Sunday, March 2, 2014

Joy vs. Happiness: why Christ is so much more filling than DQ Blizzards.

Have you ever thought about something once, and then it seems like that something comes up at least 46 times a day the following week? I hope so... or this is awkward... Anyway, that was me this week, thinking about the difference between joy and happiness. I'd never really thought about it much. I thought the two words were essentially interchangeable. But I've changed my mind about that, and here's why.

Dairy Queen Red Velvet Cake Blizzards. I don't know if you've ever had one, but if you haven't, you should probably hop in your car and head to DQ right now. (Just kidding, you should finish reading this first.) But for real, they're delicious. Every bite of vanilla ice cream with chunks of red velvet cake makes me so happy.

But unfortunately, after about 10 minutes, my Blizzard cup is empty. Lame. I'm happy for a little while longer, lingering on the thought of how stinkin' good that Blizzard was. But pretty soon, that happiness has passed, and I start looking for something else to fill that place of happiness — maybe it's a person, maybe it's reading a funny buzzfeed article about what type of sandwich I am, maybe it's watching another episode of Parks and Rec. Who knows. All that matters is that I'm constantly searching for something new to make me happy when the old happiness fades away or runs out.

That's what happiness is: something that makes us feel good for a short time. But before we know it, it's gone, and we're left with a feeling that we have to fill it's place with something better.

Now let's take a look at the other word I mentioned: joy. When have I experienced joy?

On Wednesday, at the Steve Moakler concert. He stood up on the stage with nothing but a mic and his guitar, singing one of his new songs called "Holiday at Sea," talking about how we just have no idea how spectacular Heaven is going to be. Hearing about and singing about what God has in store for us filled me with joy.

Last night, when I was in the chapel at St. Lawrence for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by about 100 of my best friends and people I'd never met. We were all there for the same reason — to adore our God, thank Him for the awesomeness He's put in our lives, and ask Him for his guidance. I just couldn't help but smile and be filled with joy.

What do both of these experiences have in common? In the beautiful words of Pope Francis, "All these instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ" (Evangelii Gaudium).

And the best part? After both of these experiences, I didn't feel like I had to go run and find something else to fill me up. That's because joy doesn't try to run away. It stays with us through anything and everything. It is always present. Just like Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we don't always feel that joy, but it's always there. Pope Francis says, "I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved."

Joy is always present, reminding us that we are loved by our amazing God. No matter how delicious those Red Velvet Blizzards are, the happiness they offer will NEVER compare to the lasting joy that Christ offers to us every single day in himself and the people he puts in our lives.

There is joy in your life. Never forget it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Life. It's beautiful.

LIFE. It's beautiful.

Every single day, through the little things, God whispers to us, "Look at that. That is how beautiful the gift of life is."

He puts those moments in my life every minute of every day:

When I held Sara's baby, Emily Gianna, for the first time last week. She fell asleep in my arms, made funny faces, and even pooped on me. A beautiful life.

When my little brother jumped on my back and begged for a piggy back ride into the kitchen, yelling, "Faster, faster!" A beautiful life.

When my dad got home late because his flight home from Chicago got delayed, and he dropped his work stuff and kissed my mom right when he walked in the door. A beautiful life.

When my roommate Chelsea brought back homemade cookies from Christmas break and passed them out around the house just to spread some joy on a Tuesday night. A beautiful life.

When dozens of middle school kiddos at St. John's are clapping and singing "Love Will Hold Us Together" at youth group. Beautiful lives.

Every single life is beautiful.

And that is exactly why 500,000+ pro-lifers are participating today in the March for Life in Washington, D.C., the largest pro-life event in the world.

On this day, January 22, in 1973, the Supreme Court invalidated 50 state laws and made abortion legal in the United States with Roe v. Wade. Did they not recognize the beauty of every life? Did they not understand our responsibility to protect the beauty of life? Now, almost 4,000 unborn babies are killed every single day in the US.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: "God, the Lord of Life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes" (CCC 2271).

Without protecting life, we don't have any of those beautiful moments that life bring — the adorable babies, the piggy back rides, the kisses, the cookies, the singing...

So what do we do? We pray. For the warriors who are marching in Washington, D.C. today to fulfill the "noble mission" of fighting for the unborn.  For the government officials who hold the power to overturn these laws, that they might recognize the beauty and sanctity of every human life. For every unborn baby, that they get the opportunity to live the amazing life God has planned for them.

