Thursday, June 1, 2017

Who is the Holy Spirit?



Now with Pentecost just around the corner, we can have a talk about the Holy Spirit. Just who is He?

The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and the Son. The Father who begets (not made) the Son gives His eternal love to His Son and then the Son gives it back in return; this life-giving love that is eternally exchanged, that is the Holy Spirit. It is that simple. The Holy Spirit is the life and the love that comes forth from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son."

So how exactly does the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, help us in our everyday? The Son, Jesus Christ, promised us a helper, the Paraclete. (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is here to help us and to guide us towards the Son. We cannot even say Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3) without the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit truly helps us to live the life that Jesus has called us to live so that ultimately we can dwell in heaven with the Father.

We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and this grace is deepened through the Sacrament of Confirmation. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."  (CCC 1285)

It is truly the Holy Spirit, like at the time of Pentecost, that comes to dwell in us. It is this love, this life that is from the Father and the Son, that comes to dwell in our hearts. It is only then that we can proclaim that Jesus is indeed Lord, furthermore, He gives us the courage to go out and proclaim to the all the nations this truth that transforms us from within.

It takes courage to tell others of Christ. With the many martyrs we are witnessing in today's age, we should but ask the Holy Spirit to give us this courage. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are brought to the realization that we are made new in Christ and so it is by the Holy Spirit that we can make known to others that they too can be made new in Christ.

This Pentecost, ask the Holy Spirit to come in your heart and renew your life. We receive Him at Baptism but we can continuously receive Him again and again and have Him renew us from within. Do not be afraid of the Holy Spirit for He is only love and life, sent from the Father through the Son.

More reading on the Holy Spirit? Go here.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Some Holy Week and Easter facts



As we prepare for Holy Week, here are a few tidbits about Holy Week and Easter that are generally misunderstood! A blessed and grace-filled end of Lent to you all!

1. Why is Good Friday "good"?

Well, although we remember this day in a solemn way without the celebration of the Holy Eucharist and in silence, it is good because simply put, Jesus died for our sins. What took place in the garden of Eden so long ago is made right again through the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. We lost our "good" way through our first parent's selfishness in that garden and Jesus made it all "good" again by being obedient unto death.

But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

2. So what really happened on Holy Saturday?

Jesus descends to hell and releases those imprisoned by death. From an ancient homily about Holy Saturday, we are able to conjure up images of Christ descending into the netherworld to release those held captive, such as Adam and Eve. With poetic language, we read that indeed God is sleeping and the world is silent. I often go back to this ancient homily to contemplate this moment, this time where we find all the tabernacles of the world empty and God asleep. "Awake O sleeper!" Jesus exclaims to Adam. That same hope is exclaimed to us every Easter as we too live in hope of our own resurrection. We will awake and arise and live forever with Christ!

The Lord's descent into hell

3. On the third day, He arose again?

If Jesus died on Friday and rose on Sunday, how does that make three days? Ancient jews counted their days much differently than we do today. For them, a part of today and a part of tomorrow were two distinct days; as opposed to us seeing it as just 24 hours. Jesus died around 3 p.m. on Friday and arose on Sunday. Friday counts as one distinct day, Saturday another day and Sunday, even though tradition holds he rose from the dead at dawn, was another distinct day. That makes three days.

Was Christ really in the tomb three days?

4. Easter is not just one day of celebration!

For many of us, Easter memories are filled with images of dressing up to go to Easter Sunday Mass followed by a great feast with family and hunting for Easter eggs while later stuffing our face with hollow chocolate bunnies. But Easter does not end there. Easter is actually 50 days long! Easter lasts from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. Easter Sunday to Divine Mercy Sunday (Instituted by St. John Paul II) is known as the Easter Octave (for 8 days) which are to be celebrated as an extended Easter Sunday. So celebrate and celebrate well for 50 days! This is the most important celebration of our Christian calendar, even more so than Christmas!

The 50 days of Easter





Sunday, April 2, 2017

Featured on Aleteia

source

One of the JPII generation pays tribute to the saintly pontiff

On, April 2, 2005, I was standing in St. Peter’s Square praying for our very frail Pope John Paul II.
Along with thousands of others, I had gathered to pray a Rosary led by a few cardinals. The prayers reverberating across the Square were a testimony from the throngs that had come to keep vigil, as we anticipated that our Papa was about to depart for his heavenly home.

