Thursday, 30 May 2013


I have a younger brother and when we were growing up he used to be (read: had to be) better than me at seemingly everything. We grew up playing basketball and he was more athletic and more skilled than me and the only way I could beat him was to use my four years of extra growth (which lasted until he had a growth spurt and started hitting the gym). Now the only way I can beat him is to punch him in the kidneys...I don't actually punch him in the kidneys, but I'm trying to illustrate that the only way I can outplay my brother is to rough him up a little, that's just what big brothers do!

Of course, when I was younger I was insanely jealous. He got picked to play for representative teams and travel all around the country. I was lucky if I got to pick my jersey. My parents used to do that pity thing, you know when they pat you on the head and tell you that you have other gifts and you're still special even though you suck at basketball...Yep, thanks mum.

As I've grown up I haven't grown any less jealous. Every time I see a flashy sports car I think "man, if only..." or every time I see a young family I think "I just can't wait to have babies!" I don't know if any one else does this, but I often think that anywhere else would be better than here. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, I love where I live, I love my family and I like my girlfriend; but give me a choice between a Ferrari and my little, yellow, granny-car Suzuki and I'd take the Ferrari.



So often I look at other people's circumstances and I think "I want that, I want to be like you" but actually, God has given me the gift of who I am and what I am right now. This was probably what I wrestled with the most when I was single and especially when I was discerning the priesthood. Single life and discernment frustrated the junk out of me because I wanted to say "yep, I'm going to be a priest" or "yep, I'm going to get married". I would get so downhearted when I would watch a friend get ordained or when one of my mates announced on Facebook he had a girlfriend; because I felt like I was so far away from doing either.

But when I look back on my "single/discerning" phase I grin. Then I chuckle. Then I laugh hysterically. Those were some awesome times and while my friends were having the awesome experiences of ordination or relationships; I was travelling Australia, visiting my family in the Philippines, playing in the annual Interseminary Soccer tournament in Wagga Wagga, recording Christian rap songs, enjoying the lovely Cairns weather or taking tourist-y photos at Sydney's great landmarks. I came that close to letting jealousy of my friends blind me from the gifts God was giving me right there and then.

So often I let jealousy creep in and now I don't have my parents telling me that I have other gifts. I don't want to miss out on the gifts God has for me today because I'm too busy dreaming about Ferraris.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Stop and listen to the music

I love this story: Joshua Bell is one of America's most talented violinists. The Washington Post conducted an experiment, with Bell dressed incognito playing in a Washington train station:

It's astounding isn't it? Here's Bell, who sells out concert halls regularly, playing intricate, complicated pieces of music, on a violin that costs $3.5 million dollars. Yet so few people stop and listen to the music.

Sometimes I catch the train to work and often there's a man who busks at Central Station. He's a talented guitarist with an awesome voice and he plays some of my favourite songs. The first few times I would walk straight past him. As time went on I would slow down as I walked past and catch just a snippet of his music. Then I would just stop and listen to him for a bit. Today I saw him again for the first time in months. I stopped and listened and we began to chat about work and life. As we were chatting it blew my mind that this guy would see hundreds of people, if not thousands, walk past him each day, few of whom would even take notice of him. Yet, he remembered me and took the time to ask how I was!

I get that life is hectic. I really get that life is hectic. Working and studying creates some decent sized piles of paperwork on my desk. But how often do we rush through life without taking it in? How often do we stop to hear the music? I don't just mean stopping and listening to buskers in train stations, but stopping and listening to the song of our life.

When I reflect on my life at the moment, I'm working in a job that I love, living with an awesome group of guys, I even get to play basketball on a regular basis - I am tremendously blessed and I'm trying my best to enjoy these blessings each day. But how different would life be if I didn't recognise those blessings? I'd turn into a work robot, or a study machine.

I've come to realise that God is conducting the most intricate symphony in, through and with my life and I'm enjoying every moment of it. Don't be so busy as to miss the symphony that God is conducting for you.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dominate Existence

I'm not a crazy fitness freak, but two or three times a week I love going down the street to a little half-court and pretending I'm an NBA player for half an hour before I start my day. Really, I probably look like a goose playing one-on-one with an imaginary opponent.

The last couple of mornings when I've gone down to shoot I've been there as the sun was rising. It's been a bit of a "God moment". So this morning when I went down I made sure I grabbed my phone and took a picture. As I was posting the picture on facebook and instagram, I was wondering what caption I should put with it. "Love your life" is a slogan on some of our promo material that I've come to appreciate. But what does that mean - what is it about life that people aren't loving? That's when it hit me: "Dominate Existence!"

See, there's a difference between living and existing. For me, existing is the bare minimum, it's the least we can achieve in this life: breathing, eating, drinking, sleeping and (I suppose in this age you have to add it to the list) working. In this history of humanity this is what everyone has done. Everyone that has inhabited this earth has at least existed. But we don't remember everyone.

The people that we remember are people that have lived. They are people who did more than the bare minimum. They are people that impact our lives, that make us want more than monotony and unimaginative routine. And you want to know the cool thing? We can be those people too!

