Monday, December 31, 2007

Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!

Although I don't have much striking to say, I thought I'd end the year with a small note. With this old year nearly out and the new one upcoming, I can only imagine what the new one has in store.

I just know that I'm learning myself...and that God knows what I truly desire to have and what I truly desire to give. Sometimes one just has to stop trying to make things work, and let things just fall in place. It is when one least expects the most magical of things to occur that they do occur...and more often than not just right under you own roof. That was what this Christmas was. It was all that I could hope for, and it was a gem of the future to be.

Once my heart is still and my will patient, then will God's love rain down. May God's love and Christ's peace be with you in this glorious New Year. Don't forget to be light in the darkness of this world and you will surely have a prosperous and blessed new year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I have reached a conclusion in an important point in my life. The lovesick spell that was cast last fall has fallen. My poem The Garden has found its conclusion.

The words I've written this past year I do not wished burned, buried, or forgotten. They are a part of me through and through. My heart is still there remaining silent in those words, but they do not define me—not the whole of me. However, today has been a rainstorm. I have felt the rains pouring down and washing away the past and the chains of the past. Today was what today needed to be and even more. God has certainly provided for me greatly today, much like the waters flowing from the southern side of the temple provided for the fruit trees in the passage from Ezekiel 47. What's even more interesting is a song I heard this evening covered by Norah Jones for the album Higher Ground called I Think It's Going to Rain Today:
Broken windows and empty hallways,
a pale dead moon in a sky streaked with gray.
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it's gonna rain today.

Scarecrows dressed in the latest styles,
the frozen smiles to chase love away.
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it's gonna rain today.

Lonely, lonely.
Tin can at my feet,
I think I'll kick it down the street.
That's the way to treat a friend.

Bright before me the signs implore me:
Help the needy and show them the way.
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it's gonna rain today.

Lonely, so lonely.
Tin can at my feet,
I think I'll kick it down the street.
That's the way to treat a friend.

Bright before me the signs implore me:
Help the needy and show them the way.
Human kindness is overflowing,
and I think it's gonna rain today.

Those words and the chords of music certainly spoke to me, and it confirmed what I felt in my heart. They were chords of hope and consolation. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to hear that song because human kindness is indeed overflowing. Praise be to God!

I am not lost. The love that I felt was not for naught, nor was the pain I felt. It was all for the future, a future of unexpected glory. What that future will entail is unknown to me and known only to God, but I am thankful nevertheless for I have not lost a friend.

I have reread many of the words I have posted here in the past year and a month. There is plenty of pain to be read in those words, plenty of anguish and sadness indeed. However, interwoven amid all the struggle is a persistent chord of joy. Yes, there is joy in those words, and reading those words this day makes the chord even more present for me. The words written have been fulfilled. The spoken and unspoken petitions for mercy in the poems of Standing Next to You, My Friend, The Painter, The Garden, Take This Cup Away from Me, and others all have been met and exceeded.

So what occurred when I let the words be said openly? Peace and understanding. This is God's personal unveiling of Christ to me right now. This has been most assuredly a personal mini-apocalypse within my life, a reconversion of my heart to holiness, more complete holiness. How far have I come from a mere five years ago! Praise be to God!

Finally, let me share a poem I have completed this evening, which I have been kicking around for a month or so, to close my Shattered Dreams anthology. It seemed to be a fitting end to a glorious exploration of others and my own inner self. This experience has been an amazing journey that I am glad to reach the conclusion of and do so also in joy and happiness overflowing. The poem is partly inspired from Ezekiel 47:
The Walled Garden

The bells toll;
The vine grows.
The water flows
From the south wall
And sustains the soul.

The walls are thick,
Cold and defending,
The gray, rough bricks
Hide the walled world within
With grace n’er bending.

The saving waters are falling,
Soaking the parched ground
Where fruit-laden trees are found.
Off the thick walls the sound reverberates;
To the whole world the waters are calling.

From all the garden’s walls
Mighty vines hang from above.
No disease or pest can do any harm
To any of the vine’s branches at all.
They testify to the Creator’s love.

The bells ring out God’s glory,
Calling all back to the garden
To recall God’s n’er-ending love story.
Joyful is the bells' sound
As the ringing repeats again.

His love endures forever,
And great is His Name.
His love endures forever,
And we’ll n’er again be the same.

I will be gone for Advent as a sort of symbolic journey like that of John the Baptist while I regain my bearings for the new year ahead. What a glorious end to the year this has been! It has been worth all the pain and trouble, and I look forward to new beginnings ahead.

Through Christ I am victorious this day. I pray that every day's end is just like this one has—in the peace of Christ.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Personal Apocalypses

I write today a bit timid and also a bit unsure of how to classify my temperament right now. So much seems to be in flux right now it's almost scary. The scariness is not in knowing my acquaintances personalities, but how God is unveiling things before me in ways I didn't think possible.

That is what struck me at Daily Mass yesterday. We're getting to the end of the liturgical year, so the readings are dealing with the "last things" and therefore the study of the last things (the Greek for this is eschatology), especially regarding the last things before the Word was made flesh.

But this also includes the apocalypse, which was brought up in Mass yesterday as a tie into the first reading from Second Maccabees. I've always thought of the term apocalypse to mean the end of this world, but this is only what it has now been degraded to. It is Greek for "the lifting of the veil." Which to me is a curious phrase, but it does make sense, especially for the Nativity. Namely because of the allusion of the Virgin Mary as the New Testament allusion to the Jewish Ark of the Covenant, holding the Holiest of Holies—the Ten Commandment tablets, the Law of God—the Word of God. Compare this to the New Testament comparison of the undefiled Virgin Mary, pure in every sense, holding the Living Word of God, God made flesh. With the Ark of the Covenant one must lift the veils to be in the innermost part of the Temple of Solomon to be in the presence of the Ark. So likewise, the Nativity was indeed the first actual Apocalypse—that being the "unveiling" or "revelation" of Jesus Christ as Messiah.

But this connection does not stop there, as we saw in yesterday's reading from Second Maccabees of Elezar being "an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation," 2 Maccabees 6:31:
Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.
But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement,
he spat out the meat,
and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture,
as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food
which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life.
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately,
because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king;
in this way he would escape the death penalty,
and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.
But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner,
worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age,
the merited distinction of his gray hair,
and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood;
and so he declared that above all
he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.

He told them to send him at once
to the abode of the dead, explaining:
“At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now,
I will prove myself worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously
for the revered and holy laws."

Eleazar spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed,
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,

he groaned and said:
"The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him."
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.
2 Maccabees 6:18-31

This beautifully courageous story speaks volumes in a very christological way. It radiates the story of Christ himself in his ultimate model of courage and unforgettable example of virtue.

Father Brian spoke of using the example of Christ in our lives everyday and of having especially relating that example of Christ on the Cross for those going into marriage. Which reminds me of the Christopher West quote:
"Love, and the demands of love, hurt. If we don't think love involves suffering, we have not spent much time looking at a crucifix."

We are to love like He had loved and still loves us. The Sacrifice is an active participation in His One Eternal Sacrifice through the sharing of His Blessed Body and Blood through the Holy Eucharist, which aptly means Thanksgiving—what a nice tie-in for TOMORROW! What joy! What better day to go to Mass than tomorrow! So we are called to share in His Sacrifice.

But how do we share in it? It cannot simply be going to Mass passively. We Cradle Catholics are certainly taught that since the earliest of catechists. No, we are called to be active in our faith, too. We are called to bring Christ to others, especially that in the form of His love, the Selfless Love, our true human nature, not the one that the Devil spreads upon this earth of Selfish Love. Too often it is easier to take than to receive. And when we do take we even forget to give thanks. That is what makes this time of year so important and why it should be important to us all. We are called to give thanks not only for our own personal gifts but for the Ultimate Gift given to us: Christ's love outpoured for the World.

