Lent Day 37: One Holy Catholic Apostolic

One familiar prayer associated with Catholicism is the Nicene Creed. Like many a mission statement and affirmation, the Nicene Creed reminds Catholics of the basics of the faith. For this post, I’m going to be looking into this particular phrase from the Creed:

“I believe in one holy Catholic and apostolic church.”

One

Although part of the New Evangelization involves dialogue with other denominations, Catholics are always praying that all faiths will become one again. Beyond just co-existing, Catholics desire a reunification. And just before you tell me “all paths lead to God,” I’m gonna quote a Bible verse here (emphasis mine):

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes through the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

This is Jesus speaking, people. Not the passive “nice” Jesus or the Superstar. The real Jesus. We want to make people see who Jesus really is: The Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God.

Holy

In spite of what mainstream society says or perceives about Catholicism, the goal of the Catholic Church is to be holy. Yes, the Catholic Church has a bad reputation worse than many serial killers. News flash: HUMAN BEINGS ARE FLAWED! Catholic or not, humans are corrupted by the world. That’s the nature of sin. But for ever scandal and sinner, there is a saint who changed the Church for the better. For every pedophile priest, there is a priest who gives shelter to the homeless. For every avaricious bishop, there is a bishop who gives asylum to refugees. For every horrible pope, there is a pope like Pope Francis or Pope Benedict or Pope John Paul II.

To quote my favorite Doctor:

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.

This applies to the church. A history of bad events doesn’t take away the essential goodness of the Church. However, the Church does recognize its mistakes and is trying to make up for it. The holiness of the Church comes from Christ and, for those who let it, Christ’s holiness can overcome the corruption of the world and the inclination to sin.

Catholic

I have a love affair with words and the word “catholic” (lowercase c) is one of my favorites. It means “universal.” Which means, for Catholics (uppercase C), no matter where they go, they will find someone who practices the faith and a church to pray in. Not to mention, the church takes the culture it lives in into account. Can you truly separate Mexican culture away from Catholicism? It’s kind of hard because even the worst Mexicans still see the Church as part of their lives. There’s a saint for almost every country in the world. Best of all, linking back to the previous two words, every member of the Catholic Church is united by a shared baptism, which means that a Catholic can never truly feel alone.

Apostolic

One thing unique about Catholicism is that it unites the idea of faith and works when it comes to salvation. Note: This does NOT mean that we think that if we do enough good deeds, we get into Heaven. Instead, the holiness of the Church inspires Catholics to go out into the world and do good for the Kingdom of God.

The word “apostolic” also ties together two other things: scripture and tradition. How many denominations can say that they can trace back their leaders back to the first century AD? I don’t know if it’s just because I’m Asian, but the fact that the Church holds traditions to such a high esteem is such a wonderful thing to me.

The problem is that oftentimes, Catholics learn the tradition without understanding why the tradition is there or how it applies to them. I had a talk with my brother recently and he brought this up to me. So here’s my answer to the problem of “relevance.”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” “There is nothing new under the sun.”

No matter how much technology we have and how convenient our lives have become, there are times in our lives that we want to find someone who relates to our problems. No matter how cynical we become about people in power, there are people who want others to take care of everything. And most of all, there comes a time where we want to know where we came from. This is where apostolic tradition comes in.

And before anyone thinks that this doesn’t apply to Catholicism, watch this video:

Even though the technology and the way people find out about the new pope change over time, you can see that there is always a crowd at St. Peter’s Square, waiting for the new pope, and that when the bishop announces “Habemus Papam,” the crowd shouts out in joy.

There were a lot of other things I talked to my brother about that gave me ideas for stuff relating to Lent and to the Catholic faith. Follow my blog and see what’s around the corner!

Lent Day 36: National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month! The Catholic Gentleman posted a blog about some Catholic poets you may not have heard of or may not have known were Catholic. But for this blog, I’m going to list off some saints who also wrote poetry and tell you some things about them.

St. Therese of Liseux: One of my favorite saints (as I have mentioned), St. Therese’s best known work is her autobiography Story of a Soul and being an inspiration to Mother Teresa. She is also one of the few female Doctors of the Church. However, she also wrote poems and plays and even got to act in the plays she wrote. One particular play had her in the role of Joan of Arc. 

(Photo courtesy of maidofheaven.com)

St. Theresa of Avila: Another female Doctor of the Church, St. Theresa of Avila was one of the great Catholic mystics. She founded the Carmelite order and loved contemplative prayer. Her most well-known work is The Interior Castle

St. John of the Cross: Ever heard of the term “dark night of the soul”? St. John of the Cross came up with that term. He was one of the co-founders of the Carmelites and good friends with St. Theresa. He’s also another Doctor of the Church. 

St. Robert Southwell: A Jesuit martyr from the 14th century, St. Robert Southwell was a missionary in post-Reformation England. 

St. Ephriam: He was a deacon and came from Syria. Most of his writings were intended to be sung as hymns.

St. Francis: No introduction necessary. Where do you think Pope Francis chose his name from? St. Francis’s most well-known poem is the “Canticle of the Sun.”

