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Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Blog Break

Sorry for the lack of posts.  My life has been super crazy between business trips, grad school, and other adventures.

I think I'll have to take a break from blogging for a while.

Stay classy.

-JD

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Watching Star Wars... Catholic-ly

I was at work one day recently, and amidst my staring at Excel formulas, I had a random idea hit me like a stray blaster bolt.


Perhaps it’s because of my subconscious excitement of Star Wars Episode VII coming out later this year and my general nerdy Catholic mind that allowed such a thought to float across my mind like a Jawa Sandcrawler.



I’ve been trying to come up with a way to engage my fellow young adult Catholics, and I seemed to have been blindsided by the answer. I had this crazy idea. An idea that seemed brilliant as Tatooine’s two suns.


What if…just what if…I could host Star Wars-watching parties! And not just watch Star Wars, but attempt to extract Catholic themes from the movies and discuss! And nerd out!

Now, I realize that Star Wars is totally not meant to be an exposition of Catholic dogma, doctrine, and discipline. Far from it, actually. But what I love about being Catholic is that it is universal and universally applicable. Part of where I’m at in my Catholic faith and spirituality is seeing it in everything.  How does my Catholic faith play into everything that I’m already into? Particularly, in this case, the nerdy things I’m into? Can I put on a Catholic lens and see Catholic themes in things that aren't even Catholic? That's been my constant reflection in these here recent times.

I bought the Blu-Ray set of all six episodes over a year ago and have since watched Episodes I-IV on my own. And I also got into The Clone Wars on Netflix. Allowing my Catholic nerdiness to collide with my Star Wars nerdiness allowed me to pick up on Catholic themes whether intentional or not. Ugh, Anakin Skywalker is such rich content. Much themes. Wow. Just even the first three Episodes had some good stuff to think about and relate to Catholicism! I wish I had written it all down!

Of course, one thing I also love about being Catholic is the community in Christ. We, as human beings, are made to be in community with each other, and I find this truth to be lived out well through most excellent Catholic examples.  Because of this, I decided that I shouldn't watch Star Wars Catholic-ly by my lonesome with cold beverage in one hand and lightsaber with the other anymore. And that's why I decided to shoot first and host such kind of Star Wars watching parties with my fellow Catholic young adults. Sometimes you just gotta let crazy Wookie ideas win, ya know?

I’ve already hosted two of these Star Wars watching parties. I’ll be hosting these once a month until Episode VII comes out this December! The first one ended up being a small gathering, and the second one had more of a crowd.  In both cases, we had some good and fruitful discussions extracting Catholic themes from The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. I think the popular feedback from this past gathering is that Episode III will be overflowing with things to discuss largely in part due to Anakin Skywalker. O_O

I look forward to the coming months in preparation for Episode VII (edit: super nerd-tastic-ful-ness-ly)! But even more joyfuly...I look forward to engage and build community with my fellow young adult Catholic Star Wars nerds and nerd-converts!

But first, a selfie with a religious sister (a Daughter of St. Paul--the social media nuns!) and Darth Vader.



MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!!!! (...and also with you!!! (because "and with your spirit" is actually more rightly ordered towards the ordained, only))
- JD

I Just Hit Someone meme // Star Wars 7 News
LEGO Jawa Sandcrawler // LEGO.com
Tatooine's Two Suns // Lightyears Blog at CNN
Sr. Helena Burns with Darth Vader // Sacred Heart Radio

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Flying Without Entitlement

I’ve mentioned or hinted at in the past that I’m an American Airlines kid. My dad has been with the company for over 25 years now. One of the benefits of being a family member of someone who works for the airlines is that we get flying benefits.  Yes, that means we get to "fly free", but not as a ticketed passenger. If you don’t know, there are two ways to fly. You can purchase a ticket, which pretty much guarantees you a seat on an airplane or you can fly standby, which means you only get a seat on the airplane if there’s an open seat.

Flying standby means you get put on the standby list. Passengers on the standby list don’t get processed on a "first come first serve" basis exactly, but rather by priority. There are different levels of priorities that passengers can have, and usually passengers using rewards programs, passengers with emergencies, passengers who got bumped from previous flights, etc. tend to get higher priorities. On the other hand, people flying standby with employee flight benefits are on the lower end. And since I’m over the set age for a family member for American Airlines, I have to fly at the lowest priority AND it costs money (at severe discount, and it docks off that price from my dad’s pay check). The nice thing is…aiming for first/business class seats cost just as much as a coach class seat. So clearly I try to aim high.

(I will say as an aside, you don’t need to have flight benefits to fly standby)

For 95% of my life, I’ve been flying standby because of my dad’s flight benefits. We’re always one of the last passengers to board the plane, we’re always getting bumped from flight to flight, and there were a few times where we have had to sleep at the airport terminal overnight because we couldn’t catch a flight. Crazy.

Even Tom Hanks has to do it for certain movie roles
In the past several months, I’ve had multiple trips to Japan. Fortunately, my company pays for my tickets and my project gives my team and I permission to get Business Class tickets. It’s a weird feeling for me to be a ticketed passenger. And boarding first because of Business Class and rewards status. And use of the nice lounges. It’s really nice to be able to experience the other side of flying with these business trips.

You see, what prompted me to write this blog post is a particular comment that another passenger made. I was settling into my Business Class seat on a flight home from Narita (NRT) back in May. Because Business Class gets to board before the Economy Class passengers, I basically get to see everyone else pass me as I’m settling in. I was just sitting reading my book as I heard a passenger say to another, in a sort of sassy and snarky way:
“Wow look at these seats, man. Our seats suck in the back. Look at all these special people with their special seats."
I didn’t look up from my book, but that comment kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I wasn’t offended or anything.


But it gave me pause to think about the circumstances at which I’m able to have such special seats. I mean, honestly…it’s my job that pays for this kind of seat. There’s nothing that I’ve done to merit that I need to have Business Class seats. On top of that, I absolutely had no idea at the beginning of the year (or even when I started my job with this new team that I didn’t put myself in) that I would get to travel to Japan as frequently as I already have.  In other words, I didn’t place myself in this position to be able to have a Business Class seat. It’s very much a nice-to-have.

So that passenger’s comment made me think about how grateful I am to have this opportunity to fly this way. And I would be just as content flying on +12-hour flights in Economy Class (via standby, and I’ve done it before for trips to the Philippines).

I actually really like flying standby almost moreso than flying with Business Class tickets. It’s very, very adventurous because it is so uncertain sometimes. Each time I fly standby and am able to get a seat on a plane, I can’t help but feel grateful for the ticket and to get on a plane.

