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A True Devotion to Mary

A True Devotion to Mary

A True Devotion to Mary

For the last few weeks, I have been preparing for consecration to Jesus through Mary. I wrote a post in December explaining my decision to do it, but originally I was planning on waiting until next December for the feast of either Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Immaculate Conception. Although what good would it be if I did this on my terms, rather than our Lord’s?

One Sunday in January, I felt the Lord bringing it to my heart incessantly. With some quick prayers of discernment, I knew then that He was calling me to do the consecration in the upcoming feast, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord.

It just so happened that a group was handing out free copies of the devotional prayers in the church narthex that Sunday. I hadn’t even had the chance to start thinking about what I needed to do when I was suddenly provided all that I needed for free and without real effort. There was a peace in my heart that confirmed that Our Lady was calling.

In the time before I began the thirty-three day process, I started to encounter a very difficult period in my faith. In the middle of coordinating two very large, important events for different ministries, I entered a very dry period in my faith. These are common for everyone, but it definitely tried me while trying to minister to others and stay focused.

That was only the beginning as the actual process brought even greater challenges and struggles. Although it only makes sense because the evil one cannot stand the Blessed Virgin. Mary is a women perfected by the grace of Christ that demonstrates God’s intention and goodness of humanity. She stands for everything that made them leave the presence of God. This is also why she her prayers are so powerful in combating evil.

Prayers with our Lady were a definite source of strength. Recently I noticed that I had been switching to talk to her in Spanish. I can switch into it without really thinking, but I did not really understood why I would do it mainly with her. I now that it is probably because I am used to conversing with my own mother only in Spanish. Mary wants to be present as our Mother, and I pray more people, especially Catholics, open their eyes to her presence.

Before reading that book [A True Devotion to Mary], I thought that praying to the Holy Virgin meant to hide the love for Jesus Christ. While reading the Treaty of Grignion de Montfort, I finally discovered the contrary, that is that our interior relationship with the Mother of God is but the consequence of our tie with the mystery of God.
-John Paul II

This quote from Pope John Paul II has become a very vivid reality in the past few weeks. St Louis-Marie de Montfort speaks of Mary as the spouse of the Holy Spirit, but when entering into His presence nobody ever talks about inviting her to join in the same way. As a Church, we often do neglect the Holy Spirit, but we neglect Mary even more. During a few prayers before the Blessed Sacrament in the past weeks, I called on her to join, and like any good mother would, she came.

I believe we need to talk about that more as a Church, and I will be writing more about it in the future. The communion of saints is a Biblical reality that has somehow fallen off most of our generation’s radar. It’s a terrible tragedy to see heaven be ignored.

All of this led to today’s celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord, through the Annunciation and acceptance of the Father’s will by Mary. Now that the process is complete and the mass has passed, there was no special feeling or supernatural spiritual experience. Just like many other moments when receiving graces or even sacraments, God is working in the unseen and what is not sensed. I encourage all of you to listen, discern, and decided to devote your lives to our Blessed Mother. It take just a little effort, but it is for everyone.

I only ask one thing of you:
that in every instant of my life,
I may say three Amens:
Amen to all you obtained on Earth.
Amen to that which you are currently doing in Heavan.
Amen to all that you are working within my soul.
So that Jesus may be fully glorified in time and through eternity.
Amen.
-Excerpt from St Louis de Montfort’s Prayer to Mary

 

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The Holy Spirit and Non-Catholic Christians

Note: This post was accidentally published before it was complete last week. I apologize if you saw that version.

Two weekends ago, my wife and I attended a Hillsong United concert, and I must admit that it was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences I have witnessed outside of Eucharistic adoration. This was the second time we attended one of their events, but this one was definitely more memorable than the first time.

While big name bands, like Chris Tomlin’s, are super well known and always associated with their music, Hillsong United gets far less recognition. Most Christian stations don’t even play much of their original music because many of their songs are too long for a usual radio edit. Also, if you are not familiar with their style, most people don’t like that the crowds do a large portion of the singing in the live albums. I was impressed that they were able to sell out so many large venues on this last tour through the US. It was even more impressive to see a crowd so on fire that they sang  with the band in a stronger power than their loud speakers.

