Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Strangers and Sojourners

Well I just finished my borrowed copy (thanks Sara!) of Michael O'Brien's Strangers and Sojourners. Overall I thought it was a very good novel. Of the three O'Brien novels that I've read so far (this one along with Father Elijah and Island of the World) I do have to say that it was my least favorite. Still good in it's own right but not as good as the other two.

So to the book... It is the first in a trilogy which follows the life (and later the descendants) of Stephen and Anne Delaney in British Columbia. This book focuses mainly on Anne and her internal struggle to break free from her rationalistic self and come to know and embrace something greater than herself. Anne's husband, Stephen, is Irish Catholic and so very different than his wife. Her love is in words and reason and the power of the mind and his life is much simpler, one connected to the land he works and the One who provides.

Although it is a bit slow to read, there were certain chapters or certain sections that kept me completely spellbound. Not to mention a few twists or divine coincedences that left me back paddling through pages to make the connection. O'Brien has a beautiful and vivid way of portraying the emotion felt by a distressed soul searching for a transcendental God. You will grieve with Anne and whisper words of encouragement to her as she undergoes her transformation. If you do read this book and you're finding it slow, I encourage you to hang in because it definitely picks up towards the end.

One last comment, below is a passage that I found particularly relevant:

Anne: "Yes. I was happy. But not with the kind of happiness most people want. It went much deeper. I can't describe it. It was a sense that grew and grew over the years, a current underneath everything, a feeling, a form, a hand that was on my life. A sort of fierce, fatherly love that demanded everything from me but hid itself from me. It had given everything. It wanted total trust in return."


I was a little frustrated the other night about my post "Unanswered prayers?" because it wasn't really coming out like I had envisioned. The problem I realized was that I hadn't found a satisfactory example of a common kind of prayer that gets answered but we fail to see God's hand in it. Well I thought of one! Illness. How often do we pray that we (or someone we know) recover from this or that illness. Maybe in our mind we're envisioning God answering this prayer by miraculously healing them at that very moment. But more often than not it takes time and, God willing, we (or they) do recover. The problem I see is the time frame. Because many illnesses take long periods of time to be be cured, by the time we're "healed" we attribute to just that, time. Do you see where I'm going with this? We prayed for healing and we got it, right? Well then praise God! Sure it took a little longer than we anticipated but that doesn't mean that God was any less involved in the healing. There, now I'm happy with it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Here I Go Again

The title of this post works on so many levels... I wasn't going to post again tonight but I was listening to Casting Crowns and their song "Here I Go Again" and it struck me how appropriate the lyrics are in light of my "evangelization situation" with my friend that I wrote about before. Here are the lyrics:

Father, hear my prayer
I need the perfect words
Words that he will hear
And know they're straight from You
I don't know what to say
I only know it hurts
To see my only friend slowly fade away

So maybe this time
I'll speak the words of life
With Your fire in my eyes
But that old familiar fear
is tearin' at my words
What am I so afraid of?
'Cause here I go again
Talkin' 'bout the rain
And mullin' over things
that won't live past today
And as I dance around the truth
Time is not his friend
This might be my last chance
to tell him that You love Him

But here I go again
Here I go again

Lord, You love him so
You gave Your only Son
If he will just believe
He will never die
But how then will he know
What he has never heard?
Lord he has never seen mirrored in my life

[Lyrics in bold are those that really struck me}

Hope these words are as encouraging to you as they are to me. Christian/Catholic music is a great way to stay encouraged and positive throughout the day. Most of the mainstream music isn't specifically Catholic so be careful with some of the lyrics (the theology isn't always correct). However, there are some really good songs our their right now. For those of you who live near me, try FM 104.7 WBGL.

Caritas in Veritate

I'd be remiss if I didn't inform you of Pope Benedict's new encylical, Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth). It came out a little while ago so hopefully you have at least heard about it and maybe even read it. I tried reading it online the other day but I realized that I want to devote some real time to and be able to high light what I'm reading. It is available online though so I wanted to at least provide one link to it. I'll reserve an in-depth post on it until after I've had time to read it. I will include this link to Catholic Thing which has a good "preface" article for those interested in reading the whole thing or at least understanding it better.

Unanswered prayers?

This is the story that our priest opened his homily with today:

One day a successful businessman had a very important meeting but found himself running late and frantically searching for a parking spot. This business man had long since abandoned going to church and was generally living a very sinful life - he cheated his clients, cheated on his wife, etc... Well, desperate to find a spot and make it to the meeting, he offered up this prayer, "Lord, if you can get me a spot I promise I'll turn my life around!" At the same moment, as he turned another corner, a spot opened up and the man promptly said, "Nevermind Lord, I found one!"

