Strength doesn’t come all at once. Any professional athlete can tell it can take years of training to perform well in their sport. There’s not a super solider serum to instantly make the next Captain America. (Another point is that the serum enhanced the natural bravery and self-sacrificial heart of Steve Rodgers that was already present through his youth…) Strength takes time, hard work, and smart work to grow to the greatest potential. Belief in God is like that. Faith takes time and it needs to be nurtured.
Continual, constant pursuit can strengthen one’s faith in God. In the relationship between God and man, there’s this type of pursuit; each one seeks the other and desires love. During times of spiritual drought, efforts of pursuit can be rather challenging. Man’s pursuits become half-hearted. God desires the entire heart.
Faith is like a river. If it stops flowing the water grows stagnant. In order to keep faith fresh, there has to be a constant renewal of the spirit. I’ve thought converts have better faith because their belief stems from a renewal that is present and relevant, rather than Cradle Catholics like myself who’ve known the faith most of their life and tend to have a lukewarm faith. I want to change that narrative.
When the pursuit of God becomes passive, these passive pursuits can be transformed into active pursuits by looking into the past and finding the times when God is present, how he was present, and learning from those experiences. Another way to transform our pursuits is to try new things, while keeping the consistency of time, prayer and effort. Finally, it’s important to not pursue God alone. The Blessed Mother, the saints and the entire church as the Body of Christ can support us in our pursuits of God.
Keep your distance. It’s quite tough to say how I’m handling this brave new world we have today. A contagious and potentially deadly disease has taken over almost every aspect of our daily life. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the fabric of the society. The world around us might never be same.
There is one aspect of being autistic that I don’t always understand: masking. Masking is a way that autistics have tried to adapt to the neurotypical world. We see what ways non-autistics might communicate, through verbal and nonverbal communication, and we use what we see to blend in. Sometimes these skills are taught through personal experiences or bad therapy, but it puts on a false facade. It makes us look “normal”, but it’s not our normal. It isn’t an accurate display of autism.
It was one of the amazing feelings I have ever felt. I was so happy, yet so nervous. It was the satisfying culmination of all the accomplishments I made. I was grateful to God for every moment, everything leading up to it and everything after it. All the people I met, old and new. We celebrated all that we’ve learned. I hope for the best for the future. ‘
The future of that moment is where I am now. I was describing my graduation from the University of Texas in Austin just over 3 weeks ago. I want to tell some of the stories of the weekend and how that compares to now. Why I am writing this a little later is not a result of busyness, but rather recalling all that happened will help me deal with the mellow transition time that I’m in now and make it worth while just like my graduation. I have separated the weekend into two posts, this is the first one. The second one can be found by clicking this sentence when it’s finished. If there’s no link, I should be working on it.
“Hail to the Cross, our only hope.” I have attributed this saying to St. Edith Stein, namesake of my home parish in Katy, but many others have made this Latin phrase their motto. This Lent, I have felt the call of the Cross. I interpret this call as to let Jesus to be present in our sufferings because he suffered and to have him help carry the cross that he calls us to take up with him. As this Lenten journey is almost concluded, I want to reflect on what is the cross I carry, how it compares to the Cross Jesus carried to Calvary, and that he is carrying my cross as well.
I first heard the call of the cross during daily Mass on the first Thursday of Lent. The gospel reading was from Luke. In this passage, Jesus predicts his passion, death and resurrection. Near the end, Jesus says
…If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
– Luke 9:23-25
Inspired by one of the priests’ at the University Catholic Center, Fr. Larry Rice’s homily, I was allured by the thought that we have a daily choice to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. I have doubts, weaknesses, struggles and insecurities that would make it hard to believe. That in short, is my cross. I am called by God to carry my cross daily and follow him. Despite my struggles, if I want to follow Jesus as a true Christian, I will have to carry my cross with me.
