10 Ways of Living as a Son of God

Mass on Ramapo Mountain

  1. God literally died for you. You are a son of God and you get your worth from His love for you. God willed your existence out of love. You are not just a product of chance. God willed YOUR existence, He created you exactly as you are, and He loves you as you are. He sees you as His son, and wants to see you prosper and live with the fullness of life that He wants for you. Jesus said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” in John 10:10. That’s pretty cool, huh?! And I haven’t even hit on the part about Jesus dying for us. He thought that we were worth dying for even though we had already messed up. So remember that even when things aren’t going well, Jesus believes in you and wants to give you another chance.
  1. Men are called to serve and protect. In the story of Adam and Eve, after Adam is created, “God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). God gave Adam and all men this duty, to “cultivate and care” for all of the Earth. This includes all of the plants and animals, but most importantly all of humanity. The Hebrew translation of “cultivate and care” is the word “Shamar,” which means to protect and keep.  So God wasn’t just giving us a job of being gardeners, but being protectors of all of God’s creation.  Our job is to honor God in all that we do and to selflessly serve and protect all others in our care, our wives, our families, our communities, those in need, and to even care for nature too, as  Pope Francis has put out so beautifully in his latest encyclical, Laudato Si.  A man is called to sacrifice of himself for others. Our ultimate model of manhood is Jesus Himself, and He gave us a very clear message that we need to put ourselves last in serving others. Sometimes this is in very heroic ways, like soldiers, police officers, and firemen. But we can also give of ourselves for others in everyday matters, like going out of our way to help a friend or someone in need, letting people go before us in lines, and making time to spend with your family instead doing what you want.
  1. Your masculinity doesn’t depend on what you look like. In our culture, there are these lies that in order to be a true man, we need to be super big and ripped. We see this all over: on sports, in commercials, in the locker room. This is a lie. Some men are naturally skinny or overweight, this has no bearing on their manhood. Sure, it is healthy to be in shape and to be able to do some heavy physical labor, but don’t be tempted to think any less of yourself if you don’t have big muscles. God judges us for what we do, not what we look like. In addition, remember that you can act like a man even when you are relatively young. Don’t let your elders convince you that just because you’re young, you’re destined to make mistakes and fail until you’re older. There are plenty of 10 year old boys who live much more manly lives than 40 year olds, by pursuing virtue and excellence in everything that they do.
  1. Pursuing virtue. Once I was privileged enough to attend a talk specifically on manliness at a Catholic conference (another shout-out to FOCUS!), and I was surprised to learn within the first few minutes that the essence of manliness is simply cultivating and living the virtues. Ultimately, this post could simply be about the 7 virtues, but I guess I wanted to flesh them out a little bit more for the sake of making them a bit more practical. The Catholic Gentleman has a wonderful post that highlights the importance of virtue that I would highly recommend, but the 7 virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope, and charity. The first 4 are called cardinal virtues that we can train ourselves in, and the final 3 are called theological virtues which are gifts from God. In your own life, your best bet is to pick out one of the cardinal virtues at a time, research them so that you can understand them, and then continuously work at attaining them. As for the theological virtues, your best bet is to take those into prayer each day, asking God for those gifts. He will provide.
  1. Treating women right. One of the easiest ways to distinguish a man from a boy is how he treats women. A man always treats women with respect, seeing them as a human being with their own life, needs, relationships, and feelings. Boys are sometimes tempted to use women, for their bodies, for a sense of emotional comfort, for power, etc. One of those general rules of thumb to apply here is to see every woman as your mother, sister, daughter, etc. This includes women that you see on screens and images. Would you treat one of them the way that you are treating this stranger? And beware, pornography may seem harmless at first, but it has a crippling effect on you and your relationships with the more beautiful sex. A huge way that we can honor women is by having chaste relationships with them. Save sex for marriage, and make sure to draw the line clearly with how physical you BOTH feel comfortable being with each other if you’re in a committed relationship. Save the “test drive” for cars, because women are so much better than that. It’s an insult to even compare them to cars. If you aren’t willing to lay down your life for them for the rest of your life, you have no right to a “test drive,” this is a go big or go home issue. On a lighter note, some things that I love to see men do for women is to open doors for them, let them eat first, paying for a date, listening attentively, and not talking down to them- especially with regards to subjects like sports and cars where the stereotype is that women don’t know anything about that. Oh yea, and if you’re Catholic, letting your wife / girlfriend / children go before you to receive Holy Communion. What a better way of sacrifice then letting them receive Jesus first?!
