Monday, December 26, 2011

In the Stillness

Right now, I am involved in a sort of young adult group at the local Catholic Church and we are currently doing a program called Meeting Christ in Prayer.  This program is based on Saint Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises.

Part of our daily prayers include setting aside half an hour each day to do private prayer and meditation.  We've hardly begun the program and I'm finding that while I'm able (so far) to set aside the physical time, quieting myself has proven to be another matter entirely.  That said, on the few days that I am able to manage it, I never regret it.

It's there, in the stillness, that everything happens.  Wounds are healed, answers are found, solace and comfort are given, peace abounds, graces are poured out, and love grows.  In the still moments of our daily lives, God speaks.  No matter how busy you are, no matter how many obligations and worries you have on your shoulders, never sacrifice the stillness.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time...

As we enter into Advent and Christmas draws near once again, I find myself reflecting on the relationship between Christ's first and second comings.  I am, of course, aware that that is what we're supposed to reflect upon during Advent.  (Why did you think I was reflecting on it?)

Being in a country that is still, to me, a foreign one, I have a new perspective on the concept of waiting for God's saving work to come to complete fruition at the end of time.  You see, I live in a mission country for the Church and the perspective on the Trinity, the Church, and the human experience, is largely far removed from my own.  Yet even in this beautiful land, where Christ is, sadly, not accepted, He is still visible.  If you know where to look, you can find Christs presence in limitless places.  It is such a beautiful truth, for which I am exceedingly grateful!

Yet I do not belong here.  I do not mean that I don't belong in this country, but rather that I do not belong in this world.  None of us do.  We were created for something far greater and more wonderful.   We are but pilgrims, like the wise men, journeying towards our Savior.  I've had a rather easy time keeping that sense of being a pilgrim alive since I moved here.

Now that Advent has begun, that feeling has been increased fourfold.  I am away from my earthly home, I am in a land where Christmas is not widely celebrated (even commercially), I am away from my Heavenly home, and it's a time of year when things would ordinarily be quite different.    All of these things serve as wonderful tools to turn my mind towards Heaven and the coming of the Lord.

Christmas and the surrounding days is my favorite time of year.  There is a deep sense of family and love associated with this time in my memory.  Little tokens, given in love are the best gifts of all.

Soon, Christmas will be here.  Let us commit ourselves to careful and loving preparation of our hearts, minds, and souls.  Veni Domine!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Come to the Water

So, a few months ago now, I was riding on the metro on the way back from one of my tutoring jobs, when I found that I was having terrible withdrawal symptoms.  No, I haven't become a drug, alcohol, or caffeine addict since I moved here.  My withdrawals were from a lack of water.  I was so dehydrated.  My head was throbbing.  I felt weak.  I felt irritable.  I really could barely stand it.

As I was unable to hydrate until I alighted from the train, I tried to occupy my mind with other things.  I was really only partially successful as mind pretty much stayed on the subject of water, dehydration, and addictions.  A discussion was brought to mind that I had had with a friend a number of years ago.  We were discussing and attempting to define what constitues an addiction, but we ran into a little trouble when it came to distinguishing between addictions and actual bodily needs.  I don't really remember how that conversation ended up, but the connection between addictions and bodily needs, or rather the withdrawal from both, remains.

While I was sitting on the train, contemplating on my misery, it occurred to me that I was much like an addict going through withdrawals.  The thought made me chuckle to myself, when an analogy plopped into my brain.  Ready, here goes:

Christ is the Living Water.  Without Him, we cannot have life.  Satan seeks to replace the Christ in our hearts and our lives.  One of his favorite methods for doing this is by causing us to become addicted.  Through our fallen nature, we are addicted to sin.  As with all addictions, sin feels necessary (I realize, by the way, that this is sort of a false distinction [between sin and addiction], but no analogy is perfect).  Sometimes, sin feels as necessary as breathing.  We feel that we don't have a choice because for us to deny ourselves this thing that sin promises seems wrong.

But let's look at an addiction more closely to see what's going on there.  For convenience, I will be examining an addiction to alcohol.  Alcohol, in spite of the beliefs of some, is not an evil things by itself.   It is the same with any sin.  If sinned looked as ugly and evil as it really is, no one would choose it.  You've probably all heard that before, but it bears repeating.

Some philosophers argue that humans are not capable of choosing something they they believe is truly evil.  I happen to agree with this thought.  Let me be clear, people choose things that are evil, cruel, selfish, wrong, etc. but that, in my opinion, is only because they in some way perceive that as good.  Perhaps they even know that it's not the greatest good, but they perceive as good or a means to some good in some way and have decided that "good" is sufficient to support the decisions that they make.

