Bless your people, Lord. You have given us the law that we may walk from strength to strength and raise our minds to you from this valley of tears. May we receive the gifts you have gained for us.
Do you like the new look? I wanted to simplify the blog’s look for 2015. I’ve had the same theme for two years; it was nice but I want a layout that focuses more on the words than on the image. I can do more image-intensive posts for the Facebook Page. For those of you who’ve visited before, let me know if you prefer the old theme. God bless you.
I am not alone when I pray. The Holy Spirit is there to guide me. My friends, the saints whom I often turn to are there (St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Joseph, St. Thomas More, St. Jose Maria Escriva). Prayer is a solitary activity, but I’m not alone.
I learned this past year the importance of liturgy in my prayer life. While personal prayer is like pillow talk between God and I, active participation in the liturgy is prayer at a higher level. Praying through liturgy is transcendental. I am part of something greater than myself. It is the spiritual equivalent to the conjugal act between husband and wife — it’s happening between Christ and His Bride, the Church!
Communion at Mass is more profound than sex. Christ enters every member of His Bride, and His Body and Blood is absorbed into each member of her body, the Church. The very divinity of Our Lord seeks to enter each soul, to unite with each member of her body. This transforming union takes place to the extent that each member is holy.
That’s why I pray. That’s why I want to be holy. to be united with my beloved through the Church. I am nothing on my own, by I am everything when I am with God in the Church. Great sex with our spouse is only a shadow of the ecstasy we will experience in the transforming union with God.
Reading Fr. Thomas Dubay’s “Fire Within” has been the spiritual direction I needed. It’s not the same as having a real-life coach, but the book is a stop-gap until God connects me with one. Discursive meditation should lead me to simple contemplation. Increasing distraction should be normal. Feeling like I’m failing at prayer is also normal — although, I admit, I haven’t really experienced that aridness, yet. When I do feel dryness in prayer, I should persist. God doesn’t ask for us to “feel it” during prayer. He asks us to be faithful. I don’t have to feel like going out on a date with my wife. I just have to do it faithfully, regardless of my feeling at the moment.
When I finish “Fire Within,” I should refrain from jumping to the next book. I should instead put more time towards contemplation. I should use the Liturgy of the Hours as a springboard to lectio divina. I suspect the Office of Readings will be particularly fruitful.
Dear Holy Spirit, I do not know how to pray as I ought. I fear that I am not advancing in my prayer life. I seek to be united with you in the Most Holy Trinity. Show me, Most Holy Counselor, how to grow in contemplation. Help calm me if I fret. Remind me that the process takes time, that this kind of prayer is less about effort and more about fidelity.
Help me, dear Holy Spirit, to be more detached to the creations of this world. Reveal to me my hidden faults. Purify me. Burn away my imperfections so that the windows of my soul can shine your light without filter.
I love you, my Lord. Abide in me and help me abide in you. Amen.
My Facebook Page now has over 1,000 followers. I feel validated. It’s certainly better than just 44 of my Catholic friends and family. Then again, they’re not friends and family. What’s the point of having a thousand followers on Facebook? Does that help me get closer to God? Does it help my Page followers? How are we any holier because of it?
The honest answer is that my soul is in danger of being distracted from focusing on God. The more followers I get, the greater the temptation towards vanity. As I reach greater milestones, I will trick myself into believing that I’m engaging in the New Evangelization when in reality I’m sculpting an idol to worship with my own hands. How do I fight pride when the Page has more than 5,000 followers? 10,000? The temptation would be strong to commit more time and resources to support my vanity. This will take away time from prayer, from my vocation as a husband, father and a U.S. diplomat. Instead of being more active in my parish, I will exalt myself in my own virtual congregation. Instead of helping U.S. companies, I will use my work time to maintain the Page.
So, what do I do? Delete it? That’s a possibility. Can I somehow give glory to God?
My spiritual friend suggested I be a genuine voice in curating Catholic content. How am I living out my Catholic faith? How am I growing in prayer, growing within the Church? There is tremendous value in faith-sharing within a spiritual friendship. Can it be translated into a social media environment? I do not know. The authenticity of my soul combined with a personal reach to my fellow pilgrims would be a generous act, worthy of God because it requires sacrifice. It’s a lot of work to reach out personally to each Page follower.
