Letters From a Young Catholic

My reflections as a Catholic young adult passionate about the Faith, seeking to grow in knowledge and understanding of God and discerning the will of the Lord in my life.

Monday, December 25, 2006

O Come All Ye Faithful!

Merry Christmas to all!

May God bless you and your families as we celebrate together the birth of our Saviour, born in a humble stable in Bethlehem. By the grace of God may we all come to imitate more closely the fiat of our Blessed Virgin Mother as we welcome the Infant Christ into our lives during this Christmas Season and throughout the year.

Thank-you for your friendship and prayers.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Liturgy of the Hours Question. . .

Ok, so I pray morning and evening prayer using "Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours." I've only been doing this for just over a year now and so when odd situations come up, sometimes I get confused. For instance last night. Last night I didn't know where to turn. And this morning. This morning do I pray the morning prayer for Dec. 24th or for Sunday Week IV with the Advent antiphons? I'm just slightly confused. If this post makes no sense, then just ignore it. If you can give me some clarification, that'd be helpful. This is kind of an after the fact question, but I'm just curious.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Off to get a tree. . .

I've come down with a nasty cold, just in time for the holidays.

I was complaining about this to my parents. . . every time I come home I seem to get sick. They pointed out though that I'm usually coming home right after having finished final exams (in other words, lacking in the adequate sleep and nutrition department) and that might have something to do with it. Hopefully I'm feeling better before Christmas roles around (which is soon).

I've got to head out now to go get a tree with my dad and sister. Yes, we don't have a tree yet.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Passing on Textbooks

This morning I went back to my old highschool to pass on one of my textbooks to my highschool Physics / Math teacher. I attended a public highschool, but my former teacher happens to be a practicing Catholic. And what textbook from this past semester could I possibly be wanting to pass on to a highschool Physics and Math teacher?! (I certainly wasn't taking any Physics or Math courses!!!) . . . The Science Before Science by Dr. Anthony Rizzi. We read this book in Metaphysics this past semester (in addition to reading Aquinas' Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics). Anthony Rizzi is a physicist from the USA who argues for the necessity of Metaphysics and using examples from physics demonstrates how science goes astray when it ignores Metaphysics. Quite frankly, the physics examples used in the book were a little over my head, but I thought my highschool Physics teacher might enjoy the book. . . he seemed pleased with the gift and said it looked like great reading for the Christmas Holidays.

As a side note, it's definitely odd to walk through the halls of my old highschool. Many of the teachers are the same and the school is much the same, but the students all look so young and I feel so old. And to think . . . only four years ago I was still in highschool. Wow! It seems like forever ago though. A lot sure has happened in my life in these past four years. . . and I have no iddea

Home, Sweet Home. . .

Hello out there. . . I've been home for a couple of days now and although life is quick paced here too it's a "different" pace from studying for final exams.

I've been baking dozens of cookies, Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, visiting with grandparents, and helping my parents prepare for Christmas. In the midst of all this, I'm trying to keep my eyes fixed on the Child who is to be born in Bethlehem. In only a couple of days Christmas will be here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


It is FINISHED! Yipeeeeee...

I'll be home for Christmas. . . (isn't there a song about that. . .)

I need to go p
ack and clean and do laundry etc. . . now.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Please don't pray that. . .

One of the features of studying at a Christian post-secondary institution is that the professors often pray for the students before we begin writing our exams. . . however, when the professor prays 'Lord, may this exam the students are about to write truly reflect the effort they have put into this course. . ." there are always a few people who squirm in their seats.

Praying your way through exams. . .

When all else fails you can always take the approach of St. John of Cupertino who apparently struggled through seminary because he was not a very good academic student and had a hard time studying. So, before he wrote exams he would just focus on studying a portion of the material covered in the courses and pray that the exam questions would all pertain to what he had studied. Apparently it worked for him. He's definitely a well known saint among Catholic students preparing for exams.

O Great St. Joseph of Cupertino who while on earth did obtain from God the grace to be asked at your examination only the questions you knew, obtain for me a like favour in the examinations for which I am now preparing. In return I promise to make you known and cause you to be invoked.

Through Christ our Lord.

St. Joseph of Cupertino, Pray for us.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Weary and Exhausted

"Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Is 40:30-31

Ok, so maybe I'm taking this slightly out of context but I found this passage from today's first reading rather encouraging. . . I will make it through these last few days of exams, even though I'm tired and exhausted. Up next. . . metaphysics! Yikes!

WOW! What a journey. . .

Pray for Dwight Longenecker who will be ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood tomorrow after a long journey. I came across his blog today and was amazed and encouraged by his story. . .

Thirteen years ago I stood at the altar as an Anglican priest in my beautiful medieval church not believing what I was doing.