Sin is merely the distortion and/or the disorder of something good.  Lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, envy, wrath, they all masquerade themselves quite convincingly as good things.

So, what's the point?  The point is, due to the fallenness and frailty of our human nature, even knowing that these promised "goods" are a lie, we are not capable on our own of resisting that temptation.  We are like full blown addicts.  Our freedom to decide has been annihilated by that addiction.  In order to regain that freedom, we require outside help.  We require an intervention and then constant support from those who love us, mainly God, friends (both on Earth and in Heaven), and family.  We are not capable of doing it on our own.

Many people say that Christianity takes away our freedoms and they point strongly to the "thou shalt nots".  But it is no more a loss to be abstinent then it is a loss of freedom to abstain from killing or stealing.  It is no more a loss of freedom to avoid letting righteous anger turn to wrath, then it is to follow traffic laws, or to obey your parents.

Once when I was out with some acquaintances to see a movie and grab some food after, I was given a great deal of greif because I wasn't drinking a lot.  (I would like to be clear here, I was drinking, I just wasn't drinking enough to feel it.)  The girls I was with gave me the argument that I couldn't really loosen up or have fun if I didn't get wasted.  I held my ground in as laid back a manner as I could, trying to put them at ease.

Because of the circumstances, I was unable to explain to them that I liked being sober enough to have a clear choice in how I behaved and that I didn't need alcohol to enjoy myself.  If a certain behavior doesn't sit right with me when I'm sober, then that will only worsen when I'm sober again and look back at how I did that very thing that I didn't want to do.  I am not a disciplined person.  It takes all of my effort to not let my passions, emotions, and desire for physical comfort completely dictate my actions.  Knowing myself as I do, taking some of that effort away is not remotely an appealing idea to me.

To me, needing to remove your mind, your ability to reason from the equation, that is not freedom.  I like to choose my path.  Freedom is a choice that comes from letting yourself be set free from a prison that is inside of your head.  Sin is not freedom because, as with any other addiction, our ability to decide, to choose is impaired.

So then, are we doomed?  I mean, if we are addicted to sin and we, in our fallenness, have no choice but to choose it, then how can we prevail?

Fr. Jean C. J. d'Elbée wrote in one of my absolutely favorite spiritual works, I Believe in Love, that "we apply to the Heart of Jesus the measure of our own...hearts" that we "grow tired of pardoning" and this is why we have trouble contemplate a merciful God who would pull us through all of this even when we offend again and again. Fr. Jean continues by quoting St. Therese who says, "justice itself, perhaps even more than anything else, appears to me clothed in love.  What a sweet joy to think that God is just, that is to say, that He takes out weakness into account, that He knows perfectly the frailty of our nature!  Of what, therefore, should I be afraid?"

The Church supports this idea completely.  Did you know that in order for a sin to be considered a Mortal, that is deadly, sin, you must have full consent.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders." (CCC 1860)

Anyway, it's nearly one in the morning here, I am quite sick (again), and there is teaching to be done in the morning, so I will end with this thought:

It is only when we recognize and accepts our frailty, then surrender it to God, that we begin to become truly free.

Goodnight! ^_^

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Those old homesick blues

So, I'm homesick.  I'm living pretty far away from home these days and lately I've been missing it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy.  Life here is nice and sometimes fun, but there are some things that are missing.  The biggest thing missing is the people I love.

There is so much that I want to do and share with you all and being here only highlights that we're not together.  I still walk through the streets of the city and think, "Oh!  My sisters would love that outfit!"  or "The Chain Gang would love this tea house."  Pepper mills remind me of Michael.  Every time I see a cute baby, I think about how Elizabeth always picks on my for thinking that every baby is adorable.  Every time the MRT zooms past, surrounding me with gusts of wind, I think about "when I die" memories.  Someone told me that I was like a Disney princess here and I almost hugged her, just because of the friends that statement brought to mind.  There are so many more little moments like that, but of course I've forgotten them.

Anyway, I've had a string of exhausting days lately and I keep thinking about how much I wish I could just unwind with my friends and family, or go to the adoration chapel, or even just text y'all.  You are all in my thoughts and I miss you terribly.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

This is just a dream...

So here's the thing, when I think about 9/11/01 I don't get choked up.  I was just a kid when this all happened and the one thing that I remember most about it was how unreal it all seemed.  Don't get me wrong.  I am aware of the tragedy that occurred and my heart goes out to all those who were affected and still are being affected by the events of that day and their consequences.

