The Cassock and Collar Make the Man

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One wonderful thing about growing up Catholic is that I always smile and feel excited whenever I see a priest or a nun in full uniform. I understand why plainclothes nuns exist and in my college, some of the priests wore casual clothes along with their collars. But the feeling’s not the same. Whenever I see a Missionary of Charity, in their signature blue and white habits, I automatically think of Mother Teresa and think These women are so awesome to be following in her footsteps. Whenever I see a priest in a cassock, I think Wow that cassock is badass! 

So Tom Chiarella of Esquire Magazine’s experiment of dressing up as different men, priest included, definitely caught my eye. The first one he dressed up as was a priest. It was interesting to me that he chose the cassock to “look like the Jesuit priests who taught me to write.” I’m assuming he had a Catholic school education up to a certain point. I also like that he respected the uniform of the priest enough to not wear a crucifix or carry a Rosary or act like a priest when he was never ordained as such.

But what really struck at me was this (emphasis mine):

No one asked my name. No one called me Father Tom. But that’s what the uniform made me. People want to believe.

Especially people in need. All day long, I was faced with homeless men, homeless families, crouched in the street. Sometimes they reached up to me, touched my wrist. Twice I was asked for a blessing that I could not give. Not in the way they wanted. I started wishing that I were capable of performing a service for the world. And I found I could not do nothing. The uniform comes with some responsibility; otherwise, it is just a party costume. I started kneeling down, holding out a ten-dollar bill, and saying, “I’m not a priest. But I feel you.” And I couldn’t do it once without doing it a couple dozen times. Chicago is a big city, with a lot of souls stuck in its doorways. It still makes me sadder than I could have imagined.

It’s easy to put on a cassock. And it’s really not easy to wear one at all.

I think, if anything else, this is evidence of what the life of a priest is like and why the church doesn’t call for married priests. Being a priest isn’t a job you clock in and out of. It’s a lifestyle that demands that the man who wears the collar and uniform to completely surrender himself to serving others, whether as a diocesan priest or as a member of a religious order.

When I was going on vocation retreats, a book called To Save a Thousand Souls caught my eye and a dear friend let me keep a copy. When I read that book, the lifestyle of a priest was laid open to me. Priests have to be able to manage a parish (if they’re diocesan) or have some kind of full-time job that requires a lot of responsibility. They also have to celebrate Mass, be ready to go to hospitals when necessary, celebrate weddings and funerals, give advice, hear Confessions, stand up for the teachings of the Church and, oh yeah, keep their own souls intact in the process.

Most priests may not be able to have families the way that ordinary men and women do, but they make a family in a completely different way. One priest that comes to mind is my dear friend Fr. Keon, who was a professor at my alma mater. He passed away a few years ago, but his life was an amazing one. Most of his life as a priest was spent teaching and serving the University of St. Thomas as a member of the Basilians. He taught philosophy and participated in many on-campus activities such as attending plays and going out to the movies with students. When I met him, he was retired, spending his days in the cafeteria talking to students, telling tall tales and making everyone laugh.

When Fr. Keon passed away, generations of students came to his memorial service. Everyone had stories to tell, memories to share about the time they spent with this priest. It’s hard to say that Fr. Keon never had a family when hundreds of alumni, young and old, were all there celebrating his life and at the same time missing him.

The life of a priest is one with great power and great responsibility. Each priest has the potential of being a hero to the Church and to the world, filled with lost souls. My hope is that people will come to understand that and pray for them always.

RIP Wes Craven

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I’m not gonna say that I’m a Wes Craven film buff. I’ve only seen Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Scream a few times. But I still feel gutted like a fish right now because of the impact he made in the horror genre. Not only did he create a great series of slasher films with Nightmare on Elm Street but later deconstructed them with the Scream series. And to hear now that this wonderful director died of brain cancer is just heartbreaking considering that the Nightmare on Elm Street series revolved around the horrors that take place in the mind.

The reason I’m writing this is for my friends who are the bigger Wes Craven fans. I can’t imagine the pain that you feel.

And even though it’s night time, I suddenly have the desire to check the horror section on Netflix.

A Different Kind of Tinder: The Differences Between The Hookup Culture, Friendship, Casual Dating, and True Love

Clusterflunk stock photo.