Lol, there was this one time that I went to Connecticut for a dear friend’s wedding. On the way back, I couldn’t catch a plane home. So I did some research for flights available to me as a standby and invented my itinerary as I went. In the end, I flew from Connecticut to Chicago to Arkansas. Then I spent the night in Arkansas (yay Kayak-ing up a hotel and car rental) and took the first flight out from Arkansas to home Monday morning.  You see, if I were a ticketed passenger, i would’ve never gone that route! And I’ve never been to Chicago and Arkansas until that point!

I also really like flying standby because I fly without entitlement. I’m often the last passenger on the plane. Use of Admiral’s Clubs and lounges are not included as I’m not a member or have a ticketed business class ticket. I don’t earn miles. I often get the least ideal of seats when I finally get on the plane. There’s always the uncertainty of being able to even get on a plane. Just to get the ticket to get on is good enough, and that’s what’s worth the sufferings of travel. Everything else is a bonus! I don’t need or deserve hot mixed nuts, complimentary alcohol, gourmet meals at all, choice of gourmet meals, seats that lie flat, a mattress I can put on top of my lie-flat seat, complimentary use of an airline-provided cardigan to wear while on board in case I get cold, airport lounge access because of Business Class tickets, priority boarding and luggage check-in, complimentary use of noise-canceling headphones, 13”+ widescreens for my seat, and the list goes on.

I’m not entitled to the things that are available to me as a ticketed (and Business Class) passenger. But they are available to me because of my current blessed and fortunate circumstances that I didn’t purposefully put myself in.

And because I’m not entitled, I am more fully aware of my sense of gratitude for these opportunities.

That awkward moment when I apparently hit Platinum and get to board the plane first!...in the very back. And here I am working on this very blog post.
-JD

The Terminal // Blog - Ebags.com

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Most Difficult Conversation I Had On Independence Day

One of my good friends recently got accepted into Texas A&M’s nursing school (whoop!), so her family threw a going-away party for her. A substantial handful of fellow friends, catechists, and people from my parish came to celebrate. Even one of our priests participated in the celebration! This party was dual-purpose because it also happened to be on July 4th.  Obviously there was launching of fireworks! I found out our priest really, really likes fireworks...

#PyroPriests #RomanCollar #RomanCannons
At some point during the evening, I was catching up with the husband of one of my fellow adult volunteers with a good seminarian friend. For this blog post, let the husband’s name be Alfonso. I haven’t really interacted with him beyond brief small talk in the past, usually in youth ministry/parish event contexts. Because he knows of my involvement at the parish, I think it was natural for Alfonso to ask about my non-church life. Ya know, life and work. I started talking about work because of his questions. Obviously, talking about aerospace-related things oftentimes lead to military talk. I mentioned something about news regarding the Marines.

Now, Alfonso has a son who is in the Marines so the conversation went that direction. His son was indirectly one of my youth in the youth group as well as a peer of my seminarian friend. I naturally had to ask Alfonso how his son is doing and where he’s stationed now. He started giving updates. Alfonso then mentioned that he should be home for Christmas after being gone for a long while!

...before he’s shipped off to Iraq in January.

When Alfonso was describing how his son will be deployed to Iraq, I could begin to sense the fear in his voice. With everything going on in the Middle East right now, it’s understandable and a hard reality to face. All three of us dwelled on the inherent dangers and the reality of death. We had some awkward silence, which I broke by mentioning how his son’s faith, or at least caring about his faith, increased when he went into the Marines. Back in high school, he was one of those punk kids that treated his Catholic faith in a superficial way. But that seemed to have changed somewhat since becoming a marine as I learned from talking to his mom every so often.

Alfonso mentioned that Marine culture isn’t very conducive to cultivate one’s faith. Despite that, his son seems to hang onto his faith better compared to his Marine buddies. In our conversations about the reality of death, Alfonso mentioned that when it comes down to it, “there are no atheists in the trenches.” Alfonso, my seminarian bro, and I all recognized the notion of the importance of what’s next after passing away.

When we were talking about the very real possibility that his son may be killed in action, Alfonso started tearing up. That was the most difficult part of this conversation. I nearly started tearing up myself seeing Alfonso’s great love for his son and very real fear of the very real notion of his son’s death.

Through the awkward silences, wetting of the eyes, and dwelling on the thought, I ended the conversation by offering to pray for his son and his family. Likewise, the seminarian did as well.

Praise God that all three of us are Catholic (and the Marine, too). Because of our Catholic faith, I know that we’re equipped to handle the reality of death. It absolutely sucks to confront, it’s difficult to come to terms with it, but it is a reality we all must face one day.

Please pray for Alfonso and his family and for the protection of their Marine in body and soul—St. Michael the Archangel, our defender in battle and protection against the devil, pray for us!

One of my favorite Instagrams for #100picsofbeauty

St. Martin of Tours, patron saint of soldiers and bishop of Tours, pray for us!



-JD

St. Martin splitting his cloak for a beggar // Sacred Art Series Blog

Sunday, July 5, 2015

An Instance When the Christian Cross Isn't Practical

This was back in April and written as such.


As I'm currently typing this out, I'm 6000+ miles away from home eating breakfast at a really nice hotel in the middle of Japan. I'll be going to Mass here in a few hours.

I've already been here for two weeks!

In my own desires and pursuit of Catholic nerdiness, I've sought Catholic churches nearby. The cathedral of this diocese is a solid 35 minute walk from my hotel, and I just recently found a mission church by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart that is only 25 minutes walk away.

In my brief Googling about Japan, I learned that Japan is only about 1% Christian.

First of all, I find it remarkable then that I was able to find two Catholic churches nearby! I would think that because the percentage of Christianity is so minuscule here that I would find difficulty in finding any Christian church much less a Catholic one.

However, in my excursions around the city in search of foods and Pokemon or on my commute to work, I see a surprisingly frequent sight: the cross. Not just any kind of cross but the Christian cross.

Totally a wedding venue...with reception hall...as viewed from my 20+ story hotel room.
It turns out that most of these establishments that display a Christian cross are actually not Christian churches, but rather wedding chapels. Apparently "Western-style" weddings are a popular thing here, but "Western-style" also seems to be synonymous with "Christian-style". With the population being 1% Christian, I begin to wonder how sincere to the Christian tradition these Western weddings are.

Now, I don't know the reasons for this and why Japanese couples are into Western-style weddings that are similar to a typical Christian wedding. I'm sure that would be a fascinating anthropological and historical pursuit that I'll probably pick up some other time.

But here in Japan, seeing the cross around town like that doesn't necessarily mean Christianity. Most likely it's a wedding venue that does Western-style weddings. Any hint of Christianity beyond that based on symbols is probably merely for the look and the feels, but doesn't necessarily get to the heart of Christian tradition and worship. In other words, it's superficial and nothing more beyond the symbol itself. Which stinks when I'm trying to find somewhere to pray without having to buy a wedding package, haha.

