Monday, April 20, 2015

Battered & Bruished

"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."
St. Thomas Aquinas

Catholics believe in "one holy Catholic and apostolic Church." So, let's unpack this:

One: We are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 2:28). To claim one Church means to recognize that the Body of Christ extends across time and across continents. Our brothers and sisters are all humanity.

Holy: This one is kind of a give-away, but it means virtue. We're called to be holy and perfect, as our heavenly Father is holy and perfect.

Catholic: Well, it's the Catholic church so this one isn't really a shocker....Jk. Catholic means "universal," so to be Catholic means to extend across all things. It is the universality of the Church that allows us to walk into Mass anywhere in the world and, despite the language difference, know what is going on. We receive the same Word of God and the same Bread of Life, no matter where we are in this world.

Apostolic: from the Greek apostello, meaning "to send forth." An apostolic Church reaches out to all, seeking to make known Christ's love across all corners of the earth.

BINGO. Apostolic. Let's tackle this one today.

We're called to be apostles, but what does this look like?

It means venturing out into the unknown. It means speaking up when our culture wants nothing to do with us. It means standing up for what we believe in.

It means courage, and bravery, and one heck of a journey. If you're looking for comfort, this isn't the way to go.

But, then again, when we worship a King who died on a Cross, do we really expect a world full of comfort?

Our life as Christians isn't about surviving. It's not about avoiding causing offense. It's not about keeping our mouths shut, even if we do so out of respect for others' beliefs or lack of belief. No, it's exactly the opposite.

Being a Christian means making joyful noise. Not out of spite for others' beliefs. Not out of hatred or pride or ignorance. But out of joy: We have such a great love. We have such light. If, then, we receive so much, shouldn't we give it out? Shouldn't we share the Good News (the Gospel)? Shouldn't we tell the world what we have seen?

That's what the early disciples did. They emerged after Pentecost on fire for Christ. They shared His message to all nations. People thought they were wasted, but nope, they were just high on the Most High.

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard," they said (Acts 4:20).

They ran to all corners of the earth to share this news: Jesus was dead, but He has risen. The powers of hell cannot prevail against Him. What love He has for us to die for our sake. What power He has to overcome the cruelest of deaths.

Despite arrest and persecution, they preached with love and joy and passion. It was impossible for them not to do so. Many died at the hands of those unwilling to believe them. But they died in the embrace of a God who knew their suffering. And, like Him, earth's suffering soon ceased to have a hold on them as they found their eternal rest in Heaven.

Let's imitate the early disciples. Let's run from the tomb like chickens with our heads cut off, announcing that Christ has risen. Let's run from our homes to all corners of the earth, bringing others to know the Good News.

We are not a ship meant to remain pristine and safe. That's not why we're here. We're here to fight.

So, don your armor. Prepare for battle. And run out with reckless abandon. The harder your fight, the bigger your wounds, the better. Then, like St. Paul, you can look back at a life well lived and say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

"Dear Future Husband"

Today, I was scrolling through the Top 50 songs in America right now. I recognized very few; however, one unfamiliar one stuck out to me in particular: "Dear Future Husband" by Meghan Trainor.

I was curious. Part of me hoped it was a beautiful ode, a song that nodded to the noble idea of living with your future spouse in mind, something along the lines of "6'2" by Marie Miller. I first heard 6'2 on mainstream media and was so pleasantly surprised that it portrayed a good message. However, as I read the lyrics, "Dear Future Husband" seemed to portray a different message.

Dear future husband,
Here's a few things
You'll need to know if you wanna be
My one and only all my life

Take me on a date
I deserve it, babe
And don't forget the flowers every anniversary
'Cause if you'll treat me right
I'll be the perfect wife
Buying groceries
Buy-buying what you need

Let's start here. I just picture Meghan Trainor forcibly sitting a young man down in a chair with a spotlight on his face and handing him a list of demands. Romantic.

You gotta know how to treat me like a lady
Even when I'm acting crazy
Tell me everything's alright.

