Friday, February 28, 2014

The 100th Aggie Awakening Retreat Starts Today!


For the past 30 years approximately 10,000+ students have attended Aggie Awakening retreats. This weekend we are celebrating by hosting a reunion/conference for former students at the same time the retreat will be taking place.

Awakening is a cursillo-based retreat that was started at McNeese State in Lake Charles, LA. It then moved to LSU and then to Texas A&M. The two Awakening retreats in Louisiana stopped after several years, so Aggie Awakening is now the longest-running and the "mother-ship" of Awakenings (for a longer history of the retreat, click here.)

Through the years the retreat has spread across the nation and there are now dozens around the country, in 13 different states.

We ask you to join us in prayer as students come to retreat and former students come to celebrate, pray, and remember God's power.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Texas Catholic Bishops’ Statement on Same-Sex Marriage Ruling


From the Texas Bishops, released on the Diocese of Austin's website:
The Texas Catholic Conference issued the following statement on Feb. 27 on the Federal District Court ruling on same-sex marriage:

Texas' Roman Catholic Bishops today expressed disappointment at the decision by the Federal District Court in San Antonio to strike down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that voters approved in 2005. This is the latest maneuver in a unfortunate campaign to redefine marriage as a legal endorsement of individual lifestyles rather than as a sacred and beneficial social institution between one man and one woman. This campaign totally ignores the rights of children to know their father’s love and their mother’s love.

While we maintain the deepest love and compassion for all our brothers and sisters, we also recognize that the institution of marriage acts as the foundational unit of society and culture. For centuries, societies have upheld marriage as a public institution between a man and a woman because of its unique and essential contribution to establishing families and ensuring the common good.

No new civil definition of marriage can change what is rooted in the very nature of human beings or what has been revealed by God to be a fundamental and sacred institution within society and the community of the Church. We are hopeful that an objective review of the ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will recognize the fundamental purpose of marriage in society and affirm the right of the people of Texas to continue upholding marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

14 Reasons To Read The Bible


14 Reasons To Read The Bible:
14 - Because God is the Divine author (2 Tim 3:16).

13 - It teaches us the ways of salvation (2 Tim 3:15).

12 - It helps raise up Godly children. (Deut 6:7).

11 - It helps give good counsel to others (Col 3:16).

10 - It has practical wisdom for everyday life (Psalm 119: 98).

9 - Because God teaches us His will for us through it. (Rom 12:2)

8 - Because the Devil has read it, knows it, and hates it. (Matt 4: 1-11)

7 - It helps fulfill the mission of the Church - to evangelize. (1 Cor 1: 17-25)

6 - It answers life's biggest questions - "Who am I", "Why am I here", "What is life all about", etc. (John 14: 5-27.

5 - It helps us fight temptations to sin. (Eph 6:17, Matt 4: 1-11)

4 - It tells us the history of God's people - our heritage in faith. (Acts 7: 2-56)

3 - It is God's encouragement through the rough times in life (James 1: 2-3).

2 - We cannot know Jesus personally or his plan for our lives without reading the Bible - as St. Jerome said "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ".

1 - Christ is present when we read the Bible (2 Thes 2:13).
This list is only the tip of the iceberg. Pope Benedict XVI issued a major document on Sacred Scripture last year (Verbum Domini) that the Church needs to get to know. Here are a few highlights of it:

The need for good formation:
"In order to achieve the goal set by the Synod, namely, an increased emphasis on the Bible in the Church's pastoral activity, all Christians, and catechists in particular, need to receive suitable training. Attention needs to be paid to the biblical apostolate, which is a very valuable means to that end, as the Church's experience has shown. The Synod Fathers also recommended that, possibly through the use of existing academic structures, centres of formation should be established where laity and missionaries can be trained to understand, live and proclaim the word of God. Also, where needed, specialized institutes for biblical studies should be established to ensure that exegetes possess a solid understanding of theology and an appropriate appreciation for the contexts in which they carry out their mission."
The importance of praying with Scripture:
"86. The Synod frequently insisted on the need for a prayerful approach to the sacred text as a fundamental element in the spiritual life of every believer, in the various ministries and states in life, with particular reference to lectio divina. The word of God is at the basis of all authentic Christian spirituality. The Synod Fathers thus took up the words of the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum: "Let the faithful go gladly to the sacred text itself, whether in the sacred liturgy, which is full of the divine words, or in devout reading, or in such suitable exercises and various other helps which, with the approval and guidance of the pastors of the Church, are happily spreading everywhere in our day. Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture.""
Laity are called to evangelize using the Scriptures:
"The laity are called to exercise their own prophetic role, which derives directly from their Baptism, and to bear witness to the Gospel in daily life, wherever they find themselves. In this regard the Synod Fathers expressed " the greatest esteem, gratitude and encouragement for the service to evangelization which so many of the lay faithful, and women in particular, provide with generosity and commitment in their communities throughout the world, following the example of Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the joy of Easter ". The Synod also recognized with gratitude that the ecclesial movements and the new communities are a great force for evangelization in our times and an incentive to the development of new ways of proclaiming the Gospel."
The Bible and the New Evangelization:
"Our own time, then, must be increasingly marked by a new hearing of God's word and a new evangelization. Recovering the centrality of the divine word in the Christian life leads us to appreciate anew the deepest meaning of the forceful appeal of Pope John Paul II: to pursue the missio ad gentes and vigorously to embark upon the new evangelization, expecially in those nations where the Gospel has been forgotten or meets with indifference as a result of widespread secularism. May the Holy Spirit awaken a hunger and thirst for the word of God, and raise up zealous heralds and witnesses of the Gospel."
If you desire to understand what the Catholic Church teaches about the Bible, then Verbum Domini in addition to the Vatican II Constitution on Sacred Scripture - Dei Verbum - are the two you documents you should read after the Catechism's section on Scripture.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

