Categories
Faith Formation FOCUS Guest Posts Sisterhood Vocations

Sisters of Life Liven Up Texas

Have you ever experienced heaven on earth? Sometimes it’s in a little white host, sometimes it’s in the face of the homeless man on the street, sometimes it’s in a young child’s smile. For our UT students this week, heaven was in a blue and white habit.

The first time I heard about the Sisters of Life it was through this MTV feature story. Awesome, huh? Then, a couple of my friends from college went to visit the order in New York City and discern with them. And when I became a FOCUS missionary, we were delighted to have a couple of sisters stay with us for several weeks during our summer training. I’ll always remember how the sisters played soccer and volleyball in their habits, in the 90 degree heat, with such joy.

When my teammate Sam told me that Sr. Antoniana, Sr. Bethany and Sr. Benedicta were passing through Austin on a tour of Texas campuses, I knew that students had to meet these lovely women. And not only did our Catholic students need to meet them, the UT campus needed to experience them as well. So, we organized a picnic after Daily Mass outside of our Student Activities Center (pictured below).

As they stepped into our Catholic student center, the students buzzed with excitement to finally meet the sisters they had heard so much about. Their witness sitting in Mass was stirring, and as we walked across campus, I couldn’t help but love the curious looks we got from students. We gathered in a shady area outside one of the busiest buildings on campus and listened to the sisters tell us about their apostolate and every day life.

Sr. Benedicta, Sr. Antoniana and Sr. Bethany with the student of the pro-life group on campus.
The Sisters of Life speak to 30 students on campus about their apostolate, every day life and vocation stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you don’t know much about the Sisters of Life, their charism is “to lay down their lives that others may live.” They provide assistance to pregnant women, invite those who have suffered abortion into healing and educate on the dignity of human life. Sr. Benedicta commented on their most frequently asked question: “A lot of people ask us if we hold a lot of babies. But we want mothers to hold the babies. And we hold the mothers.”

I’m always amazed with what gentleness and sincerity they speak of their guests and the young people with which they work. John Cardinal O’Connor, the founder of the Sisters of Life, said the image of the Visitation is the very image of the sisters. They, bearing Christ within them, bring the light of life to expecting mothers, that the babies may leap with joy as did John the Baptist.

These women are great defenders of life, and we can all learn from them. As we begin our 40 Days of Prayer for Unity of All Women, Born and Unborn, let’s be sure to pray for their apostolate and the growth and health of their order. Let us pray and defend life unceasingly and without reserve.

Categories
Confession Faith Formation FOCUS Guest Posts Sacraments

Have you seen your doctor lately?

OK, public confession: I hate going to the doctor. I think it’s a waste of time and money. Sitting on the awkward paper-covered table and staring at the glass containers filled with cotton balls and oversized popsicle sticks is almost unbearable. And now that I’m older, I don’t even get a lollipop. Truthfully, the thing I hate the most is admitting there’s something wrong with me.

Now, I have a feeling that I’m not alone in this. In fact, I’m sure of it. And unfortunately, the same goes for confession. Although, many people who regularly see their doctor still don’t practice the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

I know. It’s scary. Having to go through a lengthy examination of conscience and listing your failings is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Standing in line for what seems like forever just gives more parishioners the opportunity to see that you’re a sinner. Or maybe you’re positive Father will remember each of your sins and look at you knowingly at the next parish council meeting.

Whatever excuse we use to keep us away from confession, I can assure you, the devil is quite happy. He doesn’t want us to receive grace, and he certainly doesn’t want us to reject him.

Our Lord, the divine physician, is the only one who can heal our wounds and take away our sins. But even though He knows all, we have to reveal to him our symptoms. Because in the same way that an illness keeps us from being energetic and healthy, past and habitual sin keeps us from a deep, intimate relationship with Him. Unlike physical wounds, which can affect us forever, in Reconciliation, the stain of sin from our souls is removed as if it never happened.

