Do You Really HAVE TO Vote?

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I’ve been quiet about the election because I don’t like politics. I’m what you would call a swing voter. Back when I was in college, I voted for Obama because I blindly believed in what he was promising the American people. Four years later, voted Republican because I didn’t agree with Obama’s policies.

Now here I am again four years later at another Presidential election. Voting for the lesser of two evils is sadly not an option for me anymore.

I don’t support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I never have and I never will.

Something I’ve been noticing since middle school is that whenever the current political sphere is undesirable, people from Hollywood start doing public service announcements that compel people to vote. You might remember the Vote or Die campaign during the 2004 elections or Lena Dunham’s infamous viral video during the 2012 presidential election.

Joss Whedon has now contributed to the current zeitgeist with this anti-Trump video:

Even the cast of Hamilton is getting on this:

It’s just too bad that Whedon and Lin-Manuel Miranda have also thrown their hats into Clinton’s ring. Bless your hearts, both of you. I love you, but I have to disagree here.

It’s gotten to the point that Blimey Cow has parodied the pro-voting bandwagon:

The problem with all the appeals to get people to vote is that it comes off sounding like voting is mandatory. I understand that voting is a necessity, but I also believe in preserving the right to opt out of voting for a few reasons, most of which are talked about in this awesome video:

So what’s my solution? If you really want to vote, do research on third parties. Look into the Libertarian Party or the American Solidarity Party. Look into any other party that’s not covered by the mainstream media. Inform yourself so that you don’t just vote blindly.

And before you start telling me that voting for a third party will just be a wasted vote, there are a couple of articles that say otherwise. There’s also a history of third party presidential nominees who were able to capture a considerable amount of votes. Not to mention that Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt represented what were considered third parties during the time of their elections. Lincoln can be considered the first Republican and Roosevelt was from the Bull Moose party.

If you really don’t want to vote, you don’t have to, at least when it comes to choosing the next President. We live in a country where we have the right to refuse things as a form of protest. When this election is over, the people will end up complaining about the President no matter who wins. You can rest easy knowing you refused to give your vote to them. You can still vote for candidates you feel would be acceptable, such as Senators, Representatives, and people who will run your state and city. Keep up with local issues as well. Something I learned in my sociology class is that we can’t expect the President to fix our problems. Voting local (on a state-wide and city level) has a better impact on changing our everyday lives than who we pick to run our country.

In the end, I hope that no matter what you do, your decision will be an informed and wise one.

Pray to St. Jude, St. Rita, and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception for our country.

Uninvited's Pros and Cons: A Book Review

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I was definitely intrigued when I heard about Lysa TerKeurst’s latest book Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. As someone who’s experienced rejection more times than I can count, I felt drawn to this book like a bee to honey. After reading through the book, I have to say that as a whole, there are a great many blessings that can be gained from reading it.

Pros

I related to most of the stories shared here. There’s an overall sense of reassurance throughout the book that would definitely comfort the reader like chocolate after a breakup. The fist chapter invites the reader to be honest with themselves, which is always a great first step when dealing with rejection. I loved the chapters that ended with prayers. The prayers are sincere petition prayers that anyone can relate to and pray when they are dealing with the burdens of rejection and heartbreak.

Lysa also delves into what makes rejection hurt so much: So many people have trust issues, emotional insecurity, and rejection shakes us out of the safety net that we make for ourselves. The overall theme of this book is to root our trust in God and find that emotional security with him. I really need to introduce her to Saint Faustina because Faustina is one of the best examples of trusting in Jesus in spite of everything else.

The best thing about this book is that it teaches the reader that we can all learn from rejection. Each experience we have from rejection can teach us something for the future for whenever we deal with rejection again or point us towards something that leads us to acceptance. The book embraces the virtue of humility really well. Not only does this book help give the reader assurance when it comes to dealing with rejection, but it also provides an opportunity for the reader to improve on themselves with sections on self-assessment.