10 Signs You Are Catholic


10 Signs You Are Catholic
  1. You are nice enough to save the pews in the front of church for the latecomers. (You also save the comfy middle part of the pew for others).
  2. You can follow every prayer in Mass, regardless of what language it is in.
  3. You have given up something sweet for Lent...at least a dozen times before.
  4. You dress a lot nicer when you know you might see the Bishop.
  5. You have genuflected (or started to) in a movie theater.
  6. You could be a professional weaver of palm crosses, though you do it only one day a year.
  7. You complain when the parish buys a new brand of Communion wine.
  8. You can say a family rosary on a trip in less than 15 minutes and know that God still heard it over the baby screaming.
  9. You remember more Latin than the foreign language you actually took classes for during high school.
  10. You played the "Mass game" when you were a kid.
Some that didn't make the list, but could:
-Knows what thurible, magisterium, and mystagogy mean.
-Starts praying every time you hear bells ringing.

What did I forget?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

ASTOUNDING - Pope Francis Records Private Video for Kenneth Copeland? Yes! Wow...


This is what Christian unity looks like. It doesn't ignore the differences that we have with our non-Catholic brothers and sisters.
It isn't triumphalistic.
It isn't us vs them.

Rather, it is the love of Christ for all people. Jesus prayed for Christian unity and we must all acknowledge that the fact is - division within Christianity is both scandalous and a counter-sign to a God of unity to a world that needs Him.

So, Pope Francis recorded a video for his friend, Tony Palmer (An Anglican Episcopal Communion of the CEEC (Celtic Anglican Tradition) Bishop.) He took the video to show to Kenneth Copeland Ministries and the unthinkable has started to happen - we actually pray for one another and acknowledge one another as true brothers and sisters.

As Copeland said, "Heaven is thrilled over this...You know what is so thrilling to me? When we went into the ministry 47 years ago, this was impossible."

As Pope Francis says in the following video - our sins are the cause for our separation and we are brothers and sisters and should act like it. I recommend you watch the entire video, but if you want to skip to the Pope's part, go to around 31:30:
"Two rules: Love God above all, and love the other (neighbor), because he is your brother and sister. With these two rules we can go ahead. I am here with my brother, my bishop brother, Tony Palmer. We've been friends for years.

He told me about your conference, about your meeting. And it's my pleasure to greet you. A greeting both joyful and nostalgic (yearning). Joyful because it gives me joy that you have come together to worship Jesus Christ the only Lord. And to pray to the Father and to receive the Holy Spirit. This brings me joy because we can see that God is working all over the world. Nostalgic (yearning) because but...it happens, as within our suburbs. In the suburbs there are families that love each other and families that don't love each other. Families that come together and families who separate themselves. We are kind of...permit me to say, separated.

Separated because, it's sin that has separated us, all our sins. The misunderstandings throughout history. It has been a long road of sins that we all shared in. Who is to blame? We all share the blame. We have all sinned. There is only one blameless, the Lord. I am nostalgic (yearning), that this separation comes to an end and gives us communion. I am nostalgic (yearning), of that embrace that the Holy Scripture speaks of when Joseph's brothers began to starve from hunger, they went to Egypt, to buy, so that they could eat.

They went to buy. They had money. But they couldn't eat the money. But there they found something more than food, they found their brother. All of us have currency. The currency of our culture. The currency of our history. We have lot of cultural riches, and religious riches. And we have diverse traditions. But we have to encounter one another as brothers. We must cry together like Joseph did. These tears will unite us. The tears of love.

I am speaking to you as a brother. I speak to you in a simple way. With joy and nostalgia (yearning). Let us allow our nostalgia (yearning) to grow, because this will propel us to find each other, to embrace one another. And together to worship Jesus Christ as the only Lord of History.

I thank you profoundly for listening to me. I thank you profoundly for allowing me to speak the language of the heart. And I also ask you a favor. Please pray for me, because I need your prayers. And I will pray for you, I will do it, but I need your prayers. And let us pray to the Lord that He unites us all. Come on, we are brothers. Let's give each other a spiritual hug and let God complete the work that he has begun. And this is a miracle; the miracle of unity has begun.

