Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent Day Whatever: Outside of Time, We Ponder In our Hearts

Dear Coffee Talkers,

Advent has not been at all what I expected. And isn't that just right? Because the season is about acquiring an interior stillness and solitude, about cultivating a type of listening of the heart, that makes our souls open to receive the unimaginable.

We wake from the sleep of our day to day routine to receive the eternal Word made flesh in an infant. Do we have time and room for the inconvenience of a tiny, helpless child?

We prepare ourselves for when the Word comes again. Will we be found ready, and will we even be able to recognize the divine presence in whatever unexpected form He may come to us?

This Advent has totally rocked my world. Turned things on their heads. Twisted up all of my plans and ambitions. Changed my hopes and desires. Knocked the wind out of me.

There are just too many things to do, to say, to write. So I won't anymore. I'll take God's cue to be still.

To just be.

To prepare.

I hope you'll do the same. Christ is coming. We will recognize Him, and will we be found ready?

'Til we meet again, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Day 17: O Antiphons!

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers!

Thanks for all the prayers while I was super busy and then super sick! Whew. I am finally starting to feel better. And here we are again, back together just in time for the O Antiphons!

Starting today (December 17), the Church prays an "O Antiphon" for each day leading up to Christmas Eve, in order to better prepare us for Christ's coming at Christmas. Many of us know the hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," and the verses to this hymn are based on these antiphons. We like to light our Advent candles at meal times in our home (we keep our wreath with candles in the middle of our dining room table), and we sing the appropriate verse of the song each evening before dinner as we light our candles. 

If you have the time and inclination to get into some O Antiphon related crafts with your kiddos (I sure don't, but more power to ya if you do!), check out my friend's blog that's full of great ideas! 

Here's the song, and the O Antiphons in spoken form (along with a little history), for any who wish to join in this lovely Advent tradition of the Church.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good, 

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

(December 17)
O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. Refrain

(December 18)
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

(December 19)
O come, thou Root of Jesse's tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call. Refrain

(December 20)
O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain

(December 21)
O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

(December 22)
O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. Refrain

(December 23)
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear. Refrain

The "O" Antiphons

There are seven short verses sung before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer of the Church on the seven days before the vigil of Christmas. They each begin with the exclamation "O". Each of them ends with a plea for the Messiah to come. As Christmas approaches the cry becomes more urgent.

The antiphons were composed in the seventh or eighth century when monks put together texts from the Old Testament which looked forward to the coming of our salvation. They form a rich mosaic of scriptural images. These seven verses, or antiphons as they are called, appear to be the originals although from time to time other texts were used. They became very popular in the Middle Ages. While the monastic choirs sang the antiphons the great bells of the church were rung.

A curious feature of these antiphons is that the first letter of each invocation may be taken from the Latin to form an acrostic in reverse.

So the first letters of Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel, provide the Latin words: ERO CRAS . The phrase spells out the response of Christ himself to the heartfelt prayer of his people: "Tomorrow I will be there".

Why not join with the Prayer of the Church each evening and reflect on these words preparing for Christmas day by day:

December 17th:
O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.

December 18th:
O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.

December 19th:
O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.

December 20th:
O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 21st:
O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22nd:
O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.

December 23rd:
O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.

© Liguori Publications Excerpt from Advent - A Quality Storecupboard The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent Day 9: Too Cold to Blog, & Gospels in a Year

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Look, I lived in a much colder region of the US for many years, and that said, it is still FREEZING here in California. We don't have as many clothes here, ya know? Like wooly vests and mittens and crazy hats that cover most of your face and such. The point is, I'm too cold to stay up blogging tonight!

So why don't you click this little link instead, and sign up for daily e-mails to read the Gospels in a year? Or you can read the Catechism in a year, which I just completed. I bet you won't regret it.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent Day 8: Immaculate Conception Remix 2013

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Happy Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary! First, lemme explain this -- the Immaculate Conception is normally observed on December 8. However, this year it will be celebrated on December 9 because December 8 was the Second Sunday of Advent. Still, it is alright to wish folks a happy feast day even now, since Solemnities are celebrated with a vigil (a celebration that begins the evening before the feast day). And last but not least, I should mention that while this Solemnity is still a holy day, the obligation to attend Mass has been lifted this year. But you can still go to Mass, of course!

Now, there are lots of misconceptions (hahahahahahaha) about the Immaculate Conception. In fact, the Immaculate Conception was a subject of lively debate among my friends in a college dorm room while we were supposed to be doing music homework, and even though I had no theology background at the time I did my best to convince everyone that we are talking about the conception of Mary, not of Jesus. I now know more of the theology behind it, but rather than explain the whole thing in written form, allow me to call upon the help of Fr. Jack Collins to break this down for me. What follows is 4 minutes well-spent in this special Immaculate Conception edition of the Busted Halo Show, "You Don't Know Jack." Enjoy!

(Oh, and I just learned that some readers are having trouble viewing the video on mobile devices, so if you don't see the video below, try clicking here!)

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Advent Day 7: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

Hello, Coffee Talkers,

It's the Second Sunday of Advent! Check out this Sunday's Mass readings, if you haven't already. They start with one of my favorite verses, which inspired one of my favorite hymns.