But what makes my cross mine? There are many parts of my cross. I admit I know all about the Catholic faith, but words aren’t my strong suit. I doubt my words. I am concerned about my exactness in order to prevent myself from lying. I can’t lie that Jesus loves me. One thing I know for sure. Autism is not my cross, but adjusting to a world that isn’t tailored to me is part of my cross. God created me as an autistic. He created my brother as well, whom I have understood better with both of us being autistic in different ways. Another part of the cross is the experiences I’ve had, the sorrows of losing people, being hurt and having physical, emotional, and mental scars. Those scars have made me who I am and I’m thankful to God for those scars. I also have many anxieties when things don’t go to plan. If my schedule is off, if I delay in doing something, I have anxiety attacks. I am uncertain about my future and where I’ll go after college graduation in a month or so. These struggles make up my cross. I carry this cross as I choose follow Jesus and trust in Him.
The Cross Jesus carried during his passion was not just pieces of wood. It was the weight of our sins He carried. One of my favorite reflective prayers is the Stations of the Cross, found in many Catholic churches, which mark critical points on the Way of the Cross from Jesus being condemned to death, up to His eventual death on the Cross and His burial in the tomb. I remember going to Stations on Fridays during Lent when I was young, partially because Jr. High Youth Group was afterwards at my home parish. I also adored when the Senior High Youth Group would do “Living Stations of the Cross” on Good Friday and re-enact the scenes in the Stations. When I went to Stations of the Cross, I witnessed the 14 Stations, but also how much He suffered. Jesus suffered during His journey, and that affected those who he interacted with on the way, like His mother Mary, Simon, Veronica , some Jerusalem women, and Dismas. Each stations reflects on an element of my own personal life from all the falls, sorrows, love and mercy shown on the journey.
I like to go to Stations now even more that I understand what the Stations mean, and I try to go as often as I can. Reflecting on the Passion of Christ is a mystery. The graces that come from it never have a end point.
This Lent I struggled with being present. I was being distracted. I struggled with asking God to deliver me from the anxieties and uncertainty I have. I lay them down at the foot of the cross. I asked Jesus to deliver me, and heal me, just as the Blind Man did. He wanted pity and mercy and he received healing and mercy. I have to place my trust in God to deliver me from distractions and uncertainties.
I would say the apex of this call of the Cross is realizing that Jesus is carrying my cross with me. I struggle with being present, but I know God is present with me in the struggles. During Austin CARITAS, a mission I served on this Spring Break, I was called to be present, to put trust in God for my future and whatever may happen. I was called to serve and to do alms giving with my heart, not just money. I saw the journey I’m on is a pilgrimage towards Heaven, my true eternal home. I believe I see Heaven as in those moments with the community, when I have positive flashbacks to times of joy, love, and growth in God. It is in the people I love in the Mystical Body of Christ, I find a home where I am accepted and loved. During discussion, one song was brought up where it shows I accepted where I am. It sucks that I don’t know Spanish well because this song spoke to me despite not being my own language. It described being accepted and loved. The song is called, “Vida en Abundancia” or “Life in Abundance” The stanza in particular is shown below.
Amá lo que sos, y tus circunstancias. Estoy con vos, con tu cruz en mi espalda. Todo terminará bien, yo hago nuevas todas las cosas.
This stanza translates to “Love what you are, and your circumstances. I am with you, with your cross on my back. Everything will end well, I make all things new.” Jesus is with me, carrying my cross on his back. I cried the first time I heard the translation. I imagine Jesus looking at me, carrying my cross, just as he carried the Cross of my sins. He looks at me with love. I would now imagine he is saying with his loving eyes “Look at what I have done for you. I have died for love of you. What would you do for love of me?” I hope to die for Jesus. If I am called to die for Him, so be it. That is the call of the Cross.