I grew up in the Bible Belt, far outnumbered by very conservative Protestants. I am comfortable discussing religion with our protestant brothers and sisters, but I normally shy away form praising and praying with them. I have also attended many different types of Christan concerts in my life. Normally, a Christian concert does involve praying, but it is never really more than just simple and almost superficial prayer. They are still unaware of the true worship that we know well, the mass.

Hillsong takes these prayers to a deeper level than any other group I have every witnessed. This is really only possible through their genuine knowledge and relationship with the Holy Spirit. They very openly and boldly call upon Him similarly to the Charismatic prayers in the Catholic Church.

While they are very aware of their relationship with the Holy Spirit, their relationship with the second person of the Trinity, Jesus, is not as strong as they believe. Like all other protestants, their lack of understanding of Christ’s True Presence in the Eucharist. Still, no one can deny that their prayer was powerfully filled with the True presence of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

There could be no denial of the Holy Spirit’s presence at that event. Some may look at it an think it’s fake or all for show, but their prayer was absolutely genuine. While the fallen away Christian groups do not know the fullness of Truth, it’s group like these that make me understand what Vatican II wrote about. For a long time, they were simply seen as heretics, but after the council the Church acknowledged that protestants do have a partial understanding of Truth. I wonder how much the Church could do in this world if only their passion was in union with the True Church. I sincerely wish that more of  the Church would catch on to this passion. I pray that someday, we will all be one Church again.

 

 

Hillsong – With Everything from With Everything on Vimeo.
This is a video someone else took at the concert we were at this month.

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Reaching for Love

The past month has been full of many amazing blessings working in different ministries. One of the most beautiful things that I continue to see is a deep desire for true love in everyone I meet. A desire for the love of God. We spend so much of our lives trying to reach for that love, but sadly, we sometimes run away from it when it is presented to us.

This world teaches us to live asking ourselves how we can get away with doing the least amount of work and use the least amount of effort. Our world is in a constant search for efficiency and productivity, but it seems to ironically promote a very lazy culture. All of the systems and technology of today work harder for us each day, so that we can do less and still somehow achieve more.

We want more, but we’re only willing to give as little as possible for it.

This mentality is one that I have been working hard to overcome.  In order to sincerely improve on this, I have to honestly look at the darkest parts of my heart and fight a constant inner battle against my selfishness. To truly live our out love as a child of God, heaven should be more than an assumed destination. My life and works should show others God, especially to those I am closest to in my life.

As much as we desire it, our human hearts do not always find love so easy. Sometimes, in our hunger for love we grow impatient and tired. There are many times when loving God pushes us almost to the point of breaking. Then there are times when loving people can wear at our heart and exhaust our spirit.

This life encourages us to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt too often, and it’s easy to assume that we have been good and that we give enough of ourselves. It’s not easy to  sincerely admit where we have failed. I know that there are many times when I start to believe my own excuses as to why I have not loved better.

Spousal love can produce some of the greatest joys, but can also be the source of many struggles. My parents celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary a few weeks ago, and it serves as a vivid reminder of what a vocation should be. While their marriage hasn’t always been perfect, the humanity of their devotion and love has been a beautiful example for our family. I pray that through His grace, I can be as strong as they have been.

Real love takes work, but looking at the cross, true love reminds me of the promise of heaven.

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A Movement in Austin

I have been incredibly busy lately, but in a hectic schedule, we launched Austin Catholic New Media’s new site. Check out the site and my post for the launch titled A Movement in Austin. Check it out and leave some feedback on the post of the new design of the website.

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Progress in Ministry Online

One of my favorite current responsibilities is being the communications coordinator for WilCoYA Ministry. It is a young adult ministry that unites Catholics from the diocese of Austin, mainly from the North Austin and Williamson county area. We launched a new look for WilCoYA.com last week, and I am very happy with the outcome.

Our ministry is of a modest size, but our audience is many times larger than our actual members. We are able to have a strong presence online to not only show what we are doing as a group in our ministry, but we are also able to feature important and relevant information and news about our Catholic Christian faith. Combining the two makes for a great witness of how our generations can take Truth and live it as an active Christian community.

