Good, Good Father

Today is Father’s Day, but by the time you read this it will have already passed.

Last summer I woke up on what I thought was an average Sunday morning, but I had the following Chris Tomlin lyrics stuck in my head: “You’re a good, good Father. It’s who You are, it’s who You are and I’m loved by You–it’s who I am.”

I didn’t know why I literally woke up with those lyrics in my head. And they wouldn’t go away either. It only took me 5 or 6 hours to realize it was Father’s Day. (I know I’m terrible for forgetting. I was away on a retreat and completely forgot.) But as soon as I realized what day it was, I just started laughing in awe. My heart wasn’t just singing “Good, Good, Father,” it was singing to a Good, Good Father. A Father that instilled His goodness, love and mercy in my heart on a normal Sunday morning when my feeble human mind had forgotten what day it was.

More than that it had reminded me how I was blessed with my father and grandfather here on earth, and another grandfather who got to be with our Father in Heaven. How lucky is he.

Two weeks later I attended a mission trip where some spiritual exercise was much needed and thankfully found. During adoration we were encouraged to write letters to ourselves. As I was writing mine, the band playing the worship music had paused for a break. When I started to write down the reminder that I have a Good, Good Father who never forgets me, that very song began playing as the letters flowed out of my pen. Just another affirmation that the Father is indeed Good, in case I was having any doubts.

This Father’s Day falls on Corpus Christi Sunday. How fitting. In celebration of the body and blood of Christ, we are forced to acknowledge the greatest sacrifice–and the greatest gift–a Father could ever give: that of His son, the Redeemer of the world. The gift of unending grace and mercy poured out for us sinners, and the promise of paradise to the faithful–a place where we can reunite with our earthly fathers and be forever in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Just take a moment and ponder that. Really. It just might change your life.

Happy Father’s Day to my Dad and my grandfathers, one in heaven and one on earth. I love you all dearly.

 

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Don’t Give Up Chocolate: Why You Owe it to Yourself to Dig Deeper This Lenten Season

If you’re reading this, there’s probably a good chance that you either have already given up chocolate once before for Lent, or have considered doing so this Lent. Or you might be thinking who am I to tell you what you should or should not give up for Lent. Or you might be wondering what Lent is.

Let me save you the Wikipedia search and tell you what it says: “Lent is a solemn religious observance in the liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday.” It is a time of fasting and prayer in preparation for Christ’s Resurrection from the dead, celebrated on Easter Sunday. It lasts approximately 40 days, as Christ fasted in the desert for 40 days where he was continuously tempted by Satan, but never once gave in to those temptations.

We are to give up something which isn’t merely a temptation, but that takes our time, energy, and thoughts away from Christ and us living out our Christian lives. If chocolate does all of the above, then by goodness give it up! But I don’t think that’s the case for most. I think chocolate (or sweets in general) was a good starting point for us as kids. We loved it, we wanted it, and it was nearly impossible to say ‘no’ to it. But we never let go of it and it became a “Lenten Tradition.” As we grow in our spiritual lives, our Lenten sacrifices should also grow (whether by quantity or quality–preferably the latter.) Still others use Lent and the chocolate tradition as an excuse to lose weight, but that’s all wrong (losing weight should be about respecting your body and recognizing it as a temple of the Holy Spirit, worthy of being respected through health and fitness.)

So, if not chocolate then what? Well, it depends on the person.

Give up whatever it is that keeps you from growing closer to Christ. For many I could safely assume that to be something like social media or Netflix or both, as they take up too much of our time, too many hours we can’t get back. But for some it may be worrying, stressing, being negative, self-blame or self-destruction. Examine your day today. What is it that you feel enslaved to? What was it that you made time for that wasn’t leading you closer to Christ or strengthening your Christian faith and lifestyle? That is what you should consider leaving behind this Lent.

But simply giving something up is not going to give you a fulfilling Easter season. What will is the combination of sacrifice and increasing prayer and reflection either quantitatively or qualitatively to your daily routine. Maybe it’s praying in the morning, middle of the day, and night, or daily rosary, or what not. Maybe it’s getting involved with more corporal works of mercy, or attending daily mass or confession. Whatever it may be, let it help you grow intimately close to the Lord, for He is waiting for you.

Lent provides us with a beautiful opportunity to suffer along with Christ, and anticipate the Glory of His Resurrection. Don’t let this wonderful season pass you by. Embrace it and know that in your suffering, in your grit, you soon find grace which will lead you to His great Glory.

