time, talent, treasure

“The more generous you are for God, the happier you will be.” – Saint Josemaria, The Furrow, #18

This Lent, I think it’s important that I become less “me-focused.” And it’s sooo easy to be “me-focused” in a world where egocentricity (wow! that’s a word?! I wasn’t auto-corrected ;-)) is, subtly and not so subtly, glorified.

But truly, it is in giving ourselves to God and to others in His that we find true happiness.

The Catholic Church defines “Christian stewardship” as giving your time, talent, and treasure to God and to others in accordance with what God wills for you. I know for the widower in Scripture, giving her entire life savings into the collection basket was what God called her to do… and yet, I am sure He rewarded her a thousandfold.

This Lent, I would like to be a better Christian steward via my thoughts, words, and actions– in discreet, small, tangible ways, not just big blaring ways. It will take discipline to try to give more of that “gift of [my]self” to others: with a pure, unselfish heart. And if the end at the day, I am happier, that will just be an added joy, though not the end. The end? Love. Charity. Agape.

They say true happiness lies in living a virtuous life. And a virtuous life can only be lived in Love Himself: God.

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“Be not afraid”… of what? why, my own fear…

I’ve heard that the phrases “Be not afraid,” “Fear not,” “Take courage,” and other variations, are in Holy Scripture / the Bible 365 times. I am guessing that in the Catholic Bible (which has seven more books) there are EVEN more references! (Here’s one source.)

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Like Jesus, “Be not afraid!” was also a favorite saying of this Vicar of Christ, Blessed Pope John Paul II.

In regards to sin… of what am I “afraid”? What do I “fear”?

Certainly, when I sin, I do not feel “afraid” nor “fear.” Instead, I feel “tempted.”

When I sin, I feel like I need something or like I need to do something. But really, I only want something. And that something is not good for myself and/or others. No matter how hard it may be to see that, and no matter how easy it may be to rationalize that that something is not.

SIN: an act that goes against God’s Will.

No matter how small (e.g., “venial”) or how big (e.g., “mortal), I am hurting God’s heart BECAUSE I AM HURTING MYSELF. And God is weeping for me,  because He loves me (and His other children who I am hurting). Yes, via sin, I am always indirectly and/or directly hurting God, myself and others, since we are ALL connected.

BUT THEN I REMEMBER THIS…

God does NOT wants to control me or be “strict” with me, as if I am a robot! Rather, His desire is that I use my freedom to do what will NOT hurt me. He is THAT loving of a Father!

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Myself and my grandfather, who loved me with a fatherly love.

When I sin, yes, I AM afraid… I am afraid that if I cannot get what I want, I will not be able to function.

When I sin, I DO fear… I fear that if I cannot get what I want, I will not be able to be happy.

This Lent, I have come to ponder how my SINNING is the same as FEARING my own FEAR… fearing the very fear of my own lack of courage to do what is RIGHT… a very human tendency.

Sinning is fearing that if I do not get what I think I need… I will be helpless. But God wants to help me, and I hope that I can always trust, with childlike trust, that He knows what is BEST for me.  In Isaiah 55:8, He tells me, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…”.

Virtue has never ever been deemed “easy.” It is much easier to live a mediocre, morally tepid, not-so-virtuous life. But God is calling me. And He’s telling me not to be afraid!

Not to be AFRAID of turning away from my tendency to go the easy route: to cling to sin.

Not to FEAR turning towards virtue: away from darkness and death, and into light and life.

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Like 14-year-old Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, one of the Mexican “Cristero” martyrs, did not FEAR his own FEAR… I, too, am called to let Christ conquer sin in me. #BlJLOraProNobis

WHERE ARE ALL THE REAL MEN?: what a WOMAN wants

ImageOK, so recently my girl friends and I… I mean my women friends and I… have been discussing the aspects and characteristics in men that we desire.

Some common aspects (NOTE: by no means is this an exhaustive list) are the following – just thought it’d be fun to write out.