I enjoy designing the monthly promotional material more than almost any other projects that I work on. For the  generations of today, the internet exists as a primary form of communication and discovery. Without a solid platform and appealing design, it would not be effective.

Look for more Catholic new media projects to be released in February 2011. Super exciting times! I’ld be happy to hear any feedback and constructive criticism.

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Mi Madre de Guadalupe

Mi Madre de Guadalupe

Since the Christmas of 2006, I have worn a medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe around my neck. Most Catholics see it without even thinking much about it, but protestants often take a second look at it. Most people never say anything, but I love it when I get a comment or question about the image. It gives me an opportunity to tell them about my mother.

For me, it is a big deal to wear the image of Our Lady. I went many years in my life trying to ignore Mary because I could never understand her importance in our faith. I knew she was necessary for Jesus to be born a man, but I couldn’t bring myself to accept a relationship with her. Scripture only spoke directly of needing to be close to Jesus. Why then would I have to pray the rosary or pray for her intercession?

In the fall of 2006, I was living with a community of the Society of Mary, and slowly they showed me a different side of the faith that lives in close relationship with Mary and Jesus on a daily basis. It slowly began to tear down a wall I had put in front of her in my heart. It was when a friend of mine pointed me to St Louis de Montfort’s A True Devotion to Mary.

Being a cradle Catholic, I had never read anything before that had moved my heart in the way many converts speak of their experiences. This book was different. Read his words, I found myself often fighting back tears at the breaking of my heart. My eyes were opened, and it was then I realized how much I had missed by ignoring her. I thought of how much my own mother would have been hurt her if I would have ignored her. I learned to truly accept Mary as my mother, given to me as a gift from Christ Himself. In all her purity, she only gives us His love, and Mary never keeps anything we give to her without giving it to her Son.

My life has changed in very subtle ways, but the biggest change is in my heart. Even now, there is still progress left to be made. At the end of A True Devotion to Mary there are instructions on how to consecrate yourself to Jesus through Mary. I must confess that I have not felt ready to go through the process since I have read the book. Although, I now feel a deep desire to now go through the consecration. Unfortunately, I have to wait another year to the several weeks of preparation because I would choose to do so on the feast of the Immaculate Conception or the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I have a strong affinity to both because of their history in my life.

December 9th is the feast of San Juan Diego in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. I look to him as a shining example of how embracing our mother, we embrace heaven. I anxiously await the feast our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.

Thenanother sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

Revelation 12:1-5

Juan Diego y la Virgen de Guadalupe (Video in Spanish)

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Digital Connection

The past few months, have reminded me of how powerful the internet can be at connecting people. Sometimes I post things on Facebook, Twitter, my blog or any other internet service with the hopes that someone will see it, = but I somewhat second guess whether anyone really cares. Among all the clutter, it becomes increasingly difficult to sift through the massive amounts of media.

I am a millennial, and our generation often has this expectation that our voice is entitled to be heard, especially us Americans. We speak with the conviction that our opinion has validity because of its reality to ourselves. We feel comfortable sharing how much we enjoy our dinner and company, so we will even share a picture of our experience with the world, or at least our network. To a different degree, we do not hesitate to share our disappointment with a bad experience. I like to think that we do this because we want to share joys with our friends as if they could have been there too, or attempt to save those close to us from bad experience like ours.

We share so much content that it is hard to understand the value and weight of what we give and receive. Recently, I was given some vivid reminders of the significance of what can be communicated. Casually sending a few tweets and followed up with emails has led to some major projects in the upcoming months (I’ll share more information about these events soon). I loved social media before, but I hadn’t been so sure it could surpass my expectations.

Hearts can be affected and lives can be changed through the words we share through new media or even through normal conversation in our every day lives. It’s sometimes easy to forget the reality that lies behind the digital environment. Sadly, sometimes I forget the mystical reality that exist beyond the physical world in our experience. Even when words spoken in a short amount of time create a reality that unites heaven and earth, I still sometimes act as if I didn’t know.

