One Faith, Many Paths: Amy Salazar

This week, I interview ASL interpreter Amy Salazar.

1. What are your favorite childhood memories?

Growing up, I have always loved nature. I would go outside any chance I got. I loved spending time in my Nana and Papa’s garden during summer vacation. I loved running barefoot on the grass and writing stories on their porch.

2. Are you a cradle Catholic or did you convert?

I am a cradle Catholic and a revert. I went through a period of religious exploration during my second or third year of college. I was interested in possibly opening myself to Buddhism or Islam–I was especially drawn to Islam–but then I befriended a friendly priest and his compassion drew me back to rediscovering my faith. Since then, my faith has been challenged many times, but it was the Catholic faith that made me reconsider my Republican beliefs, until finally I had to choose between Jesus and the GOP.  I chose Jesus and never looked back.

3. How did you decide you wanted the be an ASL interpreter?

The Lord placed an interest in sign language in my life by first introducing me to Helen Keller in the 3rd grade. I went to a book fair and picked up a book about her. This was a defining chapter in my life, because Helen’s story inspired me to want to make a difference in the world. It also piqued an interest in sign language. In high school, I was friends with a girl who was hard-of-hearing and she had an interpreter. I still remember trying to watch our history lesson but being mesmerized by the ASL interpreter.

Fast forward to 2014; it was the last year of my Associate ‘s program for an AA in English. I had gone  through the program wanting to  become a journalist, but I came to discover that it wasn’t my passion. On a whim, my mom suggested, “Maybe you could take a sign language class. It might be fun.” It seemed like a good idea, so I enrolled for ASL 101 in the Fall. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I fell in love with sign language on day 1. My professor was Deaf and her signing captivated me. Deaf culture, Deaf history, the grammar and syntax of ASL was riveting. That was when I knew that I wanted to become an interpreter.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Amy Salazar”

More Than a Building

Our Lady of the Nativity Church in Louisiana, where I usually go to church.

I thought I’d blog about how the Covid19 virus, aka the Corona virus, has affected my life so far and address the people who are criticizing the bishops for cancelling Mass (hopefully, it will come back for Palm Sunday, but I doubt it).

The week before the Quarantine was enacted, our priest told us the Mass would only serve the Host, and only the priest would be allowed to drink the Precious Blood (since everyone drinks from the same chalice. He also told us not to shake hands during the Sign of Peace and/or hold hands during the Our Father. We were not permitted to receive the Host on the tongue, but it was insisted that we receive it in the hand. (Our priest reminded us that Vatican II permits this practice.) I usually take the Host by hand anyway, so that wasn’t different.

Now with the quarantine, churches are closed. Many priests and Bishops (including my favorite, Bishop Robert Barron) are now live-streaming Mass on YouTube or Facebook instead of at the actual church. My local library branch was doing curbside pickup, but they suspended that now, at least until April 4. (As far as I know. That may change. Probably not. I hope) You have to call ahead, and then they come out and give you the books or whatever you requested. People are panicking and selfishly hoarding toilet paper and other items.

Many people are criticizing the actions of the bishops, but I believe these arguments are wrong. I’ll go through each one.

1. “We should still receive the Host on the tongue.” As I stated, Vatican II says that is permitted . Do you want the person who is giving you the Eucharist to get sick by touching your tongue?

2. “The churches shouldn’t be closed. We need to show that we are braver than the virus.” There is bravery, and there is public safety. You might not even know you have the virus and then you might unknowingly pass it on to those who cannot protect themselves. Loving our neighbors included being mindful of their health as well as our own. And by the way, during outbreaks of the Bubonic Plague, churches were closed.

3. “The Host and Precious Blood will protect us because Jesus is present. We need to be fed.” Although Christ is indeed present in both, the properties (or “accidents”, to use a more canonical term) of both are still present. If you are celiac, you cannot eat bread, including the Host. In fact, some churches actually do serve gluten-free or low-gluten Hosts. If you drink enough of the Precious Blood, you will still get drunk. If someone poisons either one, the poison is not removed. It will still kill you. This argument reduces the Bread and Wine to magical items.

We are more fortunate than we realize. During the Middle Ages, Christianity wasn’t as widespread as it is today. People couldn’t go as often as we do. Today, we can make a spiritual communion by watching Mass. We don’t even have to be in church!

Our Catholic faith is more than the concrete and bricks in the churches. Jesus is present in the Host and the wine, but He is also present in our hearts. We should be taking this opportunity to unite ourselves in prayer. That can also show our solidarity as the family of God.

We are in the season of Lent. During this time, Jesus is calling us out to the desert. Let us meet him there. We can still connect with him spiritually. Our technology is much more advanced than it was in the days of plagues, and we might have a cure sooner than we think. Let’s all be obedient disciples and obey the wishes of our bishops and priests. They know what is best for us. God will get us through this.

