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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Whenever someone says "bae", I'm all like...

Because my understanding of "bae" really means this...

You know, that British aerospace company/defense contractor.

So whenever people tweet or status about their "bae", I don't immediately think of like a best friend or babe or whatever.

Instead, when people say "bae", I'm all like...

- JD

BAE booth // BAE Systems Flickr

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Knights of Columbus Challenge

As I'm leisurely stalking my news feeds and timelines, it seems like every other person is doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Totally a worthy cause to raise awareness and raise money to fund for a cure for a debilitating disease. I have seemingly evaded any sort of nomination or challenge to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, but that's okay because participation doesn't require me to be challenged. As it is summer here in Texas, a cold splash of ice water would feel absolutely wonderful but not necessary. But I can still donate. With that said, I decided to donate to Compassionate Care ALS, who doesn't do research for a cure but rather gives personal care to those who suffer from ALS.  I figured this would be a good way to undoubtedly remain consistent with my Catholic faith and not contribute or potentially contribute to unethical means of finding a cure for ALS.

Something that's been occupying my mind lately is hearing about all this news about the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. I'm not hearing a lot about it in mainstream news, but for sure via Catholic channels. It sucks. Totally sucks. The militant extremists are essentially forcing everyone to convert to Islam and if they don't, they are killed. Families are having to flee from their homes and if they stay, they're subject to either high taxes or death. People kidnapped. Women raped. Men executed in groups at a time. Children dying from starvation and beheaded. Terrible. They are systematically driving out Christians and killing them if they don't submit and convert. Crazy terrible. For the people fleeing, they're essentially leaving everything behind and have nothing with them except the clothes on their back.

It's escalating towards genocide status. It's terrible because these acts violence are objectively crimes against humanity.

And I don't know what to do.

The other day at work, for whatever reason my cubemate seemed to be upset or sick or something such that he was pretty much silent the rest of the afternoon. That's unusual. I didn't ask him how he was doing. I remained silent and didn't take any action even though it seemed obvious to me that something wasn't right/normal. I know I should have said something or asked him how he was doing to let him know that I was concerned. But I didn't. I was silent, minding my own business.

Earlier in the week, I had heard on Catholic radio that the Knights of Columbus have set up a fund to help with humanitarian efforts for Christians and minorities in Iraq. 100% of donations will be used for those efforts. That's awesome! They're looking to raise $1M total. That's not a lot, but every little bit helps.

I keep seeing how virally successful that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is and how much money that has raised in a relatively short amount of time.

Considering all these things, an idea hit me that afternoon when my cubemate was silent. A challenge. I should start a challenge akin to the Ice Bucket Challenge.

After some thought, the idea converged to the following...

A two-part challenge:

1) One minute of silence in the car. Silence because I feel like driving in silence with the radio off is uncommon. How often do we allow ourselves to be silent and still, especially in the car? Prayers can be offered up or just simply existing. Maybe you could have a print out of the Prayer for Iraq. No music. No talk radio. Nothing. Mainstream media has been quiet on this issue. Let our purposeful silence resonate and bring light to this issue.

2) Donate money to the Knights of Columbus fund. Again, 100% of the donations will be used to help those in need. You can find the link here: Knights of Columbus Charities. At least a $5 donation would be good if the challenge was accepted to do a minute of silence in the car.

Challenge people you know to take one minute of silence in the car for persecuted peoples in Iraq as well as offer a small donation. You have 24 hours to accept and complete the challenge.

Here's me accepting my own challenge and nominating others:

Thanks and God bless,
- JD

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I Got Scolded At Mass Today

I'll begin this blog post in saying that I attended an anime convention for the first time in my life yesterday. And long story short, because that placed me across town and because of the hospitality of friends letting me crash at their place after said anime convention, I decided to venture forth where this Catholic has never gone before in terms of parishes visited.

With that said, I knew that my crashing at a friend's place meant that I would be in the near vicinity of a Catholic parish that I've always wanted to visit. This parish is Mater Dei, which is a Latin Mass parish in Irving, TX. My motivation for even visiting Mater Dei is simply to experience Mass done in the Extraordinary Form again. No English. It's all done in Latin. Pretty cool!

Apart from me stumbling through Mass as I attempted at following along with what everyone is doing in terms of postures and trying not to get lost in following in the Missal to see the English translation of what was being said, I was particularly jarred by how the priest scolded us.

During announcements to the congregation, the priest (Fr. Longua) opened up in saying that sometimes a father has to scold his children. That makes sense to me because how often has my own father scolded me for things... Then he made reference that he, as a Catholic priest and father to us as a congregation (not in the same sense as God is our Father in heaven), needed to scold us. Okay...

