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Friday, April 6, 2018

Love is the Way- A study on "Silence" and "Paul, Apostle of Christ"

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Silence and Paul, Apostle of Christ are both religious films portraying courage, suffering, persecution, love, sacrifice, reflection, perseverance, and death. Both of these films depict these elements in similar and in also radically differing ways.
The movie Silence is based off the book by the same name authored by Shusaku Endo. 
The two lead characters in Silence are two Jesuit missionaries- Fr. Rodgrigues and Fr. Garupe. 
Their desires are to serve the poor persecuted peasants in 17th century Japan and locate their Jesuit brother and mentor-Fr. Ferreira, who had gone missing in the country. 
In Paul, Apostle of Christ, there are also two main characters, Paul of Tarsus and his devoted follower, Luke the Physician. Their mission is similar to Fr. Garupe and Fr. Rodgrigues, in so far that they were missionaries taking care of their faithful amidst rampant persecution.

 Fr. Rodgrigues and Fr. Garupe had great courage and sacrifice to leave their native lands to travel to Japan and preach the Gospel. The same can be said for Paul of Tarsus and for his follower, Luke. Both were men of God too, like Fr. Garupe and Fr. Rodgrigues- missionaries in their own right. 

This similar courage and sacrifice to leave their own homes in order to enter the service of the Lord, served their persecuted followers in Rome and elsewhere, strongly echoed the example ofFr. Rodgrigues and Fr. Garupe.  
The courage and sacrifice of these 4 men in their desire to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in lands where the penalty for believing is death, exemplified a great love for God and for others. 
Despite terrible persecutions, they sought to spread the Gospel to all nations and cultures.

Fr. Rodgrigues and Fr. Garupe tolerated many sufferings. They suffered with the natural elements of the country, dealt with the stress of serving their flock whilst hiding from their persecutors and witnessed the martyrdom of their most earnest believers.

Paul of Tarsus and Luke experienced similar sufferings. Paul suffered the weariness of imprisonment and imminent death. Luke suffered the daily witnesses of the Christian persecutions and risked his own well-being by visiting Paul in prison, so he could make an account of Paul’s conversion to Christianity. 
The sufferings endured by these 4 men would make any contemporary shudder, but these men were valiant in their approach to be all and to do all for Christ.

See the source imageThe Japanese and Roman persecutions weren’t that different in approach, but their methods may be different. Regardless, the persecutors from both cultures sought to demoralize the Christian followers. They hunted, tortured, and dispatched them. 
The Christian persecutions by the Romans and the Japanese were an attempt to wipe out Christians and ultimately Christianity in those areas. 
Fr. Rodgrigues and Fr. Garupe loved the people they served and helped. The two Jesuit priests loved each other with a tender brother-like love. They counseled, argued, traveled and helped together. Their ardent desire to be missionaries in Japan consumed them and believed it was the Lord’s will. They were erudite in their knowledge of the Faith whilst the peasants they helped had only an elementary knowledge, yet these peasants maintained a deep love for God despite not having sacraments. 
The peasants, perhaps had a stronger faith and love than the Jesuits did. Fr. Rodgrigues and Fr. Garupe were arrogant and ambitious in their mission. They both thought that they could, on their own, convert the country and bring back their lost mentor, Fr. Ferriera. 

With this pride, they thought they were doing God’s work, but they neglected to have the humility of heart and simplicity to realize that without God’s grace and help they are nothing. Frequently, Fr. Rodgrigues bemoaned the fact that he felt he wasn’t doing enough in his missionary work.
He was already doing enough as it is, why must he torture himself with disparaging thoughts like this? It seemed like he was being tempted. There were curious moments in his reflections where he showed a lack of patience, self-heroism and occasionally doubt in Divine Providence.
As time passed, Fr. Rodgrigues, above all wished and prayed that the peasants would stop being tortured and killed, but to what end? He went so far as to counsel some Japanese peasants to renounce Jesus. 
The film isn’t clear on how long the two Jesuit missionaries were in Japan, but eventually the Japanese authorities heard about the two and they earnestly sought them out.  
After Fr. Garupe was captured, he died trying to save a Christian from being martyred- they both died.  
When Fr. Rodgrigues’ was captured, he met Fr. Ferriera and learned that he apostatized and had been assimilated into the Japanese society. 

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Fr. Ferriera was used by the Japanese as an aid to make Fr. Rodgrigues apostatize. He endured many different tortures over a period of time.  
Over time, it seemed like Fr. Rodgrigues was becoming more confused and maybe a little crazy too. The sufferings seemed to be taking a toll on him. His last torture was to witness the torment of his fellow Christians. To save them if he was really Christ-like in charity- as tempted by the Japanese- he would apostatize.
 During this particular torture, inwardly, he “heard” a “voice” basically suggesting him to apostatize because it was essentially all right to do so- he obeyed. After this, Fr. Rodgrigues was freed and he adopted a new name, assimilated into Japanese society and even obtained a wife and family. At the end of the film, a religious medal was placed into his hand during his burial. (This symbolism is left up to you for your discernment.)
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Fr. Garupe
How can any martyr prove their love to God by apostatizing? God let His Son be tortured and crucified for our salvation- the highest form of love. God would never ask anyone to apostatize. (John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…..”) 

