Catholic Soup is a food for thought blog based website designed to provide Catholic insight through personal experience.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Saint Francis: Convert amidst the Darkness

In order that we might know Francis’s life and his sanctity in a way that attracts and stirs, we are given a beautiful description of what he experiences and goes through, specifically in his conversion. Francis, growing up in the time of civil war, wrestles with his service and his ego. He asks himself many times it seems, “Whom should I serve and how should I serve?” For him early on, it was his country that he felt he should serve through knighthood and being recognized by honor and fame. From the very beginning God placed in him this desire to serve. God fulfilled his perfect will by having him serve by becoming a lesser brother, taking on the clothes of the outcasts, living with them and caring for them in such a way that becomes attractive to many. During his conversion and transformation from being this loud, rowdy leader of bandits, he was called to more than that. He was called to be a quiet, calm and prayerful father for those who wished to follow his own radical way of life. We are told that Francis was a builder before he was a brother. He built churches as a response to God’s call; little did he know that while he was begging for rocks instead of bread and building churches, he was also building within him a home for Christ to stay in. Francis exemplified this in his life. He won the hearts of those he spoke to, and people wanted to follow him. I think they saw within him a love and a peace that was attractive and desirable. When he preached penance, people saw joy. When he gave to the poor, he gave freely. People began to listen to this sunny prophet who preached redemption to sinners and to sad hearts the secret of regaining joy and gladness. So many people were brought to the light of God by his humility, charm and uniqueness that men wanted to follow him. Francis, robed with a beggar’s garb, was designated as a guide. Some thought that a new form of religious life had been born; and disciples eager to follow it soon presented themselves.So he had brothers. A major part of his conversion was his solitude, contrary to that of the world, he prayed and experienced great conversion of heart in the darkness and in the caves. This area of Saint Francis' conversion can give us hope in today's world. While many times we experience the darkness of our days and our world, the greater aspect is that through that darkness lies a conversion very similar to what Saint Francis experienced. Places like the cave or in those times of silence and solitude is where Francis was formed and heard clearly the very voice of God and it can be the same for us. 
There is a fire to follow, but more importantly I think it has left me with a challenge to live like Saint Francis did. That is loving as best I can, in servicing as freely as I can and in being as joyful as often as I can. All three it seems are vital traits to adopt while responding to a Franciscan calling. In love, Francis loved his brothers and companions and also those he served. I think they recognized this rather quickly. In service, it seems that father Francis placed himself at the needs of those who were without. He did it willingly and obediently knowing that it was God whom he was serving. In joy, I have read that Francis was always in the spirit of joy, even in suffering, because of this he encountered God in the most ominous circumstances. To end, may there always be a movement toward these virtues that are the very charisma of the Franciscan spirituality. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent: Greet the King

During advent season, the church dedicates this time for waiting and expecting the arrival of the King, the Savior who is to be born of a Virgin and save the world. Jesus has been expected for 9 months now after the annunciation to Mary from the angel Gabriel. We hear in the narrative that at the birth of Jesus the wisemen visited Jesus and entered into his abode.

"They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. They they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Matt 2:11

When I think about the wise-man (Magi) and their journey to Bethlehem, it reminds me of so much patience that had to have taken place, the persistence to travel afar and greet the King for themselves. What a testament to the faith for these guys to be so immersed in following the Star of David, so diligent in seeing the Savior with their own eyes. In my own life, threatened by the need to be impatient and always in a hurry, I feel like that is a natural part of today's society. To be always in a hurry, most-likely skipping over those things that need the most attention. The reality is that waiting or being patient is not a norm for today's secular world. With constant activity and fast-paced technology, anything that forces us to be still and quiet, or slow and steady is a power threat in our lives.

The lesson is clear this Advent season, we can learn a thing or two and apply it in our daily lives. The first, is that a King is coming and so we should expect his return. Not only is he coming in the form of a man, but through a Virgin who humbled herself to accept the will of the Father. Because of his coming we should not only wait for him to arrive, but greet him with homage and gifts just like the three wise-men did. Two is that a Savior is born to come a set us free from all of our sins, therefore we should turn to him with contrite hearts, knowing and believe that Jesus will relieve us all once again. Three that all of this involves waiting, therefore we should be patient but also expect Jesus with joyful hearts. Wait in line for Christ on his return and he will greet you at the door. I believe that during this advent season, the lesson for us is to not only about learning to wait and be patient for Christ's coming, but also to get up and greet him with everything that we have and everything we are.

This Advent season, not only should we wait for the return and birth of Jesus but we should greet Him with the gift of love.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mission Juarez, Mexico

Taken outside of Don Pedro's home, community members
joined us in the work.

