Tuesday, December 31, 2013

God's Will and the Single Life

I don't often blog about the single life, but I do read about it on occasion. I've been reading The Catholic Girl's Survival Guide for the Single Yearsby Emily Stimpson. I really liked this quote:

The thing is, if God is calling you to a certain job or educational path, it will not get in the way of the husband. Following God’s will in one area can’t block God’s will in another. The missionary trip to China, the MA in theology, the nursing job in Boston—none of those are deal killers to marriage and babies if they (along with marriage and babies) are God’s will for you. In fact, they may be how you get to marriage and babies.

I've had a few suggest my career choices or my location or whatever else I'm doing limit my opportunities for finding a husband. That can be a scary thought, especially since in some cases I've honestly felt like I'm following God's will in making those decisions.

Here's the deal: if we are following God's will, then God's will won't be thwarted. Always seek God's will then, without fear of missing out on something else He has planned for you.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Feast of the Holy Family

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Readings are here.

I remember being in Mass a few years ago with my father on this feast. The last half of the first reading can provide some entertainment for adult children and their parents:

O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives; even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him. For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, and against your sins it will be credited to you. (Sir 3:12-14)

I turned to my dad and said, "I guess that means we have to be nice to you, even if you go crazy. God said so."

Perhaps we have the tendency to think that the Holy Family of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had a nice happy quiet and simple life unlike ours. Perhaps we think they have nothing in common with us. At the very least they wouldn't have the same problems with child discipline everyone else faces. I think we can also assume little risk of Mary entering a hormonal rage once a month. Our lives can certainly feel a whole lot less tidy and easy!

But they didn't have it easy either. Let's not forget one of the first events in the family's life was an angel appearing to Mary. That looks good in the artwork, but angels were so frightening to behold I'm surprised the Bible does not note anyone ever soiling themselves upon viewing one. Next up, Joseph has to contend with the fact his beloved bride to be is pregnant. He may have been suspicious, or he may have believed her story about the angel and was then rightly nervous about helping to raise God's child. There's all that traveling while pregnant to think about, and then of course they had to flee because Herod ordered all the boys slaughtered. Somewhere in there they go to present Jesus at the Temple and hear all sorts of scary and weird things from prophets, and twelve years later they manage to lose Jesus for three days at the Temple. And of course on Good Friday, Mary watched from the foot of the Cross as her son suffered the most horrible death imaginable at the time. Let's not confuse her state of grace with an inability to suffer - those were real motherly feelings she must have been having.

The Holy Family most definitely did not have it easier than us, and they show us how the family can work together to overcome life's problems.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feat of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Today we remember the children slaughtered by Herod in his attempt to kill off the Messiah.  Readings are here.
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. (Matthew 2:16)
This was not out of line with Herod's historical management style.  He had a history of cruelty and executing his own family members.

I learned from Wikipedia that the approximate number of children involved would have been twenty.  The Jewish historian Josephus recorded many of Herod's atrocities, but did not include this one, perhaps due to the relatively small number of victims compared to more his more grand displays of violence.

Friday, December 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes - A Christmas Story Edition

I had an excellent Christmas with my family this past week.  Much merry-making was done, much food was eaten, and much joy was produced.  It was a great Christmas!  We even managed to watch some of A Christmas Story. Which explains the following 6 quick takes. The bottom one includes things you never knew about this movie!

What is your favorite scene from the movie?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church.  The readings are here.
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth against him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting to his death. (Acts 7:54-8:1)
This is a slightly expanded version of the end of the readings today.  Saul would later be known as Paul, of course, after receiving his own visit from the Risen Lord.

