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!

Goodbye Montclair

Men Senior Send Off

Goodbye Montclair. Wow it’s hard to believe that it’s already been two years. It seems like just yesterday I jumped out of my car on a late August night, Illinois snapback and all, to be greeted by Father Jim and Mike (the first one). Father Jim quickly grabbed some things to help me bring them upstairs, but Mike just stood to the side awkwardly. “Uh, Mike, are you going to help?” He responded that ever since he donated his spleen (or whatever organ it was) to his friend, he can’t do any physical activity for a few more weeks. So that’s how my #mishlife started…

I didn’t even know where Montclair State University was. No lie, I thought that it was in Montana at first. It started with an M and Father Jim had a beard. I just put two and two together and assumed I was going west when I read my letter from Perla at placement night. Everyone was running to go join their teams, but I was conflicted because I wanted to pray and thank God and ask for His and Our Lady’s blessing on my time as a FOCUS missionary. So after walking a few steps towards the mass of people… I turned around to walk over to the Ave Maria Oratory. It turns out that Father, Perla, Mike, and Ania actually saw me and were waving to me, so to them it must have looked like I ditched them after seeing them (even though I was totally in another world at the time). To this day they tease me about it hahaha. But it turns out that Montclair is in New Jersey. And we can see NYC and the World Trade Center from our front porch. So I got to learn a lot about New Jersey, NYC, and the whole East coast over the past two years. My favorite thing about the area has probably been the Appalachians. I’ve really gotten into hiking more since I’ve been away from the vast flatness of Illinois and the Midwest.

Being a missionary for these past two years has been such a blessing. I can’t count how many times I’ve been able to watch God work miracles and touch lives. There have been some big ones that I’ll just generally list by name: Liam, Jeff, Jon, Anthony, Anahi (and like all her fam and friends), and Rob. And on top of that there have been some just as important slow but steady conversions of heart that I’ve been privileged to watch in people like Andrew, Brenden, Ian, Mathias, Henry, Jantzen, Justin, and Charles. But hey, God’s worked in more than just those people’s lives. He’s worked in each one of us and it’s been an honor to walk with you all towards Christ. As long as we are open to God’s love, He will work amazing things through us.

I’d like to give a special thank you to Father Jim, Mary, and Kevin for your support and all that you do for us at Newman Catholic. You all make it so much easier for us to live and grow in our faith here in college.

And I’d like to also especially thank my fellow missionaries! Kerry, Kristin, Ania, Perla, Mike, and Mike. You guys are the best and it’s been such an honor to serve Jesus with you! I’m so blessed with your friendships and inspired by your desire to serve God in whatever way He calls you. And I want to thank you so much for joining me in this mission!

All of you students mean so much to me and I’ll treasure our experiences and friendships for years to come. I’m excited to see how each of your grow and how you live your lives! If you want some parting words of wisdom, here’s what I’ve got. Put God first, then everything else will fall into place. Remember that this life is not just here on Earth, but an eternal one. How you live matters. Live it in a way that honors our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and you’ll have the most joyful and fulfilling life possible. I’m not saying that it’ll be easy. We weren’t created for comfort, but for greatness, as Pope Benedict said. Let’s continue to fight the good fight and know of my prayers for you all! Please pray for me too!

So I want to say goodbye to you all, or adios (I treasured my time with the LASO community as well!), but I want to say it in the true meaning of the words:

Good Bye…  “God be with you.”

Adios… “Go with God.”

10 Ways to Live as a Daughter of God- A Man’s Perspective

What does it mean to be made as women in the image of God? How does this reflect on friendships and relationships? Recently one of my missionary friends asked my teammate and I to talk at a women’s night in order to speak into this from a male perspective, and this is what I shared with them!

10 Ways of living as a Daughter of God

1. God literally died for you. You are a daughter of God and you get your worth from His love for you. You are princess peach and Jesus is Mario, and he’s jumping on mushrooms and flinging turtle shells and defeating Bowser at least EIGHT times before he can save you. And he did it all anyways.

So with that in mind, remember that you’re always loved. Even when things aren’t going well in your day to day, you’ve always got a friend in Jesus.

A daughter of God doesn’t get her worth from what other people, especially men, think of her. She gets her worth from God’s love, and that never changes. So no matter what others think of you don’t let that bring you down. Our ultimate fulfillment could never be in this world, anyways.

2. Women inspire men. Heck yes, Mario wasn’t going to stop at anything until he got to rescue Peach. In the same way, men will pursue you, and you have the opportunity to challenge him in that. Early on when I was coming to Christ, when there was a girl that I liked, and she was spending time in the chapel praying or going to mass and bible study, I wanted to be doing those things too. Somewhat selfish reasons, but hey, it worked, I’m a missionary now! My girlfriend Ryann continues to inspire me to greater holiness in her own personal devotion to God, and even though I’m a missionary and sometimes we’re tempted to think that all missionaries are perfect, I really need extra encouragement sometimes. In addition, your beauty also inspires others, since your beauty is a reflection of the beauty of God. There’s nothing on earth more beautiful than a woman, so cherish that fact! Just in who you are, you reveal to all the world, men and women alike, how good and beautiful God’s creation is.

