Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent: Celebrations, Changes, and Epiphanies.

This is our first Advent wreath. My parents never used one, nor did they really celebrate Advent, so this is the start of a new tradition in our little family. I thought that, considering everything we've been through and how easily we can forget about what Advent is all about, the wreath on our kitchen table would be perfect.

I've had wanting to do this since I returned to the Church but I hadn't been able to until this year. I think it'll add something special to our days and, hopefully, will help get mom and I to start saying grace before meals (another time we're not used to; so sad).

I've been having a lot of changes happening in the family, some good and some not too good, which have led to epiphanies... which I hope to write about soon. All I will say is that this Advent season is the perfect time for this to happen, and I consider it a blessing from God. :) Does anyone else have these kinds of experiences around this time of year, or am I the only one?

Anyway, sorry for the short entry... busy with math homework (of course). I hope everyone has a great Advent season. :D

For more about Advent please visit here.

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!
- Emmy Cecilia

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Quick Personal Update

Again, sorry for the gaps between posts. I had my Philosophy exam on Wednesday... well, I actually missed it because I had HORRIBLE panic attacks through the entire night (Tuesday into Wednesday) and the anxiety didn't subside until Thursday morning. Because of this, I was also forced to cancel my adventure in my beloved England. *sighs* I supposed everything happened for a reason (and I have seen what that reason was) so it's okay.

I've been taking a break from studying over the holidays because I was getting those stress knots on my shoulders and back. Instead, I've been fixing my schedule for the Spring semester. 14 units (total of 5 courses). Since I am in the final stages on my transfer applications, I had to make sure I got all the courses I need to transfer before summer. Different schools in different countries required different courses. I hope all my hard work will pay off in the end. I'm still relying of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati's intercession when it comes to my transferring because I will really need it.

Advent is starting tomorrow, so I've also been preparing for that. I have the wreath and candles all ready. I'm going to try to translate some things for my mom who will be celebrating Advent for the first time. Yes, she's also a cradle Catholic but they did things differently in Mexico where she lived for the first couple of years of her life. It'll be VERY exciting to see how she reacts to things. :D Also, she's successfully started novenas. I'm so proud of her. :D

I hope to write an Advent post tomorrow. I don't think I wrote one last year so... it's about time I did. :D After tomorrow, and possibly Monday, don't expect another post from me until I am done studying for my math exam (we have this weekend off!). I am going to dedicate the next 3 weeks to passing my courses, especially math. The posting will become more regular after finals are over (after Dec. 16) and after I am done with my novel (which is going very well btw... 5,000 words in a couple of hours on Thursday).

That's it for now. I'm going to finish reading a novel for fun before I get prepare for tomorrow. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God bless. :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Music Monday: Fireproof Edition

Though I have yet to write a proper review on the movie, it is no secret that I love Fireproof. If you haven't already seen it... what are you waiting for? If you loved Flywheel and/or Facing the Giants (which I just watched for the first time a couple of weeks ago), you'll love this film as well. I eventually want to dedicate a blog post to films made by Sherwood Pictures, but it'll have to wait until I am done with my courses for the semester.

Since it's Music Monday, I thought I'd post some videos of songs from the Fireproof soundtrack. While the entire thing is great, these are my top two. I hope y'all enjoy the songs and go watch the film (again, or for the first time.)

The first song is my personal favorite. It's called "Love is Not a Fight" by Warren Barfield. Pay close attention to the lyrics (which will be show in the video) and really think about them.

If you want to see the official music video to this song, you can find it here. I can't post it because they've disabled embedding. I would recommend you watching it. :)

The second song is called "While I'm Waiting" by John Waller. If you've seen the movie then you know this song comes on during a particularly awesome part. :)

And, just for fun, the Fireproof trailer. :)

Alright, I'm going back to studying for my Philosophy exam (though it's the Christianity portion so I won't be stressing too badly.) I hope y'all had a great start of week. :)

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

St. Cecilia's Feast Day; Giveaway.

In honor of my confirmation saint, St. Cecilia (now you know where my middle name comes from :D), I am doing a quick blog before I go study for my Philosophy exam. I will try not to repeat what I wrote last year.