But as far as emotions go, it's as if I've never been able to really compute the information.  I had no idea what the twin towers even were until they were gone.  I remember we were all at home doing school when Mom came in and told us to come watch the TV.  She tried to explain to us the significance of these events and things seemed to become worse and worse with news of other planes.  I remember trying to make myself cry (because I was a weird kid and I thought that crying would be the appropriate reaction).   There were lots of cries of outrage around the world and Americans stood together, demanding that something be done.

But like all devastating events, this one was quickly forgotten by the majority of the world.  People moved on.  One thing I clearly remember is how very supportive everyone was of the War in Iraq.  I remember asking Dad if it was a just war and he and I going over the Church's standard for what constitutes a just war.  At that time, I really didn't know much about the war or even our government, so I didn't really have my answer, but I do remember that there were yellow ribbons and American flags everywhere for that year and much of the next.  Lot's of signs were about saying, "We Support Our Troops" and lots of country songs were written to rally in their support.

In retrospect, I do wish that I had been able to really grasp the significance of all these events at that time.  I wish that I had understood what those attacks and that war would mean for our country.

Now, years later, as we are still feeling the effects from this man-made catastrophe, my mind doesn't go the national or international ramifications of this day in history (though they are certainly great).  Rather, my heart goes out to the individuals who were most affected on/by that day.  My heart goes out to those who lost family members in those planes and buildings; to those who were expecting to see their loved ones again and never did; to those poor families who know that their children are responsible for the attacks and have to live with that knowledge; especially to those persons who think that 9/11 was in any way a victory for anyone.

Every time I've gotten on a plane since 9/11 I have wondered what I would do if my plane was hijacked.  I never know the answer.  But I do know that my life could end at any moment for countless reasons and so could yours.  This should not cause us to live in fear, but rather to live without regret, being the best version of ourselves we can possibly be.  If you knew that you were going to die today, what would be important to you?

I know that this post is a bit scattered and disorganized, but I wanted to write it anyway.  Let 9/11 be an occasion for reflection and prayer on the human condition and those poor souls who were most directly affected (in whatever ways) by that tragic day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Princess in the Tower

This post is a tribute to the modern day knights.  Girls like to whine a lot about how chivalry is dead and how men aren't as brave, strong, noble, etc. as they were of old.  I think that is all rubbish.  Perhaps I have had a particularly unique experience with the men of this world, but I have met a number of extraordinary ones who are all of those things and more.  Through the way they chose to live, they make me want to be a better person so that I can be worthy of their acquaintance.

It is a huge travesty to say that there are no good men (left).  They are out there fighting the good fight and living life to the best of their ability.  Ladies, don't take them for granted, because they are not everywhere and strive to be what they are.

To all of the men out there who strive to live with honor, to stand up for those who are weaker and more helpless, to be the best versions of themselves, to provide for their families and their loved ones, and who aspire to greatness, thank you.

I want you to know that even though we don't say it often to you, the ladies do notice.  They see your strengths and your good qualities and they admire you for it.  Strive on noble, knights!  Your efforts will not go unnoticed or unlauded.  We appreciate you.

That is really all that I wanted to say.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Kindness

Dear whoever cares,
Please give each other a break.  Lately I've been hearing/seeing a lot of people being really hard on each other and it is so disheartening.  I've been rereading "I Believe in Love" by Fr. Jean Elbee and at one point he mentions that the reason why it is so hard for people to accept God's mercy is because we show so little mercy towards each other and that is not just.  Fr. Elbee argues that true justice necessitates mercy.  Here's why: we, as humans, have a fallen nature.  What does that mean?  It means we are predisposed to be selfish, prideful, impatient, inconsiderate, dishonest, lustful, gluttonous, etc.  On our own, we are not capable of overcoming this.  So, God does not expect us to (not on our own, that is).

As human beings, we tend to always be seeking perfection, or the next best thing.  We want perfect happiness, perfect friends, the perfect job, the perfect spouse, the perfect car, etc., but this is not a reasonable expectation in light of the fallen nature of human beings.   Life is not perfect.  People are selfish.  People are mean.  People are annoying.  People are prideful.

Does this mean that we should all give up and that goodness, holiness is futile?  Well, yes and no.  On our own, holiness is futile, but we are not on our own.  Christ has given us everything we need to grow closer to Him each day.  It really is as simple as saying, "Jesus, I am not good, but I want to be.  Help me to be better."  If we keep saying that and living that every day to the best of our ability, then He really will take care of the rest.   We have to exert all of our effort and then trust Him to bless the results.  And when (please note that I said "when" and not "if") we fail, we must humbly turn to Him, sincerely repent and be reconciled, then begin anew.

