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Inquietum Est Cor Nostrum

The Year I truly Fell in Love with Our Eucharistic God

By Chelsea Parza

 

In my freshman year of college, I made the decision to go to daily Mass every day no matter what I had to do that day or the next. The interior struggle I faced was a constant battle, as I had to let go of the perfectionist desire to get the best grades or to develop some sort of social life. Each day I’d mull over the same questions and doubts: “I really need to study for my exam, do I really need to go to Mass on a Wednesday?” “I already go once a week as it is… I don’t have the time.” “We were supposed to hang out tonight…It’s SOO far (really only a 5-10 min from my dorm room), etc. etc. etc.”

Nonetheless, one sweaty bike ride in the Florida sun after another, I would attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, gaining not only physical stamina, but a peace that only God can give. What was first only an option became an absolute necessity. I even scheduled classes around Mass and Adoration times and didn’t take the classes that forced me to miss them. I’m not saying everyone should do this, because it may not actually be practical for everyone, but in my case, I felt the Lord beckoning me to make the commitment that if I truly wanted to know Him, I needed to show it. Through incredible virtuous friendships, retreats, and various other opportunities offered by Catholic Gators, I slowly began to realize the incandescent beauty of the Catholic Church.

When I look back on my freshman year and how it shaped me as a person, I don’t think about the impossible chemistry problems or the terribly long study edge sessions, I dwell on the fact that I could’ve told Jesus “no.” I could’ve chosen to take more naps, eat more food at the dining hall, or go on more runs. Whatever it was, there was always a nagging feeling inside of me, saying that if I didn’t put God first now, I would regret it for the rest of my life. I remember on the shear truth that Jesus wrecked my idea of a good life in the best possible way.

“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.”

Don’t let your desires to know Jesus become extinguished. Honestly, there were times that “Deep [called] out to deep” (Psalm 42), but I wanted to stay shallow. Only by God’s grace was I able to pursue the Lord who fought so hard to pursue me. It was the year that I truly fell in love with our Eucharistic God, slowly, and then, all at once.

In college, when many other things seem so much more important, faith can very easily take last place, like the bottom book in your stack of terribly overpriced textbooks. You know it’s there and that you should probably open it, but you’re just too dang lazy. Been there, done that, and, frankly, sometimes still doing it (no one’s perfect).

But here’s a little encouragement:

We can have this mindset of “cookie-cutter” holiness. We believe that holiness is simply like putting premade cookie dough in the oven, wait a few minutes, and “ding!” you got a saint who prays all the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, 10 novenas, and goes to daily Mass. We’re not store-bought, pre-made cookies. We are dough being kneaded, rolled out, flattened, and left to rise from the yeast that is God’s grace. Do not be discouraged about where you are not, but be hopeful in the truth that you are still being kneaded, broken, and reformed to be the person that God is calling you to be. Patience is one the greatest fruits of the Holy Spirit, and, boy, is it one of the most difficult to grow in! Hear this —God does not desire your success. He desires your faithfulness. Pretty soon, one or two years from now, with perseverance and patience, you’ll look back and say, “Wow, who the heck was I and how did I get here?” You will have gone so deep in the life of Christ without consciously knowing it, that only a retrospective glance at who you once were will confirm the sanctity of who you are becoming. As in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, never fail to ask,

“Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I?”

The answer may surprise you.

Chelsea Parza Quote

Some things I learned as a struggling Catholic college student:

  • Loneliness is necessary. Yeah, it can suck, but it can also be a place of grace.
  • Netflix is a blessing and a curse. Instead of binge watching, try making a quick visit to Jesus in the Tabernacle, go for a run or walk, or just get up and out!
  • Don’t wait for the invitation, be the invitation. Be bold.
  • Most of my friends were made in the St. Augustine’s courtyard after 5:30 p.m. daily Mass. Best people you’ll meet.
  • The Eucharist will change your life. Go to daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration weekly.
  • Chacos sandals are ideal. They’ll get you from daily Mass to chem class in no time.  

 

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Lessons from St. Thérèse

by Matthew Fulton

Honestly, I never understood what the big deal was about Thérèse of Lisieux, the little saint who has captured the hearts of millions of Catholics.

What was it about her that drew people to her, and to holiness?