A famous Italian author named Manzoni, once wrote in his novel, of a simle man amongst the people, who once said this, "I've never seen God begin a miracle without Him finishing it well." He will complete this miracle of unity. I ask you to bless me, and I bless you. From brother to brother, I embrace you. Thank you."

Did Yoda Translate the King James Bible?


During my visit to a local Baptist Church I noticed a verse from the King James Bible that read:
"This do in remembrance of me." - Luke 22:19
I almost laughed out loud when I thought that it sounded like Yoda. I then realized Yoda sounds more like English used in the King James Version of the Bible than modern-day English.

Later, I found out many Star Wars fanatics believe that George Lucas based Yoda's dialect off of the King James Bible. So, I decided to put together this list:

Top 10 Yodisms in the King James Bible.
Make sure you read in your best Yoda voice
  • 10 - "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." - John 13:7
  • 9 - "hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." - Revelation 3:11
  • 8 - "I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye." - 1 Corinthians 16:1
  • 7 - "Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days" - Daniel 1:12
  • 6 - "Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." - Acts 19:4
  • 5 - "without him was not any thing made that was made." - John 1:3
  • 4 - "When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them" - Ezekiel 1:21
  • 3 - "And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:" - Luke 15:29
  • 2 - "Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:" - Acts 16:1
  • 1 - "this do in remembrance of me." - Luke 22:19
I still think the KJV is a better translation than the NAB.
Of course the RSV is better than either.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kick-Starting Your Prayer Life


All of us have difficulties with prayer and we have to understand this is normal. Prayer is a relationship and one that takes a lot of work to get even to the point of even being OK.

In many ways prayer is like any other relationship. Many of us start out basing it, in many ways, on good experiences and emotions. This, as in a romantic relationship, is a good thing, because it helps bring two people closer together. But, real love can only be fostered once we stop relying on emotional highs and great experiences. Once the emotions leave, we must decide to love the other person for their own sake, not what they do for us. Real love is choosing what is best for another regardless of the cost to myself.

This kind of love doesn't come easy and there are times when you will feel far from God and that your prayer is dry. But, you are not alone and should seek the help of a good spiritual director or confessor to help you. Also, you need to continue to pray, even though it may not feel good to do so. This is a sign of true love - to choose to pray, even when you may not want to, because you know it is the best thing to do. If you continue to pray, your faith will continue to grow beyond the feelings.

These dry times are a gift from God. They may not feel like a gift, but they truly are. The reason they are a gift is because we have the opportunity to leave behind our feelings and go deeper into a true loving relationship with God. So, don't waste such an opportunity!

Think of it this way, which would be more pleasing to God - 20 minutes of prayer that came easy and had great emotions or 20 minutes where you struggled, didn't want to do it, and felt dryness, yet you did it anyway? I would say the second, because you chose to do it even though you didn't want to.


I once asked a class of college students to rate their spiritual lives on a scale of 1 to 10. Most were very hard on themselves and gave themselves a 5 or less. I then asked "how would you describe your relationship with God?" and again, most were not very positive.

When I asked for clarification as to the reason they were hard on themselves, most of the comments from the class were about difficulties in prayer. Why do we have such difficulties? Simple - we are human. But, before I spell out some tips on how to overcome difficulties, we ought to talk about why we pray.

St. Paul writes:
"With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit." - Ephesians 6:18
Paul doesn't just suggest, but commands us, to pray "in the Spirit" at "every opportunity". If we are to follow this command, it should be done out of love, not out of mere obedience. But, how are we to meet this high call?

He writes in another letter:
"The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings." - Romans 8: 26-27
We can't do it alone. The Holy Spirit does, for us, what we can't do in our prayer. This is vital, because prayer is essential for success. But, by success, I mean success in the eyes of God, which is much different than success by the world's standards. The world says success is money, fame, power, possessions, pleasure, etc. But, God's idea of success is holiness - being the person God intends you to be.

In other words, success = fulfilling the vision for your life that God has for you. Prayer is indispensable in attaining this process.

In the Gospel of Luke, Luke writes:
"he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary." -Luke 18:1
We must make prayer the center of our lives. It isn't a choice for us as Christians. But, it requires perseverance and faith to achieve such a prayer life. In fact, I believe a good answer to the question of "do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" can be answered by pointing to your prayer life. If you pray daily, then you have a personal relationship with Jesus.

So, with this in mind, you might ask - why would any Christian let their prayer life slip and what can we do about it?


7 REASONS WE LET OUR PRAYER LIVES SLIP
  1. Discouragement - Sometimes we don't know what to say, how to pray, what to do. Sometimes we are tired, feeling bad, or we just don't have a desire to pray. 
  2. Doubt - Is God really there? Can He hear me? Does He care, even if He exists? Does prayer really even matter?
  3. Impatience - Prayers can seem to go on forever with only silence coming from heaven. When will God answer me?
  4. Temptations - It is easy to pray when you aren't challenged internally through temptation. But, when the temptations enter in, it becomes drudgery. 
  5. Laziness - We sometimes just give up or never establish habits that sustain us in dry times or through the business of modern life.
  6. Dryness - God seems distant and prayer becomes a chore. This can happen at any time.
  7. Physical, Mental, or Emotional Problems - When we suffer, it is hard to pray, because we sometimes feel that a loving God would make it stop.

