What Would Buffy Do?- A Book Review

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To say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a unique show that ended up changing my life forever would be an understatement. Much like how the Doctor from Doctor Who has two hearts, I have two great loves in my life: My Catholic faith and my obsession with fandoms, especially Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So imagine my surprise when I found out that a book like this one existed.

What Would Buffy Do: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide is a collection of essays by Jana Reiss, a Mormon writer who specializes in writing things relating to religion and spirituality. It really boggles the mind that a show like Buffy, created by well-renowned atheist Joss Whedon, would have spiritual and religious themes that would lead to a Mormon writing essays on it, among other things.

The essays in Spiritual Guide are split into three sections: Personal Spirituality, “Companions on the Journey” (Interpersonal aspects of spirituality), and “Saving the World” (broad spiritual themes).  The essays in the first section are the most accessible to understand. “Be a Hero, Even When You’d Rather Go to the Mall” looks into the theme of self-sacrifice, using the characters of Buffy, Angel, and Xander as examples. This essay ties self-sacrifice with the Buddhist concept of the bodhisattva, “beings who are more concerned with the welfare of others.”  Although it includes the prayer of St. Francis as a quote (the same prayer also used in the end of the Buffy season 6 finale “Grave”), it neglects to mention the Christian aspect of agape and altruism, especially this verse from John 15:13 “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

“Change Makes us Human” looks into how vampires were originally conceived in the show: as metaphors for the selfish tendencies we have and the obstacles we have to deal with in the process of growing up. Spike is used as an example of this inability to change. In the episode “School Hard, Angel confronts Spike, saying “Things change.” Spike replies “Not us! Not demons!” The essay goes on to show how Spike becomes one of the most dynamic characters in the show, starting with the fact that Spike was the vampire with the most humanity. He cared for Drusilla for over a century and it’s through love (his love for Dawn and Buffy) that compels Spike to get his soul. Willow, Xander, and Giles’s character arcs are also examined.  What makes Buffy unique is that how slowly the show changes and evolves and the characters (and the audience) are forced to adapt and adjust to the change.

One aspect of change that this book looks into is death, examined in the essay “Death is Our Gift.” Death is shown as  something to be feared initially in Buffy and gave rise to the running joke of Joss Whedon killing off everyone the fans love. However, the darkness that death brings is one of the themes in season six. Sarah Michelle Gellar said that she felt uncomfortable with Buffy’s story arc in season six as it didn’t feel like the character she knew and loved. Marti Noxon, one of the writers and producers, called seas on six Buffy’s “Dark Night of the Soul.” Sadly, that’s the only mention of the Dark Night of the Soul in this entire book.

There is an essay on darkness in the third section of the book entitled “Taming the Darkness Within Ourselves,” but it looks into darkness from a more thematic and psychological perspective and not a spiritual one. Given that Spiritual Guide was published in 2004 and Mother Teresa’s struggles with her interior darkness wouldn’t be published until 2007, it’s somewhat understandable why the idea of spiritual darkness wasn’t fully examined in this book. The essay on humor “The ‘Monster Sarcasm Rally,'” also neglects to examine the ties between humor and faith. Then again, humor and religion have only recently shown to go hand in hand.

This book is a wonderful read as far as examining the various themes and the complexity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the spiritual roots are soaking in shallow water, probably so that the book would be accessible to a general audience. I would love to see a follow-up to this book, some kind of anthology with essays from people of all denominations. On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing that this book has me asking more questions than answers, leaving me wanting to dig deeper and continue down the path towards integrating my favorite show with my belief system.

In the last episode of Buffy, “Chosen,” the power of the Slayer is given to every girl in the world and ends with Dawn asking Buffy “What do we do now?” When I finished watching the show for the first time, I was left wanting more and eventually found a community of fellow fans who love Buffy. To my surprise, these friends are also people whom I can discuss my Catholic faith with openly. I think the Vampire Slayer Spiritual Guide serves a similar purpose. It’s not meant to give straightforward answers, but to act as a conversation piece for people like me who have both faith and fandoms in their lives. It might be a good way to introduce the show to those who wouldn’t watch something with horror and modern themes.

