God Is Calling But Can You Hear It Ringing?

I’m preparing to leave to go to Houston to meet up with Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Parish and their youth ministry program. We’re going to be flying to Arizona tomorrow morning for a mission trip. We’ll be there until June 20th.

A little more information on the path of discernment. I want a challenge. I need a challenge. I want to go up against something that requires me to work and be able to come out the other side, scarred but not beaten. Before coming to Austin and The University, I never worked at anything. Sure, I put effort into activities and school but frankly, spending an hour a week outside of class studying for highly-advanced high school classes and making all A’s isn’t working for it.
I’ve never had to work before and that is something that, looking back, I was not prepared for when moving to Austin.

My first year I did decent. I never went to class and studied a couple of hours the night before a test. Made a couple of A’s, a few B’s and a couple of C’s. I couldn’t complain; I knew I didn’t put any time into it so I was happy with that.

My second year, this past year, I had many personal issues on the side that weren’t there before. The anniversary of my dad’s death hit me hard, I had a priority-skewed month in Quixtar, as well as nice set of roller-coster emotional rides. I had decided to screw chemistry and walk away from it to test whether or not I was driven towards it. I jumped into a couple of history classes and a couple of philosophy classes. And by jumping into, I mean buying the books, showing up to a few classes. The difference between chemistry and history/philosophy was I didn’t care about history or philosophy.

It made for a diasterous time. I was undergoing depression and my self-treatment was to fully throw myself into something that I could handle. The University Catholic Center was my pill. I was the important guy on campus in high school. Or so I thought with being very active with the administrators to help better the school and being in well with my teachers. I felt listened to and I felt like my voice did not fall on deaf ears.

The University of Texas is a great school but it is a large school. The largest fish in the largest high school has to take a moment to adjust at this campus. Compound that with the fact that my high school sends virtually no one to this campus, a handful in so many years. I had no one to teach me the inside ropes to learn the rules of this larger pond or, in other words, I had to learn how to swim with the big boys by immersion. However, the University Catholic Center was more like the parish that I was used to back home (at least compared to The University being like the school I was used to). I had already been elected Chaplain for the Lambdas– I already was given a microphone to speak into.

I took the ball and ran with it. I probably sent more e-mails to the Lambda or Little Sister mailing lists last year than anyone else. I organized a whole slew of events for the Lambdas while trying to find a balance with our Little Sisters while helping with logistics and visuals for Before The Throne while first, attending Awakening and then speaking at Awakening. I was close to the other leaders of the UCC and so I gave up much of my time discussing with them the issues that their organizations faced trying to help them. In all that, I was able to do quite a bit of stuff. The Lambdas have a regular dinner with the bishop every semester now. Two Lambdas have been hired by the diocese after the dinners to jobs that we were told about by His Excellency at the dinner. 125 students from the UCC were treated to dinner and a viewing of The Passion of The Christ with Bishop Aymond.

All in all, I felt important. I felt like there was a task and a position there where I was needed. That position, however, was not at school nor was it anywhere close to being related, except for it being an University Catholic Center. So while escaping from the depression, it also was an escape from the academic life. It did not heal or mend wounds but only turned my eye away from them.

So, while listening to the homily given by Bishop Aymond at the evening Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral just before dinner and The Passion, he said some words that struck me. “Change is always seen as a negative thing in our lives because it interferes with our level of comfortability. Might I suggest that we start to become comfortable with change.” It was a good homily for striking in the season of Lent, a season of change. I knew that change is what I needed and change is what I would have to do.

I have felt a calling towards the priesthood since I was 14. I first mentioned it to Amanda, a girl whose last name I couldn’t remember if I saw it, while on a high school youth group skiing trip. We were sitting around at a restaurant, just after I got back from my hospital trip to Taos and I mentioned something about how I felt like I was being called to be a priest. Now, I am not sure if you have ever experienced a “possible vocation rush” at a medium-sized city parish but let me let you in on how it works. She mentioned that to the rest of the youth group later that night (I didn’t mind, it wasn’t told in confidence or anything). Within a couple of weeks, I swear every man, woman and child knew I was thinking about it. I received much support, including some of the ladies calling me “Father Brandon” followed by “doesn’t that sound good?” Frankly, it didn’t. It sucked. I was a 14 year old kid who hadn’t finished a year of high school much less anything else. I digress. Everyone knew very quickly and that was overwhelming. After four years, right before calling Bishop Delaney and telling him to send me the application, I compromised with my mom and told her I would complete a degree in something unrelated. She wants me to have something to fall back on if I discern a different calling.

