Crew Dragon Returns to Earth!

A couple months ago, we watched as NASA and SpaceX launched two astronauts for a mission to the International Space Station. It was the first time in a long time that US astronauts were launched in a US craft from US soil. Today, we got to watch the happy ending to that mission, as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico and both the spacecraft and the astronauts were successfully recovered.

Top 10 Things to Know for NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 Return | NASA
Image by NASA

Watching live on NASA TV was a fairly low-res event – most of the time, the images displayed were dim and hazy. But this did nothing to curb my excitement as we first saw images of Crew Dragon entering the Earth’s atmosphere, releasing the (counting… one… two!) drogue parachutes. Then, the four main chutes. Keeping pace with them as they decelerated (“Speed is nominal.”). And finally, SPLASHDOWN! (And, of course, the interminable waiting while they “sniffed” the spacecraft for hazardous gases and decontaminated it, before we could see the successful extraction of the astronauts.)

I took a few screen captures as I watched, but really, the actual photos from NASA are vastly superior. 🙂

These images would have you think that it was a crappy, hazy day at sea.
NASA astronauts emerge from SpaceX Dragon Capsule after splashing ...
NASA images paint a much better picture.
SpaceX return to Earth: How to watch Crew Dragon's NASA astronauts ...
Graphic of the sequence of events

“Welcome back to Planet Earth and thank you for flying SpaceX!”

Summer Study Plan

Ever since I ordered my iPad, I have been looking up productivity/study/organization tools and apps on YouTube, to see how others are using their iPads.

Digital note-taking has always been an interest of mine and I’ve tried multiple versions from taking notes on a laptop in Word, to using an Echo pen to record my handwriting along with audio from the lecture.

Two of the apps that I am the most excited to explore are GoodNotes 5 and Notion. GoodNotes is a note-taking app that allows for a lot of flexibility, and has some great features like the zoom box and automatically straightening my perpetually crooked lines. I’ve been playing with that for a few weeks now and love it.

Samuel Suresh doesn’t have a ton of YouTube videos, but the ones that he has posted are quite good.

He takes very creative notes. In this video, as he is talking about the diagram of the heart, he mentions a resource called Crash Course. I looked into this, and it is a website run by the Green brothers that offers free educational videos.

I had been toying around with creating a more structured study regime for myself, to motivate me to do something besides work and Netflix/YouTube…

Enter, Notion. Notion is an app that I just learned about yesterday, via StudyCollab on YouTube. It can do a lot of different things, including project management, wikis, file management, calendaring, collaboration…. Alicia has been using it for her university work, which seemed to fit in nicely with my studying interests.

She was kind and linked a copy of the template she uses for her university work in the description of her video.

With these tools, I’ve come up with a plan…

Because I’m a big nerd and also hate the idea of “free time,” I’ve decided that I’m going to study a different subject every day:

  • Mondays – Language (Mondays are incomprehensible anyway)
  • Tuesdays – Government (since voting happens on Tuesdays…)
  • Wednesdays – Anatomy (Hump Day! –> camels –> biology)
  • Thursdays – Literature (What better than classics on Throwback Thursdays??)
  • Fridays – Research Day (this is where I can do whatever I want)
  • Saturdays – Study Skills (I liked the alliteration)
  • Sundays – Theology (what else?)

I’ve even made a calendar from today through the end of August, outlining exactly which lessons I’ll be doing on which days.

The only thing left to decide is which language I want to study. I put a poll up on my Instagram, to have people vote for either Italian or Chinese. Right now, the vote is split 50/50. I’ll give it until tomorrow morning, then make a choice.

It looks like Thursdays are not filled in for Literature, but really, that’s because I don’t know how long it will take me to read each book. The course has a bunch of different books they discuss, but I feel that to get the most out of the course, I’ll want to make sure that I read the book first. The first book on the list is Romeo and Juliet, so that should be fairly quick. Each week, if I haven’t finished the book yet, I’ll use that designated time to read more in it. This also has the added benefit of forcing me to read more classics (something I always intend to do).

Do you have any self-improvement plans for the summer? Anything that you are doing during these quarantine days that hadn’t previously been a part of your routine?

I’m Going to Mars!

Well, not technically. But I did sign up to participate in a NASA media program.

“When Perseverance launches to Mars, it will carry three dime-size chips with 10.9 million names submitted by people all over the world. Those who already submitted their names can get a special “Now Boarding” stamp on their boarding passes….”

