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Pope Francis: Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria on Saturday

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On Sunday during his Angelus address, Pope Francis announced a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, to occur Saturday, September 7:

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

Later on, he references Pacem in Terris, written by Pope John XIII:

What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love.

Finally, the details surrounding the day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria:

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00 [1-6pm Eastern, 10am-1pm Pacific], we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

My friends, there is no denying that the situation in Syria is grave. Action must be taken. But our action must be informed by the Gospel; we need to be instruments of justice and love. This Saturday, pray for peace in Syria, and let us always remember to pray for peace throughout the whole world.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Pax et bonum.

PS: H/t to to Rocco Palmo. For a full transcript of Pope Francis’ talk, as well as video of the address (you’ll need to brush up on your Italian), head on over to the original post.

Social Media 2.0 and Spreading the Word

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Fr. Rodderick, of SQPN fame, is down in Melbourne organizing and presenting at the Catholic New Media Conference. Today at the conference, he shared his and Ryan Eggenberger’s tips for interacting on Twitter and Facebook. Here is a sampling from the extensive list:

 

  • Do not engage in social networks where you are not planning to really interact there.
  • Be personal. Don’t hide behind a veil of anonymity. Comment. Wish people a happy birthday. Perform random acts of kindness.
  • Diversify your content and form (Facebook algorithm)
  • The Bambi advice: when Thumper is making fun of clumsy Bambi, his mother tells him: “If you can’t say something nice… don’t say nothing at all”. (about others, when reacting to complaints or angry comments etc.)
  • Only befriend people you really know, don’t follow back blindly. Limit yourself to a few hundred people.

I highly recommend taking a look at the rest of the list. Not only does Fr. Roderick provide good pointers on interacting with others on social media, many of the points can be applied to “real life” as well.

As Pope John Paul II reminded us in his beginning of his letter Novo Millennio Inuente (At the Beginning of the Third Millennium), we must be bold and “put out into the deep” (Luke 5:4). This includes reaching out with social media, and other new and perhaps unknown forms of technology, in order to spread the Good News.

Fr. Roderick’s list, however, takes all of this a step further: I see in his Social Media 2.0 tips not only evangelizing in word, but in action as well. After all, what we post on Facebook and in other places will hold no weight if we do not back it all up with solid actions. This means treating others with respect, knowing how to use those networks properly, and keeping in mind things such as etiquette and privacy. If we back up our words with solid actions, informed by the Gospel, both our words and actions will carry much more wieght, both in the social media networks themselves, as well as in so-called “real life” social interactions.

Check out the rest of Fr. Roderick’s blog, and be sure to listen to his podcast, The Break with Fr. Roderick.

Pax et bonum.

PS: Please also see my recent admin note.

Admin Note: New Posts and Beyond Summer Vacation

Hi everyone. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Now that summer vacation is over (my last post was in May), I am starting to get back in the swing of things. I will be posting again, with the goal of one post per week. Unfortunately, my schedule does not allow for more than that, and besides, you probably don’t want to hear my ramblings that often anyway! Again, this blog is meant to be a sort of commonplace book of material I come across, either on the net or in the “real world”. While much of it will be religious in nature, or at least related to matters of the Faith, sometimes I do branch out. Suggestions are always welcome, and can be left through the contact form on my About page.

So dear readers, please feel free to keep me accountable on that one post per week. I have some transitions coming up in a few months, so things may be interrupted then, but we will cross that bridge when it comes (and I will add more details later). Until then, thanks for reading, and please say a prayer for me! Know that you are in my prayers as well!

Pax et bonum.

A Link in the Chain

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.

He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work.

I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.

Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.” ― John Henry Newman

As those close to me will attest, my vocational journey has not been without twists and turns. Just as anyone who discerns their God-given vocation, there have been moments of great peace and consolation about my future path, while at other times I have doubted everything. Modern wisdom would tell me that I should do this or that because I can be happy or do some sort of good in some particular place. Modern wisdom would also tell me that all of it is up to me, and that I can do what I want, because it is, after all, my life.