Okay, this part is good. Treating a lady like a lady is noble. Maybe I was wrong about the song.

After every fight
Just apologize
And maybe then I'll let you try and rock my body right
Even if I was wrong
You know I'm never wrong.

Okay, I take that back.

I'll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
Open doors for me and you might get some kisses
Don't have a dirty mind
Just be a classy guy
Buy me a ring. I don't know Meghan Trainor, but I'd assume a lot of this was playful humor, not meant to be taken seriously. I'd like to make that disclaimer. However, the message of this song really hits the nail on the head with the way we view relationships.

For example:

"I deserve it." How much of our relationship is focused upon us--what we deserve, what we are feeling? When we look at a relationship only from the lens of "what can I get out of it," there's bound to be issues. Then, what happens when the going gets tough? What happens when the initial feelings of love fade? Do you end it? Is that all it takes to fall out of love?

In Edward Sri's Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love, a commentary on St. JP2's Love and Responsibility, he gives an example of two couples he knew. I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the book right in front of me, but basically: these two married couples lived within blocks of each other. Around the same time, both of the wives developed serious illnesses. One husband could not handle the stress of taking care of her; he no longer had time for himself and always had to worry about watching after her. He left the family and divorced her. The other husband dedicated his life to caring for his progressively ailing wife, bathing her, dressing her, and retiring early so he could be with her as much as possible. That is love. Maybe he didn't get the warm and fuzzies, but you can't doubt he loved her.

Life is going to get difficult at some point or another, and for a relationship to persist amid this stress, it must be about giving all that you can, not getting.

"Don't have a dirty mind, just be a classy guy." Trainor makes this comment after offering her hubby kisses for being polite and sex for apologizing first after a fight. So, let me clarify: sex and kisses are not bad things for a married couple. In fact, yay go you; love each other and celebrate the sacrament and the procreation and unity that results (I could go on, but this isn't a post to explain why Catholics love sex, marriage, love, etc.). Furthermore, being a classy guy isn't a bad thing. In fact, that is SO great!

Buuuuuuut. You can't hand out physical pleasure like candy and expect your spouse not to struggle with classiness and purity. Purity is a two way street, for sure, but regardless, if your relationship is only based on kissy time and sexy time, not having a dirty mind is incredibly difficult--for both in the relationship.

If you want to be able to tell your significant other "don't have a dirty mind," then don't make your relationship about the physical. If a relationship is based on loving an individual for their whole person (looks....AND soul and character and personality and intelligence, etc.), then the physical aspect isn't the priority. Being a classy guy or gal is easier because the relationship is about enhancing the dignity of the other, respecting and loving them--as a person to be cared for, not an object to be used.

Self-sacrifice, a focus outward, and respect for the dignity of the human person and the human body are just a few elements of authentic love. However, I only touched the surface. Each of these are interconnected to each other and to countless other elements of pure relationships. Perhaps I'll write on the topic more later, but to those interested, definitely check out Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love.

Now, to leave y'all with the most important point I want to make: We should be writing "Dear Future Spouse" but we shouldn't be following it with a list of demands. Rather, let's pray for him or her. Let's let them know that we're aware of the fact that one day we'll vow ourselves to them. Let's live with intentionality, not throwing away our bodies and souls to every individual we encounter. Let's practice self-giving, person-centered loving right now.

“Love is willing the good of the other…and then doing something concrete about it.  It’s not an emotion, it’s not an attitude.  It’s a move of the will.  To want the good of the other, and do something about it.  That’s love." Fr. Robert Barron

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Good News!

In addition to occasional posting on this blog, I will now be posting monthly as a contributor to (the blog for Life Teen International, a Catholic youth ministry organization). You can find my posts at

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Feast of St. Joseph

My post originally appeared on Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse on March 19, 2014, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.”

The Feast Day of St. Joseph. I’ll admit it’s a little intimidating to write a reflection [for Father Alfonse's blog] today. I mean, St. Joseph!! He’s a big one. Protector of homes, patron saint of the universal Church, fathers, a happy death...

