Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holy Night

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Beautiful song

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A basic summary of (a few) Church teachings

A few days ago I recieved this comment on an old post:
Hey Ruth, I have some question after reading some of your posts regarding the church and your recent missions to Uganda. Please read all scriptural references given, prayerfully consider their meaning in the context of scripture, alone. Thought....

If "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God", and "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." How does salvation come by baptism/membership in a church, when scripture clearly defines the church as a body of true believers?
"Neither shall their be salvation in any other (name)".... so why has the glorious Church been lifted up as a precursor for salvation, or the vessel through which the Holy Spirit is "unleashed", or limited in His work, so to speak? I would like to ask one more simple question for thought. If you delete this post that is OK, but please read for your own edification.

According to Ephesians 2:1-10, you are saved by Grace through Faith (not your own doing, the Faith to believe comes from God). It is grace, or unmerited favor, and faith that is the gift from God. This may help you clarify Ephesians 1:3-14. "sealed with the promised Holy Spirit" He won't let you go. See Romans 5:8, while we were sinners, Christ died for us, and looking at Romans 5:15-16 this for grace to abound much more since, according to one man's transgression sin entered the world, and death through sin, by one man...Christ, many more are offered grace.
There is really nothing to "figure out" or understand here except that we are all under God's wrath/judgment because He is Holy, and we are not...PERIOD. Our efforts to please Him, or try and appease Him for falling short of His standard of Holiness are "as filthy rags." But PRAISE be to God because He provided the substitutionary sacrifice that was perfect (lived a righteous life, tempted as we are but was yet without sin) so that the righteousness of Christ could be "credited" to our account, so to speak, when we believe in Him.

(Romans 4:8 Blessed is the man in whom God does not impute sin. - this is a one time legal declaration by God...not a life-long, hope I can become good enough to please Him. We would ALL be doomed if that were the case. Where would the "peace that surpasses all understanding" be in that type of salvation. See Rom. 10:6-7. We don't say who will reach up into heaven and bring Christ down or who will reach down and bring Christ up from the abyss (or grave)...why, because God has already done this on our behalf, ONCE for all.

We don't need a priest like in the old testament to offer any kind of sacrifice for us, now or forever. Hebrews 10:14-17. v.14 "For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." How many offerings? see v.12 "But when Christ had offered for all a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. focus on ONCE and the NEW covenant he makes in Christ's blood for the redeemed. In light of these verses, Rom 10;6 and Heb 10:12, is a perpetual sacrifice for sin by a priest, who himself sins, necessary? Or has scripture already answered this question with a PERFECT sacrifice who said "it is finished" when He had completed His Father's work here on earth? Ruth, please take these passages to heart, they are the foundation of the gospel (Good News) of what Christ did on our behalf. It is not that I am trying to discourage you, but only to help you discern that scripture interprets scripture. All 'revelation' must be brought to bare in "light" of the revealed Word of God, not teachings of men, who themselves may be errant. Heb 9:24-28. Christ does not need to be offered many times in mass for sins. He did this once, and will return to save those who eagerly await Him. Phil. 1:6
Please bear with me in this long post (if you've made it to here, that's pretty good!). I promise you its extremely interesting (or at least I thought so). This has taken way too long to post, which is why I don’t have an apologetics blog. This site is excellent at explaining what the Church believes and why. I do have a disclaimer on the right, over there ---->, but it seems this post will have to be an exception. Since the questions were asked to me, I’ve answered them. You may also check out the Vatican’s website or the Catechism. But of course, if you want to continue the discussion, I will do my best. These explanations are how I understand them and they are in no way complete (one could write books on these subjects).

I am using the Revised Standard Version for quoting the Bible (and commentary from the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible for inspiration).

First of all, I would like to explain how the Catholic Church interprets scriptures. We look at the Bible in its entirety. Believing it is the inspired word of God, we don’t ignore some parts in favor of others. This includes the Old Testament. We take Jesus very seriously when he says “Do not think I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Matthew 5:17). The Greek word translated “fulfil” means “to make complete”. We believe the New Covenant includes and concludes the Old Covenant. The entire Bible tells the story of salvation and always gives us God’s plan for what to believe and how to live and worship. I tell you this because that is how I will be answering your questions. I will look at what the Old Testament (and Old Covenant) included and how it has been perfected in the New Covenant with Jesus.

How does salvation come by baptism/membership in a church, when scripture clearly defines the church as a body of true believers?

The Old Covenant was entered into by circumcision. The New Covenant is also entered into by circumcision, but in a different way. Here is what I wrote back in June:

Phil 3:2-3, which says, "Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh". True circumcision refers to the spiritual circumcision of the heart, which happens at Baptism. This spiritual circumcision is obviously prefigured with bodily circumcision, but is no longer necessary (because we now have the true circumcision). Deuteronomy 30:6 tells us that God will circumcise our hearts so that we will love God with all our hearts and souls. (Also see Romans 2:28-29 and Colossians 2:11-12)
In the New Covenant, our hearts are circumcised by baptism (thus making the regular circumcision unnecessary). Ezekiel 36:25-27 says “ I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.” Christian baptism does just that. Acts 2:38 says “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” In the Catholic Church we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and when the water is poured upon the head (or the person is immersed), sins are washed away, the Holy Spirit rests upon them, and they are now a very real part of the Body of Christ, the Church. “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…”(1 Cor. 12:13). 1 Peter 3:21 also states “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (I think you would also enjoy reading 1 Peter 3, starting at verse 18, which talks about Jesus dying for sins once for all.) Christ DID die for our sins and ONLY because of that, now we can be saved. Baptism is how you enter into the salvation he offers us.

The next part of your question is about the church as a true body of believers. My explanation of baptism already hit on this a little, but I wanted to completely answer your question. The Church is a true body of believers. At baptism, one becomes a member of the Church. The Church is the body of Christ, with Christ as the head of the body/Church. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27) and “He is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent” (Colossians 1:18). So by baptism, you come into the Church. And that leads into your next question…

Why has the glorious Church been lifted up as a precursor for salvation, or the vessel through which the Holy Spirit is "unleashed", or limited in His work, so to speak?

A few assumptions made about the Church in this question are incorrect. Firstly, nothing can limited God in His work. The Church doesn’t claim this, nor can it ever, because it simply is impossible. The Church is where God has revealed Himself to us and it was created by God Himself to enact His grace and use it as a means to save us. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). The word “Church” is used in the Old testament for the “congregation” of Israel united to God. The Church today is an assembly united to God, and was started by Jesus Himself. Although there are countless ways God acts, it is through His Church that God reaches us and administers His grace. The Church is where “God’s grace is on full offer. The Church is where we find the fullness of life Christ wants for us.”-Fr. Robert Barron

I was just thinking about this last week. I’ll share with you the analogy I came up with.
I think we will agree that learning isn’t restricted to any one thing or place. You can learn in many different ways with many different things. But someone who goes to school, we would say is “educated”. Someone who has a degree from a respected university is “more educated”. But if learning isn’t limited to a classroom, or books and teachers with lesson plans, why do we say that? Because in the classroom, we learn about a subject more fully, more in-depth. The structure of school, with different grades, subjects, and ways of learning, is a more conducive environment for learning and for learning something well. If someone was only being taught things as they went on with their life, many important things may be missed. For instance, if I never went to school, I would hardly know anything about math. I wouldn’t know much about biology, such as cell structure. I wouldn’t have read “classics” simply because those weren’t something I wasn’t interested in at the time. Even though I have a mother who has been a teacher for almost 30 years, and have been to countless museums, historical sites, and have traveled a lot, my education still would not have been as complete as it is if I didn’t go to school. And I know I’m still not done learning.

I see this comparable with the Church. Yes, you “can get God” other ways and in other places, but it’s in the Church where you find a true and complete understanding of God. I have experienced God’s love in a more tangible way, and have learned more deeply about God in the Church than I have ANYWHERE else. I believe, and the Bible says, it’s because Jesus created it and that is the main way He wants it to be. As I’m typing, I know I need to stop myself. I can probably go on about the Church for the next million words. If you would like to know more, I would love to tell you : )

I will now respond to the next part of your comment, which didn’t have a particular question.

