Monday, December 15, 2008

In need of a writing spot

Some of the great writers/thinkers I know have a physical location that aids them in their writing/thinking.  For some of them, they have several locations.

I do not have one of these locations that I've designated my writing spot.  Sometimes, it's my bedroom.  Sometimes my office.  Sometimes a sports bar.

Obviously, the creative process can happen at any time and any place.  But there does seem to be about your current surroundings that make a difference.

Speaking of creative, I'm meeting with a sister in ministry tomorrow to vision on how I can be a better worship leader.

Other random thoughts:
  • I decided to bust out the scarves that my mom has bought for me through the years.  Pretty sweet, not gonna lie.
  • One of the blessings of ministry is getting to welcome home youth group kids from college, especially around Christmas time.
  • Getting body work done on the car this week, so I'm cruising around in a Pontiac G6.  Not a bad ride.
  • The Utah snowboarding trip is this week.  Oh Lord, please let my body survive.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Avenida Magdalena

I’ve driven the 5 freeway from San Diego to Los Angeles for a significant portion of my adult life. And while there have been many reasons over the years for my northbound adventures, my final destination was not so much about a city or a building, but about home.

Yesterday, as I drove up the I-5 through San Clemente, I noticed a sign that I’ve driven by during those many many journeys: Avendia Magdalena, 1/4 mile.

Normally, I would not think twice about this sign, as it looks the same as every other sign on the freeway.

But, Magdalena is the name of my beloved grandmother, who died on Nov. 30.

And I drove by the sign on my way to the airport, to get on a plane to attend her funeral in her home, Cebu.

This moment of awareness of this sign was both sad and joyful.

Sad because it was a reminder of the purpose of this journey. And joyful because it was a reminder of the final destination of this journey.

There is that cliche, “Home is where the heart is”. I think of home whenever I think of my grandmother, whether it was at her house in the Philippines or going to church or a fast-food restaurant or a beach resort or a shopping center.

Throughout my entire life, she taught me to value something greater than myself: God and family. And family, with all it’s imperfections, is a place where two of God’s gifts reside: love and mercy. She gave both generously. I’m sure she made sacrifices for my good that I will never know about. She expected that God and family were first in my heart, even to the point of demanding it.

I am who I am today because she defined home in all it’s beauty and all it’s responsibility.

I will be arriving at her house shortly. I will see pictures of her. I will feel her presence. I will remember her in the family and friends that are gathering to celebrate her life. But she won’t be there to greet me, as she did every time I came to visit her. And, while there is sadness in this realization, there is also hope.

While it might seem like my idea of home should be different without her, there is something strangely familiar and comforting. And that’s probably because now, she’s directing me to a different home, heaven, waiting to greet me there.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Thanksgiving list

I was at the ultimate Thanksgiving feast yesterday morning - Mass - and listened to a wonderful homily by Fr. Brian.  He encouraged us to be thankful for everyone and everything in our lives.  But...he also said that our gratitude needs to be directed towards the source of all of our blessings: God, our Father in heaven.  In fact, the Thanksgiving holiday was instituted by President Abraham Lincoln with this very thought in mind.  (You'll note in reading President Lincoln's proclamation that our country's issues in 1863 are not that different than what we are dealing with in 2008).

Now, for us as Christians, this seems to be an no-brainer, to give thanks to God.

Yet, I couldn't help but feel Fr. Brian's words pierce my heart.  He challenged us to give thanks from the depths of our hearts, in authentic love for God, not just in tokens of gratitude.

And, it made me realize, that I suck at being grateful.  I'm not grateful enough.  And I probably don't even offer quality gratefulness.  It's not because my parents didn't teach this to me.  It's not because I don't know how to do it.  It's really because I lack the humility to give thanks.

So, here is my very small attempt to live and express the love that I have for the blessings that God has given to me, despite my smallness, and brokennesss...
  • To my father, Vicente Jr., who models for me courage and faithfulness to the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, and the on-going search for that truth.  I would not be the man of God I am today without his example.
  • To my mother, Maria, who is to me the definition of love: the self-donation, without counting the cost, always willing the good of the other (whoever the other is).
  • My sister, Sister Jennifer, who has endured much and sacrificed much to be in the joyful vocation that Christ has called her to live.
  • To my brother Steve, who has always embraced and lived the freedom that is ours when we trust the divine plan, not the human plan.
  • To my brother Andrew, who is a man in every sense of the word, and growing beautifully in to his vocation of husband and father.
  • To my sister-in-law Grace, who has been a blessing to our family from the very moment she entered our lives.  My brother is lucky, but I think we're equally as lucky.
  • To my cousins, my greatest regret in my life is that there are too many miles that separate us and calendar years between our visits.  Yet your presence in my heart and my prayer is always strong.
  • To all of my grandparents, Vicente Sr. and Magdalena and Simeon and Eugenia, the best I can do to repay your love is to keep you in prayer and live by the example you set for me.
  • To all the priests that have nurtured my faith.  My ministry and my desire to do God's Will would not be possible without your wisdom.
  • To my Groupies, I never thought the brotherhood of faith that we share would be so necessary for my sanity and my trust and my hope.  I need your presence in my life more than you will know.
  • For music, especially the Coldplay and John Mayer albums that kept me company during my drive home to LA yesterday.
  • For people who don't answer an incoming call on their cell phones in front of other people, particularly when that other person happens to be the God of the Universe.
  • To old friends who I lost contact with, please know that I pray everyday for our paths to cross again.
  • To Rob, Tony, Trish, Michelle, Patti, Franc, Tina, Debbie, Pete, Susan, Roberta, Del, Cheryl, Tim Liz, Melani, Chris, John, I'm in awe of your dedication and desire to serve.  Thank you does not seem like enough of an expression of gratitude.
  • To my roommate Nick for how he lives out the Beatitudes.
  • To youth workers of every denomination, you are my people!  Thanks for sharing this journey with me.
  • To the St. James community, who continue to amaze me by their generosity and love.
  • To teens past, present and future of St. James Youth Ministry, I cannot name all of you for fear of forgetting someone.  But know you have touched my heart and brought me closer to God.  My life is most certainly better off for your presence in my life.
  • For musicians and speakers who have devoted their talent to serve the people of God, you give me reason to pray hard and worship more from the depths of my heart.
  • For the Sacraments, the source of my life.
  • For my many crosses, God's gift to me that I may glorify Him and allow him to love me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

God does reward faithfulness

Now don't misunderstand the title of this post.  God rewards faithfulness to Him with love and mercy and the goodness that leads us to heaven.  And if wins on a football field serve the purpose of God's will, then how blessed is that team and their fans.  But if losing brings about God's will, then...how blessed is that team and their fans.

It is this thought of faithfulness to God that makes Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh's story so darn cool.

Yay for integrity!

Being a golfer and a fan of the sport, I was really touched by what pro golfer J.P. Hayes did: to choose telling truth over advancing his career.

Make a new list

For as much as I visit Facebook on a daily basis, I just this morning realized that there is a "Make a new list" feature.  This allows you to organize your friends however you please.

I decided I would create different lists, in the hopes of adding a level of organization to my Facebook experience.

And as I was trying to figure out what to call each list, I for the first time actually went through the names of the people I've connected - or re-connected - with on Facebook.  I reminisced about different experiences I shared with some people or just wondered how others were doing.

But I struggled with naming the lists, because I felt like I should distinguish my high school and college classmates from young people that have been/are part of my youth group.  Or people I've met through the Catholic community here in San Diego from my brother and sister youth workers.  I even struggled with how to "categorize" people based on their age or current life experience/status.