3. Women are beautiful, and that is great. But your worth goes above and beyond your beauty. Your worth is that you are made in the image and likeness of God. A lot of times men abuse this truth in only talking about your physical beauty, and our culture for sure does this in general, judging women so much more carefully on how they look than they do men. But remember that in being a daughter of God, just because you don’t always look fantastic doesn’t mean that you’re worth anything less. There’s no need to be jealous of other girl’s good looks, you are all loved just as much by God. St. Peter has some great advice about this: “Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4). The point of this verse is that the beauty that matters the most is your internal beauty, the beauty of your heart. Physical beauty takes a back seat to that.

4. Women have a unique way of witnessing to the tenderness and mercy of God in a way that men never can. I try to be gentle and supportive of people who are in tough situations, but often times I just don’t know what to do or don’t know how to help. On the other hand I often see my teammates Kristin or Kerry jump right forward and they know just the right ways to comfort someone. I think that’s a gift that God has given women, and it’s a gift to treasure. I’m always looking for a “fix” to the problem, while what the person really needs is just someone to be there for them. Another unique feature of femininity is how you are more open to receiving love. Sometimes faith is harder for men because we aren’t as wired to receive God’s love as you are, but you can witness to that for us. See as a guy, when I’m talking about loving someone, I want to do things for them, help them with their work, making sacrifices, giving them gifts, etc. The other part of love is simply being with people through struggles and receiving the affection from someone you love. This is huge in relating to God and to each other in general, and men definitely need to learn from women on this.

5. Don’t lower your standards just to be with a guy. Some girls dress pretty immodestly just to attract the attention of guys. Let’s not deny the facts, though. It works. But what type of guy is an immodest girl attracting? She’s got BOYS all over her. BOYS with no self control and no maturity and class. BOYS who just want her for her body and nothing else. If you want a MAN, you have to dress like a WOMAN. A MAN is attracted to a woman respects herself, who dresses with dignity and class, who isn’t afraid to be herself. A MAN tries to get to know the whole person of the woman that he is interested in, instead of trying to use her for her body. A MAN respects women’s purity and dignity and always treats her with respect. On top of that all, a great way to scare off the BOYS is to dress like a WOMAN. They’ll be able to tell right away that you respect yourself and won’t play any games, so they’ll move on to bother some other girl.

6. A daughter of God should never have to “give in” to a guy physically to secure his affection. Our modern culture has fallen into the error of often reducing women from human beings into “objects of pleasure”, a collection of body parts. You can obviously see this in pornography or strip clubs, but it’s beginning to infiltrate mainstream culture in movies like 50 shades of grey and in most popular music videos. Men see the same things as you and unfortunately it can warp our minds into thinking of women as merely a collection of body parts instead of human beings with dignity. You are not merely a collection of body parts, you are a whole person: body, mind, and soul. A man needs to pay attention to and respect ALL of you.

7. In dating, you need to set boundaries for “how far” you can go. Communicate this clearly, during the day. You need to set the boundaries right away otherwise it’s just too tempting to stop in the heat of the passion. This is especially difficult for guys, we’re aroused so much easier. So with this in mind, remember to honor the lines that you’ve set together, because if you start bending the lines, it’s so much harder to stop. Even though Ryann and I are both devoted Catholics, we made sure to talk clearly about physical boundaries right away and continue to. Usually it’s the guy who kind of leads the relationship in this sense, so as the woman, it’s important for you to make how you feel about this clear to him, otherwise he might assume something else.

8. Being in the image of God, you have a right to be treated like a lady. A guy who is interested in you or dating you should be holding doors for you, paying for stuff on dates, holding their umbrella for you, offering an arm when going up steps, offering you their seat, pulling the chair out for you, etc. Sometimes in our modern culture these things are politicized, and women feel like they are being disrespected when a guy offers to do something gentlemanly. But from my experience, behaving like a gentleman is not at all about disrespecting women but actually for making little sacrifices for a woman to show her your respect. It’s small things like this that go a long way in a relationship, and it’s great practice for marriage, where life together is one small act of sacrifice after another. As women, the best way to respond when a man treats you well like this is to accept his generosity gracefully and thank him. There’s no need to make a big deal about it, but there’s also something nice about having your girl let you know that what you did is appreciated by saying thanks. And honestly, it’s a huge turn off to me if a girl doesn’t let me pay for dinner or something on a date. I guess it makes a girl seem insecure or something? There’s definitely a place for splitting the bill sometimes or helping out with other things, but if it’s a date, and he asked you, then he better pay the bill.

