An Update

Hi everyone,

As many of my followers and regular readers have probably noticed, I haven’t written anything in a very long time. In fact, my last post was four months ago, in May! (For your reference, my last serious article at requiemindminor.wordpress.com was from a year ago!) Don’t worry – I have not abandoned writing, and nor do I plan to do so anytime soon. The simple fact is, I’m in high school now and also attending the pre-college at the Manhattan School of Music, and I just don’t have much time for writing.

Of course, I’ll still write from time-to-time, but don’t expect polished articles complete with references that are free from typos! I’ve got a draft at the present moment, which is far from complete – refuting the alleged “heresies” of certain documents from the Second Vatican Council, which I began to write after being attacked by some schismatic “traditionalists” on-line. And another one defending Paul VI’s Missale Romanum – but that one is still in the very beginning stages.

Recently, I’ve begun to wonder about what I’m doing with my life, and what I am going to do in the future. God called me to begin spiritual writing, but this doesn’t mean He’s telling me to do this forever. As for what I’m doing right now (aside from school and music), I’m teaching myself ecclesiastical Latin and reading a lot of Church history as well as looking for a way to begin theology while still in high school. Becoming a canon lawyer is a possibility, and certainly not out of the question!

To sum it up (before I begin rambling about some other topic), I’m probably going to take a long break – perhaps until Advent begins at the very least. Thank you for your consideration.

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Love of God and Neighbor

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). Sacred Scripture teaches us that love for God and neighbor (to be understood not only as our actual neighbors, but as our fellow human beings) can never be separated, and these two are considered the greatest commandments. What exactly is love, and how are the two “loves” – love of God and neighbor – interrelated and inseparable?

Love, simply put, is consistently willing the good of the other. To will and choose our neighbor’s good not only includes goods such as health, happiness, and salvation; we should also desire to give our very selves. “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). This explains the meaning and importance of communion and covenant. Marriage can be understood as a covenant, the combination of both willing the good of another and the total gift of self. Because God loved us so much, Jesus was willing to give up Himself – and die horribly on a Cross – for our salvation. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

To love God – since He is pure goodness itself – therefore means to love what God loves, which is, of course, our neighbor’s good. We also love God through obedience, for Jesus said that whoever loves Him will keep His commandments (John 14:21). In this way, we are giving our very selves to God, and He will have our hearts. Another way to give ourselves to God is to give ourselves to our neighbor. Jesus says that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). To love God means to love our neighbors, and to love our neighbors means to love God. Therefore, we have come to a full circle.

Love for our neighbors and love for God are inherently interrelated to each other. This is why, it seems, that the Cross is often called the symbol of love. The horizontal beam represents our love for our neighbors; the vertical represents our love of God and our relationship with Him. The higher we move in our relationships with each other, the higher we move in our relationship with God. The higher we move in our relationship with God, the higher we move in our relationships with each other. This is why Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

The Choice to Love

Some choose to love because it sounds so beautiful and appealing, and indeed, it is, and no one is going to contest that. But love involves sacrifice, and above all, suffering. Some follow the path of love without – at least in the beginning – being aware of this fact. But even when we do know, and understand, we should still make the choice to love.

Christ tells us many times in the Gospel that inevitably, those that follow Him will be persecuted or rejected by others at some point in their lives. Suffering is inevitable in this broken, fallen world. It is not worth giving up love out of fear of suffering. When we avoid the painful side of reality, we do not see the world from an honest perspective, and therefore we miss out on the joyful side of reality as well – the joy that can only come through great suffering. For the best, as they say, it attained only through great pain.

Love is often accompanied by great suffering, yet it is still better to love and suffer than to never have loved at all. In love one can make mistakes and yet still be forgiven, and through suffering one can expiate for those mistakes. This, I believe, is why even when we know – we understand – that following God (who is Love) is difficult, we should choose it anyway. Living a life of love will – inevitably – bring suffering, and even when we know and understand this, we should still choose love, in spite of everything.

We Will Never Be Bored in Heaven: The Concepts of Completeness and Incompleteness

Eternity is a long, long time. “Long” isn’t even a remotely adequate word to describe eternity. Eternity is infinite. How difficult it is for our limited human minds to grasp the concept of eternity! Most of us would agree that eternity is a wonderful, blissful thing. Who wouldn’t want to spend an infinite amount of time in the presence of our God, who is Love itself (1 John 4:8)?

