Tag Archives: Bible

The Luminous Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday was a challenging day. The beginning of the semester is always hectic, and I end up running on just four or five hours of sleep each day. Not even a Starbucks triple espresso could help me much this morning.

Driving to campus, my anger, fatigue, and frustration from work and other life events became too much. What to do?

I tried spontaneous prayer, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Someone told me once to recite the Our Father or Hail Mary prayer in such times. The key to recited prayers is to say it with all your heart, though — “say it like you mean it.”

So I prayed the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. During rush-hour traffic, my mind and heart were taken away to a higher place, above the hustle and bustle of daily life. I no longer focused on being at a standstill on the highway and possibly arriving late for class. The holy power of the Rosary lifted me above all that.

I’d like to share with you some of the thoughts and meditations that I had while praying the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary this morning.

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1. The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River – Fruit of the Spirit: Openness to the Holy Spirit

This really set the tone for the Mysteries. It humbled me and caused me to examine my anger and frustration issues. Why was I letting petty things get the best of me? Don’t I have the Holy Spirit in me?

Even Jesus, the Son of God, is baptized. The Scriptures say that the Holy Spirit came down like a dove upon Him (Matthew 3:16). God was showing me that I had to let go of control; He is Lord and, until I surrender to Him, I will continue to be frustrated and angry at the little things in life — and everything is little in God’s eyes.

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2. The Wedding Feast at Cana – Fruit of the Spirit: Fidelity

I particularly love this Mystery because it shows Mary’s maternal bond with Jesus. The wedding feast at Cana is where Jesus performs His first miracle of His ministry; and, at first, He tells his mother that it isn’t time yet. But, how could he refuse his beloved mother? At her request, Jesus changes the water into wine so that the wedding party could continue (because what is a wedding reception without wine?).

Interestingly, Mary tells the attendants to “do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5) This opened my eyes and forced me to examine my heart. Are there any areas of my life in which sin still dominates? What do I need to do to get rid of it? Fidelity means being true to your spouse; Christ wants our full loyalty and not just part of it.

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3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God – Fruit of the Spirit: Desire for Holiness

For me, this is the high point of the Luminous Mysteries. Jesus’ ministry is in full swing, and it’s now time for Him to announce to the world that God’s Kingdom has come! What a glorious image.

One thing I love about the Rosary is that it is meditative: I can picture Jesus among the people, His dusty sandals leaving prints on the ground, the murmur of the townspeople as they marvel at His words, and the sun beating down on His flesh.

I’m reminded of the Good News of the Scriptures and how God has called me to be one of His children. I desire what The Lord desires, and we become one.

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4. The Transfiguration – Fruit of the Spirit: Spiritual Courage

This Mystery somehow reminds me of Jesus driving out the moneychangers from the temple (Matthew 21:12), displaying the fire of righteous anger and zeal for His Father. When Christ is transfigured before the eyes of three of His apostles, it is a dazzling and radiant event that they would never forget.

The fruit of the Spirit compels me to view my trials and tribulations in light of the transfiguration (no pun intended). When someone opposes me or sets out to cause me harm for whatever reason, I must remember that the Devil is at war with God, and that unseen warfare also plays out in the material world. Seeing the bigger picture is comforting and takes the focus off myself.

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5. The Institution of the Holy Eucharist – Fruit of the Spirit: Love of Our Eucharistic Lord

What would my faith be without the Holy Eucharist: the body and blood of Christ? If it weren’t for Jesus offering Himself on the cross as a sacrifice for me, then everything that I believe would be in vain; life would be meaningless.

Christ is always present in the Eucharist and desires to help us. However, we must allow him to do so. Revelation 3:20 essentially says that we must make the decision to let Jesus heal us.

By this point in the Mysteries, my batteries are fully charged and I’m ready to stop my “woe is me” whining. Jesus came to set the captives free. Prayer and meditation on these Mysteries allow me to let Him set me free.

