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.

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.”