Category Archives: Lifestyle

Marriage Part 2: Dating

    What is dating? Generally in todays society dating is seen as having someone with fuzzy feelings. A date to prom, a nice Valentines day dinner and all those other lovey dovey things. People often talk about wanting to find love and find “the one,” which is precisely my point. What dating should be about is finding your future spouse. Not emotions.
Now I realize as a teen, you’re probably not ready to get married. Most of you are probably concerned about finding a prom date before marriage. Which is great! I’m not saying you have to be ready to get married before you date. I mean, when I was first interested in guys I certainly wasn’t ready to get married. When I met my husband, I was 17, and I wasn’t ready to get married. While it’s true that he’s my first and only relationship, sometimes God doesn’t let everyone find their future spouse on their first try. You have to let God be a part of you love life.
So how can you start trying to find you’re future spouse? Well I think that first it would be most important to decide if God is even calling you to the married life at all! Maybe this is something you haven’t thought about. Maybe you’re afraid of the answer, or maybe you simply haven’t given it much thought yet, but it’s so incredibly important to discern what God is calling you to do. It’s a process even I went through, even though I was in a relationship while I was in the process of becoming Catholic. I can’t tell you how to discern. Everyones process is a little bit different, but two really important components would be praying to God about it, and talking to a priest if you have any questions or you’re feeling called one way or the other. Not only is it important to talk to God and someone who can help you discern the call, but if you are dating someone, it’s important to be honest about your discernment process so no one is surprised in the end, and so no one gets hurt. Don’t lead anyone on!
So to get back to dating. How exactly do you go about this whole thing to begin with? The first thing I’d like to note is that you might not find your future spouse on your very first try. We’re all different people from different walks of life. While I did find my future husband on my first try, I know that it’s not the case for everyone. It’s important to let God in on this whole process. He loves you, and He has a plan for you. He knows what’s best for you, so I can definitely say that prayer is a great way to go. Let God in on your love life. Talk to Him about someone you’re interested in or someone you’re dating. Pray for your future spouse! God very much wants to be a part of it. Not only that, but having a strong relationship with God is a great way to meet your future spouse. It’s also a bit important to be open to who God may bring into your life. It’s okay to have an ideal of what you’re looking for, but in the case of my husband, I certainly wasn’t exactly what he was looking for. I was Agnostic and had a very different way of living than he did and he was looking for someone who would share his faith with him. He did find that someone, he just had to help bring me to it. And last but not least, remember what love really is. Love is not warm fuzzy emotions. Love is wanting the good of another even at ones own expense.

No Vacancy: How to Keep the Christmas Spirit Alive

The end of yet another busy Christmas season usually makes for a weary start of the new year as countless holiday decorations are stored away, schools and workplaces are reopened, and life suddenly goes back to “normal.”

Whatever that means, anyway.

Because normal, for me, means that I have to go back to a chaotic schedule of waking up at 5:30 AM for Mass; going to school sleepy-eyed and often irritable; sitting down through less-than-fascinating lectures, more focused on not falling asleep in class than actually paying attention and taking notes; going home to realize that I have a bunch of homework and projects to work on; and sleeping late only to regret it again in the morning.

And the cycle continues. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So as I cherish these last 3 days of Christmas vacation, looking back fondly on Christmas 2011 – at the same time, reluctant to start the second semester, I have to ask myself: how will I be able to keep the Christmas spirit alive in me for the rest of this year?

Christmas is usually a time characterized by “peace, joy, and goodwill to all people” as noted by this cool guy right here. Unfortunately, for most of us, the other 360 or so days of our year can be characterized by.. things other than that.

So thinking in concrete terms, how is it even possible to keep the Christmas spirit alive while we’re supposedly going about our days trying to restrain ourselves from having nervous breakdowns.

The answer as I’ve come to know it, is actually quite simple.

Make room.

Make room for Him who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger because there was no room in the inn (Luke 2:7).

More times than not, I can look back at the low points of my life where I felt the most desperate, only to realize that during those times, I didn’t make room in my heart for Jesus to dwell – instead, I insisted, like the inn keeper, that I had no room for Him to be born.

And it really makes sense, though. How can we truly rejoice in the coming of our Lord if we don’t prepare a special place in our hearts for Him to dwell?

We need to truly ask ourselves if there are things we hold dear in our hearts that we must get rid of? And most of the time, these things take root in our pride, for pride usually leads to materialism, self-glorification, greed, lust, and envy.

