How To Accept What You Can't Change In No Easy Steps

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I’ve talked about The Serenity Prayer on this blog before (as well as the film Serenity). I even liked reading The Way of Serenity by Fr. Jonathan Morris. I feel particularly drawn to the Serenity Prayer lately because I’m having problems adjusting to change again. Or rather, the aftermath of the changes that came into my life. I’ve embraced the idea of trying new things, but sometimes, the new things are only there for a little while.

It’s kind of like going to Disneyland for the first time or to a seriously awesome retreat. When you try new things like volunteering or going to a new place, the experience can be amazing and overwhelming and you just get caught up in a blissful spiritual high. Then all of a sudden, you find yourself back to reality and you can’t go back and repeat that experience again.

I’ve been taking care of 2 bamboo plants and a small batch of mini-roses. Although I water them regularly, the roses are currently wilting and one of the stems of my bamboo plant is turning yellow. I can’t help but feel like these plants are reflecting how I feel spiritually. Plants can die from over-watering just as much as they can die from not being watered enough. Sometimes, spiritual thirst can come from wanting too much just as much as it can from not feeling anything.

Maybe it’s just one of those summer-is-almost-over kind of downer feelings, but I feel my life transitioning again and I’m not sure where it’ll go this time. I’m missing the fun stuff I did with my friends and dread being stuck in a rut again. But I have to accept where I am right now, whether I like it or not.

If there’s anything I learned this summer, it’s that God will always give you what you ask for, but not in the ways that you expect. There is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. Sometimes people only come into your life for a little while and sometimes there are people who will change your life forever. But you can’t cling onto whatever or whomever made you feel a certain way because those things aren’t God. If you love something, you gotta let it go. If you keep loving it, it will come back to you. Or whatever you want will come back in a different way. But it’s ultimately up to God.

So if you’re like me and right now you’re feeling bummed about summer being close to over (or already over depending on when you start school), pray the Serenity Prayer. I have my own modified version because I can’t resist making a Firefly joke.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference

And if I can’t have any of those things right now,

I’ll just be here binge-watching Firefly

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

The Japanese Legacy of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Most people recognize St. Maximilian Kolbe as the priest who offered his life in the Auschwitz death camp to save a man who had a family. However, Maximilian Kolbe also left behind a legacy in Japan that would later make a huge difference during the end of WWII.

During the 1930s, Maximilian Kolbe went on a mission trip to Nagasaki, Japan. Even though he didn’t know any Japanese, he was able to create a Japanese version of his magazine Knight of the Immaculate. It grew to a circulation of 65,000 in 1936. He also founded a monastery in Nagasaki and decided to build it on what the locals believed was the “inauspicious” side of the mountain. When the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, that monastery miraculously survived because the other side of the mountain took the majority of the blast. Today, it serves as a center for Franciscan work.

I also feel like Maximilian’s legacy remains in Nagasaki in other ways. My brother got to visit the city as part of his college’s study abroad program. While he didn’t get to visit the monastery, he did see a lot of monuments dedicated to peace, not to mention a couple of Catholic churches, which are pretty hard to find in Japan. The Japanese’s hope for peace is something I think St. Maximilian Kolbe would be very proud of.

Encountering Jesus: A Book Review

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When Elizabeth Scalia shared Encountering Jesus (the latest read from the Patheos Book Club) with me, I was definitely interested in reading it. The book (compiled by James Stuart Bell) is a collection of people seeing Jesus or witnessing a miracle in their lives that they attribute to Jesus’s intercession.

I’ll admit that I like this book, but I don’t love it. I completely understand the idea of encountering Jesus through prayer or through a miracle that they can’t explain, but the problem is that it lacks depth. I mean, there’s a story about the compiler of the book encountering Jesus through drugs, for crying out loud! I’m sorry that I sound skeptical, but while I believe that God can work with us through whatever bad things we experience, I highly doubt that Jesus would appear during a drug-induced haze.