9. Remember that in all things, we will only be satisfied by God. Sometimes it seems like everything is falling down when friendships or a relationship is crumbling, but God alone fulfills our deepest desires. The best thing that you can do to ground yourself for the rest of your life, no matter what your vocation will be, is to have a deep relationship with God. God is our rock, our foundation. With that foundation, he will help transform you into the woman that you’re meant to be, so that you can be the best for everyone in your life. Break ups and falling outs happen, so make sure that you’re always keeping God first and then everyone else.

10. Let the man do the pursuing. It’s in our nature to want to pursue women, and it is a way of showing our dedication. I actually know a pretty good scientific reason why this is: men take forever to make a decision that women can make in seconds. One way that this trait is especially useful is in asking out someone on a date. For a guy, it can take a long time to decide whether or not to ask a girl out. For a girl, you can probably make a pretty good decision right away without needing any extra time to weigh your options. In addition, men pursuing allows women to be treated like they deserve to be as ladies, and weeds out the players from the men who are actually dedicated. Don’t be afraid to play a little hard to get to see if he truly wants to be dedicated to you. Do you really want a boy who you have to baby all the time or do you want a man who will stay with you through thick and thin?

Shout outs to Jason Evert, Mike, Ryann, and Lilly for helping me with some ideas for this!

Update: I wrote a post similar like this for men! Check out 10 Ways of Living as a Son of God.

Hope Through Brokenness

shattered-cup

For much of my life, I’ve found myself pretending to be perfect.

I care so much about what people think about me, where it bothers me when people don’t think that I’m (cool, fun, smart, nice, insert good thing here). It’s simply a part of the human (*after the fall*) condition: we are insecure about how we are perceived because we don’t completely trust that God and others love us and want what’s best for us.

So I have found myself putting on a face, faking that everything’s alright when it’s not. I’d imagine that everyone reading this can relate. Our world is pro at this, especially with social media like Facebook and Instagram: we put up our best, happiest pictures for the world to see. And then what happens? Everyone looks at those pictures from their bedroom all alone or something and gets jealous thinking that they’re a loser because they aren’t experiencing all of the crazy stuff that their friends are.

We have to remember that life has both good and bad moments, and that’s okay! Pretending that only good things happen is a false hope. Even optimism, as much as I love it, is a false philosophy if it isn’t based on reality. It’s okay to be sad for a while, it’s a regular human emotion that God gave us. Even Jesus cried when His friend Lazarus died! John 11:35. (He later raised Lazarus from the dead… haha goes to show how awesome being Jesus’ friend is… : )

In life we go through a boatload of stuff. Good and bad, happy and sad, exciting and depressing. What keeps you centered through it all? Is what keeps you centered going to constantly be there for you? Does it help both in good times and in bad?

What keeps me centered through all the bumps in the road is my faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is always there for us, even when it’s hard to just have faith in the first place. I love and appreciate the support of my family and friends, but they simply can’t be there for me in the most intimate ways that I need it. It’s one thing to calm someone who is crying. It’s a radically different thing to give peace to a soul. True intimacy not only allows us to share our bodies, as we are accustomed to thinking of it, but also our emotions, fears, hopes, dreams, struggles. If we are holding things back, then we are not being truly intimate (quick stereotypical Catholic thought: apply that to contraception.. (light bulbs, anyone?)). And only our God, who created each of us uniquely, can truly understand us and accept us completely as we are.

I remember a friend of mine making a statement to me a few weeks ago: “Chris, I’m not even sure if Christianity is relevant to me.”

You know, there are probably times when we are all tempted to think that. If everything is going well, if we seem to be in a good place and are living an exciting life, why would we want anything more? But if we come to realize that even in our greatest triumphs, our most ecstatic joys, there is still a part of us that is crying out for more. These moments are oh so familiar for those who are poor, spiritually broken, alone, needy, sick, and mourning. Our souls are longing in these moments for complete and total love. For security and fulfillment. Something that this world cannot give.

As for the relevance of Christianity: it is only as relevant as its God. And our Lord Jesus Christ, the bridegroom to each of our souls, is exactly what we need. We are like broken pots, busy trying to hide our imperfections from each other, afraid that someone might notice. We have two options. We can stay all by ourselves, continuing to try and live a lie of our own self-fulfillment, or we can call out to the master potter, who will hastily come to us, pick up each of our pieces, and put us back together good as new.

This Christmas marks the coming of Jesus Christ into the world to do just that. He came so that He can help us become the children of God that He created us to be. All that we need to do is call out, and He will be with us to help heal our brokenness.

Here’s a prayer that maybe you can join me in praying this Advent: Lord Jesus, I need you. I am broken and in need of your help to heal my body, soul, emotions, and all. Please come and heal my faith, help me to believe in and know you with great conviction. Give me a strong hope to get through the difficult times of life. Give me a strong love for the people in my life, especially those in need. Help me to see you in the poor, the suffering, the needy. Come into my life and renew me, make me your own creation. Amen. 

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

Jon’s Testimony: A Jew on the Path to Catholic Conversion

The following is a testimony by my friend Jon, who I got to know over the past year at Montclair State University.

Jon and I

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.

When I Called Out, You Answered

homeless

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.