Sorry, I forgot this song.
Last night I pulled the trigger. I’m heading to San Diego for the week after Christmas to visit a good friend of mine, and I’m really excited.
As some of may know, I wasn’t always Catholic, and before that I went on a mission trip with Campus Crusade for Christ: San Diego Summer Project 2008. I spent 10 weeks living 100 yards from the Pacific Ocean, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ was strangers on the beach, the bus, the trolley, and at SDSU. It was here, though, that the trajectory of my life was set towards Catholicism as this distant unimaginable asteroid’s gravity disturbed my orbit before crashing into me a short time later, forever making me Catholic. It’s an extremely important part of my life, and sometimes I don’t really grasp just how important that summer was in getting me to where I am now.
So it goes without saying that I am incredibly excited to head back there, and I have a laundry list of things I want to do:
- Nothing is as important to me as eating a California Burrito from La Playa Taco Shop on Mission Blvd on the beach.
- Visit the pier at Mission Beach.
- Weirdly, I just want to walk past the Santa Clara Motel and the Santa Clara Rec Center.
- SeaWorld. I worked at SeaWorld the summer I was there as a food vendor at Shamu Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Sea Lion and Otter, and on occasion, Pets. I also got stuck on vending carts once or twice before I became really good at vending. Anyway, since SeaWorld is getting rid of its Shamu Show I really want to see it one more time. Aaaaand, I need to go to Dolphin Stadium because: if you’re sitting in the first twelve rows, there’s something you ought to know, there’s a fifty-fifty bet, you’ll get one hundred percent wet. So don’t look surprised (oh my hair!) when the water splashes in your eyes. I just thought you might like to know about the imminent H2O! So if you like that camera or you like that dress, don’t let the salt water make it all a mess, stay drier, move a little bit higher!
- Belmont Park to ride the Giant Dipper, something we used to do every Tuesday night!
- San Diego Zoo
- Mission San Diego de Alcala
- Sunset over the ocean
- Coronado Island
- For sure, have a night of reflection on the beach, one night, by myself, like we used to do every week.
- Oh, and sing God is With Us
Anyways, if you can’t tell, I’m mildly pumped for this trip to happen. Until then, you stay classy San Diego.
This week instead of 7 thoughts I’m going to share my favorite contemporary Christian songs. These aren’t necessarily the trendy ones sung at worship services with colored lights, a PowerPoint and worshipers waving their hands in the air. These are (for the most part), a little deeper than that. Anyway, don’t get me started on the completely foreign disconnect between evangelical worship and the history of Christian worship. Here are my songs.
In The Light, DC Talk
Word of God Speak, Mercy Me
More, Matthew West
Dead Man, Jars of Clay
Sweetly Broken, Jeremy Riddle
Made to Love, Toby Mac
We Live, Superchick
Praise You in this Storm, Casting Crowns
(I could make a whole playlist or two of just Newsboys songs, but I won’t do that to you people. I really like the Newsboys.)
Lose This Life, Michael Tait
Advent is right around the corner, just a week away. It is a time to contemplate both the Incarnation, and the return of Christ.
And with today being the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (colloquially: Christ the King), I wanted to take a moment to reflect on something that I think we often only pay lip service to, but don’t really reflect upon.
The King of the Universe is a man. He is fully God, to be sure, but he is fully man as well. We do an awful lot to emphasize the divinity of Christ throughout his earthly life. His humanity is also mentioned, especially in connection with his suffering and death, and whenever we need to use it as a springboard for Marian devotion.
Oftentimes we will say that we are saved by God. But how often do we say, and believe, that we are saved by a man? Both are true. Our hope is in God. And our hope is in a man. We worship God, but we also worship a man. This universe was created by God. And it is reigned over and sustained by the will of a man.
I don’t have a point to this, other than to say that this is an important point of truth for each of us to consider. Really, truly meditate on the reality that our salvation and all that we hold true was accomplished by a man, a member of the human species.
Not my words.
But I agree.
This was one of many parts of Fr. Nelson’s awesome talk last week at Theology on Tap in Minot. I think its easy for us to sometimes believe that, yes, there is good and evil, but that the distinction is arbitrary, in that God could have declared the things that he considers evil to have been good, and vice-versa. As Fr. Nelson said, we can tend to believe it is like driving on the right side of the road. It is wrong to drive on the left side of the road, you can die, be injured, fined, etc. But it could be ok to drive on the left side of the road. The choice to make the right side the right side was arbitrary, and in fact, in alternative universes like England, it is in fact ok to drive on the left side.