He had a great love for the youth and his last words to us that evening were, “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.”
We indeed had come to look for him, to say goodbye.
At 9:37 p.m. the light in his papal apartments went dark. The light that had always shined until the late hours of the night, had finally been extinguished.
The bells of St. Peter’s began to toll: 84 times for the years he had spent as a pilgrim on this earth. He had finally returned to “the Father’s house.”
Six days later I found myself looking across St. Peter’s again. The ocean of people stretched all the way down Via della Conciliazione and passed the Tiber. The people joyfully exclaimed, as their many signs read, Santo Subito! Sainthood Now!
St. John Paul II had already been canonized in millions of hearts around the world. His life had been proof that holiness was possible, even in our modern world.

To read more please click here.



Friday, March 24, 2017

Waffles for Our Lady!

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico source

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. The day when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a son, named Jesus. It is exactly nine months before the birth of Jesus. So do we know the exact dates when these events took place in history? No, although they did take place in human history.  We have record of the birth of Jesus outside of Scripture from non-Christian witnesses. Feast days, as we call them, are days set by the Church in order to commemorate important events in our Salvation history; or to commemorate certain saints.

On the Solemnity of the Annunciation, we celebrate the fact that Mary's yes brought about our salvation. Becuase of Mary, who was Immaculately conceived, God was able to be born and "dwell amongst men." God came amongst us! Can you wrap your head around that one? No other religious leaders in human history claimed to be God. In no other religion does God intervene in human history. He said, alright, you don't get this, you don't seem to understand my love, so I'll come and show you myself. That's it!

Here's a basic breakdown of the different types of feasts we celebrate in the Church from Catholic Straight Answers.

Solemnities are the most important celebrations. They begin at vespers (evening prayer) of the day before. During the Mass celebration, we say the Gloria and the Creed.  Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (U.S. Holy Days of Obligation are: Mary Mother of God, Ascension, Assumption, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas) are solemnities.  Other solemnities are St. Joseph (March 19), Sacred Heart of Jesus (Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi), and St. Peter and St. Paul (June 29).

Feasts are of second importance. They do not have a first vespers or Vigil Mass.  An exception would be the feasts of the Lord which occur on Sundays in Ordinary Time and Sundays during the Christmas season.  For example, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2) has its own first vespers.  On these days, the Gloria is recited but not the Creed.

Finally, there are the memorials, which are classified as either obligatory or optional.  Memorials commemorate a saint or saints.  Obligatory memorials must be observed (meaning celebrated in the liturgy) whereas optional memorials do not have to be observed.  For example, St. John Bosco (January 31) is obligatory while the memorial of St. Blase (February 3) is optional.  Only the memorials of those saints who are of “universal significance” are observed by the whole Church and marked in the general liturgical calendar.

Other feast days would be local saints to a country, town, diocese or religious order. 

One note: often we will hear the word feast used to refer to any liturgical commemoration, such as the Feast of the Annunciation, rather than Solemnity of the Annunciation. It is still referring to the solemnity.

So how exactly do we celebrate this day? So up until now, we haven't really celebrated this day in particular other than going to Mass. But now, that our children are a bit older we would like to add on some new traditions to commemorate certain liturgical feasts. The richness of the Catholic faith is that everything has meaning. Some traditions are not necessarily universal and some we just kind of make-up on our own. The point is that we commemorate this celebration with something not only festive but memorable so that the children will note that it is a special day. That gives us parents the opportunity to explain why it is a special day. A teaching moment. Always great!

So on this day, we will make waffles! Yep! Waffles. Why you ask? It's kind of a silly and fun tradition. Why not! Well over at Catholic Cuisine she points out that in Sweden, it is known as Vaffeldagen or Waffle day which is similar to Varfrudagen, which means Feast of the Annunciation, or, "Our Lady's Day." So why not have waffles in honor of Our Lady's yes!



So have fun cooking up those waffles!  Only I used a Belgian Waffle recipe :)

Here's the recipe from food.com

Ingredients: 
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1⁄2 cup oil
2 cups milk

Directions:
Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Separate the eggs.
In small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff.
Mix together the egg yolks, milk and oil and stir slightly.
Add to dry ingredients and mix well.
Fold in beaten egg whites.
Cook in waffle iron.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Featured on Aleteia-For Her

I used to think I was just a chronic pessimist, until I discovered I had persistent depressive disorder.

I have battled persistent depressive disorder (PDD), previously known as dysthymia, for most of my life. It means that more often than not, I find myself in a low mood. I always thought I was just a chronic pessimist. Major life events, such as changes in schooling or friendships, exacerbated my condition. However, despite my persistent blues, I was resourceful and got by, even if gloomy clouds were never too far off.
After moving back from living abroad, I had a serious bout with major depression. I could hardly get out of bed in the morning. It was the first time in my life that I sought help for my depression from a medical doctor, and I was diagnosed with PDD. At first I felt a sense of relief. I was finally able to put a name to what I had felt for so long.