Centro Mujeres Tonantzin A.C.
When we first crossed the bridge to enter into Mexico, I was surprised to see so different a culture and environment. It was almost instantly, so different that it was hard to believe the US was only about a minute back the way we came. It's a different way of life. We traveled 11 hours to a very poor part of Juarez, a small community called Anapra just northwest of Juarez. We were hosted by a community of woman from Centro Mujeres Tonantzin, a center of faithful people that are dedicated to help the people of their community by providing for those in need.

Don Pedro sitting outside his home
They build better homes for people, install efficient bathrooms, corrals for animals, gather for prayer groups and meals all in the spirit of good Catholic faith and witness. While we were there, the community came together to help an elderly man with his home nearly in ruins. He had a one room house made out of wood, a dirt floor, a few pots and pans, a bed and a small wood burner to keep him warm during the cold nights. Our mission was to build this man another section in his house. With the frame for the new section already installed, we started right away. With a few guys building a wall out of tires along the side of the house, a few reinforcing the frame inside the house, and myself on the roof, there were many helping hands on the site. We mixed cement, poured cement, shoveled tons of sand, painted the inside of the house, cut wood, moved tires, carried buckets full of water, and added plywood, made a door, and even had electricity installed. The very last day we all worked together to put up a new bathroom house. We dug out a hole and used pallets for the walls. With everything finished up we took a few last pictures and blessed the new home. Don Pedro was a happy man, his house was warm inside and I think that our work for him will have lasting impact on his life and for me to be apart of that makes every strain and sweat worth every bit.

a four foot deep septic hole,
how I ended up with this job I'm not sure.
The home of Don Pedro, with his new
bathroom on the left
a picture of the cement mixing crew
The new wall made out of tires that was put up
duringthe week, taken during the sandstorm

Some of the children we met during our trip.

I was really inspired by the wealth of the people, it clearly wasn't the kind of wealth that we have here in the US but a spiritual wealth. It was a different wealth that gave that inner happiness and inner joy. In my reflection I thought about how much I have, how much I have taken for granted those things that other people want so much like my freedom or inside bathroom. Here the people have so little that crime is hardly a factor because there is nothing. Yet, their possession is faith, their wealth is Christ. I could tell very quickly that these people are rich in Christ and for me coming in from a country that has so much. It made me want to be rich in Christ and poor in possessions. The people really made that life desirable because they have so much joy and happiness, even the children. Visualizing that happiness for myself really allowed me to examine myself and what I have. Things like possessions and desires, even my vocation. I think that there has been new light on my vocation, light that lets me see once again that desire to serve God's people no matter the circumstance. It allowed me to have a new motivation and fire to continue on a journey that requires me to be poor in desires and wants yet rich in Christ the King.

I am grateful for my formation directors to have set this trip up. I am grateful to have gone and experienced the very life and faith of these happy people. I think that witnessing their joy despite their troubles leads me to answer my calling even more faithfully and actively. Shout out to all God's people man!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

To the Heights: Responding in Prayer

Mt. Evans Chicago Lakes Trail near Denver, Co
There are so many ways that God reveals himself to us in our daily lives, it can be through the people we meet and see, the events in our lives and my favorite, through creation and the beauty we perceive. God in His infinite love for us, overflows with love for us, thus, using the simplest things (or not so simple) God radiates and reveals himself through the transcendental beauty and the created world...But what is this all for? 
Why does God reveal His love through those we meet, or those we have hard times with, or those sunsets and mountains? Why the "middle-man?"

The simplest answer is that He loves us. The other answer is that without those things, we would never really begin a movement and conversion to know and love God. If God revealed himself directly to us one of two things might happen: 1) We would never comprehend his Being, or his fullness. God is so great that it would be difficult for us to understand who He is and God knows this. Thereby, creating conceivable things that lead and reveal us to him. 2) If God revealed himself there would be no journey, no conversion and no meaning of life. We would have reached our end and our goal in attaining true knowledge and love for God.

With all this in mind, there are two realities that we have to face: 1) We are a broken people, therefore always needing of God's grace, love and mercy, and should always, always rely on His Grace to continuously shape us and lead us in the right direction. and 2) Life is a journey and it always will be until we reach those heights of Heaven in the end of times. This means that life will always have those ups and downs, there will be death, trial and temptation. What good is a conversion if these are not present? 

On Route to Pikes Peak Summit 
Mt Evans near Denver, CO

Brendan and I on route to Pikes Peak Summit
in Colorado Springs, Co 
All of that comes from knowing that God reveals Himself and His love through the beauty of the created world. So is that it? Are we supposed to just admit to ourselves that we are broken therefore need grace and then live the life roller-coaster through the good times, the bad and strive for conversion?...
I think there's more to it then that. By this love God reveals to us, Sure we should realize that we need God's help, and we should set on that journey to conversion, but with that, we should respond to that love of God in prayer. That is what will take us to the heights of the spiritual mountain. Saint Paul invites us, Jesus invites us, to respond to God's love in prayer, being fervent and zealous in our prayer life.

