Summer of Health and Fitness Week 2

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The previous week was definitely a challenge for me, as I had to change my exercising strategy. My feet were not up for running at all. Whenever I did a jumping exercise, I felt a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot.

I still made an effort to exercise everyday, in spite of the soreness in my legs. Simone de la Rue’s workout videos have some modified low impact moves that still get the job done. Check out this 25 minute cardio dance workout video and see how well you do.

4th of July was another test for my diet/exercise as I ate some pretty carb-heavy meals (hashbrowns for breakfast and sushi for lunch). I also snacked a lot, so I decided to eat corn for dinner so that I could have room for a nice s’more at the end of the day.

The only time I went over my calorie intake was a couple days ago when I had dinner at Whataburger. But here’s a tip: If you’re going to eat fast food, order small portions. Before I started this diet, I used to eat two large fries at Whataburger, which would add up to over 1000 calories. On Sunday, I ate a junior Whataburger with pickles and ketchup and had a small fry with water. It’s a huge difference, trust me on that.

I haven’t lost any weight since two weeks ago, but my waist to hip ratio has gone down. On top of that, some of my clothes are starting to feel big on me. What I’m doing is making a difference on my body. It’s just gonna take some patience.

Aside from patience, however, one virtue that I felt was prominent this past week was prudence. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every good circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.

You won’t always be in control of where you go to eat things. You can’t always eat at home or bring food with you. It’s prudent to figure out your best option and not worry if you go over your calorie limit for one day. Just remember to work it all off the next day.

Prudence also applies to exercising. Listen to your body and don’t push it so hard that you feel pain. The best workouts are the ones that make you sweat without hitting a nerve or end with you hitting the floor.

I also had to apply the virtue of prudence in terms of some negative emotions I’ve been feeling. Like a lot of people starting out on a new health and fitness habit, I made the mistake of comparing myself to someone who was a lot more fit and attractive than I will ever, ever be. I was jealous of this person beyond what’s rational or sensible.

The best thing I had to do was not give into the feelings or blast them out in the internet for all to see. I wrote in my journal. I confided in trustworthy friends. I focused on myself. And then I let it all go. It’s a process, obviously, but one I feel will help my emotional well-being.

If you’re starting out on a new health and fitness routine, don’t compare yourself to the model you see on the cover of Sports Illustrated or a fitness magazine. Focus on your own personal goals and be realistic.

It’s going to take time to lose weight or lower your cholesterol or whatever you want to do. The best thing you can do is just stick to what you have planned, no matter how you feel, and take care of yourself emotionally as well as physically. Keep a journal about everything you feel. Find something to be grateful for on a daily basis. Trust me when I say that having the right mentality will make diet and exercising a lot easier.

 

Met Gala: Best and Worst Dressed of “Catholic Imagination”

The Catholic side of social media has been pretty divided as to whether or not having a Catholic themed Met Gala would respect the Church. Anti-Catholicism is nothing new, after all, and some people made a career out of appropriating Catholic culture. In fact, my first reaction upon seeing some of the Met Gala looks on my social media feed was a feeling of discomfort. My contemporaries at New Catholic Generation had some similar reactions.

Upon further reflection, however, I realized that there was a method to the madness. The Catholic Church has been a big influence in classic art and architecture, from the Renaissance artists to the beautiful Gothic cathedrals.

And so, as a millenial who’s watched her fair share of America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway, I will list off what I think are the ten best and works looks. I’m judging these outfits as to how they fit the theme and whether or not they’re aesthetically pleasing.

Worst Dressed

cardi b worst

I know that Cardi B is making a splash on the Billboard charts, but this outfit and her hair is ridiculous even by avante-garde standards. The train of her dress with the slit doesn’t flatter her legs, the bustline is too low for such a formal occasion, and her hair is in desperate need of some frizz control!

frances mcdormand

Frances McDormand may have the “Triple Crown of Acting,” but she is turning heads in a bad way with this getup. I’m not sure how this outfit fits the theme and she honestly looks like she’s wearing a giant tent with a bush on her head. It says a lot that Tom Lenk does a better job with this than her!

jaden smith worst

Dear Jaden Smith. This outfit does not make any sense and, well, your self-promotion is honestly very blatant, borderline narcissistic. There’s a time and place for showing off your gold records. This is not the time nor the place.