But if we are going to ask for His clemency, then we must be willing to give our own as well, not once, not seven times, not seventy times, but always.  The failings and weaknesses of others, even those that hurt us, should inspire our compassion and not our contempt.  Protect yourself from abuses, of course, but seek always to be reconciled to one another if at all possible.  Measure your words and try not to speak out of malice or a desire to do harm.  Do not lash out at one another.  If you have done wrong, apologize.

Be one, as the Trinity are one, as the Mystical Body of Christ is one.  Seek not to perfect others, but to perfect yourself.  Seek to grow in holiness and trust that God will grant that request.  If we become truly holy, then, and only then, can we transform the lives ff those around us.

I realize that this letter/post can come off as extremely preachy or whatever, but I wanted to say it because it applies to me just as much as to anyone else, maybe even more.  But I look at the world and I am overwhelmed by the lack of compassion for human frailty and how quickly we all condemn one another.  This is not just.  This is not good.

Over and over again in the scriptures, Christ urges us to love one another.  This is not some cliche' Barney message about how we all need to sing songs and hug each other to make the world a better place.  This is the tough message about fighting the fight.  It's about loving the friend who betrays your trust.  It's about acknowledging our own faults while overlooking those of our brother.  It's about forgiving the ones who falsely accuse you.  It's about accepting that our understanding of reality is imperfect and others may not be the villains we imagine them to be.

"Love one another as I have loved you."  How has He loved us?  When we betrayed Him, rejected Him, ignored Him, and beat Him, He chose to humble Himself to our own lowly fragile state, take on our sins, and die for our crimes.  This is love!  This is what we are called to do!

"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me."  Do you want to know how well you love?  Look to the person you love least.  To whom are you least kind?  Whom do you regard with spite, condescension, loathing, judgement, bitterness?  However much you love that person, that is how much you love.  What a hard truth this is, yet how much better and kinder the world would be if we could but remember it in our daily lives.

No one is the way they are without a reason.  Remember that.   When someone hurts you, remember that there is more to the picture than you are able to see.  Do not forget that they may not have intended harm or even be aware of the harm they caused.  And even if they did intend the harm, remember that people who lash out are broken people, full of fear, doubt, and self-loathing and do not look upon them with anger or smug pride but remember your own insecurities, doubts, and fears and see those persons as equals.  We are brothers in arms, struggling through this war together.  Let us not destroy our own allies.

Forgive.  Speak with words of kindness and healing.  Curb your anger and surrender it to God.  Do not presume to know the fates of others, just love to the best of you ability.  I read somewhere once, "Love and do what you will".  I believe that.

I believe in love.  I believe in the power of love to transform lives.  It starts with you and I.  Don't be afraid to begin.  Be patient.  Don't expect to see the fruits of your labors, but with an audacious confidence believe that they will come.

I just needed to say that.  Thanks for reading.


Sunday, August 14, 2011


There is something so beautiful.  It is in the promise of tomorrow.  It is the sweeping scores of the sweetest music.  It is in the sweet smile of a young child.  It is in that act of kindness that lights your day.  It is in the kind and affirming words of a friend.  It is in the love of a young, newly in love couple.  It is in the strong, sturdy love that has weathered a lifetime of storms.  It is in a group of girls just being silly together.  It is in the young boys conquering the great dragons of their adventures. 

It is in the hearts and imaginations of the young and the young at heart who not only see the world for what it is but also for all its possibilities.  It is in the soul that chooses to put everything on the line by baring itself to another.  It is in the fairytales.  It is in the dreamers.  It is in the father who struggles to provide for his family.  It is in the mother who stays up nights worrying about the well being of her children.  

It is in the sacrificial love of one who would lay down his life for love of another.  It is in the upward climb to Calvary.  It is in the mysterious dance of life.  It is in the baptism of a newborn baby.  It is the voice of a young singer who dreams of greatness.  It is in the steps of the dancer who believes she can fly.  It is in the wind dancing around you, making you feel precious and enchanting.

Find that in your life and cherish it.  You deserve it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Growing Pains

Monarch butterfly cocoon
This is my 100th blog post! That is actually the main reason why I haven't updated my blog in such a long while.  I wanted to write something of value for this milestone.  I don't really know if this actually qualifies as such or not, but I've decided to write it anyway.  So here goes...