The goal now is not to get more followers, but to get to know each one as a son or daughter of God. Each one has an immortal soul. Seen that way, how awesome is that? Each person deserves to be known for who they are and not just to be used as a number to boost my pride.
This means I will have to make myself vulnerable. Scott Hahn showcases his life like a Catholic billboard; he can be a model. I will have to use my personal account to “friend” these Facebook followers. And I think AgoraPulse is just the right tool to help me determine who to reach out to first.
Glory be to God! Dear Lord, may my activities only be pleasing to you. Teach me if they displease you. If my blog or Facebook Page or anything takes me away from you, correct me. I’ll delete my blog and Page if that is your will. My desire is to love you more and more is greater than these tools. Save me, keep me from making these tools into idols. I humbly ask this in Jesus name, together with you and the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
A friend of mine shared a blog article from “The Art of Manliness” that inspired me to take up writing in a journal, again. Pen & paper, old-fashioned writing. The article was about penmanship, and it was compelling. Poor penmanship is common because schools no longer want to teach cursive.
While penmanship is a good reason to pick up journaling again with pen & paper, there was one particular section in the article that really was the impetus for me to start:
We’re big proponents of journaling around these parts. While I’ve experimented with digital journals, I keep coming back to my trusty paper journal. And I think it has to do with the meditative qualities handwriting has, particularly cursive writing. Synchronizing continuous hand movement with thought puts me in a state of flow that I can’t get with typing or even writing block letters. Whenever I’m typing, I have a tendency to second guess myself and hit “delete” when a sentence doesn’t come out right. Because there’s no delete button with cursive handwriting, I spend less time judging what I’m writing and more time just getting lost in the process. The result is a feeling of calmness and flow.
The quality of thought is higher when we write the old-fashioned way. We can solve nagging problems and overcome writer’s block. I don’t need to boot up a computer or deal with the cramped space on a mobile phone when writing with pen and paper. I just pick up a pen and write.
I figured I could better fight what Stephen Pressfield calls “the Resistance” if I can keep a journal around me and find time to just write two-pages in it a day. Whatever I write can be transcribed to my blog. So, I’ll have regular content. The added bonus is I get to practice my penmanship, again.
Dear Holy Spirit, bless the author of the article and my friend who shared it. I pray that you will find my journaling an acceptable form of prayer. If so, please give me the grace to persist in it. Help me reflect, through journaling, on the Word of God and my conscience. I ask this through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
My family and I are getting ready to go on a long flight back to the U.S. In case God decides to call us home, I wanted to say “I love you” even if I’ve never met you. We will meet each other, some day. I am praying for you, and I hope you will pray for me, too. This is one of the many beauties of our faith: we are united in Christ’s One Body. When we receive Communion, know that there, in that moment, we are like the hundreds of millions of cells that make up your body, but animated and unified by your soul. As your cells are united in will by your spirit, so you and I are united by the Spirit of Christ.
Oh, how I love our faith! How I wish I can share my excitement with you! There is so much treasure kept within the Church, and I hope you will be inspired to go and explore. Read “Rediscover Catholicism” by Matthew Kelly, or “Life of Christ” by Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Read anything written by Scott Hahn. Subscribe to Lighthouse Catholic Media. Buy the Lighthouse Catholic Media app and purchase the Ignatius Study Bible in the app. Pray the Scriptural Rosary that is explained by Dr. Edward Sri. Go to one of the Steubenville Conferences. Pick up Dan Burke’s “Navigating the Interior Life” and join the book club at his website. Above all, go to Confession. If there is one thing that has helped me grow the most spiritually, it is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I try to go weekly. The supernatural grace that is bestowed on one’s soul is indescribable. Imagine having the power to consistently resist mortal and venial sins. Imagine the freedom of your soul to do what is good. Imagine the possibility to become, really truly become, the best-version-of-yourself. It’s possible.