  1. True to our promises. A man is as good as his word, goes the common saying. “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation,” warns St. James in James 5:12. How often have you been affected by this in others? One of the most common issues where we see this in the 21st century is Facebook events. I’m guilty of putting “maybe” down for about 5 events in a row, only to never change to yes or no and never showing up. Doing that hurts my friends who went out of their way to invite me and don’t have any idea if I’m coming or not! And this can be applied to greater things, too.. How many times have we encountered people who are always promising to do things and never follow through? We stop taking that person seriously, don’t we? Perhaps the most important promises that affect each one of us are wedding vows. Each one of us has a mom and a dad. And most of our parents, at least at one point in time, were married. They promised to be love and serve each other, through good times and bad. They promised to be faithful to each other for their entire lives. They promised to marry each other for life. Yet, unfortunately, about half of marriages end in divorce. Dang. Talk about a broken promise. Think… they promised that they would love and serve each other in both good times and in bad. So as much as I feel for couples going through difficult marriages, divorce never really was an option according to their vows. Unfortunately these affects have wounded countless numbers of young people in my generation, who are now the likely generation in recent memory to ever get married. There is hurt everywhere because of broken promises. Long story short, a man keeps his word, even if it is very difficult. Even if just each of us as individuals try to get a little better on this, I think it would go a long way in changing the world.
  1. Taking the initiative to pursue a woman. For young men, assuming that you aren’t called to the priesthood or religious life, one of the most exhilarating times of our lives is attempting to win a woman’s heart. Notice how I used the words “pursue” and “win”, verbs that imply that you actually try. You don’t usually find the woman of your dreams by just sitting around waiting for her to walk through your door, but by going out and living life, and meeting her doing the same sort of things that you like to do. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and ask out a woman that you’re interested in! Rejection stings, but you’ll never have a shot if you don’t ask! Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of young women out there looking for relationships and potential husbands, but not many men going out and asking them. Instead, our culture has made hooking up seem like a normal thing to do. This is no way to treat a woman, to use her for her body with no thoughts for who she actually is as a person… to just try and get messed up enough that you don’t even know what you’re doing. That’s not being a man, that’s being an animal. A man goes out of his way to protect women and treat them with respect. The end goal of a relationship isn’t sex or physical pleasure. The end goal of a relationship is life-long friendship, love, and helping each other become closer to Christ. Kids are nice too, when we’re talking about marriage 😉
  1. Be sharpened by other men. Man was not created to be alone. We were actually created for community. I’ve already mentioned some cool things about relationships with women, but in general fraternal friendships are just as important! Jesus recognized this when He gave us the Church. It wasn’t just Peter alone who continued Jesus’ mission on bringing God’s Kingdom to earth in the Church, but the 12 Apostles, and the 72 Disciples, and countless others! Jesus founded the Church as a community, and it grew as a community. We are all the Body of Christ, and we are stronger together as a “body” as opposed to “a lone ear” or “a finger and two toes.” A pretty cool bible verse that highlights this is Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.” Of course this applies to women too, but I love the imagery of iron here and I think it speaks very clearly to men. When I am alone, I am more vulnerable to temptations and not always the person that I ought to be. When I am surrounded by my good friends, they encourage me to be the best that I can be in all things. One simple way that I’ve noticed this is in prayer accountability. As a missionary, I challenged men to commit to praying daily, as I do, so that they could grow closer to Jesus. Beforehand, most of them had never had a very regular prayer life, but after I challenged them to start one and continued to check up on them, they started making impressive improvements and I could see their lives change as they grew closer to Christ through prayer. Accountability and encouragement is one of the best ways that we can help build each other up as men.
  1. Only satisfied by God. This world is great. God has given us so many people to become friends with and countless other joys. But as tempting as it can be to strictly chase the things of this world, we have to remember that in the end only God will satisfy us. We were made for God, and nothing less will give us peace. We will always be wanting more… until we are finally with God, and we will have never-ending peace and joy, ecstasy really! So with that in mind, make daily prayer a part of your schedule, and make sure to be faithful to Sunday Mass and regular confession. Our relationship with God starts right here on earth.
  1. God’s son. Did you know that God desires a personal relationship with you? Kind of like any other friend, except He’s Jesus and He created, unconditionally loves, and died for you! Now, if you’re anything like me, you get a bit turned off by that mushy “God loves us” stuff. The girls eat that up, but for us as guys, it doesn’t really work. I think we need to take a different approach. God gave us two basic ways of seeing Him: as our Father in God the Father, and as our brother in Jesus. Some of us aren’t blessed in having a father or brother in our lives that gives us a glimpse of the true love and care of God/Jesus. As a Father, God cares for us at all times. He watches out for us, is ready to give us advice, and gives us everything that we need to live joyfully as His sons. As a brother, Jesus modeled for us a firm commitment to putting God first in all that we do, a strong work ethic in our day to day labors, compassion and care for those around us who need mercy and help, and is a friend whose shoulder we can lean on whenever we need some support. God is much closer to us than we think and remembering that He is by our side at all times will help us through the good and the bad times ahead.

