Friday, April 15, 2011

Love will Hold us Together

Let's just get right to it then.

I have a great privilege to encounter and engage so many amazing people through my missionary work on campus. One fine day, we were on campus talking to people about Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I met this sweet girl who grew up Protestant, but has always had a genuine interest in the Catholic faith. She was a girl with alot of questions, but no one to ask them to. I asked her to lunch, and we have been meeting every Thursday since to talk about life and our faith. She is such a beautiful disciple of Christ with so much genuine love for him.

So we meet for breakfast this morning, and I was armed with my rosary and Catechism to give her for our meeting today. She accepted them with such joy and interest. We are both looking forward to our journey through the Catechism!
But, what I didn't know was what the Lord would bring me through my encounter with her.

We began talking and sharing life. I don't even know how this topic came up, but she begins to tell me about her love for science and learning, and how she can see God's hand so clearly in the way he created us. She then begins to tell me about this protein molecule called laminin. Laminin is a protein molecule "that is a component of connective tissue basement membrane and promotes cell adhesion." Now this connective protein is alleged to be in the shape of a cross. But, not only that it is made up of three strands that intertwine (Hello trinity!!). Now this blew my mind! I couldn't believe it. God's mark of the cross in our bodies, but also in a protein that literally helps keep us from falling apart.

Well, I was excited, but I wanted to make sure that faith and reason matched up here. So I did some research. While my euphoria was a little dampened, my faith increased in a way I never expected.

I found a blog written by scientists dedicated to integrating science and faith. They talked about this very important topic of Laminin because from my extensive research (google search ;)) it seems as though this is a popular topic. Christians make the argument that Laminin shows that the Christian God is the One True God. They addressed it saying that while Laminin is key in connecting cells and tissue it is one of many that works together to do this function. Also, it's cross shape is really an idealized version of laminin. While it is depicted in many science textbooks as having the shape of a cross, in reality the version in your body is more like a swirly with 4 points.

Well, needless to say I was disappointed, but the last paragraph in the article is what sparked the renewed faith and hope in me.

"Instead of pointing to superficial features of biomolecules such as the “cross-shaped” architecture of laminin, there are many more substantive ways to use biochemistry to argue for the necessity of a Creator and for the value He places on human life. As a case in point, the salient characteristics of biochemical systems identically match those features we would recognize immediately as evidence for the work of a human design engineer. The close similarity between biochemical systems and the devices produced by human designers logically compels this conclusion: life’s most fundamental processes and structures stem from the work of an Intelligent, Intentional Agent."

This brought me back to what everything has been pointing to latley....the dignity of the human person. We are the mark of our Creator because we are made in His image and likeness. The cross is nothing but a piece of wood if the person of Christ is left off of it. Everything in this world has meaning because it has the mark of the creator. Laminin is significant and something to be marveled at because the creator created it. But take the person out of it, take the creator out of it and it stands alone. Our world has slowly taken God out of everything and in turn taken the person out of everything. Our relationships are reduced to online media, Our families are created artificially, Our politicians grab at profit instead of the common good, Our school systems reward productivity over creativity.

So, Laminin is not the miracle that Christ was showing me today, my friend Brittney was. Her body and soul is the thing I should be marveling in for it has the intimate mark of the creator.
As I was thinking and praying about this, I even remember distinctively just looking at her across the table right before she told me the story of Laminin and listening to her share her heart and I saw Him. I saw Christ in her and I adored him there.

The human person has the mark of the Trinity and the shape of the cross.

If only the world had the eyes to see it.

But, Be not afraid,Christ heals the sight of the blind.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monday, December 20, 2010

Misiòn Nicaragüense: Day Three

We began the day with prayer and mass. The heart of mission comes from the Eucharist and from the final word of the Eucharistic liturgy, "Ite miss est.". In English, we usually hear something FTP the effect of, "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.". We hear implicitly the call to mission, "Go forth.". The Latin connects explicitly with the word "missa.". A Latin word of which the English word "mission" is a derivative. At the end of mass this morning we were told to go forth. In a tangible way we did. We worked. We dug and twisted metal to make rebar. The only machinery was our God given limbs and muscles. We separated earth from earth to prepare for the pouring if the foundation of two houses, a rectory for a newly established parish and for a family of thee, a mother and her two sons. The mother has cancer. They currently live in a 10' x 10' structure, simple but inadequate.