 

cara d worst

I only know of Cara Delevingne from her cameo in Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video. She is dressed as the confessional screen and, sad to say, this dress reveals way more than it conceals. Try again, Mother-Chucker!

 

sjp worst

Tsk, tsk. I wouldn’t expect anything less than the worst from Sarah Jessica Parker. While the papal tiara hat fits the theme, the dress looks more like a reject from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movies. Actually, it’s more like the modern Alice in Wonderland movies crossed with the gritty Snow White and the Huntsmen movies.

 

miley cyrus worst

Miley came very close to having a wardrobe malfunction with this outfit. Not only does this outfit not fit the theme, but the plunging neckline basically screams “trying too hard to be an adult.”

 

tom brady worst

Everybody has already been mocking Tom Brady for this outfit and I don’t blame them. He looks more like he’s auditioning to be the toreador in a production of Bizet’s opera Carmen.

 

lana del and jared leto worst

Finally, we have Jared Leto and Lana Del Rey. While Lana’s outfit isn’t so bad, invoking Our Lady of Sorrows and sticking to the avante-garde style, I can’t say the same for Jared Leto’s ridiculous outfit. He looks like he belongs on a parody production of Jesus Christ Superstar or a remake of Life of Brian.

Onto the looks that I found to be the best of the bunch!

Best Dressed

zendaya best

Zendaya is one of the handful of celebrities who invoked a Joan of Arc style with her outfit. Kudos to her for evoking the beauty of armor with this outfit, along with her short hair. All she’s missing is a sword. (But maybe switch out the stilettos for boots.)

 

gigi hadid best

Gigi Hadid’s outfit is inspired by angel wings, but unlike Katy Perry, her outfit is tasteful and elegant without crossing the line into the outrageous. It flatters her body without being provocative.

 

ariana g best

Arana Gradne’s outfit was inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. It reminds me of a Tudor-era/Elizabethan dress and I really like this outfit on her. I hope to see her performing in outfits like this more often.

 

emilia clarke best

Emilia Clarke’s dress is regal and beautiful. I can see Daenerys wearing this on an episode of Game of Thrones. It reminds me of an Eastern European Catholic art. Eastern Orthodox Catholics, what do you think?

 

leticia wright best

I’m biased about this outfit because I’m a huge fan of Letitia Wright as is, given how she’s one of the few celebrities in Hollywood genuinely devoted to being a Christian (or at least having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ). Her dress, according to her Instagram, is inspired by Ethiopian culture and I can definitely see that. Points to John Boyega, too.

 

chadwick best

The robe that Chadwick Boseman is wearing is reminiscent of a bishop’s cape. On the other hand, I am reminded of royal Byzantine robes as well. The King of Wakanda would probably wear this to Latin Mass and get away with it. So yeah, kudos, T’Challa!

 

lily collins bbest

Lily Collins goes for an understated, tasteful elegance with her outfit, which evokes Our Lady of Sorrows. Points for NOT wearing a Rosary as a necklace and instead just using a silver cross chain. With some modifications, I can see some high schoolers trying to wear something like this to prom.

 

lynda carter best

Lynda Carter is another woman in a beautiful, queenly outfit that wouldn’t feel out of place in the next Wonder Woman movie, as an older Diana who has become the new queen of the Amazons.

 

donatella versace best

While I’m not sure about Donatella Versace’s face, I do love her outfit. Evoking Joan of Arc’s armor, but in a more subtle way. It’s actually an outfit that I think I might wear. Not that I would actually wear it, but it’s something that I want to wear, so that’s something.

 

blake lively best

Saving the best look for last. Blake Lively, who could give Padme Amidala a run for her money with this outfit. She honestly looks like a queen. The only thing I don’t like is that she’s married to my celebrity crush, Ryan Reynolds and has the most beautiful children with him. But that’s just me being a fangirl. 😛

If there’s one thing every Catholic can learn from this event, it’s that we need to pray for all these people, whether they had bad outfits or good ones. This is as close to authentic Catholic beauty as some of these people will ever get. Pray for these people and for a conversion of their hearts.

