Apologetics Evangelization Faith Formation FOCUS Guest Posts Saints

Give Thanks, Give Your Life

It’s November! And while the air is filled with the smell of pumpkin spice, falling leaves and pigskin footballs, we, along with our family and friends, are drawn to the one day a year Americans collectively reflect on all for which we are thankful. We, as Catholics, are called to give thanks every Sunday at Mass. After all, the word “Eucharist” has a Greek root, which means thanksgiving.

So, we should count our blessings, be long in thanksgiving, have an attitude of gratitude and give thanks to the Lord for He is good (His steadfast love endures forever). But saying “Thank You, Lord,” while good and necessary, is not enough. How we really show our gratitude for God’s generosity is to have truly generous hearts. We all have received abundant gifts and blessings, but what do we do with them? Are we using them for ourselves or for our Lord?

In my experience working with college students and being a college student (it wasn’t TOO long ago), I find that one virtue absolutely worth exploring is magnanimity. A little less well known than the virtues of faith, hope and love, magnanimity means the reaching out of the soul to great things. “Magnanimity,” St. Thomas explains, “makes a man deem himself worthy of great honors in consideration of the Divine gifts he possesses.” I can’t help but recognize our Mother Mary at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke as the perfect example of this virtue. “The Lord has done great things for me, and Holy is His name,” Mary proclaims. She also said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” ready to do whatever He asks of her, ready to magnify His goodness with her soul.

The college culture suffers from a myriad of lust and sexual sin, a desire for gaining the most wealth with minimal effort, mindlessly following trends and a general sense of mediocrity and comfort. But we are not made for comfort, Blessed John Paul II tells us, we are made for greatness.

You are made for great things! Really great things, like committing yourself to a chaste relationship with your boyfriend, talking to a classmate/coworker about the Gospel or even leading a Bible study made up of your peers. At first, these undertakings and many like them seem nearly impossible, but I’m constantly amazed by the students who accept the challenges our Lord sets before them. With the whole world against them, they, like Mary, desire to tell of the greatness of God with their lives.

It’s not easy being this generous with our lives. “The soul may not have the strength to achieve these things at once, but if it takes its flight it can make good progress, though like a little unfledged bird, it is apt to grow tired and stop.” What is St. Teresa of Avila trying to tell us? We have to work to attain virtue, but must have the courage to “take flight.” We cannot give into pusillanimity, or faintheartedness. True, without Him, we are nothing and can do nothing. But with Him, as St. Paul reminds us, we can do ALL things…great things.

What is He asking you to do?

**Lauren Garcia is a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at the University of Texas at Austin. A 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Lauren is a native of College Station, Texas. She loves reading, music and coffee. Visit her personal blog here.**

Apologetics Evangelization Faith Formation FOCUS Guest Posts

A Call to Mission

Howdy, Catholic Sistas readers. Lauren Garcia, here, a FOCUS Missionary at the University of Texas-Austin. I’m so happy to be contributing to this lovely blog. Finding community is essential in the life of a Christian and to use the Internet as a means to that is awesome. I look forward to sharing stories from campus, bringing to light issues young women face and pouring out my love for our most beautiful Faith. But today, I want to talk to you about FOCUS and why I am where I am.

FOCUS is the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. Over 13 years ago, Curtis Martin founded the organization in response to the New Evangelization, a call for all of us to fulfill the Great Commission in all walks of life. We choose to serve on college campuses because it’s the place where students are most influenced, where they will make decisions that will effect the rest of their lives, where our future leaders, parents, teachers are receiving formation and information that will change the world, for better or worse. We hope and pray for the better. If I had to say what we do in a few words, I’d give you our motto, “Launching college students into lifelong Catholic mission.” But what does that mean? And what exactly does it look like?

It’s simple, really. I share love. I share life. I strive to preach the Gospel with my life and invite students into that fullness of life our Lord calls us to. If they’re convicted by the love of Jesus to share it with others while they’re in college and for the rest of their lives, I’ve done my job. Or at least, I’ve let God use me as an instrument to help ignite that conviction.

While I was a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I immediately got involved with FOCUS and started leading my own study by my sophomore year. I was formed well, taught about evangelization and sought opportunities to share my faith with my peers. But I don’t think I realized the real burden to “make disciples of all nations” until my senior year, when I was deciding among various graduate schools and serving as a FOCUS missionary. I knew I could start Bible studies and invest in women while in graduate school, so why do I have to be a missionary? So many things about being a missionary scared me: fundraising my whole salary, being sent somewhere I didn’t want to go, giving my whole life and setting back all my plans. And those things I was scared of just gave God the opportunity to ask, “Do you really trust me? Do you really want to make me known?” The answer to both had to be yes.

And here I am, after only a year of serving on FOCUS staff, starting a brand new program at the University of Texas. As a Texas native, I have been praying for FOCUS to go to UT ever since I knew what FOCUS was. And God blessed us this year with the opportunity to come to this influential campus and change lives! Praise Him.

Want to learn more or get involved?

Here’s my personal blog.
Here’s the FOCUS Web site and my fund page.
And here’s why we call ourselves missionaries.

**Lauren Garcia is a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at the University of Texas at Austin. A 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska, Lauren is a native of College Station, Texas. She loves reading, music and coffee. Visit her personal blog here.**