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:

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.