Monday, February 16, 2009

The Experience

At the last meeting I talked about "burnout". I started it with the Psalm 22 (the laments of an innocent man). I read verses 1-22 which portray the sufferings of a man experiencing what we refer to today as "burnout". What I didn't get to talk about was the rest of the psalm where not only the tortured soul rejoices in the Lord, but so do all the nations and peoples of the world. I'm learning that this "burnout", "dark night of the soul", "desolation", or whatever you want to call it that we experience is not something we must fight. It is our response to the grace we receive in the sacraments. That suffering for a greater glory that is not our own is our pat on the back, our reassurance, our "well done my good and faithful servant". Therefore, this "burnout" is not something to fear, resist, pull yourself out of, or anything at all like that. This "burnout" is something we rejoice in and sing "Hallelujah" for because it then frees us to truly experience the power of faith, hope and love that only comes from God. It is much more than feeling. Much more than knowing. It is truly and sincerely experiencing it in ways that no blog post, no catechesis, no words, no talk, no song, no one prayer can fully encapsulate and convey. It is in these moments where we experience the reality of Christ in our interior lives rather than just our mind, heart and soul. It is our interior life that we truly experience and respond to God's grace with. I can only pray for more experiences like this.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


To lead people, walk beside them ...
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.
The next best, the people honor and praise.
The next, the people fear;
and the next, the people hate ...
When the best leader's work is done the people say,
"We did it ourselves!"
- Lao-tsu

“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
- John Quincy Adams

Monday, February 2, 2009


It still resonates in my head...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Your move, chief

Tomorrow night I pick up my family at LAX as they return from the Philippines. I'm still jet-lagged and my sleeping schedule is off. One week is definitely not long enough in the Philippines.

During the week I was in the Philippines I had an amazing experience. Life changing, actually.

I got to meet a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins on my dad's side that I've never met in my whole life. This is a big deal to me, because I've always wanted to meet them. I never really met or knew of my dad's side of the family until 2008. Then, in the beginning of 2009 I get to meet the majority of my dad's siblings and their families. It really was heartwarming and truly made me value family. I finally got to see what the Pangindian clan is all about.

My brother got married. The wedding was beautiful to say the least. The priest, Fr. John Cordero, is actually Ryan Roxas' uncle and it was his birthday on the day of my brother's wedding! Crazy small world! It was the first Catholic wedding I really got to experience and be a part of. I couldn't have been more honored and blessed to be involved with the sacrament that my brother and his wife took part in. The reception was good times; and it was great to be surrounded by family and friends. And plus, Jay and Rachelle were able to make it out to the wedding & reception! I haven't been that happy in a long time, and it was because I was surrounded by love that day.

Just from looking back at the whole trip and the experience of it all, I am completely humbled, appreciative and more motivated than ever before. I can say that it was a life-changing experience because of all the transitions I got to witness. I saw my brother transition into a sacramental marriage. I watched Obama's inauguration and saw America transition into a new era.

I also saw my perspective of my life in America transition into something greater than what I had previously thought it to be..let me explain: My most memorable moments of the Philippines were all the times I sat in the van while being driven through the cities only to see poor people all around going about their lives. I saw domestic servants working for wealthier families. I saw people living in landfills. This was important to me because I saw how hopeless these people were in terms of social mobility in the Philippines. This made me think of the America I was going to return to and all the opportunities I have that they don't. How can I continue to live so carelessly and half-ass my way through these amazing blessings I have?! I can't continue to just do the status-quo in order to pass a class. I can't just waste my time and let me talents go to waste when I could be honing certain skills...not anymore. Obama's campaign ran on the slogan "Yes We Can". I do believe that we can, however, what's more important is that we MUST. I must! And I will. Not just because I should or I want to, but for the mere fact that "I Can" when so many others cannot. So many others would give their lives just to eat the food I eat, attend the university I attend, wear the clothes on my back or work at the office I work in. For these people that couldn't even dream of such luxuries, I will strive to achieve my full potential with humility and a responsibility for the less fortunate.

At the same time, from a country that seemed so poor I felt like I was surrounded by riches. There is just something about the culture, the food, and most importantly, the family in the Philippines. In whatever endeavors I pursue and whatever successes may come my way, I cannot afford to lose the riches of family that I have been graced with. I got to see not just my extended family bond, but my immediate family bond in a way that I haven't seen in such a long time. I saw my father and mother in love. I saw my new sister welcomed into the family. And I saw the two older brothers that I always looked up to be not just my brothers, but my friends. I love my family, and part of my newfound motivation is dedicated in their honor.