“But I don’t need to go see a doctor. I have Google and WebMD and that guy at the health food store to fix what’s wrong with me.” Well, that MIGHT work in the physical life, but it won’t in the spiritual life. Only talking to God about the things we’ve done wrong just isn’t the same as overcoming fear and pride and coming face to face with our sin in the confessional. Besides showering abundant graces, confession stretches us, humbles us and gives us a greater capacity to love. Only then can we be saints.

So, if you haven’t yet experienced the mercy of Reconciliation this Lenten season, please go. It’s time to see a doctor.

Categories
Abortion Current Events FOCUS Guest Posts HHS mandate I have a say campaign NFP and contraceptives Respect Life

Another article about contraception? (Well, one more couldn’t hurt.)

I promise, this isn’t about the HHS Mandate. Not directly, anyway.

You’ve read/heard/seen plenty of explanations as to why it is a violation of our religious freedom, how it will snowball into storm of future oppressions, how your voice can be heard through petitions, voting, calling your elected official and just about everything else you could possibly want to know about the matter.

Don’t get me wrong. This is all very, very important. I mean, this is a girl who carries around a pocket-sized Constitution, checks Associated Press updates on her Blackberry and has one (or ten) too many articles posted on her Facebook wall.

And for weeks after our proposed exemption was denied, all I could think about was the injustice carried out by the federal government, the inspiring words of Cardinal Dolan and which presidential candidate might fix all these problems. I seemed to have forgotten that the root of these problems was right in front of me.

That was until a call from my teammate brought me back to a harsh reality. He told me students representing the University Health Services (UHS) were passing out condoms in front of the student union. That’s right. I work on a college campus, where contraception is wildly available and often times even free for students. But why? Why is the university giving away condoms to one and all? When a student asked, he was told the initiative was to “uphold the academic integrity” of the student body.

The next week, we found out Planned Parenthood was hosting a “Birth Control Matters” rally in front of the LBJ Library on campus. Cecile Richards, PP President, delivered a determined address, stating that this rally, organized by several student groups, was held in direct response to resistance to the mandate. Really, I wasn’t interested in what Richards had to say (except when she talked about the various phone conversations shared between her and President Obama). But listening to students stand and defend the very thing that is hurting them was something else.

And last night, in one of my Bible studies, a student told me that because it is “Love Your Body Week” on campus, UHS is passing out water bottles filled with sunscreen, granola bars and you guessed it, condoms. I couldn’t even work up a good, righteous anger rant (i.e. “How do condoms help love your body?” or “Are you kidding me?”) at this point.

Because you see, in the course of these events, the whole contraception thing became supremely real. It’s never just been about what’s right or wrong, legislation, paper-thin arguments or a violation of our rights. It’s always been about real people, real immortal souls. I’ll never forget the conversation I had with two young men giving away condoms wrapped up to look like flowers on Valentine’s day (one was a fallen-away Catholic, one just hated us). Or the sweet young woman I talked to at the birth control rally who grew up in a good Catholic family, but chooses a “different lifestyle” from her parents. Or the thousands of college students on this campus who are told they have limitless control of their bodies, academic responsibility includes “safe” sex and that sexual activity is not only expected of them but also encouraged.

With every condom passed out on campus, with every student I meet that swears by the pill, with every Catholic who openly renounces Catholicism, my heart breaks. Sometimes I find myself overcome with sorrow for those souls, and I think to myself, “If my poor, little human heart can be burdened with this much sadness, how must our Lord’s be, after so many afflictions?” Yet He remains, waiting for us to come back.

So, here’s a question I ask myself, I ask my students and I ask you now: are you willing to let God use you to change a heart today?

Will you step outside of yourself to reach a person who really needs it? Will you sacrifice being “right” to simply love as He loves? Instead of reading another HHS article that says something you already know, will you talk to someone about the dignity and sacredness of their sexuality? Let us together beg for the Lord to use us this day and everyday, that we may see the awesome, transformative power of His love.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

My teammate and I wrote a Bible study on contraception for all studies at UT. Click on the link below to read about it.

