Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Apart From Me You Can Do Nothing"

My semester officially started last week. So far things have kicked into high gear right away. There has been absolutely no messing around. Last Thursday my day started with 9:00a.m. mass at St. Thomas More and then I spent the day with Steve, Jim Beckman, and Dave. Dave and Steve are two friends and classmmates and Jim is a Youth Minister in the area who started a place called the Impact Center which is a resource center for Youth Ministers. Jim is an amazing holy guy who I am learning a lot from. Well Jim asked us to help him with a project. He is currently developping a discipleship model of Youth Ministry. There are currently two parishes in the Denver area piloting this model. It is a program that is based on small group bible studies in which teens are placed in a group with volunteer leaders. So far it is proving to be very successful for the two parishes pioloting the program. So anyway, I digress I spent the day helping Jim write curriculum for the studies as well as a curriculum for the training of the Youth Ministers across the country that want to implement this model.

After a full day of that I headed to class. Moral and Spiritual Theology with Dr. Sri. This class is going to kick my butt this semester. I also had a slight freak out during this class. We began the class talking about Prayer and how we can get the most out of the class. With that came our reading list. I'll say this, normally in Dr. Sri's classes I'll admit I don't do the reading because I haven't had time and everything is based on the notes. This class will be very different. We have to keep a reading log of all the assignments. The log requieres we grade ourselves on the following scale: 1- I did not finish the reading, 2- I did all the reading but read it rushed and unprayerfully, 3- I did all the reading slowly and prayerfully. WOW, I thought this is going to kick my butt. At that moment as I was looking at the list I started to slightly panic about how much was there, the fact that I had a Thesis due, reading for Dr. Reye's class, a take home for my Paul Class, two papers to write aside from the Thesis, all the stuff going on at work, and just how basically this next semester is going to kill me. I left the class freaking out about how much I suck at being Holy and how there is no way I would survive this semester.

I got home and was in a terrible mood and was ready to throw in the towel. I stopped, breathed and realized the only thing I could think of to do was to go pray. So I went to adoration. I said Evening prayer followed by a Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal I'm praying with Nick Seiler and then I journaled for a bit. I then picked up our first assignment for Dr. Sri. A book called: SEARCHING FOR AND MAINTAINING PEACE by Fr. Jacques Philippe. Our assignment is to read one section of it every day for the whole semester (one of many others of course). Each section is fairly short. Dr. Sri asked us to read it slowly, prayerfully and meditate on it. So I decided that is exactly what I would do. I read the first section and man did it kick my butt. The key part of the meditation focused on the words of Jesus, "Apart from me you can do nothing!" This is exactly what I needed to hear! This is why I was freaking out, I was trying to do this all on my own. There is no way I'm going to get through this semester if I try and do it all myself! I will only get through this with God's grace. I need to learn to move to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and as the the song "Your Love is Extravagant Says," I need to find myself moving to the rythms of His grace!

So I have continued everyday since that spending 30-45 minutes in adoration reading through the reading assignments we've had for this week. I've continued in the Peace book and also read some of the most amazing writings of Mother Theresa and Fr. Dubay. The most beautiful part about it is, that I'm finding myself really reflecting on the readings and taking them to heart. I feel like I'm having very intimate conversation with my Lord. For the first time in my life I am learning to truly meditate in prayer. I mean I have done it before but I'm taking the time to do it regularly. For the longest time it seems like I looked at prayer as a check list: mass, check, Liturgy of the Hours, check, Rosary, check. And I was doing all these things and don't get me wrong they are all good things and I'm still doing those daily but I am starting to realize the necessity of meditation, in other words real conversation with my Lord. That conversation involves not only talking but LISTENING. Something so many of us forget. I'm so excited for this semester now. We will be reading Augustine, St. Therese, St. John of the Cross, Catherine of Sienna, and St. Theresa of Avila. I'm really pumped to see how God continues to speak to me through all these incredible Saints and witnesses.