The problem is that this line of thinking is not even close to the reality of the moral law. The moral law is what it is because God is who he is. Let me say that again: the moral law is what it is because God is who he is. Murder is not a sin because God says so, but because God is so. Murder is wrong because God is the God of life. Marriage isn’t between a man and a woman because God says so, but because the union of man and woman is the image of the creative power of God.
A moral law that is arbitrarily set by God has nothing to do with God. It is a law that is as useful as no law at all. But because the moral law is actually a reflection of the eternal, unchanging nature of God, it has everything to do with God, and everything to do with conforming us more perfectly to his image. When we learn to love and live the moral law, we learn to love and live for God, and we take him to those who need to know him.
Through the grace and gifts of God, may we thank God for opening our eyes to eternal moral truth.
Soooooo here’s the story.
I’m at a point where I realize I’m reading this book all wrong. The last few chapters have been extremely difficult for me, and the first chapter on the fifth mansion kind of looked like this:
Бог с нами
в его любящие руки
мы в безопасности от вреда
благословил его всемогущей любви
может вам найти силы от него выше
So, I’m done reading until I personally find myself arriving at particular mansions. So, unfortunately this series is over for the time being. But, again, I encourage you to get a copy of the book for yourself to read and pray through. The title is The Interior Castle, written by St. Teresa of Avila.
Can we take a moment to pray for Parisians? Can we take a moment to pray for the souls of those senselessly murdered by Islamic terrorists on Friday? Can we take a moment to pray for the people of France, that they would turn to Jesus Christ for peace? Can we take a moment to pray for the ISIS/ISIL militants, that Jesus Christ would touch their hearts and that they would turn to the truth?
I work with college students for a living (for now). Today’s college students are millennials. According to the consensus of researchers, I, too, am a millennial. However, I take offense at such a notion. I feel that I am more like a Generation x-ennial. Anyway, the point is that millennials in general are severely lacking in independence and the ability to do anything without having their hands held. It is very frustrating for someone like me to have to spell out the tiniest and easiest details for them and on top of that having to overly praise their ultrasensitive egos for “accomplishing” what I spelled out for them (can you tell what kind of week I had last week?). The point of all this is the terrifying realization I have come to: that someday, a millennial is going to the President of the United States of America.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever written about language on the blog, but it is something that I am very fascinated by. One of the things I do in my free time is listen to a podcast called The History of English. To me it is awesome to consider how our language came to be. But more than that, there is something very spiritual about language, something divine. After all, God spoke the universe into existence. The second person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. When I say a word, the sounds form an image or a some kind of reaction in the listener, the object of the word becomes a reality. The same with reading the written word. I mean, these pixels you’ve been scanning have caused thoughts, images (and likely, boredom), to fill your mind. Give thanks to God today for the wonder of language!
This coming Sunday is the last Sunday of the Church year, which is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This celebration is a very recent addition to the calendar, only being made in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. Here is what he has to say in his encyclical establishing this feast:
The faithful, moreover, by meditating upon these truths, will gain much strength and courage, enabling them to form their lives after the true Christian ideal. If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.
Sometimes you just want to do this to Monday.
Can we also pray for the people of Australia, in the state of Tasmania, who have had their minds view of reality so warped, that the mere existence of an expression of an idea that they do not agree with needs to be silenced by the government. These people are truly delusional and they need prayers. As does Archbishop Porteus of the Archdiocese of Hobart who has had an anti-discrimination suit filed against him for publishing a pamphlet defending the reality of marriage.
On Friday, I drove up to Minot to go to Theology on Tap with Fr. Jadyn Nelson. The talk was absolutely awesome, on the Virtuous Life. Half way through I realized I should have been recording it, hopefully someone did and it will be posted on the parish website. If it was, I will be sure to share it here. Fr. Nelson is an amazing speaker. I took some notes, and will be writing a post (or two) in the coming week(s) about the cardinal virtues, so stay tuned for those.
Pray for the souls who left this world yesterday as the result of the cowardly acts of eight terrorists in the name of their false god, Allah.
Pray for the terrorists, that maybe the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ reached them in their last moments, and that they repented of these terrible sins.
Pray for the courage of the people of Europe, and of men of good will across this earth.