I'm living in a foreign country right now.  I'm living here alone.  This is a complete reversal for me.  In general, I am accustomed to being surrounded by people I know and love at pretty much all times.  Here I am alone.  It's just me.  That's it.

I don't like it.

Don't get me wrong.  The country is interesting and new and sometimes very exciting.  But here as I am nearly always alone, I am directly confronted with myself.  All of my weaknesses, all my fears, all of my insecurities, and all of my longings are bared before me.  It's awkward.

This might seem strange to many of you and probably old news to many more of you, but I am a perfectionist.  No, I don't keep my room neat.  Yes, I do procrastinate.  I am a very specific sort of perfectionist.  I am a perfectionist when it comes to personal behavior, particularly my own.  (No, this is not a recent epiphany.  I have been aware of this for some time.)

I don't allow myself the luxury of making mistakes.  Don't misunderstand.  I am not saying that I don't make mistakes.  I'm just saying that when I do, and believe me I do, I am extremely hard on myself.  I try very hard to be likable.  In fact, I think that I might be more afraid of being annoying than I am of being wrong.

Being alone is forcing me to face myself.  It's forcing me to face my fears.  I wanted it to.  Now, it is.

I'm definitely experiencing some serious growing pains right now.  But I've decided to take this as an opportunity.   This will be my opportunity to surrender my anxieties to Christ and learn to just do my best.  That's enough.

The same is true for you.  Just do your best.  Just be yourself.  That's enough.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Graduation Day

So, there's this super cliché song, by Vitamin C that is all about graduating.  Nearly everyone is familiar with it and high school students really like to listen to it during their senior year.  I was certainly among those high school students.

Now it's time for a confession: That song used to make me cry.  In high school, that song was all about leaving behind the familiar, not seeing friends as often, and generally good things ending.  It was about goodbyes, endings, and fears.  When I would listen to that song in high school, I would always look to the past.  I would look to those moments that were gone, which we would never get to have again.  High school went by so quickly for me.  I felt as if I just blinked and it was gone.

Yesterday, I just graduated from college.  Soon, I'll be moving out of the country.  College has ended and another graduation day has come and gone.  Now I find myself thinking about that song and realizing that it isn't really about high school at all.  It's about graduating from college (or at least, it is for me).  

While high school graduation was filled with a sense of reluctantly and fearfully leaving things behind, college graduation doesn't really seem as dramatic.  This is strange to me, especially since I am leaving the country and literally leaving the people and places that I love behind.  But, for me, it's the truth.

I suddenly feel old.  Not old, I suppose, not really.  I feel adult.  When I was younger, I thought being adult meant having all the answers, being sure, and being fearless.  I have realized for some time now, that this is not the case.  But I do have this new sense of responsibility and duty that has changed a little bit.  I don't want to hide behind the strength of others anymore.  I want to go out and test my own strengths (and weaknesses) and see where improvement is needed.

It's not that I'm not afraid anymore, but that I just don't care.  I don't care that I'm frightened out of my mind to move away from everything that I know.  That just isn't really important when the other factors are considered.  Fear cannot be the ruler of my life.  I refuse to let fear stop me.

I can do this.  I know that I can.  I have God's help, the support and prayers of my family and friends, and the ability to think on my feet.  Aside from that and the ability to ask directions in Chinese, what else do I really need?  (This is a rhetorical question.)  Anyway, in the immortal words of Auntie Mame, it's time to "Live! Live! Live!"

"Will we think about tomorrow like we think about now?
Can we survive it out there?
Can we make it somehow?
I guess I thought that this would never end
And suddenly it's like we're women and men
Will the past be a shadow that will follow us 'round?
Will these memories fade when I leave this town
I keep, keep thinking that it's not goodbye
Keep on thinking it's a time to fly" - vitamin c

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


In 32 days, I will graduate from undergrad.  I began this blog during my freshman year and struggles with the associated changes in my life.  Nearly four years later, change is still my dependable adversary.  I've already begun the hunt for work and the process of just trying to sort out which direction to start pursuing.  This is my least favorite part of the process.  I am not fond of uncertainty.

I would like a great big sign that just points me in the best direction.  At times like this, I find it hard not to envy those people who have such perfect clarity about where they want to go and what they want to do.  I know that uncertainty can mean many possibilities, but it just feels like a great big void.  I know a few people who are undergoing similar struggles with these choices.  So what do we do?

