The Joy of the Lord and Pope Francis's Strength

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If there’s one thing that I noticed from Pope Francis’s visit to the United States, it’s not the fact that he managed to make a politician cry (although my parents tell me that Congressman Bohner does that a lot) or what people wish he could’ve said. It’s that in spite of the hip issues (seriously Pope Francis, see a doctor about that please!) and the constant travelling and all of the events he attended, Pope Francis was able to do everything with joy. Well, most of the time.

When he was around politicians, there was always a serious air around Pope Francis. I know that he did keep a good face, but the looks he had whenever he was around the “officials” of our country and the world couldn’t compare to his joy whenever he was around children, grandparents, and the millions of people who were all gathered around every street corner in New York, Philadelphia, and DC to see him.

The joy that Pope Francis had affected everyone who was watching. People who didn’t see themselves as Catholic were seeing the beauty of the Church and the most cynical of journalists were singing Pope Francis’s phrases. I usually don’t watch CNN or Fox News, but even my usual skepticism towards those networks faded. The joy these journalists felt was real. And it wasn’t just feel good lip service for the sake of ratings. Reporters like Maria Shriver are being moved by his words. And how often do cable news networks show an entire Mass? I honestly can’t remember.

I didn’t expect Pope Francis to gaslight Congress or the UN about what’s going on in the world. Nor did I expect him to condemn the politicians. I was surprised to see news anchors such as Matt Lauer and Mo Rocca at the Masses in New York, but Bishop Robert Barron did work with NBC and Mo Rocca was present in Catholic events before. (Little known fact: He wrote the Wishbone episode that told the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe.) What I got from seeing the diversity of people at the events is that Pope Francis has an effect on everyone.

Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were suddenly trending in Google and Twitter because Pope Francis mentioned them in his speech to the White House. Any hashtags relating to where the Pope was and what he was doing were trending on Twitter and Facebook. CNN had a hashtag #PopeIn3words. And most of those tweets in that hashtag show a genuine love for the bishop of Rome.

Mother Teresa said that “Peace begins with a smile.” While many Catholics were hoping for someone who would call the sinners out on their actions and plead them to repent, Pope Francis approached softly and was still able to make a difference. Even though America has gone back to its usual spin of moral relativism and political speculations, I still have hope that those who were impacted by Pope Francis’s visit will start to see a change in their own lives. Even if it’s something as small as just praying for him.

Not Just Good, but Beautiful: A Book Review

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In light of Pope Francis’s recent visit to the US, I am gonna look into Not Just Good, but Beautiful, a compilation of interfaith talks from Humanum: An International Interreligious Colloquium. This book gives perspectives on marriage from Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu perspectives.

Since the Humanum Colloquium was organized by Pope Francis, there are more Catholic perspectives, but the beauty of this book was that while the theme of of the colloquium was to show the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman, each Catholic had a unique way of showing how marriage is beautiful. Pope Francis begins the colloquium with the word “complementarity” which a word that gets echoed in the subsequent essays. To Pope Francis, “complimentarity is the root of marriage and family.” In this day and age where love and marriage seemed to lack concrete definitions aside from feelings, Pope Francis says “Family is an anthropological fact-a socially and culturally related fact.” Pope Francis’s love for the family was easily seen in his visit to the US and I pray that people will look further into it and realize the truth, beauty, and goodness that the family has to offer.

Gerhard Cardinal Muller looks at marriage from a theological perspective and sees that the differences between man and woman as “an essential element to understanding the human being and our journey toward God.” Sister M. Prudence Allen looks at “complementarity” from a philosophical perspective. Jean Laffitte’s perspective looks into marriage as a sacrament and how marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with His Church. Ignacio Ibarzabal looks at marriage from a millenial perspective.