Cons

One major con was something I found in the 2nd chapter. There’s a section that quotes a few verses and brings attention to the promises within those verses, tying them around a common theme:

When we abide, delight, and dwell in Him, he then places within us desires that line up with His best desire for us.

Yes, that I can agree with. When we spend time with God, our hearts are made more like His. However, I did not agree with the sentence that followed afterwards:

Therefore, He can give us whatever we ask, because we will only want what’s consistent with His best.

Um. No. That’s not how it works. God can’t just give us whatever we ask because we think it will be consistent with His best. His best is not always what we want. With every Our Father, we pray “Thy will be done.”

I also didn’t relate to the story about the lady in the gym that Lysa was convinced hated her. Granted, I’m usually someone who always thinks the best of most people. I loved the testimonies shared in the book, but I seriously wanted this book to go deeper than just the everyday rejections we deal with.

It’s so sad that Protestants often forego to look into the lives of the saints because I can list five saints right off the bat who suffered through rejection and still found their true purpose in Christ:

  • Saint Gemma Galgani: rejected from the Passionists because of her spinal health issues, yet received stigmata and fought many battles against Satan.
  • Saint Joseph of Cupertino: seen as stupid and dumb because he was in constant awe at anything relating to Jesus and the church. Later was given the gift of flight and is the patron saint of test-takers.
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas: Chose a religious order that wasn’t trendy and his family didn’t support him going into religious life. He’s now regarded as a Doctor of the Church and his writings are worth their weight in gold.
  • Saint Faustina: Social outcast, even amongst her fellow sisters, and yet her devotion to Divine Mercy is now one of the most popular and wonderful devotions in the Catholic Church.
  • St. Jane Frances de Chantal: Had to deal with a marriage that she didn’t exactly want and made the most of it. Later went on to be the foundress of the Visitation Sisters

Of course, we can’t forget saints who also tended to the outcasts of society such as Saint Francis, St. Damian of Molokai and St. Marianne Cope, St. Mother Teresa, etc. I understand that the target audience for this book is the everywoman who feels like she’s never doing enough or never feels like she is enough, but I would’ve loved to have seen some things about actual social outcasts: people who deal with all sorts of identity issues.

Overall, I recommend this book to women who are seeking emotional reassurance in their lives. Again, this book doesn’t go deep, but it provides a sense of comfort to those who are seeking it.

The Idol of the Narrative

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In Strange Gods, Elizabeth Scalia went into detail on how we create idols out of our own egos and ideas. In Little Sins Mean a Lot, there’s a whole chapter about the dangers of clinging onto unhealthy narratives. As a writer, I pay a lot of attention to the narrative. Every person has their own version of what they think their lives were like and their perspectives of the people around them.

For the longest time, I had this narrative in my head that I spent a lot of my life alone. In spite of the fact that I had a good family and went to a good school, the story of my life always focused on the times that I was bullied or neglected. I also have a tendency of using this tactic of focusing too much on the negative when it comes to remembering my exes. I think it stems from some kind of self-preservation, a tactic to keep myself safe and remind myself to avoid getting into those situations again.

However, during my recent vacation to New Jersey, I met with a couple of old friends. We reminisced about my childhood, as childhood friends always do. Then one of my friends told me something I never knew. Way back when I was in kindergarten, the seventh and eighth graders were making ants on a log (peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins) when one of them realized that having the peanut butter around could trigger my allergy. Even though I wasn’t even in the same building as them and wasn’t as sensitive to peanuts as other kids, they decided to throw out their snacks, peanut butter and all, just to make sure that I would be safe.

I also learned that my childhood best friend was very protective of me. I knew that she and I were best friends, in spite of us being complete opposites, but I never knew that she protected me as if I was part of her family. Of course, she was the youngest of four sisters so it made sense that she treated me like the little sister she never had. I was loved and cherished even by people I never really knew. The crappy stuff I went through in middle school wasn’t all bad because I still had people to talk to. I was never as alone as I always believed I was.

