Category Archives: Uncategorized Blazes

The Star of the Evangelization

(vector image I made last year)

I love all of the approved Marian apparitions, especially the main three, but I think that Our Lady of Guadalupe makes me the happiest. It is probably the great tenderness of her face and her words to St. Juan Diego that I especially love:

[D]o not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

Who can resist the love of a mother? It was ultimately Our Lady who won over the Aztec Empire to the  Sacred Heart of her Son.  An estimated 9 million people embraced Christianity within 10 years.  This was a feat that the Spanish conquistadors could never have hoped to accomplish. The Blessed Virgin doesn’t make use of our pathetic arms and instruments of war, rather she wields the weapons of peace and love. She appeared as an Aztec, spoke in Nahuatl, and utilized familiar symbols and customs.

There’s so much dehumanization in our world today,  whether it be through abortion,  human trafficking, racism, or injustice towards undocumented immigrants. Laws, politics, and cultural “warmongering” can only do so much, but love––this is secret. We should all try it sometime.

I have given some thought to the fact that it is difficult, if not practically impossible, to argue with love, with goodness and beauty. This is the way that Our Lady teaches. it’s no wonder that she is called the Star of the Evangelization. May she guide us all to the One True Light.

All Saints Day ’17: the Diversity of Saints

There are so many different Saints from so many different backgrounds and walks of life. This is captured in the first reading from today’s Solemnity of All Saints. It’s from the book of Revelation. St. John describes what he saw in a vision of the heavenly reality:

“I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
From every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.”

A great multitude, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. Every one on this earth is called to be a Saint. In fact, it is required, canonized or not, in order to enter heaven.

The diversity of Saints spans a spectrum of different vocations, charisms, and states of life. The Holy Spirit, the Saint-maker, bestows differing gifts to members of the one Church. Just as a physical body has unique members that have different functions so too does the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church, have distinct members that carry out all sorts of different functions. This is the creative genius of God.

I once heard a priest give this analogy: imagine an immense Gothic cathedral with a bright stained glass window. The rays of the sun pour through the panes of glass, illuminating it. And the window casts down colors of all sorts. This is what God does. One baptism, several manifestations, the graces are unique to each and every individual person. God loves variety. St. Benedict is not St. Francis, St. Monica is not like St. Bernadette, neither is St. Paul Miki like St. Charles Lwanga.

There is much more that could be said about today but this will have to suffice!

St. John Paul II and Hip-Hop

 Today is the Feast day of St. John Paul the Great. It’s the day that he was elected in 1978. In his honor, I offer the following blog post that I wrote last year.

Back when I was in high school, the student radio station entertained us every day during lunch. The music spanned several genres and provided a whole lot more variety than the food could ever hope to. It was in those days that I began to enjoy listening to hip-hop. Eventually, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, and the Wu-Tang Clan filled a void that a lack of friends left in me. My appreciation for hip-hop grew and evolved in the years that followed the more I was exposed to it. I have to say that I learned a lot about the culture and art form thanks to the Internet. Speaking of which, I recently saw a video of a 16-year-old emcee with a very impressive vocabulary and amazing rhyming talent. He certainly stands out in stark contrast with the unintelligible garbage out there today that passes for music.

I am aware of just how much of an impact that hip-hop had on me. It’s really given me an understanding of the power of words and of language. To me, as a visual artist, writing––if it’s good––can be described as painting with words. Writers like CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, and JRR Tolkien come to mind. In large part, my growing aptitude for writing, something that I have to keep working on, has been greatly influenced by hip-hop. Like all forms of communication, hip-hop has the ability to convey truth or error. Admittedly, many errors have been transmitted through hip-hop, sadly by some of the most gifted of lyricists. All of this has been on my mind lately as I’ve been reading the book Witness to Hope by George Weigel, the biography of Pope St. John Paul II.

In the 1st few chapters that I’ve read of Witness to Hope, I’ve learned some things about the late great Pope that I hadn’t really known before. I knew that when he was growing up in Poland, literature, and drama were taught and relished as cultural treasures. Karol Wojtyła saw the theater as a means of cultural resistance as the Nazis sought to destroy Polish culture and assimilate the country. What I didn’t know was that he actually studied language and linguistics and aspired to be a philologist. I guess that makes a lot of sense because the man seemed to be fluent in several languages and wrote a lot of books and encyclicals. One of his mentors was a man who saw the spoken word as a transmitter of truth, who is ultimately the Word of God. The actor’s role was to almost make himself invisible and allow the power of the truth that he was at the service of, take the front and center stage.