So also did Father Brian in yesterday's homily include a couple of quotes from the truly splendid (all puns intended) encyclical from Pope John Paul II's The Splendor of Truth (Veritatis Splendor):
By their eloquent and attractive example of a life completely transfigured by the splendour of moral truth, the martyrs and, in general, all the Church's Saints, light up every period of history by reawakening its moral sense. By witnessing fully to the good, they are a living reproof to those who transgress the law (cf. Wis 2:12), and they make the words of the Prophet echo ever afresh: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (Is 5:20).Veritatis Splendor 93
And again from The Splendor of Truth:
The lives of the saints, as a reflection of the goodness of God — the One who "alone is good" — constitute not only a genuine profession of faith and an incentive for sharing it with others, but also a glorification of God and his infinite holiness. The life of holiness thus brings to full expression and effectiveness the threefold and unitary munus propheticum, sacerdotale et regale which every Christian receives as a gift by being born again "of water and the Spirit" (Jn 3:5) in Baptism. His moral life has the value of a "spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1; cf. Phil 3:3), flowing from and nourished by that inexhaustible source of holiness and glorification of God which is found in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist: by sharing in the sacrifice of the Cross, the Christian partakes of Christ's self-giving love and is equipped and committed to live this same charity in all his thoughts and deeds. In the moral life the Christian's royal service is also made evident and effective: with the help of grace, the more one obeys the new law of the Holy Spirit, the more one grows in the freedom to which he or she is called by the service of truth, charity and justice.Veritatis Splendor 107
We, as Christians, must be ready to be those idealized evangelists that is described in the second passage from The Splendor of Truth. Just as Abraham's readiness to follow God's will to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22), we are called to rid ourselves of our selfish ways...and not only become good people but saintly—holy—people, people set apart.

We must do this every part of our lives. Just as dead branches of a vine must be pruned so must we prune our lives of the sin, we must look introspectively at ourselves to change what isn't of God. And so that is the hardest part of it. We must love the Beloved without request, we must do for the Beloved what is pleasing to the Beloved out of a selfless love.

Every day is an apocalypse. We are called to have our own unveilings of Christ in our lives as our Savior and love Him even greater—but not only Him but Him in the stranger, in the enemy, in the most undesirables of undesirables. We are to love Him in the Other we see each day, in each of our own personal beloved.

This is where I am troubled. I am two persons right now, a person beside himself, and I am a great deal unsure of the course of action I am to take. I've heard news that I probably should not be privy to, but it has been made known for a reason I yet not fully realize or comprehend. I heard it last night, and it was not a surprise—far from a surprise, indeed. I was shaken though because it awoke me from a numbness I felt these past few weeks over her. It was something to be taken care of later, so as to not agitate my aching heart.

I have felt numb, not to life but to love. I am trying to offer up what is in my heart. And it becomes even tougher as the days pass. The more it resides there, the more it turns and twists. The words I heard last night twisted my heart in newer ways, in nerve-racking ways. It was the third conversation this week to push me to the subject of addressing the past year and the feelings dwelling within me.

I could not concentrate last night, but I know that I must prune my heart of the many dead branches it has. I am not lost on the Path, for I feel God's presence working through this all. No, I haven't felt God more than I feel Him now.

As I heard recently from a priest, unfortunately I've forgotten which now, faith in God and a turning over to His Will doesn't provide an answer book, but it does provide a guiding light to the Truth in our lives. I only need allow the Light to illumine my steps even more.

These things revealed are what I am most thankful for these days. Praise be to God and may His Word ever dwell in this World and the Next.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Picking up Shattered Dreams

What a woeful week this past one has been! I've been through a roller coaster of emotions trying to categorize and prioritize everything, but it is to no avail!

I'm continuing to see and hear the personal connections within the Mass readings these days, and it makes me want for the next day even more. I fell back a few steps last week in my heart and with my actions toward God, but I'm further bolstered now in His Grace for the week ahead.

Furthermore, I've started to let more things out into the open from my heart, to explore deeper with others what all that's within means for me. I need to still find out if this twisting and pulling that God is doing to my heart is something that is pushing me in a new direction in my vocation: to the Church or to continue to explore the eventual path married life. I continue to test the water still but with that ever-present toe in the water. But how do I long for a family, too! So many questions pop up, but through God's grace I am able to continue to explore the human heart even more with as delicate touch as I can deliver. This love that I feel for the Other is not blind, no, but I still do love her dearly. How dearly!

I am reminded of the Nina Simone song from Bella (which I promise to post about eventually), Nearer Blessed Lord:
I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith,
And be closer drawn to Thee.

Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine

Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side

My soul look up with a steadfast hope,
my will be lost in Thine

So draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side
I want the married life; I want the romance, the passion, the hassle, the sacrifice of married life. It is an alluring rose blossom dancing in the wind, its stem bowing back and forth in the wind.

I love Christ, His Church, and His will with all my passion. I move within the dark. The voices speak to me in the dark, and I am put to rest contemplating the emptiness I feel. I have felt that for nights without end these past months. Some nights are better, but I still return to the sadness, the desolation that comes out of not seeing a fulfilled romance. I question God. I've gotten angry with Him, angry to the point of sin. Then the remorse comes; I feel the actions that I've done act like a scythe across the belly, pouring out blood—my blood—onto the parched ground below. I have caused this sin, no one else but me, and yet my sadness remains even after forgiveness. Why? Happiness hasn't been found. I have distanced myself from the Font of my being.

What are we to do in the bouts of desolation? We are to turn to our friends. They are those who act in Christ's tread. We are to love each other with a love so grand. And yet, I feel the darkness no matter the amount of love God puts into my life. It's there, a specter of sadness. I grow weary of the future ahead, and then rays of light come in to brighten the day.

It's in those unexpected times of peace that come when bundled with sorrows, reminders of unfulfilled love, that move me the most. I had one last week and wrote about it. It was like a waterfall rushing over me, and my breath was taken from me. The words came to me the following day:

Standing Next to You

The cold is out this solemn night;
With each step, I feel its touch.
We move in the darkness,
Step by step, in bitter silence.

I feel the cold between us,
Distance brought by brutal reality,
One where touch is an impossibility
And everything isn’t as it once was.

I measure every step
And count every breath.
How many nights haven’t I slept?
How many times have I wept?

We take our place on the route
To mark with others the end of another’s life.
How so is life full of chance,
But still I don’t know why you’re in mine.

Standing next to you,
I wish you could be mine
And that I could be yours, too.
Then my heart would be fine.

I stand there next to you.
How do I still long for you!
There my heart remains, silent for you,
Glad to be just next to you.

The rifle volleys are fired,
And the bugle calls out mournfully.
We shuffle away that night quietly
With my heart so greatly moved.

How do I tell you
Of the love I feel for you,
Of the feeling that within me grew,
And rid myself of these bonds, too?

The cold still remains with me
Even after that fateful night.
My heart still yearns for you,
But I must defer my happiness for thine.

My wish to our Maker then is only this:
Take away my happiness if it means for her only bliss.

The words above are nothing more than a reflection of those sorrows, sorrows caused by distance that was no fault of our own or of God's either for that matter. But these are sorrowful distances nevertheless that I've decided to put to words. There is not a night that I don't think about her, but I still don't know where she belongs in my life. I am mystified and continue to wrap myself in a cloudy dream watching as the clouds drift on by.

I delay my happiness for the safety of hers and to not break the tranquility found even amid the sorrowful doldrums of my heart. How do I love her! But I cannot.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gem Moments & Decoding Conversations

There remains so much to living that I am amazed at, especially the little things that go flying by from day to day. Even when I slow down to see the smaller things, so much just slips through my fingers like water cascading down from a font, freely falling.

My hardest task is decoding conversations. What is she truly getting at? I'm, now more than ever, completely perplexed of the importance of one incident not wholly her fault in which it opens a whole stream of conversation while the words shared last fall didn't result in a mere shrug of the shoulder. Or is it that I put too much stock in what was shared last fall? Did I read too much into the friendship? I wish I could figure that out.

We're going to Bella very soon this afternoon. There's a group of us going on a road trip from the church so I am extremely excited about that and the fun as a group we'll have. The movie looks to be a very good one, and I might even entertain a review here on the blog.

Last night was fun, too. The Engineering Scholarship dinner was last night, and it seems I get to sit with an interesting group each year. Last year was my department head. This year it was an exec who I heard speak while I was interning in Austin this past summer. What an enjoyable experience!