Coco: Pixar’s Most Catholic Movie

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I realize that I’m late to the Coco party. However, with Divine Mercy Sunday around the corner, I decided that this would be a #FlashbackFriday type of review. I honestly think that Coco is the most Catholic movie that Pixar ever made and I’m not just saying that because the movie is inspired by Mexican culture. What makes this movie Catholic are the themes: family, forgiveness, and never forgetting to honor the dead.

Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen this movie yet. I highly recommend at least renting the movie. It’s available on Redbox. It’s definitely worth a watch.

The emphasis on being loyal to one’s family is established early on in the movie. It’s clear from the beginning that Miguel loves his family, in spite of the fact that his abeulita tries to keep music from their lives a little too much. Miguel is especially close to his great-grandmother Coco.

Side note, but I think this is the first Disney/Pixar movie to feature an entire family unit. Both of Miguel’s parents are alive and aside from the relatives who are living in the land of the dead, nobody in Hector’s family gets killed off. Not only that, but you see a family working and living together.

The conflict that drives the movie is Miguel’s desire to pursue music, even if it means ignoring or even outright cutting himself off from his family. It’s clear that he’s a great musician and for a while, it feels as though his family takes the anti-music stance way too far, especially when Miguel’s abuelita destroys his guitar. However, the events of this movie show Miguel that it’s important to stay connected to your family, especially when he learns that Ernesto got his fame by murdering his songwriter friend Hector.

I love the character of Hector, by the way. The movie does a great job at making you suspicious of Hector at first, but he slowly becomes more endearing, especially when he encourages Miguel and shows that he cares for him and is protective of him, even though Miguel is just a stranger.

The theme of remembering the dead is what drives the subplot of the movie: Hector wants to visit his daughter and be remembered or else he will disappear into oblivion. It’s never said where the souls of the forgotten go after the “Final Death,” but it compels the audience to take on a very Catholic tradition: to pray for those who have no one to pray for. In that way, no soul is ever really forgotten.

On a similar note, the land of the dead really reminds me of Purgatory, final death thing put aside. It’s not exactly heaven, given that a murderer like Ernesto is living there, but it’s not Hell, either. It’s a place for departed souls to live and there’s still a link to those who are living, even if it’s just one day a year.

One good thing that came out of the broken pedestal experience though is that Miguel finds out that Hector is his real great-great-grandfather. This leads into the second Catholic theme of the movie, which focuses on forgiveness. When Miguel and Hector are reunited with Miguel’s deceased relatives towards the end of the second act, his great-great grandmother Imelda is reluctant to forgive Hector for leaving her.

What makes the relationship with Hector and Imelda interesting is that Imelda never remarried. She cut Hector and her love for music out of her life, even though she loved both very much. When she confronts Ernesto, she berates and hits Ernesto for “murdering the love of my life.” In classical tsundere fashion, she still claims to be mad at Hector, but she at least loves Hector enough to know that he doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

I love that forgiveness is shown to be a process. Imelda goes from hating Hector to defending him to finally allowing him to be in her life and her family. This is shown in the climax, when Miguel has to return to the land of the living. At the start of the movie, Imelda wants Miguel to promise her to never pursue music again when he returns to the land of the living. In the second attempt to get Miguel back, Miguel is actually willing to make good on that condition. The third attempt, however, is made with no conditions. Just the type of selfless love that seriously has me reaching for the tissues.

The two themes of family and forgiveness get tied together in what I feel is my favorite scene: Miguel plays “Remember Me” for Coco in front of his family. His abuelita tries to stop him, but his father allows Miguel to play. The song restores Coco’s memory and allows her to tell everyone in her family about all the mementos she kept from her father and how her parents both loved music.

