Here’s a really useful tip sheet for dating that one of my friend’s priests wrote up. I’ve had it for years but I only realized that it’s so good that I should share it with everyone else!
My friend Andrew and I decided to film a simple Gospel presentation to share with the world over Youtube this year, and thanks to the great editing by our talented friend Becca (check out her Youtube channel with a short film, music videos, and more!), we have the finished video to share with you all! Enjoy!
This is a simple follow up to my longer post last year about how to share the Gospel, specifically as a Catholic. There’s plenty more that we could have said, but we kept it short and sweet at under 90 seconds.
Want to live in relationship with Christ? Say a simple prayer right now asking Christ to come into your life and reveal Himself to you. Make sure to talk with a Catholic friend or your local priest about how you can take the next steps toward joining an RCIA group. A great resource is Catholics Come Home. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions and give advice, as well!
God bless you!
Well I’ve definitely fallen behind on blogging ever since I’ve been back at FOCUS New Staff Training again this summer, so here are some quick updates and thoughts:
- This is such an exciting place to be. Besides the seminaries, this is largely where the future of the Catholic Church in America is. 400+ missionaries zealous for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ on college campuses around the country. Every year there are more missionaries and campuses, it’s so cool to see God blessing this apostolate.
- I already knew that I was returning to Montclair State University in New Jersey next year, but now I have some teammates! Here’s a pic of us (Mike, yours truly, Kristin, Anne, and Kerry), they’re awesome!
- A few of the major topics that I’ve been learning over the past 3 weeks have been discernment of spirits, the Gospel of John (in depth), and Catholic Social Teaching. Each class has been really interesting, I’m a bit of nerd for stuff like that. But you’d probably assume that when you take into account that I blog in my free time about my faith :-D
- This time in the summer is a great time to process all that happened over the school year so that I can learn from my experiences. I’ve been trying to talk with other veteran missionaries to learn best practices and those have been some fascinating conversations.
- I’m off to a silent Ignatian retreat this weekend. I went on one last year as well, it was so cool to experience that silence. On the other hand, Ignatian prayer was tricky for me, so I’m hoping and praying that I’m more faithful to that this time around.
- Easily one of my favorite things about training is sitting down at a table for a meal with all new people and getting to know them all and hearing how God’s worked in each of their lives to call them to the missionary life. Everyone is so unique and has such cool stories!
- Reforming the Church and the world happens one person at a time. We have to be faithful to God first in our own life before we can focus our evangelization efforts on others.
- The second half of the summer will be time for me to meet up with my mission partners who support me financially and spiritually. They truly are mission partners because I couldn’t get on campus and invest in the students without their help. Some give by going (missionaries), and others go by giving (mission partners). Both work together to bring forth the Kingdom of God, so thank you to all my mission partners out there!
- God bless, hope you’re having a great summer!
“Justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls.” – Martin Luther
It’s been nearly 500 years since the split of the Church in the west, which was started largely by Martin Luther and his claim of salvation being obtained only through faith alone. Unfortunately, this split the Church and many other doctrines were changed by the Protestant Reformers before long. But the good news is that there is finally some hope for reunification again! This is going to take a loooonnnnggg time, but the most critical issue, the one mentioned in the quote above, has been resolved! The Lutheran bishops and the Catholic Church made a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999, and even the World Methodist Council adopted it as well in 2006.
Praise God for softening both sides towards each other so that they would be open to clear dialogue on the issues at hand. It seems like a large issue that separated the sides over the years is the language used. Words like “righteousness” and “justification” have many different meanings and contexts in scripture, so of course on a charged issue it would be easy to rush to judgement instead of having a complete understanding of both sides before drawing a conclusion. In the end, both made great points, stressing how only by God and faith someone can be saved, but also how our good works play a critical role in cooperating with God’s grace in bringing about the Kingdom of God in our lives. I’m not a theologian so that’s the best summary that I can give ;)
There is still quite a bit in the way of the complete reunification of the churches in the West, but this is a very important and exciting first step that resolves the most critical issue!
Here are some of my favorite parts:
The doctrine of justification was of central importance for the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was held to be the “first and chief article” and at the same time the “ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines.”
The present Joint Declaration has this intention: namely, to show that on the basis of their dialogue the subscribing Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.
We confess together that all persons depend completely on the saving grace of God for their salvation.
We confess together that God forgives sin by grace and at the same time frees human beings from sin’s enslaving power and imparts the gift of new life in Christ.
We confess together that sinners are justified by faith in the saving action of God in Christ. By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life.
We confess together that in baptism the Holy Spirit unites one with Christ, justifies, and truly renews the person. But the justified must all through life constantly look to God’s unconditional justifying grace. They also are continuously exposed to the power of sin still pressing its attacks (cf. Rom 6:12-14) and are not exempt from a lifelong struggle against the contradiction to God within the selfish desires of the old Adam (cf. Gal 5:16; Rom 7:7-10). The justified also must ask God daily for forgiveness as in the Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:12; 1 Jn 1:9), are ever again called to conversion and penance, and are ever again granted forgiveness.
