Friday, October 31, 2008

Thought for today

For me, prayer is a burst from my heart, it is a simple glance thrown toward heaven, a cry of thanksgiving and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

watching a Saint on Youtube

Not too many people who have been declared to be saints by the Church can be found on youtube. Among popular ones, they're often from before the 1800's, so movies are not really a possibility. St. Josemaría Escrivá is an exception-he was just canonized in 2002, having died on June 26, 1975.
Listen to him discuss work, and be ready to feel contrite for your failure to see life with such beauty and simplicity, and then feel hopeful that this can be yours (at least, to some extent) if you are willing to trust God and see things the way He wants us to see things.

Friday, October 24, 2008

another move-appropriate song post

What I WON'T miss about the DC area

I'll try to hold back here, but then again I may say too much. I don't want to sound like someone who is ultimately ungrateful for where I am. You see my tension, don't you?

Oh well, here goes.

1) The great majority of people are completely unfriendly, myself included.
As just one qualification, think about the DC area. So many people come here for internships, fellowships, vacation, to make their mark in the military/government/etc., but the point is that they're coming here. They are not from here-this is not their home. And then you have the people who are actually from here who see this constant ebb and flow of people. What is permanent, what is something I can count on? Nobody knows the answer to these questions, humanly speaking, and as such, almost everyone has their guard up. This air of indifference and apathy, etc., is something that I can't wait to get my mind away from. Oh, and there's also the air of importance that is downright disgusting. As I said, people come here on a mission, and sometimes it feels like everyone thinks that their mission is the ultimate one. Oh, human folly. Ever ubiquitous even in SoCal, but this flavor of folly really gets to me.

2) The disgusting summer.
Humidity that makes one feel guilty for breathing. It has to be more unhealthy than smoking, I can just feel it.

3) The bugs.
Maybe California is the unnatural place, but I'm used to the idea that when it looks nice outside, IT IS NICE. And maybe my foreign blood is tasty to these East Coast bloodsuckers, but whatever the reason, I just can't stay outside without having some beetle, mosquito, or wasp, bee, etc. coming after me. And then there is the elusive fear that I have of ticks. I can proudly say that in ~3.5 years I've never had one of these on my body (and no, I never even worried about them in the time before then). Meanwhile, I've heard of people coming down with Lyme disease!

4) The places called Mexican restaurants.
When I first got out here I thought, ok, where can I get some Mexican food? And of course I don't just mean On the Border or Baja Fresh, I mean some place run by a family, some place that has pozole and menudo on the weekends. The long and the short of it is, there isn't really a place like that. One place in an obscure part of DC makes that cut, but it is too hard to get to on a regular basis. A key clue that I found myself in this situation was that most places would say something like "Mexican and Salvadorean food". This was a clear sign that the patrons were from El Salvador-they meant well, knowing that the average Marylander would shrug over Salvadorean food, but darn it all that's their home territory! So they'd serve up "Mexican" "favorites" that they "knew" "Americans" would "like". And so my depression sunk to a new low.

5) The lack of a sense of service
In a land dominated by "public" "servants", it's amusing that this place has to be the worst when it comes to service. At nearly every store in my area, the customer will find himself in my shoes: you begin to ask the waiter/checker/salesperson for their help, or they strike up the conversation with a "Can I help you?" or a "Can I take your order?" Here, in the world of paper, we are fine. But going deeper, I can tell you what else accompanies these mere letters. A smirk, a shrug, a begrudging sigh, a slouch, a frown, the tone of voice that says why in the world am I serving you? This is especially true of chain stores, which may be a big reason why I am opting for more family-based businesses as of late. Whatever the reason, it's almost impossible to go to the grocery store or Barnes and Noble without wanting to tear one's hair out.

