Catholic Gators Blog

Inquietum Est Cor Nostrum


February 2017

4 Things We’ve All {Tried} Giving Up for Lent & 4 Things We Should

Lent is upon us, all of the sudden it is Ash Wednesday and we think, Oh right, what am I giving up again? We rattle our brains to come up with something realistic yet meaningful, practical yet clever, and that can be a difficult thing to accomplish. Here are 4 things many, if not all of us, can relate to when it comes to sacrificing things for Lent:

  1. School

Let’s face it, college is hard. Whether you’re thinking about the wedgie-riddled days of grade school or about your upcoming exam that you haven’t studied for (like me), school can really drag you down sometimes. So, obviously the most logical solution is to just give up school altogether, right? It’ll be fine, you think to yourself, I’ll stock up on food from the Newman Dinners and I’ll live at Hurley Hall. That’s how I’ll live. No big deal. While this sounds incredibly enticing, Lent shouldn’t be the time to pick something you can give up easily; rather, it’s a time to sacrifice something we indulge in so that we may spend more time growing closer with God.

  1. Coffee
Photo by: Matt Hoffman

Coffee (tea too, if you’re into that) is the lifeblood of the college population; without it, we revert to an animal-like state consisting of single word responses, torn up Smokin Notes, and awkward facial keyboard imprints from sleeping on our laptops (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything). As college students, many of us live off of less than 8 hours of sleep, so sometimes an energy boost is needed. If you’re able to give up coffee for Lent, I applaud you. For others of us, though, coffee may keep us from acting like something out of The Walking Dead.

  1. Our Phones

If you’re daring enough, you might’ve thought, “Hey, why don’t I regress to the days where people had actual in-person conversations with each other and didn’t have the burden of timing out their text responses to not seem needy?” Ok, maybe not. But maybe your parents made the choice for you in 6th grade and said you’re giving up your phone for Lent (again, not speaking from experience here). I thought I was back in the dark ages. Anyway, while giving up your phone for Lent may free you up a lot for prayer or studying and whatnot, you also don’t want your life to fall apart as a result of giving up something that you may actually need. You can still answer the twenty texts a day you get from Mom, and still grow in your relationship with God during Lent.

  1. Giving Up Things

Come on, we’ve all thought — “What if I give up giving up things for Lent!?” (and subsequently patted ourselves on the back for being so clever) — at least once.

While we may have tried giving up one or more of those things for Lent, they may or may not have helped us in our journey to grow closer with God. The sacrifices we make during Lent should make space for our relationship with Christ. To aid in your search, here are 4 things that we can both succeed at and also use as opportunities to glorify our Lord:

  1. Sweets or Fast Food
Photo by: Rachael Gorjestani

Running around campus with barely enough time to eat can make it tempting to run into Chick-fil-A or Subway every day, and those P.O.D. Market freezers full of Ben & Jerry’s seem to stare at you every time you walk in. However, by giving up fast food or sweets for Lent, we’re taking care of our bodies, which are temples of God. Plus, it could be motivation to pack a healthy meal rather than resorting to unhealthy habits.

  1. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter… (Take Your Pick)

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I spend at least a half hour a day scrolling through Instagram photos and mildly stalking Facebook profiles (I’m not creepy I promise). Rather than lurking about in the depths of social media, why not cut out one of your social media platforms and spend that time doing something more productive and fulfilling? Saying the Rosary only takes about 15 minutes; you’d be honoring our Blessed Mother, and you’d be breaking an unhealthy habit! It’s killing two birds with one stone! (Sorry birds.)

  1. TV or Netflix
Photo by: Victor Semionov

We’ve all needed our weekly dose of Game of Thrones or The Bachelor, right? Soon enough though that weekly dose becomes a daily dose, then an hourly dose, and eventually we end up spending 6 hours straight catching up on episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, glancing guiltily at our unfinished research paper on our desk. Yeah, we’ve had those moments. However, by giving up Netflix (or TV in general), we can reclaim those valuable hours to study, spend time with friends, or go to daily Mass (*cough* which is at noon and 5:30pm Monday through Friday *cough*).