Final Thoughts

Of course, prayer, whether it be vocal, meditative, or contemplative, isn’t the same as chanting a magic spell and seeing the immediate effect appear before your eyes. If God doesn’t answer, it doesn’t mean He is ignoring you or is indifferent to your problems and concerns. God has a reason for everything that He does.

So, if you’re feeling F.I.N.E.* (faithless, insecure, neurotic, emotional), stop for a moment and pray. If you can’t bring yourself to pray, then at least think about everything in your life that you’re thankful for. We should all count our blessings.

~t

*title of an Aerosmith song


If I Were the Devil

Credit: Linda Lisa

If you’re like me and don’t get out much — in the cyber world or in the real world — then you might not have heard the essay by radio broadcaster Paul Harvey entitled “If I Were the Devil.” Apparently it has been making the rounds again.

I heard the broadcast for the first time on Catholic radio a few months ago and was very intrigued; it’s from 1964 and is quite prophetic.

Since the original broadcast, Paul Harvey periodically updated the text to reflect the constant changes in society. So, if you scour the Internet, you’ll run across this recording in various forms.

The following is the transcript of the original 1964 broadcast:

If I were the Prince of Darkness I would want to engulf the whole earth in darkness.

I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree.

So I should set about however necessary to take over the United States.

I would begin with a campaign of whispers.

With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve, “Do as you please.”

To the young I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” I would convince them that “man created God” instead of the other way around. I would confide that “what is bad is good and what is good is ‘square.’”

In the ears of the young married I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. I would caution them not to be “extreme” in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct.

And the old I would teach to pray — to say after me — “Our father which art in Washington.”

Then I’d get organized.

I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull, uninteresting.

I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies, and vice versa.

I’d infiltrate unions and urge more loafing, less work. Idle hands usually work for me.

I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could, I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction, I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the Devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions; let those run wild.

I’d designate an atheist to front for me before the highest courts and I’d get preachers to say, “She’s right.”

With flattery and promises of power I would get the courts to vote against God and in favor of pornography.

Thus I would evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, then from the Houses of Congress.

Then in his own churches I’d substitute psychology for religion and deify science.

If I were Satan I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg

And the symbol of Christmas a bottle.

If I were the Devil I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. Then my police state would force everybody back to work.

Then I would separate families, putting children in uniform, women in coal mines and objectors in slave-labor camps.

If I were Satan I’d just keep doing what I’m doing and the whole world [would] go to hell as sure as the Devil.

Below is a video featuring an updated version from c. 1996:

~t


Pride Comes Before a Fall

Credit: David Lazar

The title of this post is a common saying. It’s so common that a lot of people don’t know that it’s from the Bible (Proverbs 16:18). For instance, this online dictionary doesn’t mention any biblical source: It’s merely referred to as an idiom in the English language.

All of the verses in the Book of Proverbs are awesome, and we need to apply them to our lives. However, verse 18 of chapter 16 (“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”) is one that I consider extremely important — a key in maintaining my faith and humility in order to stay close to God.

A minister at a certain Protestant-based church that I used to attend taught me the acronym KISS. No, the minister wasn’t a fan of the rock group of the same name (at least not that I knew of). It stands for “keep it simple, stupid.” Now, stupid isn’t a very polite word. We don’t let our kids say it. However, I’ve heard variations of it at work and even in my parish such as “keep it simple, silly” or “keep it short and simple.” (The latter sort of adds more meaning to it, so I don’t particularly like that one. But if you do, then that’s totally cool.)

I’m mentioning all this because “pride comes before a fall” is one of those wise sayings in the Bible that is in line with the KISS philosophy. And, wouldn’t you know it, those are the things that I tend to forget all about when push comes to shove in my spiritual life.

I’ve been doing well (i.e. abstaining from mortal sin, praying, going to Mass every Sunday, et cetera). So well that I actually thought that I was invincible against certain types of sin: lust, anger, and gossip to name a few.