Who was Stephen?  He is known from Acts as one of the first seven deacons of the church. The Bible offers no information regarding his life before his ordination.
Stephen's life previous to this appointment remains for us almost entirely in the dark. His name is Greek and suggests he was a Hellenist, i.e., one of those Jews who had been born in some foreign land and whose native tongue was Greek; however, according to a fifth century tradition, the name Stephanos was only a Greek equivalent for the Aramaic Kelil (Syr. kelila, crown), which may be the protomartyr's original name and was inscribed on a slab found in his tomb. It seems that Stephen was not a proselyte, for the fact that Nicolas is the only one of the seven designated as such makes it almost certain that the others were Jews by birth. That Stephen was a pupil of Gamaliel is sometimes inferred from his able defence before the Sanhedrin; but this has not been proved. Neither do we know when and in what circumstances he became a Christian; it is doubtful whether the statement of St. Epiphanius (Haer., xx, 4) numbering Stephen among the seventy disciples is deserving of any credence. His ministry as deacon appears to have been mostly among the Hellenist converts with whom the Apostles were at first less familiar; and the fact that the opposition he met with sprang up in the synagogues of the "Libertines" (probably the children of Jews taken captive to Rome by Pompey in 63 B.C. and freed hence the name Libertini), and "of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of them that were of Cilicia and Asia" shows that he usually preached among the Hellenist Jews. That he was pre eminently fitted for that work, his abilities and character, which the author of the Acts dwells upon so fervently, are the best indication. The Church had, by selecting him for a deacon, publicly acknowledged him as a man "of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). He was "a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost" (vi, 5), "full of grace and fortitude" (vi, 8); his uncommon oratorical powers and unimpeachable logic no one was able to resist, so much so that to his arguments replete with the Divine energy of the Scriptural authorities God added the weight of "great wonders and signs" (vi, 8). Great as was the efficacy of "the wisdom and the spirit that spoke" (vi, 10), still it could not bend the minds of the unwilling; to these the forceful preacher was fatally soon to become an enemy.
This is from the Catholic Encyclopedia.  You cant find more information about St Stephen there.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the appearance of God Incarnate.  He would have been actually present nine months earlier, of course, but we throw a big party at His birth.  I'd have more to say here, but I think Luke does it best.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Beth-lehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 
Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace,
Good will toward men. 
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Beth-lehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Flow Charts and Prayer

December is a very, very busy time of year.  I work in the transportation and logistics industry and it goes crazy around Christmas.  There is a lot going on, and frequently we cannot entirely predict how it will go.  As a natural planner, this drives me nuts.  Some things, like my planning numbers, should never change!

This problem at work is rather minor compared to the rest of life.  Crazy things happen there all the time - life is not tidy.  My dad had a partial hip replacement last week.  He's fine, but there were some unexpected problems once they got in there and the surgery took longer than planned.  He's spending more time away from home than planned.  I'm quite certain none of that was on his list of things to do this month.  Unexpected and not tidy!  Tomorrow I hope to go visit him, but don't even know if I can travel due to a very rude ice and snow storm.  Unexpected and not tidy!

I see on Facebook the unexpected and untidy all the time.  There's a family dealing with a crisis.  Nobody plans a crisis.  There's a mom posting about her sick toddler with the fever.  I can't imagine that's very tidy.  One of my friends keeps liking statuses from a man regarding his horrific cancer treatment.  It doesn't seem he was anticipating that showing up right now.

When things like these happen, I really want a flow chart.  This should come as no surprise to those who know me or just read my blog title.  I want a plan.  I want a list.  I want action items.  I want to know what I need to do and in what order to prepare for the well-defined thing that comes next.  I want it to be neat and tidy and planned and expected and explainable and organized.  In my head, I want it to be predictable.

In my class this semester, my instructor discussed the idea that the Bible does not give us a map - it only gives us a compass.  We need prayer to know where to go.  Talking to the God who created this all and can see the whole picture (predictable from His vantage) is the only way to make sense of it all.  And when I pray, I remember that life isn't tidy.  It isn't meant to be.  Jesus' life certainly was not tidy, or predicable.

