Tridentine Triduum

This past Holy Week was a first for me. I not only survived the taxing liturgies of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday’s Paschal Vigil), but I found myself thriving in the Tridentine Triduum.

Not only did the usual Tridentine expressions help me, but I found the differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms (EF) of the Holy Week liturgies subtle yet rejuvenating to my soul and devotion. Here are a few points:

—–1) The priest truly disappears. The ad orientem posture of his prayer, the demands the rubrics places on him, the centricity of Christ, really shows how the priest is another instrument of Jesus. He wears what the Church commands him to wear; moves as the Church commands him to move; chants, speaks and whispers as the Church commands; does everything as the Church commands: all through which Christ Himself commands! The human priest merely becomes part of the whole thing: chalice, corporal, candles, altar, priest, patens, bells, thurible, servers, etc. Just another instrument among the many. And the more he disappears, the more He, who is Lord, appears. What made me see this clearer was the several times the priest had to vest in different vestments, outfitted for the specific task at hand, with no opinion of his relevant, necessary or appropriate. He was a slave to the liturgy, a slave to Christ and His Church.img_0531

—–2) Tenebrae took three hours. Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Last Supper started at 7:00pm. Two hours later, Tenebrae began and lasted until midnight. I was in liturgy for five straight hours. This was the single longest liturgy of the Triduum! But it’s length was vital, because it helped me feel the exhaustion that Peter, James and John felt while they waited for Jesus in Gethsemane, while they struggled to stay with Him and keep prayer. And those who chanted never stopped until midnight! Here we were then, doing what the apostles had failed to do: keeping watch with Christ in His agony. We were atoning for all the times we and others had failed to stay with Jesus.

Yet, going into Tenebrae, I had no idea it would last that long (not sure how long they last elsewhere). But I found myself just thinking, “Why not? Why not go the distance? Why not spend this time as I would with my other friends, talking late into the night, into the tenebrae (darkness)?”

So my advice: if you get the chance next Holy Week to attend Tenebrae, do it. But get ready for some spiritual struggle. Bring a devotional book with you (I suggest any of Fulton Sheen’s), your prayer journal, and get ready to reap and weep.tenebrae-hearse

—–3) Finally, the Paschal Vigil on Holy Saturday: two hours of which was in pure candlelight. Usually, in Ordinary Form Masses on this night, candles get blown out and lights turned on way too soon. Ever since I was a kid, I always thought the darkness should linger longer. Truly, I felt myself deprived that I did not yet feel deprived of full lighting. It seemed the candles were all for show, and not for something more.

Yet at this Extraordinary Form Mass, the darkness endured. So much so that I started worrying my candle would not last the Mass! As the wax waned, and the flame flirted with my fingers, I started noticing how dark the church was. Others had already lost their candles to the shadows, and mine was next. The desperation started to set in: should I find another candle? Should I save mine? Should I use my cell phone’s flashlight? And as I thought, I realized I was experiencing the darkness of being without the Light of the world. I tried to rely on myself, but this light was only going to go out anyway. I needed Christ to be my light. I needed Him to come back from the dead. I was awaiting His Resurrection.

And when the lights of the grand church came on amidst bells, organ and choir, I welcomed it in my deprivation. The darkness encroaching on my eyes taught me to receive His Light into my soul, because I had been in the dark for so long….easter2bvigil2b20152b042

—–So, if anything here has sparked your curiosity, please consider trying a Tridentine Triduum next time around, and you may find yourself not merely surviving, but thriving.

*Note, none of the photos shared here are mine but belong to their respective owners.

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Sacred Heart of Jesus

Let me tell you the tale behind this latest Holy Smack card:

As with all of the cards, I wait for the Holy Spirit to prompt me and provide me with art and prayer to pair together into a holy card. Without the Spirit’s guidance, I do nothing. One thing that being a former seminarian has taught me is to be obedient to God’s will. And when we obey His will, amazing things happen that we could never have imagined.

With this card, I was searching for images of our Lord’s Sacred Heart. I had been on the lookout for many months, but nothing came up that rendered me speechless, until I stumbled on this blog and saw this piece. As soon as I saw Him and His heart, I knew this was the image I was always meant to find, and meant to find at that specific moment in time.

At that point, I had been going through a severe struggle in my life. Someone precious to me had been suffering in spirit and body, and like anyone who ever loved, when one’s beloved is in sorrow, one is in mourning also. Yet, when I saw this image of our Lord, the power of His light cut into my darkness. I had to find out more about the artist.