However, this thought kept coming back to me as I discerned: regardless of how the person is related/connected to me or how old they are or what they've been through or which of my lists they end up on, they are still friends.  They bless me by their presence in my life in such a beautiful variety of ways.  They are constant reminders of God's goodness and mercy to me.  Maybe the very pure goodness of "social networking" comes not from the creators of Facebook, but from God's desire that we "should not be alone". 

So to my friends, thank you!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bravery, sacrifice, support

These are words used by President Bush in his proclamation for this year's observance of Veterans Day.  And these words are very appropriate to describe the men and women of our Armed Forces.

It is easy for us civilians to take for granted the liberties that are protected by our military.  And probably even easier to forget that this protection comes at a great price.

So, perhaps those words the President used are really for us.

Maybe our support is in the form of taking care of our country, so that our armed forces know that their service is worth something.

Maybe our bravery is in the form of taking leaps of faith in willing - and incarnating - the good of our fellow Americans.

Maybe our sacrifice is putting aside our political differences and working towards the common good.

God Bless you men and women in our military, living and deceased.  And God Bless us all!

Loyalty...or business...

The world of sports is entertainment for us who are fans...and big business for those who are in it.

I've expressed in this blog that my love for all of the Los Angeles teams continues, even though I consider myself a San Diegan.  But, it's hard for locals to not be passionate about all the sports here in America's Finest City.

Which is what makes the news that the Padres are about to dump salaries and rebuild so disappointing.  The news that Trevor Hoffman has probably played his last game here is particularly sad.  I understand that roster moves need to be made to improve the team, even if it involves the best players.  And while contract decisions in sports are a two way street, someone like Trevor deserves special considerations and flexibilities.  He should be given the chance to end his career in San Diego.

But I guess that business is a higher priority than loyalty.

Youth Ministry 3.0

My friend in ministry Marko wrote a book called Youth Ministry 3.0.  It is, as it says on the cover, a manifesto of where youth ministry needs to go.

I received my copy on Friday, but was very anxious to read it.  In fact, I brought it to Magic Mountain on Saturday just to have it with me.

So this morning, in my desire and need to rest, I started going through it.  Now, it's not a long book, but I normally do not have the patience/attention to sit and read anything for extended periods of time.  Yet, this was a "can't-put-it-down" situation.

This is a book I will be reading and re-reading and processing and studying and interpreting for a long time.  But, my initial reaction is peace.  Peace that my current personal and ministry/career discernment - and the reactions both positive and negative to both - is the right and necessary cross for me to bear now.  That this cross will lead to death - death of pride and selfishness - and, more importantly, a glorious new life of humility, service and love.

This cross has been, and will continue to be hard for me to bear.  Yet, after reading this, my consolation is that my suffering is pointed in the right place: to my own conversion as a son of Christ.

Now, only if my Jesus-centered hopes will birth the patience necessary incarnate change at the service of the Church...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

End of a long day

It was a marathon day to be sure.  But the Spirit was moving!  The evening rally was great as it usually is (p.s. I would have posted live on location, but my phone was about to run out of battery and I didn't feel like paying $15 to charge it up at the battery charging station).  I just wish that, one of these years, we could have the rally and adoration without the sounds of the Superman roller coaster.

Today really tested my patience in so many ways.  With myself, with the teens, with God.  It's like Todd said, we humans have a much smaller view of our lives than God does.  If we do whatever He tells us, the bigger view may just be a lot clearer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Last minute rides

Mass was great! Matt and the band have such a great way of leading worship. Now we're getting ready to grab food before the rally this evening.

Mass in the Park

I love the Inspiration Tour Mass. What a witness that 3,000 people make in an amusement park of the presence and love.

Let us pray!

It's not the happiest place on eart, but...

I'm at Six Flags Magic Mountain right now. It's our annual visit to the Life Teen Inspiration Tour. Should be an exciting day of fun and Jesus. We got up here with no incident. Actually made really good time on the bus. After we arrived, everyone was so excited to get in the park that I got left behind (no pun intended to our rapture-believing friends). So I decided to eat early. And now I'm just people watching until the teens show up for lunch.

I'll be blogging all day, so check back for more updates later...

Monday, November 3, 2008

What turning the other cheek really means...

When I was a young lad, my parents made us read alot.  And I mean ALOT.  One of the things we had to read was a series of books on influential people of our modern world: Louis Pasteur, Helen Keller...people like that.

The book/person I remember the most was Jackie Robinson.

His story stood out to me partly because he was a Brooklyn Dodger (and I was a fan of the West Coast version of that team), partly because he was a talented baseball player, and partly because he went to a high school not too far from mine.

But what really touched me was that he was asked to make sacrifices for a greater good and truth.  

Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Dodgers at the time, knew that signing the first African-American major league baseball player would be scandalous to the establishment.  And he knew that Jackie would have to endure much hardship, not only for his acceptance in the league, but so that other African-American players would someday have the same chance to play.

The book chronicled Branch Rickey counseling Jackie to turn the other cheek at all the slurs, physical violence on the field and lack of support from teammates that would most certainly be directed at him.  

And, of course, history has proven that his choice to not repay evil with evil changed the hearts of a professional baseball league, its players and an entire country.

Why do I remember this now?

The greater good and THE Truth is bigger than the candidates that will be elected tomorrow and the laws that will be passed or defeated.  And what is good and true always and in every case prefers giving life and sanctifying the family unit.

Some of you reading this (Christian and non-Christian alike) do not agree with Christianity's stance on many of the issues on the ballot, particularly her support of California's Proposition 8 and Senator McCain's candidacy for the Office of the President.  Your reasons for disagreeing are understandable given today's cultural definition of love and your outspokenness is a beauty of our democracy.  To you, my prayer is that your passion can be directed towards moments (however big or small) of serious contemplation, where you can discover the fullness of your search for THE Truth, not just the small portion of it that we absorb from our culture.  In this contemplative journey, you may discover that THE Truth is in the very nature of our humanness - our true identities as male and female and the deepest longings of our souls.  And maybe, just maybe, in this journey you will understand why the pro-life, pro-family value system is so important to all humanity.

Some of you reading this are already committed to the Gospel message of Truth and desire that Truth to be borne out in our nation's government and policies.  Those that live the Christian life are called by God to make sacrifices to stand for a greater good and Truth. However, we cannot confuse what the greater good is here. It is bringing about the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord, not winning an election. We must choose to not repay evil that will be done to us because of our faith with evil.  We must choose unwavering charity to all people regardless of their political stance, whether or not the pro-life, pro-family values reflected on the ballot receives the most votes.  We must choose to take up our crosses, which may very well take the form of enduring personal attacks or violence, lack of support from our own families and brothers and sisters in faith, and/or loss of civil liberties. In choosing all these, we will cooperate with Christ in changing the hearts of our families, churches and our whole country.  And the victory will not belong to a political party or ideology, but to Christ, the way, THE Truth, and the life.

And, so now, we pray, that turning the other cheek will bring about peace and life...

Oh dear...another communications thing-a-muh-jig...

After weeks of hearing about this Twitter thing, I decided to get one for myself and try it out.  I have to admit, for as technology-savvy as I think I am, I'm not totally sure I get what this does.  It seems like it's mobile status updating/mini-blogging.  So, we'll see what happens with it.  Gotta find people to connect with I suppose...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just when I thought I could be Tiger Woods...

I played in a golf tournament on Monday for our parish school.  And it was such good times.  I was in an awesome group.  The weather was great.  The food was abundant.  And the beverages were cold.

But...

I did not play up to what I expected.  And, let me tell you, that sucks.  The thing of it is that I really felt good about my swing and my ball striking and my putting and that I would put together a pretty decent round.  It didn't take very long for that to all come crashing down.

I guess the beautiful thing about humility is that it brings you to the real reality of your life, who you are, and who you aren't.

So, I suppose I shouldn't be too bent out of shape that I won't be quitting my "day job" for the PGA Tour.

