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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

4 Things Learned In College

It's that time of year again(!) when all of your friends go their separate ways and start college here in the next month or so. It's hard to imagine because it's almost the end of July...

I'm just glad I'm through with undergrad, and that I'm not having to worry about the start of a new college year. But, I know that this is an exciting, nerve-racking, hopeful, and (insert emotion here) time for those who are starting college or returning back this fall.

A former student of mine has two years of college under her belt, and she recently wrote a blog post that provides some wisdom about college from her own perspective and experiences that I find to be practical, especially for her particular audience.

In a non-literal nutshell, she writes:

  1. It's going to feel weird for the first few weeks
  2. Please, go to church
  3. College friendships are different
  4. You might not love it right away

- JD

PS I should write about my college experiences sometime...

College clipart //

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Not A Review on When The Game Stands Tall

It was a recent Thursday afternoon, and I was totally planning on attending a Young Catholic Professionals happy hour networking event. Within the last hour of my work day, I received a call. Then a text, because I typically don't answer my phone during work.

An invitation.

Apparently one of my housemates scored some free tickets to a free screening of the upcoming movie, When The Game Stands Tall, starring Jim Caviezel and one of those guys who got killed in The Hunger Games. I was initially conflicted because that was rather last minute and was not part my original plan for the evening. Due to having a sense of adventure, I decided to forgo going to the YCP event and go with two of my housemates plus a housemate's fiancé to this free screening of When The Game Stands Tall. That came at the cost of hanging out with my other housemate at the networking event. You see that my struggles are real.

Here's a trailer, and perhaps it is official:

At first glance, it looks like just another cool story of a football movie inspired by true events. But it's particularly mind boggling that a high school team had a record 150+ win streak until the time that they lost, and this movie is about those real life struggles surrounding that time when the team endured a lot of suffering on and off the field. And. Lost. The. Streak.

Again, since this isn't a review, I want to highlight a few of the themes that stood out to me from watching this movie.

I can always appreciate moments and themes in movies when the men don't act selfishly, but rather for each other or for the greater good. No one can stand alone, but together, they are strong. And When The Game Stands Tall gave me tangible moments where this idea of brotherhood was crucial to not just be successful at football, but also a sense of brotherhood that transcends from the game.  A few characters in the movie try to act in a self-centered way, but they eventually realized that it's not all about them. With the idea of brotherhood also comes the idea of sacrifice, whereby someone surrenders their ego and humbly do what they ought to do. That's cool. And When The Game Stands Tall gives several moments of bro-ness.

This stood out to me because, in a way, I yearn for that sense of brotherhood. Luckily, I'm in a living situation where that's about the closest thing I have. And it's pretty cool.

The Integration of Virtues and Life
I think the overall theme of the movie, which is Coach Bob Ladouceur's (Jim Caviezel) mission as a coach, is to teach these young men not just the football skills the successful, but the virtues needed to be the men they are created to be on AND off the field as well. "Coach Lad", as he is affectionately known, really tries hard at instilling in his team the idea of brotherhood and not being all for oneself ...and everything that it requires. He desires that his guys use football as a means to grow as men so that when they're off the field, they're still living out a life of virtue.

I recently helped give a workshop to some 60+ young men in high school at a youth Catholic conference. And this idea of living a virtuous life is totally cool and, really, a genuine expression of living out authentic masculinity. One of my buddy speakers for the workshop gave some personal experiences where he failed to be a man by not integrating virtues in his life decisions, and also experiences where he used virtues to be a man and do what is right, especially at his place of employment.

I think When The Game Stands Tall really highlights the importance of living out virtues in everything that we do because we are called as men to be virtuous. You see, I struggle with living a virtuous life. It's an everymoment choice, but I know I need to. I cannot have a sense of brotherhood if I am not first an authentic man. I cannot be who I need to be for others until I have grown the habit of living out virtues. This is the real struggle. And it's worth it.

