Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Universal Prayer

(attributed to Pope Clement XI)

Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith.
I trust in you: strengthen my trust.
I love you: let me love you more and more.
I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.

I worship you as my first beginning,
I long for you as my last end,
I praise you as my constant helper,
And call on you as my loving protector.

Guide me by your wisdom,
Correct me with your justice,
Comfort me with your mercy,
Protect me with your power.

I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you;
My words: to have you for their theme;
My actions: to reflect my love for you;
My sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.

I want to do what you ask of me:
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.

Lord, enlighten my understanding,
Strengthen my will,
Purify my heart,
and make me holy.

Help me to repent of my past sins
And to resist temptation in the future.
Help me to rise above my human weaknesses
And to grow stronger as a Christian.

Let me love you, my Lord and my God,
And see myself as I really am:
A pilgrim in this world,
A Christian called to respect and love
All whose lives I touch,
Those under my authority,
My friends and my enemies.

Help me to conquer anger with gentleness,
Greed by generosity,
Apathy by fervor.
Help me to forget myself
And reach out toward others.

Make me prudent in planning,
Courageous in taking risks.
Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity.

Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer,
Temperate in food and drink,
Diligent in my work,
Firm in my good intentions.

Let my conscience be clear,
My conduct without fault,
My speech blameless,
My life well-ordered.
Put me on guard against my human weaknesses.
Let me cherish your love for me,
Keep your law,
And come at last to your salvation.

Teach me to realize that this world is passing,
That my true future is the happiness of heaven,
That life on earth is short,
And the life to come eternal.

Help me to prepare for death
With a proper fear of judgment,
But a greater trust in your goodness.
Lead me safely through death
To the endless joy of heaven.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Troy Davis and American Justice

Recently, I was invited to join a group voicing disapproval that Larry Platt (that guy from American Idol with the “Pants on the Ground” song) supports Troy Davis. If you haven’t heard of Troy Davis yet, his story is a very important one. Over 20 years ago, Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail was killed in a Burger King parking lot in Atlanta. The investigation lead to Troy Davis, whom 9 witnesses identified as the killer. A jury sentenced him to death, despite having no physical evidence. Since the verdict, 7 of those 9 witnesses have recanted their testimony and even said police pressured them into blaming Davis. He has faced execution four times:
July 17, 2007. It was stayed by GA Board of Pardons and Paroles less than 24 hours before scheduled execution.

September 23, 2008. It was stayed by Supreme Court 90 minutes before scheduled execution.

September 29, 2008 was an unpublicized date. Prison officials were hopeful that Supreme Court would deny Troy's petition before the warrant expired at midnight. At 3:00 p.m. (just a few hours before prison's intended execution) the Supreme Court announced that there would be no decision until October, making it impossible for the prison to go forward with the execution. Family and friends were allowed to visit as planned.

October 27, 2008. It was stayed three days before by 11th Circuit on October 24th.

In August of last year, the US Supreme Court ordered Georgia to hear his new evidence. Read more about the history of the court process, click here.

This starts conversations about two things- “justice”, and in particular, capital punishment, and racism. I’ll begin with the latter.

The reason I bring this up is because I went to the facebook group’s page and the comments left there were saddening. I have never understood racism. Is there anything stupider to hate someone for than what they look like? Especially when it’s their skin color, something that one has absolutely no control over? I never assume anyone is racist, or even that race factors into a situation until I have reason to think otherwise. The witnesses in the case who have recanted their testimony have spoken of being coerced by investigators into saying Troy Davis did it. These are people who have nothing to gain from doing this but a clean conscience.

It’s one thing to talk about a “cop killer” but when someone shows hatred towards another, assuming they are from “the hood” and calling names, then it shows how ignorant they are.

The most pressing question Troy Davis raises however is, is our court system perfect enough to execute someone because they have found them guilty? This is why Troy Davis still waits. He has been waiting for 20 years for a new trial. Troy Davis himself isn’t the only tragedy, but the justice system in America is a tragedy. If anything, it proves we have no authority to kill anyone.

It seems the only reasoning behind having a death penalty at all is to give “closure” to the family and serve “justice”. Neither of these is accomplished by killing someone. For one, it seems a judge is pressured to execute the person especially if the family recommends that. Since when is that how punishment is decided? The family is hurt and grieving, they are told (and believe) that if this person (who seems to be the sole cause of their pain) is taken from this life, then they would feel better, that they would somehow get “justice”. If I were you, I would read this article, which is about the execution of the DC sniper. Some admit to having little closure from it, while others hint at wanting revenge. This is not what the justice system is for.

As soon as someone is blamed for something, anything from a small rumor to murder, we ostracize them and will always see them as something less than human. We don’t care whether they are actually innocent, because we need someone to blame, and they were the first to fit that description.