The narratives we tell others reveal a lot to them about how we see ourselves and how we see other people. It’s basically why I’m trying to remember the good times I had with my exes as well as the bad. While I still joke that my love life is a veritable “comedy of errors,” I don’t want to condemn the people I connected with and paint them as the worst of humanity. It doesn’t mean that I’ll ever want them back in my lives. It’s just part of me learning how to forgive them. I always like to believe that people are inherently good, but at the same time, they also have damage that they haven’t completely healed from. Some people hide this damage behind a mask while others cling to their broken narratives and play the victim. None of these are healthy coping mechanisms.

If we want to start becoming the best versions of ourselves, we need to rewrite the narrative we have for our lives. We are never as alone as we think we are. We are loved so much by people we may not even know. The people in our lives have their own narratives as well. If you have hurt someone or received damage from somebody, I’m not asking you to contact them and try to work things out. Instead, go into prayer with God and ask Him to heal the wounds in your heart. There’s a wonderful prayer Leah Libresco shared with me that honors the Five Wounds of Christ that you can pray here. If you have some emotional ties with someone, I highly recommend praying a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

As the musical Hamilton often repeats, we have no control who lives, who dies, and who tells our story. We have control over our actions and the stories we write for ourselves, but we are all in need of guidance as to how we can act and perceive things in a good way. Today, I ask you to let God write your story. Hand the narrative over to Him and see what he can do.

Catholic Brotherhood Then and Now

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From Batman and Robin to Abbot and Costello, dynamic duos have been an essential part of history. Friendships such as Jackie Robinson and Peewee Reese faced against all manner of hatred and bigotry.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Catholic Church has its own share of dynamic duos. We have David and Jonathan, Moses and Jonah, Elijah and Elisha…But the duo whose feast we celebrate today is that of Saints Peter and Paul.

Being a cradle Catholic, I had a soft spot for Saint Peter. I used to joke that Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter not just because he’ll become the foundation of the Church, but also because Peter had a really thick head! Peter was always one to spit out whatever thought came into his mind, even if it didn’t make any sense or if it was the wrong thing to say. Yet, after Jesus’s resurrection, Peter changed. He took on the responsibility as being the head of Christ’s Church, which meant keeping order. One only needs to read about the incident with Ananias and Sapphira to see the difference between how Peter was before Jesus died and after.

In contrast, we have Paul of Tarsus. Paul started out as a young, zealous Pharisee who felt justified in persecuting Christians. After Jesus intervened, though, it became Paul’s mission to spread the Good News to the Gentiles since he had the advantage of being fluent in Greek and was welcomed in most cities in the Mediterranean area.

Bishop Robert Barron said that the Catholic Church needs to have the spirits of both Peter and Paul: “Without the Petrine discipline, the Pauline work would be unfocused and continually in danger of dissolution. Without the Pauline energy, the Petrine work would devolve into cold management and ecclesiastical bureaucracy.”

The spirits of Peter and Paul live on today,  namely with these two popes:

Benedict and Francis have both Peter and Paul in them. Like Peter, Pope Francis has a tendency to speak off-the-cuff. His blunt remarks can be both refreshing and unsettling. And yet, like Paul, Pope Francis is also well-known for how often he reaches out to the poor and marginalized. He has an effect on people no matter where he goes.

Pope Benedict, on the other hand, carries on the Petrine discipline. He may not be in the public eye as often as he used to be, but he’s still praying for the Church. The way we pray in Church will forever be changed because of him. And yet, like Paul, he’s also intelligent and well-educated. Future theology students will probably be studying his works for class.

I’m tired of people pitting these two against each other. In reality, they are brothers in Christ and in what is essentially their shared papacy. I have no doubt that sometime in the future, these two will be canonized together, much in the same way Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II were.

History is Happening in Manhattan: The Beauty of the Tony Awards

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“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.”-William Shakespeare, Ask You Like It

Musicals, to me, are like a love affair. For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with musicals. In spite of all the tragedy and internet debate, I still looked forward to the Tony awards.

