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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

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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.

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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.**

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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.**

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Martina

Longhorns and Aggies *CAN* get along!

Recently I was asked by an online Catholic friend if I received a package yet. I hadn’t, so when I checked the mail after a long mail hold while we were visiting family in Virginia, I was excited to open the package and see what it was. To read more, find my entry at Austin Catholic New Media