.C. Armory with hundreds of our friends who were there for the same reason. After that event, we made our way to the March at the Mall.

Because the Mall is a fairly large expanse of field, the wind was definitely not subtle. The mall looked impressive with a fluffy comforter-sized blanket of snow. So f____ing cold! Removing gloves to take pictures was painful. Even as a winter ninja and silently stomping through the snow, the frigid air out-ninja’d me and silently snuck past my multiple layers.

But let me tell ya—despite the incredibly cold temperature, my group was still but a snowflake in the ocean of people that showed up to this year’s March for Life. Last year, it actively snowed during the March, but it didn’t accumulate. This year, it had already snowed, but the unapologizing wind was terrible.Yeah, the snowy weather on the east coast that week in January deterred people from being able to attend the march, but the turn out was still rather impressive. Sure, it was miserable (because it was so f___ing cold!), but everyone was smiling and enthusiastic!

That’s what I find to be pretty awesome about the March for Life. Yes, it is always tempting for our mainstream media to paint such a thing as “anti-choice” or “anti-women” and that we pro-lifers are a hateful bunch of snowballs, but what never seems to be captured or talked about is this resounding joy and enthusiasm for the pro-life cause. The March is so full of joyful people! It begins to make no common, logical sense why would anyone want to stand and march in so f____ing cold weather for a few hours. We march because we celebrate life and abhor that it is okay (and legal) to kill our most vulnerable of human beings. We do not march out of hate, but out of love for the preciousness of life, of love for both mother and child, and to make a stand against the forces that make it okay to take life away from these vulnerable, innocent human beings.

We are joyful! This genuine, authentic joy lets us be impervious to our trivial sufferings in the so f___ing cold weather because the cause is worth it on a deep, human, and universal level. It's worth fighting for.

This was my second March for Life. The consolations for going included awesome reminders to myself that:

  • I am far from being the only one who cares (as evidenced by the hundred thousands also marching alongside me)
  • The cause worth it, and any suffering endured because of the cause is worth it too
  • Seeing that this will continue because for the most part, the general population of those who march are younger than I am, and that is encouraging
  • Life is worth guarding and celebrating

Yeah, the March was only a day out of a week that I spent in Washington, D.C. However, the March was the primary motivation to go in the first place. The other days of the week was spent in prayer, and sightseeing. You can get an idea of what I did by looking at my blog posts from last year: here, here, and here. Pretty similar, although we weren't able to make it out to Arlington Cemetery this year.

Because of all that I suffered through that week of the March, which climaxed with a wintry wrath just before it, my sufferings made that experience all the more awesome. It left me begging a certain question of what should I do next, after the March? How should I respond?

- JD

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An Example of His Humility

Last Sunday, I went to go visit two nursing homes. I’ve been on hiatus for the past few months knowing that I’d be busy and stressed out with other things, but now I’m back on rotation. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m part of my parish’s ministry to visit the sick and infirm in local nursing homes. Our primary purpose is to pray with Catholic nursing home residents and to bring them the Eucharist. Elderly, sick people often don’t have the opportunity to go to Mass so a good handful of volunteers at my parish rotate visiting different local nursing homes to bring them the Eucharist and to pray with them so that they’re not left out of the parish community and Church.

As an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion serving in this capacity, it’s my responsibility to safely carry the Eucharist from the church to the nursing home. I use a pyx, which is a small container for such purpose:
Here's mine, but they can look different
My duty to minister the Eucharist to other people is extra-ordinary. Serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is extra-ordinary because ordinarily it is the ordained who should minister the Eucharist (ie. priests and deacons). Priests and deacons aren’t necessarily in abundance at all times to serve the needs of the faithful in this way, and that’s why it’s legit to use trained people, called Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, to minister the Eucharist. Sometimes that means non-ordained like me involves going to nursing homes with Jesus. :-)

Last Sunday, I blogged about my frustration with seeing baby pictures all over Facebook. I had arrived at a very sickening point of jealousy and envy last week. Lots of interior healing needed. When I drove from my church to the first nursing home, I couldn’t help but be humbled by the fact that the God of all creation and the universe is in my pyx. In my pocket. In my Honda Civic. Whenever He’s with me like this, I totally have the radio turned off. I don’t think I should be distracted by Beyoncé's musical stylings when God is with me in this way. After all, I shouldn't be distracted at a time when I needed interior healing from dealing with my jealousy of seeing others’ baby pictures, and the Divine Doctor just so happened to be right next to my heart (yay dress shirt pockets!).