At the same time, it is literally impossible to remain attached to those things which weigh us down and hope to keep our hearts aflame with God’s love.

For Christ Himself knows that “no one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24).

Of course, (as with most undertakings as Christians) this is easier said than done for we must first find the humility to acknowledge our human weaknesses and abandon ourselves completely to the grace of God.

But once we are able to ask for that grace to overcome such earthly desires and vanities, we are set free from the bonds that prevent us from pursuing such an ideal to live Jesus in our hearts forever.

We are then, able to prepare a place for Christ to dwell in our hearts that we may become reminders to the whole world that, not only is Jesus truly the reason for the season – but He is also our life, our love, and our salvation.

And how beautiful is this, that we can share in the work of Mary and the saints as we strive to bring Jesus into our troubled world today.. Into a world of darkness that so desperately needs the light of Christ to shine out the clearer.

In Matthew 5:16, Jesus encourages us to let our light shine before others that they might come to glorify our Father in heaven. Let us then, strive to be a light for the whole world to see.

Let us make room for Him.

Marriage Part 1: Love

Seeing as this is entire series about marriage, I think it makes sense to talk about love first. I think the first question to ask is what love is. Is it warm fuzzy feelings in your tummy when you see that someone special? Is it an emotion? Is it a feeling? All of these combined? You might be shocked to find that none of these are the answer.

What is love then? Well first of all, there are lots of different types of love in different contexts, but we are going to talk about married love, because my love for pizza is a lot different is a lot different than my love for my husband, or even my family and friends. Love is an action. Love is to will the good of another, even at ones own expense. “Love is the free self-giving of the heart. [2346] To have a heart full of love means to be so pleased with something that one emerges from oneself and devotes oneself to it. A musician can devote himself to a masterpiece. A kindergarten teacher can be there wholeheartedly for her charges. In every friendship there is love. The most beautiful form of love on earth, however, is the love between man and woman, in which two people give themselves to each other forever. All human love is an image of divine love, in which all love is at home. Love is the inmost being of the Triune God. In God there is continual exchange and perpetual self-giving. Through the overflowing of divine live, we participate in the eternal love of God. The more a person loves, the more he resembles God. Love should influence the whole life of a person, but it is realized with particular depth and symbolism when man and woman love one another and become ‘one flesh.’ (Gen 2:24)” (Youcat 402) That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell. It is to will the good of another. I’m really only repeating myself, but I feel that it must be stressed because secular society has a distorted view of what love really is. To secular society, it is selfish, and needy, and all about these feelings and emotions that may not even stick around forever. Think about it. How many times have you heard someone say, “I just don’t feel like I love him/her anymore,” or “I feel like I need/want this or that.” There is so much emphasis on feeling and emotions, which isn’t what love is all about! Love is not always convenient, or easy. Love isn’t always about you, or what makes you feel better. There have been plenty of situations where it would have been easier to just opt out of my relationship than trying to love my husband through out our entire 3 years of being together.

I know this post is already kind of short-ish, but if I were to continue, this post would never end, because I could honestly write books, and books about love. I strongly suggest reading up on love in the Catechism though, there is a lot of great information in there, and don’t forget to look under Charity as well! It is basically the same thing! All I don’t really consider myself to be a master of love myself, because I’m fairly new at it :) But I will leave you with another famous Bible quote to reflect on.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NAB) 

A Godly Depression: Dark Nights and Interior Gardens

A person’s thoughts during the Dark Night of the Soul:

What is the Dark Night of the Soul to me? It’s depression–but a different kind of depression. Why should the above thoughts in the animation be going through my head? There are people who have been in failed relationships, lost parents/siblings, and could relate because of their terrible loss. They have a physical emptiness, something they could hold and touch that was there and now it’s gone. Then there’s me: Never dated, never “liked” anybody, haven’t lost anyone in the past 3 years that could leave such an emptiness in my heart. I lost my Grandpa but I’ve healed from that.

I’m not the only Christian struggling with this. It’s not new. It’s called the Dark Night of the Soul. Devout Christians feel this emptiness. It’s an unbearable feeling; iIt’s proof that we can never have enough of the Lord. If you think you’re praying “enough,” and then feel this emptiness, you’re probably not.

