Category Archives: Evangelization

The Best Way To Keep Your Faith Is To Give It Away – (What I Learned As A Catholic In College)

This week we have been talking about the 4 things I learned as a Catholic in college.  So far we have talked about why:

  1. Having a regular routine is important.
  2. A routine alone is not enough.
  3. Jesus is not OK with lying.

Today:

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The best way to keep your faith is to give it away

This last point comes from Chris Mueller:

Faith in Christ is not about holding ground.  If you go to college thinking, ‘How do I hold onto my faith?’ you will lose it.  The Christian question is, ‘How do I share my faith?’

Before I left for college, one of my brothers shared with me a verse from Matthew’s Gospel,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)

More than just a hymn sung at the end of mass, this is what it means to be a Christian.  If you aren’t sharing your faith, then you are not living your faith.  And if your faith isn’t living, it’s dead.

Sharing your faith doesn’t have to mean preaching in the student center.  It means that when you go to mass, invite your friends to come along.  It means if people ask why you go to confession on the weekends, you let them know that it’s important to you to keep your heart open to God’s grace.

In short, it means being a genuine person who isn’t afraid to talk about their love for Jesus.  (If that sounds weird to you, maybe your faith isn’t as deep as you think it is!)

The Christian is excited to share his or her faith, because the good news is truly good news!

So that’s it! The 4 things I learned as a Catholic in college.  Be assured of my prayers for all of you headed to college this fall!

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4 Things I Learned As A Catholic In College (Part 1)

Last week, I received a question from a reader headed for college this fall.  (Thanks to all who shared their advice on my Facebook page!).

When it came time to write the post, I ended up having more to say than I realized.  So rather than give you one long post, instead I am going to be sharing with you all, over the next few days, some things that helped me grow in my faith while I was in college.

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1. Develop a regular routine, and give your faith first priority in it

When you start college, in a lot of ways it’s like your whole world is resetting. You move to a brand new place, with brand new people, and you have an entirely new set of opportunities to fill your time. It’s exciting, but can also be overwhelming. Developing some semblance of a regular routine will help you feel more like a regular human being, and less like a zombie sustained by Top Ramen and midnight excursions to Taco Bell.

You’re a college student, so your routine doesn’t have to look like that of a monastic. You don’t need to announce to your entire dorm that you’re a Catholic upon arrival.  If you’re being an authentic human being, people will discover your faith is important to you through getting to know you and seeing how you carry yourself.

By routine, I mean eat at the dining hall at regular intervals, join a club, go to the gym regularly. Be a college student! And yes, give your faith first priority in that routine.  For starters:

Mass every Sunday and on every Holy Day ought to be a given. You’re a Catholic—you go to mass on Sundays. It’s simple.  Find one you like and try to stick to that one.  Attending the same mass at the same church every Sunday will help you feel a sense of belonging.  You’ll need that when you’re away from home.

Usually I recommend confession once every other week. I’d actually recommend confession once a week while in college. If you make confession feel as regular to your schedule as dinner, you’ll be less likely to let time get away from you.  If once a week is just impossible, at the bare minimum go once a month.  If you find yourself headed home for Thanksgiving having not gone to confession even once while at school, you may need to reevaluate some things.

Pray Daily—Let prayer be the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning, and last thing before bed. Print out the Act of Faith, Act of Hope, and Act of Love and tape them on your mirror. Set a daily alarm on your phone for noon to stop what you are doing and pray The Angelus.  Leave your Bible on your nightstand and read a short passage each night before you go to sleep.  Of course talk with God throughout your day, but also have these concrete moments throughout your day when you turn to prayer.

Having a regular habit of prayer is very important. It will help keep you grounded and focused in your faith.  In college, it will be on you to make room for your faith in your daily life.

Check back for tomorrow’s post: “Your Routine Won’t Save You”

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Gentleness

Lately I have been feeling the Lord place on my heart a call to gentleness.

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“The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, forbearing, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25, RSV)

I’m reminded of this calling every now and again when I receive a somewhat disagreeable comment on a past blog post.

Praise God for making me just busy enough that I usually cannot reply to comments in the moment or moments immediately after first reading them.  Admittedly (and maybe not so surprisingly), my initial reaction to argumentative comments is to be argumentative right back—seeking to craft the wittiest response that explains oh so clearly and succinctly why I’m in the right.  These responses may not be outright rude, but they certainly fall short of aspiring to the kind of gentleness that the Holy Spirit, writing through Paul in his letter to Timothy, calls me to in the above verse.

Thankfully when it comes to crafting a response, I usually have the time to take a deep breath, examine my motives, and finally ask God, “What would you have me say in reply to this?” (<— that should be my FIRST thought!)

