“with no other light or guide…” / “sin otra luz ni guía…”

(from the poem “The Dark Night”)

 

“with no other light or guide

than the one that burned in my heart.”

Often times, many of us are afraid to go out on an adventure. We are afraid to change the routine of our lives. We are comfortable living in what we are familiar with. Yet it is not so if we are to arrive at the knowledge and love of God. We have to take some sort of risk. Saint John of the Cross says in The Ascent of Mount Carmel: “To come to the knowledge you have not you must go by a way in which you know not.” Of course, when we first set out on our journey to God, everything feels great. That is because we are still comfortable with our surroundings. We are not too far from where we started. Yet as we move farther from our old selves and more towards God, our surroundings start to become unfamiliar. We can appear lost to others and even to ourselves. The more we journey towards God, the less we are attached to things that are not Him. That is why Saint John of the Cross says that we enter into a dark night. Yet we are not left in darkness forever. There is a light to guide us on the way. Saint John of the Cross says that there is only one light, and it is “the one that burned in my heart”. Even though the light is within John, he is not his own guide, because we cannot guide ourselves in a place we do not know. According to the common thought of what the heart is, that is, the place of love in a person, we can see that what guides us to God is the love that we have for God. Still, this is not us guiding ourselves to God by our own love. God is love. Therefore, God is the one who guides us to Himself.

 

 

(del poema “La noche oscura”)

 

“sin otra luz ni guía

sino la que en el corazón ardía”

A menudo, muchos de nosotros tenemos miedo de salir en una aventura. Tenemos miedo de cambiar la rutina de nuestras vidas. Estamos cómodos viviendo en lo que conocemos. Pero no es así si deseamos alcanzar el conocimiento y amor de Dios. Tenemos que tomar algún tipo de riesgo. San Juan de la Cruz dice en La Subida de Monte Carmelo: “Para venir a lo que no sabes has de ir por donde no sabes.” Claro, cuando ya empecemos nuestro viaje a Dios, todo se siente muy bueno. Eso es porque todavía estamos cómodos con nuestro ambiente. No estamos muy lejos de donde empezamos. Pero mientras nos movemos más lejos de nuestros mismos antiguos y más hacia Dios, nuestro ambiente empieza convertirse en algo desconocido. Nosotros podemos aparecer perdidos a los demás y aun a nosotros mismos. El mas viajamos hacia Dios, el menos somos adjuntados con cosas que no es Él. Por eso dice San Juan de la Cruz que entramos en una noche oscura. Pero no estamos dejados en las tinieblas para siempre. Hay una luz para guiarnos en el camino. San Juan de la Cruz dice que hay una sola luz, y es “la que en el corazón ardía”. Aunque la luz es dentro de Juan, él no es su propio guía, porque no podemos guiar a nosotros mismos en un lugar que no conocemos. Según el pensamiento común de lo que es el corazón, es decir, el lugar de amor en una persona, podemos ver que lo que nos guía a Dios es el amor que tenemos de Dios. Aún, esto no es nosotros guiárnosle a nosotros a Dios por nuestro propio amor. Dios es amor. Por lo tanto, Dios es el uno que le nos guía a Él mismo.

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Keeping God in Our Schedule

 

When we keep God in our schedule, God keeps us in His schedule. To take a fixed amount of time out of everyday to pray is a good way to ensure that time is given directly to God alone without any other distractions. For example, my fiancée and I spend time every single day reading the Bible and praying the rosary together. These are just some examples of what you can do.

 

 

 

It is easy to find time for ourselves throughout the day. There are an infinite number of ways to entertain ourselves. Why is it so hard to give some of our time back to God? When we give time back to God, He rewards us. In my case, I have seen how taking time out of my schedule to focus solely on God has made my life better. Doing this together with my fiancée has improved our relationship as well. In addition, we also believe that our future children will be better off because of it.

 

 

 

How can we expect God to work in our lives if there is no room for Him? It is not that God is unable to help us. He can do all things. It is that we do not let ourselves be helped. If one does not take time out of each day to exercise, one will not become stronger. If one does not take time out of each day to study, one will not become smarter. It is the same with our relationship with God. If we do not take time out of our day to focus on Him, we will not become better people.

 

 

 

Perhaps, it is a process to get started into this routine of giving time to God. The best place to start is before bed. When everything has quieted down, and there is nothing left to do, silence is in the air, God is waiting there for you to talk to Him. If one does not know where to start, this is a good place.

