Friday, December 31, 2010

Shoot, my New Year's started a long time ago!

People have been asking me, “Ryan are you excited for New Years?” …My response? “Shoot my New Years started November 28, 2010-the beginning of Advent!” As I continue to grow deeper in love with Christ Crucified, I find myself yearning to enter more deeply in the mystery of the Incarnation. How blessed are we that God humbled Himself and took the form of a human being to save us from death. Isn’t beautiful, that the same wood that was used to build Jesus Christ's first crib would be the same wood that Jesus Christ would be crucified on!?

My friend told me that he just read a questionable posting from a Catholic institution on facebook, “Now that the three kings have left, the shepherds have gone back to the flock, the presents have been accepted, and the baby is sleeping. We can enjoy the true meaning of the season, peace!”…What!? As if we can capture the full essence of a transcendent God becoming human in one night? People are back to their busy lives, going back to work, taking down their Christmas lights and decorations, rescheduling appointments, and enjoying their Christmas presents. I hope they do not forget that next to the octave of Easter, the Christmas octave (which means eight, hence the eight days of Christmas) is one of the most important periods in the Roman Catholic Church. This means that we should not just honor Christ’s birth on December 25th but there is an eight day period of celebration and rejoicing! These eight days of commemoration which ends after the Solemnity of the Mother of God, Jan 1st should be a time of awe, wonder, and thanksgiving that the savior of the world has been born.

However, to give the secular calendar homage, this year has been one of the most amazing years of my entire life. I honestly believe it was because I rang in the New Years with Jesus Christ in adoration last New Year’s Eve. If you ever have the opportunity and know of a nearby parish, I encourage you to pray before the Blessed Sacrament on New Year’s Eve! If you are anything like me, it is kind of weird in a holy way?... I am so used to fireworks, people giving each other hugs, drinking champagne, gun shots (crazy AZ) and crazy Nicaraguan women (like my mom) running down the street in suitcases, purses and pennies yelling Happy New Year’s! Yet, as the countdown begins New Year’s feels a little different. The priest raises Jesus Christ aloft, in front of us the kneeling worshippers, and blesses us for the upcoming year. No blow horns or “snaps”, no yelling or hollering. Just stillness and silence with our Blessed Lord…What a great way to start off the New Year and what a great way to end the Christmas celebration. Have a Blessed New Year’s everyone.

As always…Stay Catholic!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Living with the Pox!

You won’t believe it! I have the Chicken Pox, (varicella zoster virus) I thought I was safe from that awful virus, I am 21 years old for crying out loud. So, I wake up early Sunday morning feeling as if a plane had just landed on my body. I was dizzy, had a headache, my temperature was through the roof, and I had two pimple like substances on my neck. I end up going to the Emergency Room and the Dr. says “Yep, you have the chickenpox.” Since it was new, they gave me an anti-viral (Acyclovir). The Doc must have forgotten to tell me that for the next couple of days I would be living a nightmare!

I am transferred out of Old College into Moreau Seminary, into a nice little room all by myself. I wake up the next day. I have them all over my neck and chest. Next day. My face, my stomach, my arms, my back, and even my butt! Little, nasty, itching, red, draining, scabbing sores-everywhere! By far, the worse pain I had ever felt. I hurt, I itch, and I am supposed to start school up again this week. I am miserable and feverish.

To make matters worse, there is a tornado alert going on in South Bend? Leaves are flying all over the place, the phones are ringing telling me that I should seek shelter, ducks are being flipped upside down, and the alarms are howling throughout the campus. How did I go from illustrious hot, dry, climate of Phoenix, to sticky, cold, tornado watch South Bend?

At this point I’m starting to feel like Job (Biblical Figure)- sad, disgusting, tired, and disappointed. So, I go online and start playing pacman! This was by far the most peaceful thing because I imagined myself as pacman; eating away all of the little pac dots (chicken pox) it was my revenge.

As you can imagine being in a room with no contact with the outside the world can take a toll on you mentally. What better way to curb ones enthusiasm about having chicken pox by learning how to do the Chicken Dance?