My initial encounter with Thérèse did not go very far. I began reading a little about her spirituality, her love of Christ and intense desire to give everything she had to Him. I remember thinking, that’s great and all, but there are so many others who live the same way.

Why was she a saint, one declared a Doctor of the Church by St. John Paul II?

There had to be something more to her story. Deciding to give her another chance in my heart, I got her prayer card and set out to learn as much as I could. I asked her to pray for my path, for a way to relate to a person with whom, on the surface, I had nothing in common.

Well, the Lord certainly delivered. I learned that Thérèse’s status as one of the Church’s great saints relies on the relatability I was missing. It relies on profound simplicity, and most of all, it relies on the acceptance of Jesus into every corner of our lives, and complete abandonment of our own wants and desires. Needless to say, I got a little fired up about her. There is still so much we can learn from her. Today is Oct. 1st, Thérèse’s feast day. I thought it would be an appropriate time to reflect on her life and how we may grow a little closer to Christ through her guidance. St. Thérèse, pray for us!

Teresa-de-Lisieux
the Little Flower herself

“Desire to be unknown and counted as nothing…”

Exalted nothingness. St. Thérèse’s oxymoronic spiritual goal derived from the writings of St. John of the Cross:

“To reach satisfaction in everything, desire satisfaction in nothing.
To come to possession of everything, desire the possession of nothing.
To arrive at being all, desire to be nothing.”

Most people with an attachment to St. Thérèse are familiar with what is called her “little way.” In humility, she realized she could never match the heroic levels of many saints. She would reach heaven carried by the arms of Jesus rather than climbing the stairs with her own feet. Her faith and works, all of it came through Him:

“When I act as charity bids, I have this feeling that it is Jesus who is acting in me; the closer my union with him, the greater my love…”

Thérèse truly lived through the Gospel. She diminished herself so much that her words and actions brimmed with the Holy Spirit, overtaking every single aspect of her life. She made it a point to pray for purity of heart, so that every action she took could be consecrated to God. As she says herself, “The smallest act of pure Love is of more value than all other works together.” In fact, Thérèse believed that the smallest acts, the ones God alone knew of, were the greatest of all. How often do we do nice things for others because we’ll gain from it as well, through recognition, praise or otherwise? Thérèse reminds us to do the mundane simply out of a love for others and for God. Revel in the silence and anonymity. Sometimes being praised by man makes us feel good, but isn’t being lifted by Jesus a much greater reward?

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Young St. Thérèse

“The world’s thy ship and not thy home…”

In the constant motion of today’s world, there is so much that we miss. I am as guilty as anyone: walking around campus with my head down, earbuds in, trying to get from one place to another.  Imagine all we could enjoy if we simply took a second to appreciate God’s creation around us. St. Thérèse had a keen sense of awareness. Every thought she had and action she took was scrutinized at the end of the day. Extend your examination of conscience to include the world around you!

Think of how aware you are of your body and soul when you receive the Eucharist, or when you spend time with the Lord in adoration. What if we took that level of awareness and could translate it to all our waking moments? Imagine the good we could do, the amount of love we could share. We just have to learn to see God in all things. Thérèse understood this from a young age. She knew that it was impossible to love God if He was ignored in the things He made.

Everything in Thérèse’s life was an opportunity. An opportunity to deny herself for the love of Christ, a chance to share in His life. And all these opportunities were simply stepping stones on the path to heaven. Thérèse wanted nothing more than to get to heaven, to be with her Savior. She wanted the same for her family; when she was young she even wished her parents dead so that they might go to heaven right away. While I do not recommend telling your parents you want them to die, Thérèse’s innocent statement tells us a lot about her heart. She wanted what is best for those she loves.

Be childlike! Bring your loved ones along for your journey and don’t ever forget about them. Thérèse remembered her sister Celine’s first communion, a day that she said was “one of the most beautiful of my life.” Happiness is always around us, even when we’re going through a rough time ourselves. But we’re all members of Christ’s body, and so we must realize that the joy of another is our joy as well. Don’t get jealous. Be humble, patient, and live within the joy around you.

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“Christ didn’t come down from the cross…”

So how do we accomplish that? How do we experience joy during the toughest moments of our lives? Thérèse only lived to be 24, and her life was scarred by constant suffering. She did not live with her parents for the first year and a half of her life, her mother died of cancer when Thérèse was four, and her sister and best friend Pauline abandoned her for the Carmel a few years later. Then, at the end of her life, tuberculosis ravaged both her body and soul. The crippling disease caused her so much pain that it caused her to question her faith in a period she called the darkest of her life.