New Flash to Catholics: Netflix Doesn’t Care About You

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Image description: Netflix’s screen for “The First Temptation of Christ”, a Netflix spoof featuring a gay Jesus that debuted during the Christmas season in 2019

Last year, Netflix got under a lot of fire with Catholics. Sometime after Georgia passed a new law outlawing abortion after the first trimester,  Netflix announced they would no longer film in Georgia unless the law was changed. Many actors, such as Alyssa Milano, also protested on social media. As a result of this, Catholics I know on social media announced that they would “hit Netflix where it hurt”, meaning they would cancel their accounts. I was not one of them, and some Catholics I knew in groups on social media actually told me I was a “bad Catholic”. The fervor died down, as it always does. Then it got fired up again, because apparently Netflix wasn’t done ticking off their Catholic patrons. They released The First Temptation of Christ, a Netflix feature with a gay Jesus bringing his gay lover to see his parents. A bishop in Texas decried it, even though he admitted he doesn’t have the time to watch Netflix anyway. The bishop was quoted in the article linked, saying that “blasphemers don’t deserve one penny.” Again, many Catholics announced that they too would be cancelling their accounts.

Continue reading “New Flash to Catholics: Netflix Doesn’t Care About You”

One Faith, Many Paths: Sister Elizabeth Ann Dockery

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I’ve always wanted to interview a religious sister, and now I have my chance. Here’s my interview with Sister Elizabeth Ann Dockery.

1. What was your childhood like? I came from a broken home and lived in poverty. There were constant trials and tragedies, yet I was surrounded by love, especially my holy grandparents who raised me and encouraged me by example to have faith and trust in God. I began working at a young age so I could have nicer clothes, take music lessons, etc. I excelled in everything I did thanks to the gifts of perseverance, grace, and old-fashioned hard work, resulting in full scholarships for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. What seemed to be all odds against me ended up being a huge blessing with all of the life tools I ended up with.

2. Are you a convert to Catholicism or were you a cradle Catholic? Convert from the Church of the Nazarene.

3. What is your favorite biblical passage and why? 2 Cor 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” This is my favorite passage because the Lord has proven to me time and time again that His grace truly is sufficient and that my weaknesses are actually strengths in him.

4. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus? Elijah.

5. How did you discern that you had a calling to be a Sister? I met a Sister in a post office one day. I had never seen one before and was intrigued as a fairly new Catholic. She spoke with me and invited me to their convent. After two weeks of declining invitations I finally went. Upon arrival, I felt a peace which surpassed my understanding and like I was “home”. From that time forth I went there as often as I could as a volunteer. One day my boyfriend of 5 years said to me, “Do you realize you spend more time with the Sisters now than you do me?” It was then I realized I might have a vocation.  I broke up with him, got a spiritual director, went on several “come and see” retreats and entered religious life after the Lord confirmed my calling with several signs.

6. Which order does your convent belong to and what makes it unique? We are Fransciscan. We are unique in that we live by faith–praying for provision, living in poverty without the securities of health insurance, regular income, etc. Prayer, praise, and evangelization are at the heart of our charism and ministry.  While home, we are quite contemplative, living on an 840-acre ranch called “Prayer Town”. For ministry, we go all over the world doing short-term missions such as retreats, speaking at conferences, parish missions, youth events, and so forth. Then we return to contemplative life. It is a constant cycle of being filled then giving, just as St. Francis did. Praise is a way of life for us. We are charismatic.

7. What is the difference between a sister and a nun? A nun is fully cloistered and does not go from the convent, except with permission from a bishop. Sisters are those who are non-cloistered, which are most of us. Basically, if they are in public they are Sisters.

8. What are your duties as a nun? What service do you provide to your community outside of your convent? I am the Mission Advancement Director both inside and outside our convent. I am also head of our music department, overseeing and taking care of the instruments, books, training, and so forth. In addition, in the convent, I help keep the mission house I live in cleaned and maintained in my chore areas, help with cooking, yard work, and anything else regular people have to do when they own a house.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Sister Elizabeth Ann Dockery”

Notre Dame Cathedral Aftermath

notre dameWhen I first heard about the Notre Dame Cathedral, I was saddened. You see, I have never been to France. But, I am a native of Louisiana, which has a rich French heritage. Not only that, I have French and Italian ancestry in my blood, so I’ve always had a sort of connection to the country. And of course I’m Catholic. And one of my favorite books is Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. (And I love Les Miserables–the musical anyway. The book is…a chore. A rewarding chore, but still)

Of course, the morning radio around here had a pretty dour attitude about it. The radio station is pretty right-wing, so of course they didn’t believe the official report. They spent more time talking about mounting another attack on Muslims and bombing their mosques than talking about the casualties and damage. I didn’t want to hear that, so I dug around on less politically-motivated news sources so I could get some kind of tally on that. I’m not a vengeful person. When 9/11 happened, my first thought was not “let’s go kill Bin Laden and make them pay!” My first thought was “Oh no! How many people died and how are we gonna find people who actually managed to survive?” I did not even ONCE consider any kind of assault. All that does is make things escalate even more! I prayed for the families of the victims, but I did not let violence enter my mind. And I tried my best to do the same with Notre Dame.

