First Year Seminarian

Two months ago, I crossed the finish line of my first year as a seminarian (aka: full time discerner of my vocation). Since then, it’s been hectic gearing up for and going on summer travels. In the year since I entered seminary, so much has happened in so little a time span that I’m tempted to think nothing happened at all. But now that I’m in a bit of a slowdown in between summer travels and events, here are some positives that I have to share:

1) I lived childhood shyly. I lived adolescence even shier. But then my twenties saw an outspoken Evan, and today I am more confident than ever before. I don’t know exactly what happened in this first seminarian year, but I can stomach the butterflies in my stomach a lot easier, and that jittery heart is much calmer now. (Yes! I don’t have a heart problem, after all!)

2) The Church loves her seminarians. I never knew how much until now. I have been so spoiled with support, prayers and pick-me-ups, sincere friendships with other seminarians and with priests, chances to waste time regularly with Jesus, and plenty opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. I have to be careful not to take these for granted.

Jumile3) I got to travel to Mexico for six weeks for pilgrimage (Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe!), language and culture learning, and witnessing to others. I literally did not know I was being sent there until last December! And now, I know that Spanish is more challenging to me than Latin (or Chinese or Vietnamese)!  I also know that I have friends there who I was very blessed to meet. Oh, and I even know that little bugs called jumiles taste just like mint leaves. Yum!SHMS Mexico

NameTag4) I have met more people this past year than probably in the last five! Thus one of my weaknesses has been revealed: I have a hard time remembering names and faces. I really need to have a lengthy and personal conversation with someone before it clicks in place. (Please don’t take it personally!)

5) I move from place to place pretty painlessly. When I first moved into the seminary, I was pretty sad, not just because I missed home and my family, but more so because I hated the thought of my family being lonesome after I left. But, they were okay I think. And so, when I went to Mexico, I didn’t really get homesick for the States. And when I returned to the States, it felt like I never even left. I just shrugged and got back into the swing of things. It really does not feel like I was there, and when I left the seminary for summer break, I found it hard to believe I lived there for eight months. It all still feels more like a weekend retreat… hmm…

DarkKnightOST6) I love exercising, especially to the roar of Hanz Zimmer’s Dark Knight scores when I bike or run… and to the bass of dubstep/EDM when I do weights. Yes… I didn’t know this about myself until I found myself staying in the seminary gym for almost four hours one night (the music was on repeat, and apparently I was too).

7) Got a lot left to learn about prayer and how to keep it up regularly.

8) And finally, I realized that I need to go onto year two and keep discerning the priesthood and growing in the Christian life.

RomanCollar

 

Pentecost — aka: Holy-Spirit-Smack-Down-Day!

To celebrate Pentecost this year, may I present the new Holy Smack logo! On the first Pentecost of the Church (2,000 years ago), the Holy Spirit zapped the Apostles with the grace of God and sent them throughout the world to spread the Gospel and increase the Church. Today, the successors of those first few bishops (yes, all the Apostles were bishops — Judas included [may God have mercy on us all]) have continued spreading the Gospel and increasing the Church*

HolySmackPentecost

[May the Holy Spirit smack you in the Faith and break down the darkness.]

*World Youth Day — just one teeny, weeny, itty, bitty way the Gospel has spread and the Church has increased:

WYD in Rome, 2000

X-Men: Days of Future Past, now with Catholic Symbols!

The X-Men films have been more and more surprising to me! First, there was First Class’ symbolism of Professor X choosing a life of Catholic priestly celibacy for the sake of his beloveds, and now there’s even more Catholic symbolism in Days of Future Past! Here’s what I saw (warning – possible spoilers!):