Oh, yeah...and I capped off things with a pumpkin carving party with some really good friends last night, too. The escapades went on late into the night, but I found it to be a nice reminder of last year and the fun we had then that is so hard to come by now. It was certainly the best event of the week, even if it was only to get to visit with them for a short while. The evening was another of those gem moments I love the most.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Lord and My God!

The classes continue to spiral, but things will survive. The relationships are stagnant, but they will survive. The future is clouded, but it will remain. Nothing is impossible with God, and I am firm in my path with Him. What wonders are there to be seen if only watched closely enough.

I think this has been the problem for me the past few semesters, but especially with this one. I am rushing to the finish line and not paying enough attention to the present. No matter how strong I am, I cannot change something unmovable. I must work within to work without what and who I love.

This past weekend was the PAX (Pursuing After Christ) Retreat in Caldwell, Texas. I wasn't sure what to expect, or what to want to take away from it. However, God did provide in ways so wonderful and unexpected. A friend who went on the retreat, David, put it best as his hope was to have a "scheduled escape." I love that phrase. We often are too "busy" to have a scheduled escape. We work ourselves to death or drive ourselves senseless trying to achieve an unachievable goal. The great adage of "everything in moderation" is so fitting here. So it was a wonderful scheduled escape, but it was also much more than that.

There were sixteen of us on the retreat, so it was a very personal retreat, one filled with free time to contemplate. It wasn't a busy-bee retreat, ones that I'm so accustomed to. It was very much a thinking retreat. Not on the rat race of life, but more of finding tools to apply in the havoc that tends to be at least my life.

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said: "There are two ways of waking up in the morning. One is to say, 'Good morning, God,' and the other is to say, 'Good God, morning!'"[1, 2] I think we should remind ourselves to wake up the first way and not the second.

The retreat this past weekend was more than a retreat. It was an awakening of my soul down to its deepest parts, one that shook me, one that turned me over with a deepening so great, so powerful that it will stay with me ever more. It was a conversion so amazing and so piercing into my heart that I know I did not believe before in Him so fervently as I do now.

So, I wish to share with you some words I quickly wrote from that evening. I was so moved in the meditation and contemplation on the Gospel passage from John 20. What it came to be was that conversion of the heart, to making things new. These words below cannot but only attempt in describing what kind of experience found within that hour of adoration, the piercing flashes of light with desolation and a swelling of consolation from God. It was an experience so strong I've never felt before, but I know that it was placed before me for a reason, and I must carry on as the mountaintop visit has gone away again:
The Canticle

How do I describe this experience I have been thrust into?
How do I compare it to any other experience in which I have ever felt or borne in my experience?
How can I doubt the Lord any further?
How can I not love Him as I know now?

What grace has been given to me!
What love has indwelled in me!
What caress of the heart have I felt!

My heart has seen the Lord. It has walked in His presence, His True Presence in all His Glory. His hand has calmed my nervous heart. His mercy has washed over me with all compassion this world can provide. His Light has filled my heart. It has graced me with a brightness so blinding. It has filled me completely.

With all my heart shall I continue to praise you, O God, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

With all my heart shall I sing of the Lord. I will proclaim from the depths to the heights of every land. I will speak the Word of Truth to all the lands all the days of my life. Amen.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bonfire of the Heart

Fear is a natural thing of life, but there is another kind a fear that paralyzes and tears one down. It can come from all sorts of areas of one's life, but the result is the same: inaction and weakness. Not only does fear take away hope, it makes us weak when we least expect it.

So this week was a decently okay week, but the clouds of fear did roll in, seeing as it is midterm season now. And so I receive the exam grades back, which didn't help things in general. I just feel so drained. The best way I can describe it is with an analogy.

So we have a ship, which I'll conveniently call the Titanic. Unsinkable, right? So this past week it hit an iceberg...or two. Now we have a gash in the hull and it's taking on water...sinking soon, yes.

What am I to do? What happens when fear gets a hold of us? We start arranging the deck chairs and pretend nothing's wrong. The band continues to play. What did we do with the lifeboats? We cast them overboard a week ago. What now?

Well, if we let fear take us over we don't realize that there's a few other options, more sensible options. One is to let the compartments flood, but only so much. We can take some water on and still survive, ship intact, and the passengers safely reaching shore in one piece and dry. We seal off the compartments and we limp to the finish line. So that's where I'm now.

Relatively speaking, I found the controls to shut the compartments last night. Something about last night was different, intrinsically changing. The Eucharistic Adoration was a moment at a spiritual mountaintop. Alas, we, like Moses, cannot stay at the mountaintop. But I left yesterday evening refreshed, renewed, and ready to implement my plan with all conviction and succeed. I know I will succeed.

At Daily Mass yesterday Father Brian mentioned something about fear in his homily, which was on my mind earlier in the day thinking about how I could salvage my classes. We are called not to have fear of this world. Nor are we are called to fear God's punishment so much because He loves us. We are to fear losing His love. How do we lose His love? Does He take it from us? No, it's always there. It's when we reject His love, a love we do not deserve nor have a valid reason to reject. We should fear losing Him, and let that drive us to Him even further, with even more passion. That is what it means to be God-fearing.

I was disappointed a little yesterday before the late night adoration, and it had to do with relationships and my conflicted heart. It seemed my heart was pulled in a new way between last week and those hardships I created then and now. God then put a stumbling block, a wake-up call before me, yesterday. It was in a most intriguing conversation my friend and I had, as I've never quite dealt with one as I did yesterday. I panicked a little. Then I reversed my thinking for leading it down solely a path of friendship. I like her more than that.

But the most ironic things is that it the third brick wall I've faced in the past year, almost precisely a year. And this time it's God working in her heart. How can I argue with God? It's always a losing battle. It was more of a bout of frustration, but it reminded me of the thoughts I've listed before with my April post Roller Coaster of Emotions.

I want to love her, but that road's blocked again. We've got to exit the road again and take another detour, but soon we'll return to the road once more.

And so, finally before I go for the weekend for a retreat, my first to go on (and not just staff, like Awakening) since my freshman year all those four years ago, I want to share a poem I wrote late in September called Bonfire of the Heart.

It was supposed to be something of a descriptive love poem of sorts, but it turned out different and I explored the themes of darkness and light. It brought me to Christ and how best to describe Him in the Eucharist. And so that's what I did. Christ, in the Eucharist, is our Bonfire of the Heart. He is our Daily Bread, our Saving Grace, Love beyond belief, o glorious part of the Blessed Trinity. He is our all.

So, my dear friends look upon the Bonfire and let your soul rest because you are home in Christ and shall forever be blest.

Bonfire of the Heart

The time draws near
To draw friends and strangers
Out of the darkness that lingers
And into the light that is here.

We are called to love
And not to give into present fears,
Opening our hearts and lending our ears
To the gifts given from above.

Add to these fires, every one of you,
The fears and doubts that you have,
And, in turn, Christ will make anew
Your heart with His rod and staff.

See before you the Bonfire of the Heart,
Christ's everlasting gift, His Sacrifice to you.
We are to share in His Sacrifice and take part,
Lifting up our struggles and making our lives new.

Rest in the Lord, all you troubled,
For the Bonfire still burns this day.
His Love and His Sacrifice are forever coupled,
And we are to take up our own cross and follow His Way.

Look upon the Bonfire and let your soul rest.
You are home in Christ and shall forever be blest.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Faith Like a Mustard Seed

It has been a most certainly a taxing week, the most taxing of the semester. However, things that must have been said and must have been done were done and done to the best of my ability.

It is a sad day when a person becomes the person he does not wish to be in a relationship, the jerk and the uncaring one that seems to always be there when a relationship tears itself into two separate beings once more. I had been on the opposite side of a friendship that stung when it was changed by the other. Now I am the one doing the stinging. And it hurts me so, but I know in the end the relationship needed to be put into the light of day and analyzed and discussed completely and openly between the two of us.

