Tag Archive | Texas

SEEK2017: God at Work

In early 1999, 20 students from Benedictine College in Atchinson, Kansas, gathered to learn about scripture, God, holiness, and how to witness the Gospel to others on their campus and eventually on other campuses. The guy organizing this was named Curtis Martin. He had a vision of what Catholic campus ministry on college campuses could look like. He shared it with the 20 students on a cold weekend away from campus. His vision took hold. Those first 20 students worked on campus, and then one campus became two. Over the next few years, they would add more campuses to their network. Eventually, a conference for 200 people was organized. They called it SEEK. The fledgling organization was starting to find its footing, and it gained a huge boost when Martin received a personal word of encouragement from Pope John Paul II for his new movement to “Be Soldiers”. 

Since that time, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students has become one of the biggest Catholic organizations in the country. They now serve on over 100 college campuses including Maine, MIT, George Mason, USC, Alabama, Clemson, Wisconsin, and even two universities in Austria. They serve thousands of college students with Bible Studies, friendship, mentorship, authentic faith, and challenges to learn more about Jesus. In 2011, they came to Boston University, and in 2012, I started my collegiate career on Commonwealth Avenue. I worked with the missionaries who came to Boston, and had many adventures with them. I still room with a former missionary who’s one of my best friends, and I’m blessed to have had that experience. FOCUS is one of the biggest reasons I made it through many difficult times in college, and a part of why the BU Catholic Center was easily the best part of my BU experience. So many of my friends will sing similar songs. FOCUS helped showed us how to live honorable, Catholic lives in college and beyond through all their programming.

Among their most memorable bits of programming were newer iterations of that conference they ran. SEEK continued to expand as FOCUS expanded. The conference went from 200 to a few thousand over the following meetings. I first went to SEEK in 2013, when it was held in Orlando. Six thousand Catholic college students came from across the country. We heard talks about how to be a Catholic man, how free market economics can benefit Catholicism, how to read scripture in a prayerful way, and so many other marvelous topics. We went to Disney World to unwind, and we found ourselves praying in ways we never knew existed. Mostly, we were inspired by the faith of the thousands of college students around us. It’s hard to not be impressed when 3,000 college men are yelling their approval at a question about Disney princesses. Its even harder to not be amazed when these same people are singing their lungs out in adoration. 

SEEK2013 came at the perfect time for me. I needed a lift to get through my freshman year and I needed to learn how to honor God with my work. I got a needed boost, and I maintain fond memories toward the people I met and got close to that week. 

When I got on the flight from Orlando to Hartford on January 7th, 2013, I knew I wanted to go to another one of these major FOCUS conferences. I had an opportunity to go to SEEK2015 in Nashville, but decided not to go. I also could’ve gone to the Student Leadership Summits in 2014 or 2016, but again, decided against it. When I graduated from BU in May, I thought I wouldn’t be involved with any BUCC activities. Except I was and still am. I live in Boston and want to stay in a consistent Catholic community. I still have friends at BU, so I stayed around. I’m an active part of the Graduate and Young Professional Group at BU and I still hang out with the undergrads. When promotion started for SEEK2017, I couldn’t pass it up. I worked out the details, and made my way to San Antonio exactly four years to the day after I went to Orlando. 

When I got there, I realized I was in for a similar experience to Orlando, but SO MUCH BIGGER. This time, 13 thousand college students made their way to Texas. When I walked into the main convention hall for Mass, I saw flags for every school flying, music blasting, and a great party raging. Every large scale gathering except for the morning Masses were like that. It was a huge Catholic party that raged on for 5 days, with plenty of fun moments, like a battle of the sexes game that made a celebrity out of a Texan named Reese, break dancing priests, and nuns with the most ridiculous stories. 

The talks were also better. I heard people speak on Theology of the Body, How to save your Marriage before meeting your spouse, the main difference between Islam and Christianity, and how to respond to the 2016 election. There were so many more talks that I wanted to check out and couldn’t. There was always something to do, be it a talk, adoration, or just hanging out with people I hadn’t seen in a while. The talks were a highlight, because there are so few times when so many intelligent people are gathered to discuss the array of topics that were looked at. The ultimate highlight, however, was the encounter we all had with Jesus Himself.