Now I know that award shows can get political and the Tonys are no different. But I stand by what James Corden said:

But as my pastor said today in his homily during Daily Mass, we can only overcme evil with good and be loving in the face of hatred. I don’t agree with all the political stuff being talked about. I just want to remind everyone that in spite of everything, there is always good happening in this world.

On with the show!

Everyone on Broadway knew that Hamilton was basically the selling point, the darling, so it’s no surprise that the show opened with a Hamilton-style introduction of James Corden.

However, the real opening number was a beautiful, inspiring song about how theater inspires people to go into acting.  There’s a magic to theater that can’t be completely captured in film or television and the quick changes in this number shows a little glimpse of that magic. And yeah, I was listing off every single musical he referenced. The Doctor would be proud of you, Craig.

Corden described the Tonys in his opening monologue as “The Oscars, but with diversity.” There were more than a few shots taken at Trump and their support for a certain presidential nominee wasn’t exactly subtle either. She was senator of New York, after all. But I love that actors of every age and race was nominated for a major award.

As of now, my latest musical love affair is with Hamilton, which had a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations. Due to multiple actors being nominated in the same categories, the musical could only win a total of 13 possible awards. They ended up winning 11, including Best Musical. So before I get to squeeing over that, I want to give attention to the other shows that performed that night. Warning, though, I am very sick with a case of Hamilaria, so forgive all the Hamilton puns I’ll be making throughout this blog post.

The first musical number performed featured the cast of School of Rock: The Musical. I admit that I was kind of skeptical about this adaptation, but watching the performance opened my mind to the idea.”You’re In The Band” shows Dewey assembling his rock band, with the kids getting more excited as the song got more bombastic. I love that the kids played their instruments live (although I’m not sure where the electrical instruments are plugged into). It’s a very-high energy performance that I hope inspires future kids to try and take a shot.

The next number was from Shuffle Along, a musical about the making of a Broadway show in the 1920s. The performance featured a lot of beautiful tap dancing that had me considering taking lessons. Audra McDonald’s voice was as gorgeous as always. The melody of the song and all those tap dancers stirred up pure, undiluted joy in my heart.

She Loves Me, nominated for Best Revival, had a performance that starred Jane Krakowski from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Zachary Levi from Tangled and Laura Benanti aka Alura and Aunt Astra on Supergirl. This musical won the Tony for best set design and I totally get why. I also have to give Jane props for dancing her heart in the first song. She’s absolutely adorable! Zachary Levi is utterly charming, too. But Laura Benanti totally clinched her performance. Never have I ever heard anyone sing so passionately about vanilla ice cream! The romantic comedy role she’s playing is such a huge contrast from her serious role on Supergirl and her role as the Baroness in the NBC live showing of The Sound of Music. I absolutely love it!

Another musical nominated for Best Revival was Fiddler on the Roof. James Corden showed Josh Groban playing Tevye at the age of 17. Josh Groban took it with great stride. (Your face needs to stop, it’s so cute!) The cast of Fiddler performed “Sunrise, Sunset” and the huge wedding reception dance number. You can really see how much work they put into it.

The musical I knew the least about was Bright StarBright Star is a musical set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina during the 40s with flashbacks to the 20s. The play is written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It was definitely an interesting performance, but I’m not sure if it’s for me.

Two other musicals nominated for Best Revival were The Color Purple and Spring AwakeningThe Color Purple‘s song was perfectly apropos because they sang about how “The Good Lord Works In Mysterious Ways.” It reminded the audience that in spite of the bad things that happen, God will always come through. Then Cynthia Ervio sings a beautiful solo about gratitude and accepting yourself. It’s no wonder that it won Best Revival.

In contrast, Spring Awakening was performed by a cast of deaf teenagers from the Deaf West Theatre. The songs were performed with singers, but most of the actors “sung” the lyrics in American Sign Language. I liked the concept of this revival because, as Marlee Matlin described it, the story of Spring Awakening is “a cautionary tale of lust and longing teenagers and the adults who refuse to hear them.” The musical is skeptical and confusing, much like adolescence is, and this revival shows that even people who can’t hear have a voice.