It's Not About The Reward
What I also thought that was pretty cool is how Coach Lad handled the team post-streak. I mean, if I were in their cleats knowing that we've had a 150 win streak, I would be incredibly tempted to play my game as if it were all about the streak. His whole deal is about teaching his team virtues and doing what they need to do on the field, and the fruit of that should translate into a win. He even puts some of his guys in their place for expressing that it's all about the streak or it's all about breaking records. He really stressed that their success depends on doing what they ought to do and being virtuous on (and off!) the field.

I think the best example of this in the movie is when a parent basically uses their player as a trophy-getter. In other words, the parent was all about the rewards of the game. But much to their dismay, their player learned that the game isn't about winning or breaking records. And I'll leave it at that.

Too many times in my life, I've been all about the achievement of status. As I've been too focused on a goal, I've neglected doing what I need to do in order that the fruit of my effort results in achievement. After watching When The Game Stands Tall, it helped remind me that life isn't about the rewards but doing what I need and ought to do.

And now a very brief review: acting isn't totally awesome, but Jim Caviezel captures who the real Coach Bob Ladouceur is; football scenes are pretty epic and action-y; transitions in the plot were too fast in the beginning; and I dig the end credits.

I haven't been to a movie in a long while (ever?) that has really been, at least, inspirational to me in a practical way. I can start living out what I've learned from this movie almost immediately. And that's cool.

I highly recommend this movie for when it comes out at the end of August. It's a good movie for those who enjoy football and really cool football stories. I think those who are coaches, teachers, and those who work in ministry should go see this movie because there is so much to pull from to be used as a teaching tool for players/students. I mean, I only covered a few themes and only covered them lightly!

Coming to a theater near you, August 22.
- JD

When The Game Stands Tall poster // Wikipedia
Longhorn fan crying //
Huddle // Sony Pictures
Coaches // USA Today

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Other Side: Meeting Two Angels

The other day I blogged about meeting Bobby and Jackie Angel. I mentioned how one of my former students, who is such a huuuuuuuuuuge fan girl, had the opportunity to talk to Jackie on the phone since she herself wasn't able to be there in person.

Well, she just blogged about it!

A snippet:
Not going to lie, I was quite jealous of all my friends who got to hang out, take selfies, and watch Jackie speak in the flesh, while I was stuck at home in bed with an injured foot. However, my day was made when one of the volunteers at my parish [hmm, I wonder who that is...], who was eating lunch with Jackie, texted me and was like "hey so can you talk on the phone right now? Jackie said she'd talk with you!" and I responded back with, "YES. OF COURSE" So later on after Jackie finished eating, she called me. I gushed to her about how big of a fan I was and how much a loved her, and she laughed and said thanks lol. I thought our conversation would just be a few minutes, because I figured she would just say hi and then hand the phone back. . . but I was pleasantly surprised when she asked me about where I'm going to college and what career I was interested in. I happily told her that I wanted to pursue a career in youth ministry and, God willing, become a traveling speaker just like her. She offered me some great advice and encouraging words that I'll hold onto as I pursue my dream. 
Read the rest here: A Wake Call From An Angel

I dig how Allie saw this opportunity as a wake up call of where she needs to be focused in her life, and it's a good reminder for even me as I read the rest of her blog post.

- JD

Monday, July 21, 2014

Prayer Request: For Chris Lee's Rehab

I just learned recently that one of my friends from college was involved in a pretty serious car accident that resulted in brain injuries last week. The good news is that he got out of a coma, but he still has a long road ahead of him. Fortunately, he will be transferred to a really good hospital for the type of brain injuries he suffered through.

I humbly ask for your prayers for Chris Lee that he has a speedy recovery and that his health is fully restored.

I met Chris through the Philippine Student Association (PhilSA) at Texas A&M while I was in college. Really nice guy. Funny, too. I got to know him a little bit through all the different activities we had in PhilSA, and I wish I could say more but my lack of words isn't an impediment for my desire to help him out in ways that I can.

If you feel called to donate towards his medical expenses, one of his best friends set up this GoFundMe account: Chris Lee's Rehabilitation Fund.

Maraming salamat...thanks and gig'em,
- JD

Blessed John Licci, patron saint of head injuries, pray for us!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Meeting Two Angels

I recently got back from spending a weekend chaperoning a group of my parish's high school youth to my diocese's annual Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference.