It just sure would have been nice to hit a few more fairways and greens...

The beauty of life, no matter how long or short

Our culture and our entire civilization revolves around this one simple fact, regardless of your religion, race or political party:  life is a precious gift from someone who loves us.  And when we recognize the love our Creator has for us, we are changed.  And sanctified.  And made beautiful.  For some of us, it will take 29,200ish days to understand this.  For the couple in this video, all they needed was 99 days...

A moment with our "good angel/bad angel"


I've always loved this image of the interior tug-of-war of our consciences.  And while the good angel/bad angel speak to us daily (bringing peace or unrest, depending on which of the angels we listen to), we will collectively experience THE tug-of-war as Americans on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

So, as Election Day looms, and our political alliances, cultural understanding and desire for happiness influence our vote, may we all, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, consider a vote for THE one, holy truth that does exist inside of all of us.  We just have to listen to the right voice.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Winning = losing?

In one week, the people of the United States of America will be electing a new president, as well as voting on the wide array of local offices and propositions.

Americans will be asked to dig into their individual and collective consciousnesses to decide on the many important issues that face our great nation.

However, if a candidate is elected into office, or a proposition passed (or defeated, depending on one's perspective), does that mean that God's Will was incarnated?

Have we, as Christians, become so caught up in politics of our country that winning is more important than truth?

Will hearts be converted because of a new law, a newly elected public servant or the life-giving, compassionate love that flows from Jesus Christ and through the Church and her people?

As Christians, our passion for pro-life, pro-family issues must serve as an authentic witness of our love for and obedience to God's loving blueprint for humanity.  And we know that there are particular candidates and propositions in this election that are contrary to this blueprint.  

But, we must remember that God is bigger than politics.  And as such, shouldn't we see this election as bigger than just the choices we make on list of candidates and other ballot items?

We should give our agendas to "Caesar".  Our votes are essential and valuable to the democratic process.  And our desire to have civil laws that reflect the dignity of humans is a way for us to live out our Christian vocation.  

But to God, we must give - and share - His love and mercy, at all times and in every situation to every person regardless of their political stance.   Because even if the candidate/proposition we want receives the most votes, but the electorate is not sanctified, can we really celebrate a victory?

What a difference a year makes

Basketball season started tonight.  And the Lakers soundly defeated the Portland Trail Blazers.  But what struck me the most as I watched the end of the game was how different last year's season opener was.

Last year, the home fans booed its star player because he wanted to be traded.

This year, they celebrated not only his redemption, but the hope that another championship banner will be hung.

Oh forgiveness is a beautiful thing!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Poured out like a libation...

I was sitting in Mass tonight and honestly felt like I wasn't going to make it through.  Call it fatigue.  Call it low blood sugar.  Call it nerves.  Call it all three.  But I really thought I was going to faint or throw up or something.

And while this was happening, all I could think about was what St. Paul said when he wrote to Timothy about being poured out like a libation.

I was empty.

But, what happened after realizing that was most certainly God blessing my attempt to offer my emptiness to Him.

If He can use my "poured-out-ness" to bring about "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" and "love your neighbor as yourself", he can make beauty out of anything, even beauty doesn't seem possible.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Long time no blog...

I hope I don't use that as a title of my blog very often.  It's been almost two weeks since I've posted.  And it's not for lack of topics.  It's just been that hectic.

Let's take this weekend, for instance.  It was non-stop from early Friday morning to late Sunday night.

Helping someone from church prepare a mission trip video, preparing our school of the week video, meeting with the principal of our elementary school, high school homecoming, parish festival (which included my visit to the dunk tank), Life Mass, youth group...

I'd have to say the highlight for sure was attending a conference with Christopher West.  I've never seen him in person (although, when he first started his presentation, I laughed because he sounds exactly like he does on the CDs my brother Steve gave me).  Christopher is a Catholic theologian and considered an expert on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body.  The purpose of his presentation was to address the raging debate on the definition of marriage.

He made such a convincing argument for marriage as between a man and a woman.  It was rooted in the beauty of our Catholic teaching.  Yet he said that we can't enter into dialogue or change hearts by using the "because the Church says so" approach.  

He used so much "data" from non-religious sources: the development of civilization, dictionary definitions, the body of a male and female human being to make his point.  And he said, "Let the data speak".

But it was interesting that, as he developed his presentation, it became more of a blueprint for something bigger that just Prop 8.  He gave us insight into being authentically Catholic in the world today, being evangelizers, for serving in a ministry.

And it also affirmed something that has been in my heart and on my mind...that maybe, just maybe, I'm supposed to help give life to this blueprint.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Set your DVRs NOW!!!

All I can say is...WOWZERS!!!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Money matters?

I honestly don't even know if I completely grasp the financial crisis we are in.  At the minimum, it is what everyone wants to talk about, whether it affects them or not.  So, my understanding of the whole situation is based on what I read about in the news and hear from other people.  My dad and I were talking about just hanging on and making it through to the other side.

But, make no mistake, you know it's bad when the question "Are you prepared for a depression?" is being asked seriously.

As always, however, the Church has a response.  It might not be the response that people want to hear.  But it is certainly the one way out of this mess.  It's a solution for all of us: financial people, government leaders, Christian and non-Christians alike:

A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist...

With those words, every episode of the 80s version of Knight Rider began.  Yes, I will admit to being a fan of the show.  The car was cool.  The character, Michael Knight, was cool.  He was the PG version of Jack Bauer (with a car as a sick-kick).  And the supporting characters were cool.

So, now there is a 2008 version of the show, with a new car for KITT, and a new protagonist, who happens to be the son of Michael Knight.

I have seen the first two episodes.  It has a lot of the similar plot lines as the original, but with some different mythology and the use of the current production techniques to make the action sequences interesting.

But, any show is successful because of the writers' ability to engage us with the characters.  So, no matter how cool of a car KITT is, we are really more interested in Michael and Sarah and their adventures.

P.S.  You need to play the Turbo Boost game.  It's just silly fun!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Home is where the heart is

Twenty years ago, I was a sophomore at St. Francis High School in La Canada, California.  While my life is much, much different now in 2008 than it was in 1988, there is at least one thing that is the same: the Los Angeles Dodgers winning a playoff series.

In '88, the Dodgers went on to win the World Series, with the help of the famous Kirk Gibson home run in Game 1.  With last night's victory over the Cubs, Joe Torre's team is one step closer to repeating that success.

Now, even though I've become a Padres fan, I cannot but help and root for the team of my childhood.  And this has made me reflect on something deeper.  Maybe, just maybe, "home" invites us back for a visit every now and then, not just to remind us who we were, but to teach us that who we are is because of who we were.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Theology of the Body is not just for Catholics

Wow, I think Miles has read JPII's TOB.

He just talked about one flesh union between man and woman, AND between us and God (can you say Eucharist?).

He referenced marriage as life giving...which JPII called the 'fruitful' quality of the sexual union.

The other thing he said was cool was calling out people who are 'church-goers' and those who are Christians.

Church-goers hear the Word. Christians live the Word.

Church-goers desire courage. Christians live in courage.

Church-goers want to trust in God's love and faithfulness. Christians live in that trust.

We humans are wired for life. When we live in the Word, when we live in trust, when we live in courage, we are free, total, faithful, fruitful.

Thank you John Paul the Great!

Guess marriage is a big deal

I just got into a longer than expected line at the Rock Church in Point Loma to listen to a presentation on Proposition 8,the initiative to keep marriage defined as a man and woman.

I had no idea this would be such a big deal: the huge crowd (the sanctuary seats 5,000 people...it will be close to capacity for sure), the news trucks, the protestors.

So, what's a good Catholic boy like me doing at a mega-church event like this?

Curiosity, mostly.