I also wonder how the encounter with Jesus has affected the lives of the people who contributed to this book. It’s one thing to encounter Jesus, but if you don’t let that encounter change you, then that experience was all for nothing. I will give the people who contributed to this book the benefit of the doubt.

I definitely agree that we can encounter Jesus outside of the Church. I still remember the day that I felt that I was drowning in my anxiety and how Christ pulled me out of it one rainy afternoon. But I wish I could’ve seen stories of encountering Christ within the Church. I love hearing stories of Eucharistic miracles, especially knowing that they still happen. (Pope Francis witnessed two of them! How awesome is that!?) I love the peace that I get whenever I go to Adoration. I love teaching kids about the faith and seeing Christ in them. I love what Mother Teresa said about Christ being in distressing disguise of the poor. As much as I loved reading this book, there weren’t any wonderful stories like that.

I am definitely glad that Jesus can come into the lives of anyone who asks for his presence and that he makes miracles happen even now. It’s just that compared to the myriad of ways I encounter Christ, the book feels a bit like swimming in shallow water.

Nice Guy Syndrome, The Friendzone, and Entitlement Mentality

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Whenever I scroll through my dashboard on Tumblr, one thing that keeps popping up is this thing called “Nice Guy Syndrome.” “Nice Guy Syndrome” is (according to the Tumblr hive mind) when your average guy complains about his lack of relationships even though he acts nice to women. Most guys with “nice guy syndrome” complain about being stuck in the friendzone.

A good example of “Nice Guy Syndrome” or being stuck in the friendzone can be seen in “Prophecy Girl” (Buffy season 1, episode 12). Ian AKA Passion of the Nerd analyzes this scene in his Buffy Episode Guide. The scene I’m talking about starts at the 2:23 mark and the analysis of said scene ends at 4:17 so if you haven’t seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I recommend you stop the video at that point to avoid spoilers.

I totally get Xander wanting to ask Buffy out, but at the same time, I understand why Buffy turns Xander down, too. It’s not even that she has a crush on Angel, which Xander complains about later, but she sees him as a friend, plain and simple. (Also, kudos to Willow for refusing to be Xander’s rebound.) Xander thinks with his passion, but he lacks clear judgment and empathy, an issue that continues on for the rest of the series. One major thing I hated about the show is that they never showed Xander getting over Buffy. Even when he moved onto relationships with other girls, Xander still interferes in Buffy’s life, namely pushing her to stay in a relationship with a guy named Riley even though they’re all wrong for each other. (Not to mention the crap that went down in Season 6 but that is a completely different blog post.)

Now while it’s true girls fantasize about bad boys (I’ve mentioned my drooling over Spike on here, right?), they also fantasize about having the perfect gentleman as a husband as well. (Exhibit A: Mister Darcy from Pride and Prejudice) I don’t like guys who only act nice just so they can get a girlfriend. Guys should be nice to girls because you should love your neighbor as yourself, not as a means to an end.

But unfortunately, girls are just as guilty of acting bitter over guys they can’t have. Trust me when I say I’ve been there and done that. My boy-crazy phase was basically like Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” I would see this cute guy and immediately think that I’ve fallen in love with him. I’d act all nice to him, doing my best to flirt (usually with spectacularly awkward failure), but the minute something goes wrong, I start panicking. I start seeing any girl he’s friends with as a rival. And yeah, I’d eventually write the guy off as all wrong for me, spend some time single and then boom, onto the next guy.

Things have thankfully changed since then. I hang out with my friends, which consist of both guys and girls, but I don’t expect anything out of the guys. Even the cute ones. This is because I’ve accepted my life as a single person and don’t feel entitled to having a relationship just because I want one. Believe me when I say that I get lonely and I miss being in a relationship sometimes and I hope to have a good relationship sometime in the near future. The difference between now and then is that I recognize that the guys in my life are people too, not just means to an end.

