before you DIE…

…What ONE THING do you want to do in your life? How do you want to LIVE?

It sounds cliche, but Saint Ignatius of Loyola actually came up with some pretty cool spiritual discernment techniques that incorporated such questions into their methodology!

And really, if God said you were going to die sometime in the near future, and you REALLY had to wittle it down, what WOULD you do?

A la Saint Ignatius, Father Nathan (@CathTools) tweeted this recently: “What is that one thing you don’t want to die without having done? … So WHEN are you going to do it?”

I was pretty surprised about the clarity in my response. And the rapidity in which it came. It almost felt like the answers sprung from my heart.

It also almost felt too sacred to tell the world my dreams on this blog! Isn’t it funny, the human spirit?

But I thought I’d share that tweet by Father Nathan, because it is my hope and my prayer that you will have some music start playing from your own heart, too.

Is it love that you’d seek?

Here’s my cover of “We Could Happen”– a song I would joyfully listen to in the initial stages of my courtship, pre-“officialness” 🙂

ALSO: This post had me think about this AMAZING guy named Zach Sobiech, who really did only have months to live at the age of 17… what a TOUCHING story. Makes me think that I do not want to just “live in the middle.” I want to be a saint in the making!

http://thecatholicspirit.com/featured/remembering-zach/

lesson from JP2 & Pope Francis: love vs. lust

Bl. JP2 always talked about how young men and women, to their very core (even if they didn’t know it!), really just want to find eternal happiness by giving a total “gift of self [themselves]” to one another…. to others… and most of all, to God.

In “Love and Responsibility,” Bl. JP2 talks about how the core of love is sacrifice. The core of love is giving, not taking! (Boy, the world’s media today’s got that one a little mixed up.) Moreover,  Bl. JP2 expounds upon how lust focuses on “what’s in it for me?” while love focuses on “how does this affect the other person?” (or God, or others, or both of you together).

In the same vein, I recently came across this “Made In His Image” image that says: “Love can’t wait to give. Lust can’t wait to get.” Exactly what Bl. JP2’s “Love and Responsibility” gets at!

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In great serendipity, I came across this quote by Mahatma Gandhi as well:

“There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle; Science without humanity; Business without ethics.”

What’s interesting is that, immediately after reading this, I equated “religion” with “Jesus” who IS Love (1 John 4:7-8). Therefore, without even thinking, I was translating it into this: There is no such thing as love without sacrifice. No such thing!

And lastly, in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel a few days later, while praying before the Lord Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, I conveniently flipped to this excerpt from the Book of Tobit in my Bible app:

When Sarah’s parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah rose from bed and said to his wife, “My sister, come, let us pray and beg our Lord to grant us mercy and protection.” She got up, and they started to pray and beg that they might be protected. He began with these words:

“Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors;

blessed be your name forever and ever!

Let the heavens and all your creation bless you forever.a

You made Adam, and you made his wife Eve

to be his helper and support;

and from these two the human race has come.

You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone;

let us make him a helper like himself.’

Now, not with lust,

but with fidelity I take this kinswoman as my wife.

Send down your mercy on me and on her,

and grant that we may grow old together.

Bless us with children.”

They said together, “Amen, amen!” Then they went to bed for the night.

“Not with lust…” I read the words and I pondered over them. The words brought me such joy, such light. This Tobit knew what would be the foundation for an everlasting marriage bond. Love. Not lust. Giving. Not taking.

So much in our life is about what we want– even the most holy and good things– and yet, if we desire those things in inordinate ways, in all honesty, we are lusting over them.

We should never place anything over Eternal Happiness. His name is Jesus.

Everlasting peace of soul is only to be had from Our LORD– the only One who can offer us anything eternal: solely HIMSELF. We were not made for anyone else, no matter how holy, nor anything else, no matter how noble and pure. Made in His Image, we were made for HIM.

No one creation can compare to the One who created us, the Creator.