So here I am back at home. I am traveled, humbled, motivated and most of all loved. I have countless opportunities available to me. It is now my obligation to my family (both here and in the Philippines), God and the world that I make the most out of my life. I thought I knew so much already. I thought I was already pretty wise by my faith and experience. No, perhaps the most important lesson I learned in the Philippines is realizing how much I did not know. It was revealed to me how much of myself I did not know. I discovered a piece of myself over there, and the only way to do this past trip justice is to bring that piece of myself back with me here before the rest of the world and God. It took me a while to let everything I had experienced marinate in my head and figure things out. However, after watching Good Will Hunting last night it all made sense...the experience of life and making the most of it... Robin Williams performed this monologue in that movie...I think it best explains how i feel God was speaking to me in the Philippines... especially regarding my faith life:

So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.

If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.

You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.

I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you.

You don’t know about real loss, ‘cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart.

You’re an orphan right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally… I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some fuckin’ book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say.

Your move, chief.

P.S.- i saw Andrew Laguna when I got off my plane at LAX. He was holding up a sign "SJ". I asked him what he was doing there and he told me he was there to pick up a Filipino Jesuit priest that, apparently, was on the same flight as me. I keep having this sense that I keep getting drawn to him somehow. Is God giving me a sign? Am I too afraid to recognize it?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Go Joe!

I found this online at work today. I thought it was great.

The url for the article is

"The Hidden Man of Christmas
Putting St. Joseph back in the picture.
By James Martin
Updated Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008, at 7:01 AM ET

Christmas cards tend to fall into three categories: the family card (cheerful children in red and green sweaters), the secular card (snowmen, snowflakes, snowy villages), and the religious card. The religious card usually bears a portrait of the Virgin Mary gazing beatifically at the crib of her newborn son, Jesus. Behind her, the picture is just as some of the Gospels describe: shepherds, animals, maybe even the three wise men, though they actually were late on the scene.

But where's St. Joseph? Where is the man to whom, according to the Gospel of Matthew, an angel announced the birth of Jesus? Where is the guy who married Mary even though she was already "with child," the man who helped to raise Jesus, the carpenter who taught Jesus his craft?

He's off to the side or stuck in the back, behind a shepherd. And he's old, balding, and stooped, looking more like Mary's father than her husband. Sometimes, he's not there at all. Many Christmas cards show just Mary and Jesus. And how many carols even mention Joseph? He is at the Nativity scene and in American Christmas traditions. That's a loss since Joseph can be a powerful figure not only for fathers but also for the average believer.

For a number of reasons, Joseph has presented something of a problem for the Catholic Church over the past two millennia. The miracle of Christmas was not only that God became human but also that this was accomplished through a virgin. Naturally, Mary is one of the stars of the story. But the emphasis on her virginity may have meant that her marriage to Joseph may have been an uncomfortable reality—after all, if they were married, didn't they, well, have sex? That flew in the face of what became an early tradition in the Catholic Church—Mary's "perpetual virginity."

Better, then, to have Joseph in the background. Some scholars have posited that this is also the reason that he is portrayed as elderly in all those paintings, even though some experts estimate he was around 30 years old at the time of Jesus' birth. Lawrence Cunningham, a professor of theology at Notre Dame and author of A Brief History of the Saints, told me, "Nine times out of 10 in Christian art, Joseph takes on more of father-protector role rather than a husband. That was a way of solving the sexuality problem." Cunningham points out that in some paintings, Joseph is shown dozing off in the corner of the stable or even leaving the scene of the Nativity entirely, "out of modesty."

But don't blame Western artists for giving Joseph short shrift. They didn't have much material to go on. Joseph is given no lines to speak in any of the Gospels, and he disappears entirely after Jesus' childhood. Significantly, he is absent during Jesus' public ministry and even at the Crucifixion, where Mary is featured prominently. This has led some scholars to believe that he must have died before the end of Jesus' earthly life.

So what do we know about Joseph? Apart from his trade—he's called a tekton in the Gospels, which is usually translated as carpenter but is more likely a general craftsman—not much. But Pheme Perkins, a professor of the New Testament at Boston College and the author of the widely used textbook Reading the New Testament, says you can draw some interesting conclusions if you read the Gospels carefully.