What hurts me the most is that I did it to a friend who I know was afflicted before, and I have thus continued to afflict now through my actions and thoughts. I thought I was strong enough. Strong enough to take away that affliction, but it was quick for me to see this past week that I could not take away this affliction. No, this affliction was far too buried down. The roots of past transgressions against her too firmly rooted into the heart of her.

Father Brian's homily today struck me so; it brought me to tears up after listening to it. It was speaking of her heart and its condition, though he did not know it. Amazingly enough, the homily has reverberated back to me even now, these hours afterward, simply because of the imagery used.

The homily focused on today's Gospel reading from Luke. He explained that the Lord had to use two individual parables because the first was not sufficient for the apostles understanding. The first tells of the power of faith, of its potency, but not of its purpose. That is why the one with the faith of a mustard seed cannot just say to the mulberry tree "be uprooted and planted in the sea." No, it has no purpose to it. It is in the second parable of the reading that we are given that purpose. Namely, we are to do as we are commanded by our Master and then say: "We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do."

It is here, too, that Father Brian turned the reading almost on its head. It was here that he related the mulberry tree to be those sins and transgressions so deeply rooted into one's heart. That through even that smallest amount of faith, that of the size of a mustard seed, can we through Christ and through following His Will as Christians be able to move the mulberry tree so deeply rooted in our hearts and to have it placed into the sea.

Now think of the sea as God's innumerable and unsurpassable love. It turns the parable even further, to its completion. Let us uproot those mulberry trees according to God's will.

From today's Gospel reading:
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith."
The Lord replied,
"If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

"Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
'Come here immediately and take your place at table'?
Would he not rather say to him,
'Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished'?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, 'We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'"
-- Luke 17:5-10

My friend was told she was not a good Christian, essentially that she was of little faith. She was made inferior by their condemnation, by their reproach. And it hurts me so. Because if we look at today's readings, especially at the Gospel reading today, we can see the poor in spirit, those lacking in faith but not in desire to grow are truly the righteous ones.

As the first Beatitude says: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3) But if you read further into the Beatitudes, the eighth reverberates the first in this respect: "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10) Both of their rewards is the kingdom of heaven, which is important. It shows that these two are equal importance, of equal worth to our attention. She is far from a bad Christian, but one seeking the holiness of God.

Furthermore, if we look into the root of the word "holy" in Hebrew we have "Qadash," which is, at its heart: "to be set apart." We are all called to be holy and to be good, but to be both is not the same. We can be holy which is good, but simply good is not necessarily holy. We must be set apart, and we are not to turn away the Other in their times of need.

I wanted her to hear the words I heard to today, to see the love I've felt today, but I have failed because I had the faith of the mustard seed—the power—but not the will—the purpose—to do fully the Will of the Master. I could not just say to the mulberry trees so deeply rooted in her heart—all that affliction—and say be uprooted and planted into the sea. And for that reason I am an unprofitable servant; I have done what I was obliged to do but failed by trying to do more than what I cannot do in my current state, which is love like God loves and do so fully with all of my heart.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Four Loves: Appreciative Love

Well, I'm writing again. I was a bit concerned with posting the last post, but it seemed to be a necessary step. For me all I have are the words to sort through to make sense of the emotions.

I don't know what I am longing for. I had a mini-crisis yesterday when I got to thinking about next year. Never have I been this clueless. At the same time it is a tad liberating to think that I don't have any big requirements of where I should be.

The freedom could be intoxicating, but for me this kind of freedom isn't free. It comes with my own expectations, my own concerns of how the future is to unfold. I need to be tied down, tied to a commitment. It motivates me. Without that motivation—whether that be academic, personal, or professional—I am nothing. With that motivation I have the willpower to make things happen, to pursue things and people to the ends of the Earth.

There are a few people that fit that build, but I don't sense that same drive with even a few of them. But this lies again in the area from my last post. I don't know what kind of friend I am supposed to be. More importantly, I don't know if my reality is set where theirs is. As it is, a relationship of any kind needs not reality, only mutual understanding. Where I am lacking is the sureness of the mutual understanding.

How does one address the feelings, the stirrings of the heart for a friend? If there was one thing I wish I knew, of all the secrets of the world, this would be the one I would want to know the most. I doubt at times how well-rooted my friends are even now, after all that we've been through. I fear if I even push the least again the friendship that it will fall over like a plant weakly rooted in soft ground.

I'm now endeavoring to read The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis again, a year after reading it before. I read it for the first time last fall, the most dynamic emotional period in my life. It was then when those rose-colored glasses came off. It was then when I awoke from my emotional slumber. This awakening is something I have yet to fully reconcile, but the battle is being won slowly. I read The Four Loves last fall to attempt to gain some insight into the feelings that waged within me, attempting to discern what those turbulent feelings were exactly. I still don't know what those feelings were about. I still don't know where that friendship stands. It stands on the shakiest of ground, but the book did provide some comfort in reading.

What I did learn from reading it that first time, which prompted my first poem—the one that is contained as a seed in every one of them since—and the relationship that it indirectly spoke of is encapsulated in the following quote from the book:
Need-love says of a woman 'I cannot live without her'; Gift-love longs to give her happiness, comfort, protection - if possible, wealth; Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.

Yes, those weren't the four loves. This pertains Lewis's initial divisions of the four loves' components. I wrestled with all three sub-types of love for the other that fall and into the spring. Slowly that love was put into its correct perspective and has now remained part-and-parcel wrapped in appreciative love. However, the seeds of the others remain and, with only the slightest of touches, can bring alive those sleeping dreams.

What my hope is in re-reading The Four Loves now is to do a self-assessment and to awaken myself to the inadequacies, to learn myself even better so that I can become a better person, a better friend, and hopefully in the future the kind of lover that I want to strive to be.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Out of the Night

There has been a distinct quiet wistfulness I have felt in walking across campus the past few evenings. I keep catching myself thinking back to the years gone by. I continue to think of what's been accomplished, what I wish I could have changed, and what I now miss. What worries me is that these ponderings are coming before the task is done. I think I'm getting ahead of myself.

Sometimes I wish I didn't care so much about the past. I think that's where most of my stiffness and over caution comes from. It seems that the past is always there to tell me: "No, don't go a step further." It's as though I am trying to not repeat past mistakes or to be burned once more, but it happens no matter how much I try to subconsciously stop change. I have the tendency to want to keep the pictures perfect, to not allow the imperfections to be seen.

But how does change sting so! Words spoken and actions done that sever the past hurt the most. Somehow I need to find my way through it though the maze. Somehow, but I am still unsure how. The future seems to remain in a hazy fog.

What's more, it seems I am reminded how much I am clueless to what others want of me. I don't know what kind of friend I should be. All the lines have become blurred for me. It's as though someone took off my rose-colored glasses I wore for my first three years in college and put on a set of glasses that blurred my vision. My heart has been thrown into this blurred state.

If life is truly a dance, as so many country songs state as matter of fact, then I've been stepping on a lot of toes lately. Too many, some might say. But it's through these missteps and miscues that we learn who we are and who others truly are. Masterpiece pictures we first saw become less-than-perfect pieces of flawed art. But, in the end, it's important that the dance occurred in the first place.

And so that brings me back to the blurred heart of mine, which has caused me to lose my way on the Path. It's by God's grace that I am back on the Path and His alone. However, the journey is not close to being over.

I have not been consoled in my troubled heart. I do not sense an intellectual or physical inadequacy. No, my weakness is emotional. And, sad to say, it has been the case for the longest of times. And the only thing that is keeping this unleveled stool of mine from falling asunder is God and my faith in Him.

The question for me is this: will my faith hold out? Will it see itself through to the end? Will it wait on the Lord with all might that can be mustered? Or will it wilt when put to the test? Is not the test a daily ordeal? How can we not be concerned for each of our next failures? It is through the Lord that we are able to stave off the doubts of the heart, to stave off the temptation of giving up and giving in.

Still, I want my heart to be broken. I want my heart to be broken and bruised. I want to have my toes stepped on as we all move out on the dance floor. And yet that dance partner hasn't come around. I am adept enough to know that these things don't just fall into one's lap. No, it's something to be searched for, but maybe I've been looking in the wrong places.