I must admit, I haven’t given him enough credit before recently.  I guess it’s because I’m neither a father nor husband. As I started asking around about saints and St. Joseph, I realized how instrumental his role—and the role of all the saints—is in our life. In praying for St. Joseph’s intercession and reading about him these past few days, I have begun to unravel the example of holiness and obedience that is St. Joseph.

Before now, in my mind, he just kind of observed. He stood by as the big stuff happened. After all, throughout the entire Bible, he didn’t even say anything! But, you see, what I’ve come to realize now is that he didn’t stand by. He stepped aside. He stepped aside so God could be glorified, not him.

Joseph was asked to marry the Blessed, the Holy, the One and Only Virgin Mary. He was asked to adopt the Savior of Humanity. Tasks like that could have easily given him a big head. But he instead chose the route of humility and obedience to our Lord.

First, take his relationships with others. St. Joseph lived with perfect people. Imagine that. He was the only sinner in the entire bar Joseph household. Talk about pressure! Imagine prayer time with his adopted Son…. “Dear…You, please, uh, bless me and my blessed, holy, perfect wife.”

Imagine how he treated Jesus. God had entrusted him to watch after and instruct the holiest and most perfect child to be born onto this earth. There was a lot of pressure involved with that, no doubt. Yet still, Joseph taught Jesus his trade, his prayers, his way of life. And well, yes, he lost him for three days, but hey, it happens to the best of  ‘em, right? (kidding)

Imagine how Joseph treated Mary. He loved her with such a pure love that no physical means could define or express it. He embodies what it means to be united man and wife and, most importantly, God. Now I don’t know much about marriage, but I spoke with someone who does, a man who is devoted to both his wife and to our Lord. He says it better than I ever could.

“St. Joseph is the perfect spouse. He was hardworking, compassionate, understanding, patient, kind, and loving. Marriage is tough work. A Christian marriage requires both humility and trust, but it also invites God into the picture to be in relationship with the husband and the wife. It takes three to make a marriage work. St. Joseph knew that well. As a husband, although the head of the household, I am called to lower myself in relation to my wife in order to love, protect, honor, and respect her just as St. Joseph did for Mother Mary. This act of lowering oneself - humility - is seen when you put your needs and wants aside for what is best for your spouse. St. Joseph is the perfect example of putting his needs and wants aside for what was best for his wife knowing that he was doing the will of God. Was it difficult? Of course. That's part of being Christian. That's part of picking up our Cross to follow Him.”

Joseph knew humility inside and out. He knew the love owed to Mary because he knew the love of God. Think about how he treated the Lord. He had been blessed with the gifts of a holy and perfect family. But soon, he learned that his adopted Son, beloved and divine, would be killed viciously and unjustly. A sword would pierce the heart of the woman he loved. And he could do nothing. It was part of a plan that Joseph, being human, probably didn’t fully understand. And still, he accepted it, just like he accepted marrying a pregnant woman who his culture would have assumed the worst of a stoned. He didn’t protest. He didn’t grow angry. Joseph swallowed his pride, closed his mouth, and listened.

This takes courage. This required Joseph to put God first, to step aside and trust that God’s plan, though seemingly chaotic to him, would work for the best. The fact that Joseph said no words in the Bible is not a sign of insignificance. Rather, that silence speaks wonders. St. Joseph is an example to us all.

Like his life demonstrates, silence is necessary. Silence means that we put God before our doubts and our protests. We accept His will without a fight. We put our needs aside and arm ourselves with God’s word and God’s guidance. In doing so, we don’t enter into a journey without suffering, but we DO enter into God’s journey, a path that will never disappoint.

This Lent, follow Joseph’s example. Stop protesting, and start listening.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

Another Jesus Post on Your News Feed

I'm a Jesus freak. You don't have to tell me; I know. And even if you wouldn't go so far as to say "freak," I know what you mean.