I hope and pray that these tips inspire and encourage you! God bless!

Note: A couple of months ago I published a post about being a Daughter of God, which inspired me to write this one as well for the guys!

Advertisements

My FOCUS Mission Trip to El Salvador

Just a couple of weeks ago for spring break I had the opportunity to help lead a FOCUS mission trip to El Salvador!

Group with Sarai

After Sunday mass at the San Miguel Cathedral, while we were still relatively clean 😉

It was such an amazing experience! I’ve had so many people ask me about the trip and everything in the past couple of weeks, but it’s so hard to put into words what I got to experience throughout that whole week. Here are some of my take away’s, as best as I can summarize them.

The trip was eye opening in so many ways. This was probably my biggest take away. I had never really left the comfortable American world until then: I’ve been blessed to be able to vacation in Mexico and Canada, but even in Mexico we didn’t need to speak Spanish because we stayed at resorts.

In El Salvador, I was immediately confronted by a different culture and way of life. Even in the Avianca section in Miami Airport, we were some of the only people who weren’t speaking in Spanish. I love learning Spanish and I hope to be fluent one day, but for now it was somewhat overwhelming when people spoke to me in Spanish expecting me to understand. I can pick up words and even understand phrases and simple sentences, but when they’re speaking so fast, I had to flag down our friendly Spanish speaking missionaries, Roxio and Mario!

A pic of our local neighborhood.

A pic of our local neighborhood.

 

I couldn’t help but notice the poverty right away. It wasn’t like there were hoards of homeless people (that I saw), but rather nearly all of the homes there made a small “lower class” home in the United States look very nice. They made those “bad” parts of Newark look normal. They did have electricity (the wealthier homes at least- oh and I did see a very modern transmission substation by a highway once) and water (kind of- we couldn’t drink it, and hot water wasn’t common).

It was such a joy to be able to talk and play with the kids! They were shy but they warmed up to us fast!

It was such a joy to be able to talk and play with the kids! They were shy but they warmed up to us fast!

A very interesting thing happened every night while we were there. Everyone got all antsy and said that they had to leave around 5:30 pm. Every single night. It was still bright out and everything, and it was early in the evening, so I was confused about why they needed to get back home so early. It turned out that the gangs have instituted an unofficial curfew over the entire country, especially where we were in San Miguel, at 6 pm. That’s when they come out and it isn’t safe to be outside of your homes. In fact, every home had bars over their windows, cement walls around their yards, and barbed wire on top of everything. There were security guards in most businesses holding guns. Gang violence is very real, and there is the legacy of the civil war that ended in 1993 as well. I was devastated to learn just how deadly the civil war was, with the government (supplied by the United States) sending death squads to local towns by the end of it. I guess that shouldn’t be too much of a shock that it came to that after the whole Archbishop Romero fiasco, which I’ll talk about later.

IMG_4998

This is just a random shot of some homes in El Salvador. If you look closely you’ll notice barbed wire on top, all the fences, and bars over all the windows.

 

The food was seriously out of this world. We had the most amazing deal: some of the women (mostly grandmas) in the parish cooked for us 3 meals a day, and they went all out for us, cooking seriously the most amazing food I’ve ever had (no offense to my mom and grandma!). A couple of the Americans’ stomachs didn’t mix well with the food, but I was surprised to find that my stomach was more bothered coming back to America and eating processed food. Whoops, America.

Typical Salvadorian comida: pupusas on the left, rice in the center, fried plantains on the right. Turns out that plantains go really good with ketchup!

Typical Salvadorian comida: pupusas on the left, rice in the center, fried plantains on the right. Turns out that plantains go really good with ketchup!

The faith of the people was so inspiring! Everyone loved to talk about Jesus, and sometimes it was hard to get them to stop… 😉 They loved putting Jesus stickers everywhere on their cars and every other person seemed to be wearing a rosary (public service announcement, you’re actually not supposed to wear them as a fashion symbol). One of the coolest things that we got to experience was stations of the cross with a local town (Chirilagua, I believe). After mass on that Friday evening, the whole town seemed to gather together outside of the church as we walked around the town carrying a doll/statue thing of Jesus to each station, set up right in front of houses and shops and things.

Carrying the cross for stations of the cross with the community!

Carrying the cross for stations of the cross with the community!

With the parish that we were helping rebuild their church, I was impressed with how tight knit the whole parish seemed to be, with dozens showing up to daily mass with us, many of the male parishioners helped with the construction, and many of the female parishioners helped with cooking for them all and other odds and ends jobs. Another impressive thing about this parish was how they go on house visits each week to families their local community. At each house visit, they see how each other is doing, read the Gospel for the next Sunday together, have a mini bible study, and then close in prayer. That’s an awesome way of outreach that we should try and apply back in the United States! Even more powerful than all of those experiences for me was when the community prayed for us all, with some of the leaders laying their hands on each of us and praying with such emotion for each of us.