I had come to believe in the real presence of Our Lord's Body and Blood in the Eucharist, but it was not present in my church, but in the chapel of the Benedictine Quarr Abbey. Put very simply, Jesus was there in a way that I did not believe he was present when I celebrated the Anglican Eucharist. People asked how I could sacrifice everything to become a Catholic. It wasn't hard. How could I have continued for another thirty years as an Anglican priest standing at an altar doing something I no longer believed in?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Two Down, Four to Go!

This is my best friend for the next twenty-four hours. Latin's coming up next.

Friday, December 08, 2006

One Down, Five to Go.

I wrote my first exam this morning. "The Theological Vision of Pope John Paul II." It was my favourite course of the semester. I wrote over fourteen pages single spaced in just over two hours for the exam. Yes, I thought my hand was going to fall off. But questions such as "Describe Pope John Paul II's understanding of the dignity of the human person." or "What did Pope John Paul II mean when he spoke of 'the New Evangelization'?" aren't exactly short answers. In fact, I could have written even more.

By the way, I'd highly recommend everyone go read The Splendor of Faith: The Theological Vision of Pope John Paul II by Cardinal Avery Dulles. It's not too difficult to read and not too long (262 pages) and it does provide a fairly comprehensive overview (if that's even possible) of the theological thought of our beloved Pope John Paul II.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Same-Sex Marriage Here to Stay (for now. . .)

Lord have mercy on us. May the Holy Family intercede for our nation that we would rediscover the true meaning of 'family'.

OTTAWA, December 7, 2006 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Canada's Conservative government's motion to re-open the debate on same-sex marriage was defeated in the House of Commons today by a vote of 175 to 123. The margin of defeat was wider than expected with fewer pro-family Liberals voting in favour of the motion unexpectedly worded to include acceptance of same-sex unions and respect for same-sex "marriages" that have already taken place under the current law.

Archdiocesan Synod

Our Archdiocese has been in the process of carrying out a "synod" since before the Jubilee Year. Finally the results of the synod have been published and recommendations have been made. The Declaration of the Archdiocesan Synod is actually quite interesting to read through.

What is a Synod?
"A diocesan synod is a process involving wide participation of clergy, religions, and laity in an effort to listen to the Holy Spirit and to discern where He is leading us as a community of believers."

The synod began with a detailed survey of all (or as many as possible. . .) Catholics fourteen years old and over in our archdiocese on matters such as the sacraments, parish life, catechesis, evangelization, etc. . . The results of these surveys have been discussed for the past several years and now we've finally come up with an action plan.

Among the top 50 propositions made as a result of the synod, here are some of my favourites. . . (then again, there are others that I'm not as enthusiastic about):
2. Promote the ongoing spiritual formation and education of our teachers in Catholic faith and culture.
6. Extend the Parish Religious Education Program (Catechism) to Grade 12.
10. Encourage and support the establishment and development of a Catholic university.
19. Promote the virtue-based perspective in moral education.
24. Recruit natural family planning teachers in each parish to counsel couples before and after marriage in managing their fertility in accordance with Humanae Vitae through natural family planning.
30. Encourage all parishes to establish perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
31. Incorporate the Liturgy of the Hours into parish life.

Of course some of these are more realistic than others. It'll be interesting to see what the actual impact of the synod results are.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Trad Fad?

I was discussing with some Evangelical friends and a Protestant university professor today the recent fad that seems to be emerging (at least in our area) of large numbers of Evangelicals converting to Eastern Orthodoxy.

The discussion went along the lines off (paraphrasing):

Professor: "Why do you think so many young Evangelicals are entering the Eastern Orthodox Church?"

My Evangelical Peers: "We're sick of the praise and worship music. Evangelical Theology is shallow. We're seeking a richer and more in-depth theology. We want a return to 'Tradition.' We'd like to have sacraments. We like the concept of a universal Church."

Professor: "But why not become Catholic then? Why Eastern Orthodox?"

Me: "Because if they become Eastern Orthodox then they can avoid the Pope."

It's true (and everyone else involved in the conversation agreed with me). They don't want to have to wrestle with the question of authority. The question of papal authority makes them feel uncomfortable.

At least they're searching. Now let us pray that they'd have the courage to wrestle with those tough questions that make them feel uncomfortable. By the grace of God, they will, eventually.

Random Thoughts for the Last Day of Classes

You have got to love first year Latin class when . . . you get bonus marks for memorizing the Salve Regina! :-)

On the downside, for another course I'm in, I completely 'forgot' (. . . it was a very honest 'forgetting'. . .) to read one of the textbooks. Unfortunately the exam is Saturday. I guess I'll be doing some extra reading tonight.

Are take home exams really a blessing? I used to think so. Now that I've been handed a take home exam with seven eight hundred word essay questions (do the math. . . seven times eight hundred. . . well over 5000 words expected of me) I'm re-evaluating my position on the matter.