My dad, who is a huge fan of Gloria Estefan loved the performance from the cast of On Your Feet. He told me that Ana Villafane went to the same high school as Gloria Estefan. The resemblance between Ana and Gloria is very uncanny! Emilio Esetefan, Gloria’s husband, also announced that everyone in the cast is here in the country legally, papers and all. Gloria and Ana had a vivacious performance

Out of all the original musicals nominated this year, though, Waitress was the one that caught my eye the most. I already knew Jessie Mueller from her role of Carole King in Beautiful. The number started with “Opening Up” and ended with a goosebump-inducing rendition of “She Used to Be Mine” featuring Sara Bareilles (who wrote the score and songs for this musical) and Jessie Mueller. The song reminds me of the worst years of my life, when I thought I lost myself. Also, I want Jesse Mueller to be Sara Bareilles in some future biopic.

Now, while musicals were the main feature of the night, a few plays caught my attention. Eclipsed looks into the lives of captive sex slaves living through the Liberian civil war. The Father, a play centering on a man with dementia, stars Frank Langella from Frost/Nixon. King Charles III intrigued me because it’s inspired by Shakespearean tragedy but mixes it with speculative fiction as to what kind of king Prince Charles might be. Other notable plays are the revivals of two Arthur Miller plays: The Crucible and A View from The Bridge. I was also familiar with Noises Off because my college did a production of that during my first year. A View From the Bridge won Best Revival and The Humans (a play set in WWII) won Best Play.

And now, to my favorite parts. Namely, the parts where Hamilton won most of the things! (11/13 ain’t bad as far as I’m concerned.)

It didn’t surprise that Daveed Diggs won Best Featured Actor. I loved Renee Elise Goldsberry‘s acceptance speech. I had no idea that she struggled to have children and I’m so happy that she has two kids now and values them enough to save them for last in her speech. Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s tear-jerking sonnet as he accepted his Tony for Best Score made me want to give him a hug. Thomas Kail, the director of Hamilton, won Best Direction of A Musical. I tweeted: “Thomas, that was a real nice declaration.” The surprise of the night, though, was Leslie Odom Jr. winning the Tony for Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance of Aaron Burr.

Then, of course, were the wonderful performances from the cast. The first one, aside from the opening, was a performance of “History Has Its Eyes On You” and “Yorktown.”

Angelhamilfan on tumblr pointed out something interesting about this performance:

I feel like people are missing something really key that happened in the 2016 Tonys performance.

Lin changed one word. But that’s all it took to change the meaning of the performance and the Tonys.

“Weapon with my hands.”

They didn’t just take out the muskets to show solidarity, Lin is trying to teach us that what we do, say and write will change perspective for generations to come. He’s showing us how we don’t need a gun or violence to fight for what we believe in. Like Alexander, we have our hands. Our writing. Our words are immortalized when we write, no matter who takes us away. The massacre in Orlando has devastated our country, but why stay silent? Why give them what they want and silence ourselves? We need to make something that is immortalized. Teach generations that come that you can take away our loved ones, but you can NEVER take our words.

It’s the message of the Schuyler Sisters in the closing number that I love the most, though: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” In spite of all the bad things that are happening, we are lucky to be alive right now. We are blessed.

Why Brock Turner Needs Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli

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There is a reason why justice and mercy go hand in hand. Like the rest of the internet, I was disgusted over the way-too-lenient sentence that Brock Turner received from the judge. While I am devoted to Divine Mercy and advocate forgiveness, I also know that six months in jail is not actual justice. Brock Turner isn’t sorry.

Which is why, instead of screaming “Rape culture” and “Check your privilege,” I am asking Saint Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli to pray over this situation.

Why Maria Goretti?

For those who don’t know, Maria Goretti, like the victim of the Stanford rape case, was damaged by the guy who sexually assaulted her. In fact, she died as a result of her trying to defend herself from her would-be rapist.

I’m already asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession for the victim of the rape case because she needs all the support she can get. In some ways, the victim will have to suffer a lot more than Maria Goretti did because she has to live with the trauma for the rest of her life.

