Off to Summer Training

Ave Maria University

Hey everybody, just a quick update today. I’m off for training tomorrow for FOCUS. I’ll be at Ave Maria University in Florida for the next month and a bit. What I’ll actually be doing down there is still a bit of a mystery, but it seems like I’ll be learning a lot about fundraising, evangelization, and have a few crash courses on the faith. There’ll be about 500 missionaries there from what I’m hearing, so it’ll be such an exciting place to be at. The hope is that we all can go and set college campuses across America on fire for Christ with God’s grace. I expect to be challenged to the core, so that I can be more comfortable being uncomfortable for Jesus. Please try and remember me in your prayers, I would be very grateful for them! I’ll do my best to pray for all of you too! I’ll find out what campus I’ll be assigned to very soon, too!

“Sanctity is attractive at any age, and when it is young it is irresistible.” – André Frossard

A Missionary Church

“What would you change about the Church?”

I got asked that question a few days ago. My immediate reaction was something like this:

Of course, what I mean by that is that I wouldn’t change any of the doctrine or big T traditions of the Church. The Church is Jesus’, it isn’t mine to change. Jesus gave us the Church so that we can be converted, not so that we can convert it.

But besides the essentials that aren’t changeable, there is at least one thing that I’d change about many Catholic churches in the west: I’d make the churches more mission oriented and evangelistic. At my home parish, I don’t know if I ever see anyone bringing anyone new to church. It’s more of a family thing, where you only go to mass if your family has always went. In many ways, it strikes me as more of an exclusive club than a family of God. The Church is not supposed to be exclusive at all, but rather reach out to even the poorest and and the most helpless. Of course the Catholic Church is going to lose some members to Protestant churches in the west if this continues to happen. The truth is just not enough for people, they are looking for a relationship with God as well! They need to experience God! And despite having all of this on Protestant churches (MASS, apostolic succession, adoration, confession, charismatic groups, charities, bible studies, praise and worship, prayer groups), cradle Catholics often don’t even know the significance or don’t take advantage of it.

I recently went through my parish directory, and since we’ve been in the same parish all my life, I knew a lot of the names. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the names from parish activities. I knew the names from school, sports, and other community activities. That’s a major problem: the Church should be bringing people together, not isolating them! Many of those people do not go to Sunday mass any more, and I bet that a significant amount of them would return if only there was someone who would personally invite them back.

I don’t want to dis my home parish, they’re fully in union with the Pope and at masses I get to receive our Lord in the Eucharist and hear His Word in the Scriptures. I received all of my sacraments there and I love it. There are a ton of really fantastic people there. But I want to challenge my parish and all other parishes in the west (Europe and the Americas) to do more to embrace the Gospel. We must fully embrace Jesus and the Gospel message in our lives, and then from there we need to share it with as many people as we can! I’d love to see many small groups in my parish where the Sunday only parishioners can be individually shown the Gospel by others who know it better (starting with the priests!) so that they can do the same for others. I’d love to see this not only for adults but for the youth, so that they don’t scamper as far away from the church as possible after they are confirmed. I’d love for the parishioners to get to know each other outside of just saying “peace be with you” at mass. Make sure that the children see the priests and any other religious more often than just Sunday mornings, so they can see that they are real people too.

We obviously need a renewal in the everyday churches across the west. I know that it can be done: the student parish at the University of Illinois that I attended was solid: there were so many different ministries and retreats where students would interact with other students, staff, religious sisters, and priests in order to embrace the faith not just for Sundays but for a lifetime. Sure, there are improvements necessary everywhere, but this is a wonderful example of how it can be done. I can’t wait to try and share my experience at my new campus as a FOCUS missionary next year, and reach out to those who otherwise would be isolated from Jesus and never understand the Gospel.

Pope Francis has talked about this many times already in his pontificate, and one of his most famous quotes so far was:

“When the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize, it becomes self-referential and then gets sick.” – Pope Francis

He said this to show that simply going with the flow isn’t enough for us as Christians. As Christians we must constantly strive to put Jesus in the center of our lives. He emphasized that point in a tweet:

“We cannot be part-time Christians! We should seek to live our faith at every moment of every day.” – Pope Francis

A great follow-up on this post for anyone interested is the following book: Pope John Paul II and the New Evangelization by Ralph Martin and Peter Williamson – Amazon

What’s the Goal of Christianity?