God promises to guide us, but we must go to Him in prayer.  Jesus prayed frequently and at length.  We may not get a flowchart out of the deal, but the next step will always be clearer and easier to take than without the light of the Lord.  Let us go to Him in prayer!
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. -Ps 119:105
Let us also remember that God had something to do with the path we are traveling.  The God who created the Universe certainly has the power to guide us in the future, but what has happened before in our lives can serve to help us in our current trials.  The path behind us may have helped us to prepare for the path ahead.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Have you read the Pope's new encyclical, EVANGELII GAUDIUM?  I know, it is long.  But so is that novel you read last week, and the media isn't spending as much time on misrepresenting that work as they are on screwing up our faith.  Go, read, learn.  And here's a video from Father Barron on the subject.

Friday, December 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Well I have been off for a few weeks!  As mentioned yesterday, I've been busily finishing up a course at John Paul the Great Catholic University.   I completed the required Rosary Journal paper last weekend, and am preparing to study for the final exam this weekend.  The Rosary Journal was quite interesting as it required finding each mystery of the Rosary in the Bible, identifying how it fulfilled something from the Old Testament, and applying it to my life.  It took some time but I really found it to be helpful!

This week was also busy with travel as I visited my dad who had a partial hip replacement on Wednesday.  He broke his leg near the hip last year, and it never healed quite right.  During the surgery, they discovered the hardware they'd installed last year had broke.  If you're like me, you read that and thought "How does steel equipment like that break?"  There may have been some other, less appropriate words in there too.

I'm spending time with him now and he seems to be recovering well from this surgery.  He's making jokes about dancing the Macarena and getting cranky about any suggestion of vegetables (which is normal for him).  We are blessed to be in a Catholic hospital where it certainly appears nuns roam around bringing the Eucharist to Catholics and praying with all the patients.

This was a different surgeon this year and the hope is the new hardware will not break.  With any luck he'll be up and moving around again in a few weeks.  He won't be dancing though - he's not really into that.  Please keep him in your prayers!

CrossFit is going well, and I am well and truly addicted.  I was invited to spend time with a friend's family for Thanksgiving, with dinner Wednesday night instead of Thursday.  I actually asked how late I could get there so I could go ahead and attend my CrossFit class, and then I attended dinner without showering…  The same family has invited me to celebrate Christmas with them a week before the actual date, and I had to talk myself into skipping CrossFit to say yes.  I never used to enjoy exercise!  I don't know what happened!  The guys at work call it the Burpee Cult.

I certainly seem to be improving at CrossFit.  I feel far more comfortable doing the workouts and I rarely think "There's no way.  I'm going to die."  I no longer spend an hour post-workout laying on my living room floor, staring at the ceiling, wondering if I'll be able to move the next day.  And I feel great!  I feel much stronger and more confident and just overall much better.

If you're thinking of shipping anything for Christmas, now would be a good time.  USPS, UPS, and FedEx will all be busiest the week before Christmas.  Right now, you can use ground service with any company and get it there by Christmas.  This would be your cheapest option.  Make sure you get a service with a tracking number though, just in case.

Starting around the 18th, you'll need to go with an overnight or two day service if you really, really want it there by Christmas.  Sure, you could wait until the 23rd and do overnight, but none of those companies can prevent snowstorms.   Snowstorms anywhere in the country can prevent your package from arriving on time, as it affects the whole trucking and flight network for the companies.

Trust me, I know these things.  :)

I went shopping last week on Black Friday.  I know, crazy right?   I know a lot of people hate the Black Friday craziness going into Thursday, but I spent more time with my friends and family with the shopping.  We had a blast!  We were out from 11 PM to 7AM. The key is to arrive at the store 3-5 hours after they open.  By that point all the people willing to wait and possibly fight over the door busters will be gone.  I went to Sears, JC Penny, Kohl's, Best Buy, and Target without waiting in line at any of the stores.  Starbucks had the only line.  We did accidentally end up at a store when it opened.  I went in, I went out.  It was CRAZY.