As I was reading Ephesians 2:1-10, I couldn’t help but also read the commentary. I know I can’t say it better, so I’ll write it here:

The first half of the chapter (Ephesians 2:1-10) explains how Christ reconciles men with God. (2:8) grace- The biblical term for (1) God’s favor and (2) God’s supernatural life. The former designates the conditions of its bestowal (a free and undeserved gift, Romans 6:23), and the latter designates the content of the gift we receive (a share in the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4). Have been saved-(the notes led me to Romans 5:10, which comments on “shall we be saved”. It says) Salvation can be described in terms of the past, present and future. It is past with reference to Baptism, which saves us from our sins (1 Peter 3:21, see above). It is a present reality when we allow grace to make us steadily more virtuous and holy (1 Cor 1:18). It is a future hope that we will for ever live with the Lord in glory (Heb 9:28, CCC169, 1026). (Now back to the Ephesians commentary) Through faith- Faith is instrumental in saving us and uniting us with Christ. In the context of conversion, salvation is conferred through the instrument of Baptism (1 Peter 3:21), and salvation is received through the instrument of faith (Romans 3:24-25). For Paul, belief in Jesus Christ is a divine gift (Phil 1:29)… (2:10) good works- Works of righteousness that pertain to salvation (Romans 2:6-7). These are made possible by the grace of God empowering us from within (Phil 2:12-13, Heb 13:20-21). The Second Council of Orange decreed in 529 A.D. that man, weakened by the fall of Adam, is incapable of performing good works worthy of eternal life by his own natural strength. Only by supernatural help of the Spirit can we be humble, obedient, and loving in a way that truly pleases the Lord (Canons 1-25. CCC 2008-11).

The rest of Ephesians chapter goes on to talk about the old circumcision (of the flesh) and how God reconciles men and nations with one another. A few things about this. 1. I wanted to show you that we believe many of the same things (and that some of the things you said come straight from Catholic councils going back to the 6th century). We are both Christian and regard Jesus as God. I hope you weren’t under the impression I believe anything contrary to that. By the way, the Catholic Church gave the world the Bible in 393 A.D. when the Council of Hippo listed the books (before then, many Popes had decreed the same list). 2. Also, to reiterate how important Baptism is. It is completely necessary for salvation. 3. That being a Christian isn’t a one time deal. God isn’t the president of an organization. He doesn’t want your yearly dues and a “belief” statement every so often. God wants everything you have. He wants to completely change your life (inside and out). He wants us to freely choose Him, which means choosing to live as He directs us to. That means to strive for holiness, for your whole life. How great would a marriage be if you showed up on the wedding day but never spoke to your spouse again? The life of a Christian is continuous conversion. Like you referenced, we are filthy as rags, which means we must be given faith and grace and salvation, but God doesn’t force us to receive any of these against our will. If we choose to reject Him later, God will respect that choice. God doesn’t let us go, but at the end of our life if we reject Him, then God respects our wishes.

We don't need a priest like in the old testament to offer any kind of sacrifice for us, now or forever.

Although this wasn’t a question, I need to respond to this. Priests are extremely important. Jesus is referred to as the High Priest (The entire Hebrews chapter 7 talks about priesthood, and how and why Jesus is the High Priest.), so obviously, we need (at least one) priests. In the Old testament, we have three “kinds” of priests. The high priest (Aaron, Exodus 28:3), ministerial priests (Aaron’s sons, Exodus 28:40-41), and universal priests (Israel, Exodus 19:6). And in God’s mighty plan for the world, we now also have three kinds of priesthood. The High Priest is Jesus (Hebrews 2:17, 3:1), the ministerial priests are the ordained priests and bishops (Romans 15:16, 1 Timothy 3:1,8; 5:17, Titus 1:7) who have been given to us by God since Jesus first chose his apostles, and the universal priests are all the faithful (1 Peter 2:5,9, Revelation 1:6). We are incorporated into the priestly office of Christ upon our Baptism. We are all priests, called “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). The ministerial priests are the ones asked by God in a special way to “feed and tend the flock” (John 21:15-17). Not everyone in the flock can tend and feed. There have to be shepherds where that is their primary and life-long mission. Each of the universal priests and the ministerial priests share in the priesthood of Jesus. Jesus, again, is the reason we can even be priests in the first place. It always comes back to Him.

As far as priests being sinners, I will direct you to Numbers 16:1-3. Korah and 250 other well known community leaders rose up against Moses and accused him of declaring himself holier than the rest. They argued because all are holy, none should claim a position higher than the rest. This is basically the same argument only you reverse it saying since no one is perfect, they can’t be “higher”. But as I’ve already explained, God chooses His priests, and it is to share in the priesthood of Christ. Also, we are told to obey the elders (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, 1 Timothy 5:17, Hebrews 12:9, 13:7,17, 1 Peter 5:5), and those who do not are judged harshly (2 Peter 2:10-12, 1 John 4:6, 3 John 1:9-11, Jude 1:8-10). Jude 1:11 tells us that “they will perish because of their rebellion”.

Is a perpetual sacrifice for sin by a priest, who himself sins, necessary?

I’ve already answered the part about the priest sinning and I’ll let Nicholas Hardesty explain the rest. Read more here.

When [Jesus was on] the Cross, he gave his entire self to the world so as to achieve the objective redemption. In other words, in giving of his entire self, he made it possible for man to enter heaven. But, the merits of this total self-giving must be applied to us somehow if we are to benefit from it. This is the subjective redemption. Every day man is in need of it, so Jesus never ceases to give to the Father his one gift on the Cross. This gift is made real in our lives through the Mass, when celebrate the gift of his entire self (to the Father, and consequently to us) in the Eucharist.

[Jesus] abolished the old sacrifices so as to set up the very sacrifice that we celebrate in the Mass. It is in the Mass that we are "sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10).

Some people use Hebrews 10:12 as a mark against the Sacrifice of the Mass, but this verse is in reference to the sacrifices of the Old Law that he abolished. The blood of lambs will no longer do. Now we partake of the Blood of the Lamb (1 Pet 1:18-19; Rev 7:14; 12:11). His Blood is the new covenant (Lk 22:20; Heb 12:24). Just as the levitical high priest offered sacrifice to the Lord and then the people ate the sacrifice (to participate in the Old Covenant), in the Mass the priest stands in the person of Christ offering His one sacrifice to the Lord and then we eat the sacrifice (to participate in the New Covenant).
If this still seems a bit strange, just read what Justin Martyr (yes, this is the famous Christian martyr) says about the Mass, and more particularly, about the Eucharist, which is really what you are referring to. This was written in 155 A.D.

God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [minor prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: "I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord, and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands; for from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, my name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering, for my name is great among the Gentiles" [Mal. 1:10-11]. He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us [Christians] who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist and also the cup of the Eucharist. (Dialogue with Trypho 41)
The Mass (in its basic form) has been celebrated since Jesus first did it at the Last Supper. When we celebrate Mass, the one sacrifice of Jesus is re-presented. What Jesus did on the cross for us is enough, and now we have access to it every day with Mass (as Jesus instructed us to do). You can read more from the early Church fathers about the Sacrifice of the Mass here. Or simply more info on the Sacrifice, here.

Last thoughts:
Your comment was intriguing, in that it lead me to see the biblical basis for the beliefs of the Catholic Church. I hope you also read what I have written and honestly think about them as well. In your comment you pointed out being “sealed with the Holy Spirit”. Catholics are sealed with the Holy Spirit when they are confirmed. If you're interested, you can read more about that here. Also, here is a good look at the reasoning behind “scripture interpreting scripture” (Part 1 and Part 2). May God bless you abundantly during this Christmas season!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I've learned in Uganda so far...

...we have so much. I will never be unthankful for anything ever again.
Read my post at 4cornersministries.blogspot.com/2010/11/uganda-team-update.html

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Uganda Novena Day 8 and 9

Well, I'm off! Please continue praying for the whole trip and especially for the people in Uganda! Have a great and thankful Thanksgiving!

Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...for the work, both spiritual and physical, that will take place, a safe and fruitful mission and Ugandans who are suffering in any way.