REAL MEN that women HOPE to be PURSUED BY…

Have intention, intention, intention – all rooted in respect! The key foundational words behind real men are “intention” and “respect.” Yes, real men open doors for you. But, they do so much more as well!

COURAGEOUS & BRAVE

FIRST OF ALL, they have the courage to contact you personally (step one), without the help of anyone else, to show you that THEY want to pursue YOU.

They have the guts to fearlessly approach you, taking the chance to be rejected by you, but also taking the greater chance to get to know your GREAT MYSTERY within!

And, if you acquiesce…

They call you up and tell you about where they would like to take you.

When that will happen.

And how it will all go down.

(Ladies, you don’t have to keep looking at your phone wondering, “When will he call / text?” If you’re doing this number, he’s probably not worth your time.)

GOOD DATE-PLANNERS: QUALITY TIME

Real men will take you out on dates that they think you will enjoy.

Moreover, they will have you meet people that they may think will be important to know or have you engage in activities that are personally meaningful. It won’t just be one-on-one mushy time all the time. It will be getting to know their friends and family, your friends and family, and you in all of your various “settings” and “activities”!

Real men plan activities that you can serve others through as well as get to know one another through.

Real men plan activities that you can bond, laugh, smile, and play through – but also seriously see one another’s true colors through.

EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY

Real men will ask and answer questions that they believe will lead you two to become closer.

Real men will be open in conversations, and not want to play games by hiding things, being manipulative, etc. They are healthily assertive, and are not domineering, passive, nor passive aggressive (watch out for all of these!).

Real men will be careful with their words, i.e. the first time they say “I love you” (is it too soon? that could be a red flag!).

Real men will also be careful about thinking about the first time they broach the subject of marriage and babies, as this can REALLY play mind tricks on a young woman.

(Think: oxytocin. Real men respect the oxytocin levels of women!)

Intention… Ah, what an attractive quality for a young man to have! Truly, intention can woo and whisk a young woman away. And respect in that intention is what makes it so golden!

– Get to really know you and have a long term objective in courting you. As illustrated above, real men have gotten to know you well before courting you. Yes – courting, not dating – read on for the difference. Real men become a friend first.

This “friends first” mentality and carefully thought-out courtship, versus spur-of-the-moment dating, helps protect the woman’s heart.

COURTING VS. DATING

Women are emotional beings. When men haphazardly date a woman, emotions usually end up mired and hurt. But when men intentionally court a woman, emotions are better protected and the woman usually feels truly cherished and cared for.

Now, I know this “dating” versus “courting” is a toughie, because a lot of men meet women and are just *taken* by them right away (who can blame them?). Thus, most men start chasing right away.

However, is this really being prudent about his heart or the woman’s heart? How often does this blind “chase” ever end up in a lasting marriage?

Rather, real men woo women by spending quality time with them – and especially in friend and family settings – to really get to know the woman.

What is her character? Her interests? Her hopes? Her dreams? The way she operates? Real men study.

ATTENTIVE NERDS, STUDYING THE ELUSIVE WOMAN

YES, real men are NERDS: they study the woman they love like it’s their job! Yes, even though women seem like all-too complicated, elusive mysteries to men.

The most important questions in her mystery”to be explored may be: “What are her beliefs, values, and morals? In what is her faith? What gets her up in the morning?”

Sharing the answers to these questions, and really growing in sharing those convictions and living them out, together, proves for a sturdy foundation that will last.

AIMING FOR A PHD

AND, when real men want to “go in for the PhD” in their woman – that is, when they have really gotten to know her, prayed for and thought about her, and believe she is marriage material – then and only then do they begin to pursue!

Mere “dates” actually turn into a relationship. An already-close friendship is taken to the next level. And that next level is not just a relationship; it’s courtship!

Know how to provide financially. Real men save the courting for when they actually have a steady source of income and/or a career.

Why? Yes, because they want to make sure that they can pay for all those activities and dates. But moreover, because they yearn to support that “long term objective” of marrying the woman they are pursuing!

ACTION PLANS

Real men have action plans about turning a relationship into a courtship and into a marriage.