But why does the perpetrator need the intercession of the victim of attempted rape and murder? And how would the man who killed Maria Goretti help?

I’m asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession because the scales of justice and mercy are thrown out of balance. Alessandro got a proper sentence for the murder he committed. He began his thirty-year jail sentence angry and unrepentant. He blamed Maria Goretti for everything and he was very violent around his inmates. Six years later, Maria appeared to Alessandro in a vision. In this vision, she was in a garden picking 14 lilies and she gave those 14 lilies one by one to Alessandro. Each lily represented a stab that Alessandro inflicted upon her. Through this gesture, Maria showed that she forgave her murderer for what he did and what he wanted to do.

I understand that there is no frickin way that Brock Turner deserves forgiveness.  Improper justice was given to Brock Turner. Binge-drinking and whatever the victim was wearing did not cause this rape to happen. Brock Turner chose to rape her. And sadly, he’s not sorry for that particular action. His father and the judge aren’t sorry, either. The victim will probably never forgive them.

Here’s the thing, though. None of us deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget what happened, either. Mercy demands justice. The reason I’m asking for Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli’s intercession is because the scales of justice need to regain their balance. I pray that Brock Turner will feel the weight of his actions. I pray that the victim will not be a prisoner of her trauma nor will she be labeled a “slut” for what happened. I pray that people will understand that drinking and going out to a nightclub aren’t to blame here.

People these days feel entitled to have whatever they want. It’s not just a privilege issue because entitlement can be found everywhere. But I’m not here to rage against the fallen state of this country. There are too many people doing that already.

I’m here to ask for justice and mercy to be rendered to everyone involved. I’m asking people to look at each other and see a person and not someone to use for their own means. I’m asking for harsher sentences for rapists and for judges to have a little more wisdom. I’m asking for you to look into what mercy and forgiveness really mean and try and apply that to your life. Most of all, I pray that somehow, someday, all the people involved will learn to forgive each other and to forgive themselves, but to never forget what happened.

If you want to know more about Maria Goretti, read this post I wrote from last November when I venerated her relics. There’s also a video from the Mass that I went to that night. I linked the video to start at the homily:

P.S.: Who wants to bet that Law and Order SVU will totally do a ripped from the headlines episode based on this?

All The Small Things

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“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8

For the past few years, I’ve gotten used to big changes. This year, however, has seen a lot of little changes. I’m not posting everyday on Instagram. I’ve been writing more poetry than prose. I went on a weekend trip to Dallas where all I did was wander around the local Arboretum.

It always seems like my life has been this song playing constantly on loop:

 

I’ve been working and waiting for whatever comes next. Something I didn’t learn until recently, though, is that life goes on even while you’re waiting.

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I have a mourning dove nesting in my backyard that I’ve named Genevieve. She’s been there for almost a month now. Her babies hatched sometime last week and it’ll be about another month before the birds start leaving the nest. I’ve also made some new friends and got to know a few saints. I didn’t write a 50,000 word novel, but I started working on a fantasy/horror series that took me straight out of my comfort zone in terms of writing. And if I combine all the work I did towards that with the poetry I wrote last month, I’m pretty sure that I wrote way more thank 50K in one month. I didn’t write a poem-a-day, but I am proud of the poems that I ended up writing.

I know that all of these things don’t seem like a lot, but if there’s anything I learned from spring, it’s that a lot of little things add up to a lot over time. When you plant seeds in a garden, they don’t grow into flowers right away. Gardens take a lot of work and time. In a similar way, I feel as though all the little changes I’ve been experiencing have been like God making tiny changes in my soul, the same way that a sculptor chips away at marble or a potter making tiny dents into clay.

In other words, life for me lately has been all about all the small things. Pennies in a jar or drops in the bucket that have slowly been filling up over time. What it’ll all add up to is yet to be seen.