 "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thess 5:16

My Postulant brothers and I at the Incline Summit
near Colorado Springs, Co
With the love and beauty of God being revealed by beauty and creation itself, I have taken to heart the words of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, "The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ." and for me personally, I think he means this in both physical and spiritual senses. Physically, hiking and climbing mountains to see the beauty and love being revealed by God. This alone allows us to be a little more attentive and responsive to God than down at the bottom. Spiritually, if we are in prayer and in consolation, that is the joy of the heart while being in tune with and receiving God's graces willingly, we are in a sense "on a mountain." It's on that mountain that Bl. Pier Giorgio says, we will hear the voice of God. 

The importance is that we are listening, we are attentive, we are virtuous, and we are transmitting that love that is being transmitted to us by God. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Chaos to Conversion: Detachment

Hermitage day at Our Lady of the Angels Friary in
Black Forest near Colorado Springs.
There's a story in the Gospels about a man who comes across Jesus, and so he asks him what it takes to inherit the Kingdom of God that Jesus so often spoke about. Jesus tells him that he should sell what he has, give to the poor and then he will have treasure in Heaven. The man, walks away sad because he had so many things. (Matt 10:17-30) I love this story in Matthew, because it reveals to us that there is necessary a physical stripping of ourselves if we really want to build that still-shaky relationship with God. Not only does our faith require a physical detachment but I think what the Gospel is pointing to is an interior detachment as well. Detachment from caring only about ourselves, from restlessness in our own hearts, detachment from all the noise and chaos within. It's a two fold coin and I think the journey through that process leads to a true, healthy and happy conversion.

As Postulants, my classmates and I do various ministries throughout the week. The two main focuses are with the homeless and the elderly. Both require stepping outside the comfortable box we're so used to and putting ourselves in the very shoes and life of the person. The difficulty is understanding what they need and recognizing how you can be there for that person even if that means thinking less of yourself and what makes you comfortable. So often the people that we serve end up serving us in some way and for me in my ministry, the beautiful thing that we [my brothers] recognize is that these people, who have nothing, still have so much to give. Homeless are asking me if I am doing alright, and if I need anything. Elderly who are dying and on deathbeds are asking me if I have eaten or if I am okay. I have found it ironic that those who seem to have no life, give the most of it. From that lesson, I believe that that's what the gospel is calling each of us to do. Give up all that you have, so that you can be so immensely open and free for God that you are able to give every ounce to those who need it the most.  The calling is to seek a true poverty that always leads us to love as Saint Francis did. With that two fold coin, I have outlined just a few things that might help you and me on that journey to the Kingdom of God when it comes to detachment. Here are a few things that might help battle the consequences of obtaining material things, contrary to detachment.

PRAY- Praying is conversation with God, it's also understanding that somebody greater is in control, and we can't fight the good fight alone. So recognize that every day is a struggle in the spiritual life, a continuous battle that can be won. Pray always even when you don't have the patience to pray, especially in the silence. Pray for help, pray for conversion and pray for the grace seek God above all other things. Join me in this petition.

GIVE THANKS- It's easy to forget about all the things we really do have when we're living in it. Like the saying, "You don't know what you have until it's gone." So be grateful and never take life for granted. Be thankful for every circumstance and trial and show compassion to all those that you encounter, you might be the last person they have. Give your thanks to God by praising him and honoring him with talents and gifts. The greatest way of Thanksgiving to God is through the Holy Eucharist in the Mass. Join me in this petition.

In our natural born tendency to possess material things, I believe there becomes chaos in our lives, in our spirituality and therefore keeping us from really understanding and portraying a life of love and discipleship in Christ. For Saint Francis, once we knew that his own Chaos was preventing him from truly loving those people who needed it the most, he began living out the gospel, praying and praising God every moment of his life. It's the same for us, once we recognize our own chaos, there is a move and a desire for detachment with the help of God's grace. In our prayers, thanksgiving and praise we can begin a journey to conversion.

Saint Francis of Assisi, Pray for us

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

God our Strength: Hiding Place

There's so much going on in the world today, so much death, so much uprising, it's almost like the physical world is headed in the wrong direction and there isn't many options. With Donald Trump all over the news, Planned Parenthood, riots between races, court case news because of shootings in the world it's too much. There's no wonder why during commercial breaks there is always somebody who says, "What is this world coming too?" Not to mention sports and torn ACL's!

