Sunday, December 16, 2012

3rd Sunday of Advent: Rejoice!

Happy Gaudete Sunday!  Now is the time to rejoice, for the Savior of the World is coming soon!

As the priest at our local parish said, now is the time to prepare for Christ with renewed vigor, to make an extra effort to spend time reflecting upon the Son of God and His approaching arrival.

And so, if your efforts to TRAIN!!! this Advent have been strained, or your schedule too busy to set aside a few minutes to get ready for God, this week is the time to amend that, to "trim the hearth and set the table" as the song says, to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Here are my baby steps for the third week of Advent.  I'd give myself a B- for last week, and though I have a whole slew of excuses to justify such a low grade, I'll spare you from them.  Instead, I'm going to focus on doing much better this week, considering that Christmas is only NINE DAYS away!!!

 
Spiritual
 
 
To continue with the Magnificat Morning Prayer and 15 minute Bible reading
-or-
Do one of the Meditations from St. Francis de Sales's Introduction to the Devout Life
 
 
Mental
 
 
20 minutes of daily reading and writing
 
 
Physical
 
 
To do three weight-lifting exercises and two aerobics exercises this week
 
 

 
Don't forget to start your Christmas novenas today!
 
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to you, oh Israel!
 
All images found through Bing.com.
 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Word About the Election


November 6th was a sad day for Americans, for on this day President Barack Obama secured four more years of control over the formerly-free United States.  The thing that made this victory more painful than the 2008 results was the hope that the Republican party felt, the feeling that, this time, they actually had a chance, that it was finally their turn to call the shots.  Everyone held his breath as he watched the promising signs, and for good reason.  I live in a state that has a blue past, but this election the Romney stickers far outnumbered the Obama ones, and it seemed like there were not nearly as many Democrat yard signs as there were Republican signs.  After the HHS Mandate scandal, and the Fortnight for Freedom which brought Catholic bishops together across the nation, it seemed like Catholics had finally been awoken, and would go out and vote for the right man this time.  

And yet, here the country stands in a state of sad shock, shaking its head in disbelief over its inhabitants.  Those who have been fighting the wrongs committed for four years, truly feeling in their hearts that this country was still worth saving, are now left with an emptiness to replace their passion, wondering if America is really that lost.  Much like the Batman movies, where the great superhero fights to save a fallen world that never really proves that it deserves salvation, those who understand this country's dangerous situation and did their best to save it, fought-and are still fighting- holding onto the memories of what this country used to be.

Like Moses, the remaining faithful are left struggling to come up the necessary number of righteous souls to stop God's justice.  So now, they ask themselves, is it even worth it any more?  Has God really abandoned us?  Is our country truly beyond salvation?  And, if so, is there any point in fighting for it any more?

Despite the seemingly irreversible, soul-threatening, degradation that our culture has suffered, and despite the proof this past November that many Americans still refuse to acknowledge the danger that this president-turned-celebrity poses, there is still hope.  Many times, cultures have reached a point like this, where it seemed the only way left to go was down, and like there no way the people would ever wake up enough to crawl out of the hole they had dug for themselves in their sleep.  But, oftentimes it is at that moment when faith finally triumphs, and hope proves to be worth keeping.  Germany never thought that it would be free of Hitler and his atrocious "work camps", and yet, eventually, they were.  The American POWs, being brutally tortured in Japanese prisons as World War II raged on, never thought they would see their beloved families and countries again, yet they did.  Yes, in the process, countless men suffered and died, but not without believing that- one day- those who lived on after them would see better days.  

Here in America, we are both far from, and closer to, the horrors of Hitler and the threats of the Japanese, than we realize.  The daily massacre of infants in the womb and elderly in "professional care" is uncomfortably similar to Hitler's elimination of the "unnecessary" or "inconvenient" members of society.  Yet, we are still allowed to go to church and still allowed to pray.  As we put candles in the windows to decorate our houses for Christmas, let us not forget the first time candles were positioned that way was to signal to priests in hiding which houses were safe, and would welcome an outlawed priest to say Mass, and to stay for the night.  And in remembering that, let us thank God that our country has not yet come to such an extreme.

Though the "Happy Holidays" that will replace "Merry Christmas", and the missing, outlawed Nativity scenes are discouraging, do not forget that here, in the United States of America, the freedom of religion and freedom of speech have not yet been snuffed out, and that the fact that blogs like this can still exist is a testament to the fact that we have not yet lost all our freedom.  And as long as a cross can by openly displayed in the home, and an American flag fly on the porch, the faithful can hold on to these signs as promises of what is to come.  Hold out one more term, America.  Though Obama may make many horrible decisions, he is only a man, who is fallen just like the rest of us.  And just like each one of us, he deserves the benefit of the doubt, and a second chance.  Hating him, wishing ill upon him, or blaming him for all that has gone wrong is not only negative, but sinful.  Imagine all the men who hated Christ, spit on Him, killed Him.  Did He strike them, despise them, seek revenge upon them?  No.  He forgave them.  But, He also fought back, though not in the way the world expected.  And, guess what, He won.

