Sunday, February 21, 2010

"Let us not fast in vain."

Often, when I'm looking for a daily mass to attend, I head to to find the latest Mass that fits into my schedule. Yes, I will not deny that mornings are not my favorite time of day. Once I'm up and going, I love when I have gotten up early. Unfortunately, that is the last thing I care about when I'm hitting snooze.

On Friday, In keeping with my normal routine, I attending an evening Mass at a parish a small distance away. The readings, as is fitting for Lent, focused on fasting. The first reading called us to see the meaning of our fast.

Isaiah 58:1-9
Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people
their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day
after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what
is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say:
Here I am!

Talk about a wake up call! Is it not too often that Catholics refrain from eating or doing something without praying with it? How many times have we, ourselves, failed to genuinely pray through our fast, rather than simply abstaining from something?

The priest at this parish gave a wonderful homily. He closed with a simple, yet profound, statement: "Let us not fast in vain."

What good is fasting if there is no meaning behind it but simple will-power? What good is abstaining from meat on Fridays if we have our favorite seafood instead? What is the point of "giving up" chocolate if we do not thank Christ for His sacrifice each time we pass up a treat? How is unplugging a television set have any purpose if we do not use our newly free time to give glory to God?

"Lent is not about a bunch of praying. It is not about fixing a few bad habits. Lent is about reorienting our life toward the end for which we were created" (Fr. Andy Alexander)

As we enter this first week of Lent, let's prayerfully focus on the meaning of our actions. It is through this season that we have the opportunity to celebrate the Paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

California Adventures of a Missouri vagabond

It's been a while since I've updated the items I've crossed off the "California Bucket List" I made months ago. I've made a little progress, eliminating two adventures from the to-do list. Thus, there are two stories to tell.


I finally made it to Disneyland after living just a short drive away from it for a year and a half. Our parish staff takes "staff days" periodically throughout the year, and in December, we found out we were going to Disneyland! Best part about that, it was free! I've always wanted to go to Disneyland, but spending 90-something dollars to go to an amusement park for a day just doesn't fit into my budget or my common sense. I would have liked to spend a little more time there, and be able to go on some of the more exciting rides, but none-the-less, I knocked something off the list without spending a dime!

The places I experienced: Star Tours, Mad Tea Party, It's a Small World, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Carribbean, Soaring over California, California Screamin'. (I think that about does it).

(Above: In the "A" of "California")

Overall, Disneyland was a neat place to visit. I don't think it quite met my expectations (everyone talks about how wonderful it is). Don't get me wrong, I had a great time, but I honestly doubt I'll ever pay for a full priced ticket, and certainly wouldn't get a season pass. If I had kids, it seems more likely that I would consider it, but even then, I'm not so sure I spend $200 a person to go.

I may, however, do a community service day and get a free ticket! That seems more than worth it! :)

(Above: Tea cup madness!)

Our trip to Canter's Deli was a wonderful memory! Last night, a good friend came over to have a girl's night and catch up with each other. We ate dinner, updated each other on the latest happenings of our lives, and then we moved on to the internet. At this point, my blog came up, and soon, we were looking at the bucket list. As we went through what I had yet to cross-off, we made it to Canter's Deli. It wasn't long after she mentioned that they were open 24-hours that we were headed out the door at 12:00 am to drive into LA! After a quick stop to fill up the gas take, we were off!

A short 40 min. later, we were walking up to the door of a 24-hour Jewish Deli. We opted to sit near the bar in order to hear the band that was playing. It was a joy to watch the many interesting people that came in and out of the restaurant, especially at 2:00 am! I ordered a staple grilled honey ham sandwich that was delicious, while my partner-in-crime ordered the matzo ball soup (her favorite). We enjoyed great conversation, delicious food, and a warm cup of coffee before we made our way toward the exit. We didn't fail to stop by the bakery on our way out though! I have yet to try any of the treats I purchased, but I can assure you that it was money (and will be calories) well spent!

It was a crazy trip, and I'm definitely tired from staying up until 4:00 am, but I find that these not so logical, but not stupid or dangerous, decisions have become the most memorable times of my life.