In summary, it was a really awesome experience because some new changes were implemented, and our very own bishop was present the whole weekend. We had Mass all three days of the conference, and two opportunities to adore Christ in the Eucharist. Pretty cool! I certainly feel transformed after going back to the basics and encountering our Lord, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our Catholic faith. Conveniently, the theme of the conference was, "Transform ME".

One of the keynote speakers for this year's DCYC was Jackie Francois! She's a pretty popular Catholic speaker and musician from Orange County, CA (shout out!). Her husband, Bobby, was also at DCYC helping sell some of her merchandise.

I've read some of her blogs, I've listened to some of her talks, I follow her on Twitter, and I've listened to some of her songs. She was in the local area several months ago at a monthly Catholic event to play her music, but I was unable to go though I really wanted to. I might have been in Washington, D.C. or Rio De Janeiro or something. As for her husband, I've read some of his blog posts, and I've heard a talk by Jackie on how they met, how they handle their relationship, and cool stuff like that.

I really like her talks because she's a really good speaker, and she isn't afraid to dive deeper on very real topics about real struggles regarding chastity, love, and relationships.

Recently, Bobby wrote a blog post about a really nerdy conversation he had with a priest about comic book superheroes and how Captain America is the most Catholic of the recent ones in the movies. It was really cool to read so I shared it with others since it gave me a deeper appreciation for Captain America. You can read it here: The Catholicity of Captain America

So, with Jackie being here at this conference, I couldn't miss the opportunity to at least meet her and her husband!

At one point during the first night of the conference they were sitting at their table, and I was nearby loitering with some of my fellow chaperones. I didn't want to go talk to them alone so I grabbed a few of my chaperone friends to go talk to them. I introduced myself, and I brought up how I really liked Bobby's blog post, and all of us talked about it. Ultimately, I wanted a picture with them, but our conversation was cut short because Jackie had to be on stage for her keynote. I mean, I wasn't upset, since there was still plenty of time to get that picture. Meanwhile, my teens were bragging about their selfies with them. lol...

The next day, I had the opportunity to eat lunch with them! Since I helped out my youth minister friend and another giving a workshop for this conference, I was entitled to attend the presenters' lunch. When I arrived at the lunch, I noticed Jackie and Bobby were sitting at a mostly empty table so me and my other workshop buds decided to sit at their table. Really odd, but hey! 'Twas an opportunity!

That was really cool because it was just totally casual talking about whatever. Because Jackie is pregnant and due in a few months, the topic of pregnancy and birth came up, which one of my workshop buds was anxiously awaiting the call from his getting-ready-to-give-birth wife. And the dynamics of everyone at the table somehow led to the logistics and technicalities of giving birth unashamedly told as it is. I mean, I can't think of a more appropriate conversation while enjoying hotel cheesecake and coffee... I just couldn't relate, lol. #SingleCatholicGuyProbs

During the lunch, we had the idea of asking Jackie if she would be willing to talk to one of our former teens on the phone. One of our former teens is such a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge fan of Jackie and aspires to be someone like her. We actually did ask Jackie, and she actually did agree to do so after we were done eating. Meanwhile, we let our former teen know, and she was freaking out and texting in all caps. When mostly everyone left except my buddies and Jackie and Bobby, she asked about making that phone call. So I let Jackie borrow my phone, lol.

It was cool! They had a ten minute conversation, and when Jackie was done talking to her and handed my phone back to me, I tried talking to our former teen. She was just speechless, possibly hyperventilating, possibly even sobbing. Lol, I told her to grab some tissues, and I'd follow up with her when she calmed down.

After that, we went our separate ways. Jackie wanted to take a nap before the evenings' events.

Later that night, I saw Jackie and Bobby at their table again so I finally asked them if I could grab a picture with them.

She says he looks like Leonidas...and by "he", I don't mean me
Pretty awesome!

Now that I've met Jackie, I really want to start listening to more of her music and more of her talks. I also want to properly follow their blog at and keep up with it.

And really, she was just truly a blessing for the conference because having her there really added to the awesome experiences that we had. She's so down to earth and is really relatable in her message to the teens. Through her keynotes throughout the weekend, even I gained better insight about love, dealing with struggles, and allowing Christ to transform our hearts. And interacting with her and her husband was more of the same, but one-on-one.