I want to share my life with heaven in a way that transcends technology and things of this world. I pray that my humanity does not blind me from the presence of eternity in our limited world.

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Sí Contamos

Si Contamos

I am not a fan of politics, but I think this is an interesting issues happening right now at election time.

A few months back I wrote a post calling attention to the bad ethics of Spanish language media in the United States, such as the Univsion TV network. I have stopped being surprised by many of their questionable decisions, but approving the TV ad that told Latinos not to vote was more than questionable. This ad passed a line far beyond the traditional political attacks seen in today’s campaigns, it encouraged a group not to be counted. Watch the first two videos below if you have not seen the ads.

Fortunately, the ads were pulled because of Latino group’s backlash, but it still appeared strange that they allowed them in the first place. I tried to do some more research as to why this ad was even created. It seems that the group Latinos 4 Reform created this ad only to get attention. This group is led by Robert De Posada, who was a former official of the Republican National Committee and had even appeared as a political commentator on Univison in the past. It seems maybe they did know what they were doing after all, maybe.

While I can sympathize with his equal frustration with both major parties, this was a very risky move. In his latest video, shown at the end of this post, he explains that they just wanted to call attention to the situation. The group is calling for Latinos to more carefully consider who gets their vote. This actually seems like a great idea after seeing their intentions. For a few generations, many Hispanics/Latinos and Catholics have simply given their vote to the Democrats, as if it was expected for gratitude for some support back in the past.

The Democrats were the party to boast a strong support for comprehensive immigration reform within a year of Obama’s entrance to the presidency. Two years later and we seem to find ourselves in an even worse state. This issue is terribly complicated and will not be solved overnight, but it must be addressed soon. Both parties have become so wrapped up in politics, that it seems it will not be the current politicians to do anything to change it.

It is also often thought that Democrats will be more supportive of the Latino causes, but the past years have proven otherwise. For Hispanics, most of our values have been abandoned by the Democratic party, especially in the appreciation for family. The general Democratic platform to chose to support abortion puts a vast divide in between the party’s values and the values of our culture. Sure some Latino groups choose to be “pro-choice,” but that generally does not agree with our culture that has a deep rooted history with Christianity.

The most troubling part of this is that Democrats have convinced many Spanish-speaking Latinos that abortion is a personal issue and should not be considered in the political arena. I find many Spanish speakers repeating this idea as if it is a valid argument. How can the Democratic party legitimately convince people that it is a personal issue and fight so hard for “pro-choice” legislation? Regardless of any good being sought by decisions, the millions of children being killed cannot be ignored. Taking someone else’s life is not a personal decision. It is also not single issue voting, because abortion eats away at the very base of our society, family. Destroying the family destroys the world by destroying one of God’s most powerful gifts.

It is impossible to find the perfect party that fits our Christian values and that is willing to work for what the good of our people as Latinos and all Americans rather than just continue politics as usual. As tempting as it is, we cannot give up on politics. Let’s go out and vote. Check out my post Learn. Pray. Vote and this post about the Pope’s advice for more information on voting as a Catholic.

Let us take time to pray for our current politicians and for those to come.

Original Spanish Version

Original English Version

Defense of the videos

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Mission of the Message

At the beginning of October, I attended the Theology on Tap for the Diocese of Austin. The presentation was originally scheduled to host one of my favorite Catholic bloggers, Rocco Palmo of Whispers in the Loggia. Unfortunately, he had to reschedule and was replaced with the communications director for the diocese of Austin. After getting over my disappointment with the presentation, a lot became very clear to me about the situation of our local church and the media.

Let’s look at the first problem. Our very large diocese covers an area that contains 3 different media hubs for major newspaper and tv markets. The diocese also contains 4 of the states largest universities and other colleges. Staying on top of all of the information being broadcasted from these sources and the different ministries’ communication is a job in itself.

I do not want to discredit our communications director’s background and his skills in traditional media, because he is well positioned for press releases and other similar tasks. The problem is that most of those communication methods are quickly growing outdated and ineffective.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication spoke to a group of bishops recently and was quoted in an article for EWTN News/CNA.