But for those that truly try to follow Him, and live our lives according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we know that everything is not always about us. In fact, anything is rarely about you or me. In the end, it all leads back to Him.

So if finding one’s vocation is not simply about going where one feels most “happy”, then what is it? First, I think we need to realize that in the contemporary sense, happiness is often just a fleeting feeling or surge of emotion. In reality, true happiness, true joy, the eudaemonia of Aristotle perhaps (actually, much much more), resides in something outside oneself: to find his or her vocation, a person must search for where God is calling him or her to serve both Him and their fellow human being. But here’s the best part of it all: even if we don’t realize it at first, seeking one’s vocation in this manner will provide more happiness and contentment than one could possibly imagine, much more than simply seeking that path in life where they think they will do the most good or experience the greatest benefit (although discernment still contains an aspect of those things)!

Sometimes the path ahead is hidden from us. That’s O.K.; there is a purpose in that as well. When the path is hidden, we are still called to seek where we are to serve in the little matters of life, where we are called to give glory to Him in our daily actions. The kind ear lent to a co-worker, the helping hand at the after-school function, assisting a homeless person in finding a meal, or spending some time in prayer and conversation with Him: all of these are aspects of seeking His will, and in the end will serve as sign-posts for the larger direction that we are called to take.

The path will not be easy. There will be twists. There will be roadblocks. There will be naysayers. We may lose friends, or feel desolate. As long as we remember to trust Him, and remember always that “He knows what He is about”, we will come to the unremitting peace and contentment of finding Him in our lives.

Pax et bonum.

Oklahoma

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My heart goes out to those affected by the destruction caused in the wake of the Oklahoma tornadoes.

How do we explain such unspeakable disaster? The truth is, we can’t, not really. Not on this side of eternity, anyway. From a Christian perspective, we know that God brings good out of all things. Even so, sometimes we simply cannot explain what happens. When that’s the case, we help where we can and, most importantly, we pray.

Pray for all those affected by the devastation, and if you can, lend a helping hand. Catholic Charities is a good place to start. Here are some other ideas as well.

Pax et bonum.

Say Yes!

“The saints were not abnormal beings: cases to be studied by a ‘modernistic’ doctor. They were — they are — normal: of flesh, like yours. And they won.” -St. Josemaria Escriva

I often look at the example of the saints and wonder to myself, “How in the world can I live up to Francis? Or Benedict? Or St. Therese? Or Pope John Paul II? Or St. Josemaria? Or, or, or…” What I forget though, and I think many others forget this as well, is that the saints were normal people. Think about it: St. Jerome, one of the most prolific scripture scholars in the history of the Church, got up in the morning like anyone else, and probably had an established routine that consisted of little quirks and habits, just like we all do. In fact, knowing his personality, Jerome  probably wasn’t the most cheery fellow in those early hours. Mother Theresa rode in cars, trains, and planes. St. Francis walked on his own two feet, doing the literal work of rebuilding the Church with his own two hands. Blessed John Paul II dealt with aches, pains, and later in life tremendous suffering, just as so many other people do throughout the world. So what’s the difference?

They said yes. Yes to Grace. Yes to His plan. Yes to joy, abandonment, suffering, and the unremitting fulfillment that comes from following God alone. They weren’t perfect. Some were cantankerous. Others had bad habits. Still others were forgetful, or had other flaws that undoubtedly grated on peoples’ nerves. They came from all walks of life. They were normal people, just like you and me.

But along with all of that, they were open to the action of Grace in their lives.

So how do we find what we are supposed to say yes to in the first place? How do we follow Grace? That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?! But you know what, even in my stubborn hardheadedness, I have found that it doesn’t have to be so complicated. Saying yes can be as simple as the kind act of opening a door, helping someone in need, doing some unseen act for the benefit of another. These smaller “yeses” will help when it comes time to give a bigger yes, a bigger commitment.