I wonder if people who support the death penalty, especially family members of victims, are Christian, because to me, it would be impossible to reconcile wanting “justice” and “closure” with the need for forgiveness. One can’t say, “I just need to see him die, because he killed my husband” while believing that they should love and forgive everyone. While there are so many secular reasons to abolish the death penalty, I think the fact that Americans cling to it show how un-Christian this country is. Maybe we should stop claiming that we are.

I am in no way condoning or supporting the crimes these people commit. However, if we feel we can completely ignore our respect for people, and thus do whatever we want to them, whether they are guilty or not, then where does that leave us? It leaves us as a disgrace to our nature. It leaves us with no justice at all. It leaves us with no peace, because tomorrow, you could be the one who’s “guilty”. If we can’t follow our own laws, it leaves us with chaos and shortly after, destruction. God is the sole decider of life, from beginning to end. We are not God.

To learn more about Troy Davis and his case, click here.

To sign a petition, click here.

To read more about wrongful executions, click here.

Difficult People and Belly Dancing

I’ve realized that it is nearly impossible to be friends with someone who has decided to not be my friend. Even when you have shared a great amount with them, in experiences, emotions and beliefs, if that person has made a conclusion that you have nothing in common, or are unwilling to make any effort towards you, well, then the relationship is doomed.

It’s taken a while to learn this and accept it. I also have had to accept that around some people, I won’t be able to be myself. Simply because I am not connecting with them, or am annoying them, or am “too loud”. Well, if you don’t want me in your presence, I’d much rather leave then have to constantly listen to criticism and rude comments. Maybe one day I will be able to say what’s on my mind without instant feedback on whether it was funny or understood, or without an observation on what that says about me. Sometimes I don’t say things to be understood, but to simply put into existence what I’m thinking.

People who constantly criticize and are unnecessarily rude are hard for me. However, another thing I’ve also learned is that the people who are hard for me to deal with are the ones I should pray for the most. Maybe I can also learn to be silent during those times without resentment.

On another note, my college newspaper wrote an article about the belly dancing class I’m in. Check it out.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Unintended break

It seems I've been away for a long time. A lot has happened, both in the world and in my life, and I plan to write about it! I'm finishing up with a post today (teaser: it's about Troy Davis) and I plan to get caught up with graditude. This past week has been quite busy, but I'm back!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Ideal

I am an idealist. Most of my life has been spent imagining a perfect world, trying to make a perfect world, and dealing with realizations that this isn’t a perfect world. I love to daydream and read about how things ought to be. Whenever I have to face the true world (or what seems to be), it almost instantly becomes too much for me to bear. But there is hope, so much hope that you must have it.

Do you know how amazing our God is? Do you know what we have in the Catholic Church? We have a way to the ideal. Each of the sacraments offers a way out of the confused world of sin and into a clear, bright world. A sacrament is a teleporter to the ideal, and it transforms us to the ideal too. And the ideal is how it was always meant to be. Today after confession, I felt as if I was the ideal. I had no sin. And although I would soon walk out into a world that still has countless problems, I was that much closer to the ideal, to God.

God is a genius beyond all understanding. We screw up, He says, “Try again, only first, I’ll eradicate all traces of your mistakes. You are now completely pure in my eyes.” If we are pure in God’s eyes, then we ARE pure. We are weak, He says, “Come and eat, and you will live forever”. We enter into God and God into us. The Eucharist is the single greatest gift to man. Could we ever know all that It does for us?

At birth, sin already has us in it’s grips. God says, “Be reborn, and not only will I take away your sin, but fill you with My Spirit”. When we are close to death, God says “I will heal your soul and give you courage”.

If there is anything in existence better than God and what He has given to us, I want to know. I haven’t found something close to the ideal, I have found THE ideal. And God offers it to us endlessly.

I won’t apologize for being an idealist, because it sure seems to me that God is one. He even destroyed death for us.

By the way, how amazing is this song?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Days of Graditude #11-17

I’ve had a lot to be thankful for this week. So, today I thank You God for…

Day #11
…men. One of the great joys in life is witnessing a man being a man. I saw at least one man doing just that tonight and it can only bring about more of the same. True men are a great thing indeed.

Day #12
…people who live honestly. There is something inspiring about a person who doesn’t attempt to cover themselves up with facades. We may hastily judge, but later when we see a weakness overcome it is that much more glorious! Truthful people testify to how things really are, in the bad but especially in the good.

Day #13
…God’s plan. Tonight I believe I caught another line of how God is using me. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and if it comes to be true, then I’ll update about it. All I have to say, however, is follow EVERY ONE of God’s whispers. You truly will never know what He has in store for you.

