10 Ways of Living as a Son of God

Mass on Ramapo Mountain

  1. God literally died for you. You are a son of God and you get your worth from His love for you. God willed your existence out of love. You are not just a product of chance. God willed YOUR existence, He created you exactly as you are, and He loves you as you are. He sees you as His son, and wants to see you prosper and live with the fullness of life that He wants for you. Jesus said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” in John 10:10. That’s pretty cool, huh?! And I haven’t even hit on the part about Jesus dying for us. He thought that we were worth dying for even though we had already messed up. So remember that even when things aren’t going well, Jesus believes in you and wants to give you another chance.
  1. Men are called to serve and protect. In the story of Adam and Eve, after Adam is created, “God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). God gave Adam and all men this duty, to “cultivate and care” for all of the Earth. This includes all of the plants and animals, but most importantly all of humanity. The Hebrew translation of “cultivate and care” is the word “Shamar,” which means to protect and keep.  So God wasn’t just giving us a job of being gardeners, but being protectors of all of God’s creation.  Our job is to honor God in all that we do and to selflessly serve and protect all others in our care, our wives, our families, our communities, those in need, and to even care for nature too, as  Pope Francis has put out so beautifully in his latest encyclical, Laudato Si.  A man is called to sacrifice of himself for others. Our ultimate model of manhood is Jesus Himself, and He gave us a very clear message that we need to put ourselves last in serving others. Sometimes this is in very heroic ways, like soldiers, police officers, and firemen. But we can also give of ourselves for others in everyday matters, like going out of our way to help a friend or someone in need, letting people go before us in lines, and making time to spend with your family instead doing what you want.
  1. Your masculinity doesn’t depend on what you look like. In our culture, there are these lies that in order to be a true man, we need to be super big and ripped. We see this all over: on sports, in commercials, in the locker room. This is a lie. Some men are naturally skinny or overweight, this has no bearing on their manhood. Sure, it is healthy to be in shape and to be able to do some heavy physical labor, but don’t be tempted to think any less of yourself if you don’t have big muscles. God judges us for what we do, not what we look like. In addition, remember that you can act like a man even when you are relatively young. Don’t let your elders convince you that just because you’re young, you’re destined to make mistakes and fail until you’re older. There are plenty of 10 year old boys who live much more manly lives than 40 year olds, by pursuing virtue and excellence in everything that they do.
  1. Pursuing virtue. Once I was privileged enough to attend a talk specifically on manliness at a Catholic conference (another shout-out to FOCUS!), and I was surprised to learn within the first few minutes that the essence of manliness is simply cultivating and living the virtues. Ultimately, this post could simply be about the 7 virtues, but I guess I wanted to flesh them out a little bit more for the sake of making them a bit more practical. The Catholic Gentleman has a wonderful post that highlights the importance of virtue that I would highly recommend, but the 7 virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope, and charity. The first 4 are called cardinal virtues that we can train ourselves in, and the final 3 are called theological virtues which are gifts from God. In your own life, your best bet is to pick out one of the cardinal virtues at a time, research them so that you can understand them, and then continuously work at attaining them. As for the theological virtues, your best bet is to take those into prayer each day, asking God for those gifts. He will provide.
  1. Treating women right. One of the easiest ways to distinguish a man from a boy is how he treats women. A man always treats women with respect, seeing them as a human being with their own life, needs, relationships, and feelings. Boys are sometimes tempted to use women, for their bodies, for a sense of emotional comfort, for power, etc. One of those general rules of thumb to apply here is to see every woman as your mother, sister, daughter, etc. This includes women that you see on screens and images. Would you treat one of them the way that you are treating this stranger? And beware, pornography may seem harmless at first, but it has a crippling effect on you and your relationships with the more beautiful sex. A huge way that we can honor women is by having chaste relationships with them. Save sex for marriage, and make sure to draw the line clearly with how physical you BOTH feel comfortable being with each other if you’re in a committed relationship. Save the “test drive” for cars, because women are so much better than that. It’s an insult to even compare them to cars. If you aren’t willing to lay down your life for them for the rest of your life, you have no right to a “test drive,” this is a go big or go home issue. On a lighter note, some things that I love to see men do for women is to open doors for them, let them eat first, paying for a date, listening attentively, and not talking down to them- especially with regards to subjects like sports and cars where the stereotype is that women don’t know anything about that. Oh yea, and if you’re Catholic, letting your wife / girlfriend / children go before you to receive Holy Communion. What a better way of sacrifice then letting them receive Jesus first?!