If you feel like nothing big has been happening in your life, I recommend keeping a daily gratitude journal. In The Gospel of Happiness, Christopher Kazor recommends focusing on something different each day when it comes to gratitude. According to the book, Mondays are dedicated to thinking about ways in which we’ve received gifts from others and how might respond in gratitude. Tuesdays are meant to recall a good that is going to end soon. On Wednesday, we consider our blessings through the perspective of “what if they never existed?” Thursdays are devoted to considerting to whom we are grateful for and for what. Fridays are dedicated to writing about times in which something bad eventually led to something good.

I also recommend praying the Examen. There are many ways to pray the Examen, one of which I outline in my “Gratitude” Bible Study. I also recommend reading Leah Libresco’s Arriving At Amen which also has another Examen variation.

Moral of the story: Don’t overlook the little things in your life. They’re gonna add up to a lot sooner or later.

 

My Vampiric Spirit, Confession, and Conversion

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Author note: This is a guest post written by my friend Kristin from Austin and edited by me. Kristin will be received into the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday.  Please pray for her and all others who will be coming Home.

At the time I encountered Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was fresh out of college, having laid aside my checkered Protestant past for a relativistic agnosticism layered in a pleasant self-deception.  I figured, if any action helped me out within the simple constraint of “not committing murder”, it was certainly without reproach, and I could still consider myself a “good person”.  Then, a pivotal episode in Buffy Season 7’s “Beneath You” tilted my worldview enough to make me uncomfortable—uncomfortable enough to eventually become a Catholic.

In the closing scene of the episode, Spike and Buffy are in an empty, lovely, moonlit church together, and Buffy is concerned that Spike has lost his sanity. Up until this point, the rakish ne’er-do-well vampire was forced by an implanted chip in his brain to do no harm to Buffy Summers, leading him to try and do good out of his love for the Slayer. Unfortunately, his attempts at being good were also mixed in with his complicated, tumultuous affair with Buffy throughout the latter half of Season 6, culminating in him attempting to rape Buffy in “Seeing Red.” His shock at what he was about to do led to him going on a quest to receive his soul so that he can be the man he thinks Buffy deserves. Now ensouled, Spike is uncomfortably, completely conscious and guilt-ridden over his innumerable sins. I realized that there was something true there being spoken about sin and the need for redemption.

It would take me several more years to make my way to the Catholic Church and the lesson I gained from watching “Beneath You” was a crucial reason to why I was becoming Catholic. However, I didn’t fully understand the importance of this scene until I went to my first Confession to prepare for receiving the rest of the Sacraments at Easter. For some inexplicable reason, I found myself terrified of this sacrament.

We are born vampires due to original sin.  Like vampires, we are driven into the black night of our sins and transgressions, subconsciously terrified of being burned alive by the pure light of Christ. Like vampires, we’re driven away from pain and toward hedonistic pleasure, largely propelled by the forces of fear, anger, hate, lust, and greed. We live entirely for ourselves and see others only as a source of food for us—emotional affirmation, physical pleasure, and social recognition—and we’d best eat them before we’re consumed ourselves. We drive our greedy jaws into others without a thought, a care, or a twinge of remorse, and suck them dry, all in a desire to quench our endless thirst, our neverending desire to fill the emptiness within ourselves with something.

In the midst of all this, the deep terribleness of the human heart, Christ the Slayer wants to kill our vampiric selves and ensoul us, which He does so well through the Sacraments. He calls us out of the darkness, and He watches us as we pathetically stagger out from the shadows, crouching, cringing away from the Light.

I spent my first Confession, sitting in very comfortable chair in a cheery, bright, well-lit office, feeling with every fiber of my being that I was about to go up in smoke as I rattled off my list of sins before the priest. And go up in smoke, my ego did. Like the newly ensouled Spike, I stumbled around, slowly realizing for the first time the depths of what I’ve done to Christ and Christ in others. My scarred heart, rife with manipulation, greed, carelessness, and selfishness, was laid bare before me in the harsh Light, no longer fancied up by the clever illumination of the night.