So I take comfort in the Catholic churches that I've found nearby. Within is not only the Christian cross, but the crucifix. Behold, the man--the man on the cross. And that's what makes the crucifix a practical symbol of what is indeed Christian. Particularly...Catholic. Here in Japan, I can know with reasonable confidence that the place I'm at can trace its tradition and motivations to something truly Christian. I mean, come on, the crucifix has Jesus on it. It cannot be argued that it would be for anything else. It is not as easily hijacked for other purposes.

I have a thing for Benedictine crucifixes (distinguished by the Benedictine medal). This is the one I wear.
In today's world, I'm caring more and more that Christianity not be hijacked for other intentions than what Christ Himself, and the authority He Himself gave to His apostles, intends.

St. Francis Xavier, one of the first missionaries to Japan, pray for us!
- JD

PS Of course, there's also the bonus of the Blessed Sacrament being truly present in a Catholic church. ^_^v

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"I want grandchildren."


It was a very long week at work in Japan. Stress, lots of work to do, deadlines. You know, just another week.

So when it came time to finally leave on Friday, I was ready to take a nap in my 30-minute taxi ride from work back to my hotel.

Alas, it was not to be so.

In all my trips to Japan so far, I've had a good handful of taxi drivers. Some repeated. Some terribly slow. Some terribly fast. Some using their phones to translate their Japanese to English just to tell me the traffic is "slow as molasses". One really attractive Japanese woman who drove like a maniac, cutting everyone off, and probably bringing dishonor to everyone's families. But this particular Friday commute home, my taxi driver actually spoke decent English!

Because he was able to speak English, he initiated small conversations. You know, apart from me telling him, "go to this hotel using the expressway and exit here."  He asked me how long I was staying in Japan and what I do. Stuff like that. Then silence for a while.

He then asked me for permission to ask me how old I am. I laughed and told him my age. He then proceeded to tell me that his son is also the same age as I am. And that his son got married only two months ago.

We were stopped in traffic so then he kind of turns around to say that he wants grandchildren. I could see the smile on his face. From the joy I saw in his face, I could tell that it was such a sincere, genuine desire amplified by Japanese pride in family and progeny. A certain pride and desire that seems to be diminishing back home in the United States.

I affirmed him saying that yeah, I hope he gets to have grandchildren soon!  More small talk, and we arrived at my hotel.

As I'm writing this blog post, this moment with the English-speaking taxi driver happened just yesterday. I've reflected on it some since then.

This desire to have grandkids, through the example of my taxi driver, speaks of a love that is fruitful. A love so profound that when husband and wife come together, it can result in Another. And the cycle goes on. And on. And on. And on. And I got a practical taste of that which is so good, so true, and so beautiful in the simple desire of my taxi driver.

This resonates with me. A lot, actually. I think of all the times that I hang out and pray with the elderly in nursing homes as well as my own grandparents at home, now that they're back from the Philippines.  They're always so proud to have grandkids.



So as for me...yeah. God-willing, I want grandchildren too some day.

- JD

Toyota Crown Japanese Taxi // Integrity Exports
Japanese grandfather // Grandparents.com

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Not A Review On Reading The Hunger Games

On my last trip to Japan back in May, I decided to cough up the $12 to buy The Hunger Games for my Kindle. All three! This is my first time reading through the books, and my only exposure to Panem and its grotesque entertainment of having kids kill each other in the arena have been through the movies that have been released in the past few years.

Actually, watching the movies has been the primary motivation for me to read the books. Oh sure! Many of you have recommended to me that I should read the books as they are excellent. So when I was preparing for my last business trip, I decided that it would be a good thing to have while sitting around during travel. Airport lounges, airplanes, trains, oh my! (And as a bit of a sidenote…reading The Hunger Games was also one of my New Year’s Goals-Not-Resolutions). I got through a bunch of chapters on my 3-hour train rides:


A photo posted by JR (@r4nd311) on

It took me a little while to get used to Suzanne Collins’ writing style. After having read Tolkien’s eloquence in The Lord of the Rings, Collins’ incomplete sentences and stream of consciousness-ish style was kind of jarring for me. But I eventually figured out that her writing style for The Hunger Games pointed to something very important, which prompts me to write this not-review.

I don’t want to get bogged down by English IV AP literary analysis, but I realized that the book was written with Katniss Everdeen as the narrator. She’s the one telling her story as it happens. Hence, I can understand why sometimes the sentences and things seem choppy, pointed, and sometimes representative of how I blog. Haha. As I was reading through the three books, I discovered something profound that didn’t come across as effectively in the movies as it does while reading.

Because the book is written from Katniss’ perspective, I got to know her inner thoughts, emotions, struggles, etc. While Jennifer Lawrence does effectively play the part of Katniss on screen, the movies still lack the intimate details of what Katniss is actually going through in her mind and heart.  In other words, reading the books opened up a new dimension to the Mockingjay saga by letting me know Katniss’ interior self.

You can read her like a book. Pun and reference totally intended.

Because of reading The Hunger Games and realizing how it invites me as the reader to an inside perspective of the mind and heart of Katniss Everdeen, I started thinking that we don’t generally experience each other’s interior selves. Like 95% of the time, I encounter a person’s exterior. From their exterior expression, I can begin to reason out their interior dispositions. The only way for us to know what we’re really thinking and feeling on the inside is to share it. Knowing the interior self can help answer the why for the exterior self. It begins to make sense to me why Katniss did the things she did because I know, from reading her like a book, what motivated her on the inside.


I also thought about Facebook. Far stretch from Panem, I know. There have been some instances whereby some of my Facebook friends got the very wrong idea of something I posted online (a very exterior thing) because they don’t know who I am and where I’m at interiorly. Granted, it doesn’t help that I’m sometimes purposely very cryptic and vague at times on Facebook. And at the same time I’m not one to share something directly from my interior self. I like the idea of giving a taste, but not the full entree. The Hunger Games was a smorgasbord of Katniss’ interior self. I’ll give an appetizer, but I don’t generally want to give you the adobo (Filipino dish). I suppose I’m reserved online because I’d rather that people spend the time to get to know me personally and in person before sharing my more inside self with them. Without knowing me on that level, I won't make much sense online.

On a different note, to tie this notion of knowing the interior self to the Catholic faith, I think of the saints. By no means am I equating Katniss to a Catholic saint, but I’d like to have her as an analogy. She lets us, the readers, know what she’s feeling and thinking on the inside. Many saints’ written works provide a deep look into their motivations and interior lives as to why they are disciples of Christ. And for me, a journeying pilgrim towards Paradise, it’s fascinating and inspiring to read about the interior lives of the saints.  They’re all so unique, and some enduring even more grave things than having to kill others in government-mandated killing arenas.