However, that's been the most confounding part because I thought it was honorable to be looking where I have. How confounding it is. It may be these words that have been written by my hand that incriminate me to this hapless state I am in currently. It is these words that chain me to being alone. However, I cannot purport something else to be my true self for this is me. I cannot put on old clothes that hide my true self. These words past and present are a part of me. And yet I continue to weigh myself down with chains still further.

Maybe I should just put on the rose-colored glasses once more and pretend everything is okay. However, for me it isn't okay, and there is no way to return to that blissful ignorance of the heart from my youth.

My spiritual dark night of the summer maybe over—thanks be to God—but my emotional dark night is here to stay for the long term. How do I pray that it will depart me for it haunts me still.

It may be the cross that I am to bear. It is through these struggles that the Lord will grant the peace of heart that I so desire. It is through Him that all things do come, and for that I shall remain patient as best as my heart can remain.

Out of the Night

What love do I feel within me;
It’s the peace you bring, O Lord.
The tranquility is not my doing,
Rather the work of your calming hands.

What merciful ways in which you free
For which my heart must sing, O Lord.
The fortitude is quickly swelling,
Ascending like an eagle over troubled lands.

Your soothing presence before me
Covers me with a grace so stirring, O Lord.
It counteracts against the temptations growing,
Subduing the Foe with a might so grand.

The Foe is no match to thee;
You are mightier than any realm or king, O Lord.
I am thankful for your merciful giving
So that I might, with you, so firmly stand.

I am forever grateful for my now renewed sight
And for being brought out from that cold dark night.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Spirit of Louisiana & Post-Katrina Two Years Later

My, what changes in two years and what doesn't. Today is the second anniversary of the manmade and natural disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. It is this day that I honor the city of New Orleans, my birthplace and my cultural home. The city is what has helped define who I was and who I am now. Katrina has since wiped the landscape of my home. However, what's far worse than the rain, storm surge, or strong winds is the lack of progress done by the governments and government entities to getting a city that must be saved—not because of cultural sentiments alone but for the national significance for trade and industry—saved. It is a vital component in the nation's shipping, oil, and agriculture industries. And the Federal government, especially the Corps of Engineers, has failed horribly. Read more on that in Douglas Brinkley's recent Washington Post Op-Ed piece Reckless Abandonment.

The Corps has not been anything more than a stumbling block organization that works simply off Congressional earmarks. The Corps has failed the city's citizens; Congress has failed the city's citizens; the President has failed the city's citizens; the State of Louisiana has failed the city's citizens; and the City of New Orleans has failed the city's citizens.

City must be saved. The levees must be fully repaired. The Federal government must follow through its obligations. It is sickening to see the lack of progress in rebuilding because of a lack of funding and the lack of urgency by the Federal government...especially President George W. Bush. So he'll be in New Orleans on the anniversary, but all he has done and will do is mere lip service to what needs to be done. There is no wonder why so many dislike the jobs done by both Congress and the president. It is time for change and it should start with them, or the people of New Orleans will drift even further from national consciousness.

The one thing that is still going strong is the city's powerhouse local CBS affiliate station, WWL-TV. It broadcasted throughout the storm, covered live streaming coverage on the web 24-7 for the entire week of the storm and its aftermath, and provided me an amazing porthole into the manmade disaster that followed the rains, winds, and storm surge.

I remember the station from my youth and it's ever present "The Spirit of Louisiana" station advertising campaign. According to WWL-TV's web site, the campaign's line was inspired by the now-late WWL-TV journalist Bill Elder in the 20 years before the start of the campaign, which started in 1990. You can read more about the history of the station’s image campaign here.

The "Spirit of Louisiana" image campaign was in its 15th season when Hurricane Katrina tried to drown the Spirit. Trust me, however, it is alive and well. See some of the pre-Katrina videos (the ones from the 1990's) here and the last ones from 2005 here. The city will never be the same again, but it has the tenacity to outlive other calamities and surely this time too a better city will rise from the floodwaters.

With the help of the media and groups willing to make the city better in the long-term, the city will be back better than ever, but we cannot let the reconstruction go by idly. It is time for us as a nation to take on our responsibility as one that can do most anything we put our might to and accomplish the tasks that need to be done not because it should be done but because it must be done.

May the Spirit of Louisiana that makes Louisiana home not fail a city so in need of leadership. Vive la Louisiane!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Queen of Angels: O Fair Women of Heart's Desire

I think it's fitting that I post one of my latest poems here on Our Blessed Mother's main feast day. Her example of serenity, of submission to God's will is awe-inspiring. It is something that I have a hard time trying to emulate. Just her words in the Gospel are moving:

"And Mary said:
'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.'" -- Luke 1:39-55

I have found myself struggling again...I've been too prideful and too wrapped in my own concern. It is time to have that change. I know He is waiting for my answer, even as there is silence from both of us. Silence is sometimes the best remedy since it is through the silence that you can hear the faintest of voices calling out. And that makes all the difference in the world. May Mother Mary be a shining example of us all in approaching our faith lives:

O Fair Woman of Heart’s Desire

O Fair Woman of Heart’s Desire
You transfigure all of humanity.
You direct our minds to something higher,
And you do so with total serenity.

You accepted the burdensome task as a mere girl,
And gave of yourself to raise the Savior of the World.
What love do we wish to emulate
As you took in all things into your heart to contemplate.

Even when the skies went dark at the hour,
You were there when your Son’s blood was shed,
Opening your heart to love quietly in his stead
And through His Grace open our hearts like flowers.

Your complete submission to God’s will says it all,
So much so that even when made low you stand tall.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Friend

My dear friend, how do I see you?
When we first met,
Such a memory was set,
But now my heart is so blue.

Night after night my warped affection
Became as clear as day
As I saw you in such a colored way,
My heart blind to reality’s complexion.

Without a doubt, I know my feelings are right,
But I cannot help but remember you are not mine.
My heart aches so, with your words so kind,
But life isn’t so kind to keep you in this light.

My emotions have tossed and turned
As a boat on the seas rocks to and fro
In a storm where the strong gales do blow.
Nothing has changed since in my heart so spurned.

I do not blame you, my friend,
For not knowing these words composed
Because I have kept it in,
Not telling a single soul.

It’s not that I want your love;
I’m quite far beyond that.
I know your heart is with another, so wrapped.
What I desire is your understanding of my pain.

I have done this before,
Wrapping my heart in attraction so impossible
That I thought burying it could be possible,
But stronger have the fires of my desires thus roared.

I don’t want to hurt what you have.
I’ve prayed for the both of you,
In good times and in bad,
But my heart needs freedom from you.

I do care for you deeply.
I’ve prayed for your relationships,
But I also wished for something else secretly
And now wish those words didn’t come off my lips.

I have prayed over this,
With my heart unsure of its wish.
It isn’t me to be acting so,
But through this all my heart has been made low.

My friend, all I ask of you is this:
Don’t break my heart when I finally tell you
Of the impossibilities I have so wished,
For all I wanted to say was "I love you."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thy Will Be Done: Going the Distance

There are a few things I feel most compelled to write about this evening after Awakening. It is certain there is always a spiritual high after events such as these, but today's was distinctly different I quickly realized while reflecting during my drive back to Austin afterwards.

I am convinced of myself that this feeling is new to all eight other times before. This is a time of rebirth in my life. It is about seeing the world from a larger perspective all the time and also seeing it at the most personal of levels. It's about reflecting on past relationships—of faults brought to them and of faults taken away from them. It's also about setting new resolutions and commitments that have outgrown the original that were grown within me and taking those another step further. However, it is not merely an additional step—far from that—it is a radical way of looking at things.

Faith, especially that which is taught from birth, has its natural progressions of understanding God and how to please Him. The progression goes from the original outlook of life of "I should do whatever I have to do to get what I really, really want (but don't know why I want it)," to an earnest desire to please God and still ask Him for the occasional personal request (so-called "miracles"), to a willingness to commit oneself to God (but with particular reservations), to a total submission to God's where all reservations are removed and there is a total trust in God.

I think I was somewhere in the second stage this past year with a troubled relationship. I was essentially asking God to perform a miracle for me to change a relationship to conform to my understanding of how it should be. Over the months, I have realized the errors in this way of understanding.

