Friday, December 28, 2012


Last weekend at Mass, the Gospel reading told the story of Mary's visit to Elizabeth and Zechariah. Our priest Fr. Bill gave a rockin' homily last weekend about this reading. Of all the things that he mentioned, here's what stuck with me the most: zeal and zest. Two little words that mean so much (and they're pretty fun words to say, I might add).

Fr. Bill was referring to Mary's actions when he used these words. The Gospel reading said that Mary set out and traveled "in haste" to go see her cousin Elizabeth. She didn't just take her sweet time, she didn't stop every 10 minutes to rest, she didn't waste a second. She went out in haste. Mary knows her purpose. She knows what she's gotta do, and she does it.

That's where this idea of zeal comes from. Zeal means "fervent or enthusiastic devotion" (thank you, Mary was definitely enthusiastic in her journeying to the house of Zechariah. Upon her arrival, Elizabeth's baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. It is Mary's zeal that bears the Holy Spirit.

This is what we are all called to: living with a zeal for joy, a zeal for souls, and a zeal for spreading the good news of Christ. Because when it comes down to it, our job is to get those around us to Heaven. Living authentic, dynamic, zealous lives is the only way we can make that happen.

So what about that other word I mentioned — zest? Fr. Bill, in his spiel about zeal, he mentioned the word zest. I don't entirely remember how that word related, or if he even meant to say it. But I liked it. I liked it a lot.

I don't know about you, but when I think of the word zest, I think of that zesty sauce from Burger King. (And I wonder why my brain jumps around so much when I'm trying to pay attention to the homilies every week...) While this might seem completely ridiculous, I think there's a connection here.

If you've ever tried that zesty sauce from Burger King, you'd know that it has a little zing to it. It's a little spicy — that kind of spicy that makes you raise your eyebrows after your first bite. And THAT is the kind of Catholics and people we should all strive to be. We want to be the kind of people who aren't just mild or boring like ketchup or mustard, but the kind of people who are full of energy and add some spice to life. We don't want to be the kind of people who just go with the flow, we should want to shake things up, change the societal norms, and stand out from the rest (after all, the word holy means "to be set apart").

And that's where zest and zeal come together. We just need to realize what God is calling us to do (big or small) and go after it with enthusiasm, not just go with the flow, but stand out, and make life happen. We're all called to be saints, and we've gotta start somewhere. So let's do this. Let's throw some zeal and some zest into every day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


It's official. Pope Benedict XVI has entered the world of Twitter. And it couldn't have come at a better time. 

Yesterday, Monday Dec. 3, the pope's twitter was created, and within hours, he had more than 250,000 follows. Talk about popularity. Benedict is expected to post his first tweet at a general audience at the Vatican on Dec. 12. He is now accepting questions about matters of the faith using the hashtag #askpontifex, and he plans to use the Twitter account to answer these questions. 

If you ask me, this is pure genius. 

It's no secret that our society is becoming more and more focused on the media. And we've heard story after story about how technology is pulling people, especially the youth, away from their faith. But it doesn't have to be that way.

When Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media sites are used with purpose, they can, in fact, bring us closer to Christ and help us learn more about Him. And in all honesty, it is one of the most important ways to reach out to the youth of the Church today. Pope Benedict's smart move of joining Twitter has the potential to draw a great number of people into the Church and introduce them to the love that Christ has for them.

Blessed John Paul II put it best: "The question confronting the Church today is not any longer whether the man in the street can grasp a religious message, but how to employ the communications MEDIA so as to let him have the full impact of the GOSPEL MESSAGE." 

What do we learn from this? That today's media has the potential to be the most effective tool is spreading Christ's message. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and all the other social media sites are here, and I don't think they're going anywhere any time soon. So since we've got them, we should use them. We have the ability to harness the media to reach unfathomable amounts of people. 

Papa Benny is doing it with his Twitter account.

Let's follow his lead. 