Almost immediately my doctor suggested medication. At first, I refused. Feeling defeated, I opted to seek therapy to sort through my emotions instead. It felt as if I had spent my whole life trudging through a dense jungle of emotions. Yet, armed with a machete of my persistence, I had managed to cut through the brush of despondence and survive. Yet, deep down I knew that therapy would not be enough.

To read more please click here.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lent Challenge: Be with your children and NOT technology!


"There are countless reasons you'll catch me on my smartphone
or worse, my laptop, during the day..."


There are still almost four weeks to go until Holy Week. It seems like an eternity, but this year I am taking it as a challenge, to become a better person. Lent, as we have seen, is a time of sacrifice and of prayer. Above all things, it is a time to focus on the Sacrifice of all sacrifices.

So, what is your greatest sacrifice? What is it that challenges you?

I want to challenge all moms and dads out there.

Here is the deal:

I have come across countless articles about how technology is ruining our children. There are a plethora of stats warning us how screen time can alter our children's brains. "Diagnoses of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are associated with technology overuse, and are increasing at an alarming rate." (source) Yet, where are the stats of how our phone and screen time use impacts our children?

Does our use of technology affect our children? YES! YES! YES!

Meg Meeker, a wonderful best-selling author, and pediatrician points out that "...parents often showed annoyance at children when the parents were interrupted from their phones. And the little interaction that parents or caregivers had with their children were more negative or harsh. (source)

I am guilty of this. So, very, darn guilty! There are countless reasons you'll catch me on my smartphone or worse, my laptop, during the day. There are phone calls, texts, WhatsApp messages from distant family and friends, Pinterest, Facebook, work I have to get done, etc. Must I go on?

The truth is none of that is as important as my children. I will admit that without hesitation. Then why is it always pressing to answer that text? Why do I have look at facebook one last time before I finally set the phone down? Why didn't get my work done before my children got home from school? Yes, my friends, it is an addiction and it's not pretty.





"Do you find that putting the phone away equates to cutting off a limb, leaving you figuratively handicap and literally restless for the rest of the day?"


Here we are trying to protect our children from the horrors of screen. Yet, what kind of example are we setting if they see us using technology constantly?  The buck stops here! I am taking up my own challenge this Lent. How about you?

Do you see yourself caught up in technology? Do you not give your children the attention they desire and deserve? Do you find that putting the phone away equates to cutting off a limb, leaving you figuratively handicap and literally restless for the rest of the day? If this sounds familiar then I invite you to take up this challenge.

Put. Down. Your. Phone.

Put. Away. Your. Laptop.

Put. Away. Your. Tablet.

Just do it. Put it all away in time for when your kids come home from school. Let them have your attention. It doesn't mean you have to sit there and be at their beck and call. It means really listening to them and being there for them. It means not getting agitated when they interrupt our hundreth text of the day. It means playing with them for a bit. Going for a walk or a bike ride. Preparing dinner with them or simply sitting down and reading a book together.

Try to make all your important phone calls/texts while they are at school. Try to limit them while they are home. Make texting and posting on Facebook a big no-no while they are around.  You can even put your phone on "do not disturb" if you are brave enough. I place my phone in another room where I can still hear it if I need to take a call. I also tell my husband if he needs me (aka emergency) to call twice.

You will soon notice your children's behavior change, for the better. You will see a change in yourself and in your family all together. You will be more patient and at peace. Kids are worth it. Don't you think?  Let's be there for our kids. Let's show them that there is more to life than technology. Let's place family first and enjoy the simpler things in life. How do you want your children to remember you? Hunched texting on your smartphone? Or spending afternoons together enjoying each others company?

Technology can wait. Put your children first!



Sunday, March 12, 2017

Lent, a journey towards greater things

The LORD said to Abram: "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you. "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you." Abram went as the LORD directed him.


So many instances in Scripture we see that those who obey the will of the Lord are promised great things. These great things may not be of considerable value to this world, but they are great indeed. I envision this promise of God to Abram and imagine his enthusiasm and fear. I can almost feel his joy and his sorrow, his sense of obligation and his free will. It's as if this all exudes from his heart at the same time.

Doing the will of God is never an easy task. Following God's commands takes courage and strength, not found in ordinary human hearts. This type of strength only comes from God's grace. Exactly what we need is what we must ask for. Exactly what will pull us through is what we lack. Our work for God is only done by God through us. Ironic, isn't it?