One year later, Miguel’s deceased relatives, Hector and Coco included, get to spend time with the living on the Day of the Dead. Miguel and his family join in on a song and it’s shown that Hector is playing along with him. All is forgiven and music has returned to the lives of the Rivera family. I love the ending of this movie because it shows that pursuing one’s passion should never come at the expense of family.

One last side note: I love the animal sidekicks in this movie, especially Dante the Xolo dog. He’s a lot like Scooby-Doo in that he seems so goofy and is kinda cute even if he’s a hairless street dog, but he is also foreshadowed to be a true guide in the land of the dead, instinctively throwing Hector and Miguel together a lot. Plus, the name is very fitting as those familiar with The Divine Comedy or at least Inferno recognize the name from the protagonist of those stories, who literally goes through a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

This movie isn’t just great to watch for the Day of the Dead. It’s one I recommend watching for Lent and even now, in the Easter season.

Pray for the souls of those who’ve died, especially those who have no one to pray for.

 

How To Survive Valentine’s Day When It’s Also Ash Wednesday

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It’s that time of year again. If you want proof that God has a sick and twisted sense of humor, look at your calendar. Not only does Ash Wednesday fall today, which is also Valentine’s Day, but Easter falls on April Fool’s Day.

For today, I want to focus on how you, fellow Catholics, can survive this day, whether you are single or in a relationship, because Valentine’s Day is hard enough as it is!

  1. If you’re in a relationship, be creative with what you cook for dinner tonight. If dinner is your “big meal,” try making a cheese pizza (no meat) or some nice salmon filets. Or make plans to eat out at a restaurant on Saturday and use today as an opportunity to practice patience!
  2. If you’re single, make breakfast your “big meal.” Having a healthy breakfast will help you have enough energy for the rest of the day.
  3. Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day: water, orange juice, vegetable juice, milk, or hot chocolate if you’re in the Valentine’s mood. Hot chocolate doesn’t count as a meal or a snack, at least not for me.
  4. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, spend time in Adoration today! Check if your local church has the Blessed Sacrament exposed or just spend time in prayer.
  5. Remember that all the Valentine’s Day candy will be very cheap tomorrow. But don’t be a glutton!
  6. Use today as an opportunity to practice charity, which is a higher form of love than just romantic love. Be kind to everyone you meet today, even the person who cuts you off in traffic.
  7. If you’re sick of the Fifty Shades hype, check out Fight The New Drug’s anti-abuse campaign!
  8. If you’re wondering what romantic-related show you should watch today, the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice is on Hulu, as well as Sense and Sensibility (mini-series, not the Ang Lee version). You can’t beat the classics!
  9. Enjoy these penitential Valentine cards from Jason Bach Cartoons!
  10. #MementoMori: Remember that death is inevitable, even on Valentine’s Day.

 

Happy VaLENTine’s Day, everyone!

 

#Superbowlintheconvent AKA Nuns Being Awesome

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Out of all of my tweets during the Super Bowl last night, this tweet had the most likes and retweets. This is about as close as I’ll get to going viral.

For those of you hung over or were too busy paying attention to the game to check your Twitter feed, ChurchPop made an article highlighting the nuns who tweeted throughout the game. I’m honestly surprised that #SuperbowlintheConvent didn’t end up trending because LOTS of people were following that particular hashtag.

I stumbled onto this hashtag when I saw what is currently my favorite Super Bowl ad (apologies to Avengers and Han Solo)

Gotta love that interfaith! Pope Francis would totally love this. And note that nuns were part of this ad, too.

I already follow a lot of nuns on Twitter, so I just checked one and found the hashtag. It quickly became the best thing ever, topping the Justin Timberlake halftime show.

Highlights that ChurchPop didn’t include:

And some love from people who were following the hashtag and applauding all the nuns having fun:

I love being Catholic. That is all. Please pray for all the nuns who were watching the game from beginning to end because contrary to what that Mucinex commercial said, some people will actually show up for work today.

What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?

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AKA: How to Deal With Anger Without Tweeting About It

It’s no secret that people have a tendency to unleash their anger onto social media. Everyone does it, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. To some extent, the anger people express is probably justified. There is a lot to be angry about in this world and we want to set things right. We want to see justice done.