The thing about the friendzone is that it comes from an entitlement mentality. People act nice as a means and think that they can have the perfect guy or girl if they act a certain way. But a relationship built on the expectations of getting everything you want isn’t healthy. A good example of that can be seen in Buffy and Riley’s relationship during Season 5.

 

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Buffy is the Slayer, which means that she has super strength and speed and can kick a normal guy up and down the curb without breaking a sweat. Riley, being a normal guy, felt emasculated by the relationship. It eventually led to him seeking pleasure from prostitutes and giving Buffy an ultimatum when she finds out. Riley was never considerate of Buffy’s real life issues and constantly made her feel like she had to carry the weight of their relationship. In other words, he felt entitled to having a certain kind of relationship with Buffy that she couldn’t give him. He decided to return to the army and left Buffy picking up the pieces, thinking that his leaving was her fault.

America tends to have a major entitlement mentality when it comes to things. You can see that in prosperity gospel or in the Law of Attraction. But as the Rolling Stones said “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you find you get what you need.” I think if people realize that love isn’t something you’re entitled to, we can start treating each other with more respect.

Screenshots from Buffy the Vampire Slayer are copyright to Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

Battle Ready Women!

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My dad and I love listening to Catholic Radio. Oftentimes, we hear advertisements about a program called “Battle Ready” as well as events centering on men. Sometimes, I would hear the radio hosts lamenting about how men aren’t as spiritually active as women.

The Battle Ready website is marketed mostly towards men. There is a page for women, but even though they say that woman are involved in the fight for souls, the emphasis is on women encouraging men, playing more of a supportive role. And I do agree that women need to encourage men who are spiritually struggling. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on the Battle Ready site that addresses women who have the same problems that men do. Because in spite of what you may see at Daily Mass or at Adoration or a youth conference, there are women out there who struggle with having a spiritual life.

I wasn’t always as spiritually active as I am today. When I started college and went to Adoration, I had to ask somebody what the Glorious Mysteries were when I started praying the Rosary. Before college, I only prayed the Rosary as a kid.

I don’t consider myself a feminist in the conventional sense. I see women as equal to men and not as “the weaker sex.” I do agree that men and women have physical and emotional differences. I acknowledge that I am most likely biased about why women should be battle ready. My favorite shows center on strong female characters, after all. But women have their own battles to fight.  And the battle for souls is just as important for women as it is for men.

And just before you think there aren’t any good examples of strong female women in the Catholic Church, I’m gonna turn your attention to one of the most badass female saints ever:

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Joan of Arc led an army in God’s name and defended France. Sure she ended up burning at the stake, but she died a warrior’s death nevertheless. Not to mention she totally owns Miley Cyrus in this Epic Rap Battle.

Other awesome women who embraced a Battle Ready lifestyle include Saint Katherine Drexel, who used her inheritance to create schools and hospitals and organizations that help people in need. Or Dorothy Day, who embraced the Catholic teachings on social justice.  Mother Teresa was also seriously badass in how she survived the harsh Calcutta lifestyle and endured persecution from people who didn’t understand her.

So what are some battles that women have to deal with when it comes to spiritual warfare?

1) Going to extremes when it comes to perspectives on gender

I think the biggest problem with gender politics is that it always feels like a war. A majority of feminists don’t like to consider men as part of the equation and the most extreme ones see men as hostile. Men’s Rights Activists see feminists as extreme as well and many countries in the Middle East have some really horrible perspectives on women to say the least. I still remember when there was a meme going around that went something like this:

“You say not all men are monsters? Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned. Go ahead. Eat a handful. Not all M&Ms are poison.”

The problem with that kind of mentality is that for one thing, people aren’t candy. They are judging an entire gender for the actions of a handful of people. And for a group of people who claim to be tolerant, they are sure ready to condemn and punish people instead of trying to help the perpetrator understand the wrongness of his actions. But that’s none of my business. I think I’ll take the breadsticks and get outta here now.