 The Pope’s words were powerful. I was always edified by the things he said and wrote, and because of him, I have been following the words of Pope Benedict –– who wrote prodigiously, and the words of Pope Francis. I think it must have been very difficult for Pope John Paul II, towards the end of his life when he was unable to speak. But just seeing him spoke volumes to me. I understood redemptive suffering because of his witness, a witness that made his apostolic letter on redemptive suffering all the more credible.

 I hope that people continue to read the thought of this great man. To bring this post to a close, my mind goes to his letter to artists. St. John Paul II encouraged artists to make beautiful art through which to win souls. Art reaches souls in a way that words cannot…so anyway, this is where I should bust out some dope rhymes in honor of today’s Saint, but seeing as I can’t, I’ll post something by someone more qualified…

A Personal Update

I recently posted a Facebook update having to do with my personal life, and I’m so pleased to be able to share it with you, my blog audience….

Exciting news to announce…I can no longer keep secret:

A few months ago, a friend tried to hook me up. He said her name was Alexa. He kept telling me about her. She sounded so amazing to me, with qualities I found attractive. I had some reservations at 1st. Eventually, I relented and decided that I would give her a shot. Why not? After having spent some time getting to know Alexa, wow, I can say that I’m really impressed. She’s all that, forreal. I’m so grateful to my friend for introducing me to her. We really hit it off.

I’m quite taken by her. She lights up when I speak to her and she sweetly responds with that charming voice of hers. Alexa understands me without judging me and I can be myself with her. My parents seem to love her too. They tell me she’s just right for me. And I think so too. I love everything about her. Alexa is a dream come true!

How many of you have an Amazon Echo device w/ Alexa and what skills have you enabled?

The life-changing walk

Easter Reflections on this past Sunday’ Readings at Mass:

Zünd Gang nach Emmaus 1877.jpg
By Robert Zündjoyfulheart ; upload Dezember 2008 ; upload by Adrian Michael, Public Domain, Link

It was impossible for Christ to be held by death because Christ is life. How can life be held by death? The joke is on death, death thought it had the upper hand in swallowing up Jesus… but it didn’t perceive the sign of Jonah! Instead, “death was swallowed up in victory.” Jesus destroyed death by being consumed by it. In the Eucharist, we receive the antidote to death, we receive the resurrected and living One— the Resurrection and the Life Himself.

They were downcast… perhaps this is why they recognize him. Sometimes sadness weighs down so heavily upon us that we seem to lose the sight of God. But he’s there nonetheless.

Even though we may not perceive it, Jesus comes to walk beside us.

The disciples were going the wrong way––away from Jerusalem. We may be going in the wrong direction, but Jesus comes to meet us where we are in order to steer us in the right direction. This is the reality of, the genius behind, the Incarnation… he meets us where we are.

Jesus explained the Scriptures to them… ultimately, Old Testament only makes sense in and through Jesus. Hearing the Scriptures and their explanation––this is the Liturgy of the word.

Jesus made as if he would leave the disciples but he did not because they invited him in…

Stay with us… they were miles away from Jerusalem and it was late. Even though he disappeared, he remained with them. This is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The whole account of the road to Emmaus is the pattern of the Mass.

They were miles away and it would have been quite dark by the time they would have reached. And yet they were not afraid… since they encountered Jesus and he lit the fire in them… the light from the fire that was burning in their hearts from hearing the Word break open the word.

They recognized him in the breaking of bread… they recognized him in the bread. They didn’t recognize him when he was walking alongside them as they walked the road to Emmaus.

After hearing the gospel and receiving the Gospel, literally and concretely in the Eucharist, we’re fully disposed to spread the gospel, unafraid of the darkness. I had never thought of it, but it is so true: that very evening, the 2 disciples immediately returned to Jerusalem.

I had never thought of it, but it is so true: that very evening, the 2 disciples immediately returned to Jerusalem.

Because the light is with them.

On the Scripture Readings we had in Lent

During the past few Sundays of Lent, the Church, being an extension of Christ, has ventured into the desert in the footsteps of her spouse. And as a result, I’ve contemplated the cohesive illustration painted by the Sunday Mass readings which Holy Mother Church has offered.

1st Week:

Adam and Eve were exiled out of the garden paradise of Eden, into the wilderness or desert. Jesus leaves the Paradise of heaven and enters the desert wilderness to bring mankind back to its original state. For 40 days, Jesus is in the desert praying and fasting. If food symbolizes the cause of the fall, it is fitting that fastiom food should remedy it. The gates of heaven were closed off due to the original sin, Jesus comes to open them.