BC_NotJustGoodbutBeautiful_1The perspectives from other faiths were equally beautiful. I love how Jonathan Sacks looks at marriage from a historical and anthropological perspective, tying science and history into his Jewish faith. Penecostal director Jacqueline C. Rivers also looks at marriage using a lot of history and the perspectives from African-American culture as well as the Pentecostal beliefs. Kala Acharya, a Hindu, looks at marriage combining history, philosophy and the beliefs of Hinduism. Johann Christoph Arnold, an Anabaptist, looks into his personal life and shows how marriage can have its ups and downs when playing out in the real world. Henry B. Eyring, a Mormon, does something similar with his essay. Wael Farouq (Muslim) and Nissho Takeuchi (Buddhist) look at the languages of their faiths for insight on how their faiths see love and marriage. Reverent Nicholas Thomas Wright looks at marriage from a strictly Biblical perspective while Rick Warren gives a good practical “how to” perspective. Tsui-Ying Sheng’s essay is one of my favorites because it looks at yin and yang beyond the coolness of the symbol and actually applies the philosophy of the symbol to her life. Russell D. Moore, a Baptist, also ties in the theologies from the Baptist denomination into how things are today.

Complementarity is the overall theme in this book. Many people look at marriage and family and think that it’s just about feelings. But from observing my married friends, I realized that you don’t have to have everything in common with your spouse. The best relationships I know (fictional and in reality) involve two people who aren’t exactly alike but still work together perfectly because they balance each other’s needs. Men and women are always going to be different, no matter how many times people on tumblr and the media say otherwise. But it’s not a bad thing.

I highly recommend this book for people who want to understand marriage on a deeper level.

Visit the Patheos Book Club on Not Just Good, But Beautiful here.

Don't Settle For Scrubs!

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I’m not talking about medical scrubs here. So what is a scrub you ask?

Time for a 90s flashback!

In other words, scrubs are the guys at the bottom of the barrel. The guys that the Tumblr Hive Mind think about when they talk about catcalling, harassment, and “nice guy syndrome.” The guys who won’t take a hint and back off. It’s one thing to be nice. It’s one thing to let your armor down for a guy who really wants to make an effort. But it’s another thing when a guy texts you the day after you meet and asks why you didn’t respond right away. It’s another thing when a guy acts passive-aggressive or outright aggressive when you try to take things slow. The armor you have is there for a reason.

I dealt with my fair share of scrubs ever since middle school. Usually, they were the guys who would flirt with me in class. Their antics irritated me to no end. The worst part was that it didn’t seem like there were any good guys around to take my defense or tell me that not all guys were like that. For the longest time, I believed that I wasn’t pretty because the only guys I attracted were immature jerks.

Ladies, don’t ever believe that you’re not beautiful just because a construction worker wolf-whistles at you or some guy at a bar wants to put his hand up your skirt. Don’t settle for attention from guys like that. As hard as it is to believe, there are genuinely good, single guys out there. And yes, they are straight.

But your value doesn’t lie in any guy. It doesn’t even lie in the man you end up marrying. You are valuable and precious and wonderful in God’s eyes as you are. The best way to handle scrubs is knowing what you are worth. You are worth dying on the Cross for. You are worthy of having the best guy that God created for you. There will be guys out there who will send mixed messages and try to take their insecurities out on you. Don’t let them. Know that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. The scrubs you meet aren’t worthy of your kindness, your time, and any effort you take on being “nice” for the sake of being the better person. There is such a thing as excess of virtue.

Know your limits. Be polite, but get out of a bad situation as quickly as possible. Learn some self-defense classes. Trust your gut when you feel like something bad is going on. Don’t accept every guy who sends you a friend request on Facebook. Don’t follow back every guy on Twitter and Instagram. And if you’re online-dating, make sure you meet the guy in person and bring a friend with you in case things get ugly. And most of all, don’t let their ugliness get to you.

Pray for your future husband, whether it be an earthly one or a heavenly one. It’s hard to believe that there is a genuinely wonderful man out there waiting for us. But then again, many people have an issue with believing in a Divine Creator and His only begotten Son. If you can believe in God and that God loves you, you can believe that He will lead you to your future husband.

And to all the boys out there who think they can just want, take, and have any girl:

 

Prosperity vs. Providence: What You Want Isn't Always What You Need

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I’ve mentioned before that for me, when it comes to relying on God, I like to think more along the lines of believing in providence rather than prosperity.

The word “providence” comes from the word “provide,” which means “to make available” or “to supply.” The word always takes into account what is to come. Prosperity means “successful, flourishing, thriving.” Not that there’s anything wrong with having a life that’s successful, flourishing, or thriving, but at the same time, meditate on this Bible verse: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

We live in a society that doesn’t understand the difference between “Need” and “Want.” Blimey Cow did a video on this:

Let’s apply the strategy from Messy Mondays to the things that we want.

