Archive for the ‘spirituality’ Category


Posted: March 8, 2013 in spirituality

During my time at Xavier College Prep this week, I was invited by the students to sit in on a CLC (Christian Life Community: essentially a group who prays and grows together. who knew they did them in highschools!) The campus minister, the man who had invited me to XCP, shared this prayer at the end of the meeting:

Psalm 118:10, 12-13

 All the nations encompassed me…

 They encompassed me like bees,

 They flared up like fire among thorns…

 I was hard pressed and was falling,

 But the Lord helped me.

Sometimes we need just to find a place of refuge amid the demands and duties of our lives. Just some breathing space…

Just a few minutes of peace…

Let us put in the very place that we feel turmoil,

whether it be at our desk at work, or the kitchen or laundry room at home,

some reminder that God is with us, in the midst of all the pressure.

It can be a candle, a picture or a flower.

Allow us to discover a spiritual “break time,” some moments away as we walk from our class or just to the water fountain.

These are times to rest in the knowledge that God is present in the turmoil, not as one of the things crowding for our attention,

but as an inner stillness, a reminder that our lives are meant for what is greater, deeper, larger.

Let the bees of our business buzz away, let the stinging sparks exhaust themselves.

God is in our midst, stronger than the riot, closer than the crowd.


It’s hard to believe it’s been over three months since I arrived on the West Coast. Things have been going fast and for several reasons, I wanted to sit down and intentionally write about and where I’ve been in the first 25% of my JV experience. I’ve sprinkled quotes I’ve come into contact with this year as kind of section headers since this is a longer-than-usual post

That’s not to say there isn’t other beauty in my neighborhood

“Beauty cannot be seen in Boyle Heights by a common man with a closed mind, but the true beauty of Boyle Heights can be felt by the spirit of community one feels when he is truly immersed…” -a comment on the LA Times community page

I’ve said it before, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat myself from time to time. The people I have met through my work in the community stand out as the true beauties of this area.  Their connectedness, their orientation toward taking action, their love of celebration all speak volumes of where they are as a community and where their roots are.

“Never be content.”- a reminder from my roommate

Constantly hungry for new ways to live out the 4 values of JVC (community, social justice, spirituality, and simple living), I’ve been reassessing what I’m doing, investigating new issues, and becoming more mindful of how my actions affect others.

It’s this burning for a more wholesome lifestyle that urges me to search for change. At the same time though, I sometimes get stuck on in the rut of not being satisfied with what I am doing.  I notice what I want to change, but don’t move past it.   This is best spelled out in my struggle to understand the value of simple living.  One aspect of living simply asks me to declutter my life physically, to let go of unhealthy attachment to material things.

Simple living? The unintentional and hilarious side effect of not owning my own sheets

At times it is hard to think that I’m living simply. On top of my having my housing, healthcare, food, and other expenses taken care of, I have a monthly stipend.  My community regularly gets bread from Homeboy Bakery ( I’m living in a place that I’m surprised to say is an affordable housing unit.

In the grand scheme of things though, I have made a lot of changes in the way I’m living.  In my house we joke about our “old lives” and the ways we would have acted in situations before becoming Jesuit Volunteers. I have to say that the old Jon probably wouldn’t be learning guitar, or going on peace walks, or being more informed about the news, or cooking, or cleaning (as much), or even sitting down for a creative project once a month.  I feel like I appreciate the little things more too.  Any time I’m not drinking plain water, it’s a treat. When I go to a movie theater, it’s an adventure with friends.  When it’s cloudy, it’s a welcomed change of weather (bizarre, I know…). When I got to play Nintendo 64 for an hour and a half over Veteran’s Day weekend (an insignificant amount of time for the old me), it was a great joy and a reminder of growing up.

This is also a humbling year. I think that part of living simply is being able to accept people’s incredible generosity– gestures that have ranged from invites to baptisms to laughs to pupusas to excursions on the beach.

“You don’t get to choose whether or not your action affect others” –from MTV’s old show “If You Really Knew Me” (surprise! At least one episode was wholesome enough for me to show to my scholarship students as part of an anti-bullying class)

As a house community we are challenging ourselves to become better people. We have monthly “challenge weeks” in which we look at different issues, learn about them, and do an activity related to them. This month we are looking at water.  I’ve been keeping track of how much water I use each day and what I use it for as well as looking up facts on water scarcity in the world.