  1. X-Men: Days of Future PastThe Chinese temple the X-Men hide in during Logan’s time-travel doesn’t seem pagan to me… not at all! For one thing, I’ve never seen Chinese pagan temples with an altar like that, much less use stained-glass windows like that! I mean, when I say “stained-glass”, most people think “church!”
  2. Logan rests upon the altar during his time-travel. Why an altar? Why signify that this is a sacrificial act for Logan? Why the intimate symbolism with Christ’s sacrifice at the Mass upon Catholic altars?
  3. Then there’s Professor X almost breaking out a gospel song/psalm/hymn with: “Lead me… guide me…” If you don’t believe me, just Google “Lead me… guide me…” and you’ll see how Christian that line is.
  4. And despite Jennifer Lawrence’s (as Raven/Mystique) butchering of the Vietnamese language (nice try! But no.), she too was involved in Catholic symbolism. When she sought help for her wound, where did she go? A Catholic hospital! With a crucifix smack dab in the middle of the opening shot! And when the world reacted in terror of Mystique and other mutants on the news, what did the Catholic religious sister wonder? She wondered if the woman – the mutant – has a family. She wondered with concern and compassion. When the world freaked, the Catholic sister loved and nursed.
  5. Audrey Hepburn as Sister LukeAnd if that wasn’t enough, when Mystique flees from an insane Erik (Magneto) in a crowded subway station, who do we see file into the shot and veil Mystique’s escape? A half-dozen or so religious sisters in full habit! I bet Mystique morphed into one of them and slipped away… I bet!
  6. Finally, the last scenes in the movie invoked in me a glimpse of eternal life in Heaven. Wolverine wakes to find that despite the terror and horrific sacrifice he witnessed in his life, when he wakes… everything is okay. And not merely okay, but perfect. In this life, we face terrors and are called to make incredible sacrifices for our beloveds, for our Beloved. And by doing so, we experience in Heaven that it was all truly worth every drop of sweat, blood and tears. Everyone who loves is there with us, and it is the greatest reunion ever – replete with sharing epic stories of how we struggled with life and faithfully finished the race. Well done, good and faithful servant, good and faithful friend.
  7. And a bonus: The overall story arc that the future is not set, that our decisions have weight, that we have free will is a holy smack against the heresy of Calvinist Predestination. We Catholic Christians believe God is love, but if we have no free will, then love is only an illusion. I don’t know about you, but love is pretty real to me. [More about this in detail here.]
  8. Now don’t take my word for it… see for yourself!

*Want more? Here’s a great Days of Future Past review by Steven Greydanus.

DaysFuturePastBanner

P.s. I have no idea why these symbols are present in the movie… but I like them!

Introducing: The THIRD Way

“There are not 100 people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church.”

-Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

It is sadly true that we Catholic Christians do not know much about homosexual attraction and how it affects people, and it is even sadder that many others know even less. But, let’s stop the ignorance, stop the hatred and misunderstanding and finally know what the Church actually proposes to us.

This short film is a great first step. I personally have waited for something like this for a while: a compassionate and honest look, a loving and fair response to an issue that is so stained with pain, malice and evil on both sides.

Well, this here is the THIRD side, this here is the THIRD Way:

 

Godzilla and the True God

Godzilla 2014The turf of my childhood has a Godzilla-sized shape carved into it. In fact, when I was a first-grader, I was so obsessed about the radioactive beast that I made a shrine for him one day atop my dresser — complete with train wreck, car in mouth and hand, and ocean surf at his feet! The water leaked and blistered the wood finish of course, and Mom made me take it down, but my fanhood stayed with me. Everything had to be Godzilla! It got to the point that even my humble little computer teacher in Catholic school became uncomfortable whenever I said Godzilla since it seemed to him to mock the name of the True God.

So when I found out there was another effort to remake the classic (my favorite was Godzilla 1985), it was difficult to pass up the film on the big screen.

And if you didn’t notice, I’m the most scrupulous film viewer I know. Mix that movie-scrupulosity with my super-serious-Catholicity and whaddya get? Well… let me show you with a screenshot:

[Click image for better view]

[Click image for better view. Elle Brody is played by Elizabeth Olsen.]

And I’m pretty sure my working knowledge of Catholic iconography is decent. Anyway, what’s an overt Catholic medal doing on the necklace of a summer blockbuster’s actress?

Well, everything that goes into a shot of any film means that the director approved of it. Everything in every scene cost work and money to put there, and producers and directors won’t waste time and money making sure things show up on a frame, unless they want it to. So the fact that this medal is blatantly focused in on, with the shot resting on Elle and with her medal clearly noticeable, one has to think either: (a) Elizabeth Olsen insisted on wearing the medal and director Gareth Edwards approved of it, or (b) director Gareth Edwards insisted the medal be part of the actress’ costume, and Elizabeth didn’t object. Other than those two paths of thought, anything else is a stretch…

HALO jumpersBut then there was the scene of the military personnel preparing for the now-famous HALO jump scene. Just before their jump, we hear a Christian praying to God, thanking the Lord Jesus for allowing him and the other men to serve others with their lives. Now that is pretty obvious that there is a Christian presence to this film — a presence I definitely did not expect but was pleasantly surprised by. After all, these scenes both vindicated me that Godzilla is not a mockery of the True God.

Anyway, just wanted to point out those God-fearing tidbits in Godzilla. If you do decide to give it two hours of your time, know that it’s definitely a fun flick with a big emphasis on mothers and fathers and their children, on husbands and wives and their faithful marriages, and of course on the king of the monsters. Gojira!

Winter 2014 Seminary Classified Notes!

Today, my first year as a Catholic seminarian has finished! A good bunch of my brother sems here graduated and are moving on, while some have found that Jesus is calling them specifically elsewhere. I’m still finding the time to reflect with the Lord on my discernment experience, but for now… enjoy the top secret notes I’ve taken during my academic missions here:

 

[above is the 1st page of notes from my Theology 249 class: Introduction to Sacred Scripture.]