I still have the chicken pox, however, it is slowly healing. So what lessons can be learned from this experience? God is with you--no matter what! I find myself staring at the crucifix over my bed, and its comforting to know that in the midst of my frustration and anger, I can still come to God. Come to the healer, you disgusting mound of sores! So when a Christinan suffers whether it is from spiritual or physical it doesn’t matter whether the suffering is the consequence of sin or not.All that matters is that all suffering be accepted and carried as one’s cross. Let it be a testament to God’s glory and a penance for all the sins that nailed Christ to the cross. Christ endured all suffering for our redemption, so, as we bear our suffering gracefully, we share the burden of the cross with Christ. Let all suffering end in love. Let us meditate on the words of James 1:2-4:

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

WOW! It’s been quite a while since I have been able to post a blog. As you can imagine being in the seminary and senior in college is pretty intense. So Ryan what have you been up too? My day- I wake up every day at 6:30am and from 6:45-7:45am, I spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Log Chapel. After, I get a little grub and then head off to class from 9am-4pm. Depending on the day we have mass at 5:15pm, dinner, homework, or get a workout in. I couldn’t possibly sum up all of the blessings that I have experienced this past month and a half. Our good friend from St. John Vianney, Paul M. Ybarra, C.S.C. made his final profession of vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross.

I have been working relentlessly on my senior thesis which is 25 pgs! The topic is towards the Lord….Basically why the priest and lay faithful should all facing one direction during mass. The books that I am reading....

My desk...and some books

Karlo and Ryan's book shelf...We like to read! You can travel without ever moving an inch...

Well that's all for now! Until next time, keep me in your prayers!


The Real OC: On Retreat with St. Joseph and Brother André

This past Friday September 19th, the men of Old College Undergraduate Seminary spent the weekend in La Porte, Indiana, for our fall retreat. I was excited to begin this weekend because we were going to learn about the spirituality and virtues of Br. Andre. Our first conference was led by Br. Ed who gave us a brief spirituality and history on how Br. Andre and St. Joseph influenced the Brothers of Holy Cross.

After that, we were all assigned 45 min time slots for nocturnal adoration. To me this was a very grace-filled experience. I never really had a devotion to St. Joseph or Br. Andre but in their honor, I asked them to take me by the hand and lead me closer to Christ. The time spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament really opened my heart to want to be like these men and seek their intercession.

Ryan Ayala

The next morning Fr. Steve led two conferences on Br. Andre’s devotion to St. Joseph and Br. Andre’s little virtues. I think I can speak on the behalf of the majority of men of Old College; we were deeply inspired to conform our lives to Br. Andre, so that we too can be fools for St. Joseph. He taught me to recognize doing the small things in my life with great love.

Later on, Fr. Andrew gave a conference on Br. Andre’s life and how he truly exemplified living out the Congregations motto, “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.” It was clear that Br. Andre’s life was burdened with many physical ailments. However, his courage to embrace that lonely cross showed how faithful he was on living out God’s vocation for him. Fr. Andrew also alluded that we should also persevere in our vocation and stay faithful to the Cross that has been given to us. We ended this conference by going to the Cross – Fr. Andrew led us through a Holy Cross Stations of the Cross considered to be one of Br. Andre’s deepest devotions.

Old College Retreat

 On Sunday, we had Lauds and Mass. This weekend was very peaceful and spirit-filled. All glory to God for blessing our time and opening our hearts to His foster-father St. Joseph and Br. Andre. I pray that we may continue to follow in their footsteps and never cease to model our lives after them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The difference between a seed and a human...(A Lawrence experience)

The difference between a seed and a human is that humans have legs! In the silence and depth of every human soul lies that tiny seed that was given to us by God. I can not help but to relate my experience in Lawrence, Massachusetts as the parable of the Sower and the Seed. The farmer in Jesus parable (Mat 13:1-23) tends to cast seeds everywhere! And of course, some get eaten by birds, some sprout but the winter, some get choked out by weeds and some yield varying amounts of grain. At the end of the story, Jesus says “they who have ears, let them hear.” In other words, he wants us to learn something and take some action steps.

It was a tremendous honor to have had the privilege to serve the people of Lawrence. Lawrence is the 22nd poorest city in the nation, in 2007, only 41% of the students graduated from high school in four years. 21.2% of the families, 34% of the population live well below the poverty line. I am so grateful for Lazarus House Ministries, which I believe is the most well developed community service I have ever seen. To have been part of a Catholic organization that welcomes all in the name of God, truly exemplifies the heart and mission of the Church: to love, serve and make Him known.

Dont make fun of the apron, the cooks made me wear it!

Through Lazarus House Ministries, I truly saw a mission that stretched beyond offering food, shelter, clothing, advocacy, job training, and medical care but rather a group of people who were not afraid to water seeds and take charge to rebuild families and welcoming them with an open heart. I realized what a person goes through in a lifetime, I was going through in a day. At one moment I was rejoicing in playing with babies and kids who live at Lazarus Homeless shelter

The next moment I was at the Boys and Girls Club getting jumped by kids because I beat them in basketball...or they beat me?