I just graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, and now it’s only a couple of weeks until I start training to be a Catholic missionary next year. As it gets closer, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my goals are as missionary. Just like anything else, if we aren’t goal oriented, we often lose track of our purpose and waste time. Now as for specific goals, I have an idea from my experience as a student leader active in ministry, but I’ll be waiting until training for more clarity on that. Specifics aside, I have a good idea of general goals, so here’s what I’m thinking:

Ultimately I’d like, by God’s grace, to be able to introduce friends that I’ll meet to Jesus and show them how to live in relationship with Him, learning to put Him more in the center of our lives every day. Only Jesus can redeem us, so it is essential that I share the importance of personal conversion, baptism, and an active life as a member of Jesus’ Church in relationship with God.

I know firsthand that our lives are a lot more depressing without Jesus. When times were tough in my youth, in junior high and early high school, I would often either try to get away from and forget about difficult things by playing hours and hours of video games. I would strictly have worldly goals like being popular, getting to date all the “hot” girls, and being really rich. These are not necessarily bad things, but if they are all that we are clinging to, there isn’t much substance there. In the end, they become idols that replace God. I wanted these things because I wanted to be loved and to be happy. But with Jesus, we are always loved, we always have hope and happiness- yes even in the most difficult moments!, and God gives us all of the strength that we need.

By living in relationship with God, we can have our deepest desires met. At the backbone of everything that we want is the desire for God. I think about this so much and I’ve realized that nothing in this world could satisfy me other than God. I cherish being able to just stop whatever I’m doing and speak with God and share what’s on my heart with Him and His promises comfort me. Have you ever experienced this too? The best times are often during deep prayer in adoration.

Keeping Christ at the center helps us to put the most important things first in our lives. Ultimately there are things that will distract us from true happiness and blessedness in living as God’s children. We can avoid these things by maintaining a daily prayer life, studying the scriptures, and frequenting the sacraments.

Our hope must be in Jesus alone, since He is our only “way” to the Father. He bridged the gap between God and man after we had severed it through our sin. Placing our hope in someone or something else is foolish since only God lasts.

Jesus offered us a new chance by coming to us (God seeks us!) and offering Himself as a sacrifice for us all at Calvary. Now, by dying to ourselves and being reborn in Jesus through baptism we can be saved too (1 Peter 3:21). He invites us to become a part of His Church (Matthew 16:18-19, Matthew 28:19-20), participating in the same sacraments that He instituted for us 2000 years ago. It’s a daily struggle but this is how we can go forward with Christ in our eternal walk of life.

So that’s the general plan. Please pray for me, I’ll need it 🙂

Why Can Only Men Be Catholic Priests?

Priest Ordination

The male only priesthood is a common critique of the Catholic Church, but I’d like to show you that the Church’s position on this is as charitable as it could be.

First off, like all things, we need to look into the purpose of the priesthood. What is it for? Where do priests get their authority? In Israel, there was a tradition of priesthood (for what it’s worth, almost all ancient civilizations had some sort of priesthood): the entire Levite tribe were priests, offering sacrifices of animals to atone for Israel’s sins. They also proclaimed the Word of God and gathered the community in prayer. Israel was actually unique in that only men were priests, while other contemporary pagan religions had female priests, too. Jewish priests could get married and have families. But nearly everything changed when Jesus came along. Jesus was a celibate man and He is our eternal high priest, in the line of Melchizedek (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 5:10). Only God Himself could offer a perfect sacrifice in order to give us the grace of the possibility of redemption, which He did at Calvary. So you might ask what role do priests play nowadays? St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers.” So though priests today offer a sacrifice, it is in the place of Jesus, with Jesus doing the actual sacrifice- a re-presentation of the sacrifice on Calvary. (Note: not a re-sacrifice, but a re-presentation of the one eternal sacrifice) This sacrifice is keeping the command of Jesus to the Apostles at the Last Supper:

And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took a chalice, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took the bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the chalice after supper, saying, “This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” – Luke 22:14-20

Though that passage was a bit long, if you have never read or heard of it, I’m sure that it will be helpful. Anyways, we see that Jesus tells the Apostles to celebrate this Eucharist (which means thanksgiving, it is the “breaking bread” part of the mass) themselves. These Apostles would become the first bishops of the Church, and they continued just as Jesus said,

“They held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” – Acts 2:42

You can also see evidence of the mass in the early Church in Acts 2:46, Acts 20:7, Acts 20:11, 1 Cor 10:16-17, and 1 Cor 11:23-26.

So we see that the priesthood is important, and that mass should be celebrated even every day from these readings. One distinction that I should make is that Jesus gave the authority of the priesthood to the Apostles, who were bishops. Bishops have the fullness of the priesthood of Jesus, while priests don’t. Priests do not normally celebrate the sacrament of confirmation, for example. Priests only have the authority to celebrate mass because their local bishop has given them that authority.

Is the priesthood a political position? Nope, this is religion not politics. Sure, priests and especially bishops have more “power” than the laity, but again, this is because of Jesus’ will. The priesthood is primarily a sacramental/theological position in order to guide the Church, of course. Like all power, the perfect use of it is in service, not selfishness. This is the example that Jesus Himself gave,

“He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:11-12

So why are Catholic bishops and priests only men? Jesus picked 12 men to be His Apostles and first priests. Jesus instituted the sacrament of holy orders. Therefore even if the Church wanted to ordain women, the Church only has the authority that Jesus gave Her.

Therefore, our issue is not with the Church but with Jesus. Why wouldn’t He pick a few women? Some people say that Jesus was limited by the social norms of His time. No, He wasn’t: He is God, and God is never limited. He broke plenty of other social norms: Jesus not only talked to non-Jews (gasp!), but he talked to women too (WHAT?!). He freakin started His own religion, for crying out loud. I’m pretty sure He wasn’t limited by the social norms of the time.

Another great case for why Jesus didn’t want women to be priests was that He passed over the single most perfect fully human person ever when He chose His inaugural priest team: the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let’s look at her resume… virgin, not too young or old, immaculately conceived, sinless, oh yea, and the MOTHER OF GOD. If Jesus wanted to ordain a woman, this was the perfect situation. No other human being will ever be more qualified than the Blessed Virgin Mary to be a priest. And He passed on her.

Why are priests celibate? Actually, not all priests are. Many Eastern Catholic priests can be married, and certain protestant priests or ministers that are already married and convert to Catholicism are allowed to be ordained and still be married. But Roman (the distinction is the rite) Catholic priests are celibate because Jesus was celibate. This allows them to focus more on their parish or community.

Maybe the final point to highlight is that priests act in the place of Jesus when exercising their ministry. The fancy Latin phrase for this is In persona Christi, or in the person of Christ. Because of this, it is only fitting that only fulfill this role, since Jesus was a dude too.

In conclusion, the priesthood is not a political position. Yes, priests and especially bishops have authority in their parish or diocese, but it is mainly theological authority. The priesthood was instituted by Jesus in order to celebrate the mass. Jesus chose only men, and so bishops can only ordain men. This also follows the tradition of the Jewish priesthood. Roman Catholic Priests (not all Catholic priests from different rites do this) are celibate because Jesus was celibate and it allows them to give more for their parish or community.

Prayer: A Waste of Time?

Pope Francis and Benedict XVI praying

There are many people who have given prayer an honest try and become frustrated with it because they don’t experience something. So what is the purpose of prayer? What should happen?

What do you expect to happen when you pray? Do you expect to feel physical sensations?  Do you expect to hear God? Do you expect to have clarity with all of your problems? Or with even just one? The more that I think about it, we have unrealistic expectations about prayer. This is a big reason why we get frustrated with it, and I can definitely relate. All of these things can happen, but they are the exceptions, not the norm.