[above is the 1st page of notes from my Theology 249 class: Introduction to Sacred Scripture.]

[above is my 4th page of notes from my Latin 122 class: Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin]

[above is my 4th page of notes from my Latin 122 class: Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin]

[above is my 4th page of notes from my Philosophy 300 class: Epistemology]

[above is my 4th page of notes from my Philosophy 300 class: Epistemology]

[above is the 3rd page of notes from my Philosophy 235 class: Medieval Philosophy]

[above is the 3rd page of notes from my Philosophy 235 class: Medieval Philosophy]

*not pictured is a sample of notes from my Philosophy 365 class: Philosophical Anthropology, but believe me, it was a great class.

** click here for my notes from the Fall 2013 Semester!

Happy to be Hated

Today is Good Friday.

Christians today around the world remember the scourging, suffering, crucifixion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, it is the day we murdered God, the day He let us kill Him.

There are many things we can discuss about this: why did God let us kill Him? how can God die? why would we do such a thing? etc…

But right now, I want to share why I think we call this infamous Friday good.

Doesn’t it seem ironic that we call this day good? It’s like calling September 11th Good Tuesday. Doesn’t it seem absurd? And doesn’t it seem even more absurd to be happy about it?

What do I mean? I mean it is a great thing, a happy thing to be hated by haters. It is a good thing to be hated by what I dub:

AntiCatholicKlub

Yes, this exists. Members of the Official Anti-Catholic Klub [OACK] include the KKK, the Nazis, and Communist Parties. There are other members too, like radical Islam, Satanic cults, militant atheists, and even some misguided Protestant denominations. All these groups are very different from one another, but they share one thing in common: they hate the Catholic Church.CatholicHaters

Why do they hate the Church? Because they want power they don’t have. They want power they can never have. They want to have a leader who leads forever. They want a leader who can create universes from scratch. They want a leader who is not only invulnerable and incorruptible, but immortal and invincible too. A leader who — even if he somehow gets killed — can resurrect Himself!

And we have that one-and-only leader in the Lord Jesus. So on this Friday twenty centuries ago, when hatred, death and sinners (you and me) cut down our Christ, we Christians call it a good day — because this day means we’re on the right side. We’re on the winning team.

We’re supposed to be hated by evil-doers. We’re supposed to be hated by the prideful, the envious, the wrathful. Because if they like us, if they call us friend… that means we’re not threatening to them, that means we are just one of them — part of their klub.

So don’t be afraid of being hated by the haters. It’s a good thing. But notice that if you hate them in return, you just joined their team…

So do what Jesus does.

Start today.

P.S. If you’ve never watched the Passion of the Christ, give it a look!

A Barefoot Lenten Journey

Holy Stomp!There’s that stereotype about ladies and their shoes. I’ve known of some who owned upwards to 50 pairs! Whereas I have had just four pairs in the last six years — and I’m still wearing them!

But then there’s my friend, Angel.

Angel just surrendered her shoes for the next 40 days of Lent 2014, and she forfeited them for some great prayer and fasting intentions. That means she’s going barefoot, and that means she’s going to have some very interesting experiences to share on her tumblr, like this:

Hi there! 🙂 So today is Day 2 of Lent. It’s March 6, 2014, I’m sitting in my 8 am college biology lecture, and my feet are freezing. Thinking back to how I got here, it was pretty much how all of my decisions are made: spur of the moment and really, really impulsive. I had been thinking for weeks about what to give up or add to my life for Lent and I kept drawing blanks. In previous years, I gave up things for the wrong reason. My older brother and I used to give up meat for Lent. While he had real reasons behind his fasting, I honestly just did it for the heck of it because it seemed fun. But this year, I knew I couldn’t do that again. First, because my brother isn’t around anymore to monitor the crap out of me. Second, because I was doing it for the wrong reasons. What’s the point of giving something up, if it has nothing to do with your relationship with God or improving your spiritual life?

So this year I gave up shoes. You’re probably thinking, “Angel, you’re an idiot.” And I won’t argue you there. But hear me out! This year’s theme is evangelical poverty. This past year I blew so much money on a lot of new shoes that I didn’t need. Meanwhile, there are people in the world who don’t even own one pair. And I can take something like that for granted. Do you realize how blessed we all are that I can give no second thought to putting on a pair of shoes? Giving up something that I use literally all day, every day, makes me reflect all day, every day. It reminds me to be thankful for what I have, to pray for those who are not as fortunate, and to not just abstain from sin, but to fully and truly convert my heart and mind as a follower of Jesus Christ.

So, blessed Lent everyone! Take some time out of your day to count your blessings, and thank God for what you’ve been fortunate enough to have and experience.

So please, don’t just read about Angel’s sacrifice here on HolySmack! Visit her humble little home on the world wide web: DownToMyToes.

Down To My Toes