Mars.NASA.gov

Below is my mission badge!

This is really exciting! I cannot wait until they send people to Mars!

Launch is currently scheduled for July 30th at 7 am EDT.

Tiny Photographers

I am coming to love handing over my phone to my goddaughter and her sisters. I always get cute videos and photos. It’s so special to be able to see the world through their eyes and hear their ideas and stories when they are playing on their own.

These are some pretty successful images: of flowers near the rectory, and a kid’s perspective photo of her parents.

I love how she included so many photos of her feet. As adults, how often to we take the time to document the kids in their tiny shoes? Or look at the sidewalk?

All images in this post (except for this one), are courtesy of #RosaliaMercyC!

The Reading Rush 2020

July 20-26, 2020

Ariel Bissett created the “BookTubeAThon” readathon in 2013. It has grown from there and is now known as “The Reading Rush.” It is a week-long readathon with some challenges and giveaways if you participate online. I’m always up for reading and challenges!

The Reading Challenges

  1. Read a book with a cover that matches the color of your birth stone.
  2. Read a book that starts with the word “the”.
  3. Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seen.
  4. Read the first book you touch.
  5. Read a book completely outside of your house.
  6. Read a book in a genre that you’ve already wanted to read more of.
  7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you live.

My Lineup

  1. “88 Days to Kandahar” by Robert L. Grenier
    • This one fulfills #4. I reached over to my unread bookshelf with my eyes closed and this is the book I picked.
    • One line synopsis: “The improbable true story of America’s first war in Afghanistan.”
  2. “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw
    • This one fulfills #3 and #6. I always want to read more classics, but find it hard to select them when I’m looking for my next read.
    • This book inspired the 1999 movie, “She’s All That.”
    • One line synopsis: “All of them deal with a man creating a beautiful and perfect woman out of something imperfect, and then falling in love with her.”
    • This looks to be the shortest book at 98 pages, so it’s likely the one I will use for #5. I’ll try to read this one outside vs. modifying the challenge. I may have to buy a comfy outdoor chair….
  3. “The Memory Key” by Liana Liu
    • This one fulfills #2.
    • One line synopsis: “Remember everything. Forgive nothing.”
  4. “War Girls” by Tochi Onyebuchi
    • This one fulfills #1 and #7. My birthstone is an aqua/turquoise color. This book takes place in a future Nigeria.
    • One line synopsis: “In a post-apocalyptic Nigeria plagued by violence and political unrest, two sisters dream of peace, hope, and a future together.”

Other Fun Activities

Read-In on Wednesday, July 22, at 6 pm.

Reading Rush Book Club: “Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid. I’ve already read this book, but I might join the book discussion live show on July 25 at 2 pm EDT. For the book club, they will be using hashtags #rrsuchafunage and #rrbookclub on social media.

LOTR Buddy Read: Fellowship Ch. 1-7

Several of my friends mentioned that they were going to read or re-read The Lord of the Rings series this summer, so I has been on my mind to re-read them myself. I have read them, but it’s been quite some time and I’m not overly familiar with the plot or all of the characters.

However, it wasn’t until my friend, Katie, started posting as she read on Facebook that I was really motivated to read it now. I’m quite far behind her (she’s already on Return of the King, and for me, Frodo and company are just leaving Tom Bombadil’s house), so I spent some time creeping on her Facebook page to see what her comments were at each point. This will make my buddy-read a little asynchronous.

(A quick comment about formatting…. I think I’d like – for myself – to write these out on my blog, so that I can reference them later in their entirety. However, I’ll also be cross-posting to Facebook, to allow others to participate/comment as they wish. Because I love sharing stories with others. There will be spoilers and, in general, these will be my initial reactions vs. anything really well thought out.)

Chapter 1: A Long-Expected Party

I’m not really sure what to think of Bilbo; he seems rather rude and condescending to other hobbits. At some point in the distant past, I’ve read these books before, but not particularly attentively. I’ve watched some of the movies (but still haven’t made it through The Hobbit) and the scene where Gandalf is trying to get Bilbo to leave the Ring felt more oppressive and ominous than in the book version. Bilbo is kind of a jerk with the presents he left – highlighting flaws in others.

(My first encounter with Bilbo was when we were assigned The Hobbit to read in the 7th grade. I didn’t want to read it and I kept calling him Biblo.)