Dig Deep this Lent, my friends.

May God Bless you and Keep you.

 

Why We March

Spring is right around the corner, ready to remind us how lovely life is. Little buds blossom  out of the dead and barren winter into beautiful flowers of all colors, shapes, and sizes. The earth comes alive once again, and I suppose we do, too.

But some don’t get the chance to. Some don’t even get a say in whether or not they get to live their life. Life– the most basic of all human rights. But don’t say that these little ones, these innocent, voiceless little babies aren’t human because we know fully well that they are. We know this. In the depths of our hearts and in every fiver of our being we know that the unborn are human upon conception. But we keep lying to ourselves so that the reality of the atrocity that is abortion can seem justifiable in our eyes.

We say that because they can’t think for themselves that they aren’t human. Because they look more like a clump of cells than a fully-developed human that they aren’t one of us (even though those cells are the the fundamental building blocks of what it is to be human). Because they are an inconvenience to us they don’t deserve life.

Just because they cannot speak for themselves does not mean we have the right to take advantage of them. Who do we think we are that we can decide the worthiness of someone’s life? Who are we to decide who lives and dies?

No matter the prognosis, no matter the timing, no matter the way we feebly predict the future, we cannot submit to fear or selfishness. We can learn to love. We can learn to hope. We can learn to cast out fear. After all, miracles happen everyday.

So let us replace uncertainty with Hope; fear with Faith; hatred with Love; sorrow with Joy.

Let us not continue to kill the future. In one abortion a life is killed, a heart is broken, and a future which holds untold potential is immediately destroyed, yet certainly not forgotten.

“The moral problem of abortion is of a pre-religious nature because the genetic code is written in a person at the moment of conception. A human being is there. I separate the topic of abortion from any specifically religious notions. It is a scientific problem. Not to allow the further development of a being which already has all the genetic code of a human being is not ethical. The right to life is the first among human rights. To abort a child is to kill someone who cannot defend himself.” -Pope Francis

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: How realistic are they and at what cost?

Eradicate world poverty, hunger, gender inequality. These are just three of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals which are hoped to be met by the year 2030. That’s a pretty short timeframe to successfully meet these three goals. . .and the fourteen others (which include clean water and sanitation, huge leaps in education, among others.) So how reasonable is it to set such lofty goals to be achieved in such a short time period?

The first step in realizing any goal is making oneself and the surrounding people aware of the goal(s) so as to stay on track (especially when they are set for such a short period of time.) It is not enough for just the delegates of the UN and other world leaders to be aware of these goals, as they encompass all people of all classes, race, ethnicity, and nations. But many people are not even aware of what the United Nation’s mission is, let alone its newly-developed Sustainable Development Goals. Most people, if not consciously taking time out of their day to research and study the United Nations, will have no idea what these goals are, when they are hoped to be reached, and how they are to be achieved. If, then, most people are completely unaware, how can the United Nations garner enough support and attention to the goals to make them successful?

Next we come to the question of timing. The Sustainable Development Goals were implemented in the year 2015 and hope to be accomplished by the year 2030. No, you didn’t make a mathematical error—that really is only fifteen years to complete seventeen hefty goals. Now, it is not questionable whether or not progress can be made in these seventeen areas, but to fully achieve all seventeen?  Well, we’ll just have to wait fourteen more years and see. A lot can happen in fourteen years. A child can go from pre-school to high school graduation in that amount of time, but what can be achieved on a global scale? Surely much can, but only if all hands are on deck. And, like we mentioned above, most people are unaware of these goals, and of the ones who are aware, who all is willing to make a change?

Furthermore and most importantly, I encourage all who follow the United Nations to be aware of their rhetoric. They love to make these goals sound sweet to the ear, even hitting the heartstrings. Don’t get me wrong, their goals are admirable and noble, but questionable when it comes to their methods in achieving them–most of which are unethical and tip-toe a fine line between acceptable and down-right immoral. So be careful—research the goals, but more importantly research their means in achieving them before you support them. We all want to eradicate world poverty, hunger, inequality, and so forth, but we must be sure to do so in the most ethical, sustainable way—not merely the quickest and easiest way.

“Did high school prepare me for college?”

Yes… but NO.

As I just wrapped up my first semester of college, I came home to a set of parents eager to ask away about my semester. Questions ranged from softball to friends to caf food. And then my mom asked me a question which actually made me stop and think: “Did high school prepare you for college?”

And the answer is no. It did not.