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom. ~ Isaiah 11:1

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Day 6: Will the Real St. Nicholas Please Stand Up?

Hello, Coffee Talkers,

Hope y'all had a great feast of St. Nicholas. We sure did! We got a few nice treats in our shoes this morning, a great kick off (punny) to a great feast day.

I love to tell people about the real St. Nicholas, as the stories of this Bishop from modern-day Turkey are full of inspiration and intrigue. He is best known for his great generosity, and for his slapping or punching Arius due to his heretical views as he expressed them at the 4th century council of Nicaea. This meme is so funny to me....

If you want to learn more about St. Nicholas, and to get some great ideas for St. Nick-related crafts, projects, and more, check out St. Nicholas Center.

Also, if you are among my friends who forgot (or did not know) about the 'putting out your shoes for a St. Nicholas treat' custom from last night, I'll bet that St. Nick would not mind making a visit to find your smelly footwear this fine evening!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Day 5: Put Out Your Shoes!

Oh, Coffee Talkers!

Do you know what tonight is? It's the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, so put out your shoes and hope for a treat! 

Do you know the story of the real St. Nicholas? He was a very generous man, and a Catholic Bishop!

Click here for awesome St. Nick stories, crafts, and celebration ideas!
I'd write more, but gotta get to sleep so St. Nick can do his thing. 

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Day 4 - Turning Gimmes into Gratitude

Hello, Coffee Talkers,

Sickness has hit my household this past week, and I think everyone's a little extra tired and edgy. Girls are a little extra whiny and argumentative, and mama is a little less patient. I had to give myself a little timeout today when I felt myself particularly annoyed with the incessant whines and complaints (which was also just before dinner, so I'm sure hunger was also a factor for all parties involved), and in my few moments of quiet in my room before the pretty little whiners tracked me down, I thought to myself, "Ugh, it seems like no matter how much I do or how many nice things I get for them, they are always whining, complaining, and ungrateful. Can't they just be thankful?" And then I realized that those same words could be coming from God to me.


So I simmered down a little, and am making sure we all get to bed a little earlier tonight! We all gave each other a hug and told each other some of the many blessings for which we are grateful, including the delicious meal we ate, the fireplace lit to keep us warm, and the Advent candle on our wreath to remind us that Jesus is coming. And we will all go to sleep a little more peacefully tonight than before the whining melt-down took place, because sometimes our weaknesses make way for mercy and grace. O happy fault.

Advent day 4 challenge: make a list of 4 things for which you are grateful. Post it somewhere visible, like a bulletin board or fridge. Add one more to the list during each day of Advent. Turn this into a season of grace and gratitude rather than a season of gripes and gimmes.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Blog-fest Day 3 - GQ's Cold-Calling Bouncer

Greetings, dear Coffee Talkers!

He was just named GQ Magazine's Cold Caller of the Year. He recently revealed that, in his youth, he worked as a bouncer. And now he's rumored to be sneaking out at night to feed the poor.

Pope Francis is inspiring all the people of the world, no matter what creed or culture, to step it up in the love of neighbor department. Read this article,  and see what you think of the comments made by the Almoner of His Holiness (the coolest title in Vatican City, if you ask me, which you didn't). Sure, this could be a bit of sensationalist journalism, but already knowing that Pope Francis has very publicly reached out to the poor, marginalized, and outcast of this world I don't really find this too unimaginable. It seems that the Pope's public life is fueled by an intense interior life of devotion to God and by many hidden works of charity toward neighbor, so perhaps some midnight Vatican sneak-outs could be among them.

And so, for today's Advent challenge, let's decide on one hidden act of care we can give to Jesus this Advent in His distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor. Can you donate to a food pantry, work at a soup kitchen, be a Secret Santa to some children in need, help out a single mom, visit some patients in an Alzheimer's care unit, or send an anonymous gift card to a family in crisis? Don't get too ambitious (I always do) -- just pick one, and then do it. I know you'll get creative, and I know the world will be a better place because of your generosity.

As always, thanks for stopping by and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Blog-fest Day 2 -- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Welcome back, Coffee Talkers,

Have you heard the song "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"?

I first heard it while on a traveling retreat team years ago; it was on the CD that we would play during the prayer ministry time. It was always playing at a low volume, so I could not make out all of the words right away, but even then it's hauntingly beautiful melody stayed with me.

It's the perfect song for Advent. This should be a time of preparation, not primarily through listening to Christmas songs on the radio or running out to the mall or snatching up some online deals for Cyber Monday, but mostly through silence.

We live in a world that lacks silence, but it is silence that our souls crave the most.

And this silence should help us enter into the awe-inspiring reality of the Incarnation. God sent his Son as an infant -- how tremendously unexpected, how amazingly messy, how terribly inconvenient.  The truth of God becoming man in the form of a human baby is no Chicken Soup for the Advent Soul; when we really consider the Nativity, it is wonderfully, soul-shakingly terrifying.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.

King of kings yet born of Mary, 
As of old on earth he stood,
Lord of lords in human vesture,
In the body and the blood, 
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads it vanguard on the way
As the Light of Light, descending
From the realms of endless day,
Comes the powers of hell to vanquish
As the darkness clears away.

