Sunday, November 26, 2006

Deus Caritas Est... Who Am I?

It's been a week since Aggie Awakening 78 took place in Somerville, Texas, but I'm still reminded of the thrilling weekend it was.

The retreat, which has been a fixture at Texas A&M (and St. Mary's) since the early 80's, is now the largest running Awakening retreat in the nation. Visit the Aggie Awakening history page for more information.

Anyway, back to the actual weekend. This past semester has been my 7th Awakening to be a part of (either as a retreater or staffer), and each time it seems to get even more special. For the fact of the matter is that each time you staff a retreat like Awakening is, you learn something more of what the retreat is about and a little more about yourself. For me, the weekend was an affirmation of some things I've read and spoke about with others, but it was also a wake up call for me in certain areas.

I've staffed now six times, and this time—like two times previous—I was a table parent. Being a table parent involves, I think, a little more preparation than a few other staffs (there a handful staffs in all), most importantly, because of the focus solely on the retreaters at one's table. This focus can be a good thing, since it's the spiritual uplifting that we are called to work with on this retreat, but at the same time things can be lacking for those involved... namely sleep.

Fortunately the Lord graced me with enough sleep... and energy... to be ready for the weekend physically. Yet, there are two other components needing preparation for retreats like this: emotional and spiritual preparation. Why emotional? Well, if you cannot become a fortress of emotional strength for your retreaters then the weekend is lessened for them. And spiritual? In the similar vein, a person on spiritually soft footing shall not provide sound bedrock for the retreaters to reside upon.

The retreat itself was a blessing though. It was a coalescing of friends, a common cause, a love for Christ, and a passion to bring that love to the retreaters.

Aggie Awakening 78 Backdrop
Each retreat has a theme, something to focus on or bring focus to for the weekend. This semester's was "Deus Caritas Est... Who Am I?" This theme, based on 1 John 4:16 and Pope Benedict's first Encyclical letter of the same name, was a beautiful way to tie in a lot of what the retreat covers in a different light... a light that has been on my mind over the past semester, especially.

Although the fun-filled, spiritually-renewing weekend is over, the energetic buzz that I felt—akin to one of the tongues of fire received by the Apostles on Pentecost—has diminished some, but I feel that with the retreat, a quiet peace has been given to me. For this, among so many things, I feel so thankful for.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ponderings on Desires

In life there is always a search for what one truly wants in life. These wants are most certainly different than our needs, but in rare cases the two can be as one.

I have undertook the reading of C.S. Lewis' book "The Four Loves" as a result of the recent Awakening I had staffed only last week. The retreat's theme was "Deus Caritas Est... Who Am I?" which means "God is Love...Who Am I?" This theme is based off Pope Benedict's first Encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est," whose title is from 1 John 4:16. In Lewis' book, Lewis describes needs and wants in the confines of the four loves. Through it all, the basic understanding of the book is that there is a gift-love and a need-love in many aspects of life.

However, that’s enough of those musings. They shall remain for later discussion. What it is at heart that I have pondered the past few days over the holiday is this: What do I want for my life? What is it that most pleases me to see? What are my short-term desires and my long-term desires?

You might be saying to yourself at this moment, "Why is this fool talking about his wants and desires? Isn't it good enough to want and to know God's will, fulfill it, and be content?"

Well, as I sit here admiring the sunset of another blessed day, I must say to you this cannot be. For if we are to even attempt to know God's will, to even try to comprehend God's love, one must first know oneself.

But do we really know ourselves? I can tell you at this very moment, I do not and that is not unnatural or wrong. For if we knew ourselves like God knows us, we'd already have our lives planned out until death or we'd be frozen in fear to even see our own face.

So, again, I am pondering my desires. In this pondering, I have learned a few things: the human heart is a thorny object prone to pain; one's achievement matters not on one's own ability but on the willpower granted by God; and life, in all its glory, is incomprehensible to the human mind.