  1. Hiding Your Faith

This one may be the most difficult of all. There are times when one may be embarrassed or even ashamed to talk about or even identify with their faith, due to fear of looking like a “Jesus freak” or not looking “cool” around non-Catholic friends. It’s so easy to slip into a secular mindset and go along with things that don’t agree with your faith just so you can fit in. I’ve fallen into this many times, and it’s sad when you feel like you have to hide such an important part of yourself from others. Taking pride in your faith and in your relationship with God is a beautiful thing that should be nurtured, not stifled. By identifying yourself as a young man or young woman of God, you stay true to yourself and might also encourage others who are hiding their faith to do the same. If living out your life as a faithful and proud Catholic isn’t an act of glorifying our Lord, then I don’t know what is!

As you begin your journey through Lent, you may wonder, What’s the point of me giving up something anyway? By sacrificing a worldly pleasure, you make room for the heavenly joys God has to offer you through your relationship with Him. Stay strong during your journey. It’ll be worth it.

Written by: Kaitlin Anouge, Restless Heart Communications

Featured photo by: Royce Abela, Restless Heart Communications


A Call to Greatness

This piece is a homily from January 22, 2017 given by Fr. David at St. Augustine church in Gainesville, FL.


Believe it or not I am actually a child of the ’60s.  It might not seem so, but I was, in fact, born just a few weeks before Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon.  Some of you, I’m sure, remember that event quite clearly.  You know far better than I what a sense of accomplishment and national pride that was.  Probably some you can also remember the speech that President John F Kennedy gave in 1962, challenging us to strive for such an ambitious undertaking.  Or what a sense of hope and optimism accompanied his inaugural address 56 years ago almost to the day.

I bring this up, not to delve into presidential politics, but more so to contrast the high, missionary call of the early 60’s to what has followed it in the subsequent decades.  And more importantly to hear, in the readings of the liturgy and in the voice of our holy father, Pope Francis, that same call to greatness, elevated to the supernatural level and applied to our own times and to the challenges that face us in this decade and those to come.

But first, let’s listen to a few excerpts from Kennedy’s 1962 speech at Rice University:


“Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding…

Photo by: SpaceX

We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war…


We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”


Pretty stirring stuff, right?

It was, in many ways, the product of the times:  the boundless confidence of modern progressivism.  The great hope that science and technology would be the answer to all of life’s most pressing questions.  That was the way we began the 60’s.  We ended them in a purple haze of confusion, violence, disillusionment and despair.  Caught in the quagmire of an intractable civil war in a far off country we didn’t understand, wracked by violence, racial discord and civil unrest at home.  Martin Luther King, who in 1963, dared to dream a dream, by the end of the decade was dead.  And even the Catholic Church, which had long stood as a bulwark for Western civilization, was being torn apart by dissent and mass defections, even by the clergy and religious.

Many of us here today–most especially the students who make up such a large portion of the parishioners in this parish–have lived our whole lives in the fallout from that turbulent decade.  We have lived in a postmodern world where all truths are relative, all commitments provisional, where even the meaning of the word “is” can be publicly debated by a sitting president.

This era, this young generation of Catholics, needs desperately to hear a new call to greatness, to be more than the generation of the “meh.”

Pope Benedict XVI is often quoted (perhaps erroneously) as having said, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort.  You were made for greatness.”

Photo by: Magnoid

Whether he ever said those exact words or not, the gospel origins of this message are as clear as the call of Jesus to His first disciples that we heard in today’s gospel reading.  You were not made for nothing.  Your lives are not accidents of blind chance.  You are not simply what you choose to identify as.  You were created with a purpose.  You are called to live lives of holiness and missionary discipleship.  You WERE made for greatness.


Just last month Pope Francis announced that he is calling a global synod of bishops to meet in Rome in October 2018 to treat the topic, “Young people, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.”  I am pleased that our own bishop, Felipe Estevez, has asked that our parish be actively involved in preparing our diocesan delegation to that synod.  Clearly there is good reason, given the number of faith-filled young people who have discerned or are discerning their vocations while part of the Catholic Gators.

Beyond the particulars of our own individual vocations–and we know that it belongs to Christ to call each one of us individually to the state of life He wants for us–we all share in the universal call to holiness.  That is, we are, all of us, called to be a light to the nations, so that a people that dwells in darkness and gloom might see, in and through us, the true light that is Christ.  We are called to live lives that radiate the joy of the gospel and, in so doing, to build up a civilization of love.  Jesus–in the first Christian century–called to Himself disciples to share in His mission to proclaim that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  Christ now–in the 21st century–is once again calling for missionary-disciples, especially from the young Church, to proclaim to good news in every corner of the world.

Pope Francis, in his letter to young people announcing the upcoming synod writes,


“I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: ‘Teacher […] where are you staying?’ He replied, ‘Come and see’ (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.