Yet sometime we may find ourselves wondering, But what if we get bored in heaven? Imagine if we went to heaven today. A billion years from today (measured in human terms only, of course, since time is nothing to God), we would still have the same amount of time to worship God as we did the first day we arrived. Wouldn’t we get bored?

Let us not forget that we worship an infinite God. There is eternally more to be discovered, more to be known about Him. God is fundamentally mysterious (Job 11:7). For the rest of eternity we will forever be learning more about Him. A billion years from now, we will look back and think, How little did I know of Him back then!

Our souls are also eternal. We will forever be having an increasing desire for happiness, and for fulfillment, and God will eternally satisfy this. There is always more to know, more to discover, and therefore we will never get bored in heaven.

On earth, we are always – even if only subconsciously – trying to resolve contradicting ideas, trying to find an aesthetically beautiful relation between all things. Throughout history, we can see that people have always had this desire; the longing to find Truth has always been inherent in the human heart. Often times, people have wondered, what is the ultimate fulfillment? Our hearts have an ever-increasing desire for fulfillment, for completeness. At the same time, however, we would also like to make sense of all the incompleteness we find in the world, and in ourselves.

Now we have a pair of opposites: completeness and incompleteness. Let me now digress for a few moments.

When opposites are reconciled with each other, beauty is created. This is true in all forms of art: to name a few examples, uncertainty and certainty, yielding and steadfastness, agreement and disagreement. Uncertainty can be expressed through dissonant chords and harmonies to create the feeling of tension, and certainty can be expressed with consonance. In counterpoint, oblique motion occurs when one voice moves in one direction, either up or down, while the other voice doesn’t move at all. Agreement can be expressed with parallel or similar motion (voices moving in the same direction); disagreement with contrary motion. However, as any good teacher of counterpoint will tell you, sometimes consonance (agreement) can only be maintained through the use of contrary motion (disagreement).

These principles are clearly applicable in our daily lives. We cannot know for sure about everything that will happen in our lives, so in that sense we are quite uncertain. Yet when we trust God, we are certain that everything will turn out fine if we follow His most perfect and holy will. Sometimes we must yield to other people, to accept what they are saying, and this also means accepting criticism gracefully. Yielding can mean respecting others’ desires and making the sacrifice to please others before ourselves. Yet sometimes we must remain firm, especially when we are defending the truth of God and His holy Church. As for agreement and disagreement, sometimes we can only maintain peace by accepting that we can’t have the same opinions and viewpoints, and respecting that.

God could be considered to be the God of opposites. How else can we reconcile His love and mercy with His wrath and justice? These are not contradicting things; they in fact complement each other. As I said previously, beauty is created when opposites are reconciled with each other. Is God not the ultimate beauty, then?

Now let’s go back to completeness and incompleteness, and how it relates to the fact that it is simply impossible for us to ever get bored in heaven. Eternity with God is, obviously, our ultimate fulfillment. Eternity is complete. Yet eternity, simply put, will last forever, so in that sense it is incomplete because it never will be fulfilled by anything else.

And this, my friends, is why eternity is such a beautiful and appealing idea. This is where our souls find the fulfillment to all our desires, in the presence of God. We have always wished to see contradicting things reconciled together, becoming one in an aesthetically beautiful way. Eternity with God is the ultimate realization of this desire. We will continue to have an ever-increasing yearning for fulfillment (incompleteness), and God will infinitely satisfy this desire (completeness).

This concept is indeed difficult to grasp, and I fear I have not adequately explained myself. In fact, I don’t even think I understand completely. (Of course! We’ll only understand when we’re in heaven!) Who am I that God should reveal such things to me and ask me to share this with others? But let the words explain for themselves; no more explanation is needed.

Proof of God’s Existence

Plenty of people in the past have gone great lengths to prove God’s existence. The fact is that no matter how much proof we can come up with, we can only become aware of God’s existence after feeling His presence in our lives. No one has ever been converted by a logical argument, but by God’s grace. We can evangelize all we want, but the truth is that we are only instruments of God’s love, and only He, ultimately, can convert sinners.