I want to get more info. I want to see what people's reactions are to this whole issue. I want to see the presentation (which you can see from the pic above...that's Miles McPhearson talking).

I'll write more later (I love mobile blogging)....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Yes, they are using their feet...

While I don't play as much as I used to, I still have a passion for volleyball.  So, it is a wonderful blessing that I have so many teens in my youth group who play for their school.  

As I mentioned in previous blogs, this past Olympics also reignited my love for the sport (and, deep down a desire to play again, despite being extremely out of shape).

But, now I have a new appreciation of volleyball, after I discovered a form of the sport I never knew existed (you HAVE to see it to believe it)..

video

Friday, September 26, 2008

The funny green line

So, the youth ministry video is done.  I've had some good feedback already from everyone who has seen it.  I pray that it will serve as a reminder to everyone about the beauty of God's mercy, that's He's always calling us and giving us the choice to enter into it.  And hopefully, it will inspire generosity of time and money, of which I can use large helpings of both.

As I said in my last post, I am most definitely an amateur editor.  Because of this, I cannot figure out why there is a silly little green line at the bottom of the screen that appears and disappears.  I hope no one minds.  It will certainly bug the technologically inclined.

Now, this funny green line has pointed me to something else.

My friend in ministry Marko blogged today about how inadequate, unprepared and unqualified he feels sometimes in his role as the president of a youth ministry resource company.  He called himself a "poser".  He's a junior high youth pastor at heart, not someone who can talk easily about financial projections, strategic plans or collaborative partnerships with business people.

And, boy, did that just hit the green line on the head for me.  For all of my professional experience, I love to do ministry.  I love the life of ministry.  I love how ministry has brought me closer to God.  I really have no idea how to remove the green line from a video or raise money or lead a group of people or administrate this ministry.  I'm not saying that I'm down on myself.  I'm stating a truth that I've known about myself for a long time, yet was afraid to admit because, like Marko, people would see me as a "poser" too.

I've had this feeling for the better part of my ministry career. And, let me tell you, it kinda sucks. And yet, that feeling forces me to spend more time on my knees in submission to His will.

Youth workers (and everyone involved in ministry) almost has to have this feeling of inadequacy to keep us humble. I don’t know about you, but it is certainly a huge challenge to stay humble when doing the Lord’s work.

I wrote in another post that the thing that keeps us out of trouble is humility…recognizing who we are, who we are not, and why God loves us so abundantly because of that!

Now, please don't misunderstand me.  This is not my attempt at getting any sympathy or positive affirmation.  

It's just that the green line reminded me that God fills my incompleteness in ways that I can never imagine possible.  I hope no one minds...

Monday, September 22, 2008

I think I'm gonna implode

I just finished the first "draft" of my youth ministry video that we will be showing to the parish community this coming weekend.  This will definitely be a work of God.  Because there are always technical problems associated with projects like this.  AND since I am an amateur editor/Final Cut Express user, it took me longer figure out how to do even basic commands.

But, I feel like the story works and is compelling.  The teens did a great job being honest and deep.  Rob made it look really good.  And Bob Rice, Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin add such a beautiful prayerfulness to it.

I'll be tweaking and refining all week.

It's definitely hard work.  So hard that I think I'm gonna implode now...on my couch watching the Chargers/Jets game.

Friday, September 19, 2008

“This is Katrina in the entire country, but without the means that Louisiana had.”

I was having dinner with a friend the other night and we were discussing the impact of natural disasters in the history of our lives, as well as the current impact of all the recent hurricanes on the Caribbean and the southern United States.

As we were talking, I mentioned how our mainstream news media has not to this point described the extent of the devastation in Haiti.  

This article from the New York Times is still only a glimpse of what the Haitians are going through.

I am sad because of the mighty suffering these simple people have to endure.  I pray that I will endure with them.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

This will put a smile on your face

My friend in ministry Marko posted this video on his blog. It's funny a look at where Christian music used to be. And it just really begs the deep theological question, "Is Jesus your friend?

video

Bring on the Euros

I golf.  I watch golf.  I love Ryder Cup golf.

Match play is much more engaging format to watch than stroke play.  And this competition has so much intensity and passion.  Although, I think the coolest part of the whole thing is to see an individual sport become all about team.

Now, you know that this event is a big deal when the self-proclaimed "greatest" of all time decides to make an appearance at a practice round.

Golf has so much sportsmanship in its culture.  But, for this Team USA fan, it's about winning.  They can shake hands and sip champagne with the Euros on Sunday evening.  Until then, I wanna see a lot of competitive banter...and a bunch of American birdies.

P.S.  Hopefully neither team will be wearing hideous outfits, a la the 1999 USA shirts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Words are the voice of the heart"

That Confucius dude is one smart cookie.  He could craft a simple phrase like the one above to move it's reader to something deep deep deep.

But this phrase moved me to a very specific word, one that I desire more and more.

My friend and I were talking about the work and life of a missionary.  And, as we were talking about what it means to work among people who are materially poor, I said this:

"What people want most, whether they are materially or spiritually poor, is someone who will stand in solidarity with them."

Now, there's a word you don't use everyday, solidarity. When I said it, I remember my body doing an internal double-take. It's a word we hear and know exists, but have no idea how really vital it is to our existence here on earth.

The United States Conference of Bishops defined solidarity like this:
Solidarity is action on behalf of the one human family, calling us to help overcome the divisions in our world. Solidarity binds the rich to the poor. It makes the free zealous for the cause of the oppressed. It drives the comfortable and secure to take risks for the victims of tyranny and war. It calls those who are strong to care for those who are weak and vulnerable across the spectrum of human life. It opens homes and hearts to those in flight from terror and to migrants whose daily toil supports affluent lifestyles. Peacemaking, as Pope John Paul II has told us, is the work of solidarity. (from Called to Global Solidarity: International Challenges for U.S. Parishes)
It's amazing to think that this one word speaks from the heart of every man and woman.  If only we could be the walking, living, loving definition of this word.

What a way to start a morning

My mind has been racing this morning.  I FINALLY have an idea for what I want to do with the youth ministry video that I need to present to the parish in a week and a half.  But it brought up all of the things I have to do between now and then.  This caused me much anxiety!!!!!!

So, this was my state of mind as I walked into church for daily Mass.  I was fighting the battle of praying and planning the whole time.  Then, as Fr. Leo finished his homily, he did something out of the ordinary.  He invited this couple to the front of the altar.

It turns out that this couple is celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary today.

And it was at that moment that God smacked me in the head with perspective.  

Our life here on earth is naturally ordered to love.  And when we are obedient to the love that is written into our hearts by our Creator and Father, commitment is not only possible, but preferred.  And the only kind of authentic commitment that exists is the one that involves relationship between God and His beloved, you and me.

The relationship we have with God leads us to love others like Him and through Him.  It leads us to sacrifice all for the sake of this divine love, as a couple married for 65 years or as a saint willing to suffer martyrdom for Him who loved us first.

So, Regina and James, God bless you on this beautiful day as you renew your love for one another in holy marriage.  And thank you for reminding me that a producing a video will not complete my life.  Only love can.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A smattering of schtuff...

  • I'm currently listening to two very powerful albums: Revelation by Third Day and Hello Love by Chris Tomlin.  Both albums are not just wonderful musical experiences, but are also powerful expressions of how God works in the tangible to draw us close to Him.
  • The iPhone is still a pretty amazing machine.  My friend told me today that the word on the street is that it will be available through multiple cellular carriers within a year.
  • I love to eat.  Picking up breakfast at Pipes Cafe in Cardiff always brings a smile to my face.
  • Is it just me, but are there ALOT of people (men AND women) who are fanatical about football?
  • If you haven't done so already, you need to see the video on catholicvote.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Do you get dressed like this?