Social media, watch out. Catholicism is about to rock the world.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gotta Have HOPE

On Saturday, November 24th, Dr. Michael J. Feder entered the beautiful kingdom of Heaven. There's no doubt in my mind that he's up there doing cartwheels, playing soccer, and hanging with all his new best friends — Jesus and all those extraordinary saints. He lived an amazing life down here, but he's truly livin' it up up there.

The phrase we've all been using during Coach Feder's fight against cancer is "Gotta Have HOPE." It's on bracelets, it's the name of the nonprofit organization the Feders founded, it's been hashtagged a gazillion times on Twitter, and I'm sure it's been doodled on quite a few notebooks, as well.

In a class at St. Lawrence on Sunday night, John-Mark Miravalle said something that will stick with me forever: "Hope says, 'The best is yet to come.'" This means that we didn't lose hope when Coach Feder passed away... That was when we had the most hope — hope that we are made for more than this life, hope that Coach Feder would be joining John Paul II and all the other saints up in heaven, hope that our true home isn't here.

When I talked to Annelise on the phone tonight, she put it perfectly: "It's a reminder that we weren't made for this world. We were made for our home in heaven." We will ALWAYS have hope because we know that Coach is now up spending eternity with the Big Man, having the best 50th birthday party of all time in heaven.

Without hope, we can do absolutely nothing. Without hope, we can't truly live. Without hope, we live in fear. John Paul II tells us, "Do no be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity." Hope is what allows us to break free from that mediocrity of this world. We have to hope and act. One of the greatest things Coach Feder ever taught me is this: "You'll miss 100% of the shots you don't take." This means that we've gotta have hope and act on that hope, or else we'll get nowhere in life. Coach Feder is a fantastic example of a genuine man who lived out the virtue of hope. And now that he's up in heaven, we can pray through his intercession so he can help us increase this virtue in our own lives.

I know for a fact that we will never ever ever forget Coach Feder and the life lessons he taught us. Because FEDstrong isn't just for this earth, and Coach didn't lose his battle. FEDstrong is FOREVER because we know that he'll spend forever in the VICTORY of heaven with our Lord.

Mike Feder, pray for us.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The End vs CARPE DIEM: Jesus' apocalyptic stories

Yesterday at Mass, we heard the Gospel about the end times coming. But when?? Well, that part we don't know.."But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mark 13:32) 

Jesus doesn’t give us apocalyptic stories to scare us. He also doesn't tell them to us so that we spend our time trying to predict when He’s coming back… He tells us these stories so that we live everyday to be the person that we've always wanted to be. 

Fr. Mitch celebrated the 9 pm mass that I went to at St. Lawrence last night. His homily really hit me: When Jesus goes apocalyptic, He is not just forwarding the apocalyptic story. He is fulfilling the story.  Jesus is the apocalypse.  He is the unveiling of all things as they really are... There is a point of no return for each one of us, a point where we either become the person we always wanted to become or we don't.”

In Jesus Christ, we are able to see ourselves how we REALLY are. And there is that point of no return. When we've done what we've done, and that's that. 

You know those things in life where we always say, "Yes. I'm totally doing this! ... tomorrow." What if there was no tomorrow? What if today was it? What would you do today? 

Carpe Diem. It means "seize the day." It's the idea that “Hey, TODAY is the day. Not tomorrow. Not two and a half weeks. Not 7 months. TODAY.” And finally getting down to actually becoming the person you’ve always wanted to be. As Pope John Paul II said it: "The future starts today, not tomorrow."

Today is your day. 
If you need to forgive someone, do it.
If you need to call someone and tell them you love them, do it.
If you need to reach out to someone to repair are fading friendship, do it. 
It's all up to you. 

Bob Goff, author of Love Does, put it perfectly: "Each of us gets to decide every time whether to lean in or step back—to say yes, ignore it, or tell God why he has the wrong person." God definitely doesn't have the wrong person... He wants you. He wants you and I to be the people that he created us to be. To say yes and become the person that we've always wanted to be. 

