Join us as we see where God is present in our lives. We most definitely aren't walking with Him in the Garden of Eden despite the fact that so many are shedding clothes instead of covering themselves up. However I am willing to bet that God is closer to us than we think and that He has genuinely planted truth in the flesh of our hearts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


All artists seem to have a song about overcoming adversity, about soaring above the critics, about friends who turn to enemies. It makes sense, especially since music expresses one's feelings and these feelings are common to us all.

When I saw this music video just seconds ago on MTV-Hits it immediately struck a cord with me.

"Everybody wanna try to box me in... I'm not a word, I'm not a line, I'm not a girl that can ever be defined. I am not fly, I am levitation. I represent an entire generation. I hear the criticism loud and clear, that is how I know the time is near...Cry my eyes out for days upon days. Such a heavy burden was placed upon me. But when you go hard your nay's become yay's"

Her words speak for themselves. What stands out the most is her reminder to us to be our unique selves. The journey I have been on has been crazy and all over the place. Though sometimes I wish I could just blend with the crowd, I realize that by doing so I no longer thrive. I think it's important to realize what Nicki is saying in the above line. We are not defined by one word or one phrase. We are not boxed into a certain category and defined as such. WE ARE DEFINED BY GOD! He had a plan for you when he formed you in your mother's womb.

One of the T-Shirts we sell at my work has a simple, but profound slogan on it, "Labels are for jars, not for people."

If you struggle with self-esteem remember that God loved you into being. Be true to yourself and embrace it so one day you can be levitation, you can win, thrive, and soar high!

If you're who is quick to judge based on appearance or ability, try opening your mind a little. You're not perfect, so why should they. Judgments not made out of love are crippling.

It's been two thousand years since Jesus came, teaching us to love our neighbors and to look past the labels of tax-collector, pharisee, woman caught in adultery, leper, child, and widow and see what God sees; yet we still don't listen. We are still too quick to judge and put down.

I challenge us all to work on loving our neighbor. In order to do that I ask that you actively try to understand the other person. Get to know them, their story, their life, their struggles. That's what Jesus would have wanted you to do. He sees the potential in us all, instead of us locking it in, let's release it and do as Jesus wished, that when he returns to us this world may already be on fire for him!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to Love - Lil Wayne

I have to admit, when I first heard this song on the radio, I went nuts hearing Lil Wayne's voice (an not in a good way). I made a judgment prematurely thus deciding that the song would be stupid and shallow. However, I took the time to watch this music video.  It was so worth it.

We are in a time where religion and faith in God are questioned, but it is great to see that Love is still teaching us. Even in our mistakes or hardships love is still present and without it, we can be led astray. True love is merely a guise of God's presence in our lives. I don't know about you, but for me when I love someone it's because I see God in them at work in their lives and in mine as well.

Let the video speak for itself. All I wish to add is to be open to God. Anytime during Communion, I pray that the Lord fill me with his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity and that he teaches me daily how to love and give of myself as he did. Do the same. Allow God to transform your heart so as to prepare you for love, a true love that is everlasting!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Soul Surfer

I recently saw this movie, Soul Surfer, a true and quite inspiring story about a promising young surfer (Bethany Hamilton) who loses her arm in a shark attack. It is a very emotional film, portraying Beth's journey from being one of the best surfers in Hawaii, to her near death experience with the shark, to her attempts to relearn how to do so many basic tasks with just one arm, to her getting back in the water and surfing again. Even more incredible is that this is a true story.

This is the type of movie that doesn't need a written analysis...it stands on its own as a beautiful Nugget of Truth. Beth's amazing journey and personal growth, coupled with the centrality of her Christian faith in her life, make for a truly inspiring story. It is a movie I would recommend to anyone. However, there was one quote that Beth offers during her struggle to relearn how to surf with only one arm that struck me in a special way. As Beth is committing herself to get back in the water and learn to surf again, her family of course reminds her how difficult a task this will be with only one arm. At this point Beth beautifully tells her parents...

"I don't need easy, I just need possible."

Keeping in mind the fact that Beth literally almost died, and is now forced to go through the rest of her life with just one arm, I am absolutely amazed that she can find the determination to utter this statement. Nobody would have blamed Beth for rolling over and given up, but she says very clearly that she doesn't care how difficult it is, she will not give up surfing, something which brings her so much joy. It doesn't need to be easy, just possible. Sounds almost like a very famous scripture passage..."I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).

If I truly believe that God loves me, that He loves me enough to help and guide me along every step of my life...I really don't need to be afraid. Beth knew that even though the road towards surfing again seemed incredibly difficult, God would be walking right alongside her. Do I believe that? Do I believe that God loves me so much that He is not only watching over me and listening to me, but that He is walking alongside me....no...that He lives within me? When I receive Jesus' body and blood in the Eucharist, God actually lives within me. If Jesus loves me so much that He would actually enter into my heart, what is there to fear?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jim Thome's 600th Home Run

Last night Jim Thome became just the 8th person in baseball history to hit 600 career home runs. From now on Thome's name will forever be listed alongside some of the greatest players in baseball history, including Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Willie Mays.

Thome accomplishes this great feat in the midst of one of the darkest time periods in professional baseball - the steroids era. It is a time period where we have been let down by so many of our favorite stars, finding out that some of the greatest players in the game are nothing but cheaters. This has led us to believe that no home run hitter can be trusted. Every home run that's hit makes us wonder if it was done as a result of real hard work and sweat or simply with the aid of performance enhancing drugs. It is an era of baseball that has been crying out for a beacon of hope, for someone who can prove to the fans that great home run hitters who aren't cheaters, still exist. I believe that person could very well be Jim Thome.

Unlike Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and so many others, Tim Thome has never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. He is a man who throughout his career has been nothing but a class act. He is a genuinely good person, a great ballplayer and a positive influence for his teammates in the clubhouse. No, he will never hit the 762 home runs Barry Bonds, and he never dominated the media like A-Rod, but that doesn't matter. Jim Thome is a man that fans can believe in, a beacon of light during very dark times.

Obviously this historic home run excites me because I am an avid baseball fan, but I think there is also a clear connection between Jim Thome's baseball career and our lives as Christians. I referred to Thome as "a beacon of light during very dark times" (a phrase which I admit I took from Sportscenter)...isn't that exactly what we are called to be as Christians? Jesus tells us very clearly in Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world". Thome didn't get the recognition that he deserved throughout his career, just as you and I probably won't be noticed for the good things we do with out lives. However, it's not the fame or the glory that's important...but rather being the best person you can be, the best and brightest light to the world you can be.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Could we have a Secular Don Bosco in our Midsts?

For those of you who don't know St. John Bosco, in the simplest form, is an advocate for the young and the poor. He not only helped them to become better Catholics but he worked at making them better citizens. St. John Bosco was a man on a mission from God who started a movement that is present today known as the Salesians of Don Bosco. (No, Don is not his first name. It's the Italian form of "Father")

I don't need to spend a lot of time analyzing Lupe Fiasco's new song "Show Goes On". It's pretty straight forward. I keep listening to it, and all that comes to mind is, "Man! This guy is so Salesians!" His song is all about bringing hope to young and the poor. He's all about praising those who are doing good and leaving behind those who try to hold them back. His message is to persevere, to not give up and to grow larger than the struggle.