So what’s the problem?

The anger that I see on social media isn’t so much “righteous anger” so much as outright wrath. People don’t just want justice. They want vengeance and cling onto their anger, screaming “Look what you did to me!” (Or, to quote Taylor Swift “Look what YOU made me do!”) Some go as far as to curse those they hate and condemn them. The words I see on Twitter and Facebook become as violent as any weapon.

I’m not going to blame the victims or try to ask people to “Forgive and Forget.” I’m asking for people to practice legitimate forgiveness and peace with those they hate. Don’t give into the endless cycle of vengeance and anger where you simply react to the words or actions someone says. I’m asking everyone who feels anger about something to let it go. Don’t condemn or hate those who’ve hurt you.

I’m not saying that it’s easy. I’m not gonna promise that those people you hate will ever change. I’m just asking people to let go of the desire for vengeance when what they really seek is truth and justice. If you’re seeking validation for your hurt, know that you are loved. If you’re seeking for things to get better, know that they will. But don’t cling to anger or react to the ignorant words of people who are just as broken as you are. News flash: The people you hate? They’re human beings just like you, no matter how their words or actions may indicate otherwise.

There are better things to do in this life than cling onto our anger. One thing that helps us keep this in mind is the phrase “Memento Mori.” Thanks to Sister Theresa Aletheia for sharing this old Church tradition with me.

As we get close to Halloween/The Day of the Dead/All Souls Day, the knowledge that we could pass from this world at any minute gives a sobering edge to all the “Carpe Diem/YOLO” you hear amongst millennials. Do we want our last words or actions to be ones of anger or reckless impulse? Probably not.

Live this life with authentic love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, and gratitude.

Why God is the Perfect Author

 

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“None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands. A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when—like the artists of every age—captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colours and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of all things, has wished in some way to associate you.”- Saint John Paul II, Letter to Artists

Not many people know how much work goes into creating a wonderful story. Whether we are writing a novel or making a movie or a painting or a play, we are creating new worlds. This process, known as “worldbuilding,” involves a lot of research and  creativity. Whenever I work on a story I’m writing, I am basically reliving the creation from Genesis.

I realize that not everyone who reads this believes in God, but it’s hard to argue that this beautiful universe that we live in came to be by mere chance. All the stars, galaxies, and planets we see when we look at pictures of space aren’t just floating balls of gas and rock. To me, they are works of art. The vastness of space reminds us that there is more to life than just our petty squabbles and the problems in our world.

Zoom down to our tiny planet and think about what this world could’ve been. I heard it said somewhere that if our planet was placed just the tiniest bit closer or the tiniest bit further from the sun, it would be uninhabitable. We are given this beautiful world with huge oceans and all sorts of different environments and climates. Variety is the spice of life.

Which begs the first question: Why do natural disasters happen?

It’s part of the worldbuilding. Earthquakes led to creating the continents. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires all clear out parts of nature, but new things grow from the destruction. Climate change is definitely a factor, but we’ve been doing a lot of damage to the ozone layer since the Industrial Revolution. There is nothing new under the sun.

God doesn’t plan for these disasters to happen. He just allows them to be a “plot twist” in our lives. Some people look at the devastation and question how God could exist. The answer is found in His best creation: our fellow human beings.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Rita, I have seen more good people than bad get the spotlight on the news. Disasters have a way of either bringing out the best in us or the worst in us. The good news is that God created humans with the power to choose how we feel.

Which leads to Inevitable Question #2: Why do bad people exist? Why do terrorists keep attacking? Why do we constantly hear about people acting in such atrocious ways? If God created each and every person on this planet, why are there so many bad people?

Once again, it goes back to choices. God gives everyone the power to choose and choices and the consequences of these choices shape the stories of our lives. One great example can be seen in the Marvel Netflix series Daredevil. Both Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk were people who grew up in New York City and had difficult circumstances in their childhoods. However, one chose to retaliate by doing something evil (even if it meant protecting the ones he loves) and the other was put into the care of good people (even if he did have a jerk for a mentor). Wilson Fisk’s choices led to him becoming the head of the largest crime organization in the city. Matt Murdock chose to become a lawyer to defend the helpless and later chose to be a vigilante when the law wasn’t enough to take down the bad guys.