 Fr. Rodgrigues did not persevere, nor was he loving in long suffering. Fr. Rodgrigues and Fr. Garupe weren’t afraid of dying themselves, but they couldn’t stand seeing people, whom they came to love, suffer and die in front of them.

Paul and Luke loved God and the people they were serving too. They were also humble. Paul wasn’t always named Paul, before this name, his name was Saul. He was a great persecutor of Christians until he was knocked off his horse and spoken to by Our Lord Jesus Christ, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?….I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” 
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Fr. Ferriera

Saul had been a zealous Jew doing everything a fervent Jew ought to do, he really thought he was doing God’s work by persecuting these “Christians”, but he understood and became a most ardent follower of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 
 He replaced Saul with the Greek name, Paul.
His “thorn” of Christian persecution, forever reminded him of the goodness of God’s grace and the capability that all men, despite their pasts can find hope and renewal in the efficacy of God’s grace and mercy. 
All throughout his life Paul knew he was nothing, yet through it all, maintained a steady faith and trust in God. He knew he deserved harsher treatments for his misdeeds. His “thorn” kept him humble, yet hopeful. He didn’t bemoan or bewail or tempt himself with selfish, disparaging thoughts, he persevered and kept calm because he knew and believed that this is what God wanted and he was hopeful. Paul was beheaded, he died honorably for God. The teacher is quiet during a test.

Luke loved God and was humble. He was a Greek physician and a good medical man too! He converted to Christianity and became Paul’s longtime follower. 
He left his family and native land to spread the Gospel. Luke came often to see Paul in prison and he still learned from Paul. He helped in the writing of Paul’s letters. Luke shared Paul’s testimony with other believers, yet never wanted any notoriety for them. 

Even when arrested and threatened with death because he was found with these documents, he encouraged others in the prison to remain calm and have faith. 
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The magistrate of the prison had a daughter who was suffering from a sickness and he wanted Luke to heal her and so he was released. After he healed her and after Paul’s death, Luke eventually traveled to other lands teaching and preaching, until he, in old age, was also martyred.

Between the lives of these 4 men, they resembled each other on the surface in suffering, sacrifice, courage, and persecution. Fr. Rodgrigues and Fr. Garupe were vastly different to Paul and Luke’s examples of personal reflection, love, death, and humility. 

Men are sure of their belief and love. Men die for things they don’t doubt in.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Dear Readers

 Dear Readers,

It’s been a while since I wrote a meaningful post. There have been some things which have been making life challenging and difficult, but the adage, “that is life”, seems appropriate to quote right now. It’s funny how slight inconveniences that wouldn't have bothered me in the past are bothering me now. 
I suppose one can say that I am little edgy, but that is too something I need to dull down a little- an unfortunate effect to being worn down on both sides.

During my pilgrimage of a lifetime in France (Chartres Pilgrimage), I was fortunate and blessed enough to experience many things, much of which were analogous for events and circumstances to be gleaned for self-reflection at a later date. 
The most prominent analogy is where during the late afternoon on day 2 of the Pilgrimage I felt worthless and frankly, weak all around. Everything was aching, my spirits were low and I felt impatient and fed up with trudging though grassy muck. 
I had a little girl pout and promptly sat myself down on the ground. At this point, I didn't care if I couldn't keep up with my group especially after being separated from them for much of that day. 
I tried to maintain that brisk pace since early morning. 

I wanted to quit and ride the shuttle the rest of the way to camp until a French person informed me in their broken English that the camp was a merely 2-minute walk away. 
With this joyful news, I got back up on those wobbly legs and finished the road for that day.

 Honestly, my road right now seems like Day 2 of the Pilgrimage. I am at that point where I feel I want to quit and take the easy way out, but I know I have to push myself to keep walking despite the personal blisters that have formed and the aches I feel because who knows when that “camp” is only a 2-minute walk away. 

Keep on keeping on, wherever you may be in life. :) 

Friday, March 23, 2018

2017- Year in Review.

Hiking at Fort Rock, Oregon, during Easter Break

Dear readers,

I have taken an inadvertent hiatus from writing and I wish to get back into that habit. I feel most myself when I write. I think after photography, writing is part of my expression and perhaps, health.
I guess you can say "life happened", which explains the exceptionally long hiatus, but that is particularly my fault for not making it a priority.
I've gotten in the habit of watching movies, playing on my phone, and any other method of activity which doesn't take much thought to do.
Shocking! Unfortunately, I am a bi-product of modern society, but I do try to curb my laziness and improve upon the lack of motivation.

