Friday, July 11, 2008

Tempus Fugit, Momento Mori

Today I went to the beach with some family members. I was pretty excited about going today, since the wave forecast was high due to Hurricane Bertha being in the Atlantic. I was ready to go out and get some pretty big waves.

When we got there, we got just that, big waves. They were some of the biggest I have seen at Rehoboth Beach. After a little while, the group of us decided to go in the water. We were floating out there for a while, far enough out that we were still able to go over the big waves without a problem. But then the problem came.

We looked out and we saw a pretty massive wave, probably approaching ten feet high, cresting really early. Where I was, there was no chance that I would get over it, and the chances were slim I was going to be able to dive under it. It crashed down in front of me. The strategy I came up with was to go under the water before the wave water came over me. I dived down. I felt above me the water rushing past me. Then I felt something that I tried to avoid: the rushing water taking me and battering me around. I was gasping for air. I couldn't even find the air, so I stuck my hand out to see if I could touch the air. The first time I couldn't. The second outreach I was able to find the air, and I finally gasped for a breath.

I wiped the water from my eyes just in time to see a second wave, even bigger than before, cresting in front of me. Again, there was no chance for me to get around it. Still struggling to gain air from the previous battle, I went under again, hoping to avoid the foam of the wave. To no avail, I again went through what I went through with the first wave. This time it took a bit longer to find the air.

I again wiped the water from my eyes and gasped for air before another, a third giant wave slammed into me. This time, the sunglasses that were pretty well fitted to my face were thrown off my face, which I never did find. Again I churned, trying to grasp my breath. The saving grace with the third wave was that it literally threw me into the shelf going up to the sand, and I was able to escape. However, these three waves were the biggest waves we saw that day, and they were probably the biggest waves I have ever personally seen. When I saw the waves crashing down on me, I had the sense that they were about the same size as surf waves I often see in pictures in Hawaii. I shared that with someone after who was on the land, and they agreed.

This was probably the scariest minute or so of my life. Even breaking my femur or being an innocent bystander in the middle of a police shootout doesn't compare with this event. I have been an avid beach goer, and when I am there, I spend most of the time in the water. Reality and mortality hit me today, and I kind of wonder if I developed a little phobia to the water; I don't know.

The reason I write this post on this site was after reflecting on this scary situation I find myself in, I realize that during this entire time, I didn't cry out to God, or say a quick prayer to Mary, or even ask God for mercy. My religious sense vanished at a moment of complete desperation for help. And I am not the type of guy to forget about religion or God. I think about it every day. I pray every day. So why, at this moment of need, did I seem to completely forget the one thing that saved me out there: God?

Now, I know that there were obviously other things to think about, such as staying alive and getting air, things that are important for basic survival. But prayer is also important for basic survival. If we want to get out of life alive, then we must have faith in God for Him to raise us up after we die. My faith didn't fail me out there, but I did forget about it. This event is just a realization for me that to grow in holiness involves daily prayer and important charitable works and a whole bunch of other things. But it also involves us crying out to God when all hope seems lost, when we are hanging on by a thread, when we are ready to go under, not being sure if you were going to get another grasp of air. Holiness is really tested in these situations. Now, that being said, I know God helped me, as the third wave did throw me on the sand, where it could have sucked me out for more fun. And I would have asked for help, if I had remembered God in my moment of need.

There is an old saying that the Knights of Columbus are familiar with. It is tempus fugit, momento mori. It is Latin for "Time flies, remember death." It has been in my mind today, and so one thing I learned is in all situations, we must cry out for help, and try not to forget God in our moment of need. In the end, it isn't the near death experience that I am troubled by; I pray every day God would have mercy on me, and I pray that he would answer that prayer when I do die. I am actually more troubled by the fact that I forgot the one thing I depend on, my religion, which helps me get through everything else. But that escaped me today. I must do better to remember God in everything I do, so that in a big test, I don't forget him. This isn't something I am beating myself up over, but it is a realization that I must stay strong in prayer.

Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Year of St. Paul

Hello everyone. I spent the last three days doing the Maryland river tour. I started inner tubing on the Patapsco River near Baltimore on Sunday afternoon. On Monday I visited St. Mary's County, where I saw the Patuxent River, as well as the very southern tip of the county which overlooks a very big Chesapeake River. On Tuesday I saw the splendor of historic St. Mary's City overlooking St. Mary's River. After that I went to Solomon's Island and saw the Patuxent again. It was a wonderful three days. I love Chesapeake and river life.

It was a great way to start what the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed as the year of St. Paul, as a way to mark the 2,000 anniversary of his birth. St. Paul was from Tarsus, which is in modern day Turkey, if I am not mistaken. Everybody knows the famous story from the Acts of the Apostles about his conversion in Acts 9. Saul was his name before this, and he persecuted the early Christians, and he consented to the death of Steven, the protomartyr of the Christian faith. He went on to become one of the greatest Christian evangelists. He preached to the Greek speaking people, really evangelizing what would later become the Christian Church in Rome, which would be heavily persecuted.

There were many theological contributions Paul brought to the early Church. One of the biggest ones is the circumcision of non-Jews. He held that for non-Jews, circumcision was not necessary because of the freedom given to us by Christ; Christ fulfills the Law. This was brought to a head in the Council of Jerusalem, which one can read about in Acts 15. This was considered the first ecumenical council because it involved the whole early Church in an important theological matter, something which distinguished councils in the Church (councils are called to address a sort of heresy or theological problem, for the most part).

Paul's letter to the different churches were so important that his letters were put into the New Testament Canon of the Bible. These letters are to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, The Philippians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians. He also wrote pastoral letters to various people, and it is debated whether he is the author of the letter to the Hebrews. As you can see, Pauline letters make up a large section of the New Testament, so they tell us a great many things about Revelation as given to us through the Bible, interpreted by the Tradition we hold. Second Thessalonians, written at least in the school of Paul, says

"Therefore brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours" (2 Thes 2:15).

There are many resources of Paul on the internet. The one I recommend for further study is the website for St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica in Rome. It has many things on there for further study of Paul. Here is the link for that. The Catholic News Agency also has a website that has the documents that announced the year, and other sources of information, including Pauline catechesis. Click here for that site. There is also a website for the general program as put forth by the Holy See. This is the link for that one.

I do help that these above links help one to learn about St. Paul during this Pauline Year marking the 2,000 anniversary of his birth. May we also be heralds of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard it. Let this year be our excuse to learn more about this saint. St. Paul, pray for us.