In silence, God speaks. God is in the silence. About two weeks ago, I went on a Silent Retreat. Before and after the retreat, my friends Jacob, Andy (I’m not referring to myself, but another Andy) and I recorded a “podcast” If and when Jacob decides to post it, I will add it. Until then, here’s a link to his blog. https://grandhappeningsblog.home.blog/
I barely have time to get around to posting and whenever I attempt to write a blog post, it seems to just catalog events without their emotions. Plus, I resolved to post at least once a month at the end of last year. In order to defeat both my lack of emotion and my inconsistency with posting, (where’s January?), I write this post. Back to the story, this was the second time I went on a Silent Retreat. The first I have mentioned in my previous post, but this time was distinct and different.
I always carried a deck of cards in my backpack when I was in a high school. Why? Because you never know if you needed to play a game. Whether it was Maui, Egyptian Ratscrew, or Castle, I had the key to socialization. Pull out the cards during lunchtime and play a simple game. It can get my mind off it all. It was a quintessential part of who I was then. Today, I’m reminded of this fact while I’m meeting up with on of my oldest friends whom I played cards with, Michael.
Dear world, it’s 2018. I realize one of my biggest mistakes of my life is that I desire places that God doesn’t want me to go. I desire things that were never meant to be for me. I wanted to be at SLS ’18 in Chicago which is going on as I write, but here I am at home in Texas. I can’t go due to cost, logistics, etc. I wanted be to part of UT’s marching band, Longhorn Band this past August. I tried out, but I didn’t make it. I wanted to go a summer camp just to visit my friend who worked there. I joked around about it, but it never happened. I wanted to be an architect. I had to change my major when I didn’t have the skills to be what I wanted. These are not inheritably bad things I desire. I could learn a lot in these experiences that I desire. I could have opportunities to grow in faith through some of these experiences I desire. Lots of these things are didn’t happen for me. That makes me feel uneasy. Upset. Depressed. Left out. Why do I want to be where God has already decided that I should never be? Continue reading “Desire: How I Know What God’s Will is for Me”→
A common misconception about the Catholic church is that our churches are highly decorative and extravagant that seems to have no context in our faith. Some churches are lavish, and could be considered a waste when helping the poor could be a better payoff. Worship could happen at less cost in common places, but the extravagance is meant to set a tone. It is to describe the wonder and awe we have for God, to set a holy atmosphere and educate as a church. I will use examples in Texas, but elements can be found in different churches.
Now, churches do not have to be beautiful. I have gone to church at a school building, Mayde Creek Junior High, below, in Houston Texas. It was one of the worst architecturally appealing buildings in my opinion. The building has been recently renovated, so it looks better than before, but this example had the necessary areas for our church until we moved into our current church building, which has a modern style. My church here in Austin is not highly decorated or extremely beautiful. University Catholic Center, left, has the necessary areas for gathering, meetings, and offices. Otherwise, the main chapel is not made of stained glass, or is extremely attractive. It has smaller details, such as skylights that make the building attractive. In this ideal, the purpose is to serve as a church with a focus on community and use, rather than beauty. The tone is community oriented rather than just holiness.
Maybe you think churches should be highly ornamented, old-fashioned and decorative. The common style with this ideal is the Gothic. One church that is Gothic Revival is St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Austin, left. The pointed arches, vaults, and stained glass bring back old ideas. This church can be considered a scaled-down Chartres Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral in Paris on the left. The ideal of Gothic is to portray the glory of God through intricate detail, ribbed vaults, and pointed arches. Other beautiful styles include neo-classical, and Rosco. These styles are met to be luxurious. This makes you want to see what Heaven looks like, how the glory of God shines, and the light and airness of the intangible. It sets the tone for the church to be holy place.
There are many ways you can exemplify both beauty and use. The more modern and newer churches tend to focus on use and community, while the older churches tend to have more beauty and holiness I prefer as an architect the beautiful because it get the tone of the church being holy ground. I ironically tend to go to less attractive churches based on community on a regular basics because of the people there. What is your opinion of the beauty of the churches? I think they are beneficial to the tone, but not necessary to the use.