Tl;dr: Read this book and have a good discussion with your fellow philosophy and theology majors. And then watch Buffy. It will make you laugh, cry, and change your life forever.

The Spiritual Journey of "Out of the Woods"

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Welcome to 2016 everyone! Like most people during this time of year, I want to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for 2016. But since, like most people, I watched Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve in anticipation of the countdown, I got to watch the premiere of Taylor Swift’s latest music video “Out of the Woods.”

Out of all of the videos that Taylor has released from her 1989 album, this is by far my favorite since “Bad Blood.” It takes me back to the Taylor I knew: the Taylor who wore long, beautiful dresses and tried to figure out what love meant. The video itself is reminiscent of a spiritual journey.

It starts out with the words “She lost him” and opens with Taylor standing on the beach in a long light blue dress. As the song begins, a forest starts growing around her. This symbolizes the beginning of a spiritual journey, being led into a seemingly dangerous place where wolves (which could represent opposition or anxiety) and tangling vines (which represents sin) are out to get you at every corner. Day turns to night as Taylor weaves her way through the woods and runs from the wolves and through the tangling thorns. In the chase, she falls and her dress gets torn, representing the first stumbling.

All of a sudden, Taylor is on top of a mountain. The wolves are still chasing her. Taylor rips the necklace she was wearing off and tosses it over the mountain. Then she takes a leap and dives into the ocean below. This represents the second part of the spiritual journey: taking a leap of faith and letting yourself be submerged into an ocean of grace. I also saw her taking the necklace off as letting go of what you used to love in order to immerse yourself into a deeper love.

But just as Taylor is in the ocean, she’s suddenly in a desert. She touches a tree and then finds herself frozen in the middle of an icy forest, running from an avalanche. Both of these can represent spiritual dryness. Spiritual highs don’t last long and the dry periods of spiritual life can either feel as barren as a desert or as cold and bitter as winter. Either way, these dry periods prompt us to reflect and have faith in spite of how we feel.

The bridge of the song finds Taylor crawling through a muddy swamp as vines entangle around her in every different setting. This is the fallen state of grace, when we are covered in sin. Like the vines, sin paralyzes us. But as the song transitions towards the last chorus, little lights surround Taylor and even though she keeps getting thrown down and finds herself surrounded by fire, the vines don’t try to entangle her anymore. Instead, she gets up and gets out of the woods. The music video ends with Taylor back at the beach as the forest disappears behind her. Her dress is shorter, but her eyes are so much wiser. She sees her old self looking out into the ocean and reaches out to touch her.

Then these words flash on the screen: “She lost him but she found herself and somehow that was everything.”

The last part of the music video to me represents the sense of renewal which leads to finding the best version of yourself again. You return to where you started because God draws straight with crooked lines.

Fellow Swifties will recognize the words from the end of the video as the secret message from the song “Clean.” In a way, this message combined with the music video basically describes what 2015 was to me. I didn’t lose a person so much as ideas on what I thought my life should’ve been. I met with a lot of disappointments in 2015. And yet, through my own spiritual journey, I found myself again. I let go of all of my preconceptions on how things were “supposed to be” and took a leap of faith, entering into this new life where nothing’s quite as certain, and yet my faith and trust in God remain constant.

And somehow, that faith and trust was everything. It led to me making new friends. It helped me to grow as a writer. Most surprisingly of all, I became a more forgiving and hopeful person.

It’s hard for me to choose one word that will be my constant throughout 2016. Mercy is a good contender since this is the Year of Mercy. I’m reading Mother Teresa’s Come Be My Light, so light is also a potential word. I’m still on this spiritual journey towards finding my vocation, which makes the word “direction” quite appealing. However, what resonates the most with me right now is love. Bishop Robert Barron said that “Mercy is what the Divine Love looks like when turned towards the sinner.” Mother Teresa was called to be a light of love to the streets of Calcutta. And in this journey that I’m taking, I feel like love will be what will lead me to wherever I end up next.

I don’t just mean romantic love, although I find myself longing for that more than usual. I also want to learn how to balance love of God and love for myself in a healthy way. To be humble but at the same time be self-assured and hold my ground to protect myself from creeps and devils. “Love” also applies to my writing. I want to finish all of my writing projects, pour my love into every single word and share that love with the world. Most of all, I want to be able to get past my cynicism and be able to love my neighbor and see the best in them.