We worked. We dug. We sweated. We shared the load. We were doing a corporal work of mercy, providing shelter for he homeless. Were we? By digging and twisting metal, are we fulfilling the call to proclaim Christ crucified and risen? These are the questions that I ask myself. Is this what God called us to do?

I had a conversation with some of the guys about these questions tonight. I building the rectory we are allow the pastor to b near his people and better serve them as a priest and as a man. We in a small way aid in his proclaiming the gospel. With regard to the other house, I received some more information. Apparently the family'e next door neighbor is the brother if the man who left his children with their mother abandoning the family. The family of the brother-in-law have a very nice house compared to the 10' x 10' house of the of the family in question. They give no aid to heir neighbors and at least by law their family. To make things worse, the mother has cancer and yet still works to make ends meet. All this together living in a 10' x 10' house is not sufficient for their needs. In that we are doing a corporal work of mercy, and proclaiming Christ in our actions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Misiòn Nicaragüense: Day One

These thoughts are in no sequential order or narrative form although they may be variations on some theme.

Today is a day of traveling. During previous trips this was always a tiring ordeal. Flying for me is very stressful, but as I look out the window I can't help but glorify God and the beauty of his creation. The clouds look like rolling waves in a vast sea. As the sun rose, the light reflected off the vapor formations that turned the rolling waves into a sea of fire, like what John describes in Revelation.

Flight allows for such ease and quickness in travel. Imagine what St. Paul or St. Francis Xavier would have accomplished with their missionary zeal and an airplane. It makes me think how far I have to grow in my faith, hope, and charity. We have been offered these great gifts in technology, often times enough their potential for glorifying God is never actualized, as in the present with flight. Granted, due to flight there have arisen missionary orders who send their members to the ends of the earth. Flight also has allowed people to hear first hand great philosophical and theological insights by bridging the gap between the US and Europe.

As I was preparing to travel yesterday I could not help but think of Christ telling the apostles what bring with them as they go out in twos. Certainly society today does not suggest packing so lightly, but nonetheless I had to reflect on what I was bringing with me. Much of the clothes that I am bringing will be left behind to be distributed to those who are in need. My hope is that this charitable donation will actually increase charity within my heart, an increase of which I am always in need. The apostles traveled to the ends of the known world after being stirred at Pentecost, each one proclaiming Christ crucified and risen. All but John shared their master's fate. I do not believe this will be the end of our small trip. We are called to much more discreet martyrdoms. This does highlight though the correlation between mission and martyrdom. They go hand in hand like an old man walking with his wife of 60 years. By appearance alone they look like they belong together. As you get to know them, it seems that one was created specifically and uniquely for the other. I see in mission and martyrdom the same relation. On mission one has to die to his idea of himself, he has to in some degree die to his native culture, the place in which he was born and grew up. He forsakes his homeland for a foreign place and culture all for the sake of the gospel. He must die to the ideologies that might sway his view of the human person or of politics and hold fast to gospel values and the solid foundation of the teaching of the Church. This, in and of itself, is sometimes a greater death than forsaking one's land.

Traveling also provides a time for reflection, for thought, for community. Whether walking or riding or flying there certain times of quiet that naturally occur. They provide the chance to pray or reflect. These are sacred times to be human and bring the physical act of traveling into the spiritual. I left my homeland, where I am comfortable, were my friends and my family are, were in a certain sense my flock is, and I am in Nicaragua a land very different from my own. This is part of the mission ad gentes that the Vatican Council fathers and John Paul Ii speak in the Church documents on mission. Modern travel and technology has it's downsides, though. Because of its speed, we can take for granted the fact that we are traversing so many miles. We can easily lose the breadth of our movement. Travel becomes mundane because distance loses some of its meaning in a global environment. Earlier I spoke of the thought of St Paul having an airplane for his missionary journeys. Instead, he walked and sailed. He was subject to the environment and to the winds. In airplanes, cars, and buses, our inventiveness takes wind and weather more or less out of the picture of travel. We can drive in rain, sleet, or snow and not worry about getting wet or our belongings being degraded.