And finally, one of my theology professors ended my last class of the semester with the following quote from Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta:

"We're not called to be successful, we're called to be faithful."

These are good words to keep in mind as I enter the desperate studying phase. A week and a half from now it'll all be over.
Deo volente.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Apologetics Notes

Sometimes when I'm reading through my notes preparing for exams I come across some interesting quotes. . . tucked in between "Modernism" and "Postmodernism" in my notes for my Apologetics class I found the following comment:

"You're going to be the ones who distinguish the crap from the truth."

Hmmm. . . sometimes you've just got to say it as it is.


Here's a great quote (courtesy of The Hermeneutic of Continuity) from one of my favourite saints (St. Alphonsus de Liguori):

"St Bernadine of declared that a moment of time is of as much value as God; because in each moment a man may, by an act of contrition or of love, gain Divine grace and eternal glory. [...] Time is a treasure which is found only in this life; it is not to be found in the next, neither in hell nor in heaven. In hell, the lamentation of the damned is O, si daretur hora! - Oh, that an hour were given us! They would pay any price for one hour of time to redeem the past; but never will they have this hour. In heaven there is no weeping; but if the blessed could weep. their tears would only be shed for having in this life lost time, in which they might have acquired greater glory, and because this time they can never again possess."

Lyrics for the Day

O grand Saint Nicolas
Patron des écoliers
Apporte-moi du sucre
Dans mes petits souliers
Je serai toujours sage
Comme un petit mouton
Je dirais mes prières
Pour avoir des bonbons.

Venez, venez St Nicolas,
Venez, venez St Nicolas,
Venez, venez St Nicolas,
Tra la la.


"Seek his face Who ever dwells in real and bodily presence in his Church. Do at least as much as the disciples did. They had but little faith; they feared; they had no great confidence or peace, but at least they did not keep away from Christ. . . Do not keep from him, but, whne you are in trouble, come to him day by day, asking him earnestly and perserveringly for those favours which he alone can give. . . So, though he discerns much infirtmity in you which ought not to be there, yet he will deign to rebuke the winds and the sea, and say: "Peace, be still." And there will be a great calm."
- J. H. Newman

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Light of Hope

I was reading through my notes on the Culture of Life vs. the Culture of Death from my JPII Theology course in preparation for the final exam when I came across the following quote which seems especially appropriate in this Advent Season...

"However dense the darkness may appear our hope for the triumph of the light which appeared at Bethlehem is stronger still."

- Pope John Paul II, Ubi et Orbi, 2000

Reverance for Life in the Family

"Almighty God, giver of all that is good, we thank You for the precious gift of human life [ . . . ] for the life of the elderly, witnessing to the ageless values of patience and wisdom."

Every Sunday at Mass throughout our Archdiocese these words are prayed, giving thanks to God for the gift of life in the elderly, and recognizing the inherent dignity and sanctity of all people, especially those most vulnerable in our society.

As I sit at my computer today typing up study notes and preparing flash cards to help me study for final exams, my thoughts drift from the words on the pages of my textbooks to my family back home.

My Oma's struggle with advanced dimentia has been getting more and more difficult. I haven't been there to witness to decline since I've been away at school and haven't been able to visit since September, but my family tells me that things are not going well. When I last saw her in September my Oma couldn't remember my name, but she still knew who I was. I told her that I had to go away to go back to school and she told me that going to study would be a waste of my time, she'd rather I stay with her. Unfortunately, that wasn't really an option.

Now, when I go home in a few weeks chances are that she won't know who I am. She can no longer walk and has difficulty communicating. She needs to be hand fed her meals and even then struggles to swallow. My grandfather can no longer care for her at home. I really admire the dedication of my grandfather, my parents, my sister, and my other relatives back home who are taking the time to spend hours with her each day ensuring that she is fed and well cared for. I feel caught in-between. I am physically very distant from the reality of the situation back home, yet at the same time I wish I could be there to help support my grandparents in this difficult time.

I don't think the reality of what we're facing here has really sunk in though. The picture above is of me with my Oma at Christmas two years ago. I was in second year university and home for the holidays. As I visited with my Oma I discussed the literature I was studying in my French courses and she commented on the authors she knew so well from her own university studies and made recommendations of books I might enjoy. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. She taught me how to play Canasta and sang with pride the German Christmas songs she knew so well as we sat around the tree. This Christmas will be different.