A steady income, a house, health insurance, a car, car insurance, grocery bills, Internet and phone bills, electric and water bills… the cold hard realities of LIFE are endless.

Real men take these necessities into consideration because they want to make sure their princesses can eventually feel like queens who are well taken care of.

[NOTE: Of course, women often work and pitch in (or are even the main breadwinners), but real men don’t want that to be the case unless the woman has consented and agreed to do so.]

Know how to provide emotionally. I am not saying that a real man always has to “be in touch with his feminine side” or talk about his feelings 24/7.

All I am saying is that women have emotional needs and ups and downs, and sometimes emotional times make a relationship seem like the craziest new roller coaster at the local Six Flags.

Real men know how to ride the roller coaster.

RESPECT, WONDER, & AWE FOR GENDER DIFFERENCES

Instead of just “dealing” with the emotions, and going along for the ride with a groan in his voice, a frown on his face, or a flaring temper – a real man appreciates that a woman is wired differently than he is: including her emotional workings.

Emotions are part of her beautiful design.

Instead of making her feel guilty or inadequate – or like she just needs to “man up” – a real man bears with his woman in patience, fidelity, and love, especially in her most emotional times.

Yes, sometimes she may ask very silly-sounding questions that just beg for some affirmation from her man. But her real man answers promptly and lovingly.

No mind games. No joking. No manipulation. Just love.

– Know how to lead spiritually. Real men are loyal – not only to their woman, but moreover, to their LORD Jesus Christ. [NOTE: Or, to their faith value system of choice. But do bear in mind that this is a Catholic/Christian blog :-).]

There is nothing more attractive than a man who says, “OK, we should start morning prayer!” or “Let’s pray night prayer before we’re too sleepy.”

PEACE OF SOUL

A man who has a close relationship with God has peace of soul.

And a man who has peace of soul is not just a “man.”

He is a man of God.

He is a soldier – a warrior – fighting for Truth and Beauty.

And what is Truth? His Faith.

And Who is Beauty? Our LORD Jesus Christ, but also… his beloved beauty: his girlfriend, fiance, or wife!

There is nothing more attractive than a real man who wants to bring his woman to God – to present her, holy, pure, unblemished! A real man wants to carry his woman to the gates of Heaven, and in the end be able to say:

“Here she is, LORD. I’ve loved her to the best of my ability every day of my life. I’ve tried to place her above me every day of my life. I’ve tried to die to myself for her every day of my life.” What, oh what, is more romantic than that?!

YES, a real man wants to help his woman to be as fruitful as her Creator has designed
her to become.

A real man wants to help his woman to be FULLY ALIVE in Our LORD Jesus Christ.

– Knows how to protect. Especially in terms of chastity. There is no questioning and there is no joking about chastity or “chastity rules”, respectively, for it and they are no laughing matter.

Who cares if the world thinks you two are prudes, or “not in with the times”?

Real men know they have a battle worth fighting for: true love.

Real men know who they are fighting for in this battle: their souls, and the soul of their woman. All for the glory of God: for Love Himself.

NO “FLIPPY-FLOPPY” OR SNEAKY “CONVINCING”

Chastity-wise, in times of passionate encounter (which in any healthy relationship there will be!), real men ask no questions like, “Can I do this?” or “What about that?” re: obviously unchaste acts.

Real men do not finagle their way around their woman’s moral code regarding her physical boundaries.

In the heat of the moment, a real man does not get her to “change her mind.”

BOTTOM LINE: A real man does not want his woman to feel used at any cost!

RATHER, real men know what their physical boundaries are, and they establish them by discussing them with their woman at the beginning of the relationship and all along the way.

MASTERY OF DISCPLINE & SELF-CONTROL

Turn a woman on, and you’re playing with her heart.

Real men understand this and remain gentlemen by not intentionally igniting their woman’s passions in a very tempting way.

Real men always strive to protect their woman’s purity. And when they mess up, a quite human thing to do, they step it up a notch. Pretty simple.