St. Hildegard of Bingen: A Benedictine abbess who was talented in a lot of areas. She founded 2 monestaries and wrote what is said to be the oldest morality play.

Click on the links provided or Google search these saints. What do you think of their poetry? Do you know any other Catholic poets? Or poets from other denominations? Please tell me!

Lent Day 35: Night at the Movies- Mean Girls

Do you really want to know why I didn’t blog Sunday night? I was looking through Netflix and found that one of my favorite movies was on Instant Watch: Mean Girls.

What does Mean Girls have to do with Lent? A little more than you think, but I’ll get to that later.

I am always a sucker for movies with quotable dialogue such as Casablanca and The Princess BrideMean Girls is no exception. Just look at how many memes there are relating to the movie on Tumblr! But what I really love about Mean Girls is how it takes the stereotypes associated with high school cliques and gives a fleshed-out vibe to them. There are parts of the movie that take artistic license with the sociology of cliques and how fast one can accurately heal from getting hit by a bus, but it’s forgivable. I also love the social commentary that the movie provides without even being preachy.

For example, early on in the movie, Gretchen Weiners says:

But we know that’s not really what feminism is. Instead, Tina Fey gives an actual rule of feminism towards the third act of the movie:

There are parts in the movie that show Regina’s little sister watching music videos and Girls Gone Wild, imitating what she sees on TV. We are shown how desperate Regina’s mom is to stay young and be “cool.” There are other parts in which Cady thinks about joining the mathletes, but both sets of friends tell her its “social suicide.” Also, Cady decides to dumb herself down in order to try and get Aaron to tutor her in math. Once again, Tina Fey provides words of wisdom which are sadly not GIFed:

” I know having a boyfriend might seem like the only thing important to you right now, but you don’t have to dumb yourself down in order for a guy to like you.”

Then there’s the fact that Regina puts herself on an “all-carb diet” and tries to go to extremes to lose weight instead of eating healthy and how easily it was for Gretchen and Karen to turn against Regina. Gossip, rumors, lies, and secrets drive the plot of Mean Girls all the way until Cady’s math competition in which another not-quoted-enough-quote comes in:

In this scene, Cady finally decides to stop using her mean girl habits and use her intellect towards a better cause: helping her classmates win the math competition. The “limit” in question isn’t just a math problem, it’s Cady’s perception of the power she held over people as a mean girl. In truth, being a bully towards other people didn’t change anything for the better. It just made all the people she bullied feel worse and more insecure.

All of this social commentary ties into Lent because Mean Girls can be looked at as a morality play or a parable. Through watching this movie, people can learn how lies and gossip only serve to make things worse and that apologizing for one’s actions leads to redemption. The third act of the movie starts with the public apologies and trust exercises and ends with Cady making her own. Although she ran away from the first attempt to make apologies, she decides to take the opportunity to do so when she is crowned Spring Fling Queen. It’s my favorite part of the movie because for once, Cady is herself. She’s not a naive homeschooler, a Plastic, an outcast, or a mathlete. Just an honest, apologetic high school girl.

This movie has a lot more depth than one thinks. But on the other hand, it’s still an entertaining, hilarious film. Give it a watch!

Lent Day 33 and 34: The A Word

I know. I’m being more inconsistent than a soap opera lately. I have no excuses.

But it brings up a commonly asked question: Is fasting, prayer, and almsgiving required on Sundays?

Technically no. However, there’s still a type of fasting that goes on during Sunday Mass. The Gloria isn’t sung, for one thing. Some churches choose to pray the Apostle’s Creed instead of the Nicene Creed. The kyrie and Agnus Dei are sung in their original language (Greek and Latin, respectively). But there’s also something missing. It starts with the letter “A” and means “He is Risen.”

It’s “Alleluia.” 

Why don’t we say it during Mass during Lent? Because Lent is supposed to reflect on Jesus’s time in the desert along with his Passion and death. It’s also a common Catholic practice to not say “Alleluia” at all until Easter arrives. It’s kind of the equivalent of keeping a surprise party secret.

And if there are changes made in the Mass during Lent, we have to apply these changes to our Lenten resolutions as well. So don’t think that just because it’s Sunday, you can have your cake and eat it. The cake is a lie anyway.

Lent Day 32: Get To Know Me

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection echoes one of my earlier Lenten Blogs.

But thankfully, my friends gave me an interesting prompt: Post 15 random facts about yourself along with your best selfie and your worst selfie. So here goes!

  1. I am a Texan by choice, not by birth
  2. I have weird taste in music
  3. I love reading Jane Austen and books about her more than I can say
  4. I love listening to musicals and can get all the songs stuck in my head
  5. I like to knit
  6. I tend to cook the same things a lot, but I do experiment every now and then
  7. My first concert was Audrey Assad during her Fortunate Fall tour
  8. My favorite flowers are cherry blossoms, sunflowers, and roses
  9. I haven’t seen cherry blossoms in real life yet
  10. I have traveled to the Grand Canyon
  11. I went on a road trip
  12. Even though I’m 24, I still love listening to Taylor Swift
  13. I consider 13 to be my lucky number
  14. My first memory is of me climbing up a stairway of an old house
  15. I have lived on both the East and West coasts. I have yet to go North.