Continue reading “Notre Dame Cathedral Aftermath”

One Faith, Many Paths: William Necessary

In the Catholic Church, there are priests and deacons, as well as Bishops, Cardinals, etc. For this edition, I am interviewing Deacon William Necessary, who lives in Tyler, Texas. (note: Deacon Necessary sent me his answers as an audio file, so they are summarized from that.)

1.What was your childhood like? I was born in 1963  in Jacksonville, FL, and moved to Texas 4 years later. I grew up in Tyler, 90 miles west of Dallas. I was an only child. My dad worked for the Maytag Co. and we were transferred there. My family was not church-going people, nor were they even Catholic. My father was baptized in the Appalachian mountains, but my mother was not baptized until I was ordained and then I did it, shortly before she passed away. I grew up in East Texas in the 70’s and 80’s, starting public school in 1976. My parents were displeased with Tyler’s public schools, and I was sent to Catholic school instead, having heard of their reputation for better education. This made me fall in love with the Church, and I graduated in 1982, when I was baptized and made my first communion. So I was a convert from basically nothing. 

2. Why did you pursue the deaconate? Ever since I was in high school, I have always been prone to do service and things for other people. When I became Catholic and went to college and became involved in Campus ministry, I had a desire to serve the church. All through college I was involved in extraordinary ministry and was an altar server, as well as lector and usher. When I was about to graduate from college, that small campus group was holding a rosary on the First Tuesday of every month. At that time, the diocese of Tyler had just been created, and the local news had sent out a reporter, who became my wife in 1990. In 1996, I became a permanent deaconate. I was ordained on Fatima Day in 2001.

3. What is your favorite biblical passage and why? My favorite biblical passage is Mark 5:36–don’t be afraid, just believe. One of the hardest biblical passages. It basically says “just believe”, but yet human fear, doubt gets in the way. But if you allow yourself to just believe and allow Christ to guide you, the sky’s the limit. It’s just sometimes overcoming that fear, but that’s my favorite passage. 

4. What is a deacon as compared to a priest? What is the difference between the two? The sacrament of Holy Orders in the Catholic Church is in three degrees: Deacon, Priest, and Bishop. A Deacon in the Catholic Church is a fully-ordained minister who can do weddings, funerals, preach, teach, and baptize–basically the equivalent of a Protestant minister. The only things that a deacon cannot do, but a priest can do is consecrate the Eucharist or give absolution from sin. But I can do everything else, and for 17 years I have and do so gladly. I love doing what I do, it’s just so incredible.

5. Who are your favorite Biblical figures besides Jesus? St. Peter–gotta love Peter. He is our first Pope, and the first of the apostles, and was a struggling human just like the rest of us. I mean, this is a guy that on one hand say “Yes, Lord I’m with you always”, but in the next breath, Jesus told him “turn away from me, Satan!” He put his foot in his mouth a lot. He ran away. He denied Christ, but yet he redeemed himself. I think Peter is a great model for us; he reminds us that even the best of the best is just a slog like the rest of us. My second favorite is Moses. Here’s Moses the law-giver, Moses the liberator, Moses who fled Egypt as a fugitive and yet followed God and led his people out of slavery. A people who were oftentimes argumentative and acted like a bunch of children. And yet, Moses was their leader, and I admire hm.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: William Necessary”

Debunking Lies: Are Christians Copycats Part 2: Dionysus

dionysus

Last time, I broke down why Jesus is not a copy of Horus. But the atheists don’t stop with him. They’ve also proposed Dionysus. So for part 2, let’s continue debunking the meme.

Dionysus was a lesser god in Greek mythology, not even one of the major ones like Zeus. The whole thing started because someone wrote a book called The Jesus Mysteries, featuring an amulet that had an image of Dionysus on a cross. So does this mean we copied crucifixion from the Greeks?

Continue reading “Debunking Lies: Are Christians Copycats Part 2: Dionysus”

Debunking Lies: The Sex Abuse Scandal

Many times in autism groups on FB when I or someone else break the unwritten rule that the atheists there have specified–never mention Christianity in any way–the atheists there will use different tactics. There are some that I can just shrug off, but one tactic that is so misinformed really bothers me: the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. So I’ve decided to talk about it. Originally, I wasn’t because I wasn’t quite sure how to address the issue. But I’ve recently learned some methods that I can use.