And yet, as my Oma approaches the end of her life, I wonder what is stirring in her soul. Though to us she may seem to be disoriented and incoherent, in the greater reality of who she is as a human person, in the depths her soul, what is taking place? I pray for her. I pray that as she approaches the end of this life she would encounter the love and mercy of Jesus Christ that will lead her to the next. I also pray for my Opa, her devout and faithful husband, who is spending his days by her side. His fidelity and obvious love for her is such a powerful example of true love to me. His self-sacrificial devotion to his wife inspires me to examine how I treat those I love in my own life. I pray that God would grant him the necessary strength and courage to continue to witness to the dignity and sanctity of the life of his beloved wife.

Please pray for my grandparents during this difficult time, that Christ would prepare the way for my Oma and that my Opa would find strength in God to face whatever may lie ahead.

Archdiocesan Prayer for Reverence for Life
Almighty God, giver of all that is good, we thank You for the precious gift of human life:
- for life in the womb, coming from your creative power,
- for the life of children, making us glad with their freshness and promise,
- for the life of young people, hoping for a better world,
- for the life of people who are disabled, teaching us that every life has value,
- for the life of the elderly, witnessing to the ageless values of patience and wisdom.
Like Blessed Mary, may we always say "YES" to Your gift. May we defend it and promote it from conception to its natural end. And bring us at last, O father, to the fullness of eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The Advent of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The first day of a new year in the liturgical calendar of the Church. It is a time to prepare for the coming of Christ. During this Advent Season we are challenged to spiritually prepare ourselves to prepare for Christ's birth but this is not the only coming of Jesus that we long for. This is also a season in which we should pay particular attention to how we prepare ourselves to receive Christ as we encounter Him every time we participate in the sacraments, particularly in Holy Mass. Yes, we're preparing during this season to meet the Infant Jesus in the manger, but let us not forget that this same child who lay in hay in Bethlehem comes to us incarnate in the Blessed Sacrament. Furthermore, Advent gives us the opportunity to spend time in prayer and reflection preparing for the second coming of Christ for "the Son of Man is coming at an hour that [we] do not expect." (Mt 24: 44).

Over these past few weeks as we've been reading through the book of Revelation at daily Mass we've been already looking towards this eschatological dimension of the Advent Season. Often when we listen to, or read, the words of Revelation it's difficult to make any sense of what is being said, but when we place it in the framework of a Christological orientation, a pointing towards Christ, we are able to see more clearly the message God is seeking to communicate to us through the Scriptures. . . stay awake and prepare the way for your Saviour is coming!

Whenever we reflect upon the unexpected return of Jesus Christ we are also challenged to recognize that we also know not the hour nor the day when we will leave this world and encounter Jesus Christ as our just judge. To prepare for the coming of Jesus should also therefore lead us to prepare for our inevitable encounter with Him when we die.

But how do we prepare for these things? For the birth of Christ, for a more attentive reception of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and for His return. . . though Advent is not a season of penance in the same way as Lent, penitential sacrifices during the weeks leading up to Christmas can help us to prepare for the great Feast that we are preparing to celebrate. Furthermore, spending time in prayer and reading over again the familiar narratives of the annunciation and Christ's birth can help us to direct our attention to the Word Incarnate. As we busy ourselves with Christmas parties, concerts, and shopping, let us also not forget to prepare spiritual gifts for Christ as well as practical gifts for Him by meeting the needs of those who are living alone, in poverty, or forgotten in our society.

Finally let us be attentive to the rich traditions which help us to prepare for Christmas and to be attentive this Advent Season. When I grew up every night during Advent my family would turn off all the lights in the house and gather in the family room, kneeling around the advent wreath, to sing Advent songs and pray together for our family. My grandparents who live just down the street would join us in this tradition. I must admit, sometimes I'd whine and complain that singing around the Advent wreath was "taking up too much of my time" or distracting me from other things I would rather be doing. Now that I've grown up and left my parent's home though I am beginning to recognize more and more how important this tradition was. It instilled in me a real understanding of the season of Advent and provided me with a means of preparing for Christmas.

As a university student I often find it difficult to actually be attentive of the Advent Season. Advent seems to get lost somewhere between final papers, final exams, and going home for Christmas. Rather than an orientation towards the birth of Christ it's easy to get caught up in preparing for final exams to the extent that you forget we're even in the Advent season. I find that during this time of year it is so easy to get lost in the pressures and anxieties of the end of the semester so that Advent is no longer about preparing for Christmas but rather making it to Christmas. This year I'm going to try and make a conscious effort though to truly be attentive to Advent. I know that I need to set out a concrete plan now as to what I'm going to do to mark this season or else it will come and go without me having done anything. Unless I plan to celebrate Advent I will arrive home a few days before Christmas and think to myself "Christmas?! Where did this come from?! I'm not ready."

Friday, December 01, 2006


Yikes! It's December already.

Just to let you know, I've got final exams starting next week for the next two weeks so I'll be preoccupied with that. Hopefully. I mean, I should be.

(There's STILL snow here!!! We missed two and a half days of classes this week because of the snow. . .)