People are raised in circumstances that shape who they become. Each person has the capacity to change and rise above whatever hardships they experienced, but some choose to stay where they are. The key here is what we choose.

It’s a bit hard to wrap your head around the idea that believing in God leads to having a life with better choices and more freedom, but that’s how a good story goes. Remember how in Star Wars when Luke chooses to trust in the Force instead of the computer that was targeting the exhaust port in the Death Star? Star Wars isn’t a perfect parallel for a faith-filled life, but I do like how being a Jedi relies on having faith and being detached from consuming emotions.

What exactly is the point of this ramble? To quote the Doctor, “we are all stories in the end.” I know this post might sound crazy, but I just want to show you that this universe, this world, and each and every single person gives evidence that there is a Creator. So much work goes into creating a story. So much work gets put into creating a world and all the characters and conflicts in a work of fiction. The world that we live in is no different.

Vocations: Destiny or Free Will?

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As someone who grew up reading fairy tales and watching anime, I began to notice something in the way that people see vocations.

Many of my married friends believe in the idea of pre-determined “soul mate” love and how God planned for them to marry a specific person. The story of their love life is essentially like the chorus from Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”: “You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess. It’s a love story, baby. Just say ‘Yes.'”

People who discern religious life, on the other hand, have vocation stories that resemble the typical anime “destiny plot.” In a typical adventure anime, the main character goes on a long journey or goes to school while trying to figure out what their purpose in life is. Either way, the protagonist finds their destiny and the story focuses on them working towards becoming a priest or a nun, with the perfect gang of friends who accompany them on this journey.

I’m speaking in generalizations, of course. I know that every vocation story is different. But in the years I spent going to vocation-related events, it seems like people see marriage and religious life as a pre-determined destiny and all they have to do is “discern” which one is right for them. In reality, marriage and religious life are not as cut and dry as that.

Yes, God creates each and every person with a unique personality and skills, but he also gave us this strange thing called free will. We have the ability to choose what to do with our gifts, for better or for worse. Our lives are more like those video games where the choices you make effect the way that the game ends. (Just think of Mass Effect or Infamous.) It doesn’t mean that we can just do whatever we want. The power to choose comes with the responsibility of making sure we choose to do God’s will. In an ideal life, we work with God to help us to choose the right thing. Eventually, our choices help reveal what God wants us to do with our lives.

The best example of this can be seen in the movie Moana. Although Moana was chosen by the ocean to voyage out and return the heart of Te Fiti, her journey was not an easy one and at one point, she gave the heart of Te Fiti to the ocean, wanting to return home after Te Ka nearly killed her. The spirit of her grandmother was supportive of Moana’s decision to turn back, but at the same time, Moana was hesitant. She had to choose to take the heart back herself and not just because the ocean or her grandmother told her. She did that by remembering who she was, where she came from, and reflecting on how far she has come.

So how does free will play a role in discerning marriage or religious life?

When it comes to marriage, I have a bit of a bias. For one thing, I don’t believe in soul mates. Now before you clutch your pearls and start citing the examples of Tobias and Sarah as well as Mary and Joseph, know that I wrote a Bible study on Tobit and I have a great devotion to the Holy Family. Tobias was worried about having to marry Sarah. He was free to choose to fulfill the promise he made to his father. Thankfully, Raphael guided Tobias to understanding how they would save Sarah from the demon that killed her previous husbands. If Sarah and Tobias’s marriage was predetermined, God would’ve found a way to have Tobias marry Sarah first and also expel the demon from her house at the same time.

In a similar way, Mary and Joseph still had to choose to say “Yes” to what God was asking of them. And their life was anything but a fairy tale, with Mary having to deal with at least three months of pregnancy alone (even while she was helping her cousin Elizabeth) and Joseph almost choosing to divorce Mary when he heard about her having a child.