It turns out, the beaming Sacred Heart of Jesus here is a freak “accident” of flash photography! The image is a photo taken by a priest, and the blast of holy light is only a reflection of the camera’s flash. The shot was perfect, and so the priest posted it on his blog, and that’s where the digital paper trail ends, for after contacting Father, I was informed the artist is unknown, and perhaps even deceased.

And for the next four months, I deliberated and waited, I searched and listened. I found a prayer and I finished the entire card’s design, yet I still hesitated. Something was not yet in place. And then my friend shared with me more tragedy.

It was then I knew the time had come to print. The card was meant for her all along. The Lord was meant for her, His Sacred Heart was for her, the humble prayer was for her. And the card is the first to be dedicated to anyone.

Please pray for her.

Thank you, and if you happen to know the artist of the image, please do inform me so I can seek her or his forgiveness for using the image without permission.

—Updated June 8, 2018: Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus…

In honor of today’s feast, I have re-designed the prayer card (images updated below) and will be stocking up on them! Please continue praying for all to know the love of our Lord.

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SacredHrtBackPrint2Sample

Note: as with all of my cards, please know I would be honored to share them with you for free and that any donation would be appreciated to support the continued ministry.

My First Rorate Mass

This morning was my very first Rorate Caeli Mass (please click link for stunning photos), a unique votive Mass for Mary starting in the dark of night’s end and ending at dawn, presenting for us how we are to wait for the true Light of the world (the whole point of Advent).

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The entirety of the liturgy is in candlelight. The shadows of the saints adorn the vaulted ceilings and walls. The altar shimmers in the firelight. The pews and handmissals glow under the candles. Everyone has their own little censer of wax, wick and fire.

Yet the moment that moved me most was the very end, at the Last Gospel (John 1: 1-14), the same Gospel read at the end of each Tridentine Mass. But today, as I was listening to the priest read the holy words, as I was wandering lost in the Latin and in the silence, waiting in the darkness of daybreak, waiting with a church full of people, waiting with my dwindling candlestick succumbing to the dark, waiting… waiting to genuflect at the very moment THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH.

My knee hits the floor.Nativity by Rembrandt.jpg

And then I understood. God Himself came down from Heaven and hit the ground. He covered Himself in the dust of earth, clothed Himself in the mortality of man, smothered Himself in our fallen nature. Touchdown: the Lord touched the ground, touched Creation and began His reclamation. He wore our worn world, but adorned you and me with Himself, with Divinity. And the least we could do was genuflect when we remember He did all this to be with us (Emmanuel), and for us to be with Him.

The world waited for the moment THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH. And the girl the world waited for, and for her yes. The pathetic candlelights waiting for the sun. The blind and those in darkness waiting to wake. Hopeless and helpless sinners waiting for more to life, waiting for a way to become saints. All of us waiting for a way to Heaven.

Let’s stop waiting.

Because it’s all been accomplished. All that’s left to be done is for you and me to decide: will we say yes, too?

Merry soon Christmas.

*All this meaning in the simple gesture of genuflecting…

**More awesome photos of Rorate Masses around the country.

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Do What the Devil Don’t Want

In the last few years, I’ve come to see more clearly when the serpent is tempting me. I don’t always know, but it’s been easier to notice, especially when I keep in mind that I want to do what the devil doesn’t want me to do. I think it’s a pretty good motto for a Christian to live by: DO WHAT THE DEVIL DON’T WANT. Some examples:

  1. The last thing the devil wants me to do when I see a beautiful person is to pray for her. Instead, the devil would rather have me lust and abuse the woman. So what do I do?
  2. The last thing the devil wants is for me to start my day by offering it to God’s will. Instead, the devil would much rather have me forget God and go on with my life in my own selfish way.
  3. The last thing the devil wants is for me to forgive my friends when they betray me. The devil would rather me lash out and plot revenge.
  4. The last thing the devil wants is for me to ask God for help and trust in the Lord when chaos and danger happens. The devil really wants me to curse the day and turn my back on Him who is the o
    only person who can truly help me.

I think you get the trend, right?BetterWay

The better way is always the way the devil hates. So always choose the better, not the easier!

And I think you realize also that by doing what the devil doesn’t want, you almost automatically do what Jesus wants.

So do not let the devil win, because if he wins, you will always lose. But if Jesus wins, then you win too. And don’t you want to win?