I’ve attempted at reading St. Faustina’s diary. I couldn’t read it for too long as it is extremely substantial (not in quantity of words but in quality of depth) as she writes about her encounters with Christ and her sufferings. I’ve read bits and pieces of St. Therese’s autobiography through Vr. Fulton Sheen’s pen, and from those small chunks, I know there is something very substantial there too in The Little Flower’s words. And those are just two Catholic saints that I’ve merely scratched the surface of who they are in light of their relationship to Christ.

But it begs the question of what makes a saint... a saint? I don’t know for sure what that looks like exactly, but a good place to start is to read about their inner selves that they share in their own words. From there, I can work on my own interior life in God, inspired by those who have come before me, so that my exterior is an expression of that interior life in Christ. And to share that with others.

-JD

Mockingjay // The Hunger Games Wiki

Sunday, June 14, 2015

She Stared Into My Soul

I entered in, and already there weren't too many seats so I spent some time looking around. Spotting some familiar friends, I saw an empty seat and made the awkward gestures of "is that seat open?". A quick nod, and I even more awkwardly climb over my friends to get to my seat.

Between my friends was actually a third.

There was one moment where she stared at me for a while, and I couldn't help but stare back. A long stare.

I looked into her eyes.

She looked right back at me.

We shared a deep and profound moment. Maybe I had a deep and profound moment, though she probably didn't comprehend it as such.

She wasn't just looking at me. She wasn't looking through me. She was looking at me. And she smiled.

In this deep and profound stare, I realized that I mattered to her, but not in the typical way people matter to others. As she looked at me, I knew it didn't matter to her what my awesomeness and shortcomings are. She didn't care.

As I looked at her, I realized what an amazing gift she is to be here staring right back at me.

She stared into my soul.  I stared into hers.

And it was amazingly awesome to just have that brief moment of profoundness.

After a few moments, she went on to her usual fidgeting, playing with her dad's watchband, throwing her padded book at me, and snuggling in her mom's arms. She didn't even cry.

Here's the context:
It was Palm Sunday, and I was running a little later than normal for being early to Mass. Because of that, and because of the increased attendance due to the significance of the day, I found it challenging to find an open seat in a pew. Luckily, I spotted my two friends and the empty seat next to them, and they had their 11-month old daughter with them.

She's absolutely adorable! I've known her since she was a few months old in-utero.

A photo posted by JR (@r4nd311) on


This was a profoundly deep moment for me exchanging stares with her because how often do I get the chance to just really look at someone deeply and to be looked at similar way? It just made the moment so much sweeter because I know her parents love her so dearly, and I know of their struggles before having her.

And all this during Mass.

Awesome.
- JD

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Travel Tips


After some reflection, I realized that I have a lot of travel experience. And because of all my travels, I'm certain that I've picked up practical and useful tips for traveling. Not that I have been to many unique destinations or anything, but the fact that I tend to fly places more than once or thrice a year has given me many opportunities to do things wrongly and correctly when traveling.

I'm an American Airlines kid. My dad has worked for them ever since I could remember. With much of our family on either coast or elsewhere in the world, it's nice to have my dad's flying benefits to be able to visit family. So when I was younger, we frequently flew out to California. And now I have family members up in Canada and on the east coast. Not to mention my family in the Philippines.

Now that I'm older, my personal usage of my dad's flight benefits is a little more limited, but I've also had the opportunities to fly different places for Catholic reasons. I'm particularly thinking of those times I flew out to Washington D.C. for the March for Life and Rio De Janeiro for World Youth Day. Flying pilgrimage-style is a unique experience.

And then there's my professional career. Being in the aerospace industry, my exposure to the global outreach of such an industry has definitely increased. It seems my current job has sent me to Japan twice now!

Lastly, I have experience and knowledge of commercial airline seats. Particularly in their design, how they work, how they're made and assembled. A lot of engineering and work goes into an airline seat. But all anyone cares about is how comfortable they aren't! >_>

Perhaps because of my engineering mindset, I have an appreciation for the practical, particularly when it comes to traveling. Airline travel has been a part of me from the very beginning. And I think it would be cool to share what I've learned with you all.

- JD

Flight 101 Livery // Kulula

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Universal Moment and Practical Application of Pentecost

I've lapsed in my blogging, and I apologize. It was not without reason. With that said, I'll attempt at providing updates.

This was back in April.

A cherry blossom glimpse of Nagoya Castle
I traveled to Japan for work. Hence, my lack of my usual online presence, including blogging. I ended up staying in Japan for three weeks even though the original intention was to stay only for two weeks. Life is hard, I know.

It actually really sucked initially because my trip out to Japan happened on Easter weekend. I wasn't able to make it to Easter Mass because I left too early on Saturday morning and would arrive too late in Japan to make it to an Easter Mass in Japan. I did speak to my pastor about this, and I was given dispensation (to miss Mass) and a blessing for safe travels.

I haven't missed a Sunday Mass in a very long while and to miss only one of the biggest Masses in the liturgical year was such a bummer for me. I guess because of my missing out, and my personal goal to visit Catholic churches wherever I go when traveling, I definitely used the Google to find out if there were any Catholic churches near my hotel in Japan.

I learned in my initial research on Japan that it is currently only 1% Christian. From my Catholic nerdiness, I learned that St. Francis Xavier brought Christianity to Japan only ~400 years ago, which is pretty young in the Church's history. So in my Google-ing of Catholic churches near where I would be staying in Japan, I wasn't too hopeful of finding something nearby.

Fortunately, there was! The cathedral, in fact! The seat of the diocese! And it was only about two miles away from my hotel!

Too happy to find Nunoike Catholic Church
My first free weekend in Japan, I sought it out. I remember entering that church and feeling a sense of home. Actually, even a sense of yearning because I had missed (Easter) Mass the weekend before. The Mass was in Japanese. Luckily, they passed out pamphlets with English translations of the day's readings. The homily was long, and because I didn't really understand what the priest was saying, I did some light Lectio Divina on the Gospel. I also appreciated the traditional Catholic feel and look of the Mass. The hymns sounded like hymns, and the choir sang beautifully.  If only I could share the sights and sounds! (Maybe they had signs everywhere saying not to take pics and vids...)

It was really nice because despite the Mass being said in Japanese, I was very familiar with everything going on in the Mass. I could still fully participate and not feel lost. The brilliance of the Catholic Mass, undoubtedly.

Mikokoro Catholic Center
Later that week, I wanted to go to Confession. That resulted in me spending more time using the Google to see what other Catholic churches were nearby that also offered Confession. That led me to find a Catholic center run by Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. I was drawn to that one because it's actually a little closer to my hotel and Confession was offered anytime! I just had to ask the priest. Psh. Why the heaven not?!

I actually went to that Catholic center one night during the week hoping to see if I could catch the priest for Confession but was not successful. I didn't find him! So I went back the next night and planned on being there after daily Mass to talk to a priest. Success!