I was under an illusion. The Evil One is always at work, scheming up ways to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). Spiritual warfare rages on every day, every hour, every minute. Angels and demons are going head-to-head right now all around me as I type (and all around you as you’re reading). This Present Darkness is a good book that illustrates this biblical concept.

I’ve finished the first week of the fall semester at my job, and, while it was hectic, things went fairly well. I didn’t realize that my prayer time was going downhill. I had been praying a little less than usual, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was still in the mindset, though, that I was winning the battle against the darkness; never mind the fact that I was becoming more susceptible to temptation and outright sin.

If you’ve kept up with my posts, you’ll know that my wife is basically a non-practicing Buddhist/Shintoist (I’ll let you think on that for a second). She’s cool with my being Catholic. The only issue that we stay away from is abortion; although we agree to disagree on this subject, it still comes up from time to time. So, like the bumper sticker says, we “coexist.”

Anyway, we were driving to the park this morning, and my wife, Ayako, was telling me about a recent situation she had with a Christian friend named Molly. They were standing near a pond, and Molly told her son to get away from the edge because she didn’t want him to fall in. Her son said, “I won’t fall in.”

Ayako tried to remember what Molly said in reply. “She said something like ‘If you’re too confident, you’ll fall in too easily’ I think.”

After a moment, I said, “Oh, you mean ‘pride comes before a fall.'”

“Yes! How did you know?”

“Because it’s from the Bible. It’s really famous.” I changed the subject to something else, quickly forgetting about that verse from Proverbs.

Little did I know that God was giving me one last chance to repent before He would humble me.

Sure enough, later in the day, my house of cards collapsed. I found myself plunged into various types of sin that, just a week ago, thought that I was above and too good for.

Broken and troubled, I turned to prayer. Not the superficial kind that I had been practicing, but the real, honest, gut-check kind.

I heard God’s whisper in my heart almost immediately: Pride comes before a fall.

Boy, does it.

How could I have been so bone-headed?

Because you’re human. Now get back up and continue the race.

I felt like I had finally pulled my head out of the ground where it had been stuck for the past few weeks. What an amazing feeling.

It’s even more amazing to be reminded about God’s love for us. He was giving me signs that I thought didn’t pertain to me. He allowed me to fall in order for me to learn my lesson. When I came to my senses, God was waiting with open arms.

In the Parable of the Lost Son, Jesus tells how God will always forgive us, no matter how badly we mess up (Luke 15:11-32). After the son squanders his inheritance and reaches rock bottom, he decides to go back to his father:

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

~t


The Sorrowful Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Monday was the first day of classes at my college. The first week is usually chaotic as I try to get on top of my classes, serve on committees, get late students into correct classes, and so on. By the end of the day yesterday evening (only the second day!), I was exhausted, stressed, and reeling from sin and temptation.

Even though the fall semester has started, it’s still hot as blazes here in Texas, so a lot of students are still wearing as little as possible. Needless to say, it is not uncommon for me to encounter “spiritual landmines” throughout my day: lust and temptation.

I prefer to pray the Rosary at home in a quiet place, but I decided to play the CD during my commute home. I don’t listen to the Rosary on CD very often, especially while driving, but it was one of those days. What better way to cleanse the mind and refocus on God?

The calming background music and soft voice of the narrator immediately took the focus off myself. God knew exactly what I needed because yesterday happened to be the Sorrowful Mysteries. As I prayed along with the CD, the Mysteries and fruits of the Spirit totally matched my struggles. Not only did God put the idea on my heart to pray the Rosary, He also, in His glory, matched me up with exactly what I needed to hear and pray about.

I have listed each Sorrowful Mystery below, along with my thoughts and practical applications that I gleaned from my meditation.

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1. The Agony in the Garden – Fruit of the Spirit: Sorrow for Sin

Three words stood out to me on this one: agony, sorrow, and sin. As I mentioned, it was a day filled with temptation (which day isn’t?), so I was feeling really guilty and sorry for letting my mind dwell on forbidden thoughts throughout the day. Even before I started the CD, I was already asking God to forgive me for not avoiding everything that led me to sin.

