Jan 012018
 

On social media I quipped:

I told 2017 “Come at me bro”. It did. Not saying anything to 2018.

I am fairly happy to see 2017 go as it was a rather rough year for me. Transitions both good and bad.

A year ago I had no idea that my wife was in her final weeks of life. She was originally diagnosed with cancer in December of 2013. While the cancer was treatable, she refused any treatment. This was mostly due to some bad experiences in hospitals and that she was super-sensitive to many drugs. She was more afraid of chemotherapy than the cancer itself. This was despite all the encouragement we gave her to help her over this. I talked to a priest about this and he related similar stories for me regarding people who refused treatment, especially among Filipinos.

At the time they said without treatment she would only survive a year to a year and a half. So at the two year mark with no outward signs of it getting worse, I had some hope that she might survive this. As three years went by with no exterior effects that hope grew. What I did not know at the time as we entered that new year, was that she was hiding increasing pain. This soon became apparent in the final two weeks of her life. That last week being spent in the hospice with here where our children and myself stayed with her.

So I deal with a lot of guilt concerning what might have happened if she had received treatment. After 36 years of marriage there is a palpable absence in my life. Generally I don’t tend towards depression but I keep being reminded that I am not as stoic as I think I am.

This led to another change. Making burial arrangements I found that a parish near me had a mausoleum and that this was the only parish with it’s own cemetery. This cemetery is located directly behind a historic wooden Catholic church. They have daily Mass there and the Latin Mass on Sundays. When my wife was alive she preferred to go to Mass at different parishes each week. I am more of a creature of habit and prefer something steadier. So I started attending the Latin Mass and afterwards walking to where my wife is entombed and to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet.

So I have become much more familiar with the Latin Mass this year and really enjoy it. I have traditionalist tendencies, but am not a jerk about it. I also go to daily Mass, which is the Ordinary Form. Besides the Latin Mass on Sunday, I have recently taken to going to the Vigil Mass in the parish I was received into the Church. This leads to a liturgical Deja Vu, since Christ the King is celebrated at different time in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form.

After I started to attend the Latin Mass I was asked to join the choir. This was rather remarkable since this was a result of them hearing me singing, and asking me despite this. Now I do love to sing and spent four years in High School choir. Still I know my limitations and while I have a decent voice,I definitely don’t have perfect pitch. Very imperfect pitch. So I have spent some time last year practicing, and this year will be the same. I also started to teach myself piano as an aid to this. I have greatly enjoyed singing with the Latin Mass choir, but struggle with the chant. At least my Latin pronunciation is improved.

I also joined a local chapter of Saint Paul Street Evangelization (SPSE). I had heard of them from Catholic Answers Live and it sounded like a structured way I could evangelize. As a bit of an introvert I had plenty of excuses why I was not doing my bit in the Gospel call. My wife prayed for me for years and was instrumental in my conversion and so after her death I felt I should be doing the same. I am still humbled to find myself a believing Catholic and really want to share that joy. My outings with SPSE have been wonderful. When I heard them on Catholic Answers Live they explained their non-confrontational approach as they were there to hand out rosaries, medals, brochures and to answer people’s questions. We set up our stand by the beach and it is very positive experience just talking to people. People either are or are not interested, and most people not interested are not jerks about it. I am hoping to do more of this, this year.

First outing

Another major change for me was my weight. I have always struggled with my weight and have gained and lost significant amounts over the years. A couple of years ago I reached 290. I needed a consistent approach that I could make into a habit. The first thing that became an important part of solving this was getting an Apple Watch about two and a half years ago. It tracks calories, heart rate, and daily exercise. Three rings are used to show daily progress. So this was my daily impetus to walk and exercise. I hated the idea of not filling out the rings each day, so this was enough of a mental trick to keep me going. Consistent exercise did lead to me dropping about fifty pounds, but I was pretty much staying at the same weight.