I practically live on the internet. I wrote a post about how awesome it is to have friends on the internet. I love that I can be open about my faith online to friends and acquaintances who see themselves as atheist, agnostic or “spiritual but not religious” without having any kind of yelling or belittling of myself or my beliefs. But I still have friends in real life as well and while I have a lot of social networks, I haven’t signed up for any online dating sites or installed any kind of dating apps on my tablet. Hypothetically, if I were to ever go out on a date, I’d want to meet the guy in real life, have him ask for my number, and take me out to dinner. It sounds old-fashioned, I know.

One reason I don’t go on dating sites is for one thing, all the good ones are too expensive. I do know people who’ve met and even married people they met online, but as I said before, I’m an old-fashioned romantic. I want to get to know the guy I’m with as an actual person, not just chat with him on Facebook or talk via text messaging. It takes me completely out of my comfort zone, but hey, nothing safe is worth the drive.

There’s an article from Vanity Fair going around called “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse.'” It’s a pretty long article that comments on how fast and easy the hookup culture has become with the popularity of apps like Tinder which focus more on getting someone to spend the night with than getting to know a person. But honestly, I don’t see how that’s different from two strangers going to sleep with each other after meeting at a party or a bar. The hookup culture has been around for decades. It’s just that it’s happening faster now.

I don’t blame this so-called “dating apocalypse” on apps like Tinder. I blame the hookup culture. I get the desire of wanting to be with a person, but too many people are accepting of this idea that hookups are okay without thinking of the consequences, physical and emotional. There’s this dizzying, contradicting logic that  people can have sex without consequences and yet somehow still find true love if the person is also someone you want to be with outside of the bedroom.

So why do I cultivate the majority of my friendships online but prefer to find my dates in the real world? To be honest, it’s because online, it’s easier to find people who share the same interests. I can talk about Buffy as much as I want to with my fellow online friends because we all understand our love for the show and the characters. But at the same time, I hope I can meet these friends at a convention. Eventually, even with online friendships, there’s a desire to know the person in the real world. The reason I want to find my dates in the real world is because I’m not just looking for someone I talk about Buffy or Doctor Who with. I’m looking for a future husband.

Casual dating about knowing what kind of person you like to be with and hopefully learning some emotional maturity in the process. Casual dating is not for everyone. For me, casual dating helps me to not get my expectations too high. Love doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. While I’m okay with just getting to know guys and casually dating them without any expectations of a relationship or marriage right now, eventually, there will be a guy who will go the extra mile for me and I’ll want to get too know him more than any other guy. In other words, when it comes to dating, I’m cultivating love with a different kind of tinder.

The tinder that comes with authentic love is loving the other person as a person, not just as a means to an end. I’m not saying to go out on a date and talk about wedding bells and a white picket fence right away. I’m saying that you need to know the person you’re going out with as a legitimate and actual human being, created by God for a purpose. Eventually, the right person will come. But until then, there is no need for the instant gratification of a swipe and the ego boost that comes with a person thinking you look hot enough to spend the night with. I struggle with lonely nights just as much as anyone else, but I also know, that there are ways to deal with my loneliness that doesn’t require an app or an internet connection. I hope that others will come to realize that as well.

Monique and Monica: The Names I Chose

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For those who don’t know, my full name is a long one. I’m Filipino. Long names come with the territory. My first name is Ann Mary, but I go by my middle name “Monique.” This often leads to people calling me “Monica” by mistake. Whenever that happened, I wouldn’t mind. After all, I chose Monica as my Confirmation name. Now unlike my brother and other high school kids, I didn’t choose my Confirmation name after researching the saints. In spite of the fact that I went to Catholic School, I didn’t really get to know the saints outside of information cards and the childish renditions in those books where the saints looked like movie stars. You know the ones. I chose Monica as my Confirmation name out of convenience, not really putting a lot of thought into it.

And yet I still care about what people call me. I don’t mind being mistakenly called Monica, but “Ann Mary” or “Mary Ann” as some may mistakenly say never sounded right to me. I also didn’t like being called “Momo” by some bullies back in high school nor did I like it when someone thought a different name would be better for me than the one I already had.