This does not mean the population should agree with what Obama is doing, but it does mean that they-especially the Christians- should continue to defend the truth, while remembering that God is the only one who is all-powerful.  This does not ensure that everything will be all right, but it does guarantee that- no matter how hard the government, the culture, the movies, or the tabloids, try to derail God's children, they do not need to fear them.  Remember Christ's words: "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell," (Matthew 10:28).

America is a country full of fallen, human people- myself included.  And it is not yet time to give up, but now- more than ever- is the time to keep fighting, but in a different way.  The time has come to follow St. Francis, and stop seeking to be consoled, and start trying to console.  To stop seeking for love and attention, and to start giving it.  To light the darkness, to bring joy to the sorrowful, and- most importantly- to sow love in the place of hate.

For it is only when the world sees that, despite the stereotype, Christians are not here to judge and condemn, but to reach out, heal, and bring warmth to a world of cold hearts, that the lost sheep will be found, and this country moved to repentance.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, and remembered today, pray for us!

And, dear Lord, have mercy on Your people, for they know not what they do.


Picture from People.com
I do not recommend or support the above sites, they are simply listed as picture sources.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2nd Sunday of Advent: Baby Goals/Check-up

Happy (belated) Second Sunday of Advent!

Sorry about the lack of posts, a horrible thing called pre-calc a busy schedule has kept me away from the computer, but after my final exam!!!! tomorrow, I will have some of my free time back, and post about some ways to celebrate Advent, Catholic style! :)

Anyway, last week I'd give myself a B+ for keeping my goals.  I met the spiritual goal completely, half of the mental goal, and two-thirds of the physical goal.  Hopefully this week will be better!

 
Spiritual

 
To pray the Magnificat's Morning Prayer, and read the Bible for 15 min. daily
 
 
Mental
 
 
Fifteen minutes of daily reading and writing
 
 
Physical
 
 
To do two weight training work-outs and two aerobics work-outs this week.
 
 
I hope you all are TRAINING!!! this Advent, and preparing to receive Christ into your minds, homes, and hearts in the best way possible come Christmas.
 
God bless!
 
 
First image from www.flickr.com.
Second image from www.bing.com.
Third image from www.bing.com.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

First Sunday of Advent: Baby Steps

Happy First Sunday of Advent!

Here are my baby steps for the week.  Now, compared to my big goals, these are going to seem extremely small.  Keep in mind that the big goals are to be reached in a year, and the goal for this Christmas is to be well on the way to success.

Spiritual


To pray the Magnificat's Morning Prayer daily


Mental


Ten minutes of daily reading and writing


Physical


To do two weight training work-outs and one aerobics work-out this week.



By starting off small, implementing these things is less overwhelming, and hence one's chances of doing them are increased. 

What kind of baby steps are you taking this week?



First image from ncronline.org.
Second image from www.motherhood-cafe.com.
Third image from www.shape.com.
I do not support or recommend the above sites, they are simply listed as picture sources.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Catholic New Years Resolutions

As promised, here are the spiritual, mental, and physical resolutions I am going to work towards this liturgical year, with the intention of having a substantial start by Christmas:

Spiritual


-To spend an hour of uninterrupted time in prayer and meditation-


Mental


-To spend at least one hour reading and one hour writing a day-


Physical


-To do weight and aerobics training daily, six days a week-



Now, these are the big goals.  On each Sunday of Advent, I will post the baby goals that I am going to work on reaching during the upcoming week.  I hope you all are thinking and praying about your goals, and getting ready to TRAIN!!! this Advent!


First image from www.turnbacktogod.com
Second image from www.fotosearch.com
Third image from www.medicinenet.com
I do not support or recommend the above links, they are simply listed as picture sources.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Time to Train!!!

All right!  Here we go!


As all of my regular readers know, I have a horrible tendency to get stuck in a cycle that goes like this:
  1. Get tired of being lazy and accomplishing nothing
  2. Decide to do something about it
  3. Make a list of outstanding goals and steps to turn my life around
  4. Stick to the list for about a week
  5. Start to get overwhelmed and tired
  6. Start slacking off
  7. Forget about the list
  8. Start failing again
  9. Repeat
Unfortunately, ever since starting this blog, my failure to stick to my goals has become very obvious.  I honestly have the best of intentions, and do not want to fail, but there always seems to be something in the way.  



Well, it's time to change that.  After listening to a new Matthew Kelly talk entitled, "Don't just try, TRAIN!" I realized what I needed to do.  I make lists, set goals, create schedules, but rely on the adrenaline to help me succeed.  Instead of making practical plans that I can implement with my current schedule, and which can eventually help me improve, I write out expectations which are too high, and then try to reach them- instead of training to do better.

So, this Advent, I am going to start training, and I'm inviting you all to join me!  We'll call this "Catholic New Year Resolutions"- because the Catholic liturgical calendar begins again on the first Sunday of Advent.  And, they are year long resolutions, because that is what training implies.  When a person trains, they're working to gradually change their lives for the better, with the intention of maintaining the goals once achieved.  For example, if my goal is to start reading the Bible every day, once I've successfully read the Bible regularly and finished it, I don't stop since I reached the goal, I keep going, start it again, read over the passages I found difficult, keep working- because as long as I am human- there will always be room for improvement, because I will never be perfect.  Or, if I want to start working out, once my body reaches the appearance and physical fitness level I dreamed of, I can't just stop exercising or making healthy eating choices, I have to maintain certain habits so that I do not lose what I've finally achieved.



