Sunday, February 28, 2016

Spiritual Retreats

I recently went to an awesome mission/retreat by a Missionary of St. John the Baptist. He offered daily Mass, confessions, catechism classes, and evening talks/holy hours. It was very spiritually enriching. Check out their website to learn more about them. Please support them if you can, as they are trying to raise funds for their new church! 

Retreats are very important. Many of us perhaps have never been to one, or maybe we never gave them a second thought as to their importance. Yet, they are really good to attend perhaps once a year, or more often if you can. 

Retreat literally means as a noun, "an act of moving back or withdrawing." Missions/retreats let us step away from our busy lives and withdraw as it were from the world to focus on what is really important, that is reaching eternal life. They offer time for prayer, reflection, spiritual conferences, learning about the Faith or seeing aspects about our Faith in a new light. They make us think about our purpose in this life and where we are headed. The retreats give us more focused time to really talk to God in prayer and, more importantly, to listen to Him. 

Retreats are also a good reminder of the need to advance in the ways of holiness. I've heard so often in sermons that you are either going forward or going backward in the spiritual life. Lent again is a great season for this need to amend our lives and renounce our sins. But it is not just about the maxim of avoiding evil and doing good, although that is true if you are putting it simply. Rather you must really aim for the heights and set your heart on doing great things for God. Because this is not the time for mediocrity. St. Teresa of Avila says, "Unless you strive after the virtues and practice them, you will never grow to be more than dwarfs."

So, if you can, find some time this year to go on a retreat or attend a mission. In our busy lives we need to remember to focus on what is really important. For after all, this life is very short, and if what we are doing is not helping us get to Heaven, then we should make some changes in our lives so that it is.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Finest Hours

The Finest Hours is based on a true story taking place in the 1950s about the most daring coast guard rescue mission ever accomplished. Bernie Webber is sent on an impossible rescue in a horrible winter storm off Cape Cod to a massive oil tanker that has split in two. Very dramatic moment by the way, when the sailor sees his own ship cut in half. 

If you're looking for a feel good movie for the whole family, this one does its job. With a fairly predicable plot leading toward a happy ending, The Finest Hours still offers suspense and drama and is engaging enough to hold your attention. It is a heartwarming story, promoting the ideals of valor, determination, and sacrifice. 

One complaint I have is a lack of character development. Some characters that we see and would like to know more of just float through the story and are somewhat flat such as some of Bernie's friends. The ending is somewhat anti-climatic too as the heroes must face such trial to find the ship, yet hardly struggle getting back except for the cold.  

The romance between Bernie and Miriam is very sweet. One of my favorite lines is at the end when Bernie says to Miriam about their wedding, "So is April 16th still good for you?" The cast was well chosen and there were enough sub-plots between those on the oil tanker, Miriam on shore, and Bernie in the coast guard boat to keep you interested. 

Some great characters: Sybert is an interesting character as he pulls those remaining on the oil tanker together despite their unwillingness to have his leadership. He uses ingenuity and common sense to keep them alive till a hoped for rescue arrives. Bernie is always "by-the-book," but his most shining moments are when he does what is more heroic in the moment. One great line of Bernie's is "we all live, or we all die." Miriam has a lot of spunk. From proposing to her fiance, to standing up to Cluff, to trying to save Bernie from the shore, Miriam shows her perseverance and strong will. 

Overall, there are some really great moments in this film. You'll have to see it for yourself! There is something really great about seeing characters win out against all odds. I think what I loved most about The Finest Hours is that it is true. Disney sets up heroes in this movie that are real and inspiring. Nice touch with photos at the end of the real people. So if you get the chance, see this great movie! 

Saturday, February 13, 2016


It's that time again. Lent. For some reason most people, including myself, don't get very excited about having to go through Lent. Yet it is a very sacred time and prepares us for the greatest feast of the year, Easter, making it one of the most important liturgical seasons. But we tend to feel like it isn't our favorite time of year. I think two reasons for this is because naturally no one enjoys penance, and we forget what the purpose of Lent truly is. 

I came up with this acronym to describe the purpose of Lent and redirect our mindset of this penitential season. 

