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Monday, February 25, 2013

"Jesus said to his disciples, 'Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you." - Luke 6:36-38

This underlined passage reminds me that the love and grace that we show to ourselves God shows to us also. I know that it's about how to treat others, but I think that we must also treat ourselves lovingly and with forgiveness or we will be unable to love and forgive others. Sometimes perhaps loving and forgiving others can inspire us to love and forgive ourselves.

#365DaysWithTheLord

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Truth About Law

Get ready, because I am going to try to cram a lot of thought and a lot of heart into one post today. I thought so much in mass today and am excited to share it all. Let me begin by sharing today's first reading from mass, 
Deuteronomy 4: 1-2, 6-8
1"And now, O Israel, give heed to the statutes and the ordinances which I teach you, and do them; that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, gives you.
2You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it; that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
6Keep them and do them; for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, `Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'
7For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?
8And what great nation is there, that has statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law which I set before you this day?


I read this passage and thought about the laws that we make. There are many ways in which we make laws today. Parents have laws for their children, we have laws of the houses we live in, we have laws of social etiquette, laws of traditions, unspoken laws, laws of the land we live in, laws of religion. 

We have so many laws, so very many laws and rules that we cannot hope to ever follow all of them. Though we cannot ever hope to follow these many laws, these thousands of written and spoken and hidden laws; we may hope, and may try to follow love, to follow God, to follow ten simple commandments. 

I think that this is what Jesus meant in this passage, he meant that we need to give up trying to follow the millions, and follow only the ten. They are simple, they are in our hearts, and to follow these laws is to follow God alone. To follow these ten laws is to say that God's law is the only important law, that it is all that we need. 

Then we will not be responsible to a government, to someone else's bitterness and anger, it is true that we cannot and should not try to be perfect, but that all we need to do is to say yes to God and accept the commandments He has given us.  

I think that many people see religion, see God even, as a set of laws that will be impossible to follow. It is my theory that there is a limit to the number of laws and rules a person can follow without feeling totally imprisoned, and when we are running around following thousands of laws but forgetting love, forgetting kindness, forgetting to treat each other gently ... this is the greatest pain we know. That imprisonment, to be following many laws not set forth by God, and thus unable to simply love, is hell on earth.

The further readings today clarified this thought for me as well, especially St. James' passage, 

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world." [James 1:27]

When I think of being "unstained by the world" I think of how much we cut ourselves down, how we hold back from singing because we were once made fun of, how we hold ourselves back, how we try so hard to fit in and in doing so lose the passion, the joy and the love that we had as children.  The world tells us "cut off that piece of yourself, it is not good enough. It is not normal. You should be embarassed or ashamed," and we listen. To not be stained by the world is to say "No, God made me" and be our true selves, our strange, passionate, loving little humble selves.  

The last reading too, spoke of the Pharisees who saw that Jesus' disciples did not go through the ritual hand washing before they ate. They accused them, and though the Pharisees were not pure themselves, were not following God's commandments, they attacked the disciples for not following the old Jewish laws of tradition. 

This particularly struck me because I get hung up on too many little laws, especially being of Jewish descent. I wonder, "Would it be better if I was Kosher?" or "Oh no, I forgot to pray before lunch" or "Oh no, I forgot the cross necklace that I meant to wear today" ... these thoughts, these little fears, deflect from what is important. 

To be superstitious in this manner like we too often do, takes us away from God and takes us away from living the verb love. I think that this is the most dangerous thing we can possibly do, personally and interpersonally. In our hearts and in our nations. We must love. We must trust God above all else. We must return to a state of kindness, gentleness, and closeness with Our Father, and I believe that the way to do this is to follow only the commandments that he has given us. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pink Floyd and Jesus Love

Bodie asked me to turn on the radio and listen to this song today, and I realized that the lyrics to me are about how we need to love one another the way Jesus loved us .. love the lepers, the poorest of a poor, those who no one else loves (like that really annoying kid at school who everyone shies away from ...) love them all. This isn't hypothetical action, and it doesn't mean joining the peace corps necessarily either (although if you feel called to do that, by all means, that is awesome) it means little gestures, small things in your community like sticking up for someone who is being made fun of or telling someone that something they said hurt you, or volunteering locally ... or even just helping out when it looks like someone needs it! Get out there and make this world a better place! Thank you Pink Floyd.