So here are some questions for you: Where are you on your spiritual journey right now? What do you think is your word for 2016?

I pray that God will help lead you out of whatever woods you happen to find yourself in. Happy New Year everyone!

Screenshots from “Out of the Woods” are copyright to Big Machine Records, Taylor Swift, and Joseph Kahn and are used for editorial purposes only.

The Catholic Guide to Depression: A Book Review

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It started with me wanting to do some further research on depression for a future project. A quick search throughout the internet led me to this book. Thanks to Dr. Aaron Kheriaty for sending me this book to review.

This book is one that must be read thoroughly. It’s not something you devour in one sitting or just skim through superficially. Like the disease of depression, this book takes time to read. Too many people have preconceptions of what “depression” is and fall into one of two extremes. The first one being that depression is just a chemical imbalance that can be easily solved with a few pills and maybe some therapy. The other extreme is that it’s a spiritual issue that doesn’t need medication to fix. This book finds a good medium between the two extremes.

The book is divided into two parts, with the first part focusing on understanding what depression is and isn’t and the second part focusing on how to treat depression. The book as a whole takes a Catholic perspective that goes in depth on how the body and soul affect each other, rather than seeing the body and soul as separate entities as people often think today. This book describes depression as a complicated disease and I love the effort that Kheriaty puts into describing the symptoms and affects it has on the person in detail.

One interesting thing I found from this book is that there’s a difference between depression and what people call the “Dark Night of the Soul” as named by St. John of the Cross. The “dark night of the soul” isn’t depression as it is a purgation of everything that separates a person from God and allowing a person to share in the suffering of Christ. People who go through the dark night of the soul are given consolations and appear genuinely happy to the outside world. People with depression don’t get any consolation.

Whenever I say that a book needs “depth,” I mean to say that the writing needs to go beyond the superficial, glossy illusion of goodness and show the research and wisdom behind whatever one is saying. Feel-good books like Chicken Soup for the Soul are a great read as a quick fix, but this book acknowledges the darker sides of life instead of ignoring them and that’s what elevates this book as a great guide to those suffering from depression.

The book is woven with elements of Catholic spirituality, but it also says that there’s nothing wrong with finding a therapist who will treat the disease but isn’t personally Catholic or even a person of faith, so long as said therapist allows for the patient to integrate his faith into the therapy. I also liked that while Kheriaty understands the necessity of medication and therapy, he also acknowledges that many people take their medications unnecessarily and that some therapists may be wrong for the patient. Like with doctors, it’s a matter of trial and error and in this case, psychologists are “doctors to the soul.”

I recommend this book to those who feel like they are suffering from depression as well as for those who know someone who has this disease. Young adults especially should look into this book to learn what the difference is between being emo and true depression. I think this book would also be beneficial to psychologists who aren’t of any particular faith. One thing this book emphasizes is that just because a person has faith doesn’t mean that they are prevented from suffering. In fact, for Catholics, suffering is a part of life and depression can come to the greatest of saints. But there’s always the hope that God gives, like a lamp at our feet and the light in the path that guides us out of the dark.

The Benefits of Prayer and Mass Journals

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I’ve been a journal writer ever since the first grade and throughout college and afterwards, I’ve been keeping a prayer journal. At this point in my life, I currently have three prayer journals: One is a binder of loose leaf paper that I use when I pray in the morning. The second is a composition notebook that I use when I pray the Examen. The third is a small spiral notebook that I use as a Mass journal.

Keeping a prayer journal is a great way to increase your prayer life. I often call it writing letters to God. Thomas Merton, St. Therese of Lisieux, Pope John XXIII, St. Faustina, St. Ignatius, Mother Teresa, and many other saints have kept journals. Mass journals are more of a recent thing, inspired by Matthew Kelly and promoted by the Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship.

Being a writer, keeping a journal is a great way for me to get all my thoughts out of my head. I love having social media, don’t get me wrong, but there are things I’d rather keep between me and God. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be good at writing, or even praying, there’s a great sense of relief of getting everything in your head out onto paper.