The last chapter of Luke gives another look at travel. The road to Emmaus can provide multiple reflections with regard to this trip, but I will look at just one right now. The Risen Christ walked with his two disciple as they returned home from Jerusalem. They were unaware of his true identity; he was hidden to them while being present with them. Notice also they traveled in two. One can possibly infer that they traveled together in twos in a previous time maybe as part of the 72 that were sent out by Christ. They might have been on mission previously. Christ walks with them who had gone on mission and lights on fire they're stony hearts that were unable to perceive the depth the Scriptures held in proclaiming Christ and him crucified and risen, which indeed became their mission after Pentecost. In a sense their hearts burn because they wish to continue the mission of the Scriptures and proclaim Christ crucified and risen.

Misiòn Nicaragüense: Day Two

Yesterday evening some of my confreres and I were speaking about little critters, namely large spiders, we had encountered here in previous years. One had encountered a scorpion; two years ago I found a spider the size if a small saucer in my shoe I put it on for the day; my first year on the trip we saw a tarantula a little smaller than a salad plate. At the talk of this we all became somewhat uncomfortable. There was a palpable fear of the unknown. The fear unknown though comes with the territory of mission work. We go in a with basic understanding of what we are doing but much of it requires trust in the Holy Spirit. Unknown and unexpected things will happen, being pulled over by a government official asking for a bribe, not having adequate transportation, sickness, and many other things. Mission can bring forth in someone a greater faith and hope which will in turn show themselves in greater charity. Fear of the unknown turns, in the faith, into trust in divine providence. From a Stoic point of view fear of the unknown is moot; you can't worry about what's out of your control.

Part of being a missionary, as well, is knowing the situation in which the people to whom minister live. Today allowed me the opportunity to learn more about the people, the political and economic situation in Nicaragua. I rode with Fr. Kelly, a a Maryknoll Missionary and the director of pastoral formation at the seminary. He was a missionary in Central America for more than half of his eighty years. He is a man full of wisdom and knowledge, and he holds the church close to his heart. He gave me the run down of the economic situation here as we were driving through the hills to meet with a local priest so we could purchase the materials for the two houses we will start to build. It was a time for me to listen and soak in. He makes connections that are way beyond my thought process. I ask him about an advertisement for the current president, Daniel Ortega. It says, "Nicaragua, Cristiana, Socialista, y ..." (I can't remember the fourth word, probably because it won't have much bearing on my next statements.). Daniel Ortega is for himself first, a socialist second, Nicaraguan third, and last, if at all a Christian. These billboards are all over the country. They bear the aforementioned words along with him smiling and hand raised in a regal wave fashion. He is trying to gain support in a primarily Catholic Christian country by connecting Christianity with socialism and nationalism. Both socialism and nationalism operate opposite the tenants of Christianity. He outright lies to his people, to his constituency. This is the country and the people we are ministering to. It is an unstable government that doe not have the support of the people. It thrives on supporting revolution but only it's revolution, and I fear someone, not necessarily better, will revolt against him.