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.
Amen.
Pray for us, St. Peter Claver

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Uganda Novena Day 7

Tomorrow is my last full day before I leave! I’m still super busy (just like every day this semester), but I know I can get it all done. Most of my to-do list contains schoolwork, which again, isn’t a departure at all from the rest of the semester (ahhh).

I received four packages today with almost all my supplies I’m bringing with me. Tomorrow I should get my last one (containing rosaries and saint metals)! It will all fit perfectly in my bags! In my bags I’m bringing eyeglasses and the charts to determine prescriptions, work gloves and pants, crayons, colored pencils and other school supplies, lots of rosaries and how-to-pray-the-rosary guides, mini-catechisms, saint metals and chains, soap and toothbrushes, Sunday school-type coloring books and advent worksheets, mosquito nets, a suit for a seminarian, colorful bracelets for girls, and many well wishes from friends. I’m SO excited! Tomorrow I start my malaria medication!

Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...for the work, both spiritual and physical, that will take place, a safe and fruitful mission and Ugandans who are suffering in any way.

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.
Amen.
Pray for us, St. Peter Claver

Monday, November 15, 2010

Uganda Novena Day 6

Some trip info:
I'll be arriving in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and also traveling to Masaka, which is where Fr. Michael will meet us.

I'm traveling with 14 other missionaries, three of whom are college students, and one other who is Catholic.

Myself and another missionary will be distributing over 1,000 pairs of glasses.

I will tour one of the two overflowing seminaries in the diocese of Masaka.

To learn more about the organization I'm traveling with, visit their website, http://www.4cornersministries.org/

Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...for the work, both spiritual and physical, that will take place, a safe and fruitful mission and Ugandans who are suffering in any way.
We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.
Amen.
Pray for us, St. Peter Claver

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Uganda Novena Day 5

Tonight I want to be honest. It’s these moments that I know make people uncomfortable. Perhaps many of you who read this don’t know me in “real life”, but most who do, would probably describe me as a happy person. And I am. But those who know me really well know of my darker side. I rarely talk about it. I know people would rather see “the happy” and they rarely know how to handle the lesser known sides of my personality. Perhaps that is why I go here to “fight” my battles. I chronicle my dealings with my shadows because they have followed me all my life, and I suspect they will continue to for the rest of it as well.

Tonight I glimpsed a conversation where it was thought that those who lie to themselves are the happiest, where those who are honest about things tend to become more depressed. A beautifully written post about this can be found here. I knew the young man that that post is directed towards. And even now, it still remains tragically beautiful in my mind. I'm not sure anything can be beautiful unless it’s tragic as well. Perhaps that’s why I think THE most beautiful thing is Jesus hanging, dead, on the cross. Every time I walk into a church I want to cry because the crucifix is so beautiful. It is also very tragic. Perhaps also, I love Our Lady of Sorrows because that is the true disposition in my heart. I am sorrowful. Every day I see so much tragedy, and it breaks my heart, but I don’t want to run from it.

Perhaps also this is what makes me differ from most (although I know not all). I want to stay with the tragic, the ones who feel hopeless and abandoned and unloved and utterly destitute. Maybe misery loves company, but when I experience this, I know God is near. There are no facades in place, no smiles to trick others into thinking you are okay. I know this is something I can do nothing about, and for some reason, I don’t want to run.

Perhaps I stay to see God in action. Indeed He is the only one who can help the tragedies of this world. He is the only one who can save them. In witnessing a tragedy, either of my own or another’s, I know, more deeply than ever before, who I am. I am a powerless woman who relies on God for everything. In coming face to face with utter tragedy, I also experience God’s awesome power. I’ve seen it at Kenneth’s funeral. I knew it that day that what took place is something I wouldn’t easily forget, because I witnessed God coming to earth and showing Himself to us. God uses death more perfectly than anything eles for coming into our hearts.

Maybe the shadows aren’t so bad. Perhaps that is how God’s reveals Himself to me. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to run away. Can we pay the price? I know I can’t, but I know Jesus can and He already did. And with this knowledge I go into the world as a “happy” person, for truly I am. The truth does set us free, it just may not be what we expect.

In relating to Uganda, I’m not sure what I will witness on the mission trip. I’ve been told about “the cry” which can be heard all night in most villages. It is a cry of a mother who just lost a child, normally of some disease. I’ve been told it is the most heart piercing sound you will ever hear. I think of Mary’s cry.

Please pray this novena with me. Pray for whatever breaks your heart. This world is tragic but not hopeless. Let us never forget that it is not hopeless.

Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...for the work, both spiritual and physical, that will take place, a safe and fruitful mission and Ugandans who are suffering in any way.

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.
Amen.
Pray for us, St. Peter Claver

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Uganda Novena Day 4

One thing I’ve struggled with in the past is trusting God. Although I can’t say I don’t struggle with it anymore, I’ve found myself wanting to, and more easily, trusting in Him.

Something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is how each person’s journey to God is radically different. We each have a different background, are interested in and attracted to different things, and fulfill a unique vocation. And it makes sense: each one of us is unique and will never be repeated for all of eternity. With each person’s uniqueness brings a unique faith and path to God. I’ve come to deeply appreciate what the Church holds inside her for each of us. The Church offers us the support for our unique journey. It provides resources for our individual needs and interests. It recognizes that each of us struggles differently and at the same time knows, in a profound way, that we are all striving for the same thing.

It is beautiful really. In a world with so many persons: persons of every walk of life from every corner and field, from every experience, each of them is led to Christ by the Church. The Church is truly universal, and that shows that the Church is truly God’s, for God made each of those persons, and to leave even one person out would be tragic and terrible.

I also cherish those times I “peek” into another person’s faith journey: to see how God is acting in their life, to see how their unique place in the world is exactly how God chooses to reveal Himself to them. It shows me that I am not alone in experiencing the Holy Spirit acting. I’m not alone in my experiences of divine “coincidences” that continue to give me strength, hope, and needed grace. I am not alone in this Church.

And our individual journeys' are not exclusive to themselves. We each weave in and out of each other’s paths. God uses us to brings other’s to Him, while doing the same for us.

This is why I trust God now more than I ever have before. I now know, because I’ve witnessed it in my own life and in others, that God really does take care of us. Each of us is unique, and so are our experiences of God, and so will be how God leads us to Himself. But no matter the means, He never has us do it alone. And so I can trust God, because He has made me the way I am and has led me to exactly where I am, so that my journey is perfectly suited for me to find Him. He has a plan for the rest of my days, both here on earth and in heaven. I don’t need to worry about the future or the present anymore; God really does know what He’s doing.

Please join me in this novena for the mission trip to Uganda.

Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...for the work, both spiritual and physical, that will take place, a safe and fruitful mission and Ugandans who are suffering in any way.

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.
Amen.
Pray for us, St. Peter Claver

Friday, November 12, 2010

Uganda Novena Day 3

In Uganda I'll be visiting Father Michael. He has been visiting our parish for the past three summers. He is in a music group called Anawim, or "The Poor Ones of God". Check out the website here. Here is one of his music videos, "Joy of the Lord". The chorus is in english.



Please join me in this novena.
Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...for the work, both spiritual and physical, that will take place, a safe and fruitful mission and Ugandans who are suffering in any way.
We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.
Amen.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Uganda Novena Day 2

I wanted to thank all those who have helped me and the team with the mission. Without your prayers and support, this mission wouldn't be possible. I especially want to thank my mom, CeeCee at Fiat mihi secundum Verbum Tuum, Ross at Under My Roof, Nelson, who drove 10 hours to train me, the rest of my team, who have been uber helpful and awesome, anyone who came out to my many fundraisers, all the friends who donated time or money, including Erin, Jairo, Kelley, Taylor, Alejandro at Veritatis Splendor, Katie, Ashley, Kelley, Adam, Whitney, and anyone eles who have been praying for me. The day is almost here! Please join in a novena for the work, both spiritual and physical, that will take place, a safe and fruitful mission and Ugandans who are suffering in any way.

Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...(special intention).
We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.
Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Uganda Novena Day 1

In 9 days I’ll be on my way to Uganda! I have chosen St. Peter Claver as the patron saint for this mission. He is the patron of African mission work as he dedicated his life to serving Africans who were brought to the new world as slaves. He converted over 300,000 people! Pray for us St. Peter Claver!