Apparently last Friday for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (it's a holy day of obligation for us Catholics (and that we should go to Mass)), some woman with a lot of kids had a crying baby. Her husband wasn't present due to work. Apparently, one of the parishioners at Mater Dei harshly scolded the mother for having the crying baby and told her to go to the crying room (some churches have designated areas for parents to calm their kids).

And mother-of-crying-baby got really upset. She was already stressed out already from looking after her kids and dealing with her crying baby. And now someone is upset at her.

And the priest scolded us that this happened.

He said that it's okay for babies to make weird noises. If a baby makes a sad noise, we're free to share a sad moment with the baby. A happy noise merits a happy reaction and moment from us.

Fr. Longua mentioned that under no circumstances is it cool for us to be totally unwelcoming and harshly tell mothers to get out when crying babies happen. This parish (really any parish) should be welcoming because it's already tough to be welcoming and for someone (one person) to harshly tell this mother to get out of Mass is unacceptable. But I wouldn't say he scolded us out of anger. Very father-like. You know, very disappointed, but still forgiving. I knew that him scolding us was not a gesture of malice, but really from a place of love and desire for us to be better versions of ourselves.

Actually, it was awkward because as he was saying these things, I wanted to raise my hand and make the classic Mean Girls reference and yell out "I DON'T EVEN GO HERE!" so as not to be guilty by association with my fellow pew warmers.

Haha, but I love what Fr. Longua said because it is applicable to me. I haven't personally given mothers death stares or vocally expressed them to excuse themselves, but it's important for me to keep in mind Fr. Longua's words. He also said something cool, and I paraphrase him in saying it is selfish of us to be upset/frustrated/angry about crying babies at Mass. We should focus on the Mass and not the crying baby. If we react in an upset/frustrated/angry way, the focus has then turned onto ourselves and not the Mass. This is kind of a big deal when one realizes that the Mass is about worshipping God by encountering Him in His Word and Flesh in the Eucharist. That is our focus. Not ourselves. Nor what's going on with others.

See, crying babies at Mass are definitely a thing at my home parish. Man, sometimes the 9AM Mass is a cacophonous symphony of crying babies and that can be quite distracting. In recent years, I've taken such moments to be opportunities to really refocus on the Mass rather than the baby crying. It's difficult. It takes practice. Even as I've practiced, I still let my focus go wayward sometimes. But I never react in a negative way to the sound of crying babies at Mass.

Actually, the sound of crying babies at Mass is a good thing. It means that a baby exists in the midsts of the pews. This means that the love between husband and wife has indeed been fruitful. A crying baby is a beautiful sign that the Church is growing. Not just the domestic church (ie. the family), not just for the local church (ie. the parish), but the Church as a whole (ie. the Body of Christ) is growing! This growth points towards the fruitfulness of the love that Christ has for His Bride, the Church. And that's really cool.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that beautiful fact when I'm too frustrated with a crying baby. Sure, it is indeed courteous of parents to excuse themselves (without being harshly told) when dealing with their crying baby. And even if they don't, it's still on me to focus on what I should be focused on.

In the end, I'm grateful that Fr. Longua scolded us. It needed to be said. I needed the reminder of what my focus should be on during Mass.

Mass isn't about me.
- JD

Mater Dei altar and consecration // Mater Dei on Flickr
Crying Baby // BabyWorld
She Doesn't Even Go Here // WiffleGif

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Currently Reading: Salvifici Doloris by Pope St. John Paul II

In my life right now, I've recently started to really confront some personal struggles. By doing so, I've realized how much I have to work on in order to heal from the sufferings I've endured.

It's scary. It's incredibly liberating.  As I'm overcoming self, my life isn't getting any easier to deal with. The warm fuzzy feelings are not the prize for really wrestling with myself. Actually, I feel like I'm suffering more.

Human suffering is an interesting thing to contemplate. It's inevitable though it may come in different degrees varying from typical first world problems like losing an iPhone charger to matters of life and death or torture. The list goes on.  Looking back at my own life, I can definitely recall moments of great suffering that couldn't be avoided. Do I wish I could go back in time and free myself from such pain? Yes, but at the same time I realized that such moments had to happen in order for me to grow as a person.

In all my recent seemingly magnified suffering, I've learned to acknowledge that these moments are opportunities to grow, but I still inhale at suffering well. I inhale at approaching my suffering. I inhale at embracing my suffering. It's been such a non-Hawaiian roller coaster ride (I recently saw Lilo & Stitch...) of emotions and sufferings lately for me, but my attitude about the inevitable suffering from it all has not been great. That's a personal struggle, too, on how to suffer well and embrace it.

Praise God I have a spiritual director! Again, a spiritual director is someone who can help guide someone through how their spiritual life plays into their life. And again, mine is a local Catholic priest.