But in my reflection there is a parallel between the physical reality of everything going on and the spiritual reality. It's sort of like the world, full of disorder is depicting our own spiritual life, full of chaos. Chaos and confusion that leads us to doubt our own vocations, doubt God's plan for us and even doubt who we are. So much of our lives are full of stress and worry, or fear and anxiety. We're lukewarm in our spiritual lives!  So much, that there's no room for strength, or courage. The channels of peace and joy have been backwashed and taken over by doubt, mediocrity, fear, and ultimately death.

A few months ago I felt that about myself, I was struggling spiritually, there was chaos, and with that doubt and fear. I remember living those few weeks just going through the motions, not really striving for anything. All I did was enough to get by. I was in a grave, I was just bored of things that were going on. In my prayer I turned to God and what helped was his presence and I was able to  recognize that God allows all of this to show us, in a real intimate way, what it is that we really desire. The reminder is that there is a heaven that we can work for! There is a greater place and a relationship with Christ that is waiting to unfold. All we have to do is seek the help Christ gives us. Seek him, turn to him in his hiding place and the effects of that is endless grace and joy. With it we can never be bored, lukewarm, stressed, scared or bland. We can do great things with the Spirit, all we have to do is seek Christ and his loving shelter that he provides. So for any of my friends battling with fear, stress, worry, or sort of a "gray" spiritual life. Just remember that God has never left you, that he is our hiding place and by that we are strengthened by Him.

The prayer is now a song on my soundcloud titled, My Hiding Place. You can listen to here at the link below. My Hiding Place

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Dry Riverbed: Conversion

When we stayed at the Monastery in Pecos, one of the brothers had mentioned there was a beautiful grotto out on the north side of the mountain. All we had to do was walk there. Driven to find this grotto, my brother Felix and I set out on foot. We crossed the river by bridge, started our ascent up the mountain heading north. I remember being so energized and so confident. I thought for sure we would find the Blessed Mother. We walked through brush, big rocks, cactus, under trees and trudging our way through the forest ground we kept moving forward. As the sound of the running river grew distant, we still kept moving until we couldn't hear it anymore. It wasn't long before we ended up on a dry river bed still moving north. We followed on what was once a river for about an hour. we climbed over boulders, walked through sand and gravel. As we kept moving forward, I kept thinking about how this exact voyage was depicting my own spiritual life. 
Here I was hot, thirsty and out of breath [sinful] seeking the living water [God, Blessed Mother].

We walk further and further seeking happiness or consolation. By sin, we are in a dry river bed that is never-ending. There is no life, no plants, no color, no fish everything seems dull without the living water and that is what we seek. I remember looking back as I climbed up the riverbed, trying to imagine what it might have looked like with running water. We didn't find what we we're looking for, but we kept moving. Soon the confidence that we had in finding the grotto, turned into doubt so we turned back around. I think often we start out with confidence and then many times the goal isn't reached because of doubt. Doubt in yourself, doubt in God's presence and we turn around and give up. 

The reflection was amazing because three years ago I visited and had the same experience but in the running water. The joy is that we recognize that we should return and go back to the water that is flowing. Conversion from dry land to flowing water. The water that gives life and gives color. 

Pilgrimage: Santuario de Chimayo

This past weekend my brothers and I went on an official pilgrimage to sort of start the year. We would walk to the Shrine of Chimayo from Espanola, a town about 9 miles west of the "Santuario." We would stay in Pecos with Benedictine monks, praying with them and eating with them, there we would sleep. During the day we would either go up to the mountain and pray, hike around the monastery, rest or fish. It was a very quiet weekend for me and that is what stood out on the pilgrimmage weekend.
The invitation for me, was to return back to the silence not only in my actions but also in my prayer. Throughout the weekend we were praying, contemplating while at the same time still being open to the silence and the peace that is expressed through creation. The beauty of God is displayed in his creation and it was powerful for me to meditate on that.

Silence - the silence is required to cultivate a fruitful prayer, because if you are quiet then you are naturally listening. Listening to the silence means abandoning the noise of our lives. Read Psalm 46 and learn to be still in action.

Prayer - a conversation with God that requires interaction, participation and silence. It is more then just talking to God it is conversing with Him. He is listening to us, so we should listen to Him through the quiet and the silence.

Patience - Contrary to impulsiveness, it is the virtue of waiting, being still while at the same time trusting in God's plan. Saint Paul lists patience as one of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22.

These three have been the most obvious in my pilgrimage this weekend. It has been an invitation to pray in the silence and with that, I learned how effective and fruitful a prayer can be when it is nurtured by the quiet. There's a listening that is involved when we pray, because prayer is not just a way in which we talk to God, but rather it's a conversation. I learned that in the Silence is where prayer is formed. It's where patience is formed and so for me it was nice to be able to return back to that.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Marked with TAU (t-uh-owl)

As the beginning of our Postulancy year begins to pave its path in our discernments, my brothers and I are marked with the symbol of St. Francis. To start the year we are welcomed into the Franciscan Capuchin brotherhood as formees, thus the marking of the Tau.