Of course I'm sure it will be a struggle. I won't feel like praying every day like I do right now and I will have to push through. But I can just feel the grace flowing right now. I hope to continue to take the words, "Apart from me you can do nothing" to heart. God is about to take me on a journey I never even imagined this last semester. It is sure to be one heck of a ride!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What Right do you Have?

I was at mass today and heard a homily that got me fired up! Father was right on the money. He spoke about how our Government has their head screwed on wrong and they just don't get it! We are constantly talking about rights in our country. A woman's right to chose, the right for gays to get married, animal rights etc. Well where do rights come from? Rights come from God. A government's job is not to confer rights or take rights away. A government's job is to protect people's GOD-GIVEN rights. When a government gives someone rights or takes rights away they are usurping God's soverignty and offending Him. Remember what Jesus tells pilate? "You would have no authority had it not been given to you by my Father in Heaven." Well anytime a Government gives or takes rights away they are abusing the authority given to them by God.

We talk about a woman's right to have an abortion. Guess what? God never gave a woman that right.

We talk about two men's rights to get married to each other. Guess what? God never gave them that right.

We talk about animal rights. Guess what? God never gave animals rights!

It's time our government remembered where their authority comes from and stop handing out rights that God never gave out!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Got Hope?

Today is innaguration day. Barack Obama is our new President. I'm struggling between two feelings today. One is despair and one is Hope. I'm mostly on the side of Hope but fighting the temptaion to give into the other one.

On the one side stands the feeling that I have that Barack Obama becoming President is the last nail in our country's coffin. Never have we had a man with fewer morals than this guy. Never have we had the media make such a frenzy over our President. I fear for our nation and the masses of people who are blindly following this man. So many people have put there hope in this guy. Everywhere you look there are shirts, hats, and an electricity and excitement that feels misplaced. Yes this event is Historic but I don't think it is in a good way at all. The man is using the Bible used to swear in Abraham Lincoln! Noone eles has ever used it. I mean honestly the audacity of this man! Part of me feels like I should be in mourning for our country. In a way I feel like Israel who was sent into Babylonian exile for their unfaithfulness. We are about to reap what we have sown. This is much more subtle than the Baylonian exile because people are welcoming it. People have become blind and allowed the Media to create for them a God to worship. Barak Obama has become this nation's Golden Calf. I mean is he the next President or the winner of American Idol? I have to wonder.

But on the other hand I have a tremendous feeling of Hope. And not Barack Obama Hope but the supernatural virtue of Hope. Last week I took a four day class on St. Paul. It was a brutal four days of 8 hours each to cover all of St. Paul's writings. All I have to say is this man was incredible and I can't believe I did not have a devotion to him before. It is no coincidence that our Pope Benedict XVI has declared this the year of St. Paul. St. Paul was a man well known for his rhetoric and God knows that is about all we have to go on with Mr. Obama is his fancy words. St. Paul did some terrible atrocious things before he converted. He sanctioned the stoning of the first martyr Stephen along with many other things. But St. Stephen as he was being stoned prayed for Paul's conversion. And you know what God knocked St. Paul on his butt and brought conversion to his life. If St. Paul could convert there is no doubt in my mind that Obama can convert. We as Christians have an obligation to pray for Obama's conversion. If St. Monica's prayers converted Augustine why can't our prayers convert Obama?

But even if Obama doesn't convert there is still Hope. Why? Because we as Christians are not of this world. Our Hope is not in our country, our hope is not in our President. Our Hope is in Christ! We are mearly pilgrims on a journey here. We are Heaven bound and no President is going to change that. As St. Paul wrote, "For the world in its present form is passing away" (1 Corinthians 7:31). Again, we read in Isaiah, "Lo, I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind." (Isaiah 65:17) The things of this world are passing. We are not meant to hold on to them. So despite the Economy crumbling, the War in Iraq, babies dying, the death penalty, the redefinition of marriage, and all the other horrible things happening, Jesus Christ is King. He will come in judgment, and in the end the things of this world will not matter. The hope that is placed in Obama will be revealed for the shallow and empty thing that it is. "At the name of Jesus ever knee should bend, of those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father." (Phillipians 2:10-11)