Now, Lupe Fiasco is not Catholic and has probably never heard of the Salesians, but his heart has somehow been joined with the mission of St. John Bosco. Say what you wish as to how this came about or what this means. For me it is another example of how God uses our unique stories, lives, talents, gifts, and treasures to make a better world. It is God using each persons unique role in life to teach us how to love and support each other. It is also God taking a moment to open our eyes to the struggle that our neighbors face. Struggles I know I would not have understood without my work with the Salesians.

Next time you listen to this song, take the following lyrics as a chance to lift up in prayer the following:

One in the air for the people ain't here
Two in the air for the father that's there
Three in the air for the kids in the ghetto
Four for the kids that don't wanna be there

None for the n***** tryin hold them back
Five in the air for the teachers not scared
To tell those kids that living in the Ghetto
That the n***** holdin' back that the world is theirs

Yeah the world is yours...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Glee - My First Obedience

Somehow Glee always finds a way to speaking to my heart, and the season 2 finale was no exception. I’ll warn you that this post will be a little more personal than usual, but I think that’s ok…I don’t think there’s anything wrong with posting a personal reflection every so often.

This was an intense episode of Glee. After two years of hard work, New Directions finally makes it to New York for Nationals, they sing their heart out with 2 incredible original songs, only to find out it was all for nothing…they lost. Everyone, including me, was so sure that they had a top 10 finish in the bag, but unfortunately for the group a surprise kiss between Rachel and Finn during their performance ruined that chance. I think we could all understand the frustration of the group after finding out that they lost...but I want to focus on the conversation between Brittany and Santana.

For me this is an extremely powerful scene. Santana is completely overcome with anger because of their loss at Nationals, and has conveniently directed all of that anger at Rachel, whom she blames for the loss. Santana’s anger is real, intense, and totally understandable. That being said, she is extremely lucky to have a friend like Brittany at her side to remind her that winning/losing isn’t what is most important. Everyone wanted to win, but that wasn’t really the point of the last 2 years for the Glee Club. In this beautiful conversation, Santana is reminded that as she focuses so much on the loss at Nationals she is missing the whole point of everything that the Glee Club has been though. The kids in New Directions have learned invaluable lessons about self-acceptance as they bonded together not as friends, but as family. The kids in the Glee Club bonded together and made something beautiful…they share something really special…to get so caught up on a failed top 10 finish at Nationals and forget the incredible beauty of the many lessons these kids learned from each other would be an absolute tragedy. Santana is so lucky to have a good friend like Brittany to remind her of that.

Over the past few months, but especially during this past week, I have been having the same conversation with God that Santana and Brittany have here. A few months ago I was given the first Salesian obedience of my life…I was asked to spend 7 weeks of my summer working at 2 different Salesian summer camps (5 weeks in Tampa and 2 more weeks in Orange). This of course means that I won’t be able to work at Camp Echo Bay this summer, where I’ve spent the last 4 and a half summers of my life. Echo Bay has a very special place in my heart for a lot of reasons. In a very real way Camp Echo Bay taught me what it means to be a Salesian, but perhaps most importantly it was a place where I experienced God in a very real and powerful way. I loved Echo Bay and gave so much of myself to Echo Bay because I found God there…I found God in the counselors and the kids. It was a place that did wonders for my spiritual life, taught me to be a Salesian, and it was a place that I think I really did make a positive difference over the course of the last 4 and a half summers. How could I ever leave?

For a long time, being sent to Tampa made me feel like Santana in this scene…overcome with anger for many reasons. Fortunately, God has been there to guide me just as Brittany was there to guide Santana. Somehow God was able to work through my anger and help me to realize that there’s a lot more going on in this obedience than just “Echo Bay or not.” Santana was so stuck on the fact that New Directions lost that she completely lost sight of everything she gained through her 2 years in the Glee Club. Somehow God has shown me the very same thing. There are a lot of lessons He is trying to teach me this summer, and if I keep trying to fight him I won’t learn, I won’t grow. God wants me to realize the family he has blessed me with in my prenovitiate class, to learn the value of humility by giving up the control that I had at Echo Bay, to meet Him just as powerfully as ever before in this new environment, and maybe most of all…to simply trust that He knows what is best for me. I can say if it was my choice, yes I would choose to go back to Camp Echo Bay…but it’s not my choice, it’s Gods…He is sending me to Tampa, and I need to trust that this is what is truly best for the building of the Kingdom of God in Tampa, in Echo Bay, and most importantly within my own heart. I can finally hear the words God has been screaming at me all this time… “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46). Lord, I am finally starting to trust in you.

Today I arrived in Tampa, and have been doing a lot of thinking. No, Tampa is not the place that I would have chosen to spend my summer, but it is the place that God has sent me. It’s time I stop fighting God and start trusting in his plan for me. It’s not going to be easy but with God’s grace, I’m committed to making this summer work out. I had another Glee song stuck in my head throughout the day...I don’t think it’s a coincidence...

I'll make this song my prayer for the summer...I ask God to help me to lay down my fears before him, throw my doubts away, and do my very best to LIGHT UP THE WORLD, or at least Mary Help of Christians Summer Camp in Tampa, Florida.

Friday, June 10, 2011

MTV's Skins Cancelled


When I found out this morning that MTV was cancelling Skins I honestly wasn't surprised. I had only seen the first half of the first episode, but I never heard anything good about the show. Everyone I talked to said its incredibly unrealistic, obsessed with sex and drugs, and just plain stupid.

The thing is...it wasn't adults that told me all these terrible things about Skins...it was kids! (When I say kids I mean high schoolers.) Every time this show came up in conversation with kids at school or at the youth center they would blast the show apart, saying how ridiculous and how stupid it is. They all said it's a terrible show that they have absolutely no interest in watching. We have some smart kids...I never had to convince them that Skins was a terrible show...they were convincing me!

Call me an optimist or an idealist...but I really think that Skins getting cancelled shows something positive about our society. It shows that despite the secularism, materialism, and relativism that found its way into the conscious of our nation, we as a society still do have a conscience. This is a show that is in it's 5th season in England...it only lasted 10 episodes here in the States. Over the course of those 10 episodes the show lost over 2 million viewers, as well as some major advertisers such as Subway, GM, Taco Bell, Wrigley, and H&R Block.

MTV had this to say about the decision to cancel the show...Skins is a global television phenomenon that, unfortunately, didn’t connect with a US audience as much as we had hoped. We admire the work that the series’ creator Bryan Elsley did in adapting the show for MTV, and appreciate the core audience that embraced it.”