The Tau cross is the last letter of the Greek Alphabet and began to emerge during the formation and conversion of St. Francis of Assisi. In fact, he used it as a symbol for his brotherhood by putting it in paintings and on walls where he stayed, he even traced it over his body before any of his actions. The Tau cross was a coat of arms for him and he used it as his symbol. In introducing his brotherhood and order to Pope Innocent III at the time, the reigning Holy Father proclaimed that while the marking of the Tau was a gesture and only for those who have committed to crucifying the flesh of their own bodies of sin and destruction and conforming their lives to the life of Christ by imitating his life and love.

The Mark of the Tau is a transformation from dying to the sin that once held us and rising to the new life of Christ. In a very real way, my brothers and I are learning to conform our lives not only to this brotherhood, but also to the life of Christ. The forming is within the very marking of the Tau, and also the conforming to new life both Spiritual; in prayer and meditation, and also the physical; adapting to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The honor and privilege for me is being able to wear the signature of Saint Francis that very closely depicts Christ Crucified. The joy is that it allowed me to feel all the hurt that I had placed on Christ through the weight of my sin and I wanted to fulfill the mission of the Tau: To mortify the flesh of my own sin and be transformed not only by the message of the Cross but to the message of the Cross that is, to the life of Christ Crucified.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Land from the Wall We've Built

It always seems like often times we forget that God exists in our lives. Like if all of a sudden we just get bored of his love and we turn to other things. It's like we think we know what is better for us and we abandon the love that is complete for a love that isn't. It's proof of how much we aren't able to completely understand his love for us, how I know because we turn away from it and forget about it. I'm always confused and I wonder with myself why is it that I love to put this brick wall between me and God. It's like a river dam that you just put there to stop all the water from flowing through the valley. Yeah, That's exactly what it is. We're either afraid or na├»ve of that love from God and so we try and block it off with this huge wall. We know how good it can be for us, we know how nourishing it can be and yet still, we want to try and contain that love because we don't see the good and joy it can bring. Thinking about it now I realize how much that is me in my own spiritual life, running from God's love, and hiding from His infinite goodness and sure happiness. 

I want to talk about this river dam for a little bit.
In our desire for happiness, somehow it gets twisted with the help of the devil and we end up turning to those things that we think bring us happiness. We desire good things so much, that we forget about the love that isn't visible (God) and turn to love that is (things). Because these things are visible, tangible and sensible to us it's good to us and we want more and more. Free pizza? yes please. Another beer? of course. Sex?...Oh yeah. All because it feels good, we can see it and touch it.. As Pink Floyd would say, All that is, is just another brick in the wall and by the time we know it we have this huge wall separating us from the perfect union and love with God. Now we can either do two things with this wall, we can pray that we are perfected through our faults, pray for the guilt to return to Christ OR we can walk away singing Tim McGraw's "I like it, I love it, I want some more of it."

In my experience, I found that during my "construction" of this metaphoric wall, that God was allowing it to be built. Does that mean God wants us to be separated from Him? not at all. But in my prayer and in my distress, I cried out to God because I felt that I had built a wall to big even for me to knock down. The perspective I like to look at is this: That God by his grace, instilled in me the desire to know His complete love. I saw where I was, I saw that the land I was standing in was dry and parched and as the Psalms say, "My body longed for you O God!"

The beauty that I find, is that God allows us to suffer in order for us recognize that there is a greater happiness that exists in Christ. By our sin, I think God allows us to recognize our own brokenness and through that, He shows us who we really are, what we really want, and He shows us what we really need. This is proof that we have a divine teleological call to true happiness! God in his infinite love for us, calls us to conversion and he calls us to remove the brick that hurts. Remove it through prayer, confession, and mass. If you think about the river dam, all it takes is for us to take out one brick, and that wall we had been building for so long will come crashing down. Remember friends, there is only one unforgiveable sin, and that is the sin that we don't confess. In order for us to move toward a true, holy, and perfect relationship with God we have to want that for ourselves and see the Good that is waiting.

God Bless

Friday, May 8, 2015

Friends: a call to Love

They say when you think of somebody your suppose to pray for that person, at that moment. Pray for their health, their well-being, their life, their struggles, that they may be lifted from whatever they are going through and that the Grace of God place in them a complete and total trusting in Him and His plan. More than likely it's a friend we might think about and I believe that happens because God knows how much of a friend we are or can be. If God is love, then that means he can see love. So we are called to love in our prayers all those people we think about, the dead or the living, our friends and family and in a bigger picture, humanity in general. But it isn't about just showing love in our prayers, it's about showing love through our actions and our words. Being there for people, being there for your friends, because we never know when that opportunity might be the last.