So why should we pray?

“The spiritual life is not primarily about certain practices of piety and techniques of prayer, but about a relationship. It’s about responding to the One who has created and redeemed us, and who loves us with a love stronger than death, a love that desires to raise us from the dead. Much of that is true of human relationships is also true of our relationship with God. Human relationships of friendship or marriage need time, attention, and care for them to continue and to grow. The same is true of our relationship with God. We have been called to union but we need to respond.” – Ralph Martin, The  Fulfillment of all Desire

Prayer is the primary means of developing a relationship with God. Let me compare it to a regular friendship. You come to meet someone by being introduced by a friend. In a similar way, we come to know God by being introduced by a friend. We come to actually know someone by talking and spending time with them. Likewise, we come to know God by hearing His Word in scripture and by conversing with Him in prayer.

How do we listen to God in prayer? I have often struggled with this idea. I’ve always been waiting for Him to speak to me or to put images or words in my head. But God likes to enter into the world quietly. One example of this is how Jesus could have descended from the sky when He came, but instead He chose to be born by a woman: a baby who was completely dependent on His parents. In prayer, God enters in very discrete ways. He has absolutely put words or phrases in my head or even images, but in a much less profound way than you’re probably imagining. The goal is not to have this happen, but they can be pretty sweet gifts at the time, helping me to direct my attention one way or another.

But prayer is just boring! I guess I haven’t addressed this yet. I have experienced boring prayers. Boring prayers are usually when I’m not actually praying, I’m just pretending. But sometimes we will have a dry time and we will have a lot of difficulty entering into prayer. In these times we especially need to remember to ask Jesus to help us.

“Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” – John 14:13

Why is it so hard to enter into prayer in the first place? Remember, in prayer we have free will, just like any other time. Often I find myself just sitting there waiting for God to come and take over my prayers so that I don’t have to do anything, I can just revel in His glory. But that never actually happens. I actually have to concentrate in order to do that. I need to place myself in His presence. There is a very significant difference between simply thinking about issues of your life and offering them up to God in prayer and asking for His help. I fall into this trap too much, be careful of it. Ask Him to help you to pray. It can be very helpful if you’re having difficulty concentrating to pick a passage from scripture or spiritual reading and reflect on it. A very simply way to start praying is to repeat Jesus’ name to yourself. Sometimes I can tell that the Holy Spirit is especially present and good emotions come up (gratitude for His mercy, awe at His majesty, sorrow for sin, desire to be more faithful, etc.), and from that point on my prayer becomes insanely easy where I completely lose track of the world. That’s the whole point of prayer I guess, to be with God in that intimate way.

“For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” – St. Teresa of Avila

There is a place for oral prayers in growing in our relationship with God, as well. If you let them be boring and repetitive, then you’re wasting your time. But if you “chew” on the words that you are saying, they can be as powerful of a prayer as you can say, especially prayers based in scripture like the Our Father, that Jesus taught us.

“A single Our Father said with feeling has greater value than many said quickly and hurriedly.” – St. Francis de Sales

I’d encourage you to pick at least one time every day to designate for prayer, and hold yourself to it. Just as you only learn to swim by swimming, you only learn to pray by praying! Then from there, find ways to pray at all times (1 Thess. 5:17). Just throwing up a random “thank you Jesus” every once in a while is a good start. The end goal is to constantly have Jesus on our hearts in all that we do.

To conclude, prayer is important because it allows us to get to know God and enter into a relationship with Him. Just as you can never be friends with someone you don’t talk to, you and God aren’t going to be very tight if you never pray.

What are you putting first in your life?
material things <<< human relationships <<< your relationship with God

Also see:
The Battle of Prayer
15 Steps to Pray Better

If I could be remembered for one thing..

I don’t care if I’m the smartest. I don’t care if I’m the most popular, the richest, the best looking, or the most talented.

I want to be remembered for being someone who loves passionately. God, friends, life. I want to be remembered as someone who lives a vibrant life of hope, always looking to encourage others.

Talking about it doesn’t do anything. Gotta go live it.

Love