Plus, the image of Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane puts everything into perspective: I’m the sinner, so I should have been the one crying out to God to “take this cup away from me.” (Luke 22:42) Instead, out of His love for me, Christ took my place.

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2. The Scourging at the Pillar – Fruit of the Spirit: Purity

There’s that word, purity. The Lord was speaking directly to me. That’s God: He always knows what we need and when we need it.

While I was letting my thoughts run loose, at one point Christ was being beaten within an inch of His life. He is the essence of purity yet was treated as a common criminal for my sake. Remember, He is God in the flesh, and He stooped down to this level for me.

That’s love. Not the warm-and-fuzzy sort of love that comes with infatuation; rather, it’s the self-sacrificing kind that a mother has for her child. I know that my mother would give her life for me, just as I would for my children.

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3. The Crowning of Thorns – Fruit of the Spirit: Courage

Of course, when the word courage was mentioned during the introduction of this Mystery, I said a special “thank you” prayer to God. He was allowing me to see the progression I was to take: be sorry for my sins, vow to be pure, and now He was showing me that I must have courage to “fight the good fight.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

Let me tell you, when you give your whole self over to God, he will rock your world. And it’s scary. On one hand, you know that God is with you — you can just feel it. And it feels awesome! However, it pushes you out of your comfort zone, and you will periodically have doubts. For me, those doubts are crippling to me because I’m now doing something totally out of character like leading a men’s purity group or helping struggling Christians regain their faith.

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4. The Carrying of the Cross – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

Okay, so you’re feeling pretty fired up and are living out your faith. That’s wonderful. Now another hurdle is in your path: patience. Just as Jesus endured the long, arduous walk to the place where He was crucified, we must also carry our own crosses (Luke 14:27). There will be times that you stumble and drop your burdensome cross due to its enormous weight; those times call for patience, a fruit of the Spirit.

Actually, even when things are going well for me, just one unanswered prayer can sink my mood and discourage me like crazy. I need to remember that God has His own plan, and it’s usually different from mine!

There may have been a time when Jesus merely wanted everything to be finished. Imagine going through a hyped-up trial, a severe beating and torture, and then, half dead already, having to carry an instrument of your own execution for what seems like miles and miles.

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5. The Crucifixion – Fruit of the Spirit: Perseverance

Being a Christian isn’t a part-time job or hobby. It’s a lifetime commitment. So it’s not by accident that the last fruit of the Spirit of these Mysteries happens to be perseverance. God never said it would be an easy life. In fact, the Bible says to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

We must persevere and not give up because the cycle will repeat itself: commit sin, resolve to be pure, find courage, exercise patience, and not give up. Persevere because we will fall again. When (not if) that happens, we must get back up and keep trying our best.

I always thought that crucifixion was an immediate death, but it’s not. The Romans perfected this method of execution to prolong the suffering of the victim as long as possible. When criminals were crucified in the first century, they most likely died from asphyxiation after hours or even days of excruciating pain on the cross. (Actually, the word excruciating is derived from crucifixion).

Conclusion

I am so thankful to God for teaching me this lesson as I calmly fought rush-hour traffic on my way home yesterday. Just typing this out helps me to recall and meditate once more upon these Sorrowful Mysteries.

I pray that The Lord will inspire me to write reflections on the other Mysteries of the Rosary as well: the Joyful, the Luminous, and the Glorious. I’m in no hurry, though, because I will wait on God to inspire me. In the meantime, I’ll be putting into practice the five fruits of the Spirit from this post.

~t


Homosexuality and Bullying

Credit: Fotolia

I have taken part in several flash fiction challenges over the years. I love writing, and writing extremely short pieces of fiction really pushes me and helps me to develop more as a writer. Hopefully at some point I can make time to continue this guilty pleasure.

I had wanted to discuss two different issues on this blog at some point in time; however, after going through my old file of stories, I found something that should really be categorized as “flash flash fiction:” The challenge was to write a story in only 100 words. 100. That is probably as long as my “About Me” page on my blog. Ridiculously brief. And that’s why I took the challenge!