We confess together that persons are justified by faith in the gospel “apart from works prescribed by the law” (Rom 3:28). Christ has fulfilled the law and by his death and resurrection has overcome it as a way to salvation. We also confess that God’s commandments retain their validity for the justified and that Christ has by his teaching and example expressed God’s will which is a standard for the conduct of the justified also.
We confess together that good works – a Christian life lived in faith, hope and love – follow justification and are its fruits.
Paragraph 40 (BOOM!):
The understanding of the doctrine of justification set forth in this Declaration shows that a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics.
Paragraph 41 (BOOM!):
Thus the doctrinal condemnations of the 16th century, in so far as they relate to the doctrine of justification, appear in a new light: The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent. The condemnations in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church presented in this Declaration.
We give thanks to the Lord for this decisive step forward on the way to overcoming the division of the church. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us further toward that visible unity which is Christ’s will.
The following is a testimony by my friend Jon, who I got to know over the past year at Montclair State University.
Coming into my Junior year I began with my Jewish religious beliefs, but would later come into an encounter with Jesus Christ at Montclair State. My first thoughts of Newman Catholic my first two years was that they were a Catholic cult on campus like I had felt before attending a couple of Catholic services. I WAS SO WRONG with everything, but my roommate Jeff, who will take no credit even though he deserves it a lot, has shown me a way to live my life through Catholicism and to a closer understanding of who Jesus is. We had made an agreement with each other that if he came to a Hillel (Jewish) service that I would come to a Newman Catholic event, and obviously I am still here today. My first event was mass and adoration at the Newman Center and it was an awesome experience between Father Jim’s homily to the atmosphere of the Newman Center. My main reason for coming back was the awesome people that were completely accepting and really welcoming, something that I hadn’t experienced too much in my own faith. Over the entire spring semester my connection with Jesus became stronger, thanks to getting involved heavily with Newman events ranging from weekly Sunday mass, Thursday mass and adoration, CIA, and more.
Throughout the semester I had attended mass as it was a fun environment and a way to pray with friends. My faith towards Judaism had not been present in my life. It wasn’t until my 21st birthday when I realized that I needed a change in my life. Leading into my birthday I had a toga party with my fraternity and got drunk and passed out. The next day and over the night there was a huge snowstorm and my car had been towed from my fraternity house and they kept trying to wake me up but couldn’t. I woke up and felt awful and I decided that the darkness and evilness had done me in for the last time.
When elections for E-board came for the 2014-15 year I ran for treasurer and won. I decided to run due to the fact that I wanted to give back to MSU Newman Catholic for all they have done for me, being in a dark place and showing me a light at the end of the tunnel. The other reason was to spread the Gospel of Jesus and evangelize on the MSU campus.
An instance that occurred on Palm Sunday would confirm everything for me. It was a typical mass on Palm Sunday during personal prayers after Eucharist when it hit me LITERALLY. I felt a jolt back with my body and it was a feeling like no other. I had no idea what it was at first but it was the cross hitting me on the head throwing me back in my chair. After mass I talked to Father Jim about it and he told me to contemplate it, which I did the next few weeks leading into the Easter season. More events like this encouraged me, for example at next meal I ate, my fortune cookie said “Among the lucky, you are the chosen one.” Through bible studies, masses, and talks with Father Jim as well as the missionaries, I have taken it upon myself to engage in conversion and RCIA for my senior year.
Later in the semester, speaker Leah Darrow came to MSU and gave a testimony. Three words during it stood out to me and returned to my head multiple times: “Jesus is home.” This is something that I have thought about whenever praying. Her father told her when she was in her darkest moments of her life. Using that quote I came up with one of my own, “Newman Catholic and the Catholic faith are home.” This year has 100% been up and down, but it is clear now to me which way to go from here on out.
I can see my life being turned around in everyday life. God and Catholicism have shown me the way I want to live the rest of my life. I am proud of being a Jew and my faith tradition, but as a Jew it is my job to follow the Messiah. I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and I am excited to enter into His Christian Catholic Church.
Wow. So crazy as it seems, I’ve already completed an entire school year as a FOCUS Missionary. Life just flies sometimes, doesn’t it? Here are some observations and thoughts about the year!
- In college I learned that life moves even faster than normal. Those 4 years were a blur… At graduation it still seemed like I moved in as a freshman the day before. Well, as a missionary, time goes EVEN FASTER. Jeepers, I was booked and busy. Sometimes a bit too much haha.. but constantly meeting with different people and going to different events and having intentional conversations will do that sort of thing!