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” –St. Catherine of Siena. Let’s freaking set this world ABLAZE. Can you imagine how awesome it would be if Christ came back here to a flaming earth (in a good way!). If every single person here accepted the mission given to them by Christ, He would come back and this place would be like a huge Easy Bake oven that went up in flames…

So, hey, we’re here. Let's live everyday like it could be our last, and become the people that we've always wanted to be. 

Carpe Diem. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The CHURCH is home.

According to the Weather app on my phone, this morning it was 19 degrees. Awesome. So I was freezing my face off walking back from class, and decided to stop in at St. Lawrence for some prayer time before the rest of my day. I take a step into the chapel, and I instantly start to warm up. My ears are no longer frost-bitten. I forget about all the problems, all the drama, all the stress outside those doors. 

So that got me thinking about how stinkin' awesome our Catholic Church is. It's ALWAYS here for us when we need to escape the craziness, pressure, drama, and lamesauce of the outside world. Jesus offers us peace, warmth (literally when it's FREEZING outside), love, comfort, hope, and a place to call HOME. 

So maybe you're feeling a little down or a little stressed. Maybe just take a couple minutes and go find a chapel to sit in and pray. Super chill. Then you can take that peace you find in the Catholic Church back out into the crazy world we live in. 


The Church is always open. There's always a place to call home. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

KOINONIA — Just Do It.

Last weekend, I had the amazing opportunity of going on the Koinonia retreat through the St. Lawrence Center at KU. For weeks I had been getting calls from people at St. Lawrence, telling me how stinkin' great it was and how I just HAD to go. So I figured, "what the heck, why not?" And since Koinonia means "community" in Greek, I figured I'd make quite a few new friends form the SLC community, and I mean, who doesn't like making new friends??

So I can't say too much about the retreat or I'll blow all the surprises (and trust me, it'll be way more exciting if you go on SLK17 and don't know the surprises). What I will tell you is that the weekend is full of great talks, prayer time, sacraments, deepening your faith, lots of laughter, singing, dancing, feelin' 22, and so many new friends that you'll spend hours after the retreat trying to friend them all on Facebook. It's pretty fantastic.

The coolest thing that I've noticed about going on retreats is that everybody gets something different out of them. God plans out those retreats like a champ. Everyone is there for a reason. Everyone takes something away from the weekend that might be different from anyone else. Everyone experiences Christ's love in a different way.

Here's what I took away from the amazing Koinonia weekend: That Taylor Swift's music isn't actually that bad... Kidding. This is true, but I took away something a little more deep from the weekend, also. :)

You know that Nike slogan, "Just do it"? THAT is the message that I got from this weekend. After numerous talks from the SLK16 team, God started connecting some things in my head and in my heart that made me realize what I need to do to step up my faith life. And that is that I can't just be a "lukewarm" Catholic. I can't make excuses for not praying, for not showing love to every person I come in contact with, for not putting everything I've got into my faith life.

At some point on SLK16, someone said something along the lines of "YOU are the only thing holding you back from becoming a saint." That definitely hit me. Trying to blame the lukewarmness of my faith on stress, schoolwork, other people, or anything else isn't even worth it because, in the end, it is ME who holding myself back.

Christ is right there. Watching. Waiting. Wanting me to INVITE Him into my life. I can say that I don't have time, that I'm too busy... But He became human to die for me... I think I can give up a few minutes a day to talk with him. This might be a morning where I just want to hit the snooze button one more time, but instead I get up to say Morning Prayer before class. It's the little things. I've gotta just do it.

So if you're thinking about going on SLK17 in the Spring, I STRONGLY encourage you to do so. Christ has an amazing experience and an unique message waiting for YOU.

Invite Him in.


St. Padre Pio, pray for us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

GIVEN UP FOR YOU: Every single day

Tonight at Praise and Worship Adoration night at St Lawrence at KU, we sang this amazing song called "The Stand." There's this part of the song where it says "You stood before MY failures, and carried the cross for MY shame. MY sin weighed upon your shoulders. My soul now to stand." Just think about that for a sec. CHRIST suffered for YOU and ME. When He was up on that cross, what was on His mind? You and me. Crazy.