Day #14
…sunsets. In Alabama. Do I have to say more?

Day #15
…random encounters that save your day. I ran into a friend who happened to mention that he was going to a meeting that I also was supposed to be at. I would have definitely missed it if it weren’t for him. That 10 second window saved my whole day, if not my whole week.

Day #16
…good company. Spending time with someone who is easy to be with beats even sleep. That was a hard thing to write for me, but it’s true. : )

Day #17
…never abandoning Your people. I admit Lord, I still don’t completely trust You. Even after all the signs and the kept promises, there is still something holding me back. There is still a part of me that questions. I thank You for still working on me. For letting me experience even more of Your perfect plan and mercy. You are changing me. I see now, that although the odds seem insurmountable and all hope is gone that You are God, and nothing stands in Your way. If we place our trust in You, no matter how imperfect, You cannot let us down. Thank you Lord for showing me that in the small tragedies of life, in the uncertain times, in the illnesses and deaths of loved ones, and in great disasters that You are there, working flawlessly to show Your love for us. You can only bring good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tired already

I forgot how stressful and busy semesters are. It’s the third day and it feels like I’ve been doing this for months. This may be a hard semester, but I’m trying to stay positive about it. I pray for (because I need) a lot of strength.

I changed my major to Industrial and Systems Engineering. All thanks to God for allowing it to be a smooth and quick transition! Really, it could have been a mess (as I was expecting it to be) especially when the Air Force gets involved.

Semesters are not only physically exhausting for me, but extremely emotionally taxing. Already I’m feeling it. I see so many people each day, and they each are going through something major, and it weighs me down. Maybe I care too much, but I really suffer with others, and when someone is experiencing an unjust or unfair circumstance I feel helpless for them. I guess it’s teaching me to trust God with everything, including things that I really don’t have much to do with.

Tonight at RCIA we talked about Haiti and it breaks my heart. Those people have been through so much only to be devastated again. Is there really anything else I can do but pray? God help those people! I better go to bed. Good night!


My mom's deployment in Iraq is almost up. She should be back in the United States by the end of January and back at home by the end of February. I eagerly anticipate her return. She plans on getting her scuba certification so we can have maximum fun in the gulf over spring break. While there, she got to visit Baghdad (some pictures are below) and had a four day pass to Qatar (but wasn't able to see much due to "incidents").

I believe this is the desert sanctuary. Haha

The camel wranglers.

She got to ride a camel.

One of Saddam's palaces, I believe.

The bathrooms inside.

She's at the head of course!

On her way back to COB Basra!

It's weird to think that most likely she will be returning (possibly to Afghanistan) in the next few months. I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, but ultimately, it's her decision, and she is really excited about it. Please pray for my family and all those that are continuing to serve overseas.
This is my Christmas present from my mom. The flag was flown on the two year anniversary of my grandma's death.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Days of Graditude #10

In an effort to cut down on the number of "gratitude posts", I've decided to put each week's thanks into one post. I plan on doing this each Sunday, so the next one after this will be in a week.

Today I thank You God for giving me what I need. In the abstract, I could never see myself in the military, or leading anyone (especially men with strong personalities). Whenever I'm on break, or just thinking about the next ROTC event, I easily get this idea that I don't belong there. It brings me down a bit and makes me a little nervous every time I show up, but then I quickly realize that God gives me the skills I need to do it. I know this because I didn't have those skills 2 seconds before I was asked to answer a question or make a decision or perform a task. I'm always surprised by how well I can do what is required of me. I attribute this to God, and the fact that if this isn't where He wants me to be, I would have been asked to leave a long time ago.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Want to redefine marriage?

I found this article very interesting. Especially the part about polygamy being the “subject of contentious national debate”. It got me thinking. Some believe that marrying more than one woman is okay, and that both marriages are true marriages. Although this isn’t the popular idea in America, it fits in with the definition society has held of marriage in the past. Marriage is between one woman and one man (as is the popular way of putting it). Polygamy fits this. One man marries one woman, and he just so happens to also have another marriage to one woman. This can multiply for however many wives the man has. So, he has a “marriage” with wife 1, a “marriage” with wife 2 and so on. One woman and one man. This seems to be less controversial than what America wants to call marriage.

So why is no one in America looking to change marriage to include polygamy? The new definition (as was added by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary) is: the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.

Why do we want to stop there? Why not include polygamy? If we really think that we can make up our own definition for something like marriage, why not include anything and everything you are “united to”?

The answer is simple. Americans in fact don’t want marriage to include everything in the marriage definition because deep within their hearts they know there is only one way to have a true marriage. And it’s not declared by the state, nor by one’s own opinions about it. It’s a shame to see how much convincing we do, when in the end, we still can’t hide from the truth.