Would we really be in serious trouble if we didn’t have the perfect house or a nice car or a million dollars? Pope Francis lives in what is basically an apartment building and only rides in the Popemobile once a week. Not to mention that since he’s a Jesuit, he’s taken a vow of poverty. Would we really be in serious trouble if we missed an episode, or heck a whole season, of the latest hit TV show? I get by pretty fine avoiding How to Get Away With Murder and Game of Thrones. Would we really be in serious trouble if we didn’t get the job we wanted? Well, that’s a bit of a gray area, but honestly, it’s not like getting the corner office is the end-all be-all. It’s good to have a job, but not at the expense of everything else.

We will always want things. It’s part of being human. We may think that we “need” things, but in reality, we may just be wanting something that’s not the best for us right now. Like, hypothetically speaking, say that there’s a girl who always whines about needing a boyfriend. It’s not exactly the end of the world if she doesn’t have one. The trick to figuring out what we need versus what we want involves learning what we can reasonably live without. You may want to go on a trip, but you can’t exactly afford to do so because you need that money for the rent or to pay off the mountain of student loans you have hanging over your head. Although I didn’t exactly make all 30 days of Leah Darrow’s “The Closet Challenge,” the task made me realize what clothes I don’t really use or wear. In other words, it made me learn what kind of clothes I needed as opposed to clothes I wanted but may not wear all the time. It also kept me from asking for new clothes, even though I had the opportunity to get new clothes if I so wanted to.

When we look at our lives and plan for the future, it’s better to have realistic expectations of getting the things that we need. The Gospel of Happiness says that it’s better to have realistic expectations in the long run. The good news is that while we can plan for the future, we can bring God into it by asking Him to provide for what we need. “Give us this day our daily bread,” as it says in the Our Father.

And sometimes, the Lord can give us what we want. I didn’t exactly need to go to Comicpalooza, but I still did and ended up having the time of my life. The way to have realistic expectations about what we want, though, is understanding and accepting that we don’t always get what we want all the time. We will always have what we need. Just that we can’t always get what we want.

Pope Francis Drops the Mic to Congress

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Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress,

You have no idea just how much Pope Francis just pwned you with that speech. I’m sorry if I sound like a word that starts with B and rhymes with witch, but I hope you guys were actually listening and not just waiting to applaud.

I expected Pope Francis to mention Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, but the fact that Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were also major parts of the speech is also awesome. Although Thomas Merton wasn’t born in America, he did contribute a sense of spirituality to American culture. But I’ll look more into these four in another post. Right now, Pope Francis has the stage.

Without further ado, Top 10 Moments in Which Pope Francis Pwned Congress. (In chronological order.)

1. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity…  If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.  Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. 

2. (In reference to the Syrian refugees) We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.  To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.  We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.  Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” 

3.   The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.  The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

4.  I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

5.  Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?  Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.  In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

6.  It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme.  How essential the family has been to the building of this country!  And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement!  Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.  Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.  I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

7.  In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young.  For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair.  Their problems are our problems.  (This one is one I particularly relate to.)

8. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future.  Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

9.  A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

10. God bless America! (Or as my friend Ana said “What he really means is “Kiss my ass.”)

 

Why Catholics Have a "Both/And" Policy: Salvation through Faith AND Works

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I’ll be honest when I say that I don’t consider myself to be an apologist. I’m not like Trent Horn or Patrick Madrid or Scott Hahn or Taylor Marshall. I did better in my philosophy classes than in my theology classes in college. And yet, as a Catholic, I am called to defend my faith when the situation calls for it.

My Protestant friend, Holly, commented on my “Yes, I am a Christian AND?” post with a really long comment that I’m going to break down here in the hopes of starting a civil discussion and dialogue.

Holly’s comments will be written in blue.

Saying you believe in salvation coming through faith AND works is just not biblical.

Yes, yes it is. 