Me at 290 Pounds

Last January I read posts on Facebook by Jimmy Akin on intermittent fasting, which his doctor had suggested to him. For him this took the path of eating just one meal a day that was mostly low carb. I had already started the practice of fasting on Fridays, so I knew this was doable. To start with I just cut out all snacking and just having lunch and dinner. Transitioning to only eating dinner was easier than I could have suspected, but this was mixed in with the time my wife was in hospice and in the aftermath. During the work week I stopped coming home for lunch and so this helped. The most counterintuitive part of intermittent fasting is that you are not hungry and that your body quickly adjusts. At least for me this was true and there is nothing that is the same for everybody when it comes to diet and exercise.

As far as exercise goes I started by doing more walking. At work I took walking breaks. This year those walking breaks turned into a praying the Rosary while walking and then at 3:00 P.M. praying the Divine Mercy chaplet while walking. At first I thought of this as killing two birds with one stone. I quickly realized that walking while praying was very beneficial in reducing distractions for me. Prayer could actually break out among the distractions. Originally I was also spending an hour on a Exercycle while reading. This year I bought a bike and started doing daily rides in my neighborhood and elsewhere. These daily rides are now about 14.5 miles each day with 20 or more miles on weekends.

As a result I lost 88 pounds this year with 142 pounds lost overall in the last two and a half years. This is to the point where I have been holding steady at around 148 pounds. It still freaks me out to be buying size small shirts. Despite having lost the amount of weight I desired, I am too aware of my previous losses and gains. So I am maintaining the same level of daily exercise along with intermittent fasting most days. As for diet I pretty much follow low carb where mostly I stay away from sugar and breads. This works for me, especially as I have found many substitute ways to cook low carb meals that doesn’t leave me craving previous favorite foods.

Jimmy Akin did an hour show on Catholic Answers Live about intermittent fasting and his experience. What he had to say parallels my own experience as he also lost significant amounts of weight from first low carb and then intermittent fasting. “When you Fast”. He provides the necessary caveats. As he mentions there is spiritual side to fasting, even intermittent fasting for weight loss.

Me recently in my Pints with Aquinas shirt

There have been some other difficulties this year which I will not go into. Although one major difficulty is showing fruit of becoming more positive. I ask for prayers for this special intention. There are some things I am hoping to come about in 2018. Time will tell. What I do know is I don’t know where I would be without my Catholic faith.

Dec 272017
 

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 21 December 2017 to 27 December 2017.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s blog.

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Without love, both life and faith are worthless.” @Pontifex 21 December 2017
  • “Let us free Christmas from the worldliness that has taken it hostage! The true spirit of Christmas is the beauty of being loved by God.” @Pontifex 22 December 2017
  • “If we really want to celebrate Christmas, let’s contemplate this image: the fragile simplicity of a new-born baby. That’s where God is.” @Pontifex 23 December 2017
  • “Contemplating the Baby Jesus, with His humble and infinite love, let us say to Him, very simply: “Thank you for doing all this for me!”” @Pontifex 24 December 2017
  • “Stop and look at the nativity scene: let us enter the true spirit of Christmas with the shepherds, bringing Baby Jesus all that we are.” @Pontifex 25 December 2017
  • “Today we want to remember all those who suffer persecution. We want to be close to them with our affection and our prayers.” @Pontifex 26 December 2017
  • “God is in love with us. He draws us to Him with tenderness by being born poor and fragile among us, like one of us.” @Pontifex 27 December 2017

Papal Instagram

Dec 232017
 

It is easy to make jokes about C&E Catholics – those that make it to Christmas and Easter Mass.

This is a better take from then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

“It just may be that we, thus drawing a new breath, are prvileged to sense something of the breath of God’s love, of the sacred peace whose gift to us is the blessing of Christmas. It is for this reason that we should not single out those who feel they cannot have faith anymore and try to rob them of their emotions, which may remain as the last echo of their faith and which may allow them to be part of that breath of fresh air of the holy night, which is permeated by the breath of God’s peace. Rather, we ought to be grateful for their preserving this last remnant of God’s gift on Christmas and ought to make an effort to celebrate a blessed Christmas with them all.

From: Dogma und Verkündigung, pp. 383f.

Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 398). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.”

Dec 202017
 

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 2 December 2017 to 20 December 2017.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s blog.