It should be clear to us now that after the wars we have suffered in the last century, that the human efforts to unify our species over the last decades, and that all of our ideological and technological advancements of the last centuries, have not brought peace. They have not changed the human heart. We might have red equal signs as our Facebook profiles, we might wear clothing made in a factory, have $100 haircuts, and live in a glass apartment overlooking a sprawling progressive city of skyscrapers, but we are still, in our hearts, standing over our brother Abel.
These worldly things which we use to cover up what we really are, are proving themselves to be incapable of curing the illness in our souls. We should be ashamed to have believed that they could have done so. When will we wake up and see that only Jesus Christ can give us the new heart that we long for? When will we see that, though he is patient, we do not have all the time in the world to turn to him? We need Jesus to cleanse our hearts. We need him to grant us the virtue of prudence: to be able to see reality as it is, not as we want it to be; and to be able to do the right thing based upon reality.
The answer to yesterday’s incident is not more airstrikes, though they may be necessary. The answer is not heightened security, though that may be necessary. The answer is not restriction of personal rights, though that may be a temporary measure for safety. It is not the eradication of religion. It is not a UN resolution. It is not increased access to contraception and abortion. It is not the legalization of gay-marriage, and the punishment of opponents. It is not any of these things. It is the Gospel. It has always been the Gospel, and will always be the Gospel.
By accepting the gift of Jesus Christ in Baptism we actually can be transformed. Through the infusion of divine virtue, and our constant practice of the virtues, our hearts will be renewed. We can resist the sins of Adam and Cain. We can become people of peace, images of God. We can truly become living icons. We can transform one soul at a time, preparing ourselves to live in a kingdom which cannot be taken by terrorists, whose borders are always secure because it is not of this world. It is through Jesus that we can become confident and bold, ready to meet this slaughter unafraid of what they might do to us, knowing that what awaits is better than what they are seeking to destroy.
The few years of relative world peace is clearly coming to an end. A new season of martyr-making, unlike anything seen in recent history, is unfolding. Let us meet this call, not in fear, but with courage and joy.
(And in case you are wondering about the title of this post, it is a tribute to the martyrs who lost their lives in Paris yesterday, but it is also the name of a street in Paris, where St. Denis was martyred in the third century by beheading, where he then miraculously picked up his severed head, and walked six miles while preaching a homily before dying.)
St. Teresa of Avila is far too smart for me. I barely understand what she is talking about. Maybe its because I’ve never experienced what she talks about in my prayer. I cannot easily relate to what she writes.
This chapter is about what precedes receiving divine consolation. It is a type of prayer called recollection. Recollection is looking for God interiorly rather than exteriorly. We are more apt to find God when we look into our souls, which are temples of the Holy Spirit, than when we look for him in creation. I suppose that this is to say that I am more likely to receive consolation from God when I look at my soul, than when I look at a sunrise on top of a mountain, for example.
And yet, she says that recollection is not a type of prayer that we can willfully engage in. It is a gift from God. It is not something where we close our eyes and try to block out the world to gaze into the quiet of our heart. Our eyes involuntarily close and the hold of the sensory world starts to lose its grip, and our souls begin to regain their sovereignty in the balance between the physical and spiritual aspects of our persons. So it’s not something that we can take by force? Great, what is the point of talking about it?
Well, we can prepare our souls to be open to this gift. How? Pretty much like everything St. Teresa has previously talked about: detachment. We must, at least in desire, completely renounce the world, and then do it in reality as far as our state in life will allow us to. If you haven’t realized this by now, this book expresses that detachment and humility are the key to prayer.
There is a lot more in this final chapter about this mansion that I won’t get into, but I do want to touch on her final subject and that is that Satan will try to offer counterfeits of these graces, and that we shouldn’t be fooled by them. One example she gives is that this type of prayer does not result in the complete shut down of the body. Our bodies are not overcome by these things. If at the first instance we feel some kind of interior joy our bodies become weak and we swoon or pass out, these things are probably not from God. Some experience this and call it a “spiritual sleep” which they believe both body and soul take part in. As they lose more and more self-control over their body, their feelings and emotions gain a tighter hold over them. St. Teresa emphatically believes that these “trances” are utter nonsense and are a complete waste of time and risk injuring health. Unless one is already feeble in health, such a state of the soul will not induce the body to pain or weakness.
I don’t necessarily believe that the Church dogmatically teaches any sort of thing about all instances of losing self-control not being from God, but I think that I would trust St. Teresa here, as a Doctor of the Church, on her assessments of such things.
Well, this is the last of the fourth mansion, only three to go. I hope you got at least something out of it. Don’t forget to follow the blog, and to like and share this post!