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?James 2:14-20

When I discussed with Holly about the Letter of James, she said that James was talking about justification, which to her, is different from salvation. According to the apologetics books I own, this is because Protestants in general believe in a difference between justification before God and justification before men and because they see salvation as a one time event.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man” (CCC 2019). So justification does relate to salvation, as stated in this verse from Romans: 

We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin.  But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.- Romans 6:6-8

According to Catholic Answers: “What is significant about 6:7 is that when it says the one who has died has been freed from sin, the word for “freed” is actually the Greek word for “justified.” What it literally said was “he who has died has been justified from sin,” yet the context is so obviously sanctificational that all standard English translations of the Bible rendered “justified from sin” as “freed from sin.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Now of course if we are truly saved, we will want to please God, and our life will show obedience to His Word and commands. But it is ONLY through His grace that we are saved, and if we say we must do works to receive our salvation, that goes against these Words and ignores what He did on the cross for us. Works are a result of being In Him, but they have nothing to do with our salvation.

I often hear Protestants talking about having a personal relationship with Christ. Since Christ is fully human (as well as being fully divine), let’s approach justification and salvation from the perspective of a relationship.

When we have a relationship with a person, it’s not enough to just say that we love them. If there’s anything I learned from the comedy of errors that I call my love life, it’s that actions speak louder than words.

Ephesians 2:10, the verse that comes right after those two sentences says “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” (Emphasis mine.)

The second chapter of the Letter from James gives examples of people in the Bible whose faith was shown through action:

 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. – James 2:21-26

Paul also shows how salvation is a process in his letter to the Philippians:

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13

Like any good relationship, a real loving and functional relationship with Christ starts with faith and grace, but needs works in order to thrive and grow. Christ dying on the Cross and rising from the dead was just the beginning of salvation, just like how a wedding is only the start of the life a married couple will share together. And that’s why faith and works belong with each other. Like a marriage, our relationship with Christ depends on believing in Him and sharing His love to the world through works and actions. Catholics don’t believe that doing a lot of good deeds will make up for any bad things, but that our faith inspires us and motivates us to go out into the world and testify to our faith through doing good.

But really, this passage from the Gospel of Matthew is, I think the strongest proof of how works contribute to salvation:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25: 31-46

Addendum 9/23/15 1:10PM

I shared this post with Catholic Answers staff apologist Michelle Arnold who said: “We can agree with your friend that grace comes first. Grace makes it possible for us to have faith and to do good works. Without God acting first, even so far as to give us the actual grace to desire supernatural faith, we can’t do anything. Where your friend goes off the track is in concluding that works are unnecessary. Faith and works are our responses to grace: faith, interiorly, and works, exteriorly. Both are necessary, but both flow from grace received from God.”

St. Padre Pio: Marian Consecration Series

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One awesome I’m doing at Radiance and Grace Magazine is profiling saints with a Marian devotion to inspire people to consider Marian Consecration.

Today is Padre Pio’s feast day so check out what I have to say about him!

Ever since I stopped being a college student, there have been three very significant days on my calendar for September: one is the feast day of Mary’s birth on September 8th. The second is my mom’s birthday on September 22nd. And third is the feast day of St. Padre Pio on September 23rd. My mom has a Rosary with a picture of Padre Pio on the medal and often prays to him. She also has a great Marian devotion as well, which is typical of Filipino culture. Filipino culture is also deeply steeped in devotion to St. Padre Pio. There’s even a center and a chapel devoted to him in Quezon City, Manila, my mother’s hometown. But before I go into the devotion, I want to look more into the man himself.

Read the rest here!

The Necessity of Making Art

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One of the biggest influences in my life is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I learned so much about what it meant to be creative from that book. The most important lesson being that art doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be yours. A singer/songwriter that I admire said that artists always take the pain they have and put it in their art so that they can share their pain with others.

And I think that’s the beauty of art. That it provides a way for us to the pain we experience and create something good out of something bad. 

I don’t think it’s any surprise to me that adult coloring books are the latest trend. I know that when I color, my energy starts focusing more on creating something rather than letting my thoughts go towards emotions like anger or anxiety or sadness. Sometimes, we can choose colors that express the things that we feel.

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But art isn’t just a matter of crayons and paper. The first time I experienced art therapy was indirectly, when I created this shield using oil pastels and a pencil:

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Sometimes, people can choose words to express their feelings. Some do so through writing stories. Others do it through poetry. I tend to express my emotions in a mix of both.