Leaders of the parish praying over us... so beautiful!

Leaders of the parish praying over us… so beautiful!

An absolutely stunning story that the locals shared with us was the tradition of Reina de la Paz, patron saint of El Salvador. If you can read Spanish, the more in depth details are here. If not, here’s my basic summary: In 1787, San Miguel Volcano, which is not surprisingly right next to the city of San Miguel, was erupting and threatening to destroy the entire city. The entire city, or I guess town back then, being Catholic Christians, turned to God and the Virgin Mary in prayer. They had this image of Mary that they decided to bring up with them to the volcano, begging for the Virgin Mary’s intercession in saving them and their city. Miraculously, the lava actually stopped and went a different direction, saving them all! Praise God! To this day, that same image of Mary, who they call Reina de la Paz (Queen of Peace), is in the Cathedral of San Miguel, holding a palm branch from the event. Reina de la Paz is the patron saint of all of El Salvador. When we went to the Cathedral for Sunday mass, we got to see Reina de la Paz ourselves and even touch it! It was so beautiful and moving to be able to be so close to something so important to the hearts of the native people. Isn’t their faith so strong?!

The image of Reina de la Paz in the San Miguel Cathedral

The image of Reina de la Paz above the main altar in the San Miguel Cathedral

We didn’t get to personally meet Archbishop Romero, but it felt like we did after getting to know and love this holy man so much that week. Here’s a great article that summarizes why he is such a big deal in El Salvador, and admired throughout Latin America, the Church, and the world at large. Basically Monsignor Romero (as they call him, even though he was an Archbishop) spoke out against the corruption and evils of the Salvadorian government while he was Archbishop and the leader of the Church in that country from 1977-1980. By that time, the government had begun to use violence to try and keep protesters quiet, and for a while it seemed like a priest was killed every month. Months before Romero was actually assassinated, there was a different attempt on his life where there were large amounts of dynamite placed right in front of the Cathedral, which would have killed him and hundreds or thousands more. Thankfully that attempt was revealed, but it didn’t stop Romero from speaking boldly. Above all, Romero was a man of God who wished to share the Gospel and help the poor. He lived a very simple life and was for the most part a very quiet man. But he was placed in a very explosive situation and despite the fear he must have felt, he stayed true to his God and his people above all else. He was shot while saying mass by an assassin on March 24th, 1980. At his funeral mass, tens of thousands showed up, but the government didn’t want that to happen so they shot into the crowd, killing about 60-80 people according to our Salvadorian hosts. Of course, the violence by the government was only beginning at that point. While in El Salvador, we had the opportunity to visit Romero’s tomb, house where he lived, church where he was shot, and even the square where he will be beatified this May! It was inspiring to learn more about this man and he has quickly become one of my favorite saints. Archbishop Romero, pray for us!

A statue of Romero outside the Cathedral in San Salvador.

A statue of Romero outside the Cathedral in San Salvador.

Praying next to Romero's tomb. There were dozens of the faithful coming in to visit and pray by the tomb with us.

Praying next to Romero’s tomb. There were dozens of the faithful coming in to visit and pray by the tomb with us.

The vestments that Romero was wearing when he was shot.

The vestments that Romero was wearing when he was shot.

The most beautiful flowers were growing right outside the church where he was shot.

The most beautiful flowers were growing right outside the church where he was shot.

Archbishop Romero was saying mass at that altar when he was shot.

Archbishop Romero was saying mass at that altar when he was shot. Today schoolchildren come and visit daily.

As we were preparing to leave, we decided to leave our cooks, and through them the entire parish, a little sign of how much they meant to us by washing their feet. We prayed with them as we washed their feet and it was so moving to think about how much God had done through both parties. They had given up so much to serve us, and we definitely had given up some things in order to serve them as well. The sacrifices made by both parties for the sake of God and His Church was so beautiful.

Washing the feet of our amazing cooks!

Washing the feet and praying for our amazing cooks!

Though it might not seem like it, we actually did some work too! So the practical part of our mission trip was to help them build a new church, because the last one was destroyed in 2001 by an earthquake. It’s taken them this long to be able to build a new one because they don’t have the funds. Thanks to about 5 more FOCUS Mission trips to this parish, we’ll be able to significantly help them both with funds and free labor, so that they hope to have it completed in about a year. At the moment we were just working on the foundation, so most of what we did was shoveling dirt and carrying concrete by bucket. They had no back hoes, cement trucks, cranes, lifts, dump trucks, or anything that you’d expect in America. All of the labor was by hand. But it was a lot of fun! I enjoyed being able to work side by side with the locals, chatting it up with my fellow missionaries (both FOCUS and students), and enjoying that wonderful 100 degree dry heat. I swear there wasn’t a cloud in the sky all week.

