for the sake of sanity, prayer

January 31, 2012

One of the little blessings I’ve had throughout my life is that I’ve always gone to school with a chapel nearby.

At St. Philomena Elementary, I always liked to visit the Blessed Sacrament across the street for a couple of minutes after school.  At Loyola High School, I attended a short 20-minute mass offered everyday before class.  And at Notre Dame, I’m supremely blessed — everyone is — to have a chapel in the dorm.  (And I’m even more blessed that my dorm is one of the few on campus that celebrates mass in an orthodox fashion).

Especially in my freshman year, Little Flower Chapel in Morrissey was my safe haven — a place that offered stability and calm, where I could relax, think, and know that God was listening.  And when life got busy after freshman year — well, at least I had the Grotto, the place from which I believe grace flows most on campus.  With how crazy life gets at Notre Dame sometimes, I seriously believe that it’s the Grotto that kept me sane.  It was the Grotto that gave me perspective.  It was the Grotto where I was reassured that our Lady and our Lord are watching over everyone who walks the grounds of Notre Dame.

If there’s one place I miss most while I’m in Rome, it’s the Grotto.  I also miss daily mass, and I miss simply having a place where I can sit down, unwind, and reflect.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been a tad bewildered these days and why I’ve been getting left behind…I don’t take time to thank God and put things into perspective anymore, so I’m living life wandering aimlessly about, trying to find direction that only daily prayer and reflection can offer.

I discovered that there’s a chapel just on the corner of my program’s building here in Rome that offers daily mass at 6:30pm every night.  I think it’s time I start going.


To close, some words on the Grotto from Tom Dooley, engraved on the hearts of every Notre Dame student:

But just now. . . and just so many times, how I long for the Grotto. Away from the Grotto Dooley just prays. But at the Grotto, especially now when there must be snow everywhere and the lake is ice glass and that triangular fountain on the left is frozen solid and all the priests are bundled in their too-large too-long old black coats and the students wear snow boots. . . . if I could go to the Grotto now then I think I could sing inside. I could be full of faith and poetry and loveliness and know more beauty, tenderness and compassion. . . .


Unifying Prayer at Notre Dame

December 8, 2011

Did another piece for MSPS’ Convos of Color blog on the power of prayer when it comes to race relations.  Check it out!

Prayer and faith is one of life’s most powerful unifying forces — especially at a place like Notre Dame.  Prayer offers us a unique opportunity not to put aside our differences, but rather to celebrate them coming together for a common purpose.

I saw that last week at the Asian American Association’s semestral Multicultural Rosary, at which 10 students gathered together to lead half a decade of the rosary each in a language they’ve studied or grew up with: from European (Spanish, German, etc) to Asian (Indonesian, Korean, etc) to even ancient (Latin).  It’s a tradition we revived last year, and it was touching for me last week to see how much it’s grown.  Though hosted by an Asian organization, participants included members from La Alianza and white students who had seen posters around campus.  It was a truly multicultural event.

Multicultural programming is a difficult task.  Minority students are always wondering how to reach out to other minority groups as well as to the majority.  How do we bring different people together and get them to talk so they can understand, empathize with, and support each other?

Here at Notre Dame, we have a unique advantage.  Notre Dame emphasizes faith, service, spirituality, and prayer like no other elite university.  It’s an important reason — if not THE reason — that students come here.  Prayer is one of the special ways that vastly different Notre Dame students come together.  It’s one of the special ways that diverse students can learn from each other and support each other without fear, nervousness, or awkwardness.

It doesn’t have all the solutions to fostering multicultural dialogue and understanding.  But it’s a good first step.

This’ll be the last time you hear from me this semester.  It’s been a pleasure.  Till next time, keep talking, keep thinking, and keep standing for what’s right.  Good luck with finals and Merry Christmas, all.

Why it makes sense that America’s #1 Business School is Catholic

November 16, 2011

I’m taking my first business class at Notre Dame this semester (Entrepreneurial Insights, a 1-credit course), and it’s given me a greater appreciation for Business that I, as a liberal arts major, did not have before.