In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: ‘Can we change things?’ And you shouted: ‘yes!’. That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a ‘throw-away culture’ nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: ‘Do not be afraid, […], because I am with you to deliver you’ (Jer 1:8).

A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”


The Holy Father’s words represent a new call to greatness for young people and for us all.

Surely there are many challenges that await us in the coming decades and the century that lies ahead of us.  But equally certain is that the solution to these challenges will not lie in blind faith in science and technology.  If the past fifty years (or even the past 150 years since the industrial revolution) have taught us anything, it is that with each new technological “miracle” comes some new moral horror.

Photo by: Nick Harris

Life saving developments in chemistry and biology brought on the horrors of chemical and biological weapons.  The promises of limitless, cheap nuclear energy resulted in the threat of nuclear war.  The widespread use of the internal combustion engine has resulted in a global threat to our environment of unprecedented magnitude.  And even the Internet–which promised to draw together the whole human family into one global village–has resulted in crippling psychological isolation and an addiction of epidemic proportions.

Clearly the promise of a scientific solution to humanity’s current ills is not what our world needs to restore our hope.  That ship has sailed.

And so it will be in every age.  Technology is not the solution to the most fundamental human problem because the fact of the matter is that our technological capacities have always outstripped our moral capacity to use technology for the good of all, ever since Cain first picked up a stick and said, “I wonder what I could do with this.”

No, the response we need to the challenges that face us is not technological but relational.  What humanity needs is not more gadgets but more…well, humanity.

Perhaps the moon shot of our day is to recapture and boldly defend the intrinsic and immeasurable value to every human life.  To single out from among all the shining lights of God’s creation the unique beauty of the human person–created in His image and likeness, created male and female, created for union with one another and with their Creator.

Perhaps the bold mission of today is not to the moon or Mars–though those are exciting places I’m sure–but to have the courage to discern carefully my own God-given vocation and to live it out fully, faithfully, fruitfully for the rest of my life.

Let us ask God today for the gift of greatness.  Let us beg for the courage to leave behind whatever would hold us back.  Let us resolve ourselves here and now to boldly go, not just wherever we would go, but where our Savior leads us.


Written by: Father David Ruchinski

Featured image by: Quang Vũ Trương

Get Excited for Alpha, from a Catholic Gators Alumna

I’m assuming that if you’ve attended at least one Catholic Gators event, or even been at the student center for more than 5 minutes, you’ve probably heard something like, “So have you been on Alpha? Have you heard about the Alpha retreat?”

So what is Alpha? Well, that’s the kicker – it’s full of secrets! (Like Gretchen Wieners’ hair.) I went on the Alpha retreat for the first time during my first semester at UF, mostly out of spite, because I was so annoyed that no one would tell me what happened! I had been on retreats in high school, so I figured I had at least a decent idea of what would happen – there would probably be a speaker or two, some skits to illustrate current social problems or a particular Bible passage, some small group discussions, and, depending on how spiritual the retreat was, some time for confession or adoration. So, despite not knowing many people outside of the few friends I had made at Newman Club dinners, I decided to take the plunge and go on this secret retreat. At the very least, it would be a break from schoolwork.

Photo by: Juliana Schmidt

Alpha was so much more than I had expected. Every person I met on the retreat team was so friendly at all times. They often stopped to ask me how I was enjoying the retreat, if I had any prayer intentions, or how I had felt about the previous hour’s events (did you think I was going to spoil anything in this blog post? I’m too smart for that). Though the emphasis was on getting more integrated into the St. Augustine’s community, which definitely was comforting and helped me make more friends than I had ever expected, I was surprised at the amount of spiritual growth Alpha afforded me as well. God has never intended for us to worship alone – 1 John 1:7 tells us, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Being surrounded by a community of people who love Jesus was never really a blessing I had experienced. Though I had had a strong youth group back home, I always felt like an outsider among them. No one I met on Alpha gave me that feeling.


The fruits of Alpha did not end after the retreat, though, and I think that’s my favorite thing about it by far. I was so encouraged by everyone I met that weekend and their constant selflessness that I was inspired to do the same for others. As soon as applications came out for the Alpha retreat team the next semester, I applied and was accepted. At the end of both my freshman and sophomore years, I even got up the courage to run for an officer position of Newman Club. I continued to serve on Alpha team until the semester I graduated, making connections with more and more new members of the Catholic Gators community ready to serve their faith. It has truly meant more to me than anything I’ve done in Gainesville in the more than 4 years I’ve been here.

