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Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Rom 13:8-10

Brothers and sisters:
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another;
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
The commandments, You shall not commit adultery;
you shall not kill;
you shall not steal;
you shall not covet,

and whatever other commandment there may be,
are summed up in this saying, namely,
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Love does no evil to the neighbor;
hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 112:1b-2, 4-5, 9

R.( 5a) Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
R. Alleluia.
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
R. Alleluia.
He dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright;
he is gracious and merciful and just.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
R. Alleluia.
Lavishly he gives to the poor;
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia 1 Pt 4:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of God rests upon you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus,
and he turned and addressed them,
"If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.
Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.
Which of you wishing to construct a tower
does not first sit down and calculate the cost
to see if there is enough for its completion?
Otherwise, after laying the foundation
and finding himself unable to finish the work
the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.'
Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down
and decide whether with ten thousand troops
he can successfully oppose another king
advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops?
But if not, while he is still far away,
he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms.
In the same way,
everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions
cannot be my disciple."

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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Living The Benedictine Oblate (Novice) Life While Sick

Picture after the Oblate novitiate ceremony and scapular investiture; this marked the official beginning of my novitiate.
This morning, I heard from my Oblate master and it filled my heart with such a beautiful and immense peace and joy. I wish I had the ability to express just how lovely it felt to receive that email.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent him an email detailing my health journey. I mean, I also asked him questions about how to strengthen my spiritual life, but I updated him on life so he'd know what to advise. Today, I received a follow-up that made me very happy.

Since they're very busy out in Norcia (yes, they're still building their new monastery after the 2016 earthquake leveled their monastery; please feel free to donate here), I don't expect to hear from him often but I am always filled with joy when I do.

After receiving the email (and replying to it), it dawned on me that I haven't really talked about my oblate novitiate journey in the middle of all my health struggles. In fact, I think most people will be surprised to hear that I'm still continuing my journey considering how poorly my health has been lately. Well, let me reassure you that I'm still going forward... and I'll share with you a few theories that have been thrown around amongst my friends (a little later) of how the two are connected.

As the Benedictine motto ("Ora et labora"; pray and work) suggests, two of the pillars of the spirituality are work and prayer. As Oblate attached to this particular monastery, I'm also to embrace penance (more on this in a bit), charity (especially towards the poor and the unfortunate), chastity, keep up the days of fasting and abstinence, and work on being obedient. I'm also to detach myself from the world (be a part of it but not of it) and reject pride.

What I've been focusing on in my current state has been prayer and obedience. Actually, obedience has been the biggest focal point for me these last couple of weeks because I've been actively discerning my vocation for the last couple of months. The only thing I'm going to say about that is that I'm incredibly happy with where God seems to be leading me. Of course, credit goes to my Oblate master who encouraged me to go forward with it at our retreat. I knew there would be obstacles (even before the health issues began) but it's been such a beautiful experience so far and I have no doubts I'm doing God's will for me. Finally! I have confidence in something I'm doing! lol.

The obedience part of the vocation discernment is sometimes hard because my spiritual director occasionally tells me to do something that I don't technically want to do but know I have to do. That's the beauty of obedience: you break your own selfishness and passions in order to follow the wisdom of those who know better than you; those who care about the state of your soul and want to see you doing the right thing in your discernment.

The prayer part of my life has been the easiest for me to maintain because of the routine I had established prior to my Oblate novitiate. I pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (sometimes the little Benedictine Office) at least twice daily, or more if I'm able to. For example, today I've able to do all the hours so far, except Terce because I fell asleep for a little while. I pray the Rosary daily. I have a number of prayers that I know by heart and can do while I'm blinded by lights (the photophobia has been my biggest enemy lately) and have to wait to regain my eyesight once again. If it wasn't for prayer, I probably wouldn't be able to go through some of the obstacles I've encountered recently.

For obvious reasons, the "work" part has had to be modified to fit with what I'm capable of doing with my worsening eyesight and my overall fatigue and physical limitations. I still write for Epic Pew and Catholic Chemistry when I'm able to; though I've had to take a couple of weeks off here and there when I'm not doing too well. Thankfully, both editors are great and understanding if I'm late with deadlines or if I need a couple of breaks writing. God bless them both!