At his feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence 
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
"Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, Lord Most High!"

Let us carve out a few moments of silence tonight.

Be still.

Know that He is God.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent Blog-fest 2013 -- Let Us Go Rejoicing to the House of the Lord

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

In a last-minute decision, in literally the final hours of the first day of Advent 2013, I have decided to dust off the ol' Catholic blog and post something for each day of Advent. I think I even added a new 'follow via Google +' feature, but I'm not sure yet because my theology's better than my technology, if you know what I'm saying. In any case, thanks so much for joining me for this Advent journey!

Advent is a special season of preparation, and while the most obvious preparation is for the celebration of Jesus' birth (a.k.a. Christmas!), there are two other oft neglected but equally important aspects of our Advent preparations. In addition to remembering the Incarnation when Jesus came to earth a couple millenia ago, we are also preparing to welcome Him into our hearts and homes now, and we prepare to welcome Him in His second coming at the end of time. This three-fold nature of celebration and participation in the sacraments and liturgical actions and seasons is one of my very favorite parts about being Catholic -- we are always mindful of what God did, what God is doing, and what God will do, and we join with the whole communion of saints throughout time as we connect with Creator and a community that still exists outside of past, present, and future.

Saint Thomas Aquinas captures this so beautifully in his Eucharistic prayer:

O Sacred Banquet
in which Christ is received
the memory of His Passion is recalled
the soul is filled with grace
and the pledge of future glory is given to us

Those who attended Mass last Sunday and this may have noticed that we sang the same responsorial psalm -- "let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord." We sang this psalm on the last Sunday of the past liturgical year (last week), and again on the first Sunday of the new liturgical year (today), and I have reflected on two important reasons for this repetition. First, all things should begin and end by rejoicing in the house of the Lord -- in life (baptism) and death (funeral Mass), in Christ's dying (Good Friday) and His rising (Easter Sunday), in the midst of our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows, we come together to rejoice in the house of the Lord.

The next reason just hit me today, and it may be even more important than the last -- there are some who, for many varied reasons, are no longer 'rejoicing to the house of the Lord,' and when we sing this psalm we are being called to invite them back. People always joke about Christmas and Easter Only (or CEO) Catholics, those who attend Mass only on those two days of the year, but the sad truth is that many of those people do not feel welcomed or invited to be a regular part of the community throughout the rest of the year. So if you are reading this and have fallen away from regular practice of your faith, please take this as your initial invitation to come back, to be welcomed home, and to let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord, because the rejoicing can only be full when all of the family is present.

Lastly, I have 2 more entirely unrelated topics to share with you (well, I could relate them somehow, I'm sure...):

1. My friends from graduate school, the Garlands, have just been blessed by the birth of their 5th beautiful child, Lillian Faustina Maria, who is a week old and in need of many prayers for healing. Those who wish to follow her progress as you pray can find their blog here.

2. What better time than those potentially hectic pre-Christmas days to carve out some time not only for prayer, but also for better budget planning so that you can have more peace in your life and perhaps even give more generously? I've been budgeting for a while, but was looking for an inexpensive tool that could be used on a computer and an iPod, and a friend just posted about a sale for YNAB (or You Need a Budget -- haha) so I've decided to try it out. The 50% off sale made it only $30, and guess what? I just got a link that you can use to get another $6 off! No joke! But I think the sale price only lasts through tomorrow, so snatch it up while it's cheap if you want to be a better steward of your financial resources. Click here for the link for  $6 off!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Monday, September 23, 2013

Why Pope Francis is Changing Nothing, and Everything

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

In only a mere half year of papal reign, Pope Francis seems to have received even more media coverage than Miley Cyrus, and unlike the attention given to the former Hannah Montana gone wild, coverage of the Pontiff seems to have been overwhelmingly positive. Sure, not always accurate, but still overwhelmingly positive. Lots of people love Pope Francis and what he stands for, and I love to see that kind of response.

But to get to the heart of the matter, I'm sure you've all heard by now how Pope Francis is changing everything in the Catholic Church. I mean, it's all over the news, so it must be true, right? Well, in a time-honored Catholic tradition, I will both defend and contradict the idea that Pope Francis is changing Catholicism in the modern world. Let's begin this brief journey!

First, I'd like to take the position that Pope Francis is changing nothing. Every time I see a report of Pope Francis' efforts on behalf of the poor and the outcast, I am so moved by his efforts and pleased by the coverage. But the strange part about it is that, while the media so often makes it seem as though Pope Francis is the first to have ever cared about the lowly, to have visited the imprisoned, or to speak out against the injustices of the world, he is doing and saying the same as previous popes. Anyone who takes the time to read the sources of papal documents and interviews will see many similarities in the teachings and assertions of Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, and Pope John Paul II, as well as in their activities and outreaches. I love that Pope Francis gets a lot of good press for what he's doing and saying, but to act as though he were making some sort of radical departure, whether in doctrine or in action, from his immediate predecessors is silly at best. As Pope Francis himself said, "I am a son of the Church." And while we're on the topic of what Pope Francis said, I'd like say that it is well worth the time to read Pope Francis' actual words, both written and spoken. What he is actually saying is far more remarkable than anyone's commentary on it (mine included!).