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “I encourage all of you to live the joy of your mission by witnessing to the Gospel wherever you are called to live and work.” @Pontifex 14 December 2017
  • “Even if there were no one else left to remember us, Jesus would always be there at our side.” @Pontifex 15 December 2017
  • “We become holy when we work for others. When we do so, we continue the creative action of God in history.” @Pontifex 16 December 2017
  • “May the Lord grant us the wisdom to seek that which is worthwhile and to love, not with our words but with our actions.” @Pontifex 17 December 2017
  • “Every stranger that knocks at our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ.” @Pontifex 18 December 2017
  • “Go out to meet Jesus, spend time with Him in prayer, and entrust your whole life to His merciful love.” @Pontifex 19 December 2017
  • “Heaven doesn’t value what you have, but what you give.” @Pontifex 20 December 2017

Papal Instagram

Dec 182017
 

When I was an atheist I had a very utilitarian view of things. For example I thought that all government buildings and interiors should be just purpose driven with no view to design. That the interiors should be focused on maintainability and not beauty or even government office idea of beauty. Living on multiple Aircraft Carriers I felt the practical aesthetic of gray bulkheads with visible wiring was how everything should be. It annoyed me that so much effort was wasted on waxing floors and such to make a pretty warship.

This was one of those things I think I believed without believing. I felt it was a natural outgrowth of my worldview and thus took precedence over my own thoughts. I thought I had to choose practicality over beauty with no intersection of the two.

It was only later did I realize that not only did I not believe this, but that in actuality I reviled this viewpoint. It’s amazing what you can teach yourself to believe without believing.

I was thinking about all of this as I was decorating my house for Christmas. I have spent a good amount of time decorating despite the fact that I am now the only recipient of the fruits of that work. When my wife was alive, I certainly took pleasure in decorating and seeing her reaction. Now I just luxuriate in the beauty of the decorations and any design put into them.

This is something more than just nostalgia regarding previous Christmases. As a kid I also loved to decorate and to be creative in making my own decorations. I loved to make custom ribbons and ornaments. I had not philosophical underpinnings regarding how these creative acts were part of something more. I just knew that there was some transcendental aspect to this even I would not have described it that way.

I still don’t have the words really to describe this. The pleasure I receive in decorating and then living among the fruits of it. This has only been amplified for me as the theological underpinnings regarding most of the decorations brings these symbols to life. As I dwell on the incarnation and the facts of our redemption. The Hallmark view of Christmas and family were just the fumes of Christmas I lived on for years. Now I know something deeper, but still find it easy to get lost in the sentimental. So I try to develop gratitude regarding the great mystery of the incarnation. To let the symbolic take me far as it can go and to enter into something deeper.

Dec 142017
 

At first I wasn’t much interested in Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s new book Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men. I thought I already pretty well knew the subject. I knew about the mythic accumulations that have built up on the story.

Still after seeing some reviews I was intrigued. So I made this one of my Audible picks this month.

While again I knew some of the basic outline regarding what we didn’t know about these men of indeterminate number, I didn’t realize how much we could know about them. In many ways this book is almost like a detective novel. Shifting the facts to see our way forward.

I liked just about everything regarding the presentation of this information. For one it is totally engaging and it takes a deep dive into the information we have from the Gospel of Matthew and uses the tools of history to give us a fuller context. I liked that he allows for multiple interpretations of the information. That while he lays a solid case for where these Magi came from, he is presenting a case and wants to know more himself. This book really lets you see the Magi in a new light and to have a much better historical context.

There was also some coverage regarding various theories regarding the Star of Bethlehem and it does a good job of covering in summary form some of these theories. The only weakness I found in this was a dependence of Herod the Great dying in 4 BC which has been commonly held. This dating is important in regards to various theories based on astronomy. Jimmy Akin has a good article regarding this dating which puts he death a couple years later.

Thoroughly enjoyable read.

Dec 132017
 

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 26 November 2017 to 13 December 2017.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s blog.

