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. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Happily Ever After

This post originally appeared on on January 18, 2014.

Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners
and tax collectors and said to his disciples,
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 
Jesus heard this and said to them,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

During my Christmas break, I flipped through the TV one night, stumbling upon “The Bible” TV series. One scene in particular jumped out at me.

Jesus knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane looking up at the full moon. He knew He had only a few hours left. He knew what was coming. He called out to His Father.

“If you will it, Father, pass this cup from me.” He said. The camera then flashed to the moon. Dramatic music began.

“If you will it…..” Jesus repeated. Once again, a shot of the bright moon. God was listening. What would He say……? The music reached a climax. The suspense….

Jesus looked up. His accusers had arrived.

This is not the happily ever after Hollywood classics have trained us to expect. In our version, Jesus would have looked up at the moon. The dramatic music would build up the scene, and then suddenly, after all that anticipation, something miraculous would happen. Perhaps Jesus would float into the sky, a bright light shining on Him. Then He would strike down His enemies. He would save the day. He would avoid suffering.

But that’s not the way it happened. Jesus accepted it. He drank the cup that was meant for us. Jesus, the holiest One humankind will ever know, bore the weight of our sins on the Cross.

Why? Why did Christ stoop so low as to suffer for us? Why would the King of Glory eat with sinners and tax collectors? Doesn’t He realize we are nothing in comparison to His splendor?

He does. Jesus knows we are weak. He knows that we falter and fall and fail time and time again. For this very reason, He draws near to us. He knows we can’t do it alone. He offers us His hand always, regardless of the fact that we will undoubtedly reject it at times.

We are all sick. By the nature of our very humanity, we are imperfect. However, this fact should not discourage us. Yes, we are broken. Yes, we are weak. But we find consolation in the knowledge that we have a Savior so loving and so merciful that He would not only associate with us, but DIE for us, too.

Jesus is not afraid of your mess. He’s not afraid to get His hands dirty. He proved this each time he sat with sinners, reached out to lepers, and loved the unlovable. By his Incarnation alone, He humbled Himself to share in our humanity. And if that’s not proof enough, He took on the weight of our sins, accepting His cup and drinking the grave so we would not have to.

Christ could have commanded angel armies to rush in from the heavens that night in Gethsemane. In a single instant, He could have crushed His enemies. He could have avoided the Cross, avoided all that pain. But He didn’t. The King of Kings endured ridicule, torture, suffering, and death through a sacrifice so full of profound love that we cannot even begin to fully comprehend its significance.

We lead lives full of twists and turns, trials and failures, mess-ups and redoes. But we have a Savior who’s not afraid of our mess. With Christ beside us, the twists and turns will not prevail. And that glorious ending….Well, I’d pick that over a Hollywood happily-ever-after any day.