This evening we got to see real missionaries at work. We celebrated mass with four Missionaries of Charity and the girls under their care. I always look forward to this mass because the singing of young girls has an angelic quality that cannot be simulated. These four women from all parts of the world are there to teach the girls and take care of them, as well as feed the poor of Granada. They are guided by the mission of their founder and Christ's words to her, "I thirst.". That was written in large bold letters next to the crucifix in the chapel, "Tengo sed.". Each year I'm struck by those words. Do I attempt to satisfy that thirst? Do I offer even vinegar? Or do I just walk by like the priest and scribe in the parable of the good Samaritan? Part of mission is to provide for the basic needs of the people to whom we are ministering, physical and spiritual. The Missionaries of Charity show to me the unity of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Mission requires, demands both, not just one or just the other but both in concert. (As I continue, I can't deny this reflection has its origin in one of my confreres, but I will fleshing it out some). Mission just as service will end in feeding the stomach while the soul sits starving. Just as mission solely through the corporal works of mercy will prepare someone for death while at the same time quickening their death unnecessarily. Mother Theresa had this always in mind; I hope as the trip continues that do as well.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Misión Nicaragüense: Prologue

Although my beloved sister is the main contributor of this blog, from time to time, I have put in my thoughts with regard to mission.  I felt it appropriate now to share with you my upcoming mission trip to Nicaragua.  I will be traveling with Notre Dame Seminary as one of the leaders in an annual mission trip for all of the first year theologians from that seminary.  I will use this blog in the next 8 days as a vehicle for my thoughts and ideas about the trip, about the nature of mission, and about the missionary nature of the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

I will have limited access to the internet.  Hopefully, I will be able to post daily, but at least every other day.

I already have some thoughts in mind and hope that you will humour (sometimes I like British spelling) me.

Please pray for all of us.  We will encounter many people, rich and poor, blind and lame, young and old, faithful and athiest.

The name of the trip is called Acompaño, which translated into English is "I accompany," or "I walk with."  We are there to show the people of Nicaragua that as members of the same Catholic Church and the Body of Christ we walk with them daily.  As member of the United States of America, we walk with them in global solidarity, to provide for their basic needs of food and shelter but also love and friendship.  We walk with them on the mutual journey towards heaven, our heavenly homeland that transcends place, culture, and language.  Heaven brings all together in the ultimate act, the worship and glory of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Advent!

So, I had a friend point out to me over Thanksgiving break how bad I am about updating my blog. I knew he was right, but I think i was still in denial.
Then I went to look at it today and its been a month since I have posted. I promise this well change! I am going to make an effort this next semester to make this thing a priority.

Until then I just have a few updates:

1. My teammates invited Cam Newton to FOCUS Conference 2011!!!! I am seriously so proud of them!! I ask your prayers for him, that if the Lord wants him there he will answer the call or he tells his other football buddies about it and one of them comes! How epic would that be!

2. I have a parish talk scheduled for December 18th and 19th. I ask your prayers for its success. I know the Lord has already picked out those he wishes to join my in the mission of the new evangelization!! Pray that I can be bold and courageous.

3. I am about to leave for an epic road trip with my teammates. We are going to Atlanta, then Gainsville to visit the Florida FOCUS team, and then Orlando for a Fundraising bootcamp! Pray that we can continue to discern the Lord's will for FOCUS at Auburn.

4. I know I have implored your prayers and not really given you any profound thoughts. But, I leave you with this to reflect on in this season of Advent:

"The Church again is putting before us the growth of Jesus within us. We cannot bring him forth if he does not grow within us; we shall bring forth only ourselves; our words shall be like the tinkling of cymbals, as sounding brass. "Come", the Advent watchword, is the expression of desire and of permission. When we say to a person, "Come" it is a desire. We do not honestly say, "Come" to a person or to a thing that we do not desire. The second element is permission. We have to let the person in. This is what we mean by "Come!": desire and permission. We must desire Our Lord to come into our lives, and that "Come!" must be wholehearted.
Each "Come" should ring out to heaven. We want it to fill the world; we want to reach out to all the world, so that it says, "Come" If we open wide, he will come in; he will grow within us, in each of our lives and in the lives of our communities, and we will be able to respond with joy to everything that his coming asks of us, expected and unexpected; ordinary or extraordinary; predictable and unpredictable. He will come in and give us the strength as he says, "I will take my rest with him; I will take supper with him, if he lets me in""

Make a home for Christ in your heart this Advent season....Our Lady will be your guide