Chapter 2: The Shadow of the Past

It was a little surprising to me that Frodo got to be 50 years old before his adventure began. Also, if hobbits’ lifespans aren’t that much longer than humans’, why don’t Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin have wives and families? Gandalf seems to be far more cautious about drawing conclusions than I am. Was Sméagol always evil/selfish/murderous, or was that just the influence of the Ring? The Ring seems to corrupt more quickly and more fully the more the owner wears it and uses its powers.

Chapter 3: Three is Company

What of the morality of Frodo selling Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses, when he knew that the Enemy was coming after the Ring and knew the name “Baggins”? The Sackville-Bagginses may have been grasping after Bag End for some time, but did they deserve death?

Frodo kind of complains a lot – his heavy pack, how much weight he will lose on the journey – before they even begin. Is he really this self-absorbed, or is he more nervous than he lets on?

Sam seems to be portrayed as a bit bumbling and naive, but he’s shouldering adversity and change remarkably well.

I do not trust these cloaked riders sniffing around. Why are they deterred by the Elves?

Chapter 4: A Short Cut to Mushrooms

Sam is shown to be more thoughtful and perceptive than he was initially made out to be. I’m kind of getting a Mary vibe from him. Frodo is the focus and Sam is happy to support him however he can and ponders things within his heart.

All of their songs remind me of the cadences sung at march in the military.

Already, we can see how much Frodo needs his friends – Pippin gave good advice about the road being quicker (that fortuitously wasn’t taken) and helped immeasurably with Farmer Maggot.

Mrs. Maggot was a little funny with gifting Frodo a basket of mushrooms when he used to steal their mushrooms as a youth. Maybe Bilbo wasn’t so much of a jerk before, and hobbits just like to give snarky presents?

Chapter 5: A Conspiracy Unmasked

I low key love all of Frodo’s friends right now, when they tell him they know all about his mission and refuse to let him go into danger alone.

What is the tall, white tower that Frodo dreams of?

I’m kinda mad at Frodo for not having left earlier. I know, it increases the plot tension….

Katie

Hmmm…. I get where Katie’s coming from. As a third-party observer, we are sitting here with our popcorn, yelling at him to get going before the Enemy catches up with him. But, I think it makes a lot of sense for Frodo to drag his heels here. Hobbits are the homebodies of the fantasy creatures in this world, so leaving Hobbiton has to be hard for him – I get that he wants to stay as long as possible and drink it all in, especially if he thinks it’s likely he may never return.

Birthday celebrations and gift-giving seems to be a pretty big part of hobbit culture, so I get why he wants to have one more birthday at home.

Chapter 6: The Old Forest

“They do say the trees do actually move…” – Ents?

“But the hobbits came and cut down hundreds of trees, and made a great bonfire in the Forest…” – now I’m a little horrified. How did the trees and the hobbits become enemies? Who was the first aggressor?

It’s funny how the forest herded them. Sam catching on that their sudden sleepiness is suspicious – he’s a smart cookie!

Tom Bombadil sings and the trees obey. The hobbits arrive at Tom’s house and are bathed in a golden light. He’s such an interesting character. I’m not sure what to make of him.

Chapter 7: In the House of Tom Bombadil

Frodo: “Who is Tom Bombadil?” Goldberry: “He is.”

Tower in the middle of a circular plain, an old man and an eagle – Frodo’s dreams seem prophetic.

Very odd were Tom’s interactions with the Ring. Frodo just gave it over (with no resistance) and Tom didn’t become invisible when he put it on. Tom seems to be able to see Frodo when Frodo has the Ring on.

I’m a little confused over the significance of this interlude at Tom’s house. What am I missing?

This is Not How You Do It

If you are part of the paper planner community, you know things are blowing up this week. Easy Reader News published the article, Mira Costa High Class of 2020 forges new tradition from pandemic on June 14, 2020. This became a planner community issue because the article features Erin Condren (a member of the parents’ graduation committee) and her twin children (graduating seniors who are student body president and senior class president, respectively). Erin is the founder of one of the most well-known planner companies, which bears her name.

It points out how the pandemic has affected this graduating class and what they have done to celebrate despite state regulations and recommendations from healthcare experts.

The initial plan from the school administration was to “present students their diplomas in the football stadium in groups of 50.” Small groups, socially distanced, and livestreamed, with no parents in attendance to further reduce the density of people at the event. This was in line with their county’s health department guidelines. This plan was ultimately rejected by the health department on June 8th.