Here's what we're going to do!  First, pick one spiritual, mental, and physical goal you want to reach this year.  For example, maybe you want to pray a rosary a day, read a book a week, and run a marathon.  Those are big goals, but don't worry, we're going to take it slow.  Second, tell a reliable friend, relative, advisor, about your goals, so that you have someone to keep you accountable.  If you want, you can leave a comment telling me about them, and we can also help keep each other accountable.  Third, create reasonable baby steps to help you be on your way considerably by the time Christmas comes.  So, to use our example, decide that by the second Sunday of Advent, you want to be praying a decade a day, and by Christmas, you want to be praying two Rosaries a week.  For the mental goal, by the second Sunday of Advent, be spending at least fifteen minutes a day reading, and by Christmas, a half-hour a day.  For the marathon, by the second Sunday, be running every day for at least thirty minutes- even if it's just a jog, and by Christmas, be able to run a 5k.  These are very small goals, but they are huge steps towards reaching the big goals by next Advent.

As the weeks continue, I'll post encouragements, personal updates, you can comment about your progress, and I'll share the other fun things I'm doing to prepare for Christmas.  The goal is to be able greet the baby Jesus on Christmas without being ashamed, knowing you are truly trying to make yourself worthy of His gift.

What's your job this week?  Do the three things listed, and start implementing them.  Then, next week, we'll be going full-force!

Today, I'm going to pray about what I need to improve, make a plan, and I'll post it tomorrow.  I'd love to hear what you all are planning as well!



Get ready, get set, it's time to train!!!



First image found on Pinterest, originally from www.joanne-eatswellwithothers.com.
Second image found on Pinterest, originally from infobuissoniere.over-blog.com.
Third image from zenoferica.blogspot.com.
Fourth image from addicted2success.com.
I do not recommend or support the blogs listed above; they are simply listed as the sources where the images above were originally posted.

Monday, November 5, 2012

One Word Reason to Vote for Romney

In lieu of a "Music Mondays" post, I wanted to make sure I posted about the upcoming election.

Here is a one-word reason to vote for Romney tomorrow:

Life

For the lives of the children being killed every day...
For the restoration of the American right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"...
For the sake of the life and culture of the country...
For the lives of the many jobless Americans...
For the life of the Catholic Church within America...

And for a return to the glorious life this country used to know, when it celebrated its identity as "One Nation, Under God," when all religions were treated (almost) equally, when we weren't afraid to defend our country, when we were proud of what the country stood for, when we didn't have a President who apologized for (what used to be) the greatest nation on Earth, when the price of college and gas wasn't so high, when the debt wasn't so large, when polite behavior was taught and adolescents were taught how to be upstanding men and women, when Lee Greenwood was able to sing the words "'Cause I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free," and when we could breathe easy, knowing we were in good hands.

Will Romney-Ryan restore the old glory of America, and put an end to all the evils that have become a part of our tainted culture?  No, but he will work to provide America with a better future, placing America in God's hands and bringing back a hope long gone.

Please, vote pro-life, vote pro-God, vote Catholic.

Dear God, have mercy on this country if we put that man in office again!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Reboot

First of all, Happy All Saints' Day everyone!!!

Now, down to business.

My life is finally beginning to slow down, and so this neglected space will once again be receiving some attention.  I still would like to, eventually, return to the schedule that I re-introduced back in August (and then became too busy to keep).  My goal is to be on this schedule by Advent.

Also, I plan to do a little blog updating, so I may be messing with different looks, backgrounds, fonts, etc, so do not be alarmed if "A Catholic Teen's Perspective" starts to shift appearances.

Thanks to my followers for hanging in there with me; I was thrilled to see that I gained a few readers despite my spotty posting.  I sincerely hope that you all will enjoy the increased activity in the coming months.

I hope everyone has been having a great Ordinary Time, please take time to research before you go vote (for Romney) this week, and get ready for the reboot of my blog!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Patience Needed...

...as I continue with the craziness of college preparations and pro-life work this October.

After this month, life slows down, and I will once again have time to post here.

So please, just bear with me until the end of this month!

Thank you!

(In the meantime, check out my nine-part series on the state of the world and other political reflections, which provides good "food for thought" during these weeks leading up to the election:
"We're Selling the News" series: Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine)


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Support... Matthew Kelly!

Support a Catholic Speaker 2012!!!
 
 
In the Catholic blogosphere,  September is "Support a Catholic Speaker" month, and it is time for me to plug my chosen Catholic speaker!
 
I have mentioned this man several times before, and even reviewed one of his books.  He is a splendid speaker, and has an awesome Australian accent.  He is...
 