I arrived at the first nursing home probably a decent 10 minutes before my partner showed up. I couldn’t help but take that opportunity and spend that time with Jesus in the Eucharist on my dashboard (after removing Him from my pocket). I also spent that time begging for His help and mercy in order to have a sense of gratitude and humility to combat my jealous feelings. Very humbling experience. I don’t know that I am eloquent enough to capture the rawness of that.

So my partner arrives, and we do our thing visiting 7 residents between two nursing homes. It is such a privilege to be able to literally bring Jesus to these nursing home residents. They're always so grateful, and oftentimes I can tell that they need Him. I mean, if I need Him to deal with my own set of problems, how much more is He needed for these residents in order to deal with their own sufferings? Regardless, my residents and I recognize our need for healing--our need for Him. And it totally blows my mind how He humbles Himself in the form and appearance of bread to allow Himself to be accessible in such a tangible way yet He is truly present: body, blood, soul, and divinity. Like, whoa. It makes having this "personal relationship with Jesus" that Christians oft speak of such a very real thing.

Unfortunately our resident lists for the two nursing homes we were assigned to visit has grown shorter in the months that I’ve been absent. Actually, my previous blog post about one of my residents who was so genuinely afraid to die, she passed away a few months ago. Let's pray for the repose of the souls of those who are no longer with us.

Réquiem aetérnam dona eis, Domine, et lux pepetua luceat eis. 
Requiescant in pace. Amen.
- JD

Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dear Facebook friends, I'm so frustrated with all of your baby pictures

I'm actually not that great of a Facebook stalker. I don't really go into profiles, but I do go into certain groups because maybe I'm an admin for a few of them. Therefore, the extent of my "Facebook stalking" is whatever shows up on my News Feed. I suppose I stalk my News Feed.

Inevitably, being the age that I am, it is the. prime. time.  to get married and start having kids. Because an abundance of love overflows and love is never kept to self, it only makes logical sense that husbands and wives share their love and joy with others. On Facebook. Cool wedding pictures!

Then comes the baby in the baby carriage. The love of husband and wife is so strong, so real, that it results in a third person. That is so profoundly biological and Catholic-ly theological/philosophical. Undoubtedly, a barrage of totally adorable pictures follows on Insta-Face-gram-book. First steps. First bath. Here's our baby with our other babies (ie. dogs). Oh look at this picture with our baby wearing the cutest clothes evurrrrr. Teehee, our baby made a funny face (MEME DAT!). Aw, look at our baby dressed in collegiate wear!


With that said...

Dear Facebook friends,

I'm so frustrated with your postings of your adorable baby (or babies, if you have been generous in your love for your spouse) on Facebook and Instagram.

Look, I get it. You want to share with your friends and family this joy that you and your spouse have. I get it. You want to preserve these precious memories of your child so that you can easily go back on your Facebook Timeline years later and have that nostalgic moment remembering that precious memory. I get it. Now you have blackmail-worthy pictures of your child to show their friends when they're in high school or college or wedding day. Whatever your reason, I get it.

First thing. Did a bunch of you get together about 9 months ago (+/- few months) and collectively decide to have babies right around the same time? Because my Facebook News Feed is totally inundated with a wave of babies' pictures right now. Post, after post, after post. Babies. Babies. Babies. And let's not forget the sonogram pictures too. And because y'all may or may not have gotten together about 9 months ago and collectively decide to birth at the same time, there are a good number of you posting baby pictures. At least I'm not forced to keep looking at the same cute, adorable baby at any point during my typical News Feed stalking. Hey, variety helps.

Second thing. Not only are you posting baby pictures, but you're posting baby announcement pictures, baby-in-the-womb-growing progress pictures, and other fancy creative ways to posting pictures about your baby. What deep bowels of Pinterest have you been perusing? Not that there's anything wrong with that. And these kinds of pictures are usually not one-and-done. No, no! They're like a weekly (dare I even say in some cases, daily?!) update. More status-ing about it all. More pictures. More frustration for me.

Third thing. What's the deal with you who are married yet don't have kids? It's frustrating because I practically expect some sort of generous, overflowing profound love that results in a baby that merits posting about it Facebook/Instagram. And yet I'm left with nothing. The anticipation is killer and that's frustrating. Look, you and your spouse might have legit reasons to not have kids right now...but come on, it's been a few years.  Please, I beg you--add to my frustration!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Finally! One Kindle Book To Own Them All!

I just got done reading Answering Atheism by Trent Horn minus some of the rather lengthy appendices with arguments against the classical arguments for the existence of God. Whenever I turned that last Kindle app page, I decided that I haven't read a book for fun in a long while! I mean, I read for fun just not like in a fiction sort of way. Most of the recent books that I've read have been for Catholic intellectual pursuits, and the last time I entered through the pages of a land of wonder was in Alagaesia with Eragon when I finished Inheritance over a year ago.