  1. True to our promises. A man is as good as his word, goes the common saying. “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation,” warns St. James in James 5:12. How often have you been affected by this in others? One of the most common issues where we see this in the 21st century is Facebook events. I’m guilty of putting “maybe” down for about 5 events in a row, only to never change to yes or no and never showing up. Doing that hurts my friends who went out of their way to invite me and don’t have any idea if I’m coming or not! And this can be applied to greater things, too.. How many times have we encountered people who are always promising to do things and never follow through? We stop taking that person seriously, don’t we? Perhaps the most important promises that affect each one of us are wedding vows. Each one of us has a mom and a dad. And most of our parents, at least at one point in time, were married. They promised to be love and serve each other, through good times and bad. They promised to be faithful to each other for their entire lives. They promised to marry each other for life. Yet, unfortunately, about half of marriages end in divorce. Dang. Talk about a broken promise. Think… they promised that they would love and serve each other in both good times and in bad. So as much as I feel for couples going through difficult marriages, divorce never really was an option according to their vows. Unfortunately these affects have wounded countless numbers of young people in my generation, who are now the likely generation in recent memory to ever get married. There is hurt everywhere because of broken promises. Long story short, a man keeps his word, even if it is very difficult. Even if just each of us as individuals try to get a little better on this, I think it would go a long way in changing the world.
  1. Taking the initiative to pursue a woman. For young men, assuming that you aren’t called to the priesthood or religious life, one of the most exhilarating times of our lives is attempting to win a woman’s heart. Notice how I used the words “pursue” and “win”, verbs that imply that you actually try. You don’t usually find the woman of your dreams by just sitting around waiting for her to walk through your door, but by going out and living life, and meeting her doing the same sort of things that you like to do. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and ask out a woman that you’re interested in! Rejection stings, but you’ll never have a shot if you don’t ask! Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of young women out there looking for relationships and potential husbands, but not many men going out and asking them. Instead, our culture has made hooking up seem like a normal thing to do. This is no way to treat a woman, to use her for her body with no thoughts for who she actually is as a person… to just try and get messed up enough that you don’t even know what you’re doing. That’s not being a man, that’s being an animal. A man goes out of his way to protect women and treat them with respect. The end goal of a relationship isn’t sex or physical pleasure. The end goal of a relationship is life-long friendship, love, and helping each other become closer to Christ. Kids are nice too, when we’re talking about marriage 😉
  1. Be sharpened by other men. Man was not created to be alone. We were actually created for community. I’ve already mentioned some cool things about relationships with women, but in general fraternal friendships are just as important! Jesus recognized this when He gave us the Church. It wasn’t just Peter alone who continued Jesus’ mission on bringing God’s Kingdom to earth in the Church, but the 12 Apostles, and the 72 Disciples, and countless others! Jesus founded the Church as a community, and it grew as a community. We are all the Body of Christ, and we are stronger together as a “body” as opposed to “a lone ear” or “a finger and two toes.” A pretty cool bible verse that highlights this is Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.” Of course this applies to women too, but I love the imagery of iron here and I think it speaks very clearly to men. When I am alone, I am more vulnerable to temptations and not always the person that I ought to be. When I am surrounded by my good friends, they encourage me to be the best that I can be in all things. One simple way that I’ve noticed this is in prayer accountability. As a missionary, I challenged men to commit to praying daily, as I do, so that they could grow closer to Jesus. Beforehand, most of them had never had a very regular prayer life, but after I challenged them to start one and continued to check up on them, they started making impressive improvements and I could see their lives change as they grew closer to Christ through prayer. Accountability and encouragement is one of the best ways that we can help build each other up as men.
  1. Only satisfied by God. This world is great. God has given us so many people to become friends with and countless other joys. But as tempting as it can be to strictly chase the things of this world, we have to remember that in the end only God will satisfy us. We were made for God, and nothing less will give us peace. We will always be wanting more… until we are finally with God, and we will have never-ending peace and joy, ecstasy really! So with that in mind, make daily prayer a part of your schedule, and make sure to be faithful to Sunday Mass and regular confession. Our relationship with God starts right here on earth.
  1. God’s son. Did you know that God desires a personal relationship with you? Kind of like any other friend, except He’s Jesus and He created, unconditionally loves, and died for you! Now, if you’re anything like me, you get a bit turned off by that mushy “God loves us” stuff. The girls eat that up, but for us as guys, it doesn’t really work. I think we need to take a different approach. God gave us two basic ways of seeing Him: as our Father in God the Father, and as our brother in Jesus. Some of us aren’t blessed in having a father or brother in our lives that gives us a glimpse of the true love and care of God/Jesus. As a Father, God cares for us at all times. He watches out for us, is ready to give us advice, and gives us everything that we need to live joyfully as His sons. As a brother, Jesus modeled for us a firm commitment to putting God first in all that we do, a strong work ethic in our day to day labors, compassion and care for those around us who need mercy and help, and is a friend whose shoulder we can lean on whenever we need some support. God is much closer to us than we think and remembering that He is by our side at all times will help us through the good and the bad times ahead.