For some, maybe there's a negative connotation in regards to Jesus-freakness. Don't worry, I get you. I was the same way. Like I've mentioned in a few past posts, seeing Bible verse tweets and "too blessed to be stressed" (and the like) on my News Feed once made me cringe; I was weirded out by Jesus freaks. Totally.

And then la-de-daa, time passed, stuff happened, and BOOM. Now I'm the Jesus freak. And it's not tough for me to imagine that this is weird to some people. After all, I know for certain that old Faith would want nothing to do with new Faith. So, this post goes out to those who may be a bit apprehensive of or flat out disturbed by Jesus freaks:

The way I see it, guys, I can't not talk about my faith. Like Acts 4:20 says at the banner of this page, it's literally impossible. I'm too happy about it to keep it inside.

Old Faith would think that was weird. It is actually possible: just keep your mouth shut and voila. Besides, it's just some obsession you want to share. Nothing special there. You'll outgrow it. Keep it to yourself please. Get off your pedestal and be a normal teen for once. And please, just please, stop posting links to another Jesus post on Facebook. It's clogging my News Feed.

Okay, if you know me, you know I am obsessive. Whether it's details/perfectionism or my favorite band, I find a lot of stuff to become obsessed with. Let's take this example: I'm obsessed with twenty one pilots, a band that merges rap with ukulele with piano with good messages and interactive live performances. I could go on and on. I learn their songs on piano...and guitar...and ukulele, and I would learn it on more instruments if I knew how to play any more than that. I know every rap by heart. If I see an opportunity to bring it up in a conversation, I will take it. If "Holding Onto You" comes on the radio, I will ensure all around me know that I knew them before they were big and that I've seen it live. Twice. If you know me, you know that really all it takes is one mention of them, and I will start the whole schpiel. The same thing happened in my Les Mis phase. I would want to break into song every time someone said "at the end of the day" and discuss the under-appreciated talent of Russel Crowe to just about anyone who would listen. So, trust me, I get obsession.

But here's the thing. Nothing is comparable to being in love with Christ. Nothing.

An obsession? It fades. Les Mis no longer occupies my iTunes top 25 most played list. I like it still, of course, but I've gotten the obsession part out of my system. And yeah, twenty one pilots is still up there. But I'd never make a blog and run it for two years merely to discuss my obsession. And yeah, it makes me happy, but I can keep the happiness inside. If I were gonna be shot for talking about that band, I am 100% sure I would keep my mouth shut. It's not worth it. It doesn't run my life.

Faith's not like that. Faith is an obsession (with Jesus) that doesn't fade and has lasted for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. There have been twists and turns along the way, but to claim that faith disappeared from this earth at any point in our Christian history would be false. There's always been people in love with Christ since He first arrived as a little bundle of baby cuteness.

And in the face of death? Yeah, people wouldn't keep their mouth shuts. They died for faith. They still do. Countless human beings have been shot, stoned, tortured, crucified (upside down, at that) all because they loved their faith too much to deny it. It's worth it to someone in love with Christ. It's not the end to them, anyway.

And running one's life? Well, although an obsession can infiltrate into many aspects of one's life, it can't compare to faith. Faith dictates people's very core beliefs about themselves, their worth, and their purpose. It drives some to devote their lives to God and leave behind family and friends. Faith can give us our names (quite literally for me) and dictate what we do every Sunday for the rest of our lives. I could go on. The point is, faith matters to the faithful. It's not just an obsession. It's a way of life.

Music makes me happy. But you know what makes me happier? Jesus. I am a Jesus freak and I'm proud of that. I have a source of joy each day. I have consolation when the going gets tough. I have hope that when my loved ones die, I'll see them again. I believe that Jesus is everywhere and inside me radiating beauty. And when I'm forever alone on Valentine's Day, I can say "hey Jesus loves me" and have that inner peace that, regardless of a lack of gifts from anyone besides my parents, I am loved.