It is only when we FIRST give ourselves to Him, and THEN give ourselves to others in His name, including our spouses or perhaps the Church or those we serve (if we are consecrated religious) that anything at all makes sense!

It is so, so, so very easy to fall into the trap of confusing seeking the good, holy, pure gifts of the Giver rather than the Giver Himself. Yet we must detach from everything and everyone but Him. We must even be detached from spouses and children, to an extent, if we are in the marriage vocation. (God shows this with Abraham and Isaac… and Job…. and Jesus, HIS Son, of course! We must be willing to forsake even  mother and father and sister and brother for Him.)

It is so, so, so very easy to have “ulterior motives” but not even really realize it. For instance, do we do good only because of the feelings that doing good begets? Or do we do it because we want to love and to give and to sacrifice, even when it hurts or does not feel good or feels futile, unfruitful, un-returned?

I know I have leaps and bounds to grow spiritually. The tweets of our new papa, Pope Francis, have really made me think twice recently about my intentions of my spirituality. The true core of my spirituality should be to love God first, always, in everything, and in everyone: to give, not to take; to love, not to lust.

WHY are you AFRAID?

“Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.” Luke 12:48

How are you meant to give life to the world?

St. Therese, St. Josemaria, and countless other saints did not say you had to do extraordinary things to bring life and light– and Life Himself and Light Himself– to the world. Yet if you have been given much, do know that God demands even more of you! These are the words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.

And only you can know what that “demand” of you from God means. It might mean little things with immense love. Or it might mean huge things with immense love.

Just know that you cannot evade the immensity (and intensity!) of love with which you intentionally live out your life calling! This God expects of you, baseline.

Yes. You were made to be life giving, not just God the Creator. You were created to come alive in Christ and to give that life of yours within to others! You are called to let God renew the face of the earth through you!

Your mission, when it all comes down to it?

HOW COULD YOU FORGET?!

You were made to be a saint!

So, as every saint has his or her calling, what is your calling? And if you ask yourself, deep down, why are you afraid of facing it, or of finding it out if you do not know it already?!

I exhort you to pray, to explore, to try, with Our Lord Jesus Christ as your source and your summit. How else will you ever hear His voice if you do not do so?

I know that I often fail to hear His voice. I know that I often lose that gift He gives me: that sense of wonder in this adventure we call life!

Well you know what? I am tired of forgetting to listen carefully to His voice. I am tired of forgetting about the high calling that I know God has for me. And I am ready to try harder to listen to His voice and put His love into action.

Every person God has made is able to transform others with a LIFE lived with PASSION. And we must not be afraid, because there is nothing to fear when we know that whatever our calling, our human passion can only be a minute speck in THE Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself has already conquered the world!

I am tired of mediocrity in my life.

I am ready to live a life of passion in the name of His Passion, fueled by His grace that ignites and transforms the world! To God alone be ALL glory, honor, and praise!

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change in your life? remember: all things are passing

“Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”

Saint Teresa of Avila

Being a disciple of Christ can feel so uncertain at times. The only certain thing? That God never changes.

He never changes in His love for you.

He never changes in His plans for you.

“Vocation,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary: vocation (n.) early 15c., “spiritual calling,” from Latin vocationem (nominative vocatio), literally “a calling,” from vocatus “called,” pp. of vocare “to call” (see voice) …. [continued].

At this time in my life, I feel that God really wants me to listen to His voice, to listen to His calling out to me. I feel that He keeps calling out to me in different ways, and tellng me to follow Him somewhere and to do something that I didn’t exactly plan. At times, life just feels so unpredictable and unplannable.

Yet I can still sense God’s Plan in all of the uncertainty! Sometimes, I strongly believe that there are “signs” about God’s Will,  such as words other people say, actions other people do, and direct things that are provided for you or taken away from you. “Signs” can also be images, visions, thoughts, and feelings / bodily feelings. Basically, you never really know what a “sign” is until you experience it and Our LORD speaks through it to you.