Don't try this at home, for your sake, and your jeans's sake:

video

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's already been seven years

Like many people, I can remember very clearly what I was doing when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 started.  Not just remember what I was doing, but what I was feeling: sad, confused, angry, unsure, scared.  But, now, as we commemorate the seventh anniversary of those attacks, I feel those same feelings, yet with a different context.

I asked myself this morning, "Have we forgotten what happened?"  Sure, there are a lot of ceremonies honoring those that died.  Our news media will be replaying all of the horrifying images from that day and trying to analyze how safe we are from another attack.  Polls show that our country's concern over another act of terrorism is at its lowest level since 2001.  And certainly, for as life altering as that day was for all of us, we must move on.

But now, I think the better question is "Have we forgotten how we reacted?"

We, the people of the United States, reacted in a way that was, in a word, holy.

Men and women - young and old - being obedient to their vocation to the armed forces to sacrifice their very lives to protect you and me (which they continue to do today).  Americans rich and poor caring for total strangers, no matter how near or far.  Family being the priority over sports, business, politics, money.  Priests and pastors of every denomination preaching to packed churches.  Self-donation exceeding self-satisfaction.  A nation that was truly, if only for a moment, one under God.

Perhaps all of the pomp and circumstance of today will remind us of this: that the best way for our country to honor those who died is not just to be more protected and secure, but for Americans to be truly and authentically loving of family, friends and the other alike, as we were on Sept. 11, 2001.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm so very blessed

As a part of my "job" as a youth minister, I get to be proud of the young people that come into my life and witness them succeed and grow and struggle and laugh, all in the pursuit of happiness.

I get to watch volleyball players play just because it's fun and they've been blessed with the talents to do that.  I get to be a part of the important life/career choices that take my young people all over the globe in search of their vocation.  I get to share in the excitement of going away to college for the first time.  I get to talk/read text messages/have IM conversations with these men and women about getting an amazing job or getting an A on a test or being selected for a major part in a play.

Thank you, God, for these small blessings.  And thank you that, in your greatness, you allow me to witness your goodness incarnated before my eyes.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Other

I met my friends Tony, Matt and Bri for noon Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary and lunch in Little Italy today.  It was a nice break from work and planning and thinking way too hard about ministry.

The priest who celebrated Mass today, Fr. Louie, brought up something that has been on my heart since I returned from the Dominican.  That is the concept of the "other".

Our Church today celebrates the feast of a holy priest, St. Peter Claver.  He dedicated his life to ministering to people who were considered the "other": Africans sold into slavery and brought to what is now South America.  He gave them food and drink.  Cared for the sick and dying. Taught the Africans about God.  And converted thousands of souls to the Church.

But what made the people of the 17th century see these Africans as the "other"?  Was it the color of their skin?  Was it their socio-economic status?  Were they "less" human?  What made St. Peter want to serve them?

And what about today?  We have lots of "others" in our midst here in the United States.  Why are some of the "others" in our country treated with dignity and some not?

Over the weekend, my dad and I were talking about all of the political issues that have come up in this election year.  And he posed the question: Why are we Americans so insistent on strict immigration laws and practices?  And what would happen if the strict immigration laws that some voters desire caused the immigrants who perform the many tasks of our many service industries to not be in this country?

When I first started working in the Haitian villages, I definitely did see those people as the "other"...at first.  But as we grew in relationship, their need for love and friendship and God was no different than mine.

As I have met and related with Christians from non-Catholic churches over the past few months, I definitely felt the awkwardness of the denominational boundaries...at first.  But when we prayed, we prayed to the same triune God with the same desire to worship our Creator.

Maybe, just maybe, the "other" is not as different as we think they are.  And maybe, the sooner we recognize the "other" in our midst, the sooner we can ask for God's grace to see them for who they are: a son or daughter of God, just like us.

Path of Humility

As I was writing music and lyrics the other day for a new song, I found this definition of humility on Wikipedia that opened my eyes and my heart:
    • submission to God and legitimate authority;
    • recognition of the virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those which surpass one's own, and giving due honor and, when required, obeisance;
    • recognition of the limits of one's talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for that which is beyond one's grasp.
        Humility...recognizing how small you are and how big God is.

        St. Augustine of Hippo is one of my favorite saints, as well as one of the most quotable.  I discovered this one on his feast day a few weeks ago that I can't stop thinking about:
        "To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him; the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement."
        Humility...the act of authentic praise of God by our love of Him, by our search for Him, by our encounter with Him.

        I saw this article on CNN.com on several visits to the site.  I was attracted to it, but afraid to click on it.  So, I finally did that this morning.  It's a story about a new book that details the common traits of people who survived disasters of all kinds.  As I was reading, I realized why I was so hesitant.  I desire a larger helping of humility in my own life.  My deepening need for humility has given me awareness that my lack of it has caused some of the challenges I face.  And then, the author of the book was quoted as saying this:
        "Humility can keep you out of trouble."
        Humility...it can save your life whether you're trapped in the wilderness, floating helplessly in the ocean for days, or trying to find a way out of your life's "disasters" caused by lonliness, greed or pride.

        Monday, September 8, 2008

        Taught by the poor

        As I was putting the video of my working among the Haitian refugees in the Dominican Republic together a few weeks agao, I was struck by this quote from Mother Teresa:

        Only in heaven will we see how much we owe the poor for helping us love God better because of them.

        The people of Haiti have undergone much suffering over the past few weeks as four hurricanes have battered their island and caused much death and destruction.

        Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has called upon the world family to help.

        These people did not asked to be in the destructive path of the hurricanes.  Nor did they ask to be born into the poverty of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  But they are certainly teaching us something in their suffering.  The question is, how will we respond?

        Sunday, September 7, 2008

        Family Weekend

        My Grandmother is visiting from the Philippines for a few weeks.  And this weekend, we had family day.  And Villa family day usually consists of two things: eating, shopping and more eating.  Oh, and picture taking.  It's definitely not a gathering without picture taking.

        So, here's a picture of my beloved Grandmother and I (taken, of course, after our family day of shopping and in between eating).

        As we were hanging out, it hit me...we (as in you and I) need to take time for family.  Whether it's flying 16 hours or driving for two, the travel is a worthwhile investment in love.

        P.S.  Google Earth rocks!
        P.S.S.  What a football weekend: St. Augustine High vs. Carlsbad on Friday, SDSU vs. Notre Dame on Saturday and Panthers vs. Chargers today.  Oh yes, ready or not, it's football season again!

        Friday, September 5, 2008

        Let's play a game

        I really enjoy listening to speakers who teach me, who give me words that not only touch my heart but move my mind to deeper understand.  My dad is one of these people.  Mark Hart is another.  And so is Bishop Robert Brom, the Roman Catholic Bishop of San Diego.

        I had the blessing of spending the morning with Bishop Brom yesterday as he held his annual meeting with church ministers from all over the Diocese.

        He talked about two very powerful topics.

        One was how God has written LOVE into our very genetic make-up. Love finds fulfillment only when self donation exceeds self satisfaction.

        The other was HOPE.  We experience hope when we give and receive the divine love that is written in our hearts (see above).  All hopes are good and meaningful (i.e. the Chargers win their season opening game versus the Panthers this Sunday).  But there is only one hope that fuels our desire to live: the resurrection of the body and live everlasting.

        I am always in awe of how Bishop Brom makes these very high theological teachings accessible to me as a lay person.  He shared so many terms and concepts that I found myself not just soaking the information in, but also applying it to my own life.  Hence, a word association game broke out in my head.  Here's how the game went:

        COMMUNION: the summit of our existence on earth (the Eucharist), the source of how we are to live our lives (discipleship and holiness).
        COMMUNITY: necessary for all humans, but is incomplete without communion.
        INTEGRITY: trust and confidence in who God made us to be, boldness in proclaiming that publicly and privately.
        HUMILITY: a life of ministry cannot succeed without it.
        SERVANTHOOD: there is no "I" in team and no "I" in servant either.
        SACRAMENT: Jesus Christ hanging on the cross.
        SUFFERING: Bishop Brom is a model of handling suffering with and through grace.