Next, I'd like say that Pope Francis really is changing everything! But I'd say that the method of change is one more of pedagogy (or teaching method) than of content and curriculum. Let me explain.

From the moment he first greeted the world as Pope, everyone could see that something about him was very different than what the modern world has seen of the papacy. And while I deeply love both Benedict and John Paul, I was immediately struck by Francis' new way of leading the Church and communicating with the world. Everything about him, to me, was a bit of a surprise, even down to his name. And with the name he chose, I suppose we might have suspected that the new pontiff might be more 'frank' in his style than Benedict. (Sometimes a pun-lover just can't help oneself.)

Pope Francis's change does not represent a radical departure in teaching, but a significant change in style. He is reminding the world that evangelization (the initial presentation of the Gospel message and the mercy of a loving God) must precede catechesis (the passing down of the faith through doctrinal teachings). Just as in a family, the 'rules' can seem meaningless and arbitrary, even oppressive, without the context of a profoundly personal relationship of transforming love.

Francis is primarily speaking to a world who is un-evangelized (both in and outside of the Catholic Church), and he knows it. And I believe that many people are feeling drawn in by his candor, by his humility, and by the authenticity of his model of faith, hope, and love.

Even when speaking to the community of believers and moving toward the area of catechesis, Pope Francis does well to remind us all to have a broader view of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

In his recent interview, Pope Francis said that "The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all."

And he is absolutely right. Pope Francis is not saying to abandon all of the Church's teachings, but to not allow ourselves to lock into a legalistic interpretation of salvation, which is essentially based on love and mercy. Francis again reminds all of us, especially those who minister in the church, that evangelization must precede catechesis, and then even when passing on the Church's teachings, it must be within the context of the loving mercy of a saving God. And this mercy is available to everyone.

Most of us have heard a symphony orchestra (whether live or by recording), and marveled at the beauty of the music. But if you have ever played an instrument or heard someone rehearsing a single part, you realize that the individual part makes no sense on its own. Only in the context of the greater whole does the isolated oboe line, for example, turn into a piece of a melodious symphony.

Just so it is with the teachings of the Catholic Church. The teachings must not be approached myopically, or with undue individual scrutiny or legalism. Because, just as in the symphony, their part does not make sense on its own. The doctrinal instructions of Catholic Christianity are each only small parts of the melodious symphony of truth which God has offered in the Church. Look at the bigger picture, Pope Francis urges. See broader. Go deeper.

So in a way, Pope Francis really is changing everything, while changing nothing all at once. Pope Francis is proclaiming the Good News to the fallen away, to those who were never in the fold, and offering the splendor of truth and love to the whole world in a very attractive package. Because the truth is that love wins, and that the radiant splendor of truth always outshines the glamour of evil. Always.

As Christ's vicar (or representative) to the world, Pope Francis draws us in as Jesus did with the 'rich young man' of the Gospels, not primarily with doctrine, but with bonds of the heart. Jesus looked at the young man and loved him, then said "Go sell what you have, and come follow me." And it says that the young man went away, sad. Haven't we all done the same at one time or other? But I always hope that the rich young man came back. And that you and I will, too. I pray that we also, unable to resist the restorative hope and promise of that 'look of love,' will find ourselves coming back the One who is not first and foremost a stern task-master or lawmaker, but a tender and good shepherd welcoming us back with loving arms, enfolding us with tender mercy and bringing us back to the fellowship of the saints in the heart of the Church who is first and foremost a tender mother before she becomes teacher.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Miley Cyrus, Batman, and My Pope Francis Quote

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I just received a request for my commentary on Miley Cyrus' recent MTV Video Music Award performance through my Coffee Talk with Leslie Facebook page, and since I aim to satisfy all burning desires for my Catholic commentary on current events, I turned to the internet to fill me in since I don't have cable. By choice. Nor do I ever desire to have cable. And after taking a few minutes to discover Miley Cyrus 'twerking' very provocatively in her flesh-colored granny panties with some famous Canadian guy (I know his name, I just don't care), I have to say that those are five minutes of my life that I'll never get back.

All these articles saying ridiculous things like, "Was Miley's sexy dance way too much or just enough?!" are such an interesting (but sorta sad) reflection of our culture. There are so many things I could say about this, but I guess the most important thought that I had, on a personal level, is two-fold:



2. Isn't Miley Cyrus like 20 years old? 'Cause I don't want either of my girls even watching nonsense like that when they are 20, muchless emulating this 'role model' when they're her age (or any age)!

Look, I know I'm an old prude now, and you stopped reading. It's fine. Go back to your internet commentaries on why Miley's act was edgy enough to drive the audience wild if you must!

But the truth is that our American media culture is so heavily saturated by sexualized images and activities that are promoted as the norm, and moreover as the ideal, that we hardly know what the human person, the body, and relationships are supposed to look like at all. I'm talking to myself here, before anyone else, so don't feel like I'm getting all preachy on ya. I just know that, while these kind of acts can be so 'entertaining' on a surface level, even to those of us who love to hate them, it is easy to forget some fundamental truths.

Some of those truths include:

1. Miley Cyrus is a beautiful young woman.
2. She is made in the image and likeness of God.
3. As a child of God, she deserved profound love and respect.
4. Even if, especially if, she doesn't completely respect herself.
5. This is true of me, as well.
6. And you.
7. And all y'all.

