Tag Archives: high school

High School Youth Group

From the time I was a freshman in high school, I have been blessed with a community of people my own age who I can talk to about my faith, and who keep me accountable to that faith.  When I was going into my freshman year of high school, my uncle was hired as youth minister for our parish.  Fast forward to a few months later (and to this day), Saint Martha’s has one of the biggest and most successful high school youth ministry programs in Southern California.  I had been to youth groups in the past, but this was different.  The youth groups I had been to before were basically glorified Sunday School classes.  No wonder high schoolers didn’t want to go.  So what was different about Saint Martha’s Life Night?

I think what it came down to was that the team members who were in charge of it every week (My uncle, Chris, and a group of about 10 college students) were real with us teenagers.  It seems that often times, youth ministers think they have to prove to teens that they are “cool” before they hit them with the “Jesus stuff”.  They plan these extravagant social events that have no real tie to anything having to do with God or Christianity, and then wonder why more people don’t show up.  If all I wanted was a social event in high school, there were other places I could go.  I wanted more than that.

Life Night wasn’t just a social gathering; it was an invitation to grow in our understanding of and relationship with God.  One of the first things I learned through Life Night was how to talk with God, and not just at Him.  Think of what that means for a freshman in high school.  Everyone always talks about how amazing it would be to have a conversation with God.  I was 14, and I knew how!  What a tremendous gift that was.

The social aspect was a great part of Life Night, too.  But it would have been empty without the spiritual side.  I am still good friends with the people I met through Life Night.  And honestly, they were some of the most fun people I knew in high school.  They were the people who I could have a stupid conversation about ninjas one minute, and then a serious discussion about the authenticity of Scripture the next.  Because of Life Night, I had people outside of just my family who I could ask to pray for me.  And a lot of times, they were teens my own age with similar struggles.

All in all though, I think the most important thing I took away from Life Night was learning how to welcome God into my everyday life.  It doesn’t mean my head is constantly bowed down in prayer, but that I strive to see God in everything, and thank God for everything.  And when I forget, I have some awesome friends to pull me back (even if it’s just through seeing a status they post on Facebook) 🙂

"No Regrets"

I’m not sure if this is unique to my generation or not, but I’ve found that it is really unpopular to admit to having regrets.  I remember the last semester I was in high school, we were having a discussion in English class about the book Tuesdays with Morrie.  I said to my teacher, and to my whole class, that I don’t see anything wrong with having regrets.

My teacher and most of my classmates looked at me as if I had just said a curse word.

To most people, the word “regret” has a very negative connotation.  In the world of Facebook and MySpace, countless teens post as their statuses or headlines “No Regrets”.  We hear songs on the radio like Angels and Airwaves’ Rite of Spring, or even Rascal Flatts’ Here, all about the past heartaches, mistakes, pain, and poor choices.  But the resolve at the end is always the same: “No Regrets”…  “I wouldn’t change a thing”, etc.

Well, let me be counter-cultural for a moment and say that I am not afraid of having regrets.  There are things in my past I wish I could change.  And I think it’s harder to admit that than it is to slap a headline on your MySpace that says, “No Regrets”.  I really believe that, if everyone was truly honest with themselves, we’d all admit to having regrets.

The arguments for the “No Regrets” claim are out there.  “But Mary,” you may say, “If I hadn’t done x, y, or z….I would never have learned [insert valuable life lesson here]”.  That may be true.  But I think it’s very dangerous to start thinking of past mistakes as positive events.  For example, if someone gets drunk and gets into a car accident that injures or kills someone else, they will have (hopefully) learned to not drink and drive…but it would have been better had they learned that without actually making such a terrible mistake.

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It is healthy to realize that we have messed up in the past.  What is unhealthy is pretending our past is perfect because it “made us who we are today”.  Regret is the realization that we have done something wrong, and knowing that if we had the opportunity to go back, we would have done things differently.

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I regret any decisions I have made that caused myself unnecessary pain.  More importantly, I regret every time one of my actions ever caused someone else pain.

However, as I’ve said many times before, we cannot change the past.  We should not dwell on our past mistakes but rather learn from them.  And we can take away lessons from a mistake in our past while still acknowledging it as one.

I Regret Being "Nice"

 

It’s funny the kinds of things you regret when you take a moment to look back on life.

It’s not the things you would expect to regret when you’re in the moment.  In the long run, you don’t regret breaking up with that first boyfriend.  You don’t regret the fact that you missed your junior prom.  And you don’t regret taking that extra AP class in high school.  When it comes down to it, I’ve found that I regret the seemingly “little” choices I’ve made in life more than anything.

It was Saint Francis who said, “Preach the Gospel always.  When necessary, use words.”

Obviously the major thrust of this quote is that your whole life is supposed to be your witness.  We don’t need to always be yelling on the street corners about God because if we have true faith in Him, our lives will be a testament to that.  People are more inclined to follow example vs. orders that are yelled at them.

Still, even St. Francis acknowledges that, sometimes, words are necessary.  If we fail to grasp this, then we’ve missed the whole point.  Just as our word must be accompanied by actions, sometimes our actions must be accompanied by words.

If there is one thing I regret, in high school especially, it was not sharing my faith more openly with those I came in contact with.  I wasn’t ashamed of my faith…but I didn’t always stand up for it.  I didn’t always speak up when my friends were doing things I knew would eventually cause them pain.  Why?  I thought I was being “nice”.

Well I learned something about the word “nice” this weekend while I was listening to a homily given by the Bishop of Phoenix.