15 TIPS TO HELP YOUR PRAYER LIFE
  1. Frequent the Sacraments - If you can make daily Mass even once a week, you have doubled your access to the greatest gift ever given humanity. Now, go to Confession at least monthly and you are surely going to get a multitude of graces. Put these on a calendar so you don't skip them.
  2. Establish Good Habits - You should be able to rely on your habits to help you, and not hurt you, in your prayer. A good habit takes 66 days (at least) to establish. So, if you can commit to a routine of prayer for 2 months, you should start to lay the groundwork for healthy prayer habits.
  3. Accountability Counts - You need someone who is more objective than you are to look at your prayer life and see how you are doing and how the Holy Spirit is working. A spiritual director is invaluable in helping. But, if you don't think you are ready, even have a holy friend to talk to can be good.
  4. Try Different Types of Prayer - We all have different tastes in prayer, just like most other things in life. So, try out different types of prayer and see which ones work for you. One caveat - don't give up too soon on a type of prayer. It might take a good long time to discover whether it is good for you or not.
  5. Fast Regularly - There is great power in fasting. We see it in Scripture when Jesus fasts and calls his disciples to do the same. When we have better control over the desires of our bodies, we can pray better.
  6. Overcome Distractions - The simple way to overcome a distraction is to not give into it. Once you realize you are distracted turn your heart and mind back to your prayer, not to examining the distraction. This simple act is the easiest way to defeat distractions.
  7. Don't Over-think Prayer - Too often we tend to complicate something that should come naturally to us. We are made for communion with God. Prayer is merely directing your mind and heart in the direction of God. If we over-complicate it, we get caught up in the externals.
  8. Dryness is Good For Us - Dry prayers are a gift from God. Yes, we all long to have consolations in our prayer, just as a child longs for candy and having those denied is difficult, but healthy for us. It is in dryness that our faith is tested and strengthened.
  9. Pray for Humility - To the extent we are humble is the extent of the power of God's grace changing our lives. Without humble prayer, God is unable to reach us, because we have no interior need for Him.
  10. Work on a Proper Understanding of God and Self - I can not emphasize this one enough. Many of us struggle to understand how a perfect God could love us and want a relationship with us. But, this is due, mainly, to our bad perceptions of our own dignity and the way God loves us unconditionally.
  11. Quiet - Our modern lives are filled with noise. We need to quiet ourselves to hear God - both internally and externally. Find a peaceful and quiet place to pray. Church is helpful in this respect - so if you can stop at a church, even for a short time, I recommend you do so.
  12. Prioritize Prayer. Schedule it. Bump something else. Get up early. Do whatever you have to do, but don't let a day go by without spending time with the most important person in your life.
  13. Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself - Struggles in your prayer life do not make you a terrible Christian. They are a universal experience of everyone who prays. So, don't get down on yourself for struggles.
  14. Don't Wait To Start - procrastination is the enemy of prayer. If you feel called to pray, don't ever put it off.
  15. Find and Use Good Resources - When you don't know what to do or how to do it, the resources can help. Resources include people, friends, books, websites, sacramentals (e.g. rosaries), Sacred Scripture, etc.
Pray for me and I will pray for all who read this.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Easy Way To Get More Out Of Lent

Here is an easy way to get more out of Lent 2014:
Would you like a deeper, more powerful Lent this year? To start each day by drawing closer to Christ? Then sign up for Fr. Robert Barron's free daily Lent reflections list.

Each day, from Ash Wednesday (March 5) until Easter Sunday (April 20), Fr. Barron will send you a short reflection, straight to your inbox. In addition, you'll receive exclusive videos not found anywhere else, special discount codes for new products, and giveaways throughout Lent including DVDs, CDs, signed books, and more. The best part is that it's all FREE!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Romance, Sex, and Economics - What You Need To Know


Very insightful data from the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture about sex, marriage, dating, romance, and economics??!!

What does economics have to do with the other things? Well, in general, women are more romantically-oriented and men are more sexually-oriented. In other words, what the desire most out of a relationship is different, in many cases. So, you could think of a relationship (of any kind) as an exchange of goods, and therefore it has an economic factor.

Now, if there is a high amount of sex in the supply-side of the supply/demand matrix, which it is in today's culture, then the "price" of sex will go down. What is the cause of this? Well, you will have to watch the video to get the full details.
I highly recommend it.



If you want the details into the research they based the video on, you can find it here.