Bobby's last name is Angel. And that's how I met two Angels.
- JD

PS Pictured are actually three (3) Angels. Hopefully next time I run into them, I'll get to meet Baby Angel! ;-)

Captain America //

Friday, July 18, 2014

What Is It With Me And...

...papal cardboard cutouts?

I don't know. But they're pretty cool.

Also, I'm two for (the past) three.

So if you know of a St. John Paul II cardboard cutout, please let me know! :-D


Sunday, July 13, 2014

What You Get When You Have A Video Editor/Worship Leader, Middle School Youth Minister, Engineer, and Police Officer... a really awesome Catholic house!

Several years ago, my cousin was thinking about moving out of her parents' house. I mean, what young adult doesn't think about doing that? Here's the thing though: she wanted to move into a house with some of her friends that was something like five minutes away from her parents' house! And I made fun of her for wanting to move out to a house so close by because that seemed like a stupid idea.

Well, I'm such a hypocrite.

But at least I'm not a hippo...
I moved out of my parents' house into a house that is a three-minute drive away.

Long story short, I've been living at my parents' house for the past several years after graduating from college. I wasn't really motivated to move out into my own place or even somewhere closer to work because it was more cost-effective for me to stay at home and not pay rent so that I can knock out some of my student loans (yes, I did create spreadsheets (I like Excel)). Not only that, but my parents didn't mind at all and even encouraged it.

After a few years though, I had a growing itch to move out. The itch grew as I've put some dents in my loans. One of my new friends at my parish, The Middle School Youth Minister, expressed one day about perhaps getting an apartment together because he wanted to move out of his parents' house. The initial interest never really bore fruit and was put on the backburner. But I still cheated on Facebook (as in, infidelity to time spent on Facebook) by looking at different apartments in the area and such.

One day, at the beginning of this year, The Middle School Youth Minister friend calls me up and says that his boss heard about a rental house opportunity. His boss was a member of a band back in the day, and one of the boss' bandmates was about to have a vacancy on his rental property. I guess my friend had talked with his boss about wanting to move out, and that's how all this came to be.

The initial info was for sure enticing: $950 monthly rent, 3 bedroom house, 2 bathrooms, and a fairly large backyard. We just couldn't go check it out yet because the current renters were still in residence. I my friend, The Middle School Youth Minister, that I'd be brown (like down, and because I am) for moving into this house. Because it was three bedrooms, we considered who else to ask to fill the the third room so we could split the $950 monthly rent three ways. That's when we had the idea of asking our friend, The Police Officer. And he, too, was brown for it (like down, but he's not brown (now it’s an inside joke)).

Somehow in the process of us doing initial talks for this house, a new roommate appeared! The Middle School Youth Minister's boss had done some talking within several degrees of separation, and we landed a fourth roommate, The Video Editor/Worship Leader, who also happens to be a third cousin to The Middle School Youth Minister.

Lo, and behold! A rental house of four guys splitting $950 monthly rent! That's so much cheaper than any apartments I was looking at, and cheaper than any mortgage I would normally find myself in.  We had a Buffalo Wild Wings dinner meeting and decided that this for sure something we all wanted to go through with.

This worked out because all four of us are single, Catholic guys with jobs still living at home with our parents. And now this opportunity of a house popped up, seemingly at just the right time? How could we not pass it up?!

When Buffalo Wild Wings gives you cardboard cutout Kodak moments...
We've actually been living in that house for several months now. It's been pretty fantastic!

I think it's really cool that we're all Catholic men living in this small community of a house. We're all around the same level in terms of our faith, so it makes it really easy to talk about real, Catholic topics. I've already had a good handful of late-night conversations with some or all of my roommates regarding stuff like life in general and our life in faith. Conversion stories, chastity, the beauty of woman, authentic masculinity, the brokenness of the culture (and police sub-culture), abortion, proper postures during liturgy, proper Church teaching on homosexuality, lives of the saints, miracles, and the list goes on. Besides the Catholic things, we nerd out on conversations about firearms, our jobs, music, video games, food, chores, lawn care, etc.