A little background info on St. Cecilia courtesy of the "Saint of the Day" application on Facebook.

This patroness of music lived in early times. What we know about her goes back to the fourth century. Cecilia was a Roman noblewoman who had given her heart to Christ. Beneath the rich clothes worn by women of her class, Cecilia wore a rough shirt that caused her suffering. She wanted to be able to offer this sacrifice to Jesus, whose bride she intended to be. But Cecilia's father gave her in marriage to a young pagan noble. It is said that during the wedding celebration, the lovely bride sat apart. She was singing to God in her heart and praying for his help. When she and Valerian, her husband, were alone, she gathered up courage and said to him: "I have a secret to tell you. You must know that I have an angel of God watching over me. If you let me keep my promise to be Christ's bride only, my angel will love you as he loves me."

Valerian was surprised and said kindly, "Show me this angel. If he comes from God, I will do as you wish."

Cecilia said, "If you believe in the one true God and receive the waters of Baptism, then you will see my angel." Valerian went to Bishop Urban and was received with joy. After he had professed his belief in the Christian religion, he was baptized and returned to St. Cecilia. There by the saint's side, the young man saw the splendid angel.

Valerian's brother, Tiburtius, learned of the Christian faith from Cecilia. She spoke so beautifully of Jesus that before long, he too was baptized. Together the two brothers performed many works of charity. When they were arrested for being Christians, they went bravely to death rather than give up their new faith in Jesus. St. Cecilia lovingly buried their bodies, before she too was arrested. She converted the very officers who tried to make her sacrifice to false gods. When she was put into a fire, it did not harm her. At last, a man was sent to behead her. He struck her neck three times, but Cecilia did not die right away. She lay on the floor of her own home unable to move. Yet by holding out three fingers of one hand, and one of the other, she still professed her belief in the Blessed Trinity.

On this feast of the patroness of music, let us consider the words of St. Augustine: "Words cannot express the things that are sung by the heart..And if so happy that words can no longer express what they feel, people discard the restricting syllables. They burst out into a simple sound of joy, of jubilation.'"

I've always said that she choose me, not the other way around... and I couldn't be happier about that. Reading her story, about how on her wedding day she heard music in heart, because she'd be given it to God, sort of reminds me of the lovely (yet kinda weird) experience I had at Mass nearly 2 years ago. I often pray that God sends me a good man, like He did to St. Cecilia.

Oh, btw, that experiment I mentioned a couple of entries ago about using music to help me study? Totally helped... and I owe that idea to St. Cecilia. :) I'm pretty sure I passed the latest math exam, and he'll allow me to retake the last exam because he noticed that most (if not all) of us weren't passing the exams. I'll be alright. I owe part of that to Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, but I'll leave that for another entry. :)

Oh, btw, I'm giving away two The Priests CDs in honor of St. Cecilia's feast day. Yeah, I left that until the end. lol. Just send me an email, twitter DM, or leave me a comment with your name and e-mail address and let me know that you'd like to enter the random drawing. I'll choose the winner on Monday (for Music Monday). (side note: The winners of the St. Dymphna chaplet and prayer card, the items are on their way. Sorry I couldn't get them sent sooner.)

I will try to write as often as I can but I don't know if I will for the rest of the week. I have two more exams to do before Wednesday afternoon. Wednesday through Sunday I will be spending time exploring my beloved England (particularly London and Bath -- squee! lol) as I do a little bit more research for the novel (the last piece of the novel writing puzzle). I will be back (without too much stress... I hope ;)) on Monday. :)

I hope everyone had a great, blessed weekend. :) As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

R.I.P Fr. Leo Leblanc, O.M.I.

This afternoon I got the shocking news that Fr. Leo, whom I've mentioned countless times on this blog, had passed away yesterday. He fell off something in the parish and hit his head... and then he was gone. Mom didn't know how to break the news to me because he was my favorite priest and she knew I'd take it hard. He was also my spiritual adviser and I was actually due for a visit. I've been fighting the urge to cry since I received this sad news.