If you would like, please join me in praying this novena. It is the prepare for the work, both spiritual and physical, that will take place and for a safe and fruitful mission. I am also praying for Ugandans who are suffering in any way.


 
Novena Prayer to the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
O Most Blessed Mother, heart of love, heart of mercy, ever listening, caring, consoling, hear our prayer. As your children, we implore your intercession with Jesus your Son. Receive with understanding and compassion the petitions we place before you today, especially ...(special intention).

We are comforted in knowing your heart is ever open to those who ask for your prayer. We trust to your gentle care and intercession, those whom we love and who are sick or lonely or hurting. Help all of us, Holy Mother, to bear our burdens in this life until we may share eternal life and peace with God forever.
Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quick Quote for Wednesday

Even though the Lord protects warriors and he who is "mighty in battle" encourages his own soliders, saying, "Do not be afraid, because I have overcome the world," still we should know, dearly beloved, that even with this incentive the fear is lifted, not the struggle. -St. Leo the Great

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Life of Koko

Today was a good day to keep my mind off things. I spent about 7 hours today preparing for the trip to Uganda, and I was so excited that it was easy to forget how saddened I feel. I try not to say I’m sad because Bl. Pier Giorgio said sadness is the worse disease. And anyway, I’m not really sad, just grieving. I think there is a distinction. I miss Koko. I missed him before yesterday too, it’s just that now I won’t get to see him again. I think that’s the hardest part.

It’s also hard to think of him gone. It’s funny because I actually had a half finished post about animals and their purpose. It was mainly addressing why they are here since they don’t have an immortal soul. I thought that our (humans) purpose is fulfilled in heaven while an animals' purpose is fulfilled on earth. That was the main gist of it anyway. So I wanted to share how Koko fulfilled his purpose.

I met Koko while I was switching classes one day in high school. Right beside my high school was a house that didn’t have a fenced-in yard. Their dog gave birth to about 8 puppies and this naturally attracted all us teenagers. While everyone else had already picked out their favorite (the girls went first), Koko was left waiting for me. He was the runt of the litter and the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

My sister and I decided to take him home and see what would happen. We never had a dog (or a cat for that matter) and I was actually quite terrified of dogs because of a childhood attack. But Koko was so small and peaceful. He fit perfectly on my lap, with his little nose just reaching my knee. He slept the entire way home.

I knew it was a long shot of keeping him, but for some reason, my mom agreed to keep him (I’ve always thought this was a miracle). He had always been a lot of trouble for us. He couldn’t go to sleep on his own for the first few months. His whining from the porch reached into my parent’s bedroom and woke my mom, who would then come downstairs and literally rock Koko to sleep like a baby. He destroyed everything, escaped from the yard ALL the time, and never was trained (maybe seven people trying to train a dog was a bad approach…). He was also a very scared dog. I would let him sleep next to me on the couch so he wouldn’t be so scared and finally go to sleep. But he kept my feet warm by letting me put them under his belly. But although he caused a little more stress and work in our lives, he also made us fall in love with him. Even my dad was caught playing with him just a little longer than he had to.

Koko was a very good friend. He knew exactly what to do with me. Koko was with me during some of my hardest nights in high school. He would let me hold him for as long as I wanted. And he was always a good sport. He never cared what you would do to him, as long as he was with you, he was happy! My siblings and I would do all kinds of crazy things with him. Our favorite was taking him out on the porch, pointing to an animal that wondered into the yard (usually squirrels) and then releasing him to track them down (and hopefully make them never return!). I still remember the day he chased this puffy fat white cat up this skinny tree and trapped him up there! He was also the best at catching moles (especially because he never felt pain)!

Yes, my Koko brightened everyone’s life. He brought us together and helped us learn a little more about what love is. He was a perfect fit for our family. Our one and only dog. You are very missed already, but soon you’ll get to stay in the house forever (lucky dog).

A frame of a video of me and Koko (and my brother, Peter's hand)

I hope to uplaod some videos soon as they all are having technical problems right now.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Death looms in autumn

After hearing about numerous deaths of friend's family members this past week, I just learned my dog, Koko, died tonight. He was in his favorite spot in the house. He was only five and a half years old. Now I'm just waiting for a call from my mom. I loved him a lot.

Homosexual Catholics

The greater the suffering the greater the love from God.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ensoulment

When is the human soul created within the body? At first this may seem like a simple question: at the moment of conception of course! However, this isn’t actually official Church teaching. What the Church says is that it definitely happens before birth. There are two theories on this (for more on this, click here):

The first is called the “immediate animation, immediate ensoulment theory”, which states at the very moment of animation (when life begins), the newly conceived human is animated by a rational soul.

The second theory is called the “immediate animation, delayed ensoulment theory” which states there is a progression from vegetative to animal to human soul as the principle of animation. This theory was based on Aristotelian biology and was popular in the middle ages. St. Thomas Aquinas also agreed with this theory and stated he believed males received their soul 40 days after conception and females after 80 days. It has been revisited and refined recently. This is a summary of the new “modern” theory of delayed ensoulment:

First because the soul is the substantial form of the body, the rational soul cannot be present until there is a body present that is significantly complex and organized to receive the soul. Second, a formal cause is present only in a finished product. An actual human soul cannot be united with a virtual human body. Third, there is no human body in the zygote. Fourth inasmuch as all the positive features of the human body derive from the soul, until the soul is present there is no human being. (taken from the article above)
The article that explains the two theories does a wonderful job explaining why the second theory isn’t reasonable. I would also argue that the first makes sense from what we know about God and us: That we are in existence because He loves us, and he loves us because we have human souls (which He of course created). I would think then that as soon as we exist (in the smallest sense, or right at conception) then God has loved us into existence therefore confirming we have a soul. Why would God create us and then wait a little while to create our soul? Can we have a body without a soul? Again I would say not while we are living, and a newly conceived human is definitely living.

Why does this even matter?
If a fetus (I mean fetus as any stage of development before birth) doesn’t have a soul, then it could be argued that abortion is acceptable: since there is no soul yet, they aren’t really human, and thus also have no rights. The response to this may be that even with uncertainty, it’s always better to err of the side of life (meaning don‘t ever abort because you can‘t know for sure). However, there may even be a better reason why abortion is still gravely wrong even if there is no soul present:

Some scientists and philosophers will attempt to argue that if an early embryo might not yet have received its immortal soul from God, it must be OK to destroy that embryo for research since he or she would not yet be a person. But it would actually be the reverse; that is to say, it would be more immoral to destroy an embryo that had not yet received an immortal soul than to destroy an ensouled embryo. Why? Because the immortal soul is the principle by which that person could come to an eternal destiny with God in heaven, so the one who destroyed the embryo, in this scenario, would preclude that young human from ever receiving an immortal soul (or becoming a person) and making his or her way to God. This would be the gravest of evils, as the stem cell researcher would forcibly derail the entire eternal design of God over that unique and unrepeatable person, via an action that would be, in some sense, worse than murder. The human person, then, even in his or her most incipient form as an embryonic human being, must always be safeguarded in an absolute and unconditional way, and speculation about the timing of personhood cannot alter this fundamental truth. -Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk
Now although there is no way to be completely sure when exactly ensoulment occurs, I think we can follow the evidence and, through reason, come to a pretty sound conclusion. Personally I have trouble with the idea that ensoulment doesn’t occur at conception. For one, we know that a new human was formed, with it’s own DNA and the like, and I would argue that when God created that new human, why would He not also create it’s soul as well?

What about twins?
In the case of identical twins, the zygote is split after conception. Some zygotes split in 1-3 days (with 2 amniotic sacs, 2 placentas).  Some split in 4-8 days (2 sacs, 1 placenta). Some split in 9-13 days (1 sac, 1 placenta) and some split after 14 days (usually conjoined twins). How can one say that ensoulment occurs at conception when later, the zygote can split and become two babies? I don’t see this being a real problem, and I have two theories that reconciles this to ensoulment at conception (I like the first one best):

1. Is it not possible that two souls can occupy the same matter for a time, when God knows they will spilt into two separate bodies? And if not, then what about conjoined twins? They are technically one body and yet obviously two distinct persons. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that two souls were created in one “body” at first, when God (who also created their bodies) also knew that it would spilt, and therefore need two souls.