Another moment I was tutoring teenagers at Central Catholic High School…

The next moment, I was serving food to homeless mothers and fathers at Good Shepherd Soup Kitchen

The next moment I was dancing and laughing with my dear cooks. Or maybe they were laughing at me for not speaking Spanish.. Marissa, Nicole, Kyrsie and Anna.

The next moment I led Bingo night for families at the transitional housing unit: Capernaum Place.

The next moment I was at the food pantry helping dish out food to over 500 families...

The final moment, I was at Corpus Christi assisting at the HIV/AIDS residence as some of them prepared for death.

One of the highlights of this summer came when I was working at the food pantry. My role that afternoon was to stand by the food cans and make sure that people only grabbed two cans so that there would be enough food for the rest of the families. This older gentlemen, who was wearing a rosary and crucifix around his neck, had a staggered limp to his step, and spoke minimal English. As he approached my station he looked at me and opened his bag. I stood there froze not knowing what he was trying to do. I looked at him and said in Spanish, “escoja lo que usted desea” (Pick whatever can you want) and his eyes opened wide and his hands started to tremble and with tear-filled eyes he said, “tengo una elección (I have a choice)?”...I looked at him and said "of course!".

I believe this man's thought of not having a choice represent many Catholics today who do not choose to engage their faith. Catholics who look like wheat plants and their faith is fruitless. Catholics who receive the sacraments but disappear somewhere between age 18 and 35. Catholics who have frail roots and collapse under the head of the world. They don't use their legs and move forward. Instead of seeking their roots into Scripture, Tradition, prayer and the sacraments through Jesus, they sink their roots into apathy and dryness.

I am so glad that God granted me the opportunity to be a beacon of hope to people. I truly live by one motto...St. Edith Stein once said "If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to God".I guess the parable of the sower has a twofold message: as seed, our job is to get busy growing. As farmers, our job is to get busy sowing. We as farmers are commanded by God through this parable to get the seed out there, sowing it everywhere we go, undeterred by the birds, the weeds and the scorching sun. So let us remember to always move forward into our faith and bring people the light of Christ!:)

Oh ya, I also had the chance to travel the New England States: Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A night with the Franciscans of the Primitve Observance

On Thursday evening God gave me another amazing opportunity to spend a day with the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance. Arguably, the strictest order of Franciscans in the Western world, I was a bit nervous before arriving because I had no idea what to expect. I have been following this group and reading about them for about a year and I was super excited to spend a day of recollection amongst their midst. However, there are a lot rumors in the blog world that these men are radical, crazy, misguided and are perverting the St. Francis spirituality. Well if you look at these men the way the "world" looks at them: radical and crazy indeed. But true followers of Jesus Christ in the manner of St. Francis of Assisi? Absolutely.( Pardon me, I did not take as many pictures for the sake of maintaining the Grand Silent that was being observed during my stay)
Co-Redemptrix Friary

As Br. Lawrence led me to my room I looked around....and looked for my bed....and looked for a lamp....and nothing.

I never felt so excited entering a room, because I had a sleeping bag waiting for me on the floor. Yes, these men are the real deal. They sleep on the floor! Matter of fact, they own no radios, televisions, I-pods, computers, or other worldly possessions. They own no bus pass, subway tickets or cars, they travel by feet. They also have no budget! So I spent the evening reading....After I finished Augustine's confessions for armchair theologians (a good follow up if you have read confessions)we had evening prayer and adoration for an hr. No chairs, or pews, just your knees. Also no shoes or socks allowed on holy ground-bare feet. As I watched them walk into the chapel, they bowed, kissed the floor and spread their arms as they begged God for his pardon and peace. WOW, such reverence and respect for Jesus in His home.

A day at the Friary looks like this: 1:30-2:00 AM Office readings,6:00 morning prayer, 6:30-7:30 adoration, 7:30-8:00 Daily Mass; then study work, noon, midday prayer and recollection, pickup lunch; 4:45 p.m., evening prayer in common, followed by one hour of silent Eucharistic adoration; 6 p.m.,evening prayer), the rosary and, finally, the Grand Silence (close of the day, normally around 9 p.m.) On Wednesday and Fridays are their fast days: Bread and water only! I only got to experience the night prayer, office readings and morning prayer, adoration and mass. But well worth the experience. Because of other obligations my opportunity was cut short but these hours I spent in silence with the Lord was truly a remarkable experience.