ADDITIONAL READING:
**The Rotten Fruit of Hooking Up
**Is Pre-Marital Sex Always Wrong?
**Dating and physical attraction
**How far is too far?
**Porn Hurts Others
**What Is Wrong With Porn?
**The Science Of Internet Porn - What Happens To The Brain & The Body
**The Cost of Porn
**Pornography Research
**Porn Is More Addictive Than Cocaine or Heroin!
**Porn & Support For Same-Sex Marriage
**If You Aren't Convinced Porn Is Destroying Our Culture - Read This!
**What is Wrong With Porn?
**Contraception - What the Church Teaches.
**"Same Sex Marriage: Why Not?"
**The Debate about "Same-Sex Marriage"
**Special Report on Gay Marriage
**2 Reasons Same-Sex Marriage is Gaining Ground

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love Is Risky - Are You Willing To Let Yourself Be Loved?


There is a part of each of us that questions ourselves. It questions whether we are worthy of love, especially true unconditional love.

The truth is, we are made by love - out of love - for love - to love - and to be loved.

But, our woundedness questions how any of this could be real.

It asks, "how could we be worthy of such a love?"
It lies and says, "I am not lovable."

Yet, true love isn't given because of what we do. We could never earn such a love. It isn't something we purchase with our deeds.
It isn't because of knowing the right things. We can't know enough truth to earn such a love.
It isn't because we are "good people". That isn't enough.
Our true worth isn't determined by a subjective opinion of culture or individuals.

Rather - we are lovable because God made us for the purpose of love. Yes, we all have a purpose and it is to be loved and love in return.

God loves you, not because of what you do, what you know, how you act. He loves you despite these things (which we do imperfectly), not because of them. He loves you. For you. He loves you right where you are and there is NOTHING that could make His love for you stop or lessen.

God loves you so much He would die for you - and He did.
God loves you so much He built a purpose into your being:
To be with God forever is your purpose.
To be the best you that you can be is your purpose.
To love Him back is your purpose.

This kind of love is doubted because of our human failures in loving one another. When we don't experience a selfless and unconditional love from other people, we may doubt the reality of true love and may close ourselves off from God's love.

So, we might need to learn how to be loved by loving others. Give yourself away and you will find yourself. This is the paradox of relationships - to understand that love is never wasted. Love is a gift to another person and will be good for both the one who is loved and the one who loves. Loving another person fulfills what we are made for. Our choice to love will always be put to good use by God, as long as we allow him to change our hearts in the process.

God wants to change you and to be a bigger part of your life today. But, he needs your permission and this is a risk we take. We are fearful of letting anyone, much less God, into our lives because it comes with the the fear that we are risking something...ourselves. But, God will only help you discover the truth of who you are and will never take anything of lasting value away.

Will you let God into your heart?

-----

Below are three videos that express what true love looks like. The crazy thing is they are produced from a lingerie company's series of ads highlighting the inner beauty of women and yet are some of the most poignant ads I have ever seen.




"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy." -St. Francis

***If you want to read more about true love, then read this story about a priest who was conceived in rape and hears his father's confession and offers him mercy and forgiveness, just as Jesus did.***

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

RISE! He is Calling You!


My name is Bartimae'us and I have been blind from birth. I was born into a Jewish home during Herod The Great's rule. My parents tell me I was cursed by God who made me blind because of the sin of our ancestors  It is hard for me to believe this, but all the teachers of Moses' Law say it is true. Most people don't want anything to do with me.
I am pitied by many.
Loved by none.
Alone.

From an early age my parents left me on the side of the road to beg, because this was the only way I could earn my keep. Soon after my 13th birthday, when I became a man, my parents left brought me by Jericho's city gates and never came back.
I have never heard from them again.
I have no family now.
Abandoned.

Day after day I come to the same spot to beg. Years have past and I still barely have enough money to eat. My clothes are rags others throw at me. Yet, I have listened closely to the stories of my people and heard how the Prophets speak about the Messiah - the one who is to come from God. He will be born of the House of King David and the Holy Books speak of how the power of The Lord will flow through him to heal the sick and cast out demons. He comes to rule Israel and usher in a great time of blessing.
I wait for him. 
My hope is in him.
Hope.

There is talk of one man who works wonders. He heals the sick, drives out demons, and has even given sight to the blind! Some say he is of the Devil. Some say he is from God. Some say he is a fraud. But, what amazing things he does! Do I dare believe in him? I have met some of his followers. They talk to me about how wise and holy he is. They Feed me. Touch me. Love me? Their kindness lifts my heart. If only I could meet this man. Jesus of Nazareth. Could it be?
Could I be healed one day?
Lord give me faith!
Faith.

Then came the day that changed everything. I heard talk of Jesus coming to my town! Here, to Jericho. There were hundreds, maybe thousands gathered around him. My heart sank. Why would he notice me? I am the poorest of the poor. But, I tell myself not to despair. The stories about him talk of how he eats with prostitutes and tax collectors. He touches lepers. Why wouldn't he notice me?! The gate to the city where I sit is narrow. He must pass this way and the crowd must thin in order to go inside the city. Maybe. Just maybe.
Jesus is coming. I hear the crowd get louder!
I hear his voice! He teaches them!
He speaks with such gentleness!
Jesus!