So meditate, ruminate, and mull over St. Josemaria’s words above. Remember that the saints were sinners just like you and me. Just as the saints were all sinners, flawed human beings, we all have the capacity to be saints. The road may be tough, but He is always there with us. I will leave you with some words from Fr. Paschal Cheline, a Benedictine monk and beloved mentor from Mount Angel Seminary:

“Get on the road, where you know it is (and you know the conclusion) and don’t get off. Now, you may rest a awhile, you may go to this side or that side a little bit, but don’t get off the road because you know that road is leading you where you want to go and where you should go. If you get off the road, which could happen, well, get back on! Don’t let your life fall apart! Grab your life and live it! I think that’s what God wants and I think that’s what holiness is.”

Pax et bonum.

Trust, Humility, and Pope Benedict’s Resignation

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When I woke up this morning, I expected a day of quiet rest. After all, being a school employee, we have almost every holiday known to man off of work, and so we celebrate Lincoln’s birthday with a day of  relaxation, and in my own case, visiting friends as well.

But then I received news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Granted, my plans for the day aren’t changing, and I don’t envy people like the good Cardinal Dolan who now have the daunting task of electing Papa Ben’s successor (if you don’t see the video below click here):

So while the day itself may not change much for me, all of this certainly has me in a reflective mood. Seven years ago, just a few months after the election of the Holy Father, I was baptized into the Catholic Church. I took Benedict as my baptismal name for two reasons: the famous founder of western monasticism from the early medieval era, and the wonderful priest, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who had just been elected to the See of Peter. Both he and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had been, and continue to be, a huge influence on my life of faith.

Pope Benedict’s resignation shows great humility and trust in the Lord, just like the rest of his priestly life. The news may be a surprise,  particularly since he is the first pope to resign in over six hundred years, but I believe that it is a good example for the rest of us. Sometimes life can throw unexpected curve-balls (Pope Benedict himself was expecting to have a quiet retirement before being elected to the See of Peter), but so we are called to live in those moments, trusting that the Lord has a plan in it all. All of this is also a lesson in humility: sometimes we must face the Lord, laying down our own will, or the will of others, and look at the greater good, seeking the will of the Lord alone. Sometimes that means difficult and courageous decisions. Through it all, however, grace is always present.

Let us remember to keep Pope Benedict in our prayers over the coming weeks. We must also pray for the cardinals and the unenviable task that now rests before them in electing a successor to this faithful man of God who has served in the Chair of Peter. Finally, let us pray for Pope Benedict’s successor, whoever that may be, that he will approach his new task in prayer, humility, and fidelity to the will of God.

I think that the words from my own Bishop, His Excellency Jaime Soto of Sacramento, say it all so well:

“True to his deep devotion for the church and a humble regard for himself, Pope Benedict, with personal courage and pastoral solicitude, has placed the care of God’s people first. This is a historic transition for the church. As always, we will rely on the wisdom and mercy of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.”

May we all be so humble and faithful to the Lord. Thank you Papa Ben for your witness to Truth! Viva il papa!!

Other resources:

Pax et bonum.

Patience

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“Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself.” -Saint Francis de Sales

Time seems to go by so fast. How in the world did an entire month pass since my last entry here on these pages? It may have something to do with the new job, school starting in a few weeks, life. Anyways, on to the point.

Patience. Boy do I have a tough time with patience! All throughout my life, I have been impatient. I want everything to happen NOW. The test results, the visit with a close friend, the results of the interview, the answer from the Almighty.

But alas my dear friends, this is not the way things are, and it’s a good thing too! Think about all the opportunities and growth we would miss out on were we to receive all the answers immediately, rather than enduring the pain, and gift, of waiting!

This patience, however, must also reside within, as the kind saint so directly points out in the above words. Are we patient not only with the world and those around us, but with our very selves? The daily struggles, the ups and downs of life, can be harrowing at times, and we may want to throw in the towel. Some of these struggles may even be due to our own fallen nature. Even though we want to move beyond these struggles, no matter where they originate, sometimes the Lord just tells us to sit.

Wait.

Be still.

Know that He alone is God.

In the end, He is the one in control. My dear friends, let us pray for patience. Let us give in to His love and grace, and be content with that. He knows what He is about, and how all of this will work out. Patience.