After that, I decided to go to Mass there the next Sunday, and I did!

If you remember, back in 2013, I went to Rio De Janeiro with millions of other people for World Youth Day. I was just blown away by all the people I encountered from all corners of the globe who went to Rio to share and grow in the Catholic faith during World Youth Day festivities. But here, in this humble Catholic church in the middle of Japan, I was reminded again, albeit on a much, much smaller scale the universality of the Catholic faith.

You see, it was actually kind of crazy! The priest who celebrated Mass is Australian. The congregation? Mostly Filipino (represent!) with a sprinkling of Americans and Japanese. Mass was in English. And where were we? In the middle of Japan.  These observances gave me pause because of the combination of different cultures coming together to celebrate the Eucharist in the Mass.

I remembered in my studies of the Catechism with the youth group on these words of St. Iranaeus of Lyons:
Indeed, the Church, though scattered throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the apostles and their disciples. . . guards [this preaching and faith] with care, as dwelling in but a single house, and similarly believes as if having but one soul and a single heart, and preaches, teaches and hands on this faith with a unanimous voice, as if possessing only one mouth.
For though languages differ throughout the world, the content of the Tradition is one and the same. the Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the centre of the world. . ." The Church's message "is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world.

In other words, the Christian faith given to us from Christ through the apostles is communicated to us as one, despite differences in language. I've been to Mass in English, Spanish, Tagalog (Filipino), Latin, Portuguese, Korean, and now Japanese. But Mass is Mass, no matter what tongue. The faith is passed on through the Church with one unanimous voice with her one mouth.

Speaking of tongues (pun totally intended), today has special significance on the liturgical calendar. Pentecost! When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in the upper room and they began to speak in different tongues, but people understood their preaching in their own native language!


Combined with Christ's commissioning of the apostles to make disciples of all nations, and the gift of the Holy Spirit that enabled them to speak about the faith to everyone, ~2000 years later I begin to appreciate the response of those milestone moments in Scripture. Being in Japan. Mass in English, Japanese, and also offered in Tagalog at the cathedral and the Catholic center. The congregations comprised of people from totally different cultures. This is what a practical application of Pentecost looks like! In 1% Christian Japan!

Anyway, bottom line...long story short...I think it's really cool to be 6000 miles away from home and still experience home in the Mass despite it being in different languages. It's the same Mass in Japan as it is here at home. One faith. One voice. One universal moment to remind me of it all.

Happy Pentecost!

Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
-JD 

Pentecost by Restout // Wikipedia

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Deeply Profound Moment with a Taylor Swift Song

This was back in February.

I had just gotten back from my week long trip to Colorado to go snowboarding with some friends. I previously mentioned in another blog post how that I was undergoing a lot of stress and internal conflict regarding personal matters.

I barely had any recovery time between snowboarding and staffing a (Confirmation) retreat away from home. Needless to say, the retreat was largely on my mind while I was on the slopes. It was definitely part of my stress.

While on the retreat, I had the opportunity to go to Adoration on my own. Actually, we had some logistical challenges because we would be having a Daily Mass on Saturday, but our tabernacle was malfunctioning. Because we couldn't lock or unlock it properly, we would be without a secure place to repose the Eucharist. After some brain storming with my retreat core team, we thought it would be a good idea to set up the Eucharist in a monstrance and have private Adoration with assigned hours until Adoration later that night with everyone on the retreat.

I volunteered for the first hour as it was during lunch time, and by the time my hour would be over, it would be necessary for me to get back to my retreat duties.

I finished my lunch rather quickly and couldn't hang around to socialize.

I approached the chair closet-now-turned-into-a-small-chapel with care and reverence knowing Who was dwelling within.

I walk in, knelt, and adored.

Honestly, at the time, I was carrying a lot of burdens primarily from the all the stuff that was on my mind and heart from the snowboarding trip. I was just about ready to share my vulnerabilities with Christ in the Eucharist when the seminarians, who were also helping with this retreat, came in to devest and put away their vestments (the chair closet was also our makeshift vesting sacristy) from Daily Mass.

Rude. Lol, jk. #Forgiveness

After they left, I attempted to center myself back on Christ and just give Him all that I have interiorly.

Around this time, the retreaters outside had mostly finished their lunch and many were talking loudly just outside. Of course, whenever distractions like this happens when I'm in solemn moments, I realize it's an opportunity to focus all the more on what I should be focusing on. It's a skill I've learned from being at Mass with a bunch of crying babies.

I was almost successful at tuning out the voices of the crowd outside the door, but that's when they busted out the guitar. And started singing.

At first I couldn't tell what song they were singing as it was a combination of me trying not to pay attention and how things tend to sound muffled through a closed door. After a while, the tune became clearer. The words became recognizable. And the Filipino in me wanted to karaoke right then and there!

The nerve! Beyond this chair closet chamber door, they sang a T-Swift song that leaveth my mind never more.

"You Belong With Me" was that catchy tune at Saturday noon.

Because it took me a litle while to figure out what song they were singing, the part when I finally caught on was the chorus:
If you could see
That I'm the one
Who understands you
Been here all along.
So why can't you see--
you belong with me.
You belong with me.
Whilst my ears were towards the door and the crowd singing, my eyes were gazing at Him.

Not a stock photo--this is actual
Then it freakin' hit me. It was such an incredibly real realization how listening to the words of this chorus and adoring Him fuzed together in a gloriously profound moment for me. It was somehow the most perfect thing for me to listen to at that moment because given that all I was praying about and going through internally. Taylor Swift's words were no longer Taylor Swift's words. Rather, it seemed to make sense that He, Himself, were saying these words to me personally.

If only I could see that He's the one that understands me. He's been here all along so why can't I see that I belong to Him?

One more time
Geez.

I guess I was rather shaken by that realization. It was comforting though because most of my struggles stem from the fact that I tend to carry the attitude that I belong only to myself, but this reminder in knowing that I, in fact, belong to God gave me a sense of peace in regards to my struggles. I don't know that I can properly express this in words.

The only downside was not having tissues handy because a strange clear wet liquid was emerging from my eyes. Not out of sadness, but of joy.

But yes. A really deep and profound moment involving a Taylor Swift song while in Adoration. Life is comical sometimes.

It's been a long while since I had this experience. I guess my response has been that this profound moment is now a tangible reminder of God's love for me as a way to fill my sense and need for belonging. He is sufficient enough. It's been easier dealing with weak moments or falling into the lies that I'm not good enough or loved enough.

Now, because I know that I belong with Him, I've got a smile that could light up this whole town. :-D
- JD

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How A Single, Catholic Guy Knows He's On The Right Track



Back in January, I took a road trip. After three hours of riding on a sleepy charter bus, we finally made it to Austin, TX. I joined with 100 other people from my parish for the Texas Rally For Life. Pretty cool! We joined thousands of others from around Texas to rally for the pro-life cause. We had great speakers, and Abby Johnson MC'd. No big deal.