Instead, they had the graduates arrive in individual cars by family, walk across the stage and receive their diplomas alone. The family could roll down the car windows and take photos, but could not get out of the cars. All parties were to wear masks. This was June 11th.

The week before the health department rejection, on June 2nd, people marched from Manhattan Beach to protest against systemic racism and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The county allowed the march in protest, but disallowed the original graduation plan, so after the school’s scheduled graduation event – which took 7.5 hours – the graduates gathered and “marched” together, while ignoring social distancing and primarily not wearing masks.

I feel for the graduates. They were not able to participate in a lot of the traditional “senior year” activities. Social distancing is difficult. Being separated from your friends is lonely. It feels like this has been an eternity.

This wasn’t something that the students did in secret, but it was reported that the parents were cheering from nearby balconies. The Vice Principal of the high school was at the beach in support of this gathering. I have more softness in my heart for the ignorance and self-focus of the graduates vs. the adults – consideration of others is something you learn and grow in as you live.

BUT…. What About Public Safety?

Restrictions were put in place for public safety reasons. Viruses do not care about traditions, celebrations, jobs, grief, or any other consideration – no matter how honorable. They just replicate. I truly believe that the actions taken by governments and agencies around the world have been done in good faith, to try and preserve life. Individual decisions may have turned out to be good or bad, but I believe they attempt to make the best possible decision with the information available at the time. We have seen lots of people die from COVID-19, and many others get very sick. We have seen our health system put under an enormous strain. We have seen record numbers of people out of work and scared about how they are going to pay rent and put food on the table. We continue to see workplaces having to make difficult decisions in order to remain open and financially viable. We haven’t yet seen the full impact of this pandemic.

So, for me, to so blatantly disregard the health officials in this area and decide to gather in a large group without any masks is not just inadvisable, but morally wrong. It is a slap in the face to the medical workers and first responders who are trying to flatten the curve, so that if you come down with this illness, they will have the capacity to treat you. It’s offensive to people who put their lives and the lives of their family members on the line because they have jobs that put them in contact with people who have COVID-19 or who may be asymptomatic carriers of the Coronavirus – by doing this, you are directly increasing the risk to them. It is an affront to the people who have lost their jobs because we stayed home and their business lost money. Is this celebration more important than their suffering?

BUT…. What About Systemic Racism Issues?

“The county could ban students from gathering but not from marching.”

I’ve seen many people talk about this event as a hallmark display of white privilege in action. And I tend to agree with them. I do not believe that if a similar event were to happen among a group of black high school graduates, that they would be lauded in a news article praising them for finding a way to beat the system.

Protests against systemic racism are necessary and the experiences of black people need to be heard. Our society needs to change. Trivializing this by using a co-opting a “march” in order to get around public safety restrictions is … irresponsible? horrible? appalling? I cannot find the right word for how I feel about that.

Protesting and marching isn’t for just any reason. It’s because the subject matter is important. In this example, it wasn’t that the students were not being allowed to celebrate their graduation. In fact, this happened an HOUR after their sanctioned graduation event. Being able to have the party you want isn’t a right that you protest about. Actual human rights and human dignity are what you protest about and march for.

BUT…. What About Disregard for the Law?

“We even talked about putting hula hoops on the beach for each student, so if the authorities said it was an illegal gathering, they could start hula hooping and say it was an exercise class.”

Erin Condren

Teaching children and young adults to lie to cover-up an illegal activity. That’s what this statement is. It’s not cute. It’s not helpful. And it’s not fair to the countless people across the world who ARE doing the right thing.

It’s also in horribly bad taste considering the current social climate regarding official authority, police brutality, and systemic racism. I don’t know how a parent can casually advise a child to lie to police for an activity they know is illegal, when other parents have to counsel their children on how to appear docile and cooperative during a routine traffic stop because there is a real concern that they could be hurt, abused, or killed because of their skin color.

What Do We Do Now?

I’m disappointed and angry, as I know many other people are. Certainly a lot of people in the planner community own her products. I don’t necessarily feel that abandoning them would do a lot of good – that money is already spent. You can choose to not advertise for her company or not to purchase from her company. You can choose to purchase from black companies or anti-racist companies. It was the individual who contributed to this event, and not the people who work for the brand that bears her name, but there is something to be said about finances being a motivator for change.

I believe that people can change and grow and I believe in the power of and need for forgiveness when an injustice or sin has been committed.