Reading the signs, listening to God’s voice amidst them, praying, and courageously stepping forward in the direction that you believe the LORD is leading you: now, I believe that’s real Faith.

Faith is blind; it believes in the invisible, the unforeseeable– and it follows the “signs.” Our LORD wants us to be at peace knowing we have done our best to hear His voice and to follow His call. He will support us in every step of our journey, and re-direct us. We must simply trust in HIm!

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.

(first heard this quote in the movie “Bella”)

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my favorite spot at UCLA…

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(c) Caravaggista

…is the engraving of this Psalm on the Humanities Building.

One day when I was an undergraduate sitting on either the grass or a bench by the building, the words caught my eye… and little did I know it was a Scripture verse!

“Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Psalm 119:18 (RSV)

I feel like I had a Saint Augustinian like transformation during my college days. OK, minus the crazy past life maybe.

I kept wondering, “Why? Why? Why does the Church teach we have to do x, y, and z?” I challenged the law. I pondered the law. And in my studies… I dwelled in the law, whether I believed it was worth following or not yet.

After immersing myself in texts and tomes, primary and secondary sources… I was truly enamored with how the “rules” of Catholicism were actually beautiful parameters by which the human soul could be set free. Really, the “rules”– or the “law”– were just a structure by which I found the LORD could enter the human soul.

And trust me… the last year of being a teenager, and embarking into the life of young adulthood, the last thing I wanted to be was “bound.” I did not want to be set into any sort of confining “structure” of “law.” And yet, when studying how such “law” actually paved the way for more intimate relationships with Christ, with others, and with self (yes, within!), I saw how the “law” was actually made to bring peace to the human heart, and to set it free. In all of its theology, dogma, and doctrine, Catholicism set me free into a beautiful world of wonder! Truly, I was beholding the Living Body of Christ on earth.

No longer did “Law” mean some sort of cold and calculated weighing of what is right and wrong.

Instead, following the law meant loving the Lord, your God, with all of your heart, with all of your mind, with all of your strength, and with all of your soul (Luke 10:27)!

Following the law meant glorifying God in everything you did– even in your eating and your drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31)!

As a late teen and early twenty-something living on a secular college campus, I saw Light in a world of darkness caused by moral relativism. There was something real, vibrant, and life-giving to this supposed “Truth” that the realm of all other ephemeral “truths” by which everyone else seemed to be living.

I saw this Light first and foremost in the Catholic young adults that I was meeting and asking all of my “why?” questions to. They shined with a light I had never seen before. They contained within them a peace I had never met. (Well, besides perhaps in my grandmother– but that’s for another blog post!)

I met young adults who were standing up for something (rather, Someone) rather than falling for everything. I met young adults who were passionate and fighting for a Cause.

And, O, what a battle to fight in the spiritual warfare I perceived all around!

Yet there was something romantic about that battle in which I began to fight

The God I loved (Luke 10:27) and glorified  (1 Corinthians 10:31)… He brought Light.

Now a late twenty-something (gasp!), I still find myself fighting that fight– that fight for the Light! In ways both the same and different.

And first and foremost, the battle occurs in my own heart. Every moment that I live, I have the freedom to live in Christ if I so desire.

Only Christ makes me fully alive. He came that I might not only have life, but have it more abundantly (John 10:10)! May I always deeply revel in the wonders of the law of the LORD my God. May I always choose Him in every moment!

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.” –Deuteronomy 30:19

real love: hard, but worth it

Real love is when it hurts, but you forgive.

Real love is when someone sees all of the ugliest parts of you, but loves you anyway.

Real love accepts the other, but also challenges the other to grow.

Real love is open and vulnerable.

Real love is messy.

Real love is struggle.

Real love is sacrifice.

Real love is hard.

Real love is beautiful.

Real love is full of joy.

Real love endures.

Real love is strong, and when it is weak and falls, can grow stronger and fly up even higher than before.

Real love is worth it.