Before the march, we had some downtime after we arrived in Austin to relax and take a lunch break.

During this break, I was going around talking to various people being a social butterfly.

Ok, so Apu from The Simpsons is being a hummingbird here, but whatever. 
Not that I have any measure of popularity, but I suppose because I'm pretty involved at my parish, people know of me. Because of this, whenever they have a chance to talk to me, they want to know more about me. I found myself in such a conversation with a mom of one of my religious education students.

She asked me the usual questions. She asked me what I do for a living, the ministries that I'm involved with, and of course she asked about my marital status. When I told her that I'm single, she asked the next natural Catholic question in this Catholic context: do you want to be a priest?  I chuckled and answered no, but what she said next is what prompts me to write this blog post.

She said that she thinks that I would make an excellent priest or husband in the future.

This stuck with me the rest of the Austin trip. Why? Because I guess I needed to hear it. It's an affirmation that whatever I'm doing means I'm on some right track.

In our Catholic world, a vocation is a calling by the Lord to live out one’s life according to His will (His not mine) to a particular state in life. It is truly a calling and not an occupation. The primary vocations, or states in life, available to me are priesthood, marriage, and single life (which single life could also mean religious life in community like in a monastery). The most talked-about vocations are priesthood and marriage, with marriage being the more popular one.

And so for the mom to say that I would make an excellent priest or husband gave me pause because sometimes it’s easier for me think about it if the opinion is more one-sided. But to be considered excellent for both? Hmm.

I’ve heard it said before (I forget where) that a really good, awesome Catholic priest would also make a really good, awesome husband. Now, married priests and priestly husbands is a totally separate discussion which I won’t cover here, but both Catholic priests and husbands share a commonality— both are men! Not only both are men, but both are fathers. In each of these vocations, priesthood and marriage, the man is called to fatherhood in uniquely expressed ways. Fatherhood, to me, is the fullest expression of being a man.

So I took her compliment as a deeper affirmation that I'm living out an authentic masculinity that fits well with either of the two vocations. The commonality between a Catholic priest and a husband is the man and his call to fatherhood. His role as priest or husband doesn't make sense or cannot be lived in its fullness if he doesn't first live out his authentic masculinity.

It was a really nice compliment for me. It was something I needed to hear at the time. It helps me realize that I must be doing something right and that overcoming the struggles of living out authentic masculinity is worth it. Striving for an authentic manliness has been a constant reflection of mine since the end of college. I don’t think I’ve arrived, but I must be on the right track.

Now, time to dig deep, put on my archery mentality (whereby archery mentality focuses on what was done right to continue hitting the bullseye) and take note of what it is I'm doing to be the man God created me to be.


Please pray for me!
-JD

Pastor Lee // The Drop Box
Pope Francis celebrating Mass in the Sistine Chapel // BBC
Apu hummingbird gif // Giphy

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Not a review on "The Drop Box"



Sometimes I get the opportunity to watch special movie screenings. That's how I was able to see When The Game Stands Tall starring Jim Caviezel. Apparently a group of people from my parish is part of some program where they get to hear about different special movie screenings, typically films that are faith-based.  And that's how I got invited to watch The Drop Box.

They heard about the special 3-day screening for this movie and shared it with all. No amount of north Texas ice and snow stopped us from getting a pretty decent crowd to go see this movie. Fortunately, the night of our last major snow fall, all the snow earlier in the day had already melted. Just in time for the final day of this special screening!

I hadn't really heard about it until I got invited to this screening. I didn't even watch the trailer until the day I saw the movie. But when I saw the trailer, I knew that it would be a powerful film. It's actually less of a movie and more a documentary.

The Drop Box tells the story of a South Korean Christian pastor named Pastor Lee who created a baby drop box at his church so that mothers can anonymously drop off their baby.  From there, he makes sure the baby is taken care of and if possible, he adopts the baby as his own.

Abandoned babies are a growing problem in Korea, but oftentimes they don't survive after being abandoned out in the elements. The documentary highlights this unfortunate backdrop. Mothers abandon their baby because they feel that they cannot take care of the child, or they would bring great shame upon themselves because of their difficult circumstances such as pregnant but not married, unwanted children, the baby has a disability, friends at school ridiculing, family disowning, etc. Really sad stories.



But The Drop Box isn't necessarily about Pastor Lee. Yes, it tells his story and his motivations for doing the work, but it also highlights the stories of the children that get dropped off in the baby drop box. Many of these children have pretty serious disabilities like Down Syndrome, physical deformations, mental illness, etc.

This movie was a challenge to watch. Not because it showed graphic scenes or gross medical things, but because it really showed the love that Pastor Lee has for these children when everyone else gave up on them. And that's beautiful. I mean, the middle-aged man sitting on my right was sobbing the whole time, and the woman next to me admitted after the movie that she tried not to "ugly cry" the whole time. As for me, yeah, I totally wept too.

After watching this movie, after seeing the work that Pastor Lee does, after learning the stories of many of the kids with special needs that he and his wife adopted, I left the movie questioning where I am in my Christian faith.

But in a good way.

Here are some themes that stuck out to me:

Capacity and Depth of Love
Seeing Pastor Lee totally give of himself as a father for these abandoned children really shows his vast capacity to love. His own son is severely disabled and requires a lot of attention, but somehow Pastor Lee is able to give each child the tender love and care they need. Late nights, lots of children crying, and all the usual beautiful burdens of raising children. He and his family currently takes care of 15 children that came to him via the drop box. 15. Children.  And always open to more. Crazy.

My primary sentiment after watching the movie was being in awe of Pastor Lee's capacity and depth of love. I mean, clearly no normal human being is able to do the work he does without such a heart as he has, but truly the only reason he does is because of his Christian faith and love of God.

Not only was I in awe of his capacity to love, but it really made me think about my own capacity and depth of love. Do I love others enough as they deserve? Do I love even those that were rejected by the world? Can I give more? Can I love more?

Recognizing the dignity of others
With all the crazy things happening in this world, I'd say that a major cause of our problems in humanity stems from our inability to recognize the inherent dignity of others. And that's what makes watching The Drop Box so cool! It's because Pastor Lee shows us by his example what it looks like to recognize the dignity of each baby, no matter their circumstances or shortcomings. I mean, the man truly loves each child as his own, and through the eyes of fatherhood is Pastor Lee able to recognize the dignity of these little ones.

One of the things I love about being Catholic is that it really teaches me to recognize the dignity of others, even if they don't recognize it themselves or in others. Seeing Pastor Lee work with these children and raising them as his own made me reflect on how I view others. These children were abandoned because they were too much of a burden, but they deserve dignity and love like any other children.