We keep on keeping on, of course.  There is not time for panicking and certainly no time for delay.  Nearly any decision is better than indecision.  People keep asking me what I wan to do after I graduate.  While I have a few ideas running around in my head, my answer is usually, "I want to get a job".  That response is usually met with rolled eyes, but that really is as specific as I can get for now.  I want to get a job and pay of loans.  I don't want to lose all of the Chinese that I've been studying for the last three years.  Other than that, I'm open to an overwhelming amount of possibilities.

I keep switching between panicking and soaring when I think about all that may lie ahead of me.  I'm told that's normal, which is comforting in its way.  All in all, I'm just ready to move out of this limbo phase and into some sort of new direction.  Here's to whatever the future holds!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Websites of Worth

So, these are a bunch of neat websites that give interesting tips, advice, and facts. (Just this particular article)

Enjoy the fun!

A Scary Prayer...

So today it was suggested to me that I take up praying...the Litany of Humility.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this prayer, allow to me explain the graveness of this situation.  Praying this prayer, is essentially saying, "Hey, pick me!  I'm an easy target!"  No, I'm not saying that humility is bad, or even that this prayer is bad.  On the contrary, I love this prayer.  I just happen to have a healthy fear of this prayer too.

Why?  Well, I'll tell you.  Every single time I have known anyone who took up praying this prayer, major spiritual warfare ensued.  This is not an exaggeration.  It's almost like a Christian bad luck charm.  Don't believe me, try it out.  

Ask for humility and you will be humbled.  Ask for wealth, fame, and fortune, and you might get it, but it's not as consistent.  This prayer for humility has really quick results.

Okay, so I'm half joking, but I do find that it is one of the most challenging prayers.  It challenges our deepest struggle as humans.  It's the sin that got us into trouble from the first.  It's the sin that is at the heart of every other sin.  That's right, folks, I'm talking about pride.

The Litany of Humility is about total self-denial (not to be confused with self abuse).  It's about letting go of how others think of we how often we are affirmed, how often we succeed, how often we are praised, how often we are favored, how often we are congratulated.  It's about stripping away all of the poor motivations to do well.  It makes things extremely simple and intimate.  When we are perfectly humble, we as also honest, kind, patient, persevering, peaceful, attentive, prayerful, disciplined, and pure.

Pick a sin, any sin, and I will show you how it comes from pride. (Are you catching the My Big Fat Greek Wedding reference here?)  Seriously though, let's try it out.
Let's try it on lust.  Why do people lust?  Generally speaking there are two motivations to give in to lustful thoughts and practices, the first being emotional gratification and the second being physical.  (For a definition of lust, see this link.)  So, let's take a look at the physical gratification first as this is the most obvious one.  When one wants to experience this gratification for it's own end, simply to repeat the pleasure for one's own enjoyment, divorcing it from it's larger function and meaning, even at the expense of others, this is a result of self-love.  We are putting our own desires (not even needs) ahead of moral laws, the feelings and needs of others.  It is pride to give our desires such disproportionate importance.  Yet, how often do we hear each other say, "You have to look out for number one.  That's all that matters."  We honor ourselves above others, in regards to meeting our desires.

From the desire to be honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.

The other motivation, in my opinion, or maybe just my experience, is the stronger of the two.  A desire for emotional gratification.  The marital act has biological consequences, one of which is emotional. A feeling of safety and being cherished is often sought in this act or attempts to counterfeit this act.  It's almost a way to cope with feelings of being alone and unnoticed.  It is of course not the only response to these feelings, just as lust is not the only means of achieving physical gratification, but it has been used to that end.  Indeed, it is also often used to that end at the expense of others.  We want to feel loved.  We want to be preferred to others.  We want approval.  These desires to not make their objects come to fruition, but we nurture them anyway through methods like lust, which do not, in the end, actually fill that desire.

From the desire to be loved, Deliver me, O Jesus.

The Litany of Humility is about putting things in order.  It's about controlling desires and making sure that the do not dictate our actions.   Yet, without God's grace, we cannot control these desires.

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

In the litany, we are not asking that we be abused and unloved but that we are freed from seeking the source of our longing in material, self-serving, and immoral ways.   It is preparing us to love better.  In Catholic Theology, love is total self-donation.  We already know that God loves us perfectly, as He is Love itself.  So we need not fear letting go of our desires and wholly surrendering to Him in love.  Then we are united with the source of our longing and we no longer are slaves to our physical and emotional appetites.  Even when things do not go our way and, trust me, this will happen often, we have peace.  
So why is the litany so hard to pray.  Well it's hard for me, because I'm very attached to physical and emotional comfort.  I like being comfortable and safe in the human sense because it's tangible and familiar.  It's hard to let that go, even when I know that there is something greater for me.  I like affirmation.  I like it a great deal.  I frequently think that if people would just build each other up, we would never feel lonely and abandoned.  But that's not true.