Fr. Leo was a great man. He was also joking around or in a great mood. Never did I see him in a foul mood. He gave me some of the best advice I'd ever received. Thanks to him, I figured out that I wasn't meant to have a religious vocation. When he found out I had anxiety (when it was much worse), he told me not to worry if I had to leave for a couple of minutes while it calmed down. Almost every time he saw me, he told me he was still praying for me. I can't even begin to imagine how many prayers he said for me. Also, thanks to him, we were able to bury my father both quicker and without having to pay for much of it (since we didn't have the money) this past summer. I'm getting choked up just thinking about the countless ways he helped not only me but everyone that asked for his help.

Today, I'd been happy and excited about what was in store this evening. In about an hour, I'm leaving to receive an academic award at my college. We were going to celebrate afterwards but I'm no longer in the mood. What I'm in the mood for is praying for his soul... and finding comfort in reading more on Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati's life, just like I did right when my father passed away. (Honestly, reading this biography helped me put things intro perspective.) It's a bit ironic that I received something in the mail from Frassati USA this afternoon. Perhaps a sign from above?

Tomorrow evening will be the vigil, which I will be attending. He won't be buried because he's donated his body to UCLA Medical. He was always giving towards others, right up to his death. I'd like to ask y'all to please pray for Fr. Leo's soul. He was a good man and he deserves all the prayers he can get.

I don't know exactly how to end this blog. I'm still in shock here.

Thanks in advance for the prayers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I am a Childless Mother.

Yes, you read the title correctly: I am a childless mother. How is it possible? Well, insight from both a priest I met (for the first time) over the weekend AND from someone who knows me very well have helped me figure it out. Now, I have to decide whether it's a good thing or not, and where I have to draw the line.

If you've read my blog for a while, you know that I love to take care of my family. I took care of my father for years up until he passed away this summer. I've continued taking care of my mother who is still in denial of my father's passing... and refuses to get help for her denial. Recently, I've had several people tell me that the "spark" is gone from my eyes... that there is only sadness, even when I try to be optimistic. Both the priest (who's name I don't remember; he's new to the nearby parish) and the person who knows me well pointed out something to me: I am a parent to my own parents. Not only that, but I've neglected to take care of myself. As the priest told me, after we got down to everything, I have been the parent in my family since I was a child. I've taken care of them whenever they've been ill or unable to take care of themselves or myself. In fact, I learned how to cook/feed myself (at age 4-5) and wash the dishes by hand (at age 6-7) because they were unable to help me with those specific things when they needed to be done. That's all I've ever known... doing things for them that they couldn't. Though I haven't been able to financially take care of them (though I have helped with that as well), I've taken care of them every other way... including emotionally. I am not complaining that I've lived my life this way; nothing makes me happier than being able to help others. The fact that I've been able to do everything I could for my parents makes me ecstatic.

I don't mind giving up things for others' benefit. It's in my very nature take care of others - ask my friends, they'll say I'm very "mothering" - otherwise I won't be happy. While that is true, I do admit that I've been given up a lot that I do, sometimes, wish I could've done. I wish that I could've gone straight to college after high school. If I had done that, I would've gotten my B.A. years ago. I wish I could've gone to university in England, as was the original plan a couple of years ago. Those are my two biggest "regrets" though I honestly don't regret giving them up. By my staying at home for as long as I have, I've been able to help out my parents with things they couldn't have done otherwise.

I'm not saying that I'm unselfish. Oh, no. Like everyone else, I do have my selfish moments when I don't want to do something so I don't... or moments where I just want what I want and I don't want anyone saying anything about my decision to do it. No one's that perfectly unselfish, especially not me.

Recently, I've been given the opportunity to study, and possibly work, in a different country (though I will keep details under wraps for now). I don't really have anything holding me back... except my mother. My mother is such a wonderful, giving person that many people take advantage of her. I have to put my foot down and/or deal with it because she's too nice and can't bring herself to do it. I know she's able to take of herself, but I still feel a sort of responsibility for her that it makes me really think about whether I will be leaving Los Angeles (and the U.S.) or not. It's my selfish wants (and, ultimately, it would good for me, not only career wise but it will make me even more autonomous) vs my not too selfish wants of taking care of my mother (who often puts me on a guilt trip when I mention leaving). As I said, I really don't mind giving up leaving this heck hole that is known as Los Angeles to take care of mother... but is it time to leave the nest and not worry about how she'll do by herself?