Do I view others as a burden to myself, or do I recognize their dignity?

Humility
The film highlighted some of the necessary work that Pastor Lee has to do.  I have a lot of friends who have recently had their own kids, and it's fascinating to me the work and sacrifice it takes to raise kids. Honestly, sometimes I have IM conversations at work about baby diarrhea.

It requires a certain kind of humility and love to endure these sufferings. What surprised me is that Pastor Lee is elderly yet despite all the difficulties, the late nights, and the challenges of raising children with special needs, he serves and loves those children without complaint. It takes great humility to do the work he does.

Do I consider the needs of others before my own needs? Do I do what needs to be done even if I don't feel like it?



Life Lessons
The Pastor Lee quote pictured above really sticks out to me. He was talking about how he loves kids with special needs because they teach him how to love. They teach him many things. He learns more from them than they learn from Pastor Lee.

That made me go whoa. Whereas most people see kids with special needs or even kids in general as burdens, it's cool to hear how Pastor Lee admits that these children teaches him many life lessons, perhaps even more than he teaches them life lessons.

What can I learn more about the beauty, truth, and goodness of life in those that I encounter?

Pro-Life
While the movie is not overtly pro-life in terms of the movement, it still has a very pro-life message. The pro-life message resonates through the very example of Pastor Lee in his depth of love for these adopted children, recognizing their dignity, and serving them with humility. Perhaps that's why abortion is a thing in our country because we don't recognize that we have the capacity to love greatly, we don't recognize the inherent dignity of our fellow people, and we're not willing to have the humility necessary to love others authentically with self-sacrificial, life-giving love. So, it was entirely refreshing to learn about Pastor Lee and his work because it is work that goes unnoticed, and we can learn a lot from his example.

How can I engage in further pro-life work in addition to what I'm already doing?

I really wanted to have a small group discussion right there in the middle of the theater hallway after the movie because the entire movie is a beautiful nugget at which to continue to chew on. What does it mean now that I've seen it? How have I changed because of this film? How shall I respond?

Pondering this, I will. And I'm totally getting the DVD/Blu-ray.
- JD

PS After the movie, they played a pre-recorded screening event for the movie to give further background, insight, and shameless plugs for ministries that help out families. In it, they talked to the director of the movie. I just wanted to mention that he felt intrigued to do this movie because he saw a headline in the L.A. Times (this one), and he needed something for the Sundance Film Festival. He actually spent time in South Korea helping Pastor Lee and the kids, and because of that time spent with him and filming, he converted to Christianity. That's awesome! One does not simply engage in works of mercy and not feel the Holy Spirit's tug on the heart to discover the source of the beauty, goodness, and truth in serving abandoned kids with special needs. Please pray for him!



Pictures // TheDropBoxFilm.com

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sociohorticulture and Beauty



During my senior year of college, I took a Sociohorticulture class. Sociohorticulture examines how horticultural practices and plants can be beneficial for the human experience because of the relationship between the two. Really fascinating, and it's surprising how impactful plants can be. Yes, yes, I have college credit for such a class. Plants don't fly, but aerospace engineering majors need their elective credits.

When I initially drafted this blog post, I was on a snowboarding trip with some friends. This trip was part of the reason why I went on an unannounced blog break. I thoroughly enjoyed myself since I've never been snowboarding before (or snow sports in general), and it was definitely an adventure!

But, even as I had fun on the trip, I had a ton of things that I'm thinking about. I mean, beyond this trip I was preparing for a multitude of important obligations, and life in general has been particularly stressful.

And so, as we traversed from our lodging to the ski resort and vice versa, it gave me some time to look out the window and reflect on all the things occupying my mind, whether for worse or better.

Praise God that the views right outisde of the car window were that of the wilds and lightly settled areas of southern Colorado! Forests, mountains, blue skies, oh my! And even alpacas?! Cool.

It made me think back to my Sociohorticulture class. There I learned that seeing scenes of nature can provide a calming effect to help with stress as well as helping with focus. Seeing the mountains of majesty covered in forests against a backdrop of blue, clear skies definitely helped me be less stressed about all the things. It was quite nice. I sort of yearned to view such views because it helped put my mind at ease or at least distracted me from focusing on negatives.

But wait. There's more.

I'm Catholic.

Digging deeper into my faith has helped me appreciate encountering beauty, especially such beautiful scenes here in Colorado.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches me in paragraph 2500 that
"Truth is beautiful in itself...but truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos-which both the child and scientist discover-"from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator," "for the author of beauty created them."
In addition to the sociohorticulture benefits, seeing the beauty of Colorado definitely had its taste of the divine because it is His creation.

Why is that helpful for me? Because a majority of my interior struggles (which I won't divulge here at this time) deal with a self-centered attitude. Marvelling at Colorado's beauty reminds me that such a thing is only possible because of God, who is the author of beauty. Acknowledging the source of beauty I encountered really reminded me to put things in perspective that God is greater than me. Even if all the things I'm worried and concerned about seems to not be working in the way I want, just to have these opportunities of encountering beauty in nature to acknowledge divine perspective is calming despite all the stress I'm dealing with.  It takes a certain trust of God's love, mercy, and will to be okay in these beautiful encounters pointing towards the divine.

Total trust in God? Something I still struggle with.
- JD

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Lord of the Rings Mythology Explained In Four Minutes

I just recently finished reading Lord of the Rings! AND mostly read and skimmed through the appendices on Middle-earth history! It only took me a year of mostly reading during lunch breaks at work!



To celebrate, I'd like to share this YouTube video that explains the mythology of the Lord of the Rings ... in four minutes.


- JD

First saw video on Mark Shea's blog.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Favorite Verses: Day 7


Matthew 11: 28-30
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Full passage here.

I've been dealing with a lot of internal struggles lately. Really, throughout my recent life, I've had to deal with internal struggles. It's very burdensome sometimes, especially lately. I've come to better appreciate and realize that I cannot handle these burdens on my own.

That's why these verses give me comfort. I don't need to be the only one to bear these burdens. I'm learning more and more that I can offer up my burdens to Christ, whose yoke is easy and burden is light. I relate this back to carrying my cross. Sometimes it feels like my cross grows all the more to the point where it seems absolutely impossible for me to carry it. Yet Christ, if I allow Him, helps me bear that burden. Only then do I find peace and rest.

Lord Jesus Christ, you carried the burden of the sins of the world. Even then, it was not too great for you. Grant me the grace to look towards you when my burdens seem too great. In your name, I pray. Amen.

- JD

Yoke // Mission Venture Ministries

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Favorite Verses: Day 6



Matthew 16: 18-19
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 
Full chapter here.

Boom.