Why did Skins not connect with a US audience? I believe it's because deep down our society hasn't completely lost it's connection with what is true and good. We may live in a society that is confused as to where to find what is good and true in the world, but I think there is great hope for the future. If our country can unite together to take down Skins, is it unreasonable to envision a future where our country can unite together and transform our culture into one directed towards life, love, and truth? Maybe I am an idealist, but let's not forget the words that the Angel Gabriel told Mary at the Annunciation "Nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pricetag by Jessie J

I get so excited whenever this song comes on the radio. It's super catchy and packed with an incredibly powerful message. It attacks the issue of materialism head on, and is therefore packed with an important message that we all need to hear.

I don't think anyone would deny the fact that money is clearly a necessity in the world today. Without a certain amount of money it becomes impossible to provide the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothes, shelter, water, education, etc. When we see people without enough money to provide for these basic things we call that poverty, which is an evil we are trying to stop! Therefore I'd say that it's not money itself that's the problem, but rather the attitude that allows one's life to be ruled by money. When we prioritize money over what's truly important in life we run into serious problems, which is something that Jessie J sees very clearly.

In this song Jessie J just can't seem to understand how people can live their life according to "Pricetags." She starts off the song right away saying "Seems like everybody's got a price, I wonder how they sleep at night." She just doesn't understand how anyone could really live with money as their primary goal in life. In the second verse she asks very clearly "Why is everybody so obsessed? Money can't buy us happiness." She is so confused as to why anyone would allow money to rule their life. Just look at the refrain...she's almost screaming it's not about the money...we don't need your money...it ain't about the cha ching...it ain't about the ba bling...forget about the price tag!

During the B.o.B. part of the song, we are given an alternative...something to base our lives on which is so much more worthy than money. He says very clearly "It's like this man, you can't put a price on the life, we do this for love." Love...the king of all virtues...that is what should rule our lives. God created us out of love, died for us out of love, and destined us to live in his his love for all eternity. No amount of money could ever possibly match the awesome power of love. Unfortunately original sin has weakened us to the point that we forget the power of love so easily and are so often lured away from love by the temptation of money. It's times like this when we need to remember the words of Jessie J "Money can't buy us happiness" and never forget that true happiness can only be found in the love of God, there is no substitute for that!

In Matthew 19:20-22 we hear Jesus Christ echoing the words of this song so clearly and so powerfully. This is the famous story of the rich man, which reads "The young man said to Jesus, 'All of these [commandments] I have observed. What do I still lack?' Jesus said to him, 'If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions." The young man in this story went away sad because his life was not ruled by love of God, but by love of his possessions. He, like so many of us, needed to be reminded that "It's not about the pricetag...Money can't buy us happiness."

"Heavenly Father, I know that your love is the only true path to happiness, to true peace and joy. Don't let me to be distracted by something so superficial as money. Guide me, that I may never stray from the path to holiness."

Sunday, June 5, 2011


This morning I went out for a nice run around the neighborhood and noticed a few advertisements for the movie “The Green Lantern”, which comes out in a couple weeks. That got me thinking…we really love our superhero movies, don’t we? Aside from The Green Lantern and Captain America, which come out this summer, over the last few years we’ve seen movies about Thor, Ironman, The Fantastic 4, Spiderman, Batman, Ghost Rider, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy, and Blade…just to name a few. As I continued my run, I began to think that this love for superheroes is not new to our culture today. Didn’t all of these superheroes first become popular decades ago through comic books? Superheroes have been loved by our society for decades.

This makes me wonder…if superheroes are so readily accepted, and even loved by society why do we have such trouble accepting and loving God? Isn’t it interesting how many people would pick up a Spiderman comic book rather than the Bible, or how many more people will pay 10 bucks to see The Green Lantern than go to Sunday Mass? It’s an interesting question with an infinite number of possible answers. Today, I’ll offer you mine…which centers around our inability to accept God’s humility.

Whenever a superhero saves the day, he always does it in the most epic way possible. His superpowers are put on display for the world as he rescues the people from whatever danger is threatening them, and then receives the standing ovation afterwards. Think about your favorite superhero, with the exception of maybe Batman, doesn’t he follow this pattern? I’ll go back to the first Ironman movie. Tony Stark defeated all odds to take down the bad guy, fighting in incredible technologically engineered iron suites, throwing Obadiah Stone into the reactor to save the day. The next day, the whole world shows Tony Stark their appreciation when they find out that he is, in fact, Ironman.

We love our superheroes because of their “epicness.” They save the world right in front of our eyes for all of us to see. God, however, seems to work in a very different way. Usually, God doesn’t “save the day” on the grand stage with huge flashing lights and explosions. God works in a much more humble way. This is shown perfectly in the story of the Exodus, God saving his people from their slavery in Egypt.

I always thought it was very interesting that of all the ways God could have brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he chose to use Moses. God could have played the “superhero” and saved the Israelites in the most epic way possible, but instead he chose to work though Moses, a man who seemed to be the most unlikely person to lead the nation of Israel back to the Promised Land. God chose to save the Israelites through a socially awkward criminal. By our standards not only is this not epic at all, it seems almost inefficient. We as a society don’t want to cheer for the humble God who works through his people, we want to see superheroes who put their talents on display for everyone to see.

The beautiful thing about God is He is not motivated by “epicness”, but rather by love. God is love and everything he does for us is motivated by perfect love. One thing God shows us is that humility is an absolutely essential element of true love. Humility ensures that love remains selfless, as true love can never be self-centered but always self-giving. As we read throughout the Scriptures we see God constantly putting his humility, not his “epicness”, on display as an example of true love for us. This is of course most perfectly shown through the person of Jesus Christ who “Emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). The fact that God became man to save his people, people who constantly sin against God, people who add nothing to God’s infinite greatness is incredible. Not only that, but God didn’t save us through any “superhero epicness” but in the most humble of ways: death on a cross. How blessed we are to have such a perfectly loving, humble God.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me so perfectly. Your love is so amazing, so perfect it’s almost incomprehensible for us. Help me, guide me to come to know and appreciate your love for me more fully. Allow that love to really penetrate my heart, that it may transform my life.”

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bruno Mars - Just the Way You Are

Wacky scheduling has prevented me from blogging the last couple weeks...but now Nuggets of Truth are back!! Let's jump right into it with Bruno Mars' Just the Way You Are...

This song has quickly become one of the most popular songs around. It's all over the radio, television, movies, etc. Personally, I think we as a culture have taken such a liking to this song because it hits at an issue that so many of us struggle with...self acceptance.

This has been an issue that I have struggled with greatly this year. It's hard to "Be Yourself" if you don't see yourself as being good enough, or if you see the people around you as being better than you in so many ways. This is a dangerous path that the devil tries so hard to lead us down. It is a path which leads towards low self esteem, bottled up anger, and very negative perceptions of those around you. It is a path which makes holiness very difficult, as it constantly reminds me that the person I am will never be good enough.

This song, on the other hand, attacks that mentality head on. It says "You're amazing just the way you are." This is a song that God has been singing to me all year. He's been screaming to me that he made me in his own image and likeness. He made me just the way he wanted me. He loves me just the way I am.