In these brief observations I am reminded of the need of patience in all things, even love. So it is true of the physical and emotional as it is in the spiritual.

How are we to love without patience? By its very statement, it would provide us a paradox and an impossibility. So too is my current desire, my want of the present time. I should apply patience to my love and to my current desire. In time the Lord shall answer me with His will. Only then will my desire be validated or invalidated. Only then should my desire be pursued.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Why God Never Received Tenure at Any University

Now, after all that spiritual talk, here's something to chew on that's a little bit on the lighter side, but all so true on the spiritual. This is courtesy of one of my professors who has it posted on the front of her office door. What a classic!

Why God Never Received Tenure at Any University

1. He had only one major publication.
2. It was in Hebrew.
3. It had no references.
4. It wasn't published in a reference journal.
5. Some doubt He wrote it Himself.
6. He may have created the world, but what has He done since?
7. The Scientific community can't replicate His results.
8. He never got permission from the ethics board to use human subjects.
9. When the experiment went awry, He tried to cover it up by drowning the subjects.
10. He rarely came to class, and when He did He just told the students, "Read the Book."
11. Some say He and His Son teach the class.
12. He expelled His first students.
13. His office hours were irregular and sometimes were held on a mountaintop.
14. Although there were only 10 requirements, most students failed.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Awaken Our Hearts, O Lord

The 78th Aggie Awakening is this weekend, and it has remained on my mind for the past week, and even the weeks previous to it. It's been three years since I've made the retreat as a freshman, and it has been an even greater blessing each successive semester. As my sixth time staffing the retreat, most things will be the same, minus a few kindred souls who have graduated in the past semester, but in all the heart of the retreat will remain ever the same for me. It is a consoling time in each semester, to turn away from the helter-skelter of our lives and to focus so firmly on Christ.

Some might say there is a bit of an "Awakening high" that the participants have after the week is over. Each reaction to the weekend is different to some degree, but all are affected. It is this bonding in Christ, this awakening of our hearts to Christ and in Christ, that I cherish so much. Yet, this blessing amid so many blessings does not come without cost. Alas, there has been much work put in already to prepare for the weekend, much prayer, much love. However, it should be noted that through it all it is a labor, a gift of love that is given and received by all.

It is then my prayer, that through this retreat, my faith life might grow further and the faith lives of the retreaters grow exponentially. I pray that they see the love of Christ at work and, with His love, move mountains.

For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober. Those who sleep go to sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation. For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him.

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who are laboring among you and who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you, and to show esteem for them with special love on account of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good (both) for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:5-18

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail..."

I went to daily mass today. The first reading of the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, struck me as familiar. Surely enough, I remembered reading it once for daily mass at All Faiths Chapel in the past couple years. It truly speaks volumes in its poetic foretelling of the magnificent Grace that the Lord has bestowed upon us, the Faithful.
The angel brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the façade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple, south of the altar. He led me outside by the north gate, and around to the outer gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the southern side. He said to me, "This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh. Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh.

Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail.

Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine."
Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Prayers & Supplications

Oh, how does my heart sing right now. It is with both a happy and heavy heart that I write tonight. For on the one hand, the Lord has granted my prayers, and on the other a friend's has yet to be answered.

Prayer is ironic. There is always the adage "watch what you ask for." This is certainly true and all-apparent. Even when I think I've worded well my prayers of petition, the Lord finds and speaks to my heart in another way. So I'll say it again: prayer is ironic.

For there are unanswered prayers. Ones that we think we receive no answer to. This type of prayers exists, but does it really in this same sense? I think not. For all prayers are answered, each in their own turn. Some are answered even before you know it, and the Lord leaves it there to bear—even many years after you first pray over something—and what you've asked for is granted but possibly not in the way you first intended.