 

 

 

From there, one can find times that work well. For example, one can say, “After breakfast, I will read the Bible everyday” or “When I get home from work, I will kneel down next to the couch and pray for five minutes.” Forming good habits such as these are important. Our lives are filled with habits and inclinations. We need to start creating good habits that will bring us directly closer to God. God will keep us in His schedule if we keep Him in ours. God is the most important person in our lives. Let us treat Him this way.

 

Catholicism in a Honduran Farm Village

For almost one year (from the summer of 2010 until the summer of 2011) I had the opportunity to live and work at a Catholic school in Honduras . During my stay in Honduras , I experienced Catholicism in many ways and on many occasions. Perhaps, my most memorable experience was Holy Week of 2011. I had originally planned to take a trip to different beaches and enjoy the vacation time. When a Catholic friend in Honduras who lived close-by my apartment heard about my plan, she scolded me for my indifferent behavior and told me I should be using Holy Week for God, not for some beach trip.
Once she offered me an alternative option, I immediately changed my mind. The alternative was to go on a mission in the mountains. It would be to a faraway place to preach the Gospel to people who do not get much of a chance to hear it. I decided to seize the opportunity, as it felt totally right in my heart.
Holy Week came, and I was very excited. I went with a team of four other missioners, three Hondurans and one Costa Rican, one Honduran was a young man and the rest of the people were young women. It took several hours riding on an old school bus and then in the back of a pickup truck down and up bumpy and rocky dirt roads. We finally arrived at the church and unloaded our bags.
The church was simple and small. The walls were covered with lime which brushed off onto one’s clothes if one were to rub up against it. Inside there were not too many decorations but just enough to keep the place looking beautiful and focused on God. I would like to call the place quaint.
This was the place in which our mission group did most of our work. We would have one session where we organized fun Catholic activities for children, another one afterwards for young people, and a final one in the evening for adults. I had the opportunity to give one talk to the young people and another to the adults. Everything was conducted in Spanish (which is why I always stress the importance of learning other languages to serve God).
The work inside the church building was only part of our mission. Our mornings were spent going door to door reading from the Bible, explaining the truths of God to people, and praying with the people we met. This was a very adventurous experience for me. Going door to door does not sound very adventurous, but allow me to explain what sort of homes these were.
The simplest way to describe the place where we were is by saying it was a farm village or spread-out town. It was not a typical town. Each house was usually a decent walk from the other. All the houses were very similar in that they were white, just like the church. They were very primitive-looking. Some houses had electricity, but not all. The men would work on the farms with the older boys while the women would cook and take care of the younger children. Many stoves were fueled by wood. Dogs, chickens, roosters, turkeys, cows, and horses were scattered about.
Many of the Catholic people in this place were very open to hearing the Word of God that we were preaching to them. They listened attentively and were interested in what we had to tell them. Some would even participate in our discussions. It is not surprising, either. These people are so far away from society that they rarely get any chance at all to hear the Word of God. They have no priest. A priest only comes once per year to celebrate Mass. They are happy with whatever they can get.
One interesting thing to note about these people is that they were extremely generous. Even though this place had less money than any other place I had been to, I remember eating up to six times in one day and being stuffed the entire day. This was because many of the people to whom we preached would want to reward us for our efforts and so gave us food. It would be impolite to refuse such an offer from someone who did not have much to give, so we accepted nearly every time.
One man, after I asked him where I could buy a machete, gave me his own with a handcrafted sheath. Machetes were carried by all farmers in this place and were not too cheap, so it was a big sacrifice for him to make, but he did it out of generosity and his faith in God. I prayed for him many times and you should, too.
The mission was a physically trying but rewarding experience. I had been to a place I had never thought existed but had been looking for my entire life. In the end, I was glad my friend gave me the push to go. I had experienced Catholicism in a Honduran farm village, and it was one of the best times of my life.

 

Looking at Problems from the Right Perspective

Most of us are filled with many blessings in our lives. We have two legs we can use to walk. We have tongues that let us taste delicious food. We have jobs that allow us to put our talents to good use. We have a roof over our heads. We have family and friends. We have love. We have God.
 
Sometimes it is easy to lose track of all the goodness that we have in our lives. We begin to focus all our attention on small problems. The problems are infinitely small compared with the goodness we possess. Yet, our minds often insist on us spending all our energy and effort focusing on some little problem, giving it more attention than it deserves, making it bigger than it ought to be.
 
Of course, problems should not be left alone. They should be solved in the right way and at the right time, but we must always look at them from the right perspective. We must look at them as if they are only a tiny part of our lives and not our entire lives. The good and bad both must be considered when we look at ourselves. It is always going to be a temptation of the devil to neglect the good and focus only on the bad. When this temptation comes, we should pray to God to continue to let us see the good in our lives side-by-side with the problem. This will always give us the right perspective.
 