He is only feet from me. My heart is beating so fast! Now I must talk to him. I still fear, but what have I to lose? So, I urgently cry out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Most people around me try to quiet me. They yell at me, rebuke me, and curse me. "Quiet" they say. I will not listen to them. So, I yell even louder, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Then I hear Jesus says, "call him." The crowd quiets. My heart stops beating for a moment. Could it be? One of his followers, one of the gentle ones, tells me the words my heart has always longed for:
"Take heart; rise, he is calling you."
I rise.
Resurrection.

I throw off my mantle and jump up. What do I need it for anyway? 
I throw off my sin. 
I throw off my anger. 
I throw off my hate. 
I am brought before the most amazing man I have ever talked to and he asks me a simple question, "what do you want me to do for you?" 
What do I want? I want love. I want acceptance. I want a house. I want to belong.
I want to see!
I want to see The Messiah!
"Master, let me receive my sight!"
SIGHT!

Jesus responds with words I still in awe about, "Go your way; your faith has made you well."
I CAN SEE! I CAN SEE! I CAN SEE!
He is the one. This is The Messiah! He drove out the darkness from my eyes and my heart. He heals. He loves me. He chose me. I can see! What beauty! What brightness! What glory! Thank you Jesus. Thank you Jesus. Thank you...
My way, Lord, is your way.
I will follow you!
Follow!

Now my friends, it is your turn. Do you still doubt Jesus can perform miracles in your life? If He is God, and I assure you He is, then He can do all things. He forgives your sin, if you let Him.
He loves you. Will you love Him?
He chooses you. Will you choose Him?
He merely awaits your choice.

Will you follow this Jesus of Nazareth with me?

Come, I will show you what it is to know His way.
Take my hand.
Rise and let him heal the blindness of your heart.
"Take heart; rise, he is calling you."
"And they came to Jericho; and as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great multitude, Bartimae'us, a blind beggar, the son of Timae'us, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; rise, he is calling you." And throwing off his mantle he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And the blind man said to him, "Master, let me receive my sight." And Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way."
-Mark 10:46-52

Monday, February 10, 2014

55 Ways To Reduce Stress


I don't stress out much, even though my personality can be pretty high-strung. I do it by applying (most of) these strategies to my life.

55 Ways To Reduce Stress
  1. Mental prayer (meditation) every day.
  2. Pray with Scripture daily.
  3. Frequent The Sacraments - Mass as often as possible + monthly Confession.
  4. Quickly forgive others when they mess up.
  5. Forgive yourself when you mess up.
  6. Go on a retreat.
  7. Take several days off of work / your normal schedule.
  8. Socialize with friends more often. Schedule if necessary.
  9. Go on dates with your spouse.
  10. Pray with your family.
  11. Eat dinner with your family.
  12. Practice not worrying about things you can't control.
  13. Don't work to please other people. Please God.
  14. Remember that you are wonderful and lovable, even if imperfect.
  15. Smile more.
  16. Do nice things for other people, just because.
  17. Play with some kids.
  18. Spend less time around negative people.
  19. Have difficult conversations, in a loving way. Don't avoid them.
  20. Work on your character flaws and poor communication skills.
  21. Ask for help more often.
  22. Practice being content with what you currently have. 
  23. Exercise regularly.
  24. Sleep more.
  25. Laugh. 
  26. Talk to a spiritual director regularly.
  27. Learn from your mistakes.
  28. Be OK with not controlling others.
  29. Reduce your to-do list by distinguishing 'must' and 'should'.
  30. Spend time with a pet.
  31. Read more good books.
  32. Listen to more good music.
  33. Turn off the TV and do #32 and #32.
  34. Spend time doing something you like to do.
  35. Volunteer to help others.
  36. Eat healthier.
  37. Stop an unhealthy habit (overeating, smoking, drinking too much, etc.)
  38. Temper the tone in your voice and the words you use when frustrated.
  39. Go dancing, bowling, or to play miniature golf.
  40. Realize what upsets you and create a plan on how to deal with it in the future.
  41. Don't get upset in traffic or with other drivers. Slow down. Chill.
  42. Say "no" more often if you are over-scheduled.
  43. Don't procrastinate.
  44. Remember you are not the center of the universe.
  45. Don't lash out at others. 
  46. Spend time improving yourself. This isn't greedy, it helps everyone around.
  47. Question worrisome thoughts. Are they rational / probably / helpful?
  48. Focus on the present. Not the past or future.
  49. Keep a journal or diary as an outlet of your stress.
  50. Say more positive things. I love you, you are wonderful, thanks, etc.
  51. Stop wasting time on Facebook, video games, etc.
  52. Pray for an increase of faith and hope. Expect God will answer your prayer.
  53. Serve someone in need and do so with a smile.
  54. Pick up a new (or restart an old) hobby.
  55. Follow through with your commitments.
What else can you add to the list? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Letter To The Editor


On Wednesday, I saw an article about the United Nations chastising the Vatican for how the Church handled the sex-abuse scandals. Later in the day, I saw other articles popping up about it, including the Associated Press' article, which is even more scathing in it's bias.