If you’re not sure where to start, I’ll give you some suggestions, starting with Mass Journaling.

The way I journal at Mass is that I write a verse that particularly stands out to me from the readings and I take notes during the homily, if it’s a good one. If you find yourself in the middle of a bad homily, take note of the readings you heard or read and meditate on them at home. Bishop-Elect Robert Barron always has great homilies on the Word on Fire site. Also ask the Holy Spirit to inspire your pastor when you journal about his homily.

Another way to keep a journal is to address it to your future spouse. No, not in the Megan Trainor “Dear Future Husband” kind of way. Katie Hartfiel and Crystalina Evert both kept a journal, addressing the entries to their future husbands. I actually did a few journals in this style during my last two years of college, but my post-college crisis prompted me to address the journals to a higher power instead.

You can also keep a gratitude journal, in which you write at least one thing that you’re grateful for. I highly recommend keeping a gratitude journal because it’s a great way to remember all the blessings that God put into your life, even if it’s hard to see them at first.

Here’s how I prayer journal right now. In the morning, I set aside time to do a type of journaling that I’ve done since high school: The Morning Pages, as created by Julia Cameron. Now Cameron isn’t a Catholic. She fell away from the Church. But her book, The Artist’s Way is still one of the books that I feel made the most impact on my life. I started writing the Pages as my way of coping with being rejected from Rice University and went through The Artist’s Way for 12 weeks. During those 12 weeks, I got an acceptance letter from The University of St. Thomas, which was the best thing that happened to me in my adolescence. Even though she’s not a Catholic anymore, I feel like God used her as a secondary cause for me to find the best way of journaling out my anxiety. These days, when I do the Morning Pages, I address the letters to Jesus, picturing Him as my best friend and confidant, ready to relieve me of my burdens. Through the Morning Pages, I offer up my worries and offer up the day to Him, asking for His guidance and help. If you feel like writing the Morning Pages as a form of prayer journaling, check out Julia Cameron’s video on them on her website.

At night, I pray the Examen using a composition journal. I have a soft spot for composition notebooks. They may be plain and even childish at times, but they’re also simple and perfectly spaced out. I tend to write big so notebooks with small lines are the worst for me! Anyway, I love writing out the Examen because part of the Examen involves going through the day, thinking about what you’re grateful for as well as recalling the things that you did wrong. Writing helps me sort all of it out. There are many ways to pray the Examen, but my favorite one so far is how Leah Libresco described it in her book Arriving at Amen.

The short version, for those who haven’t read the book yet, goes like this:

  1. Consider your blessings.
  2. Ask God for light.
  3. Review your faults that happened today.
  4. Ask God for forgiveness
  5. Anticipate how you’ll start over.

The Examen journal functions as my gratitude journal as well because it helps me be grateful for all things: the good, the bad, the things I learn, and the things I can do in the future.

 

Rachel and Kateri have a wonderful video about prayer journaling that I highly recommend you watch.

 

One thing that I do with all of my journals is that I write down the date. It doesn’t seem important, but it’s always nice, whenever I look at my journals, to remember what day I gained a certain insight or when something special happened to me. Re-reading my journals has also showed me how much I have changed. My journals are also my way of keeping myself accountable when it comes to things that I need to do.

The point is, give prayer and Mass journaling a chance. You don’t have to be a good writer. You just need to start writing.

St. Josemaria Escriva: The Spiritual Drill Sergeant

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Don’t let his habit fool you. He’ll have you doing 50 pushups.

St. Josemaria Escriva’s The Way is not the kind of book you would read in one sitting. It’s more like the Catholic version of a devotional. Only it has a tendency to punch you in the gut and make you feel like doing push-ups. I lovingly call him a “spiritual drill sergeant” because The Way challenges everyone who reads it to take their spirituality to the next level. 

Examples:

Character

Conform? It is a word found only in the vocabulary of those (“You might as well conform,” they say) who have no will to fight–the lazy, the cunning, the cowardly–because they know they are defeated before they start.

Direction

If you don’t have a plan of life, you’ll never have order.

Prayer

Persevere in prayer. Persevere, even when your efforts seem sterile. Prayer is always fruitful.