6) The horrible drivers
California is sometimes referred to as the land of the fruits and nuts, and this is true for some justifiable (and some unjustifiable) reasons. However, one area where we Californians have received a negative mark without cause is the driving department. It's true, we have areas which are very densely packed, but with that being said there is not as much insanity as what I have seen out here, and that is with very limited driving experience. I am sure my wife could bring you all to tears with the myriads of monster stories that sometimes come to me via her. As one point of substantiation, I think I have been waved at by someone letting me get over once in ~3.5 years. In California, sure, there are jerks but there are still those people that I lovingly call "humans" who actually extend this courtesy to each other on a more regular basis. In fact, when I flew out for an interview in the Bay Area, I recall leaving the airport and getting waved at when I was trying to get over 3 times in the span of ~100 miles! This also extends to the realm of pedestrians. When I would go jogging in the OC, people would stop for me and even wave sometimes (Was it some kind of mockery or curiosity at this space oddity? To me it matters not.) Over here, people die on a regular basis. And I'm not joking at this point. Ultimately, I can't wait to get away from this driving experience. Is it the abundance of out of towners? The twisty roads which predate the War Between the States? Is everyone mad that they don't live in California? I don't have the answers. I just call them like I see them.

7) Government Waste
Seeing the enormity of government first hand is frightening. It has a breathtaking element when viewed from afar, but zooming in close one can see what everyone knows--this heaving beast is far too large to properly care for itself. I won't enumerate instances of waste, and am not (necessarily) speaking about where I work, but let's just say it's something I'd rather leave out of mind, by leaving it out of sight.

8) The winter
Walking in a winter wonderland also includes sliding on a slippery ice slope and hitting one's proverbial fanny. That, and the fact that there are moments where my weak soul says "How much longer?" to days of scant sun, and awkward vesting and unvesting of the 4 or 5 layers of sweaters, jackets, gloves, beanies, gloves and the rest (think old school Gilligan's island here).
Winter is fun for 3 weeks, tops.

And yes, I know our DC winters are nothing as compared to Canada's winters.

Oh well, I think that's enough for now. Maybe I don't feel like complaining anymore because in posting about winter I'm realizing that I won't even be here during this coming winter. I'll be back in California in a mere 12 days, d.v.!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

the sign of the cross

In my last post I mentioned that the sign of the cross is used.
I found many sites discussing its history and I think this one is really helpful to show
the great amount of sources of people who practiced this.

It's amazing how far back this practice goes.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Great Biblical Depth of the Catholic Mass

I have a large Missal, which contains many comments on what goes on at a Catholic Mass, as well as many prayers to aid one's spiritual life.

Because so many people are ignorant of what goes on in the Mass, both inside and outside the Catholic world, I thought it would be helpful to tell in order what happens in the order of the Mass. I'll mainly be copying what's in my book, but I'll supplement it with my own comments.

Of course, there are varieties of religious expression even within the Catholic Church, so when I can comment on how these variations manifest themselves in places like Eastern Catholic and Latin liturgies, I'll try my best. Because the Mass is divided into two sections, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I'll break up these posts into 4 sections, where each section is divided into two halves.

When I have comments, they will be shown in a unique font.

Mass begins with a bell that rings or a song that is song. This is what the notes in my Missal state.

Entrance Song

After the people have assembled, the priest and the ministers go to the altar while the entrance song is being sung. When the priest comes to the altar, he makes the customary reverence with the ministers, kisses the altar, and (if incense is used) incenses it. Then, with the ministers, he goes to the chair.


After the entrance song, the priest and the faithful remain standing and make the sign of the cross, as the priest says:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The people answer:


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

The people answer:

And also with you.

In the greeting we come together and are summoned to prepare ourselves to worship the Lord, as the priest and those who come towards the altar reverently come to the altar, where the blessed Eucharist is celebrated. As the song ends, the Mass is about to begin. It technically begins as the priest begins by greeting us in the name of the Holy Trinity. In response to this invocation on God's holy name, we make the sign of the cross. Why do this? Is this mere superstition? No, it is an ancient symbol that should bring our hearts to unite the reality that Christ died for us with our own life. We are to take up our cross and follow Christ, and by making this sign we are saying that His cross is also our cross. The inner reality of the truth of the Trinity and the Cross of Christ has a verbal acknowledgment, and an outer manifestation. Our response of "Amen" brings us to
the greeting which follows the invocation on the trinity is nearly a word for word phrasing of most of the Pauline epistles. Again, the Scriptures are brought to our minds as this 21st century man is bringing our hearts to the 1st century with his greeting.
When this Biblical prayer that God be with us is brought to our ears, we respond by saying "And also with you." We echo back the hope that God's blessings be upon the priest who serves us.