I was speaking to a young guy last night up the coast. He'd organised his whole class to do a dance together at their school talent show. Well, today's the talent show and everyone has pulled out on him. He's going to do it anyway, whether people join him or not. And this is what I mean by dominating existence. We don't need to just exist, we can do so much better. So, dominate existence - go the extra mile in life, do that thing you've always wanted to do, or challenge yourself to do the thing you were always too afraid to do.

A mate that I play basketball with was telling me that when he talks to people they mostly talk about work. How often when people ask "how you going?" do we respond with "tired" or "stressed" or "work/uni/life is hectic" or even just the plain old, monotonic "good" ??? Our answer could be so much more vibrant. Here's the thing: everything we dislike about our life will stay exactly the way it is unless we do something about it!

So, is the glass half empty or half full? It's the age old question, isn't it? Well, if you ask me, it's a glass that I can pick up, take to the tap and fill to overflowing! God has so much more to offer us if we get up off our butts and truly live: "I came that they may have life and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10).

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Call him out of hiding

When I look back on my faith journey, I realise the moment that I took ownership of my faith was when I started "playing" (read: loudly thumping) an African drum for our church youth band back in Beenleigh. I'd never played an instrument before in my life (the recorder in Year 4 doesn't count)! Perhaps more significantly, as a 16 year old male I was sticking my neck way out and saying "actually, I do this Jesus stuff" - it was a pretty big deal. 

But why? Why did I risk embarrassment from my obvious lack of rhythm? Why did I risk being seen as actually "into it" by my mates? I'll be real with you: there were some pretty girls in that youth group! Those women are now close friends and cherished companions on the journey. But ask any young guy who is involved in his faith and nine times out of ten it's because there was a cute girl in his youth group 

I don't mean to sound objectifying, but women: you got the power! Check the Gospel accounts, it's women who find the empty tomb and report it to the Disciples - they call them out of hiding.

Sometimes when I hand out Quo Vadis bands or Priesthood Pens, young girls ask me: "what do you want me to do with this? I can't be a priest!" I often (cheekily) tell them to give it to their ex-boyfriend. But jokes aside, give that wristband to your ex-boyfriend - and your current boyfriend and that boy that you would like to be your boyfriend!

I can just imagine the incredulous looks that the women reading this are giving me. "Really, you want me to ask my boyfriend to be a priest?" My response: ABSOLUTELY! 

Fr Morgan Batt (the Vocations Director here in Brisbane) tells the story of when he asked his girlfriend if he should be a priest and she told him yes. Anyone that knows Fr Morgan knows he's meant to be a priest. On the flip side I know many married couples where, when they were dating the girl supported the guy in discerning priesthood, even encouraged him to go to seminary. They ended up happily married with beautiful families.

Ladies, it's win-win. Ask a man to discern priesthood and either:
a) he'll actually be ordained and be an awesome priest who will change the world and serve the Church, or
b) he'll discern he's not called to be a priest and he'll be more ready to give himself fully because of his journey.

Vocations promotion isn't just the job of the Vocations Centre team, we all play a part in building up our Church. So ladies, ask him: "have you ever thought about being a priest?" Encourage him to go to a discernment weekend, here in Brisbane we have the Quo Vadis weekends (the first is in full swing right now as I type this). Mothers challenge your sons, aunt's get in the ear of your nephews, and yes, girls ask your boyfriend. You have the power - call him out of hiding!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Get Over Yourself

I moved house recently. Actually, I've moved house twice in the last month. But that's besides the point, I moved house. And it was actually quite a humbling experience to move - though I wouldn't suggest moving house just for the experience of it.

It was humbling because the night before my big move I had all my stuff piled up in a corner of the bedroom at my parent's place. My whole life (or at least the physical representation of it) fit snugly into a small corner. As wonderful as I like to think I am (ha!), that's it: a small corner. The image got even scarier for me when I packed it all into the back of my car (which often gets confused as a child's Matchbox car!)

I don't know about you, but as I go through life I often forget that the world would actually exist without me. If I wasn't here the world would actually keep spinning around. It seems like an obvious statement, but it just hadn't hit me how small a part of the universe I really am. I shudder to type this, but I'm not (brace yourself) special.

We've bought into the belief that the world revolves around us, not the sun. Cosmetic companies have led us to believe "You're worth it". We tell our children that their special, even from a young age. But really, in the whole make up of the universe, we're nothing but a speck.

Yet, despite my smallness, despite the fact my whole life only just fits into the back of my little yellow Suzuki; God, the author of creation, chooses to act through me. And this is the crucial point: we're not special, the world would and does go on despite of us, we are but a speck in the Creator's eye. We're not special, but we are loved and we are chosen. It's a crucial point because our vocation isn't about "being special". When we respond to God's call in our life we are actually responding to the love that created the whole universe and THAT is special!

My favourite piece of advice to young people is get over yourself. We live in a world that tells us to worry only about ourselves. Even as Christians we can be introspective naval gazers. But in a world where the vulnerable in our society are increasingly ignored, that's just not good enough. What makes you anymore special than that mother seeking a refuge and a safer future for her children? What makes you anymore special than the father who struggles with depression because his income only just helps make ends meet? What makes your life anymore special that that child in your womb or an elderly person?

The greatest commandment is to love God and to love others as we love ourselves. Well, I see a lot of people loving themselves and a lot of other people who have had their dignity denied. Get over yourself (I mean that in the kindest, yet still most challenging way). This life was never just about you.