The priest advised me to go. He said that I should take care of myself and do something for myself for once. Mom agreed... but not before giving me another guilt trip about leaving her by herself... with no family around... living by herself... she "can't live" by herself. *sighs* Do I do something for myself and go to this new country and university or do I continue being a "mother" to my mother? Where am I going to draw the line to end this cycle? This is going to give me a headache until I make my decision... and it's not going to be pretty because I'm the most indecisive person you'll meet. *sighs* lol.

Sorry for semi-venting here. I normally don't do this but I needed it out of my system. Maybe some of y'all have some advice that would be helpful in my decision. Anything from the Bible that I've overlooked that will help me with this? Seriously, I'll take good advice right about now. :)

Alright, this nerd needs to stop blogging and go back to the wonderful world of math. And, yes, that was written with sarcasm on my mind. lol.

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

When Life Hands You Lemons... (Sour Sunday).

The St. Cecilia statue mom bought for me after "Sour Sunday." More on the reason behind the gift coming up...

Sorry about the extended break again. I did not anticipate the amount of work and things that bombarded me over the weekend. As I said in the last post, I was (correction: still am!) struggling with math. I bombed the math test... again... on Sunday. I studied for hours just to bomb it? Oh goodness no. Joe can verify that I do know my stuff (he tutored me for 3 hours on Friday... and he heard "Please shoot me now" at least half a dozen times, lol) I just completely blank out when I take the test... and that is BAD news because, it being an accelerated math course, I cannot afford to "screw up" as one of my classmates so eloquently put it. Here's the kicker to this whole "not passing" issue: NO ONE in the class is getting over a 50/100 on the exams. I'm serious. Everyone I spoke to said they received a 50 or lower. Personally, I received a 40/100 (yes, I'm putting it out there for all to know. I'm not ashamed to admit I fail at something). The problem with this class is the professor. I hate to point fingers but we've all agreed that it's not really our fault because we try the best we can with what we're given. The math problems presented to us are not clear (both Joe and my friend Dave, who has attempted to help me with math, both agreed on that) and the prof. spends 5 minutes on a single problem (per chapter) and then moves onto the next chapter. I had someone, who wasn't in the class, attend the class with me on Sunday and, surprise surprise, she didn't understand it either because nothing is properly explained to us. So what am I going to do? I have devised a plan that will take into effect tonight (after I do all those 101 errands)... I will use music to help me study. Music is ever present in my life. Even when I'm not actively listening to it, I have at least something "playing" in my head. This is why I often say that St. Cecilia (patron saint of music, musicians) chose me as my confirmation saint, I didn't choose her. I'm glad too. :) The inspiration to use music came at the end of what is now known as "Sour Sunday."

After I fantastically bombed my second math exam in a row, I came out feeling horrible... but I wanted to put it aside and focus on the fact that I would be able to finally attend Mass on a Sunday. I would be cutting it close but I was going to go, and that's all I wanted. We got there 10 minutes late (because my transportation situation isn't always the best when it comes to time management). "Fine, no big deal... at least I'm here." I had to stand in the back since we got there late. I said "Okay. I don't mind. I'll offer up the fatigue (since I was carrying a backpack that weighed at least 15 pounds) and whatever I feel." The Mass went by quickly. I enjoyed the homily Fr. Leo gave about how we should not be afraid of death and how we should try to live our lives as best as we could so we could be reunited with the Lord in Heaven. Then came time to receive the Eucharist. Someone announced that they were advising everyone to receive the Eucharist by hand so that there would be minimal contact (Swine Flu paranoia strikes away). Of course, no wine was given due to the same fear. From my understanding, receiving communion by hand was optional... and an option I didn't care for. I've NEVER received the Eucharist in my hand and I wasn't about to start... or so I thought. When it came time for me to receive the Eucharist, I stood there with my hands together, clearly waiting for the Eucharistic minister to give it to me on the tongue. The guy just stood there and said "We're giving it by hand." I was starting to say how that was optional but he got angry and practically threw it at my hands. I was LUCKY I caught it because it would've fallen on the ground. WHO DOES THAT?!