Please pray for the retreat team and all those attending Alpha Spring 2017 this weekend, particularly those who may be experiencing God’s love for the first time ever.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” –Matthew 18:20


Written by: Juliana Schmidt

Featured Image by: Catholic Gators

Seeking a Lasting Love

It’s Valentine’s Day. Which means you’ll probably see a lot of posts on social media of people in happy relationships, at least from the outside. Some of you might think, “Can’t I just have that?” or “I wish I was that happy.” But the question you should really be asking yourself is “Why does my desire for romantic love equate to having joy and fulfillment in my life?”

People, especially young Catholic college kids, want to find a lasting love.

They want someone that loves Jesus and will treat them right. And they think that their life will be so much better and happier with this person in it.

Photo by: William Stitt

As a big hopeless romantic, I know all about that feeling. I’m a sucker for Nicholas Sparks books and sappy romantic movies. I’ve probably watched A Walk to Remember way too many times than what is acceptable to admit. So I get it. We all want to find love.

Valentine’s Day reminds us of how much we want that romantic love. But if you’re not in a relationship, don’t waste your single days hoping for a boyfriend or girlfriend to make your life better. Trust me, I’ve been there. And if there was one thing I knew before being in a relationship, I wish I knew that.

I’m not trying to take anything away from being in a relationship. It’s true that being in love is awesome and incredible. It makes your head spin sometimes because you just can’t believe that God was so generous to put this person in your life.

But here’s the thing: That someone will never fulfill your life or bring you perfect happiness, so don’t expect them to. It’s just unfair.

It is not their responsibility to be the foundation of your happiness. Jesus Christ should be your source of lasting joy.

Our culture constantly reinforces in our minds this idea that if we find that special someone, we will live “happily ever after” etc… That this person will fill this void within us. That we will no longer have to be afraid of being alone. That they are the answer. Our culture constantly reinforces this in our minds, especially around Valentine’s Day.

But no one person can ever make you truly happy. There will always be a void in your heart that only Christ can fill. Why do you think there are so many divorces in today’s society? Chances are you’ve probably seen someone that you thought was happily in love, break up. Why?

Many times people are searching for something in their significant other that they won’t find from romantic love. They thirst for something more than just romance and affections. The romance and affections will fade over time, but the couples that last know that there is more to love than just feelings. A Christ-centered relationship means that you strive for the love of Christ with the other person.

As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

I know you’ve probably heard it a million times, but it’s so true.

We will always be restless and have this emptiness in us screaming for something more. And only Christ can satisfy that hunger that we desire. No boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, etc. can or will fulfill this responsibility that is Christ’s, so don’t expect them to

Photo by: Mayur Gala

Sure, if your vocation is marriage, you will find great joy fulfilling that vocation alongside your husband or wife, but Christ and His love should always be the center of that relationship. So if you want your current or future relationships to prosper, start by fostering the love of Christ BEFORE any romantic love. And what better time than right now??Your focus should be on challenging yourself, your boyfriend or girlfriend to grow in their faith and grow closer to Christ. In turn, Christ will lead you closer together.

Men- Be the spiritual leader. Take your girlfriend to mass or surprise her with a Holy Hour as a date night. If you love her, take care of her soul. She will love you all the more for it.

Women- Challenge your man. Ask him to pray with you or suggest volunteering together. Do acts of service. Don’t get so caught up in the emotional and romantic aspects of your relationship, but foster a relationship that brings about spiritual growth by having deep, meaningful conversations.

Receive Christ in the Eucharist.

Adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament.

Speak to Jesus from the depths of your heart.

Because it is only with quiet time with Jesus that we will truly find peace, meaning and happiness in our lives and relationships.

So I’m just here to remind you that, as Catholic college students, we need to be constantly seeking our true love: Jesus Christ.

He is the One who died for you.

He is the One who will always love you no matter what you do.

He is the One who just wants to be with you.

He is the One who has this perfect plan for your life that He just wants to share with you.

So trust this love.

Trust Jesus.

And I urge you on this Valentine’s Day, whether you’re in a relationship or not, to seek the love of Christ before any other love. Because that is the ONLY love that will bring you true peace and joy.

Without the love of Christ, you won’t have the blissful and lasting relationship that you’re looking for.

So seek Him first, and all else will follow.

Written by: Josie Kuhlman, Restless Heart Communications

Featured image by: Laura Ockel

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