This is another one of my favorite verses because here Jesus elevates St. Peter-previously-known-as-Simon-but-recognized-Jesus-as-the-Christ-when-no-one-else-did. He imparts authority to Peter to lead his brothers. This essentially makes St. Peter as the first pontiff, and Pope Francis can trace his authority all the way back to St. Peter, who received his authority from Jesus Himself.

It's important to me because I can have confidence and trust that the Catholic Church maintains apostolic succession and authority from Jesus Himself.  I don't think most (any) Christian reverends, ministers, and pastors are able to say that (or even if they do, they can't back it up), but because of laying on of hands and the unbroken line of apostolic authority in the Catholic Church, our bishops especially and their priests perpetuate Jesus' authority.

And another thing--the Church is built on rock. Peter, which is an English-fied version of Petra, Greek for "rock".

Back in September, I visited a Benedictine monastery in middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. I overheard it said a few times how the founders and abbott of that monastery intend to build up the monastery and grounds to be able to last 1000 years.  In other words, built to last.

While the Church isn't necessarily the physical building (rather, she's a living thing, an organism), it's evident from history that she's lasted for the past 2000 years and will keep lasting until the return of the King (not Aragorn/Elessar).

And 2000 years is already a lonnnnnnng time. Through it all, the Catholic Church has survived civilizations, won other civilizations for Christ, and has managed to endure even the greatest of persecutions even in this modern age.

Why? Because she's built on rock.


So I just put that in there because of the song...

I jest.

Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you for the gift of St. Peter and for his faith and trust in You. It was your will to call upon St. Peter to lead your church, especially after your passion, death, and resurrection. We pray for your continued blessing upon us, your Church, and grant us the grace to endure our journeying towards your glorious return. In your name we pray, amen.

St. Peter, pray for us!
- JD

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Favorite Verses: Day 5



Proverbs 27: 17
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Full chapter here.

Every time I read this verse, I think of accountability and how important that it is in our faith.  If we are part of the Body of Christ, we're accountable to one another to get each other to heaven to be in communion with God because that's how He made us.

What's awesome about living in a small community of a Catholic household with other like-minded and like-souled (is that a word?) guys is that we can hold each other accountable for our actions and our practice of our Catholic faith. I can remember the times when a housemate would ask me if I wanted to go to Mass or pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet with him, and I'd say yes even though I initially didn't want to. I can remember a few times of inviting a housemate or two to men's groups so we can  deepen our faith together.

A lot of my free time is devoted to various ministries. I'm held accountable by the people I minister to because they expect me and desire me to truly live out what it means to be Catholic. Out of simple honor, I do not want to let them down.  They help motivate me to be stronger in my faith so I can be who God created me to be so that I may offer myself fully as a real Catholic to them.

A sword doesn't get sharp unless it is on fire and open to being formed by another piece of metal.

So, too, then am I.  I'm en fuego. My faith gets sharper if other people hold me accountable for the faith that I have. Because of this verse, I seek out ways and people to hold me accountable for my Catholic faith. And just as they hold me accountable, I hold them accountable.

Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for the people you have put in my life to help me grow in a deeper relationship with you. I pray that I am the man that you created me to be so that I can set the world on fire, as St. Catherine of Siena once said. All this I pray in your name through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us!
- JD

Sharpening a katana // Extremely Sharp Swords & Knives

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Favorite Verses: Day 4


I sometimes pray in front of abortion clinics, typically with a group of people from my parish.  We used to go to a clinic that was also frequented by some particular evangelical Christian groups. I loved that they were there with the intent of witnessing to the Gospel of Life.

But this is where I totally disagree with their methods of being in front of abortion clinics.

Their leaders would pick up the Bible, get as close as they can on the public easement, typically near windows or doors of the clinic, and yell out Scripture.  And they would read (ie. yell) the verses that really highlighted God's wrath (ie. justice) because of sin, which abortion is a very grave sin. Or sometimes they would yell out some of the more hopeful verses of God's love and mercy, but still yelling with a vibe of malice.

I'm not a fan of this type of pro-life witnessing because it causes potential clients to put up walls and be closed off to our sidewalk counselors who are genuinely trying to reach out to the women needing help (without yelling at them). That whole idea of honey is sweeter than vinegar.

I mention this because it leads me to my next favorite verse, from 1 Peter 3:
15 but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 
Full passage here.

Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.

I wish those pastors would share God's word with those women with gentleness and reverence.

I like these verses because it reminds me that I should always be prepared to defend my faith (ie. the hope that is in me) but in a charitable way.  I've had my debates, mostly on social media, about aspects of my Catholic faith, and my pursuit of apologetics in knowledge and skill has taught me to be better about gentleness with reverence for seeing Christ in others that I'm debating with. I haven't arrived, but I'm constantly striving to be better!

Too easy it is to let emotions run high and let misguided words turn sour quickly.

I just have to know and remember that I can respond to my riled up emotions in a gentle, peaceful way when defending my faith. If the other party decides to get angry...well...at the very least I've done my part.

Because of my own pursuit of Catholic apologetics and my involvement in ministries, I also try to remind my fellow Catholics of these verses.

Come, Holy Spirit. Strengthen the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord within me. Perfect in me the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. With You, I pray that I'm always prepared to spread and defend my faith in word and deed with gentleness and reverence.

Amen.
- JD

Ask A Catholic A Question member with visitor // St. Mary's AggieCAT

Monday, February 23, 2015

Favorite Verses: Day 3



First of all, it amuses me greatly when people use Ephesians 5: 24 to make some sort of radical feminist case. Here for your reading pleasure:
24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
You can easily see how verse 24 standing on its own seems extremely troubling, especially with our modern sensibilities. And self-proclaimed pro interpreters of the Bible whose own interpretive authority eclipses everyone else's never seem to read on towards my next favorite passage:
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

We have such crappy examples in our culture of what love is and how to love. I grow weary of the unsatisfying examples of love that I encounter out there because it's not what I yearn for, and it's not how I want to love others.

Then I look to Christ. I see how He loved the Church, His Bride.


Through everything He taught...through His sorrowful Passion and death...We, as Christians, have the model of authentic, real, genuine love. Self-sacrificial love. A love that is absolutely free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

As I desire to be a husband and father one day, I know that I genuinely desire my future wife's ultimate good, no matter my cost. I want to love her just as Christ loves His Church.

No amount of shades of grey will ever satisfy my pursuit of Love.

So I look to the Cross, the crucifix...to Christ. There, I can ponder the mystery of Love, to know Love, to receive Love...and because of all this...I desire to share that Love.

Lord Jesus Christ, you gave your life for us, your Church, as an act of your infinite love. A love that is truly free, total, faithful, and fruitful. A love that bears great fruit. I pray for the grace to look to You and to love like You. Teach me how to love others, and by Your holy will, my future wife too. 

We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You, because by Your holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.

- JD

Christ on the cross from The Passion // DSD O'Connor's blog