So, I'm not going to tell you that you'll be miserable without faith. I'm not going to answer every doubt or question you have about faith (because I don't have all the answers). And I'm not going to promise you rainbows and butterflies because you decide to love Jesus. I can't do any of that. All I can do is show you what I've seen. If you're weirded out by the Jesus thing, I hope you can relate to me, or at least the old me. I thought it was weird. I had no idea what was going on in the head of a Jesus freak. What was making them so incapable of just not talking about it? And this is coming from someone who had been raised in Catholicism for my entire childhood! But I noticed that some people just had a joy I was missing. I connected the dots and they all pointed to God. So I took a leap of faith, and now I couldn't be happier that I did. Literally. I could not be happier about anything. Ever.

So my question for you is this: Ever wonder if you're missing something? If not, I invite you to stop and think about it.

If you have questions hit me up in the comments section or Facebook/Twitter/text. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Blessing and a Curse

My post originally appeared on Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse on February 12, 2014, Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time.

Mk 7:14-23

From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.

God gave us beautiful hearts, capable of magnifying His love to all we encounter. Through these hearts, we find passion. We create. We love. We live.

But God also gave us free will. Both a blessing and a curse, free will allows us to actualize our heart’s desires. We’re not just robots on some pre-destined, uncontrollable route to the grave. We control the route we take.

Our Father could keep us like puppets on His string, but instead, He trusts us with free will. He allows us to choose whether or not we want to live life beside Him. And when we do, when the will of our hearts is aligned with the will of God, perfect harmony ensues. We’re living the life He wants for us, a life that—although not devoid of tribulation—is rooted in Christ and can overcome any trial.

The discord comes, however, when our hearts stray, when we abuse free will and turn away.  Our paths no longer point to Christ and the evil within our hearts creeps out without Him to combat it. The devil now guides our actions. All the vices and sins this gospel passage speaks about surface. God is left chasing after us trying to pick up the pieces we savagely tear apart and throw in our wake.

It’s important for us to be aware of the evil capacities of our own hearts. It’s the reason we see war, oppression, violence, slavery to sin, death, and more. Men created with a good purpose allow the devil to win the battle for their heart. Their view of God becomes distorted and evil springs forth within them. No one forces it upon them; rather, quite ironically, it is through their very own freedom that they enslave themselves to their sins.

It’s a danger that always follows close behind the path of a Christian. Our sin and our selfishness, the devil within our own hearts, wishes to watch us abuse God’s gift of free will. The devil wants to see us crash and burn.  And the faster we run toward Christ, the harder he tries to trip us up. That’s why being a Christian is never easy.

If you set heaven as your goal, getting there won’t be a walk in the park. Each time you think you’ve finally figured God out, something will come and knock you off your high horse, something that can either cause you to turn to God for comfort or away from Him and toward false, fading comfort.

Within your heart, undoubtedly, evil will creep up. It’s a fact of humanity we can’t deny. It will be tempting to say yes, but it will harm your connection to Christ. And each subsequent denial of your purpose is like cutting another cord that links you to God. So how, then, do we combat it?

How do we keep this connection intact? How, as Christians, can we fight the good fight and resist the evil within us that will undoubtedly attempt to surface?

A relationship with God and a relationship with others are key. There are countless ways to go about this, but I’d like to share with you a method that has worked wonders for my faith community.

Prayer buddies. My youth minister (featured in Fr. Alfonse's Jan. 16 post “The Leper and a Catholic Hater”) proposed this idea a few months ago as a means of making us more comfortable praying. Three people pray three days a week for three intentions. You can meet, call, or text. Since we’re on different schedules, my group texts. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, we send three intentions and all pray for each intention. That’s 9 people prayed for (by three people) in one day. 27 per week. 108 per month!!!! 108. Crazy. Just think of the effect this system could have if any of you reading this gave it a shot, too. (And this is Fr. Alfonse’s blog, so there must be a lot of people reading. Thousands of prayers each month….now THAT is powerful.)

This practice is not only an awesome way to expand the power of prayer, but also a way to stay focused on Christ. Each week since we began, I find myself looking for people in need of prayers. I’m more receptive to others’ needs. And I’m more willing to share my own struggles when sometimes I’m the one in need of prayers.

