Monthly Archives: May 2020

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!

Spaceship You

Yesterday, our senior director shared this cute video with us. It talks about caring for both our physical and mental health while we are sheltering in place, and how creating distinct functional areas within our homes (and being diligent about reserving certain tasks for only that space) can help us to be more focused on the task at hand.

Lockdown Productivity: Spaceship You

The couch helped you … couch ….

My favorite line from the video!

I felt personally attacked by this video. 🙂 I have been dealing with wound healing issues for quite a while and have been largely restricted to my bed (I *wish* I had the run of the entire house!). So, creating different stations within my house for different tasks has been impossible. My bed has been my sleep/work/recreation station and exercise has not even been on the agenda. (It’s amazing how much you need your feet for!)

Blessedly, last weekend I was finally able to walk around a little bit and have been slowly increasing what I am able to do around the house. Today is the first day that I’ve attempted wearing socks and shoes! I have really missed that!

The video mentions that if both your physical and mental health are suffering, it may be easier to try to work on improving your physical health first. Which is probably why I spent a good amount of time last night researching bicycles. LOL! I’ve wanted one for a while, especially since Gabby is learning how to ride a bike now. There is a lot of stuff that you need! Bike, kickstand, helmet, storage, bike lock, carrier for your car… I think I have everything picked out, but I’ll pause that decision for just a bit.

I’m a planner girl and I love making order out of chaos (although, I’m also pretty talented about creating that chaos in the first place). So I was really motivated by the video to take a new look at my “spaceship” and see how I can make personal improvements. Also, lucky for me, I have a metric ton of planners, productivity journals, list pads, sticky notes, and pens at arms reach to assist me!

Exercise Station

This will take some thought, especially as I am still healing. I’ll keep bicycling in mind, but will likely start with short walks (and build up) and some free weights. Having contingency plans for inclement weather and other obstacles will be key to maintaining a good schedule.

Sleep Station

I generally do pretty well with falling asleep, and I typically get up at the same time every morning without an alarm. The part I need to work on is going to bed at a reasonable hour and getting up in the middle of the night. I’m fairly used to operating on little sleep, but I’m interested in finding a better balance here.

Recreation Station

This station runs amok all around the house! Usually into the Sleep and Creation stations. I have made a little headway in this area by cleaning off the kitchen table and putting my personal computer there. Even before watching this video, I had tried to make a cognitive distinction in tasks by leaving my desk after the workday is completed and moving to the kitchen if I wanted to watch YouTube, etc. Just a small change in scenery to tell myself that the workday is done (otherwise, it’s really easy to just keep working – there’s nowhere else for me to go, after all!).

I’ve tried to find recreational activities that I can use to connect with others. Since I live alone, I really miss human interaction! I bought a Nintendo Switch Lite (for entertainment when I was stuck in bed) and have jumped on the Animal Crossing bandwagon. It’s a cute game and I have been able to play with my brother (hopefully, with more friends soon!). I’m also buddy-reading a book with another friend.

Creation Station

I find this station the most interesting. What to do for personal growth during this time? I always have it in the back of my mind to blog – I miss it, but I’m horrible about completing posts. I must have a million drafts, but I try too hard to make them perfect before I publish and as more time passes, I don’t circle back. “Done is better than perfect,” is a phrase I’ll need to keep in mind.

I’ve also taken advantage of some of the language software out there and will see if I can gain more foreign language skills during my time in space. The hardest question is which one to focus on first?

I’ve joined a Bible study (Ruth) through our parish, which helps feed me spiritually as well as give me a small group to talk to and share my ideas.

Being creative with my planning is always a fun pastime for me. I’ve been doing really well with meal planning and daily to-dos, and am eager to create more structure and accountability into my days.

A friend recently sent me a card – just to say that she was thinking of me and provide some encouragement. I think this is a great idea, so I’ll make sure to spend some time writing *actual letters* to my friends.

Creation Station is probably the hardest for me to control, since I always want to do ALL THE THINGS. But, ultimately, I think I’ll feel more accomplished if I try to limit what I do and actually follow through on that. Check one thing off, *then* start the next thing.

Your Spaceship

As the video says, we are all alone …. together. How are you maintaining your Spaceship You? I’d love to hear (and see!) your ideas.

Stay happy and healthy!