But here’s the thing: Thérèse embraced all her struggles with an incredible resilience. She welcomed her deathbed with more faith and love of Christ than she ever had. Better than anything else, she understood Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and what it meant for us. Thérèse had made it a point to be Christlike in every other aspect of life, and to her there was no more noble ideal than suffering as Christ suffered.

To Thérèse, every challenge she faced was another opportunity from God. It was a chance to love, unconditionally, as Jesus loves. So, for us, we need to embrace the daily challenges that come our way. God doesn’t give them to us as punishment or because He thinks we deserve it. Instead, the tough days should bring us closer to Him. Seek out difficulty. Challenge yourself and live outside of comfort, because otherwise how can we grow?

Thérèse would spend time with the sisters of Carmel that were most unpleasant to be around for this exact reason. It’s easy to love the ones you care for. Much harder is to love the ones you don’t. Life is filled with all kinds of difficulties. When we face them, don’t shrink away! Give thanks to God for the opportunity and tackle them head on.

As his body withered near the end of his pontificate, onlookers asked St. John Paul II whether he should step down for his own sake. He responded, rather simply, “Christ didn’t come down from the cross.” Like our Savior, John Paul and Thérèse bore their crosses and didn’t put them down.

And neither should we.

 

Quote sources:

The Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Kathryn Harrison

John Paul the Great, Peggy Noonan

Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross.

 

You don’t have to go Halfway Across the World to have a “God Moment” — but I Did

By: Lindsey Harrison

              Do you ever have “God moments”? Well, technically every moment is a God moment, because He is present all around us, and we could dedicate a whole other post to that. I’m talking about moments or experiences that fill your heart with the undeniable and overwhelming presence and love of God. They don’t have to be grand burning bush or Jesus-walking-on-water kind of experiences, but I think you know what I’m talking about.

              If you’re lucky, you’ve been able to pinpoint moments like this in your life that totally changed your faith journey with Christ, and because of that, they are always fresh in your heart. Well, I like to think I’m really lucky (#blessed), because I had experiences like this over the summer in what was essentially “Catholic study abroad.”

              In a combination of God moments, between prayer, action, the beauty of social media and a great lady you might know named Ashley Hemingway, this past March I found myself applying for some kind of summer program called the Catholic Worldview Fellowship.

(Sidenote: the FIRE retreat will make you do crazy but great things, AKA me in an eno hammock during free time that weekend, recording my application video with my cell phone and selfie stick).

But before we dive into the time of my life that was July 2017, let’s take a step back.

              Freshman year, Sunday Mass was always in the picture, and my friends all knew me as “the Catholic one,” but I wasn’t plugged in with the community here in Gainesville. When sophomore year came, and I felt driven to get involved around St. Augustine’s for some reason. Looking back I know it was just God inviting me on a new adventure with Him.

              One thing led to another and I joined a Bible study, started going to Newman dinners, attended daily Mass more, went on a few retreats, and basically just tried to see Christ in all the opportunities that came my way.

              Even more importantly, I not only tried to see those opportunities, but take advantage of them and use everything as an invitation to grow in my relationship with Christ and those around me.

Then came this summer, and all the opportunities along with it.

              In April, I received my acceptance and was basically on my way to Europe for part of the summer. Keep in mind, I didn’t really know what this program was about, whom I would meet, and all those other unknowns that can be scary at first. All I knew was that it was Catholic and I would be traveling to Germany for about three weeks, and then Rome on a pilgrimage for the final week. Not a bad combination if you ask me — so I decided to go for it.

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And let me tell you: I’m smiling as I sit at my laptop writing this, because from the moment I stepped all alone onto that plane headed to Germany, I didn’t look back.

              God was so present in everything that came my way, I felt silly for worrying in the first place. Without “talking” here about every single day and detail of the trip itself, I’ll try to give a general gist of what it was all about.

              There were 16 of us “fellows” from all over the country and a staff of about eight that ranged from priests to brothers to leadership coaches, and everything in between. We lived in a 500-year-old German castle (yes, there was a moat).

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The German castle I got to call home

              Our day-to-day lecture and discussion-based conferences/classes all related to how we as young Catholic leaders can connect the dots between our faith and the culture we live in.