Image

The selfie on the left was from a retreat. The selfie on the right is a “screenshot” of my 5 second-cameo at a news station that I interned at. 

Lent Day 31: What is Love?

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection talked about how compassion and forgiveness became God’s weapons as Jesus hung upon the cross. The reflection is titled “The Weapons of Love.”

I’ve written about love on this blog before. But there’s always two questions that I keep asking when it comes to people who write stories of love: Do they portray a healthy, wonderful, loving relationship accurately? And if they didn’t, why?

Take JK Rowling for example. She created relationships in her books, but recently had second thoughts about one of the relationships she created. Also, in my very biased but hopefully honest opinion, I don’t think she convinced her readers that James and Lily were truly, happily married to each other given that we are given little about them aside from stuff other characters said about James and Lily and Snape’s flashbacks, which show that James was a bully. In my opinion, I don’t think that Rowling is a romantic. She was divorced at the time she started writing Harry Potter and by the time she married again, she was world-famous and writing Book 5. It’s hard to find a normal relationship in between then, but that’s just my speculation.

On the other extreme, we have the author of the Twilight series, Stephenie Meyer. The Twilight series is entertaining, but many critics have pointed out that the relationship between Bella and Edward isn’t a healthy one. And yet, Meyer’s stories became a household name for a while, leading to the creation of Fifty Shades of Grey and other stories revolving around relationships with one partner being dominant and another partner being submissive.

It doesn’t help that television doesn’t portray relationships accurately, either. Just ask the fans of How I Met Your Mother about how they felt about the series finale. (I’m still hurting from it, by the way.) So often, in television and film, characters get caught up in the sweeping ideas on what a relationship should be like, caught up in the drama or the idea of a person or objectifying a person rather than actually loving the person for who he or she is.

Going-to-be-a-Saint-Soon Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body provides a middle ground between a detached viewpoint of romance and the overly dramatic portrayal of love we see in films and television. Click on the link to read the whole series. But if you’re like me and you don’t see yourself as someone who really understands theology, there’s a book by Christopher West that introduces Theology of the Body in ways that the everyman can understand. West’s book was actually the first book I read this year.

What do you think makes a relationship healthy and loving?

Lent Day 30: The Thorn in the Flesh

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection and Pope Francis’s homily today seem to coincide with what I’m going through right now.  Both of them talk about the three major things in Lent: Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. And all three of them can be used as methods for dealing with what St. Paul calls “the thorn in the flesh.”

As said in 2 Corinthians 12: 5-10

About myself I will not boast, except about my weaknesses.Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated,a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

The thorn in the flesh to me represents a sin that people struggle with a lot. It’s the one thing that reminds us that we’re only human. In times of struggle, it’s important that we are honest with God about how we feel. Fr. Robert Barron also points out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which are a form of living prayer. Through the works of mercy, we focus our attention on other people and the thorn in the flesh becomes less painful.

Tonight, I want you to think about something you’re struggling with. In your prayers, talk to God as if there was no need for formality. Cuss at Him if you want to, as long as you are completely honest.

Lent Days 27-29: Waiting In The Desert

There were a few reasons I didn’t write the past few days.

Monday’s Lenten Reflection talks about how posture can make a difference when it comes to prayer. Fr. Robert Barron quotes psychologist William James who says “…it is not so much sadness that makes us cry as crying that makes us feel sad.” Without going too much into detail as to why, I spent Monday night crying. And what hurt more than the crying was a feeling of disappointment in the world as a whole and a sense of despair. God was far from my mind that night, in spite of the fact that I went to Mass the previous morning. I neglected my prayers and drowned myself in distractions.

Yesterday’s Lenten Reflection asks: “Have I tried to live on something other than God?” That answer was a resounding “Yes.” In spite of me praying to make up for the previous night’s neglect, I felt like I was saying my prayers instead of feeling them. And I went back to my distractions, wishing that the past couple days never happened. I tried to focus making something positive out of the sadness I felt, but negativity is a very heavy emotion. God felt very far yesterday. The worst part was that for the past two days, I didn’t even feel like taking pictures for my 365grateful project or updating this blog for a progress report. (I’ll make up for that by doing a progress report post on Easter.) 

The reason for that was that I felt some serious doubt. I knew in my head that God probably understood how I felt, but He himself felt so far away that it was hard for me to believe that God could understand the specifics of my emotions. I struggled with sleep for the past few days due to my sadness and last night, I could only pray how I felt. There wasn’t any formality in my prayers, just me venting to God out loud and in my thoughts about my sadness and despair. “Help my unbelief,” I said.

Today’s Lenten Reflection seems to reflect how I feel right now. I’m in a waiting period in more ways than one. And as I look back on the past couple days, I realize that right now, I feel spiritually dry as a side effect of my impatience. Patience was never my strength, as I said before. But thankfully, the Jesuits have a prayer for what I’m feeling. For now, I can pray for the desire for God’s presence. And even when I don’t want that desire for God’s presence, I can pray for the desire for the desire of God’s presence. For now, that’s all I can do, and that’s enough for me and for God.