Early on I felt this call to love in the things I experienced in my own life. During high school, I remember hearing about a friend who had committed suicide in his own house. I remember feeling so useless when I found out, and so angry with myself because I had let opportunity slip from me, I had ignored the call to help and the call to love. I was torn just knowing that I had seen this guy that same night and the day after he was gone. That next week I remember telling myself everyday when I had woke, that I would care for each person that I knew, or came in contact with. I challenged myself from that week on, to care for and love everyone I knew.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus hints at a sacrificial love, an unconditional love that will soon redeem man and the world from all it's sin. He expresses that we are friends of God and because of that, we have an obligation to love and be there for each person with that exact same unconditional love.

"There is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." 

There is a call to this sacrificial love, the love that wants what is best for the other and not ourselves. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that love is to will the good of another. It's a call to be a brother or sister to your friends and be there for them, be present to them. He says there is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends, in other words, put the life you've been holding up for so long now down. There's a paschal message in this that we should die to self and care for those around us. In the world today where the message we hear from Jesus is clouded by a self-centered society, basically a what's best for me and what can I gain type of perspective. It's radical to think about another before ourselves, but that's the message of Jesus and that's the call and obligation that we have as people. Jesus says that we should love one another.

"I no longer call you slaves...I call you friends."   [John 15:12-17]
Jesus has called you and me out of the darkness of sin and slavery, he has loosened our bonds and calls us friends. He calls us to be friends with the same love that he has redeemed us with. In my mind it's a commissioning for us, to go out and be a brother or be a sister, he calls us to be a father and lead others out of darkness, or a Mother to care for those who have no one to care for them. Guys were called to be friends. I am reminded yet again of the call to love everyone I meet, I want to be a light for people and I want to lead them out of darkness not into it. I want to be there for them, and serve them not be served. I want to listen to them and pray for them because I am called to be a friend and so a friend I will be.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rolling Our Stone

Christ is Risen!

Jesus has defeated death!

& the Glory of God is revealed to all people of every nation.

It's interesting, Jesus was put away in a tomb behind a rock that was keeping him from Eternal Glory. We all know the story, the rock is rolled away and Jesus is resurrected into heaven, defeated death by death, rose to restore our broken selves and repay the debt that had been due. I like the symbolism of the rock that there is in the story. It's a heaviness, a burden, some kind of distress or discomfort for us and just as Jesus rolled away the stone, we too are called to roll away our stone and remove that burden that is keeping us from a perfect relationship with Christ. What better example do we have than Christ who defeated death by pushing a rock aside. This means Christ is the victor, the winner and greater then any sin, any stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, weariness, even doubts and fears! Jesus is greater and the message is clear to me, that He can fill those voids with the same spirit that conquered death.

Christ is Risen!

We are called to roll away the stone that keeps us from Christ, we are called to rise up with Christ just as He rose. To die to ourselves, go to mass, do the sacraments, be holy and be people of faith. The joy this Easters, is of course the resurrection of Christ, but also knowing that this resurrection leads to something great, it points us to heaven, a deeper reality of how we each are called to be and how we each are to live. The risen Christ, sends us a message to love as he loved, to die with him and rise with him to take on a new life.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday: Dying with Christ

Christ in his love for us, gave himself up for the world, so that we might live. He became obedient for us even unto death, death on a cross. By his wounds we are healed and by his rising we can come to know new life in him. Today Jesus is arrested, tried, condemned, scourged, crucified and buried. It's a death that neither of us can imagine. And to think that it was for us, should restore faith in ourselves, confidence, hope and love. Faith that we are loved by the Father, confidence that we won't find content in the world, hope that we can look and seek the Father for help and love that we can share to all. The gospel for today is from Romans 8 when Paul is speaking about dying before we can ultimately rise. For us experiencing this Holy Week, we share in Christ's passion and death, and "If then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." Sharing in this passion and death for me has been a reminder that we are not bound to sin, or bound to fear, worry and shame but born to strength, courage and hope. We die to our old selves, and rise with Christ to take on our new selves. The people and Christians of good faith we are called to be.