Angelus

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “May the Virgin Mary always be our refuge, our consolation, and the way that leads to Christ.” @Pontifex 8 December 2017
  • “We must fight corruption with determination. It is an evil based on the worship of money and it offends human dignity.” @Pontifex 9 December 2017
  • “Political activity must truly be conducted at the service of the human person, with respect for creation and for the common good.” @Pontifex 10 December 2017
  • “We ask for the grace to make our faith more and more operative through acts of charity.” @Pontifex 11 December 2017
  • “Thank you for following @Pontifex which turns five years old today. May social media always be spaces that are rich in humanity!” @Pontifex 12 December 2017
  • “Christians are called to work concretely in the realities of this world, illuminating them with the light that comes from God.” @Pontifex 13 December 2017

Papal Instagram

Dec 112017
 

Over the last several days there has been a certain level of media coverage alleging that the Pope is ordering a specific change in translation of the Our Father.

I find it interesting that even though I realize just how bad media coverage regarding the Pope from secular and even Catholic sources is how easy it is to respond to a headline. My first thought was “Wait didn’t he recently give local bishops more responsibility regarding translations (“Magnum Principium”
) and here he is suggesting his own”. Like most hot takes my first thought was wrong.

As Jimmy Akin explains today No, Pope Francis Is Not Changing the Lord’s Prayer. Beyond showing how this false story got advanced, I also enjoyed his approach in looking at the translation and what it would mean if it was changed. As usual his balanced approach brings out some interesting points.

Msgr. Charles Pope recently wrote Why I Oppose Changing the English Translation of the Our Father where he acknowledges that reports regarding this are incorrect. I basically agree with the subtitle of his article “we should teach, explain and root ourselves more deeply in it.” Still I think Jimmy Akin answers some of his points better.

There are no perfect translations and there will always be some ambiguity and confusion. There are well known translations that often get asked about on Catholic radio such as the line “he descended into hell.” in the Nicene Creed. It would probably be better to translate this using the Hebrew word sheol for the place of the dead. But that wouldn’t end the confusion regarding this. It is not really negative that we have to ask questions about what we don’t understand or that we have to study more to understand something.

Dec 062017
 

A new activist group has appeared and starting to protest across the country known as Antifa-la-la. This movement is a conglomeration of autonomous, self-styled, anti-divinity denying groups.

This activist group protests the rising number of people who deny the divinity of Christ from Jehovah Witnesses to the Nones. While protesting they dress anonymously as St. Nick. They choose St. Nicholas the Bishop of Myra during the time of the Council of Nicea. Members have been known to pass along the meme “Punch a Heretic”, an allusion to St. Nicholas punching Arius at the Council of Nicea. While this story is a total myth, they use it to justify violent confrontations with anti-divinity elements.

The name Antifa-la-la was taken as a reaction to the secularization of Christmas and the “Reason for the Season”. John Kook, a member of the Portland Antifa-la-la, said “We will come at you with solid apologetics or a fist. Listen to the trilemma or we will put you in a coma.”

References: “Steven D. Greydanus on the ahistorical legend regarding punching Arius”

Dec 062017
 

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 7 November 2017 to 6 December 2017.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s blog.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The most holy name of God can never be invoked to justify hatred and violence against other human beings.” @Pontifex 30 November 2017
  • “How much openness is needed to welcome people who feel alone and confused as they search for a meaning in life!” @Pontifex 1 December 2017
  • “May the wisdom of God help us to know how to welcome and accept those who think and act differently from us.” @Pontifex 2 December 2017
  • “Dear friends in Myanmar and Bangladesh, thank you for your welcome! Upon you I invoke divine blessings of harmony and peace.” @Pontifex 2 December 2017
  • “Every person is unique and unrepeatable. Let us ensure the disabled are always welcomed by the communities in which they live.” @Pontifex 3 December 2017
  • “Faith becomes tangible when it finds its expression in love and, especially, in the service of our brothers and sisters in difficulty.” @Pontifex 4 December 2017
  • “We are all beggars before the love of God, a love that gives meaning to our existence and that offers us eternal life.” @Pontifex 5 December 2017
  • “No child of God can be discarded in His eyes. He entrusts a mission to each one of us.” @Pontifex 6 December 2017

Papal Instagram