Monday, December 21, 2009

CHRISTMAS BREAK!

Hello Everyone,

Sorry about no Post yesterday!

Christmas Break came faster than I expected.

I am away from Rome until January 6th, so I am not sure when I will be able to get on the Internet.

If I have time I will post while away.

If not, my first Post back will be Sunday, Jan 10.

Connor is doing well, but still in the ICU. We are praying he can spend his first Christmas at home.

Also, apologies for my last post. My Mom later reminded me that it was, in fact, the THIRD week in Advent NOT the Second as I posted. I guess I still have a bit to learn.......

You are in my thoughts and prayers during this special time of the year.

May we be given the grace to Open our Hearts in a special way this Advent to Receive the Fullness of PEACE & JOY this Christmas = Jesus Christ.

I am leaving you with a short clip from a moment in China this summer....for whatever it is worth.

PEACE, LOVE, and JOY!


video

Sunday, December 13, 2009

JOY!

Happy “Gaudete” Sunday Everyone!


Today, the Second Sunday in Advent, has been known throughout the ages in the Church as “Gaudete Sunday.” “Gaudete” is the Latin imperative...or command for “Rejoice [Ya’ll]!” The verb is a personal, plural verb. It is a command to all the People of the World...to REJOICE!


Why, you may ask, would the Church “command” you to “Rejoice!” on this day? Even more so, you may ask, is it even possible to be “commanded” to “Rejoice!”....to be Joyful? For us to have a fair shot at answering these questions, we must take a minute and understand what is going on these days...these days of “Advent.”


The “Christmas Season” we are in is officially recognized by the Church as the Season of “Advent.” “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “arrival” or “coming.” During this season, Christians are called to anticipate 3 “Arrivals” or “Comings” into their midst.


The first “Coming” is the Coming of Christ at Christmas. This “Coming,” perhaps we are the most familiar with. Even now, we look forward to Christmas Day. A day when we recall the culmination of all of history---the Day in which GOD HIMSELF was born to Mary in a manger, in Bethlehem. The day when the Hope of all the ages, came in FULLNESS amongst us. When John 1:14 & Hebrews 1:1-2 were ACTUALIZED in time and space!

* “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

* “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,” (Heb 1:1-2)


The second "Coming" is the just that....the “Second Coming” of Christ at the “end of time”--when history itself will come to an end....and Christ will come to judge the nations. This Second Coming reveals to us the Paradox...the Mystery of God...of Existence...of all of Reality---namely, the Tension between the “Already” and “Not Yet.” Already, Christians believe that Jesus Christ, in his life, death, and resurrection, has FULFILLED all of history...all of our humanity. His life was, indeed, the PINNACE of history itself. However, obviously...the world is still spinning, and we are here trying to make sense of it all. There is still something “YET” to come. Still something to be realized in our lives here and now. Still some kind of perfect fulfillment to be accomplished by Christ in the end--when God will be everything to everyone!

* “then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. [...]When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will (also) be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.”

(1 Corinthians 15:24,28)


So we have the “Already” of Christmas that we celebrate. We also have the “Not Yet” of the Second Coming which we anticipate and celebrate in hope. So what is left? THE NOW! The “Third Coming” of Christ that we celebrate during Advent is the Coming of Christ into our Hearts even NOW! For we, indeed, are the Temples of the Holy Spirit....God’s Dwelling Place. Our hearts...our lives....this ABOVE ALL OTHER PLACES....is where Christ desires to Come and Dwell (see 1 Corinthians 3:16). God, in his Mysterious Plan, chooses US to be his LIGHT unto the nations. God chooses US to be the SALT of the EARTH!


And today, in a special way, the Church teaches us what that means---we MUST be PEOPLE of JOY!!! Joy above all things is attractive...is LIFE-GIVING to others. If I as a Christian claim to have faith in the One True God...the Source of Everlasting Life, Happiness, and Fulfillment...and never seem to be able to Smile.....how does that make ANY SENSE???