As the Mass progresses, the next phase after the Greeting is entered.

Pentitential Rite
After the introduction to the day's Mass, the priest invites the people to recall their sins and to repent of them in silence. He may use these or similar words:

Coming together as God's family, with confidence let us ask the Father's forgiveness, for he isfull of gentleness and compassion.

You were sent to heal the contrite: Lord, have mercy.
The people answer:
Lord have mercy.

You came to call sinners: Christ, have mercy.
The people answer:
Christ have mercy.

You plead for us at the right hand of the Father: Lord, have mercy.
The people answer:
Lord have mercy.

May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.


During this penitential act, which sometimes includes a longer prayer and would then call on the Lord for mercy often in Greek (in a Latin Mass this would be the only time Greek was regularly used) by saying Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison,
we are mindful of who we are; yes, we are part of God's family, but we are never free to act as though His mercy is not our all in all in sustaining us. We call on Him to be our strength and source of all forgiveness. The Biblical truth that we need to always come to Him humbly as His children who need His mercy resonates if we only spend the time to think of the words that are said.
We then go on to sing a hymn called the Gloria.

Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
almighty God and Father,
we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:
have mercy on us;
you are seated at the right hand of the Father:
receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father.

When I first heard this song, I was amazed by its depth of truth. So many elements of what occurs throughout the life Our Lord is encapsulated in this song. It begins with the prayers of Angels who celebrate his nativity, and goes on to call him the lamb of God, which is exactly what John the Baptist calls him. It then goes on to describe His glorious status in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father, asking him to receive our prayer. The closing part of the Gloria says why this is true--because He alone is God, the only one worthy of our adoration. When the rest of the world tells us to question his goodness, or whether someone else should be thanked, the Gloria puts our mind in the right place-on the glory of God. Again, there is so much biblical depth seen in all elements of the Mass.

When we continue this, we will cover how the reading of the Scriptures is treated, describe the homily (and answer why these sermons are so much shorter than those of the Protestant services), and discuss the Creed.

why i'll miss DC, in concrete terms

Monday, October 20, 2008

What I will miss about the DC Area

As much as I have been excited about leaving this area, I think it's fitting to make a list of the things that I will truly miss. The order is not in terms of priority, it's just the order in which things came to me as I sat and typed.

1) New Friends-I have stated elsewhere that I'm bad at making friends, but that doesn't mean that I've made no friends in ~3.5 years. I have met some very nice people in science, and in the rest of the world.

2) Weather Changes - The actual fluctuation allows the mind to really go into transition and consider things, whether it's growth in spring or death in autumn, etc. The landscape here is amazingly different from season to season. There are many complaints which spring from this good point, but I'll save that for a later post. Seeing the world raining with leaves floating down is magical, as is walking through a forest of mere sticks with rare specks of green buds of new flowers breaking through that soil greeting me as I pass by them.

3) Food - There is a great diversity of food in the area, which is probably reflective of the people who live here. From down home Southern BBQ to Lebanese food, I have grown to try many more types of food. This is partially due to my growth as an individual, and due to the different things that are out there. A corollary of this is that given the nearly absolute lack of good Mexican food here, I have been stretched from my comfort zone to try things like Peruvian food, and am so thankful that I have done so.

4) History - Seeing places that formerly resided only in books, from DC to battlefields to quaint old towns with buildings that are over 200 years old, this is something California lacks. The main exception in my mind are those things built by the Franciscan missionaries, but that has its own architectural style and feel that does not compete in a good or bad sense.

5) Memories - Given the fact that 2 of my children were born here, and that my eldest spent so many formative years here, it will be something I'll miss. This is the place where so many first steps, etc., were taken, and as such I will always have a fond place in my heart for the DC area.

6) The Metro - Public transportation is awesome, and California is lacking in this department.

7) Working at the NIH - I complain all day about being a postdoc (or it would seem at times of despair), but the NIH has been a very good place for me to develop more scientific training.