              We sought to develop our God-given talents and be the world changers Christ calls us to be.

              We had morning prayer, night prayer, lectures, free time, daily Mass, retreat days, spiritual talks, day trips, dance parties, very late nights, and many blessed encounters that, at least for me, taught me more than ever before about who I am, who God is, and how I can grow in that relationship with Him in order to become my most authentic and Christ-modeling self.    

              Sounds pretty cool, right? I think so. It was like nothing I’d ever done, and will probably never do again.

              I still don’t know what I did to deserve an experience like this, but all these things are just a testament to how good our God is to us.

              I had never had my own private neo-Gothic chapel in the German countryside before. I never thought I’d have spiritual direction, confession, Mass, and just great conversation with one of the priests behind the movie The Passion of the Christ.

              I never had such quick and authentic friendships with so many beautiful and like-minded people whom I now consider some of my greatest blessings.

              I never thought I would cry during the surreal experiences of Mass and adoration at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and touching Pope Francis (yeah, all that happened).

lindseyblog-2

              And I never thought Jesus would take my life, especially in this past year, turn it upside down in so many ways and then give me the grace to realize that with Him it’s truly right side up.

              As a whole this program is one of the best things I’ve ever done and a summer I will never forget; but that’s not to say everything was sunshine and rainbows and the best thing ever 100 percent of the time.

              There were some days where I just wasn’t feeling it, or wasn’t feeling good with myself, or just questioned what I was doing halfway across the world talking about how you can evangelize culture when I’m usually just trying to keep my life together as an average college student in Gainesville, FL!

              But no matter what, I felt God’s presence and guiding hand, which is really all that matters. And as I wrap up, so I don’t keep talking about myself for too much longer, I’ve come up with some takeaways that can hopefully apply to all of us, whether you have been to northwest Germany and Rome or not.

Lindsey_Harrison-3

              First: Place your worries at the foot of the cross, because Jesus already has, and with all of His being wants to take your burdens away from you. This is such a gift of our faith, and I will be the first to tell you that through prayer it can change your life.

              Second: Allow yourself to have the environment and opportunity to hear God’s voice in your life, because in order for relationships to grow and be genuine, both people need to do some talking. In that same regard, open your heart to be poured into by God and see yourself as He sees you, because that person is infinitely valued and loved.

              Third: Quite possibly my corniest takeaway is to be a light in the world. We are all just souls destined for communion with God and each other, and something as simple as a smile stemming from the joy of the Lord in our hearts can help to proclaim that message.

              So yeah, I had a cool Catholic summer experience. I’m still “unpacking the graces” from it. With each new day I miss my friends, the memories we shared, and the opportunities we had to invest in each other. I miss having everything I did for a month be Catholic-related. I miss the contentment I felt knowing I was exactly where God wanted me to be.

              But what a joy it is to realize that I have really only gained from this whole journey! God moments are all around us; we don’t necessarily have to cross an ocean to have them (it’s a great opportunity if you can!), all we really have to do is take the step of saying yes to Him and allow ourselves to see them right in front of our eyes.

 

Photos Courtesy of Lindsey Harrison.

Back to School Shouldn’t be Blue

By: Dolores Hinckley, RHC Print Cooordinator

              Right now, you might be thinking: Starting college is the best thing that’s happened to me — or the worst. I did not like my first few months at UF. I felt like a rat dropped into a big maze, and everything and everyone new I encountered were like sharp corners and diverging paths. On the other hand, for some of my hometown friends who also became Gators, the first semester was just open doors of possibilities with so many great things to do.

              You might have one of these experiences, something in between or neither, and that’s totally OK. Now more than a few semesters on, I can tell you my friends and I feel the same about our college experience. Mostly, that this is where we need to be.

Why do we feel that way?

              The incredible gift that is our Catholic faith is why. You will go nowhere in these next years of higher education that Jesus won’t be with you. He will be with you in the library, in class, in your dorm, and yes, even out late at night on the town.

              As you adjust to life in the Swamp, know that at any moment, He is here for you. Momma Mary and all the angels and saints are here for you. You have a team, an army, a family with the Father, and they’ve got a home base at St. Augustine’s on University Ave. Come spend time with Him and the rest of the Catholic Gators family.

