Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dream I Had: Saying Mass

I had a really unusual dream last night. I was celebrating High Solemn Mass in Latin at Westminster Cathedral in London.

When I woke up and remembered what I had dreamed, I kept saying to myself... "Not a sign, not a sign!"

Journal Reflection

I wrote this journal reflection after praying the Rosary at St. Mary Cathedral this past Tuesday. Hope it's not too personal for y'all.

February 23, 2010 Tuesday
First week of Lent, Feast of St. Polycarp

...Though my eyes see with discernment You have given me, who can dare gaze upon Your Face and Your mighty arms of holy love, yet You have revealed Your Love, Yourself, Your Face to us, Lord. You gave us the picture of Your love when You leapt down from heaven and grabbed my flailing arms, mired in sin and dirt, and You washed me by Your water and Your Spirit. You anointed my head with sweet fragrant oil and You took me to Your table, put me at Your right hand and bade me to eat Your Most Holy Body. And though I kept running away from Your table, as a child would run when he is filled, still You called me, bid me tender and wiped my face by the sweat of Your brow. You did take care of me, O God, and I cared not. Teach me then, to love You, to draw near each day to You and to cherish You in my heart, as You cherish me in Yours.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

For Alex

Today, I want to talk about my friend Alex. In elementary school, Alex was my best friend. He’s the kind of guy who’s one of the cooler kids in the class, but hangs out with everyone, including the dorkier ones, like me. Why do I say that I’m one of the more nerdy and dorky kids? When you’re in kindergarten or first grade with glasses, still with an unsure grasp of English, pants that flood, and sometimes socks that don’t match, well.. you get the picture.

Allow me recount some stories about Alex:

Alex is a selfless person. Why do I say that? Well, he shared his toys with everyone. Back in first grade, Power Rangers was a huge deal. And of course, Power Ranger toys were the thing to have back then. And he shared his Power Ranger toys, the Putty-men and the other Rangers. It makes me smile when I think of it.

Alex is a person of deep reflection. One of the things I distinctly remember was a conversation I had with Alex in the lunch line, in the cafeteria. We were in first grade. Alex and I were talking about God. We were speculating on His nature, whether or not God exists, etc. Now of course Alex and I didn’t talk like theologians and philosophers; we had to use the terms and language we were familiar with in order to convey those ideas. So Alex said, “God isn’t just here or there,”pointing in different directions, “but He’s everywhere.” I don’t know what it was, but it made a deep impression upon me. I think you can see now where my inquisitive nature and the reason why I like to reflect upon things come from.

What other cool things about Alex can I say? He’s a great artist. Alex, do you remember the Top Dawg pictures you drew? I wish I still had that copy of the one you gave me after we left Carmichael Elementary. And I suppose that in itself made another impact on me. I rarely throw away anything given by a friend. Which is another reason why my room is so cluttered with miscellaneous things.

Here is a boy, now he’s a man, of an outstanding character, of deep reflection, and of an amazing artistic talent. Needless to say, Alex and I played together in recess, sat next to each other in class, (4th grade, Ms. Pedigree's), and shared ideas with each other. It took me years to learn what it means to be a good friend, and it will take me many more years to be a good friend, but at least I got a good example of such a friend so early in my life.

With my life, I promise, I will be praying for you, Alex. Maybe one day we can meet again and catch-up from where we left off.

Dream I Had: I am Your servant, Lord, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid.

Wednesday, last week.

I had the most wonderful dream ever! And, I'll tell you, I usually remember my dreams, and there has been some pretty wild ones out there.

I at adoration one evening at a church. For my non-Catholic Christian friends and readers, adoration is an event where you adore Christ in the exposition of His Eucharistic Body. In the most mystical experience, I felt the urge not only to kneel before Christ, but to lay myself flat down before Him. So I laid myself prostrate before God. It was in the evening and the walls of the church darkened.

And I continued lying there, praying, and begging the Lord to reveal Himself to me. And I was there for until I fell asleep. When I awoke in my sleep, the priest, Father Albert, admonished me for leaving the Body of Christ unattended. And then I told him about how I was in adoration before, and asked for his forgiveness and pardon. So then he told me, "Your faith has been sanctified." I don't know what that means, but when I went back to sleep in my dream, I was able to sleep peacefully after that.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

True Beauty II

Life as a bookseller, or at least this bookseller, gives me little time to read any books, at least to the extent I'd like to read.

One of my favorite poems ended with these particular lines, thought-provoking, yet peaceful, calming, a fresh breeze of air.

Here my exalted vision lost its power.
But now my will and my desire, like wheels revolving
with an even motion, were turning with
the Love that moves the sun and all the other stars.
--Dante Alighieri, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII, 143-145

For those of you who don't know my favorite epic poem, Dante's Comedy stands out among all others. I have searched for beauty, for love, for happiness. Now I, like Dante, have found it. Found it I have, but like many others on the journey, we only know we've came a bit later than what we have liked.

So late have I found it. Augustine of Hippo says it better than me. Let me remind you of my first love. Here's what he said:

Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved Thee!

For behold Thou wert within me, and I outside; and I sought Thee outside and in my unloveliness fell upon those lovely things that Thou hast made. Thou wert with me and I was not with Thee. I was kept from Thee by those things, yet had they not been in Thee, they would not been at all.

Thou didst call and cry to me and break open my deafness: 

and Thou didst send forth Thy beams and shine upon me and chase away my blindness: 

Thou didst breathe fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and do now pant for Thee: 

I tasted Thee, and now hunger and thirst for Thee: 

Thou didst touched me, and I have burned for Thy peace.