For the larger issues that this event revealed, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions:

  • We need to stop being selfish and think about how our actions impact others.
  • We – especially white people in a position of privilege – have to listen and learn. Then, act as allies, supporters, and encouragers.
  • Act with your wallet. Support black businesses, give to charities that help to dismantle systemic racism.
  • Educate yourself.
  • Add more cultural diversity into your life. Are you reading and watching content with diversity?
  • Do not let microaggressions slide or think that it is not your responsibility to stand up for what is right.
  • Pray.
  • Forgive.
  • Help each other heal.

Every single person has worth and dignity in the eyes of God. The holiest thing you will ever encounter in your life – outside of God Himself – is another human being.

Launch America

I’ve always been fascinated with space exploration. There’s something very awe-inspiring about it. And something very human in our curiosity to know and push the boundaries of what is possible. If you ask my brother what my favorite book is, he will likely sigh heavily before telling you that it is “The Martian.” I’ve read it over 35 times at this point. When I was stationed in Orlando, we could often see the unique corkscrew contrail patterns from a launch from Cape Canaveral.

I was excited to hear that NASA and SpaceX were going to be launching the first American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil since 2011. The launch took place today at 3:22 pm EDT, and I was able to watch online! There’s a lot more information about the mission on the NASA website.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center.
Liftoff!
Left: View of the astronauts and cockpit; Right: First-stage Falcon 9 booster headed back to Earth.
Falcon 9 rocket booster during its reentry burn.
Everyone in Mission Control is wearing a mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship.
The Falcon 9 booster landed on the droneship.

There was just something about this launch that grabbed at my heart, similar to how I feel during every Olympic Games when the whole world comes together. I loved hearing the wishes of “Godspeed!” for the astronauts. During a post-launch interview with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, he was asked what his thoughts and feelings were at the moment of the launch. He replied, “I was praying!”

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 31, 2020, at 10:29 am EDT, the Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley is scheduled to dock wit the International Space Station. You can watch the docking live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.

*Images courtesy of NASA.

Ignite Conference 2020: Day 1

As I was signing up on Eventbrite for Mass on Sunday, this conference was suggested to me. Since it is Pentecost weekend, the topic of the conference is appropriately Evangelization. It is hosted by a Dominican order from Ireland, but they do have some international speakers, including Ralph Martin and Scott Hahn.

I came into the conference a little late, so there was a section with Fr. Mike Schmitz and a panel on Evangelization and Youth that I missed. But here are some of the things talked about in the other sessions along with a few of my thoughts.

Panel on Evangelization in the Family

One suggestion was to try to minimize your outward displays of anger or impatience with your spouse, particularly in front of your children. A practical way to do this could be to remind yourself frequently, “I freely chose this person and gave them my whole heart and my trust.”

It sounds simple and pretty obvious advice, right? Just don’t fight, kids! But in practice it can be very difficult. Any relationship between two flawed individuals is going to have some bumps along the way, and we are all flawed. The extent to which you are able to control your reactions can depend on a multitude of factors, including your base temperament (and your spouse’s), external stressors, and how far along you are in growing in virtue. You can help your relationship by committing every day to outdoing your spouse in honoring the other, by looking at situations from their perspective, and by praying and taking your struggles to the Lord.

One question that came up was, “In a mixed marriage, how can you evangelize without disrupting the marriage bond?” They stated that it’s very important to respect each other and love each other. Like Mother Teresa said, “Love until it hurts.” What you do have in common (regarding the faith), share as a family.

Ralph Martin

How essential is the call to holiness? It is what the Holy Spirit has been emphasizing since the second Vatican Council. It is the same holiness, the same conformation to Christ for all. This is why we need to learn to love each other more and more as brothers and sisters, and re-emphasize the power of Pentecost in evangelization.

What is a good definition of holiness? Jesus teaches us:

And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Mark 13:32-33. RSV-SCE.

It’s not about increasing acts of piety (unless you are competing with Fr. Lee for Piety Points), but to grow in love and transform your heart. Hate what God hates; what God hates is sin.

In his book, “The Fulfillment of All Desire,” Therese remarks about saying Yes to our identity: holiness isn’t a burden, it’s a blessing. God is trying to give to us so that we can experience the fullness of His love. However, we are often the ones getting in our own way. We know we are called to holiness…

BUT I’m just a lay person. Every single one of us is called to holiness. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We reflect something of God Himself just by existing. If you are baptized, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling within you and are called to be preacher, prophet, and king.