The name “Monica” means “advisor” and the story of St. Monica shows her trying to advise her son, Saint Augustine, but ultimately she surrendered herself and her son to God in the hopes that Augustine would reform. And reform he did. In my personal life, I do give advice to my friends who ask and I offer to help my friends out with their problems. I also tend to have an “advice column” kind of voice when I write my Bible studies and sometimes on this blog as well.

I don’t ask for St. Monica’s intercession as often as I should, but I feel like the saint whose name I share is still a part of me. Like Monica, I am devoted to my faith and long for the return of my fallen brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m also learning that when you share your faith openly, you will be met with some hostility, but for the most part, people don’t mind as long as it comes from a personal level and not like the Westboro Baptist Church.

I hope that I grow to have Saint Monica’s perseverance and undying trust in God as I get older. And the next time someone calls me “Monica,” I will still correct them, but still feel happy that my name is linked with a woman like her.

Women of Christ Wednesday: The Visitation Project

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From left to right: Bonnie, Rebecca, and Heather. Credit to The Visitation Project’s Facebook page.

From The Visitation Project’s Website:

The Visitation Project is a radio show with one goal: meeting Catholic women wherever they are.

Co-hosts Rebecca Frech, Bonnie Engstrom, and Heather Renshaw come from different backgrounds, regions of the country, and perspectives, yet together they offer a fresh voice for Catholic radio. On-air, the TVP Crew discusses issues and challenges significant to today’s Catholic woman, while infusing huge doses of joy and their love of Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith as the underlying thread that ties it all together.

The Visitation Project is produced through the facilities of Mater Dei Radio in Portland, Oregon. TVPRadio episodes broadcast every Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. PST on 88.3 FM Portland / Vancouver and 100.5 FM Eugene / Springfield. You can also listen live at http://www.materdieradio.com.

 

1) What is The Visitation Project and where did the idea for this show come from?

The Visitation Project is a weekly half hour radio show that airs Sunday nights at 7:30 PST. Our name comes from the Visitation, when Mary set journeyed to see her cousin Elizabeth. There she was literally with The Lord, but she didn’t ask Elizabeth to come to her. She met Elizabeth where she was, and brought Jesus to her.

That’s the academic answer. What is it really? It’s three Catholic women having an honest conversation about life, family, the culture, and our faith with lots of laughter and the occasional beat-boxing.  We’re meeting women where they are and bringing Jesus with us!

 

2) What do you think makes The Visitation Project different from other Catholic radio programs?

We’re not scholars or theologians, so we’re not talking about things from that perspective. We’re trying, instead, to engage our audience in a conversation about what it means to be a Catholic woman in the modern world. We talk about things no one else is discussing, and we aren’t afraid to say the things you don’t normally hear on Catholic radio.

 

3) You have a few podcasts about vocations. What advice would you give to young adults who are discerning marriage and religious life?

Start off with prayer, asking God to make it obvious where He wants you to be. I always ask him to make it obvious, because I’m not good with subtle. I need big blinky neon lights pointing the way.

After praying, search out people who are living the life you feel called to and ask LOTS of questions about what it really looks like to live that life. Don’t forget to actually listen to the answers, not just the good bits but the bad ones too. Then you can have a full picture of the decisions you are making.

Get all the information you can, and then realize that God is going to lead you wherever He wants you to go.

 

4) What advice do you have for young moms that want to make sure that their kids understand the Catholic faith?

Talk about your faith in front of your kids and let them see you pray. Small children will soak up everything you tell them, but they will believe what they see you do.

 

5) What do you think is the most important thing you guys want people to know about The Visitation Project?

That they need to be listening. Seriously. All the cool kids are tuning in. We’re everywhere – radio, podcasts, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and our website thevisitationproject.com; and we really do want to hear from them. Some of our best shows have come from suggestions or questions from our listeners. We want to know what’s important to you and what crosses you’re carrying. We want to go beyond being your favorite audible addiction. We’re hoping to create a community of Catholic women that helps us all to live our faith out loud and with great joy.

Anxiety, Avoidance Issues, and the Beauty of Reconciliation

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It all started with this Twitter conversation:

Jasmin Marsters is the wife of James Marsters AKA Spike on Buffy. She’s an actress/model/musician who also does some writing and production for independent films. I like what she shares on her Twitter and Instagram, even though we may not always agree.