It wasn't until this weekend in Eucharistic Adoration that I detached the worries over the relationship and looked at it in a more holistic approach. If I were to put myself in the others' shoes, where would that put the troubles of my heart? I realized then that it is through measured understanding that these troubles of my heart ought to be discussed openly but also in a calm, rational way. Pure passion leads down the road of irrationality, so tempered passions are needed.

Another thing this weekend of prayer addressed was the spiritual dryness that grew this summer due to exacerbated tensions of already strained friendships. It loosened the elastic stretch of these tensions and lightened the struggles that I have laid upon myself. It was through solitary prayer that this opened my heart to re-tapping the communal strengths of loving, unassuming friendships. It decreased the distance of compassion and brought compassion and caring to the forefront. It was the prayer and devotion to God that "popped" these rubber bands of snares set before my feet in my day-to-day life of this past year.

Yet, more importantly in the retreat's final hours God did something even more gracious and loving. He gave His children a clear message in which to follow: trust in Him completely so that in our earnest desire to try to please Him in everything, one does so even when we come up short, and that we are to trust in Him to continue to guide us to the right path even after these shortcomings, correcting our ways and conforming us to His will.

It was during these final hours of the retreat that the final talk was given and the Mass was celebrated. And these two were intertwined even more than usual. The Mass is our guide to pleasing God. It is that reenactment and remembrance and actual presence of Jesus there in the Mass that so moves us as the Faithful. In the words that Thomas shared in the last talk, he discussed the Mass as our focal point, the roadmap given by Christ himself for our daily journey: "The Lord's Prayer."

It is here that as he also quoted Thomas Merton:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

-Thomas Merton from
Thoughts in Solitude

And, in reflection, he shared the song Go the Distance:
I have often dreamed
Of a far-off place
Where a hero's welcome
Will be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I'm meant to be

I'll be there someday
I can go the distance
I will find my way
If I can be strong
I know ev'ry mile
Will be worth my while

When I go the distance
I'll be right where I belong

Down an unknown road
To embrace my fate
Though that road my wander
It will lead me to you
And a thousand years
Would be worth the wait
It might take a lifetime
But somehow I'll see it through

And I won't look back
I can go the distance
And I'll stay on track
No, I won't accept defeat
It's an uphill slope
But I won't lose hope
Till I go the distance
And my journey is complete

But to look beyond the glory is the hardest part
A hero's strength is measured by his heart

Like a shooting star
I will go the distance
I will search the world
I will face its heart
I don’t care how far
I can go the distance
Till I find my hero’s welcome
Waiting in Your arms

I will search the world
I will face its harms
Till I find my hero's welcome
Waiting in your arms

This song was, for me, the capstone of the retreat. The images shared during the music were of the previous talks of the weekend. The words spoke to me of why I was there—to seek God in all His ways and follow Him—and why it was most important for me in my heart to continue on this journey with my friends around me. This "hero's welcome" isn't at a distance. It's right there in front of me in its current form, in the flesh and blood of those friends before me. I have no need to wander, for all I need is there before me.

In approaching this blog post, I went to find the music to reflect on again. I couldn't help but see the "ev'ry mile" that is "worth my while" were the miles I traveled to get to where I was today. It was in the here and now. And the searching is what I have done these four years since arriving at A&M. It is something that I must do...and have done. It is what I have found there that is my hero's welcome.

And through tears shed, all I could think of was of the joy of opening my eyes to see the love around me and the passionate love for God. This is indeed worth my while and a bridge that we all crossed this day together as one with and in Christ. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

O Father Eterne

This summer has been a veritable roller coaster of moods, feelings, and various levels of spiritual fortitude. This summer, for better or worse, has led to a drying of my prayer life, but even it is during these droughts of prayer that even the smallest of prayers do begin to help set into motion the answers that God has already set before us.

Before yesterday morning, I was pretty much just spiritually going through the motions. In a way, I fear this might be a symptom of something to come after graduation next year. It's a major concern that I can find a proper balance with prayer life and work. It took me a while for when it was just classes and prayer life, but now it is an even greater issue because the "safety net" of close friends being around you is gone. And while the Information Age has ushered in a time where connectedness is ever-present, it does not reflect the real thing. There is no substitute for the real thing.

Enter in this weekend. Yesterday I was thinking of the events coming up and clearly in my mind I remembered the summer Aggie Awakening was coming up. I had filed it away before the summer started and thought nothing else of it. However, staffing it is just the jumpstart I need going into the backstretch of the summer. So, I have decided to jump ship from Austin for the weekend to help others find Christ and also try to find Christ in the others along the way. The planning for the trip and the retreat have now engulfed my thoughts and put me in a much better mood—albeit still a sleepy one.

It goes without saying that nowadays if there is a free moment, I have pencil and paper on hand to scribble down words. My lunch break on Tuesday led me to following poem/prayer, which is a simple one but one of my instant favorites.

What I was trying to achieve in the poem in the three major stanzas was to address the overall nature of God's love, the Old Testament era, and then the New Testament era, all the while tying them together to a present-day request (or "call to action"). It is, at the same time, a prayer and a poem, but in a sense it is one for me a request for help in renewing His call to me in my daily vocation. These things are at least what the few stanzas below mean to me. I hope you find them as enlightening and beautiful as I felt them to be.

O Father Eterne

Since time eternal
Has your love been present.
From age to age,
You love has been Heaven-sent.

Your love was there for Abraham
And for Isaac, Samuel, and David, too.
In the Great Flood your mercy was shown
As after forty days the sun broke through.

How merciful is your love, O Father Eterne!
For your compassion do so many still yearn.
It continues to be shown each and every day
Through Your Son who has shown us the Way.

O God so merciful, be with us this very day
As we turn to You in a world that has turned away.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Painter

A man stands at the foot of a cliff,
Alone at the abyss’s edge.
His easel rests beside his tread,
And through its delicate colors, shows his gift.

The painter looks down at his paint
And the many works of his past.
He remembers each with private joy so vast,
But their colors have faded, now to ones so faint.

The painter uncovers one deep below,
And within him a warmth so full grows.
The painting was of a woman from long ago
Who captured the man’s heart but filled it with woe.

His eyes filled with tears,
For he still loves her after all these years,
But Fate had struck Her path,
One of change filled with endless wrath.

You see, he had painted this picture
Not to impress the Other,
But to keep her memory alive further,
Leaving him, in times like these, much richer.

He had painted this picture for her,
All that time ago,
To share with her his love for her
No matter where she goes.

But she never saw the gift
For what it truly was
And left with him the gift,
With its colors now faded without love’s cause.

His love is insatiable to fill;
Its power to control him beyond his will.
Without that requisite return touch,
This painting, with its faded colors, is a mere crutch.

The painter’s heart sinks lowly;
His creative will is gone.
What he painted was love alone,
But that love left him cold and unsightly.

His eyes look to the horizon,
Focused on the radiant rays of the sun.
Tears fall down from his face,
For he now knows his place.

For a painter to believe in himself,
He must first believe in his own works.
The worst is not the critic who rejects his work
But the one who walks away without a word.

The painter looks to the Heavens,
Wondering what now to do.
His heart is ready for a new lesson,
But his heart is now silent like his canvas, too.

He puts down his worn brush
And turns away from the cliff.
His heart gives up on his dreams so lush,
And instead tells him to stop asking, “What if?”

Without a reason to paint or to implore,
The painter has no further reason to paint once more.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Note of Consideration

This way with words that God has given me is something I do not try to flout, as humbleness is best and pride is to be tempered, which I try to limit the amount in puffing up my thoughts and my writings. As with all things, I am still learning of what amount is acceptable.

As for my generation, we do tend to have a "me" factor as is evident with the proliferation of blogs, but if used judiciously, blogs are wonderful tools to express things that matter in one's life.

At the same moment, it was a very troubling moment when the first poem came to me in my statistics class the Monday morning of October 30th. It shook me, as I had been struggling with feelings I am still wrestling over still now, but I realize now that even if the original subject of that poem has dimmed in the forefront of my thoughts the poem has the significance still on a much larger scale.