One of the most incredible parts of this year is that, despite working a full time job (and then some on certain weeks), I get to focus on myself. I’ve been able to reflect on the parts of my life I want to strengthen and actually have a space to do that.

One Gospel that has helped helped give me a new lens in the year is Mark 10:46-22.  One of the priests at my parish pointed out that it’s the people who bring eventually call to the blind man and bring him to Jesus. I’ve been asking myself : Who or what encourages my blindness? Who lifts up and encourages me? What do we want from God? Who do I help bring to God/sight? Who do I through work or neglect  keep  in the dark?

“The Glory of God is found in the living person” – St. Irenaeus

Some of my casamates and folks in other JV communities have begun to challenge ourselves to live as our truest selves, to become more fully alive people by participating in this beautiful movement started at John Carroll University ( I’ll be reflecting/“being”/meditating/praying for 15 min each night for the next 30 days.

Amdist all the business of my life, between drenching food in Tapatio and running meditations with elementary school students, I’m hoping to see, as a co-worker phrased it, “God’s patience and willingness and love of exactly where [I am].” Yeah, things are different from being back home, but this life is a good life. It’s ok to struggle. It might be preferable to not struggling, at least I know I’m growing.  We are all going through this crazy, eventful, hilarious, blessed life together.

“I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, search with you, be with you.”- Ita Ford 


Manresa Eve

Posted: November 9, 2012 in love, retreats, self, spirituality

It’s still the eve of the Manresa retreat at JCU on the West Coast and I can’t help to get excited for everyone who has been and will be a part of the retreat experience. The retreat itself signaled such a change in my life, allowing me to accept love of myself and God.  Love is a gift and in order for a gift to be considered as such, it must be received.

So often is it that we don’t see ourselves as fully worthy of love, that some part of ourselves is lacking. Yet, at the same time (as I was reminded by my Confirmation students this week) we are so willing to give others slack. We have a double standard set for ourselves. While others have flaws and we fully accept them despite this, we can’t fathom ourselves as being broken.

The Confirmation students this week decorated a cross with a mirror and thought about how God might see them– all their gifts and talents.  Loving them despite poor decisions they have made in the past.

May you love yourself in your joys and sorrows, in your wholeness and brokenness.

The following are two versions of St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation which have been helpful for me when meditating on where I am in life and how God is a part of it. I hope you enjoy them as much I do.

Lord my God,
when Your love spilled over into creation
you thought of me.
I am from Love ,         of Love,                      for Love

Let my heart, O  God,

and enjoy

Your goodness in all of creation.

Direct all that is in me toward your praise.
Teach me reverence for every person, all things.
Energize me in your service.

Lord God,
may nothing ever distract me from your love.

health nor sickness
wealth nor poverty
honor nor dishonor
long life nor short life.

May I never seek nor choose to be

Other than you intend or wish


The goal of our life is to live with God forever.

God, who loves us, gave us life.

Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.
All the things in this world are gifts of God,

presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God

insofar as they help us develop as loving persons.

But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,

they displace God

and so hinder our growth toward our goal.
In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance

before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice

and are not bound by some obligation.

We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,

wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one.

For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this:

I want and I choose what better leads

to God’s deepening his life in me.

Sundays (Part 2)

Posted: September 25, 2012 in gratitude, language, love, spanish, spirituality

Our new parish gate including the Jesuit seal

Sundays have quickly become one of my favorite days of the week and I owe it all to the community where I love, work, and pray.  From the very first 9am mass I went to at Dolores Mission, I could see and feel the connection people had with each other.  It was a visible connection and manifestation of God’s love– something that at times I forget about.  As the entire community stood joining hands for the Our Father, the pastor in the middle, we held on as praying for peace in our world, in our community, and in our hearts, I was shaken up by grace.  I was shaken up by the experience. Honest to goodness, the rawness of this moment left me fighting back tears.  The sign of peace didn’t help me either.  Folks came from all corners of the Church in order to embrace me and my casamates.  Later we were drenched in holy water and given a round of applause. All throughout, songs reminding me of past festivals of praise were sprinkled in.  And, if that weren’t enough, the community processed out to the plaza to eat some wonderful Mexican food and talk with more community members.  The best thing?  It’s like this most Sundays. By the time I get done scarfing down enchilladas, menudos, or tacos de papas and make the short trek back home, it’ll be close to noon.