Pink Floyd: On the Turning Away

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we won't understand
"Don't accept that what's happening
Is just a case of others' suffering
Or you'll find that you're joining in
The turning away"
It's a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting it's shroud
Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that we're all alone
In the dream of the proud
On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange
And mesmerised as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night
No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
It's not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there'll be
No more turning away?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May -- Month of Dedication to Mary

Welcome to May, the month of Mary! I think that one huge mistaken piece of information that those of other religions or secular society has about Catholicism is that they think we worship Mary. (And yes, I get to say "we" now, because at Easter Vigil I was baptized, confirmed, and received First Holy Eucharist! More on that later ...)

Here is the basic dealio:

If you start with the premise (I know that many of you are not starting with this premise) that Jesus was a real person who really lived and who was really God and was born, died, and resurrected and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and that he was immaculately conceived ... then you still are at the very beginning of a very confusing faith journey and I think that Mary is one of the most difficult theological topics of all. Naturally, I still want to write about her.

See we believe that there are "supranatural" (to use a word borrowed from Kyriacos C. Markides who I believe borrowed it from a Russian sociologist ...) events and knowledge that are mysteries to us, and that we don't currently understand. This could be as simple as something yet to be discovered in physics, or as complex as a multidimensional divine gift that we will never be able to understand. Basically, there are mystics, and "mys" implies mystery. It means that we are saying "We don't really understand this right now and that is okay." It's kind of like being at peace with not knowing everything about this beautiful world, and saying hey, just because we don't know what makes particles vibrate doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about them vibrating.

So that being said ... Mary is a mystery. What we do believe, as part of our faith, is that she is in heaven, and that she is Jesus' mother, and as such she has a really close special relationship with Him and with us. As such, and this is the same logic that explains our belief in saints, which I will get into another time, her prayer is very special. When we pray, God listens of course, but asking Mary to pray for us too is like asking your Mom to ask your Dad something instead of asking him yourself. She is close to him, she knows him, and she is able to not only pass on that message but also to bring you grace and peace and maternal love.

It is important though that it is not only this supranatural thing, but that Mary and Jesus really existed. One reason that this is so essential is because we need to be able to relate to them. What truly helped me to understand Jesus was reading about / meditating on / praying the Stations of the Cross. (Jesus' journey to his death, carrying his cross). I was overwhelmed by the emotions that Mary must have felt at this time. She was watching her only son be tortured and spat on and dying and there was nothing that she could do about it. She watched Him fall in the dirt, she saw him bleed, she saw how no one wanted to help him and how utterly alone He was at this time in his life. This brings up such emotion in me, even though I'm not a mother, I feel for her and I can relate to her pain and it makes me so sad even though I know, as I believe she did, that it had to happen that way. I wish that it didn't. I have this theory that if the disciples could only have stayed awake for one hour in that garden when Jesus asked them to, He wouldn't have had to die. We abandoned Him, and He was completely alone except for God, His Father, who was with him always, as He is with us always.

Pietà di Michelangelo nella Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano.


So, Mary is not only Jesus' mother, but she is our mother, and if we ask her to pray for us, she will, and if we pray the rosary and meditate, we are able to grow closer to her in a way that is a mystery to me. She has taught me about being a woman, about trusting God, about handling life gracefully without grasping for control. She has taught me about femininity and modesty and beauty, and about a mother's love.

Here is how we ask her to pray for us, and you can say this even if you are not Catholic, or even if you don't accept the mysteries, but would like to understand more:

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.



Sunday, March 11, 2012

To those of other faiths...

One thing that has been very difficult for me is explaining to my secular friends and family why I am converting. I feel that my friends think I'm nuts, and this is just another phase that will wear off, and my parents worry that I am being pressured from Bodie or his family. Neither of these are the case, and it is hard to find the balance between sharing and over-evangelizing. Of course I would love for them to understand so well that they want to participate, join me, even explore Catholicism and theology themselves. Anyways, one thing that I did decide to do recently is send them this article that was forwarded to me by Fr. Thomas Koller. He has this wonderful e-mail send out list and I often forward the ones that I like.


Converts and The Symphony of Truth
By George Weigel (The Southern Cross: February 2012)  Why do adults
become Catholics?