        Thanks, Bishop Brom, for inspiring me to be a better son of Christ and his Church.

        Wednesday, September 3, 2008

        Music = unity?

        Coming from a family of musicians, I have been around music all of my life.  Music has touched my soul, made me laugh, made me cry, annoyed the heck out of me.  And it's brought me closer to God.

        Now, being a musician and a music minister for the Catholic Church, it is quite interesting to see how those emotions that I and countless others have experienced are present in the celebration of our Eucharistic liturgy.

        It's interesting.  And it's sad.

        Sad to see how brothers and sisters - bishops, priests, lay people alike - in our Church are so divided because of the on-going argument of what constitutes "liturgically appropriate" music.

        Sad to see how brothers and sisters rest their experience of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass based on how good the music sounds or if a genre of music fits their musical preferences.

        Now, these discussions about the liturgical appropriateness of certain musical forms are good and necessary.  And those of us involved in music ministry need to be well versed and well practiced in our talent as we share it with Christ and His Church.  God doesn't deserve mediocre.

        But we need to see that God's true and real presence comes before us at every Mass, and we can miss Him because we're distracted because of our mis-understanding of the real purpose of music.

        Check out this article from the National Catholic Reporter.  It focuses on the use of contemporary forms of music in liturgy, but it really is about getting our Church back to real, authentic worship of our Father.

        Tuesday, September 2, 2008

        The stretch run of the baseball season...

        The very long baseball season now enters its final month.  And while our hometown San Diego Padres are in the midst of the end-of-the-year minor league call-ups, I'm still hoping that the team finishes this disappointing season really strong.  And I really hope that Buddy Black continues to have the chance to develop this team into a winner.

        But, while watching tonight's game between the Pads and the Dodgers (who I was a fan of when I was younger), it reminded me about the importance in having passion for life and your vocation.  The minor leaguers who are brought up to the major league team have everything to prove and everything to gain.  

        So all these "meaningless" games to us fans whose team won't be playing in October, are really a chance to root, root root for young men playing their hearts out because they're fulfilling their dreams even if it's one-two-three strikes you're out at the end of September.

        P.S.  If you haven't seen the Champions of Faith films, you should.

        Thursday, August 28, 2008

        What I did this summer...

        Sorry it's been a while since I've blogged.  I love the start of the school year.  But it is hectic.

        So, here are some thoughts on the recently concluded summer break:

        - Four medals for USA Volleyball (3 golds, 1 silver).  The gold medal match of for the men's indoor tournament has to be one of the best of all time.  Hugh McCutcheon modeled the reward that is possible when we endure in trial.
        - Steubenville San Diego was special.  Special because God was there.  Special because He made us all one.
        - I'm going to be an uncle.  That's pretty cool.

        But, by far the highlight was going to the Dominican Republic on "vacation".  There are no words I can use to accurately describe how God jolted me for eight days so that I could see His face clearly and without distraction.  However, this video that the Holy Spirit helped me put together may give you a small glimpse of how He re-affirmed for me true meaning of being blessed.

        Friday, August 15, 2008

        C'mon ride the train

        When I was a student at UCSD, the only way I could get to my parent's house in Glendale was by train. As an impetuous 18 year old, I hated giving up my power as a driver to sit in a mode of transportation that I thought was for old people.

        Well now that I am older and maturer, and because gas is so expensive, and because Friday rush hour traffic is ridiculous, I have selected the old people transportation to go home this weekend.

        What a great decision I made!

        I get to enjoy the view of the beach, work on my Mission trip video and not stress. Sounds like a good gig to me.

        My family and I will be celebrating, well, family this weekend. That's reason enough to have a party, huh?

        Wednesday, August 13, 2008

        Call me Uncle Pat

        My family is about to have a new addition. My brother Andrew (the one in the middle without hair) and sister-in-law Grace (the other one in the middle WITH hair and the white dress) are expecting their first child!

        This makes me very happy!

        We pray for the healthy development of the baby and that our family will prepare our hearts to love unconditionally.

        Tuesday, August 12, 2008

        Oh happy day

        I am a huge fan of the Olympics.  These are some of my highlights so far:
        • Gymnastics is ridiculous.  Like X Games ridiculous.  Some of the tricks the dudes do now are unreal.
        • Michael Phelps is a beast.  Hopefully he'll be as good as a sober driver as he is in the pool.
        • Team USA Men's Basketball looks good.
        • Volleyball in all it's forms is my favorite sport.  Maybe because I used to play.  Maybe because all the US teams will contend for medals.
        Here's a silly video from my mission trip to the DR:

        video

        But, this is the best news of the day for me: I now live exactly 8 minutes from an Apple Store!!!!!!

        Sunday, August 10, 2008

        Why Crossroads

        I'm listening to a live version of "Why Georgia" right now. This may not seem that out of the ordinary. But I have not turned on my iPod for twelve days.

        And the funny thing is that I haven't missed it.

        For the last twelve days I have been part missionary, part retreatant, part student of true joy.

        Thanks to the Maloys, Blake Wagner and the people at the Crossroads ministry, we worked among the poor Haitian refugees of the Dominican Republic.

        I'll be posting more about our adventures in ministry this week.

        But you should know this. I understand now why God prefers the poor. Because in poverty, God's mercy can flow.

        My life will not be the same after this trip. The Haitians may have wanted material things from me. But I want something from them: joy in poverty.

        Why Crossroads,why...

        Saturday, August 2, 2008

        Blessed are the poor

        Our days of rest and relaxation end today. We're packing up our stuff and headed to Crossroads to begin our week of missionary work with the poor of the Dominican Republic.

        I'm praying for lots of humility this week so that all 24 people in our group, especially me, can encounter the face of God in the other. And that we will all be changed. For the better.

        That we may rejoice in knowing our spiritual poverty, and how blessed indeed that we may be.

        Blessed Mother Teresa, pray for us.

        Thursday, July 31, 2008

        Let's go fly a kite


        I don't know what kite boarding is. But apparently I am in the kite boarding capital of the world! So here I am learning how to fly a kite that would be used for this kite boarding stuff.

        Don't think that I'll be getting out in the water to do that, but there will be more pics and videos to come from this adventure.

        Tomorrow morning, I'm headed out with Blake to some Haitian worship service. Should be interesting.

        Rest is highly under-rated

        One of the things I'm most grateful for on this trip is the chance to relax. I slept in really late...so my breakfast meal of the day is really lunchtime.

        Last night we had dinner at El Bosque Cafe here in the Sea Horse Ranch where we're hanging out. The cafe is this tiny little hut that overlooks the ocean. It was cool hanging out Steve and Janis Maloy, who are sponsoring my trip, and Blake Wagner, the man responsible for organizing this mission trip.

        Steve and Janis have such amazing hearts and will give the shirts off their backs to someone in need. And while I get to see that on a regular basis at St. James, it is very apparent here. And Blake has a boldness that is very inspiring to me. His motivation for starting this trip came while he was visiting the Dominican and mourning the loss of his 5 year old daughter. His ability to recognize the needs of others and to do something about it is very divinely inspired.

        The beauty of suffering. Life from death. The paschal mystery.

        So there will be more resting for me...much needed resting, I might add. I hope to get through Reasons to Believe by Scott Hahn. It's hot here, but not as bad as I thought. Guess that means I'll have to jump in the pool...