I also try to keep my family duties as well as I can. I help run errands when my eyesight and fatigue cooperate with me. I keep the financial budget as well as I can. I drive my mom to work every morning, except on days when I'm completely blind in the morning and it's extremely dangerous for me to try to drive. As my health begins to stabilize, I'll be adding more of the housekeeping duties I usually have. At the moment, my only big ailment is my eyesight; the low blood pressure fainting spells and the physical weakness have both gotten better in recent weeks.

I know I need to work on Lectio Divina (another pillar of the Benedictine spirituality) and Mass attendance. I'm sure you can guess why I've been failing at these two -- my worsening eyesight AND health problems that have left me housebound for several days at a time. In fact, I spend most of my days in bed, with my adjustable bed base reclined up so I can sit more comfortably. Still, if I can go to confession and/or Mass, I go! I also try to get the daily Mass readings in, even if I have to highlight it and have Siri read it to me when my eyesight is particularly bad.

The scrupulous side of me is anxious about failing at these two things because they're such a major part of the Oblate life. At the same time, I also remind myself that I can only do so much with what I have going on. I try to not be hard on myself because, honestly, there is only so much screen and/or reading I can do before my eyes have had enough for the day. Some days, I have to keep my eyes closed for most of the day (enter Catholic podcasts and audiobooks for company) because my eyesight is just completely horrendous. For now, I'll continue to pray that I have little pockets of good eyesight time to be able to get myself to Mass and/or do Lectio Divina more regularly.

Having said all of that, yes, I absolutely still firmly intend to go forward with my novitiate as planned. I also still plan to attend the annual retreat next year and make my final Act of Oblation. I have a couple of friends who have a theory that all of this is happening because of my novitiate discernment. My health issues didn't really start until a week before I left for my retreat and, if you remember, I had my first ER visit during the retreat. You know... like someone (or something) doesn't want me to go forward with this for some reason. Anyway, just putting that theory out there. You draw your own conclusions. Since St. Benedict is now my spiritual father, I will let him intercede for me as necessary. God's will be done, no one else's.

I think that's as "in a nutshell" as I can get. I tried to keep it as short as I could. God willing (and my eyesight and health cooperating), I will be getting back into my blogging groove this month. Again, God willing. I've been doing the 54-day Rosary novena with my eyesight as my first intention so we'll see just what miracles Our Lady will do for me. Even if it's not a full restoration of my eyesight, I know I will receive the graces necessary to cope with whatever is ahead of me.

Of course, I will keep y'all updated on both my Oblate novitiate (especially now that I've remembered to do so; mea culpa!) and my health journeys!

Please keep me (and particularly my eyesight and the ophthalmologists treating me) in your prayers this next month as we hope to finally get some answers with the latest round of blood work tests and a new MRI scheduled for next week.

And, that's it for now. I have to go grocery shopping because I've run out of food. I was waiting for my mom to get home so I would have an extra pair of eyes with me; it's best while my eyesight is wonky.

I hope you've all been well!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Tuesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 Rom 12:5-16ab

Brothers and sisters:
We, though many, are one Body in Christ
and individually parts of one another.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
let us exercise them:
if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;
if ministry, in ministering;
if one is a teacher, in teaching;
if one exhorts, in exhortation;
if one contributes, in generosity;
if one is over others, with diligence;
if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 131:1bcde, 2, 3

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
O LORD, my heart is not proud,
nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
nor with things too sublime for me.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother's lap,
so is my soul within me.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
O Israel, hope in the LORD,
both now and forever.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.

Alleluia Mt 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 14:15-24

One of those at table with Jesus said to him,
"Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God."
He replied to him,
"A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many.
When the time for the dinner came,
he dispatched his servant to say to those invited,
'Come, everything is now ready.'
But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.
The first said to him,
'I have purchased a field and must go to examine it;
I ask you, consider me excused.'
And another said, 'I have purchased five yoke of oxen
and am on my way to evaluate them;
I ask you, consider me excused.'
And another said, 'I have just married a woman,
and therefore I cannot come.'
The servant went and reported this to his master.
Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant,
'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town
and bring in here the poor and the crippled,
the blind and the lame.'
The servant reported, 'Sir, your orders have been carried out
and still there is room.'
The master then ordered the servant,
'Go out to the highways and hedgerows
and make people come in that my home may be filled.
For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.'"

- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, Bishop

Reading 1 Rom 11:29-36

Brothers and sisters:
The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy
because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!

For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given him anything
that he may be repaid?

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To God be glory forever.  Amen.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 69:30-31, 33-34, 36

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
"See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not."
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
They shall dwell in the land and own it,
and the descendants of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall inhabit it.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Alleluia Jn 8:31b-32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 14:12-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
He said to the host who invited him,
"When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

For the readings of the Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo, please go here.