I hope and pray that these tips inspire and encourage you! God bless!

Note: A couple of months ago I published a post about being a Daughter of God, which inspired me to write this one as well for the guys!

My FOCUS Mission Trip to El Salvador

Just a couple of weeks ago for spring break I had the opportunity to help lead a FOCUS mission trip to El Salvador!

Group with Sarai

After Sunday mass at the San Miguel Cathedral, while we were still relatively clean 😉

It was such an amazing experience! I’ve had so many people ask me about the trip and everything in the past couple of weeks, but it’s so hard to put into words what I got to experience throughout that whole week. Here are some of my take away’s, as best as I can summarize them.

The trip was eye opening in so many ways. This was probably my biggest take away. I had never really left the comfortable American world until then: I’ve been blessed to be able to vacation in Mexico and Canada, but even in Mexico we didn’t need to speak Spanish because we stayed at resorts.

In El Salvador, I was immediately confronted by a different culture and way of life. Even in the Avianca section in Miami Airport, we were some of the only people who weren’t speaking in Spanish. I love learning Spanish and I hope to be fluent one day, but for now it was somewhat overwhelming when people spoke to me in Spanish expecting me to understand. I can pick up words and even understand phrases and simple sentences, but when they’re speaking so fast, I had to flag down our friendly Spanish speaking missionaries, Roxio and Mario!

A pic of our local neighborhood.

A pic of our local neighborhood.

 

I couldn’t help but notice the poverty right away. It wasn’t like there were hoards of homeless people (that I saw), but rather nearly all of the homes there made a small “lower class” home in the United States look very nice. They made those “bad” parts of Newark look normal. They did have electricity (the wealthier homes at least- oh and I did see a very modern transmission substation by a highway once) and water (kind of- we couldn’t drink it, and hot water wasn’t common).

It was such a joy to be able to talk and play with the kids! They were shy but they warmed up to us fast!

It was such a joy to be able to talk and play with the kids! They were shy but they warmed up to us fast!

A very interesting thing happened every night while we were there. Everyone got all antsy and said that they had to leave around 5:30 pm. Every single night. It was still bright out and everything, and it was early in the evening, so I was confused about why they needed to get back home so early. It turned out that the gangs have instituted an unofficial curfew over the entire country, especially where we were in San Miguel, at 6 pm. That’s when they come out and it isn’t safe to be outside of your homes. In fact, every home had bars over their windows, cement walls around their yards, and barbed wire on top of everything. There were security guards in most businesses holding guns. Gang violence is very real, and there is the legacy of the civil war that ended in 1993 as well. I was devastated to learn just how deadly the civil war was, with the government (supplied by the United States) sending death squads to local towns by the end of it. I guess that shouldn’t be too much of a shock that it came to that after the whole Archbishop Romero fiasco, which I’ll talk about later.

IMG_4998

This is just a random shot of some homes in El Salvador. If you look closely you’ll notice barbed wire on top, all the fences, and bars over all the windows.

