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Men’s Real Vocations Are Not Their Careers

I’m still working on the 5th and final part of the Lenten quote series, but I just had to link this piece by Jennifer Fulwiler. I think it’s great to pursue big career dreams and goals, but when a man lies on his deathbed, I don’t think any real man has ever, or will ever say, “I wish I spent less time with my wife and kids.” Or, “I wish I spent more time slaving away at the office.” Or for parish priests, “I wish I spent less time saying Mass, administering the Sacraments, and teaching the faith and more time balancing parish budgets and doing administrative work for the parish.” Our careers are a part of who we are, but they can never define the entirety of our identities.

Memento Mori = perspective 🙂

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When the Archbishop Met the President

Thus far on this blog, I’ve tended to focus more on the spiritual aspect, or the “personal relationship with God” aspect, than I have on the religious aspect, or “communal relationship with God” aspect. However, the truth is that belief, which has Old English roots of “by” and “lief”, or “by life,” is not simply an idea, concept, or value that one holds in their head and heart, but it is something that one lives out in a practical sense, an idea by which one lives his/her life. The Gospel call to Catholics (and more broadly to all Christians) to love God and neighbor does not stop at the level of personal feelings, but goes far beyond it into a value that is infused into every aspect and action of our daily lives.

With that said, here is an article from the Wall Street Journal that details a very controversial current event: the HHS mandate that basically forces religious service providers (houses of worship are pretty much the only ones “exempt”) to fully fund contraception and sterilization services (and in the case of “contraception,” some methods also perform abortive functions as well, i.e. post-fertilization, so technically, some methods of abortion would also be “covered”) which are morally objectionable to certain religious faiths. The article does a great job of summarizing the impact of this mandate on the Catholic Church specifically but also refocusing the discussion on the most basic and most important concern in this debate, one which impacts all Americans: the religious freedom that is protected by the First Amendment. This debate, sadly, has brought out a lot of ugly, hateful, bigoted, angry words from many different sides on different tangents, which have obscured this most important concern. What I hope and pray for, all the time, but also specifically on this issue, is this: that we can learn to open our hearts and minds to see things from each others’ perspectives with kindness, patience, and love, so that we can be who we were made to be: people of love and compassion.

LA Religious Education Congress in Quotes and Paraphrases

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning to sail my ship.”

– Sr. Edith Prendergast

Food is Love!

We need more PB&J (Patience, Balance, Joy).

Jesus may be 1/4 Filipino =D

– Cooking Priest, Fr. Leo Patalinghug

“We ain’t Chickens! We Eagles!”

– Fr. Tony Ricard

“There’s nothing wrong with Catholicism that can’t be fixed with what’s right about Catholicism.”

“Meet people where they are, and lead them where God is calling them to be.”

– Matthew Kelly

“When you can look into the eyes of another and see them as a brother or a sister, it is dawn. Until then it is still night.”

– Fr. Anthony Gittins

“Like ill-taught piano players, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”

“Whether you like it or not, or believe it or not, you have the light of Christ within you, and you look just like your Father.”

– Terry Hershey

“I cannot believe that they would elect a cowboy Pope. But can you imagine how much fun it would be?!?” (a paraphrase from a colleague journalist RE: Cardinal Dolan’s chances of becoming pope one day)

– John Allen Jr.

“If you’re deadly serious, you’re seriously dead!”

“Imagine looking at God looking at you and smiling!”

“Don’t should all over yourself!”

– Fr. James Martin S.J.

And one more just for fun: “It’s like the Twinkie fairy came to our doorstep!”

Alright, back to Lenten posts – Personal Resolution #1: the 40 Day Rosary Challenge

Ok, so finally, finally getting back to the topic of Lent: several days ago I said I would share some of the personal practices I’ve chosen to incorporate into my life during Lent. It’s been a while since my last post because I’ve been busy with rehearsals for KnL’s Getty show (more on that at the end) and other stuff.

Anyways, what I wanted to write about today is the 40 Day Rosary Challenge!

I’ve noticed Rosaries occasionally worn as jewelry by folks who may or may not be aware of what the Rosary actually is (a tool to aid in a specific form of prayer), so I’d like to start off with this video:

If you’re like the woman in the video, and your mind just got blown by the idea that the Rosary is about prayer and not about the beads themselves, or maybe you’re not familiar with the Rosary and want to know how it works, check out this link to download basic instructions on how to pray the Rosary.

http://rosaryarmy.newevangelizers.com/prayers/

Many books, articles, videos, homilies, lectures, reflections, etc. on how to pray the rosary and why to pray the Rosary have been written/made/given by people who are way more qualified than me, including, priests, bishops, Popes, deacons, monks, friars, sisters, nuns, and Saints, so I’ll leave it to them to share the wisdom of the Church on the devotion of the Rosary (if you’re interested, Google can help:-) ). Instead, I’d like to share why I am specifically making a Rosary-a-day one of my Lenten practices this year, even though it’s a prayer form that is typically associated with the nice old grandmas that hang out at Church a lot:

1. The Rosary (re)acquaints us with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ – while the rosary at first glance seems like a boring repetitive exercise of prayers that cradle Catholics learned very young, the Rosary is actually centered around reflection on different parts of Jesus’s life, as outlined in the Mysteries that accompany each decade of the Rosary. The Knights of Columbus (3rd degree member here!) refer to the rosary as praying the Gospel. While Christians of different denominations sometimes disagree on different practices and teachings, one of the things we generally agree on is that knowledge of the Gospel is a foundational aspect of being Christian. The Rosary can be a great tool to help us recall what we’ve read in Scripture.

