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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!

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

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