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Yet there is also another beautiful aspect about art. There’s something more to art than just an outlet for emotions. In the act of making art, we become creators. It isn’t just found in painters, drawers, and sculptors who can literally create a new thing using materials and tools. Fantasy and sci-fi writers create entire lands and universes in a process called “worldbuilding.” Mystery writers get into the minds of villains in the hopes of understanding evil. Romance writers explore the nature of love and how it manifests in two people. Dancers and actors become experts of their own bodies and show how beauty can exist through movement and gestures and expressions.

I always marvel at the concept that there are people who believe that the universe, this entire, beautiful, vast universe filled with stars and planets, came at random, out of nothing for no reason whatsoever. How can people look at the beauty of this world: the biodiversity of every animal and insect and plant, the intricate colorings of every single butterfly and flower and bird, and the colors painted in the sky and think that it’s nothing but cold hard scientific theories? Science is a part of our world, but can it explain the purpose of beauty? Even if you try to explain it with “the continuation of the species” it doesn’t explain why there is beauty in the vastness of space, in the various blues and greens and grays of the oceans, and the death and rebirths of the millions of stars in our galaxy. There is evidence of a Divine Artist because we see His art everywhere.

But honestly, I think the words of a saint can say the necessity of artists better than I can.

 

The Gospel of Happiness: A Book Review

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Interesting fact: I first met Christopher Kaczor, author of The Gospel of Happiness when he was giving a lecture at Cafe Catholica. His lecture focused on “The 7 Big Myths About the Catholic Church.” One of the myths he mentioned was that the Catholic Church doesn’t care about earthly happiness and he mentioned this book in his lecture.

The Gospel of Happiness looks into how the practice of positive psychology can be incorporated into a Catholic lifestyle. In spite of the preconceptions people have about psychology  and religion and the seeming incompatibility of the two, there are aspects of positive psychology that complement the teachings of the Catholic Church and these aspects are what the book chooses to focus on. The book is divided into seven chapters that look into how happiness, the theological virtues, prayer, gratitude, forgiveness, the practice of virtue, and willpower contribute to a person’s overall happiness and well-being.

One major issue people have with Christianity is “prosperity gospel.” And yes, I had a prosperity gospel phase. In recent events, however, my idea of happiness in Christianity is that it’s not so much of “prosperity gospel” as it is “providential gospel.” The difference is that prosperity gospel has unrealistic expectations of what God will give people and puts what people want ahead of what God wants, when taken to the extreme. Providential gospel is taking a cue from Mother Teresa: The Lord will provide for what you need, not necessarily what you want. The Gospel of Happiness takes a more realistic approach and cites research studies that show that unrealistic expectations contribute to overall unhappiness. It also looks into how to be happy even when enduring suffering.

One issue with prosperity gospel is that it tends to ignore suffering or just play it off as just part of having a negative mindset. The Gospel of Happiness, on the other hand, has a whole chapter about the benefits of forgiveness and the chapter on gratitude talks about how God can bring something good out of something bad. The book also goes against the secular mindset that people have to focus on making themselves happy as the number one priority. While a healthy self-love is definitely important, putting one’s ambitions and desires over the needs of others ends up leading to bad things in the long run. In the chapters that focus on virtue, Kaczor shows the benefits of kindness and doing good things for other people.

There were a lot of new things I learned from this book that I didn’t get from my phase of reading self-help books and listening to prosperity gospel. I know I use the word “depth” a lot when I talk about movies or books, but yeah, this book is full of depth. It goes deeper than just making goals or having faith. It actually lays out plans of action.

I highly recommend this book to people who want a different take on the self-help genre. Protestants can easily enjoy this book as much as any Catholic. I would even take a chance and show it to people who see themselves as spiritual but not religious. Because religion, despite what people think, isn’t a rigorous set of man-made rules. It’s a relationship. Religion is a relationship that a person has with God as well as the community of the world at large. Religion keeps a person grounded and humble. Or at least that’s what religion is supposed to be. And I think that’s what The Gospel of Happiness is really about.

What Can Adults Learn From Shows Made For Kids?