              Don’t be afraid of the wonderfully outgoing guys and gals at Catholic Gators you’ll run into. They are going to be weirdly enthusiastic to have you, specifically you. Kind of like how God made you with intention, except not “kind of” but exactly. Say yes to that invitation for Newman (free dinner!) or other fun event, and see for yourself how awesome everyone at CG is.

newman_dinner catholic gators
Free dinner at Newman every Tuesday at 6:15 p.m.

              Don’t be afraid of those moments alone during your day, either.

              You might find yourself alone for the first time ever. No one to tell you when to wake up in the morning, what to eat, what to wear and where to be at almost every hour. That’s scary, freeing and the first taste of adulthood.

              Take some of those moments alone to the church. When the semester comes crashing down on you, and you question every decision you’ve made so far, those moments in front of Jesus are life-giving. Growing your faith here and now will give you a stability in college you would not believe.

              This probably all sounds doom and gloom like, “Wow, whoever wrote this must be one jaded college student.” I promise, I’m not! I only say this because it can get real in college, either real good or real bad. Be prepared for both.

              Church might be the last thing on your mind as you start fresh. Maybe you’ll roll out of bed Sunday morning and think to yourself something’s missing to your day, something you always did with your parents. The University of Florida might be new to you, but the church isn’t.

mass on the grass

              Catholic Gators has something for everyone, especially if you like free food every Tuesday at Newman Dinner. No matter if you’re into art, sports, music, if you want a bible study, or you’re just looking for friends, we have a community of people here that is genuine in both prayer and friendship.

              Come to St. Augustine’s, come home to Him and come meet us all. We all can’t wait to meet you.

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FOCUS Series: FOCUS on What Matters

[For the first post in our FOCUS series, click here.]

By: Kassandra Leal, UF FOCUS Missionary

 

Move out of apartment, check.

Five weeks of FOCUS New Staff Training (NST), check.

Three weeks serving on mission in Brazil, check.

All moved into my new house, check.

Processing the last two months…not checked.

              This summer has been chaotic. I have been on adrenaline since the end of May, and now that I’m getting ready to fly home to visit my family, I have found myself at “the wall “that my teammate, Drew, touched on.

Fall is coming, and I am tired.

             We live in a culture of busyness, nonstop, “go-go-go” mentality. We forget to rest and to reflect on the ways that God has worked throughout the days, weeks, or months. And I am ALL about self-care and doing things that bring you life, but here I am again finding myself at the end of the busyness, tired.

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             One of my favorite prayers is a Daily Examen. I pray my Examen at the end of the day to reflect on the blessings God has given me throughout the day, and ways I have failed to love Him and ask Him to give me the graces to love and serve Him the next day. This prayer has changed my life, because I have allowed the Holy Spirit to make me more aware of what happens in my day, from the little blessings like no traffic, to the little annoyances that trigger my impatience.

This is a simple and easy way to process.

             We often live in the next moment versus the present moment. So processing not only our day, but also our entire summer, will help us see the many ways that God has been present with us.

Fall is coming, and I am getting ready.

             You may not have had the same exact summer I have had. Maybe you have been living in a different state for an internship, traveling with friends and family, working from home, or enjoying your summer doing the hobbies that you give you life. Praise God for any and all pastimes this summer! All of that said, I know I want to love and serve when we hit the ground in the Fall, so that means that I will be processing the remainder of this summer.

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             I want to pray with all the opportunities that I had to grow. I want to thank Jesus for all the people whom He put in my life to love. I want to be in awe of the marvels that He did through the mission trip, and how He worked through my heart at training.

             All of this, of course, takes time. I want to give God the time and the praise. Work glorifies God, but so does the stillness.

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  Join me in being still for these last couple of weeks before the school year starts, and ask God to show you how He has been working in you this summer. Thank Him for the hard and growing moments and for the joyful ones.

             I am praying for you all as you get ready to come back to Florida or are coming for the first time. Please pray for all of us back at Catholic Gators!

The Final Countdown

               No one wants to admit how much time is left of Summer 2k17 but the truth of the matter is that, it’s not a lot. In less than a month we’ll be moving back into the dorms or our apartments, and embracing our vocations as students. Some days I have a countdown to reunite with my amazing Catholic Gators community (and Gator football!), and other days I’m overwhelmed when realize how much I have left on my to-do list for this summer. However you’re feeling, the final countdown for the next school year has begun. [It’s 22 days, by the way.]