I knew that my local paper wouldn't be able to resist, so I tweeted the following:

They took the bait and put the AP story on the front page. But, they took it one step further and cut off the end of the story (in the print edition), where the real agenda of the U.N. (and hypocrisy) is revealed - trying to get the Catholic Church to change her doctrine. In other words, the story was written, and then edited, to make the Church look as bad as possible.

So, I felt compelled to respond with a letter. They printed it this morning:
On Feb. 5, a story about the United Nations rebuking the Catholic Church was released. Knowing the tendency of The Eagle to carry any negative story about Catholicism, I tweeted my prediction that it would be prominently covered the next morning.

Like clockwork, it was front page. As Baylor scholar Philip Jenkins (a Protestant) has declared, anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice. To be clear, abusing a minor is criminal and sinful. But, the Catholic Church has done more than any other international organization to stop such acts. In the United States, the reports have dwindled to a fraction of other religious organizations. Catholicism now has the strictest of policies.

Furthermore, the Vatican is leading others in addressing it. Pope Francis recently formed a commission to go even further. If the U.N. intended to look out for children, why not address the problems within the countries the committee's members represent: Thailand's high rates of child sex slavery, Syria's gassing of children, Uganda's forcing kids into war, the United States'  high rate of abuse in public schools and cover-ups at much higher rates than the Catholic Church.

Why not? Because it doesn't fit the U.N.'s agenda. Furthermore, the U.N. report urged the Vatican to change doctrine on abortion, gay marriage and contraception! The real issue is that Catholicism doesn't meet the progressive cultural agenda. This is blatant hypocrisy.

I wonder if The Eagle would carry the same kind of story if it was about Judaism or Islam? I have my doubts.

MARCEL LeJEUNE
College Station
Of course, they couldn't help themselves with the title of the letter - "Just knew The Eagle would run a story bashing the Catholic Church"

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Call of God

Great examination of a topic we all need to reflect upon - how and why God calls us and what that means for us.
Fr. Robert Barron discusses the calling of the Disciples.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

25 Changes The Media Would Make To The Catholic Church


Go with me for a moment, deep into your imagination, and try to imagine what the Catholic Church would look like if the secular media was in charge of it...

25 Changes The Media Would Make To The Catholic Church:
  • 25 - Women priests (but they must always wear approved vestments).
  • 24 - Same-sex Marriages are fine as long as only one bride's mother is involved at a time.
  • 23 - Abortions are only approved in cases of rape, incest, teenage pregnancy, and if you are a woman who is pregnant.
  • 22 - Contraception suggested for married couples (and required for non-married couples).
  • 21 - The Eucharist now comes in Honey Wheat, Whole Grain, Avocado and Rice flavors.
  • 20 - No more need to confess your sins just ask an advice columnist to solve your issues in order to overcome your guilt.
  • 19 - Pope is elected - never mind - no more Pope. But, Bishops are elected by popular vote after the final episode of "So You Think You Can Run An (Arch)Diocese?"
  • 18 - Simple majority decides doctrine AND all doctrine is optional.
  • 17 - The Bible is now officially interpreted by the Magisterium of Me, Myself, and I.
  • 16 - No more talk of Hell or the Devil. As if they really existed. Ha!
  • 15 - The only sin is telling someone they have sinned (oops, I just sinned).
  • 14 - Bishops now dress in slacks (or pant-suits), priests in jeans (or skirts), and the congregation can "come as you are - after being on a beach all day"
  • 13 - Jesus was a super-nice guy, but we need to stop calling him "God". That is too controversial. Also, the non-politically-correct things he did & said were added to the Bible. 
  • 12 - No more exclusive language. (e.g., "People of God", "Church of Jesus Christ", "salvation", "Saints", etc.)
  • 11 - Who needs tax exempt status? Not the Catholic Church.
  • 10 - All theologians are allowed to make it up as they go.
  • 9 - Justice (as defined by the United Nations), is now the main thrust of the Catholic Church.
  • 8 - Canon Law will now be called "Canon Advice".
  • 7 - In order to make Parishes more welcoming, we will call them "Centers of Loving Care and Hope".
  • 6 - The preferred music at "worship services" includes songs from Macklemore and Katy Perry.
  • 5 - Church buildings will now resemble movie theaters and be called "Supplication Stations".
  • 4 - Religious Education is to focus on self-esteem, crafts, and the environment. It will now be called "The Art of Being Ready for Encountering That Which May or May Not Be".
  • 3 - The Roman Collar is to be replaced with the Butterfly Collar.
  • 2 - Father, Son, and Spirit are now Parent, Child, and Essence.
  • 1 - Catholic colleges and schools will now be called "Inclusive Pods of Re-education". They will be run by the government.
What others changes do you see?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