I was so angry, I took the Eucharist, put it in my mouth, did the sign of the cross and walked to the back of the parish... shaking my head, showing my disgust, with tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn't take it anymore... I walked outside and I openly cried those big crocodile tears I am famous for. I waited for Mass to be over and for my mom to come out. She asked me what was wrong. I told her and she shrugged it off. Then we walked by Fr. Leo and he asked what was wrong. I told him... and I added "It doesn't feel right. It's NOT right." He countered with "Well, Jesus gave his disciples bread that they each broke off with their hands. If Jesus was here, do you think he'd give you the Eucharist by hand? Think about it. He probably would." I was stunned... I couldn't say what I was thinking out of the respect I have for the Church and for those with a religious vocation. Before I left he said "You can't teach this old dog new tricks... but you can teach young dogs (me) new ones." He laughed, told me to get used to receiving the Eucharist by hand, and said he'd pray for me (probably to "get over" what I felt). As we were leaving, I vowed to my mom that I wouldn't set foot in that parish again.

It might be a little dramatic for me to say that I am never going back there again... but I can't, in good conscience, do it. The liturgical abuse is horrid (they practically skip over the Penitential Rites for starters) and I'm so disillusioned with this particular parish. I know I've grown up there, and that thanks to Fr. Leo, we were able to bury my father quickly and a lot cheaper than we were initially told, but I just can't sit there and pretend I'm okay with how things are conducted there. I can't. Mom loves the parish but I just can't make myself overlook how Masses are given there. I will look for another parish elsewhere because it's getting ridiculous.

Before we left, to come home, we stopped by the little shop on the side of the parish. I saw this statue of St. Cecilia and pointed it out to mom. I told her that I thought it was pretty and that she was the reason Cecilia is being (legally) added as my middle name. Mom ended up buying it for me, after seeing the horrible day I was having, so that I would have something that would remind me of her whenever I was having a similar type of day. On our way home, I told my mom St. Cecilia's story and she said "Wow. That's a great story. Very inspiring." When I thought about it, the idea of using music to help me cope with things like my math issues. I have used it (music) when I needed it, i.e. when I've had to control my anxiety or when I am stuck on a particular chapter in the novel I'm writing. I've placed the statue on my desk, right next to me, so I can glance over and remind myself that I've used music to help me overcome things before... and it will, hopefully, help me with my math issues. It will also remind me that, just like I cannot stand liturgical abuses... especially when they badly butcher the music, I must do what I feel is true and not give into pressures of what is expected of me (i.e. going to parishes that don't honor the Mass properly). Life handed me lemons on Sunday, but I refuse to give up without a fight.

Alright, that's all for now. I have to go run a million errands (yes, that is a great exaggeration ;)) before I dedicate the evening to math. Ick. lol.

As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :D

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quick Update

Just a quick update since my math tutor (and fellow Catholic blogger) Joe is due at Chez Emmy any minute...

Sorry I haven't updated for nearly 2 weeks. I've been busy (REALLY BUSY) with school since my 8 week (a.k.a. crazy advanced) math course just began. Math is definitely my Achilles heel so I have to study it more than I usually do any other subject. Don't ask me why I decided to torture myself with a short, quick paced course instead of a normal 16 week course... I'm not even that sure. Since I don't know how long it'll be until I am able to blog more regularly, I have been toying with the idea of putting a couple of chapters of the novel I've been working on until I am able to come back and write a proper blog. If that happens, it'll start soon. At the moment I'm thinking about posting maybe 3 chapters... over a period of maybe a week and a half to two weeks (I have to break them down because they're too long for a single post). Again, I am not 100% sure that I will do this (because I have a thing about having my things ready before they are completed) but if I do, I'll start posting them very very soon.