In an encyclical (i.e. “letter”) to the Universal Church written in 1990 entitled Redemptoris Missio, John Paul II reflected on this dynamic, as he commented about the “Mission of the Church”:


42. People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers,(69) in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the "witness" par excellence (Rv 1:5; 3:14) and the model of all Christian witness. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Church along her way and associates her with the witness he gives to Christ (cf. Jn 15:26-27).


Earlier in this letter, JPII looked to the early Church to see what this kind of WITNESS looks like:


26. The first communities, made up of "glad and generous hearts" (Acts 2:46), were open and missionary: they enJOYed "favor with all the people" (Acts 2:47). Even before activity, mission means witness and a way of life that shines out to others.(34)


In other words, the earliest Christians gave witness to a world that have never heard the name of “Jesus Christ” first and foremost by being JOYFUL! Because they were so distinctly JOYFUL & GENEROUS...they found “favor with all the people.” That is what won people over for Christ then. And THAT is what will win people over for Christ today! Because JOY is the “proof in the pudding.” JOY makes all the “stuff” Christians talk about REAL. We all want to be fulfilled, peaceful, & joyful in the end. We know people who are truly JOYFUL....and we know people who are just full of BS :) I think that is humanity’s keenest 6th sense---a Sense of Authenticity (or lack thereof). People seem to instinctively know when they are around someone sincere, transparent and genuine. Sure we are capable of being duped. But I think, generally speaking, we are very in tune with this.


One person immediately comes to my mind when I think of AUTHENTICALLY JOYFUL people---Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. I have met a number of people who had the privilege of meeting Mother Theresa during her life (Round 1 that is..). Each story was connected by a statement like the following: “It was incredible to be in her presence. She was the kindest and most JOYFUL person I have ever met!”


It was her JOY & GENEROSITY, just like that of the early Christians, that continues to captivates hearts and minds all around the world. However, a couple years ago, a seeming “scandal” hit the public when her private journal was published and put on the shelves. It turns out that during the greater part of her adult life, she experiences a very dark, very difficult interior spiritual life. She at times even doubted the existence of God! And at times even GOT ANGRY at God for feeling so far away....for seeming to have “abandoned” her (see Matt 27:36).


“WHOA!” The world seemed to say, “Was her life one big hoax?! Was she just faking all that Joy?!” Some of the media would have us believe just that.


But perhaps, we have yet more to learn in the school of Joy. Perhaps Joy is more than just a feeling. Perhaps Joy is something deeper. Perhaps Joy is something that transcends circumstance....or “luck,” fortune, or even success.


Three quotes of Mother Theresa come to mind.


First: “Joy is not a feeling. It is a choice.”


Second: “Joy is hard work.”


Third: Most of her life Mother Theresa prayed to God for two things (and I am paraphrasing): “Lord I give myself completely unto you. I just ask that you may grant me the grace to Smile & and to say “Yes” to whatever it is that you may ask of me. All the rest, you may do as you please.”


All that to say, on this Gaudete Sunday, I would like to propose something to you--if you would like to give Witness to the World to all that is True, Good, and Beautiful....namely to God and the Goodness of his Creation, then I suggest that there is no better place to start than to be JOYFUL!


Following Mother Theresa and many other great saints, may we courageously CHOOSE to be JOYFUL...every moment of every day. May we CHOOSE to see the glass half full as opposed to half empty.


May we CHOOSE to be people of HOPE, LOVE, FAITH & GENEROSITY.....not just to our friends....but to everyone...espeically the “least among us,” the downtrodden, and our enemies. If we all made this Choice, the world would be a different place. If we all made this Choice, what an incredible ADVENT it would be this year! If we all made this Choice, how SINCERELY may we sing this season “JOY TO THE WORLD!”


Lord God, I pray that you may grant us the GRACE to become a truly JOYFUL people this Advent Season.


Amen.

---------------

I decided to post some pictures that help to “jump-start” my Joy when I feel weary of choosing it. Perhaps they may be a small grace for you as well.



This is a ancient French Hero named "Vercingetorix"--he lead a group of patriots to defend France when the Romans invaded during the height of their Empire. He was defeated but has since become a sort of "folk-hero" for the French. My French classmates think I look like him since I grew out my blond mustache---his trademark=====> Reason for Joy.