As a youth minister, each week I get to meet with the Ecclesial team to discuss how last Sunday went and to look at what stands out to us in next week’s readings.  A few weeks back one of my favorite readings came up.  It’s the one where Jesus heals the deaf and mute man.  I started enjoying it after writing a piece on the Ignatian idea of discernment and how Jesus’ word to the man, ephphatha (“be opened”), can be a lens through which we can think about looking at choosing between the many goods in our life.  The beauty of working in a bilingual parish, however, is that in these meetings, we look at both translations.  Ephphatha in the Spanish reading was ábrete. Although similarly translated, there is a distinction between ephphatha and ábrete, between the passive “be opened” and the active “you, open yourself.” One of the Jesuits picked up on this and ran with the idea.  His homily was a passionate one: Jesus invites us to open ourselves to new opportunities, to new ways of service, but we must be willing to look at the ways in which we are closed off.  Our obstacles, our brokenness.  We need the strength to examine these, except them, and find ways to make them work with what we do.

I know I left inspired.

Sundays (Part 1)

Posted: August 30, 2012 in spirituality, work

‘Everyone has a spirituality, a life-giving one or a soul-shrinking one.  Spiritualuty deals with how you channel your energy.’ -paraphrase from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser

Sunday: For me and many others I know, it has always been a day of rituals.  A day that is similar in many respects to the pervious Sunday and every Sunday after. 

Not so long ago it may have looked like this:

10:00-10:30               struggle to rip myself so early from my bed

10:30-11:30                 grogglily shower and get ready for the day

11:30-11:50                 rush to the caf and devour an omlete

11:45-noon                get back to the dorm in time to watch the Brown’s opening kickoff

Noon-5:30               watch the game, yell at the TV, curl into a ball and try to get over the fact that Cleveland found a way to blow the game yet again

5:30-6:15                    eat the infamously bad Sunday spread in the caf

6:15-whenever I’d pass out               Work, Work, Work, mass, Work, Work

Why did Sunday become the day to catch up on work? To cram it in at the last second? Why was Sunday’s ritual to work instead of to “keep sacred”?

Looking back, it’s really no wonder that I got into a hole spiritually.   I channelled all of my energy into work.  I focused solely on assignments and deadlines.  There was no time to experience God’s love. And the clock ticked on…


Posted: August 17, 2012 in nature, retreats, spirituality

This is the spot where, during orientation, I sat each morning and prayed.  I had never been to the ocean until then and, let me tell you, it is every bit as grand and wonderous as I expected.  It was a welcomed reality (and ego) check.  The ocean reminded me of how small I am in the grand scheme of all creation.  Small, but no less loved.  In a way the feeling mirrored my thoughts of what I experienced at orientation.  I felt like wave after wave of responsibility and possible challenge was crashing over me as the various speakers talked about the coming year.  I signed up for this, but I felt  overwhelmed by the largeness of the task at hand- to be emptied before I can become filled, to be made weary as I look for life-giving opportunities at work, to be challenged while I find out what is most valuable to me.  The beauty and challenge of this year will be my willingness to be overtaken by and molded bythe experience.

For the past year, I’ve been trying to cultivate the mindset of gratitude. I find that so many times I focus on what’s going wrong in a day when there is so much going right.

The last two days have really been blessings and have helped me bring back a practice I started last summer– gratitude lists.  Each day as part of a kind of mini-Examen (here’s the cheat sheet if you don’t know what I’m talking about: I list three things in the day I was grateful for and why.  The why is a big part too, as it lets me really savor the blessing and focus more on  emerging patterns of where I see God in my day.  In the last two days, I’ve been incredibly grateful for the kind words of support from my family and friends.  I’ve received texts and inboxes, hugs and lunches.  And while I know I am supported in my transition into my year as a Jesuit volunteer, the willingness that folks have had to take the time to express their sentiments have really impacted me.  They serve as boosts and encourage me to go the extra mile and support others who could use a boost of their own.

[Why not try making a gratitude list this week?  Being more grateful during the day is bound to help make little disappointments less devastating.  Life is good, let’s celebrate it!]