Doing work!

Doing work!

Our mission trip team with the workers and Father Antonio.

Our mission trip team with the workers and Father Antonio.

One of the most important things that I’ll cherish from this trip is growing in friendship with my amazing teammates! Carly, Grace, Tess, Becca, Roxio, Elli, Sarah, Jonathan, Max, Mario, Michael, and Fr. Jeff. You guys are awesome! It was so beautiful to not really know anybody going into this week, and come out of it with 12 new amazing friends, with plenty of inside jokes to go with it. No espanol. Pwerp. Having a blast! Michael prancing away from the scorpion. Alfredo. Too blessed to be stressed! Liquiddddddd!!! Riding in the back of the pickup truck. God’s pharmacy. Shamar the rear! I saw God in you guys. Your service and selflessness is inspiring and I can’t wait to see where God leads you all! Huge shout outs to Sarah for being in charge of basically everything and being an amazing trip director and Fr. Jeff for joining us last minute and being such a great priest and role model!

Group PicIf you get the chance to go on a mission trip, you should go! It was amazing and transformative and fun! It has helped me grow in my faith, gain a more complete world view, and have some experiences that I’ll cherish the rest of my life. Check out FOCUS Missions!

“To change the world we must be good to those who cannot repay us.” – Pope Francis

Here’s a video that Mario put together of us!

 

What is Chastity and Why is it Important? An Interview with a Youth Chastity Speaker

The following is an interview with Perla, a youth chastity speaker. I have been so privileged to get to know her personally, and I hope that her story and words of wisdom on chastity inspire you as well!

Hi Perla! Thank you for taking the time to meet with me! Could you start by sharing a little about yourself? What was your childhood like?
Thanks Chris! Well, I come from a family of 5 and am the oldest sibling. I have a really close extended family where I grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. Then my dad worked in the United States, while the rest of us were in Mexico, so we all moved to the United States when I was 10 in order to live together.

What impact did moving to the United States have on your life?
It played a huge impact on my life! It was a whole new world – I had to learn English, the culture was so different, my extended family was so far away, and we didn’t get close to many people outside of our family.

What careers and interests did you have growing up?
I always wanted to become a teacher, I love little kids. I think I even have a special charisma with kids, I loooove kids. And math. So I wanted to become a math teacher. Of course, that changed when I got to college, when my encounter with Christ happened.

What was your encounter with Christ?
I had all the big questions, like what is the meaning of life, what happens after death, etc., but I never looked to the Catholic Church for those answers. I changed my major 5 times, always searching for the answers to life. Psychology gave some answers, but not enough. For a while, I thought that maybe service was the answer, so I did a lot of service. Then next I thought that it was love, so I started dating this guy. But nothing was enough, and I was tired of looking for answers. Then one day one of my friends invited me to join a Catholic bible study. I only joined because I witnessed how much joy my Protestant friends had in their lives, and they did bible study too. So I was willing to give a Catholic one a try. The bible study was run by three middle-aged couples, who hooked my friends and I by offering us a home cooked dinner – it worked for us college kids! In their homes, we went over the scripture readings for the next Sunday mass on Monday nights. I began to learn so much! Once I encountered the truth of the Eucharist and from there the truth of the Catholic faith, I decided to look at Catholic universities to finish college. A son of one of the families that hosted bible study went to Ave Maria University and told me about it. It was the only college that I applied to at that point, and praise God, they ended up offering me a full ride to study there.

What degree did you end up graduating with? And what did you want to do when you graduated?
I majored in Theology with a minor in Philosophy. I had this deep desire to do the same thing for other college students that was done for me: maybe offering a bible study for other college students. Providentially, FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students) came to Ave Maria and shared their mission with the students and I, and it lined up perfectly with what I wanted to do after graduation! I applied and got accepted!

You were a missionary with FOCUS for how long, and what was it like?
I was a missionary for three years. It was a great experience, I loved meeting students where they were at and challenging them to take their faith seriously. It was also a great adventure, especially with being open to be placed anywhere in the country. I always thought that it was very humbling to have students open up to me and give me their trust and friendship.

How did you come across your new job?
After my 3rd year with FOCUS, I felt a strong call to come back home and work within my home diocese, San Angelo in Texas. The diocese didn’t have any openings for evangelization or anything like FOCUS, so a close friend invited me to apply for a job as a prevention specialist.

What is a prevention specialist?
We work as a team of 8, most of us are between ages 23-26, and we go to elementary, middle, and high schools in Midland, Odessa, and surrounding cities. Our aim is to prevent them from falling into high-risk behaviors and be fulfilled in their good decisions. So we speak with the students about their self worth, the purpose of their bodies, the purpose of sex, sexual abstinence, the risks of the media, STDs, parenting, and how to build healthy relationships. In addition, we offer assistance for anyone who has suffered from abuse or addiction afterwards.