Movies Are Nonrefundable

Hollywood

A typical Hollywood film runs two hours, and costs anywhere from five to twenty dollars at the theater. Think about that for a moment.

Because I sure did whenever I sat through watching garbage on screen.

I usually give a film the benefit of the doubt, and see how it ends. But in my moviegoing life, there are just some films not ever worth sitting through. In fact, I even feel dumbed and numbed by some movies… to the point that it insults my mind to keep watching.

So here’s what I do now before I throw any of my irreplaceable time and nonrefundable cash at movie studios:

  1. I read reviews from people who know what a quality film is. That means staying away from MTV and Rotten Tomatoes. Frankly, they just all work for the movie industry anyway. Instead, I read Deacon Steve Greydanus and Fr. Rober Barron‘s (look under the movies category) takes.
  2. I analyze the previews and trailers. And then I analyze them again. What do I look for? Things like: is it lame? is it cliche? is it original and new? is it just a money-maker? does it have a great storyline?
  3. And here’s the doozy: I read the entire detailed plot on Wikipedia. That’s right, boys and girls, I spoil it and read even the ending. My logic: if I know the ending, and it’s cathartic and epic enough to still make me want to see the film, then it’s worth my time and money. Furthermore, if I go into the movie already knowing the ending, but am still in awe of it when I see it play out, then the movie is truly a great one.

And I have never regretted doing this to movies ever since I started. It has saved me money, and more importantly, time. Time that Hollywood can never return to me even if it wanted. Keep in mind that most films out today and in the past decades have been huge wastes of resources and smarts. I won’t go into detail which films I mean, but I will hope that you give these steps a try and stop Hollywood from force-feeding feces into your mind and spirit. Seriously, it’s not good for you!

Nobody wants to see a stupid film, and nobody ever wants to pay for it. So stop financially supporting studios by watching their trash. Convince them you’re an intelligent viewer (because you are!) and demand a beautiful film, beautiful both cinematically and meaningfully (because superficial special effects won’t change your life, but a compelling and powerful story will change you forever). Otherwise, it’ll be like trying to shut down cigarette companies by buying all their stock and burning it in your backyard… [facepalm dumb!]. Let’s stop supporting lame movies and start inspiring future classics that actually deserve to be made.

Some suggestions worth your viewing:

-All Christopher Nolan films (he’s the only director I trust enough not to read spoilers to his films before showtime): Interstellar, Inception, Insomnia, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Momento, Following, The Prestige.

Ex Machina (2014)

Prisoners (2013)

Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Apocalypto (2006)

Cinderella (2015)

-And my Lent movie collection

Second Year Seminarian

After two blazing years of priestly discernment, two years of prayer and healing, Jesus made it clear to me what He made me for. Let me update you on my discernment:

And here are past posts why I had entered seminary:

—–Why Seminary? And Why Now?

—–What’s “Seminary” Anyway?

Gutting My Gluttony

BKChickenSandwich

I have quite a bottomless pit. Others have witnessed me pack up to five Burger King chicken sandwiches into my belly, and still others have seen me down 12 slices of Jet’s Pizza — deep dish, and square.

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I love food. And I love a challenge.

So this year, a few friends and I from the seminary discovered a Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (aka Phở) restaurant that had the perfect recipe of food and challenge: finish a giant bowl of phở, and get it for free.

[kinda like this, except 22 times more phở!]

[kinda like this, except 22 times more phở!]

For free!

Oh, I was tempted all right. And Fat Tuesday was the perfect occasion! And I was being encouraged by my brothers and my philosophy professor to conquer that bowl: 1 gallon of beef soup, 1 pound of noodles, and then the meat!

But something wouldn’t let me do this. Something told me to pass it up and stay away. Something told me this was a travesty.

It was my conscience, and it said this was a classic case of gluttony and pride.

Here it was: a giant amount of food for one person, that could feed five! There are families out there who would beg to have a single noodle and a single sip. And here this was…

Needless to say, the more I thought about it, the more obnoxious it was to me. It didn’t matter how many cheerleaders rallied around me; I could not because I would not. I knew that even if I killed the challenge, I would have still been the loser because I wasted all that food on myself. I don’t need 5,000 calories in one sitting. And besides, what good would I do afterward? Food coma? Wow… that’s not impressive at all.

Pathetic, actually.

And that’s when I knew I had finally started to chase virtue instead of selfishness (and I’m so glad I did!)

Keep praying for me please, so that I never turn around.

And happy blessed Easter!