We cannot continue to speak in our categories to a population that is increasingly distant from them,” he said. This does not mean, he said, “running after the latest technology.” Instead it means “understanding the categories of the other and using them.”

The Church has a “great opportunity” to use new media to evangelize and spread Gospel values, especially among young people, he said.

Matthew Warner also wrote a wonderful post “12 More Social Media Insights for Catholics” last week where he made some very valid points about the reality of the current state of media.

“50% of the world’s population is under the age of 30. If Facebook were a country, it would now be the 3rd largest. It’s a mission field like no other.”

We have to take Pope Benedict XVI’s call to give the internet a soul seriously. The largest problem is that most people just do not know the services and technology well enough to use them for ministry. This is how many people are communicating with the world, and the Church must be there to communicate the message.

The biggest disappointment with that presentation was that there was only a couple sentences mentioned about social media when twitter was in the title of the presentation. We know that there is a lot of work behind the scenes to manage the communications of the diocese, but we need to learn more about how we can take the message into our own hands. As baptized Christians, we are all called to go out and baptize all nations (Matt 28:19).

We are not doing our job if we are only evangelizing to people just like us and that already know at least know Jesus as the Christ. We still have plenty of work to do for Catholics that are thirsty for more of God, but we have a lot of work to do with those Catholics and Christians that do not realize that they need more of Him. Then of course, those that do not know Him at all. The old methods of bulletin post, old fashioned Catholic Radio, and old fashioned TV are not exactly the best ways to carry out this mission.

I don’t want to seem overly critical of the staff for our diocese, but I do want them to be more aware of the situation. That’s why I feel that our new Austin Catholic New Media Group is so important. Not for our own personal gains, but for the greater good of the diocese we will serve. We are working on the site currently and hope to have it up and running soon. In the mean time, check out this video that was previously featured on Matt Warner’s blog at National Catholic Register.

We need to get to work, and it needs to be done well. Ad majorem Dei gloriam

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Trying a Change

Making the Decision for Change

Over the past few months I have made the decision that I need to make some changes in my life. Living in our contemporary American society, we live very selfish lifestyles without even thinking about it. I was stuck in traffic on the interstate with countless other cars crawling as far as the eye can see. I was upset at the thought of how so much of the congestion is created by cars that only carry a single person.

As I sat there stuck in my own car, I felt as if I had to do things in my life that would improve my effects on my life and the community. Austin has a train that just started this year, and it is very sad to see that so few people use it to commute to work. I am capable of taking the train because I am in good health, and it travels within a relative distance between my work and home. There was little reason for me not to take the train for my commute.

Overcoming the Hesitation

One of the reasons that most people do not take the train is because it takes away some of their freedoms that come with driving their own car. Each person’s schedule can be changed to go with their immediate needs, but public transportation requires more planning and following the official schedule. This is probably one of the largest contributing factors into why public transportation is not heavily supported in the Western United States. Without the support, the systems cannot be expanded to serve the people better. It is a sad cycle.

Before I lived in Rome, I had almost no experience using public transportation, especially not on my own. The community I lived in was on the far east side of town outside the walls, and my school was on the far West side of town. This commute required transfers between 2 buses, the tram, a mile walk throughout, and that was just one way. I quickly learned to memorize the routes of  the different modes of transportation. While it may sound like a big hassle for many people, it was actually simple. I could cover different cities quickly and efficiently in Europe without my own vehicle.

I find the train here to be very clean and spacious, but there is still plenty of space left for more people to join. I hope that more people choose to use the wonderful resource we have offered to us. One of my biggest hesitations was the changing of buses with the additional walking, but I am young and very capable of walking. I need more activity because I spend most of my day at a desk anyways. My commute also becomes productive with my laptop and the train’s wifi or a book.

A Need for More Discipline

I don’t know how long or often I will take it, but I know that this needs to become part of my commute more often. It pushes me to be a better person because it forces me to overcome my selfishness in my time and schedule. For those of you that know me well, discipline is a large part of my life. I believe that our current generations lack discipline, including us Christians. The Gospels call us to a spirit of discipline and self-control, but sadly most of us downplay its importance in our lives. This simple change will hopefully help contribute to making me a better person. More small changes to come.

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