- - -
Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The Tyranny of Virtue

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. On this episode, Robert Boyers discusses his latest book, The Tyranny of Virtue: Identity, the Academy, and the Hunt for Political Heresies.

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The Annual 54-day Rosary Novena Begins on Friday!

You didn't think we were going to forego this blog's annual tradition of doing the 54-day Rosary novena just because I've been dealing with dental and medical problems lately, did you? Nope! In fact, we (my mother and I) now have more of a reason to do it this year.

I was planning on announcing it earlier in an EpicPew article but since it's not gone up yet, I decided to blog the invitation while I wait for my editor to publish that article. (Edit: you can now read how to pray the novena on my Epic Pew article here.)

As usual, anyone who wishes to join us for the 54-day Rosary day novena may do so.  You don't have to pray for mine or anyone else's intentions -- you can focus on your own. However, if you'd like to give a sister a hand, I'd be incredibly grateful because y'all know how bad my health has been since June.

For those of you who want to join but have never done the novena before, here is the story behind the tradition which I posted last year:

"A couple of years ago, I started inviting Twitter friends to join in on praying the 54-day Rosary novena when I prayed it. There's strength in numbers, right? I didn't ask them to pray for my own specific intention; I left it up to each person to pray for whatever massive intention they had with the option of adding the intentions of everyone else praying the novena. It went well so I did it again the following year and I invited blog readers to join in. To my surprise, many did join in and the number of people praying the novena grew that year... and the year after that... and the year after that, etc.

Last year we had the biggest group of prayer warriors since this tradition began. To this day, I still get messages about the amazing graces and answered intentions following last year's novena.

As per tradition -- and as recommended -- we'll begin the novena on All Saints' Day and end on Christmas Eve. If you do the math (and I have), it's exactly 54 days between All Saints' Day and Christmas Eve so, you know, perfect timing! This novena is recommended for intentions of all sizes and severities. I will also be offering to send you a daily reminder you need one -- either through Twitter, the blog's FB page, a text message (if we already have contact outside of social media), or an email.

Every year people ask if it matters if you do the traditional Rosary (without the Luminous Mysteries) or with the Luminous Mysteries added and the answer is: No! I personally do the traditional order without the Luminous Mysteries because that's how it was first prayed from the beginning of the devotion but the choice is all yours. The website I use has both versions so it's totally up to you and your own preference.

Of course, I'm also going to throw the annual word of caution: this novena is not for the faint of heart. Many people (myself included) have experienced what I call a "Murphy's Law streak." If something can go wrong, it's likely that it will go wrong. That's not to say that everyone will experience it. I've known people who've had no problems during it. Mom and I had just one minor hiccup during one of them. I've also known people who've only seen the good that has come from the novena. Still, I know there are people who've abandoned the novena because they've gotten overwhelmed with the obstacles they've encountered while doing this novena. The graces have always outweighed the bad (in hindsight) and if you have a huge intention that you really feel stuck on, I cannot recommend doing this novena enough.

Please don't let what I've just warned scare you off. I'm only informing you that this novena can really test someone so that you're prepared if you want in. But, you should also keep in mind that that's what the devil wants. He doesn't want you to pray for our Blessed Mother's intercession, especially for a big intention. He'll put obstacles in your way... but God is greater and Mama Mary will always crush his head. Keep frequenting the Sacraments, constantly invoke our Lady's protection, ask your Guardian Angel for some angelic backup, and you should be fine.

Having said that (and having potentially scared some of you off; lol, sorry!!), I'd still love for as many of you as possible to join this year's novena. Please let me know by All Hallow's Eve (next Wednesday) so I can add you to the list of those participating, especially if you want to daily reminders. There are already a couple people signed up (even before I started writing this post) and I'm excited to see how many more will join this year!"

If you want detailed instructions on how to do the novena, I'll like my Epic Pew article (which has the instructions broken down for y'all) as soon as it goes up.

That's it from me for now. I have work deadlines and limited time to do them with my eyesight. By the way, that's one of my main intentions this year (if anyone wants to help Mom and I pray for it); for my overall health (which has been the worse it's been in years) and my eyesight -- that we get answers and that it gets better (and that I don't lose my eyesight).

I hope you all have a lovely rest of the week!

As always, thanks for reading and God bless! 😊

The Future of Religious Schools

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. On this episode, Ray Domanico discusses the history of the Blaine Amendments, a recent challenge to Montana’s school choice program, and the future of religious schools in America.