Apart from just being funny I think there's a serious point to this story. Too often do our prayers get answered yet we fail to attribute it to God. Maybe we expect God to answer our prayers in some miraculous and marvelous fashion in which, were this the case, we would be sure to praise and thank Him. But most of the time this isn't the case. And maybe this shows a lack of faith in God as well, as if we're saying, "Look God, I'd really like for so-and-so to happen, but I don't expect much from you." And then by the time our prayer has been answered, we've forgotten that we even prayed for it! At least this has been my experience. Even if it's just praying for a safe flight or car ride. Often I'll get to my destination safely (= prayer answered) but never offer a prayer of thanksgiving. Why is that? Is it because my initial prayer was really only a kind of insurance? Something I do just in case? Trust in the power of your prayers! God will answer them according to His divine will and plan.

My semester in Austria opened my eyes to the reality of God working in my life and answering my prayers. I can't tell you how many times I would be back from a trip and suddenly realize how perfectly everything went and how safe we had been kept the whole time. I know it's easy to remember to thank God when something big happens but try not to forget the little things either.

God answers our prayers but he doesn't always do it in a flashy, obvious way. But this doesn't mean that we still shouldn't thank Him for his Love and Mercy. When you realize that He's answering, you realize He's listening. And don't forget to thank Him for what Garth Brooks calls "some of God's greatest gifts" - unanswered prayers. Remember that God knows what is best for us.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Knowledge Used Well = Time Well Spent

Have you ever noticed how some really smart people often used their gifts for rather unimportant things? Maybe they collect useless information simply to know more than you or maybe they are very intelligent but they waste their time learning about something that just doesn't matter. I think this is a tragic waste.
To me information falls into three categories: (1) party trivia, (2) good-to-know-but-not-really-important, (3) and important. Party trivia would include things like knowing every Best Picture winner for the past twenty years, or knowing the number of every basketball player. Basically it serves no real purpose other than to entertain and fill up our pride-o-meters.
The second category is information that you learn in school - geography, math, reading, etc... Information that will serve you well in this life but when it comes to the next life, maybe isn't too important.
And then you have the important information. I won't try and narrow this category down but what I mean by it is any information that makes you a better person and draws you closer to Christ. But be careful, because it isn't just about the obtaining of this knowledge but also the using of it. Important information would include things like knowledge of your faith or the ability to understand and help others.
What is the point of knowledge if not to share it and make the world, and the people in it, better? I remember reading once that Chesterton was considered by many to be "absentminded" because of the little things he either would forget or just didn't know. But he wasn't really absentminded, he had his mind in perfectly the right place. If it was truly important, that is, important to his soul, he would care about it. But something like his address, while it may be good to know, really isn't important in the long run. I'm not saying that we should ignore certain subjects in school or not try to gather as much information as possible, but when it comes down to it, wouldn't it be more beneficial if we spent our time and energy on the important things in life? We do also need to have entertainment in our lives but entertainment should not take up all of our time. Be careful what books you read, or what movies or television shows you watch. If we are to live a truly Christ-centered life I imagine that we all have many things we should cut out.
At the day of Judgment God isn't going to ask us what the square root of 73 is, but we will be held accountable for what we did in this life. If we made no attempt to better ourselves, to follow Christ, or to draw others to Him, what were we doing?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Perspective Mirror (working title)

While driving home today I suddenly had what can only be described as a "moment of brilliance." I conceived in my mind the perfect mirror. I know, it sounds lame but bear with me. It would be comprised of two parts, the first, on the left hand side, would be an image of Jesus lying on top of the cross on the ground. His head would be towards the bottom. Kneeling next to him with arm outstretched towards the second part of the mirror would be a Roman soldier. The second part would be the actual mirror. Here's where it all fits together - coming from the mirror portion and towards the Roman soldier's outstretched hand would be another hand (and presumable a portion of a body) holding the nails for Christ's crucifixion. So when you look into the mirror, your face will be on the soldier's body who is handing the other soldier the nails! Whenever you look into the mirror it will put things in perspective, hence "The Perspective Mirror." I'm new to inventing but I'm pretty sure this is an awesome idea. I can't imagine that there would be universal appeal for this item but all proceeds could be donated to charity. If any one can work up an image of this somehow let me know and send it to me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Church shall prevail

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16: 18)

My family was talking about the origins of the St. Michael prayer and how Jesus promised us (see passage above) that the Church will prevail over Satan. Which got me to wondering about the state of the Church, especially in this country, and how we often worry about "what's going to happen." If we know the Church will prevail, why do we worry about it so much? Well, I don't think we really do worry about the Church. Maybe we worry about the Church's churches, but not the Church. What we do worry about, or what we should worry about, is not Satan "defeating" the Church, but about the souls that he is winning over to his side. Hell may not be able to prevail, for there will always be those who are faithful to the Church, but Satan is converting as many people as he can as fast as he can. So we must be warriors of Christ, defending His Church by reconquering the ground that Satan has won for himself. Is that not the Church's mission - to advance the kingdom of God by winning Him souls? By undermining what people perceive the Church to be, Satan draws souls away from it. This is why it is so important that we defend the true identity of the Church and work our hardest to bring people to it - to spread the Good News. The Church will survive, Jesus promised us that. The question is how many people will be sitting inside?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Honest Scrap

So I happened to mosey on over to Homeschooling With Joy and found, much to my surprise, that I had won an award! According to Laura these are the guidelines:

1) Say thanks and give a link to the presenter of the award.
2) Share "ten honest things" about myself.