Personally, this living arrangement helps motivate me to really live out my Catholic faith because my housemates strive to do so, as well. Not only that, but I look up to them by their own witness and example of what it looks like to have a real, genuine relationship to Christ and His bride, the Church. We can hold each other accountable in the Christian life in many different aspects. It's really awesome when one of us has the idea to go do something Catholic like pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet, pray Liturgy of the Hours, or go to Mass, and invite the other housemates.

The Middle School Youth Minister, myself, and The Video Editor/Worship Leader walking on our way to Daily Mass
In practice, I've realized that we all have vastly different schedules.  Between our jobs and our different levels of involvement in parish life, sometimes there are extended periods of time where I don't see all or a few of my housemates at all. However, we all agreed to make Tuesday night our "bro night" in which we commit to hanging out with each other in some way. Most of the time that has been dinner and a movie night. Every now and then that means attending a Catholic event like an Opus Dei night of recollection, Theology on Tap events, or Young Catholic Professionals meetings. Sometimes that means joining other men of our parish for a night of 60 cent wings at Buffalo Wild Wings. And Tuesday, at the very least, is when we all pray Night Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours together.

While I have not given the aspect to this story its due on how this all came together seemingly "just right" and with ease, I think it means that we're all meant to be in this house together. Already, I see great potential, great awesomeness and have already experienced some of the benefits to this house of Catholic men.

So whew! I finally moved out (three minutes away) from my parents’ house! And now I live in a house with some awesome Catholic men where we can lift each other up and grow in holiness as we strive to be the men that God created us to be!

More stories worthy of blogging to come, I'm sure.
- JD

Hippo // HowStuffWorks

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I Am A Muskox

With all of my involvement in church-related things the past several years, I've had a desire to go deeper and learn more. One of the awesome things about being Catholic is having access to our teachings, and now in the modern and digital age, that is so much easier. One of the several ways I learn more about my faith is by following Catholic bloggers.

Sometimes Catholic bloggers are actually kind of a big deal and do more than just blog.

Dr. Taylor Marshall and family
Take Dr. Taylor Marshall for example. I've been a follower of his blog for a while now, and he started something called the New Saint Thomas Institute. Apparently a bunch of his readers/followers expressed interest in learning more about St. Thomas Aquinas, philosophy and theology in general that he decided to start his own institute in which to teach philosophy and theology using St. Thomas Aquinas as a guide. I mean, Dr. Taylor Marshall used to be a professor and a chancellor of a local small Catholic university and is very passionate about this stuff as evident by his blog.

When he announced the New Saint Thomas Institute, he promised a few things that were very enticing to me. He wanted it to be cheap and affordable to where you can gain a good understanding of theology without paying university-caliber fees. He also wanted to produce high quality teaching content and high quality videos.

I, being on a quest for a deeper and richer understanding of my Catholic faith, couldn't resist this idea of the New Saint Thomas Institute. Since I'm continually having to teach Catholicism to Catholics (and non-Catholics too), I need to be better equipped with better knowledge and understanding of my faith so that I may better share the truth with others. And St. Thomas Aquinas is a pretty legit saint and doctor of the TI-89 Titanium calculator is named after him! The works of St. Thomas Aquinas are such a wealth of Church teaching and theology.

While I wasn't in the first wave of people to sign up whenever Dr. Marshall opened up NSTI, I was for sure in the aftershocks, as it were. I pay a small monthly payment and have access to a growing amount of quality resources (blog posts, videos, forums, etc) to learn all the theological things. I think he's even offering a sort certificates for those who complete "courses"!

I'm pretty excited to be a member of NSTI! I just wish I had better time management skillz to keep up with new posts and content. But that's the nice thing about NSTI too--I can go at my own pace!

If you're at all interested in diving deeper into the faith and don't want to pay two arms and a torso for it, you can join the New Saint Thomas Institute!

So, there's a story behind it...but the mascot of the New Saint Thomas Institute is the muskox.

Tommy the Muskox
I am a muskox.

Dr. Taylor Marshall and family //
Tommy the Muskox //