        Wednesday, July 30, 2008

        In the DR

        After the long overnight flight and extended layover in New Jersey, I am now in the Dominican Republic (aka the DR). Boy am I tired, even after sleeping most of the way here. Spent the afternoon relaxing with the Maloy's in the pool and at their house.

        Funny thing as we were driving in. The lushness and simplicity of the DR reminds of rural Philippines. Makes me wish I could be there soon.

        The rest of the day will be spent resting. We don't move to Crossroads, the home base of our missionary trip, till Saturday. So the main objective until then is chillin'.

        Tuesday, July 29, 2008

        Do any of you think this is weird too...

        Airports do not lack interesting-ness, and San Diego's Lindberg Field is no exception.

        But the fact that the CPK Express serves breakfast pizza?

        BREAKFAST PIZZA!!!!????

        Now that I have that off my chest, this other thought has smacked me upside the head: I will be without my laptop and cell phone coverage for 12 days as I head off to the Dominican Republic for my mission trip. This makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. Vulnerable usually means an open heart, and an open heart is one of the most important things to pack on a trip like this.

        (By the way, a mom just walked by me with her young son - 2 or 3 years old ish - walking in front of her tied to a leash. Now he's either a world class athlete in training or she thinks he's a pet. Talk about weird...)

        I'm about to board. The craziness and stress of last week is starting to catch up to me. I hope I sleep all the way.

        I'll post when I arrive in Newark at 6:00 am EDT (that's 9 am in the DR and 3 am here in SoCal).

        Monday, July 28, 2008

        "Impatience makes doubtful all certainty"

        I'm as guilty as anyone of being consumed by the instant-ness of our society.  Even with things that are authentically good and holy.

        As I reflected on this past weekend of being at the Steubenville conference, I decided that I want God's grace to work RIGHT NOW to make my life better, more pleasing to Him.

        Then, as I was driving back from Mass this morning, this beautiful statement...no, prayer...from St. Theresa of Avila came into my heart: 

        Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.

        I paraphrased these words and used them in my song God of Hope.  And when I wrote the words, I really didn't realize just how deep and meaningful they are.

        Because the bottom line is that God's will is always done no matter what.  He promised that.  And if we believe His promise, then we need to be more patient.  Not just more patient while waiting in line to check out at the grocery, but more patient that good will come out of all of the hard, life choices we have to make every day.

        And his grace is enough to make us more patient...and trusting.

        I need more patience in getting ready for my trip to the Dominican Republic.  I leave tomorrow night for something I've never done, in a land I've never been to.  I'm nervous and excited.  I want to go really bad and want to stay home at the same time.  But I know that God wants me to be there.  He is desiring me to be a better servant.  And I will trust that this will be the place that I learn that.

        Sunday, July 27, 2008

        Stay tuned...

        ...for the Steubenville San Diego video, coming soon.

        I do think so...

        We just finished an amazingly long, tiring and powerful day at the Steubenville conference.

        This wonderful Puerto Rican priest, Fr. Jose, taught us a simple reminder today in fighting against evil and temptation:

        I don't think so, baby!

        It's kind of like just saying no to sin.  And saying no to sin is the pathway to true happiness.

        But, I'd like to think there is another side to this thought that makes it more complete:

        I do think God revealed his presence to all of us in the beauty and simplicity of a piece of bread.
        I do think God called us all by name, just like he called Mary of Magdala at the site of the empty tomb.
        I do think tears are a sign of healing...and a promise to God to change.
        I do think there is power in reverence and silence.
        I do think there has been a lot of healing this weekend.
        I do think there will be more healing to come.
        I do think our Mother Mary looks out for us at every moment.
        I do think we really need to respond with boldness and confidence when we hear God call our name.
        I do think God really only humbles us only to exalt us.
        I do think that sleep deprivation in the name of being closer to Christ is not just a bad thing.
        I do think nuns are some of the coolest people on the earth.
        I do think priests and seminarians are gifts that keep on giving.
        I do think none of us will be the same after this weekend.  And that is a good thing.
        I do think seeing old friends and making new ones is cool.
        I do think we are more alike than different.
        I do think we will change the world.
        I do think God is love.

        Saturday, July 26, 2008

        God of Hope

        I'm pretty humbled right now. All of the people who are in this picture inspire me by their joy, by their trust, by their desire to be closer to authentic happiness and love which is God.

        I have been filled with hope, not just for these young people, but for me

        I can't wait to see how the big (and small) conversions from this weekend at Steubenville will change your world and mine.

        Not your ordinary kind of pilgrimage

        It's very very VERY late.  And tired does not seem to fully describe my level of tired.  Now, you might be reading this thinking that I've travelled to some far away land like, say, Australia.

        But, in reality, myself and 50 members of our youth ministry have made the short, half hour drive to San Diego State University for the annual Steubenville San Diego Catholic Youth Conference.

        Steve Angrisano, the host of the conference, made an interesting point.  When we think of a pilgrimage, we think of the trip to a far far away land.  Yet, he offered us the idea that a pilgrimage is a journey into a holy place.  I'd say the heart of God is pretty holy.  And to think that the heart of God can be made manifest in a basketball arena is pretty darn cool.

        We might not have travelled very far in physical miles, but the journey to encounter God is full of challenges and distractions from sin and evil that can drain even the most faithful Christian.

        Did I mention I'm tired?

        More to come from the conference (yay for mobile blogging)...

        Tuesday, July 22, 2008

        Music to my ears

        I have a plethora of really good music on my iPod.  I just bought three new albums:

        Where the Light is (John Mayer)
        Viva la Vida (Coldplay)
        3 Doors Down (3 Doors Down)

        I really like the John Mayer album, which was recorded live in my hometown of Los Angeles.

        However, my favorite of all three albums - in fact, my favorite of any album in my iPod - has been one with no notes and no lyrics.

        I have found myself choosing the song of silence recently, especially in my car as I drive around.  So, I've been shutting off my iPod and just listening to much more than what comes out of my car audio.  

        And I have to admit that I like the silence.  Helps me focus on where my heart is leading me.  Helps me to know my heart better.  Helps me connect with the One who fills my heart with love and mercy.

        Saturday, July 19, 2008

        Will the real Batman please stand up?

        I used to collect comic books.  I would buy different series, based on my interest and curiosity with different genres.  But, it's hard to be a comic book collector or even a super hero fan and not know the Batman character.

        So it is with this context that I went to see the new installation of the Batman movies last night, The Dark Knight.  It is a wonderfully written and produced movie.  One of my friends who saw the film called Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker "brilliant".  And I'd have to agree with her.  The action is pretty sweet.  And, of course, Batman's toys are soooo cool.

        But this movie challenged every notion I had of the Caped Crusader.  One of the interesting sub plots is the appearance of Batman impersonators.  Picture a Halloween party with a bunch of people dressed up as Batman, except those people actually believe (and act like) they are Batman.

        You see, I saw Batman's life as simple:  hang out all day as a multi-bazillionaire, jump in the Batmobile and beat up on some bad guys, and keep all of it as separate and as secret as possible.  The quint-essential double life.

        Ah, if only it were that easy.  For me, the darkness referenced in the title was as much about the battles of the heart as it was about the battles with the bad guys.  Christian Bale did such a wonderful job expressing this tension in his role as the main character.  I couldn't help but think that, with all the different versions of the character (not just from the comic books, but also the TV series and movie trilogy with Michael Keaton/Val Kilmer), this movie may have portrayed the most complete Bruce Wayne/Batman.  I think the real Bruce/Batman would have preferred to deal just with the Joker, his henchmen and the crime mobs of Gotham City, than the turmoil raged within him.

        And what makes up his turmoil?  The opposition of loving and using.  Could be our turmoil too...

        Friday, July 18, 2008

        (Almost) Live from Sydney

        It's been great catching the World Youth Day coverage from Australia.  But, it's even better to get e-mails and blogs and messages from people you know.