Well, hold on… It did prepare me for such things as writing research papers, taking quality lecture notes and what not, but did it prepare me for college? No.

Let’s start at high school. I attended Beaver Area high school, which is a top-ranked public high school in Western PA. The school itself is not what failed me–Beaver was a great school. What failed me was the public education system. Now I’m not here to go on a rant about how the system needs to be revised (it does, don’t get me wrong), but rather to share my experience with you.

Ask anyone to name the best school in the county and they will say Beaver. Why? Test scores. We had really good scores compared to the other schools in our county and region. We tested well. We became robots. We became numbers and test scores. We became our GPAs and the number of AP courses we were taking. Well, at least I did. And that is indeed partially my fault, but it is also the fault of the public education system.

Instead of becoming better people, growing as young adults, we became people solely concerned with passing classes. At the time it truly seems like the most important thing–life or death. But deep inside me I had this longing for something more in my education. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but I knew something was missing. Seven months ago when I graduated high school with Honors and in the top 2 percent of my class, with a super high GPA (which I was all-too concerned about), a successful softball career, and a member of the National Honor Society, I thought that I couldn’t be any more satisfied with my high school career. Here I sit here typing seven months later and can see so clearly how flawed and depleted my high school education was.

Now, I did have some amazing teachers. In every subject I had great teachers who left me with memories that will last a lifetime, and stories I will tell to my kids and grandkids. It wasn’t so much the teachers that were the problem, but rather the curriculum. It was pure facts, knowledge, empirical study. The problem was that there was no point to it. Okay, I just memorized every Supreme Court case, the history of Europe, blah blah blah. But now what do I do with it? I study it for a test, forget it, and relearn it for the final. Then I receive my grades, earn a diploma, and I’m on my way. But as much as high school taught loads of facts and equations and literary devices, it left me hanging as person!

I am blessed enough to have been able to completed my first semester of college at a place (Franciscan University) which has enabled me to open my eyes to see this disaster. I have grown more as person in one semester of college than I have in four years of high school. How has Franciscan enabled me to open my eyes to this? Two reasons. First, it is a liberal arts education. Never did I ever think that I’d be taking philosophy and theology courses in college. Those weren’t geared toward my major. Those weren’t going to make me money one day. Those wouldn’t secure me a good job right out of college. But what they did do was form me as a person. For the first time Descartes was discussed not as a champion of philosophy and the Enlightenment era, but rather as a fundamentally flawed philosopher. (How so? I don’t have time to discuss but in short his theories can easily be proved wrong.) For the first time I studied the classic Greek thinkers in depth and analyzed their work in every form–philosphy, poilitics, ethics, and so on. And for the first time I took a theology course which opened both my heart and mind to the reality which stares us in the face every day. (Obviously I could not have taken a theology course at a public high school because God has been banned from public places. (HAH- as if we can actually assume that we have the power to do so. (He is there we just refuse to recognize Him.))) And this gets me into the next point: that Franciscan University’s main priority is the Truth. The education it provides is shaped rightfully to the Truth, thus in its correct form. Every class starts with prayer. Every subject is made relevant to our purpose here on earth and where that will take us after our time on earth. Every professor is concerned about shaping their students morally and spiritually, and every student is open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe they themselves are not the center of their lives, their degree is not for them, and that all of the stress and studying throughout the semester is not without purpose.

For the first time in my life I am not concerned about my grades. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely care about maintaining good grades because it is not only a part of my vocation as a student, but also reflects my character, work ethic, and so on. Grades say a lot, but they don’t say everything. What I am trying to say is that for the first time in my life I care more about learning because the learning that happens at Franciscan University does not only make me smarter, but it allows me to grow. It opens my eyes, heart and mind to the reality of life, giving a real purpose to my education. It truly fulfills the definition of a liberal arts education, in that it sets me free (liber=free.) It doesn’t constrain me to the viewpoints and biases of my professors or classmates because it presents the truth, and only the truth has the power to radically give life and meaning to our studies and professions. Because the Truth Is.

So, did high school prepare me for college? Not nearly as much as it should have.

This Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving I am extra grateful for what God has placed in my life. Why? Well, because you know that saying that goes something like: “You never know how lucky you are to have something until it’s gone?” Well that is the darn truth.

This year has been hectic, but good. In fact it has been great. I graduated high school, started college, and have been blessed with so many new and holy people, amazing opportunities, early success, and a deeper appreciation of what I have been given by God.

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they’re big and sometimes they’re small. And sometimes they’re painful but they are always good. Good.