"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" - Jeremiah 1:5

"Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me in your infinite love. Never let me forget that love you have for me. Help me to accept myself as the person you made me. Guide me, that I may fully become the person you have called me to be"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vocation – In Baseball Terms

When most people today hear the word vocation the first thing they think of is the priesthood or religious life. The only time we ever talk to people about “vocations” or “vocation ministry” or encourage people to “discern their vocation” is if we want them to join the convent or seminary. I can’t even begin to express how upset this makes me feel. The only people that have “vocations” are priests and nuns…seriously?

Some others love to describe the 3 vocations in the Church. They then proceed to give the classic speech about how the 3 vocations in the church are married, single, and religious life. Ok…this captures a little more about what a vocation is, but does it really capture the heart and soul of it? For me, the answer is absolutely not!

For me, the essence of one’s vocation is something much, much deeper. A vocation is a personal call from God. It is a call given to each of us personally by the God who loves us and wants us to serve him. Now I could go into some crazy theological stuff…but instead I’m going to try to explain what a vocation is in terms of a baseball team. I’m going to warn you…this is going to be a long post, but I think that the concept of vocation is too important to go misunderstood by so many people. See if you can keep up with my crazy baseball imagery…

Every Major League Baseball team’s roster has 25 players on it. Those 25 players are all very different from each other, but they all work together, working towards the same goal of a World Series victory. It would be impossible to accomplish that goal without each member of the team…everyone from the cleanup hitter down to the fourth outfielder. Regardless of your role on the team, your job is to work alongside the other guys to get a World Series win. Is not vocation in the broadest sense the same exact thing? No matter if we are a priest, nun, married person, doctor, lawyer, actor, barber, etc. are we not all members of the Church, working towards the same goal…building the kingdom of God?

Just as nobody on the baseball team could win the World Series by themselves, in the same way we Catholics must work together as a community to build the Kingdom of God, no matter our state of life. This is the first point of vocation…through baptism; we are all “put on the team” and thereby are called by God to be a positive part of the Church.

Now, as we look closer we cannot help but notice the wide variety of positions on the baseball team. This relates to the many different ways we can spend our lives serving God. I’m going to look at the different positions in three groups…the infielders, the outfielders, and then the pitchers and catchers.

Just as most of the players on the field are infielders (4 out of 9), most of us are called to the vocation of marriage. This is a beautiful way to serve God and build the church, as we are always saying that the family is the foundation of society. Take out your infielders and you lose the possibility of getting any outs, take out the vocation of marriage and you lose this precious foundation. Married couples are called to give of themselves completely to each other and to their children. But remember, vocation is a deeply personal, not general, thing so the vocation of every married couple is not the same. Just as the second baseman and shortstop play similar, though slightly different positions, the vocation of married couples will also differ slightly from couple to couple. Some couples have large families, with up to eight or ten kids, others much fewer, still others are called to be parents to mentally or physically handicapped children, or maybe adopt the children of others. Other parents may not be able to have children at all. Even things like jobs can make one’s vocation distinct from others. Is not a doctor called to witness to God’s love in a very different way than a store owner? It is true that most people are called to marriage, but just David Wright is more than just an infielder (he is a third baseman), all married couples are not the same and are called to build the Kingdom of God in different, personal, beautiful ways.

Next are the outfielders…the guys who seem to be the furthest from the action. Most little leaguers will tell you that the outfield is the most boring place on the field to be. But are they any less important than the infielders? Without the support of the outfielders, the infield could not do their job, and the team could never reach their goal. For me, this relates perfectly to the vocation of single life. I doubt many people would admit it, but I think today many see the single life as the pointless vocation. If you can’t marry or be a priest, what’s the point? Well…just as the outfielders are called to contribute to the team in a particular way, so are people called to single life. They are able to build the Kingdom of God in a different, though no less beautiful way. They are freed from a lot of the obligations and responsibilities that fall upon those who are married, as well as priests and religious brothers and sisters, and are therefore able to give themselves in unique ways. My uncle is not married, and probably will never marry, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a vocation, in fact it means just the opposite. His vocation is different from mine and from my parents. In addition to that, just as with the infielders, the way single people live out their vocation is going to vary as much as the three outfield positions. The three outfield positions look the same, but in fact they are very different, distinct from one another.

Finally we have the pitcher and catcher. Even though there are only two of them, they are absolutely vital to the game. They are also the central animators of each and every baseball game, directly responsible for everything that happens. Doesn’t this perfectly describe our priests and religious? Without the pitcher, the game could never start…without our priests it would be impossible for us to receive any of the sacraments. Without priests, it would be impossible for us to receive God’s grace through such a beautiful and direct channel. However, not all priests are the same. Just as some pitchers are starters and others relievers, some hard throwers and others more finesse, in the same way the vocation of the priest is a personal, specific calling. Some priests are called to work within their home diocese, others to go off as missionaries, others to join a religious order, which is its own vocation and discussed below…

The catcher I think is another misunderstood position in baseball. Oftentimes his hard work goes unnoticed. It is also not a glorious position, like the pitcher and some of the other positions on the team…the catcher takes a beating every single day so that the team as a whole can succeed. This is how another misunderstood vocation operates…the religious life. Through vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity religious brothers and sisters are called to model the life and love of Jesus as closely as possible. They are called to be a living witness of the beauty of God’s love for the entire world. Through

the witness, and intense prayers of religious brothers and sisters, just like the catcher on the baseball team, takes a beating so the rest of the team can succeed. Just remember again, just as with all the other vocations in the Church, no two religious sisters are going to be the same. Some religious are called to be monks, others poor Franciscans, others educators in schools, and still others are called to minister to the sick and the elderly in hospitals. This is just another example of how truly personal one’s vocation truly is.

I think it’s clear that there are a wide variety of vocations in the Church and that all are necessary if we are to build the kingdom of God here on Earth. Take any one of the nine positions off the baseball team and suddenly the goal of winning the World Series becomes almost impossible. In the same way, all Christians…no matter their family, job, personality, etc. are all called to build the kingdom of God. Vocation is not a word tied exclusively to the priesthood. Could you imagine what kind of pitcher Roy Halladay would be if he didn’t have the rest of his team backing him up? There is room for everyone on the team that is the Catholic Church and everyone is needed if we are going to achieve our goal of building the Kingdom of God.

Now that we (hopefully) understand what a vocation is…the final question must be how do I find my vocation. Remember…a vocation is a call placed into our heart from God, not something we choose because simply because it attracts us. When I played baseball I was a catcher not because I chose it, but because it chose me. My gifts and skills lent themselves to making me a good catcher. I was a terrible hitter, couldn’t run, or catch a fly ball…but I had a strong arm, was a good leader, and a hard worker. The skills and talents led me to become a catcher. Now, I could’ve decided to play any other position I wanted, but I wouldn’t have been as good of a player and the team as a whole would have suffered. In the same way…a vocation is not something we decide because it attracts us. I can’t decide to be a priest because it looks cool or decide to get married because I could never give up dating. I need to look deep down into my heart to see where God is leading me. How does God want me to devote my life to him? It’s not an easy question, but just as baseball players trust that their coach will always be right there in the dugout to lead and guide them, we need to trust that our Heavenly Father will always be that coach…always there to lead and guide us to find our vocation, our calling from God.