2. If the idea that two souls occupying the same body is wrong, then I would say that when the zygote splits, the second baby is then “ensouled”, at the moment of separation. Now it is impossible to discern which baby had the “first soul” and which got his later, but this theory would solve the problem of two souls in one body (if a problem exists).

*Sidenote: I also don’t see a problem with two souls being in one body when I think of examples (other than conjoined twins). A possession is when a demonic spirit enters a body. Would that not be two souls (although not both human) in one body? This is another reason I favor theory number one.

This verse in the bible may also shed some light. It’s Jeremiah 1:5:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

So on this All Souls Day, may we remember all the souls, whenever they may animate our bodies and whenever they may leave this earth for true happiness.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!


The story of the Jack O' Lantern:
Jack, the Irish say, grew up in a simple village where he earned a reputation for cleverness as well as laziness. He applied his fine intelligence to wiggling out of any work that was asked of him, preferring to lie under a solitary oak endlessly whittling. In order to earn money to spend at the local pub, he looked for an "easy shilling" from gambling, a pastime at which he excelled. In his whole life he never made a single enemy, never made a single friend and never performed a selfless act for anyone.

One Halloween, as it happened, the time came for him to die. When the devil arrived to take his soul, Jack was lazily drinking at the pub and asked permission to finish his ale. The devil agreed, and Jack thought fast. "If you really have any power," he said slyly, "you could transform yourself into a shilling."

The devil snorted at such child’s play and instantly changed himself into a shilling. Jack grabbed the coin. He held it tight in his hand, which bore a cross-shaped scar. The power of the cross kept the devil imprisoned there, for everyone knows the devil is powerless when faced with the cross. Jack would not let the devil free until he granted him another year of life. Jack figured that would be plenty of time to repent. The devil left Jack at the pub.

The year rolled around to the next Halloween, but Jack never got around to repenting. Again the devil appeared to claim his soul, and again Jack bargained, this time challenging him to a game of dice, an offer Satan could never resist, but a game that Jack excelled at. The devil threw snake eyes—two ones—and was about to haul him off, but Jack used a pair of dice he himself had whittled. When they landed as two threes, forming the T-shape of a cross, once again the devil was powerless. Jack bargained for more time to repent.

He kept thinking he’d get around to repentance later, at the last possible minute. But the agreed-upon day arrived and death took him by surprise. The devil hadn’t showed up and Jack soon found out why not. Before he knew it Jack was in front of the pearly gates. St. Peter shook his head sadly and could not admit him, because in his whole life Jack had never performed a single selfless act. Then Jack presented himself before the gates of hell, but the devil was still seething. Satan refused to have anything to do with him.

"Where can I go?" cried Jack. "How can I see in the darkness?"

The devil tossed a burning coal into a hollow pumpkin and ordered him to wander forever with only the pumpkin to light his path. From that day to this he has been called "Jack o’ the Lantern." Sometimes he appears on Halloween!

Find other Halloween traditions' explained here. Halloween is so awesome!

Inside the womb




The part that struck me the most was when the sperm finally got inside, it seemed as if it died in order to unite with the egg's DNA. But if it didn't break apart and destroy itself, then no new life would come about. Also that all the part's of the sperm have a purpose, and after they accomplish their task, they break away.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Christianity is a religion for the lost.

This sentence has really stuck with me recently. There are no pre-reqs, no resumes, and no essays to write to be a Christian. It starts with knowing you can’t save yourself, and that you need saving. I spend most of my time preparing for the future and increasing my knowledge. I want to become “successful” in the way the world defines it. But if I reach this fruitless goal, what real good have I done? I’ve wasted years trying to build myself up into something I’m not. I’ve failed over and over again, and for good reason. I am lost. I need help. Christianity doesn’t have much to offer the rich man with all the answers. But when we are really honest with ourselves, we are all lost.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Men and Women (Part 2)

You have to read this article: Eight Reasons Why Men Only Should Serve at Mass by Michael P. Foley

It's not a comprehensive list by any means but I found reasons 3, 4 and 5 to be excellent:

4.  The sexes' differing relations to the sacred is connected to the innate typology of the Mass. For if men are the custodians of the sacred and women the embodiment, we should find this in the Church's supreme act of worship.
And we do. Since every Mass is a mini-Incarnation, a re-actualization of the great event that took place when the "yes" of the Blessed Virgin Mary ratified the divine initiative and made God really present in her womb, the sanctuary in which the Mass takes place is effectively a womb. This is why the traditional configuration of a church sanctuary is uterine. With its demarcating border of altar rail or iconostasis, it is an "enclosed garden" (Sg 4:15), a traditional image of maidenhood. And whereas the sanctuary is feminine, her ministers, as representatives of the sanctuary's divine Husband, are masculine.
Women are the embodiment of the sacred, and men are the protectors and keepers of the sacred. How awesome is that!!? That is why I believe a woman should be veiled (along with so many other reasons), and why men must take leadership roles in the Church. I also found the imagery of the womb profound. I'll have to think more on this.

5. Male custodianship of the sacred is also linked to sacrifice. Although offering oneself as a sacrifice is equally incumbent on both sexes (Rom 12:1), men are the only ones in the Bible who offer physical immolations. Scripture doesn't say why, but we may hazard a guess. Men after the Fall are the violent sex, more likely to have recourse to bloodshed as a means of obtaining what it wants. While this does not deny that women can also be violent, it does explain the causes of war, the population of our prisons, and the consumer demographic of video-game players.
God's strategy appears to have been to channel the postlapsarian male's propensity for violence away from murder toward animal sacrifice as a way of helping him recognize his devious impulses and repent. "God in his seeming bloodthirstiness," Patrick Downey writes in his superb Desperately Wicked, "is actually more concerned with curing us of our own." This strategy culminates in the New Covenant, when its High Priest, rather than committing violence, allows Himself to be victimized by it. God's final solution to the problem of man's deicidal heart is to give him exactly what he wants.
But the cross is a true sacrifice, as is the sacrifice of the altar which re-presents it. Thus, it remains linked not only to the darkness of the human heart but to the specific problem of male violence. Serving on the altar is actually a healthy form of humiliation for men and boys, for it constitutes a confession of their wicked hearts; God's restriction of sacrifice to males in the Tabernacle, Temple, and beyond is a back-handed compliment.
I've never heard this reasoning before, but it makes sense. I have many comments, but I really would just rather discuss them. When talking about a subject such as this, it seems to be easy to reverse roles, so to speak, and put down men while raising up women. I don't wish to do this. In fact, even though the article makes good points, it seems to overplay women and underplay (even almost insulting) men. In most sermons and quotes (from very holy people, nonetheless) it seems this is a favorite strategy. I'm not really a fan of it. Both men and women have strengths and weaknesses which ultimately are used best the way God has set up his brilliant Church and universe.

What are your thoughts?

Men and Women (Part 1)

Disclaimer: This post may not be very coherent. I hope it is, because I feel this is a very important subject, but if it is not, please forgive me, I’m too tired to attempt to have it make sense.

Every Monday I get a dose of the “real-world”. I have ROTC class every Monday and each week we talk about a different topic. This year, the last year of the program, we are preparing for active duty and learning about “the world stage”. Today we talked about India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia. Not only was there many undertones about population problems, but also about how women are seen as less than human.

Being viewed as less than human by a more powerful entity has always proved devastating to the “less human” peoples. In all parts of the world, in every age, this can be seen as a huge excuse for some really awful acts. Saying someone is “less than human” means you can do whatever you want to them, without having to apologize. It’s also a convenient excuse to harm someone you already hate.

I’m becoming more and more fascinated by the way God ordered the world, and in particular, men and women. The more I learn about it, the more it makes sense, and the more my heart breaks for how the world is working to destroy it (which it never can of course). For instance, in class we briefly overviewed how women are still oppressed in India. I’m not commenting on whether women in India are actually oppressed or not (because I realize that women are still oppressed, at least in some ways). The whole time I was thinking how the truths of human dignity and the foundation of human rights would do wonders for not only the people in India, but us as well.