Now don't get me wrong. That doesn't mean our job as Christians is done. The fight is merely beginning. There is much to do and we have to remain faithful in the midst of all the junk that is going on. But there is a Hope that we have that noone can take from us, and that is the Hope that Jesus Christ is the King and the victor . Let us press on in battle with our King under the mantle of Our Mother. St. Paul turned the world upside down and converted the Roman Empire through his work. Folks the Roman Empire was in just as bad of shape if not worse than we are today. It is time for a New Evangelization. Let us go out and be lights in this world. Let us under the intercession of St. Paul bring the message of real HOPE to our broken and fallen nation. For our Hope is in Christ, not Obama!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

To a Bright New Year!

Well we are officially 6 days into 2009. To think I just got used to writing 2008 on stuff and now I have to switch to 2009. 2008 was probably one of the toughest and hardest years for me yet but at the same time had some of the best moments I could imagine. I struggled a lot with my prayer life and really struggled to trust God in so many ways. I felt very broken and alone at a lot of points throughout the year. I had moments of intesne heartache as I watched my best friend friend deal with the death of a parent and there were days my heart physically ached cause I couldn't see or be around the people I left behind in Wichita. I was made to face my vocation straight in the face and struggle with the question in more intense a way than I had in the past. I had to struggle through readings, papers, and tests. I fell more times than I can count. I found myself in confession more times than I think I ever have in a year. God broke me. He pushed me in ways I didn't think I'd ever be pushed. Yes it was a tough year but It was also a beautiful year filled with so many blessings. I had my crosses but I also had my resurrections. Here are some of the many amazing moments of 2008:

1. Joe's Wedding in Indiana: Seeing a close friend and brother get married and getting to spend time with Guy, Kip, Seth, Sean, Shawn, Stidham, and many other household brothers and friends.

2. Many great late night talks with Dave.

3. Totus Tuus Training: Seeing all my hard work come to fruition and being so proud to have Devin, Josh, and Blake there teaching. It was such a blessing for God to allow me to see a small amount of the fruit He had used me to produce while in Wichita.

4. Franciscan LEAD

5. Mary's Wedding in Rockford

6. Melissa's Wedding in Nashville

7. Josh, Drew, Scott, Ben, Justin, Kyle, Clay, and Garett coming out to visit and spending a weekend in Estes with them.

8. The Jack Johnson concert at the Red Rocks

9. Getting to visit my brothers in New Orleans after two years of not getting to go down there.

10. Thanksgiving in Wichita

11. My cousin Fernando's wedding in Miami and getting to see family there I hadn't seen in ten years.

12. My trip home for Christmas and the 2nd annual Wine and Cheese Party at my parent's house.

13. Having Hugh move out here and having some good times hanging out with him.

14. Building my Peer Ministry Team at the Parish. What an awesome group of teens that have just grown in faith and leadership in leaps and bounds since I first met them.

15. Last but not least, starting to date an amazing girl! I'm excited to see what God does with this.

So here I stand on the threshhold of 2009. So far it has started with a bang! A great New Years Day with Mary Beth, lunch with four of the LEAD guys on Friday, a visit from Blake and Josh that included a TT teacher reunion and a day of skiing. Things are really looking good. I know there will be tough times however. God will continue to break me and challenge me in ways I can't imagine. But I am confident He will continue to pour out His blessings. I have one semester left of Graduate school. I have a thesis to write, jobs to apply for, another summer of Totus Tuus to prepare for, and an amazing girl to focus on. I don't know what this year will bring, but I do know that God is in control and in a way that is a reality I have come to accept more than ever in the past year. I learned it the hard way but I also feel more free than I have in a long time. In the past month I feel like I finally have friends here. I am honestly the happiest I've been in a long time. Probably the happiest I've been since I moved here. But I know struggles are coming and stress will abound as I try and finish my last semester. I ask everyone for prayers with school and that God would guide my new relationship in the direction He wants it to go. Happy New Year all! May 2009 be filled with many blessings for all of you!