I have encountered this many times before, even to the point of being angry at God. Mind you, this was years ago, before I grew in my faith... before the bedrock was set beneath me. This anger was misplaced. It was a set of feelings of pain, of hurt, of sorrow, and of lost. We all feel these, and we all must learn to cope. Prayer is there to do just that.

I pray that, in this current time, the pain is washed away.

How do I wish that my prayers can wash away the pain that is present now. Pain release your hold of the hearts of the Faithful. Release your grip and allow for Love to enter. For God is Love and God became a man to save us all. Show us His Selfless Love, O Father. Show us your way, O Lord.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:6-9

Monday, November 06, 2006

Remember, Remember the Fourth of November...

Remember, Remember the Fourth of November,
The Rushing, Defense and Loss,
I know of no reason why the coaching treason
Should ever be forgot.

Coach Fran, Coach Fran 'twas his intent
to blow up the Win and everything it meant.
Three score screw-ups of losing to go,
Poor old A&M to overthrow:
By God's providence he best learn
Or face the Aggies' wrath in turn.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, from the rooftops sing.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the Team!
Huzzah! Huzzah!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Dinner at the Miramont: An End to a Great Week

Thursday evening was a wonderful affair. They day was filled with the regular stuff—classes, work on assignments, and a sundry of other various daily tasks. I finished the day with daily mass, something I'm trying to get back into my routine. I left mass a little late, separating from my friends as the headed to Awakening's Fourth Day activities. I had a tinge of want to just stay behind at Fourth Day, but I knew I should head on.

Where was I headed? To my Engineering Scholarship Appreciation Dinner at the all-new Miramont Country Club in Bryan. This year is first for the Scholarship Dinner, as I've been told, and I was flabbergasted when I arrived and saw the front of the country club. It is truly magnificent! The architecture was amazing; the interior was so well done and spacious. Below is the large flower bouquet in the foyer of the...for lack of better word...mansion. It has a "smell radius" of some 12 steps...and faint smells even down the side corridors.

The Flower Bouquet Arrangement in the Miramont Country Club Foyer
I started off the evening talking to various computer science peers and even a couple friends from St. Mary's. One of them in fact won one of the Outstanding Senior Engineering Awards. Again, a wonderful thing.

Then we sat down for dinner in one of the club's ballrooms, beef tenderloin with salad and apple pie with ice cream and coffee for desert! The furnishings and design were all the best...spared no expense, naturally! But what was the best thing of all was that three of us undergraduate students sat down at our table (18) and had something of nearly an hour and a half talk with our department head (Dr. Valerie Taylor). Direct discussion about everything from where we were from, what we have done, what we plan to be doing in the coming years, and even questions on the curriculum itself. Nothing seemed to be off-topic, which was wonderful.

I relished in the opulent setting, the good conversation, the rekindling of lost academic and social relationships, and above all the fun that had transpired that evening. I had to pinch myself at the beginning and at the end of the evening. How did I deserve such treatment, such a blessing, or the opportunity? I cannot feel anything but blessed.

Again this Friday, I felt blessed. I had a statistics exam on Friday after work and the night on the town. What's a guy to do to prepare? Well, again there was a presence... not of stress but of can-do attitude. This was something I could wrap my mind around. This was something that I could do and something I did do, with the help of the Lord's grace. Of which I am absolutely sure.

Things have just fit snugly into place, even after spending the entire night this morning outside Planned Parenthood in Bryan—an entire night with friends. What a blessing!!! We went through three decades of the Rosary, interspersed with Chaplets of Divine Mercy, and had discussion moments throughout. To describe it with simplicity, it was a prayerful and reflective night of prayer and discussion. No topic again seemed off-limit. What a blessing!!!

Now I am here on campus, not sleeping yet. I will make it to ESPN College Gameday this morning for a short while, take that atmosphere and get ready for the best game of the season yet, Oklahoma against my beloved Aggies. Beat the Hell Outta Those Oklahoma Sooners, Ags!

God be blessed. What a great way to end the week. Blessed be the Lord's name.