...Matthew Kelly (shown above with his lovely wife and son)!  Matthew Kelly's whole philosophy is that we must strive to find the best-version-of-ourselves, which for Catholics means finding our identity in God and what He wants us to do.  But this goes beyond the spiritual, and touches every aspect of life.  He points out that if people were to ask themselves "will doing this help me become 'the best version of myself'?" before acting, often they would make better decisions, and hence blossom into more wholesome, healthy, and happy people.  Though I thought his book Rediscovering Catholicism was good, I prefer to listen to his talks, as they are educational, engaging, and entertaining.  I've compiled a list of some of my favorite Matthew Kelly quotes below (the ones without quotes are paraphrases).  May his insight into how to live life to the the fullest inspire you to go out and work to become the best-versions-of-yourselves as well!

"The way we see the world determines the way we live our lives"
 
"We [Catholics] have forgotten our story"
 
"People were meant to be loved and things were meant to be used," too often it's the other way around.
 
"Business as usual isn't going to get something done, we need something bold."
 
"67 million Catholics in America- that's a sleeping giant, and I'd like to wake that giant up!"
 
"The call of every Christian is to be counter-cultural, and we have forgotten that."
 
"Jesus was a radical!"
 
 
Now that you've been inspired, the two things Matthew Kelly would want you to do are: number one, read Catholic literature, because "1% of American Catholics read a Catholic book this year,"   and to paraphrase, if every American Catholic read two good Catholic books this year, that would be a game-changer; number two, start bringing a notebook to Mass, ask God to show you one way you can work on becoming the best-version-of-yourself this week, listen for what He says, write it down, and come back to it as the days go on.  The books will help you grow in knowledge of the Catholic faith, and the Mass journal will help you learn how to apply that knowledge in a way that benefits  your soul.
 
Please look him up, buy a couple of his talks, and allow him to light the fire of Christ within you!
 
Thank you, Mr. Matthew Kelly, for all that you do, and for the wonderful witness you are for the Church!



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Always Remember, Never Forget...

 
 
...September 11, 2001.
 
May the souls of those who died, both as victims and as heroes, rest in peace,
and may their families who mourn now, be comforted.
 
9/11/01, "...the day our country grew weaker, the day that should make us stronger."
 
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
 
Amen.

Image from Yahoo.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Children of the Rosary

The Children of the Rosary
 
 
The "Children of the Rosary" is a newsletter/blog founded and written by Catholic teens for Catholic teens.  They describe the purpose of their publications as being: "...to have fun with, teach, evangelize, and unite ourselves with other Catholic youth around the globe."
 
Their website is cool and professional in appearance, a pleasant change of pace from the all-too-common gaudy, home-made looking sites.  They regularly post stories, articles, and information concerning Catholic youth and theology.  Though the site is brand-new (only about a month old, I believe), they've mananged to compile a good amount of information which continues to grow steadily.  Outside of apologetics, the site also has a "Comics" and "Jokes" section, and entertaining videos often find their way into the regular articles.
 
The newsletter is as full of variety as the website, including hand-drawn art, riddles, reflections, and prayers.  As of right now, you can view the newsletter from the site or have it e-mailed to you.  Eventually, they would like to print is as well.
 
I would encourage all of my readers to check out this wonderful resource.  I've thoroughly enjoyed exploring past issues and the recently updated site, and know that you all will as well.
 
Thanks to the team at "Children of the Rosary" for seeking to provide Catholic teenagers with a fun, reliable resource filled with faith and fun.
 
You can visit the "Children of the Rosary" website at http://cotrnewsletter.blog.com/.  You can sign-up to receive e-mails under "The Newsletter" tab.  Thanks to Corey and the other teens for their patience, and for promoting me on their site as well!  May God bless them as they continue to do God's work!

Upcoming...

As you all have most likely guessed, I've been up to my neck with things to do, and hence this blog has been neglected.  The promised report on illegal immigration is still in the works, and will be published this week.  But, I wanted to take the time to promote a website/newsletter beforehand, so you all will have something to read when I'm not posting! :)  Thank you for your patience and God bless!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Slight Delay for an Important Issue

Hello All!

Just wanted to let you know that the "Tidings Tuesday" post is going to be delayed to Thursday.  I am working on a big article in illegal immigration, and do not want to post it without having time to do the proper research, as this issue is extremely important.

Thank you for your patience!

St. Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Closer

Closer- Josh Groban
Classical/Vocal/ Pop
2003

Josh Groban's CD "Closer" is unique: along with having the typical vocal pieces in the romance languages, it also has some very beautiful, pop-like English songs and the occasional religious number, all adding up to a very enjoyable CD.  "My Confession" is a compelling song about someone who has been running from God for too long, and is now "on [his] knees, confessing".  His version of "You Raise Me Up" is my favorite take on this song so far, being grand and very dramatic.  "Remember When it Rained" might be my favorite on the disc, being a reflection on turning to God in desperation, when all seems lost.  The "exotic" pieces are lovely, "When You Say You Love Me" is romantic, and "Never Let Go" is inspirational.  Josh Groban's voice is incredible, and this CD is perfect for when one finds himself tired of the junk on the radio or simply wants to listen to something different.
Possible Concerns:
Overall, the CD is fine. No bad language, sensual imagery, or negative messages.  The song "Broken Vow" is about a woman leaving her husband for another man, and him asking himself why he let it happen.  Near the end of the song, Josh Groban sings: "I'd give away my soul to hold you once again, and never let this promise end."  In context, this statement is obviously a culmination of this poor man's despair over having lost the love of his life, but still, this line is not the best. 

