Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Free Christmas Album For You!

Happy Advent!

A few years ago, a couple of friends and I recorded a Christmas album. Diet Tonix released their first album full of Christmas joy, entitled Figgy Pudding. We've uploaded the album to bandcamp and I've embedded it below, available for free download. There's another track that isn't included in the fancy album download immediately below, because it's a cover of a newer song that can't be uploaded to that site. So I've embedded the cover at the bottom, and you can download it separately :)

(UPDATE: The additional, embedded track below can't be downloaded anymore unless you sign up for the website. It's free, but if you don't feel like signing up and would still like the track, let me know and I'll email it your way).

Diet Tonix are:
Byron Cline: Vocals
Dylan Drego: Vocals, guitar, bass, drums, piano
Jeremy Keong (me): Vocals and piano

The Best Gift You Can Give

The other day, I found this beautiful drawing on the Twittersphere, titled "The Pyramid of Intimacy." Behold, in all of its beauty:

Follow @jackiefrancois on Twitter (she's a great Catholic musician)

There's lots to love about it, from JP II looking awesome in the bottom right speaking truth (I love how the drawing captures his humility), to the scripture references in the top left. But what caught my eye was the phrase "love begins here" scribbled in red, with an arrow pointing to the bottom of the pyramid - to Friendship. Love between two people shouldn't begin when they get engaged, or when they start dating. It should begin in friendship - in their initial relationality with each other. This pyramid should exist only as something that two married people can look back on and say "hey, that's neat," and never as something looked at merely from the outset of meeting someone. As Cartoon Pope says, "let every man look first upon woman as "sister" then as possible bride." But why?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Woke Up in America: A Mini Exegesis

It's a little known fact (ie. a hugely known fact) that I am a big fan of Matt Maher. I love what the guy does - his Catholicity really shines through a lot of his music; it's beautiful. But it's also a little known fact (ie. a hugely known fact) that there's actually one Matt Maher song I don't like: Woke Up in America. I even tweeted about it as part of my friends' posting lyrics for a "Matt-Maher-is-performing-in-Vancouver" countdown.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why I Cry

***I recently realized that comments have been disabled in this blog since I started it. I've enabled them now.***

As I've grown in my Catholic faith over the years, I've discovered that I cry more. One of the youth leaders at my parish pokes fun at me for it, especially when I tear up while listening to "In Christ Alone," and I always have to frantically explain the whole thing. So first of all, let's be clear: I'm not saying that crying is one of those prerequisite results of growing in faith, and no, I'm definitely not saying that being a Catholic makes you a pansy (on the contrary, being a Catholic makes you a badass).
Case in point.
What I am trying to say is that as I've grown as a Catholic, I've learned more about what I truly yearn for, and what I am ultimately made for.

Why do we cry, emotionally? I find it to be a peculiar reaction to certain situations. When most people think of crying, they think of it as the response to something sad - the death of a loved one, a missed opportunity, the break-up of a long-term relationship. But what's interesting is that we not only cry when we are extremely sad, but also when we are extremely happy. Yes, on one level, we say that we cry because we are overtaken by our emotions and we just have to "let it out." But to what are these emotions pointing us? I think it is in those extremely sad and happy times that we realize and remember that we were made for Something More. We were made for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. We were made for God.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Some Darn Good Love Poetry

The latin word "Fiat" translates to "let it be done," and it is most commonly referred to (in Catholic circles) Mother Mary's whole-hearted acceptance when the angel Gabriel told her she was going to give birth to Christ. Mary gave her whole life to God. She knew that something so momentous - being the first tabernacle - was going to require her to completely submit to the Will of God. Do we do the same?

Most people want to find "the one" and get married. Most people go through ups and downs in the dating process until they find their beloved. But when things don't go right, I wonder how many of us tell God that whatever He wants is what we want. I wonder how often we tell God that even though unrequited love is breaking our heart, He can - in a sense - break our heart too. That if heartache is His will, then we want it as well.

My friend Joseph, who also blogs, wrote this amazing poem about how essential God is in our romantic relationships. Here's an excerpt:

"To Him, and you, I earnestly pray
'I want what He wants, for your joy complete,
With His plan for you, I will not compete.

He has spoken to my heart in His Holy Word,
He is first, you are second, and I am third."

Seriously, it's beautiful stuff (as is all of Joseph's poetry). It speaks Truth. Go read - nay, go pray - the rest of the poem, and follow his blog.