8) The Culture - Now, if you quantitated all of the things I dislike about the culture here, the scales would violently crash in the opposite direction of disdain, but let me state here what I do like about the culture here. First, there is a greater sense of formality, which translates into people dressing more nicely. In fact, I still haven't adjusted and risen to their level of anti-slovenly appearance, but it's a goal I still hold in my mind. Second, there are so many great bars and restaurants and shops and activities, it reminds me of how snobbish a Chicago friend of mine once seemed. But ultimately, there is a strong sense of society that exists in different neighborhoods out there, for good or for ill.

9) The Christian "Atmosphere" - This is another highly qualified statement, but I will say this about the area. In an environment surrounded by history and tradition, there is a respect for that history and tradition. In some (mind you, SOME) individuals, this has led to a great fervor for being connected to our roots, and I don't merely say this as a Catholic. Our Protestant friends out here have a similar appreciation, but I guess what I'm ultimately thinking about is a very ecumenical atmosphere, where Catholics are willing to dialogue with Protestants (and on both a friendly and a debate level), and vice versa. This dialogue has brought me to challenging places, but where I have ended up is so peace-giving I wouldn't trade the awkward moments for the world.

10) The wildlife - seeing deer, squirrels (grey AND black, mind you), snakes and other interesting creatures on a regular basis has been very enjoyable. Many inverse corollaries arise when we move to the insect kingdom, but again, I'm here to be thankful.

11) The Chesapeake Bay et al. - When oceans go toe to toe, the Pacific destroys the Atlantic, if only for the fact that no hurricanes come to California through my darling Western Sea. But with that being said, there is something special about the Chesapeake Bay (and the major rivers such as the Potomac) for its unique feel as a body of water that is not an ocean. The water is "dirtier" in some senses, but in another sense it feels more living. While I still haven't learned to eat the Maryland Crab with the dexterity needed to really make it enjoyable, I am amazed by the life that teems in those waters. The communities that live along this water (I'm specifically thinking of St. Michaels and Annapolis) have a character that is like a beach town but unique.

12) Living Across the Country from Family and Friends - This sounds contradictory, but there's something very valuable about spending time away from so many people. It has helped me (at least try to) grow in my appreciation for my life. Many times we spend our day in drudgery thinking the grass is always greener on the other side, and there is nothing like going to that other side and missing that first location to realize that this is human folly in action. To be relatively isolated from a large group of friends and family has reminded me that our connections with each other, no matter how strong, should be made stronger when possible. I hope to return to California with this zeal in my mind.

13) I'll leave this blank for now and when more things come to mind, will add them as they come to me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

a fitting post #200

According to my blogger site this is my 200th post.

This video is more than appropriate given my current plans.

The greatness of Luke (and his gospel)

El Greco. St. Luke. c. 1605-1610. Oil on canvas. Toledo Cathedral, Toledo, Spain

Today is the feast day in honor of St. Luke. I found a cool article that was made by sharing excerpts from a book about the Gospel of Luke, which was written by the great theologian (and among those who make my dream team pick for a great future Pope??) Cristoph Cardinal Schönborn.

This section is especially poignant-it emphasizes what makes the Gospel of Luke so special. Many Christians have spent time considering the greatness of the Gospel of John, for its depth of theological insight and the detail he puts on the prayers and sayings of our Lord just before His passion. But read what makes Luke special, and you may find yourself wanting to read through his gospel today. It's a small goal I've made in honor of St. Luke, and the One who is the Word.

Enough of my nonsense, here's that quote I promised:

"What picture would we have of Jesus without the parable of the good Samaritan? How much, altogether, would be missing from our picture of Jesus if we had no Gospel of Luke! I myself was almost horrified when I discovered, with the help of a synopsis (that is, a parallel edition of the four Gospels), how much of what is quite essential in our picture of Jesus is owed to Luke's alertness in bringing it all together.

Only he tells us the three parables about the way that God's love patiently seeks for us men: the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost penny, and above all—perhaps Jesus' best-known parable—the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15). What a marvelous picture of God Jesus offers us in this parable!

Only Luke has passed on to us the disturbing parable of the gluttonous rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). And the parable of the Pharisee who praises himself before God and the tax collector who is sorrowfully aware of his sins (Lk 18:9-4)—how it speaks to us! That, too, is found only in Luke.