How long are you at a school?
We are there for three days, Tues-Thurs.

What does a day at a school consist of?
Our presentations last for 45 minutes, but our total pace can vary anywhere from 1 to 7 presentations a day. And we might travel to a few schools per week. So we are aiming to work with around 30,000 students by the end of the school year!

What is your main message to the students?
The thing that I really focus on for them is that they know who they are. We talk about how they have so many important sides to them: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and sexual. We talk about why we have certain yearnings in our hearts in the first place, so that they can see their natural good desires. A big emphasis is placed on showing what is necessary for sex: commitment, faithfulness, truly loving your spouse. Because the purpose of sex is to bond husband and wife together and for the procreation of children. Bottomline. From this understanding we can show them that sex truly belongs in marriage- fulfilling also the heart and mind because all 6 sides of the person would be truly satisfied.

Was there a moment in your life where you started getting interested in speaking about chastity?
Yes! There were major two instances. Growing up, I had the common girl dream of meeting that perfect guy, falling in love, and getting married. But what my friends were doing, what the world was offering, with hooking up and all that, it never satisfied my heart. It was never going to fulfill me at the end of the day. Even a good relationship in high school was not satisfying for me because we weren’t going to get married soon after. There were plenty of attractive guys in high school that I was attracted to, but dating and hooking up just didn’t click right even though I didn’t know why exactly. The other instance was as a missionary on the college campus, where I was seeing women fall under pressure to have sex before marriage and not live chastely. There seemed to be a missing link between their faith, the meaning of their body, and their yearning for true love. It seemed as if God had to be kicked out because all He offered where restrictions to their desires. So I spent a lot of time with some college women learning and reconciling all of these things with God’s desire for us! So we deeply understood that chastity in fact fulfills our desires. It is way more than just “don’t don’t don’t.”

We hear the world chastity a lot, but are less familiar with what it actually means. How do you define it?
I understand chastity as purity of body, mind (thoughts and imagination), and intentions. Purity meaning no stain of selfishness, lust, slavery to passions, but free to love, to choose the best for the other person with joyful selflessness.

As you grew up, did you ever dream that you’d become both a missionary and chastity speaker?
No, not at all. Haha.

What would you have thought?
I would have thought that I would have been going abroad, India or Africa. I would have never thought that I would do it here, home, with my generation. That would have seemed extremely radical.

How has it been now that you’re living it out?
It’s been a transformative experience: to see the goodness of God in how He cares for me. I’ve learned how to put others before me. I’m convicted of the truths that I’m saying as a chastity speaker, as well. It’s challenged me to live with integrity in all areas of my life and truly love everyone who is around me. I’m asking myself questions like “am I building healthy relationships myself?”

Is our culture to blame for these problems of chastity? Or would you attribute this to their youth or something else?
I think that there are many factors. Yes, I think that society plays a role, especially the media like movies, music, and TV. I think those things have a huge pull on young people. It’s also on the parents, if they are not convicted of the truth and share it. Their children need to see good examples from them so that the message will get to their hearts. A third factor is that boys and girls need to be challenged, challenged to do something better. Such as love requires you to wait, to build your character first. Many times they are told that they don’t have self-control because they are young, but they actually do. They can stand up with courage against the current. I don’t think that they hear that enough, or at all.

What is different for the youth growing up in 2015 from what it was like for you growing up?
The biggest difference is that for today’s children the internet is so available, especially on their phones. It offers them so many extra risks and distractions.

What advice would you give the parents of children nowadays?
I would affirm them that they have a big influence on their kids’ lives. They mold their kids. I would challenge them to look into the truth of all these things, to live them out, and pass them on to their kids through example. I’d also ask them to try to monitor their social media time, monitor their exposure to the internet. I’m thinking especially of the risk of pornography.

What sort of role do you think pornography plays in our culture’s battle with chastity?
It plays a huge role. It is so available, and really young people are exposed to it, even as young as 9 years old. Every heart longs for true love so there is a natural curiosity for what intimacy is, but pornography does not offer an answer it actually begins to warp people’s hearts and minds and scar them for life in a sense. It handicaps them for true love and true sacrifice.

As a college campus missionary, it’s common to hear about students “hooking up.” What would you say to someone who just wants to have some fun for one night?
If I could really talk to them, I would ask them, have you looked at the true desires of your heart? Your heart has a true yearning and desire to be loved. You won’t be satisfied until you are known and loved: hopefully by your family and your spouse in the future. That yearning is in everyone’s hearts. One night stands… there is no way to truly love a person through that or be loved. Then understand that the opposite of love is use. Sure, hooking up offers a thrill but at the end it will not be fulfilling and isn’t love. It is the use of each other- most likely girl using guy for emotional gratification and guy using girl for physical aspect. It’s seeing only the body of the person without revealing who they truly are. You in fact see less of them instead of more.