3) Present this award to 7 others whose blogs I find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged me.
4) Tell those 7 people that they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving it.

#1 Thank you Laura for bestowing this award upon me! I am honored that my blog has encouraged you in some way.

#2 Ten Honest Things:
  1. I've been told (on several occasions) that I'm 22 going on 60. Hey, it's not my fault that pipes and sweater vests are awesome.
  2. When I get frustrated it takes a herculean effort not to lose my temper. One of those bad habits that I'm just now getting around to fixing.
  3. I can't draw. Tracing I can do. Free hand drawing, nuh uh. It's all the more frustrating because I can have a clear mental image of what I want to draw, but somewhere between my brain and my hand that image gets lost.
  4. My body is apparently falling apart. Not only do I get injured more often but my injuries tend to heal either slowly or not at all. I'm sure this fits into God's plan somehow so I'll put up with it...for now.
  5. I tell really lame jokes. Personally, I think they're hilarious (damn you pride!) but most people would probably disagree. Let's put it this way, I get more eye-rolls than laughs.
  6. As much as I hate to admit it, I am very self-conscious about my long neck. Most people act surprised when they find out so I guess it's not a big deal but it still bothers me. Probably God's way of humbling me.
  7. My hairline has given up on just receding and is now in full retreat. However, there isn't much I'm willing or able to do so it bothers me less and less.
  8. I'm a closet video game nerd. Fortunately for every other aspect of my life my playing time (along with my desire to play) has gone down significantly lately but every once in a while I like to get a few minutes in.
  9. If I could do it all again I think I would be a professional tennis player.
  10. Much to my chagrin I've never been "great" at any sport. I'm "good" at a few but that's about as far as it goes. Thankfully I've come to realize, or at least I've come to tell myself, that being good is more fun than being great. Being decent at things keeps your pride in check and allows you to enjoy the game more.
#3 This one is going to be short because I really only follow two blogs:
  1. Homeschooling With Joy - might not count because she was the one who gave me this award. Great blog nevertheless!!
  2. The Blue Boar - a funny, up-to-date, blog about all things Catholic. Really the blog that got me interested in blogging.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Quote of the ____________

Possibly some of the most profound writing I've ever read. Seriously.

O, how great is the priest! ... If he realised what he is, he would die. ... God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host.

Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest. ... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realise what he is.

- St. John Vianney [quotes were found in Pope Benedict's letter on the Year for Priests]


The past couple years (i.e. at Franciscan) I've really been trying/struggling to find a balance between becoming a better person interiorly and making sure to manifest my faith exteriorly. I've always felt guilty about not truly evangelizing. In a way I guess I feel guilty about not sharing the great truths of our faith. Since I've rediscovered my faith I have tried to lead by example but I don't think that's good enough any more. A while back I was thinking that most of my good friends back home probably don't know that I'm a devout Catholic. That was like a slap in the face to me. I want people to know that I'm Catholic and that I love it!
What I mean by "finding a balance" between personal growth and evangelization is that when I would feel that desire or call to bring others to Christ and witness to His love, I never felt like I had the right tools, so I would insead just focus on my own conversion. It was like a tug-of-war between these two different, but very important, things. On the one hand I really wanted to talk to people about my faith but at the same time I felt totally ill-prepared to do so. But then as I would work to become more knowledgable or courageous I would start to feel guilty because I knew I wasn't doing much to advance God's kingdom. Then just the other day it suddenly all made sense. There was nothing wrong with me focusing on myself because that's what I had to do. I felt ill-prepared because I was! And there isn't anything wrong with that. God was making sure that I was ready. I don't mean to say that I have every answer or even that I have total confidence, but I do believe that I have been given sufficient tools.
Well the reason I started this post is because I have one friend in particular who I feel especially called to evangelize too. The problem isn't so much that I'm afraid to make a move but rather what move to make. I want to be prudent about how I approach this. Recently I've decided that the best thing to do would be to introduce him to my faith via a book. Which leads to you. Can anyone recommend a good book for this sort of situation. This person has little to no knowledge of Catholicism or probably of Christianity in general. He's a "typical" fun-loving, no consequences kind of person. I don't think he is anti-religious but rather lives a "ignorance is bliss" type of life. My first thought for a book was Orthodoxy but I'm not sure. I want something that will keep his attention all the way through.