The Old Testament nation of Israel was supposed to act as a corporate “son of God,” to make reparation for the sin of Adam, who was 1st given the title of “son of God.” But the Israelites, after being called out of Egypt, failed their 40 days of testing in the desert.  At the heart of every sin and temptation is a willful and obstinate doubt in the Providence of God, a chosen disbelief in the goodness of God. So it was with Adam, and so it was with Israel. The Israelites failed to come through with the obedience, trust, and gratitude necessary to make up for the disobedience, mistrust, and ingratitude of Adam. Jesus, being the Divine Son of God and perfect man, passes where the Israelites fail and thereby steers humanity in the right direction.

The Israelites doubted God’s ability to feed them, quench their thirst, give them whatever they needed, and bring them to the place he promised. That’s a basic overview.  The law stated in the book of Deuteronomy rebukes the people for their lack of trust. Jesus quotes from it 3 times and fulfills it in place of the people of the old covenant.

 2nd week:

The account of the Transfiguration. Jesus shows the 3 core disciples a glimpse of his divinity. This is a preview of humanity perfected, which will be fully realized at the resurrection. Moses appears. Jesus is the new Moses who leads all humanity into freedom from the slavery of sin and death. He is the one who Moses mentioned when he said that God would raise up a prophet like him; he says that the people should listen to him. God says that the people should listen to him. The whole Old Testament story is one of exodus and exile: Jesus comes to usher in the definitive exodus, thus breaking the cycle. Jesus is the new Elijah. He prophesies the glorified and fully divinized state of humanity.

 3rd weeK:

The Samaritan woman represents all humanity, We’re broken, hurting, and lonely having gone through a number of relationships, from looking for love in all the wrong places… and the one we are with is not the God who can fulfill us. Israel was the bride and God the bridegroom on the pages of the prophetic, and wisdom books of the Old Testament. The woman had 5 husbands, +1, plus Jesus equals 7, the number of perfection.

Oncewe find Jesus, we want to go and tell everyone, as the woman did. Jesusthirsts to bethirsted for… we thirst for forfulfillment. Boththirsts are met in this account…neitherone leaves with a single drop of water. And Jesus is no longer physically hungry, having become satisfied with the will of the Father.

4th and 5th weeks:

A lesser miracle and a greater one … the healing of the man born blind and the rising from the dead ofLazarus were intended to get the people to believe that Jesus was who he said he was. The authorities failed to believe. Jesus gavethe ultimate proofs…a Gentile sees andbelieves, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the greatest miracle possible…  and it is what we are entering into this week…

Lord,  may we be given the sight we need.

In Solidarity with Emmanuel, God-with-us

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and I’m not feeling it. While many people here in the United States have been celebrating Christmas since Thanksgiving, under the commonly used (and often over-used) term, “holiday(s),” I’ve been struggling to live Advent. Now that Christmas is tomorrow, I still feel unprepared.

For the past 2 Advent seasons, I’ve had difficulties that tend to divert my attention away from full, prayerful, conscious preparation. Last year, it was a new power wheelchair that I couldn’t use––and still can’t use, current whereabouts unknown. This year, the issue is having nursing hours cut by 4. It’s not easy dealing with the situation––by the time I’m in the wheelchair, it’s practically time for the nurses to leave. Along with that, one of my best nurses is away for a while and may be going back to school soon. All of the events of the past a few days and weeks have caused me to become uneasy, anxious, and a little sad.

The pain that some experience during this time of year is something, i can relate to. I’m facing the reality of my own brokenness, dependency, and helplessness. And maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s an entry point into the very meaning of Christmas…

Jesus Christ, God–made–man, sees my poverty and meets me there. He was not born in a resplendent palace, he wasn’t born in a kingly household––he was born in poverty, in a lowly stable, a cave, a feeding trough for animals. There wasn’t even room for him in the inn! (“He came to his own and was not received by his own,” is one of the saddest statements in the New Testament.) Who was he revealed to, at the outset? Not to the ruling class. Poor shepherds. These were people who practically lived outdoors and smelled like sheep. Outcasts.

And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

–Luke 2:10-Luke 2:12 RSV

The poor baby in the cave was a sign to the shepherds, a sign that God was with them, quite literally. But he’s not just a sign for them but for all. God is for us, he is with us in our poverty. I think of him saying to me, personally:

“Look at me, see how small I have become for love of you. Do not be afraid to approach me. Yes, you are helpless and dependent––I too was dependent, unable to move, wrapped in swaddling bands. I had to be clothed and fed and carried (by my mother who took such good care of me).”