What’s interesting is that the 100-word flash fiction piece addresses both of the issues that I wanted to write about. Why not kill two birds with one stone? I originally wanted to discuss each topic in separate posts, but I will attempt to merge them here and try not to bore you with an outrageously long post.

Anyway, here is the flash fiction piece entitled “Bullies and the Bullied:”

We always made Todd close his eyes in the shower after gym class.  Once, during our barrage of insults, I threw his clothes in the trash barrel.

Todd spoke softly with a lisp and only hung out with girls.  As far as I knew, he never got beat up; no guy wanted to touch him.

After that school year, we never saw him again.

***

My son’s junior high photo smiles at me from the mantle. “Of course I still love and accept you, Michael,” I say to it, wiping my eyes.

When you get home from school, I’ll tell you that, buddy.

(I wonder how many of you counted those words…? I might have been off by a few.)

The inspiration for the second half of the “story” came from a conversation that I had with my wife shortly after our oldest son (now seven-years-old) was born. I have read about quite a few parents over the years who had to come to terms with the fact that their son or daughter was gay. When I lived in Japan, I had a Canadian friend who was disowned and told to “go to hell” by his parents after coming out to them.

Of course my wife and I didn’t have to think about our response at all; we would love and accept both sons because they mean more to us than life itself. I would never have the heart to cut off all contact with my two little buddies.

Now, that doesn’t mean we would support the lifestyle. I’m sure you noticed that this blog is written by a Catholic, and I accept and believe what the Catholic Church teaches on homosexuality. But nowhere does it say that anyone should be looked upon as sub-human.

I am really ashamed to admit that the first part of my story really happened. I was young and foolish. Too concerned with trying to fit in, I joined in on the taunting and verbal abuse of my fellow seventh-grader. How I wish I could go back and shake my younger self by the shoulders and scream, “Look at yourself! Think about what you’re doing to this poor kid!”

But I can’t go back. All I can do now is hope and pray that “Todd” is safe and not going through the harassment like he did every day after gym class so many years ago.

Maybe I joined the crowd because the focus of my peers was temporarily off of my awkward, uncoordinated self. Or maybe because I had to take my frustrations out on someone more vulnerable than I; anger and hurt from my father’s continued physical and verbal abuse during my entire childhood would build up from time to time.

There is never a legitimate reason to bully or hate someone. In fifth grade, our family moved to a new city, and that meant a brand new school for my sister and me. By that age, every kid in my new class already had their social groups fixed, and they made it clear that I wasn’t allowed in. Needless to say, I was bullied and even had mud thrown at me. It wasn’t until later in junior high that I finally made a few friends: other outcasts who knew that strength in numbers would be the only way to survive the dark, scary corridors of high school.

Going back to the topic of homosexuality, the Bible and the Catholic Church have never taught that it is a sin.  Rather, they teach that homosexual activity is a sin because it goes against the laws of God.

God gave each and every one of us dignity when He created us. As a result, every person on the planet deserves our love and respect.

~t


The Thorn in My Side

Credit: Carl Heinrich Bloch

Things have been pretty difficult for me lately. I made the mistake of going off my medication because it was making me too groggy to perform my job. At first I felt like, “Wow. I’m doing all right! I’m glad I got rid of those blasted pills.” However, weeks later, my mood began spiraling downward: I no longer desired to interact with colleagues and students (which is unacceptable since I am a teacher), and the time I was spending with my wife and kids was starting to suffer.

In a panic, I resumed the normal dosage after being off the meds for so long — a big mistake. Needless to say, it’s been a rough couple of weeks.

As a way to cope with all this, I felt the need to share some things with you.

I believe that God put it on my heart to begin this blog. Before I post anything, I pray about it and let the draft sit for a few hours just to make sure that it meets my/God’s standards. I have messed up a few times, though. For instance, I thought by posting censored images of pornography that I would, in essence, be smacking people in the head with a wooden staff, waking them up to how degrading and inhumane porn is to the women who are displayed — and to women in general.