In conclusion…

Real men DO NOT just immediately say (or text, Facebook message, and/or e-mail) empty words of affection to the woman to whom they are merely attracted. Instead, they save that for when they really have decided to love the woman.

Real men DO build up to the point of “I love you” and “Will you marry me?,” so that when they finally do say those words, they mean it.

Real men DO NOT lay around with their woman’s minds or hearts, emotionally or physically. (Kind of a no-brainer.)

Real men DO make sure that they are not careless with their woman’s mind or heart, emotionally and physically. Real men DO truly cherish their beloved woman by saying, “You’re worth the wait.” Real men save passionate sexual expression and sex for marriage for they ardently believe that…

Only a forever vow from a real man can earn a woman 100% body and soul.

Yes, a real man courts a sought-after woman like a real gentleman!

“SHE’S GOD’S DAUGHTER FIRST & MY SIGNIFICANT OTHER SECOND”

And a real man does not think “she’s mine,” but rather: “I am going to pursue this daughter of God in order to earn her. Then, and only then, after my pursuit and my fight for her, do I have the right to call her mine as well as God’s.”

DEVOTED & VALIANT WARRIOR: “MY WOMAN IS WORTH THE FIGHT”

Real men protect their woman, provide for their woman, and love their woman.by devotedly and valiantly chasing their woman as if she is standing at the top of a castle turret! Yes, real men know that they are standing at the bottom, professing their love for her, but moreover, climbing, tooth and nail, to the very top!

[Think: a man literally using his front teeth to climb that stone wall! YES. THAT IS A REAL MAN.]

Real men heroically love their woman by showing her that she is worth being fought for, and earned, via virtue and strength.

Well, I may have missed many things, but…

Real women, I know that you know what your FEMININE HEART wants. Do not be afraid to look for that courageous man who will be gentle with you, respect you, pursue you, and fight for you, every day!

Do not be afraid to look for a man who will be selfless enough to know that love is sacrifice.

In a world of boys, it’s hard to find real men, but it’s worth waiting for that real man. Your dignity and true love are calling.

AMEN.

#TheEnd

being in love is…

“….If you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love. ‘What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?’ My beloved is all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.” Song of Solomon 5:8-10

Another family party tonight. I smiled as my family teased me for my “first love” syndrome. When people ask me about my boyfriend, I cannot help but smile, because I definitely know that I am one blessed young woman.

I am not afraid to say that I love the most loving, caring, self-sacrificing young man I have ever met!

And as evidenced in Holy Scripture, I love how God knows exactly how I feel, emotions-wise, about my dear boyfriend.

I mean, this is the way God feels about me. He’s “sick with love” for me. I stand out “among ten thousand”– even if all ten thousand are His children! How humbling.

In His eyes, there is only one me, and His Fatherly heart cannot stop rejoicing over how I am His one daughter, just this way, that can never be replaced! How flattering.

Divine love is such a gift. And what does it look like? Not just emotions, but also decisions…. sacrifice.

And human love is also such a gift; it is truly a gift from the Divine! Therefore, although the emotions may come in abundance… I too must remember that my human love necessitates decisions and sacrifice to be brought to the level of Love.

Being in love is so exhilarating emotionally! I smile at just the though of my dear “ruddy and radiant” boyfriend.

However, being in love also teaches me so much about Christ– and about how “being in love” emotions-wise isn’t enough… deciding to love and sacrificing is what really matters most. Decisive and sacrificial love: now, this is love that has been brought to the Cross.

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Amazing book. Stumbled upon it by accident at UCLA when I was 18 wandering the research library. I was hooked… and never the same after I read it…

“Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so. Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.” Pope John Paul II

satan’s ill vision of love

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St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke them, we humbly pray, and may thou, o Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast out all evil spirits prowling about the world seeking the ruins of souls. Amen.

It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons.” –William Gurnall

Blessed Pope John Paul II truly was a “social justice” kinda guy, but on a supernatural level. He believed in the “dignity of every human person” because he or she is made in the Image and Likeness of God! Therefore, every person is deserving not just of “social justice,” but of love.