In addition, something to keep in mind is that God uses the bad events in our lives to teach us lessons and often to bring about some greater good through those misfortunes. When we keep God in the picture, no misfortune can make our lives feel hopeless or without meaning.
 
So far, everything that has been said about looking at the bad events in our lives from the right perspective has been good but a bit abstract. Let us look at a concrete example to bring this down to our level. Here is Saint Paul talking in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:22-33):
 
[22] Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.  
[23] Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 
[24] Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 
[25] Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; 
[26] on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; 
[27] in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 
[28] And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. 
[29] Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 
[30]If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
[31] The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for ever, knows that I do not lie. 
[32] At Damascus, the governor under King Ar’etas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 
[33] but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands.
 
Saint Paul suffered far more than any of us have for the sake of Christ. He neither whined nor complained about these sufferings in his letter to the Corinthians but boasted of them. He was happy, not depressed, to share everything bad that had happened to him since he became a follower of Christ.
 
Does being a follower of Christ mean that we will have fewer sufferings than non-believers? No. It does mean, however, that we will see our sufferings from the right perspective, and we will be much happier because of that.

Catholicism in Honduras

Honduras, a small country in Central America , is worth knowing about when it comes to the topic of Catholicism. The third poorest country in the Western hemisphere (behind Haiti and Nicaragua ), Honduras has been a place torn by political corruption, violence, disorganization, poverty, and indifference among the people. Ways to improve the country from within are very limited due to the lack of education, sophistication, and desire to improve. Yet, Catholicism still has a seat in this place.
 
Critics may say, “If Catholicism were so great, how could this country be in such shambles? The country would be better, not worse if Catholicism were truly great.” It is true that Honduras suffers greatly in many ways. For example, one Honduran city, San Pedro Sula , is now considered the most dangerous city in the world because of the overwhelming number of homicides happening there everyday. In Honduras, thieves tend not to discriminate either. Whether one is man or woman, boy or girl, native or foreigner, all should not be surprised if a man in dark clothing riding a bicycle stops, pulls out a knife, and demands one’s cell phone.
 
However, Catholicism is not the cause of these actions and ought not to be blamed. One must take a look at what Catholics have done for Honduras in order to see the true impact of Catholicism on this country. When one does take a look, the contributions the Church has made become ever so obvious.
 
First of all, Honduras has many Catholic schools and universities. Many young people receive an education learning English and acquiring knowledge in science, math, history, religion, and various other subjects. The Church gives them this opportunity if they or their parents so choose it.
 
Second of all, Honduras has many Catholic infirmaries. The sick and injured are given care. Granted, Honduras is a country with limited resources, but something is always better than nothing. Without these infirmaries, there would be much more suffering.
 
Third of all, Honduras has many churches. The majority of the churches are simple but beautiful in their own way. They are designed in a style not seen in the United States . Coming to church gives the people a sense of hope and joy they would not receive otherwise in a place often so desolate. One pleasantly surprising aspect of Honduras is that it seems to contain very few people who would consider themselves atheists, and people are generally not afraid to talk about God in their daily conversations. Whereas most people in the West consider the topic of God to be too sensitive and personal to talk about, Hondurans do not mind talking about what God has done for them in their lives. Sometimes, it takes a poor person to see God’s blessings.
 
Fourth of all, there are many Catholic missions in Honduras . These missions of lay people or religious orders carry out important corporal and spiritual tasks. Some groups may host retreats, Bible studies, and youth group activities, giving young people a community of which to be a part and grow closer to God. Other groups may bring food to the poor, take care of orphans, teach children who are referred to as “children of the street”, and travel to faraway homes to preach the Word of God. All of these actions are crucial for turning Honduras into a better place. When the youth are formed in the right way, in God’s way, then they will hopefully grow up with a selfless mindset instead of a selfish one.
 
Although Honduras has been a difficult place to live, as shown by the large number of emigrants in recent years, Catholicism has done its part in giving the place physical, intellectual, and spiritual help. May the patroness of Honduras , Our Lady of Suyapa, be a constant reminder that God is present in this country and will continue to help, if people start to go to Him.

Korean Catholicism

When thinking about the continent of Asia , many people assume the place to be filled with Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, and other unfamiliar religions of which the West has little experience. This was the case many years ago, but it is not the case today. It is important for people to understand Korean Catholicism in our modern world in order to have an enriched faith experience in their own situations.
 
Though many do not realize it, there are many Koreans in South Korea as well as the United States who are Catholic. According to statistics, about ten percent of South Koreans are Catholic. Ten percent may not seem like much, but for a country formally filled by Eastern religions, ten percent is a staggering number. Imagine one out of every ten people one meets in the United States is Buddhist (the current number is less than one percent). This number shows the openness of the people of Korea and how they are willing to change for what they believe is right, even when the vast majority of people are not in accord with their beliefs.
 