Life is beautiful. Life is a gift. Life is worth protecting.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Live out Loud

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. Hardcore saint crush... He was handsome, he climbed mountains, he served the poorest of the poor, he rocked Catholicism like crazy even when his parents didn't approve, he was an adventurer and a jokester, and (best of all) his gaze will make your heart melt.  

Pier was the patron of St. Lawrence Koinonia 18 a few weeks ago, and he absolutely rocked my world. Literally rocked it, because he climbed mountains. Haha. I'm punny... 

One of Pier's most well-known quotes is "verso l'alto!" What in the world does that mean? It means "To the heights!" To the heights of what? LIFE. 

Life is way more fantastic when it's being lived to its highest potential. Live out loud. That's what Pier challenges us to do. 

It's pretty easy to live a chill, boring, comfortable life. But NO. Pier Giorgio says "Flee from every temptation to be mediocre." And Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us "This world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness." Sounds to me like there's nowhere to go but up. Because Pier also said "The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ." 

To the heights! That means we're constantly looking up — to our Lord for counsel and guidance, to the full potential He has planned for us, to the crazy beautiful life ahead, to the sainthood we're all called to. And the best part is that we're not climbing alone. But we're always climbing. 

Just like our Koinonia small group motto: "Sometimes we climb. Sometimes we fall. But we're always hangin' in there. It's the climb." (Insert Miley Cyrus voice singing "The Climb" here.) 

It's time to start living out loud. Verso l'alto! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

God, You got this one.

Trusting is something that's really hard to do sometimes.

There are some things that are easier than others when it comes to trusting. For example, it's relatively easy for me to trust that my handy-dandy phone alarm will wake me up at 8:17 every morning, playing "High of 75" by Relient K. I trust that. But it's a little harder to trust in areas regarding Vocations, vocations, picking colleges, choosing career paths and other major life decisions. Why is that? Because we're dealing with LIFE here — the big picture. Scary...

But here's the good news: The Big Man Upstairs is really good at planning out and the big picture. I mean, that's sort what He does, creating and planning and carrying out good in the universe. That's a huge job right there. But that's why God has that job, not you or me.

He's got it planned. We just need to ask Him for peace. We just need to tell Him, "God, You got this one. Your will be done." And He'll be on it like Nutella on a bagel.

I learned from Fr. Jim Sichko that It just takes TRUST:

Try it out

It makes sense, and it's not too hard at all! We've gotta give God some of our time to talk with Him. It's the least we can do considering all He does for us. When we spend time with Him, we start to build a relationship with Him — like a real friend. We then start to understand that He wants nothing less than the best for us, and that He'll help us be the best versions of ourselves if we surrender, and give the reigns over to him. So that's all stinkin' great and all, but we finally have to try it out, and actually make it happen.

Trying it out can happen in so many different ways. It might be praying the Morning Offering when you wake up everyday to tell God he has control of your day. It might be just telling him "This one's all You, God" before you make a tough decision. There are tons of ways to trust Him.

Our lives can be so much less stressful if we just let God do what He does best. It's hard sometimes, but it's so worth it.

God's got this one.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


I just got home from spending yet another fanfreakingtastic summer working at the greatest place on earth — Camp Tekakwitha.

This summer was unlike any other I've ever experienced. This summer I learned what it really means to keep the flame of faith alive. This summer I discovered how to really make my life count.

This world we live in tells us to be just like everybody else. It tells us to follow all society's fashion trends. It tells us we'll be cool if we buy a certain thing. It tells us to blend in. It tells us to be low impact human beings.

No thank you.

Christ calls us to live for something bigger. It tells us to leave our mark on this world. I know I don't want to go through life, leaving no trace that I was here. I want to live — REALLY LIVE — and change the world. I know, I know... It sounds kind of crazy. But it's what each and every one of us is called to do.

We're called to #makeitcount. We're called to be saints. We're called to live extraordinary lives. The crazy thing is that those extraordinary things don't have to be huge. We can do ORDINARY things with EXTRAORDINARY love.

When we look at our bucket lists, the first thing at the top should "TOMORROW." Day by day we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. It might be the small things: passing on a smile to the lonely kid at school, making your little brother or sister a PB&J sandwich for lunch when they're running late for school, or asking a friend to pray with you or over you.

Our world needs saints. It needs people who do the small things with big love. It needs people who want to be high impact and make a difference. It needs people who will go out of their comfort zone to make things happen. It needs people who are here to make their lives count.

So let's start right now. How about that? Let's do it.

Be high impact.
Be a saint.

Lord, we need you. Oh, we need you. Every hour we need you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fighting for SAINTHOOD

Every single one of us is called to be a saint. 