What I have learned is that God more often than not calls me to be even gentler than my first, sometimes even second or third, “draft” of gentleness.  I’m discovering that God really wants gentleness and charity to be what guide my discussions with others—especially when those discussions are about Him.

It’s not about proving that I am in the right; it’s about leading others to Christ because I want them to understand and share in the love that He has given me for Him and His Church.  This doesn’t mean that I can’t defend my God or His Church or even myself when attacked; it just means I have to check myself to assure that my responses are motivated from love and not from pride.

It’s a work in progress 🙂

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What’s Going On In Rome This Weekend?  – What You Need To Know About The Synod on The Family!

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Just over a year ago, Pope Francis announced that there would be an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops this year!

That synod, which the Pope has called on to discuss “The pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization,” begins this Sunday, October 5th (Saint Faustina’s Feast Day!), and is set to go until October 19th.

There has been a lot of speculation in the media on what will supposedly take place during the synod, which makes it a little hard to sift through the rumors and just understand the basics of what the synod is actually for.  Thankfully, the US Bishop’s website has a great, straightforward Q&A I highly encourage you to check out (clicking this link will take you there!). 

Additionally, incase you missed it back in February, Pope Francis wrote a letter to all families (that’s all of us!) specifically about the synod, and urging us to pray.  Here is a brief excerpt:

…This important meeting will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task. As you know, this Extraordinary Synodal Assembly will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In that context, there will also be the World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.

It should go without saying that the most important thing we can do over these next two weeks is to pray!  Take time daily—ideally as a family— to ask the Holy Spirit to lead the synod.

If you’re interested in studying a little bit more about the synod, I encourage you to avoid the speculation and hoopla in the media/blogosphere, and stick to the official documents released from the Church:

What documents have been released in advance of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops?

Preparatory Document

November 2013: The Preparatory Document outlined the purpose of both the Extraordinary and Ordinary General Assemblies, provided a basic catechesis on the Gospel of the Family, and requested input from the world’s bishops on nine questions about the current state of pastoral care for marriages and families.

Instrumentum Laboris

June 2014: The Instrumentum Laboriscontained the results of the consultation achieved via the Preparatory Document‘s questionnaire. This document provides a substantive reflection on the major challenges facing the family today, and outlines the topics that will be discussed at the Extraordinary General Assembly. 

Additionally, the bishops suggest:

“Read the Catechism and the most recent teaching documents of the Magisterium on the subject of marriage and the family; an annotated list is available here. Spend time, alone and together as a married couple and family, reflecting on the rich teaching of the Church on marriage and family

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Prayer for The Synod of Bishops on the Family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love,
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too
may be places of communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic Churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division:
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may the approaching Synod of Bishops
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
graciously hear our prayer.

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Why You Should Pray For Your Family

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(cary pennington photography)

“Marriage is to help married people sanctify themselves and others.  For this reason they receive a special grace in the sacrament which Jesus Christ instituted.  Those who are called to the married state will, with the grace of God, find within their state everything they need to be holy”

-Saint Josemaria Escriva

This weekend, my family and I are attending our fourth wedding of the year!   Seems like every time I turn around I’m at a bridal shower, wedding, or a baby shower!  It’s that time of life, I am told 🙂

The super-cool thing?  This makes the fourth wedding this year of awesome Catholic couples we know beginning their journey towards Heaven together! (In fact, this weekend’s groom-to-be actually used the line, ‘”seek heaven with me’” in his proposal.  Seriously.  Awesome Catholic couple land is where I live.)

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So Tyler and I began a little tradition this year of praying a novena for each of the couples’ weddings we’re attending beginning nine days before their big day.

We’ve been using Saint Josemaria Escriva’s “Novena for the Family” (and we’ve about memorized it by now!)

What I love about this novena is that it has short reflections for each day on the vocation of marriage and the family.  In typical Saint Josemaria fashion, the reflections are succinct, but oh-so practical and rich.

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I’ve said it before, but our culture is getting further and further away from understanding what marriage actually is supposed to be.  It’s a party.  It’s a way to celebrate your love.  A way to make it “official” (whatever that’s supposed to mean).  If the part of the vows that promises a lifelong union are even recited, they’re not taken seriously a few years down the road when things get tough.

But I truly believe that a Christian marriage—a truly Christian marriage at which Christ is the center, Heaven is the goal, and both spouses know and live this out—is one of the most powerful witnesses to the love of God that our culture is so thirsting for.

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That’s why I’m excited about these new families, and it’s why I pray so earnestly for them.  As Pope Francis says:

No matter what our vocation is, we all belong to a family.  So pray for families!  Pray specifically for YOUR family!  Know that I am praying for you, too.

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