But here's the craziest part: The death and resurrection of Christ happens EVERY SINGLE DAY in the Eucharist at Mass. So every single day He's thinking of you and me, and giving up His life for OUR failure, shame, and sin. Everyday. 

Once I thought of that, I was thinking... Wow, He does all that for us every single day? So that means that every single day, He should be on our minds, and we should make an effort to praise Him. Yeah, there are days when life seems like it sucks, but Christ is still carrying us on those days, too.

He didn't just suffer for us once, he does it all the time in the Mass. So our constant gift of ourselves to Him can't just be a one-time thing either. We can't just have a cool conversion of heart on Kairos, TEC, Koinonia, at Camp Tekakwitha, Steubenville, etc. and think that that's good enough. We've gotta live out that change of heart every single day, just like Jesus does for us. :)

If you remember one thing from all of this, just remember: Christ shows his love for us every single day, so the least we can do is make an effort everyday to show our love for Him and those around us. 

"The Stand" by Hillsong

You stood before creation
Eternity in your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand

You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon your shoulders
My soul now to stand

So what could I say?
And what could I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you

So I'll walk upon salvation
Your spirit alive in me
This life to declare your promise
My soul now to stand

So what could I say?
And what could I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you

I'll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I'll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Guardian Angels: Better than any other security guards

I was just on, reading a pretty stinkin' great blog by Mark Hart about Guardian Angels. And since today (Oct. 2) is the Catholic Church's Feast Day in honor of Guardian Angels, I totally got to thinking... What does my guardian angel look like? What does he do for me? 

So from that point, my mind went into small-child imagination mode. And here are a few characteristics I've come up with for the angel who's always got my back:

1. Football pads —I like to think that my guardian angel is like my crazy awesome protector, sent down from God. So it makes sense to me for him to have some serious armor for all that business. "Therefore, put on the armor of GOd, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground" (Ephesians 6:13). Football pads seems like the perfect answer. Lookin' legit and holding down the fort.

2. Rainbow-colored wings (and lots of them) — All angels should have wings, right? So why not have tons of them and make them colorful? Remember that show Dragon Tales from back in the day? I've gotta give them props for their colorful wings. And as for how many wings... The more the merrier. "How precious is your love, O God! We take refuge in the shadow of your wings" (Psalm 36:8). I'm thinking that more wings means more shelter. Yes, please.

3. A shield like Captain America's — I'm picturing a sweet shield that blocks out ANYTHING. A shield that relies on the power of God. A shield of FAITH. "In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one" (Ephesians 6:16). But instead of a big star in the middle of the shield, he'll have a huge Kairos cross on his. My guardian angel is a champ.

4. A Rosary — Finally, I was thinking about all the crazy weapons he could have to fight off anybody who tries to come at me... I'd thought of swords, baseball bats, nun chucks, and all of those things... But I don't want to underestimate the power of prayer here. Instead of attacking my enemies, my guardian angel can "kill 'em with kindness." The Rosary is the perfect weapon. It calls upon our Heavenly Mother, who NEVER loses a fight. As we hear in The Memorare, "Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy PROTECTION, implored thy HELP, or sought thine INTERCESSION was left unaided." Mary can totally help my guardian angel show people who's boss. The Rosary packs a powerful punch.

So how do you picture your guardian angel?

However it is, just know that he or she ALWAYS has your back, and is ALWAYS protecting you and helping you carry out the will of God.

Guardian Angels, PRAY FOR US.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Judgement. It's rough.

It’s official — I’ve been a college student for three full weeks. It might seem like a short time, but in those three weeks, I was exposed to more than I ever had been in my previous 18 ½ years on this planet. Partying. Drama. All the stereotypical college-life stuff you would expect.

But not participating in these shenanigans wasn’t the hard part — I’ve made some amazing friends at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center who love to have fun in unique, hilarious ways like playing sand volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, or going to Dairy Queen. So avoiding the craziness of the college life isn’t extremely difficult. Where things get tough is fighting the temptation to judge people who don’t make the best decisions.