So today, we remember not only Christ death so we can live, but also the call for us to die to our own selves. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holy Thursday: a Call to Love

It's easy to forget the message of Jesus in Gospels. With the world today filled with so much hate and violence. Society has created divisions of people that decides if we are worthy of love, worthy of likings, worthy of compassion. All of this, leaves room for rejection and dissatisfaction, which has made a path for a culture of death with abortion, war, violence, and murder. With Jesus, it led to his Crucifixion, all because he wasn't what we wanted him to be. It shows how full of change our humanity is, one day we like this and the next day we don't. It was the same with the King who came into Jerusalm on a donkey with crowds of people proclaiming him as the King, the Son of David who is Blessed. (Matt 21:1-11) 

Today, Holy Thursday is the day that emphasizes a call to return to love, it seems to me like a reminder for love and care for everyone, regardless of class. During the Last Supper, the very first mass, Jesus institutes the Holy Eucharist for us to be in union with Him, Jesus is present in the Eucharist body, blood, soul and divinity and its for us to receive. This alone is a declaration of Christs' love for us. It is a call to compassion, peace and unity with all people from every nation. Saint John Paul II said, "The Eucharist is the sacrament of the presence of Christ, who gives Himself to us because he loves us." John in his gospel, writes about this love. Jesus, the Son of Man starts washing the very feet of his disciples, these guys have been walking for days. Jesus in his love for our humanity, not only became man, but became lesser than man by kneeling down to wash the feet of his apostles. (John 13:3-5) The message is to care for those we meet each day, serve the people, be there for them, don't hurt, don't kill with our words, instead of violence show peace, instead of hate show compassion. Jesus not only sets the example to love, but institutes and upholds the role of the priests. "So if I, your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you must wash each other's feet. I have given you an example that you should follow." (John 13:14-15)

So this Holy Thursday, I remember the act of love that Jesus taught, to love, to care and to serve. To be there for my friends, my family, my brothers and sisters as a reminder to myself that through that love, we are demonstrating that we are also disciples of Christ our Savior. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mary: The Handmaid

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord." As we remember the solemnity of the Annunciation I think it's important to think about how so willing and completely giving Mary was to God. The solemnity marks the day as when Mary accepted into her heart and body the very will and presence of Christ, the Son of God. It fascinates me to think about her total obedience and submissiveness to God. She says behold; a message not only to God through the Angel but a message even to us to look, observe and see that Mary IS and always will be the handmaid of the Lord.  The very message of the annunciation is to remind us that Mary is the handmaid, of the Lord, of course but for us as intercessor and Mediatrix. I am reminded of her great role in the Church, to bring us to Christ fully as she brought Christ into the world by her obedience and humility. 
The message for us this day is to ponder on the great mystery of God being manifested in man through Jesus Christ, who accepted our lowly humanity to the point of death on a cross. It's a time for us to meditate on those virtues Mary has and pray for a movement towards them. We all fall short of those basic virtues like humility, obedience, patience, kindness, love and compassion and now, today, we have the reminder that Mary is the handmaid for all generations forming us as a Mother does, so that we can obtain those virtues.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent: Nineveh's Lesson

It always seems like the season of Lent comes at the right time. While the main focus of Lent is to practice fasting, conversion, prayer and simple living, for me it always seems that the weeks prior to the season is the exact opposite. The soul and the senses are restless, we hunger for a temporary satisfaction, lacking in prayer, indulging, doing our own things. But Lent, is a time to change all of that, its a time to see all that we have done wrong even those small things and truly repent and feel completely sorry for what we have done. Lent is a time for conversion of heart, prayer and a time for us to share in the Resurrected Glory of God in the end by defeating sin and conquering death.

I'm always fascinated at how Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. This journey of Jesus marks the start of a 40 day fast, an embarking that allows the Spirit to move in own lives by how we live. It's interesting, because during lent we can see that there is a definite call to repentance. A call to step outside of what we are used to and do something else and give up what we enjoy. It's a call to live outside our comfort zones. The gospel reading today, is the story of Jonah and his pilgrimage to Nineveh to proclaim to the Ninevites that they should pray, repent and fast.

"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth"

 That was the call, and in some ways, it is a prefiguration of the Lenten call we see even today. It's a call to pray, a call to fast and even more so, a call recognize what we have done wrong and wear the penitential sackcloth of our own sin and repent. For each of us, Lent should be a time of conversion, prayer, fasting and repentance, just as it was for the Ninevites. It's a time for us to finally say goodbye to those things that we have grown so accustomed to, namely, Sin. This lent, don't just stop doing what you know isn't good for you, but recognize what hurts you, recognize your sin, [pray to the Blessed Mother to reveal to you your sins] and seek to be whole-heartily sorry for all those things that keep us from obtaining a perfect relationship with the Father.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Joys of a Failure: The Guiding Goodness

With my job here in Denver as an Emergency Assistance Adviser, I help those in need pay down their bills, specifically rent and utilities. One of the things I see the most among my clients is a down, stressed, worried face, the face of failure. So often they are in tears coming into the office because of the burden they have of paying off bills, or debt. I always hear "life is tough" and "it's tough out there."