However, there is proof that God exists, although it is inevitable that many people will reject this evidence. I am thinking of writing an essay entitled “Music, Theology, and the Meaning of Life”, which will explain the connection between, well, music, theology, and life; indirectly, I will also offer proof, using the principles present in music, about God’s existence. One of these principles is the “unity of opposites” – in other words, when opposites are reconciled with each other, beauty is created. This is inherent to all beautiful music. Without understanding this, how can we reconcile the opposites found in God Himself, for example, His justice and mercy? If bringing together opposites creates beautiful music, than is God not the ultimate beauty, then?

And now we reach the most convincing evidence: if everything on earth, even those things that at first appear to be contradictory, are inherently related in a beautiful way, then can anything be proved by itself? No – everything on earth can only be understood in relation to or in context of something else, often times their opposites. Good is the opposite, and absence of, evil. Darkness is the opposite of, and the absence of, light. In fact, the path to light is to be aware of darkness.

If nothing can be proved on its own, then there has to be something that is infinite and that can be proved by itself in order for everything else to exist. This is God. He doesn’t need to be proved like everything else. He simply is and always will be. As He said, “I AM.”

Did God create everything, as we say every Sunday in the Nicene Creed? After seeing how opposites prove that God exists, we can easily reach the conclusion that God is the “maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.” And He created us.

Using my example about light and darkness, again, in order to understand light we must understand what darkness it. But in order to understand what darkness is, we must understand that it is the absence of light. How do we understand one without understanding the other? It is impossible to understand either of them without understanding both of them.

A word in the dictionary can only be explained by using other words from the same dictionary. So how on earth did we even learn and develop any languages at all? Sometimes to define a word, we use a synonym of that word. We cannot understand either word by itself. We can only understand both at the same time.

So why can we understand both, and how both are in relation with each other? It is because God created us, our minds, and our souls. Since God is infinite, this is why we eventually realize there must be something beyond this earth. Something – or someone, rather – that is making it possible for us to understand something and its opposite at the same time.

Do you see how wonderful God’s creation is? How beautifully organized it is? This is why “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Why are young Catholics leaving the Church?

It’s no secret that the Catholic Church is losing members quickly, and many of them are of the younger generation. Statistics show that for every convert, there are six Catholics that leave the Church. Nearly 13 percent of Americans have described themselves as “former Catholics.” A report released by the Pew Forum shows that the number of Catholics in the United States has dropped by 3 million since 2007. While it is true that the Church cannot be destroyed by humans and is infallible, these statistics show that many, many souls are spiritually at risk. Among adults, many people have left the Church because of the recent scandals and because of disagreement with the Church’s teachings, but it is a different story with the younger generation. Many young Catholics are dropping out because they do not fully understand their faith, society and the media are influencing them in a very bad way, and sometimes their lifestyle contradicts the teachings of the Church.

Lack of understanding about the Catholic faith and inadequate knowledge about the Church’s teachings is the beginning of leading young Catholics away from God and from truth. As Bishop Fulton Sheen said, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” This clearly shows that many Catholics and non-Catholics alike have misconceptions about what the Church really teaches. Many young Catholics nowadays have not been taught well and do not understand their faith. The number of students in Catholic schools has decreased from 5.2 million students in the 1960s to roughly 2 million. The diminishing number of Catholics that understand their faith and want to follow Jesus has led to a decrease in vocations, so there are also fewer people to teach the next generation of Catholics.

Catholics must understand basic beliefs, such as the Eucharist, Original Sin, the Paschal Mystery, and salvation before they can understand the Church’s social teachings on, for example, contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and social justice. If young people do not understand the Church’s teachings, it will be much easier for them to be led astray by outside forces. Matthew 13:1-9 says: “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

The explanation of the parable is given in Matthew 13:18-23: “‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’”

The problem nowadays is that young Catholics are not being well-educated in their faith, and therefore are not understanding it fully. Since many of them do not have their foundation of faith and understanding on “good soil”, no fruit is being produced. Jesus’s explanation is clear: when a person does not understand their faith, the “evil one” will tempt them and lead them away from God and the truth. And in the modern world, Catholics are surrounded by temptations and immorality because they have simply become part of our culture.