The priest gave me my penance, a single Our Father, and instructed me to meditate on the mercy of God. Not only did I meditate, I was sucker-punched by this overwhelming Divine Mercy toward me.  The emptiness inside of me was filled with the infinite waters that gushed from His Sacred Heart. It’ll be a lifelong process of torching my ego, repairing my heart, and fighting for my soul. I know that even after I am received into the Church, I’ll be in Confession again and again.  But like Spike at the end of “Beneath You,” I embrace the Cross which burns away my sins, and ask “Can we rest?”

Though the episode doesn’t answer the question, Saint Augustine does: “For You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”

We can rest, brothers and sisters, in the arms of our Lord. As we celebrate Good Friday, let us hide ourselves in His wounds and fill ourselves with the endless fountain of His love and mercy.

Author’s note: If you want to know more about how the theme of forgiveness is seen in the Buffyverse, check out my post from last year.

"It Is Finished. Father, Into Your Hands, I Commend My Spirit." – Reflections on the Seven Last Words Parts 6 and 7

Brooklyn_Museum_-_It_Is_Finished_(Consummatum_Est)_-_James_Tissot

I’m going to combine the last parts of the Seven Last Words because I feel like they go together.

“It is finished. Father, into Thy hands, I commend my hands I commend my spirit.”

Many people mistakenly think that when Jesus said “It is finished,” He was referring to his road to salvation. However, our redemption wasn’t finished at the Cross, but through the Resurrection. So what was finished? The act of the sacrifice. Scott Hahn goes more into this in “The Fourth Cup,” which I highly recommend you listen to.

Venerable Fulton Sheen said that there were only two other times that God said “It is finished”: First in Genesis. after He finished Creation, and then at the end in Revelation, during the creation of the new Heaven and the new Earth. Christ’s declaration of “It is finished” marked the halfway point of this salvation narrative.

Being the Shakespearean fanatic I am, I can’t help but compare the salvation narrative to a Shakespearean play. Act 1 was creation. Act 2 was everything that happened in the Old Testament. Act 3 was the New Testament, Jesus’s birth and death. I like to think that Jesus saying these last words was the cue for the curtain to fall. In Shakespeare’s plays, Act 3 was the climax of the narrative. It’s no coincidence that the Latin translation for “It is finished” is “Consummatum est.”

Jesus was the only one in history who had entire control over His narrative. He knew who would live, who would die, and who would tell his story. He knew exactly when he would die and He had complete control over it. When he said “Father, into Thy hands, I commend my spirit,” he cued for the curtain to be lowered in this third act of the salvation narrative. His resurrection and everything that happened afterwards would be the beginning of what is now Act 4. We are living in Act 4 and we don’t know when Act 5 (the end times) will come. But we all need to be part of the salvation narrative.

As we begin the Triduum, I hope that you reflect on all the 7 Last Words of Christ and count the cost of His sacrifice on Good Friday. Let us put ourselves into His narrative and devote our lives to telling His story.

 

"I Thirst" – Reflections on the Seven Last Words Part 5

Brooklyn_Museum_-_-I_Thirst-_The_Vinegar_Given_to_Jesus_(-J'ai_soif.-_Le_vinaigre_donné_à_Jésus)_-_James_Tissot

“I thirst.” – John 19:28

Out of the Seven Last Words, this one is my personal favorite. I know what it’s like to thirst. Millenials often joke about how “thirsty” someone can be, usually in the context of someone who is starving for affection. We are all thirsty for love, but we have no idea what kind of love would actually satisfy our thirst.

It was really interesting to me that Jesus chose to ask for something to drink as he was on the cross instead of before, when the Romans offered him a drink. However, Venerable Fulton Sheen pointed out that the drink the Romans offered was drugged with a sedative. Yeah, I wouldn’t drink that either. Instead, Jesus asks for a drink as he is suffering, reflecting the thirst that we all have for God’s love.

And what amazes me most was that Jesus was thirsting for more than just a drink. As Soon-to-be-Saint Mother Teresa said…

Hear Jesus speak to your soul:
No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: “I THIRST…”(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…” (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.
Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake, Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”

Just think, God is thirsting for you and me to come forward to satiate His thirst. Just think of that!