Contraception Bible Study

Categories
Apologetics Evangelization Faith Formation FOCUS Guest Posts

Longhorns Lovin’ the Lord (an update on FOCUS at the University of Texas-Austin)

First of all, please forgive my completely cheesy, alliterated title.
But you have to admit; it’s just too perfect.

If you’ve been following my posts since I started writing for Catholic Sistas, you learned why I became a full-time Catholic missionary, read some of my thoughts on giving thanks and last month, had a few things to ponder.

This month, I am so happy to share with you some of the truly remarkable things the Lord has done this semester at the University of Texas.

It would be pretty easy for me to spat out a bunch of numbers to tell you of our success. In fact, I guess I will. After our first semester on campus, we had 14 weekly Bible studies, 8 student leaders and over 100 students involved in some way. These numbers could say a lot, especially when you consider there were only 2 missionaries on campus starting a first year program, but they really can’t say enough.

When my teammate Jimmy and I walked into this year, we didn’t quite know what to expect, other than, ya know, normal missionary stuff: blessings, challenges, spiritual warfare, students who need Jesus. All we could do (and did do) was pray, offer sacrifice and trust that God was going to lead us to the right students. Our plan was to invest deeply in key students who would be mentored, grow in their relationship with Jesus and be prepared to start studies and mentorship in the Spring semester. Our goals were to END the school year with 8 Bible studies and 6 student leaders.

Well, obviously, God blew our plans/goals/expectations out of the water. What we found at the University Catholic Center at UT were students who were hungry for knowledge and so willing to step up in leadership. We found even more students who were interested in joining a small group. So many, in fact, that Jimmy and I each led 4 studies and 6 students started studies of their own. Through one-on-one mentorship, or discipleship, we’ve challenged these leaders to grow deeper in their relationship with our Lord, learn how to study Scripture and give their lives for mission. In short, we want them to be mini-missionaries. We love being replaceable.

This is what the New Evangelization is all about: loving our Lord so much we desire to make Him known. Not only do we desire it, we actively seek opportunities to share life in Christ with others. We want these students to be saints, to have a deep thirst for our Lord and a great zeal for souls. That is the way a culture changes. That is the way we live for Christ.

Here is a homily from Father Mike Schmitz at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, another FOCUS campus. He does a great job communicating what it really means to be a disciple or “disciple-maker,” and is extremely inspiring in his message. It’s geared toward college students, but the message is applicable to anyone who wants to be a saint.

We’ve welcomed 2 new missionaries to our team this semester, and we’re asking God for big things! Do YOU want to be a part of this? Because you can be, through prayer and financial sacrifice. I’d love nothing more than to share all of our joys and spiritual fruit with you all the time and to see your sacrifice transform into great things.

Please contact me with any questions, comments, etc.

Categories
Faith Formation FOCUS Guest Posts Mary Prayer

“And Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart…”

To ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; to meditate.

Whatever happened to pondering, anyway?

Now, we do a whole lot of thinking, planning, worrying, doing, procrastinating, scurrying and relaxing. Even our quiet time (if we happen to get some in our day!) is filled with racing thoughts about what has happened, what could or should be happening and what’s going to happen later. We, especially as women, can drive ourselves absolutely crazy with THOUGHTS.

On campus, we ask our student leaders to join us for a morning Holy Hour everyday. There are some shared prayers, but most of the time is spent in silence with the Lord. He is present right before us, and for a brief time, He has us all to Himself. To teach us, to talk to us, to love us. Taking this time everyday to meditate with our Lord has made a huge difference in my spiritual life, and I know for our students, it changed lives.

How much difference would it make in your life?

I just love the Blessed Mother. She’s so ready to give her abundant special graces when her children ask her. And one thing she’s particularly good at as Scripture tells us (Luke 2:19) is pondering the goodness of the Lord, the great things He has done, how much He loves.

Let us ask our Queen to help us ponder. Let’s take a moment to walk away from shopping, wrapping, cooking, stressing. Let go of the Martha in you and embrace the Mary (Luke 10:38-42). Let us dote on the new born babe, whom we hold in our arms and show to the world. Let us ponder.

In fact, here’s a poem from G.K. Chesterton to help:

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down