        I mentioned Marko and Scott in my blog the other day.  Both of them are at World Youth Day right now.  They are friends in ministry who I have connected with over the summer to brainstorm and dream about an even more powerful youth ministry.

        Scott is in charge of teen faith formation for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  He has some wonderful thoughts about how to make Catholic youth ministry work in today's context.  And Marko is the president of Youth Specialties, a San Diego-based publisher of youth ministry resources.  One of the coolest things about Marko is how willing he is to experience our Catholic tradition (he is not Catholic, but is attending WYD and has spoken at a Catholic youth minister's training sponsored by Life Teen).  

        Both Scott and Marko have inspired me to think outside of the proverbial ministry box.  I pray that that process and discernment and the support I know they and others will give me will be close to God's Will.  Because doing God's Will always bears fruit.  And God likes fruit.

        So, please check out Scott's and Marko's blogs from Australia.  They provide such a beautiful perspective for all of us not there.

        I have to give a quick shout out to Maire, Leah, Sarah, Grant, Jon and everyone from the Gathering Youth Ministry who are in Sydney now.  Marie left this beautiful Facebook message for me this morning:

        PAT!!! Australia is amazing!! I was 5 feet from the pope in his pope mobile!!!! I wish you were here!!! I'm soo pumped for steubenville!!! see you next week!!!

        Oh, you NEED to go to Google Maps and get directions from San Diego (or wherever you are) to Sydney.  You won't believe your eyes....

        Thursday, July 17, 2008

        Proud to be Catholic!

        My parents, Vicente and Maria (seen on the left during our pilgrimage to Rome in 2005), are on a plane as I write this to visit our family in the Philippines.

        I called them yesterday morning to wish them a good trip.  I was talking with them from a convent in National City (in southern San Diego County) where teens from my youth group and other members of St. James parish were helping the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity fix up their home.  

        As I was talking to my Mom and Dad, they told me how proud they were of me for what we were doing for the sisters.  Of course, this made me feel very good.  Love and affirmation from your parents never gets old, even when you're 36.  But as the day went on, I reflected on why they both reacted this way.  It didn't really seem like that big of a deal.  Yet, it was, not just for them, but for me.

        They are proud of their Catholic faith, especially when faith is lived out and proclaimed in truth.  They modeled that pride for my siblings and I as we were growing up and taught us the value of being faithful to our Catholic roots.  And now that my sister and brothers and I are all adults (or at least pose as adults), they make it a point to express their hope that we will continue to be proud to be Catholic.

        But what exactly does this mean, this idea of pride in the church, pride in our religion?

        After I returned home from working at the convent, I watched the coverage of the World Youth Day Opening Mass.  To see the thousands of people there and all the joy and faith (and wishing I was there) was pretty overwhelming.  One big Catholic party.

        This only made me think more...

        I feel proud to be Catholic.  I mean, I wear Catholic t-shirts, listen to Catholic music, I pray, I go to Mass, I read the Bible, I study up on church teaching, I try not to hurt people...that should be good enough, right?

        Then Cardinal George Pell of the Archdiocese of Sydney shared his powerful words of faith, hope and love, and I couldn't help but feel like he was talking to me from 9,000 miles away when he said, "Don't spend your life sitting on the fence, keeping your options open, because only commitments bring fulfillment."

        And that's when it clicked.  Showing your pride in your faith is about commitment to a person, Jesus Christ, who is made known and visible to us most powerfully and clearly through the Catholic Church.  

        Wearing t-shirts, listening to music, participating in prayer and liturgy, studying, traveling to meet the Pope, even serving your community are powerful expressions of that commitment.  But if the commitment of the heart isn't there, those exterior signs have less meaning.

        Pride is about still being committed even though we're not completely understanding or completely living the teaching of the church, but desire to grow closer to the truth through humility and conversion.  

        Pride is knowing that the truth is a person, Jesus Christ, and that the truth loves us at all times.

        Pride is understanding that putting on a Catholic t-shirt or listening to a Catholic CD or setting foot in a church for Sunday Mass carries with it a responsibility to be an outward sign of the invisible reality of God's mercy and peace.

        Pride is acknowledging our Catholic faith as a gift given to us by Christ (through our parents, families, and parish communities).  It is living with hope that God will bless us in our faithfulness to Him, especially in our sin and brokenness.

        While we can certainly agree that sharing our pride in our faith is challenging even in the best of circumstances, the reward that awaits us is worth all of our trouble:  Heaven.

        Tuesday, July 15, 2008

        Athlete chooses priesthood over professional soccer career

        I'm not really sure that I need to say more than the title says.  You just need to read the article for yourself to know how powerful this is.

        But while you're reading it, please think about this:  What are you willing to give up for Christ?

        I can tell you that I'm asking myself that very question...

        Monday, July 14, 2008

        Random-osity

        - I feel like I have a lot going on right now.

        Getting ready for our annual trip to the Steubenville San Diego Catholic Youth Conference.  Some of you are laughing because the conference is being held in our backyard at SDSU.  While it isn't a trip in the sense of miles, it is a journey into the Sacred Heart of Christ.

        I'm also getting ready to go on a vacation/missionary trip to the Dominican Republic.  I really am excited (and nervous) to go.  I'm struggling right now with that feeling of "oh-I-still-have-time-to-get-everything-done-before-I-leave-but-I-really-don't-because-the-trip-is-only-a-few-weeks-away".

        - These two stories grabbed my attention today:

        1. As you probably know, our world is celebrating the Summer Olympics in a few weeks.  The host country, China, has been preaching (and warning) visitors to be civil and kind during the Games.  Among the many rules include no spitting, no standing for long periods of time in the seating area, and no crossbows allowed (yes, you heard me, NO CROSSBOWS!).

        This is all well and good, but aren't we supposed to be civil to each other all the time?

        2. If you want to get someone to clean your room or house, give them free gas.  If you want to make new friends, give them free gas.  If you want to lead people closer to Christ, give them free gas.

        - I've been blessed to meet a lot of amazing teens, families, young adults of all ages, priests, sisters and fellow youth ministers.  There are two brother youth ministers, Mark Ostriecher and D. Scott Miller, that are in Australia for the celebration of World Youth Day.  Marko and Scott will be blogging from Sydney and I'll be sharing some of their experiences with you (as well as how they've inspired me to be a better youth minister and a better man of God).

        - This Friday, July 18, here at my parish, St. James, we will be celebrating the ordination to the diaconate of Ernesto Torres.  If you're Catholic and have never been to an ordination of any kind, you have a moral obligation to go.  OK, you don't have a moral obligation to go, but you really should if you want to see, feel and hear the power of Christ's grace in action.  One of the most powerful experiences in the life of our Church.  I hope to have a special blog on Ernesto later this week.

        - A quick shout out to all of you who have been coming to Bible study over the summer.  One of joys of being a youth minister is praying, preparing and leading Bible study.  I hope that those who have been coming (and those who will be coming) have a powerful encounter with Christ.  I know I do.

        Sunday, July 13, 2008

        Baseball, dying and nuns

        I know what you're thinking: "What in the world do these three different things have in common?" 

        Some God-inspired joy, that's what!

        Think about these with me for a moment...

        There is joy in baseball?  (with all the scandal and lack of virtue)  YES!
        There is joy in the dying process?  (with all the sadness and suffering)  YES!
        There is joy in being a nun? (living a life that is totally about the other and not you) ABSOLUTELY YES!

        If you read the article/watch the video to Making Time Stand Still (a story from ESPN.com), you will see joy lived out in the lives of a group of people in Atlanta, brought together in the pursuit of a happiness that we cannot comprehend or create on our own.

        And, you may just discover how God desires you and me to live lives of joyfulness, even in the midst of our own suffering and sorrow.