Next topic -- I just feel like I should throw this out there, while we're talking about current events. I've seen everyone posting about Batman. The new Batman. The old Batman. Who's better. Or worse. Or whatever. And I just need to let you know that I don't care. I have no feelings about any Batman at any time in human history. I hope you can all still respect me, even with that knowledge.

Lastly, I want to mention that My World Youth Day Resolutions column was run the other day in our local newspaper, only the final quote from Pope Francis seemed to have been attributed to me due to the editor's lack of quotation marks. Ha! So I just wanted to give a shout-out to my homie Papa Francisco who really said those great things at the end of my little article.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My World Youth Day Resolutions

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

It's been a while, I know, I know. But I'm back, and so are you. So welcome back to both of us!

This week marks the 20th anniversary of my first World Youth Day experience in Denver, Colorado in 1993 with (now Blessed) Pope John Paul II, and the one month anniversary of my most recent World Youth Day experience in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with Pope Francis. From the first stateside experience with half a million young people from around the world, to the most recent experience with nearly 4 million pilgrims in South America, World Youth Day is an event that changed my world view, my understanding of Catholicism, of self, and of solidarity with every person as a brother and a sister. From that first World Youth Day, to the most recent, and all attended in between, I have learned something important: World Youth Day is a pilgrimage, not a vacation, and each journey of faith leaves me realizing that the reason I thought I was going was different, perhaps, than the reasons God had in mind. And to help process the experience, I have developed a practice (similar to many people’s good intentions for the New Year, but hopefully longer lasting) of making some World Youth Day resolutions. Here are my top 3 resolutions from this most recent World Youth Day in Brazil, each of them stemming from a lesson that I learned through the journey:

1.)    Lesson: Do not let fear or seemingly insurmountable obstacles cripple you from living the life that God intends for you to lead, and do not be afraid to live the faith joyfully with those we encounter. Resolution: Make a point to befriend at least one new person each month, someone to whom I might not normally be drawn, and share with them the joy of my faith through a generous spirit.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the preparations for, and the travel to, World Youth Day in Brazil was the fear that each pilgrim had to overcome to enter into the journey -- fear of the unknown, of new people, new languages, new cultures, the possibilities of political unrest, crime, and a host of other difficulties. But those who conquered this fear were rewarded with the amazing grace of realizing that every person, from every part of the world, is alive as the result of a loving Creator who destines each of us for love and communion with God and with one another. And this experience challenges me to continue on in this spirit of solidarity and in an apostolate of friendship to all people, even those with whom I might disagree or have difficulty in loving.

2.)    Lesson: While God does not need our time and money to fulfill the Divine mission, He wants us to give our best to God and neighbor not only as a thanks for all the blessings we’ve been given but also as a way of becoming the gracious and generous people He wants us all to be. Resolution: Give my first 10% of my income each month as a charitable offering, no matter what.

We spent our first week in Brazil as guests in family homes during Missionary Week in Sao Jose Dos Campos, and the parish that hosted us showed truly extraordinary hospitality. When I marveled not only at their generosity, but also, at the marvelous facilities and programs of their church community, I learned that the parish was able to offer these things not because they were the most wealthy parish, but because all of their parishioners give not only their time to the church but also faithfully donate the first 10% of their income. And what was most remarkable to me about these people was not the buildings or the programs that they had, but the tremendous generosity of spirit they all had, and the way that they viewed all of their lives and possessions as a gift from God, to be returned freely to Him and to their neighbor. And so I am moved to do the same, not to gain anything materially, but to increase that freedom and generosity of spirit that God desires for all of us.

3.)    Lesson: We all have gifts to share with the community, and the time we have been given is also a gift to return to God and neighbor, no matter how ‘busy’ we may consider ourselves. Resolution: Share my gifts of writing and music publicly, at least once each week.

Two of my main ways of sharing my faith are through writing and through music, but I often find myself ‘too busy’ to share these gifts with others. But these words in Pope Francis’ homily at the World Youth Day Mass on Copacabana Beach spoke to me:

Jesus did not say: “go, if you would like to, if you have the time”, but he said: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination, from the desire for power, but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and did not give us just a part of himself, but he gave us the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Please Don't #FitchTheHomeless: Abercrombie & Fitch and the Value of Human Life

Greetings, Coffee Talkers!

Anyone who has seen a store or an advertisement for the clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch knows that the company caters to the young, popular, thin, and beautiful. This is hardly a secret. In fact, I remember at first being surprised in college when I had somehow been added to the Abercrombie & Fitch mailing list. And I was not added in a generic way; the glossy ads were sent to me by name. Soon, though, I realized what they were up to -- I had not been added as a joke by a friend, but by some marketing rep from the company itself because I was serving as student body president that year. Apparently, I was being targeted because I must be 'popular.' That really made me have even less desire to shop there than I already had, which hardly seems possible as I had never stepped foot in a store. But I digress.