When I went to Orlando, I was doing some soul searching. I had a rough year and I found solace in my God and friends who were with me there. But I was still unsettled. I wasn’t sure where I was going or what to expect from school or life in general when I got home. This time, I wasn’t in college. I didn’t have the same concerns, fears, or doubts. I was, in many ways, a completely different man. I was more relaxed, more willing to talk about my concerns and doubts, and more open in prayer. I walked with thousands of my brothers and sisters in Christ to confession, and had the most complete confession I’ve ever had. I walked out of the confessional wing of the hall and felt the grace poured out on both me and everyone else receiving the sacrament of Confession. I went to kneel in adoration as a Eucharistic procession began. I prayed my penance and smiled wide. I’ve never felt as clean or as free as I did at that moment. I got up and walked in the procession, singing, and  praising God with all I had. We all were. 

When you are surrounded by grace, there’s nothing you can do but praise God with those feeling the same grace you are. When there’s 13K people surrounded by and filled with the greatest of God’s graces, love and praise of Jesus in the Eucharist, there’s no words to describe the elation. Nothing I write would do it justice. You have to experience it for yourself to understand what’s going on there. 

It didn’t last, but it was never supposed to. When SEEK came to a close, I hopped on a plane back to the northeast, exactly four years to the day after Orlando. I found myself thankful, at peace, and excited for the future. I have a network of friends that I can see and call on when I need to. I had similar feelings after Orlando, but lacked the certainty and confidence in myself, my talents, and my connection to God that I have now. I rested easily, knowing that God is working through FOCUS and is reaching thousands of college students. I reflected on my time at BU, and smiled about all the people I met and got close with in my first SEEK. The smile got bigger when I thought of all the stories that helped lead to. I was happy that I could provide a little veteran presence to the BU delegation that I benefited from in 2013. I was even happier to walk into an uncertain situation called my life with peace of mind. 

I’m finishing up school and looking for more permenant work soon. I don’t have a set schedule or clear direction for what exactly I’m doing. I merely trust that God will guide me to where I am to go. After my week in San Antonio of praying with thousands of brave young men and women, learning about the practicals of living the faith, and being reconciled with the mistakes of my youth, how could I be anything but excited for what’s next?

So thank you to those 20 students from Atchison, Kansas, for saying yes to Curtis Martin’s idea all those years ago. It has made a massive difference for this proud son of New England and thousands of college students from all over this country. I pray we carry the lessons forward, and that those who come after us see the life in Jesus and all it’s graces. If that happens, then SEEK2019 will approach 20K attendees. The Kingdom of Heaven is growing here on earth. I’m happy to have seen it in action in San Antonio this past week. 

2017’s BUCC crowd with Curtis Martin

The new generation

Me with Matt Fradd

Scott Hahn

Division Series Previews and Predictions

After two outstanding Wild Card games over the last few days, the Baseball Postseason is ready to get started tonight! We have eight teams starting the division series in both the American and National League over the next two days, and this is when the best baseball is played. Let’s take a look at each series and see what I think will happen! And for the record, I’m not going to predict more than just the Division Series. We’ll start with the American League. 

Toronto Blue Jays vs Texas Rangers- Rangers in 5

This is the series I look at with the most excitement. After last year’s matchup between these two teams, capped by this Jose Bautista homer and bat flip, and the bad blood spilling over into a regular season match early this year, I am excited for this matchup! There is bad blood, animosity, and something that baseball has missed for a long time: menace. There’s a sense of competition that the sport desperately needs in the postseason, and I am excited for that. There also are talented baseball players on both teams, so we should get good play in addition to the competition. Both teams have strong lineups, good to well above average starting rotations, and shakey bullpens so I see that as a close matchup.

The Blue Jays lineup can make minced meat out of the best pitching in baseball. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitski are all able to hit homers off any pitcher in any ballpark, let alone band boxes in Texas and Toronto that will lead to more offense. Their defense is also capable, with the fifth best fielding percentage in the AL. Russell Martin is an underrated defensive catcher, and their starting rotation is talented, if a bit unproven. They have the AL’s ERA leader in Aaron Sanchez, who is coming off a masterful performance in Fenway Park against the best offense in baseball, in which he held the Red Sox to one run over seven innings. Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, and JA Happ are also talented pitchers who will hold their own. Toronto’s weakness comes in the form of their bullpen. They have only a 4.40 ERA and despite holding the Orioles offense to only 2 runs in the wild card game, there is no clear closer or obvious stopper in the Jays bullpen. Roberto Osuna is questionable for game 1, and that will mess with the bullpen big time. 