Holy Purity

To defend his purity, Saint Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow, Saint Benedict threw himself into a thornbush, Saint Bernard plunged into an icy pond . . . You . . . what have you done?

Heart

You give me the impression you are carrying your heart in your hands, as if you were offering goods for sale. Who wants it? If it doesn’t appeal to anyone, you’ll decide to give it to God. Do you think that’s how the saints acted?

Mortification

Don’t say “That person bothers me.” Think: “That person sanctifies me.”

Penance

I want you to be happy on earth. But you won’t be happy if you don’t get rid of that fear of suffering. For as long as we are “wayfarers”, it is precisely in suffering that our happiness lies.

Examination of Conscience

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much.” Words from St. Luke that show you-examine yourself-why you have so often gone astray.

 

St. Josemaria Escriva, pray for us.

What I Learned From My California Vacation

Sometimes vacations can be a lot of fun. Sometimes, they feel way too short. But for my California vacation, it seemed like I learned a lot about myself, things I never realized before. It wasn’t some big spiritual epiphany like in Eat, Pray, Love, but a lot of little things.

The first thing I learned is that although I liked getting dressed up for my cousin’s big 18th birthday party, I felt like I was wearing a costume. I hated having fake nails and while the dress I wore was beautiful, it was not easy to dance in. Also, I’m pretty sure my big toe is still hurting from wearing platform sandals all night. Sometimes, you have to play around with the idea of being something you’re not in order to figure out what kind of person you are.

The second thing I learned was that the best times I had during the vacation were whenever I was having a low-key element of fun. Singing karaoke, line dancing, or just having dinner with friends, I loved it all. But the most fun I had was whenever I went off on my own to have adventures. I learned that when it comes to being alone, there are good times and bad times, but sometimes, you can be your own best friend.

The third thing I learned was that I had a lot of emotional healing to do. The one thing I was afraid of when I went back to Los Angeles was running into people I didn’t want to see. Thankfully, I didn’t. But I don’t want the people who’ve hurt me in the past to have this power over me anymore. In the past few weeks, I found ways to forgive them. The pain won’t go away overnight, but I’m getting there and getting better.

The last thing I learned while I was in California was that I found that I can really write. The trip ended at the same time that the Writer’s Digest Poem A Day Challenge ended, so I spent my last day of vacation reflecting on the fact that I wrote 30+ poems in a single month. I also left California with an idea for a new character and a better plot outline for my novel. Although I’m nowhere close to publishing anything, I feel like I’m a better writer now than when I lived in California all those years ago.

So now I’m spending my time perfecting my writing. What’s next for me? You’ll find out this summer.

February Progress Report

I didn’t update this blog as often as I thought I would due to sickness and me realizing that I needed to take things into a different path. I want to be more open about my faith on this blog, especially with Lent coming up in a week. So after my Four Loves Friday post, the next time you’ll see me update this blog will be on Ash Wednesday.

Lent has always been a tricky thing for me, even back when I was a kid. I hated fasting because having food allergies made giving up meat every Friday even harder than it already was. And when I got older, fasting also meant eating just one meal during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Lent was also emotionally grueling because it was often a time that I was spiritually and emotionally tested. Last year was bad because of a serious bout of emotional distress brought on by Pope Benedict’s resignation and the betrayal of a friend. I spent the rest of the year recovering from my friend’s betrayal.

Now that I feel that I have recovered from the trauma, I want to focus on discerning my vocation. So I will be using this blog as my Lenten journal. The posts will feature the following:

1) My 365grateful photo that will undergo a Lenten theme

2) A link to Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflections (If you don’t know who Fr. Robert Barron is, he is a priest/vlogger who creates videos that comment on current events, movies, and pop culture and talks about them through a Catholic perspective. Look him up on YouTube and then check out wordonfire.org. He is awesome!)

3) Any sort of thoughts I have about the day in general.

I am also planning on praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the Examen as part of increasing my prayers.

So what am I giving up, you ask? After giving it a lot of thought, I decided on limiting the amount of clothes I would wear for the duration of Lent.

Come back here on Friday where I reveal my favorite CS Lewis quote and go into what it means to love selflessly.