A little Girl who wanted to practice her English with us in China = Reason for Joy.
Reclining in a hammock held up by some Chinese students and Seminarians on a sidewalk in China = Joy
Getting to know Hong Kong = Reason for Joy.
Posing with the wives of some Catholic, Chinese Fishermen wearing Pat and I's sunglasses = Reason for Joy.
Me standing on the Great Wall of China = Reason for Joy.
Pope Benedict looking down at me at the Castello Gondolfo = Reason for Joy.
A Hilarious ad that I found featuring a buddy of mine from College (Gib Pennington) and his Dad = Reason for Joy.
My buddy Patrick Sprague sent this to me last week over email. We studied together in Chile for 6 weeks during my Senior Year = Reason for Joy.
Courtney, Jeremy & Connor = Reason for Joy.
Reason for Joy.
Reason for Joy.
--------------------------------
Connor Griffin Lewis UPDATE:

He will stay in the hospital for at least another week the doctors are thinking. He still is having some problems breathing, with body temperature, and a bit of jaundice. My sister Courtney, however, was released from the hospital day and seems to be doing quite well.

Again I want to thank all of ya'll for your thoughts and prayers, especially over this past week. And would humbly ask ya'll to keep them up.
---------------------------------
THIS WEEK'S LINKS:

One of close friends here at the College is Andrew Hart of Little Rock, Arkansas. Andrew is a veteran Blogger and largely has shown me how to do all of this. So thanks to you Andrew & may your Blogging Days continued to be rich, prosperous, and JOYFUL! haha.
Here is a link to his blog: This Present Time

If you are not an Alabama Fan.... I would be careful clicking on this next link. It may be more than you can handle. Someone forwarded this link to me after we won the SEC Championship. Brace yourself: SEC Epic Highlight Reel

This is the full text of JPII's letter that I quoted earlier. It is not extremely long. And it is SOLID! I am currently working a paper based on this document in which I will argue that "JOY" is THE "Interpretive Key" to understanding how "Church" meets "Mission." Like I said before, Pope John Paul II wrote this letter in 1990 reflecting on the MISSION of the Church: Redemptoris Missio

Here is a good buddy of mine from the States, who wanted to share with ya'll a special message of JOY this week: Special Message of Joy
---------------------------------------------
MUSTACHE SHOT OF THE WEEK:

------------------------------------------
NEXT SUNDAY'S GOSPEL:

Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord

would be fulfilled.”
----------------------------------------
Until next week.....

Again, I suggest trying to spend at least 5 minutes a day in quiet this week. Who knows....it could help you to.....

REJOICE!

Peace, Joy, Every Good Thing!

Signing Off,

Uncle Victor

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Meet CONNOR GRIFFIN LEWIS

Courtney + Jeremy + God = Connor Griffin Lewis
Born: 12-9-09
2:37 AM Central (9:37 AM Rome)
Weight: 5lbs 3 ounces
Height: 18 inches





Me "Holding Connor


Connor & Mom are doing really well. Connor will stay in the ICU anywhere from 1-2 weeks--his breathing is a bit too fast and his body temperature is still trying to regulate itself.

Thanks for all of your prayers!

Thanks to God for this tremendous Gift...this new manifestation of God's Love to our family and the World!

Peace.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

ADVENT of CONNOR GRIFFIN

Mom, Courtney, & Jeremy called me this morning to tell me that it is GAME TIME! Around 4AM Central, Courtney will have a C-section and Connor will finally make his big debut.

The doctors say both Courtney and Connor are both really healthy, it is just time for Connor to come out due to the progessing "placenta previa" problem.

So if you read this in time. We'd love to have a couple prayers...just that everything goes well. And as always "Thy will be done."

Thanks for all of the prayers.

I will give the Post-Game Report later today.

Here is Connor's ultrasound again just to create some hype:



PEACE!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

2nd Sunday in Advent

Happy Second Sunday in Advent Everyone,


First of all, I just want to say ROOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL TIDE! ROLL! What an incredible game last night! Two great teams....one great game. As an Alabama Fan, it feels good to finally be going to the Big Show again after all of these years! If Greg McElroy (QB of Alabama) happens to read this...I just want to say....I love you. hahahhaa. Heck of game!