God creates each and every person with a unique set of personality traits and skills and in our lives, we find people who we’re compatible with and some that we don’t get along with. But everyone we meet teaches us a lesson. Every relationship we have is a unique experience because we fall in love in different ways, depending on the person. It’s not going to be an instant-love-at-first-sight kind of thing that we see in romantic comedies and fairy tales. We choose who we love and then, once we marry, we can choose to stay with them in good times and in bad.

On the flip side of things, I know people who are still waiting for their lives to start, who have an idea on what God is calling them to do, but still have to choose the path they need to take in order to get there. The good news about these people is that they’re not just waiting around waiting for an answer to come on a silver platter. These people might have to pave their own paths or consider options beyond the norm. Regardless of where they head, God will always be with them.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t have a hand in our lives, but when it comes to our vocations, we can’t make the idea of finding our calling the end all-be all. We are called to ask God to be the compass of our hearts and then we choose the paths we walk down. There is no grand destiny where we save the world from an apocalypse. Most of us are called to live our holiness in ordinary lives. But is there anything wrong with that? I don’t think so.

tl;dr: Our path towards our vocation, whatever we are called to be, is not a straight line. It’s a path we forge with God guiding us through each and every choice we make.

In The Eye of the Storm: Surviving Hurricane Harvey

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Monday, August 28, 2017: Ever since Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast, rain kept pouring down. The streets of my neighborhood were starting to flood, with water getting higher every night. An uneasy, lingering anxiety filled my guts, even as I kept praying Rosary after Rosary. I was in my room, reading when my mom said: “Pack your bags. We’re going to evacuate.”

At this point, a lot of the things in my room were already put into bags and placed high in case water got into my house. Still, I packed a few bags and felt my heart jump when my dad said that there were people ready to take us out of our house. The next thing I knew, I was out on a float boat, the kind that people usually use for river rides at water parks. My stomach felt like it was on fire and I wanted to make sure that my backpack stayed above the high flood waters.

So while floating along the street, I did something a little crazy:

I sang.

Specifically, I sang this song:

It was kind of appropriate. And part of me knew that if I didn’t sing, I would’ve been panicking instead. My brother and I made it to the gas station across the street and waited for our parents. Dad was also on a float boat, but my mom took a jet ski. It felt like forever.

Once we were all together at the gas station, we hitched a ride to the grocery store down the street and waited there for someone who could drive us to somewhere dry. I prayed that if I had to take shelter, I wanted to be at a church where I could sleep in front of the cross or the Blessed Sacrament. Instead, we ended up hitching a ride with one of dad’s customers (a contractor) and went to another town where my mom’s coworker lived. His house had plenty of room for us, not to mention that he still had electricity, a guest bathroom, and a laundry room.

The strange thing was that even though I was at someone else’s house, worried about if water would get into mine, I felt more at ease than I was at home. Miraculously, through the rain and the flood waters, all the stuff that I brought with my was mostly dry. My laptop, keyboard, and phone were dry, my clothes were damp, and I had all my toiletries. Not to mention my tiny collection of Funko Pops.

funko pop mini squad

I also had a few books with me. One book was Every Day with Mary, a collection of daily reflections from the affiliates of Mayslake Ministries that I got at the Catholic Writer’s Guild conference in Chicago. The reflection for that day began with this Bible verse:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory thatis to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.-Romans 8:18-19

The reflection’s theme focused on abundance, but not the kind you would hear about from the Prosperity Gospel or Law of Attraction crowd. The abundance in this book referred to the heavenly reward for those who carried heavy crosses in their earthly lives. Mary is a great example of this because she also had to leave the safety of her home at a moment’s notice and stay amongst strangers for a certain period of time. But throughout that ordeal, she remained strong and did God’s will.

One of the things I prayed while I stayed at my mom’s coworker’s house was a short request to Our Lady of Fatima: “Our Lady of Fatima, please bring a miracle of the sun to Texas.”

The next day, around the afternoon, my brother messaged me to look out the window because the sun finally came out, peeking from behind the clouds. We also decided to go to my cousin’s house and sleep over there because they just came back from being evacuated.