               While most of us are excited to reunite with all our friends and live according to our own schedule, in reality, we just want to get to a place where we’re comfortable and known. Being at home for the summer has countless challenges. You might be living under your parent’s roof again, have to check in with them about your day-to-day plans, get asked questions by the entire family about your major and post-graduation plans, or other personal questions you’re not comfortable sharing. Living at home can be hard and uncomfortable, but it’s what God is calling us  to do right now, at this moment. It is His will for us.

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               In life, there’s a lesson in everything, even if the lesson is to learn what not to do. Life is about the choices we make and the actions that follow. When we’re at school, it’s easy to choose our friends because they often bring us great joy. At home, it’s often much more difficult because not everyone gets along all the time. But we must choose to love them because it’s God’s will for us, our vocation. Friends may be temporary but family is for a lifetime. That’s why it’s worth building these relationships with our loved ones because they’ve invested in us and will be there for the rest of our lives.

               Love is a verb and to love is a choice. I’m sure growing up, your parents did not always want to get up in the middle of the night to a fussy baby. But they chose to. They loved the best way they could or knew how to. This summer, I encourage you to be active in loving them back. Do the dishes without being asked, take out the trash, clean up your room, maybe buy them a meal or their favorite candy when you’re at the store. You can walk the dogs, drive your siblings around, or volunteer to babysit. You can even just ask them how their day was and be intentional about listening like you’re intentional with your friends. I recommend putting the phone in another room altogether so it won’t even be a distraction. Love through the simple actions, and use that to pray for your family and other friends and families who may be going through a hard time.

love through the simple

               Summer is a time great time to grow and become a better version of yourself. I encourage you to pray about the lessons learned so far this summer or challenges you may face in this last month. Make small commitments to love your family through specific actions and, who knows? You might even learn something new about your family members or their past, and be able to pray for them better. We’re called to be saints, and to be saints we can’t be comfortable. Pope Benedict XVI said, “You weren’t made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”

               Choose to love, especially when it’s hard, and your reward will be great in heaven.

FOCUS series: How FOCUS Showed Me to Live My Life to the Fullest in Jesus

             FOCUS ( Fellowship of Catholic University Students) changed my life in college. It introduced me to the person of Jesus Christ and gave me tangible ways of living a friendship with Him. That led me to want to share that friendship with others, and invite them into their very own friendship with Him. It changed the way I viewed life and love and the pursuit of happiness, which I realized was best found living close to the heart of Jesus. This proximity lead me to do some crazy things, including becoming a FOCUS missionary myself. My life in The Swamp started as I was placed at the University of Florida my first year on staff. I never could have dreamt up all the amazing things that came along with giving my “yes” to God. Each day came with another opportunity to give my “yes,” from giving my days to Him, with great devotion to prayer and the mission, to growing to be a Gator fan even in 100 degree weather.

             I saw myself come alive in an environment where I was free to embrace the gift of who I am as a daughter of God, and to use the gifts I have been given to serve the King of the Universe. I came to understand and maintain interior freedom of heart. I dedicated myself to praying daily, and going to daily Mass to receive the Eucharist, my life source, every single day. The grace received in this time and in time of Adoration, on retreats or at other Catholic Gator events, allowed me to see and experience the magnificent and all-encompassing love of God. I began to not only meet Christ in the Mass and in prayer but also in the people I worked with, the missionaries and staff that I served alongside, and the students I got to journey with on a daily basis, as they too saw their lives transformed through their own “yes.” Collectively we grew strong in a community of shared faith; desire to be holy and live virtue; and resist the temptations that flood the lives of college students.

living this way changed me_Katelyn Miller

             We committed to living chastity, sobriety, and excellence and strived to hold one another accountable and live above reproach. We committed to leading bible studies and discipling others, which lead to spiritually multiplying and having the greatest impact possible.

             I personally served sorority women and watched FOCUS Greek grow before my eyes as more and more women gave their “yes.” By God’s grace we lived each day with great joy, which was contagious and drew people into want to know more and discover for themselves the gift that Christ can be in one’s life. Living this way, structuring my life around God and surrounding myself with people who loved me by willing the good for me, changed me. The gift of FOCUS, the relationships, memories, and experiences made these past three years the best of my life thus far.