2. The Rosary can be an exercise in praying using the imagination – praying with one’s imagination is one of the Jesuits’ favorite forms of prayer: as I understand it, in the Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, he instructs us to use our imaginations to meet Jesus in several different scenes of the Gospel. Similarly, the rosary is an excellent way to engage this part of ourselves. Since each decade of the Rosary is associated with a part of Jesus’s life, we can engage our imaginations to insert ourselves into the scene: what does the landscape look like, smell like, feel like? What kind of clothes are people wearing? What do Jesus, his Mother, his Apostles and followers, and others look like? What are they talking about? The imagination can be a powerful place in which Jesus comes alive, meets us wherever we are, and even speaks to us directly.

3. The Rosary is a great meditation – This generally flows from #1 and 2 as far as providing us what to meditate on, and how we can meditate mentally. But while the individual prayers of the Rosary themselves can also be the focus of meditation, for the purposes of meditating on the various Gospel scenes presented in each set of Mysteries, the repeated prayers help establish a “rhythm” to the meditation that aid us in entering a meditative state. Also, vocally reciting the prayers allows us to engage our bodies in prayer as we engage our minds, hearts, and souls – in other words, the Rosary can engage the wholeness of the human person.

4. The Rosary is a great way to pray for others – praying a Rosary involves at least (I think) 67 prayers recited, which if offered individually for different intentions, is a lot! If you instead offer the entire Rosary for one specific intention, that’s a lot of prayer behind it! Any way that you decide to offer the Rosary for others is a good thing. As Jesus tells us, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be open to you!”

5. The Rosary can give us a break from our daily lives – yes, one can pray the Rosary even while going about one’s business: it’s one of my favored activities when trapped in the “purgatory” known as California freeway traffic. But to engage in the meditative aspect of it, it helps to set aside a specific time to engage in prayer. While daily life can get overwhelming with tasks, I try to keep in mind the words of one saint who said “everyone needs to pray for a half hour a day, unless they’re busy. Then they need to pray for an hour a day.” Personally, I find that making the time to pray, especially when I’m busy, can actually bring more order to my day: I get a clearer picture of what’s really important that needs to be done, my stress level goes down, I am more relaxed and smile more, and overall, my day just gets better!

6. His mom’s always willing to help us out – Jesus, of course, did a great job on earth of following the 10 Commandments, one of which is honoring one’s mother and father. His mother, Mary, plays a very special and unique role in what is referred to as “salvation history.” Just as Jesus listened to his mother while he was on earth, he still listens to her up in heaven, so while we can always pray directly to Jesus, asking his mom to pray for us (just like we would ask others on earth to pray for us) is probably a smart move!

Even though I know it’s good for me for all these reasons and more, I’m really bad at it! The fact is, I am quite well acquainted with the fact that I’m a sinner, that I have tendencies and inclinations that aren’t the best, that I don’t always find the motivation to do the right thing. Especially when it comes to the Rosary, I tend to find that I lose myself in the ins and outs of daily life and won’t always make the time to pray and talk with God. And those times that I do, I always find it a challenge to stay focused and engaged: when praying, my mind can flash through a seemingly countless number of things that don’t have anything to do with prayer (mostly this is an unconscious wandering, but occasionally it can be intentional)! Sometimes I even nod off or fall asleep!

But, one of the reasons that I call myself a practicing Catholic is because I stink at being one, and as they say, practice makes perfect, no? 😛 I am also fully aware that my desire for sainthood is not something I could hope to attain through my own effort and actions, that only the gift of God’s grace could even make this a possibility. Fortunately, God’s the generous type, so much that he sent his only Son who not only suffered and died for our sins and rose from the dead, he founded the Church on earth to help guide us back to Him and sent his Holy Spirit to guide this Church, as well as each one of us individually and personally! So, I took up the Rosary Challenge as a way to get better at it, and I’m hoping that it bears much spiritual fruit. 🙂

So, here’s where audience participation comes in! If you have any special intentions that you would like me to pray for, or even if you’d just like to have someone praying for you in general, feel free to hit me up: drop a comment here, or get in touch with me via Facebook or Twitter, and I’d be glad to pray for you! This helps out both of us: you get someone praying for you and you’re helping me keep one of my Lenten practices going, and I get help keeping up with a Lenten practice and get to engage in a spiritual work of mercy. Now that’s what I call “winning”!

If you would like more information on the Rosary, including the history behind it, what each of the prayers mean, why Catholics pray (or should pray) it, and how we should pray it, check out Catholic Answers page below:

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-rosary

In my next post, I’ll discuss why I am part of Kayamanan ng Lahi, a Philippine folk arts organization based in LA. Why would I write about folk dance on a spiritual blog? Well, you’ll just have to come back to find out, won’t you? It probably won’t come up until after we perform in this though:

http://www.getty.edu/museum/programs/performances/sounds_la.html

A reflection on seeking one’s vocation

Ok…still lagging on the Lenten practice post, but I have been drafting it, I promise!

Anyways, people in my life are aware to a varying extent (read: not at all to fairly knowledgeable) of my search for my vocation. The idea of a vocation is not very well understood, so here’s a definition from Dictionary.com:

vo·ca·tion [voh-key-shuhn] – noun

1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.

2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.

3. a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.

4. a function or station in life to which one is called by God: the religious vocation; the vocation of marriage.

The story of my on-going vocation search is a winding one, best left for another post (or two, or three…or more?), but for the purpose of this post, it is sufficient to say that my search has been one of joy and excitement and growth in my desire to know, love, and serve God in this life and be with Him forever in the next. At other times (for example, lately), I feel a sense of tension, disappointment, confusion, even spiritual desolation.

At times like these, I revisit this reflection from Blessed John Cardinal Newman that I ran into a while ago and copied down into my travel notebook. If you’ve ever felt a sense of tension over what you’re doing with your life, where you’re going…or to what God is calling you, I hope you find this as helpful as I do:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in the chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His Commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him; whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.”