How to Portray Religion in Fiction Without Causing a Riot

It seems so easy to paint religion as evil in fiction. But in my honest opinion Evil Religion (especially corrupt Christianity/Catholicism) is a cliche that needs to DIE. Ditto with the stereotypical pedophile priests, sexy nuns, loud overenthusiastic preachers, annoying Jewish mothers, and terrorist Muslims. However, I’m not advocating that religion in fiction should be portrayed in the other extreme, with constant Jesus Symbolism and heavy-handed guilt tripping.

The best examples of fictional religious works that portray religion as good without being heavy-handed are the works of two authors: CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein. Although both of them are Christian, they have a lot of secular fans. Tolkein especially because he didn’t intend for anything in LOTR to be allegorical. (But then again he’s Catholic. Catholics and allegory go together like bread and wine.) But portraying religion in a good light isn’t limited to fantasy.

A good way to show religion without bashing it or lavishing too much praise is to have characters of different faiths and figure out a common ground. I recently learned that Pope Francis used to be on a radio show with a Protestant and a Jew and the three of them would talk about different topics. Pope Francis and the other two hosts are still friends. Another example of this is a book by Peter Kreeft called Between Heaven and Hell which has CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy in Purgatory discussing religion.

If you don’t want characters to debate religion or if religion isn’t part of the conflict, show how a character’s faith or lack thereof drives him. But again, don’t use the whole “If I do a lot of good things, I’ll get good karma or go to Heaven” cliche. (It’s also a heresy, but that’s another post.) Instead, show a character whose faith has benefited his life so much that he wants to show it to the world through good works and altruism. Or show a character who has a lot of problems but holds onto their faith not because it’s a crutch, but because it’s their compass, their guiding light in the storm. Priests, nuns, and ministers can be great mentor figures. Not all epic stories have to include wise old monks, after all.

A common ground in many faiths is unconditional love. Buddhists call it loving-kindness. Christianity calls it agape. Jews call it ahavat olam. In contrast to the cliches of romantic comedies, forbidden love, and sexual taboos, unconditional love shines as the ultimate form of true love. (Just watch Frozen!) If you want to include religion in fiction, figure out how that particular faith shows love.

But why write about religion at all?

It seems like society wants to keep religion out of the other things in life because religion to them gets in the way of what they want to do. To the mainstream frame of mind, religion is “holier than thou” with all of its “thou shalt nots,” funeral picketing, and conservative politics. People need to realize that for better and for worse, religion is a part of everyday life and that maybe people should look beyond the often accepted “belief” that religion should be limited to Sunday mornings in a church and nowhere else. In reality, religion is a driving force for a lot of people. And no two people from the same faith are alike. In Catholicism alone, we have hundreds of saints that act as role models whose stories are as varied as comic book superheroes. But that’s another post.

Tl;dr Religion in and of itself is NOT evil. Fiction needs to fix that.

I Open At the Close: A Recap of 2013

With the new year just around the corner, I wanted to do a personal recap of what 2013 was like for me. This whole year has been a period of uncertainty but it led to a lot of personal growth as well.

January: This was the beginning of the third act of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which was one of the best new web series of the year. I also decided to take a hiatus from Once Upon a Time, not knowing that the show itself would have a series of hiatuses. One song that describes the whole uncertainty I felt was Fun’s song “Some Nights,” which I finally listened to. I found myself relating to that song. Also, when The Lizzie Bennet Diaries started the Lydia/Wickham relationship arc, I started getting anxiety attacks because it triggered memories of exboyfriends who emotionally manipulated me. On the bright side, I published an article in my college newspaper and found out that one of my favorite vloggers who retired a year ago has decided to return to vlogging.

February: I know that some people would consider this The Year of Beyonce, but I’m only a casual fan. I just liked that she performed at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Yes, I wore nostalgia goggles when Kelly and Michelle joined her. But things started to take a sadder turn when Benedict XVI announced his resignation from his papacy. I cried. A lot. I liked Benedict XVI not just because he was pope, but he was someone I could relate to. He was introverted, played the piano, liked cats, and wrote some seriously good stuff relating to Jesus.

