Detachment and the Prize of Eternal Life

Today, I gave my first ever reflection during Daily Mass. It’s the first time I’ve ever prepared such a thing, and the poor parishioners of St. Eugene had to hear it for the first time. I felt like I was able to do a pretty decent job, seeing as though I haven’t had any formal Homiletics prep. Comments and critiques are welcome!

“I have come to bring not peace, but the sword.” Jesus’ message here is confounding. It’s a message that some may feel is even contradictory to the Gospel message. Why on Earth would Jesus say “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” I think it is important for us to not get too caught up in this and to pay attention to the rest of the Gospel.

The Lord tells us “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The Lord is asking us to have a sense of detachment, a detachment to all things but God. He asks us to even have so great a detachment that we be willing to lose our lives. This sort of thing is one of the many things that makes it so difficult for us as humans to follow God whole-heatedly. Our lives are something that we cherish and wish to protect. After all, it is something that is given to us by God. But, how many of us chose to be so possessive of our lives that we refuse to let God in? When did it become a risk to let God have control and possession of our lives?

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, said in The First Principle and Foundation “We must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long to a short life. Our one desire and choice should be what is ,ore conducive to the end for which we are created, [and that is] to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save [our] soul” (Puhl, XXIII).

The Christian life is not easy. Some days, it may be a Cross to bear. However, when we are detached from the world, we are able to be more closely united with our Lord, in His joys, in His sufferings, and in His triumph. We should carry our crosses joyfully, knowing that they unite us to Jesus himself, who willingly took up His cross for the salvation of our souls. We should desire to look Jesus in the eyes as he carries his Cross and say to him, “I have joyfully carried my cross to give you glory, to give you everything I have.” To return gift for gift, life for life, love for love. Today, may we take that step, to receive the Lord and to grow closer to Him, abandoning ourselves to Him and availing ourselves to receive the Lord’s reward to us, the prize of eternal life.

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In the Silence, God Speaks

Photo Credit: Zachary Meador Boazman

Rediscovering the centrality of God’s word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence. Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence. This principle — that without silence one does not hear, does not listen, does not receive a word — applies especially to personal prayer as well as to our liturgies: to facilitate authentic listening, they must also be rich in moments of silence and of non-verbal reception. –Pope Benedict XVI

Tomorrow, my brothers in the Spirituality Year at St. John Vianney join those from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Broomtree, SD for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatian of Loyola, a 30-day silent retreat that aims at disconnecting you from the things of the world so that you may better hear the Lord. Just as our bodies need exercise to stay healthy and fit, so too do our souls. During this retreat, we will be praying 5 hours a day, not including Mass. We meet with our spiritual directors daily to discuss the graces we have experienced and to evaluate our spiritual fitness. And then we pray. And pray more. To me, this is like The Biggest Loser, except for our spiritual side. It will likely be the most intense 30 days I’ve experienced in my whole life. The Lord will push me to the limits of what I see as “doable.”  But, in return, the Lord is providing me an experience of a life time. Very few priests, let alone laymen, will ever get to experience the Spiritual Exercises. Those that do frequently remember back to the experiences and graces they received over their 30 day. As intimidating, difficult, and “unfun” as it seems to many, I have never heard of someone describe their 30-day as a bad experience. 

I am excited for what the Lord has in His providence over the next 30 days. It is also extremely out of my comfort zone (which is honestly probably where the Lord wants me). Please keep me and my brothers in your prayers. We will return to Denver on June 15th. I will be back in Oklahoma on June 21st. 

Your Grace Is Enough

It’s hard to believe that my first year of seminary is wrapping up. But here it is, May. The Spirituality Year will be over in a matter of days, and the culmination of what the Spirituality Year prepares men for is upon us. On May 16, my 21 SY Brothers and I will travel to Broomtree Retreat Center in Irene, SD to embark on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a 30-day Silent Retreat that revolves around Ignatian contemplation and silence. 

If I were to tell you that the year was not full of difficulties, I would be lying. Similarly, though, if I were to tel you that this year was horrible, I’d be lying even more. Even with the burdens that this year has carried, like the Media and Commerce Fasts, it had been the best of year of my life. I wish that every Christian man would be able to participate in this year. The graces that the Lord has poured out upon me have been incredible. There is honestly no way that I could describe all the things that the Lord has revealed to me this year. So, I’m only going to describe a few experiences.  

1). It’s the Lord who does all the work. 

Part of the Spirituality Year consists of a 30-day Immersion with the Poor. I worked with homeless and near-homeless people doing what is known as friendship evangelization. Often, this consisted in taking our “friends” to get food, go shopping, get healthcare, find jobs or housing, and so forth. 

We also had an apostolate, or pastoral assignment. My apostolate was at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School here in Denver. Every week, we would go to our apostolate and hang out with the kids. I was assigned to Mrs. Mary Donelson’s Third Grade Class. We would be in our respective classrooms for an hour then go help out in Extended Care for an hour and a half or so. 

Anyway, back to the grace. I felt like I did very little at my apostolate. Sure, I had fun and the kids did too, but did I really have an impact?  The answer is YES!  How? It is the Lord who does the work through you! If you open yourselves up to God and his Divine Will, you allow God to work through you. By just being me, the Lord worked through me. It is unbelievably hard to even think of this being possible until you see it. 

This grace has also been awesome for me to contemplate over the past several months. In short, if the Lord is doing the work through me, then I really cannot take “credit” for the work. I can thank God for working through me and for the things he has done to others, but I cannot say “Look at all the great things I’VE done.”  As a priest, he cannot praise himself for many of the things that he does. It’s only through the Lord that it happens. 