Some may have seen the recent 'news' that Abercrombie & Fitch CEO said that he only markets to cool people. As it turns out, this wasn't news at all, but rather a seven-year-old resurrected quote-turned-internet-meme that just verified, in candid terms, what the company has been up to all along. But it was so candid that it has become politically incorrect, with so many thousands of people circulating the quote with accompanying indignation that Mike himself recently issued a half-hearted apology.

Pre-apology, however, another meme-ster by the name of Greg Karber came up with a campaign to clothe the homeless with Abercrombie & Fitch apparel so that, "together, we can make Abercrombie & Fitch the world's No. 1 brand of homeless apparel." Naturally, this caught on like wildfire among those indignant with a CEO who would make such remarks, and was frequently re-posted on social media sites with the hashtag "FitchTheHomeless" and accompanied by phrases like, "Let's do this!" and "Right on!"

Only, it's not right on. In fact, it's really off. Because in an effort to address the injustice done by a company who seems to have disregarded the inherent dignity of the human person, regardless of size, age, class, or appearance, somehow this #FitchTheHomeless movement intends to right this wrong by further wronging the right. In other words, by giving out A&F clothes to "the homeless" for reasons of changing the brand's marketing appeal, Karber and crew have just taken part in perpetuating what they were allegedly trying to combat -- the objectification of individual people, who have worth outside of their appearance or status in this world. The message here seems not to be "Let's truly care for each homeless individual because they are worthy of care, and of the dignity associated with nice clothing," but rather, "Joke's on you, Abercrombie & Fitch, for wanting to have your clothes only worn by cool and popular people. Because now we gave those clothes to the largest, unnamed group of un-beautiful and un-popular people we could find: 'the homeless'."

Set on trying to destroy a brand's image, the #FitchTheHomeless movement is also an affront to another type of much more important image.

"They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to [Jesus] to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, 'Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone's opinion. You do not regard a person's status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?' Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, 'Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.' They brought one to him and he said to them, 'Whose image and inscription is this?' They replied to him, 'Caesar's.' So Jesus said to them, 'Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.' They were utterly amazed at him." (Mark 12:13-17)
More than an endorsement of paying taxes,  Jesus points out something very important to the Pharisees and Herodians. He tells them to repay to Caesar what is Caesar's, and they know what is Caesar's because it was crafted in his image. When Jesus then tells the men to repay to God what is God's, we see that to know what is God's, we must also look to what has been made in God's image. "God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27) Give Caesar his money; give God your very self, your whole life.

From this, we can better see what the problem really is with the statements of the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO -- not that he was too exclusive, but that he seemed to not respect the dignity of every person, made in the image and likeness of God. And this is the same problem of #FitchTheHomeless -- the inherent God-given dignity of each human person is not being respected.

Instead of boycotting a brand or 'Fitching' the homeless, let us each consider our own dignity regardless of size or status, and reach out to every person, from our own families and neighbors to those marginalized by marketing efforts and societal norms around the world, to truly build bridges of peace and justice.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers,

Thursday, May 9, 2013

20 Years Since World Youth Day Came to the USA!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I'm back! Hope you all have been enjoying your Easter season thus far. I know I have!

I recently received a fun e-mail sent to my Coffee Talk account:

 Good morning Leslie -
I am a freelance writer with Our Sunday Visitor working on a story about the 20th anniversary of WYD Denver. Somewhere along the google line your blog, your name surfaced.

Tell me more! Do you have an interesting story/conversion as it relates to Denver.  If so I would like to talk to you more about it in an email or phone interview....if you are interested!

Let me know and we will take it from there!

Viva Il Papa!
There was a 3-part element of surprise in that e-mail:
1. It's been TWENTY YEARS since I first attended World Youth Day, and since World Youth Day was in the United States!
2. Twenty years later, I'm still preparing to go to World Youth Day! This time in Brazil!
3. People (or at least person) read(s) my blog!

So in honor of the twentieth anniversary of World Youth Day Denver, and the soon coming adventure to World Youth Day Rio, I share with you this action-packed interview!

1. Give me a brief history of your 1993 WYD old were you, from where...where were you on your faith journey?

I was a 15-year-old high school student when I attended World Youth Day Denver with my home parish, Our Lady of the Desert, from Apple Valley, California. I was involved in some activities at my church, but understood little of my faith and had not traveled a great deal at that time. The preparations for and pilgrimage to WYD was an experience that really changed me, my worldview, and my experience of Catholicism. 

One especially awesome part of the experience was that, since this World Youth Day was held in the USA, we were able to travel by bus and to meet up with other groups as we journeyed toward Denver. Each step of the journey, I could feel my horizons expanding in a very tangible way. At our first stop, we met up with hundred of other youth from our own Diocese, most of whom we had never met before. At the next stop, we met up with even more youth from our region of Southern California. Then, at a stop in New Mexico, we met up with thousands of youth from throughout the Southwestern United States, and witnessed a beautiful liturgical celebration that included Native American customs. Finally, when we arrived in Denver, we joined with hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world. In those days, I understood more than ever before what it looked like for the Church to be 'Universal.' It was an experience beyond words.
2. Was there a particular event at Denver that changed you - was there an 'ah ha' moment ..? A lasting impression perhaps?