How can someone struggling with chastity start to change their habits?
If you’re Catholic, make sure go to confession. Confess it clearly, humbly, and sincerely. Ask God for healing, in your heart and mind. Go to the sacraments. Besides that, get an accountability partner/group. Most young people ARE struggling with this, in actuality or in understanding. Be honest, form a small accountability group, and set small goals to grow little by little.

Any final thoughts?
I want to stress this: know and believe that God is interested in your love life. God is not a boring God. Trust and believe that He has something beautiful planned for you, and He will not leave you disappointed.

Thank you Perla! Thank you for your very important work with the youth!

15 Reasons to go to SEEK Conference 2015

seek cover

SEEK Conference is just around the corner! Here’s 15 reasons why you can’t miss it:

1. Spend 5 days with some of your best friends! Unfortunately I can’t guarantee that a pope will show up…

SEEK 2013 with Pope Benedict

2. SEEK the truth

3. Hear some of the best speakers in the Church. So much so that you’ll have withdrawals..

4. Encounter Jesus in a new and profound way

SEEK adoration

5. Make new friends for life

SEEK 2013 goofy

6. Get some of your deepest questions answered by the experts. Fr. Robert Spitzer’s got science covered, Lisa Cotter has girls covered. I still haven’t decided which topic is more complicated.

Lisa Cotter: Why do Women do that? Understanding What Chick Flicks and Love Songs Have to do with Chastity

7. Meet other college students from all over the country, and even the world!

SEEK 2013

8. Hang out with 10,000 other young people. Some have more… personality… than others

9. Open your life to new opportunities and directions

10. Stay up late every night. People will be playing ninja, signs, what are the odds, and all other sorts of wacky games late into the night… and it’s epic!

SEEK 2013 Ninja

11. There is 24/7 adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

adoration

12. Matt Maher will be there

13. Show off your school pride. Do you know your school’s fight song? You’ll probably want to before you go, and wear lots of school colors.

SEEK 2013 Illinois colors

14. Nashville. I hear there’s a music scene?

Nashville

 15. Jim Gaffigan.

Come SEEK with me. We’re all on this journey of life together.

This was actually my blog post immediately after SEEK 2013… so check out what I thought!

Register now!

Why I Believe in God

Colorado

This sure as heck isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some very simple reasons why I’ve never struggled with belief in God:

– We live in a beautiful world

– How else could anything exist if there wasn’t something there to “bang” the Big Bang?

– Love exists

– When I pray, things happen. Not every time, and not always in the way that I want them to, since God isn’t a magic genie but rather our Father.

– The entire story of Jesus is way too crazy to fake. Starting with the 12 Apostles themselves, millions of Christians died for Him, especially those first 300 years afterwards when it was a crime to believe in Christ. Those people that died in the Coliseum? Those people were often Christians. Why die for something that you knew to be a lie?

– There is purpose and meaning to life

– Even in the darkest moments of life, we have hope

– We desire more than what this world has to offer and are incomplete without God. Just listen to Drake: “I want it all, and then some.” According to the world, he’s made it. But even he admits that he’s still missing something. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” – St. Augustine

– The most genuinely happy people that I know are always the ones who have a close relationship with Jesus. They know that God loves them, and everyone else, and there’s nothing that this world can do that can take that from them.

– I have experienced Jesus’ peace and love in my own life, and seen how He’s worked through me in ways that I could have never expected

Elephants in the Room

Life. You’re living it right now.

If you’re anything like me, you probably take a lot of things in life for granted. I take for granted my life, family, friends, health, gifts, talents, experiences, faith, etc. on a day to day basis. I am who I am, and who has the power to take that away from me?

But there are those moments in life that shock us back to reality. Broken friendships, injuries, and the death of loved ones are common occurrences. They have the power to shock us straight to the core and make us reevaluate everything that we once stood for. What was it that I was looking for in life anyways? What drove me each day?

There’s a danger of living our lives in our own little world. We can get closed off to experiencing new things or meeting new people. We can be tricked into thinking that life can never be anything more than it is right now. What if there was something more to live for?

I’m of the opinion that we don’t necessarily have to wait for a tragedy to happen before we evaluate what our goals are in life and what we’re living for. It’s about being responsible with the gift of life that we’ve been given.

There are elephants in the room of our culture nowadays. We don’t talk about them, but they’re actually probably the most important things to talk about in the world.

Death. It happens to all of us. So why not live for something greater than just earthly things that will pass away anyways? Why not live for eternal things?

Truth. There are a billion different opinions out there, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all true. We have to test them all, and only keep what is true. People are very sensitive nowadays, but believe it or not, it’s actually possible to have a mature conversation about deep topics without bickering and fighting. Hint: they take place face to face, not on Facebook.