- I can’t share Jesus when I don’t know Jesus or live like Him. I definitely do know Him and try to live for Him, but I still could still grow closer to Him. Becoming more Christlike gives me more credibility in sharing the Gospel, and also gives me an even greater zeal to share it! Prayer is the foundation of evangelization.
- I am a doer, a fixer, a go-getter. And yet despite everything that I did, I still got rejected, and relatively often. It’s a struggle for all who try and evangelize… but I have to remember that ultimately only God can touch someone’s heart, no matter what I do. I began to rely more and more on prayer by the end of the year, praying for the people in my life, because I knew that personal conversion is a matter between that person and God, and my job is simply to introduce the two parties and foster that relationship ;)
- There were so many fun crazy things that I got to do as a missionary: relive the college experience WITHOUT GOING TO CLASS, so many retreats and conferences, seeing nearly every single state in the Northeast, hiking trips, the March for Life was only 4 hrs away, trips to NYC, Catholic Underground, meeting so many religious orders, being in spiritual direction, building such great friendships with the students, speaking in front of groups about JESUS, and literally see lives change before my very eyes.
- I really couldn’t have done any of that without the support of my mission partners, who donate to and pray for my mission. Their generosity has shown me a glimpse of the charity of God Himself.
- I got a kick out of seeing probably more Chicago Bulls hats than any other hat on campus… and it’s in New Jersey! Go Bulls!
- Numbers are great, individual souls are priceless, and faithfulness to God is most important. I’m reminded of the Mother Teresa quote, “God doesn’t ask us to be successful, He asks us to be faithful.” Praise God that we did have some success in terms of conversions of students either back to their Catholic faith, from a different denomination home to Catholicism, or from another/no faith to the Church.
- I could have been an engineer this year. Looking back, if I did that, so many things would have been different, in my life as well as in others. It’s amazing how much God works when we go out of our way to follow Him, even in a single thing.
- Young people’s apathy for religion is unbelievable. This isn’t necessarily their fault as much as it is the fault of previous generations who should have taught them its importance. But either way, if there are belief systems out there that say that their way is the only way to live life, wouldn’t you at least want to check them out to see if they are true? Relativism has largely crippled any desire of the youth to search for eternal truth.
- The lack of religious convictions by the youth has also given way to incredible boldness and zeal by my peers. My fellow missionaries and student leaders are courageous souls determined to shine the light of Jesus everywhere they go, because they know just how desperately our peers need that light. The greater the darkness, the more bright the lights of heroes shine.
- Looking forward to next year! Who knows what God will do next :)
A couple of weeks ago I was hanging out at Yale in New Haven, CT with a couple of friends. We were walking down one of the main streets and about to go into an ice cream place when a man called out to us.
“Hey, can any of you help me out? Even change will do.”
I just averted my eyes and kept walking. I don’t remember if I had money or not on me, but either way I completely ignored him, saying a quick prayer to try to feel a little better about myself,
“Lord, be with him.”
Then we continued on. I have to give a lot of credit to one of my friends, afterwards he actually went up to the homeless man and asked him his name. Me? I just kept walking, an ice cream cone in hand and fully determined to have a good time with my friends.
I’ve been thinking and praying about this event ever since. What sort of human being am I? Deliberately choosing not to even acknowledge someone who cried out for help. And even more hypocritically, I prayed asking God to be with him. But as a member of the Body of Christ, I am one of His hands and feet! When I don’t show up for people in need, then people think that God doesn’t show up. God gave me that opportunity to reveal His love for that man.
On top of it all, I’m a freaking Catholic missionary! It would absolutely make my day if one day a student cried out asking for help with life’s problems or something and I got to help him or her. I pray for those opportunities every day, but often they don’t present themselves. Now, this time, I had someone who really was in trouble and I did nothing to help. Not even acknowledging them as a person. Am I really helping to bring peace on earth when I act like that, or am I just kindling even greater social tensions?
Jesus told us that we serve Him personally when we serve the poor and needy. This isn’t just a nice suggestion but a matter of eternal consequences.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” – Matthew 25:35-36
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40
I need to foster a greater respect for the dignity of the poor and needy in my own life, especially the homeless.
The good news is that I have had really great experiences as well, for example last winter in Chicago I ran into a man who shared my name, Chris! He was very nice and yes he asked me for some money but I actually talked with him. It turns out that he used to work at O’Hare and was laid off. He is a veteran of the military as well, he showed me his drivers license to prove it because he was so excited about it. I asked him where he stayed and he said that he stays at the shelter that the Franciscans provide in Chicago. That was super crazy and I got all excited when I heard that because one (maybe two soon) of my college friends is a sister with the Franciscans of the Eucharist that helps out the poor in the city. He mentioned Fr. Bob, the CFR priest who helps them out.
If only all of my experiences were like that! Either way, this video inspired me to post my own experience that I’ve been praying about over the past couple of weeks. It really goes to show how much we don’t notice the homeless and how much more love we could potentially give them, instead of ignoring them.