I asked for this CD after seeing Josh Groban in the Ignatius catalog, and have been thoroughly enjoying it since receiving it.  I recommend this to everyone, as I think the majority of people, no matter what their normal musical preferences are, could enjoy this CD.

Have a CD, song, or artist you want me to review?  Leave me a comment and maybe the next "Music Monday" will be the review you were hoping for!

Cover image from Wikipedia

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bringing It Back!

Hello Dear Readers!

I know I have been way behind in my news reports and media reviews, so I'm bringing back the blog "schedule" that I used for a little while last year with some slight modifications.

Here is the schedule layout.  The dark green and dark pink days are days that alternate each week, meaning one week I do a music review, the next a movie review, etc, while dark blue days are every week:

Music Mondays (I review an album or a handful of single songs)
Tidings Tuesdays (I relay the facts concerning a recent news story and then comment on it)
Witty Wednesdays (I share a quote from a Catholic figure and write a short reflection on it)
Theatrical Thursdays (I review a movie)
Free Fridays (My day off- no posts this day unless necessary)
Saintly Saturdays (I share the "Cliff-Notes" version of the life of a Saint or "Blessed" and why they are important in our lives today)

Sunday is a day of rest, and I plan to spend it that way, unless a special feast day or news flash requires attention.  Hopefully I will stick to this for a while, and you all will enjoy it.  I think it will help my posts become more varied, hence having "something for everyone", along with restoring the original purpose I had in mind when I created this blog.

Anyway, this will start next week.  I realize that I do not have a book review day in the schedule; I will post literary reviews on days when I do not have another post scheduled, yet still have the time to write. And if eventually you feel you would rather have a regular book day than one of the days above, comment and let me know.

May God bless you during the rest of this week!  Stay cool!


Monday, July 30, 2012

An Award!

The Versatile Blogger Award

I have been nominated for my first blogger award: "The Versatile Blogger Award"!  Thanks to Liz at her lovely blog Sunny Side Up for tagging me.  To participate, one has to list seven random facts about himself (or herself) and tag 15 other people.  So, here it goes!





  1. I don't like country music.  I listen to a wide variety of music, rock being my favorite genre, but I just do not enjoy the way country sounds.  Of course, I have nothing against fans of country music, as a matter of fact the majority of the people at my dream college are huge country fans.  But, I don't think I'll ever be able to embrace it.
  2. I'm a face-painter.  Meaning, I paint faces at carnivals, fairs, etc.  It's a job I never thought I'd be able to do, since my artistic talent is non-existent, but after being taught the proper techniques, I can pull it off pretty well.  It is a fun job, but it is also harder than one would think.
  3. I hate math.  Math has always been my worst subject in school, and for a good reason.  I would rather sit in a traffic jam, watch Holes (the second worst book-to-movie adaptation I have ever seen), or listen to The Zac Brown Band than have to do math problems. 
  4. I'm a PC person.  Our family bought our first Mac computer (used) about a year ago, and I cannot stand working with it.  Please tell me: why did they have to re-work the keyboard and add their own special "command" button?  It is so frustrating when I try to use a keyboard shortcut, and it doesn't work because the special button changed the way the whole system works (one of my many Mac quips).
  5. I read my family's directions.  No one else in my family reads directions.  I do not mind reading them, and so I read them for everyone else.  And sometimes, when I play video games with my brother, reading the directions comes in handy! :)
  6. I've never had a Twinkie.  This is always a shocker.  Honestly, they just do not sound that good to me.
  7. Cinderella is the only Disney Princess Movie I have seen.  This is another one that always shocks my female friends.  I loved Cinderella as a little girl, and still think it's an adorable story.  But, for one reason or another, I was not allowed to see any of the other ones when I was younger, and still have not seen them.  And now that I'm older, I can understand why my Mom kept some of them from me...
So, there's some crazy facts about me, some of them more interesting than others.  Because I do not follow that many blogs, and the majority of the blogs I do follow have been nominated already, I'm going to cheat and skip the nomination process (sorry!).  Here and there I like to recommend other sites/ blogs, but in all reality the only ones I follow that would like being nominated have been previously.

Also, just to let all of you know, I've added a small box on the right side (scroll down to see it) where I list the upcoming books, music, and movies that I am going to review.  If you have any requests, leave me a comment with the title, and I will let you know if I will do it.

Enjoy the facts and stay cool!  God bless!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Five Summer Reads

I apologize for the length of time between posts this summer!

In order to give you all something to read when I'm not posting, I've compiled a list of five books that are great summer reads.  They are five of my personal favorites, and not too heavy (hence, why they are good summer reading); all are spiritually nourishing and will keep you turning the pages!  The highlighted titles are links to reviews I have previously posted; I've given a brief description of the books I have not reviewed in the past.  Enjoy!