I applied to, was accepted and enrolled in The University of Texas at Austin. The calling was still there, I just never told anyone about it. I wanted to be accepted as Kraft, not as Kraft-the-guy-who-is-going-to-be-a-priest-some-day. And I was. I found a brotherhood in the Lambdas and some great friends outside of the Lambdas.

Back to the main plot line, when I heard Bishop Aymond’s “Change” statement on Ash Wednesday, I thought that perhaps that was the change I needed. I’ve felt the calling for sometime and while I don’t know if it is a calling to the priesthood or something else, it was something I needed to discern. I had already been meeting with the vocation director for the diocese and he was leading a virtue study series for the Lambdas. I had already been in close with the Bishop because of the Lambdas and unrelated matters. It was an easy thing to start.

The application is a tool of discernment. It is incredibly long. Three applications- to the Diocese, to Holy Trinity and to the University of Dallas. I think I collected seven letters of recommendation. I wrote a 20-page autobiography. I had to answer everything you could name about myself. What magazines did I read? Have I gone “steady”? Have I been in love? What are my biggest regrets? What are my biggest fears? Why do I think I could experience love outside of a marriage, having no children and no wife? I went through a three-hour psychological exam. Just the application made me look at parts of my life that I have never looked at.

Now, that line of argument is double-sided. One side, which from the way the conversation went, I believe the bishop is on from what I told him, would say that yes, that is what is supposed to do. Was that good for you? The seminary is more of that, come on down. You don’t have to know the path but just want to reach the goal. The other side is that you reflect upon everything. Those of you who know me thought I thought about stuff a lot before this process began- oh no, that was nothing.

How are my thoughts on marriage reflected in the way I treated this girl? Was this action reflective of what I say I believe in or what I actually believe in?

Through that, I know I made a lot of mistakes. Perhaps, I shouldn’t have thrown in the towel then. Perhaps we should have talked things out first. Perhaps this, perhaps that. I realize that I am capable of so much more than what I have allowed myself. Realizing and seeing that makes me want to go out and increase my life experience knowing what I know now. As Fr. David put in when I talked to him following my interview with the bishop, your life before seminary is the bank you withdraw from during your years of seminary. I am not happy with where I am at now in life. I want a positive balance to draw from.

A month and a half ago, I lost three people close to me. That pushed me towards the seminary more than any particular event all semester. It was for the wrong reasons though. The seminary would be easier. I could avoid this negative situation by removing my presence. That is not a good reason to go. I had a bad year. I am still drawn to chemistry- trying to look up at the University of Dallas website whether or not I could double-major with it while at seminary or wondering if I could finish a degree in it after finishing seminary. I would be more challenged by getting my act together here than trying to wipe the slate clean and start anew.

So now, I’m staying at The University of Texas at Austin. I am a normal college student again. Will I date? Yes. “But what does that mean for your discernment?” (as I’ve been asked). I am a young man trying to hear the ringing phone from God. At this point of my life, I am in a room full of telephones. Every place you look there are telephones. I hear ringing but I can’t tell from what phone. I know some phones are not ringing with a call from God but from a distraction. I know not to think about answering the phones that would say “Go down to 6th street every night for the rest of your life and party like there is no tomorrow.” However, there are many phones with legitimate callings that I can explore. The priesthood may be the calling for me, or maybe I just haven’t answered the right phone.

I very much feel the power of God in my life. While I may be saying no to him right now, I don’t believe that he would abandon me. We all have the desire to know God and become closer to him written on our hearts. I feel that desire and I will seek unity with God. I believe that I need to seek better unity within myself (note: not perfect unity in myself or seek simply unity within myself, just seek better unity) before this step.

Diversity Part II

First, If you sent me any e-mail to a @brandonkraft.com e-mail address during the last month, I didn’t get them! Damn ISP! If you did, please forward to a working address. Secondly, some mindless images to help you all through the day.

If you suck at chemistry, you may end up dying.

Also, I wanted to throw in this picture I think you will like. UT’s PTS gave this to me on the 24th around 1:30.


Next up, do you remember the diversity column I wrote? Remember the little rant I had at the top of the page a week or so after that? Adam from Grinnell, IA sure does. He wrote me a reply, like I asked any of my viewers who disagreed to do, telling me that in fact, I am wrong. On the rant, I mentioned an event at a UT fraternity about how one of the members dressed up as a black person for a costume party of some sort. There were complaints filed to the University because of the incident. I said that getting all pissed off and trying to fix college students is not the best way to stop the problem. Here is Adam’s e-mail in it’s full glory:

I must respond to your comment on the comments you made about the racial situation at college. While I am not a student at UT and I don’t know about the “events” you mentioned I have a problem with your analysis of the students. I know it is not your intention but you are making excuses for the racist ideas of the students. You say that they are beyond change and teaching and if this is true then why do we bother educating them if they cannot change their ideas on a subject. Your statement:
“For everyone calling out for racial respect after the fraternity incident, realize that these people came probably from “white” suburban areas. They do not understand the culture nor the complexities of trivializing it. It is not a good thing but that is just how it is.”