The Saints have stories of this empty feeling. What is it? Here’s a passage from the first chapter of Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross:

It must be known, then, that the soul, after it has been definitely converted to the service of God, is, as a rule, spiritually nurtured and caressed by God, even as is the tender child by its loving mother, who warms it with the heat of her bosom and nurtures it with sweet milk and soft and pleasant food, and carries it and caresses it in her arms; but, as the child grows bigger, the mother gradually ceases caressing it, and, hiding her tender love, puts bitter aloes upon her sweet breast, sets down the child from her arms and makes it walk upon its feet, so that it may lose the habits of a child and betake itself to more important and substantial occupations.

Every great Saint has gone through something like this. I read that Mother Teresa spent most of her life feeling lost and devoid of the presence of Jesus. St. Faustina struggled with it, too. This article describing St. Faustina’s experience also has a good summary of what a Dark Night is:

If, however, one truly knew what the dark night is like, he or she wouldn’t wish for it. To sum up in a few words what properly takes a book: the dark night of the soul is the feeling of utter abandonment, an interior suffering that seems as if it will never end.

That’s why a lot of people feel so utterly lonely half the time, even when everyone they love is very much alive and around them. This experience is going to benefit you in the end, but it’s not something anyone in their right mind would ask for! Nobody wants to feel like God’s abandoned them, but during a Dark Night, it truly feels like so–even though the Bible says that He’s never gone. (Christ said, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Matthew 28:20, RSV.) I can tell you, it happens to me all the time–and He always pulls through and uses the experience to help me. It’s kind of like the potter shaping the clay. I know I’m a better Christian because of all the times I’ve felt so empty, since He fills me up with more than He takes!

How do I get through these Dark Nights? I pray, even if it feels like a one-sided conversation. I cry if I have to. I keep going on with my duties. It’s important to read your Bible and have a devotion to the Rosary–Mother Mary will intercede and make this period of darkness end more quickly. The Rosary has always given me a feeling of God’s presence when nothing else works.

If you’re going through something like this, here are some Psalms for you to meditate on. Read them slowly. Let the meaning of each one sink in. Memorize the words if possible. (All of the following passages are from the RSV version of the Bible.)

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee. Psalm 139:7-12

I say to the LORD, Thou art my God; give ear to the voice of my supplications, O LORD! Psalm 140:6

I cry with my voice to the LORD, with my voice I make supplication to the LORD, I pour out my complaint before him, I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit is faint, thou knowest my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. I look to the right and watch, but there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me, no man cares for me. I cry to thee, O LORD; I say, Thou art my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Give heed to my cry; for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors; for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to thy name! The righteous will surround me; for thou wilt deal bountifully with me. Psalm 142

*Try going through as many Psalms as you possibly can: Mark the passages that make your heart feel in the presence of the Lord, at least for a moment, so that you can come back to them next time.

Understand that, as much as the Dark Night hurts, you will rejoice after. Remember not to take the presence of the Lord for granted when He ends your test. If you let your mind wander back to worldly things, you’ll be drifting away by your own personal choice. Don’t stop reading the Bible when it’s over; let His voice be ever-present in your heart. Be consistent in prayer and know your priorities. Jesus won’t be put aside for worldly things. He wants, and He deserves your everything. He will either throw stones at your window–or wait for you to notice His absence. I wouldn’t want either of the two. I want Him with me at all times, but for that, I need to treat Him like a friend–a best friend, a confidante–and not put him aside to watch in the corner of my room, while I’m filling my heart with distractions. There should be a special part of me, an area of my heart set aside for Him alone, a part of me that nothing worldly can penetrate–only then will He be able to dwell within me, and I’ll have less Dark Nights.

It’s fitting to share another excerpt from the Dark Night:

The loving mother is like the grace of God, for, as soon as the soul is regenerated by its new warmth and fervour for the service of God, He treats it in the same way; He makes it to find spiritual milk, sweet and delectable, in all the things of God, without any labour of its own, and also great pleasure in spiritual exercises, for here God is giving to it the breast of His tender love, even as to a tender child.

Start working on a special place in your heart where only Jesus can enter. We’ll call it a garden. Weed out the distractions; plant the flowers of prayer and thanksgiving. Scripture memorization is important for this. If you plant a Scripture in your heart, it’ll grow and blossom into something beautiful. If you can’t find the gates to your interior garden, ask Mother Mary to show you the way. She knows how badly Jesus wants to be with you! As His mother, she’ll do the favor for both of you. She’ll help arrange for a meeting-place with your Loving Savior, but only after you decide that you have time for Him.

Your depression will lift as your garden flourishes. Depending on the person, it could take weeks or years. Keep searching for it; then, don’t forget to water the seeds you’ve planted. It’s hard to start a garden, so don’t let it die.