2). The Lord loves you more than you can imagine, no matter what you may have done in the past. It’s Satan who will try to degrade you. 

In addition to the upcoming 30-day silent retreat, we did a 3-day in the Fall and a 5-day in March. In one of my meditations, the Lord revealed to me Satan’s tactics. Satan, often times, is made out to be powerful, valiant, and cunning. However, this really isn’t the case. Sure, he can be cunning. But most of the time, his tactics are extremely sad and even comical. Satan will attack you where you are weakest. He will attack you in your past, saying how horrible or sinful of a person you are. He will rub salt in the wounds of your past, making you question your worthiness. But the truth is, Satan is pitiful. He has NO control over you once you turn your life to the Lord. He will try to attack you where you are weak because where you are strong, he would be struck down swiftly. Once you realize that Satan is weak and has no control over you, the quicker you can be free of anxiety and doubt and grow to recognize God’s love even more. 

3). I’m where the Lord is calling me to be. 

Even with the ups and downs of this year, my bad days still seem to be better than many of my good days were in the past. True happiness comes from following God’s Will and I feel that I have found true happiness. During spiritual direction recently, I described some of my current feelings about my life and my vocation. My spiritual director then said that it seems that these were signs that I had a pretty solid call to the priesthood. I responded and asked “So I shouldn’t leave the seminary?” He laughed and said “That would be absurd.”  

I ask for your prayers for my brothers and I as we prepare to head off to do our 30-day Silent Retreat. Following the 30-day, I have been assigned to spend the summer at St. Eugene Catholic Church in Oklahoma City. I will be there for several weeks before preparing to head back to Denver on August 20th. My posts will probably be more frequent following the 30-day Spiritual Exercises (we were asked not to blog during the year). 

Reflections on the Last First Week of Class of my Undergraduate Career

This week has been full of emotions… haha who am I kidding.  No it hasn’t.  The only emotion I have experienced is the emotion that many would call “senioritis.”  However, my primary vocation and job at this time is to do one thing: graduate.  I have quite an interesting class schedule this semester.

I have learned many things so far from these courses.  Some of them I am about to share with you, along with my opinions of the classes (if there’s nothing interesting).

  This quote was taken from my Life After OU class, a class which pretty much does what the course title says.  The goal is to promote awareness of issues that many students do not know about, such as taxes, healthcare, etiquette, etc.  It seems to be a great class so far.  Best of all, it’s a 3 hour pass/fail.  Yippee!

Next comes from a required reading from my Adventures of Digital Humanities course (a course that is Presidential Dream Course at The University of Oklahoma).

The Internet represents the ascension of yahoos, a victory lap for plagiarists, the end of culture, the beginning of the dark ages inhabited by glassy-eyed chronic masturbators who judge truth by the number of thumbs up, wisdom by the number of views, and knowledge by whatever is most fun to believe … Our task is to learn how to build smart rooms – that is, how to build networks that make us smarter, especially since, when done badly, networks can make us distressingly stupider.

-Prologue, Too Big To Know by David Weinberger, pp. xii-xiii

Hmmm… Weinberger uses some harsh words.  But you know, he’s right!  Many of us both hate the people that this describes, yet fall into it ourselves.  I have been known myself to be proud of the fact that something I posted on Facebook got 209 likes (true story, by the way).  Our world is so full of self-gain, it’s hard not to get caught up in it.

Economic Geography is a geography requirement for graduation.  The course, taught by Dr. Travis Gliedt, is not the most interesting class it seems I am taking, but will help me understand even more about the geography field.

My Origins of Christianity class seems to spur my interest as much as (or more than) my geography classes (go figure, I’m going to seminary after all I guess).  The class is taught by Dr. Kyle Harper, a classical culture historian and Provost of the University.  We have assigned Bible readings, including from the Maccabees (!), The Golden Ass by Apuleius, and Confessions by St. Augustine, among others.  While it is not exclusively from a Catholic perspective, I feel that this class could deepen my understanding of the roots of the Church.

My Capstone project is Representing China Through Late-Night Humor. The project focuses on popular geopolitics and humor. The importance of this project can be seen by looking at the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris this month. The popular geopolitics field is growing by leaps and bounds and will continue to grow. Expect to see more about this project on my Geography
page.

Overall, it looks to be a fun semester, but a busy one as well. Between applying to St. John Vianney, March for Life (be looking for a new blog post on that soon), presenting at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in Chicago this April, and, of course, graduation, I’ll probably be pretty swamped. I only need to remember this: only 15 weeks keep me from obtaining a degree from the University of Oklahoma. Boomer!

Out With The Old, In With The New … Year

2014 has been a great year full of so many exciting things.  I had a great job over the summer that really helped me discern whether or not I should apply to seminary or not.  I settled into my new major splendidly.  I have made some great new friends that will be my friends for the rest of my life.  My Mom remained cancer-free.  I TURNED 21! I was accepted as a Seminarian for the Archdiocese of OKC.  OU beat Alabama.  So many awesome things and blessings have happened this year.

2015 will bring some huge changes, but I am excited to see what God does.  In May, I will graduate from my dream school (The University of Oklahoma).  In August, I will move to Denver, CO and begin seminary studies at St. John Vianney.  These are obviously huge milestones, and I am sure that there are even more milestones that will occur.

With that said, I have decided to put my New Year’s Resolutions online, in attempt to actually succeed in my goals.  (You know, the Internet doesn’t lie…)

  • Get more healthy and lose weight
  • Continue to grow in my faith
  • Blog more (and probably port my blog to a WordPress.org account)
  • Run a 5k
  • Get more organized (class, room, car, etc.)

As I come up with more resolutions, I will update the post!

May the Lord abundantly bless us into the New Year!