 

The food was seriously out of this world. We had the most amazing deal: some of the women (mostly grandmas) in the parish cooked for us 3 meals a day, and they went all out for us, cooking seriously the most amazing food I’ve ever had (no offense to my mom and grandma!). A couple of the Americans’ stomachs didn’t mix well with the food, but I was surprised to find that my stomach was more bothered coming back to America and eating processed food. Whoops, America.

Typical Salvadorian comida: pupusas on the left, rice in the center, fried plantains on the right. Turns out that plantains go really good with ketchup!

Typical Salvadorian comida: pupusas on the left, rice in the center, fried plantains on the right. Turns out that plantains go really good with ketchup!

The faith of the people was so inspiring! Everyone loved to talk about Jesus, and sometimes it was hard to get them to stop… 😉 They loved putting Jesus stickers everywhere on their cars and every other person seemed to be wearing a rosary (public service announcement, you’re actually not supposed to wear them as a fashion symbol). One of the coolest things that we got to experience was stations of the cross with a local town (Chirilagua, I believe). After mass on that Friday evening, the whole town seemed to gather together outside of the church as we walked around the town carrying a doll/statue thing of Jesus to each station, set up right in front of houses and shops and things.

Carrying the cross for stations of the cross with the community!

Carrying the cross for stations of the cross with the community!

With the parish that we were helping rebuild their church, I was impressed with how tight knit the whole parish seemed to be, with dozens showing up to daily mass with us, many of the male parishioners helped with the construction, and many of the female parishioners helped with cooking for them all and other odds and ends jobs. Another impressive thing about this parish was how they go on house visits each week to families their local community. At each house visit, they see how each other is doing, read the Gospel for the next Sunday together, have a mini bible study, and then close in prayer. That’s an awesome way of outreach that we should try and apply back in the United States! Even more powerful than all of those experiences for me was when the community prayed for us all, with some of the leaders laying their hands on each of us and praying with such emotion for each of us.

Leaders of the parish praying over us... so beautiful!

Leaders of the parish praying over us… so beautiful!

An absolutely stunning story that the locals shared with us was the tradition of Reina de la Paz, patron saint of El Salvador. If you can read Spanish, the more in depth details are here. If not, here’s my basic summary: In 1787, San Miguel Volcano, which is not surprisingly right next to the city of San Miguel, was erupting and threatening to destroy the entire city. The entire city, or I guess town back then, being Catholic Christians, turned to God and the Virgin Mary in prayer. They had this image of Mary that they decided to bring up with them to the volcano, begging for the Virgin Mary’s intercession in saving them and their city. Miraculously, the lava actually stopped and went a different direction, saving them all! Praise God! To this day, that same image of Mary, who they call Reina de la Paz (Queen of Peace), is in the Cathedral of San Miguel, holding a palm branch from the event. Reina de la Paz is the patron saint of all of El Salvador. When we went to the Cathedral for Sunday mass, we got to see Reina de la Paz ourselves and even touch it! It was so beautiful and moving to be able to be so close to something so important to the hearts of the native people. Isn’t their faith so strong?!

The image of Reina de la Paz in the San Miguel Cathedral

The image of Reina de la Paz above the main altar in the San Miguel Cathedral

We didn’t get to personally meet Archbishop Romero, but it felt like we did after getting to know and love this holy man so much that week. Here’s a great article that summarizes why he is such a big deal in El Salvador, and admired throughout Latin America, the Church, and the world at large. Basically Monsignor Romero (as they call him, even though he was an Archbishop) spoke out against the corruption and evils of the Salvadorian government while he was Archbishop and the leader of the Church in that country from 1977-1980. By that time, the government had begun to use violence to try and keep protesters quiet, and for a while it seemed like a priest was killed every month. Months before Romero was actually assassinated, there was a different attempt on his life where there were large amounts of dynamite placed right in front of the Cathedral, which would have killed him and hundreds or thousands more. Thankfully that attempt was revealed, but it didn’t stop Romero from speaking boldly. Above all, Romero was a man of God who wished to share the Gospel and help the poor. He lived a very simple life and was for the most part a very quiet man. But he was placed in a very explosive situation and despite the fear he must have felt, he stayed true to his God and his people above all else. He was shot while saying mass by an assassin on March 24th, 1980. At his funeral mass, tens of thousands showed up, but the government didn’t want that to happen so they shot into the crowd, killing about 60-80 people according to our Salvadorian hosts. Of course, the violence by the government was only beginning at that point. While in El Salvador, we had the opportunity to visit Romero’s tomb, house where he lived, church where he was shot, and even the square where he will be beatified this May! It was inspiring to learn more about this man and he has quickly become one of my favorite saints. Archbishop Romero, pray for us!