We cannot see men as the enemy. Nor should we be competitive with other women over things like jobs and men. Instead, we need to cooperate with them and treat them as, you know, people. Men are human beings which means like every other human being out there, they won’t be perfect and will have flaws and are capable of hurting women. We gotta love them anyway, sisters in Christ, because God created men which means that men are essentially good. And if any men out there are reading this, don’t write off all women for the actions of the girl who broke your heart or the girl who left you in the friendzone. You are not entitled to whatever you want just because you act nice to them. Girls, same thing.

(I’ll probably make a separate post about entitlement applying to both genders later this week.)

2) Modesty/Body Postitivity

I will probably write a separate post on what modesty means to me. But this still falls under spiritual warfare as well. On the one hand, I don’t like seeing women trying to dress like Miley Cyrus nor do I like all the songs that talk about butts. I’ve written about self-esteem issues on this blog before, but the point is that when it comes to what we wear and how we carry ourselves, I want us women to be confident!

Modesty isn’t about how much you cover up. To me, modesty is about knowing what looks best on you and owning what you feel are your best features without being a diva about it. As Coco Chanel said: “Your dresses should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to show that you’re a lady.” I think that can easily apply to the way women dress overall.

But all the fashion in the world won’t help if the woman in question still sees herself as invisible. Confidence is more than just loving how one looks on the outside, but also knowing what one is good at. If you’re skilled in engineering, pursue that field. If you know how to play the piano, take the opportunity to show that talent. And men, encourage women in your life (especially if you have daughters) to learn and grow in whatever skill or talent they have, whether it be in science or arts.

3) Emotional chastity

Chasity is usually seen as applying to just physical situations. Emotional chastity however is just as important. Women objectify men just as often as men objectify women, sad to say. (Just spend some time with me and some fellow Buffy fans and watch us drool over Spike and the actor who plays him for example.) But aside from drooling over Ryan Gosling or Chris Pratt or any of the Avengers, women also have a tendency to build up unrealistic expectations when it comes to relationships and about men. Think of the really bad Katherine Heigel movies where she acts like a total control freak. Women have a tendency of building up this idea of a perfect relationship and the perfect romance. When people spend more time daydreaming of perfection, it’s still a way of using a person because they end up just being a set piece in a scenario. I think part of emotional chastity involves accepting that the imperfections of romance as well as making sure you don’t objectify people.

So how can women be Battle Ready?

1) By imitating Mary

One thing I did like about the Battle Ready site is its devotion to Mary, calling her the most valiant of women. The devil hates Mary as this article from The Catholic Gentleman goes into. But while Mary is humble and a great mother, she’s anything but weak. She’s actually sassy. (I also have this headcanon that she’s short. Partially because she was called “Little Mother” and partially because short and sassy go hand in hand. Just read Rebecca Frech’s post if you don’t believe me.)

It’s also why I love writing Bible studies for the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship. They encourage having a heart like Mary’s, which includes Marian consecration. And to paraphrase a Catholic pick-up line, doing the Marian consecration may lead to someone marrying you in the future. You never know. (You may also end up going into religious life. Results may vary.)

2) By knowing their own value

One thing that’s majorly important when it comes to spiritual warfare is knowing what you are fighting for. That means knowing what your soul is worth and how much God loves you. It also means finding a balance between knowing your worth and not being full of yourself. The best example of this can be seen in the last episode of Agent Carter, in which Peggy does not pursue taking the credit for saving Howard Stark and New York from Hydra agents. When Sousa gets mad over Thompson taking the credit, Peggy says, “I don’t need a congressional honor. I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or the president’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” It took her a long time for her to get there, but that moment of confidence was just perfect!

3) By choosing the right battles and the right ways to fight

Sometimes, the greatest victory is the battle not fought. Never seek out fights or act aggressively. I’m an advocate in fighting for self-defense. Fight to protect yourself, the ones you love, and what you stand for. The combox trolls and people who will never change their minds aren’t worth attacking. Instead, pray for them. And don’t ever think you have to battle alone. Find people who will support you, from both men and women. And always remember that the God of angel armies is always by your side.

So make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?