L.  Love
E.  Endurance
N.  Negation
T.  Triumph

L. The most important thing about Lent is growing in our love of God and neighbor. This should motivate us in whatever we choose to do to prepare for Easter. If there were never these special seasons, we would tend to become lukewarm and forget why we do things at all. Our spiritual practices become routine and dry. Lent reminds us to renew our fervor and intentions that we always remember our purpose in life, to know, love, and serve God.

E. Lent also serves to help us endure our sufferings. When we take on voluntary penances, they helps us accept the difficulties that come our way when we aren't asking for them. Also, committing to something for forty days requires endurance. We persevere in our observance because we have chosen to do so for God. This strengthens our resolve in persevering in our Faith throughout our lives. 

N. Most people choose to give up something they like for Lent to practice self-denial, whether it be a particular food or source of entertainment. Others choose to work on eliminating a vice and turning it into a virtue. For example, instead of speaking ill of others, trying to find the good in them. These acts of self-denial remind us that this earth is passing and we can't take any of these material things with us anyway, and likewise our vices hinder us from advancing toward Heaven.

T. When we have fully taken advantage of the season of Lent to improve our spiritual life and focus more on eternal life, we will have truly triumphed. After we have lived our life well for the love of God, we will be rewarded by Him who promises good things to those who love Him. That will be our greatest triumph. Carrying the cross after Him in this life, enables us to reign with Him in the next.

We should embrace this season with zeal and joy. For here is an opportunity to grow in our Faith and union with God. So, whatever you are doing this Lent, persevere in it and always remember Who you are doing it for. Because Lent isn't about multiplying our penances and prayers so we are doing as much as we can. But rather, Lent is about doing what we are already doing with greater fervor and devotion. It may be you are suffering a lot this Lent without adding extra penances, in which case you are already united with our crucified Lord. But if you can add a few things, it shows our Lord that no sacrifice is too much to offer to Him. And He will be waiting for us at the end of Lent, as our resurrected King. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Making Time for Fun

We all have busy lives. Very busy. Almost everyone I know remembers "free time" with nostalgia like it's a childhood memory. We feel like 24 hour days are not long enough. And there is always something that still needs to get done. As soon as a list is crossed off there's another list. And even when we have accomplished so much, it still isn't enough. As a result, those few minutes of extra sleep with the snooze alarm are jealously sought after. 

There can be two extremes in society. Those who neglect their duties and fall into laziness by spending too much time doing whatever they want whenever they want. Those who make "too much time for fun." On the complete opposite side of the spectrum there are the workaholics, who never take time for leisure and relaxation. So where comes this healthy balance of making time for fun and fulfilling your duties?

Most people are in the in-between state. They work hard and play hard and do their best to have this balanced life. But, more often then not, that in-between state leans harder toward working too much. For sometimes I think we don't realize how important that "free time" is. We seem to feel guilty taking it like we are neglecting something else important.

Stress is very bad for us and if it boils over too high, we will inevitably crash. We need to have some personal time, be it ever so brief. Take something that you love to do and do it for at least half an hour a day. This could be extra prayer time, hanging out with family, watching a good movie, going for a walk. Whatever makes you relax and takes your mind off your troubles. 

The term recreation has been forgotten. Having fun actually reinvigorates you and helps you perform all those necessary duties better. And it makes you a lot happier. If you don't have time for fun in your life, then you need to look at your life and make some changes. 

If you're always living for the future by constantly filling your life with work that needs to be done, then you will never enjoy each day as it comes. Because there is something to be said for "savoring." Not rushing to the next thing all the time. But savoring the day-to-day moments, enjoying what is right in front of you. Being able to pause amidst your occupations and remember why you are doing them at all. 

After all, if you never have any fun, you will be a very dull person indeed. Believe it or not, laughing and having a good time is one of the most important things because it helps us realize life doesn't always have to be so serious. And I don't mean that we don't have to take our life seriously or that how we use our time doesn't matter. Because it does tremendously. But rather joy (the fruit of having a balanced life) reminds us that all these earthly sufferings and trials will pass, and one day we will have eternal rest, eternal joy, and eternal bliss. If only we rise to the challenge and both accept our responsibilities and perform them well, and also take the time to enjoy our lives.  As one of the saints said, "Live as if you were already in Heaven."