The Great Divorce
-C.S. Lewis

Hold on as C.S. Lewis takes you on a bus trip from Hell to, well, almost Heaven.  This book is absolutely incredible; Lewis's unique perspective on Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven will surely open your eyes to the beauty of God's mercy and the contrasting appearance of man's nature, changing the way you think about life after death for the better.  A beautiful, vivid, and mind-blowing novel that will have you both laughing and crying the whole way through!




-David C. Downing




Mr. Blue
-Myles Connolly

This book is short, simply written, and not hard to understand, yet it has life-changing potential.  It follows the life of a "modern-day St. Francis" from the perspective of someone who, though he doesn't entirely understand him, falls in love with him (not in the romantic sense- just to clarify).  Mr. Blue is a deeply religious person who, like St. Francis, chooses to live in poverty.  He is filled with a child-like joy and wonder at the world, though at times in the novel the reader catches glimpses of an intense soul hidden within this happy-go-lucky creature.  Please read this book, fall in love with Mr. Blue along with the narrator, and allow his life to change yours!  A novel you're sure to read more than once!

 


-St. Therese of Lisieux



Rediscovering Catholicism
-Matthew Kelly

Matthew Kelly, an inspirational Catholic speaker, brings his interesting perspective to everyone in an engaging book highlighting the beauty of Catholicism, and the amazing things the Catholic Church does that the news will never tell you.  Think that Catholicism is a "boring" religion?  Think that the Church is outdated and "too old" to help you now?  Think again, and read Matthew Kelly's easy-to-understand guide, written to bring you back home smiling.  If you enjoy it, look into his talks (he is an entertaing speaker).  Though his message is basically the same, it's still  worth listening to the CDs as he is as easy to listen to as he is to read.

 


Please do read all of these, or at least try a couple of them.  There are three fiction and two non-fiction titles, and they are all fairly short.  I hope you enjoy these, for they have all (especially Mr. Blue, The Great Divorce, and The Story of a Soul) come to hold a special place in my heart.

May God bless you and keep you cool as the summer continues!



Thursday, July 5, 2012

Spider-man Marathon!



I just completed my Spider-man Marathon by going to see The Amazing Spider-man in 3D.  This being the first time I've seen these movies, I want to review them all while my first impressions are fresh in my mind.  As always, these reviews are condensed, and do not explore all of the moral lessons and implications that a movie may involve in order to avoid giving away the plot resolutions, and to keep the reviews from becoming too lengthy.  Also, I have had to leave some major plot descriptions out in order to review all the original three without spoilers.  For more in-depth analyzations, go to the "Links" tab and look under the "Movies" category.  Otherwise, enjoy! 




Spider-man (2002)
-PG-13

Peter Parker is somewhat of an average guy living a somewhat average life.  He is a genius with science and math, but is constantly picked on by kids at school.  He lives with his saintly aunt and uncle, because his parents are MIA (where they are or what happened to them is not even explored in this movie).  He is a senior in high school, and his biggest problem is the girl next door- Mary Jane- who he is hopelessly in love with, but unable to attract.  Another minor problem arises when the father of his best friend Harry pays more attention to him and his brains than to Harry, who has been ignored and shunned his whole life by his wealthy father for not being smart enough to impress him.  Then one day a loose exotic spider changes everything by biting Peter's hand, and transforming him into a buff, wall-climbing, super-hero with 20-20 vision and web-shooting wrists.  Luckily, this transformation is just in time, because as Peter transforms during a troubled sleep, a mad scientist performs an experiment that creates a monster and endangers the entire city.  Being an immature high schooler, Peter must learn the hard way that "with great power comes great responsibility", and that true love often requires serious sacrifice as friendships, loved ones, and New York City become endangered and in need of a hero.

What I Liked:

Peter Parker is a great guy.  One can relate to him as he watches the movie unfold; he is easy to root for, and evil is always clearly defined.  His love for Mary Jane is sweet, as he is always there to support and encourage her during rough times, even denying himself for her sake in the end.  Also, the lessons Spider-man learns are powerful, and Aunt May's character is a source of constant wisdom and comfort.

Possible Concerns:

Unfortunately, this movie has a bit of a "cheap" feel because of Mary Jane's clothes.  Her stomach is almost always showing, and when it's not her chest is.  There are a couple serious kissing scenes, though it goes no further.  The bad guy isn't that scary, but there are some intense scenes that could be difficult for young children (one death in particular is pretty horrific).  There is also the occasional curse word scattered here and there.


Spider-man 2 (2004)
-PG-13

Peter Parker has learned the responsibility that comes with being a super-hero, but he's having difficulty balancing normal life and NYC's hectic crime scene.  Jobs, school, and relationships become strained, and life just seems to be going the wrong direction.  To make matters worse, his web-slinging abilities seem to be failing him, causing him to fall from dangerous heights without a way to stop himself.  As he begins to tire of his double-life, his faith in himself wavers, and he is tempted to pack the suit away for good.  But, as a failed energy experiment creates a menace that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear, will Peter rise to the occasion, or ignore his tugging conscience and opt to live a "normal" life?  His decision won't be easy, and will require extreme personal sacrifice.  When all he holds dear becomes endangered, it will be up to him to save the day.