Tip: Ask St. Therese the Little Flower for help with your garden! Here’s a great page of pictures and quotes from her.

Ah! If God had not showered His beneficent rays upon His little flower, she could never have accustomed herself to earth, for she was too weak to stand up against the rains and the storms. She needed warmth, a gentle dew, and the springtime breezes.  Never were these lacking.  Jesus had her find them beneath the snow of trial!

You know, dear Mother, how much I love flowers; when making myself a prisoner at the age of fifteen [when Therese entered Carmel of Lisieux], I gave up forever the pleasure of running through the fields decked out in their springtime treasures.  Well, never in my life did I possess so many flowers as after my entrance into Carmel.  It is the custom for fiancés to often give their fiancées bouquets and Jesus didn’t forget it.  He sent me in great abundance sheaves of corn flowers, huge daisies, poppies, etc., all the flowers that delighted me the most.  There was even a little flower called corn-cockle which I had never found since our stay at Lisieux; I wanted very much to see it again, that flower of my childhood which I had picked in the fields of Alencon.  And at Carmel it came to smile at me again and show me that in the smallest things as well as the greatest, God gives the hundredfold in his life to those souls who leave everything for love of Him. 

-St. Therese the Little Flower

Not a Carmelite nun? Create a garden anyway in your heart where you can retreat! It is a place for you and Jesus only!

The Dark Night of the Soul today has increased with more distractions and less time in one’s daily life for prayer. Society’s pushing Jesus away. Make Him a place in your heart, a garden where the Holy Spirit can dwell. The difference will be radical. God will send you less Dark Nights when you have more time with Him in the first place. Cooperate with the training and don’t be lazy with prayer. If you come to Him, He will come to you.

One last passage to meditate on:

I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. John 14:18-20, RSV

So start building that garden already!

One Day My Prince Will Come

I don’t care how unsentimental you may claim to be, almost every teenager catches themselves yearning for their “soulmate”.  We dream up this perfect man or woman that will encompass all of our likes and dislikes, all of our hobbies and all of our physical preferences.  I blame this phenomenon on the Disneyfication of our mentality that begins in early childhood.  Don’t get me wrong, I am almost 20 years old and I make yearly trips to Disney World and I still think Beauty and the Beast is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen.  However, I do realize that my obsession with fairy tale love stories has hindered a much more important relationship.

To be honest, during high school about 90 percent of my thoughts revolved around imagining myself in a perfect relationship. The other 10 percent covered family, friends, homework, God, food, theater, music, etc.  These statistics are pretty bleak.  I spent a whole lot of brain power thinking completely futile thoughts.  And the worst part is, I still have the same problem.  Once I realized that I was spending too much time thinking about and/or lightly stalking boys and not enough time on Prayer and the man that already loves me unconditionally, I still wasn’t able to break the habit.  But I try.

It’s not a bad thing to have a crush on a boy or girl, especially if they emanate Christ, but you have to give up those fantasies if they are interfering with your all important relationship with the God that made both of you.

I was reminded of another truth bomb that I constantly choose to forget well I was watching the TV show, “How I met Your Mother”.  One of the characters said to a hasty ex-boyfriend searching for his soulmate, “she’s on her way, and she’s getting here as fast as she can”.  If we are called to be in a relationship, then we have to trust that God is getting our soulmate here as fast as He can.  We have to remember that He is preparing the both of us, constantly, for each other.

It’s often our tendency to look around.  To look towards the future or the things we want that we think we need.  But those anxieties are pointless.  So put them aside.  And for all the women out there who are obsessing about being in a relationship with a perfect man, well, you already are.  Every time you take Communion you are one with the greatest of all great men.  Because Jesus makes every professional athlete, handsome millionaire, and dare devil actor look like a pansy.  And he always will.

I learned most of this lesson from incredibly insightful prayer by St. Anthony of Padua, he basically said everything I needed to hear.  I hope it can serve you as it did me.  So here it is:

Be Satisfied with Me
by St. Anthony of Padua
Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,
To have a deep soul relationship with another,
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied,
Fulfilled and content with being loved by Me alone,
With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to Me.
With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with Me alone.Discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found,
Will you be capable of the perfect human relationship,
That I have planned for you.
You will never be united to another
Until you are united with Me.
Exclusive of anyone or anything else.
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you
The most thrilling plan existing . . . one you cannot imagine.
I want you to have the best. Please allow Me to bring it to you.