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The Pachamama Controversy Straight from a Local Priest (Translation Inside)

Yes, I know. There is so much infighting over the Pachamama idols (yes, I'm calling them idols). Yes, I'm also sticking to the "Yo (Pacha)mama..." joke I made on Twitter earlier this week. Having said that, I'm not here to fight anyone. I know what the arguments are on both sides. I'm read and seen them. There is, however, something I want to add to the discussion... because we're clearly all adult enough to have civil discussions, right? Asking too much? Well, here's hoping a good dialogue can come of it.

I've translated the bold parts of a post by Fr. Nelson Medina  -- from Spanish into English -- on why the Pachamama idols are *not* part of the Amazonian Catholic culture. Or, at least, not the orthodox part or any part that he's witnessed. I did not translate the entire thing because I have no permission to do so (although, if Fr. Nelson lets me, I'd be more than happy to do it).

And, if you need some background information on Fr. Nelson: He's Colombian. He's from the area and has a lot of experience in this area (Amazon). He knows what he's talking about because he's lived and experienced it himself.

This is taken directly from his website. Again, I've mostly translated the bold parts, though I've added more of what he wrote in parenthesis to give the bold part context. I have not added any opinions of my own to this. I did add words to the 5th quote in parenthesis for the sake of context. Otherwise, all Fr. Nelson's words.

I must say that the image that was taken to Rome is not representative of the Colombian Amazon nor, I believe, anywhere in the Amazon.

Such image does NOT represent anything ‘ancestral’ of Amazonian culture.

“(That person or group of people) want (others) to think that they are representatives or spokespersons of the indigenous so that any attack on the image or that alleged “Amazonian” spirituality is an attack on the indigenous.” 

Whose idea was it to carve that image and give it the use we’re now learning, with the complicity or negligence of numerous authorities inside and outside the Vatican?"

Taking it (image/idols) to that sacred site (Roman church) can only mean that it is considered to have religious significance.”

“(You can say that image represents fertility, woman, or life. But then the question becomes:) does our faith worship fertility, woman, or life?

“(There is even more to ask: what other representations do we know of fertility? Since ancient times, pregnant women, women with broad hips and erect phalluses have been the representation of fertility in cultures that have not received the Gospel within them. So, what else does this Synod bring? The procession of the phallus? And where are they going to leave it?) Is that the best way to serve Amazonian cultures, which have as much right as we do to receive the entire Gospel in all its purity?

Citing St. John Henry Newman on how pagan rituals have been sanctified by the adaption of/by the Church:
“(What Newman does not say, no doubt about the conciseness of his text, and what Tornielli voluntarily omits, is simple and crucial, and is summed up in a question:) What does the Church do with the pagan elements BEFORE incorporating them into its expression of Faith, whether it be doctrine or liturgy? (Examples: The Christians of that time, did they take the beautiful statues of Aphrodite and say, ‘Let us celebrate human love,’ and then put them in their basilicas? Did they take the clothes of the Romans and said without more: ‘this is how our priests will dress’?)”

“(The Christian dynamic is very different, and St. Augustine explained it well: ‘Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum.’) It is the integration into Christian preaching, when it is possible and logical… once it acquires a different sense of the pagan sense, that it is used in the Church. (And there is something interesting with which we can conclude: in Newman's long list there is not a single case of human images. Newman was interested in how some acts, stories or objects, relatively neutral in themselves, can be transformed into their meaning and used in the Church. The images designed for the Amazonian Synod have nothing of that neutrality:) celebrating ‘life’ without worshiping God, the only Creator, is simple paganism. (And with the pagan idols, whether it be the golden calf or the merchant’s money in the temple of Jerusalem, firm and clear actions are needed ... that can reach all the way to the Tiber.”

There you have it. Again, if I get Fr. Nelson's permission, I can translate the whole thing. You can run the post through Google translate although some parts don't translate as well.

That's all I'm going to bring into this dialogue because I refuse to get involved in arguments.

I hope y'all have a great weekend and have a blessed Sunday tomorrow.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Intellectual Diversity on Campus

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. On this episode, Stanley Kurtz joins Mark to discuss free speech on the college campus, academic freedom, and why a “Campus Intellectual Diversity Act” is a good idea.

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Converting Modernity

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with senior editor Mark Bauerlein. On this episode, George Weigel discusses his latest book,  The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform.

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