In other news, today we had a day of Recollection which means that we kept Silence in the House today so that everyone would have a day to specially pray, reflect, and enter into this Advent Season. A bishop from Fargo, North Dakota came to our College to give a couple of talks for us to meditate on as well. I always enjoy days like this in Seminary. Although it has been one of the hardest lessons to learn in my time in Seminary so far, I believe it has been one of the most valuable--learning how to slow down, be still, quiet my heart, pray....and just set time aside to be alone with myself and God.


The first half of this week’s post is largely the result of that time in the stillness...alone with myself and my God. In the second half I would like to share a couple of pictures from some of the festivities we held at the College last weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving.


First Half:


This past week was FULL...for a lot of reasons. But it really wasn’t until today...in the silence...that it all sank in. As I sat in my room and prayed. I felt moved to write a letter to two of my very best friends--Walker (aka “The Daddy”) and John (aka “Skeeter”). The three of us were fraternity brothers at Furman University and continue to be very close.


John got married to another good friend of mine Shannon (aka “Shannoon”) just after we graduated, and Walker got engaged to a beauty from Florida just a couple months ago named Katie.



Me and Marti Judy (married to my good buddy Noble) with John and Shannon--Winter 2005


John & Shannon: Spring 2006

Walker and Katie

Just after Getting Engaged


At the risk of being a bit personal, I would like to share a letter I wrote them today. John, Shannon, Katie, Walker....sorry to ruin the surprise of real-time mail....and for the publicity :)


To everyone else, I felt like many of you would be able to relate to my thoughts. And any of you who may be married, engaged, considering marriage in any way, or just admiring marriage from the outside-in (like myself)....these words are for you as well.


“It is amazing how time and intention can pass by so quickly.


Now my thoughts go out to ya’ll--John & Shannon, Walker & Katie. My heart beats with love for each of you and for the love that you share. My spirit raises in HOPE as I consider your commitments to each other...Your lives spent together.


I just watched Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman--what a great movie. A beautiful story of what happens when Love takes over. When love becomes that of greatest value to Us...everything changes.


Perhaps this is why ya’ll come to my mind now. Because falling in Love with our God and, Walker, you with Katie, and, John, you with Shannon, has changed everything for you. No longer are your lives your own..but you are uniting yourselves to another...the Beautiful Bride you have found...the Pearl of Great Price worth everything you have. You are “selling all you own” just to have this treasure beyond price.


It is a beautiful thing for me to consider--a life given in a real way to another. So much respect, admiration, and love wells up within me right now.


My thoughts seamlessly move towards my sister Courtney and her husband Jeremy and their child in utero Connor Griffin. Two days ago, Courtney (now 33 weeks pregnant) went to the hospital because she woke up bleeding. She has been there since...and so has Jeremy. Everything looks OK now...but it came as quite a shock to us all. I can only imagine what Courtney and Jeremy experienced/are experiencing.


I can only guess at Jeremy’s experience of driving his nearly 8 months-pregnant wife to the hospital, bleeding at 5:00 AM. Sitting with the doctors, waiting and watching as they try to determine if his wife and 1st Son are OK. Standing by as his wife is “thoroughly” examined and then finally, when left alone with his bride, sitting bedside to hold her hand.


I cannot quite understand the depth of this level of love, commitment, and heroism. I can only marvel at it, appreciate it, and pray that I too may be blessed with such a grace.


What incredible depth there is to the vocation to love. How courageous, How sacred, How transcendent is the sacrament of marriage! How complete is this Giving...this Self-Gifting...this adventure upon which ya’ll have (will) embark(ed).


I cry tears of admiration, joy, of being overwhelmed by the mere consideration of such a virtuous life. I pledge to you my love, prayers, and support for my lifelong.


What a beautiful Life we have been given! What dignity we have! What an honor it is to be alive! What a privilege it is to share this life with people like you.


May God Bless You and keep You. May the Glory of His Eternal Light shine upon you. Come Holy Spirit, Renew them, for they are to be Light into the world. AMEN.