However, on that day I had to decide what to do with that piece of art that came to me. Was I to cover it with a proverbial bushel basket and hide it from the world? What of the veiled feelings I put into the writing? Should those be exposed, too? I was unsure, but throughout this experience since, I have realized that I made the right choice.

Inspiration is stated by Webster's Dictionary to be "a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation" or very simply "the act of drawing in; specifically: the drawing of air into the lungs." While these words are not sacred revelation in the least, they are thoughts inspired through the graces of God, of which I have no doubt. When the thoughts and the words coalesce as they have as if breaths of air taken in, I cannot deny this experience to be so.

Some of the words I have written and will, in time, write may be a bit more on the frivolous side but so is life at times. The mundane things in life are merely the filler to the bookends of our lives, and so filler must be there for the book to be meaningful.

Surprisingly to me, the first reading for this evening's vigil for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist speaks directly to the gift of words and certain graces. Take a read for yourself:

In the days of King Josiah, the word of the LORD came to me, saying:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

"Ah, Lord GOD!" I said,
"I know not how to speak; I am too young."
But the LORD answered me,
Say not, "I am too young."
To whomever I send you, you shall go;
whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Have no fear before them,
because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.

Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying,

See, I place my words in your mouth!
This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms,
to root up and to tear down,
to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant. --Jeremiah 1:4-10

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Bridge

It's been a month since I wrote my last poem, but I have had a great deal going on in the past month. I wrote the following poem yesterday, after starting it last week in a creative spark. This past month has been a new experience for me, much unlike my past three other summers of college. At some point in time I had either family or friends within close access. I was somewhere where I was accustom to and knew relatively well.

Austin has not been that way. I've gotten lost amid all the new-found freedom and new experiences that that this summer internship has provided. It also has exhausted me at times, but I am still ever thankful for it.

Slowly I am realizing it isn't as strange and out-of-the-ordinary as I originally thought. I am finding friends in the area in the most unexpected of places. It is through friends that you can become grounded. It is no mistake that we humans are social creatures, more apt to communicating to one another than to shun human contact. So it was a definite blessing to have found Craig on Sunday at Mass. There are reasons for all things. There are reasons even if we don't understand them at the start, but they are valid reasons nevertheless.

And so starts the third week of this grand adventure, one I am thankful for, but still I do not know where this will lead. It is unlikely I will know for certain where it will lead at the end of the summer, since there are so many wildcards in my life, but I am ready to test the waters and cross the bridge when I get there.

The Bridge

Dark clouds brood ominously overhead,
Their menacing presence awakens me to the danger ahead.
Raindrops fall at a driving pace,
Saturating the river bank without relief.

I look to the hilltops on either side;
Huge channels of water close in on me.
Their currents are strong and paths wide.
Fear of the surrounding deluge consumes me completely.

Quietly my mind begins to race:
How did I fall from His state of Grace?
What did I do to come to this selfishness?
Surely there is light to counteract against this darkness.

Before me is a narrow bridge spanning the swollen river.
Its wooden planks look oh so rickety;
Its lattice railings are overrun with water running mightily,
But the bridge throughout this onslaught does not waver.

My mind tells me this is a bridge
That I cannot and should not try to cross.
My heart calls to me as I approach the water’s edge,
Telling me this is a bridge I must cross or all would be lost.

I tell myself that I’ve fallen before,
And surely this time, too,
I will fall once more
Into the deadly river below—a tomb.

My heart cannot deny that I could fall again,
But I cannot within myself grow
Without first rising and trying again,
Thus my pride would then be made low.

So I set my right foot on the first plank,
Starting my journey over the troubled river below.
Then, in the distance, I saw a wall of water begin to grow;
I began to waver in my faith as my heart quickly sank.

Fear overcame me again
As the wave came crashing in.
I gripped the railings with all my might
As the water rushed over me, taking from me my sight.

I started to quickly choke
As my lungs took in more water with each breath,
And my soul cried out for mercy if any was left.
With my spirit beside itself, its will broke.

Throughout the surge my hands stayed gripped
With my arms outstretched in gut-wrenching pain.
As the waters overcame me, I felt the sharp pain
Of two of the railings’ nails as through my hands they ripped.

Even through this anguish so great,
I did not release my tortured hands,
For my faith refused to abate.
I released control of my will into His Hands.

The waters began to subside,
And once I breathed my next breath
I let out a mighty cry.
It was not of anguish, sadness or pain.

It was a cry of joy in the Lord,
For I had finally crossed the Bridge,
And I had done so with the Lord,
Trusting in Him through His Passion and His Pain.

For if we are to live in Him,
We must die in Him,
And if we are to come to Glory,
We must rise in His glory.

He is there at all our bridges over troubled water,
And with Faith in Him we surely will never falter.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Rest in Peace, Dr. Petersen

Dr. Lawrence Petersen (1942—2007)

It is with great sorrow that we announce the death of our colleague, educator, mentor, and friend Dr. Lawrence "Pete" Petersen. Dr. Petersen passed away this past Saturday after a courageous, year-long fight with cancer. The visitation is scheduled for Thursday, 31 May 2007 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Hillier Funeral Home in Bryan, located at 2301 East 29th Street, (979)822-1571.

Dr. Petersen joined the Department of Computer Science in the Dwight Look College of Engineering in 1989. He taught undergraduate computer science courses and, from 1993 to 2006, was the academic advisor for the Department of Computer Science (Computer Engineering Program). His courses ranged from programming (C, C++, JAVA, LISP, Pascal, and FORTRAN) to more advanced courses such as Data Structures, Analysis of Algorithms, and Artificial Intelligence.

Between 1993 and 2005, Dr. Petersen was selected by students for annual teaching awards five times. He received the Former Student Association Teaching Excellence Award for the College of Engineering in 1996; and in 2004, he was one of five winners of the Texas A&M inaugural President's Award for Academic Advising.

Dr. Petersen served as a member of the Texas A&M Faculty Senate and as a College of Engineering representative to the University "W" Course Advisory Committee, Personnel and Welfare Committee, and Rules and Regulations Committee. From 1993 to 2007, he was the faculty advisor for the Texas A&M chapter of Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the International Honor Society for the Computing and Information Disciplines. He also served as the faculty advisor for the "Men of Aggieland" association, as a reader for the Honors Student Research Program, and as academic advisor for Company G-1, 2nd Bn, and Company L-1, 2nd Bn, Corps of Cadets.

We will miss him.

TAMU Department of Computer Science

Dr. Petersen was an amazing guy, an amazing teacher, and an amazing lecturer. I remember him from my earlier days in the program at A&M when I took a Java course from him. It seemed his favorite word during the course was "quibble" since he always had so many students "quibbling" about their grades that he created a "quibble form." He was a jovial fellow and someone who was definitely approachable, as I remember him from a number of advising sessions in my past four years.

It's the small things you remember anywhere you go but especially at A&M. Rest in peace, Pete. Job well done. It was good knowing you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Running on Empty

The past week and month an incredibly empty feeling has overcome me. Such was the case when I packed, cleaned, and finished up work for the semester within the 24 hours preceding my College Station departure on Thursday of last week. Then came a weekend of sheer nothingness, of freedom, and of peace and quiet on a hilltop. Yes, there were distractions. Yes, there were setbacks and misgivings. But looking back at what I had accomplished for the school year and what was to come for the summer, I felt satisfied and pleased.

Things do work out. There isn't a doubt about that. I've seen my earlier years open up to a blossom that brought me to A& I look onward to where this next six-year blossom will take me. I remember my first trip to A&M distinctly. So much do I cherish; so much am I thankful for. Yet, during it all, I long for more. I don't know if it is selfish of me, but I do try to temper my desires. Egos have a tendency to inflate themselves on their own without much prodding by ourselves, but at the same time perceived injuries take so long to heal on their own.

My heart travels back across this semester and what I have been graced to experience: those people I have been graced to meet and have blossoming friendships with. My heart is full of joy for these things. So too does it swell when thinking on the progress made to the ends I have searched for during my years at A&M. The end is near, but at times I find myself telling myself things have gone by too quickly.