21 Ways To Make A Marriage Great


21 Ways To Make A Marriage Great
  1. Stay chaste and celibate before marriage - This goes for all your relationships. The statistics show that doing so means a much higher chance of a successful marriage. Those who don't have premarital sex have much lower rates of divorce and happier marriages.
  2. Don't live together before marriage This might even double your chance of divorcing your spouse well over 60%! Another study found that in their marriages prior cohabitors "are estimated to have a hazard of dissolution that is about 46% higher than for noncohabitors." 
  3. Stay faithful once you are married - This can be with a real person or with porn. Either messes up a marriage. 68% of divorce cases involved one party meeting a new lover over the Internet. 56% of divorce cases involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.
  4. Stay sober - Alcohol abuse and drug use are super-highways to ending any kind of relationship. When a substance is more important than a person, then the relationship can't survive.
  5. Marry someone who shares your beliefs - Now, there are certainly marriages that succeed between people with differing beliefs, but we can agree, at the least you are putting a strain on a relationship and a hurdle which must be constantly dealt with.
  6. Marry for the right reasons - Marrying someone because you have strong emotions about them (which will eventually go away) or because they are good looking (which won't last) is a great way to eventually ruin a marriage. You should only marry someone you believe God wants you to, you love, and which you can see staying with (without them changing) for the rest of your life.
  7. Work on Communication - talking can't be over-rated. The average man might have to work on this area more than the average woman, but both need to learn to be good at it, not just tolerate one another.
  8. Keep your priorities straight - being rich and successful needs to come after your marriage. The priorities should always start with God, then your marriage, then your children.
  9. Be selfless - Marriage is about the other person. This means sacrifice is built in and without it, marriages won't be successful. Your job is to respect, protect, love, and serve your spouse and kids.
  10. Have the same expectations about money or debt - Don't spend too much or live beyond your means. Money is the #1 reason that couples argue.
  11. Tithe - The money isn't your own and tithing puts the blessings of God into the proper perspective.
  12. Use NFP - kids are a true gift. Couples that use NFP are happier, have better sex-lives, and stay married more than 95% of the time. Will it take sacrifice and self-control? Yes. But, it is worth it.
  13. Never talk negatively about your spouse - When you discuss your spouse with others, always stay positive. This mindset will help determine your attitude at other times.
  14. Spend time with your spouse - this person is the most important person in your life, so put them on your calendar if you have to. 
  15. Love your spouse how they want to be loved - Find out how your spouse wants to be loved and then practice loving them in that way every day. FYI - they probably don't want to be loved like you do.
  16. Pray together EVERY day - Even when you don't want to, choose to intentionally invite God to be a part of your marriage. Once you have kids, prayer as a family should be part of the daily routine too.
  17. Go to church together EVERY Sunday/Holy Day - We help each other with the most important relationship of all by doing so.
  18. Have fun together - Part of the reason most couples got married is because they enjoyed each other's company. If this means a husband needs to romance his wife or his wife needs to laugh more at his jokes, then do it!
  19. Learn how to ask for forgiveness - Don't make excuses. Don't wait for the other person to ask first. Humble yourself and say "I am sorry, please forgive me", then be quiet and let them forgive you when they are ready to.
  20. Show appreciation for one another - when your husband does something for you without him asking or your wife does your laundry, say "thank you" or "I really appreciate you".
  21. Be selfless in your married sex life - John Paul II even said this was an important part of marriage. Check this out for more about this topic.
This list is not exhaustive. You could be inventive and come up with many other points. If you have one, leave a comment.

Monday, February 3, 2014

14 Things You Should Know About Catholicism


14 Things You Should Know About Catholicism
  1. The Church isn't rich and selling off her "riches" isn't going to help much
  2. Catholic Mass is not boring. If the mass is what the Catholic Church says it is, then it is the most exciting thing to happen in thousands of years. 
  3. The Church is not anti-woman. In fact, the Church is the #1 defender of a women's most basic rights.
  4. Celibacy didn't cause the abuse scandal. If that were so, then we would see higher rates of abuse in Catholic clergy, but we don't
  5. The Church loves the Bible. Heck, the Catholic Church gave the world the Bible. So, why would she not revere the written Word of God?
  6. Catholics are not only called to think for themselves, if they don't they are not truly taking on the faith. You can't believe merely because someone else decided it already, you have to choose belief personally.
  7. Catholics don't worship Mary or the Saints. But, we do ask them to pray for us, because the Bible says they are interceding for us before God.
  8. Purgatory and indulgences are real and yes they are still a part of Catholic teaching.
  9. The Church teaches that everyone is called to love and respect those who have a same-sex attraction. There is no homophobia taught by the Catholic Church. (see CCC 2358)
  10. The Church believes that everyone who goes to Heaven is saved by Jesus Christ. No grace comes from any other source.
  11. The Catholic Church is not anti-sex. Why would Catholic have big families if this were the case? Sex is a wonderful and beautiful thing. Just like any good thing it can be abused.
  12. The Church is growing. In fact, in many parts of the world the population is absolutely exploding
  13. The Saints' lives aren't boring or without sin. In fact, their lives are a lot like our own - but lived with heroic virtue. 
  14. The Pope doesn't have the power to change basic doctrines of the Church, even if he wanted to, and he doesn't want to.
There are many others. What else do you think the world needs to know?