I love you.”


Friendship is a powerful thing. One I am blessed to have experienced deeply. And how great is it too, that God calls us to call him "Friend":


John 15:13-15

13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.

I am happy to say that Courtney and Connor are both doing really well. A big Thank You too all of the guys here at the College and people back home who have been praying for Courtney, Jeremy, Connor, and our family.


Also, I would definitely recommend watching Rain Man at some point if you have not already. It is a really moving story which won Best Picture in 1988. It is rated “R” for the following reasons just to give you a heads up:

http://www.usccb.org/movies/r/rainman1988.shtml



The condition Courtney is experiencing is called “placenta previa” and is fairly common. You can click here if you want the details. Basically, she is being monitored to see if she stops bleeding. If not, they will have to perform a C-section. If she can stop bleeding, they would ideally like to keep Connor hanging out in utero until he is ready to come out on his own. So...if you have a chance, I ask for some prayers for them and all pregnant mothers...that they may feel God’s Providential Hand.


Even as I just typed out that letter to John and Walker, I was struck by how deep...and penetrating...these moments are in prayer. For me, prayer has been a window...a passageway into a deeper encounter with reality...with life...with others....myself...with God. It is amazing what kind of insights, connections, peace, inspirations can come once you finally make the time to enter into some Silence...and just be still for a minute.


If you can find even just 5 minutes each day to be still, alone, quiet, and prayerful....I recommend it with all of my force. I think there are few things we can do that are more beneficial to our overall health, fulfillment, peace, and wholeness in life...than to have such a time in our lives regularly. I encourage you to consider spending 5 minutes each day this week in silence...in some kind of prayerful meditation or contemplation. It could be an interesting experiment if nothing else. I believe you would be amazed by what might happen....


Part II:


Thanksgiving at our College is always a fun time. There are many of traditions that take place that week, a few of which are the Thanksgiving Day Mass, Meal, & the “Spaghetti Bowl.” The first two are pretty self-explanatory.



Just after Mass. Travis "T-Bone" Burnett of Mobile is the server closest to us.


Italian Thanksgiving Turkey...not bad hunh?
Everyone at Thanksgiving sits by State at the big Meal. American Guests from all over Rome come to join us for this meal. Here is a shot of part of the Alabama table. (R-L): Phil Halladay, Fred Boni, Me, and Tom "Teagles" Gallagher (actually from WV but is the ONLY one and a good friend of ours...so we said "Come on Down now!"

Pre-Meal Shot


The “Spaghetti Bowl” is an American Flag Football game always played two days after Thanksgiving. Everything is pretty much just like normal football except for the tackling--in lieu of this “flags” are pulled. Also, stiff-arms are illegal. This game is always played between the New Man Class and the rest of the guys at the College. Both teams practice diligently throughout the month of November for this once-a-year show down. It is always a blast, surrounded by as much fanfare as possible. Here are a couple shots, of what was a VERY competitive and close game this year. The New Man team has not won in over 10 years...but I am told this was the most highly contested came since. Props to the New Man team!


Pre-Game Prayer
The Grid Iron

We even had a Pep Band

Pat Arensberg, former McGill-Toolen Yellow Jacket star, still scrambling for a couple yards, just in Rome now
--------------------------------------
MUSTACHE SHOT OF THE WEEK:

I did Side-Line commentary throughout the Spaghetti Bowl. At some point I decided to find out how many languages guys spoke in the House. All in all, I think over 20 were showcased throughout the game. Here is Michael of Massachusetts giving a greeting in Polish.

-------------------------------------------

THIS WEEK'S LINKS:

WEB MD: If you have some symptoms you need to figure out. This is the page for you.

USCCB's Movie Ratings: I put a link to this for Rain Man. This is a service provided by the Catholics Bishops of the US. If you ever want to check out a movie before you watch it to know exactly what you are getting into...this site can be really helpful.
----------------------------------------

NEXT SUNDAY'S GOSPEL:

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing
you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.

----------------------------------


Ya'll have a good one! Let's pray for one another.


Peace.


Love.


Tide.


Over and out.