It is a contradiction, where we often find the greatest joys when we are in the twilight of stages in life. Only when we reach the end do we see the joy that took so long to uncover, much like the sculptor who finally whittles away the last bit of wood or stone to reach the masterpiece sculpture beneath.

The worries of the future ahead are of little concern to me right now. For the time being it is the joys of the present that I must tend to before creating new ones elsewhere. These are the things concerning me right now.

Here is what I ask you to do, my dear reader, in the coming days as an experiment. With each person you meet—on the street, in the supermarket, in the bank, eating out somewhere, at work, in your place of worship—greet them with a smile, consciously treat them with respect, and thank God for their presence in making your day just the least bit better. And if they aren't helping your day and instead ruining it, then ask God for patience to deal with them and pray for their inability to see or accept their bitterness. Then once your day is done, count the good things of the day. No matter your troubles, when seeing the good for what it truly is then the bad is nothing more than a passing headache...even if you're temporarily running on empty.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

10 Do's (and Don'ts) of Being a Freshman at A&M

This is mostly for my two incoming freshmen cousins that are coming in as Class of 2011! Yes, I know...two in one year! Amazing, isn't it? Anyhow, I think it's good advice after being around the block for four years(!) and as I prepare for the final victory lap.

10 Do's (and Don'ts) of Being a Freshman at A&M

10. Do take advantage of any SI, review, or office hours offered.
9. Do read sections and print out notes (if applicable) before class.
8. Do not overload your schedule with too many hours (absolutely no more than 15 hours) or too many extraciricular activity organizations (two or three, with an emphasis on one).
7. Do keep a calendar of all events/appointments/deadlines for each semester.
6. Do avoid specific classes until you get accustom to college life, while do take a balanced load of reading (book/survey courses) and technical courses but err on the side of safety (with a more-reading-than-technical ratio).
5. Do expect and plan for things to fail or take longer than you plan. Budget accordingly.
4. Do live on campus but plan and budget wisely. Get smaller meal plans than you think you need. ALWAYS.
3. Do get involved with events and/or organizations related to your major and your classes.
2. Be Faith-oriented. Do not allow your spiritual life to falter.
1. Do listen to yourself when going about your first year, but always be open to new ideas and new approaches to learning even "old" topics.

Friday, May 04, 2007

“Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled"

Today's Gospel reading is fitting as a closure to the semester and even more fitting as I look onward to the hopes and dreams that this summer, with the blessings of the internship I am about to embark on, that bode so well for me in the future.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way."
Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"
Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."
-- John 14:1-6
This passage speaks so loudly on the call to one's vocation. What are we called to? As Jesus said: "In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" In the Father's plans there are many places we are to go, but only one final dwelling place that the Lord has prepared.

As I look back on the month that was with all the trouble (personal, within our house, and in Blacksburg) that has led me to this day, I look forward so to the days ahead and the year to come from this day forward. The Lord has indeed has prepared us a place...and in time we shall all find that glory. Glory to Him.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Paradise Lost: The Virginia Tech Tragedy

I found Monday to be very troubling to me and a very sad day for all of us. It is one of those moments in one's life that you know where you were at that moment when you found out. It is an unspeakable tragedy, not that murders of such number or greater are not of equal or greater tragedy. Comparisons need not be applied. It is simply a sad period of time now in academia, and it is merely more pertinent to me as a college student.

It was hard for me to focus in my late afternoon class on Monday because of the tragedy. Again it was hard to get it out of my mind on Wednesday in the same class. It was there that I wrote the following poem Paradise Lost as a tribute and in memoriam of the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy. For me it was something that needed to be written, and I hope that you find it at least in good taste. I don't usually write on the topics of something so devoid of love, but right now it is imperative that I share these words with you.

Paradise Lost

A cold wind blasts through the windows;
The glass scatters in the wind.
The wind howls ever more;
Quicker and quicker does it roar.

Dark clouds descend down;
The Ivory Tower is enveloped in darkness.
Blood flows in the streets;
Sanctity and trust are breached.

The tempest winds blow;
The sadness of lost comes.
The blood of innocents still runs,
Killed one by one, row by row.

What terror have we seen;
What of their fateful screams?
Why did this have to happen,
This terror, travesty, and sin?

We have seen this before,
And we shall see it again.
We’ve been betrayed by a kiss,
Just like the One, much greater than this.

Why has our generation
Become this abomination?
How can we allow
Our sanctuaries to be desecrated so?

Have we no compassion?
Have we no love?
Is there any forgiveness?
Is there any love?

Yes, there is love,
Love comparing to none other.
We must look to Him, no matter the cost,
We, now the remaining, of this Paradise Lost.

In memoriam: Virginia Tech Mass Shooting Tragedy: Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Roller Coaster of Emotions

I've had a range of emotions this weekend, some logical and others not so logical. I've rejoiced over the blessings bestowed on my friends and myself. Specifically, the Easter Vigil Mass, as Father David called it: "the Final Review, a review of salvation history from creation, to covenant, to exodus, to prophets, to resurrection," was amazing and has now become my favorite mass of the year, even at three hours long! However, I've also failed in my steadfastness at times this weekend. I've shown anger and contempt, too. What I am still learning, as life is always a learning experience, is that even when things go the way planned in some areas, this doesn't mean all the others will fall in place. This falling in place is a rare occasion and, as such, shouldn't be counted upon.

I may have the summer wrapped up in expectations that have been finally set (yes!), but this doesn't mean I have it fully planned out to the nth degree. Nor does this mean I have planned out the fall semester in the least. Not by any means whatsoever have I done so. It depends pretty much on how this semester's classes end up, which I must say isn't going any where close to what I the worst ways, and how my housing search goes. Did I mention looking for a single semester of housing stinks to high heaven? Well, it does!!! Completely! Needless to say, the Lord does provide...unfortunately not to human timetables such as mine.

I thought I had something in order, something planned. I like to think of myself as an organized person with reasonable expectations. Rejections, even kind-hearted and understandable, arise and shake one's spirits. Snafus appear and throw the proverbial monkey wrench into plans. How frustrating!

In something so reminiscent to the troubles of my heart from earlier in the semester and the end of last semester (see my earlier posts and poems for that), I've reached a frustration point that I haven't reached in months. The conversation generally could take the form of the following:
God: Okay, turn here at this next exit.
John: Ok, what now? I thought that was a perfectly good route to take!
God: We're exiting questions.
John: Why are we taking this exit?
God: There's something that I need to show you...
John: What about our destination? The attraction down the highway? Aren't we going to be late for the showing?
God: Listen, my son. That will come soon enough. That attraction isn't going anywhere. It was there before you where here, it will be there still now and it will be there after you return home. There is something along this road that I must show you first. In time, you will reach that other place...but not yet.
God: With patience you will find out. I AM, and I will show you that all is good. Trust in Me.

We should all realize that while we are to be united in Christ with our whole body, mind, soul, and doesn't mean that we cannot or, certainly, do not get at the very least confused, frustrated, or even angry about the route that God wants us to take in life (even with the small stuff). It is okay to throw one's hands up at times and say even to the Lord, our God, "What gives?" We know He isn't up there blasting a beam of light into our ant hill like a bully, so confronting God on our confusion is only a natural progression to the discovery of His will on what He wants us to do within our lives and the lives of others.

Helping usher at one of the Easter Masses this weekend, I encountered a handicapped man who entered in the narthex of the church. He stopped me by the door into the vesting room while I was carrying the collection baskets. He muttered something about looking for a friend here but could not give me that friend's name. I asked him to wait one moment and I would return. I told him if he couldn't tell me the person's name to find, I could not be able to help him find that person. So I returned after we put the collection in the safe, and then the handicapped elderly man asked me for some help...specifically monetarily help. I told him if he would please wait there on the bench (he was indeed sitting comfortably there); I would help him as soon as the Mass was over. I made every intention to finding him some help, but when I returned at the end of the Mass he had disappeared, apparently not wanting any of my help to which I had offered.

So, I tell you now, don't be like the crippled man with God. Don't request assistance from the Lord and then leave Him. He may ask you to wait a while, but often that time in between is a piece of Heaven bestowed to us, the Faithful. With patience and grace we must attend all things in due time. Vivat Jesus!