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There are people out there who raise an eyebrow when they find out that a show that’s written for and marketed to kids and teenagers has a large number of grown-up fans. The most egregious example being the Bronies aka the adult male fans of the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. However, as someone who’s also a fan of children’s TV and lives her life as a part-time adult, I can say that children’s shows these days are hugely different from how they were during our childhood. The main purpose of shows like Girl Meets WorldSteven Universe, and Doctor Who aren’t to sell a toy line like Transformers or Ninja Turtles, but to actually tell a story about characters and the things they learn. Plus, shows like Bill Nye, Reading Rainbow, and Mister Rogers Neighborhood have arrived on Netflix which means that a whole new generation can be introduced to the lessons their parents learned when they were kids. (BTW, if they get Lamb Chop and Between the Lions on Netflix, my childhood will finally be made!)

So for this blog, I’ll look at Girl Meets World, Steven Universe, and Doctor Who to see what adults can learn from these seemingly childish shows.

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Girl Meets World is the spinoff series of Boy Meets World, which focuses on Riley Matthews, the daughter of Cory and Topanga Matthews. In the most recent episode “Girl Meets Cory and Topanga,” Riley is intimidated by how seemingly perfect her parents are and is afraid that she’ll never live up to their expectations of her. Through imagining her parents as kids (complete with clips from the original series), Riley realizes that her parents were total goofs like her. Most people felt like this episode was filler and repeated a story arc that Riley dealt with before. However, people forget that Riley is always insecure about her future. Yes, she’s a 13-year-old kid, but when I was her age (or close to it), I was already watching Gilmore Girls and fantasizing about college. The episode overall has a moral of paving your own path. Or as Judy Garland said “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

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I’ll admit that I am late to the Steven Universe bandwagon. I started avoiding Cartoon Network when they started doing live action shows. But Steven Universe is a diamond in the rough, and yes, I intended that pun. The show centers on a boy named Steven who has the powers of an alien species called the Crystal Gems. Since he’s a kid, though, he doesn’t have as much control over his powers as his mentors Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. Steven and the Crystal Gems protect Earth from monsters that originally came from the Gems’ planet Homeworld.

One major theme in this show (among others) is having realistic expectations about life and especially about family. Aside from the fact that they are aliens, the Crystal Gems are very much human in their behavior and Steven sees the Gems as his family. Amethyst is like Steven’s sister because she’s always fun to be with and acts the most child-like. Pearl is very motherly because she always makes sure that Steven is safe and always worries about everything. Garnet is the leader of the Gems and keeps a cool head when trouble comes around.

The second season has started off again last week with two episodes that center on Steven’s human friends and their relationships with their mothers. In “Nightmare Hospital,” Steven gives a sword to his best friend Connie, who has been training in swordfighting without her parents ever knowing. When Connie’s mother confiscates the sword and takes it with her to her job at the hospital, Steven and Connie sneak into the hospital in the hopes of getting it back. Unfortunately, some monsters show up in the hospital, forcing Steven and Connie to expose their “saving the world” secret to Connie’s mother. Connie’s mother is a very strict woman and Connie calls her out for how smothered she feels. Playing devil’s advocate here, Connie’s mom had no clue how good of a fighter Connie was and by the end of the episode, she explains that she needs to be involved in case Connie gets in over her head. Connie is still ten years old, after all. But the two ladies end up meeting each other in the middle. Connie can now be open with at least one of her parents and her mother learned that her daughter can handle herself most of the time.

The most recent episode “Sadie’s Song” had a similar story arc. Steven’s friend Sadie, who works at the local donut shop, considers singing at the town’s talent show, but Steven and her mother end up turning her into something she felt completely uncomfortable with. Sadie’s backstory gets revealed a bit. Her mother is a bit of a stage mom, taking Sadie’s interests to the extreme and seeing Sadie as something she really isn’t. Sadie is a naturally shy girl and wanted to pace herself when it came to trying something new, but her mother pushed things too far every time. When Sadie finally calls her mother out on her pushy behavior, Sadie’s mom apologizes and the two of them have a talk while Steven takes over and performs in Sadie’s place.

Two lessons can be drawn from this episode: First of all, parents need to give their children space to grow. So many parents want their children to only grow up in a certain way only for their children to end up psychologically scared and screwed over. By being honest with each other, children and parents can learn how to help the child grow up in a healthy way. Secondly, when Steven performed the pop song Sadie originally planned to sing, he did so dressed up in a crop top, skirt, heels, and makeup.