A statue of Romero outside the Cathedral in San Salvador.

A statue of Romero outside the Cathedral in San Salvador.

Praying next to Romero's tomb. There were dozens of the faithful coming in to visit and pray by the tomb with us.

Praying next to Romero’s tomb. There were dozens of the faithful coming in to visit and pray by the tomb with us.

The vestments that Romero was wearing when he was shot.

The vestments that Romero was wearing when he was shot.

The most beautiful flowers were growing right outside the church where he was shot.

The most beautiful flowers were growing right outside the church where he was shot.

Archbishop Romero was saying mass at that altar when he was shot.

Archbishop Romero was saying mass at that altar when he was shot. Today schoolchildren come and visit daily.

As we were preparing to leave, we decided to leave our cooks, and through them the entire parish, a little sign of how much they meant to us by washing their feet. We prayed with them as we washed their feet and it was so moving to think about how much God had done through both parties. They had given up so much to serve us, and we definitely had given up some things in order to serve them as well. The sacrifices made by both parties for the sake of God and His Church was so beautiful.

Washing the feet of our amazing cooks!

Washing the feet and praying for our amazing cooks!

Though it might not seem like it, we actually did some work too! So the practical part of our mission trip was to help them build a new church, because the last one was destroyed in 2001 by an earthquake. It’s taken them this long to be able to build a new one because they don’t have the funds. Thanks to about 5 more FOCUS Mission trips to this parish, we’ll be able to significantly help them both with funds and free labor, so that they hope to have it completed in about a year. At the moment we were just working on the foundation, so most of what we did was shoveling dirt and carrying concrete by bucket. They had no back hoes, cement trucks, cranes, lifts, dump trucks, or anything that you’d expect in America. All of the labor was by hand. But it was a lot of fun! I enjoyed being able to work side by side with the locals, chatting it up with my fellow missionaries (both FOCUS and students), and enjoying that wonderful 100 degree dry heat. I swear there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all week.

Doing work!

Doing work!

Our mission trip team with the workers and Father Antonio.

Our mission trip team with the workers and Father Antonio.

One of the most important things that I’ll cherish from this trip is growing in friendship with my amazing teammates! Carly, Grace, Tess, Becca, Roxio, Elli, Sarah, Jonathan, Max, Mario, Michael, and Fr. Jeff. You guys are awesome! It was so beautiful to not really know anybody going into this week, and come out of it with 12 new amazing friends, with plenty of inside jokes to go with it. No espanol. Pwerp. Having a blast! Michael prancing away from the scorpion. Alfredo. Too blessed to be stressed! Liquiddddddd!!! Riding in the back of the pickup truck. God’s pharmacy. Shamar the rear! I saw God in you guys. Your service and selflessness is inspiring and I can’t wait to see where God leads you all! Huge shout outs to Sarah for being in charge of basically everything and being an amazing trip director and Fr. Jeff for joining us last minute and being such a great priest and role model!

Group PicIf you get the chance to go on a mission trip, you should go! It was amazing and transformative and fun! It has helped me grow in my faith, gain a more complete world view, and have some experiences that I’ll cherish the rest of my life. Check out FOCUS Missions!

“To change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us.” – Pope Francis

Here’s a video that Mario put together of us!

 

Hope Through Brokenness

shattered-cup

For much of my life, I’ve found myself pretending to be perfect.

I care so much about what people think about me, where it bothers me when people don’t think that I’m (cool, fun, smart, nice, insert good thing here). It’s simply a part of the human (*after the fall*) condition: we are insecure about how we are perceived because we don’t completely trust that God and others love us and want what’s best for us.

So I have found myself putting on a face, faking that everything’s alright when it’s not. I’d imagine that everyone reading this can relate. Our world is pro at this, especially with social media like Facebook and Instagram: we put up our best, happiest pictures for the world to see. And then what happens? Everyone looks at those pictures from their bedroom all alone or something and gets jealous thinking that they’re a loser because they aren’t experiencing all of the crazy stuff that their friends are.