Attending a Korean Mass is a worthwhile experience. It is always interesting to note the unique cultural experiences that the priest and congregation bring to Mass when they are from countries other than one’s own. Korean churches often have a futuristic appearance and feel, something not seen in churches from other countries. The priests are usually down to earth and are able to connect well with the people.
 
What is most striking about Korean Catholicism is the devoutness of the people. Most of them faithfully participate during Mass, go to Confession, and practice devotions such as the rosary. One interesting thing to note is that many of the women continue to wear the veil on their heads during Mass. Many of both men and women will dress well during Mass and not take the event casually.
 
Also, during the Mass in Korea , one may experience a different sort of collection of donations. Instead of baskets being passed around, the people line up as if it were a Communion line, approach the altar, and slip their donation into a donation box. In addition, during the sign of peace, people do not shake hands, as is the tradition of the West. Instead, the people do a polite bow to each other and greet each other with peace, as is the tradition of some Eastern countries.
 
Although most ordinary objects owned by people contain the words “Made in China ” written on them, when it comes to religious objects, the words most commonly found are “Made in Italy ”. However, if one were to purchase religious items in Korea , one may commonly find the words “Made in Korea ”. This is a country whose Catholicism ought not to be neglected. Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, Saint Paul Chong Hasang, and many other Korean Catholic martyrs have proven God’s entry into this country, and its modern Catholic presence should continue to be recognized by Catholics. Asia ’s Catholicism is a pearl waiting to be discovered by the world. Korea is just a small part of this pearl.

Righteous Complaining

“It’s so hot!” “It’s so cold!” “I hate the government!” “Everything is so expensive!” Perhaps, these are just a few phrases that one hears on a regular basis. Complaining is a common part of the lives of many. However, the question is, why? It is important to understand the nature of complaining, why people do it and what purpose it serves. This is crucial in order that all may complain in the right way for their own benefit.
 
Complaining, it seems, can be separated into two categories: unrighteous complaining and righteous complaining. The former will be addressed first. Some examples of unrighteous complaining are those seen at the beginning of this article as well as others, such as “You can’t do anything right!” and “This food stinks!” The purpose of this kind of complaining is simply to express a negative feeling caused by unfavorable circumstances. Nevertheless, the expression of this negative feeling does no real good. It creates a negative atmosphere and does not aid in one’s happiness. There is no true goal in unrighteous complaining, only a false hope in feeling satisfied after creating a negative atmosphere. This is a temptation from the devil, because creating a negative atmosphere brings no long-lasting peace or joy.
 
A better way to handle situations such as these should be considered. For example, one can say, “It’s so hot. Let’s stay in the shade and drink some cold drinks.” “Everything is so expensive. Let’s make a plan to save more money or move to a cheaper area.” “This food stinks. Let’s cook our own food from now on.” Obviously, expressing that there is a problem is important, yet the intention is key. Does one express that there is a problem for the sake of making others feel bad and thinking that one will feel better because of it, or does one express that there is a problem in order that a solution may be found? The latter is the right way to solve problems. Unrighteous complaining has no part in God’s plan.
 
Righteous complaining will now be addressed. Some examples of righteous complaining are as follows: “Excuse me, waiter. I ordered my food an hour ago, and it still hasn’t arrived. I want a free meal.” “Your company promised it would be ready by Monday. It is now Wednesday, and it is still not ready. I demand compensation.” “The product you sold me broke. I want a refund.” When conducted in the right manner, righteous complaining is an important skill. All must learn to possess it. Why? It is because it deals with justice. One must learn to protect what is due to oneself and not let selfish, greedy people take advantage of it. This is not only for our sake but for the sake of our families and friends.
 
Here are some Bible verses about justice:
 
Psalm 37:28 — For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. The righteous shall be preserved for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
 
Proverbs 21:15 — When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous,
but dismay to evildoers.
 
Isaiah 1:17 — learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.
 
Matthew 23:23 — “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
 
God loves justice. When we complain in order to preserve justice in the midst of those trying to get away with injustice, we are complaining in a righteous way. It is an important step for correcting what is wrong and preserving what is right. No one should be allowed to get away with murder, whether that “murder” be the loss of money, the loss of time, the manipulation of one’s intellect, and so on.
 
The next time someone messes up who owes you something, do not be afraid to do justice. Do not whine to your neighbor. Do, instead, God’s justice. Do some righteous complaining and get what is yours.