“Heavenly Father, I thank you for blessing me with this beautiful life you have given me. I know in my heart that you are calling me to a divinely inspired vocation, a path towards devoting my life to you and building your Kingdom here on Earth. Help me, guide me that I might discover that calling and so grow closer to you, closer to spending eternity with you in heaven.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Glee - Rumors

I just watched this past Monday's Glee, which was amazing as usual. This week's episode tackled an issue that so many of us struggle with: gossiping and rumors. It showed very beautifully how destructive and how stupid spreading rumors can be. So many students, as well as Mr. Schuester himself, struggled with being victimized by people gossiping about them, but I want to focus on one character in particular...Sam.

Sam was judged pretty harshly this episode. All of his "friends" were real quick to conclude that he was sleeping around with either Quinn or Kurt. It was amazing how easily everyone could believe that he was doing something so terrible, but nobody could confront him about it. It was easier for Finn and Rachel to believe that Sam was trying to ruin Finn's life by taking his girlfriend than to ask him about the situation. Finn and Rachel were so sure that Sam was doing something wrong that they were absolutely shocked when they found out the truth...that Sam's family has nowhere to live and is in dire financial need.

Passing judgement, putting down others, is one of the easiest way to destroy relationships. Finn and Rachel were willing to throw away their friendship with Sam, and not because of anything Sam did but because of something they thought Sam did. When we judge others not only do we put them down, viewing them as less than human, but we also refuse to give that person an opportunity to defend him/herself. Sam couldn't even get the help, love, and support that he truly needed from Finn and Rachel because they were too busy judging him to notice something major was going on in his life. When judgement replaces communication and openness major problems can erupt, which is exactly what happened here in this episode.

Unfortunately this is not a problem that I have a solution for. I actually struggle a great deal with this issue myself. All I can say is nothing good can come from judging those around us, especially our friends. Judging is one of those acts that can never bring us true joy or love. It is an act that isolates us, as through judging we push ourselves away from those around us, which thus pushes us away from the love of God. When we judge others, we close the door to our hearts, making it impossible for the love of God to enter within us (which is exactly what all sin does).

For our prayer today let's sit and reflect with a powerful line from scripture, a line which we should all remember whenever we are about to judge, gossip, or spread rumors about those around us...

"Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her" - John 8:7

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Theatrical Trailers - The Eucharist

Summer is fast approaching, and for many of us that means getting ready for some of the best movies of the year to come out in theaters. Just yesterday I was watching the trailers for the new Harry Potter and Transformers movies. They were awesome, definitely look to be amazing movies! Watching those trailers got me thinking...isn't it awesome that these movie producers put out these trailers? Theatrical trailers give us a foretaste of the movie itself. They allow us to dive into the mystery of the movie before actually experiencing it in its fullness. When I watch a movie's trailer I get really excited about seeing the actual movie itself (assuming the trailer is well done and the movie's plot interests me of course). I end up awaiting the movie's release in a sort of joyful expectation. Everyone knows me knows how much I obsess over Harry Potter, and watching that trailer only got me more excited about that movie coming out this summer!

In a very similar way, for us Catholics the Eucharist is a foretaste of heaven. When we receive that most blessed sacrament, we receive the fullness of God within our very beings...the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ literally enters within us. Isn't that exactly what heaven is, experiencing God face to face for all eternity? Granted, things like original sin, as well as living in time, and space limit us from experiencing the fullness of heaven while on Earth...we know none of us could handle seeing God in his absolute fullness while here on Earth, but the Eucharist gives us an incredible foretaste of that heavenly perfection that we all hope for. Blessed Pope John Paul II says in paragraph 19 of his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia "The Eucharist is truly a glimpse of heaven appearing on Earth. It is a glorious ray of the heavenly Jerusalem which pierces the clouds of our history and lights up our journey."

As most of us receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist either daily or weekly at mass, it is vitally
important for our spiritual lives that we do
not allow reception of this sacrament to become simply routine. Each and every time we receive the Eucharist, we delve into the mystery of heaven. Just as a movie's trailer often leads us to see the movie, reception of the Eucharist should lead us to heaven. It should inspire us to live our lives for Christ, to desire to spend the rest of our lives in heaven. Though, the incredible thing about the Eucharist is that it actually helps guide us to heaven. A movie trailer can make us want to see a movie, but it will never transport us to the theaters. The Eucharist, on the other hand, if we receive it faithfully, gives us the grace we need to grow and stay close to God each and every day. The Eucharist is so unbelievable powerful that it not only gives us a foretaste of that Heavenly perfection that we are all striving for, but it actually helps us, guides us, strengthens us as we continue on that journey towards Heaven.

Let us never forget that the Eucharist isn't just a symbol of Jesus, but that it actually is the real, true presence of Jesus Himself. Let's remember that the surest path towards meeting our maker in Heaven includes a deep love for, and frequent reception of, the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Eucharist.

"Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the Eucharist. Thank you for blessing us with this incredibly powerful means of coming in physical contact with you during our time on Earth. Allow the Eucharist we receive and worship to strengthen us as we journey towards Holiness, towards Perfection, towards You."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Glee: Born This Way

Glee is without a doubt one of the most controversial shows on air today.  It has received rave reviews and harsh criticism.  I will be the first to admit that I have not always been the biggest fan of the show.  But earlier this year I conquered my fear and watched one episode and I have been relatively addicted to it ever since.  I don’t always agree with the message that the show sends to its adolescent viewers.  But this week’s episode, “Born This Way”, has a respectable message and it can even help us understand our Easter call to spread the word to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This past weekend we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through his resurrection we realize the call that He is now giving each and every one of us.  Jesus was persecuted, because he didn’t fit in with society.  He was spat on, whipped, tortured, crucified and eventually He died for the totally imperfect and abnormal us.  And if there is one thing that this week’s Glee episode portrayed it was the perfection that we don’t see in ourselves but often see in each other.  We accept one another for being good at this or that.  But we don’t always accept the way that God made us.  God made us this way, whether it was through birth or through life experience which we know can form and change us.  There might be something that you’re ashamed of when you look in the mirror but I can guarantee that God would hold you up like a banner in war against Satan.  We were made in the image and likeness of God, therefore there is absolutely nothing WRONG with us.  God accepts you for who you are deep inside.  He sees your deep dark secret and he embraces it for who you are.  He sees your weaknesses and your sin and only wants you to lay those at His feet in prayer.  Glee showed this week that it is important and even crucial to our survival to embrace ourselves for who we are, because in life there are no re-dos.  All of the characters rocked out at the end of the episode and wore tee-shirts that bore in large and almost protruding letters, their characters own insecurities.  Even the school guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury admitted she suffered from OCD. 