Advent is coming up, I will be posting more regularly since it's my favorite time of the year. I do have a lot of things to write... I just need to find the time to write them. With school and the deadline for my novel approaching, I haven't had much time for anything else... including soccer matches (and y'all know what a big soccer fan I am... and how much I just cringed when I called it soccer. lol).

Alright, well that's it for now. I HOPE to write something either later tonight (though not likely since the L.A. Galaxy are playing for the Western Conference Championship... GO GALAXY!!) or tomorrow. Hang in there. I'm doing well... just a tad bit overwhelmed with school this semester. :)

I hope everyone is doing well. :D As always, thanks for reading and God Bless.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls' Day; Dia de los Muertos

That is my father's grave marker after we decorated it for All Souls' Day. We were keeping the Mexican tradition of Dia de Los Muertos (my father was Mexican-American... Mexican born, naturalized American) in which add some of the person's favorite things, when they were living, to the grave. All foods and candles were strictly forbidden by the cemetery so we couldn't decorate it any more. Since we couldn't put a coffee cup, his favorite thing in the world after his cars, we added pinwheels which he thought were fun (he was a kid at heart.) One of them has the Mexican flag on it in honor of our Mexican heritage.

The day itself was a pretty deal for us, especially since this is the first time we really celebrate it. As soon as we found out that all the Catholic cemeteries in the Los Angeles Archdiocese were going to have Mass at 10 a.m., mom and I decided to go in honor of dad's memory. It also helps that dad is buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery so we would be able to visit him after the Mass without any problems. Of course, that meant that I'd have to miss my Philosophy course but I didn't care. I was going to go to that Mass and my love of arguing with my professor wasn't going to stop me. I am so happy that I made that decision because it was only one of most beautiful experiences I've ever had.

The Mass was... beautiful, and bilingual. I was able to pray and sing hymns in both English and Spanish. There were many priests, representing the parishes around the San Fernando Valley, including Fr. Stan (who was my spiritual adviser until he was assigned to a different parish) and Fr. James (who is the new Irish-American priest at our parish). The sat in the sun, while the rest of us were in the shade. They said the reason for that was that they were doing penance for us. God bless them; it was over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun burned. The hymns that were sung were lovely and appropriate. "Ave Maria" was sung in Italian and I teared up a bit because the woman put so much emotion into the song. I loved that they really focused on what the feast day was all about. The presiding priest, Fr. Steven Guitron (of Guardian Angel Church in Pacoima), gave a beautiful homily in which he talked about souls, purgatory, and trying to lead saintly lives so that we can, one day, enter Heaven and be with the Lord. He added things in both English and Spanish that I wish everyone there understood because it was a lovely message. Mom and I both received the Eucharist at the Mass and it all just felt... so right. Before the Mass ended, they thanked us for going to Mass and praying for the deceased. They concluded with Psalm 55:6, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest." As soon as that was said, they let about a dozen doves fly, surprising everyone in attendance. Many of us, both men and women, shed tears at how beautiful it was. (btw, I'm well aware that I'm using the word "beautiful" a lot but I honestly can't think of a better word for this experience.)

After Mass was over, we went back to visit dad's grave (where we first stopped before Mass). On our way there, we passed Ritchie Valens' grave. My mom is a big fan of the song "Donna" so it was interesting for her to see where the composer/singer of one of her favorite songs was buried. After passing by his grave, and praying for his soul, we went to daddy's grave to decorate it. As you saw in the picture, we really decorated it and would've probably added more things if we were able to. We didn't add marigolds, which is the tradition in Mexican cemeteries because my mother didn't want to do. I did but I was vetoed for once. lol. As we were decorating it his grave, I thought about how much I was like... what I'd learned from him... how much I missed him... how much he would always be a part of my life even though he's no longer physically here. All in all, it was a great experience and I look forward to doing it every year.

Whatever you did for All Soul's Day, I hope you remembered all the loved ones you've lost and remember that they'll always be with you. As Fr. Steven reminded us at the Mass, we may not see them, but they're looking out for us... helping us (through intercession) as much as they are able to, much like saints and blesseds.

That's all for now. I hope everyone had a great weekend. :D As always, thanks for reading and God Bless.