There. I said it. Because it's true. Let's practice saying it together. Right there, sitting in front of your computer or phone, say this with me. "LORD, I WANT TO BE A SAINT." You can repeat it if you want to. Maybe even turn it into a rap or something to sing over and over. Whatever fits your style. 

I constantly have to remind myself of this. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I get caught up in the craziness of this world. Sometimes I think I'm not good enough to be a saint. And sometimes I just wonder why in the world God would even want me to be a saint. 

But He does. 

Our amazing God wants all of us to be holy, just as he himself is holy. When we truly live out this holiness, when we imitate our Lord, and when we choose Him in every situation, we move closer to the sainthood we are all called to. 

God doesn't just suggest that we be saints. HE MADE US TO BE SAINTS. We are like Christ's army of saints in this world. This is spiritual warfare we're talking about here. Our Lord needs his troops to assemble and prepare. 

Mother Teresa puts it best: "The church needs fighters today. The church of God needs saints today." Not tomorrow. Not in 12 days. Not next January. Today. Because as Mark Hart once said, "Putting off holiness until tomorrow means the devil has won today." 

So Christ is commissioning us — you and me — to fight for him in his army. We've gotta step up to the front lines. But here's the real question... how in the world do we actually do that? 

-Standing up for the our faith when other students, professors, or anyone are talking falsely about the Church.

-Loving our family and those closest to us. Be present. Be patient. Radiate joy. 

-Singing at mass. Loud and proud, my friends. The Big Man can hear it upstairs. 

-Filling up our lives with Christ. Through prayer, spiritual direction, adoration, Mass, etc. 

-Loving EVERYONE. 

Christ is calling each of us to step up to the front lines. He's calling each of us to be saints. And the best way for us to do that is to be ourselves. Be unique. Be genuine. And be perfectly ourselves. 

Because the saints are just like us. Ordinary people. I was reading a book by Mother Teresa today, and the end describes her life a little bit. It said that she went to a public school. She attended catechism classes to learn more. And she had a special interest in reading about the lives of saints... I thought to myself... "That sounds just like me!" And there's a saint out there who's just like you too. Saints are just like us — Ordinary people who live extraordinary lives. 

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's time to RUN A PLAY

"It's time for us to break from the huddle and actually run a play." — Fr. Mitchel Zimmerman

You might be wondering why in the world Fr. Mitch and I were talking about football. But the truth is, we weren't talking about football at all. We were talking about this thing called EVANGELIZATION. 

On Good Friday, St. Lawrence put on the Stations of the Cross on campus. Acting out the stations from Spooner Hall all the way to the crucifixion on Wescoe Beach definitely got some attention. Some people joined our walk as we passed by, others stopped to take pictures, some asked us what in the world we were doing, and some people just stopped and stared. It was crazy awesome.

So after we did stations on campus, a few of us had an awesome talk with Fr. Mitch about how us Catholics are really good Catholics at the St. Lawrence Center and places where faith is in the air, but we do a pretty crappy job of bringing Jesus out of those St. Lawrence walls, onto campus, and ino the world. There are SO many people who are right outside of our little "Catholic bubble" and want to get in. It's our job to find those people and welcome them, guide them, and bring them in.

That's when Fr. Mitchel said that "We need to break from the huddle and actually run a play." He means that we've had our little huddle, we know what we need to do to spread Christ's love, but now it's time that we actually run that play and go out and do it.

Sister Clara said it in an amazing way too. She says that we're call to "Live on the edge" — meaning that we should always be seeking out those people who are just on the outside of that "Catholic bubble." We should always be looking to pull them in, to explain the faith to them if they have questions or misunderstandings, to invite them to hang out with us, to let them know what's going on at St. Lawrence or around our parish, to let them know that they are always welcome because Christ thirsts for their love just as much as he thirsts for ours. 

Check out this passage from Luke 10: "Jesus said to them, 'The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few, so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.'" 

You and me. He is sending us. He's trying to clue us into the fact that there's so much potential good out there inside people, but no one is there to plant that seed and make it happen. That needs to be us. That seed could be an invitation to come to St. Lawrence, a smile or nice greeting toward someone who's having a bad day, a conversation about Christ, or simply letting someone know that you're praying for them. 

Christ needs us to be those laborers going out to the harvest. And sometimes it might feel like we're the "lambs among wolves," but Christ is always there with us. He wouldn't send us out there without preparing us and watching over us. So now is our time. 

Let's go out and be laborers of the harvest.
Let's live on the edge.
Let's break from the huddle and actually run a play.