Oh, how I wish I can share this love with you! In a few short months after weekly Confession, don’t be surprised to find yourself praying more often. Don’t be surprised with finding yourself thinking about God in every spare moment. Wealth, pleasure, power, fame… those drugs that were once so addictive, so alluring, finally lose their hold. Don’t be surprised if you don’t think about them very much anymore. You will be so hungry for God. And you will likely feel like you’re alone. Even if you are surrounded by people you love and who love you in return. Even when you meet another pilgrim who is on the same path, your own journey is made in solitude.
If you sin, don’t worry. It’s like falling into a ditch. The more you try to escape, the deeper the hole seems to get. The best thing to do while waiting for temptation to pass is to pray ceaselessly in the midst of it. Go to Confession. The Holy Spirit will lift you out of the ditch Himself. He will comfort you. Do penance. It works. Do penance and don’t stop praying. Find more time to pray. Quit Netflix. Quit video games. Cut back on Facebook. Find more time to pray. Pray while you’re on the toilet, while you’re taking a shower, while you’re on your commute.
There is so much more I want to say, but I will have other opportunities. Just know that you are loved by God more than it is possible for us to understand. A single soul is worth more than the whole universe in the eyes of God. Do you believe that? Believe it: “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” (Mark 8:36)
Last weekend (Oct 11-12), I attended the wedding of a friend whom I served with in Peace Corps Guatemala (’05-’07). Aside from sharing a wonderful moment in the life of a friend, I was also deeply grateful to see my other friends. Some became parents or will soon be parents. Others were engaged. All were brought together because of this wedding. The Bible refers to Heaven as a wedding feast (Mt 22:2, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son”). So, I felt like I was in Heaven. I remember having the same feeling when my family went home this past winter. I wrote a letter to my family and friends:
I imagine Heaven is like the conversations we had, the food we ate, the places we visited, the movies we watched, the games we played… except there would be no limit to space & time. We can cook all our favorite recipes together, eat the dishes and pair it with the most amazing wines, and not worry about it “getting too late” or “eating too much” or ”being too expensive.” We would share our experiences of all the wonderful places we’ve been and even re-visit them together (who needs planes when we have wings?) In the course of a conversation, we might mention a great book or a well-made movie — I’d blink, read the book or movie you recommended, and then blink back to our moment to say, “Yes! It was great!” Or, “Mmm… it wasn’t for me.” In short, I imagine Heaven as being able to spend an eternity in the pleasure of your company.
I regret that we didn’t have enough time. My jetlag also didn’t help me be at my social best. I kept on falling asleep at the reception.
I miss the genuine friendships that were formed during those couple of years in Guatemala. A lot has happened since then and everyone’s lives have basically moved on. Things are different, but my affection for them stayed the same. I truly do hope for Heaven, when I can catch up with them without earthly restrictions like time and stamina. God bless my friends and may they make it to Heaven so we can spend an eternity having fun.
I started out wanting to disagree with the author of the post, http://wp.me/p3Ptcl-9W, but I ended up agreeing with his view. I guess I was caught up with the word “free will.” That made the title more controversial than if it was “The Arrogance of Individualism Christianity.” Then again, if that was the title, I would’ve agreed and not bothered to read his post.
I’m not sure I agree with his last sentence, though: “Instead of preaching your personal testimony, preach the Gospels and the good things that Christ did for all of us—that is the definition of evangelism.” There are times where our personal testimony is a good way to evangelize. If an acquaintance or friend asked me why I converted to Catholicism or how I came to believe in God when I was a vocal atheist, my personal testimony would be important. Yet, I can see how my personal testimony out of context wouldn’t be effective. Then again, talking about the Gospels out of context and without establishing a relationship first with the people you’re addressing is also ineffective. That’s why Pope Francis said in a recent interview that “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.”
I feel a call to evangelize, but not standing-on-a-soapbox-in-the-street-corner type of evangelization. I remember reading Scott Hahn saying that we should live our lives as if it was a billboard. Do I live a life full of joy? Or do I look grouchy because I always have to be good & moral all the time? It is especially during the times of stress and difficulty that I can be a great witness to God. Maintaining my peace and joy during a hectic trade mission, or finding the time to counsel others while going through a personal crisis… this is how I can live out a life of constant evangelization. Be a good father. Be a good husband. Be a good officer. This is a higher calling because it is more difficult; I actually have to live out daily what I want to preach and internalize what the Gospel teaches. And the only way I can do that is by changing my heart, work out my interior self. I can’t just cover myself with Bible verses. I have to let the Holy Spirit do open-heart surgery.