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Thoughts On 'The New Normal'

Have you seen the trailer for one of NBC's upcoming shows? Voila (and take care not to facepalm too much. You have a nice face):

Obviously, I am a practicing Roman Catholic. I'm assuming that most of the readers of this blog are also practicing their faith and don't mind reading my thoughts on the faith. As a Catholic (and I'm hoping I speak for all practicing Catholics), I believe that there are sacrifices we make for our love for God, and that we need to live a Christ-like life above and beyond what society thinks is "good" or "cool", or - my personal favourite - "tolerant." Let me tell you, one of those tiny sacrifices should be to not watch this show.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Too Much Batman

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 7 years, you undoubtedly know that Christopher Nolan has been busy making one of the great trilogies of this generation, the last film of which was released last week. Together, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and now The Dark Knight Rises tells the amazing story of Bruce Wayne. And while the latest flick definitely doesn't live up to its predecessor in terms of story and character, it still delivers a really entertaining three hours (I refer to it as 'The Return of the Jedi' of the Dark Knight Trilogy).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Searching in the Spirit 2012: Pentecost Revisited

From July 3rd to 7th, I was one of the chaperones at an archdiocesan camp called Searching in the Spirit. Created for Gr. 7 students who had just been confirmed, the five day camp looked at the themes of Sacredness, Witness, Forgiveness, Servitude, and One Body in order that the 65 Gr. 7s could more
readily invite the Holy Spirit into their lives. For the past five years that I have been involved in the program, it has been - without a doubt - the best week of my summer. It is a perfect example of how vibrant and alive the Church is. From the Gr. 7 students, to the 14 person youth/young adult leadership team (who organizes and runs the entire program!), to adult chaperones, and to priests, Searching in the Spirit demonstrates that the Church truly is one Body in Christ. Prayer, fellowship, laughs, meals, mass, confession, adoration...all mixed in with the typical summer camp activities like archery and kayaking.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stuff Catholics Say

Yeah yeah, I know. This whole fad rolled over and died months ago. In all fairness, my friends and I got together while the fad was still alive and filmed this video, but it took a long time to get put together. So here it is!

Filming and Editing credit: Patrick Guevara (who should have it up on his own channel soon, at which point I'll link to his instead of mine).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Who Cares?

People these days need to stop equating the Church to merely a physical building, and instead see it as the unblemished, indefectible Mystical Body of Christ. Some of these people include those who identify as Catholics - they profess to be Catholic but openly reject a Church teaching. You know the teachings I'm talking about: Same-Sex "Marriage," Contraception, Abortion. But in declaring that they are Catholic, and yet refusing to learn about an infallible dogma of the Church, these people show that they hugely misunderstand who and what the Church is. They'll say that they believe in Christ. Well, what did Christ say? "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything" (John 14:26). What else did Christ say? To his apostles, "whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and rejects the one who sent me" (Luke 10:16). And then just to Peter, "On this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). And again to His apostles, just for kicks: "When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will lead you into all the Truth" (John 16:13).

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Not Easy, But It Is Simple

As someone who is involved in a lot of youth ministry, it often falls on me to lead group prayer at the beginning or the end of a meeting. A lot of the time, another leader will take on the responsibility of leading prayer as well. Yes yes, for events, we always strive to have planned prayer services, but at meetings sometimes there isn't time. And so it falls on someone to just go for it and pray 'on the cuff.' And here's the thing about prayer - especially public prayer - we so badly want it to sound good or pretty. We desperately don't want it to be repetitive, but grandiose and intricate. We want it to somehow be worthy of elevation as a part of the mystical body of Christ, joining the swirling clouds of incense as it makes its way up from the altar to the ears of God. We're more worried about what other people are thinking when they hear our words, than the actual words we say, and whether we mean them. But it isn't necessary for prayer to be poetry. Let's check in with my good friend The Little Flower, and see what she has to say:

"Prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look towards heaven. It is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy." -St. Therese of Lisieux

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Indelibility of the Indwelling

Happy Easter everybody! Since the season began, I've been able to witness a lot of sacraments - something like 10 people who received all three Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil, as well as about 40 Gr. 7 students who received the Sacrament of Confirmation about a week ago.

The beautiful thing about the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation in particular, is that by them, we are forever changed. An indelible spiritual mark is placed by God on our soul, a mark that is the sign that "Jesus Christ has marked [us] with the seal of his Spirit by clothing [us] with power from on high so that [we] may be His [witnesses]" (CCC 1121). We are marked, sealed, and chosen for Christ from the moment the water is poured. And we are perfectly bound to the Church and are given increases of the Holy Spirit's gifts the moment that we are anointed with chrism by the laying on of the bishop's hand. What's more, it is impossible for sin to erase these spiritual marks, even if we choose to let sin prevent those sacraments "from bearing the fruits of salvation" (CCC 1272).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Why I Want to Study At The John Paul II Institute

I just found out that I've been accepted to the (*takes big breath*) Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., for a 2 year program to obtain a Masters in Theological Studies (M.T.S.). Last night, I told my friends that I was darn sure I would receive mail from the institute today, since Mar. 26th is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Mary got an announcement, and so would I. I didn't take myself too seriously when I said that to my friends - but I prayed a rosary for it anyways. And ka-ching! Thanks Mama Mary.