We have to remember that life has both good and bad moments, and that’s okay! Pretending that only good things happen is a false hope. Even optimism, as much as I love it, is a false philosophy if it isn’t based on reality. It’s okay to be sad for a while, it’s a regular human emotion that God gave us. Even Jesus cried when His friend Lazarus died! John 11:35. (He later raised Lazarus from the dead… haha goes to show how awesome being Jesus’ friend is… : )

In life we go through a boatload of stuff. Good and bad, happy and sad, exciting and depressing. What keeps you centered through it all? Is what keeps you centered going to constantly be there for you? Does it help both in good times and in bad?

What keeps me centered through all the bumps in the road is my faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is always there for us, even when it’s hard to just have faith in the first place. I love and appreciate the support of my family and friends, but they simply can’t be there for me in the most intimate ways that I need it. It’s one thing to calm someone who is crying. It’s a radically different thing to give peace to a soul. True intimacy not only allows us to share our bodies, as we are accustomed to thinking of it, but also our emotions, fears, hopes, dreams, struggles. If we are holding things back, then we are not being truly intimate (quick stereotypical Catholic thought: apply that to contraception.. (light bulbs, anyone?)). And only our God, who created each of us uniquely, can truly understand us and accept us completely as we are.

I remember a friend of mine making a statement to me a few weeks ago: “Chris, I’m not even sure if Christianity is relevant to me.”

You know, there are probably times when we are all tempted to think that. If everything is going well, if we seem to be in a good place and are living an exciting life, why would we want anything more? But if we come to realize that even in our greatest triumphs, our most ecstatic joys, there is still a part of us that is crying out for more. These moments are oh so familiar for those who are poor, spiritually broken, alone, needy, sick, and mourning. Our souls are longing in these moments for complete and total love. For security and fulfillment. Something that this world cannot give.

As for the relevance of Christianity: it is only as relevant as its God. And our Lord Jesus Christ, the bridegroom to each of our souls, is exactly what we need. We are like broken pots, busy trying to hide our imperfections from each other, afraid that someone might notice. We have two options. We can stay all by ourselves, continuing to try and live a lie of our own self-fulfillment, or we can call out to the master potter, who will hastily come to us, pick up each of our pieces, and put us back together good as new.

This Christmas marks the coming of Jesus Christ into the world to do just that. He came so that He can help us become the children of God that He created us to be. All that we need to do is call out, and He will be with us to help heal our brokenness.

Here’s a prayer that maybe you can join me in praying this Advent: Lord Jesus, I need you. I am broken and in need of your help to heal my body, soul, emotions, and all. Please come and heal my faith, help me to believe in and know you with great conviction. Give me a strong hope to get through the difficult times of life. Give me a strong love for the people in my life, especially those in need. Help me to see you in the poor, the suffering, the needy. Come into my life and renew me, make me your own creation. Amen. 

Dia de los Muertos: Why are the Skeletons Happy?

Dia de los Muertos altar

The following is a talk that I gave for a Dia de los Muertos celebration this week, where I looked at the religious significance of the holiday.

Hi everybody, my name is Chris Goulet and I’m one of the missionaries at Montclair with Newman. It was great being able to speak with you last year at the Dia de los Muertos event, and it was amazing to see so many beautiful friendships begin thanks to that event, and I’m hoping and praying that we’ll see more of the same this year!

I’d like to start off with a fun topic: ghosts. What do you think that Catholics think of them, do they exist or not? How about I poll you guys. Raise your hand if you think that Catholics believe in ghosts.

The correct answer is yes! We have to define what we mean by a ghost, though. A ghost is a human soul without a body, which is what everyone is after they die. At death, our souls leave our body. Since humans end up going to heaven, hell, or purgatory, we can technically say that there are ghosts in heaven, hell, and purgatory! We can even see stories of ghosts all over the bible, for example how Moses appeared to Jesus in Matthew 17 at the transfiguration.

I’d be more than happy to try and take a stab at any other questions about ghosts, demons, spirits, zombies, and vampires after my talk if you have questions, but for now I’ll keep it to Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead for those of you who are Spanish challenged.