What I Liked:

Thankfully, Mary Jane's clothing choices become much more modest and her overall character improves.  The moral messages are incredible, and Peter Parker remains an incredibly down-to-earth, endearing character.  Spider-man also identifies with the citizens of New York to a deeper extent in several scenes where he is de-masked while saving innocent victims, showing all audiences that he is just a regular guy, doing his best to make the world a safer place.   And, since all of the introductory information is out of the way, the action and plot progress very quickly.  But, the ultimate message of this movie is the importance of self-sacrifice and putting others first.

Possible Concerns:

Scattered profanity, scary imagery, and serious violence in select parts- not for sensitive eyes.


Spider-man 3 (2007)
-PG-13

Completely opposite of the beginning of the second movie, Peter Parker begins this movie leading an almost perfect life, with everything falling into place.  But, success and the affection NYC have turned Peter into a prideful man.  He is becoming arrogant, thinking himself above everyone's help and incapable of mistakes.  And, when Mary Jane comes to him for comfort and help, his encouragement always seems to turn into tales about himself.  This cocky attitude combined with a strong sense of revenge as the real murderer of someone near and dear is revealed is a recipe for danger.  Hence, he does not react correctly when a dark substance takes him over while he is sleeping, turing his spidey suit from red to black, and bringing a stronger sense of power with it.  But, this power is evil, and as he accepts it instead of fighting it, it transforms both the normal guy and the super-hero.  Peter must learn to conquer his demons and resist temptation in order to save himself and the ones he loves.  He will hurt many people on the way, and hopefully he will remember his real identity before forgiveness becomes impossible.

What I Liked:

This movie shows that no one is above temptation, and that everyone needs help sometimes.  It also shows the evils of revenge, pride, and the need to never forget one's identity.  My favorite part about this theme is the way the church bells play a huge role in Spider-man's victory over his dark side, which takes on many different forms before the movie ends.

Possible Concerns:

One of the bad guys in this movie is considerably scarier than the previous ones, looking extremely disturbing.  Also, when Spider-man goes on a "bad streak", he does some immoral things that I sincerely wish could have been avoided.  But- his evil side is not glorified, and is shown to be disgusting and wrong.  A bad word here and there, along with a lack of redeeming himself for how he treats Mary Jane makes this movie more concerning than the first two in the trilogy, so those with younger children certainly will want to preview this first.


The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
-PG-13

No, this is not Spider-Man 4.  The Amazing Spider-man is a re-make, going through the key events of the 2002 film all over again, but with a whole new perspective and cast.  This time, Peter Parker's personality, financial situation, and love interest are much different.  Yes, he is still a genius who gets picked on in school.  But, this Peter Parker doesn't give the viewer the same "good guy" sort of feeling.  There is nothing wrong with Garfield's portrayal, his super-hero just isn't as upbeat as Maguire's Spider-man was.  Peter's journey towards using his power correctly, his love story, and his whole moral outlook are very different.  It feels much more realistic and well-done than the first three, but it has some serious character-development weaknesses that keep it from being "better" than the originals.  Overall, it's just a very different movie.  One does not have to see the first three to understand what is going on, or to better enjoy the movie.  The only reason to watch the first three before going to see this one is for comparison purposes.  But, this is definitely an enjoyable movie worth paying to see in theaters to appreciate the awesome graphics.

What I Liked:

The female character has a much stronger family basis, and her character seems promising.  Though this movie doesn't elaborate on her much, it leaves room for a deeper character to emerge in the next one (because there certainly will be at least one sequel, stay after the movie ends for a spoiler clip after the first credits!).  Unfortunately, her skirts could have been about a foot longer, but up top she was pretty well covered.  What happened to Spider-man was much more realistic, seeing as how he suffered a bullet wound and would come home with a bruised face as a result of his crime-fighting.  There's an incredibly moving scene during a rescue on a bridge, and one not-so-nice character ends up becoming a likable guy by the end of the movie.  Also, the soundtrack and graphics are incredible.

Possible Concerns:

A bad word here and there, intense violence, one startling moment where a character pops up unexpectedly, Peter's attitude isn't the best, and during the beginning of the movie when he hasn't started using his powers for the right reasons, there are some instances where he doesn't act very gentlemanly in his fighting.  There is also a scene where he is in the process of changing, so his hands are sticky and he doesn't realize it.  He reaches out to pat a woman apologetically after causing beer to spill on her, and then his hand is stuck on her shirt.  A fellow man then forces his hand away from the woman, but the woman's shirt is ripped off in the process, leaving her standing there in lingerie from the waist up.  Luckily she is not in the main screen for long, but this may be a good moment to cover young children's eyes (he's in a subway, or metro, when it happens, and he is awoken by a man's cold beer can being placed on his head- just to give you a warning sign to look for).  There is kissing, but it is not nearly as intense as the kissing in the first three movies.  Also, there are not really any deep moral lessons in this movie, though it looks like there is potential for better moral messages in the coming sequel.