One of the things I had to do as part of the painstaking application process was an essay, describing why I want to study at the institute. It actually covers a lot of ground, and delves a bit into what I think is missing from today's culture. Here it is:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fear Is Better Than Nothing

The sad truth is that lots of people stop practicing their faith. Fervor, gusto, and warm emotions indicating God’s presence disappear, and so people call it quits (ironically, these are the same people who keep saying that they desperately want to find the perfect person to marry, forgetting that at some point in the marriage, they will inevitably wake up one morning and instead of feeling butterflies in their stomach, will feel a tinge of weariness because their spouse has been being annoying – do they call it quits then? But I digress). When these sentimental feelings disappear, the worst thing that a person could do would be to do away with religious feelings and actions altogether, and become apathetic. This is the real danger zone. Christ said that if we are “…lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, [He will] spit [us] out of [his] mouth” (Revelation 3:16). The “who cares?” attitude does absolutely nothing to help us in our lives here on earth. It is better to have a strong opinion about the faith, either way – it shows passion and a hunger for truth. People who lack a conviction show that they aren’t applying themselves. So don’t think that I rejoice when I find out that someone has left the Church because of anger, or confusion, or resentment. It is truly sad. But I do thank God that this person is still trying to interact with the world. And one of the ways I’ve seen people interact with the world after turning their back on Christ is through fear.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be

You know what's amazing? The fact that so much of what we seem to know of God can look like blatant contradiction, only because we are so limited as human beings. Take, for instance, the very nature of God - Who and What He Is. Jesus tells us that "whoever has seen [Him] has seen the Father" (John 14:9). And so through Christ, we have seen the love, the peace, the justice, the mercy, and all good things that flow from the heart of the Father. Christ is the visible manifestation of an invisible God. But at the same time, God is so entirely unknowable, so utterly inconceivable to the human mind, that it's a wonder in and of itself that Jesus was able to get the message through our thick skulls.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Asking For It

Ah, the first Sunday of Lent. Like every Sunday, it is a “Mini-Easter,” a small glimpse into the most important feast of the Christian life, and an even smaller glimpse into our eternal homeland and final destination. Here’s hoping that for the last four days, you’ve stuck to your guns and have kept turned away from Facebook, have kept your hands on those Rosary beads, and have kept your mouth off of that can of pop. Here’s hoping that it’s hurt a little. Because if these sacrifices haven’t made you at least a bit uncomfortable, well then, they aren’t really sacrifices. If, in the middle of your trial, you have cried out to God saying that you can’t do it on your own, then you’re walking in the right direction. Get rid of something in your life so that God can take hold of your heart. You need to first conform before you can be transformed.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Raising the Roof

Over this past Christmas break, I attended CCO's annual Conference entitled Rise Up, which took place this year in Vancouver, BC. From Dec. 28th to Jan. 1st, almost 600 young adults from across Canada listened to inspirational talks, took part in powerful prayer, and learned how to be better witnesses to the world. All this was done with the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul II, whose legacy gave the theme for this year's conference.

How fitting though, that the conference was themed after the writings and pontificate of Blessed JP II. Because one of the late pope's most influential pieces of writing for young adults today is his Theology of the Body, and it seems like I have been constantly reminded of the truths that Blessed JP II reminds us of in that work (especially in the last few months). One of those basic truths - one that the Church has defended since her conception - is that only by the union of soul and body are we given the single nature of human being. And so it pains me when Catholics think otherwise. It pains me when they throw truth, faith, and common sense to the wind, and instead irrationally use their emotions to justify a position. Because at Rise Up this year, there was one thing I heard about from many people that just did not sit right with them: people raising their hands during praise & worship.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Brief Hiatus

Just a quick shout-out to the few of you who do read my blog (which apparently includes a group of Dominican nuns out in Squamish, BC - hi sisters!). The last time I published a post was back in mid November...but rest assured, I haven't given up on writing here. For whatever reason, I just haven't been able to articulate on "paper" all the thoughts that are constantly going through my head. It's been getting me rather frustrated lately, as I think writing is a talent of mine.

A quick insight into my writing process - I don't have one. I will be on the bus, or playing video games, or someone somewhere will make one comment, and my brain will just start buzzing with a single thought, or image, or idea. At first chance, I will sit down at my laptop and type out the whole blog post in one 1.5-hour session. I don't think of an introduction or a flow to the topic; it just pours out. Then, with barely any editing, I click "publish" and then go fry myself some rice (or something like that).

My point: it is definitely not me who writes. Every once in a while, I will go back and read some of the things I've posted, and cannot for the life of me figure out how I managed to articulate something like that.   Well, I don't. Ever. I've come to fully attribute the words that fly from my brain to the internet to the Holy Spirit. And if it is the Holy Spirit who is directing me in my writing, and if I have not been able to produce anything...then for whatever reason, He doesn't want me to write right now. I told my friend of my frustrations just the other day, and he humbly replied, "well, maybe it's not time for you to say anything. Maybe you're supposed to listen."

Ah. There it is. So don't worry - this blog will stay up and running. But the Holy Spirit in all His wisdom is allowing me a little breather, perhaps to gain some perspective, take some rest, spend more time praying, and then go full speed ahead into the bloggersphere once more.

Wait...does this count as a blog post? He did it again!