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My “ashed” boyfriend on Ash Wednesday serenading me in a surprise cover (to be linked to me the next day on the Feast of Saint Valentine). Man o man am I one blessed woman. Funny how this Instagram came out with a yellow tinge. “Look at the stars… look how they shine for you… and everything you do… yeah they were all yellow.” 🙂

Thank you for loving me for nearly two years now, with a steady love that no woman could ever imagine existed!

Farewell, Papa Benedetto XVI!

Most people don’t know it, but Pope Benedict XVI really really did not want to be elected pope in 2005. In fact, he wanted to be a Vatican librarian and retire!

When Pope Benedict XVI was elected, he visited the grave of St. Celestine, a pope who also was elected in the very same way — in old age, wanting to retire. In fact, St. Celestine actually even tried to run away after he was elected!

Well, back in 2005 when he was elected, Papa Benedetto visited St. Celestine’s grave the day that he received his new papal pallium (a vestment)– and left it there.

What inspires me about Pope Benedict’s resignation is that I know that he at first did not want to be pope, but that did not stop him from giving God’s call for him to fulfill the “Petrine ministry” his personal 110%! No, 125%.

Just days before he was first elected, and then “Cardinal Josef Ratzinger,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote this meditation for the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum (days before Bl. Pope John Paul II passed away):

Lord Jesus Christ, for our sake you became like the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies, so that it may bear much fruit (Jn 12:24). You invited us to follow you along this path when you told us that “the one who loves his life loses it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25).

Yet we are attached to our life. We do not want to abandon it; we want to keep it all for ourselves. We want to hold on to it, not to give it away. But you go before us, showing us that it is only by giving away our life that we can save it.

As we walk with you on the Way of the Cross, you lead us along the way of the grain of wheat, the way of a fruitfulness which leads to eternity.

O, the Irony!

Little did Papa Benedetto know that he would be shortly become that “grain of wheat” for all the world… nourishing the Church with Christ as the POPE!

I am so inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s humble fiat when likely everything in him was shaking “no no no!” Papa Benedetto stayed SO faithful while growing so frail (at least, in my opinion– I mean, even seeing him at WYD 2011 at the giant airfiled during that storm– I thought he’d keel over!).

Papa Benedetto ALWAYS strived to follow God’s vocation for him… to listen to His call… and was not hesitant nor afraid to cast his net out, deep into the ocean.

Pope Benedict XVI was a true “fisher of men.”

What is God calling us to do, that we don’t want to do?

For one, as we were baptized “priest prophet, and king,” we’re ALL called to be “fishers of men” one way or another.

Papa Benedetto became pope without wanting to become pope. And man did he catch some souls in that net of his. He lived out his vocation fully… He embraced his vocation– his cross– with love.

I know I could think of a whole slew of things that God probably wants me to do– but I may be frozen, hesitant, afraid. Lazy. Proud. The list goes on.

Yet I pray that I can give my fiat, and walk by faith, not by sight. That I can embrace my vocation, my cross, and all that it entails, with love.

With God’s grace, I pray to be a “fisher of men” with my 125%.

Thank you, Papa Benedetto. You have seen so many of us grow in the Faith from our teen years to our young adult years. WE LOVE YOU!

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A young, dashing Pope Benedict XVI! He was our age too once, ya know! Pretty sure he had no idea he’d be pope one day. 🙂

Click here for a cool site, XT3’s, farewell to Papa Benedetto!

no greater love than this

Family life, and all of its struggles, has taught me about Christ’s sacrifice for me, His love for me, all of these years. In a family, sacrifice, patience, and humility are key to surviving.

During various times of my life, I have grown used to living in a single household of 8 to 10 people. Things are just bound to go wrong with numbers so high (and even with two people, you have two very unique individuals who are bound to disagree about something). But we never gave up, and we continue to never give up.

Not only that, I come from a large Filipino clan on my mom’s side– and we have certainly weathered it all. My extended family has also taught me what a true “all for one and one for all” spirit looks like.