As I look back on my first World Youth Day experience, I can see many profound lessons that I learned in hindsight. But what I'd like to share is an experience that struck me the most in those days when I was a bright-eyed 15-year-old in Denver. I had purchased a simple Mickey Mouse baseball-style cap to wear for the journey. It cost me $5 at our local Target, so it was nothing particularly valuable, but I liked the hat very much. As we were walking through the streets of Denver, we were greeted by hundreds of friends we had never met before from all over the world. I call them friends because it was obvious from their broad smiles and infectious laughter that we were not among strangers, even though many of us did not speak the same languages. And one friend approached me in particular, greeting me with great joy and pointing to my hat. The young man spoke no English, and at the time, I did not speak his native language of Spanish. Still, he communicated to me through smiles and gestures that he liked my hat very much. I thought about how much I liked the hat myself, but how it would be special to give the hat to him to whom it would mean much more. When I took off the hat and offered it to him, he smiled with even greater joy than before, showed his friends proudly, and gave me a warm hug. Next, without a thought, he took off his outer shirt (he was wearing an undershirt beneath it) and handed it to me. It was the most beautiful t-shirt I had ever seen, a special shirt made for his World Youth Day pilgrimage group from Valencia, Spain. It had a lovely image of the Virgin Mary with Jesus. 

I found the shirt recently, and was so pleased to still have it twenty years later. It brought back many special memories of that time, and also seemed particularly special as I was most recently blessed to attend the World Youth Day experience in 2011 in Spain. It made me think of my young friend from 20 years ago in Denver.

4. What do you do now? is it Church related? Tell me about your blog/website when did it start...why?

Yes, everything I do now is Church related, and I really do attribute much of the initial inspiration and formation that laid the foundation for what I do now to World Youth Day Denver!

My full-time job is as a Director of Music and Liturgy at Holy Innocents Catholic Church in Victorville. My part-time jobs are varied, but related to the Church, and the first among them is as the World Youth Day coordinator and group leader for Our Lady of the Desert, Apple Valley (my home parish with whom I traveled to Denver 20 years ago!) and Holy Innocents. I also serve as an Instructor for the Parish Ministry Formation Program of the Diocese of San Bernardino, as a writer for Lay Witness Magazine, Catholics United for the Faith, Ignatius Press, and as a Religion Columnist for our local newspaper, The Daily Press.

I started writing my blog, Coffee Talk with Leslie, in January of 2011. At that time, I had been getting a lot of questions from friends and students about Catholicism. Also, I found people sometimes asking me to interpret for them different things that would happen in the news that pertained to Catholicism, since the major media outlets did not always do a good job of that. I decided to start a blog to answer people's Catholic questions, offer commentary on news related to Catholicism, and sometimes just to offer my own reflections on daily life.
5. Any advice for a young person on the fence on whether to attend a WYD or not?
Just go! Seriously, if any person has the opportunity to attend a World Youth Day, I would recommend the experience wholeheartedly. I would recommend it to the young in age, and the young at heart of all ages! It is the experience of a lifetime.

6. talk to me about seeing  JP2 what was that like - the anticipation etc....

I remember being in Mile High Stadium, and as we awaited Pope John Paul II's arrival, you could feel the excitement building. We knew that a helicopter was to bring him into the stadium, so as a helicopter hovered above and then started to land, the crowd went wild. Our uproarious cheers gave way to a helicopter full of security guards...and then another...and then another! Finally, when we weren't really even expecting the Holy Father, there he was! The cheers then became almost deafening, and the excitement was contagious. Chants of "JP 2, we love you!" and "Giovanni Paolo!" filled the air. Even rain could not dampen our excitement, and Pope John Paul II suggested that it was God's own way of reminding us of our baptism. It was a truly exciting time.

7. Have you attended other WYDs - which ones and how have they compared to 1993?

After World Youth Day Denver, I attended World Youth Day Toronto, Canada in 2002, and World Youth Day Madrid, Spain in  2011. I am preparing to lead a group to World Youth Day Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this July.

World Youth Day Denver was the only one that I attended strictly as a pilgrim. In Canada, I was part of an international volunteer alumni group from NET Ministries (National Evangelization Teams) who helped to facilitate the Catechetical Sessions and the Evening Vigil with Pope John Paul II. 

Then, for World Youth Day Madrid, I was a group leader. 

So each experience was different, but wonderful and life-changing. Each World Youth Day helped me to have a better sense of my vocation, what God was calling me to do at that time in my life, and a deeper sense of hope and trust in God's plan for me, my loved ones, and my whole life.

Also, at World Youth Day Toronto, I had a special experience when I saw Pope John Paul II. I wrote a little about it in this blogpost: "The Look of Love: My Encounter with Pope John Paul II"

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about some of my World Youth Day adventures, and I hope you'll consider attending one (or more!) yourself. As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lent Day 39: Holy Week Blessings

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I hope you all have a blessed Holy Week! I hopped on to say that Coffee Talk is going dark for the rest of Holy Week, so I'll see you after Easter!

Peace and blessings as you journey through the Paschal Mystery this week.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lent Day 38: the EXCITING NEWS!!!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

A blessed Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion to you all! Can you believe that Holy Week is upon us? This Lent is flying by, and soon it will be the glorious season of Easter!

I know it's still a week premature for that famous chorus from Handel's Messiah, but you can hum it, at least, while I share with you two pieces of exciting news!