Getting over our insecurities can be VERY difficult and in this culture it is unfortunately also the cause of depression and suicide.  But there are ways you can make it easier on yourself.  Everyone has at least one thing that they wish they could change about themselves whether it’s physical or part of their personality; it nonetheless has a huge impact on their personal lives and friendships.  Most of us don’t surround ourselves with friends that build us up.  We have two great examples of true friendship.  The first one is of course Jesus Christ.  He accepted people who were considered low class and unworthy.  He ate with sinners and servants instead of the rich and famous (who by the way were also sinners).  One of his closest followers and friends was a prostitute.  Yet by accepting that she had made mistakes and learned to turn her life around she became an iconic figure for all of us.  Jesus is the ultimate friend.  And while we sometimes have a hard time imagining Jesus as a realistic every day friend (which he is), we can also look to Glee.  The whole idea of the Glee club was to help one another deal with the differences which truly make them unique.  Surrounded by friends who truly cared about them, members of the Glee club were able to not only accept who they are but shine as who they are.  As Catholic Christians it is our duty to embrace who we are and to work on our weaknesses while we lay all of these at the feet of Jesus.  Be proud of what God gave you and shine as his an example of him on Earth.   

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Nuggets of Truth...What's the Point?

Sometimes I think its weird that I write a blog about finding God in secular TV shows, movies, music, sports, etc. It's like having my own little identity crisis. Just look at the list of top 10 posts...Jersey Shore, Harry Potter, Lady Gaga, Secret Life of the American Teenager...what the heck am I doing writing about how God is present in things so secular? Shouldn't I be talking about how terrible these things are, instead of how Harry Potter is an excellent example of God's sacrificial love? What the heck am I really doing?

In all honesty, I wouldn't be writing this blog if I didn't think it would lead myself, as well as those who read it, closer to God. I know I approach topics like Lady Gaga from a different, maybe unusual, perspective, but I believe that if approached correctly and carefully, we Catholics can use pop culture to our advantage. I base this belief on a few things...

1) Nuggets of Truth are used in addition to, not instead of, traditional means of Evangelization. I would NEVER tell anyone to stop going to mass, stop going to confession, stop praying the rosary, etc. and just read the Nuggets of Truth blog for their spiritual gain. These Nuggets of Truth, just as any use of social media in Evangelization, should lead people to Christ within the context of the Church, especially to the sacraments. If you notice, almost every Nugget of Truth contains a reference to scripture, as well as a closing prayer. Nuggets of Truth should never replace someone's spiritual life, only enhance it.

2) Jesus used the culture to Evangelize... In the incarnation, God became man...he became just like us, lived in the same world and culture as the people of the time. He spoke the language of the people, and lived within their culture of the time. He did not rip the people out of their culture, but rather entered into their culture as one of them, fully immersed. He even used parables, metaphors, and symbolism that the people in that culture would relate to. How often in our scripture study do we say "well you have to remember what this meant to the Israelites?" If Jesus used the culture of his day to preach the Kingdom of God, why shouldn't we?

3) There are good messages out there...why not use them? Yes, there is a lot of garbage out
there. But scattered throughout the nonsense are beautiful golden "Nuggets of Truth." Look at the posts...we've been able to learn about things like true love, objective moral truth, fasting, examination of conscience, parenthood, and so much more from mass media. Kids today are watching these shows, and I'd rather point out some shockingly good messages in what they're already listening to than simply bashing them, trying to tell them that their faith could never be compatible with the culture they were born and raised in. I think pointing out the beautiful nuggets out there will help kids to start to notice the difference between the good and the garbage, and consciously decide to treasure the good and ignore the garbage.

After reflecting on all this, I have to conclude that the golden nuggets found in pop culture discussed in this blog are in fact not superficial or stupid or a justification for the world's evils, but rather an important and beautiful way to lead people to Christ. God is present everywhere, and is always reaching out for us, including in media. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, the shepherd who is always looking out for ways to rescue his lost sheep, maybe these golden nuggets in the cloudy water that is pop culture today are sent by our Shepherd who is calling us back to him.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday...the day we remember Jesus dying for each and every one of us. The terrible humiliation, pain, and suffering Jesus went through in order to bring us back to God is absolutely unbelievable. Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity, the incarnate Word of God, killed in the most horrific of ways so that we might be reconciled with God. Let's take today to really let that crazy reality settle in our hearts.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Thursday

Tonight we celebrate Holy Thursday, the remembrance of Jesus' Last Supper with his apostles before his passion, death, and resurrection. It was at the Last Supper that Jesus instituted the Eucharist (as well as the priesthood). Through this most precious sacrament Christ left us a way to enjoy the fullness of his presence even after he ascended into heaven. When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus is just as present with us as he was to the apostles who saw him face to face.

I always thought it was incredible that Jesus decided to use bread and wine, food and drink, as a means of sharing his real presence with us. Without food it would be impossible for our bodies to survive. In the same way, without the grace of God our souls, tainted by original sin, could also never survive. Therefore through the Eucharist, our God is able to nourish us both bodily and spiritually. We truly cannot live without the Eucharist, let's never forget that.

This is an incredibly beautiful testimony about the power of the Eucharist. There is a beautiful song that goes with it that you can find on Youtube, it's called "See You in the Eucharist."

Just a note...this was filmed in 2007...Danielle Rose has since left the convent after discerning that her vocation in life is to devote herself completely to God, not as a contemplative nun, but as a Catholic Musician.

Easter Triduum Reflections

As Lent comes to a close, and we begin to delve into the Easter Triduum, I thought a more solemn, more serious post would me more appropriate than the usual Nuggets of Truth...Let's dive right into what is considered to be the greatest and most solemn time in the Church...

I've been reflecting a good deal on Scripture recently, and I've come to see that the entirety of the Old Testament points to the New Testament, and the entirety of the New Testament points towards the events that we celebrate during the Triduum (either Jesus preparing us for his passion, or the Church reflecting on its importance). So I was thinking let's look at a few verses from various sections of scripture and spend some time reflecting on them over the course of the next few days. Let's reflect on how the Scriptures continually point us towards Jesus' ultimate act of redemption for us. Let's allow the Word of God to penetrate deep within our heart, so we may truly make the Easter Triduum a prayerful, reflective time.

"Heavenly Father, send me your spirit. Allow your Word to speak to my heart, penetrate my being, touch my soul."

-God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:27

-I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. - Exodus 3:7-8

-The Lord, your God, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, that you may love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, and so may live. - Deuteronomy 30:6

-He reached out from on high and grasped me; he drew me out of the deep waters. He rescued me from my mighty enemy, from my foes, who were too powerful for me. - 2 Samuel 22:17-18

-Rescue me from death, God, my saving God, that my tongue may praise your healing power.- Psalm 51:16

-He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. - Isaiah 53:5

-I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. - Ezekiel 34:11-12

-What woman having ten counts and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? - Luke 15:8

- For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. - John 3:16

-God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Jesus Christ. - Ephesians 2:4-6

-God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. - 1 John 4:8

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Secret Life – Love vs. Lust

Monday night’s episode of Secret Life was absolutely incredible! So many secrets come out, drama developed, not to mention Adrian and Ben’s engagement. However, if you were paying close attention you would’ve noticed a beautiful conversation between Adrian and Grace where Adrian compares the relationship she had with Ricky (back in season 1) to what she now has with Ben. She provides us with a beautiful answer to one of the most misunderstood problems with relationships today: the difference between love and lust. Here’s what she says… (It’s a long quote so I’ll cut out the unimportant parts.)

