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, 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...