Just as a bodily open-heart surgery is scary for people, a spiritual open-heart surgery is even scarier. You can physically see a doctor and look up her credentials. You can’t see the Holy Spirit and her scalpel of wisdom gently revealing the soul. This brings to mind a current friendship. I’m trying to be a good spiritual big brother to another diplomat. He’s having a tough time coming back to God. He knows he has wounds as has admitted as much. He acknowledges that he has a God-shaped hole in his heart that he tries to fill up with other things. He knows he needs to pray, to go back to church, but he still drags his feet. Just like a person would if he had to go into surgery.
How did I consent? At what point did I say “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s knife? Contemplation, self-reflection. Is that the secret? I’ve never been afraid of just sitting and thinking about the fuzz on my navel. If I can only pick one thing that I’m good at, I’d say I’m good at thinking about myself (haha). I have high intrapersonal intelligence. Normal men, according to Richard Rohr’s book “From Wild Man to Wise Man,” don’t like to be introspective and think about feelings, emotions. It doesn’t come naturally. I remember what a breakthrough it was for my aforementioned friend to just accept moments of solitude to self-reflect. He had previously filled his life with many empty-calorie social engagements. It was a long road, but at least my friend now has a diagnosis.
My wife suggested that I should blog about an analogy I used to explain why I felt the need to point out teachings that are damaging to the Christian faith. She said I should not judge and argued that believing in Jesus is better than not believing at all. I used the following analogy to explain why it is important to explain false teachings:
Imagine someone taught you an investment method that would generate over a billion dollars in monthly income. Your monthly investment income will be more than you can ever use in a lifetime, but you keep on receiving billions of more dollars every month. There is nothing that anyone can do to you to take away that ability. Only by your own sins can you lose this incredible stream of income. With such security, you become magnanimous. You become very charitable and want to teach others how to also make a billion dollars a month. It’s so easy!
Pointing out false teaching is like warning other investors about bad financial advice. Some financial advisors may even genuinely believe in their own advice, but they are scams. People will lose their hard-earned money. They will lose their souls. I point out the financial scams not because I will make more money; I don’t need more money. I want to teach others how to make a billion dollars a month out of gratitude for the Person who taught me. It’s out of love for the Teacher. This Teacher merely wants others to enjoy their original inheritance: to be divine sons and daughters of God. He already has everything He needs. All he asks is for the nouveau riche to teach others how to also become rich. Everyone can make a billion dollars a month! There is no inflation in Heaven.
So, calling out bad financial advice is not being judgmental. It’s being charitable. And it is not with my own investment knowledge that I speak, but from the wealthy storehouse of knowledge that is the Catholic Church. Whether or not they believe is their choice.
I am honored to be nominated for a Sunshine Award. I would like to thank Lyn over at New Things for the nomination. Just this morning, I asked my wife whether she had read my most recent blog post. I wanted her opinion on whether I successfully explained concepts from JPII’s Theology of the Body. She confessed that she had not yet read my post, but Lyn came around with this award. I take it as a light pat on the back from God, working through Lyn! 😉 She was the answer to my unspoken prayer.
The Sunshine Award recognizes bloggers whose writings “light up the dark corners of our minds.” It’s a great way to discover other bloggers who write about similar themes — not just from my recommendations below, but also by going backwards and visiting the nominators. The rules are simple:
- Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post.
- Do the Q&A below.
- Pass on the award to 10 – 12 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs.
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Favorite color? Light blue.
Favorite animal? Hamster.
Favorite number? 16.
Favorite nonalcoholic drink? Watermelon juice from Korean watermelons.
Favorite alcoholic drink? Jameson’s blended Scotch whiskey.
Facebook or Twitter? Twitter.
My Passions? God, Family, Work.
Giving or Receiving Gifts? Giving.
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