There are as many reasons for “converting” as there are converts.
Evelyn Waugh became a Catholic with, by his own admission, “little
emotion but clear conviction”: this was the truth;  one ought to
adhere to it. Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote that his journey into the
Catholic Church began when, as an unbelieving Harvard undergraduate
detached from his family’s staunch Presbyterianism, he noticed a leaf
shimmering with raindrops while taking a walk along the Charles River
in Cambridge, Mass.; such beauty could not be accidental, he thought—
there must be a Creator. Thomas Merton found Catholicism
aesthetically, as well as intellectually, attractive: Once the former
Columbia free-thinker and dabbler in communism and Hinduism found his
way into a Trappist monastery and became a priest, he explained the
Mass to his unconverted friend, poet Robert Lax, by analogy to a
ballet. Until his death in 2007, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger insisted
that his conversion to Catholicism was not a rejection of, but a
fulfillment of, the Judaism into which he was born; the cardinal could
often be found at Holocaust memorial services reciting the names of
the martyrs, including “Gisèle Lustiger, ma maman” (“my mother”).

Two of the great nineteenth-century converts were geniuses of the
English language: theologian John Henry Newman and poet Gerard Manley
Hopkins. This tradition of literary converts continued in the
twentieth-century, and included Waugh, Graham Greene, Edith Sitwell,
Ronald Knox, and Walker Percy. Their heritage lives today at Our
Savior’s Church on Park Avenue in New York, where convert author, wit,
raconteur and amateur pugilist George William Rutler presides as
pastor.

In early American Catholicism, the fifth archbishop of Baltimore (and
de facto primate of the United States), Samuel Eccleston, was a
convert from Anglicanism, as was the first  native-born American saint
and the precursor of the Catholic school system, Elizabeth Anne Seton.
Mother Seton’s portrait in the offices of the archbishop of New York
is somewhat incongruous, as the young widow Seton, with her children,
was run out of New York by her unforgiving Anglican in-laws when she
became a Catholic. On his deathbed, another great nineteenth-century
convert, Henry Edward Manning of England, who might have become the
Anglican archbishop of Canterbury but became the Catholic archbishop
of Westminster instead, took his long-deceased wife’s prayer book from
beneath his pillow and gave it to a friend, saying that it had been
his spiritual inspiration throughout his life.

If there is a thread running through these diverse personalities, it
may be this: that men and women of intellect, culture and
accomplishment have found in Catholicism what Blessed John Paul II
called the “symphony of truth.” That rich and complex symphony, and
the harmonies it offers, is an attractive, compelling and persuasive
alternative to the fragmentation of modern and post-modern
intellectual and cultural life, where little fits together and much is
cacophony. Catholicism, however, is not an accidental assembly of
random truth-claims; the Creed is not an arbitrary catalogue of
propositions and neither is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It
all fits together, and in proposing that symphonic harmony,
Catholicism helps fit all the aspects of our lives together, as it
orders our loves and loyalties in the right direction.

You don’t have to be an intellectual to appreciate this “symphony of
truth,” however. For Catholicism is, first of all, an encounter with a
person, Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John
14.6). And to meet that person is to meet the truth that makes all the
other truths of our lives make sense. Indeed, the embrace of Catholic
truth in full, as lives like Blessed John Henry Newman’s demonstrate,
opens one up to the broadest possible range of intellectual
encounters.

Viewed from outside, Catholicism can seem closed and unwelcoming.  As
Evelyn Waugh noted, though, it all seems so much more spacious and
open from the inside.  The Gothic,  with its soaring vaults and
buttresses and its luminous stained glass, is not a classic Catholic
architectural form by accident.  The full beauty of the light,
however, washes over you when you come in.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public
Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Accepted!

Rite of Acceptance went awesomely! I cried my face off, but it was an amazing ceremony in front of the Church and since Bette was administering the Rite to someone else also, Bodie filled in so she wouldn't have to do two people. It was so amazing to have him be a part of that, and Fr. David smiled when he got to me and I was so happy about the whole thing and felt so surrounded by friends and family and community. One girl that I teach CCD to was also an altar server and so she was able to watch the whole thing, and my fellow teachers Nina and Erica did too. It was amazing to have everyone there and go through that and accept Christ into my heart and accept this journey, officially. This is the first official, real, step that I have taken to joining the Church and it felt amazing. We processed into (and later out of) the church and had this little ceremony where we were given a copy of the Chatechism and a crucifix from Italy to wear. I cried the entire time practically because I was so happy.

Later that night we went to Messiah at Lake Ave. Church with this family that is friends with Bodie's family and it was really nice to meet them but I had a terrible migraine. I didn't realize that Messiah was like ... a whole thing by Handel and I thought it was just an event called Messiah where people went and sang Christmas Carols. Anyways we went to dinner at this place called Twoheys where we went with RCIA last year and it was really nice to talk to everyone, hang out, etc. I had this horrific headache though that got worse and made me nauseous every time I got into the car and when I got home I pretty much just went to sleep.