That's a little bit of our journey through Lent. A lot of the sacrifices we may be making may not be easy to come by, but we get by on His grace. Our sacrifice only has meaning through His Sacrifice. So my fasting is empty and a mere diet if it is not joined with prayer. I must replace my being off of Facebook with an act of service, if not I risk this extra time being void of meaning. Sacrifice is empty without His Sacrifice. 

Lent is a time where we can join what we "give up" or "take on" with what Jesus gave up on this earth and what He took on: the Cross. These forty days lead up to a culmination where all our sacrifices are nailed on the Cross. We become privileged participants in something that has been done for us. We are no longer spectators. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church." Col. 1:24

How amazing is God that He allows us to join our most puny little sacrifices to the greatest offering of all time? God never stops giving! He always gives us a chance to be a part of His greatness. To be holy as he is holy! He promises us, like He did Abram, greater things. Great things come with some form of renunciation. Every yes, comes with many no's.  

Abram left his homeland. In his yes, he renounced so much. We too are asked to leave our homeland of sorts: leave our comfort zones; forgo the pleasures we are so used to. We are even able to give up the things that we need and desire, such as food. All this, so that we may obtain a greater good. A supreme good. In our yes, we proclaim that God alone suffices and we prepare ourselves for what will be in the next life.  

Lent is a journey of learning, where, each year, if we will, we can delve deeper into this mystery of sacrifice. 

What have you taken on? What have you given up? Are you joining it to prayer? Are you joining it to the one Sacrifice that gives it meaning?

Be reminded that "...all things work for good for those who love God." Romans 8:28



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Lenten Journey



"The Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the reason we are even able to make sacrifices in the first place."


Okay, the first week of Lent here and there is no better time to extract truth, goodness, and beauty than now.  I will be making it a point to blog during Lent. No better time then when you are trying to stick to good habits and discipline.

Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This is the time, as good as any really, to really dig into the faith and realize that we can give it all to God. Our day is filled with opportunities for Lenten sacrifices. Sure, the typical, not eating between meals, giving up sweets, staying off of Facebook, are good ways to gather up your strength through self-control and discipline, but how about what you take on? Lent is not always about giving up. Sometimes taking on things, can be just as difficult or even more difficult.

This Lent I want to take you on a journey of how we can take on and yes, give up the things that are a bit outside of the box. How about taking on a bit more compassion while driving? How about really making efforts to be on time to your appointments? How about not really caring what other people think?

Let's share this time of Lent and let us dig into to all the beauty the Church offers us in preparing ourselves for the Sacrifice that makes sense of all of our sacrifices. The Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the reason we are even able to make sacrifices in the first place. Our difficulties, even the most minute, even those we purposely take on, have a redeemable quality only because He redeemed us by His life. That one whopper of a ticket that Jesus redeemed by giving His life up on the Cross, basically cashed in all tickets of suffering for all of eternity, as long as they are united to Him.

Make this Lent count and make each day count by remaining connected and aware that each day we gather up our strength in self-discipline and self-control, we are preparing ourselves for the things this world does not prepare us for, preparing our hearts for eternity.

Have a blessed Lenten journey!


Featured on Aleteia-For Her


Becoming a new mom was probably one of the most magnificent experiences of my life. It was a time filled with wonder and worries, anxiety and excitement. Yet, in the midst of all these mixed emotions, I could only envision moments of tenderness and pure love with my soon to be newborn. Sure, motherhood would be difficult and there would be great challenges, but I was certain love would conquer all. I soon learned that simple moments of prayer would be the best source of grace and much-needed strength that would get me through the toughest moments that lay ahead.

The day finally arrived. Our first son was born. Then, less than two years later, we were blessed with another baby boy. We had our share of sleepless nights and “napping while baby napped” simply didn’t suffice. Even so, my heart was brimming with love. I reached out to friends who were veteran moms and they helped me through the rough spots. But indeed, it was prayer that always gave me a sense of peace and reassurance. During quiet nap times or while our youngest son nursed, I spoke to God. Those were my moments of great grace, and they saw me through.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Why Aleppo and Cairo should change Christmas!



As Christmas approaches I can't help but think of the people of Aleppo. Or the many women and children recently killed (martyred) in Cairo. How can we not? How can we not think of them when they are being killed for believing in Christmas. For believing in Christ.

I recently gave a presentation at a parish on the meaning of the Incarnation and how this spills over into our every day life. The very word incarnation--to become flesh-- takes on so many meanings when we relate it to how we incarnate our faith. And never, ever has it been more dire to realize the meaning of the incarnation or how to incarnate the faith than now. If we let this Christmas pass as just another celebration, another festive occasion where we exchange a myriad of gifts, than those deaths, on the other side of the world, have merely been in vain to us.

