“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.
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.
Pax et bonum.
“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.
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!!
- Text and video of the announcement (Video is in Latin – yes, Latin. Gotta love our German Shepherd!)
- A few details about the coming weeks
Pax et bonum.
“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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Yosemite Winter Night Courtesy of Astronomy Photo of the Day
Before I converted to Catholicism, I always had the understanding that the Church was against science. I spent years studying (as an amateur) subjects such as theoretical physics and astronomy, and I continue to today when I can. I enjoy math, but certainly not to the extent of people like this, who may disagree with me from the religious perspective, but nevertheless are very skilled at making difficult scientific theories accessible to the general public. In any case, I always thought that these topics were eschewed in Christian circles. Boy was I wrong.
Example: the originator of the what would become the Big Bang Theory was a Jesuit Priest, Georges Lemaître (please hold the Jesuit jokes for later, thank you). Sure, there have been moments where the Church hasn’t always been a shining example of scientific openness, but even those times are almost always blown out of proportion and taken out of context.
Anyways, as I grew to learn more about the Faith, I realized that the Church did not neglect science. In fact, particularly in the modern-day world, the Church is a bastion of good, thorough, and ethical scientific practice and theory. I eventually discovered what so many others have found: science and religion are simply two sides of the same coin. They both lead to Truth, albeit in their own ways. Both science and religion, if handled properly without presuppositions, both reveal the same God of Love that us Catholics are so familiar with.
I believe the opening words of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor says it all:
The splendor of truth shines forth in all the works of the Creator and, in a special way, in man, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26). Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord. Hence the Psalmist prays: “Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord” (Ps 4:6).
When I spend time in nature, whether I am hiking, fishing, or stargazing during a campout, I can not help but see the imprint of the Creator, this same splendor of truth. In the beauty around us, contained in the natural world and the very people who are a part of our lives, we are given a glimpse of the Divine. Slow down and take a look. Spend a moment or two with the Creator. How does He reveal Himself in your life?
Happy (early) Feast of the Epiphany!
Pax et bonum,
PS: As a side note, one of the best meteor showers this year will be the Perseids on August 12-13. The moon sets before midnight, leaving a promising opportunity for viewing. While the peak will be on the above listed days, you should still get quite a show the previous weekend of August 10-11. Might be a good time for a camping trip…
UPDATE: Dr. Kaku has posted a fascinating video entitled “Math is the Mind of God.” Check it out. His analogy of music, hyperspace, and the mind of God comes very close to how Tolkien describes the creation of Middle-Earth in The Silmarillion. I would say, however, that Dr. Kaku gets a little too close to reducing God to an equation…
But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply `Yes’ or `No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matt. 5:34-37)
I will be honest: I really don’t like New Year’s resolutions. I am all for improving one’s life, but something about resolutions just doesn’t sit well with me, and this is from personal experience and observation of others.
For one, it seems like most resolutions are discarded relatively quickly. You know the type: lose weight, quit smoking, etc. They are nice thoughts, don’t get me wrong! A New Year is a great time to examine one’s life and make concrete decisions on improving one’s life.
But why wait for the New Year?
We must always examine our lives, and be willing to recognize those areas in need of growth. Instead of resolutions, let’s make commitments, complete with concrete goals. For example, “this is what I need to do, this is why I need to do it, and this is how I am going to do it.” We must also recognize that we will fall, and afterwards we need to brush ourselves off and get back up. Finally, we need not wait for the New Year to begin this work, even if some of these commitments come naturally at this time a year. As the saying goes, “there is no time like the present.”
Also, these commitments need not deal with mundane matters or material concerns. We can all work to grow closer to our Lord. What can we do to accomplish this? Perhaps striving for daily mass versus just Sunday mass? Working on being more consistent in saying that rosary? Or perhaps a more unconventional approach like trying to journal every few days to reflect on our journey with the Lord.
The bottom line: make a concrete goal, make sure it’s manageable, know that the road will have twists and turns, and entrust it all to the Lord.
Things we can all work towards this New Year: Love God, love others, strive for holiness. Everything else will fall into place…
I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and a blessed Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (Mama Mary, pray for us!!!). May 2013 be filled with joy and peace!
Pax et bonum,
PS: I will start off with one typical resolution: weight loss. As of today, I am down 40 pounds. I have 30 more for my current goal. Let’s set a date of…. June 1, 2013, shall we? I will try to keep you all updated on my progress. Please pray for me, and know that you are in my prayers as well! Peace!
Irish He Is
What shall I say about the Irish?
The utterly impractical, never predictable
Something irascible, quite inexplicable Irish.
Strange blend of shyness, pride and conceit,
And stubborn refusal to bow in defeat.
He’s spoiling and ready to argue and fight,
Yet the smile of a child fills his soul with delight.
His eyes are the quickest to well up in tears,
Yet his strength is the strongest to banish your fears.
His faith is as fierce as his devotion is grand,
And there’s no middle ground on which he will stand.
He’s wild and he’s gentle.
He’s good and he’s bad.
He’s proud and he’s humble.
He’s happy and he’s sad.
He’s in love with the ocean, the earth and the skies.
He’s enamored with beauty wherever it lies.
He’s victor and victim, a star and a clod,
But mostly he’s Irish in love with his God.
Now I’m not full-blooded Irish (half of me is Cajun, along with some other bits thrown in there), but I’d like to think that this poem captures the Irish spirit well…
Pax et bonum!
PS: If anyone knows the source of this, I would be very grateful if you sent me a message…