Thanks to Luke, we know a great deal about the life and the suffering of Jesus, such as is presented in the precious and impressive story about the wealthy little man Zacchaeus, who was not ashamed to climb a tree in order to be able to see Jesus, even though Zacchaeus was a despised "bloodsucker" (Lk 19:1-10).

Thanks to Luke, we know some important things about Jesus' Passion. Only Luke tells us about Jesus sweating blood during his sorrow unto death, about his agony, and about the angel sent to strengthen him (Lk 22:43-44). Only Luke has preserved the deeply disturbing little scene in which Jesus, after Peter's betrayal, turns around and looks at him. "And {he] wept bitterly", it says about Peter. That is how it is for everyone who meets that gaze in his heart-that gaze, free of all accusation, which brings tears of repentance for the betrayal of love (Lk 22:61-62).

Only Luke refers to the way that Jesus forgives not only Peter, his disciple who betrayed him, but also those who crucified him: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34).

Only Luke is able to tell us of the marvelous transformation brought about in the righteous thief by Jesus' loving forgiveness: "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power"—"Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lk 23:42-43).

All these examples from the material peculiar to Luke show that the author has emphasized in a particular way Jesus' turning toward sinners, as well as his love for the poor, the sick, and those who have lost their way. Luke did not invent all that; he discovered it."

Friday, October 17, 2008

St. Ignatius, Pray for Us!

This post by Bryan Cross
is fitting for today, given that the Church calendar celebrates St. Ignatius of Antioch's feast day.

Some of his quotes really challenged me before I joined the Church. Ponder on them and call me in the morning.

St. Ignatius, pray for us all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

our present hope, our future glory, our deep connection - II

"I believe in the communion of the saints."

This simple clause in the Apostles' Creed means so much more to me as a Catholic than it did as a Protestant. It's an underlying basis for explaining why Catholics and other Christians are not ashamed to call on saints in heaven to help those on earth.

In my last post on this issue, I decided to heap up what I see as the crucial data from Scripture that clarify who we will be one day. I wanted to follow up on this concept by taking a simpler approach.

Instead of quoting Church Fathers and establishing precedent from the Catholic Church, I think a very helpful approach is to see things from the other group's side. Stepping into someone else's shoes, it may be possible to show how even their view of the world is amenable to one's own view.

To really step into these shoes, I am going to quote a song that only a few in this world know. It's quite silly, but still I know that the majority of my friends from my home town who would care about this debate will remember its words.
I quote the part that I remember most clearly:
"more like you
less like me
make me more and more like you
less and less like me.
more like jesus
less like me-sus
at your name i bow my knees-us
to do what my master pleases"

Now I would probably faint if I ever stepped into a Catholic parish and heard this song being played, and there was a large period of time where I made fun of this entire genre and wrote it off completely.

But on a fundamental level, what do we as Christians mean when we utter such words? We understand what our Lord has in store for us. There is an element in which this will be true in this life, but most of us understand that ultimate transformation into His image will find its fulfillment on the other side of the grave.

Does this transformation undo our connections to each other?

How could we not be closer after this transformation?

Similarly, if you were to become more like Jesus would that make you more or less fervently passionate about helping your brethren? Would your prayer life resemble Our Lord in Gethsemane or the disciples who slept while He prayed (which is more often than not my own status)?

If these things are true, how much love must our brethren in heaven have for us?! We have only a glimpse of how much love and concern they must have for us, based on the moments when we die to our selves and live in union with Jesus. May those moments grow in depth and intensity, but the point is.....there is full union in heaven. What must that say about our departed brethren?

How could they worship our God who ever lives to make intercession for us and discard the same passion that He has for us while in His presence?

How could they not give Him glory by imitating Him. We do it here, why would they not do it there?

This brings us to the fundamental objection that saints in heaven can't hear us because of their finitude. True, they are finite, but they are united and transformed by the all-consuming love of the Father. Just as John felt compelled to worship the glorious angel who brought him messages in the book of Revelation, we would probably fall over if we met a saint who has been glorified.

If we will know even as we are known in heaven, what would that say about our grasp of the earth? That's the theme I hope to convey in a future post, but for now, consider what it means to be more like Jesus and less like "me-sus".

Monday, October 13, 2008

the job

Monday, October 6, 2008