The California Bucket List

1) Learn to Surf
2) Swim with the Dolphins at Sea World
3) Visit and hike Catalina Island
4) Hollywood
5) Malibu
6) Santa Barbara
7) Dodgers Statium
8) See a movie premeire
9) Hike to the Hollywood sign
10) Stay at Hotel del Coronado
11) Channel Islands
12) Lake Arrowhead
13) Joshua Tree
14) Palm Springs
15) Yosemite
16) Vegas
17) Disneyland
18) Grand Canyon
19) Sequoia National Park
20) Drive Pacific Coast Highway
21) Huntington Library
22) San Francisco
23) The Missions (Fulfilled in Santa Barbara)
24) Kayaking caves at La Jolla
25) Hearst Castle
26) Sailing
27) Death Valley
28) Hollywood Bowl
29) Whale Watching
30) Grunion Runs (with my Dad)
31) San Diego Zoo
32) La Brea Tar Pits
33) The Ghetty Museum
34) Griffith Observatory
35) Universal Studios
36) Santa Monica Pier
37) Eat at Planet Hollywood
38) Venice Boardwalk
39) Santa Monica Promenade
40) Be an extra or in the studio audience of a TV show
41) LA County Museum of Art
42) Pantages Theater
43) Tommy's Burger
44) Canter's Deli
45) Philippe's French Dip Sandwich
46) Fashion District
47) Olvera Street
48) Tijuana
49) Move back to Missouri

Friday, February 19, 2010

Life or Death Decisions

Moses said to the people:
“Today I have set before you
life and
prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and
grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you
are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you
now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the
land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and
earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your
descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and
holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for
you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Dt. 30:15-20

Today was the second day of my Lenten Challenge, to attend daily Mass. This task wasn't quite as difficult when I was living at college (considering there were Masses each day from 7:15 am to 9:30 pm). But since I have graduated, it has become difficult for me to make a commitment. I willingly admit that it is because of my lack of self-discipline. I simply love to sleep, I can't help it! It is my hope that after completing this Lenten Challenge, I will easily be able to continue it as a Challenge for life.

I got myself out of bed this morning for the latest morning mass I could find in the area. 2 days down, 38 to go. Today's reading was Deuteronomy 30:15-20. God always has a way of making the daily mass readings exactly what I need to learn from that day.

Moses makes it pretty simple for us, and clearly puts it in black or white: Choose life, or choose death. It couldn't be put any simpler. But it really got me thinking. Every single step I take in life is either toward life, or toward death; toward heaven, or toward hell; toward God, or away from Him. Each morning that I decide my sleep is more important than meeting My Lord at Mass, each day I don't do my best at my job, each day I fail to spend enough time in prayer, I'm choosing death. It seems a little harsh . . . but it's entirely true!

In every decision we have, God sets before us "life and death, the blessing and the curse." Which will you choose? "Death and doom", or "life and prosperity"?

Let us, as Moses encourages us to do today, "CHOOSE LIFE"!

May this Lenten Season bring you new grown, purity, and life. May we always remember to strive for sainthood, aiming for heaven.

"Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return."

Yesterday, we began the journey of the season of Lent. For those readers who may not be Catholic, you have probably seen Catholics walking around with dirt on their foreheads. You may have heard Catholics talking about what they are "giving up for Lent" and saying "it's Friday, I can't eat meat." Often, this is about all that the general public knows of Lent, and sadly, many Catholics don't know much more.

Lent is the the liturgical season that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. This season is 40 days long (not counting Sundays when we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ), commemorating the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert (which reflected the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering the desert). This season is a time of reflection, prayer, fasting, abstinence, and alms giving. It's an invitation to grow closer to Christ and prepare our hearts for Easter.

Ash Wednesday is a day that we particularly address the reality of sin and death. We stop to remember that we will leave this earth, it is not our home. On a very practical level, Lent is a time for us to examine our lives. It is a time for us to get our priorities straight and refocus on Our Lord. In a special way, we enter the desert with Christ during this season. We "give things up" in order to free our hearts for God.

This year, I'm giving up a habit that takes up much of my time each day. It is my hope to spend the time I will now have free focusing on God. Either reading spiritual books, the bible, praying, going to mass, etc. It is my intention this year to truly enter into the beauty of this season. To re-align my priorities and focus again on making each day focused on joining my will with My Lord. To remember that this Earth is not our Final Destination. And to remember, as we are reminded every year on Ash Wednesday that "we are dust, and to dust we will return."

“Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return.” Gen. 3:19