Texas can match the Canadian offense. Adrian Beltre continues to make a Hall of Fame case for himself after a .300, 30 homer, 104 RBI season at 37 years old. Elvis Andrus hit .302, Rougned Odor provides some punch (no pun intended), and Ian Desmond is a capable all around hitter. After Prince Fielder retired, the Rangers picked up Carlos Beltran, a playoff tested future Hall of Famer to bolster the offense, and he has done just that. Unfortunately, the defense is only pedestrian, with the 9th best defense in the American League. Their starting rotation on paper is also only pedestrian without the names of the pitchers being considered. Cole Hammels and Yu Darvish are talented pitchers with huge name recognition, but age, attrition, and injury have slowed them down. Hammels has the lowest ERA on the team at 3.32, and Darvish is just getting back to full strength after Tommy John surgery, pitching in only 17 games this season. But these guys, along with Colby Lewis and Derek Holland, are skilled players with postseason experience that will show up against Toronto. The reason I’m picking Texas in this series is the bullpen. The teams are even in all positions except the closer. Osuna isn’t ready to play this series right now, while Sam Dyson (2.43 ERA, 38 saves) is ready to go for Texas. I think the Rangers have a slightly better bullpen and will scrape by the Blue Jays in 5. 

Boston Red Sox vs Cleveland Indians- Red Sox in 4

As a Red Sox fan, after the last week of the season, I am quite nervous for this series. I don’t have a ton of faith in the Red Sox bullpen and I don’t want to face Terry Francona’s team giving up home field advantage. That all being said, I’ll put my fandom and fears aside and try to be objective about this series. 

Boston comes in with the best offense in baseball. Mookie Bette, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz all have cases to be MVP this season, while Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Hanley Ramirez all provide stronger bats than most can offer. Cleveland is no slouch offensively, but they lack the diversity of weapons that Boston has. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are the two .300 hitters on the team, and Mike Napoli has given a spark of power, but the Indian’s offense is ultimately a far cry from what Boston can bring. 

Boston also carries a talented pitching staff. Rick Porcello is a viable Cy Young candidate, and David Price picked up his play later in the year. Clay Buccholz and Eduardo Rodriguez are wild cards but if they come up strong, they can put Boston over the top. The rotation is shortened after the absurdly stupid decision to have All Star Steven Wright run the bases in Los Angeles on August 5th which resulted in his shoulder injury. He could return to the team for the ALCS, but he can’t help the team against Cleveland. The Indians carry a pitching stud in Corey Kluber, but he is injured and so is the rest of the starting rotation. Kluber is starting game 2 after a late season quad injury, and game 1 starter Trevor Bauer isn’t a pitching ace. Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco are also injured, and will not play in the series. Cleveland’s starting rotation is not in good shape. The bullpens are more comparable, but the injured Indians starting rotation will be their downfall. Kluber will win his start in Cleveland, but Boston’s offensive depth will take on the rotation and win the series in four games. 

Now onto the National League. 

Chicago Cubs vs San Francisco Giants, Cubs in 5

By leaps and bounds, this is the hardest series for me to predict. On one hand, the Chicago Cubs are the most talented team in baseball, have the NL MVP in Kris Bryant, one of the best pitchers in Jake Arrieta, a bevy of young talent, championship veteran guile in players like Jon Lester, John Lackey, and David Ross. On the other hand, it’s the Cubs. This is the most cursed team in baseball facing the team that turns into a golden team in even year Octobers, the San Francisco Giants. More so than the stigma of “It’s the Cubs”, these teams match up extremely well. 

Chicago clearly has the better lineup from top to bottom, but the Giants still have weapons in Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Crawford. They don’t have the power of the Cubs, but they can make the Cubs rotation work and throw a ton of pitches. The real matchup is in the starting rotations. Madison Bumbgarner, the best postseason pitcher throwing right now, won’t start until game 3, but Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija are capable pitchers and can make life difficult for Chicago. The Cubs will have to face a difficult rotation, and Chicago’s bullpen will have to hold up better than the Mets’ bullpen did last night. With Aroldis Chapman in the closers spot, they can shut down the Giants in the 9th. If the Cubs are to win, the Cubs MUST win both games 1 and 2 in Chicago and the bullpen must be better than the Giants. 

I see this series as a toss up. The Giants have a winning culture and attitude that the Cubs have not proven to have and they have the pieces to take down the Cubs. The Cubs have talent and the burden of expectation from baseball fans and the longest suffering fan base in all of sports. If the Cubs are to win a championship, they must win games 1 and 2 at home. 

Washington Nationals vs Los Angeles Dodgers- Nationals in 4

This series is simultaneously interesting and boring for me. These teams are talented and Fun to watch in the regular season. However, they are horribly disappointing in the postseason. The Dodgers were supposed to beat the Cardinals in the 2013 NLCS and 2014 NLDS, the Mets in the 2015 NLDS behind the performance of Clayton Keyshawn, Justin Turner, Yasiel Paige, and others, but lost every single series, never reaching their postseason potential. The Nationals are just as disappointing, with a lost championship in 2014 and missing the playoffs last year. I expect both teams to eventually fold, if not in this series then later in the month. But I will still watch and see which of these “Next Year’s Champions” will continue to tease their fans. 

Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, and Corey Seager lead a potent lineup against the Nationals and Howie Kendrick, Josh Reddick, and Yasiel Puig look to improve on disappointing regular seasons and help the team get a boost. For DC, Daniel Murphy takes his .347 average into the postseason with the intent of another trip to the Fall Classic. Wilson Ramos also hit .300 and is the other well performing hitter for DC. Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, two long standing DC hitters, had very disappointing seasons and look to step up in October. Harper’s season was especially disappointing. The reigning NL MVP went from hitting .330 to only .243 this season and he struggled to get into any kind of rhythm this season. If anything, the fact that Washington won 95 games this season with Harper performing so poorly is reason for more confidence. Imagine how well they’d play if Harper picked up his average.

These starting rotations are both top heavy. Clayton Keyshawn and Max Scherzer are the undisputed aces, but the rotations beyond those two are a little short. Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strausburg both have talent but have been inconsistent this year in the nation’s capitol. Kenta Madea and Scott Kazmir have some good innings in them, but they are secondary to Kershaw and not quite ace level. The Dodgers have a decided advantage in their bullpen. Washington released their closer, Jonathan Paplebon, before the signing deadline in the middle of the season, and have given Shawn Kelly the closing job. He and the rest of the Nationals Bullpen has plenty to prove. LA has a bona fide closer in Kelley Jansen, sporting a 1.83 ERA and 47 Saves. The rest of the bullpen is more dependable as welll. However, because of slightly better pitching, and the potential for Bryce Harper to break loose, I’m picking Washington to win the series. 

So there are my predictions. Onto the playoffs! 

 

Division Champs! Why Does it Feel Empty?

After two consecutive last place finishes in 2014 and 2015, the Boston Red Sox rose up to have the best offense in Major League Baseball. It’s been fun watching this team hit so well and excite the city of Boston. Last night, they clinched the American League Eastern Division Championship for the first time since 2013. They have sowed up a playoff spot and avoid the Wild Card randomness and cap a great regular season. They celebrated in Yankee Stadium after securing the division. 

So why was I not celebrating? Well, winning the division last night felt empty for a few reasons. Namely, we lost. Last night’s game in Yankee Stadium was eminently winnable, with an outstanding start from Clay Buccholz, and an offensive surge in the 8th that should have been enough for the bullpen to hold. It wasn’t though. Craig Kimbrel, the closer for the Red Sox and a representative at the All-Star game this year, was absolutely awful in the 9th. He walked three guys, gave up 1 hit, got no outs, and when Joe Kelly got tagged by Mark Texeira with a grand slam, surrendered four runs to lose the game for the Sox. The Red Sox had a game that they could have easily won against their arch rivals and they blew it. Regardless of winning the division, I don’t feel good about what I saw from my team last night. 

Should I be happy that the Red Sox are in the postseason? Yes. Am I happy that I will get to watch Ortiz in the postseason one more time? Yes. Does that make up for blowing an eminently winnable game against the Yankees while there is still plenty to play for this week? Not only no, but hell no. The bullpen did not instill any confidence in me, and losing to the Yankees, especially in walk off fashion, is always gut wrenching. And what’s left to play for? Home field advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Right now, the Red Sox are the second seed in the playoffs. They would have home field for the Division Series and the World Series sown up if they make it that far. Here’s my concern: the American League Championship Series. Boston is best at home this season and they’d be in the best position to win the championship if they had home field advantage in that series. Here’s the problem: Texas has the best record in the A.L. and I don’t like the matchup against Texas. They’re 3-3 against them this season and didn’t look good in Arlington when they traveled there earlier this season. Every loss makes the chance for best record less likely and that worries me, especially with the bullpen’s importance to every team and the Sox bullpen coming up smaller than mini me frequently this season. They are 20-22 in one run games in the postseason, where close and low scoring games are more frequent, that stat is alarming. 

Am I worrying too much? Probably. Do I have cause for concern after last night? Yes. Do I desperately want David Ortiz to go out with a championship? Without question. Have I enjoyed this season? Yes! It has been so much more fun than the last two years and I love being a Red Sox fan right now. But am I happy after clinching the division? No. There is still plenty of baseball left to play and too much up in the air to celebrate after a night like that. This isn’t the Red Sox of the past, when just winning enough to get into the postseason was acceptable. Winning championships is the ultimate goal, and the Red Sox have a long way to go before they can win the championship.