This is not possible! It would be scandalous!

Let me start by just saying that our God, the triune God that we proclaim as Father and Son and Holy Spirit, is a very practical God. Our faith, the Catholic faith, is very practical. This time, right now that we are living, the season of Advent, is proposed by the Church so that we may prepare, for that very day when Christ returns, as an infant, on Christmas.

And what God is this, that comes to us as an innocent child? What God would "become flesh" and come as we all do, through the womb of a woman (a virgin mother) and be born in a stable? You see, our thought of that cozy little wooden stable is not at all what it was like. In Bethlehem, the rocky, hilly fields were dotted with natural caves where many used to find shelter for themselves and for their animals.

It is there, in a dingy, dark, stench ridden cave, where beasts once hid from the elements, that our Lord and Savior was born. Then He was laid in a manger which is none other than a feeding trough where beasts would feed. And what did they fill this trough with? Prickly, stinky, probably dirty hay. A baby. Born into this? Much less, the son of God?

There you have it, the King of kings came to this poor dwelling to be visited by the marginalized shepherds and later to be found and adored by Kings of the East and not royalty of His own region. In fact, in Scripture we read that Jesus was found to be a threat to King Herod. (Mt 2:16) Basically, this small infant was a threat to the most powerful empire known to man. Ask yourselves how that can be and it will give you a bit of insight as to how over two-thousand years later there is no Roman Empire, yet Jesus is still worshipped. If Jesus was merely "a good religious man", how can this be?

So let's just say that this year, of all years, you will make a concerted effort to teach your children what Christmas is really all about.  You will teach them the true meaning of--Christ-mas. Then will come the presents and the food and the family and all the other trappings. Beautiful none-the-less but trappings at best. Good enough?

God became man. God, His very creative Word, that was there from all eternity--"Let us make man in our image." Gen. 1:26."-- (the choice of pronoun referring to more than one person). God Himself chose to take on our humanity so that we would receive His divinity. No other religious figure has claimed this. None! "If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." John 14:7. He never hid the fact that He and God were one.

God. Became. Man.

"And the Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us." John 1:14.

Meditate on the fact that God, who is all perfect; all knowing; all present, would take on our own miserable state. That is something to ponder on. That He could have come into this world in any way He chose because. He is God!  But instead, He came to know what it was like to be man. To suffer like us. To love like us. To cry like us and laugh like us. To work like us and to live like us. "For we do not have a high priest [God] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15

This is our God.

This is the God that so many in the past decade have died for. So many in the past century and these past sixteen years have died for. More martyrs than ever before!

This is the God that in the recent weeks many have been tortured, beaten, enslaved, murdered, raped, bombed and humiliated for. This, the very God, that comes to us as a child on Christmas. The God for which blood has been shed and witnesses have been proclaimed. This is the reason we celebrate Christmas--"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." John 3:16.

The very Scripture passage, John 3:16, that you will find on the bottom of a Forever Twenty-One shopping bag, proclaims the God that gives His life for us so that all those who have died recently in Aleppo and in Cairo and all the other places that go unrecognized, live on in eternity. Eternity.

So how could we go beyond our trappings and make this Christmas count? How can we, who have the freedom to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, not only teach our children what the true meaning of Christmas is, but also show them how to live it? How can we incarnate the meaning of Christmas--of what it means to be a Christian--in our life?

Go to worship the God that is being proclaimed on the tongue of those who draw their last breath before their enemies. Our enemies.

Pray for these enemies. Pray for the sufferings of those who's God given freedom of worshiping Him has been stripped away, because like Herod, they are threatened by Christ. Who would not be threatened by a God with so much love that He came to be with us? Who would not be threatened by a God that is so powerful, people give up their lives for Him? Freely!

Seek a relationship with Him. Speak to Him. Get to know Him in Scripture. Come to know this God that people give their lives up for. The God that has given His life for you!

As I sit here in my warm, cozy house, all decorated for this Christmas, I ask myself, would I recognize Christ if I was threatened with death? Would I display the same courage these people have shown to the world, a world that barely listens to these modern day martyrs? Would I allow the name of Christ to be the last word that my own mouth proclaims?

I only hope and pray that I too, may have the same courage. I pray to have the same incarnated faith so that I too would give up my life for Him.

Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this year. Celebrate it because so many others cannot. Celebrate Christ, because without Him, there would be no Christmas.

God bless you and may the infant Jesus be born in your hearts and remind you that the precious gift of freedom we have is not guaranteed in this world, but is certain in the next.

A happy and blessed Christmas to all.