Twenty Seventeen, Two Thousand and Seventeen or merely 2017- it happened. Here are some pictures captivating the moments of that year.

Hiked a round trip of 10 miles to reach the headwaters of the Mississippi River at Itasca State Park

Hiking through St. John's Arboretum
Minnesota- I forgot where

The traveling statue of Our Lady of Fatima visited the school in October.
2017 Solar Eclipse
Phoenix, AZ
First sawdust art I have ever done for feast of Christ the King
After St. Robert Bellarmine Academy graduations last year
Inside of Mall of America
Sand art at Benton County Fair
Tractor Pull at Benton County Fair
Inside of a guitar exhibit at MIM (Musical Instrument Museum), Phoenix, AZ
At In-N-Out Burger, Phoenix, AZ
At Marie's wedding!

View of  Our Lady of Sorrows church in Phoenix, AZ while on Retreat in August.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review- "He Saw a Hummingbird"

See the source image I recently just finished a inspirational book titled, He Saw a Hummingbird by husband and wife duo, Norma Lee Browning and Russell Ogg.

The story is about the professional photographer Russell Ogg, his diabetes, and his wife Norma Lee Browning overcoming the odds and unknowingly engineering a "miracle" with the help of a little hummingbird.

Russell, a professional photographer (with severe diabetes) by trade worked for the Chicago Daily News.  He had quit the Chicago Daily News and started freelancing as a special assignment photographer to accompany his wife's articles for the Tribune with whom she worked for. The nature of their journalism jobs required them to travel extensively throughout the world. Their home was filled with treasures from their excursions. They were very successful in their own fields.

During this new phase in this dynamic couple's life, Russell began having very severe diabetic health complications. As a result, he retired with his wife in Palm Springs, CA. He ended up losing much of his vision, therefore becoming legally blind.
 Now to a man who makes his living taking pictures, it seemed to be a death sentence to him and perhaps to his wife. As a photographer, you learn to see life in a different way, exposing yourself to the nuances of life's simplicities and complexities from different angles and perspectives.

It seemed that Russell was at first determined to not sit by and stare into space all day withering away his life by despairing. Unfortunately, Russell quit photography all together and became depressed and despondent with the countless ophthalmology and doctor visits and not being able to see well.

His wife became anxious at how his quality of life and the fruitfulness of their livelihood were waning. They could no longer travel like they used to. He had to learn how to navigate being blind. Russell could not take pictures much less do anything else. It seemed like this was the end of the story of his active career. Until one day.....

See the source imageIn sunny and balmy Palm Springs, Russell used to sit on the back patio of their home. A hummingbird used to come by every day. The hummer would even sit on his shoulder at times. He thought he had no vision, but he could see enough of the iridescent colors to know what it was.
He fortunately saved a camera when he gave away his photography equipment and pulled it out for a shoot.
His first attempts at photography while essentially blind, were crude at best. He was a very adept engineer in his abilities to fix and to make items out of almost anything. He used this ability to create a hummingbird feeder and then shortly after, a "seeing eye" camera system. He was able to make a camera that worked independent of him, meaning that there was a beam of light and if it was crossed, an appendage of relays and wires would set off the shutter.
With many improvements, he was able to capture many photos of hummingbirds. He had to learn how to develop pictures while blind. He learned to "see" through his senses. His wife noticed a transformation in him. He had a purpose during this time of darkness. He threw his entire self into this new "hobby" of his. Soon he was gaining notoriety for his astounding images.
He was sought after by art dealers and art showers. He begrudgingly accepted a showing of his photos only on the basis that he was worried that people might look different at his pictures because he was blind. His wife and their close friends were there to help him out with everything so as to not make him and others feel awkward. It was a great success.

Norma recounts her errors, trials and persistence in identifying the little birds. She threw herself into this endeavor with a passion that matched her husband's. The dynamic couple was back in action. Russell found meaning in life and with the help of a little hummingbird, it seemed like a miracle to many.
The physical makeup of a hummingbird baffles many biologists and birders alike. Technically, it shouldn't even be able to fly, but it does. Russell is technically and legally blind, but he is able to see just enough- the iridescence of these birds, and he is able to photograph them well.This story of Russell's unbeatable spirit and the persistence of the hummer are inspiring to many and I hope it's inspiring to you, the reader, as well.

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"Often as I stand watching in tiptoed wonder at the sunburst explosion of his inner powers beyond seeing, I ask myself the same questions others have asked: How can he do this? How is it possible? Then I remember, Hummingbirds can't fly but they do. And so it is with him. 
Who can explain how miracles happen? Who can explain birth or rebirth or an awakening of the spirit and mind? Who knows why or how a new self is born in a man because he suddenly saw a hummingbird?"