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           They set a new standard for how to live life to the fullest, and how to live in the world but not of the world by loving and encountering the people of the world like Jesus would. I am moving onto a new chapter, and am excited to incorporate all that I learned and take these lessons with me into all aspects of my life. I know that I have many reasons to be considered “biased,” but if my bias leads someone, including you, to give Jesus a shot and make Him a part of your college experience, or even the center of it, then go, bias, go!!!

          Take my advice: Let God love you and show you who you really are, and ALL that he has in store for you, and you too will experience what it means to be fully alive.

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FOCUS Series: We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are

By: Drew Decker, FOCUS Missionary

              I think it’s fair to say every Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary enters their first year on campus with a bit of swagger in their step. For most missionaries, leading a FOCUS Bible study or discipling students was part of their college experience; many of them were pretty good at it, too! But then that first week on campus arrives, and the floodgates open. Fall outreach, meeting inherited disciples, moving to a new city (or in my case, moving literally across the country) and getting used to team life combine for one crazy start to the year. And then comes the inevitable drop-off: It happens at a different time for each  missionary. For some, like myself, it came very quickly. No matter the experience level or confidence, every missionary ultimately hits a wall, and realizes that they can’t save souls on their own. Maybe Bible study isn’t going well, teammates have different personalities, or they’re simply homesick. This is the “make or break” moment for every missionary. For me, it was a giant step into a new phase of my life. Continue reading “FOCUS Series: We Are Not as Strong as We Think We Are”

Easter Traditions: More Than Candy and Colored Eggs

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Photo by Kate Ter Haar

After our time of reflection and prayer, our Lenten journey ends with the celebration of Easter! It is a celebration of new life where families come together to have fun by going on Easter egg hunts, dying hardboiled eggs, and munching on all that yummy Easter chocolate. But where did all these traditions come from? After all, Easter can’t just be all about the candy right?

To begin with, Easter is known as a “movable feast” because it doesn’t fall on a set date every year, Christian churches generally celebrate Easter anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year. The particular origin of the word “Easter” is unknown.  Nevertheless, some speculate that the name came from the Latin term “hebdomada alba”, or white week, which is a reference to Easter week and the white clothing worn by people who were baptized at the time. On another account, the term later appeared as “esostarum” in Old High German, which eventually became Easter in English.

Even though Easter is celebrated in one day, it’s actually a whole season in the Liturgical Year of the Catholic Church. It begins with Lent, which leads to Easter Sunday, then ending on Eastertide. Lent lasts for 40-days and is a time when Christians focus on prayer, fasting and alms-giving. It also represents the 40-days that Jesus spent alone in the desert before starting His ministry, the biblical story goes on to say that during that time He was also tempted by the devil. After Easter Sunday comes Eastertide. Eastertide is the celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. It is a 50-day period starting from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. Within Eastertide is also a time called the Octave which is the first 8 days after Easter. The octave is celebrated as a solemnity of the Lord.

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Photo by Joe Hall

While the day is commonly known for celebrating new life, Easter can also symbolize many other things which can be seen through Easter traditions. The egg can be seen as a symbol of rebirth, life and fertility. Eggs that were dyed red would symbolize the blood of Jesus dying on the cross. The hard shell of the egg represents the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represents Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Historically, Christians would abstain from eating eggs and meat during Lent, and Easter was the first chance to eat eggs again after a long period of abstinence.

In addition to Easter eggs, who can think about Easter without also thinking about the Easter bunny? However, the Bible gives no mention about any furry, long-eared creature delivering sweets to children. Nevertheless the beloved animal is still a prominent figure in the Easter holiday. But, how did this come to pass? According to History.com, the theory with the most evidence is that this story came over with German immigrants. According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the mythical rabbit’s deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy. And since the legend of a gift giving rabbit took hold, children also enjoy leaving carrots out for their favorite bunny in thanks for all its hard work.

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Photo by Sophie Yalden

Finally, Easter is a time marked with happiness, prayer, and new life. While you enjoy time this year with your friends and family celebrating Easter, remember that it isn’t always about the games and candy, but about the time Jesus took in preparation to spread the gospel.

Happy Easter Everyone!

 

Written by Ashley Leong

Featured image by Annie Spratt

Information for this article was found on the following websites:

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/easter-symbols

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/20/lent-2012_n_1263583.html?ref=lent

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