BUT … later. We have the illusion that there will be some better time in our life that will allow us to become more serious about our faith life. There will not be a better time than right now. Why would you postpone a greater freedom/love/apostolic fruitfulness/blossoming of your vocation?

BUT there’s no way I can do what the saints have done. The lives of the saints can inspire us, but they can also discourage us. We can think that we don’t have what it takes and decide instead to aim for Purgatory. There are two problems with this. First, nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say to aim for Purgatory. What He does say is to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. And to pick up your cross every day and follow Him. Denying our disordered desires is the only way. Second, we don’t always hit the targets we are aiming for. If we aim for Heaven and miss, thanks be to God there is Purgatory, which can purify us of the sins we still clung to at the time of our death. However, if we aim for Purgatory and miss….

St. John Paul II gives us some practical wisdom. Principles that govern the spiritual journey:

  • The spiritual journey is totally dependent on the grace of God.
    • There is a secret about reliance upon God and becoming a beggar before the Lord and pleading to Him to change our stony hearts.
    • St. Therese is a great teacher. She showed us how helpful it can be to turn your perspective from seeing the Lord from the perspective of the world, to looking at the world from the arms of the Lord.
    • You can trust the Lord. He has the ability to care for you. Know of the pureness of His love for you. He will never leave you.
  • Our effort is necessary.
    • Go to the most fearful place in your soul. Say, with faith, “Jesus, I trust in You.” Think about your death and trust Jesus for all those things: for the perfect timing/method of your death, for the people you will be leaving behind, for your purification.
    • We need to give the effort of paying attention to God. The main way we do this is via prayer.
    • We have to say Yes. God will not force us to love Him against our will.
    • Today is an opportunity for you. If you’ve hardened your heart against the Lord, today is an opportunity to reconcile yourself to Him.
    • What about the sins of the Church? Despite all the weaknesses, we hold this treasure (of our faith) in earthen vessels (sometimes translated as cracked pots). Just because the container is faulty, it doesn’t follow that the treasure is any less treasure. For all the problems, the Church still contains the fullness of the faith handed down by Jesus.
  • There are some painful dimensions to the process of purification. We have a basic disorder on our soul from Original Sin, wounds from the sins of others, and our own sins.
  • Even though it takes effort and can be painful, there is nothing better that you can do but to desire every day to make progress in your spiritual life. The more you come in harmony with God’s life, the better you will be a light in the lives of others.

St. Therese used to fall asleep during prayer. And the purpose of the Carmelite life was to pray! She wasn’t discouraged because she knew that God would still love her through that. Even sleepy, distracted prayer times can be efficacious. Persevering in personal prayer is important.

Turn away from those things which are impeding your union with God. Sin never helps. The very nature of temptation is to say, “Hey! This sin will help!” However, it always wounds the soul and sets us further back from the communion and peace that we desire.

What are some serious sins that we do not talk about? Environmental concern is important, but it may not send you to Hell. There are many resources which talk about the gravity of sexual sin: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, St. Paul’s teachings, Revelation…. Sins against the body are serious because we are one body and one spirit with Jesus. We cannot be complicit with going along with the culture’s message that these things aren’t important. St. Augustine was enslaved to sexual sin and could not free himself of his own willpower. He did what he could and eventually God provided him the grace to be delivered from this.

After we turn away from serious sin, we still need to chase after venial sins. There are inadvertent venial sins (the residue of our fallen nature) and advertent venial sins (E.g. I know I shouldn’t, but this is just a little thing.). However, it’s no little thing to knowingly offend God. Decide that you never want to freely offend the Lord, even in small matters.

St. Francis de Sales talks about affection for sin. Maybe you are not longer committing a sin, but you have a nostalgia for it, or maybe you are thinking about it, even if you do not commit the sin. Any indulgence of temptation, you need to release to the Lord.

  • The Hebrews could have made the journey to the Promised Land in 8 days, but it took 40 years because their nostalgia for sin (Egypt) delayed their spiritual progress.
  • We need to close some doors and not leave them open. We need to go through the One Door of Jesus.

There are four main ways Jesus is present to us: Eucharist, priests, the Word of God, and the indwelling presence of God. During the quarantine, we didn’t have access to the first two of these, but we still had access to the second two. We need to learn to live the Christian life within ourselves and not rely solely on external sources of grace. We need to be able to carry on the faith no matter what.