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A letter to my dog

Right after when we first got her in 2007
Dear Penny,

If I had to write a letter to you it would probably go in no particular order, in fact it would probably be expressing almost everything I ever wanted to tell you.
It has been 4 months since your passing on since 10/17/17. I know you are fine wherever you are and I shouldn't have to worry about your health any longer. You showed up in our lives at a time where the last thing we thought of was getting a dog, but obviously it worked out because we kept you.

I have always heard of Mom's stories about the various dogs she had own and always wondered of the connection between owner and pet. I know I've always wanted a dog and you came on a sunny day. The beginning was rough because we didn't think we could keep you.

Our adventures began. You had accompanied me on almost every walk, hike, jaunt around town, car rides, and you had even came camping with me a few times.

The way you had regarded me reassured me of what love is and how it is felt. Even the times where I had to scold you for various things, you still loved me and the same went for me. There was a bond between you and I, an unshakeable bond that will last me my whole life.

You were a trickster in your own way. When you had been like Airbud bouncing the soccer ball back to me with your mouth, or how you used to play hide and seek.
Penny playing hide and seek

 You loved to play until you were too tuckered out- you gave your all for everything. You learned to tolerate baths, but I think near the end you did enjoy them- even just a little. You loved to swim in creeks and lakes.

You had been my constant companion and dare I say, the closest and bestest friend I've ever had. You really did try to understand words, thoughts, and feelings. You had known what "Go find your ball" meant. You had even learned "I love you" in your own way. You were pretty smart, and cute too.

There have been many moments in my life where I got lost in the day to day and you always seemed to be my cheerleader who encouraged me by your limitless friendliness, wags, kisses, and spontaneity. You always seemed to listen whenever I told you my troubles or joys. I 've always wondered what you could've told me in response as you tried to speak to me through your attentive and clear eyes. Patience is what you had and lots of it. 

In your older years, you had taught me to keep playing and having fun no matter how slow I may get. You always had a zest for adventure. I believe with the right training you could've been a rescue dog- like Lassie.

You taught me perseverance. There were many times I was tuckered out before you, yet you plugged away.

In your moments of suffering and in times of pain you had not whimpered once. You helped me to realize that pain can be born softly and nobly just as Jesus once did. You sought to be with us, even when it had hurt you. Playing ball, running, and romps outside were so easy for you, but they were a challenge, but you pushed yourself. They became like victories for being able to do something seemingly so hard that once was so simple in another life.

In your last moments, I wasn't there to see you go, nor give you permission to leave, but when I left you last spring, it was like I was leaving you instead. The last several years had been a gradual drifting away from you, but know it was because I was trying to make something of myself. I think you understood.

I know you are gone now, but not being there to see you go still makes me think we are apart temporarily.
I saw your grave and it still doesn't seem real to me.


You left at a most beautiful time of year, in the fall when the colors are at their best and sunny days seem to stretch on forever. Where there is waning life and death, then life begins again. Perhaps that's how it's meant to be- for you, for me.

Now, just shy of 4 months of you being gone, I am doing fine. I have my moments and it will take time, but I know I will always have memories of you and what you inadvertently taught and gave me.

I believe in things happening for a reason and I believe that God led you to me to experience those things and perhaps more. I thank God for giving you to me, and I am happy to give you back to Him. 

Thank you for being my friend for all those years. Thank you for loving me and know I loved you too- you taught me that.

This was when I graduated from high school- 8 years ago

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ode to a Canine Companion

Dedicated to "Penny" 2005-- 10-17-17

I think I never shall find a dear friend as my canine,
She has been my companion fine,
dressed in soft and black and shine.
Her wet nose smelled so well,
following every trail so swell.

She, bundled up in kisses and hugs and happiness,
only sought to keep me full of gladness.
Through all our adventures, big and small.
Some long and short, she was there all,
Through the rain and sun, snow and mire,
over roads and up yonder, there she never tire.

Across the years her company grew.
(Like a tender flower cared, it gives joy to its owner new.)
Always ready with a lick and a wag no matter the drag.
I knew I loved her.
We were inseparable, her and I.
Friendship and love did she teach,
no matter the day or hour there she had reach.

Old in years and plugging along is she,
no matter the pain and slowness, there she is.
No whimper of discontent,
nor no sorrowful complaint.
Her soft brown eyes patiently gaze on.

A senior she must be, the heart is willing but the flesh is weak.
There comes a time in one’s week to shove off and make a life.
Our connection will never be marred
no matter how we are barred.
Old she is, the flame of love yet remains.

When her Maker calls her home, she will gladly go.
Her day is done, her purpose is spent.
The run is over.
A far away look enters her eyes whilst she's here.
I can’t help but wonder if she will follow her Maker
over roads and up yonder coming to a place,
waiting with Him for me to come home.