You are excusing their behavior because of where they are from. College above any other place should be concerned with and able to change the perceptions of people and to educate them not only academically but also socially. Don’t you dare say such a narrow minded comment as “that is just how it is.” THAT excuse is one that has allowed such racist and bigoted ideals to continue. Just because they have held the idea for years and are at college doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be expected to change. Also don’t discount the accomplishments of the civil rights movement. I don’t know if you intended it, but know that there are serious negative connotations to the word “tolerance”. I was largely disappointed by the comments and I hope that you don’t truly feel the way that you came across. Also might I suggest the following link: http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/initial.html
p.s.: I have no hard feelings against you…I am just writing a letter to the editor.

First off, I must thank Adam for voicing out. One of the goals of this site is for people to be able to exchange ideas in some form. Not the greatest but, eh I’m also only a first-year college student with no time.

In response to the letter, I never meant to imply that bigotry was acceptable or that we shouldn’t try at all to change people’s opinions and thoughts at this point in the game. At college age, however, many people are set in their ways. The ability to transform someone of an adult age is much more difficult unless he or she wants to be transformed. I am not saying let the racists be racist but I am saying people should put more effort to stop the root of the problem rather then just the result of the problem. Teach about diversity and being colorblind in elementary, junior high and high school. It is along the same lines as the premise of the D.A.R.E. program- for those who do not know, D.A.R.E. is designed to teach elementary-aged students to stay away from drugs before they really get into the situation where they will be faced with that option. Focusing on college students would not be the best time to deter drug use as most kids start/try drugs at an earlier age. It’s the same thing with racism- yes, try to get college students aware of the issues but focus your time on a younger group. Teach kids before they get set in a mindset that the mindset of racism is wrong. The civil rights movement did accomplish goals. Black people attend class with me, vote with me, do whatever they want to with me. Yes, the civil rights movement accomplished a lot. The mission still is not complete, I agree. I disagree with college students getting pissed off at other college students without trying to figure out why they are that way. I know black people who are incredibly racist towards white people. Am I upset with them because of this? At first yes, after talking to one of their friends, I realized that they grew up in a mostly black neighborhood and the only real interaction they had with most white people fell along racial lines. They didn’t like me because most of the other white people they have seen were racist towards them in some fashion.

Back to the point, I do think that the college students who committed this acts could have a narrow mindset and that is not proper, not right and should not be allowed- however, while attempts should be made to open their minds, why are we not trying to keep their minds open while they are in a 99% white school in suburban Houston? They are racist probably not because they hate or dislike black people. I don’t think they’re anti-Black. I think it comes from a lack of understanding of the cultures. Now, don’t get me wrong with this next example- I’m trying to connect it to a general topic not so heated. Aggie jokes. We’ve all heard them at some point. When I was in elementary school, most of us shared them even though we did not have a grasp on what A&M and UT were really about. My experience through school was to keep an open mind about all colleges and so I applied to both UT and A&M with no preset determination where I wanted to go. After interactions with both schools, I did choose UT. Now, I play with my Aggie friends but I don’t really mean to punk on their school. How does this relate to race? Follow the metaphor a little farther, the students who committed this told these jokes throughout school and somewhere along the line, never learned that it was wrong and mostly unfounded. It’s time to decide where to go to school. Of course, Aggies are nothing but idiots so of course they’re going to want to go to UT instead. They don’t realize the error of their ways and knowing hardcore Aggies and hardcore Longhorns, it’s not an easy thing to change. With race, it’s not very different. The student never realized it was wrong and for the first time, it really being called on that. After having this mindset gel for 19 or 20 years, it’s really difficult to break the mold. It’s possible and it needs to be done- however, the student must want to think differently. If we have, for a lack of a better word, diversity education in these 99% white schools, the mold will have a less of a chance to be placed into effect and thus the lessen the likelihood of gelling.

It is the way it is. It’s not a good thing- I admitted to start with, but it is true. I am not saying that it can’t be corrected but you must solve the problem, not just the symptoms.

Am I still wrong? Did I piss you off for another reason? Let me know.
P.S. Adam, it’s all cool. I needed a topic for this week anyhow

diverse? we aren’t!