Panel on Evangelization in Media

Wendy Grace/Katie Ascough (Called to More)

Being able to access faith-filled content is great, but it’s very important to have access to faith-filled content that is local to you, where you can hear truth being proclaimed in your own language by people speaking with your accent, and providing insights and examples from your own culture.

Radio is a great medium for evangelization because it is commonly seen as a friend, as something approachable and non-threatening. Christian music in particular can be very powerful, and it is recommended that you start your children listening to it at a young age. As a parent, have you looked up the lyrics on the top 10 songs being played on secular radio? It is shocking the messages that are being consumed by our young people.

“I’m not a Catholic journalist; I’m a journalist who happens to be Catholic. It’s just part of who I am.” We need to bring our faith into all corners of our lives. Be bold in your faith! Others are likely more curious than anything.

Regarding the use of media during the pandemic, it has been fairly inline with the percentage of the faithful who attend Mass in person: we may have lost some who are not technically-inclined, but are gaining some people who are tech-savvy, but who haven’t ventured to a Mass.

It can be helpful for people who have young children. Trying to get to a holy hour may be a struggle, but having the flexibility to have access to praise and worship online and be able to attend from your home can help to share the faith with your children.

Brian O’Driscoll

Brian leads the apostolate, Paving the Way Home, that seeks to explain what the Church teaches and why. In Ireland, they have a very devotional faith, but it may lack in scholarship and deeper understanding.

He is starting two new Podcasts: Paving the Way Home Podcast and Faith and Reason Podcast.

St. John Paul II told us to go to all the marketplaces and proclaim the Gospel. All of our young people are involved in the internet in some way. Be bold and step out of your comfort zone. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life and how your sharing of your faith may affect them.

Dominic

Alpha is about the person-to-person contact and primary evangelization. How do you do evangelization when you cannot physically bring people together? Many parishes have started to run Alpha online. They’ve found that people are still finding this to work, because people may be more comfortable being in their own homes and this security allows them to talk about deep issues. Babysitting and other related barriers to participation are removed.

Post-pandemic, will these online offerings continue? This is a fascinating question. Online evangelization will not go away. Even older people in our society have internet access these days. The challenge is what do you do online? How do you make the most of it?

Sister Miriam Heidland SOLT

I didn’t catch a lot of this session, as I popped over to the NASA/SpaceX launch, but the first question addressed was, “What am I supposed to be doing with this time (COVID pandemic/quarantine) and what does it mean?” Sister Miriam relayed a word that she received from the Lord that this is a very sacred time that you won’t get again. So we are to be attentive to the workings of God in our lives. And to soften our hearts anywhere they are hard or afraid.

Tomorrow’s Agenda

Join me tomorrow for the final day of the conference: Ignite: Be a Light in the Darkness. I’ve converted the times below to Eastern Daylight Time. Ireland is 5 hours ahead of EDT.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

  • 8 am – Mass – Bishop Fintan
  • 9 am – Ralph Martin
  • 10 am – Have your say: Interactive panel on Evangelizing Culture
  • 11 am – Patrick Tacey
  • 11:30 am – Have your say: Interactive panel on Catholic Education
  • 12:15 pm – Fr. Mike Schmitz
  • 1:15 pm – Evening Prayer
  • 2 pm – Have your say: Interactive panel on Evangelization Ireland 2020
  • 3 pm – Dr. Scott Hahn

New Photography Toy!

It’s been a hot minute since the last time I got a new toy to aid my photography habit.

There have been a lot of random things which have entered my Amazon cart for consideration. Usually they sit in there for quite some time, while I decide if they are worth my money.

This one snuck in there one evening after looking at some planner photos from Instagram and looking at the lighting. I am not, in general, a studio photographer. I do have some studio lights, but I tend to prefer natural light, macro photography. However, having uneven, poor lighting for my planner photos (not that I’m at all consistent in taking them) is irksome.

So I bought a light box. It has a front opening and top view port, and two USB light bars to provide more even lighting (it gets pretty bright). It also comes with four colored inserts (blue, gray, white, and black) and folds up to be more portable.

In an ideal world, I would have purchased a slightly larger version, so that I could get a good photo of my planner laying flat without seeing the edges of the light box, but this works well enough for my purposes, and doesn’t have the price tag of some of the larger light boxes.

I think the results are pretty good!