I’m being real here — it’s not easy. 

Judging is something we all do. It just happens. At least for me, it’s usually because I want to feel like I’m superior to others. I’m working with Mary on trying to become more humble. But we all judge for different reasons.

I had really been struggling with judging many, many people around me at school. And the Big Man Upstairs decided to throw me help me out, like He always does somehow.

A few days ago, I was looking for a Mother Teresa quote to put in my English paper. I was on some quote website, and the first thing I saw at the top of the screen was this: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Thanks for that one, God.

Next, we had our first night of catechetical classes at the St. Lawrence Center yesterday. John-Mark Miravalle (“Teaching Fellow in the St Lawrence Institute for Faith and Culture,” what a sweet title) taught a class about Virtue and the origins of happiness. I learned that every single action we commit, good or bad, has some root of good intentions. Even if I went and stole a necklace from Macy’s (which I don’t plan on doing, by the way), I could justify that I had good intentions by saying that I wanted to look beautiful, because beauty is a good thing and a cause of happiness. So you see how every action is rooted in a desire to be happy.  Therefore, we have no right to judge anyone, because we all look for happiness in different but similar ways.

Finally, today, I was just scrolling down my News Feed on Facebook, right? Here’s what comes up this time — a picture that said, “Don’t judge people someone because they sin differently than you.” Everything came together. And that’s when it really hit me. I have absolutely no right to judge. Because there are numerous things that I too could be judged for — they’re just different things that I judge others for.

When it comes down to it, we don’t know everyone else’s lives. We don’t know their struggles. We don’t know their desires. We don’t know their story.

So all in all, judging is not cool. And Mary can totally help us. She’s a rock star with humility.

Mary, Star of the Prairie, pray for us. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thank you, youth ministry: A tribute to St. Michael's youth group.

Oh youth ministry, what would I have done without you? But really. I have no idea where in this crazy world I would be if it weren't for years and years of GIFT, Flock, AP Flock, Camp Tekakwitha, Prayer and Action, Kairos, etc.

This particular post is a tribute to the place that got me started with making faith a priority in my life: St. Michael the Archangel.

I met Sara at GET REAL going into 5th grade and to this day I can call her one of my greatest role models. So what am I walking away with from eight years of fantastic SMA youth ministry? Here's just a few things:

1. I've learned that dodgeball is not just a fun game. It's basically like a friendly war, that isn't always so friendly... St. Michael, defend us in battle. Please.

2. I've learned that the more ridiculous you look, the better. I mean, how can you not just laugh in amazement of these fantastic shirts??

3. I've learned that everyone looks way tougher when wearing a "fire-fightering" suit. Watch out world.  "If you are who God made you to be, you'll set the world on fire." - St. Catherine of Siena. 

4. I've learned that it's imperative to have a good fake laugh. They make situations so much more awkward. ETA. Embrace the awkward.

5. I've learned that if you bring a dozen high schoolers to work at Harvesters, they'll actually get a lot done, despite the craziness (i.e. hiding in giant boxes, looking ridiculous in hair nets, etc).

6. I've learned that rocking up is WAY cooler than holding hands during prayer. Pretty soon everybody will be doing it. Total hipster move, St. Michaels.

7. I've learned that if Sara and Michael let Evelyn, Olivia, Annelise, and I design their house, it would be the coolest living space in history. And it would include a nice moat, with Aaron floating around in there with a nice sea monster. 

8. I've learned that yoga is definitely the best way to de-stress... Or the best way to break your back... Thank you, "Yoga with Tara Stiles." 

9. I've learned that Chris and Sara get ABSOLUTELY NO work done when I'm in town... I mean, how can you actually work when there are so many cups that are just perrrrfect for cup stacking? Cup pyramids > work.

10. And finally, I've learned that despite our absolute ridiculousness, everything we do is for the Big Man upstairs. Everything relates back to the cross and to His love for each of us.