I think I was in 7th grade when I first saw a happy skeleton. Growing up in the United States, when I thought of Halloween, I thought of ghosts, vampires, demons, and of course skeletons. Halloween was a scary time where we watched horror films and in a sense glorified evil. The skeletons that I grew up around had glowing red eyeballs and would come and strangle you. Has anyone seen the movie Mars Attacks? I think American skeletons remind me of those Martians more than anything else. Anyways, when I saw those happy skeletons in my 7th grade Spanish class, I was pretty confused. These skeletons were definitely the G rated version. They’re singing and dancing and wearing funny hats! I thought that skeletons had to be creepy? Why would those weird Latin American people tease us with these happy skeletons? They must be a little coo-coo… Well, it wasn’t until I learned more about my Christian faith years later that I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of Dia de los Muertos.

In Dia de los Muertos, the dead are remembered by their loved ones. This is a unique take on the Catholic holidays of All Souls Day and All Saints day on November 1st and 2nd. I’m sure that all of you have unique ways that you honor your family and friends that have died. In my family, we often go and visit the gravesites of our loved ones on special days like when they died and Christmas Eve. We bring flowers to decorate their grave and even sometimes pray for them out loud. It’s a way of showing them respect and remembering them after they’ve passed on.

But here’s a question for you: why is it human nature to do things like this? What is it in our hearts, our souls, that makes remembering the dead a natural reaction? Any ideas?

I’d argue that deep down, we know that death is not the end. If death is the end, and we are simply “warm bodies,” then why care about people after they died? If we are just bodies, then we cease to exist at our death. That’s it, I hope you had a nice life. Oh and by the way, there was no ultimate purpose or meaning to it, you simply took up space and added to the greenhouse effect here on Earth.

But I’m sure that most of you agree with me that there is something more to human beings. Life doesn’t end at our death, that’s only the beginning. We know that our loved ones are still close to us even after they die. We naturally are inclined to pray for the dead because we know that there is some sort of judgment at the end of our lives, and we want the best afterlife possible for our loved ones. We also are naturally inclined to ask for their intercession for us, that they pray to God to protect our families and friends. So for all of these reasons, praying for the dead makes sense.

Here’s another question for you: why do you think that death shocks us? If death is a part of life, why is it shocking when people die? After all, we all know what we’re going to die sooner or later.

To answer this, I’d argue that death was not supposed to happen. It’s unnatural. Human beings were created to live forever. The famous story of Adam and Eve in the bible shows us a theological explanation for our death: we die because we are sinners. Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to die, but because they chose to disobey God, the entire world was fractured and humanity’s relationship with God was shaken. It is only by God’s mercy that we have an opportunity of a restored relationship with Him, and hope for life after death. This mercy, of course, came in the form of Jesus Christ, the God-man. Jesus came to show us God’s love and defeat sin and death once for all. Thanks to His sacrifice on the cross, we now can hope for eternal life through Him. So this is yet another reason why we pray for the dead.

So those happy skeletons that I was talking about at the beginning? Well, they’re happy because they know that there is more to life than just this earth. It’s a healthy reminder that death isn’t to be feared, but that Jesus came to redeem them, and one day those old bones will come back to life in the resurrection. Death and sin have no power over them when they are in Jesus. Even the devil himself can’t overcome them when God is on their side. The skeletons are happy because they are not removed from their families and friends forever, but instead they are closer than ever to their destiny of love and peace in heaven. They know that the pains of this world are temporary and will soon pass away. They know that there’s hope even in the greatest trials because Jesus is always there for us. They know that death is not the end of life, but merely a transition into a better one.

God bless you all and have a great Dia de los Muertos!

You can check out my talk from last year right here if you’d like.

15 Reasons to go to SEEK Conference 2015

seek cover

SEEK Conference is just around the corner! Here’s 15 reasons why you can’t miss it:

1. Spend 5 days with some of your best friends! Unfortunately I can’t guarantee that a pope will show up…

SEEK 2013 with Pope Benedict

2. SEEK the truth

3. Hear some of the best speakers in the Church. So much so that you’ll have withdrawals..

4. Encounter Jesus in a new and profound way

SEEK adoration

5. Make new friends for life

SEEK 2013 goofy

6. Get some of your deepest questions answered by the experts. Fr. Robert Spitzer’s got science covered, Lisa Cotter has girls covered. I still haven’t decided which topic is more complicated.