“What I feel for Ben is a mature love, not like what I had with Ricky. Me and Ricky, we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other. We wanted to jump into bed with each other whenever we got the chance. It wasn’t real love, it was infatuation…But I really love Ben and I know he really loves me. He’s the kind of guy I always wanted, he’s there…being there is everything.”

The Adrian we saw in season 1 and the Adrian that gave us the above quote Monday night are to very different people. The old Adrian who “loved” Ricky always put on a smile, but was never truly happy. Her relationship with Ricky, based primarily on physical attractions and sex, never seemed to really fulfill her. Adrian’s current relationship with Ben, on the other hand, is very different. Adrian and Ben have very little physical chemistry, they haven’t had sex (except for that one time which they both acknowledge to be a huge mistake), but somehow both Adrian and Ben seem to be truly happy together. They seem to have a true sense of inner comfort and peace, a real true sense of love. They really want to give their lives to each other and to their daughter. Their relationship is based on something far deeper than sex; it is based on true sacrificial love. Granted, Adrian and Ben’s relationship has never been easy, and sometimes no fun at all, but any true love must be tested by the cross in order to obtain the joy of the resurrection.

The new, mature Adrian acknowledges that the physical love she and Ricky shared could never fulfill her like the true love that she and Ben share. Adrian says very clearly “he’s there…being there is everything” showing that she doesn’t want a man who is drop dead gorgeous and will please her sexually, she wants someone who she can rely on, someone who will be there for her and support her when she is in trouble…someone who is willing to show her the sacrificial love that Christ showed us on the cross, and someone with whom she can share that same sacrificial love.

This is a lesson that many people struggle to understand today. Our hearts yearn for love, the true sacrificial love that Ben and Adrian have found in each other. However, oftentimes we decide to settle for physical attraction and activity (like Adrian and Ricky) because it seems more appealing and more fun. The problem is our heart yearns for love, not infatuation. God did not create us because he was infatuated with us, but rather because he truly loves each and every one of us. Because of that, nothing short of such true love could ever possibly satisfy our hearts.

I think this is a great time to step back and examine the relationships in our lives. Are they based on infatuation or true love? Do my relationships resemble the connection between Adrian and Ricky, or Adrian and Ben?

“Heavenly Father, I know and believe that you created me out of love. I know that because of this, because of the infinite love you have for me, my heart will never be truly satisfied by anything short of true, divine, sacrificial love. Help me to never forget this, to never fall into any of the artificial forms of love created by the world, such as infatuation, but to always seek true love as shown to us by your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bruno Mars "Grenade" - Love and Freedom

“I’d catch a grenade for ya, throw my hand on a blade for ya, I’d jump in front of a train for ya… Yes, I would die for you, baby; but you won’t do the same!”

I’ve never known anyone personally whose life has been saved because someone died for them, and it’s hard for me to imagine what that must be like. I wonder, is there a feeling of guilt and unworthiness, or a sense of debt? Or maybe there is a deep gratitude for the gift of being alive. Well, whatever the feeling is, I’m sure that anyone who has experienced this could not deny that they have been loved! I think that all of us, deep down, desire to be loved and cherished this much too.

This desire to be loved is pretty fundamental for us, and I think Mr. Bruno Mars really hits on this desire pretty well in his recent song ‘Grenade’. He even gets close to our understanding of Divine Love. I mean, when I was listening to this song I could not help but think of Jesus’ last words to his closest friends on the night before He died: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Even watching the video, Bruno Mars seems to recognize that his song is touching on this type of love (as he portrays himself in a similar way to Jesus as He carried His Cross). In a way, he really gives a wonderful display of one of the most fundamental themes of our Christian Faith: sacrificial love. Kudos!:)

Still, whenever I heard this song, I kept getting that funny feeling like something wasn’t right. It was the last line of the chorus, “but you won’t do the same”, a line that colors the whole attitude of the song, that just didn’t sit right with me. I kept thinking to myself, ‘yeah this is true love, to sacrifice for the beloved, but true love doesn’t demand payment of love in return, it simply gives the gift.’ Sure, the lover hopes to be loved in return, but he or she would never try to guilt the other person into loving them. No, love, to be true love, must be free! Freely given, and freely received (and responded to).

That is the example of love that God shows us. He really did die for us in the person of Jesus, and invites us to love Him in return; but no matter how much it hurts Him to see us reject His love, He always respects our freedom! He keeps loving and offering His gift, then waits patiently, as true love does, for us to accept His love and be happy. This is our model! We are called to love in this way too! So thank you Bruno Mars for reminding us of the importance of sacrificial love, but let us look to our true model of love, God, and follow His way of love and freedom.

What do you think love is? Is it a feeling or a choice? Are you willing to love sacrificially, for your family? Friends? Boyfriend/Girlfriend? God? Would you still be willing to love if you were not loved in return?

Today's Nugget of Truth was written by special guest author Kyle. Thanks Kyle!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Glee – Loser Like Me

When I heard that New Directions was going to be singing original songs at Regionals, I knew it would be amazing and they definitely didn’t disappoint. This song, “Loser Like Me”, is like one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard! It’s also a song that has spoken to my heart and has helped guide me through many of my struggles I’ve dealt with this year. Like I said in an older post, I really can see myself in a lot of the characters on Glee.

The kids on Glee have felt like the losers of the school since the very first episode. They’re the outcasts, the kids that just don’t fit in with the normal cliques of high school. Because of this they are put through a lot of crap from kids who are more “normal, more cool.” On good days they get weird looks whenever they turn the corner or talk about their love for the Glee club, but on the worst of days they get explicitly ridiculed, bullied, and get slushies thrown in their faces. If you’ve ever felt like the outcast, you know it’s not fun to feel like you can’t be yourself.

The words to this song show the beautiful, courageous approach that the Glee kids decide to take to their frustrating position at school. The song says let the haters be haters! It says “Hit me with the words you got and knock me down, BABY I DON’T CARE…you push me up against the locker, AND HEY ALL I DO IS SHAKE IT OFF.” It says I’m through with caring about what you think about me, I’m gonna be myself whether you like who that is or not! It’s a song filled with incredible self-confidence! Besides that, look at how excited and energetic they are as they sing this song. This is a group of kids ready go get out there and show the world what they got, to stop hiding and start shining!

To live life to the fullest, you have to be yourself…the person YOU truly are, not the person others want you to be! We can’t live our lives worrying about what people think about us. Whether those around us approve or not, God has blessed each of us with unique, beautiful gifts and talents. Don’t let other people pressure you to hide those talents! Don’t ever be afraid to let them shine brightly so everyone can see what a great person you are! Just remember the song “L-O-S-E-R I CAN ONLY BE WHO I ARE!” (part of the longer version of the song) If you feel like people want you to be someone you’re not, remember it’s your life, not theirs! Be YOU, not the person other people want you to be!