Anyways here is a little video of Messiah, Lake Ave is this church that is like non-denominational Christian I think, we don't go there usually, just for this special event. I thought the organ with the cross on it was beautiful even though it was missing the best part.

video

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pre Rite of Acceptance Fears

So tomorrow is not only my last CCD class before the holidays, but my Rite of Acceptance ceremony. I was pretty nervous about it on Thursday and actually chickened out of going to RCIA and the obligatory mass for the Feast of Immaculate Conception. I was terrified and didn't know how big of a deal the ceremony is ... and though I've been decided on this course for about a year I still was unsure whether I could actually go through with it.

That night when I looked over the text of the ceremony things seemed a little more clear, but I was still scared. Here is how it will go:

What do you ask of God's Church?

Candidates: FAITH

What does Faith offer you?

Candidates: Eternal Life

Are you prepared to begin this journey today under the guidance of Christ and your sponsor?

Candidates: I am

Sponsors ... are you ready to help these candidates find and follow Christ?

Sponsors: We are

So the part that was scary to me of that was whether Faith offers me Eternal Life. During the week I had kind of a spiritual crisis where I doubted my Faith, doubted the existence of God, and felt like He had forsaken us. Ever since I first learned of Jesus' last words in Matthew 27:46, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I was terrified that God had forsaken Jesus, or that Jesus was not actually God, or that God had forsaken all humans. 

I talked to Bodie about this, and he said that God doesn't forsake us, we forsake him. I thought about that for awhile and realized that when I felt desperate and alone and like God was not behind me or with me it was not because he wasn't there; it was because I stopped believing and stopped praying and faltered in my faith. You don't forsake us, we forsake you. He also told me that you're not in control and you don't need to be. This is so true, God is in control and so often I get caught up in planning and perfecting and controlling this life that I forget to slow down, have patience, and let him guide me. I realized that even with prayer I was trying to make things happen, to control my life and the world around me. Pray, don't conjure. We don't need to control the world or make things happen or plan it perfectly, we need to live love and let God guide us and pray for His guidance and support.

Today Bette (Bodie's mom) left a note inviting me to talk to her about all my doubts, since she is my RCIA sponsor. I made a list and then we walked over to St. Rita's in Sierra Madre to talk and pray. Here is what I was unsure of:

1. Jesus' last words, Matthew 27:46
2. Legalism / absolutism. When I started looking into becoming Catholic I searched for a lot of answers online and found myself often at Catholic Answer Forums disagreeing with their responses, and oftentimes feeling like the answers were cruel, unloving, and unChristian. I could not stand the way these poor souls were being treated by important figures of faith and authority. I'll probably get into this more in a later post and don't want to go into details now, but I feel that we are not called to judge each other and set strict human rules, we are called to spread love and community and I would urge the apologetics on this site to act more like Paul in his letters to Corinthians, and act in a more loving, kind, and open manner.
3. If I don't agree with every aspect of a religion can/should I join one?
4. Judgement / feeling like there are a lot of "good" Chrisians and Catholics who are really hurtful and judgemental to others and use faith as a source of hate. I don't think that God calls us to judge each other and tear each other down, I think he calls us to love each other and bring each other up, rejoicing in our successes and helping each other through difficulties.

On that note, can you imagine if instead of pro-choice people feeling like pro-lifers were trying to restrict them and call them murderers, they saw that the pro-lifers were really hoping to spread love and really truly loved their unborn child, loved them, and wanted to do all that they could to help the family get through a difficult time. If we spread love rather than hate, we accomplish SO much more. Hate brings this world to its knees, and I am guilty of it myself of course, but I spend my life trying to love and that is really the biggest tenet of my faith.

So anyways, we went to the Church and met the pastor who we thought was a janitor at first since he was in street clothes carrying a ladder, but talking to him was nice, and seeing the church was nice, and Bette was very helpful and listened to all my concerns. Bodie also really helped this morning, and Thursday night when I was having trouble. He asked me if I could within good conscience go through with the ceremony and move towards joining the Church. I thought about it for a long time and realized that I absolutely could. My conscience is completely at peace with this move, I know my reasons for doing it, I am not hiding anything from myself, and I know what I believe, feel, trust, and KNOW. He showed me Psalm 22, which really helped me to understand Matthew 27:46, and I feel so much better going into this tomorrow than I did on Thursday.