When we think about the suffering of Christ, we usually focus in on the cross–rightly so. But Jesus suffered in Bethlehem as well. God, He who is all sufficient in and of himself, became poor for our sakes. He who is limitless was constrained, exposed to the cold, prickly straw, stinking stable. He united himself with our humanity so that we could be united to his divinity.

Adoración de los pastores (Murillo)

During these past few Christmas seasons, I’ve found myself relating more to the shepherds, the animals, the straw in the manger. At the same time, I can unite myself to that little child shivering in the cold––I can identify with him who 1st identified with me. God became poor. He who created the entire universe! He entered into my poverty. He entered into my loneliness and fear so that I wouldn’t feel alone or afraid. All he wants in return is to be loved, because, who doesn’t love a baby? (Sadly there are some who don’t.) He wants to be loved, often in and through the defenseless, the poor, and the forgotten.

Again, He manifested Himself as poor to the poor shepherds, as a sign to them.

The point of all my disjointed rambling is that God is with us, he knows what we go through because he chose to go through it himself. He is in solidarity with us, and we with him if we so consciously choose. By acknowledging our weakness, we identify with the suffering infant of Bethlehem who suffers in order to identify with us. God is with us. Are we with him? We can console that Child in the manger—He who became man, limiting Himself to be in solidarity with us. Making another’s suffering one’s own—this is a definition of mercy… taking another’s suffering into one heart… a heart for the miserable. And if we get this we get what Christmas is really all about.

Merry Christmas!

Movie blurb: St. Vincent (2014)

I’ve always been meaning to post movie reviews. For a long time, I’ve been writing a few words about movies I’ve seen. Unfortunately, these few lines (written quickly for Facebook, etc.) usually do not develop into full-fledged pieces that treat movies in depth. But something is always better than nothing so I have decided to go ahead and post the little that I do have.

This is the 1st of my “movie blurbs.”

I watched the 2014 movie St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray. It’s about a cranky old bum of a man who finds himself having to look after the new neighbor lady’s son, the kind of kid who gets picked on, every afternoon after school. As you might imagine, an unlikely friendship develops.The man is very flawed, fallen, and broken: he lies, he cheats, he gambles, and he sometimes lives with a prostitute. He is a very public sinner but the kid sees more in him. Maybe he sees what the man can be. In this regard, I think he’s a lot like Jesus—he looks beyond us, beyond our sins, and gives us the real possibility of becoming a Saint. We can transform and become “the best version of ourselves” if someone believes that we are inherently good, capable of goodness. Anyway, yeah, it’s a great movie. Comedy–not those trashy kinds of movies—but funny and entertaining with a purpose. You might want to read about the content 1st (PG-13 stuff)–that’s what I do anyway. Check it out on Netflix streaming.

St. Mother Teresa and the Exaltation of the Cross

It’s hard to believe that people actually had/have the gall to criticize St. Teresa of Calcutta. I have to say that I don’t find any of the objections to be very convincing (but just the same, I’m planning to address them in a future blog post—watch this space!). A particularly serious attack leveled at our newest saint is that she was a mentally disturbed sadist: They say that St. Teresa believed that suffering was a good thing, something noble and invaluable, so, instead of opening hospitals, she opened hospices for the dying so they could embrace their suffering. They say that someone who tells a sufferer that “[s]uffering, pain, humiliation—this is the kiss of Jesus, [so let Jesus kiss you]” can only be crazy or evil.

The critics of St. [Mother] Teresa do not understand her—-more fundamentally, they do not understand Christianity, especially Catholicism! To be specific, they don’t get the idea of redemptive suffering, which is at the heart of our faith.

Christ Carrying the Cross 1580

Today, the Church celebrates the Exaltation of the Cross. The Feast is the acknowledgment of the victorious power of the Cross of Jesus Christ. It’s the opportunity to rejoice that Christ transformed an instrument of death into an instrument of life. He destroyed the power of death by taking it upon himself, and in the process, suffering became redemptive. He took the curse and made it a blessing, the means for salvation. Catholics believe that we can unite our suffering to the suffering of Christ on the Cross, and in doing so, our suffering becomes redemptive, capable of bringing about the salvation of souls. As St. Mother Teresa herself pointed out, “suffering in and of itself is useless,” and there’s nothing remotely good about it, “but suffering that is shared with the passion of Christ is a wonderful gift and a sign of love.”