I’m beginning to think this is one of the greatest lessons the Church has to offer the world. The Church has already done so much to bring human rights and dignity into laws and the human psyche, but yet it hasn’t been totally grasped everywhere, and people suffer for that. Just think, if the common people held human life to be of utmost importance, would there be massacres? Terrorism? Abortions? If those same people got elected, would they not work for true justice, peace, and keep the dignity of each person in mind with every new policy? If each government reflected these values in the way they governed and with dealing with other nations, would we not have a much freer and peaceful world?

If we can teach the world that each life is important and get them to live by that, the world can easily become what everyone says they want it to be.

Now back to women.
The confusion over the place and rights of women, I believe, also stems from this lack of understanding human dignity. Because we don’t really understand why people have rights, or why people are so important, when we (we is used here as “the world”) see some people getting treated seemingly different then others, we fight against it. We call it discrimination or sexism or argue that the “oppressors” think women are inferior and are holding them back, or that they are “stuck in the past”. They like to say that we know women are just as capable as men and should therefore, be put side by side with men, in all positions. This just screams a misunderstanding of who the human person is and how God has given each person certain rights.

Some trigger words that I’ve noticed send people (especially my class) into “that’s wrong” mentality:
Submissive
Veiling
Obedience

Absolutely NONE of these terms are fundamentally bad. Yes, each one can and has been twisted to use people or “suppress” them, but at their core, each is extremely good and beautiful. I’ve talked often about veiling, and really veiling is just an outward sign of being submissive and obedient. These words make some of my friends noticeably uncomfortable. The idea of being “under someone” invokes abuse and control. That is definitely something no one wants. But what does submissive really mean? Sub means “under” and missive means “mission. So being submissive means to be “under the mission”. Basically, you are to support the mission, which is something we should be doing anyway, whether that be God or a husband. I won’t speak of obedience now, but that is a sure way to get to heaven. Overall, these “bad” things are really not bad at all.

I want to teach everyone about the dignity of each person, and how women have immense dignity, just from who they are (more on this is Part 2), and how by trying to “equate” men and women, it really destroys the beauty of each one.

Itinerary for the Mission trip to Uganda:

Whoa things are moving quickly (as usual)! In less than 4 weeks, I'm be on a plane heading to Africa! The last few months have been a whirlwind but I'm on track for being ready (some how!!). I wanted to post my itinerary so that you'll know what I'll be doing each day (I don't think I'll get internet access, but plan to journal each day to post it here). To find out even more about my mission trip and my fundraising efforts, click here.

Thursday, November 18th
Depart Atlanta airport at 5:25pm. Layover in Amsterdam.
I’ll be leaving Thursday afternoon from Auburn, and meeting the rest of my team at the airport.

Friday, November 19th
Arrive in Entebbe, Uganda at 8:40pm.
We will arrive in Entebbe, which is about 20 miles from Kampala

Saturday, November 20th
Medical Clinics in Kampala (one in the morning and one in the afternoon)

During a Medical Clinic, our team will have many things going on. We will have a doctors (including a few Ugandan doctors) to see the very sick, medicines, vitamins and de-wormers, and an optical station (where I will be at mostly). We will also have public health classes for the mothers (to teach them basic healthcare) and games (such as carnival-type games and face painting) for the children.

Sunday, November 21st
Mass in morning, Clinic in afternoon

Monday, November 22nd
Travel to Masaka, stop on way for a Clinic

Tuesday, November 23rd
Morning and afternoon Clinic at the Youth Center

The Youth Center is home base for Father Michael. He is the youth pastor for the Masaka Diocese and oversees about 24,000 children and young adults and uses these facilities for retreats, soccer tournaments and shelter. There are many improvements that can be made here, which we will be surveying while there. We will also purchase a vehicle for Father Michael while there.

Wednesday, November 24th
English lessons, meet with local farm owners, networking

This day will be spent going out to the people and helping them in many ways. There are pineapple plantations (and the workers do not have adequate skin protection from the pineapple thorns) and swine farms. There is also potential for car wash businesses (everyone with a car in Uganda washes it everyday).

Thursday, November 25th
Travel back to Kampala. Meet with street children.

Some street children in Kampala have learned to make traditional Ugandan art to sell in the markets. They use whatever tools they can find to carve and sand down a block of wood. We will be bringing supplies for them.

Friday, November 26th
Explore Kampala, Depart Entebbe in the afternoon. Layover in Amsterdam.

Saturday, November 27th
Arrive in Atlanta at 6:20pm.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Life tonight

The moon was cool tonight. It was a blood-red perfect horizontal crescent. I’ve never seen it like that.

Does this happen to anyone else?: The sin you keep going back to confession for is the one that opportunities keep popping up to overcome them? I’ve also noticed that usually not two days go by after the confession that I encounter a situation that has “You know what to do” written all over it. That happened tonight, and so far so good! God doesn’t give up on people. Now I just have to persevere next time as well.

I am really thankful for where God has placed me. I see almost everyday why I am where I am (and maybe most likely a lot more I’ll never know). I pray that I am able to live up to His expectations of me.

I am now officially doing "optical" on the mission trip! I'll get trained to figure out eye prescriptions so I can give out glasses! I am so excited!! I will update on everything soon!

Well I’m off to bed. I have a physical fitness test in the morning.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Things to remind me to be happy:

Reminiscing about childhood. And concluding again that boys are maniacs.

Seeing (really) pregnant women.

Hearing in a homily how the power of the Eucharist gives hope to hopeless situations, and converts the most hardest of hearts. May the Lord bless you abundantly Father Jim!

The Mass. Today, after communion, when we were all kneeling and the song was finished, I looked up at the crucifix. Jesus hung there in silence and everyone had their head bowed, deep in prayer. It seemed like Good Friday, only we were all at Calvary, there at his feet, waiting for him to die. I could see the whole Church, all previous Masses all over the world, also kneeling before Jesus on the cross. Indeed, maybe Jesus wasn’t so alone on that day He died for us.

Sleeping in then taking a nap.

Interesting beer. And having friends who bring me the weirdest beer they have ever found.

Friday, October 1, 2010

God and gender

I've been interested in how gender defines our relationship with God and with each other. This is an article that explores the topic, and hits some very good points. Read the entire article here. The following is excerpts with my emphasis:

For Christianity, gender is both important and irrelevant. God creates, Christ redeems, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies men and women alike, along with Jews and Greeks, rich and poor, black and white. But, apart from salvation, gender possesses a special importance in Christianity that cannot be viewed as either accidental or superficial.

Both views flow from the fact that God is understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition as being fundamentally, if mysteriously and non-genitally-male. God is "He." True, God is also seen in some sense as transcending gender or at least as containing both male and female principles. Otherwise, he could not create both man and woman "in his image."

But the fact remains that the Lord, the unique "I AM WHO AM," is a Father God, not an androgynous divine entity. Indeed, the entire Trinitarian Godhead is male: Christ is the Son, physically, genitally, as well as ontologically. And the Holy Spirit, though in some respects linked to the Old Testament theme of "Wisdom," has been, since the dawn of Christianity, understood in male terms. The Holy Ghost is not an "it," or a "she," but a third "he," united to the Father and the Son in the intensely loving but non-erotic union of the Trinity.

Human gender is unimportant to the Christian tradition in the sense that all human souls are "feminine" animae in relation to God, the husband and the lover of each soul. In the larger sense, this view derives from the understanding of Israel as not merely God's chosen people but as his wife. The Old Testament expresses this eloquently. The Song of Songs evokes the deep love, indeed the intense, almost embarrassingly erotic desire of the lover and the beloved, allegorically or symbolically understood to represent God and his people. The prophets, Isaiah in particular, speak sometimes poetically and idealistically of Israel as God's beloved bride-Jerusalem is "wedded" to the Lord.

...