Society and the media are also leading young Catholics away from the faith. Remember that the Devil is the “god of the world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the “father of lies” (John 8:44). We know this is true because society and the media have led many Catholics astray with deception. And since many Catholics are not well-informed about their faith and what the Church teaches, they are more easily led away from God and the truth through the “evil one” and his works, as well as the sinfulness found in modern-day culture. Society and the media are often at conflict with Church teaching. The former is blocking access to the truth, and tries to teach us to adopt a “do whatever makes you happy” kind of attitude. However, real happiness can only be found in God.

Our society tells us to do what we feel is right for ourselves, and to do whatever makes us happy. Fornication is considered a freedom, people talk openly about what used to be considered “unacceptable”, and many people believe that everyone has a different set of morals (moral relativism). What is considered “acceptable” by society has changed from age to age, era to era. Yet the Church’s teachings have never changed. The Catholic faith is counter-cultural. Society’s definition of “happiness” is the superficial definition. True joy is more than temporary pleasure. When a lot of people nowadays think about what makes them feel good, they think of things like money, getting new clothes, living in a big house, buying a new fancy car, etc. But these are worldly pleasures that won’t last – and time and time again, as we try to make ourselves happy with worldly things, the excitement soon fades. What we, as Christians, think of as “happiness” may seem strange to secular society. We believe that happiness comes from God. The real peace and joy that comes from God alone will survive any troubles that life sends us while we are on earth, and we will experience its fullness in Heaven.

While sin can create temporary pleasure for a person, the damage has still been done whether one realizes it or not. For example, one can choose to smoke ten packs of cigarettes a day. While this can cause the person to feel calm and relaxed temporarily, the damage has been done; addiction can become a problem, and this leads to health problems and even death. Likewise, indulging in sin can lead to spiritual damage and even spiritual death. Having strong faith and a good understanding of the Church’s teachings and why they are correct will set us free from sin and will provide a defense against society’s lies. Moral relativism is also a real problem in the modern-day world. To put it in a nutshell, moral relativism teaches that one person’s morals can differ from another’s, that there is no one “right” moral law, and that there is no absolute truth. However (referencing my first point), young Catholics need to be taught that there is absolute truth, and this can only be found in God and His Church. In short, the faith of young Catholics is being threatened by the incorrect ideas society is trying to teach them, and they don’t know that worldly things only create temporary pleasure while God provides eternal happiness.

Another reason why young Catholics are leaving the Church is that after having been led astray by the incorrect ideas of society and the media, they realize that their lifestyle conflicts with Church teaching. Many times, their issues arise from the Church’s moral teachings about sex, especially masturbation, homosexual activity, premarital sex (fornication), and cohabitation. They may also disagree with the teachings about topics such as gay marriage, abortion, and contraception. This is a major hindrance in the search for truth, and the problem does not affect only young Catholics exclusively. Many people, adults and non-Christians included, have a hard time accepting truth because it requires them to change their habits and lifestyle. Also, it can be assumed that many young Catholics personally disagree with the Church’s teachings because of their lack of understanding, and this makes them far less willing to change their bad habits and lifestyles to seek truth and follow the Church’s teachings. They would rather leave the Church than do something so “inconvenient.”

Truth compels us to change at times, and sometimes we are unwilling to do so. Jesus spoke about this, too, in Luke 14:25-27: “Many people were traveling with Jesus. He said to them, ‘If you come to me but will not leave your family, you cannot be my follower. You must love me more than your father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters—even more than your own life! Whoever will not carry the cross that is given to them when they follow me cannot be my follower.’” Sometimes while trying to be a disciple of Christ, we meet up with difficult situations, and instead of facing these situations and trusting God, we try to run away. The deeper one gets oneself into the snares of a sinful lifestyle, the further one is tempted to run away from God and hide from Him. In Genesis 3:8, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God after they sinned. After Original Sin, it is simply our human reaction to run away from God, ashamed, when we sin, rather than asking Him for forgiveness. When we apply this concept to young, modern-day Catholics, it makes sense that a sinful lifestyle can lead to leaving the Church.

In conclusion, many young Catholics nowadays are leaving the Catholic Church because of lack of knowledge about their faith, the bad influence from society and the media, and a lifestyle that conflicts with Church teachings. The statistics are not very encouraging, especially for parents who would like their children to remain Catholic even after they become adults and leave home. But all is not lost, for with God, nothing is impossible. We can help these people continue in their journey of faith by making sure they understand their faith and by teaching them about sin. They must understand that they cannot believe everything that appears on their computer screens. They also must be taught that unlike what moral relativism teaches, there is absolute truth, and that only God can bring them real happiness. Even though right now more people are leaving the Church than people who are converting to Catholicism, hopefully this will change in the future. One truth is stronger than a thousand lies, and God will triumph over the evil one.