When I used to think of romantic love, I would very much idealize it. I would fail to take into account all of the sacrifice, patience, and humility that would be necessary in a future relationship– the same kind of virtues that I was learning about growing up in my family.

Now that I am in a courtship with a wonderful young man, I am constantly reminded, from my own past experiences with my family, how I cannot run away from Cross of Christ, even in this most exhilarating experience. (Yes, he is my first boyfriend. Shocking!)

In dating, there will be crosses to bear, most especially if we are to marry and start our own family too, one day! Namely, our own two crosses, which we are discerning uniting under the one Cross of Christ for life.

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My dashing boyfriend and I in front of the Memorial Church at Stanford University. I am learning all about how to give pure, brave, Christ-like love with this young man. 🙂

Christ Himself told us: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Well, I consider my boyfriend my best friend. No wonder love can get hard sometimes. There’s no greater love than to lay your life down for a friend– let alone the person who is nearest and dearest to you.

I can confidently and conclusively say…

It’s a challenging task, to love.

And yet, every day, in little and big ways, I discover that LOVE is truly that “thing” for which God has designed me! After all, He is Love (1 John 4:8).

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Perpetual Adoration of Our LORD Jesus Christ– He who models Perfect Love for us–  in the middle of hippie town. Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. My boyfriend and  — and my best friend, our tour guide– took a visit!

am I just the girl he’s looking for?

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Some awesome young adult Dominican sisters at WYD 2011 Madrid. (c) WordOnFire

Warning: #CatholicNerdingOut.

And the more she ignores me
The more I adore her
What can I do?
I’d do anything for her…

‘Cause she’s bittersweet
She knocks me off of my feet
And I can’t help myself
I don’t want anyone else
She’s a mystery
She’s too much for me
But I keep coming back for more
‘Cause she’s just the girl I’m looking for”

–from “Just the Girl” by the Click Five

I randomly happened to listen to this song tonight. Brought me back to my college days when I’d plug into my iPod while walking to and from class, as it was a favorite.

The lyrics got me thinking… Is this how God feels about me? The more I ignore Him… the more He adores me? How lovely, how enamoring. That He would pine for me that much.

I also got to thinking about vocations in the sense of married life versus consecrated life. I know, I know. I have a boyfriend. But sometimes I wonder. Though I have met someone who I could envision marrying, I am still trying to be open. After all, it ain’t a thing till there ain’t no ring! 😛

I bolded the lyrics that especially struck me as translatable about how God really pursues me and wants my heart.

I really admire sisters and nuns and consecrated religious. Their love for Our LORD must be so strong, so pure, so deep, so eternal.

I admire friends who are married too– and heck, those married in my family. I know the LORD is present in their lives too, strongly and beautifully so! And working with kids, teens, and families, I can see how married life truly is a vocation filled with grace.

Yet I can also see how religious life truly sets one apart for the LORD in a very special, unique way. As a consecrated religious, you are already living like you would in Heaven, like the angels who are already fully consecrated to our LORD. For instance, if a sister, you ARE the bride of Christ… or, if a priest, you ARE the bridegroom of the Church.

Does God want me to marry? Does God want me all to Himself? These are questions all Catholic teens and young adults should ask themselves. I know that my boyfriend and I ask ourselves these questions occasionally still.

If God does will me to marry, I know He’s still pursuing me. I feel that every day. But how in tune am I to that? And what should my response be? Am I doing enough? I want to love Him to the best of my capacity! Receiving and resting in His love, yes. But giving back my entire self to Him: I’d like to do that too!

It’s truly a beautiful gift to be a daughter of God, to be one of God’s creatures– but still to be  pursued as a complete “mystery” to Him, whom He would like to unveil!

Like the song says… no matter what God has in store for me…

God adores me, He’d do anything for me, He doesn’t want anyone else, He thinks I’m a mystery, and I’m just the girl He’s looking for.

Well, now.

I’m completely flattered.

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!