I ended my experience with mass by Fr. Pio
Lets Pray that these men may continue to prosper in vocations!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Have mercy on me a sinner...

Saturday I was invited by the Basillian Fathers (Eastern Melkite Rite, who are in union with Rome) to spend a day of recollection, prayer and silence at their seminary located in Methuen, Massachusetts. In the book written by Thomas Kempis called Imitations of Christ he states, “In silence and quiet the devout soul advances in virtue and learns the hidden truths of Scripture.”

Shortly after I arrived I was taken by a seminarian to my cell (for the day).

I spent the following 3 hrs reading, “The Confessions” by St. Augustine. I never spent a day alone in silence before so I was excited to see how much God would open my heart.

After reading, I napped of course and then met with Fr. Martin. The best way to describe Fr. Martin is having the insights of a saint, after a short 15 minute discussion with him, it was obvious he read my soul. So he gave me 4 scripture passages to meditate in the chapel for the rest of the day. For the next 8 hrs, I spent time in and out of the chapel.

Had time to Journal...

and said a rosary in their beautiful chapel!

As the day started to close, I met with Fr. Martin and he was able to offer follow up responses to the scripture passages I meditated on. He also gave me an icon of Our Lady of Vladimir and prayer beads that was custom made for him, so that I can start praying the "Jesus Prayer". It is not to be confused with a Rosary. I was so excited and blessed to have received these gifts. Basically, each bead you say, " Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Word on Fire..

Early this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago for a basketball tournament. While I was there, Fr. Stephen Koeth CSC introduced me to Fr. Robert Barron.

Myself, Fr. Robert Barron and Fr. Stephen Koeth

Fr. Barron is a Catholic evangelist is considered one of the prominent theologians of the Catholic faith. He is also the founder of Word on Fire Ministries which is a non profit media organization that draws millions of people back into the Catholic faith. Soon he will release a Catholic ten part series that seeks to explore, through a global journey, the living culture of the Catholic Church. From the lands of the Bible, to the great shrines of Europe, to the shores and heartland of America, to the mysteries of Asia, to the rich landscapes of Latin America, to the beating heart of Africa - and beyond, witness the passion and glory of the faith that claims over a billion of the earth’s people as its own. Please take a few minutes to watch the trailer and pray that this video can reach the hearts of many!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ryan in New Hampshire!

Early Saturday morning, the SSLP team of Lawrence headed to a beach party at the Perocchi's house in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Mr. Perocchi is also the CEO of Pebble Beach and has two children who graduated from Notre Dame. He invited us over for a time of relaxation and enjoyment. It was truly an unforgettable and amazing experience. I arrived to their home and thought I was doing an episode for MTV Cribs...

It was truly a beautiful home. After my making my tour around the home, we went into the backyard...the beach?

The water was mad cold therefore I did not go in. After chillin' on the beach, we made our way to lunch and I was forced to try clams and butter straight from the sea...

I am Nicaragua (Hispanic) I am a mantequilla con pan type of guy! Not a fan of clams. After letting my food settle, I made my way to the front yard--a full size basketball court?

I even got a game in with the lil homie, and he killed him.

Is it a sin to be rich? NO! Being rich is not incompatible with true poverty of spirit. With great wealth comes an equally great obligation in charity. Mr. Perrochi a faithful Catholic has a very powerful story. Perocchi's mother died in a car crash when he was 9. His father, a World War II veteran, was disabled when a tree branch landed on his head. With little financial stability, Perocchi was just another child from the projects from Lawrence. He turned up at the Boys & Girls Club every day after school with dreams of something better. After several years of working hard—he is now a multi-millionaire! I asked him, do you ever get afraid of being around the wealthy? He said, “Ryan I am still the kid from the wrong side of the tracks in Lawrence who just got a break from God”. Every year he hands a check for 1 million dollars to the Boys and Girls Club to give to the next generation of poor children looking for a break. Certainly material wealth can be an obstacle.. It is a sin to put anything before God. Many people's God is money. Jesus did not say it's impossible for a rich man to enter God's Kingdom, but difficult. Wealthy people often think they don't need God; they have power, respect, and are fawned over by others. But Mr. Perrochi told me a prayer that serves as a friendly reminder to him: "God, keep me from being poor so that I am not tempted to steal, and keep me from being rich so that I will not forget you..."