I met up with him recently to begin talking about what I'm going through. It was a really good meeting, but as these things often go, I'm confronted with a sense of humility because I've realized that my way isn't necessarily the best way of handling my life. I left that meeting feeling more down simply because  my attitude regarding my sufferings and trials were too self-centered rather than oriented towards God. It's almost as if I am unwilling to part with desiring pity.

Still, it was a really good and necessary meeting. He affirmed my taking steps to really confront my struggles, but he helped me realized that the inevitable suffering as a result of fighting such fights needs to be embraced. He mentioned that according to St. Thomas Aquinas, there are three levels of dealing with suffering: 1) kicking and screaming 2) accepting it but disliking it and 3) embracing it. Really embracing suffering is the only way for me to be free and have a sense of liberty and peace with whatever I'm dealing with.

That is so freakin' hard.

I'm constantly reminded of my inner struggles regarding particular matters. And I'm supposed to embrace them? Psh. But, no. There is wisdom and precedence in that. How can I call myself Christian if I do not embrace my suffering just as Jesus Christ embraced His?

So that's why, as a result of this meeting with my spiritual director, he recommended that I read the apostolic letter, Salvifici Doloris by Pope Saint John Paul II. It's on the meaning of Christian suffering and how suffering has salvific power. Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection gives such a profound and salvific meaning to human suffering. I have a lot of room to grow in this area on how to deal with suffering. I just started this apostolic letter, and it's already given me good nuggets to think about and reflect/pray on. Now, last time I met with my spiritual director, he assigned me to read Man's Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. That book helped me realize the importance of attaching meaning to my suffering because that whole idea is what helped Dr. Frankl and other inmates at a Nazi concentration camp endure all that they had to endure in order to survive.

Suffering. Such a fascinating thing to contemplate and reflect on. I'm spoiled as a Catholic because I have this opportunity to really enter deeply on the meaning of suffering and how that plays into my life. I'm grateful that what I'm dealing with now is mostly internal struggles and not the craziness that Christians in Iraq are having to deal with right now. I'm glad I don't have to worry about getting shot in the back, beheaded, hung, or undergoing atrocious ways to die because I'm least for today. Either way, I cannot let their suffering go to waste. Their suffering is not in vain.

In a feeble attempt to unite my suffering to theirs, and ultimately unite our suffering to Christ on the cross, I'll strive to offer those moments of suffering up for Christians in Iraq. They need our prayers.

- JD

To read Salvifici Doloris online, click here. It's free!

Christ embracing His cross // (image from The Passion)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The 5th F of Love

Last weekend, I was cleaning up our house while my housemate Chris, the Middle School Youth Minister, and his bride-to-be, Teresa, were in the kitchen preparing a Sicilian (ie. not Italian) feast for a housewarming party at our humble abode. I think at one point my other housemate Joe, the Police Officer, came home from Mass lookin' all GQ front page because that's just how "Sunday best" he is. After the pasta was made, and the garlic knots baked, we all did some sampling in the kitchen. Chris and Teresa started talking about their engaged couples retreat they recently attended while we were munching on those super-incredibly-muy-delicioso garlic knots.

Such stock photo
Chris made a reference to the 4 F's of married love that they covered during their retreat, and he joked about the 5th F of love.

Before talking about the 5th F of Love, I first must mention the first 4 F's of Love. These are so incredibly crucial in a loving marriage.

Love is...

Free, as in love is freely willed and not forced.

Full, as in love is total and holds nothing back.

Faithful, as in love is unfailing and is exclusive to each other.

Fruitful, as in the love shared between the beloveds is so strong that it overflows, which sometimes results in children, and being open to that possibility.

(jokingly) And fifth-ly, love is...

Food, as in the necessary nutrients that allows one to live so as to be able to love

...and get fat so that the beloved can't run away.

Yes, many insights into love and life permeate within the walls of this Catholic household. Indeed, authentic love mandates the 4 F's, but in a way, Food is necessary too. It's just a bonus that the food happens to be really delicious Italian Sicilian cooking. Chris is one sure lucky guy.

After much laughter and reflection in the kitchen, we continued sampling garlic knots. And we rejoiced all the more later during the actual party with baked pasta, more garlic knots, wine, salad, and cheesecake with choice of caramel, chocolate and/or strawberry topping. Many more laughs. There may have been a game of "salad bowl" (a mix of Taboo/Catch Phrase and Charades) where the invited seminarian tried to trump everyone with Latin phrases, and many lessons were learned that night on the detection of sarcasm.

Consummatum est.
- JD

Garlic knots // Simply Recipes
Pope Francis laughing // Arkansas Catholic