 In my mind it has to be tough.

Life has to be hard, and we have to go through those rough times of suffering and pain. The beauty of suffering is knowing that it prepares us for something greater. Life has to be tough or else what would there be to gain? Saint Rose of Lima once said that if we knew the value suffering has, we would pray for it. The philosophy over this is great to think about because it reveals to us that through our pain, our struggles, our burdens and worries we can understand that Heaven, the greatness and goodness of all Beauty and Glory, is real.

Look at the world for instance, we can agree that there is goodness in the world. A concrete goodness like the air, the water, the land and even our hearts that supply blood by way of the veins throughout our bodies. But more fundamental, I think what else is good is our personal ambition and our success, otherwise we wouldn't strive to do good. Face it, there is a desire for success and as rappers Biggie and 2pac would say, "Get Money."

Humanity throughout the course of history strives for success. We strive for that perfect job, we strive for that perfect relationship and that "dream home." For those in third world countries it's called "El Sueno Americano" or the American dream. The fact is that goodness, is always moving for the greater, we see this because we are always striving for something greater, for something better. Notice that there is never enough money, never a nice enough phone, or (and I love this) never a final Apple Product that tops them all. The beauty is that because of this desire for permanent Goodness, there has to be something that IS greater then all the rest otherwise, there would be an infinite regress of good things. This is Heaven, with perfect unity and relationship with God the father who is the primary Goodness. That continuous desire for goodness is a call to Heaven, a call to holiness and perfection.

But why the struggles? The answer to me is that we need those struggles and pains to strive for something better. It should be a reminder for us to learn to seek goodness, not only earthly goodness of success but Eternal goodness of holiness. Struggle prepares us, pain prepares us and teaches us what we are really made for, that is Joy and peace with our Father in Heaven. I'm reminded of getting burned as a kid, I didn't know what I was doing, all I knew was that it hurt and I wasn't doing it again. I wish I can say that from that moment on I walked away from the stove telling myself that fire was hot and you know what maybe I'm not suppose to be in the kitchen.

The joy, is that on our journey  to success there will be failure and times will get tough, but if its not tough how can we be molded? I like to say when the journey is tough, the destination will be great. If we can see how God is working in our lives through the suffering and through the trials, there will be an awakening of our own spirit, to strive for that goodness and seek true happiness by virtue and holiness. Today, being the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas here's a perfect quote.

"Man's beatitude or happiness consists in this: to see God through God's essence." -Saint Thomas Aquinas

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Come After Me - Gospel Reflection

Today in the Gospel reading, we hear about a great move, a great change and a leaving that could be for better or for worse. I'm always fascinated by the obedience the first Apostles had. In the book of Mark, Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee and he sees Simon, and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea. Jesus, a man they hardly know, calls out to them saying "Come after Me."

It's interesting because at this point scripture tells us that they abandon their nets and followed him. We have to understand that as a fisherman, was hard work, not only was it hard work but it was who they were, their livelihood, their careers and their professions. We're talking about tossing nets and pulling them in constantly throughout their lives. This sort of thing was the moneymaker for the individual or for the family, it was the trade. I think a comparison can be made with a modern day ambition or personal motive, or goals. The fact of the matter is that they just abandoned all that they had, their futures, careers an trades for something else. It's like changing majors a year before your set to graduate, let's face it...That isn't normal.

Again, they left having complete trust and obedience in Jesus who was proclaiming the gospel. The message earlier in the gospel is emphasizing that the time is now, this is the time of fulfillment. Not later, or tomorrow, or the next day but now. I can only imagine how that dialogue would of been:

Jesus: "Come after Me."

Simon: "Huh?"

Jesus: "Come after Me."

Andrew to Simon: "What'd he say?"

Simon to Andrew: "He said to follow him."

Jesus: "...I will make you fishers of men."

Simon: "Alright, give us a second, we just gotta pull these nets up real fast. It should only take a minute."

What? Like no. They just flat out left. In fact, there isn't any dialogue mentioned in the book of Mark. It's fascinating to me. I think the call to change is now, the call to follow is now and the gospel proves that. It reminds me of religious life. Sometimes in the morning I wake up two minutes before the set prayer time. There's no time to brush your hair or check your Facebook. In my head, that time is now. If your late, your late, there is no waiting. And it's just a reminder that the time to commit ourselves to following Christ is now, the time for living a life of prayer and virtue begins now. It was really comforting to hear the gospel this morning. There's always a reminder, today it was that reminder of forgetting about what you think you ought to do, your what you think you have to do because of ambition or pride. The call, is to leave that behind and take up something that's better.

Jesus tells us, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Mark 1:14-20