Monday, June 29, 2009

Fear and Faith

Yesterday's Gospel quickly became one of my favorites. It's the story with the sick woman who touches Jesus' cloak and the synagogue official's dying daughter who is saved (Mark 5: 21-43). As the lovely Deacon Jose read the passage in his engaging Puerto Rican accent, the verse "Do not be afraid; just have faith" struck a chord within me. Those were words that I desperately needed to hear.

I'm afraid of a lot of things, but right now it is mostly the big changes coming up: the first time living without my family, going to college, and just life on my own. I'm not going to be too far away from my family and friends, but it is still scary. A lot of my friends are going through the same things now too, and others have non-collegiate changes to face.

I know that no matter where I go or what I do, God will always be right there with me. I guess I just forgot that fact these past few weeks. Hearing the Gospel was, well, what I needed to hear. There are times when we lose faith and fear starts to creep in. We can't let that happen. We just have to remember to have faith in Jesus. He'll take care of everything, and we need not be fearful. I realize that giving everything over to Him can be hard, but once we do, life takes its course in the direction that it needs to go. Our faith in God will save us.

I'm going to write out yesterday's Gospel. It's long, but it's well worth the read.

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, "My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live." He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, "If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured." Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who has touched my clothes?" But his disciples said to Jesus, "You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, 'Who touched me?'" And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction."

While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official's house arrived and said, "Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?" Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, "
Do not be afraid; just have faith." He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, "Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep." And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child's father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise!" The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Learning from College Orientation

Yesterday I finished my two days of orientation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I went to a lot of sessions, and I honestly tried to pay attention during them all. Trying to be the good kid and listening to every single word didn't happen. Boredom set in like some debilitating disease. The last few sessions I learned that when I am extremely bored, I will doodle. And I NEVER doodle.

I met a lot of people, some who seem just like me and others who are very different. It was a nice change. Nice because I've basically been with the same kids the past four years of high school. I learned that college truly is a melting pot. It's a place to experience new things and people, and I am excited for that. I had a great little reflection the morning of my first day, and I would like to share it with you. I think it helps with entering new situations, but also for everyday life.

"In everything, deal with others as you would like them to deal with you." -Matthew 7:12

Saintly words: "Goodwill in the soul is the source of all good things and the mother of all virtues. Those who possess it hold in their hand--without fear of losing it--all that is necessary to lead a good life." -St. Albert the Great

Talking with God: Heavenly Father, grant me the true spirit of goodwill toward all. Let me be ever ready to carry out Your will and to come to the aid of all I encounter on this earthly pilgrimage.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Yes, I Am A Mush Pot

I realized a few years ago that I am a big mush pot. It doesn't take much to pull at my heartstrings, and at times, I find that very annoying. I don't want to cry at the end of a movie or a book, but sometimes I do. Mind you, part of my reaction depends on the subject matter. For instance, the movie Tears of the Sun and the books My Sister's Keeper and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows always get me.

Anyway, it isn't just fictional things that make me emotional. I find myself more in tune with other people's emotions and feelings. I am not the best people reader, but I pick up on a few things. When someone is sad or angry, I sometimes feel sad or angry with them. When events happen that turn whole worlds upside down, I feel apart of them even if I have no connection or personal ties whatsoever. I was sad and felt for the people of Pakistan when I found out that Benazir Bhutto was killed. It's totally random, I know, but it's true. When I learned that Nancy and Peter Feist passed away unexpectedly a few days ago, I felt (and still feel) very much apart of the community that loved them and misses them.

It's amazing how much a person that you never knew can touch your heart. It's amazing how God can work through total strangers to help you learn about yourself. I am emotional, but it isn't a bad thing. If indirect events and strangers can have such an impact on me, I know for sure that direct events and loved ones can be even more powerful. We go through things in life that we might not enjoy or want to do. Things happen that test you. We can recover, it's just a matter of being able to move along. With God, we can make it through anything. It is this quote from Thomas Merton, from his book New Seeds of Contemplation, that I find most appropriate and comforting:

"The man who does not permit his spirit to be beaten down and upset by dryness and helplessness, but who lets God lead him peacefully through the wilderness, and desires no other support or guidance than that of pure faith and trust in God alone, will be brought to the Promised Land. He will taste the peace and joy of union with God."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Nice Little Morning Reflection

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week. Here is a little something that I found, and I wanted to share it.

"As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Remain in My love." -John 15:9

Reflection: "This is what I want for you above everything else: That you act out of pure love for Jesus Christ and out of the desire for His glory and the salvation of souls that He redeemed at such a cost." -St. Ignatius Loyola

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to act always out of love for You and for the salvation of souls. Let all that I think and do and say be the result of this twofold intention.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Marveling in My Own Backyard

I often go outside to just sit and think. I usually end up on the swing set, letting my bare feet slowly brush the grass as I swing. It's nice. At some point I find myself marveling at the blades of grass and the bare patches of brown earth beneath me, and you know, I am really intrigued and fascinated by them. They are very simple things, and yet here I am, contemplating life.

God, the ultimate painter, sculptor, and architect made this tiny little blade of grass. That cotton ball cloud. The handful of red dirt in my palm. The blue jay sitting on the fence. The cool breeze. A tiny yellow dandelion. The raindrops falling on my face. Everything that surrounds me, everything that I know we all take for granted at times, is a gift from God. It seems as if I am just a small piece of the proverbial puzzle, and yet, I know that I am a significant piece...everyone is. God loves us all and gave life to us all. Better still, He created our surroundings. We truly live in a wonderful world, a beautiful one.