Looking at the New Testament, we may as well begin with the obvious fact that Jesus Christ chose twelve men as his Apostles; these were his original followers and his commissioned emissaries to the entire creation. Presumably, he did not choose them because men are better than women. One of the Twelve was his betrayer, a fact which Jesus knew well in advance. Moreover, no human can ever be as perfectly good as the Blessed Virgin. Mary is honored as the Queen of Heaven, Queen of Angels, Queen of Saints, etc. She is the Queen over and not the Queen among the Apostles. "Goodness," then, is not the issue.

Can it be that Jesus couldn't choose women because of the low status of women at his time? This argument has always struck me as ridiculous. Or rather, and quite simply, only those who do not believe that Jesus is God can hold such a view. As the punchline to an old joke goes, "A 500-pound gorilla can sleep anywhere he pleases." Well, God made those gorillas. God makes the rules. Are we really to believe that Jesus/God did not -- could not -- do something he wanted to do -- pick women to be Apostles -- because he was worried about what people would think?

If he did all these things, it must be because that was precisely what he, as the Son of God -- as God himself -- intended to do. No other view is even seriously worth consideration. Since women as priestesses were common in other religions of the time, it can hardly have failed to dawn on God that this was a possibility.

...

And what of Mary? God honored women by calling his Mother to a perfection that no one else -- and in particular, no man -- can achieve. Mary, imitated for centuries by both sexes, has been the very definition, not of worldly power, but of compassionate motherhood, of devoted service, of willing obedience. We are told that, from the depths of her loving heart, she "pleads for sinners." I sometimes think that that is women's most important function on this planet: like Mary, like the mother who reminded Jesus that even the dogs get to eat the crumbs that fall under the table, like the woman with the unjust judge, like Martha and Mary who wanted their brother Lazarus back, we women are here to love and to plead.

What are the advantages of accepting such a Christian, specifically Catholic, view of gender and its importance? It is worth emphasizing the advantages of such a vision of gender as compared with Protestant views. The original Protestant reformers eliminated, along with many other things, the religious dignity of the female and the feminine: they got rid of the Church, the Bride of Christ. They demoted the Blessed Virgin to an only temporarily-virgin mother of Jesus -- a nice lady, to be sure, but nothing extraordinary; no special crown in heaven for her! When they disbanded the Catholic Communion of Saints (all the redeemed being equally both wretches and holy), they sent into exile, along with the male cohort, such great female figures -- friends of men and women alike -- as Agatha, Agnes, Barbara, several Catherines, Cecilia, Christine, Dorothy, Elizabeth, and on through the saintly alphabet. In the insistence that all should marry, they eliminated the special vocation of consecrated virginity, which had given a special dignity and spiritual authority to nuns and other religious, as brides of Christ. They also attacked the indissolubility of marriage, which has -- as even many feminists now recognize -- protected women far more than men. Many holy nuns and abbesses have exercised remarkable power in the Church -- even in the world -- with a spiritual influence extending far beyond the confines of their convent. One thinks of Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Avila-of their eloquent but forthright letters to popes, kings and emperors; their wide and effective travels; and their unflagging zeal for renewal in the Church.

It is important to stress the fact that no other religion in the world, no branch of Protestantism, nor any secular ideology, has such a tradition. In Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy alone do women and feminine principles play so vital and positive a role. In traditional Christianity alone are women praised and prayed to every day by millions of the faithful.

By the time the Reformation was over, the female -- and indeed all honor paid specifically to women and femininity -- had been expunged from Protestant Christianity. The only important "female" left was the Whore of Babylon. Only males and masculinity were given important roles and glorified. The original result was that men were not only the leaders of churches, they were everything. It is not, of course, that salvation was closed to women, but women had nothing but bit parts and walk-on roles in traditional Protestant society and church.

...
Trying to remove the importance of the feminine is, in a way, trying to remove the foundation of God's love for us. Mainly, that we are the ones pursued and that we are God's bride (the one who accepts His love; a love we haven't earned nor deserve).

I also want to share a comment left by Tony Esolen that is a great thing to think about as well:
The thing that men and women need to ask themselves is, "What do I lack, that I need from the opposite sex?" And then, "How am I myself made to assist the opposite sex?" That is because the worth of manhood is in its gift to women, and the worth of womanhood is in its gift to men. Once men and women understand this, machismo and feminisma look pretty paltry, and disordered.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can you say “Catholic” without being ecstatic?

I can’t!!

The Catholic Church is so cool! Today is the Feast of St. Michael and the archangels. Not only does God love us, sends Himself down to earth for us, but He also has angels (I like to think of them as God’s entourage) who are sent by Him to do His will! St. Michael kicked Satan’s butt! And he will get to do it again! I’m so glad St. Michael is on my side, and I can ask for his help whenever I want. But even so, he doesn't compare to God and His power. Even his name reminds us that no one is like God.

I mean really, Catholicism is the most awesome thing to happen to the world, because it leads us to God in all His glory! Thank you Jesus for thinking it up!!


Monday, September 27, 2010

My daily struggle

I lost today. Maybe I’m only fooling myself in trying to be an optimist. By the end of the day, all the mustered optimism has been drained into numerous disappointments (including in myself). I’m left feeling like a failure, but not in just what I hoped to do, but in who I am. I’m so tried of fighting against radical female ideals. Can’t we all just be who we are called to be, love who we are called to love, and help everyone in any way we can? Apparently, because I’m a woman, I have all these extra rules I must follow, just because that’s how it is!

I realized why I place human acknowledgments and praise so low on my priorities: I’ll never get it. I am just one of those people who are forgotten, or remembered for the wrong reasons. Truly this only bothers me when others point it out to me, or rationalize why being liked is actually a good thing. Their stance is along the lines of something like this:
When people like you, they will listen to you.
You can "win" friendships with them and influence them better.
If you are attractive, then you promote the Gospel and give glory to God in that. (aka, "Look at that beautiful woman God made!")

I don’t completely disagree with these, but if I made those my mottos, I would be a very unhappy person. I’ve never been the “sweet, well-spoken, lady-like Southern girl”, who wears cute clothes and just makes everyone around her feel great. It’s not that I think this is wrong, it’s just that it isn’t me. It is a struggle for me to be around people in the first place, and now I have to make it a priority that everyone thinks highly of me too? I don’t try to be rude and ugly, but I also don’t try to be doll-like. I’m not putting anyone down, I just don‘t think I can hear it being preached one more time.

Yes, women are beautiful. Yes, we should look feminine. But where I drawn the line is when you tell me people would rather have me soft-spoken, smiling pretty in a corner, only being used to inspire love for God by my well-accented figure and sugary compliments. I am no feminist, but when I start sensing a suppressment of women, I start to understand why people can think the church is anti-women.

The saddest part is, it’s women doing it to women. Absolutely none of my above statements have come from men. It’s the women who have all these ideas of how other women should be. This is what you get when women support each other, and it drives me crazy. (I also understand we are all very young, and have no clue what we are doing.)

I’ve always liked being friends with guys more (oh, and that’s a really big no-no). With guys, I don’t have to care if I’m “honing” my feminine skills, or crossing some useless line into inappropriate topics. We talk about interesting things, I laugh at what is funny, say exactly what I think (or say nothing at all), and I can serve them as I long to. And the best part is that they let me!! They appreciate me and let me try to make them happy. They don’t get upset at something that wasn’t meant to be insulting. They don’t try to smash me into a box labeled “good woman”. I feel more like a woman around guys than I ever have around other women. I will never be good enough around women. I will never be attractive enough for them to care about what I have to say (supposedly).

So I failed today in my fight of not caring about all this. And if I hear, “As women we…” one more time, I really am going to lose it. Please pray for me and my patience.

I sometimes wonder if this would be an issue at all if I went to a school just 700 or so miles more north.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Answered Prayer

The ban of abortions on military bases will remain in place! Give thanks to God, all the politicians who fought this, and those praying for this outcome!

Yesterday, a group of pro-life Senators led by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) banded together, leading an effort to block a Senate Defense-spending bill that would have opened the door for taxpayer-funded abortions on military bases. The 56-43 vote in the U.S. Senate fell four votes short of the 60 votes the bill’s proponents needed to move it forward.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO of AUL Action, recognized McCain and his colleagues for outstanding work as they "led the fight to win today’s key vote rejecting taxpayer-funded abortion in the military." The vote was a major setback for the abortion industry's agenda in Washington as its leaders fight to expand abortion without limitations and at any price.
"The momentum is on the side of Life," said Yoest. "We stopped taxpayer-funded abortion on military bases against overwhelming odds in the Senate. If one vote had gone the other way, the result would be different. That's why we must remain steadfast in our fight."
We've been updating you for weeks on our fight to stop the Burris Amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, and - after yesterday - experts believe that this issue is now dead during this Congressional session.