Did you know that the word “nice” comes from the verb nescio, which comes from a verb scire and a preposition neNe means not and scire means to know.

So basically, “nice” comes from a word that literally means, “to not know”.

Being “nice” may have helped me avoid confrontation, but there was no wisdom in my choosing to be “nice”.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m NOT saying we should all stop being kind to one another and go around self-righteously bashing other people’s beliefs.  As Christians, we are called to love always.  But “love” does not always equal “nice”.

Love isn’t about bending over backwards to avoid stepping on the toes of those around us.  Love isn’t about biting your tongue when the truth might offend someone else.

Love is always honest—even when the truth is something that people may not want to hear.

Let’s stop being “nice” and start loving.  I’ll pray for you if you pray for me 🙂

High School Revisited


“Brothers and sisters:
I declare and testify in the Lord
that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do,
in the futility of their minds;
that is not how you learned Christ,
assuming that you have heard of him and were taught in him,
as truth is in Jesus,
that you should put away the old self of your former way of life,
corrupted through deceitful desires,
and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and put on the new self,
created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.”

-Ephesians 4:17, 20-24

The above passage from Ephesians just happened to be the second reading from this past Sunday’s mass.  It was one of those masses that, for me, it just felt like God was speaking directly to me with the readings He chose.  Because this weekend I realized something.

I’ve gotten so used to the community I’m surrounded by in all my classes, and my amazing friends at home, not to mention my family who are always there to build me up, that I sometimes forget that, in the grand scheme of things, the way I live my life is sort of weird.

High school often kept me conscious of this fact (as high school is generally quite good at poking at the insecurities of anyone).  Don’t get me wrong, I had a really great high school experience (probably just about as good as they come).  I had amazing friends and we did a lot of the normal high school things—like go to football games, dances, and laugh about stuff that no one else outside of our group would find funny.  But I still sometimes felt like a loser because I didn’t do some of the other things that most people considered normal for a highschooler—like drink, party, hook-up, or even freak dance at the dances.

I often struggled with this in high school.  It was tough being different.  I remember asking myself on several occasions if maybe I was being just a little too uptight (maybe you’re thinking right now that I was being a bit too uptight).  “What’s the big deal?”  I’d think,  “Everyone else is doing it.  It’s not even that bad compared to X, Y, or Z.”  Unfortunately, that little voice inside of my head wasn’t usually satisfied with comparative, or relativistic, morality.  Maybe it’s not that bad compared to something else, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.  Today, I praise God for giving me the strength to stand my ground in high school (…most of the time anyways.  I won’t claim that I never made mistakes.) —even though it may have made me feel like somewhat of a loser on certain occasions.

Well that’s all fine and good …but isn’t insecurity and caring about what other people think supposed to go away after high school?  I guess I never REALLY believed that it would.  I just hoped.

Sadly, it doesn’t.  I still constantly feel God calling me to look like a fool for Him in new and terrifying ways.  Whether that be in telling someone that He loves them, or admitting my failures and apologizing to someone I’ve hurt when it sounds so much more satisfying to give into stubborn pride and come up with all sorts of ways to justify my actions with sarcastic comments.  Sometimes it’s tough to “put on the new self,” as God calls us to do in Ephesians.  Sometimes the “old self” just sounds so much more comfortable.  But we need to always strive to be growing as people.  And sometimes to grow isn’t all that comfortable.

Religious but not Judgmental?

“This is Mary Lane,” a high school classmate of mine said over the clanging of plates in the restaurant we were eating at one Saturday night.  She was introducing me to one of her friends that I had never met before.

“She’s very religious,” she went on, “—but she’s not judgmental.”

“That’s very rare,” the friend said to me, shaking my hand, almost wide-eyed in disbelief.  It was apparent to me in that moment that my classmate’s friend had obviously felt “judged” at one time or another in her life by someone claiming religion.

And who hasn’t, really?  In today’s world, I feel like I can’t go a day without hearing someone talking about how wonderful the world would be without religion and all the “evil” that comes with it.  In pop culture, we hear a lot of celebrities claiming to be “deeply spiritual, but not religious.”  Even in non-denominational Christianity, “religion” has almost become a bad word.

Why is that?  Personally, I think it’s because to call someone “religious” today really is somewhat synonymous with calling them “judgmental”.  Why else would it cause mouth-gaping shock for someone to meet a person who is “religious—but not judgmental”?  It just doesn’t compute.

Well, don’t get too excited for me just yet.  I’m pretty sure that if you talk to my new “friend” today, she would not agree with my former classmate’s assessment of my character.

It seems to me that, in order to win the title of the “non-judgmental religious” person in today’s society, you have to keep your mouth shut about what it is you actually believe.  You can go to church on Sundays and you can pray quietly to yourself, but to stand up and actually profess what you believe makes you judgmental.

If this is the case, then perhaps I am judgmental.  I just never got the point in believing in something if you’re not willing to stand up for it.  If it doesn’t really affect your life, can you really claim to believe in it?

Tolerance

“Tolerance” is another word people today like to throw around.  But as I understand it, what people often mean when they cry “tolerance” is to roll over and abandon your principles for the sake of not offending someone.

People today use the word “tolerance” almost interchangeably with the word “love.”  I think this is a very dangerous mistake to make.  Tolerance is not always love.  In fact, sometimes to be intolerant is the more loving option.  Would you “tolerate” your brother’s alcohol addiction out of respect for his feelings?  Of course not.  But do you still love him regardless?  Absolutely.  You love him enough to not be afraid to say that what he is doing is harmful to himself (and those around him).

Tolerance is easy.  Intolerance takes courage.