Most of the fandom were cheering over the fact that Steven was breaking gender norms, but here’s the thing. Steven is a ten-year-old kid who lives in a town filled with people who love him unconditionally. Steven is a friend to everyone so I wasn’t surprised that the people of Beach City weren’t laughing at Steven dressed up like a girl. He’s performing a cheesy pop song in the most innocent way and to everyone in Beach City, Steven is special to them. In real life, a ten-year-old boy cross-dressing and performing a cheesy pop song would send the pundits on both sides screaming their usual party lines. I’m not saying that crossdressing in and of itself is all bad or all good. I’m just saying that boys dressing up as girls is something that happens and there’s a time and a place for it.

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Doctor Who is considered a family show more than a straight-up children’s series. There are lots of references in the show that only adults will get, after all, such as the Doctor playing the intro to “Pretty Woman” in the most recent episode.

SPOILER ALERT! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN “THE MAGICIAN’S APPRENTICE” YET, WATCH IT NOW BEFORE YOU CONTINUE READING!

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But one thing I noticed about Doctor Who as a whole is that there’s always a theme about choices and consequences. In a show centering on time travel, the characters always get themselves in situations where a choice affects everything. The best example is in the Classic Doctor Who episode “Genesis of the Daleks.” Episodes similar to that have appeared in the new series such as “”Journey’s End,” “The Beast Below,” and “Kill the Moon.”

In the most recent episode “The Magician’s Apprentice,” The Doctor is faced with a choice similar to that of “Genesis of the Daleks.” Does he save the life of a child who would later grow up to be his worst enemy? Unfortunately, that question hasn’t been answered yet. Instead, the episode centers on the Doctor running away from his problem in the most spectacular manner. It’s not until his friends finds him and are put in danger that The Doctor is finally faced with the choice. What he decides will be shown in the next episode.

So what did I learn from these shows? For one thing, growing up means that there is a time and a place for everything. As Will Duquette told me, “Being adult: taking responsibility for yourself, and contributing willingly to the wellbeing of the household in which you reside according to your means and skills.” I still live with my parents and part of that means being considerate of them. I’m not in college with the freedom to be wherever I want and do whatever I want. But I also realized that this will prepare me in case I ever decide to have a family of my own someday. There’s a time to act proper and a time when you can relax and eat popcorn for breakfast. 

I also learned that growing up doesn’t mean giving up what you love. Many of my grownup friends are fans of Doctor Who and I know that a lot of grownups like Steven Universe as well. Plus, children’s shows can prove to be as good as adult shows provided that they have the right writers, directors, and producers. A great example of this is the Japanese children’s show Kamen Rider Drive, which is about a police officer who ends up becoming a superhero. Unlike most superhero stories, however, the main character, Shin, chooses to be a cop first when it comes to dealing with human criminals as opposed to the monsters he usually fights. The show overall portrays competent policemen who do actual detective work and think logically instead of acting violently towards people. There’s enough drama here that could be so much darker if this was a show like Blue Bloods or Law and Order. But instead, the show is smart, keeping a somewhat lighthearted tone while still having great characters and plotlines.

So basically, when you grow up, you don’t have to become a lifeless, boring automaton. Acting your age can just mean letting yourself cry and then thinking things out in a logical matter. Emotions will still come, but bottling them up or ignoring them is just as bad as giving into them completely. Like what Mister Rogers says in “What do you do with the mad that you feel?,” you can stop and think about what to do about how you feel and find an outlet for feelings. Writing has been my main outlet, but something I found to be relaxing is coloring as well. Adult coloring books have become a trend and I’m planning to jump on that bandwagon myself.

The picture I’m showing here is a “shield” of The Hunger Games with the symbol of Rose Quartz, a character from Steven Universe in the center. I made this drawing with pastels. When I was creating this drawing, I found so much energy pouring out of my as I created something new. I don’t think artists will ever get over that kind of feeling. Because that feeling of creating something out of nothing connects us to God, even when we don’t even know it.

And I think that’s the best lesson we can all learn: What connects us to God and makes us better?

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Photos from Girl Meets World, Steven Universe, and Doctor Who are copyrighted to their respective owners and are used for editorial purposes only.