Throughout all this, I thanked God for giving me the strength to go through all of it. I felt grateful for my family, the clothes that I had, and all the things I had with me. And then, when I woke up on August 30, 2017, I took a picture of the sky. Never have I ever felt so grateful to see the sun and the beautiful, clear skies of Texas.

I was able to get home yesterday and signs of recovery were already showing on the drive home. The streets were dry and even though my street was still somewhat flooded, the waters were no longer high. I arrived to a house with only one inch of water damage…in my garage. Every other room in my house was okay and still had electricity and running water and functional plumbing.

Which leads to the question: Why did I have to leave?

For the brief period that I left my house, I experienced what it was like to be displaced. I understand now how scared everyone in the shelters must feel. I also got to see how disasters can bring out the best in people. 90% of my social media feed shared images and stories of people who were helping others, like the priest on the kayak who was trying to find wine for Mass, the lines of volunteers, and the local furniture store owner who turned his showrooms into shelters.

And as far as the 10% of social media who keep politicizing this tragedy: look at the people who are volunteering and donating and please do likewise. Here’s a list of charities to donate to. 

Even though the storm has passed, the next chapter of recovery has just started. The entire Gulf Coast of Texas was affected by this storm, not just Houston. I am supremely proud of my city, but I want to use this blog to raise awareness of everywhere else that was affected. Not to mention that the storm has moved on to other areas who will also need help. Hurricane season is not over. But for now, I feel grateful for how everyone has come together and stayed strong.

As I am back home, I am playing “Amazing Grace” on my Spotify app. It’s cheesy and the most overplayed song in the history of Christian music, I know. Even so, the song was written by someone who survived a storm. It was through God’s grace that I was able to be strong in the middle of the pouring rain and all the uncertainty. I pray that this grace will be given to those who need it now.

DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!

Moana’s Vocation: An Analysis

Moana’s story is unique in many ways. While the villains may be lackluster, the music is amazing. My favorite thing about Moana, though, is how the movie portrays what it means to have a vocation. While The Crown shows how the vocation of queenship negatively affects the people in Queen Elizabeth’s life, Moana’s story is a more positive portrayal.

As I’ve stated before, many people figure out their vocation at a very young age. Moana’s vocation is twofold: She needs to be the chief of her people, but she is also called by the ocean to voyage out and return the heart of Te Fiti to where it came from. She quickly learns, thanks to her grandmother, that in order to truly be the chief of her people, she has to answer the ocean’s call first, because her people were descended from voyagers, but forgot about that part of their life because of how dangerous the ocean became.

Answering the ocean’s call meant leaving her family behind, much like those who pursue religious life do. Men go to a seminary or monastery and women go to the convent. In the process of becoming a priest, a nun, or a brother, they are required to learn a lot of things. Out in the ocean, Moana learns how to be a good wayfinder, thanks to Maui’s mentoring.

Throughout the movie, Moana is tested in her resolve to stick to her vocation. She first gets tested when she gets hurt on her first attempt to sail beyond the reef.  Maui constantly tests her patience.  She faces obstacles such as the Kakamora and Tamatoa. She even loses her resolve when Maui decides to leave after Te Ka nearly defeats them. In spite of all that, the spirit of her grandmother returns and asks Moana “Do you know who you are?”

“I Am Moana” basically summarizes what it feels like when a person discerns his or her vocation. A Catholic can interpret that “still small voice,” the voice that calls Moana, as the Holy Spirit, reminding her about what she needs to do.  When she decides to be the one to take the heart to Te Fiti, she goes back to the ocean and gets the heart back, restoring order to the ocean and her home and even giving Maui a new sense of purpose.

When Moana returns home, the people of Motunui become voyagers again and it’s clear, from how the movie ends, that Moana’s adventures are just beginning. It shows that a vocation is something you have for life. For Moana, that means continuing the tradition of her voyaging ancestors and being the a good leader to her people.

I highly recommend Moana because it’s an excellent movie with a positive message for kids. It shows them that following your heart doesn’t mean being a rebel. It can mean becoming a leader and growing in wisdom.