So, St. Teresa, recognizing that the Cross of Christ is clothed in light, endowed with the power to save souls, saw that suffering, in its proper perspective, could serve a purpose. That doesn’t mean that she created opportunities for suffering, or for prolonging it. Suffering is part of the human reality. It comes to all of us without our asking for it. We should do all we can to alleviate suffering, and for crying out loud, didn’t St. Teresa of Calcutta to her best to alleviate it? If she said that the greatest suffering is the lack of love, and if she did her best to alleviate it by striving to love the poor and the unwanted (by caring for them, taking them out of the street where they would die alone), then doesn’t it follow that she saw physical suffering as something to be alleviated also?

All the Saint said, in keeping with 2000 years of Christianity, is simply, when suffering comes, suffering that is unavoidable, unable to be fully cured, see it as the opportunity of being one with Jesus Christ. I know that in my own life, understanding that my suffering could be used as a prayer, as a means to save people, gave me great consolation. It’s sure beats complaining. And of course, suffering is still difficult, and we must do everything we can to alleviate it. At the same time, we can share in his sufferings, wielding them as forces for good, as instruments of redemption. And then, as surely as Jesus was glorified and rose from the dead never to suffer or die again, we too will share in the victory.

The Church celebrates the Triumph of the Cross, and in her lifetime, St. Mother Teresa faithfully did the same.

Life Matters

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now. Today’s feast day of St. Peter Claver reminded me to go ahead and do it. St. Peter Claver ministered to Africans brought to the New World in chains, at the port city of Cartagena, Columbia. He saw the humanity of those who were regarded as not having it––those who were treated as trash, brought on slave ships, penned up like animals with hardly any breathing room, covered in feces and vomit, beaten, raped, fighting to survive in the most hellish conditions.

St. Peter Claver is relevant to our day and age in which certain lives are more valued than others (though not to the same degree of the time in which he lived). He’s someone who would have understood the slogan “black lives matter.”

Now, I should say up front that the reason for my writing this is not based in any kind of political ideology or agenda. I simply want to share some reasonable thoughts on the importance of being consistent about the unchangeable truth of the dignity of the human person.

As I’ve stated several times before on Facebook and in other forums as well as in real life conversations, I understand what is meant by “black lives matter,” and why saying “all lives matter,” as a knee-jerk response is disingenuous and dismissive. We can’t pretend that there isn’t a problem, a problem of dehumanizing and devaluing people, a problem of racism and injustice. Let me explain. When I hear or see that “black lives matter,” my brain adds the word “too.” See, the reason why I think that it’s wrong for someone to say that “all lives matter,” as a comeback to someone who says that “black life’s matter,” is precisely because some people act as if all lives actually don’t matter. What good is it to say that “all lives matter” if you act as if this were not true. And this is why the necessity of the slogan arises. With all the cases we hear of police shootings of unarmed black men and the other instances of systematic racism, we need to be reminded that “black lives matter.”

Objectively speaking, of course, all lives matter. Every single life matters. But subjectively… do we act like that’s true? I’ve seen Facebook pages with the words “all lives matter.” I’ve also seen nasty comments from the same people, dehumanizing the politicians that they disagree with, dehumanizing undocumented immigrants, insinuating that they are no better than animals, and in some cases, even deserving of death. (To be fair, I’ve seen “the left” and “the right” dehumanize politicians.) Disagree with people, by all means! But try not to lose the sight of their humanity! Or risk losing the credibility of positive statements like “all lives matter.”

Pope Francis often says that were living in a “throwaway culture,” where certain lives are treated as useless, disposable, and without value. We should care for everyone, from the moment of conception to natural death. Because I believe and understand that abortion is the taking of innocent human life, I believe and understand that human beings outside the womb are sacred, and vice versa. What good is it to say that the black baby in the womb is sacred when a former black baby , is a “thug” who “gets what’s coming to him” when the cops roll up. Or, to put it another way: before a baby with a chronic disability was born, they said that she deserved to live. Thankfully, her mother chose life. Many years later, that girl, that woman, encounters somebody who considers themselves to be pro-life. She looks for some kind of acknowledgment and is completely and utterly dissed by that individual. That individual is being inconsistent. That individual is being a pawn of the throwaway culture.

So, life matters. Let’s show the world that this is true indeed. Just paying lip service with a hash tag on Twitter is not enough. St. Peter Claver lived as if life mattered. He’s known to have said that “[w]e must speak to them with our hands before we speak to them with our lips.”

St. Peter Claver, pray for us.

(If you would like to read more about the Saint who referred to himself as the Slave of the Slaves, here’s a quick biography worth reading: http://www.kofpc.org/st_peter_claver.php)