Exciting piece of news #1:
I'm a day away from completing the seemingly never ending writing project for the new Parish Teacher Manuals for the Faith and Life Catechetical Series, published by Ignatius Press and Catholics United for the Faith!

Q: What are you talking about, Leslie?
A: Faith and Life is a religion textbook series for grades 1 - 8 that has been used primarily in Catholic schools, and they're updating the series to be comprehensive for catechetical programs in Catholic parishes. I have been writing the manuals for parish teachers (catechists) to use.

Q: How did you get hired for that job, Leslie?
A: I dunno. Really.

Q: Is it as glamorous as it seems? Describe a day in the life of a parish textbook author.
A: Picture me, sitting in my pajamas late at night, hunched over my laptop in a dimly lit room, with a crazy ponytail, until my eyes start burning or feel as though they are going to fall out of my head. It is very glamorous. And I will gladly autograph your copy when those badboys are in print.

Exciting piece of news #2:
I recently got a call from a friend I know from my grad school alma mater. Haven't heard from him in years. Just had vowed to never stay up late hunched over my laptop again after the Faith and Life thing is finally done, but truthfully knew that I cannot help myself from writing about Catholic stuff, even for my own leisure. Found out said friend was calling me to help him write a book! On Catholic stuff! Helping to explain Catholic stuff to people in terms that are easy to understand! Which is pretty much my favorite thing ever!

So he started a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the book. Look. I hate asking people for money. And it's still weird to me that people would give money to help some little ol' Catholic folk write a book. So I'm not going to ask you for money. But I am going to ask for your support in promoting this campaign, not just because I've been invited to be part of the writing team, but because I genuinely think it's a great idea, and a needed resource. People in the adult classes I teach ask for this kind of resource all the time, to be honest. So if you'd like to see a resource that breaks down Catholic teachings into terms easy to understand for the Every Day Man, would you check out the project? Put in a good word with the Big Guy (God, not Daddy Warbucks...or, on second thought, maybe both??), who has all the resources needed for said project? Spread the word to others who may be interested?

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!

Peace and all good,

Lent Day 37 (a day late): When Popes Collide

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Sorry I didn't post this last night -- the need for sleep got the best of me again. But the great news is that I'll post again tonight. And something EXCITING, too! So brace yourselves, and stay tuned!

It may seem like I've been posting Pope-related posts almost every day...and that's because, in fact, I have been! There's so much great papal news these days, I'd be remiss to not mention at least bit of it!

So first, check out this sweet article about Pope Francis personally calling his newpaper kiosk owner in Argentina to cancel his subscription. It even made me a little teary-eyed. What can I say; I'm a sucker for touching Papal stories!

Next, the TWO POPES HAD A MEETING! What an historic moment! Check out this article by Rocco Palmo, and this entry from The Sacred Page which includes video footage of the two Popes together. (Warning: it is mostly Benedict and Francis praying together at Castel Gandalfo, so it's not a lot of high-action footage -- haha!)

Blessings as you prepare for Holy Week (now only hours away!). Stay tuned for tonight's exciting news, my friends!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lent Day 36: Washing the Feet of Inmates

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Pope Francis has chosen to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday in a prison, where he will wash the feet of 12 inmates. Whew.

Here's an article about it. And also, a moving related commentary which also addresses the recent Steubenville rape case. Kyrie Eleison.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lent Day 35: Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

I hope you all enjoyed yesterday's day off of Lent and celebrated the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary! I know I did. When I went in to work and told some of my co-workers about the non-Lenten fiesta, our receptionist promptly agreed to go out and buy a decadent cake for all of us to share. I love working for the Catholic Church! :)

There are usually two Lenten solemnities: besides yesterday's, there's also the Annunciation, typically celebrated on March 24. However, this year since March 24 falls on on Palm Sunday, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is transferred to the Monday after Divine Mercy Sunday, April 8. So this means we only got one solemnity during Lent this year. That also means that we'll have an extra day of Lent this year. And, of course, it means that I celebrated doubly hard yesterday!

When one of the Lenten Solemnities falls on a Friday, we can eat meat! This happened two years ago, and won't happen again until March 24, 2017. I'm already planning to have In-N-Out that day!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lent Day 34.5: The SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH!!!

Hey, Coffee Talkers!

If you're reading this one hot off the press, what are you still doing up? Ah, well, no matter. What I'm here to let you know is that, while it was day 34 of Lent a few short hours ago, right now it IS NOT LENT because it's the SOLEMNITY OF ST. JOSEPH HUSBAND OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY!!! So get off of Coffee Talk! Eat some meat, sing the Gloria (but still no 'A' acclamation yet!), and do a jig! Watch the Papal Installation Mass! Have a party! CELEBRATE!

See ya back in Lent, y'all!

Peace and all good,

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lent Day 33: The Pope & the People on St. Patrick's Day!

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

Pope Francis continues (much to this dismay of his security personnel and Vatican advisors, I'm sure) to buck the trends and reach out to the people in new and moving ways. This makes me think of the early (pre-pope-mobile) days of the papacy of John Paul II. Enjoy!

As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,

P.S. The video is not showing up right now on Blogger Mobile, so if there's a big blank space above, try clicking here! :)