Another week has gone by in this Spring semester. I’ve skipped too much class already. I really need to stop doing that. If you hear about me skipping again, yell at me. I’m serious. Call me up and yell. If you don’t know my number, then IM me and tell me to get off the computer and go to class!

I’m going to start on a quick light note- my roommate Ricky has decided he is going to be the UT Superhero ending any and all crime on campus. However, the job position of superhero is not one you can just walk into so he needs your help. If you have any ideas for costumes, a name, a theme, any symbols, etc, please shoot me an e-mail.

Now my second topic of the week is bound to upset some people. If you happen to be one of those people, feel free to contact me and voice your opinion. Okay, diversity rallies- I don’t like them. I am not saying I don’t like diversity. I just don’t like the rallies. For those of you who do not know of my high school background: My high school was diverse. We had a pretty even mix of white, black and Hispanic. It wasn’t a “white” school. We had a pretty open flow of culture between all the ethnic groups. Blacks were 26% of the school population, Hispanics were about 16%. About half were “white, non-Hispanic” and the remainder came from Native Americans, Asians, et al. We never made any big deal about being a diverse campus- we just were diverse. The district allowed all 8th graders to choose which high school he/she would like to go to and we ended up being a diverse school. I’m at UT now and I’ve heard stories from A&M about diversity rallies held at the two campuses. I just laugh when I heard about this. UT has only around 16% minorities total. A&M has a total of 14% minorities. Although I hate to admit this, our campuses are not that diverse. We hold diversity rallies to celebrate our diversity. What diversity? We aren’t diverse so we try to act like it. What the hell good is that? A rally will not change anything. It won’t magically add minority students on campus. I love black people, I love Hispanic people, but what I love most is when I’m around people of other races and it’s not a big deal. Instead of holding a rally to act like we’re diverse, let’s become diverse. I don’t want to parade around campus telling myself we are. We aren’t. It’s as simple as that.

This will upset people as well but that’s the kind of musings this will be this week. The MLK Statue on the East Mall was egged on the previous Monday causing an uproar (story 1, story 2) on campus. I do not think that it was proper to egg the MLK statue nor do I condone that action. However, everyone made such a big deal about this. Some students reported seeing flowers around a statue of Lee on campus. Well, two other buildings (ACE and GEO, the Daily Texan newspaper said RLM which is not what police reports state) were also egged the same night. It sounds like some kids were throwing eggs around campus. Were they trying to send out their political message of hate on campus? Maybe. Were they trying to get a cheap thrill? Possible. The MLK statue is the only one on campus guarded with video cameras. Adds a little to the thrill factor. I know many people will take this the wrong way and I’m prepared for that. I just don’t feel that a statue being egged is that big of a deal. If they hung a sign on it saying racial slurs- that’s a big deal. If they tried to destroy or deface the statue- that’s a big deal. Throwing some eggs at a statue and two other buildings. I just don’t see that as a clear racial hate issue. Some people will bring up that the statue of General Lee on campus had flowers around it. No one reported this to the police as vandalism and only the newspaper had a report of a student seeing this. The people who threw eggs could be connected to that, it could be someone else who has a racial issue or who knows. I really just don’t feel the eggs were that big of a deal. According to the Daily Texan, Student Government “voted unanimously Tuesday [Jan. 21, 2003] to pass a resolution condemning the statue’s defacement and urging the UT administration to adopt and implement a racial harassment policy.” Great for them. There is no reason why we should allow racial harassment on campus. When was the last reported harassment due to race on campus? I have no idea. There has been nothing in the police reports for this school year about it that I can recall. Take that for what you will, if you think I’m wrong.

On a much lighter note, Saturday the 25th was the first “Whose Date Is It Anyway?” date auction at the University Catholic Center. It was amazing. For all those members of STRONG (if any) who check out this site, you did a great job. I am impressed and that isn’t easy to do. All in all, from what I heard, around $4,000 was raised to help complete the new center.

Adam asked me this week why I had Matt’s weather online but not his since he was in fact colder. I checked it out and he’s right. Adam is colder at Grinnell College than Matt is at MIT. [as of when I wrote this on the night of January 26th. Weather does change.] Also, if you need to know any random facts about cars, Adam knows what you seek. I’ll mention some of his random facts in the weeks to come.

That is that for this week’s musings. Matt’s stats are below as they were last week. I’ll be setting up a page so you can track his progress towards 100% soon. Also, if you have any idea for RM232, shoot me an e-mail. I have some ideas in the works but any feedback would be great.