You just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things.
Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am.
Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you.
Just wait, that’s all. Don’t be anxious, don’t worry
Don’t look around at things others have gotten
Or that I have given them
Don’t look around at the things you think you want,
Just keep looking off and away up to Me,
Or you’ll miss what I want to show you.
And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love
Far more wonderful than you could dream of.

You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready,
I am working even at this moment
To have both of you ready at the same time.
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me
And the life I prepared for you,
You won’t be able to experience the love that exemplified your relationship with Me.
And this is perfect love.

And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love,
I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your relationship with Me.
And to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty, perfection and love that I offer you with Myself.
Know that I love you utterly. I AM God.
Believe it and be satisfied

Learning to Love the Mass

“A man who fails to love the Mass fails to love Christ.” – St. Josemarìa Escrivà

A few days ago, I remember talking to two of my friends on the topic of going to Mass. One of them was Protestant. The other, Catholic. It was 2 vs. 1, so to speak. But not in the way you’d expect.

Both of them agreed that going to Mass is way too boring.. And good ol’ Catholic me was left with a whole bunch of questions to answer.

My Protestant friend argued that Mass was boring because all we Catholics ever do is “read the thing, say the same things, pray the same things, and eat the thing.” While it broke my heart to think that someone would ever go so far as to refer to the holy presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist as a mere “thing” – even from a Protestant – it gave me reason to question why many people today don’t realize just how amazing and beautiful the celebration of the Mass is.

Now, on the other hand, my Catholic friend told me that he went to a Protestant service last Sunday, and said that it was so different. He said it was the most fun he’s ever had going to church.

Fun?

FUN?!

C’mon bro.

What’s more fun than taking part in a celebration that’s 2,000 years old and receiving the body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Obviously, I could only speak for myself at that time. However, what he said really made me think.

You see, the more I reflect on it, the more I’m convinced that our generation today struggles to understand what the true value of the Mass is. And I’m not saying this out of pride – I was there once. There was a time when I thought that going to Mass was extremely boring. I didn’t see the point of it. I didn’t feel anything. Even though I was taught all about the true presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and believed it, I still said to myself, “Well, so what? What am I supposed to get out of it?”

And that’s what my  problem was. That’s what was blinding me to see the beauty of celebrating the Mass – expecting something out going to Mass. It sort of reminds me of the joke about “give-away” Catholics – Catholics who only show up at Mass on Palm Sunday and Ash Wednesday for the “give-away’s,” like palms and ashes.

I’ve since come to realize that the value of the Mass shouldn’t lie in what we are supposed to get out of it (although being able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist should be reason enough to go), but in what we are able to give of ourselves. I’ve since come to realize that the value of the Mass is that it is a special kind of opportunity to show God that we truly appreciate all that He has done for us through celebrating the sacrifice that gives us life, meaning, and purpose.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus longs to come into our hearts! Not only does he long for our love and affection, but like a good shepherd, he seeks to rescue the lost and the broken-hearted, the lowly and the restless – and invite them to come trust in His infinite love and mercy.

What better way to show Jesus our willingness to welcome Him into our lives than to receive Him in the Eucharist as often as possible?

He’s waiting for you. (:

Be Christian First, Then Catholic

A few weeks ago my Youth and Young Adult Minister shared with us what he gained from participating with LA Catholic Congress last March. What he said completely changed how I viewed myself as a Catholic.

“Before you become Catholic, you need to be Christian. Being Catholic is your faith, being Christian is to be Christ-like”

Jesus left Saint Peter to build the church and from that point on the Catholic Church was born. But if we looked into the life of Jesus he didn’t preach about Catholicism but rather he shared a lifestyle. A life of being righteous and just. A life filled with love, compassion, service and selfishness. Christ taught us to be more like him, a lifestyle of saying good, doing good and being good.

So where does this fit in with our lives? Simple – it redirects in how we share our faith with the people we come across. Our actions are a reflection of what we believe. St. Francis of Assisi understood this concept in his quote “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” We should being living the Gospel because as Catholics we believe that God is present in the Word.

To share our faith is simply sharing Christ with others. So if Christ is Love we share our faith by sharing love to others. We are all called to live the Gospel, to be Christians or Christ-like. Our purpose is to share and receive LOVE not our religion. Choosing to be Catholic is the choice of the individual. To be Christ-like is the life Christ called all of us to accept.

Share Christ. Stay Blessed.

-jon jon-