Even if every person we knew were to constantly affirm and praise us in the most sincere manner, it would not be sufficient to overcome out insecurities and our longing.  Human love is not perfect, so the fruits of human love are not perfect.  So while we pray for freedom from the desire to be loved, Christ showers us with that love we so desire.  While we pray for freedom from the desire to be honored, Christ is preparing a place of honor for us in His Father's house.  But if we act out of a desire to achieve these things, then we are not loving for Love's sake but for our own.  We are still asking, "But what about me?"  We are not trusting in the Greatness of God's love.   

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.

Humility, like most virtues, is not something that can be achieved by our own efforts.  Grace is absolutely essential.  This is another reason why this litany is so valuable.  It reminds us of our need to be humble, then it asks Christ that we might have the grace to be humble.

It's a very hard prayer, because if we say it and truly mean it, then we are asking God to radically transform our lives.  Humility is hard.  Dying to self, is hard.  Anyone who says that it isn't either hasn't tried it or just failed miserably.  Even the most humble of saints, frequently lamented their own lack of humility.   

The Litany of Humility is  powerful prayer.  We would do well to pray it often.  I must warn you, however, that whenever a person begins to make good progress in the spiritual life, spiritual warfare ensues.  Satan is a huge fan of the sneak attacks, and will throw things at you such as public humiliation, snide comments from valued opinions, loneliness, and the general disarray of our own plans.  Pray this litany sincerely and often and your life will be transformed. 

It's time to forget ourselves so that we might be free from the incredible burden of trying to manipulate the factors around us to make us happy.  Here's the short cut: that habit that your using as a distraction from the feeling that the must be something more, it will not fulfill you.  It will not give you satisfaction, but it will drive you on to keep trying in a desperate and ineffective cycle.  Like most things in this world, it is both brief and imperfect.  It will end, and when it does, you'll inevitably be worse off than before.  Even if this act is one such as gluttony, the pleasure may end long before the food is finished.  Good food, good friends, good music, money, a good job, knowledge, education, praise, a good family, not even all of these things together can bring you lasting peace and joy(not to be confused with the emotion of "feeling happy".  They are fleeting as are most things in this world.  There is something more.   Allow yourself to investigate and explore it.  Don't let fear keep you back.

God bless,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nana: A Portrait of a Lady

On February 13, 2011 at 2:30 in the morning, my grandmother passed away.   She was beautiful and I miss her very much.   We called her Nana, but growing up, she was Audrey Mae Cloutier.  Audrey was an only child and was a very dainty, delicate person.   She was very meticulous about her appearance and her person.  She never did anything halfway.  She was a sweet, serious sort of person who was balanced out by her spunky, outspoken, mischievous best friend, Grace.

After she graduated from high school, she got a job where she met Jimmie.  Jimmie was one of two of Audrey's beaus and she liked him a lot.  He used to sit out on the porch and sings songs to her, including "You Were Meant for Me" from singing in the rain.  Once, when Jimmie came by to see Audrey, he found that she was out with the other beau, but Grace was there to tell him, "You've been teaching her songs and she's out singing 'em to another fella." 

Jimmie was furious and called on Audrey again shortly after that to say, "Audrey, if I can get everything together by tomorrow[which was Lundi Gras], will you marry me?"  Not really thinking he would be able to manage it, Audrey said yes.  They were married the next day.  Audrey and Jimmie had a wonderful life together with their four children, James Jr. (my dad), Arthur, Gayle, and Myles.  They were married for over fifty years.

On July 17, 1992, Jimmie died from cancer. He was 81 years old.  Audrey was devastated.  For nearly a year, she wallowed in grief, putting her entire life on hold.  After a couple of years eldest son, Jimmy, packed up his family and moved them down the country to live with Audrey while they built their new house.  We lived that way for a year.  Nana in one room, Mom and Dad in another, and the five kids in the third room.  It was during that year, that Nana tripped over a lamp chord in her bedroom and broke her hip.   She had surgery to replace her hip, but Dad decided that living near Nana was not enough, so he added a room, a handicap accessible bathroom, and a private phone line to the house for Nana to come live with us.

Eventually, Nana decided that Paw-paw Jimmie would not want her to stop living, so she began volunteering at the hospital again, participating in the parish bake sales, and helping out the Knights of Columbus Council that her husband helped found.  They say that living with us kept her going.  And she did keep going.