I also thought that by throwing in a few cuss words here and there, it would make me “relatable” to non-religious people who read my posts. I have since come to my senses; I should “not conform to this world.” (Romans 12:2) Rather, by trying to be a good example of a Catholic and upholding God’s standards, I can “be transformed by the renewing of my mind.” (Ibid.)

Anyway, I believe that God allowed the thorn of mental illness to be stuck in my side, and, by surviving two suicide attempts, He has allowed me to live in order that I may share my experiences with the world.

Maybe it’s a result of quitting my meds cold turkey, or maybe it’s because they weren’t working properly, but since I started blogging, my heart has felt like it is ready to burst with fountains of tears. It’s a feeling that I’m used to experiencing, but not on a constant, day-to-day basis.

There are so many people whom I am meeting in the blogosphere and beyond, individuals whom I wish more than anything I could hug and comfort. I have sobbed from reading their blog posts, and I have cried during our correspondence. How I wish I had God’s healing power as the apostles had in the Book of Acts. I wouldn’t attempt to be like Jesus and perform public miracles or anything. Instead, I would visit these poor people with broken hearts and broken spirits and heal them in private, avoiding any limelight or fame. These feelings of yours are not healthy, some might be thinking. But only God knows the answer to that.

When I was in graduate school, and before I became a Catholic, I led a small Bible study through a non-denominational campus ministry. It was a small group that I shepherded: only about four other members. They have gone on to become professional artists, engineers, and physicists, but back then, we were just a ragtag band of emotional outcasts who needed each other. I include myself because, although I was chosen as the leader by the pastor, I was “one of them.”

One time, a member who went on to become a physicist heard through the grapevine that I was thinking about quitting leadership. “You can’t quit,” he told me, tears welling up in his eyes. “You are a true leader in ways that you cannot imagine.” I didn’t know what he meant, although the encouragement was nice to hear. However, due to such low self-esteem, I never considered myself a leader.

Another time, a member who is now supporting himself as a very talented artist in California told me as we were driving, “You know why we follow you? Because you feel. You really feel.” Again, I appreciated this, but I didn’t (couldn’t) fully comprehend it.

It was after years of seeking God and praying to find Him that I discovered that my ability to feel and suffer with those who were hurting was perhaps connected to my being diagnosed with mental illness. I’m not saying that only those struggling with mental illness can most effectively help others. However, it helped me to begin learning about this stranger who was myself.

I used to pray daily that God would take away my illness and make me normal. When I was hospitalized, though, I learned from one of many counselors that there is no such thing as a “normal” standard by which to measure others, including those with mental health issues.

My favorite time to pray is at night. I go into the walk-in closet with my Bible and saint cards and gaze at the crucifix above the doorway. After learning that St. Dymphna was the patron saint of those suffering from mental illness, I bought her saint card because it had a special prayer on the back. I soon discovered that God was communicating with me through the words in the prayer (the bold words in italics are mine):

…Give those whom I recommend the patience to bear with their affliction and resignation to do Your divine will. Give them the consolation they need and especially the cure they so much desire, if it be Your will. Through Christ, Our Lord. Amen. (Prayer to St. Dymphna)

If it be Your will. These five words pierced me like a silver-tipped arrow. God will cure me or leave me like this according to His will. But why would God leave me in this condition? Doesn’t He help those He loves? Does that mean God doesn’t care about me? Quite the contrary. St. Paul struggled with a mysterious thorn in his side and pleaded with God to remove it. However, God’s response was: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

For some reason, God is allowing my illness, my “thorn in my side,” to remain. Perhaps He will remove it at some point. Perhaps it will be there for the rest of my earthly life. I do know that St. Paul was able to accomplish great things for God and His Church because he was forced to rely on God and His strength, and what an awesome strength it is to have!

On a related note, if you’re suffering or hurting in any way, don’t keep it bottled up inside. Tell someone. Tell me. Call a help line. Do something. Please.