It is enjoyable to marvel at all of creation, even if it's just your backyard. It's nice to be able to sit and pray and give thanks to God. I especially enjoy contemplative prayer. It is both simple and deep. You contemplate the simple things, and yet they become so much more when you think about where it all comes from.In his book New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton defines contemplation well:
"It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Anniversaries!

Many people in my life have anniversaries this month. On June 3, Father Christian celebrated 9 years of the priesthood. At the end of June, the NPH home in El Salvador will celebrate 10 years of serving, loving, and caring for the children of El Salvador. Today, Horse Haven of Tennessee (HHT) celebrated its 10th anniversary. (Now if I forgot someone's anniversary, I apologize!)

Fr. Christian, the soon-to-be pastor of St. Thomas, is one cool priest. Seriously. His homilies are always excellent, he chats with you after mass, and if he sees you driving down the road, he'll roll down the window and say hello.
If you read this blog regularly, then you already know what NPH is about. If not, then check out the past two posts!
HHT was founded in June 1999 to "advocate for, rescue, protect, and defend our God-given equine from abuse and neglect in Tennessee." I have had the privilege of being a volunteer at HHT for the past two and half years. I have seen some pretty bad things, but it is days like today that make it all worthwhile. Most of the volunteers, the folks in charge, and a few of our former rescue horses came out to celebrate today. I also had a chance to meet the new arrivals: Jenna and Royal, who is the cutest little foal (and the only one) I've ever met! Read Love One Another As I Have Loved You or visit HHT's website for more info about the organization that is Horse Haven.

This blog serves two purposes. I get to post a few of my favorite pictures, and I also get to send out congrats. So, here's to you Fr. Christian, Horse Haven, and NPH El Salvador! Happy Anniversaries!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

NPH Reflections

My time spent at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador cannot really be described in words. Among many things, it was awesome, beautiful, happy, joyful, fun, and bittersweet. Even though I had been before, I learned that NPH does not fit the definition of the word orphanage. NPH is a family. One great big loving family. No matter what your story, you are welcomed and you are loved. At NPH, children who did not have a chance before now have the tools to break the cycle of poverty. They will be able to go out in the world and make something of themselves, to make a difference in the world. To truly experience what NPH is all about, one should actually visit!

We (the group of 15) went with many gifts to give, but what we got from the children was more valuable than clothes or books. We received more than we could ever have hoped for. Love is ever present at NPH El Salvador. The children find the good in everyone and every situation. We learned how to love unconditionally. We learned that singing (even if you can't sing) is truly making a joyful noise for the Lord. It doesn't matter if you can't speak the same language, love is a language everyone can understand. And even though we were terribly sweaty 100% of the time, the kids still hugged us and held our hands. Pushing each other into the pool can create lasting friendships.
Looking back on my six days in El Salvador, I have learned many things:
-Graffiti is universal.
-Texting while driving is universal.
-Love is universal.
-Praying the Our Father and the Hail Mary over and over really helps while flying (especially if you hate planes)
-Turbulence is actually soothing.
-Love, joy, happiness, and laughter can transcend language barriers.
-It seems I have better luck attracting Salvadoranian boys than I do American boys.
-People that you've met only once will still remember you.
-Running through a typical Salvadoranian thunderstorm is fun. A lot of fun.
-The kids of NPH love love love their national soccer team.
-A fried egg, beans, and bread make a great dinner combination.
-You learn to like watermelon if it is the only fruit offered at breakfast.
-The kids don't really mind if you sweat; they'll hug you anyway.
-Abject poverty is real. It is present in our world.Just before I left for El Salvador, I received a wonderful little meditation book. Along with excerpts from the Bible, there are quotes from the saints. By Divine Providence, these two were part of the daily reflections during the trip. "Presumption is like vermin burrowing at the root of the tree of our soul. If we do not uproot it with great care and humility, it will eventually destroy the soul." -St. Catherine of Siena and "Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe--but believe that you may understand." -St. Augustine

If you go into any place or situation with an open heart and mind, God will find a way to teach you something valuable.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos

In my last blog, I described the packing of suitcases for the annual NPH El Salvador mission trip. What is NPH you ask? Well, here is the Sparknotes/Cliffnotes version of what NPH is all about...

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH) means "Our Little Brothers and Sisters" in Spanish. It is an organization that was founded by Father William Wasson. In 1954, a young boy was arrested for stealing from a church in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. Instead of charging the boy, the pastor, Fr. Wasson, asked for custody of the boy. By the end of that year, 32 boys were being cared for by Fr. Wasson. This was the first NPH house.

In addition to NPH Mexico, there are now 8 more houses in Bolivia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Peru. Since 1954, NPH has cared for almost 16,000 orphaned and abandoned children. Most of the children fit the standard definition of an orphan; however, some of the children are considered "economic orphans." This means that they still have family members, but the family is unable to provide or care for the child. The child then ends up on the streets.

Once at NPH, the children are raised by the five principles of love, security, sharing, work, and responsibility. While there, the children know that they will never be forced to leave or adopted. In essence, the children and caretakers of NPH become one big family. They are provided with an excellent education and medical care, as well as spiritual guidance. Fr. Wasson said, "An education will take my children out of the poverty into which they were born." At NPH, the cycle of poverty is broken. For more information about NPH, visit their website here.

NPH El Salvador taught me a lot when I visited last summer. I cannot even begin to describe to you how excited I am that get to go back. It's a privilege to be able to go "home" again. I love those kids so much! Even though I hate planes, every mile I have to travel is worth it.

Since I will be gone from June 4-9, there will be no new posts. So my advice to you is read a book, watch a good movie, or go play outside. I'll be back!