After all, God is love, and along with being so many other wonderful things, love is also patient.

Prayers for all of you. Say a prayer or two for me and some special intentions as well, will ya? Thanks.

Pax et bonum.

California’s Gold

I was saddened to hear of the death of Huell Howser (featured in the above video), who passed a couple of days ago at 67 years old.

Howser will best be remembered by his iconic television program here in California on PBS entitled California’s Gold. For those of you outside the Golden State, his show chronicled those far-flung places that not many people see, yet contain the true spirit of California. He brought to life places such as the Skunk Train, the traditional harvest in the Central Valley, or the California Special Olympics. Treasures such as Sinatra’s House, Springtime in Death Valley, and yes even gold itself*, are detailed in a way that was truly special to Howser. His curiosity and wonder were contagious, and he had a knack for drawing you in with the stories he covered.

Monument commemorating the site of John Marshall’s discovery of Gold

When I was a kid, I hated his show. I thought it was boring. But then again, most adult shows on PBS are boring to a lot of kids. As I grew up, however, I came to really appreciate Howser’s unique delivery and trademark sign-off. He also introduced me to many nuggets and tidbits of California history that I never would’ve come across in the first place.

As Howser would be sure to confirm, California is a special place, a wonderful place of beauty, diversity, and culture. With all of its problems, California continues to be a place where dreams are realized, and a beautiful sunset on the beach or mountain vista is never too far away. One of my own personal favorite sights is flying in to Sacramento at night over downtown and catching a glimpse of the golden Tower Bridge, a breathtaking view, especially for one who has been away from home for a while. I was born and raised here, and in my short time on this Earth, I’ve seen California go through a lot of changes, good and bad. No matter where life takes me, however, California will always hold a special place in my heart, and Huell Howser had a hand in carving out that place, even though he never knew it.

Mr. Howser, God bless you for your wonderful work, seen and unseen, on behalf of the Golden State.

Requiescat in pace.

You, sir, were truly a part of California’s Gold.

*Note: If you are ever in the foothills of California, east of Sacramento in the Placerville area, check out Coloma, where gold was discovered in 1848. The town is a terrific place for families, full of history, and there’s a few nice outdoor excursions, in addition to camping. The locals are great people too. Fair disclosure – I’ve had family in the “Motherlode” area and surrounding hills all my life, and spent many summers, a lot of high school, and generally a large amount of time up there. My opinion may be biased. Oh, and this post was not endorsed by this agency, although you should come and visit sometime… :)

People are Crazy

People are Crazy by Billy Currington - Betcha never expected that video on here, did ya? :) Just please excuse the ad at the beginning – there’s nothing I can do about it.

No matter the genre, I love a song with a good story or message.

In any case, on to the point… We never know the effect we can have on an individual’s life. Will that one smile brighten a person’s day, causing them to go home to loved ones in a terrific mood, hugging their spouse and children, making him or her realize just how thankful they are for God’s blessings? Or perhaps the small favor, the good deed, opening the door for someone with full hands or offering to pay the toll for the person behind you in rush hour traffic (a favorite of my mom’s, by the way) will remind a person that there is Good in this world.

Let’s put it another way: we never know who the Lord will send into our lives. Sometimes the most unexpected people show up and have a profound effect, even if they have been there a short time. The Lord knows this has certainly been true for me recently! It’s important to remain open to the work of His Grace and Love, trusting in His Mercy. In the end, these are the elements of life that matter.

Shall we return to the song?

God is great: now and forever. Beer is good: in moderation, of course. People are crazy: you better believe it, and I’m one of them…

Remain open to the Spirit. Trust. I guarantee that if you do this, the Lord will take you places you never even thought possible.

As always my dear friends, God bless you. Please pray for me, and in your kindness pray for a special intention. Thank you!

Pax et bonum.

PS: Any ideas you would like me to share, or suggestions for a post, let me know via the comments! I have to approve them all  beforehand anyway, so it’s not like they will be out there for everyone to see. I am still working on getting a dedicated email address set up that wont be bombarded with spam.

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