My avoidance issue had to do with the fact that when I was having a mini-meltdown, I did everything but turn to God. It wasn’t until I put pen to paper and wrote a letter to God that the anxiety finally left me. I often try to avoid my negative feelings and said avoidance only makes things worse. What happened to me reminded me that in good times and in bad, I have to turn to Him for help.

I also feel like what Jasmin said relates to the nature of how we react to our problems as well. Granted, there are some things that need to be avoided. There are things we aren’t ready to face yet. However, there’s also a time where we need to act like the bigger person and act kind towards someone we may not feel deserve it. It also applies to when we put off little things like doing the laundry or paying the bills. The problem won’t go away if you keep avoiding it. When it comes to being a person of faith, avoiding the things we struggle with isn’t going to help us.

One thing I love about being Catholic is the Sacrament of Reconciliation also known as Confession or Penance. Despite what some people may think about what Confession is, the truth is that Confession is there to help us face the problems we face.  Confession isn’t a “Catholic guilt” thing. It’s more of a reality check. We often have problems in our lives that feel out of our hands, so we ask people for help. Confession deals with the interior issues that we have to work on in order to become better people.  Matthew Kelly compares it to cleaning your car while Rachel and Kateri compared it to cleaning your room.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

When we go to Confession, we clean out the temples of our souls. We learn humility and receive grace and healing. Even if we struggle with the same problem, like an addiction, Confession will be there to help us get back up again.

The Eucharist Brings Us Peace: Eucharist Bible Study Day 14

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An excerpt:

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” – St. Francis de Sales

I think the hardest part about being in Mass and going to Adoration is that we often want to rush things. I’ve said before that when we receive the Eucharist in the Mass and when we are in Jesus’s presence, we ought to do so with reverence, silence, and love. It’s not an easy thing, though, because we are always in a rush. We rush through traffic to get to work. We grumble when we have to wait in a line. We fast forward through pre-recorded programs of our favorite shows.

What we actually make time for says a lot about what we love. We may wish for the Mass to be short, but we’d gladly sit and watch a football game for however long it lasts or watch the Oscars as they drag on past the four-hour allotted time and heck, even watch the red carpet before the awards start. So why is it so hard for us to give our time to the creator of time?

Go read the rest here!

Reflections on the End of Summer

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Even though the week has just begun, summer feels like it has finally ended for me. I’ve mentioned before that the last few months have been a roller coaster. I went from travelling to Florida to the heights of Mount Everest (in Vacation Bible School), made some new friends at Cafe Catholica, and went to a baseball game for the first time! My brother came back from studying abroad, we moved him into a new apartment, and now I’m finally settling down, getting off the ride and wondering “What the heck do I do now?”

I had a couple of “false starts” throughout this summer, things I thought would lead to more but were really just temporary. But I learned a lot from the things I experienced. Through watching my friends get married or choosing religious life, I became more resolved in finding my own vocation. Through making new friends and going to new places, I learned about life outside of the internet. I learned how to sing in harmony with a choir and how to write a cover letter.

I learned that I was a person who had a lot of resilience, but still broke down every now and then. The times that I break are just as important as the good times because I gained a lot of strength from it. I learned that when I turn to God, he turns things around and gets me out of the woods and through the storm. I also learned how to deal with disappointments and that you don’t always have to write people off just because you have communication issues with them. If you can still be friends with someone in spite of some misunderstandings, it’s definitely a lot better than hating them.

One thing I noticed this summer was that everyone was kind of undergoing a kind of identity crisis. I wrote an article about the limit of labels for Radiance and Grace Magazine. I feel like I’ve changed in how I see myself as well. It’s still hard for me to adjust to change, but it’s getting easier nowadays. I’m still looking for opportunities to try new things, especially stuff involving young adults and writing. Thankfully, there are some events going on that have to do with both!

I am definitely looking forward to the upcoming fall season. I may not be a student anymore, but I can still learn new things every day. I can spend this time reading new books and honing my craft. I’m probably gonna get ready for Halloween way too early and who knows what will happen in October, my favorite month of the year?

I hope that the next few months will be good. What I know for sure is that God will be with me throughout all of it.