I enjoyed all of these movies in varying degrees.  The second was the best as far as moral messages are concerned, and the newest one was the most visually appealing.  If super-hero movies are something you enjoy, I would recommend them.  I would hesitate to show them to anyone sensitive to violence or scary images, and if shown to younger children you may want to have your finger on the fast forward button for some of the kissing scenes in the first and second movies.  I recommend them as a good choice for a teenage movie night.  The first one is my least favorite: Mary Jane's outfits are distracting and the messages aren't as strong.  But, it is still necessary to appreciate the famous line: "With great power, comes great responsibility".

Enjoy the rest of the summer!


Here comes the Spider-man!


All images copied off of Bing.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Eucharistic, Sacred, and Pure

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As the end of June, the month of the Sacred Heart, draws to a close and the Fortnight for Freedom continues, the importance of consecrating oneself to both the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary becomes extremely appropriate and relevant.  I have been wanting to write about this for some time, as this special devotion has become very dear to me in the past year.  Previously, I had never felt any attraction to a specific image of Jesus.  Of course, being devoted to Christ does not require one use a certain devotion, but those who choose to use a specific image or apparition can often open themselves up to special graces and many helpful prayer books, images, etc. that go with each devotion (the Divine Mercy, for example, has a plethora of resources available to those attracted to that image of Christ).  I tried to fall in love with one of them, but still the pull, or call, to follow one of them did not surface.  And then, last year, I suddenly began to feel an attraction to the image and message of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  The beauty of Christ offering His Heart to me, with His pierced hands outstretched as though showering mercy upon those who come to Him, or in the image above, His hands showing that His Heart is where peace for restless souls abides, the great love and forgiveness, united with such bittersweet pain and intense love, called to me and I happily answered.  As the summer continued and my new attraction to this devotion grew, a series of "coincidences" led me to realize this was the devotion Christ had intended for me all along, for it was within Christ's Sacred Heart that I would find the strength, courage, forgiveness, love, and mercy I so desperately needed (and continue to need).
I grew in this love for the Sacred Heart contentedly, and Christ used this devotion to light my soul on fire.  But then I met a dear friend who showed me that I was missing the second half of this special devotion.
In my spiritual life, I have always been more attracted to Christ than to Mary.  Once again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, after all Mary's whole purpose and desire is to direct the faithful towards her Son.  But, Christ also wants His children to love His mother as much as He does.  Keep in mind that Mary is the only person (post-Christ) who has been assumed into Heaven, body and soul, for as John Bannister Tabb says in his Quatrain entitled "The Assumption":

Nor Bethlehem nor Nazareth,
Apart from Mary's care;
Nor Heaven itself a home for Him
Were not His mother there!

Hence, it is important that devotion to Jesus and Mary be combined.  Marian devotion must always, and will always, be closely paired with a love for her Son, for all Marian reflections and  prayers focus upon her as the Mother of God- for it is in this that she finds her great honor.  For ladies, Mary is the perfect role-model, exemplifying the virtues that women most desire to cultivate: humility, kindness, beauty, obedience, and a deep love for Christ (not technically a virtue...).  For men, Mary can serve as an inspiration as they seek out their future wives, or for those discerning the priesthood, she can help them overcome lustful temptations and keep their minds pure and focused.  The Immaculate Heart of Mary does this by exposing the beauty and purity of her soul, signified by the flowers around her heart, but also the pain she experienced as the most devoted follower of Christ, the sword that Simeon foretold, piercing her heart.
The most beautiful way to tie these two images together is in the Eucharist.  The Sacred Heart devotion is practically inseparable from the Eucharistic Heart devotion, for the Eucharist is the ultimate Sacrament of love and mercy- which the Sacred Heart is centered around (hence the First Friday Promise).  But, this also unites one to the Marian devotion, for by receiving Christ into his heart, man becomes a living tabernacle, just as Mary was a living tabernacle for nine months as Christ grew within her womb.  After communion, the faithful can ponder the great gift of having Christ physically within them, and ask Mary for the grace to carry Him in a way that glorifies Him and respects His presence.

This post could be tripled in length and still not touch on all of the beauty, grace, and privileges that come with these devotions.  For now, here are some helpful links that will offer more information, prayers, and tips for increasing or starting these devotions:

Smith Catholic Art - Cameron Smith is the artist who painted the images above.  These images are so strikingly lovely, they will provide the inspiration needed while trying to turn one's mind in the right direction.
New Advent - an exploration of the historical and doctrinal background and facts surrounding  this devotion; a very reliable source.
EWTN: Sacred and Immaculate Hearts - EWTN's page with prayers and devotional information about both the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary; a beautiful resource.
Sacred Heart- Fish Eaters - I love this website, it has incredible articles about various Catholic devotions/practices.  This page is very informative and includes the 12 Promises, Consecration and Enthronement information, and delves into the special acts connected to the Sacred Heart devotion.

May God bless all of you!  Please participate in the Fortnight for Freedom, as this is extremely important for the future of Catholics in this country!  If you are in need of more information about this, go to this link.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.  Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.


(I apologize, I do not know why it will not let me enlarge the font...)