By the way, a Catholic marriage is defined as a: ...covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.

More on marriage here.

Days of Graditude #9

Today I thank You God for giving us a beautiful world. No matter where the human race spreads to, diversity and wonder can be found there. It is also amazing that we are able to witness it. Even when everything seems dead and frozen, it is then that a whole new world is discovered. I found this driving today.

I like the splashes of ice in the pool.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pro-life according to John

Today’s first reading. 1 John 5:5-13:
Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth. There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has borne witness to his Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. He who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life. I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

After hearing this today, something really stuck out to me: life. As Catholics, we are called to be pro-life. Although most only associate this with abortion, I look at it in regards to all life (criminals, elderly, enemies). However, this reading takes it even further. John tells us that he who has the Son of God has life and he who has not the Son of God has not life. Could this really be what being pro-life is all about? Not just wanting everyone to be born, or spared from execution, but to live in Jesus, so that he may have life?

There is a drastic difference between merely breathing and actually living. This difference is Jesus. And what is even better, as the reading tells us, that as we live in Him now, we live in Him eternally. Pro-life can mean just wanting everyone to be breathing, but I think our faith calls us to more. Pro-life is now a stance saying we want everyone to experience life, real excellent life, and as John tells us, that is only found in Jesus.

Days of Graditude #8

Today I thank You God for heat. Without it I surely would have died by now. It is so cold here, I can't even imagine if I lived anywhere even remotely northern. Thank You for putting me in Alabama : )

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Days of Graditude #7

Today I thank You God for feet. Although they sometimes revolt against me (and it is surely deserved), they've stuck it out and have carried me to many places and have saved me many times. Life would certainly be different if I didn't have my small but trusty feet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Days of Graditude #6

Today I thank You God for Disney movies. It takes a special talent for a movie to introduce a song randomly and it not seem awkward. Indeed, Disney has pulled off songs actually being a part of the movie. Bravo. On a side note, I don't recommend children under 10 seeing “The Princess and the Frog”. I may get nightmares.

Tidbit from Conference

I went to a talk during the conference where the speaker mentioned a canoeing trip he took with his wife. The only thing he remembered from the quick safety and canoe lesson was that if you fall out of the boat, don’t attempt to stand up. If you try to stand up in a river, the force of the water will knock you down. The worse case would be that your foot would get caught between rocks and you could drown. I forgot where the speaker went with his story, but “don’t stand up” can apply to a lot of different things. I wrote this in adoration at the conference.:

It’s amazing how you touch people Lord. In simply wanting you, we get you. Can you ever give us more love now than before, when all your love was already upon us? Does this mean you were holding back, or that you just created more love? I think neither. I believe that this “new and greater” love you give me was already there, but now I see it, I feel it, I know it. You put it there, from all along. My eyes and heart are open and you rush in. Lord, how you fill every space entirely! There is no greater love than your love because it never ceases. It never fails.

I am no match against the roaring river of you and all that you have for me. I will go with the river, and hope to never try and stand up. I want to experience the rapids and taste the chill of the water. I want to see the mountains and the trees that are beyond the river’s bend. It’s someplace that I can’t see, but I know that it will be beyond anything that I can imagine.

And you made it all. You put me on that river and you told the waters to flow. You gave it all to me and I just have to look around and not stand up. God, how marvelous you are! How infinite your love is! How I only seek to float down the river with you! How I see now that I always have been. My Lord and my God, thank you!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Days of Graditude #5

Today I thank You God for small gestures of acceptance such as when someone makes an effort to sit next to me or to include me in conversation. I pray I may be able to do the same for others.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Days of Gratitude #1-4

I’m back from Florida and I don’t think I can describe all that the conference was (even though I’ll attempt to later). The past few days I’ve been swept away by the love of God. I now feel prepared to confront my challenges and stop falling into the same traps that I did last year. I normally don't make resolutions, but because the year ended just as I'm beginning again, I have made a few. As discovered in confession, I need to be more grateful for everything in my life, so one of my resolutions is to find something I'm grateful for everyday. This won't be difficult and I hope it will remind me of all God has blessed me with.

Day 1:
Today I thank You God for creating me. Thank You for thinking of me and willing me to exist.

Day 2:
Today I thank You God for music. I thank You for giving me something that so easily and quickly delivers me to worship You and that speaks to my heart. At the conference I heard a beautiful song for the first time (this version doesn’t sing the words but does have the lyrics in the info box).

Day 3:
Today I thank You God for the unseen, especially angels. How blessed we are to be in the company of angels every Mass as we all bow down together in adoration and wonder of You!

Day 4:
Today I thank You God for hot chocolate. It warms my insides and much as my outsides.