Lisa Cotter: Why do Women do that? Understanding What Chick Flicks and Love Songs Have to do with Chastity

7. Meet other college students from all over the country, and even the world!

SEEK 2013

8. Hang out with 10,000 other young people. Some have more… personality… than others

9. Open your life to new opportunities and directions

10. Stay up late every night. People will be playing ninja, signs, what are the odds, and all other sorts of wacky games late into the night… and it’s epic!

SEEK 2013 Ninja

11. There is 24/7 adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

adoration

12. Matt Maher will be there

13. Show off your school pride. Do you know your school’s fight song? You’ll probably want to before you go, and wear lots of school colors.

SEEK 2013 Illinois colors

14. Nashville. I hear there’s a music scene?

Nashville

 15. Jim Gaffigan.

Come SEEK with me. We’re all on this journey of life together.

This was actually my blog post immediately after SEEK 2013… so check out what I thought!

Register now!

Why I Believe in God

Colorado

This sure as heck isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some very simple reasons why I’ve never struggled with belief in God:

– We live in a beautiful world

– How else could anything exist if there wasn’t something there to “bang” the Big Bang?

– Love exists

– When I pray, things happen. Not every time, and not always in the way that I want them to, since God isn’t a magic genie but rather our Father.

– The entire story of Jesus is way too crazy to fake. Starting with the 12 Apostles themselves, millions of Christians died for Him, especially those first 300 years afterwards when it was a crime to believe in Christ. Those people that died in the Coliseum? Those people were often Christians. Why die for something that you knew to be a lie?

– There is purpose and meaning to life

– Even in the darkest moments of life, we have hope

– We desire more than what this world has to offer and are incomplete without God. Just listen to Drake: “I want it all, and then some.” According to the world, he’s made it. But even he admits that he’s still missing something. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – St. Augustine

– The most genuinely happy people that I know are always the ones who have a close relationship with Jesus. They know that God loves them, and everyone else, and there’s nothing that this world can do that can take that from them.

– I have experienced Jesus’ peace and love in my own life, and seen how He’s worked through me in ways that I could have never expected

Elephants in the Room

Life. You’re living it right now.

If you’re anything like me, you probably take a lot of things in life for granted. I take for granted my life, family, friends, health, gifts, talents, experiences, faith, etc. on a day to day basis. I am who I am, and who has the power to take that away from me?

But there are those moments in life that shock us back to reality. Broken friendships, injuries, and the death of loved ones are common occurrences. They have the power to shock us straight to the core and make us reevaluate everything that we once stood for. What was it that I was looking for in life anyways? What drove me each day?

There’s a danger of living our lives in our own little world. We can get closed off to experiencing new things or meeting new people. We can be tricked into thinking that life can never be anything more than it is right now. What if there was something more to live for?

I’m of the opinion that we don’t necessarily have to wait for a tragedy to happen before we evaluate what our goals are in life and what we’re living for. It’s about being responsible with the gift of life that we’ve been given.

There are elephants in the room of our culture nowadays. We don’t talk about them, but they’re actually probably the most important things to talk about in the world.

Death. It happens to all of us. So why not live for something greater than just earthly things that will pass away anyways? Why not live for eternal things?

Truth. There are a billion different opinions out there, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all true. We have to test them all, and only keep what is true. People are very sensitive nowadays, but believe it or not, it’s actually possible to have a mature conversation about deep topics without bickering and fighting. Hint: they take place face to face, not on Facebook.

Jesus. He claims to be the way, the truth, and the life. Historically we have an overwhelming amount of evidence that He walked this earth. He claimed to be God. Who do you say that He is? Do you know who He is?

Love. Everyone loves love and nobody seems to know what love is. Is it a feeling? Is it just for couples? Is it not worth it? It’s hard to see in a country that celebrates abortion and no-fault divorce, but there is such thing as true love. Love is a verb, a way of serving others before ourselves in all things. Love is a choice to put others before yourself. It will change the world, one choice at a time.

Next time that we catch ourselves taking something for granted, let’s try and remember to cherish this life and look to lead lives of purpose that help others and lead to eternal life 🙂

What other elephants do you notice in our culture? How can we open up a conversation about them with others?