Jesus. He claims to be the way, the truth, and the life. Historically we have an overwhelming amount of evidence that He walked this earth. He claimed to be God. Who do you say that He is? Do you know who He is?

Love. Everyone loves love and nobody seems to know what love is. Is it a feeling? Is it just for couples? Is it not worth it? It’s hard to see in a country that celebrates abortion and no-fault divorce, but there is such thing as true love. Love is a verb, a way of serving others before ourselves in all things. Love is a choice to put others before yourself. It will change the world, one choice at a time.

Next time that we catch ourselves taking something for granted, let’s try and remember to cherish this life and look to lead lives of purpose that help others and lead to eternal life 🙂

What other elephants do you notice in our culture? How can we open up a conversation about them with others?

Discipleship in the 21st Century

When Jesus walked on Earth, He made quite the scene. If you read the Gospels, you see He wasn’t always this “hippie Jesus” that you see in media…

Jesus point

Or even “nice Jesus” that you see in Christian bookstores…

Jesus Sheep

Sometimes He was more like “God Jesus”.

Jesus Lazarus

Seriously, have you ever seen anyone rise from the grave?!?! It’s probably a heck of a lot more freaky than the bible made it out to be, but John only had a few lines to use on it I guess…

Other crazy things that Jesus did? He performed miracles, announced the Kingdom of God, scandalized people by crossing social norms, whipped people who were disrespecting the temple, and large crowds (Tens of thousands!) followed Him to the point where He quite literally had to sneak away so that He could be alone to pray. Jesus didn’t tone down His message when He was in sticky situations either- the healing on the Sabbath right in front of the Pharisees comes to mind. Needless to say, Jesus caused division in the hearts of everyone who encountered Him. It was more than just being #teamJesus or #teamPharisee, though. The stakes were a bit higher.. because He claimed to be God. This was a matter of life and death, as we can see in hindsight. The Jews and Gentiles had a tough decision to make in choosing to believe Jesus or not…

Who were the disciples?

During His years of ministry, Jesus attracted large crowds pretty much wherever He went. I don’t know how they all got the memo of His schedule without newspapers, twitter, and texting, that alone is a miracle! But out of the tens of thousands, Jesus called 12 men to Himself, the Apostles. These men were called Apostles because they were “sent” by Jesus and given His authority after He ascended into Heaven. The 12 Apostles are sometimes called the 12 disciples, but the term disciple is more broad than that. There were disciples of Jesus who weren’t Apostles, and sometimes in the Bible they are called the 70 or 72. These people weren’t specifically called by Jesus, but they still had a very important role to play in His ministry.

Have you ever thought about what differentiated the disciples from the crowds?

Take a moment to think for yourself… what made someone a disciple of Jesus?

There are plenty of great answers, but a few that I can think of are:

  • Belief that Jesus was God, the Messiah
  • Loyalty to follow Him even for days without food
  • Willing to leave home, family, jobs, and so on just to follow Him
  • Doing whatever He asked of you.. even travelling in twos to distant towns
  • Friendship with Jesus, like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus

We can also be disciples!

The funny thing is, all of these things can still be done TODAY. Discipleship isn’t just for the people who were alive when Jesus was, but it is a way of life devoted to Jesus that we can live right now in the 21st century! It takes “discipline”, of course, but ultimately this way of life is sparked by an encounter with Jesus and the friendship with Him that follows.

But… Jesus isn’t here…

So here’s the interesting point. Yes, we can be disciples of Jesus, but no, we can’t do it exactly the same way that they did it in the Holy Land. When Jesus ascended, He didn’t leave us orphans: He gave us the Holy Spirit (God!) to guide us to all truth and the Church (founded on Peter and the Apostles) as our Mother. Through the working of the Holy Spirit and the Church… duh-da-da-dah! comes forth Jesus! Quite literally. We receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We receive Jesus’ mercy in confession. We hear the Word of God in the Bible. We encounter the hands and feet of Jesus when we are around other Christians.

Discipleship in the 21st century, so how do we do it?

  • Believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior
  • Go out of your way to encounter Him, at mass, in prayer, in serving the poor, in reading the scriptures, in confession
  • Live your life to glorify Him first and foremost, and then everything else will fall into place
  • Courageously share the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, both in words and how you live your life
  • Become intimate friends with Jesus, He loves us more purely and completely than anyone in the world. Prayer in adoration is one of the best ways to do this

Isn’t it crazy how for each of the major ways you could be a 1st century disciple, you can become a 21st century disciple?!

Choosing to believe in Jesus isn’t a matter of life and death (on this earth) anymore, but it still is a matter of eternal consequences. We can’t just sit on the sidelines our entire lives without making a choice. Jesus is either a lunatic, or He’s God.

“If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – Jesus to the Woman at the well, John 4:10