Aside from that it was a pretty calm night.  There was one fight at the mall, but it appeared to be unrelated to the specials.  Two teens got into a fist fight outside the candy store.  Footlocker dropped their door in response to the "incident," and I watched an out of shape mall cop try to run.

Winter Storm Cleon is making its way through the country.  I didn't even know it had a name until I started watching the news, who was ALL OVER this story.  On the way to the hospital yesterday we saw a TV van camped out filming the intersection of two major roads.  This was hours before the storm was to hit.  They were still sitting there later when we drove home waiting for the snow.  How would you like to be that reporter and camera guy?

Random movie reviews!  I saw Ender's Game and Catching Fire recently.  Ender's Game was great, so long as the viewer understands they can't actually follow the book.  They can't.  It will be okay.  There's just no good way to cover the time covered in the book.  Ender couldn't grow up that fast.

Catching Fire was awesome!  It was probably my favorite book of the series, and I am in love with the movie.  I want to see it again in the theater.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

And I'm back...

I know, I disappeared for awhile.  The problem isn't that there's nothing to write about - I have a stack of links and emails to myself on topics to put here.  I just can't find time to write.

I'm finishing up the Introduction to Scripture class I've been taking at the John Paul the Great Catholic University.  I have absolutely loved this class.  I've learned so much from the reading and the lecture, and I can't wait to take Introduction to Scripture II starting in January.  If you ever have the chance (and time and money of course), I would definitely recommend this course.  They also have a free series on Catholicism you should check out otherwise - Pillars of Catholicism.

Well now that we're here, let me go ahead and give you ALL those links I've been saving up, just for you!

Nine Ways the Eucharist is Hidden in the Old Testament.  I sometimes hear Catholics wondering about the Eucharist, and I think if we better educated ourselves we'd feel more firm on this topic.  All topics, actually.  Are we letting laziness prevent our complete understanding of our faith?

50 Ways to Talk to God.  This is a wonderful blog entry for anyone who has ever struggled with prayer.  They always tell us to find time to pray, but what if we don't know how to get started?  Check out this list for Advent.

Ever heard that the Gospels must have been written after AD 70 because Jesus predicts the destruction of the Temple?  How else would He know about that, right?  While a convenient theory, it totally dismisses His divine nature.  There seems to be a lot of liberal analysis on the Bible that permeates our culture and even what we hear at church, and I find some of the logic used to date various books to fall into this category.  Apparently I'm not the only one.  Dating the New Testament.  Don't let anyone tell you we know for sure that Matthew didn't write his Gospel or Paul didn't write his letters or that Jesus didn't know the Temple would be destroyed.

In the totally unrelated section, we have Stress: It Could Save your Life.  I thought this was interesting. "In people who don’t see stress as a health threat, stress does not appear to increase mortality."

The Teenager Who Saved a Man with an SS Tattoo.  I'd never heard of this story out of Michigan from 1996.  What a great news item, and what a brave teen.

For Shame: I Make Jesus Sleep on My Couch.  What would our houses look like if space was allocated based on time spent doing any activity?  How big is your bedroom?  How big is your kitchen?  Where is Jesus?

You know how I love me some math and charts.  The last link was pretty cool - using math to come up with a spatial analysis.  This article has charts!  The Atrocities of Theism and Atheism Compared.  Hey!  Here's a surprise.  Theism is not actually the cause of more deaths than anything else.

A Sailor's Dying Wish.  This is just a nice story about a Pearl Harbor veteran and some awesome sailors.  Get a tissue.

Why is Jesus Bleeding?  Yeah.  Read this too.  Why IS Jesus bleeding?  Our salvation was not always a pretty thing to look at.

Oh!  Introverted people, how I love you.  From afar… we don't need to talk.  Here are some Signs You're a Catholic Introvert. "You like the Extraordinary Form of the Mass because prayer is easier for you when it involves zero eye contact with other people. The priest faces the altar, no sign of peace … equals introvert bliss."