I went through some painful times this last year, whether it be losing a grandparent or a best friend, or not getting my way when I was too stubborn to see God’s better plan for me. But in all honesty I wold not change a single thing about this past year. I have grown so much as a person and in my faith that I would never want to turn back.

Starting college has given me a whole new perspective– and appreciation–for what I have had all my life and have taken for granted–like my own bed, clean shower, homemade food, and a cozy home nestled in the heart of a beautiful hometown which I had always sworn I’d never miss.

But on a more serious note I am especially grateful for my my parents who have done so much for me. Whether supporting me on the sidelines, in the classroom, financially, or as their youngest daughter, they have always been there for me and I could never thank them enough. I never realized how much I depended on them until I came to school and did laundry for the first time without adding detergent, and then realizing that I cannot fit three loads of washed clothes into one dryer if I want dry clothes. Yeah, that’s right. I may have graduated high school with a 4.25 but I just now learned how to do laundry. Go ahead and laugh.

I am also especially grateful for my sisters. We have grown so close throughout the last four years and the fact that we are now all separated breaks my heart and makes me wish I was 10 years old again. While I am now used to being away from my older sister for long periods of time, it is the first time me and my twin sister have been separated. It stinks that I have to call her on the phone to tell her jokes and little things that I would normally just turn my head to tell her. But we all have to grow up. We have to start living our own lives. Making our own friends. Making our own story. Step out of our comfort zone. But I sure am thankful for all the times we thought we’d kill each other cause we’d been attached at the hip for eighteen years.

I also have grown an even deeper appreciation for my grandparents. I simply hate being away from them, but when I am with them now it makes the time spent all-the-more special. I am truly blessed to have known all of my grandparents and have a great relationship with them all.

Finally I am thankful for Franciscan University–an absolutely wonderful place which has provided me with great friends, teammates, coaches, professors, a challenging and fulfilling education, and a holy atmosphere in which my faith has grown tremendously in these past three months.

God is real and God is Good. He provides us with abundant blessings.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Election 2016

While the Election is fast-approaching (less than two weeks!) it is crunch-time for both candidates and voters. The candidates will be in a full-out sprint to reach the finish line and win the race, while the voters (most of whom are undecided) will have to quickly make a decision as to whom they prefer run the country for the next four years.

With this being said, many last-minute efforts to mobilize voters and persuade them in favor of one candidate over the other are currently taking place. This week, at Franciscan University, three professors held a panel on the election, where they each gave their opinion, endorsement, and held an open-discussion session afterwards. I think what they had to say about the election needs to be heard.

The first speaker was my theology professor who, being greatly attuned to the Church’s teachings, endorsed Mr. Donald Trump. He argued first that Mr. Trump, although not an ideal character, a work-in-progress so to speak, at least has respect for the “babies and Benghazi,” whereas Secretary Clinton clearly does not. Her stance on abortion is nothing less than atrocious.

Edmund Burke once wrote that “There ought to be a system of manners in every nation which a well-formed mind would be disposed to relish. To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” And so I pose the question: What is lovely about abortion, recklessly endangering the lives of our soldiers abroad, or disregarding the Word and command of God? I’m not saying that Mr. Trump is by any means ‘lovely,’, but he has yet to have the chance to put his promised policies in action and prove them to be unlovely. Secretary Clinton, on the other hand, has already proved to us that she cannot properly or responsibly use the power given to her.

The second speaker at the panel was a Political Science professor. He had a different opinion. He mostly contrasted Clinton’s and Trump’s foreign policy awareness. While Clinton made a disaster in the Middle East (among other places) and has failed to recognize the fragility of Russian/American diplomacy, Trump at least recognizes the importance of making good relations with Putin. He further analyzed the situation and came to the conclusion that both Trump and Clinton are horrible choices, and he cannot endorse either of them. However, he says that while he does not want to vote for Trump,  he absolutely recognizes that it would be even worse to vote for Clinton.

Finally, the third speaker was my current Political Science professor. He had yet another view. He argued that we should by no means vote for either candidate. They are both corrupt and would most likely create irreparable damage to the face of this nation and our standing in foreign relations. Neither have the character fit for a president. A criminal and loud-mouth. Thank you, America, for making this such an appealing election. Our Founding Fathers would be oh so proud of us. However, we should still vote. It is a basic right we have that hopefully, unlike many other basic rights, will not be threatened by a Clinton any time soon.

So go out and vote. But vote your conscious. Vote wisely even though neither candidate is wise. Vote proudly. Vote Life.