And that was just the beginning. A Lizzie Bennet Diaries episode that premiered the same day Benedict announced his abdication added to the tears. Someone I thought I could trust with my life started manipulating me, eating up my time with constant phone calls. I had absolutely no idea what was going on at the time, but since I started getting sick, I started having trust issues with my family and wanted to trust my friend more.

March: Things finally came to a head in early March. My so-called friend was manipulating me, driving me away from my family and isolating me from things I loved (even if they were giving me feels). Ultimately, my parents had to intervene and I blocked my friend from all possible forms of communication. But losing my friend left a hole and with my Church being in a Sede Vacante state, I felt lost. It didn’t help that I was also recovering from a cold. However, a trip to Austin helped me put things in perspective.

I realized that my friend was ultimately leading me away from God and that if I let it, that friend would have emotionally damaged me and turned me into a person I wouldn’t recognize. I realized that I had my own voice and that ultimately, I had to let my friend go.

I watched the movie version of Perks of Being a Wallflower and got into the new Lara Croft video game. But things finally changed for the better on March 13. The white smoke came from the Sistine Chapel’s chimney and all of a sudden, every Catholic in the world began partying. Nobody knew who the new pope was gonna be for almost another hour, but I knew that things were going to be okay again. I danced around my living room, happy for the first time in weeks. And then when Pope Francis appeared, it finally sank in to me that there is a new pope. And I prayed that he would be for me what Soon-to-be-Saint John Paul II was to my parents’ generation. Needless to say, that prayer was answered. But it wasn’t just me. Every Catholic was filled with joy and happiness that could never be duplicated by anything else. In other words: Ain’t no party like a Catholic party cuz a Catholic party don’t stop!

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries came to an end, but it left me wanting more and thankfully, there would be future projects from the creators that came around later in 2013. Ultimately, I felt sad that it ended, but I also looked forward to what would come around next. I also discovered an old song by Semisonic called “Closing Time” which quickly became a favorite.

April: I admired Roger Ebert. I hope that he’s in a better place. But he left a good influence behind, especially on Doug Walker’s Nostalgia Critic. As for me, he was a critic who got me into looking deeper into film and analyzing it. My brother also started playing Bioshock Infinite which turned out to be an amazing game. I discovered gluten-free waffles and got started on knitting, which has become a good hobby for me.

The Boston Marathon took me by surprise, but I love Stephen Colbert’s reaction to it. And ultimately, 2013 became a great year for Boston. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series (again) and everyone’s faith in humanity was restored by seeing all the good that came out of the horrible moment. I also found that I wasn’t alone in the world. I still had a place to visit in my alma mater and friends who understood what I was going through.

Also: Doctor Who came back with a new companion who is totally awesome. I see Clara as someone who lacks a lot of self-awareness. She’s adaptable, but hopelessly devoted to the Doctor. A mix of Martha and Donna with some Captain Jack.

May: I knitted my first project, graduated from college, and began discerning religious life. This was also the month that Pemberley Digital (the name of the production company for The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) released its new summer series: Welcome to Sanditon. It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, but it was at least interesting to watch. Plus, I loved seeing Gigi again.

My brother and I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness and we definitely liked it, but it wasn’t without flaws or problems. Also, “The Name of the Doctor” quickly became one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes and basically made me a Whouffle shipper. I also returned to watching Once Upon a Time and shipped Swanfire faster than you can say the ship name.

June: The Nostalgia Critic started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and vlogged about each episode he watched. I loved watching him fall in love with the show and remembered how much loved it. I also discovered new online friends who were younger than me, but devoutly Catholic. Through them, I gained a huge support group and learned more about my faith. I started following Catholic New Media through YouTube, Patheos blogs, Twitter, and Tumblr. And I LOVED it!

I discovered a love for sunflowers and learned about bird nesting and ladybug mating seasons. Also: the Kingdom Hearts fandom woke up and discovered the sequel we waited forever for: Kingdom Hearts 3.

Something horrible also happened in June, though. I lost a lot of followers on Tumblr and Twitter due to…disagreements over politics. I won’t name names, but let’s just say that for me, all politicians are the same: opportunistic and self-serving no matter what they advocate to the world.