What’s struck me is that the Mendoza College of Business — at least from what I’ve seen — is very, if not outwardly so, Catholic.  And it got me thinking:  It makes sense that America’s #1 Business School is Catholic.  Because Catholics have values that often can lead to success in the business world.  Here are some of those values:


1)  Ethics:  Business is all about reputation.  No one wants to deal with a person who is shady or untrustworthy, but everyone wants to deal with someone who is upright and has concern for others.  Ethics play a huge part in that.

Notre Dame thrives at fostering business ethics in her students because as Catholics, we’re taught to keep the bigger picture in mind.  It’s important that we uphold our integrity and stay true to our values; temporary material gain is never the final goal.


2)  Risks:  In business, you have to take risks.  Otherwise, you will never succeed.  Catholics, too, are called to take risks.  Risk-taking, to an extent, is the ultimate sign of trust in God.  It’s the realization that God gave us certain gifts, that we are called to risk and grow those gifts ad majorem Dei gloriam, and that divine Providence will guide us to where we’re meant to be.

Consider the Parable  of the Talents.  The master punishes the servant who was too scared to invest his money.  But he rewards the two servants who took the risk of investment.


3)  Opportunity Recognition:  You have to recognize and take advantage of opportunities in business.  Catholics thrive at this because from the cradle we are taught the skill of opportunity-recognition — specifically, recognizing the opportunity for grace.  God placed us on this earth so that we can bring His presence to others and so that we can grow closer to Him (through a good deed, through an expression of concern, through a prayer).  It is our job to be ever-attuned to these opportunities for God’s grace.


4)  GrowthCatholics love growth.  The Church has been growing all over the world for 2 millennia.  Catholic families are some of the biggest you’ll see around.  There’s a joy and hope in Catholicism that makes us want to share it with as many people as we can, and that’s why the Church keeps growing.

Business, too, seeks growth — expanding influence, expanding client base, expanding the infrastructure.  The Catholic businessman would be well-served to carry this enthusiasm for growth from the chapel over into the office.


5)  Social Concern:  Businessmen need to be attuned to people’s needs.  A business has no purpose if it’s not somehow serving the people; all the time, successful business arise when entrepreneurs recognize that society has a need.

Catholics, too, are taught to respond to the needs of others.  There’s a recognition that we are not born for ourselves alone, that our lives should in part be dedicated to improving the lives of others.


Those are some of my thoughts.  Do you (dis)agree with this list?  Am I overstretching some of the comparisons?  Any additional items you think should be added?

How Catholicism promotes authentic multiculturalism

September 12, 2011

I did a blog piece for MSPS today.  In it I strike at the boring and useless sterility of political correctness and argue why Catholicism actually promotes multiculturalism — the true kind, not the bogus type we see at universities such as the UC’s.


Helpful Habits from Dean Woo

August 15, 2011

More and more I regret how late I have met ND’s former dean of the business school, Carolyn Woo.

She spoke at Notre Dame’s International Student Orientation welcome dinner tonight and offered some helpful habits for incoming students.  She herself was an international student:  She had left Hong Kong to study at Purdue in Indiana.  Her experience was typical of students who study away from home– she didn’t know how to read campus maps and felt perpetually lost, but most of all, she felt terribly alone and homesick.

At her lowest point though, what kept her head above water was her Catholic faith.  She broke down crying one day, so a Purdue staffperson asked her what her religion was.  The staffperson eventually connected her to the Catholic Newman community at Purdue, and it was from there that Dean Woo first found a support system.

Dean Woo then offered 4 helpful habits she adopted as a Catholic international student in America:
1)  Reflect on lessons learned, even if you think you have learned nothing.
2)  Attend daily mass.
3)  Learn to open your eyes to kindness.
4)  Be not afraid to plunge into the unknown.

Except for #2, these four habits don’t explicitly have a Catholic ring.  But when you examine them more closely, you can see that each of them are deeply rooted in Catholic teaching — particularly in the belief in God’s Providence.  It’s God’s Providence, after all, that keeps us faithful and hopeful even at our lowest points.

Anyway, I’ve been pretty bad at posting regularly on this blog (especially recently), but I want to change that.  In the next week I plan to post a reflection on the Catholic character of each of these habits from Dean Woo.  I think they’re a fine testament, again, to why being Catholic matters.