"The most obvious assumption in antiquity would have been that Joseph had been married before and was a widower," she said. "Most likely, an arrangement was made for him to find a young wife." This is the basis for the Catholic tradition that Jesus' "brother and sisters," who are mentioned in the Gospels, were from Joseph's first marriage. (Mainline Protestant churches are more comfortable with the possibility that Mary could have given birth to other children after the birth of Jesus.)

And given that Mary seems not to have been forced to remarry after her husband's death—the tradition in first-century Palestine—Joseph must have been a good provider, too. "He must have left them well-off," Perkins said. However, she's not certain that his portrayal as an elderly man in so many works of Christian art necessarily had to do with sexuality. "We usually make revered figures older," she said. "If you look at most of the paintings of St. Peter and St. Paul, they look older, no matter what stage of life they're in."

Though most of Joseph's life goes unmentioned in the Gospels, he carried out an astonishingly important task: raising the son of God. For the first years of Jesus' life, and perhaps into young adulthood, he would have learned much of what he knew about the Jewish faith from his mother and his foster father. Perhaps the practices Jesus learned alongside Joseph in the carpentry shop—patience, hard work, creativity—were put to good use in his later ministry. Joseph represents the holiness of the "hidden life," doing meaningful things without fanfare.

Perkins and Cunningham both see Joseph as a central figure in the Nativity story, one who can speak to contemporary men and women. The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that he is a "righteous man" who does what God asks of him. After discovering Mary's pregnancy, Joseph thinks of "quietly" ending their marriage plans, so as not to "disgrace" her. But an angel reassures him in a dream. "Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife," says the angel, who explains the unusual circumstances of the birth. Joseph's "righteousness" enables him to listen to God and carry out his difficult task.

His personality shines through wordlessly. "Here is a model of someone who represents all the virtues in the Hebrew Bible," says Perkins. "He is asked to do something shocking, but because he's righteous, he follows God's guidance. And it's no fun—not only to deal with that, but with the rest of the story—the flight into Egypt, too."

During that latter part of the Christmas story, when the holy family flees from the murderous King Herod, Joseph was responsible for protecting Mary and her son in extreme conditions. Moreover, says Perkins, "To have to take your family into Egypt—that's not a direction that Jewish stories want to go. It's the wrong way." She calls him a "model for how people can follow God through difficult times."

Maybe it's time to take a fresh look at this "model" and restore him to his rightful place in the Christmas story. Remember his natural age. Reimagine him in our art. And recall his very human example of "following God through difficult times." That's something that can offer encouragement not only to fathers but to every believer.

At the end of our conversation, Cunningham told me about one of his favorite paintings, by a Coptic nun, portraying the flight into Egypt. "It depicts the infant Jesus sitting on the shoulders of a young, robust Joseph," he said. "Mary is actually standing at one side and a servant on the other." St. Joseph is at the center of the picture.

So the next time you're singing "Silent Night" and get to the part about the "Mother and child," don't forget about the fellow in the back, the guy who cared for them for the rest of his life, silently."

James Martin is a Jesuit priest and author of My Life With the Saints.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ebb & Flow

I always hear about how when you're close in your relationship with God the devil is trying especially hard to get you to fall into sin.

Yesterday at Mass I was reminded of how when you fall into sin, God tries even harder to bring you back to Him.

God is good.

Friday, December 12, 2008



As of 3 PM yesterday, I am done with school for 2008. You have no idea how relieved I am. This quarter really became a struggle for me this last month. It's been nonstop movement...always on the go. I am looking forward to catching up on much needed sleep. Seriously, my body needs a rest. I've abused it with numerous cans of red bull and several 5 hour shots. Combine that with bad eating habits...not good. So here's to the days of bumming it in your PJs, laying on the couch and eating full meals. I can't wait! Sometimes we all need a little retreat from the world. I think I need one right about now. Who knows if I'll actually get it?

So looking back at the year of 2008...I feel like it's been a year of redemption for a lot of us. Whether it was at the beginning of the year or happening just now, it seems to me like many people are making some sort of a "come-back". People are getting back into their "element". Or maybe I'm just looking too much into it...especially after watching 24 Redemption..haha. Well all I've got left to say is...winter break here I come!!!!! :D