July: I took part in a photo-a-day challenge and volunteered at my local church’s vacation bible school. It was a lot of fun. I aIso watched Tom Hiddleston take over Comic-Con as Loki and realized that he’s a total life ruiner. Also, I have a crush on him. My brother got into Animal Crossing, which later became my favorite video game ever.

My family and I traveled to Corpus Christi where I faced my fear of heights at the USS Lexington and discovered jellyfish-infested waters.

Pope Francis feels abounded when World Youth Day came around and I was reminded once again about how awesome the Catholic Church is. And how it basically breaks all the stereotypes that people have. There were millions of young adults, cardinals dancing, and children discovering vocations. I myself went to a vocations retreat at the end of the month and found others like me who were discerning.

My brother and I also got to watch Pacific Rim which became one of my favorite movies this year.

August: In August, I discovered that I had a gift for something other than writing and teaching: Intercessory prayer. In the previous month, I learned that one of the bloggers I follow had a spinal cord injury and I started praying for him. By the end of the month, he was able to move his left foot and checked out of the hospital to enter into physical rehabilitation. The fact that he wasn’t a vegetable and that he wasn’t cut off from life support was a miracle in and of itself.

Word also came out that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is now an Emmy Winner, just as Welcome to Sanditon came to an end. I also met actress-turned-nun Dolores Hart and decided to keep pursuing religious life. My family and I revisited Corpus Christi and I finally got to swim again. I also got into The Autobiography of Jane Eyre which I didn’t think I’d get into, but it happened.

I also started writing another rough draft of a completely new novel. Even though I started out the year with fantasy, I wanted to go back to something I loved: stories about real life and relationships.

September: I went to my first concert ever: Audrey Assad, promoting her latest album Fortunate Fall. It. Was. Awesome! Plus, The Nostalgia Critic (after going through all 3 seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender) finally reviewed M. Night Sham-of-a-man’s The Last Airbender. To date, it’s still my favorite Nostalgia Critic review. I always have this philosophy about critics: they need to have passion for what they do if they’re gonna talk about how much a movie or television show sucks. If they come off as either detached, cynical, or whiny, it’s hard for me to believe that they really have a passion for something.

I attended another retreat and learned that I needed to look outside of myself and remember that we are all connected through our shared Baptism. I discovered new music and learned to like some Praise and Worship songs.

Through all these days, I kept writing with the intent of adding 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo. I also started watching the 3rd season of Once Apon a Time and started blogging. I found that I needed to take risks in my writing in order to have my character grow. Also, the Pope’s interview with America Magazine was published and I found different things in the interview. It confirmed what I knew: Pope Francis was seriously down-to-earth, like Benedict, but had the benefit of being an extrovert, like JP2. He’s relatable and pointed out some important things about society.

October: To get into the Halloween Spirit, I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix. Best. Decision. Ever. I also finally got into Channel Awesome’s Blockbuster Buster, who proved that being a fanboy adds something to being a critic. My family and I visited the Houston Jollibee’s and I played some retro games.

Much Ado About Nothing (the version by Joss Whedon) finally came out on DVD and I gotta tell you that Joss has a new thing now. If he starts creating stuff that actually has a happy ending , he might actually start surprising people again. Also: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. turned out to be underwhelming.

Also, I discovered an order of sisters that I really wanted to get to know. It was cool.

November: The month of NaNoWriMo. I discovered that I shipped Whouffle shipped SwanQueen as a Bro-TP, and decided to take a hiatus from Once Upon a Time due to the writing disappointing me. I took a break from watching Buffy to concentrate on my novel.

However, I still had time for Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary. It was a divisive episode, but in my opinion I loved it! In my opinion, fans of Doctor Who needed to watch a few things alongside the 50th: Peter Davison’s The Five-ish Doctors, Paul McGann’s Night of the Doctor, and Adventures in Time and Space. I also started praying a 54-Day Rosary Novena and discovered another step towards my vocation.

December: With The Year of Faith coming to an end, I found a lot of prayers answered. The blogger with the spinal cord injury now lives in an apartment as an outpatient, still going through rehabilitation, but getting better everyday. So many babies have been born this year and there are more to come in 2014. And most of all, Pope Francis showed the world how awesome the Catholic Church is. Benedict did the same, except the media chose to ignore it.

2014 is gonna be a good year.