Real Happiness is Found in God

Before I begin, I would like to give all of you a little bit of background information. For the past three years, I have noticed that when summer ends and autumn rolls around, I tend to get a bit depressed. Perhaps the word “depressed” is a bit extreme, but I cannot think of any other word to describe this…feeling…I get during this time of year. It’s a very strange feeling like something is missing, unfulfilled, and it’s quite unpleasant and overwhelming. And, while trying to avoid feeling this way, I try to bury myself in my work and forget the world. I haven’t really found a definite reason why this happens to me, but at the end of this article, I will propose a theory.

Three years ago, I moved from Edison, New Jersey, to Warren. I was in fifth grade, and moved shortly before school started. Since everyone else in my classes had known each other for years, it was very awkward being new. Perhaps the changes were too overwhelming? Perhaps that’s why I felt something was missing? Anyway, the main reason why I was so upset was that since I was new, everyone tried far too hard to “help” me. As someone who has always been ahead of others my age, I resented their “help”, being arrogant. In any case, I was an atheist back then, and of course the Holy Spirit was not yet in me.

Two years ago, I started middle school. I don’t really remember the details of that time, but perhaps the spiritual struggle had already begun at the time. Either way, the feeling of emptiness reached its peak at the end of summer or the beginning of fall, and then I managed to push away this “feeling” once I got used to all these new changes. At this point, I was starting to believe in God but still was an agnostic.

During this time last year, I had recently read a book about New Age theories and was doubting my new belief in the Christian God – at this point I had decided that God was real and that Christianity was real, but I was uninformed and didn’t know much about the faith. I wanted to go to church but my parents didn’t believe in God. So what was I supposed to do? As I started to notice my sinfulness, I became worried that if I didn’t make my faith “official” I was going to Hell.

No, the so-called depression was certainly not due to drastic and overwhelming lifestyle changes. It was due to the fact that I was trying to be happy but didn’t know what – orwho, rather – could and would make me really happy. And that, obviously, is God.

Our society tells us to do what we feel is right for ourselves, and to do whatever makes us happy. The Catholic faith is counter-cultural, and secular society thinks we lead restricted, boring lives and aren’t getting any pleasure from life. However, the opposite it true. Society’s definition of “happiness” is the superficial definition. True joy is more than temporary pleasure. When a lot of people nowadays think about what makes them feel good, they think of things like money, getting new clothes, living in a big house, buying a new fancy car, etc. But these are worldly pleasures that won’t last – and time and time again, as we try to make ourselves happy with worldly things, the excitement soon fades.

What we, as Christians, think of as “happiness” may seem strange to secular society. We believe that happiness comes from God (and seriously, never try to live your life without God or you’ll end up in my past situations!). The real peace and joy that comes from God alone will survive any troubles that life sends us while we are on earth, and we will experience its fullness in Heaven.

Many people think that God created commandments to place restrictions on us. However, this could not be farther from the truth and the opposite is actually correct. Jesus became man and died on the Cross to free us from our sins. Likewise, God does not wish to place too many restrictions on us, but to set us free not only from sin, but from society’s judgement. When we focus on God and His love, we see ourselves the way He sees us, not the way society views (and judges) us. Are we really so insecure as to rely on society to tell us what to do? Remember that society’s judgement, especially with morality, is not necessarily correct (although there are “universal principles” that we call common sense; for example, murdering people and robbing banks are just wrong). Once we stop worrying about what other human beings think of us, but what God, our creator, thinks of us as one of His children, we can truly be set free and really be the person we are. We should be the person God intended for us to be, not the person society has formed from its own incorrect judgements.

So that had been my problem all these years; I was seeking happiness on my own, without God. But when we really stop and reflect, we will realize how empty our own pleasures are; they only seem to be meaningful while we are still on this earth. But we were not created to live in this world for all of eternity, and I’ve realized this at last as something I didn’t know for the past three years. As Saint Thérèse of Lisieux said: “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.”