--St. Augustine, Confessions, Book Ten, XXVIII

Editor's note: For the relationship between fire, rest and peace, see XIII.9.10. It is appropriate that what is arguably the most beatiful passage of the Confessions is a summary of the effects of Divine Beauty on Augustine's soul. The earlier tension between spirit and flesh is dissolved in the higher eros of love for God, while the five bodily senses now act as lenses into the supernatural object of our longing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Point Exactly! II

For Diem

Diem is probably the first girl I met in my class. Or at least the first one I remember. I met her in first grade. She and this other girl, (named Danielle, and that’s the only thing I remember about her) were the only Asian girls in the class.

What’s your favorite memory of her?
We were at the neighborhood swimming pool. We were in first grade, or around there, at the time. And I think she thought that I didn’t know how to hold my breath underwater. So she proceeded to teach me. I guess I was being a gentleman, and went along with it. So she told me to take my hand and pinch my nose and hold it while I go underwater. Then she said, “Ready, 1, 2, 3!” And being me of course, I went underwater without holding my nose, just to show her I know how to hold my breath. 

Most awkward moment?
Fourth grade, we were in homeroom. It was morning before classes. So I went to sit next to her. Then this black kid came up and sat next to us and asked us, “Are y’all boyfriend and girlfriend?” And I said, “No, we’re just friends.” He didn’t believe me; he asked the same question to her. And she said, “Nope, we’re friends.”

What do you see her doing in 10 years?
Anything but nail and beauty salons. I remember back in middle school, my mom used to work at my aunt’s retail store that sells nail beauty products and supplies for other stores. Then one day, I remember her coming in. Based on this observation, her family is probably involved in the beauty industry, and I can’t imagine her taking it on.

Anything else?
Diem is one of the nicest girls I’ve met in elementary school. From the times playing during recess to participating in other activities at school, it was a blast. And I’m thankful I still hold the memories.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Frodo the Nine-Fingered and Samwise the Brave

Listen to this song while you read:

I love watching epic movies, and my favorite movie series is the Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings speaks to me as a person. It portrays courage in the face of adversity, friendship in the pit of the Enemy, love in the jaws of death.

I love JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings so much because it follows that same tradition of literature: the epic journey. We're all on a journey, aren't we? We all have that same one destination toward happiness, don't we? We are Odysseus in the Odyssey, Aeneas in the Aeneid, and Dante in his Comedy. And the best one of them all: Jesus on the way to His Cross. For me, it's the Lord of the Rings: Frodo to Mount Doom.

I see my in Frodo Baggins: small, weak, afraid, perhaps destined for great things, but still unsure. And yet, in the stillness, the center of the storm, the silence comes. Where art thou, o Friend of old?

One of my good friends from high school actually saw me as Samwise Gamgee. That is very comforting. "It's me. It's your Sam. Don't you know me?" There are countless scenes in the movie where I could say, "Man, if I had a friend like that..." But you know what? I do have a friend like that. A friend who sticks closer than a brother. I talk to him, I see her, I share stories with them. This Friend lives in all my friends. My future series on my friends will be precisely on that. And I hope you see the good things that have helped changed my life because of what you have done.

Oh yea, following below is one of my favorite scenes. I would be lying if I denied that I didn't shed tears at this scene sometimes. Unfortunately, the embedding is disallowed. So here's the link:

Oh yea, in other unrelated news: the word "unfriend" is now in the Oxford English Dictionary. What a shame..

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

For Johnny

In elementary school, there are two guys who were my best friends. And, I’m proud to say, they’re still my friends today. I’m going to write about them in the order I met them.

Johnny and I were friends since, literally, the first week of school. We met in pre-kindergarten. Johnny was also, by pure coincidence, is a Roman Catholic. Growing up in a Protestant home, I only heard of the things they do, such as praying/worshipping Mary and other idols. Well, in my view at the time, at least they still got Jesus, so it couldn’t be as bad as the other religions.

I guess it was my friendship with Johnny that always prevented me from becoming a full-on anti-Catholic. And looking back, it was my friendships with worshippers of other faiths throughout my life that kept me from being uncharitable toward their religion. As early at the age of 8, I was already exploring what other religions taught. But before I get into that, this post is about Johnny.

One of the most ridiculous memories I have of Johnny was him making a clown out of himself; and a particular memory of pre-k stand out as he placed a toy on his head as a hat. He made look cool to be the class clown. He was the equalizer in the class. There wasn’t anyone in the class too cool or too socially awkward for him to be friends with. This particular gift of self-deprecation, it seems to me, allowed for our friendship to be restored after its estrangement.

As a rule, my series on my friends will be nothing but positive things about them. Last August, my sister took me to visit the University of Houston campus. As I went to see some old friends, like Kristine and Chris, they invited me to come to Mass with them at the UH Catholic Newman Center. I obliged.

Johnny and I hadn’t seen each other since 7th grade. We were enemies at the time. And I mean the full sense of the word enemy. It’s part of the reason why I went to alternative school, but I won’t tell you about that now, that’s another story. Over nine long years before Johnny and I were reconciled again, and you know why it was possible? I’ll tell you why.

In literature, when you see people eating together, it shows a pretty big deal. Because when people are breaking bread, it means they’re not busy breaking heads. So, as I pretty much expected, Johnny was at the Mass too. And there was no way, absolutely no way, I could have gone to receive Christ in the Eucharist at the Holy Mass with a grudge on the side. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Another thing, small thing, I would like to point out is: during the intercession, one of the staff workers at the Newman Center asked for prayers for the recent late Ted Kennedy. And in my mind revolted! Prayer for him! But that’s what we’re supposed to do isn’t it. Pray for your enemies. That day, it was an uneventful day for me mostly, but it was probably one of the most grace-filled days as it re-oriented me to see where I am and where I am not. Again, that’s another blog to be written.

For me to be friends with Johnny again, it’s an honor. For me to be in the Catholic family with Johnny, it’s a grace.