A mere group text has become, for us, a prayer community. It’s hard to let evil seep in when you’re reminded each day to spot those in need of God’s love.

Combat the evil within your own heart. Pray. Pray for your own strength and the strength of those around you. It will be hard to maintain a close relationship with Christ. It will be hard to keep the evil from surfacing. But with a Savior who never stops loving you and a faith community who recognizes the power of prayer, you’ll find all the strength you need.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Thank God I Wasn't Aborted

This morning, I saw that Pope Francis had tweeted about March for Life in DC. Great, I thought. It's nice to know that the Holy Father is seeing the hard work of countless Americans, determined to put an end to abortion, euthanasia, and anti-life practices. I was planning on merely praying for them, remaining in solidarity...But then I saw President Obama's tweet, and I just had to speak up.

I respect Obama as a leader, don't get me wrong, but I don't agree with him. This evening, he tweeted:

Despite attempts to chip away at Roe v. Wade, the decision marks a historic victory for women's health.

Victory? Women's Health? #StandWithWomen(AndAgainstHUMANS)?

It just doesn't make sense. I don't understand how, as Americans, we could take pride in the Roe v. Wade decision. It marks a degradation of human dignity, a degradation that we see daily. It reaches from the murder of the unborn to the constant glorification of promiscuous celebrities and habits. As humans, we are better than this. We are worthy of more dignity than our culture leads us to believe. We are not clumps of cells that can easily be disposed of. We are not meaningless vessels meant to twerk, drink, and party our hearts out. There's something INSIDE, something that tells us we are destined for more. How are we ignoring this? How are we missing the big picture? How can we not see that there's more to life--more to OUR lives-- than we could ever imagine.

I don't think I'll ever understand the Pro-choice perspective. I don't say this because I am closed-minded. I have tried to grasp it, I promise. But the thing is, I was nearly aborted. And if the pro-choicers are right, then I had no value. I should have been aborted. If the pro-choicers are right, I would be dead. And considering how things have gone so far in my 17 years of not being dead, I'd have to say life's a pretty cool thing.

Let me explain. It's a story I don't always go into, but it's the reason I have such a personal connection to the pro-life cause. 

My mother was having a lot of trouble with me during her pregnancy. Already a mother to two young children and wife of a loving husband, she had a lot going for her. Several times, she thought she had miscarried. After these constant issues continued, her doctor ran some tests, which revealed a high likelihood that I would be born with Downs Syndrome and severe chromosomal defects. In fact, the doctor had said, giving birth to me could even kill my mother. 

The doctor suggested I be aborted. Why risk dying for this one child? Why leave your two perfect children alone to give birth to a messed up defect? 

Even I'll admit abortion seemed like the smart option. But luckily, my mom had faith (and had Faith). She didn't abort me. No matter how messed up I was, she would take care of me, and if that meant losing her own life in the process, well she was willing to trust it was a part of God's plan.

At 2:52 pm, I was born. I was perfect, the doctor said. My mom cried. My dad cried. Even the doctor cried. My mom had faith, and that's what she called me.

Now I'm no Albert Einstein. I'm just an average teenager. But I'd like to think I can change the world; that's the plan, at least. I'd also like to think that just in my short 17 years of life, I have made someone's life better. 

It's weird to think that someone didn't want me alive. It's weird to think I am the exception to the norm. In most cases like mine, I probably wouldn't be alive. I'm lucky, I'm lucky to have had a faithful, trusting, and supportive family.

Abortion is not a step forward in women's health. It's a step backward for humanity. It justifies murder. It's not about women's rights. It's about me, you, us, the human population. Women, men, we were all at one point in our lives helpless fetuses. Our lives weren't in our hands. 

At any moment, someone else could have made the decision that you were unwanted, that you would be inconvenient. They could have killed you. 

It's difficult to put ourselves in the position of the unborn, but for me and countless others, this threat of death was a reality. Aren't you glad you didn't die? Aren't you glad someone decided to keep you? 

I know I am.