Nana lived with all she had.  When she couldn't volunteer anymore, she started a prayer book and prayed for anyone who asked her to and many who didn't.  She spent much of her day in pain, but strove not to complain.  She was always trying to learn and she hated the idea of being a burden, so she often insisted on unloading the dishwasher and folding the laundry until it became too difficult for her.

Nana never forgot a kindness.  Once, one of my friends offered to get Nana a glass of water and she was so touched that he would serve her in her own home that he was a long time favorite of hers among my friends.  Even when we all went away to college and she didn't see my friends as often, Nana would always inquire about their well-being and pray for them.

Nana was a huge fan of the New Orleans Saints.  She had a Pierre Thomas jersey.  He was her favorite player because she said he reminded her of her husband.

Nana was a hopeless romantic.  If my older sister or I ever left a good novel (e.g. Emma, An Old Fashioned Girl, etc.) out, Nana would snatch it up and stay up all night reading it.   Pride and Prejudice (1995), Singing In the Rain, and, An Affair to Remember were her favorite films.  She always wanted to be kept up to date about our love lives and who the most recent crushes were.  She also had her own opinions about which of our guy friends we should "set our caps for".

Nana was a special lady.  She had so much love in her heart.  I loved her a great deal.  I love her a great deal.  I feel blessed and honored to have lived with her for the last fifteen years.  I miss you, Nana.  Rest in peace.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Friendship Tests

I am by no means an expert, but it seems to me that we all put each other to tests.  Some are more extreme (e.g. I'm going to stop contacting my friends and whoever doesn't contact me in the first month isn't truly my friend).  Others are more subtle (no one seems to have missed my withdrawing from conversations lately, so they must not really care).  On most occasions, in my experience, these tests derive not from the errors of our friends, but from our own insecurities.  We begin to feel that perhaps we don't matter to our friends.  Perhaps too, we just don't matter.

Why do we want to matter so very much?  Why do we need to feel important, even essential to the happiness of those around us? 

You know, friendship tests usually don't work.  Want to know why?  Well, because most of the time, we're all testing each other at the same time.   If we all start cutting ourselves off from one another for the sake of seeing who will break down the walls, then there will be no one, or at least very few ones, who will be left to do what we want.  We'll all be alone and lonely waiting for everyone else to prove that they care about us.

It's a nasty business trying to get others to prove that we matter. 

But then, we're still stuck in our regular problem.  Most of the time, we don't feel too lonely, but every now and then, we just feel...insignificant.  So what can we do?  Well, there are a few things we can do.  First, we can remember that this problem is largely emotional.  Second, we can put things in perspective - you are not insignificance.  Third, we can cut our friends some slack, after all, they're only human.  Fourth, we can be sure to always let everyone know how much they matter to us.  Don't fake it, of course, but the people who really matter to you, make sure you tell them always and often!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Where are you going?

Last (academic) year, seems like a lifetime ago.  The framework of my day to day life was so different in relation to how it has been this year.  Then again, my life is so different from many different ways it had once been.  Reading this, you might be thinking, "Well, duh, life changes.  What's the big deal?"  Maybe not.  I don't really know what you're thinking.  =)  I can only speak for myself.

For those of you who've been following my blog since the beginning, there has always been a running reflection on the changes in my life and how they affect me.   As a child I used to become so troubled over change.  I cry to my mother and ask why things couldn't just stay the way they were.  Perhaps that is why I had such a fascination with Peter Pan, when I was growing up.   I mean, seriously, there's a boy, who's life never changes, and he spends all of his time having great adventures.

Back then, change scared me because life was becoming harder and I didn't want to lose the way things were.   Now it's not so much that I don't like what's coming as much as I just don't know what's coming.  I don't know at all.  Sure, I make plans, but I have less of a sense that my plans will come to fruition than I used to.  Not that things worked out according to my will more in the past than they do now, but as I grow older, I become more aware of the general uncertainty of things and more decisions are in my hands, rather than those in positions of authority over me.

Now I have to choose my own fate and I don't even have my bearings straight most days.  Also, I used to be better at letting God lead.  (I was never very good at it, so you can just imagine how much worse I've become.)  Anyway, it's something I intend to improve on during this year.  So, please keep me in your prayers.  =)  Thanks!

In the mean time, I'm trying to figure out where I'm going in relation to the next moment.  How can I prepare?  How can I be aware?  What will I need to do to stay focused?  How can I best serve?  What can I do to better help those around me?

P.S. I know the picture is huge, but I wanted to do justice to her face.  =)