I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve reflected on my day in ministry and felt that I had wasted it to some extent. Not that I was displeased with curriculum writing, retreat planning, safe environment paperwork, or social media outreach – those things are all significant, they just aren’t always life-giving. At the […]
On November 19, 2004, my father lost his battle to brain cancer. I remember the tears, the “What now?” moments, and the pain. That’s not all I remember, though; in fact it’s what I remember least.
For the first nine years of my life, I remember the laughs he gave me when I would sit on his lap and he would bounce his leg up and down. I remember coming home from school and seeing the snacks he would make for us waiting on the table. I remember watching TV with him as my mother would leave for work, and watching her return hours later and the two of us still sitting in the exact position we were when she left. Most of all, I remember the love.
The Holy Spirit is active in the Life Teen movement and lives are being changed across the room, across the street, and across the world. Through God’s grace, our dream has become a reality. Every day we recommit to our mission to “lead teens closer to Christ” because we are confident that in response to the needs of our world, God is going to continue to bless the fruit of our labors. What keeps us going is this reality: Life Teen is an instrument that God is using to make saints.
I found, through Life Teen, where I fit in perfectly: as a piece of God’s great puzzle. I was meant to be different than how society was teaching me to live; I have been called to be more and to truly “set the world on fire” through showing love to others just as Christ showed me.
As soon as I walked in the church, I was shocked at what I saw – TEENS!! I had thought they’d gone extinct in the Church! Looking around, I started seeing some familiar faces from school. I was incredibly happy. Then Mass started. I was expecting to hear the usual adult cantor and some sound resembling “song” emanating from the congregation.
To my surprise, Mass started with an upbeat, piano driven version of “Your Grace Is Enough” by Matt Maher. Piano, drums, three guitars, a saxophone, even a violin. These guys had it all.
Early in the week our whole group quickly humbled ourselves and just let God do His thing! Our parish is located in an area that is not known for diversity, so visiting an Indian Reservation and learning about their culture was a first for my teens. The residents and family members would come out, help the teens on the houses, and talk to them about their life. It was amazing to see these teens be inspired by the residents’ culture and attitude.
At the very beginning of my second semester, in a freak medical accident, I suddenly lost my ability to walk. I had to be hospitalized and stay at a rehab center for a long period of time, beginning to rebuild my life and relearn how to do so many things that I had taken for granted. I didn’t understand how things could get any worse. I didn’t understand why God would put me through so much.
To my surprise, Mathieu stood up and went right for the microphone. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This teen had barely said anything to me let alone a group of over fifty teenagers! As he stood at the microphone he said, “I haven’t really talked about this very much but when I was ten years old my older sister died in a car accident. I found myself so angry that I locked myself in my room for years playing video games so that I could hide the pain.”
It was two days after my college graduation. I was supposed to be happy. Proud. Filled with a sense of achievement, satisfaction, and security.
Why, then, was I instead consumed with feelings of frustration, confusion, disappointment, and resentment?
I didn’t have a job lined up. I didn’t get into graduate school.
I, however, learned that the Catholic Church voices the truth everyday, to all that will or will not listen. She is not afraid of controversy, or to correct you, because every doctrine has real purpose and meaning. It is what has strengthened her over 2000 years. Throughout this time so many have bravely given their lives as martyrs, to be a witness for the truth.
Last weekend, her mom was not able to take care of her, so she stayed with my family. The time spent with her is always a great trial of patience. I found myself constantly failing to remind myself that she does in fact have a mental disorder, and her actions are justified in the eyes of God. I would snap at her and gossip about her to my family members, who felt the same way.
However, I had just prayed a prayer that I wanted Jesus to be the Lord of my life, not just part of it. Once I had finally let go of my life, once I had surrendered it over to Jesus, I felt overwhelmed by His grace and His mercy. I truly knew at the moment that God was real and that He undoubtably loved me.
Editor’s Note: The author of this blog has asked to remain anonymous. “Guilt is feeling bad about what you’ve done. Shame is feeling bad about who you are.” I was listening to a podcast when I heard this sentiment. I was floored. As someone who has struggled with shame for a long time, I had […]
I got together with an old friend a few months ago. Toney is a friend I met long ago at the Steubenville West conference, and the last number of years of Toney’s life have truly inspired me. While we were talking I was moved to share his story with you; He has given me permission […]
I knew that I needed God, but had no earthly idea of where to go from there. I didn’t want a repeat of my previous experience with religion; I wanted to know a loving God, not one who smites people with lightning bolts for asking questions.
I decided to try a Catholic Church since the kindest and most loving person I have ever met told me that he had learned to love from the Catholic Church. As soon as I walked into the church I felt God’s presence all around me like a warm embrace. At that moment I knew that I was home.
A couple of years ago, I sat in my office and watched a video that Life Teen posted of the newest Life Support box being packaged. I sat, awestruck, at the great things that were going to be coming my way. I got excited at all of the new Life Nights and retreat sessions I could plan with these incredible materials… and then I waited.
My entire mission team in Houston made a commitment to each other to reach out to the poor and the homeless every chance we get. We carry bottles of water, granola bars, and blankets in our car for anyone who may be in need. But more than that, we commit to asking the homeless their names and how we can specifically pray for them.
And this year, the poor and homeless have blessed me.
I had never seen the Gospel so vibrantly lived out! Every day… Even every meal started with songs of praise. Throughout the day, needy people knocked on the mission base door to seek help. Help for feeding their children. Help for paying their medical bills. Sometimes, just an ear to listen. The missionaries prayed with them and helped them in whatever way they could.
This past week I was left breathless and inspired at the same moment. My daddy Jim, the man whose love for my mother gave me life, breathed his last breath. It was a sudden death that brought him into eternal life. His life inspired me in more ways than a three minute eulogy can ever proclaim and to this moment he continues to inspire me.
Since starting my college career, I have seen both a member of my graduating class and a onetime friend that I have grown up with take their own lives. I have seen the pain and sadness that it causes to their friends and family alike and it chills me to think that not very long ago, that could have been me. I thank God every day, that I had all the wonderful people of Life Teen to show me God’s love personified in the world, because without you… I truly don’t know if I would be here today.