“Heavenly Father, I thank you for making me beautiful and unique. I know you didn’t make a mistake when you made me, but rather you created me in your own image and likeness. Help me to never be afraid to be the person you made me. Don’t let other people’s impressions of me affect my self confidence, my self image, and most importantly my relationship with you. Give me the strength and courage I need to be the person you made me, since I know without a doubt, no matter what anyone says, you did an amazing job when you made me.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Secret Life of the American Teenager

Secret life is like the king of all teenage dramas. It is a show completely centered on teenage relationships, dating, pregnancy, etc. Sometimes the characters make some really stupid, life destroying choices (like when Adrian and Ben decided to have sex last season), but sometimes they make some good, solid ones. I want to focus on one decision that Adrian made on last night’s episode that showed tremendous maturity. As Ben is pressuring Adrian to agree that living together would be the best thing for their relationship and for their daughter, Adrian quickly shuts Ben down, saying very clearly that they won’t be living together unless they’re married. Here’s the quote from last night’s episode…

“I really appreciate that you’ve so stepped up to the plate here, Ben, you’ve just been so responsible and kind and considerate, and everything else, but…look I’m not living with you, I’m definitely not living with you unless we’re married.”

In making this decision, Adrian decides that there is something special about living with someone that should be saved for marriage. I think that a lot of people today would probably think that Adrian is crazy. Adrian and Ben have already had sex, they are having a daughter, they love each other and will probably end up getting married…why shouldn’t they live together? If really love each other, wouldn’t living together only strengthen their love? At the very least, wouldn’t it be good for Adrian and Ben to try living together so they can see whether or not they’d enjoy a lifelong marriage together?

People today, like Ben, who justify couples living together before marriage usually cite one of the above reasons. However, for me the major problem with living together before marriage is that it spits on the integrity of marriage. In marriage two people publicly declare their love to one another, giving their entire lives to each other. This culminates in the physical unity of sex. The complete gift of self in the sexual act is meant to seal the marital vows, as well as produce new life which further unites the couple as they have to come together to raise the child. Many couples who decide to “shack up” do so in order that they may more readily show their love for each other physically, not seeing the true purpose for sex within the context of the marriage vows.

However, this isn’t really the case for Ben and Adrian. If they were to move in together, they probably wouldn’t be having sex, as Adrian is already pregnant. Actually the main reason why Ben wants to live with Adrian is so that the two could raise their child together. Despite these seemingly favorable circumstances, Adrian still thinks it would be wrong for them to live together before marriage. When a man and woman decide to shack up before marriage they are unable to see the beauty of the sacrificial nature of marriage. Through marriage a man and a woman vow to sacrifice everything for each other. Sharing of everything, including a home, food, etc. naturally follow from the self sacrifice found within marriage. The fact that shared living is found within marriage is also significant because the sacrifice forms a perpetual bond. When two people shack up before marriage this sacrificial commitment is not present in the same way. For example, if Ben and Adrian did start living together either one would be free to move out at any time since they have not vowed their lives to one another. On the other hand, two married people living together have vowed to work out their differences “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer till death do us part.” The self sacrifice within the marital commitment is so strong that it can only be broken by death.

There is also one very strong practical reason, besides all this theology, for not shacking up…it doesn’t work. Statistics show that “Most couples who live together never end up getting married, but those who do tie the knot have a divorce rate nearly 80 percent higher than those who waited until after the wedding to move in together. Couples who cohabited prior to marriage also have greater marital conflict and poorer communication, and they made more frequent visits to marriage counselors. Women who cohabited before marriage are more than three times as likely to cheat on their husbands within marriage. The U.S. Justice Department found that women who cohabit are sixty-two times more likely to be assaulted by a live-in boyfriend than by a husband. They were also more than three times as likely to be depressed as married women, and the couples were less sexually satisfied than those who waited for marriage.” It seems the surest way to a healthy, long lasting marriage is to leave sex, as well as living together, for the context of marriage where they belong.

“There is no place for selfishness-and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice"
- Pope John Paul II

Statistics taken from: http://chastity.com/chastity-qa/dating/shacking-up/should-i-move-with-my-boyfrie

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dieting – Change of Lifestyle

If you’re like me, always trying to lose weight, you’ve probably heard that fad diets don’t work, that if you really want to lose weight you need a “change of lifestyle.” So many of us have tried all the quick fix weight loss programs there are, but as soon as we go back to our “normal routine”, the weight comes right back. In actuality, there is no “quick fix” when it comes to weight loss, it really does require a change in lifestyle. True weight loss requires that we change our attitude, recognizing the difference between the food our body needs to survive and the food our taste buds desire. No matter how much we want to lose weight, unless the desire is rooted in a deep, firm, internal, long term commitment not to a diet, but to a healthier attitude and lifestyle, no true change can take place.

Is not the same exact thing true for our spiritual lives? How often do we attempt to settle for “fad diets” rather than seek the true internal conversion that is necessary for us to grow closer to Christ? If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that it is far easier to talk about growing closer to Christ than actually doing it. I mean for years I feel like I’ve tried to grow closer to God. I’ve gone to mass and confession, said my rosary, read scripture fairly often. But it hasn’t been until recently that I think my faith life has started to change from “superficial fad diet” to real change of lifestyle.

What’s the difference between a prayer life that is merely a “fad diet” and a true change of lifestyle, well it’s the same as what separates the Adkins, South Beach, or whatever other fad diet you can think of from a true, lasting change of lifestyle that leads to weight loss. The virtue I’m speaking of is that of surrender. Fad diets are all about what YOU can do to lose weight. Through each fad diet I’ve tried I worked so hard, but my work was never enough, the weight always came back. However, when I decide to stop focusing on what I should do, but rather surrender to what is best for my body then I can truly grow into a healthier person.

In the same way, our faith lives should not be about what we can do to grow closer to God, but on how we can surrender most fully to God. You see, the focus should not be on ourselves, but on God. A life that is truly changed by prayer is a life that seeks the most intimate union with God. See, prayer is not just merely talking to God as most of us were taught in CCD, it is so much more than that…it is allowing God to live in and through us. In order to bring about this incredible union with our God, we need to surrender to God each and every day. The focus is not on me, but on the almighty and everlasting God.

Even Christ says in the Gospel “Amen, amen I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (John 3:3). In order to see the Kingdom of God, we need to be reborn. Take a moment to think about that word…birth. Birth is not something we can do anything about. None of us willed to be born, there was nothing any of us could do about it. At our birth, we simply had to accept, to surrender, the fact that life had begun. In the same way, if we are to be reborn into the Kingdom of God, to truly allow Christ to live in and through us in life rooted in prayer, we need to surrender, to allow God to work without getting in his way through our pride, our sin.

“Heavenly Father, we know that without you we could never be truly happy as you are the source and summit of all good. We want to grow closer to you, to grow to be in greater union with you, through a life of true, profound prayer. Help us to surrender daily, in all humility, to your will. Use us as your instruments of love, in whatever way you wish, to build your kingdom here on Earth.”