First of all, the media misrepresents the issue. The number of priests who are pedophiles is actually not as big as the media would like you to believe. The secular media has been against the Catholic Church for a very long time. I think it stems from the fact that the Catholic Church has always opposed many things that the secular media promotes, such as abortion. The media see Catholicism as an enemy, so they look for anything that happens within the church to use against us, whether it’s taking the pope out of context or the scandals. That’s not to say the scandals don’t exist at all; that just means it’s overblown. Also, there are steps being taken. Why isn’t that reported? Because why talk about a positive, when the negative is far more interesting and appears to be more damning.

Continue reading “Debunking Lies: The Sex Abuse Scandal”

One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah

jannah

This is my first interview with an Eastern Orthodox Catholic. Thank you, Jannah Leah.

1) How was your childhood?

Fairly average, I guess. About the biggest thing that impacted me was my parents’ divorce when I was six. I was also bullied all throughout school, which affected my self-esteem. To this day, I still suffer from self-esteem issues.

2) How did you become a Christian?

Really it was a combination of a few factors. I have suffered from depression for most of my life and in some ways faith has aided with that.  I also have an interest in history, theology, etc.  Religion is a subject that I’ve always found quite fascinating despite my family’s own irreligious background.

To give the short answer, I chose to become Christian because the messages were appealing to me.  I also found the historical evidence for Christianity, particularly Orthodoxy, to be overwhelming. No other religion can claim their historical figures performed public miracles.

3) How has your family taken your conversion to Christianity, given that they do not share your beliefs?

It’s been mixed. My mother is of the mindset that it’s a good thing if it’s what makes me happy. Others still don’t really know since they’re not particularly fond of religion.

4) You said that you used to be somewhat of a troll. What led to the change?

I guess the easiest answer would be that I simply grew bored of it and matured.  It also got rather tedious to have to constantly create new Facebook accounts.

5. When were you diagnosed as autistic?

I was fourteen I believe. Somewhere in my early teens.

Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths: Jannah Leah”

One Faith, Many Paths Special: Interview with…Me!

I’ve reached another milestone. This will be my 200th post. I’ve decided mark this occasion by presenting an interview with someone I will interview in the future and allowing him to ask the questions, rather than the other way around. I figured this would be a great way for new readers to know me better.

  1. You’ve been a Catholic all your life, and I know your faith is central to your life. Have there been times when you questioned? How did you handle that? I believe that if you go through your life as a Christian without once doubting yourself, then you are spiritually blind.  Yes, I’ve doubted. When I learned about all the atrocities that are often linked to Christianity, I doubted whether I should consider myself part of it. What kept me in the faith was that I reminded myself that I only have my own actions to ask for, not anyone else’s. God knows my heart. I also read up on the saints. When I saw all they did for the glory of God, I wanted to be a part of that.
  2. Your autism is another part of you. When did you first realize you were different–even special in terms of those around you? I think it first happened in high school. When I finally became mainstreamed, I never experienced a desire to wear a mask and pretend I was something I wasn’t. Then in college, my counselor told me and my mother that she thought I had Asperger’s. At first, It never really clicked. But my mother insisted that I do research on the disorder, if only to explain it to others. It was that research that opened me to the possibility that it was a gift. It also made me realize that God had possibly meant for me to spend all those years in Special Ed that I had spent for my bad behavior, especially my temper.
  3. A follow-up to that–what do you think is the biggest misconception about Autism and Autistic people? I think there are two. The first is that it is something that can be removed or outgrown. While it is true that some autistics can “pass” for being neurotypical, that doesn’t mean we’ve outgrown autism. It just means we’ve adjusted to what society expects of us. The second is that we don’t have emotions. I think this is often perceived because we often express our emotions differently from those not on the spectrum. In fact, there has been research that has concluded that our emotions and those of our peers can often overwhelm us, perhaps more easily than those not on the spectrum.
  4. What are some of your favorite hobbies and what do you enjoy about them? I am an avid reader, especially of science fiction. I think what’s best about it is that it allows me to escape from the pressures of this world. It allows me to unwind when I experience a world that is different from my own.
  5. How would you define your life philosophy–to put it more simply, do you have a personal motto? My motto is to always try to find the good in everything. I’m not always living by this principle, but I’ve learned there is good in everything that happens. If I focus on that, it helps me not to fall into despair.
  6. Favorite Books? I’d have to say the writings of CS Lewis, primarily. Not just his fiction, but also his non-fiction. His non-fiction is so simplistic. He doesn’t rely on purple prose or empty words. He explains everything about Christianity as simply as he can. He’s often been discredited because he’s not a theologian, but I don’t think that should dismiss him. I’d have to say his best book that isn’t connected to Narnia would be Mere Christianity. It’s a great bare-bones approach to Christianity, and I always recommend it to anyone who wants to know where to start with his non-fiction. Continue reading “One Faith, Many Paths Special: Interview with…Me!”