Books Catholics Should Read: “Communism: A History”

July 17, 2011

“If America is a democracy, why don’t we have more Communism or socialism in this country?  Why do we instinctively discredit them and fear their ideas?  If democracy is about free and fair speech, why don’t we give more voice to Communism?”

This has been one of the most disturbing questions I have heard posed — and who would have thought that this came from a professor of Notre Dame?

His was a scary thought because, in my mind, the professor misunderstood the very nature of democracy.  One of the best things of having a free democracy is that we are open to new ideas because we are constantly finding the best way to achieve a good, just, and free society.  The beauty of the democratic process, though, lies in the fact that bad ideas are eventually rooted out.  We may be open to those ideas, and those ideas may find a following in certain groups.  But if they’re bad — as Communism has shown itself to be — they are discredited.  We move on to the next new idea, stick with what works, or find something in between.

Is Communism really so bad, though?  They say that Communism is a nice ideal that has merely been botched by those trying to achieve it.  However, in Communism: A History, Harvard Professor Richard Pipes argues that Communism has not just been botched; at it’s root, it is inherently flawed.

It is a remarkably brief and readable history that is eye-opening and blood-stirring (or, more accurately, blood-freezing).  Pipes’ main points, which I think deserve mention here, are as follows:

  • Communism seeks equality and freedom.  But to achieve that, it needs an elite class to oversee society — which usually means suppressing  society.  Thus, in seeking equality and freedom, Communism compromises them.
  • Communism fails because familial, national, and religious ties are stronger than class ties.
  • Communism causes economic stagnation because centrally-controlled economies do not innovate or respond to people’s needs as capitalism does.
  • The above flaws show why Communism doesn’t work.  But the reason that Communism leads to so much evil is the hubris of science, on which Communism bases its claims.  Because science must be correct, any failures are seen as “roadblocks”; therefore, instead of relenting, Communist leaders intensify their efforts — using whatever means (read: human lives) necessary.

This is an essential book for Catholics to read because Communism is a rival in winning over souls.  They say that Catholic teaching and Communist ideals can be compatible.  However, Communism and Catholicism are rooted in very different views of human nature.  While the Catholic Church believes in the primacy of every person’s dignity, Communism readily sacrifices the dignity of the many for the dignity of the few.


Content: A short survey of Communism, from its idealistic roots in Plato and Hesiod to the failed implementation of Communist programs in the Third World.  At its heart the book is a history of the mistakes and misjudgments of the Soviet Union.
Brief and readable chapters.  I typically skip over block quotes, but Pipes’ selection of them is so compelling that I found myself reading through everything.
Catholic?:  Not an official Catholic perspective, but it certainly shares Catholic sentiments.  Also pays due respect to St. Augustine, probably the earliest Christian who officially denounced the practicality of an earthly utopia.

Overall: 5/5


Dean Woo on Leadership

July 16, 2011

Former Dean of ND’s Business School — and newly appointed President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services —  Carolyn Woo is coming to LA this September to speak at the Catholic Prayer Breakfast. (She’s in good company.  The two past speakers have been Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.)

Click the picture for the full Tidings story.

You can read the rest of the article for yourself above.  I’m posting this because I was particularly struck by Dean Woo’s quotes on leadership.  I’m cutting and pasting them here to let them speak for themselves.  I think from them you’ll see that the saying that Notre Dame students get to the top not to be served but to serve others holds very true.

Leadership is first and foremost a love story,” Woo explained in a recent telephone interview. “It’s a love story in the sense that you have to really care and love the mission that you’re given. Almost as you raise your children, your life is devoted to this. It’s a love for what the organization stands for. It’s a love for the people who work side-by-side with you. You understand the sacrifices they made and their extraordinary generosity and faith. And a love for the people who are affected by what you do.

Leadership is about the heart,” she added. “A lot of times we talk about leadership skills. Having good skills are necessary but not sufficient. The part that is really important is about the heart and the heart is about love. That’s what the Bible is about.”

Keep repping the ND spirit, Dean Woo.