I don’t know about you, but I think that love trumps social justice. Love means dignity, validation, irrevocable worth… not just food, clothing, shelter, and equal rights. Every human person is worthy of love.

Now, the word “love” is pretty loaded.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

And at what “price” were we bought with?

When we look to Christ on the Christ, who was Love, the message is simple. That’s the price that we were bought at. True Love. Love isn’t about good feelings. It isn’t about attraction. It isn’t about pleasure. We were bought with love… we were bought with sacrifice. The core of love is sacrifice.

Satan will try to tell us that the core of love is good feelings, attraction, and pleasure.

Demons “hurl their weapons” at us by trying to make us forget what love is about (sacrifice) and WHO Love is: Christ!

God said: “Let us make humankind  in our image, according to our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26).

Like Christ, Whose image we are made in, we are capable of loving with sacrificial love. Yet how can that be?! In this day and age, it may feel nearly impossible.

Satan would like to destroy the world one lie at a time, by having people live for some  disordered vision of love and failing to realize that their bodies are temples of God!

Let’s not listen to satan.

Feelings, emotion, pleasure… they will never bring you happiness. Christ, in His sacrifice, and in our call to be loved by Him and to love others in His name– that is, with a spirit of sacrifice, too– only that will bring us eternal joy.

Soldier on, O you warrior prince and princesses! You are holy temples of God Himself. Your bodies are the bearers of the Cross of Christ, in this land of Light (Who we know is the Victor) versus darkness!

YOUNG ADULTS: YOU ARE “MARTYRS OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM”!

WE are the martyrs of the third millennium! That’s exactly what Blessed Pope John Paul II said when he greeted the young adults at the first World Youth Day in 1989. He proclaimed: “I have come to greet the martyrs of the third millennium.”

Teens and young adults, WE are called to live a “culture of LIFE,” showing the world that Jesus saves, the Gospel can come alive, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

Instead of writing about it myself, I want to share a snippet from a blog post I found online– it’s too good to pass up!:

“Why Martyrs of the Third Millennium?
In 1989, young people from around the world gathered in Spain for the first ever World Youth Day, around 500,000 to be exact. The world watched in complete and total atonement. What had all these young people come to see? What did they plan to receive from such an event? A journalist asked Blessed Pope John Paul II what he had come to see. Like many saints before him he had a way with words and responded simply yet with great power, “I have come to greet the martyrs of the third millennium.”

We are the change we wish to see in the world. Christianity started with 12 men and it is now the largest religion on the planet. How much power lies in God? Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I can be the change the world needs, with Christ all things are possible!

This blog is going to be mostly about my journey in my faith and my life. Everyday is a learning experience and that is wisdom from God! This wisdom is something that needs to be shared. My hope is that through my sharing of my journey it may inspire those around me and those reading to take the first step on theirs! If you are already moving forward than maybe it will be encouragement to continue through the hard times.

In Christ immense Love and Compassion,
Nickolaus Burns”

I want to be a saint in the making… I want to be a martyr of the new millennium. As the prophet Isaiah said: “Here I am, LORD! Send me!”

God will decide how I will “be the change” every day that I live. “My” vocation is not set in stone… because it’s actually His vocation. And He will call me wherever He wills; the Spirit will blow me wherever He wills! (John 3:8) (“vocare” = “to call”)

Perhaps Our LORD will call me to do the same thing every day, or a different thing day by day, moment by moment. In any case, I hope always to follow Him, to help renew the face of the earth!

Step 1: Live a Eucharistic life… and, with Him as my source and my summit… my all in all… to rest in Him… to live in Him… to let Him renew me!

A picture is worth a thousand words…

World Youth Day MADRID 2011. TWO MILLION teens and young adults ALIVE in Jesus. ONE pope. Pope Benedict XVI, our PAPA BENEDETTO… we will miss him! We weathered the storm that night on a gigantic air field. I remember nearly freezing to death while I slept with millions under a bright clear moon. It was simply amazing. We are the saints in the making and the martyrs of the new millennium!