Here is an article the Washington Times published on their wedsite before the vote took place.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Speechless

Full news report here.

Vancouver, Canada, Sep 19, 2010 / 05:06 pm (CNA).- Brian Wood, a 33-year-old resident of Vancouver, B.C., was killed in an auto collision on September 3, when the driver of an oncoming SUV lost control of the vehicle and crossed the road into his lane. His wife, Erin Wood, said that Brian acted just in time to save her, and their unborn child expected to be born in November, by sacrificing himself.

Evidence from the crash, which also killed two passengers in the other vehicle's back seat, supported Ms. Wood's description of her late husband's final act: unable to avoid the errant SUV, Brian Wood slammed the brakes and swerved his side of the car toward the oncoming vehicle, ensuring his certain death but protecting his wife, pregnant with their first child.
“I think it's pretty obvious … that if it would have been a head-on crash, we both would have been killed instantly, along with our baby,” Erin Wood told NBC's Today Show on September 13. “He definitely saved us. He made that choice, and I'm thankful for that.”...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Dark Night of the Soul

by St. John Of the Cross

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings--oh, happy chance!--
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised--oh, happy chance!--
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me--
A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Of Singapore and Freedom

One thing I like about going home is having a collection of National Geographic’s at my fingertips. With every issue since the 70’s kept on a bookshelf, I can always keep myself occupied. I was reading “The Singapore Solution” by Mark Jacobson from the January 2010 issue (read the entire article here). Singapore is a highly technological nation, and it only has 3.7 million people on its tiny (but expanding) island. Singapore also has very restrictive laws (some include no littering or spitting on sidewalks, failing to flush toilets and no chewing gum) and harsh punishments for violating them, although they have let up in recent years.

The overview of the country is told alongside the story of the Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew. He is credited by history and the people as being the mastermind behind all that Singapore is today. He attracted foreign investment, made English the official language, made a very efficient government by boosting salaries, and has virtually extinguished corruption. He was the first prime minister after independence from Britain, and is now the “Minister Mentor” to his son, the current prime minister. He says that he has had a plan all along for his country, and it looks as if it has been successful.

Singapore is the definition of success to the world: a great education and health system, corruption free government, 90% of households own their own home, taxes are low, 3% unemployment, and everyone has a savings plan (as enforced by the government). In the article, it says the word that sums up the “Singaporean existential condition” is kiasu (meaning “afraid to lose”). “Singaporeans are big on being number one in everything, but in a kiasu world, winning is never completely sweet, carrying with it the dread of ceasing to win.” The government is of one mind, and when members of parliament disagree with the majority (such as voting no to reduce the number of people allowed to assemble to protest), they simply will not serve another term.

Another interesting aspect is the campaigns relating to the family. “Assortative mating”, where college graduates should only marry other college graduates, is encouraged by the MM (Minister Mentor).

There is also the modern problem of depopulation, which the article traces back to the 1970’s population control program “Two Is Enough”. The fertility rate is now 1.29, which the MM calls a “worrying factor”. (The solution offered by the author is that “Singaporeans start having more sex”.) This has lead to the huge Chinese immigrant influx (25% of the island’s population is foreign born). Ironically, the MM isn’t to concerned about this. He welcomes hard-working people whose parents pushed them “very hard”. He said it’s the Singaporeans problem to catch up with them.

What is most troubling about all of this, however, is the ideology of Lee (the MM) behind his realized vision of Singapore. In his own words:
One must understand human nature. I have always thought that humanity was animal-like. The Confucian theory was man could be improved, but I’m not sure he can be. He can be trained, he can be disciplined.
He disagrees with America’s thinking saying, the rights of individuals to do their own thing allow them to misbehave at the expense of an orderly society.


And to that I have a reply:
Singapore is what the world is striving for and, as evidenced by reality, the way of achieving that is ridding one’s freedom. As I read the article, I wondered what the Singaporeans thought about all this. Were they really happy? Do they think a safe, comfortable life has been a good trade off for a less uncontrolled one? Singapore isn't as extreme as some other countries in how they do things, but I wonder, where should the line be drawn?

In order to have an “orderly society” freedom must be cashed in. It is true, people abuse freedom. The MM’s conclusion from this is to limit that freedom, and by doing so, you can create any kind of society you want.

But this points to a severe mistake. The mistake is thinking it is possible to take a person’s freedom away, that laws can be written against it, and punishments enforcing it. It is true people abuse freedom, but it is also true that people must have their freedom.

And that is why I have a new appreciation for America this year. For all it’s problems, hypocrisy and sins against everything (especially God), we have at least one thing right: freedom is really important.
Without freedom, “success” means nothing (see what kiasu means above). Sure you can feel safe in your bed at night, but will you ever be fulfilled in your soul? Without freedom, people cannot choose right, and therefore cannot sustain it being forced upon them (if what was forced was even right to be begin with).

America will ruin itself. Any honest person admits this. But it will go to ruin because of freedom, because people themselves brought it there, and because of another mistake about freedom: that you don't need Truth along with it.

God gave us the ultimate freedom (free will), and will respect it for eternity. Our free will is so important to God that He will never violate it, even to save us. And this is why we must protect it. Although it can very easily lead to ruin, pain, and yes, a disorderly society, we must never seek to limit it. Only in using our freedom can we ever be saved.

God has to be the strongest, and most loving entity, for He sees us in all our confused misery, and reaches down to save us. However, He will never force us to take His hand. He knows what is best for us, and yet will still let us make the ultimate decision. Wow, God is terrifyingly amazing.

Catch-up post

I should be doing a great many other things besides typing this, but it has been a long, productive, and tiring week. So instead of forsaking the world and disappearing in a cave, I’ll just reclaim a few minutes for this.

Thought:
Wednesday was Mary’s birthday! The Church only celebrates three birthdays, so the rarity only makes it even more joyful! But when I listened to the gospel, I only thought of St. Joseph, and he did play a big part in the reading.

I imagined Joseph, wanting to do the right thing, just wanted the whole thing with Mary to go away, for her sake and his. But instead, he was stopped in his tracks by the angel Gabriel, who told him what had happened and what he was to do.

Joseph was a humble man. There are two sides to it: public and private. Here is this guy, who didn’t do anything wrong, who will now be whispered about and considered a sinner (at least for a while). He decided to listen to God instead. But what I find even more inspiring is his private humility of accepting his place. Joseph was going to marry Mary, they could have had their own kids (theoretically), but instead Joseph accepted that God was better than himself and welcomed Mary’s son as his own. He didn’t question why the Holy Spirit had to be involved. He didn’t ask what God was going to do for him. He realized his place. I’m sure he also felt very inadequate as well. He is Mary’s husband. The Virgin Mary! The one conceived without sin and who has never sinned! The one who God chose to carry His only Son. Now, Joseph must care for and lead the two most important people who ever lived. Both sinless, one who is God and one chosen by God since the beginning of time. That was a tall order, and yet Joseph never asked how or why. He trusted in God, knew and lived out his place, and loved God for that. St. Joseph is a model of humility. Pray for us!

Question:
Does the devil attack babies that are still in the womb?

I’ve always thought it dangerous to delay anyone’s (whether it yourself, or a child) baptism. The time that original sin is still crushing us only makes it harder and more painful to return to God. I’ve always had in the back of my mind, that the farther apart your earthly birth and new spiritual birth, the more damage that is done. This morning I had a frightful vision. I saw myself pregnant and that the devil was influencing my baby. I would order him away, calling upon St. Michael for help, but I felt helpless, because my baby was in a state of sin and separation from God. I couldn’t baptize him, for he was not yet born. It was really terrifying. Is it possible the devil can squirm into the safe recesses of the womb?

I really need to stop having nightmares.