The earliest memory I have is of my mom taking my siblings and I out to the backyard during summertime, spreading a blanket over the ground, and showing us the pictures from our large family Bible. She would tell us the stories (the Bible was in Spanish – she would translate to English) while showing us the pictures, especially the Gospel stories about Jesus.
2. Tell about a teaching of your childhood church that confused you
I remember being told I should not chew after receiving communion – we were just supposed to let Jesus “melt in our mouths.” 🙂 I could never understand why, and I don’t recall it ever being explained to us.
3. Tell about your first memories of Sunday School. Did you like Sunday School? Why or why not?
I know I attended CCD to make my First Eucharist in 2nd Grade, but I really don’t remember much about it (the classes or the day, actually). After that, I didn’t attend CCD until 6th grade, and my mom was the CCD teacher. I remember liking one of the girls in my CCD class, but not being able to do anything about it because my mom was the teacher! Again, I really don’t remember much about the content of the class – I only remember showing up for class!
4. What is the first religious song you remember learning?
This Little Light of Mine – I remember going to some charismatic prayer groups with a neighbor of ours (they had a session for the adults and a concurrent session for kids) – the first time we went to those sessions, This Little Light of Mine was the opening song (along with Father Abraham).
5. Were you a part of a youth group growing up? If yes, what were some of the things you did with your youth group?
My sophomore year of High School I became part of two choirs at my parish (St. Joan of Arc in Weslaco); later that year I started attending a youth group in a neighboring parish (St. Pius X). My junior and senior years in High School I became active in my parishes’ youth group, as well as the other parish in my town (San Martin de Porres),
As far as activities go, we would have weekly meetings, hold occasional retreats, do some fun stuff (concerts, trips), hold fundraisers (BBQ’s, car washes, etc.) – typical youth group stuff. 🙂
6. What pastor (or priest) have you felt closest to in your life? Why?
Without a doubt, Fr. Pat Seitz (currently at St. Pius in Weslaco) is my candidate for this question. I met him when I first started working for the diocese (he would help plan the youth rallies my office held twice a year), and I immediately liked him. He was the priest who officiated at my wedding, and I still go to him for confession.
His spiritual, theological and religious outlook is very similar to mine, and his personality is similar as well. I like him both as a person and as a religious figure.
7. What do you wish your Father had told you about his faith? What do you wish your mother had told you about her faith?
My mom was actually very open about her faith. My dad, on the other hand, was not from a very religious family. So for many years, my mom would have us attend Mass with her – my dad would only attend occasionally. It wasn’t until I started getting very active in my faith that my dad got active as well. He passed away about 2 years ago – I wish we could’ve had more time to share our faith with each other, especially the way his faith became such an important part of hos life as he struggled with cancer.
8. What is your favorite Bible passage? Why?
🙂 I have many . . . choosing one is hard . . . let me see . . .
Romans 8:38-39: For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord
There’s another verse, which I can’t find at the moment, which goes something like this: Do you not know that prostitutes, sinners and tax collectors will enter the kingdom of heaven before you do?”
The first quote gives me the assurance and hope that I will enjoy a timeless eternity in the presence of my Lord and Creator. The second quote reminds me not to be judgmental, and not to assume that I’m any better than anyone else simply because I had the privilege to study my faith and work in an environment conducive to practicing my faith.
9. What unique symbol of faith is most important to you?
My wife and I have a 7 ½ year old son, so when I was given this statue a few years ago it became my favorite concrete expression of my faith. It reminds me that my primary ministry, before all others, is to be a husband and a father. It reminds me that God dwells in our family just as surely as God dwells in the consecrated Host. And it reminds me of the awesome responsibility and blessing God has given me as a husband a father. [EDIT: The picture I inserted can be found here.]
10. Talk about what prayer means to you.
Prayer for me is opening myself up to the influence of the Divine. I still engage in more traditional prayer – talking to God, praying through a rosary, praying for people or situations that concern me, etc. But for the most part, I see prayer as silence, stillness and solitude – attuning myself to the rhythms of God’s grace in my life and in the lives of the people around me.
11. Did you ever pray and feel that your prayer was not answered? How did you feel?
I still haven’t won the lottery . . . 🙂
Complementing the preceding question, I pray about specific circumstances and people, but I don’t expect God to send down a miracle and fix things. I believe that all of our life situations – good and bad – can become moments of grace – so I’ll pray, for example, in my illness – not that God will cure me, but that God will help me endure and learn from the illness. In financial distress, I’ll pray that God will help me appreciate what I have and not always hunger for more.
So in a sense, God does answer . . . I may just be asking for slightly different thing. 🙂
12. When do you take time to pray?
Since I work in a religious environment prayer is an everyday thing. However, my preferred methods of prayer – t’ai chi; spiritual reading; spontaneous & intimate prayer – I tend to do on the weekends and in the evenings. Mass with my family is important, and occasionally I’ll participate in different prayer groups, but it’s my daily practice of reading and silence that seems to nurture me the most and that leads me deeper into the mysteries of our faith and of our God.
13. Do you remember anyone ever praying for you? What was the occasion? How did you feel about it?
In the charismatic prayer group I belonged to in High School, getting prayed over and praying over others was commonplace – we did it almost every week. So I’m comfortable with the concept and the practice. At that point, I needed it, and I’m glad it was part of my life, especially during High School. 🙂
I do my best to live out the dictates of my faith and my conscience in my day to day life. I try not to segregate my beliefs from my actions – a “walk the walk” kinda thing 🙂
15. Tell about a personal friend who you feel really lives his faith.
I have a friend of mine who makes time to lead his parish choir, is married with 6 children, volunteers @ church with their youth group, helps others, and is generally good to his family. He knows his faith well, and can speak intelligently about his beliefs and why he believes them. I feel he does a good job living out his faith.
16. What is one puzzling question you have about God or your faith?
J Right now? None, really – I’m at a good place with my faith. Now, if one of my students were to tell me that, I’d keep asking, but for me . . . I’ll allow it 🙂
17. How has your faith changed since you were a child?
My faith has gotten less concrete and more mysterious; less parochial and more global; less rigid and more flexible; less antagonistic and more curious; it’s gotten more informed, more metaphorical, more story-centered, more God-centered, and more prayerful.
18. If your church was on fire and you had time to safely rescue four things, what would they be? (Assume all the people are safe)
Hmm . . . not sure . . . I mean, I’m sure that one of the correct answers to give would be the tabernacle and the consecrated hosts, but I’m having a hard time justifying the answer. For example, why am I running back into a burning church when I could instantly be killed, leaving my wife and child alone? How do I *know* that I have time to save four objects?
Of course, I’m just being difficult here. J If it was OLS Church (where I work), I think one of the things I would rescue (in addition to the tabernacle and the consecrated hosts) would be the reproduction of the Pieta – that carving holds a special place in my heart and in my life of faith. If it was St. Joseph’s in Edinburg (my parish), I would rescue the statue of St. Joseph – ever since I became a father, and especially after losing my father, he’s taken a more central part in my religious imagination.
19. Do you find it easy or difficult to talk about your faith? Why?
🙂 Easy, obviously! 🙂 My degree’s in theology/philosophy, my training’s in ministry, and my own reading in Catholicism, world religion, spirituality, psychology, sociology, anthropology, developmental studies and theoretical physics seems to lend itself to spiritual discussion. 🙂
Glad I could help! 🙂