Some of the books that I've read recently, before Answering Atheism, were about different things. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen taught me that love requires a third Person in Three To Get Married, C.S. Lewis showed me four different kinds of love in The Four Loves, and a witty commentary on What's Wrong With The World by G.K. Chesterton.

I have a very real problem of not having enough physical space to hold all the books I have read already and all the books that I want to read. Therefore, thank goodness that there exists such magical things as smartphones and eReaders-that-also-have-apps like Kindle.

There are so many books I want to read on the fictional side of things that I had a little bit of a rough time deciding which one to go with. Being the engineer that I am, I wanted something that fulfilled a particular set of requirements:
  • Must be a Kindle book because I have the app and no shelf space
  • Must be a fictional work, particularly of a genre that I appreciate
  • Mustn't be a Catholic book for intellectual/spiritual growth and knowledge
Thumbing through my Amazon wishlist, it turned out I had a list of books/series that fulfilled those requirements. Dang it.

Meh, I went with The Lord of the Rings (the trilogy, to own them all) because it is time that I finally read it.

It's been a while since I've seen the movies so the story ought to be fresh for me once again, especially now that I'll be entering into it via the pen of Tolkien rather than the film of Jackson.

$10 later, I can't wait to start it!

About time.
- JD

Gollum smile from British Fan Girl blog

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The entirety of Christianity is pointless...

...were it not for that Jesus Christ, for our sake, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

"Come on Thomas-Called-Didymus, I'm not lying! I'm really back! I dare you to check out my wounds--so you know it's real."
I was thinking about this during the Easter Vigil Mass the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. And even when I went to morning Easter Mass the next day. Specifically, I was thinking about the resurrection part. How incredibly important and key is the Resurrection that if it didn't happen, then what legitimacy would Christianity have?

Any ol' person can teach, preach, and perform feats that astounds others to the point where the only conclusion is that such feats are miraculous. Any person can be arrested and then undergo a terrible, terrible death. But the real kicker is coming back from the dead. And not only coming back from the dead, but coming back from the dead because it was foreshadowed in the past!

It's a pretty heavy thought to let marinate in my mind--that all of Christianity is pointless unless Jesus went through what He went through in His suffering, death, and resurrection.

Some outward thoughts and examples regarding the Resurrection, but I am no historian and theologian (or at least exceedingly amateur at best):

If the Resurrection never happened, then Jesus' apostles probably would have gone back to their normal lives. My priest reflected on this at the morning Easter Sunday Mass. They would have been saddened by losing their teacher and friend. They wouldn't have been compelled to continue Jesus' teaching and ministry because He didn't return.

If the Resurrection never occurred, the memory of Jesus would have faded away. He would just been another man in history that others followed because they liked what he said, what he taught, and the things that he was able to do. No one would really care after a long, long while. Christianity wouldn't have spread. It would have died, just as Jesus died with no resurrection. We would simply be Jews awaiting the Messiah. Still.

If the Resurrection never happened, then our own deaths mean nothing. Once we are dead, we are done. There's nothing to look forward to after death. And suffering in our lives would have no redemption. Really, we wouldn't be redeemed. There's no glorious end game to our lives on earth.

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians teaching them about Christ's resurrection from the dead. If Christ had not been raised then Jesus' disciples' preaching is in vain and thus the Christian faith would be in vain unless Christ was raised from the dead.

I dunno...I could go on. Essentially, I guess what really stood out to me in thinking about all this is that the Resurrection is so incredibly central to the Christian faith that without it almost seems as if the rest of our faith doesn't have any sort of legitimacy. "In vain", as St. Paul writes.

So why is the Resurrection important? Fortunately, my Catholic faith lets me refer back to the deposit of faith given to the apostles passed down through the ages until now.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines the importance and meaning of the Resurrection because (CCC 651-655, with yes, Scripture references in the link's footnotes):
As a Christian, do I understand the implications and importance of the Resurrection? That His rising from the dead is so key as to why I am Christian? And as a disciple of Christ, how then should I respond to this great joy that our God is not dead, He's alive, the tomb is empty, and should I die in friendship and communion with God, then I too will be resurrected gloriously just as He is? How would I live my day-to-day life living out this joy of Easter?

Good thing we celebrate Easter day for 8 days straight followed by an entire season lasting longer than Lent. More time to reflect on this and to party it up! :-D

O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?
- JD

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio from Wikipedia