And be assured that even Jesus needed comforting during dark times in His life. (Luke 22: 41-44)

~t


St. Jude, Pray for Me

“It’s 10:00. Time to get off the computer,” my wife calls to me as she heads to the spare bedroom. It’s become her own bedroom recently. Not because we’ve been fighting. Actually, I’m not really sure why.

Ayako comes from a land far across the sea. It’s a land where I used to live. Seven years of my life, to be exact. One reason we moved back to the States after our two sons were born in Japan was because I was slowly going insane. I couldn’t handle life in such a tiny, crowded land anymore. I was fed up with everyone gawking at me like a caged zoo animal. Japan didn’t make me crazy, though. I already was.

“Yes, dear,” I reply, the sarcasm dripping from my lips like the cheap, sugary syrup we buy at Walmart. Asako knows that I can’t sleep at night, that I have nightmares; nightmares that cause me to awaken in the middle of the night, body and hair drenched in sweat, screaming in terror at the demons inside my mind. That’s one of the reasons she took over the spare bedroom and made it into her own little studio apartment.

I slam the magnetic cover of the iPad and toss it down beside me on the sofa. Well, now I have no excuse not to spend time with God before bed. That’s what I wanted, right? I barely succeed in convincing myself.

I grab my Bible and a small stack of holy cards, all of which were blessed by my parish priest, and head to my private chapel. It’s not as elegant as it sounds. It’s actually my, our, walk-in closet. I keep my plastic bottle of holy water on the top shelf, out of sight of my wife, and my gorgeous redwood crucifix with the silver corpus hangs above the doorway.

Ayako doesn’t mind. In fact, I always let her know that I’m going in to pray (meditate, as I call it) so that she knows not to bother me. Even though she’s lived in the U.S. for five years now, Ayako can’t quite grasp the concept of spontaneous prayer. I use meditate because she can at least use it as a reference point to her Buddhist upbringing.

I close the closet/chapel door and fall to my knees. Looking up at the crucifix, I quickly turn away, not worthy to gaze at the sterling silver body of Christ.

I’m such a failure. I’m such a screw-up.

I don’t attempt to utter anything to God. This is a time that I need the Holy Spirit to commune with my soul. In complete silence, I gaze down at the tan carpet, St. Jude staring at me from the pile of holy cards. He is the one I want, need, to talk to. Yes, Jesus can help me instead, but I feel a closeness to certain saints, especially Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases.

Like me.

Eventually, as my legs become numb after sitting in Japanese seiza position for too long, I stretch out my legs and recite the prayer on the back of the card to St. Jude. I speak each word carefully, each syllable coming from deep within the well of my soul.

I had given up black metal and death metal the day before. My Internet cyber-buddies and our metal club were still around, but I was long gone, a cyber-ghost in the virtual clubhouse of my former Order. Music by bands such as Watain, Djevel, Cannibal Corpse, and Serial Butcher was still pounding through my buddies’ elaborate computer speakers. I didn’t hear any of it, though. The Holy Spirit was the only thing coursing through my mind and soul at the moment.

You did it.

I gave up Satanic music. No, I’m not talking about the Rolling Stones or Metallica; if you Google “satanic black metal bands,” you’ll see that I’m not just another religious right-wing nutjob. There really is Satanic music out there. And it appeals especially to lone introverts. Like me.

Satan didn’t unleash the wolves of Hell after me; he is much too sly for that. Instead, Satan gouged a hole in my heart, one reserved for loved ones who pass away too quickly or for sweethearts who leave too suddenly.

I never even met these people, I try to tell myself. In time I’ll get over it. That’s what Ayako tells me, too.

Feeling a little better, I look up the list of Apostles in the New Testament to see St. Jude’s name. It gives me comfort.

I go to the kitchen and pop two Xanax. I’m sure that the demons will visit me at some point tonight. The Xanax will help.

But Satan is smart: He will send the demons in the early hours of the morning, after the Xanax wears off.

~topaz